CHICKEN SOUP WITH LEMON, DILL, AND CANNELLINI BEANS

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

We had an ice storm in early February and it turned our apple orchard in a series of crystal chandeliers.

Even though I grew up in the Upper Peninsula, I always was a fair weather Yooper. While I loved to spend every waking hour outside in the summer, in the winter I could often be found hunkered down with a good book and a hot beverage. That all seemed to change when I met my husband John who is an avid outdoorsman. His simple belief is that you can withstand any weather if you have the correct clothing. Needless to say, over the past four years I have acquired quite the collection of boots and attire for all seasons. I have the right gear to pan for gold in an Alaskan glacial stream, the proper boots to hike the mountains in Montana, and even the outerwear to withstand all the frosty weather that Marquette County can dish out.

Yet, I must admit that I still found myself dealing with winter outdoor adventures with a heaping dose of dread. So this year when I told my husband that I was finally serious about snowshoeing, he called my bluff and hauled me to a local sports store and bought me an early Christmas present – boots that were made for snowshoeing. Since we already had the snowshoes and twenty-seven acres of snow-laden property, I had zero excuses. John joined me in blazing the first trail and I have been crushing my goal of snowshoeing at least five times a week one snowy step at a time. An added bonus is that to date I have lost 13 pounds and have toned up my legs and core.

I cannot believe I didn’t start snowshoeing sooner! If you have never been snowshoeing before, give it a try. I find it both relaxing and exhilarating and it gives me time to reflect and ponder. My favorite way to round out my excursion is a pot of soup simmering on the stove followed by a hot sauna before bed.

John and our pup Apollo helped me blaze the first trail on our homestead in December. We have received several FEET of snow since this photo was taken.

The trail that I melt all of my stress away on.

Our Golden Retriever Gracie loves to frolic in snow! Look at that smile.

The recipe that I am going to share with you today is a refreshing twist on a traditional chicken soup. It combines the accompaniment of tangy lemon and dill and, instead of rice or noodles, gives an extra boost of protein with cannellini beans (white kidney beans). If you are a vegetarian, you can easily make this soup vegetarian friendly use a quality vegetable stock and replace the chicken with extra beans.

As with any flavorful soup, I think that the most important ingredient is a superior stock or broth. When you start with a good broth you reduce the cooking time of your soup because the flavor has already been developed. In recent years I have read a lot of information on the health benefits of bone broth. While I was a vegetarian for over eleven years, after being diagnosed with Hashimotos Disease (thyroid disease), I slowly started reintroducing meat (chicken and pork) that my husband and I raise ourselves – as well as small amounts of locally raised beef.

Whenever I roast a chicken I make sure to utilize 100% of the animal and always make broth (I can or freeze what is not going to be consumed within a day). Chicken broth is simple to make and my go-to method is to use my pressure cooker.

LEMON CHICKEN SOUP WITH DILL & CANNELLINI BEANS

  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 medium chopped onion (1/2 cup)
  • 3 ribs of chopped celery
  • ¼ cup of chopped carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups of chopped roasted chicken
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 3-4 lemons (juice and zest)
  • ¼ cup of chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional – flour and butter or cornstarch for a thickening agent

Sauté the onion, celery, garlic, and carrots in olive oil until soft (approximately 5 minutes). Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add chicken meat, beans, and reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

If you want to thicken the soup you can use flour and butter. I combine three Tablespoons of flour with two Tablespoons of butter in a pan on low heat. When it forms a paste-like texture I add a ½ cup of hot broth and whisk until smooth (you can add more stock until there aren’t any chunks of flour) and then add the mixture to your soup and stir in well (you can simmer for a few minutes). You can add more the mixture if you want the broth to be thicker, but I prefer this soup to be thinner.

Another healthier option to thicken this soup is to puree the beans and incorporate into the soup. This is a good way to “hide” beans from small children who won’t eat them. I have found that this a healthy alternative for cream-based soups as well. You get the same creamy consistency without having to use heavy cream.

