White Bean, Rice, and Vegetable Soup

White Bean, Rice, & Vegetable Soup“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 
― Edith Sitwell

Today is the first “official” day of my winter holiday and if I did not have to venture outside tonight for my Weight Watchers meeting, I could easily stay in my lounge clothes and robe all day. The landscape outside is covered with a fresh and fluffy coverlet of snow and it is a hot-bowl-of-soup and a steaming-cup-of-tea kind of day. The next few days will be bustling with Christmas cheer and family, so today I am enjoying a hushed house as I ruminate over the past year and continue to map out my intentions for 2014.

My health is always #1 on my resolutions list and in 2013 I managed to create healthy routines involving our living spaces. I find that the less cluttered our tiny house is, the stronger and more “in control” I feel. Yes, it is true that I make healthier food choices and do not make as many excuses not to exercise when our house is tidy. With the stressful nature of teaching I need to have a restful and calm sanctuary to come home to and wind down.

When I started Produce with Amy my goals were to both eat more produce and to be productive. How accomplished I feel to say that I have been successful with both. Thank you to my readers for sharing this journey with me. Your feedback, comments, and support has helped me stay accountable and I love being able to help others make healthy choices.

Cooking is a pleasurable activity for me and I enjoy the creativity found in combining different flavors and textures. A few weeks ago I heard someone refer to themselves as a refrigerator cook because they cook meals out of what they have on hand. I could relate to this since I do the same thing. Now that I am blogging my food combinations, I do try to write them down so I can share them with you.

This white bean soup is an example of a dish that I tossed together with what I had in the house. I am always cooking up large batches of beans from dried to freeze for my meals. For this soup I also used my Spicy Brown Rice since I had several servings in the freezer.

WHITE BEAN, RICE, AND VEGETABLE SOUPWhite Bean Soup with Spicy Brown Rice

  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 cups of tomatoes (I used tomatoes from my garden that were roasted with rosemary and basil)
  • 3 cups of Spicy Brown Rice (you could also use plain brown rice and add some taco seasoning or spices for flavor)
  • 3 cups of white beans
  • 1 cup of chopped cabbage
  • 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • 3 ribs of chopped celery
  • 1 large chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 small chopped zucchini
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Once all your vegetables are chopped simply toss into the slow cooker. I cooked on low for 4 hours. Normally bean soup would take twice as long but the beans were already cooked.  This recipe makes approximately 12 cups of soup and it freezes well.

White Bean Vegetable Soup

My favorite way to eat bean soup is with a dash of vinegar added to the top before eating. I love the way the vinegar brightens up the flavor. I also often drizzle two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil on top.

This soup is very versatile and you can add any vegetables that you have on hand (sometimes I also add tomato sauce). The combination of beans and rice make it hearty and satisfying.

White Bean, Rice, & Vegetable SoupVegetable packed soup is one of my secret weapons for weight management and my husband Mike and I have a cup each night with dinner. This bean soup, along with a salad, is a filling meal. I make soup on the weekend and I often like to make a double batch so I can freeze a few portions. This is especially helpful if we end up going out of town on the weekend and I do not have time to make our weekly soup.

I hope that this soup helps you to stay warm and healthy this winter. Enjoy any holiday festivities that you may be attending and do not forget to pile your plate with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and build exercise into your schedule.

I challenge you to reflect on your successes for 2013 and come up with a list of goals that you would like to achieve in 2014. Stay tuned ~ I promise another year of healthy recipes coming your way!

If you are interested, check out the other soup recipes that I have posted.  Pin this recipe. Make sure you stop by and like my Facebook page.

