Soothing Soups

Soup is one of my favorite things to cook. I always make a pot on the weekends and have it in the fridge or freezer for the week. I find soup to be extremely soothing, especially after a crazy day when you are feeling exhausted and don’t feel like pulling together an entire meal. What I love about soup, especially these recipes, is that it is such a simple way to have a complete meal. These three recipes have been in my rotation for the last couple of months and are absolutely delicious. Depending on my hunger level, I sometimes serve them with a tossed salad, or grilled whole-wheat pita bread. They can also be incredibly satisfying on their own. Give these cozy recipes a go. You’ll be so glad you did!

Comforting Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeds removed & cut into cubes
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
32oz organic (low sodium) chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of 0% fat free greek yogurt

  • Take one medium butternut squash and peel. Scoop out the seeds from the middle of the squash; slice long ways then dice into small cubes.
  • Sauté one large diced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Once the onions have softened add the squash and bay leaves.
  • Once the squash begins to break down, add the chicken broth. Wait for the soup to boil then reduce to simmer and cover.
  • When the squash is fork tender, remove the bay leaves and blend. I use an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, wait for the soup to cool then pour into blender and puree.
  • Serve with a dollop of 0% fat free Greek yogurt. Chopped scallions make a really nice and tasty garnish. Salt and pepper to taste.

Rustic Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion sliced
3 minced garlic cloves
2 large diced carrots
2 large celery stalks diced
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon mild curry powder (the yellow one)

  • Rinse lentils and set aside
  • Add the roughly chopped onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and sauté until tender in 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Pour the lentils into the pot and stir, add in the bay leaves and curry powder
  • Once the lentils are mixed with the veggies and seasoning, add the vegetable broth
  • When the soup begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes
  • Salt and pepper to taste, ready to serve.

Cream-less Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 pound of asparagus, ends removed and cut into one-inch pieces
1 large leek, ends trimmed and sliced into half-moons
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cuts into cubes
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
32oz organic (low sodium) chicken broth

  • Rinse the cut asparagus and set aside
  • Slice the leeks down the middle then into half moons. Rinse well.
  • Peel and dice 2 Yukon gold potatoes
  • Add the leeks and potatoes to the olive oil and sauté in pot until the potatoes begin to break down.
  • Add in the asparagus and stir with other vegetables.
  • Add the chicken broth. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce to simmer and cover.
  • Let soup cook for 20 minutes. Then blend with immersion blender or puree in traditional blender.
  • Serve hot, salt and pepper to taste.

Treats, not Cheats

We are all familiar with the term or phrase, “Cheat Meal”. I hear it a hundred times a week and constantly throughout the day. “I eat clean all week, but let myself have one cheat meal”, or “It’s cheat day!” Lets, break down this idea, of the “cheat meal.” The word, cheat in its essence has a negative connotation to it. By definition:

Cheat verb

: to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something

: to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule

: to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get

When it comes to designing your health and diet for long-term maintenance, adopting an all-or-nothing mentality is a recipe for sabotage. In life, so few things are simply black or white, good or bad. When we put a negative spin on a behavior, like having a “cheat meal” it tends to affect that behavior greatly. In the case of food, it leads to the inevitable binge. The idea behind allowing yourself a “cheat meal,” is that you shouldn’t be indulging – that you deserve to be ashamed of your behavior. This kind of thinking is a slippery slope. Once you’ve cheated a little and you’re already feeling bad about yourself, why not cheat a lot? If you’re already feeling down on yourself for cheating on your diet, you are much more likely to feed your indulgences and overdo it.

Enjoying a treat once in a while, on the other hand, means just that. By definition:

Treat noun

: an occurrence in which you pay for someone’s food, drink, or entertainment

: something pleasant or amusing that is unusual or unexpected

: something that tastes good and that is not eaten often

See the words they use. “Entertainment.” “Amusing.” “Pleasant.” It’s a treat! You deserve that cookie or that bowl of pasta – you earned it through days and weeks and months of maintaining healthy habits. It’s like taking a vacation. We all need a break to relieve stress and relax from the grind. We do this when it comes to our workout programs, don’t we? We take rest days when our bodies need them we should also take rests from our diets when our body wants a treat.

 Doesn’t that sound better? Can you imagine if you thought about food in this way? So the next time you are out with your friends, enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious meal, instead of the shame and last supper mentality, reclaim your right to eat what you want in the moment. Give yourself unconditional permission to have a treat when your body desires it, and then put it to bed. This shift in perception will prevent you from binging and also allow you to make the food choices that you truly desire and not just indulge for indulgence’s sake. It’s called balance, and that is how you really set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy living.