Not only do I hope you try this soup, but if you are craving winter adventure, I hope you log a few miles on a pair of snowshoes soon. If you are not athletically inclined (as I am not), snowshoeing is not a difficult activity and it is said to burn twice the calories as walking. I find that I do not have to over-dress, but rather dress in layers. I usually wear a pair of thicker leggings with knee high socks to protect my calves from any deep snow that finds its way into my boots. I layer a t-shirt with a sweatshirt, a lighter winter shell jacket, a scarf, a knit headband to protect my ears, and a flexible pair of gloves. I also apply a generous layer of moisturizer on my face and balm on my lips. When I snowshoe at night I wear a headlamp to light my way (though sometimes I just let the stars guide me). I recommend bringing a camera to capture nature’s beauty, a bottle of water, and follow the invigorating activity with a hot shower or a sauna.

I promise that you will find yourself craving the outdoors. In fact, I am heading outside now. Our 90+ pound, 10 month old, German Shepherd Apollo enjoys the exercise as much as I do. Nature calls – make sure that you answer – and don’t forget to warm up with a hot bowl of healthy soup!

Hurry up, Mama!

My beautiful snowshoe trail.

Apollo my personal trainer

 

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Velvety Butternut Squash Soup

“The house was very quiet, and the fog—we are in November now—pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.”
E.M. Forster, Howards End

The last of our beautiful leaves – the trees are naked now and everything is white. I need updated photos.

November in Upper Michigan arrives with a fierce and energetic gust. The color has already been torn from the trees, so November gales stir up Lake Superior and remind us that whether you are Finnish or not – Yoopers have sisu. It is one of the reasons that we live here. Surviving a UP winter gives one stamina and a keen sense of perseverance. When traveling, our snow totals give us bragging rights and the wild beauty keeps us stimulated and inspired during long tedious months of frigid weather.

During November, social media, advertisements, and news outlets remind us that we should be thankful. Therefore, we tick off our blessings: health, family, friends, careers, pets, and all the stable factors in our lives.

While I try to be thankful year round, November naturally makes me focus on the abundance I have been given.

With my husband and I both possessing demanding jobs, both kids in hockey, and everyday household chores that include farm duties – simplifying our meals is essential. It is my obsession to make sure that our nutritional needs are met and that the majority of our meals are homemade. Therefore, in the coming months a variety of hot and nourishing soups will be a mainstay in our kitchen. This recipe for butternut squash soup is simple, satisfying, and healthy. The texture is velvety and so smooth you will not believe that it does not contain cream.

 

VELVETY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

*Butternut squash (three small, two medium, or one large)
*1 cup of chopped onion
*1 cup of celery
*1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon of finely chopped ginger
*3 chopped Granny Smith apples (I left the peelings on)
*4 cups of stock/broth (vegetable or chicken stock)
*1 teaspoon nutmeg
*1 Tablespoon cinnamon
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Optional – sweetener to taste (maple syrup or brown sugar). I like the soup without sweetener but my husband likes it sweet.
*Optional – I like to add a large bunch of sage from my garden (remove before pureeing)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pierce Butternut Squash and place in a baking dish (add a couple of cups of water to bottom of the dish)
  2. Roast squash for 30-45 minutes at 400-450 degrees.
  3. Peel squash and remove seeds.
  4. Sauté onion, garlic, celery, and ginger until soft.
  5. Add the stock along with apples and squash.
  6. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool a bit and puree in blender.
  8. Serve with a dash of cinnamon on top and/or a sprinkling of walnuts, pecans, or croutons.

This soup freezes well and is a wonderful way to round out a meal. Add a simple salad and it is a great lunch and it is elegant enough to serve to guests.

Make sure you check out my other soup recipes.

Thank you for reading my blog. As I reflect over the things that I am thankful for, you are part of that list. I love being able to encourage others to enjoy cooking and share my healthy recipes. May your November be full of warmth and laughter around your kitchen table.

Our driveway looks so magical in the fall. John had to plow this weekend – which doesn’t make it look quite as pretty!

 

Lentil Sloppy Joes – Prepare a Healthy & Hearty Meal with Pantry Staples

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”
― Mary Rubin

If your household is anything like ours, May is an exciting and hectic time. The kids and I are finishing up with school and my husband always has extra training and projects to finish at work. In addition, in the spring our farm chores start to pick up momentum and in the hustle and bustle of life, meal planning and grocery shopping often get pushed to the side. It is times like these that make it necessary to do an inventory of what is available in the house and make some magic happen the kitchen.