White Bean, Rice, & Vegetable Soup

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Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and Oatmeal

Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and Oatmeal“I stand holding the apple in both hands. It feels precious, like a heavy treasure. I lift it up and smell it. It has such an odour of outdoors on it I want to cry.” 
― Margaret AtwoodApplesOne of my favorite parts of fall is the selection of apples at the market. Since childhood I have had an affinity for crisp, tart, green apples. Some of my fondest memories stem from my best friend Kim’s front yard in Crystal Falls where several apple trees grew. Kim, the daredevil that she was, would scale the tree for the largest fruit for our feast. Of course, this sampling of apples always involved a salt shaker. Yes, there is nothing like the combination of sour apples with salt! 🙂

Last week I made a large Crock-pot of slow cooked apples and they were a marvelous treat to eat during the week. They turned out like a sweet and tart applesauce and I warmed them before eating. I can only imagine how good they would be with a large dollop of ice cream on top. The recipe that I came up with rendered eight cups so I was able to freeze quite a number of servings to enjoy over the next few weeks.

My recipe goes very light on the oatmeal so if you want to enjoy this recipe for breakfast you may want to add extra oatmeal and liquid (or you could leave out the oatmeal and mix the fruity deliciousness into a bowl of oatmeal). When I joined Weight Watchers I ate oatmeal every morning for the first few years and I think that I burnt myself out of oats. However, on occasion I do sometimes still enjoy a bowl. This recipe may just make me a fan of oatmeal again.

Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and OatmealCranberriesSWEET & TART SLOW COOKER APPLES WITH CRANBERRIES, PUMPKIN, AND OATMEAL
*Printable shopping list and recipe below

  • 12 ounce bag of cranberries
  • 9 apples (I used five green and four red. The apples that I used were small)
  • 2 cups of oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats but a lot of crock pot oatmeal recipes call for steel-cut oats)
  • 2 cups of milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar (you could 8substitute your favorite sweetener such as honey and maple sugar)
  • Zest and juice from one orange
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon nutmeg
  • 2 ounces of raisins (next time I would probably leave the raisins out since they fell apart and I would add before serving)

Add all the ingredients to slow cooker and cook on high for 5 hours. As I said earlier, the texture was very much like applesauce. If you want the apples more firm you could cook for a shorter time period.

Printable shopping list and recipe: Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and Oatmeal
You cannot go wrong with seasonal ingredients. A couple hours in and the fragrance is intoxicating. Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and OatmealThis time of year I think it is important to come up with healthy versions of comfort food and this recipe really does the trick. While I am not a big fan of kitchen gadgets, one item that I do recommend is an apple slicer and corer. My mom bought this one for me a few years ago and it is essential for recipes that contain apples.
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Do not forgot to serve your apples in a pretty dish. Presentation can make all the difference.

Do not forgot to serve your apples in a pretty dish. Presentation can make all the difference.

Sweet Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and OatmealMike and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family and it felt spectacular to relax before the hustle-and-bustle of December. On Thanksgiving morning, before heading out-of-town, we were treated with a visit from some feathered friends. A group of cardinals (over seven) have taken residence in the large cedars in our backyard.

A friend shared that in recent years flocks of cardinals have moved into our northern location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The cardinals were joined by a huge flock of pigeons, chickadees, black birds, and a lone and brilliant blue jay. We were delighted to realize this morning that the cardinals were still in our backyard and we will continue to replenish our feeders with seed this winter. I could not help but be reminded by one of my favorite quotes by Louise Glück, “It’s a mistake to think of them as birds, they are so often messengers.” My friend Ann said that cardinals symbolize health, strength and vitality and Mike and I believe that they are helping usher in positive energy for 2014.

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Speaking a positive and healthy New Year, did you start the December Green Smoothie Challenge today? If not, it is not to late to join. Mid-week I will be posting a shopping list and recipes for Week #2. If you decide to make this recipe, buy an extra-large can of pumpkin because the second week’s recipes will contain pumpkin.

Here is a photo of Sunday Energizer smoothie that I enjoyed this morning. I love the zing that the fresh ginger brings to my glass.

Day #1 Sunday Energizer

Pin this recipe here.

You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page and join the healthy conversation.