My Top 5 Favorite Veggies

So here’s the deal. I rock veggies in every meal. Normally I keep it very simple during the day (steamed, sautéed, or raw); but in the evenings I always try to elevate the taste of these nutritious delicious little health nuggets. Below I have listed my Top 5 Favorite Veggies Of All Time, and how I like to prepare them. These are my Go-Tos – the recipes I keep in my cooking rotation throughout the week. What are your favorite vegetables?

1. Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Cup of whole brussel sprouts
3 tablespoons cups balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic

 Rinse the brussel sprouts in cold water and pat dry. Next, slice the stems off and then cut each sprout in half.,Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in a sauté pan and add 3 cloves of minced garlic (make sure the pan is cold). Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the brussel sprouts along with a ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar. Cook for approx 10-15 minutes, or until desired doneness. The balsamic will develop a sticky, sweet coating on the bright green, crunchy brussel sprouts. Delicious!

2. Roasted Sweet Potatoes

3 to 4 medium sweet potatoes
Garlic Powder
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes well in cold water. Next, cut them into cubes and place in roasting pan. Toss well with olive oil, paprika, and garlic powder (a hefty sprinkle of each). Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. I like them well done so the skins are crispy.

3. Broccoli Rabe

1 head of broccoli rabe (trim stems)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

 Rinse broccoli rabe well. Next, place minced garlic in a cold sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil add red pepper flakes to the pan when the garlic starts to sizzle. Toast for 30-45 seconds. Add broccoli rabe to the pan and toss until the greens are coated nicely. Let cook for 2 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

4. Roasted Butternut Squash

Small to Medium size butternut squash
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Peel the entire squash, then cut in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds completely. Dice the squash into cubes – and line another roasting pan with the squash. Toss with cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Stick the pan in the oven at 375. The butternut squash should take approx 45 minutes, but check often and take out when tender.

5. Sautéed Kale

1 head of Kale (tear out the center vein from each leaf)
Red Pepper Flakes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
zest of ½ a lemon

Rinse kale well. After tearing out the center stem, roll the leaves up and chop. Next, place minced garlic in cold sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil then add red pepper flakes to the pan when the garlic starts to sizzle. Toast for 30-45 seconds. Add the kale to the pan and toss until the greens are coated nicely. Let cook for 5-6 minutes. Next at the lemon zest and continue to toss. Cook the kale until tender. Serve and enjoy. 

**Salt and Pepper all veggies to taste**

Superfoods for Recovery

I think we have all spent many years working out and feeling oh so very sore afterwards. Enough so, that we don’t even want to return to the gym. There are so many products out there geared specifically towards reducing soreness and to help increase muscle growth after exercise. We are all familiar with the protein shake, which don’t get me wrong, certainly has its place. The protein shake however, is limited in its benefits for the body. But what if I could tell you that there are 100% natural products out there in the form of superfoods, where you could achieve the same thing, and get more bang for your buck?! I have found that in most cases this form of self-care and refueling has zero effects on the digestive system. In fact, not only are you providing your muscles with adequate recovery but also gaining magnificent benefits in other areas of your body. These superfoods are also incredible diverse, you can put them into a smoothie or eat them all on their own. Whichever way you decide, I can guarantee a delicious result with incredible benefits for those sore muscles.

1) Spirulina is the ultimate athletes superfood! It contains all eight amino acids. Spirulina is also a very high source of chlorphyll, salts, phytonutrients, and enzymes; and also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, K, and E. All majorly important when it comes to repairing muscle tissue. It is best to consume spirulina after workouts for rapid healing effects. Another surprising fact is that spirulina contains the same amount of iron that you would get from eating red meat.

2) Raw Chocolate is not only incredibly delicious but also helps lower stress of physical activities. It contains high levels of magnesium, chromium, B vitamins and antioxidants – which aids in shortening your muscle recovery time. Cacao also has the highest levels of magnesium than any other food on the planet! Magnesium is helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function.

3) Cayenne is, in my personal opinion the best spice on earth! It purifies the blood in order for oxygen to be carried through our heart and lungs and ultimately to our muscles. Cayenne also helps boost the metabolism and aids in weight loss. Also, cayenne stimulates fluid elimination through sweating, which helps the body cool itself while eliminating built up toxins.

4) Goji Berries, get this, are known for naturally containing and producing the human growth hormone when consumed. They are one of nature’s greatest superfood hands down. Especially for sports such as bodybuilding and other extreme sports. They are also high in antioxidants as well as very high in protein. Goji Berries contain 19 different amino acids including all 8 of the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle-building protein, which is crucial when is comes to repairing muscle tissue and reducing soreness.