Thankfully, I am great at stocking up on pantry staples. There is a running joke in our house that when the zombies attack – the Waldos will not starve. My step-son Lukas loves to tell the story of the time that John and I got home from our honeymoon in Alaska. I declared to everyone that I HAD to go grocery shopping because we had “no food in the house.” Needless to say, four days later (without grocery shopping) I managed to feed our family of four (plus Grandpa) three meals a day (including snacks and dessert). I guess that is one of the benefits of being a teacher – we are always planning ahead. Even when we do not realize that we are.

Another challenge with a whirlwind schedule is making sure that the food we consume has health benefits. When in a time crunch it is easy to grab heavily processed meals that are void of nutrition. That is one of the reasons that I believe in keeping a well-stocked kitchen. I almost always have the ingredients on hand for the recipe that I am going to share with you today.

Sloppy Joes were a childhood favorite in my house, but this “grown up” version is much healthier. The lentils have staying power and are filling and you can serve in a variety of ways. You can serve it on buns, in pita pockets, or open faced on a piece of artesian bread. I like to toast the bread and sprinkle with with dill pickles. If you are trying to watch your bread intake it is fabulous served over romaine leaves or even as a topping for sautéed cabbage or zucchini. I have shared this recipe before and since I have received a lot of feedback on it, I believe it is worthy of sharing again!

Lentil Sloppy Joes

LENTIL SLOPPY JOES

  • 2 cups lentils (If you want to get fancy you can purchase red lentils in bulk at the Marquette co-op)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershiresauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes(or more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional ~ hot sauce(to taste)

Directions:

  1. Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper until soft (5-10 minutes)
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 60 minutes. Stir often and you may have to add more water as it cooks.
  3. You may want to add more spices/vinegar/mustard based on your taste. Sometimes I like to add extra hot sauce and an extra splash of vinegar right before serving.
  4. Makes Seven Cups. If you do not want such a large batch you can use the same amount of ingredients but reduce the lentils to one cup and only add 2 1/2 cups of water. I like to make a large batch so we have leftovers. Sometimes I freeze in individual containers for grab-and-go lunches.

I hope that your spring plans are in full swing and that you can find solace and healthy comfort in your kitchen. I find that when my calendar gets full it is deeply satisfying to know that I am still managing to feed my family nutritious meals that help fuel our time commitments. So fill out that shopping list with kitchen staples, buy fresh produce and wholesome ingredients, and fill your refrigerator and deep freeze with meals that are simple and satisfying. I hope that you add this recipe to your menu. If you do, please take a  moment and  let me know what you think.

Vegetarian Chili – A Labor of Love

“The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children”
― Philip Carr-Gomm

My late grandfather Thomas Puskala was a soil artist and his straight, manicured vegetable rows were a work of art. He was an organic gardener before it was hip and he carefully recorded the seasons and moments of insight on his calendar. He cited the migration of geese and robins, jotted down when he planted the peas, and detailed the ebb and flow of frost’s destructive fingers. I think of Grandpa when I publish a new blog post. He would have loved how I document my garden with snippets of poetry, layers of photos, and the capacity that my words and recipes have for outreach. Technology affords us the opportunity to document our lives with vibrant threads of meaning.

Thank you to my cousin Alicia for this photo of Grandpa Puskala. ❤

I thought of Grandpa this past summer and fall when I grew and put up over thirty quarts of garden tomatoes. Our new hoop house made for a remarkable growing season and our tomato plants became tree-like and laden with juicy fruit. It felt therapeutic to quarter the scarlet orbs (skins and all) and roast them with garlic and onion for marinara, plunge them into boiling water to remove the skins for stewed tomatoes, and add spices to the boiling pot and render salsa with fiery depth. Though, through the canning process, I am preserving more than just an Upper Peninsula of Michigan summer in jar. I am also encapsulating Grandpa’s old fashioned values and his affinity for nourishing his family with wholesome food and living as close to the land as possible. Every bubbling pan of lasagna and simmering pot of tomato basil soup is a homage to my grandfather’s legacy.