In January I will be celebrating the one year anniversary of launching my blog and I am so thankful for all the support of my readers. I love shopping in the grocery store and having someone say, “hey, I really love your recipes and your blog.” It is hard to believe that last year at this time I was nervous about putting myself out there and I wondered if people would be interested in what I had to say. Thank you for making 2013 so full of light and I am excited to continue sharing this healthy journey with others!

Sweet & Tart Slow Cooker Apples with Cranberries, Pumpkin, and Oatmeal Appreciation

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup

I have been enjoying Autumn walks with Phoebe.

I have been enjoying crisp autumn walks with Phoebe.

“Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard.” 
― Walt Whitman

It feels good to be blogging again. Last weekend I had to finalize grades for the 1st marking period and this week we had parent teacher conferences at school. It is hard to comprehend that it is already November and soon the winter holidays will be upon us. I need to be extra mindful of exercise and making sure that I am preparing healthy versions of the comfort food that my body is craving. We have had many snow flurries in the U.P. and winter is quick on the heals of fall. Mike’s recent food obsession is lasagna and he teased me that he probably should get a Garfield tattoo. (Talk about a childhood flashback since I used to have a Garfield scrapbook that held stickers and cartoons from the Sunday paper.)

With cooler weather, fall forces us indoors and is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes. Have you tried spaghetti squash? It is simple to prepare and is a wonderful substitute for pasta. I bought a large spaghetti squash last weekend and used it to make one of my favorite fall recipes: Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup.

Pierce the squash with a knife or fork and add about an inch of water to a baking dish.

Pierce the squash with a knife or fork and add about an inch of water to a baking dish.

To prepare simply pierce the squash with a knife, or fork, and place into a shallow baking pan that is filled with water. (I bake the squash whole and use about an inch of water).

Bake for approximately 60 minutes at 375 degrees (I baked mine for 90 minutes since the squash was large). A friend of mine said that she uses the microwave to cook the squash. She said a large squash takes 10-15 minutes (flip every 4-5 minutes).

Let cool and cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and use a fork to shred the squash. It will naturally pull apart in strands that will resemble pasta.

Serve with your favorite sauce, herbs,  or use in soup or other dishes.

Cook the squash whole. It makes cutting it a breeze once it is baked.

Cook the squash whole. It makes cutting it a breeze once it is baked.

 Spaghetti Squash

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND TOMATO SOUP

  • 6-8 cups vegetable stockSpaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup
  • 28 ounce can of tomato sauce (I also used a few cups of tomatoes from my garden that I had in the freezer)
  • 1/2 large chopped onion
  • 3 ribs of celery chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (I used 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red)
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • Large cooked spaghetti squash (Approximately 10 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon each of oregano, rosemary, and basil

Saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the olive oil until soft and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Makes 15 cups.

You could cut the recipe in 1/2 and it would still make a generous pot of soup. I like to make extra to freeze. You could add beans for protein and add any other vegetables such as zucchini and mushrooms. It is delicious, filling, and the addition of tomato sauce makes it taste similar to spaghetti. I rotated this for dinner and lunch last week and I partnered it with a large salad and garlic toast.

If you are a Weight Watchers member it is 1 PP per cup (depending on the vegetable stock and tomato sauce that you are using). Make sure you run it through the Recipe Builder if you add additional ingredients.

When I serve this soup to Mike I add cheese and homemade garlic croutons to the top and brown like French Onion Soup. My friend Jackie made this soup and said she added parmesan cheese and cottage cheese on the side. So I added a couple of Tablespoons of cottage cheese to Mike’s soup, along with a pizza cheese medley, and he said it reminded him of lasagna.

If you have not tried spaghetti squash, I hope my post encourages you to try something new. I hope you enjoy this soup. What is your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash?

Pin this recipe here.

Check out my soup tab for other recipes.

You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page and join the healthy conversation.

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup 2

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Soup:  Produce with Amy

Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip ~ Individually Packaged for Portion Control

Layered Dip with Beans and Guacamole by Produce with Amy“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Bleeding Hearts Spring 2013

It appears that we have finally turned corner on winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I keep reminding myself, however, that it is not unheard of to have snow storms in May. Mike and I made sure we took advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend and yesterday and today took our dog Phoebe for a hike. We are fortunate to have many scenic trails right in our backyard. We witnessed many patches of snow still lingering in the woods and it was quite muddy.

Mike and Phoebe enjoying the fresh air.

Mike and Phoebe enjoying the fresh air.

I have been struggling with finding time to blog recently and today I knew that I had to push myself. My intentions were to write this post during spring break since that is when I took the photos. The flurry of Cinco de Mayo posts on Facebook today made me realize that today was the perfect day to share my recipe for a luscious plant-based Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip.

A plant-based diet relies very heavily on beans for protein and I am always looking for new ways to use them. One of my favorite party appetizers is layered taco dip and here is my version. While tortilla chips are one of my favorite foods, they are also a trigger for me so instead of tortilla chip I try to eat this dip with raw vegetables. I also like to make the dip in individual containers for portion control. Years ago I made a sound investment by purchasing a couple dozen of Pyrex glass containers in a 3 cup size. They have really held up well and are so convenient for lunches. I

These glass containers stack neatly in the refrigerator and freezer.

These glass containers stack neatly in the refrigerator and freezer.

Ingredients for the guacamole: fresh cilantro, three avocados, lime juice, taco seasoning, red onion, and sour cream (I use Vegan soy-based sour cream). If you eat dairy you could also use plain Greek yogurt.

Ingredients for the guacamole: fresh cilantro, avocados, lime juice, garlic, taco seasoning, red onion, and sour cream (I use Vegan soy-based sour cream). If you eat dairy you could also use plain Greek yogurt.

I saw a recipe on Pinterest for taco seasoning and had all the ingredients on hand in the pantry. I doubled the batch and am storing in a recycled jar. Never will I buy pre-packaged taco seasoning packets again!
Homemade Taco Seasoning
Source: Allrecipes
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions:
In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container. Yields about 2 3/4 tablespoons.
Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Guacamole
*2 avocados cubed
*1/4 cup chopped red onion
*1/2 Tablespoon taco seasoning (or to taste)
*2 cloves of minced garlic
*1/4 cup chopped cilantro
*2 Tablespoons lime juice
*1/2 cup sour cream (I used Vegan sour cream)

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

Add the chopped red onion.

Add the chopped red onion.

Add the taco seasoning.

Add the taco seasoning.

Fresh cilantro really perks up the flavor of the avocado. Add the garlic and lime juice as well.

Fresh cilantro really perks up the flavor of the avocado. Add the garlic and lime juice as well.

The sour cream gives it some body.

The sour cream gives it some body.

When I made guacamole to serve on its own I also add in some chopped tomatoes.

When I make guacamole to serve on its own I also add in some chopped tomatoes.

The finished product.

The finished product.

For each individual dip you will need:
*1/2 cup Vegetarian Refried Beans
*1/2 cup Guacamole
*1/4 cup salsa
*Lettuce
*Tomato
*Black olives
(any other toppings you desire)
I made four individual dips. They were quite generous in size and I probably could have made five from the recipe.

To start the dip, I added 1/2 cup of Vegetarian Refried Beans.

To start the dip, I added 1/2 cup of Vegetarian Refried Beans.

Top the beans with a 1/2 cup of guacamole.

Top the beans with a 1/2 cup of guacamole.

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Top the guacamole with 1/4 cup of salsa. You can also use taco sauce.

Top the guacamole with 1/4 cup of salsa. You can also use taco sauce.

Next chop lettuce.

Next chop lettuce.

A layer of crispy lettuce gives the dip a pleasing crunch.