I know that I am not alone in taking extra steps to make healthy meals for my family. However, with cold comes with an offering of food temptations. Making wise food choices can be a challenge and craving comfort food makes it easy to surrender to indulging in too sodium and sugar laden treats. With spring right around the corner, you may be thinking of ways to jump start your healthy intentions. A great tip that I try to incorporate into my family’s meal plan is to have soup or chili on hand. This guarantees that we always have a quick and homemade dinner or lunch in a pinch. The chili recipe that I am sharing with you is heavy on fiber from beans, which makes it filling.

I started sharing recipes on my blog in 2013, and I like to challenge people to experiment with vegetarian or Vegan recipes. Not only do those who practice a plant-based diet know how to find alternative and filling sources of protein, but often plant-based recipes use healthy spices and herbs for flavor. This chili recipe is one that I have shared with friends for years and I always mention, that if desired, they can add meat. However, most report back that they enjoyed the recipe without meat. This recipe is on rotation in our house year round, but it is especially satisfying in the winter months as the temperature dips (which is still the case in Upper Michigan).  I often make a double or triple batch and it freezes well. This year I even pressure canned a few quarts to keep on hand in case of an emergency.

Last weekend I participated in a chili cook off at the 5th Annual Wellness Fair at Gwinn High School. I took first place in the amateur division – winning over two student groups and my boss Sandy Petrovich, the Superintendent of Gwinn Area Community Schools. It was neat to watch Ms. Petrovich and her student competitors banter back and forth. It was exactly how a school function should run – it was well attended and involved all of our education stakeholders. The entire event made me so proud to be a Modeltowner!

The Wellness Fair was exciting to participate in and GACS Food Service Director, and organizer of the Wellness Fair, Barbie Ward-Thomas does a phenomenal job encompassing all types of wellness in the event: physical, emotional, financial, and social wellness. We are so lucky to have her as our support and advocate for health at GACS!

To see a story of the event covered by local media click HERE

My award winning chili!

I served up my chili with sour cream, wedges of lime, and fresh cilantro!

I was pleased to have been selected first place by community tasters (everyone is invited to sample the chili and cast a vote). It is always interesting to see the look on people’s faces when you mention that the chili is vegetarian. Some people look at you skeptically like you are trying to spread an agenda, but then I explain how flavorful it is and full of ingredients. If that does not win them over, I like to mention how easy vegetarian chili can be on your pocketbook since beans are extremely affordable (especially if you buy dry beans and cook them yourself). I also made sure to bring a jar of my canned tomatoes to show people the love and attention that I put into my chili. ❤ Love wins every time!

THREE BEAN VEGETARIAN CHILI
*3 cups of tomatoes
*1 cup tomato juice
*1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
*1 cup chopped celery
*1 cup chopped onion
*1 cup of corn
*3 minced cloves of garlic
*1 cup white beans (cooked)
*1 cup black beans (cooked)
*1 cup kidney beans (cooked)
*1 small can diced green chilies
*1 Tbsp ground cumin
*1 Tbsp ground coriander
*1 Tbsp dried oregano
*1 Tbsp chili powder, (Add as much for desired heat.)
*Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Sauté celery, onion, green pepper and garlic with olive oil. Add all ingredients to crock pot or stock pot (you may also want to add a cup of water). The longer the chili cooks, the better it will taste. If I cook via stove-top I simmer for 60 minutes. Using the slow-cooker method I cook on low for 4 hours. Season to taste (adding more chili powder or “heat” if desired).

You can also toss in other vegetables that you have on hand. In the past I’ve added zucchini, carrots, and even cabbage.

While you can use canned beans that you purchase at the market, I suggest buying dry and cooking your own (makes it even more economical). I make the beans in bulk and freeze. One pot makes approximately fifteen cups. While it is fantastic alone, sometimes I like to add a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, an avocado wedge, whole wheat pasta or quinoa, and/or a squeeze of fresh lime juice to perk up the flavor even more. Add a side salad (the one featured here incorporates citrus, pomegranate, jalapeno slices, and avocado) and you have a nutritious and hearty, but not heavy, meal. For easy to assemble homemade salad dressings, make sure you check out my blog.