A layer of crispy lettuce gives the dip a pleasing crunch.

Top tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes but any tomato will do.

Top with tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes because they do not release much juice (my dip needed to sit a few days in the refrigerator) but any tomato will do.  If I make this dip on a platter for a party I purchase large tomatoes and cut into small pieces.

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Sprinkle the dip with black olives.

Sprinkle the dip with black olives. You can also add jalapenos, corn, cheese, and your favorite taco additions. A drizzle of hot sauce or taco sauce is always a welcome addition.

My guacamole recipe and one can of refried beans rendered four individual layered dips. I will make my own refried beans next time.

My guacamole recipe and one can of refried beans rendered four individual layered dips. I will make my own refried beans next time.

Ready to store in the refrigerator.

Ready to store in the refrigerator.

I ate the dip with raw vegetables.

I ate the dip with raw vegetables.

Why wait for a party when you can eat taco dip whenever you want. Fresh, healthy, and a great way to eat your vegetables!

Why wait for a party when you can eat taco dip whenever you want. Fresh, healthy, and a great way to eat your vegetables!

This dip is versatile and you can fashion it to suit your tastebuds. I have swapped out the refried beans for black beans before and have topped with spinach instead of lettuce. If you are like me and are always looking for healthy comfort food, you will enjoy this dip.

This weekend was a very productive weekend. Yesterday I cooked for the week and my lunches this week will be homemade marina over whole wheat pasta. I added two different kinds of olives to the sauce, capers, and lemon juice. My plan is to share my recipe in a future post.

Olive marinara over whole wheat pasta.

Olive marinara over whole wheat pasta.

In February I pinned a recipe for a Vegan Split Pea Soup from Healthy. Happy. Life. on Pinterest and in the past week 180 people repinned the recipe and it received 23 likes. I figured that it was time that I tried the soup recipe. It is delicious and I am thankful that I did. It will serve as this week’s dinner with a large green salad that is topped with my homemade plant-based creamy dressing.

I let the peas soak over-night.

I let the peas soak over-night. There still is a chill in the air and this soup will be my dinner along with a large green salad.

As we head into the summer I am anxious for break so I can get back on pace with my weekly blogging. While it will fill me with sadness to say goodbye to my students for the summer, I am ready to garden and spend some time in the sun. Cheers to sunshine, productivity, and healthy plant-based eating!

Layered Refried and Guacamole Dip

“Turn Up The Flavor” with Weight Watchers’ Creamy Peanut Butter Soup

“The last full moon of February
stalks the fields; barbed wire casts a shadow.
Rising slowly, a beam moved toward the west
stealthily changing position

until now, in the small hours, across the snow
it advances on my pillow…
~Jane Cooper (from Hunger Moon)

February is fading fast and the snow continues to pile up outside in a dangerous but beautiful flurry. I watch televised weather reports and know that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not the only location getting bombarded by snow. Today was a scheduled day off for the teachers in my district. We were supposed to have Parent Teacher Conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. However, the weather had another plan, and school was cancelled on both Tuesday and Wednesday. We have had eight snow days this year and one two hour-delay. My husband Mike’s classes were also cancelled at Northern Michigan University and he pounced on the opportunity to catch up on homework and he took quite a few swipes at our driveway to remove the accumulating snow.

Mike facing the snowdrifts with a smile on his face.

Mike facing the snowdrifts with a smile on his face.

Having a snow day show up unannounced can be a wonderful luxury, but like many of my educator friends, I find them to be bittersweet. Not only do they do a fine job messing up carefully orchestrated lesson plans, but I find that I must organize my spontaneous days off carefully. It is far too tempting to sit around and be lazy and this week I really TRIED to be productive. I did spend time grading, experimented with a couple new recipes, and built-in time to visit my treadmill. Today was no exception. When our dog Phoebe wanted to go for a walk I took deep, conscious breaths and marveled at the loveliness found in the snow-covered trees. I could not let the moment pass and I snapped a few photos as we walked.

The birch tree in our yard is glistening with fresh snow crystals.

The birch tree in our yard is glistening with fresh snow crystals.

My garden is sleeping under that pile of snow.

My garden is sleeping under that pile of snow.

Our snowy street.

Our snowy street sparkling with snowflakes.

Trees and landscape are transformed into art with the swoosh of the sky. I love how the cross from our neighborhood church appears in the lower left hand corner of this photo.

Trees and landscape are transformed into art with the swoosh of the sky. I love how the cross from our neighborhood church appears in the lower left hand corner of this photo.


Whether or not you get snow days, when you live in the snow belt and the weather turns blustery, it is easy to fall victim to the seasonal blues. This winter I have pushed myself to stay busy and keep my exercise levels up. I am thankful for the Weight Watchers 
Active Link that works with my eTools subscription. I am on Week three of my first 12 Week Challenge and I have been learning a lot about my activity patterns from this technology tool. I wish I would have had one years ago because I believe that it will help greatly in my weight management. The Active Link has taught me that I need to keep moving throughout the day and that I need to take advantage of my weekends to bulk up my activity. During my workday I now find myself taking more trips to the office, walking laps around the halls between classes, and I even have started doing a 20 minute Leslie Sansone walking video in my classroom during lunch (a hearty thank you to Sister Gloria for the Leslie Sansone walking video recommendation. I have found these videos to be a fun way to burn calories). Since I tend to be a visual person I am loving the Active Link’s graphs that breakdown my activity by the minute. Some days I even get up early to log 20-30 minutes on the treadmill. Right now my goal is for 3 APP a day, but tomorrow is my weigh-in day and I will be finishing my week with 38 APP.

A visual of my 12 Week Challenge Progress.

A visual of my 12 Week Challenge Progress.

My stubborn streak has kicked in and I refuse to be under 100% of my Goal Achievement.

My stubborn streak has kicked in and I refuse to be under 100% of my Goal Achievement.

I love that I can click on each hour and see a breakdown of my activity and the intensity level.

I love that I can click on each hour and see a breakdown of my activity and the intensity level.

I am always excited to plug the Active Link into my computer to see my goal achievement progress. My day off today was productive and I earned 6 APP!

I am always excited to plug the Active Link into my computer to see my goal achievement progress. My day off today was productive and I earned 6 APP!

In addition to my Active Link, I think that the Recipe Round-Up Challenge my Weight Watchers meeting members are participating in is helping me stay grounded and focused on my healthy goals. For the month of February each of us participating are trying at least one new recipe a week. Previously, I shared a recipe from Vegetarian Times for a Winter Bok Choy Slaw. My second recipe for February was from the Weight Watchers 360 cookbook, Turn up the flavor.

A common go-to dinner for Mike and I is often soup and salad. With our busy school schedules, we decided for the past couple weeks that soup and salad is a great way to eat healthy and that will continue to be our plan for our week nights. I make sure our house is stocked with a variety of salad fixings that I rotate, including: greens (romaine, spring mix, kale, and spinach), fresh berries, raw nuts, chia seeds, dried fruit, homemade croutons, pomegranate, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, citrus fruit, avocado, mango, pineapple, a variety of olives, capers, red onion, fresh herbs, snow pea pods, banana peppers, alfalfa and radish sprouts, tomatoes, pickled beets, purple cabbage, and bell peppers. I stick with plant-based proteins (beans, tempeh, seeds, nuts, hummus) but Mike does often opt for meat and cheese on his salads. I love to experiment with different combinations of greens, fruit and vegetables, try different homemade and store-bought salad dressings, and different varieties of soup.

As soon as I browsed through the Weight Watchers,Turn up the flavor cook book, I knew that I had to try the recipe for creamy peanut butter soup with ginger and chili. When I saw that the recipe contained both peanut butter and chili powder it brought me back to my childhood when my family always ate peanut butter sandwiches with chili. To this day, a bowl of chili makes me crave peanut butter. I always thought this was an unusual flavor combination until I started to notice the combination paired in various ethnic cuisines.