I hope that you were fortunate as my family to have a bounty of tomatoes over the summer. If you do not garden, you are missing out on one of life’s most simple pleasures. There is nothing like a tomato fresh off the vine – still warm from the sun. Take advantage of a blustery UP day to dream about tilling a small plot of land or filling a row of containers on your deck with lush plants. My husband and I will spend our winter months pouring over seed catalogs to fill our new hoop house in the spring. I know my grandfather is watching and I know that he loves our farm. ❤

My new cards I had printed to give out at the Wellness Fair in hopes of drawing in new readers.

Roasted Vegetable Stew

Roasted Vegetable Stew by Produce with Amy“Just as a painter needs light in order to put the finishing touches to his picture, so I need an inner light, which I feel I never have enough of in the autumn.”
― Leo Tolstoy

My heart is not feeling autumn joy this weekend. The sky is gray and yesterday my husband Mike fired up the furnace. I guess when the inside temperature dips below 60 it is sign that it is time to rely on artificial heat. To help deal with my seasonal funk I made time to read, write, and I cooked up a storm. Chopping vegetables is therapy for me. Instead of turning to unhealthy food for comfort this coming week I decided to stock our house with an abundance of vegetable rich meals. I made a batch of autumn themed Mason jar salads, vegetable lasagna, and a rustic roasted vegetable stew (the salad and lasagna recipes will be shared soon).

Do you roast vegetables? It is a simple technique that brings out the sweetness in produce and makes the house smell incredible. When making this stew you may want to make extra roasted vegetables to use in other recipes and serve as a side during the week.

Roasted Brussels SproutsFor this stew I roasted the following in three batches:

1st Batch:
*Brussels sprouts (you will need 1 cup for this recipe.

I roasted extra for my jar salads for the week). If you are buying fresh, buy 2 cups (they shrink) or one bag of frozen. 

 

2nd Batch (Vegetable Medley):Roasted Vegetable Medley
*1 small zucchini
*1 medium onion
*3 ribs of celery
*1 yellow bell pepper
*8 ounces of mushrooms
*1 pint of cherry tomatoes (I add the cherry tomatoes in the last 15 minutes of roasting).

This recipe rendered 4 cups of vegetables. I used two cups for this stew and 2 cups for my vegetable lasagna. Therefore, you may want to cut the recipe in 1/2.

Roasted Root Vegetables

 

3rd Batch (Root Vegetables):
*3 carrots
*3 parsnips
*1 pound of potatoes (I used fingerling potatoes)

I did not season any of my roasted vegetables since the stew will be seasoned. I chopped, drizzled with a little olive oil, and roasted for approximately 40 minutes (turning at the 20 minute mark) at 400 degrees.

The carrots, parsnips, and potatoes were roasted for 50 minutes.  If I was roasting the vegetables to serve as a side I would also add salt, pepper, and minced garlic.

This weekend I also roasted 3 heads of garlic. If you have never roasted garlic before, you have to try it. Roasting garlic makes it sweet, mellow, and creamy. It is terrific in hummus, spread on bread, and is great in any recipe that calls for garlic. I added one entire head to this stew but if you are using regular garlic you can use a couple of minced cloves.
Roasted GarlicDirections for roasting garlic:

Slice the end off of the garlic bulb (the wider end). Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap in tinfoil. Pop into a preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees (depending on your oven).

After roasting the garlic flesh will become soft and will slide right out of the bulb. It’s marvelous spread on bread, in hummus, and works well in any recipe that requires garlic. I always use all of my roasted garlic immediately, but it would keep well for a week in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Roasted Vegetable Stew by Produce with Amy
ROASTED VEGETABLE STEW

*6 cups of vegetable stock (I used bouillon that I purchased at our co-op)
*1 head of roasted garlic
*2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
*Handful of lemon thyme (or 2 teaspoons of dried)
*1 cup of roasted Brussels sprouts
*2 cups of roasted vegetable medley
*Roasted root vegetables
*Juice and zest of one lemon
*1 bunch of chopped, fresh parsley

Bring vegetable stock, roasted garlic, and fresh rosemary and thyme to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add all the roasted vegetables and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and zest and stir in chopped parsley.


Printable Recipe: ROASTED VEGETABLE STEW by Produce with Amy

Pin it HERE.

If you are like me and enjoy a steaming cup or bowl of soup to help chase away a chill and bulk up a meal – make sure you check out my other soup recipes.

As the cold weather progresses, I promise to share more ideas for healthy comfort food. Thank you for joining me on the quest to enjoy plant-based meals. If you have a favorite fall or winter recipe – please share. Make sure you stop by my Facebook page and join the conversation. I wish you a healthy and productive week!

French Onion Soup – Healthy & Plant-Based

Plant Based French Onion Soup by Produce with Amy“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~William Wordsworth

What is there not to love about the above quote? As an English teacher and writer I try to encourage my students to tell their stories. This year my 9th grade students are so reluctant to write that first line. They sit paralyzed in their desks with looks of alarm on their faces. I try to coax them — sometimes quietly – and sometimes in passionate-crazy-English-teacher fashion to allow their hearts to lead them.

I think that the same can be said about cooking (just replace the word paper in the quote with stock pot, bowl, or plate). When I became a Weight Watchers leader I was surprised to learn how many people are reluctant cooks. I love being able to help provide my members, and readers of my blog, with an array of new food finds and recipes.

For my regular readers, I apologize that I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Life is busy and it is a challenge in the beginning of the school year to find energy to do anything but work, eat, and sleep. In fact, my healthy goals for the beginning of the school year have been nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.  Luckily, I get in a lot of movement at work, but in the coming weeks I will be trying to add in more formal exercise.

Last week I started a new novel with my 9th grade students. We are reading Starved by Michael Somers. Somer’s novel details the story of Nathan Thomas who faces stress from school and his family life and develops an eating disorder. I think it is an important topic to discuss with teenagers and as I guide them through the novel, I anticipate many conversations.  In fact, this weekend the assignment was for my students to identify five healthy activities that one can engage in to manage stress. I look forward to seeing their responses tomorrow. As we brainstormed in class I loved hearing about how they love to hike outside and enjoy nature, go fishing, listen to music, and draw. It made my heart joyful when several shared that they enjoy writing when they feel overwhelmed emotionally. I hope that I can help them develop healthy ways to cope with stress at a young age.

My students were excited when I informed them that Mike Somers would be visiting us this year at our high school. What an exciting opportunity it is for them to be face-to-face with an author and be able to ask questions about the creative process. Especially an author that wrote a compelling book that addresses the overwhelming issues of self-concept, identity, and how to find control and balance in our stress filled lives.

For me, part of the way that I deal with stress is to make sure that I am fueling my body with the proper nutrition. Therefore, this blogging adventure has been therapeutic in helping with the stresses of work and my personal life. I really struggled this summer after my beautiful aunt Bev passed away suddenly in June. While I did not share as many recipes as I would have liked, the constant flow of comments and messages from readers who enjoy my recipes kept my spirits up.
BEVolution of Kindness

My aunt owned a supper club,  Bev’s Supper Club, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She was an incredible woman and I will always struggle with the reality of her death.  I spoke at her funeral and shared how I was not ready to say goodbye to Bev. She was my babysitter when I was a little girl and I looked up to her and loved her. I asked all present at her memorial to please commit an act of kindness in Bev’s memory. I started a Facebook page called BEVolution of Kindness and I am thrilled that the kindness campaign is still moving. I also started a FB group that is currently 230 members strong and I hope the numbers continue to grow in the coming months. Please consider joining. You do not need to have known Bev to participate. All it takes is a kind heart and the desire to make a difference in the world. What I am asking people to do is commit an act of kindness and to pass along a BEVolution card to the next person (who in turn passes on the card etc.). My hope is that people find their way to the Facebook group and page and share their story and location that the act of kindness occurred.

Here is a link if you are interested in printing off BEVolution cards:Printable BEVolution Cards

Today’s blog post is in memory of Bev. My aunt’s baked French Onion Soup was enjoyed by her customers and was nearly world-famous (or U.P. famous).