The ingredients for Creamy Peanut Butter Soup With Ginger and Chili

The ingredients for Creamy Peanut Butter Soup With Ginger and Chili

Creamy Peanut Butter Soup with Ginger and Chili

  1. 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil (I substituted olive oil)
  2. 1 chopped red bell pepper
  3. 1 small chopped onion
  4. 2 teaspoons minced, fresh ginger
  5. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  6. 1 (32 ounce) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth (I substituted vegetable broth)
  7. 1/2 (14 1/2 ounce) diced tomatoes (Since I favor tomatoes I used an entire jar of my mom’s canned garden tomatoes)
  8. 1/4 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter that was not low-fat and I increased it to 1/2 cup)
  9. 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder to taste (Since I like spicy food I increased until I was satisfied with the taste)
  10. 1 tomato diced (for garnish)
  11. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  12. 1/2 thinly sliced jalapeno (I used canned. When I stopped at the supermarket they did not have fresh)Directions: Saute bell pepper, onion, ginger, and garlic until soft. Add broth, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.Serves four. (though I ended up getting more servings because I added more tomato than the recipe called for and I added a couple of cups of water).
    Serving = 1 1/2 cups
    8 g Fat, 17 g Carb, 3 g Fiber, 10 g ProteinSauteeSoupThe directions called for pureeing the soup but I left it as it was because I really liked the texture. Once ladled into bowls, garnish with fresh tomato and jalapeno.
    Garnish
    100_0969

    I served with crisp vegetables on the side.

    I served with crisp vegetables on the side.

    This is a recipe that I will make again. I found the soup rich and delicious and enjoyed the background notes of ginger. I added extra chili powder and jalapeño garnish for some kick. I love how the spiciness offsets the mellow peanut butter taste.

    I have quite a few Weight Watchers cookbooks in my collection and have found that they are very helpful in my weight management journey. WW cookbooks offer tasty and healthy recipes and are well worth the purchase. The key to healthy cooking, I have discovered, is taking advantage of fresh herbs and spices, instead of heavy oils or butter, to amp up the flavor.

    Many of my Weight Watchers members have said that they have enjoyed our February Recipe Round-Up Challenge because it has forced them out of their comfort zone. Sometimes cooking can be daunting to those who have not been comfortable with cooking. I always encourage my members to experiment with different recipes and flavor combinations because it can make all the difference in reaching our goals. Cooking our own food allows us to be in control of what ingredients we put into our bodies and help us stay satisfied. I always strive to eat whole foods that are not heavily processed and find that this really helps me stay on track and within both my Points Plus and my financial budget.

    This week I am challenging myself to try three new recipes (for a total of SIX new recipes for February) and I am hoping to continue to challenge myself to try one new recipe a week in the coming months. I promise to feature some of the recipes that I try in future blog posts. In the next few days I plan to post recipe reviews for a Sweet Potato and White Bean Veggie Burger and a Vegan Avocado and White Bean Salad. So, stay tuned. I would also love to hear about your favorite recipes. So, please share!

    As for the Weight Watchers 360 Turn up the flavor cookbook, my next selection will be the Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime. How amazing does that sound?!

    If you are reading this and have found yourself in a food rut, I encourage you to branch out and flex your culinary skills. I find chopping vegetables quite therapeutic and there is nothing quite as satisfying as a kitchen brimming with delicious home cooked meals. Plus, an added benefit is being able to watch the numbers on the scale move down.

    While February is almost a stranger, I know that winter will linger for a few more months in the U.P. I plan to be productive, fill my plate with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and give my Active Link a real workout. How are you going to Turn Up the Flavor in your life?

    I highly recommend this cookbook.

    I highly recommend this soup and this cookbook.