My version of this classic soup is plant-based and was made in the crock-pot. A woman who I chatted with in line at the supermarket suggested that making a flavorful French onion soup without butter or beef broth was impossible. Not only do I think that I nailed this recipe – but I also managed to add crusty bread with plant-based cheese that came out bubbly and browned from the broiler.

Fresh herbs from my garden. I think that the secret to a rich French onion soup is caramelizing the onions and slow-cooking it with a variety of herbs. You do not need butter to caramelize onions – your favorite cooking oil will do the trick. I like to use coconut oil or olive oil – and if you do not have fresh herbs, dried will work.

Since my husband would be eating this soup I made a large batch so you may want to reduce it in half (but I promise you will not regret making a large batch if it is only you eating this soup…it is the perfect, healthy, comfort food).
Plant Based French Onion Soup by Produce with Amy

PLANT-BASED FRENCH ONION SOUP

*8 cups of vegetable stock
*Optional – 1 cup of red wine
*8 medium sliced onions
*4 minced garlic cloves
*2 sprigs of rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
*2 clusters of sage (2 teaspoons dried)
*6 strands of chives (2 teaspoons dried)
*1/2 cup of parsley (2 teaspoons dried)
(I do not chop the fresh herbs but tie them in a bunch with string and add them to the soup)
*3 Tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Loaf of crusty bread
*Swiss cheese (I used Daiya Swiss Style Slices non-dairy cheese. I highly recommend this product…it was perfect for this soup)

A steaming bowl of soup is the perfect comfort day for a crisp Autumn day. Divide up the cooking oil and onions in three batches and cook on low heat. Add a little salt to the onions and cook until brown and caramelized. Saute the minced garlic with the last batch of onions. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, and broth to the crock-pot. Cook on high for four hours (times may vary according to your slow cooker.  This soup could be also be made on the stove top and I would recommend cooking it on low for a few hours).

Serve the soup hot and top with toasted bread. Slice the bread, top with cheese, and allow to brown under the broiler. You can also make garlic toast and forgo the cheese if you are trying to save calories. Last week I spread olive tapenade on my garlic toast for my soup since I did not buy the Daiya non-dairy cheese until the weekend.
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Printable recipe:PLANT BASED FRENCH ONION SOUP

Pin it HERE.

Make sure you check out my other soup recipes.

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Thank you for joining me in the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables. As cold and flu season makes its ugly rounds this time of year it is important to fortify our immune systems with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Your body and health will thank you.
Plant Based Onion SoupI hope you enjoy this soup recipe that I am sharing in memory of my sweet auntie. There is nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of healthy soup. My aunt welcomed people into her restaurant as if it was her own home. She was known for her infectious laughter, warm personality, and her heart-of-gold. I am certain that if there were more people like Bev in the world – it would be a much kinder, gentle, and joyous place. I hope you will consider joining the BEVolution of Kindness that I started to honor her spirit of compassion. Thank you!

BEVolution of Kindness

 

Zucchini Noodle Soup

“Happiness must be grown in one’s own garden. ” 
― Mary Engelbreit

Zucchini Noodle Soup by Produce with AmyThe topic of last week’s Weight Watchers meeting was one after my own heart — “The Power of Produce”. My mom always tells me that she knew when I was growing up that I would become a vegetarian one day, because fruit and vegetables were always my first choice when it came to snacks and meals. However, I admit that when I joined Weight Watchers in 2006 – my methods of cooking vegetables were not always the healthiest. Long periods of time would pass without fresh produce in our house. Life was busy and my husband Mike and I would often go on a large grocery run once or twice a month. This resulted in limited options when fresh supplies ran low. Not to mention the obscene amount of produce that was tossed out because we did not make fruit and vegetables a priority like we do now. Currently I make at least one grocery trip a week (sometimes 2 or 3) and my cart is always full of fresh and frozen produce.

Last week at my WW meetings we discussed how bulking up meals with fruit and vegetables not only helps you stay full (due to the fiber, water, vitamin, and mineral content in produce) but it also has a psychological impact by visually making your plate look full. When I joined WW, I found that adding a side of raw carrots and celery to a sandwich made me feel more satisfied and did not make me feel deprived. Before I joined WW my husband and I always had rice, pasta, or potatoes as a side to dinner entrees and when I learned about the Points system, I started preparing 0 Points Plus vegetables instead.

Last summer I purchased a Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer to make vegetable noodles. While I am not a fan of kitchen gadgets, this is one that I recommend.

Last week at my Monday night meeting, my friend Wendy, shared that she bought a Veggetti. She said that her sister makes zucchini noodles daily and that she makes them into a soup with broth. What a great idea! While most of my soup recipes make 10-12 cups of soup (I like to have extra to freeze) in a post from the winter of 2013, I shared how I am known to assemble a bowl of spontaneous soup. After hearing about Wendy’s sister, I decided that I would make a bowl of Zucchini Noodle Soup.

Yesterday was the perfect day for healthy comfort food. I subbed a WW meeting in the morning and when I left the house it was 49 degrees. Spotty rain and gray skies made it a day of napping with our cats, taking a hot bath, reading, and soup. From start to finish this bowl of soup took fifteen minutes at most (including gathering and prepping the ingredients). I did not purchase special ingredients but selected what I had on hand.

ZUCCHINI NOODLE SOUP

  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of spiralized zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • 5 fresh pea pods 
  • 3 thin slices of leek
  • 3 mushrooms sliced
  • 1 clove of finely minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped, fresh chives
  • 1/2 carrot peeled and chopped
I bought this chili sauce from Target. I love its heat - but be careful because it's spicy!

I bought this chili sauce from Target. I love its heat – but be careful because it’s spicy!

  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh tomato
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro (if you do not like cilantro parsley works well)
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • Splash of rice vinegar

Saute the onion, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, carrots in the coconut oil for 3-4 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth, pea pods, tomatoes, and chili sauce.

Bring to a boil.

Add the zucchini and remove from the heat (I wanted the zucchini to be al dente).

Ladle into a bowl and add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garnish with the cilantro.

Thank you to Wendy for the great idea of making Zucchini Noodle Soup! This week I am going to make a bowl each day for lunch or to eat with dinner.

Tonight I am planning to make an Italian version with the following ingredients:
Broth, zucchini noodles, onion, garlic, celery, fresh herbs from my garden (basil, oregano, and chives), 3 Tablespoons of marinara sauce (leftover in the refrigerator), mushrooms,  and red bell pepper.

I am also imagining a curry inspired soup with:
Broth, zucchini noodles, garlic, onion, 3 Tablespoons of light coconut milk (I have some in the freezer), sweet potato, chopped tomato, fresh ginger root, curry powder (to taste), a squeeze of lime juice, and fresh cilantro.

How about a Mexican inspired soup?:
Broth, zucchini noodles, garlic, onion, homemade taco seasoning, tomatoes, bell pepper, black beans, and top with fresh cilantro and cubed avocado.

Or a refreshing lemon dill:
Broth, zucchini noodles, garlic, onion, celery, fennel, fresh lemon juice and zest, spinach, and loads of fresh dill.

A lovely garden pea and mint:
Broth, zucchini noodles, garlic, onion, fresh garden peas (you could puree or leave whole), and fresh mint.

This month I celebrate my seventh anniversary of reaching Lifetime status with Weight Watchers and I believe in the power of produce. I also believe in the power of a well stocked refrigerator, pantry, and fruit and vegetables bowls on the counter. Let your imagination and what you have on hand be your guide. If you make a spontaneous bowl of soup I would love to hear the combination that you create. Social networking allows us the opportunity to learn, share, and grow in healthy ideas together.

Please make sure to stop by my Facebook Page and give it a “like” and sign up for email updates of my posts. Follow me on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you want other soup ideas make sure you check out my Soup tab at the top of the page. .
In the next week I will be sharing my recipe for a raw zucchini noodle dish that features a lemon basil pesto and my favorite cold green soup (think savory green smoothie in a bowl).

Thank you for your comments, feedback, and support. As Produce with Amy nears the milestone of 100,000 views – I am thrilled and humbled.  I  feel thankful that there has been so much interest in my recipes. I love sharing my creativity and passion for healthy food. Thank you!

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Flowers from my garden.

Flowers from my garden.