“Use what you have, use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter.” — Shauna Niequist

I have heard some bloggers refer to soup as a “hug in a bowl” and I heartily agree. It is one of my favorite ways to nurture and take care of my family. A steaming bowl of soup is a mainstay in our house. I enjoy a leafy green salad as an accompaniment and my step son and husband are fond of a gooey grilled cheese sandwich with theirs. I am also known to partner mine with a grilled cheese sandwich (made with swiss and the addition of crisp lettuce, a couple slices of ripe tomato, and wedges of dill pickle). I learned to love grilled cheese with those toppings in Jamaica (of all places). Of course, everything tastes better when served up at a little beachside grill!

When I make soup, I often make a couple of different kinds because soup freezes well. I freeze in a Mason jar (leaving a couple of inches of headroom). I like using jars because I can see what kind of soup it is and then I can pull it out of the freezer the day before for a quick meal. This is especially handy this time of year when we are often running to hockey practice after school and I do not have a lot of time to prepare dinner.

*4 cups of chicken broth
*2 cups of cooked chicken (I use a whole chicken in the Instapot. Once the chicken is finished cooking I remove the meat and set aside and then use the bones along with seasoning and vegetables for broth)
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
*½ cup of chopped onion
*½ cup of chopped celery
*½ cup of chopped carrot
*3 chopped roasted jalapeno peppers 
*4 ounce can of chopped jalapenos
*1 cup of heavy cream (you can use low fat or regular milk)
*8 ounces of shredded queso quesadilla cheese (you can use pepper jack, mozzarella, or your favorite variety)
*1 stick of butter
*1 cup of flour
*Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil. While these ingredients soften, roast the jalapeno. Cut the jalapeno in ½ and deseed, put on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, roast for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the chicken broth to the sauteed vegetables.

In a separate saucepan melt the butter and slowly incorporate the flour. Whisk well for 2-3 minutes and be careful not to burn. Add a little bit of the liquid from the soup pot into the butter and flour mixture (roux) and whisk well so there are not any lumps. Pour the roux into the soup pot and mix well.

Add the chicken, canned and roasted jalapeno, cream, and cheese. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe is versatile and you can make it as spicy or mild as you wish. Roasting the fresh jalapenos gives them a slightly smoky flavor profile. I will often roast extra jalapeno and serve on the side so individuals can give their soup an extra kick if they wish. Roasted tomatoes, squash, and corn also are a great autumn addition to this soup and you can top your bowl with crushed tortilla chips or roasted pumpkin seeds. If you are looking for a brighter taste you can add a squeeze of lime juice and top with fresh cilantro.

The butter and cream in the recipe can be reduced if you want a lower fat version, but the roux in combination with the cheese thickens it to a velvety consistency. Since November is the season of thankfulness, you may want to splurge a little. Trust me, this soup is worth it!

As the weather cools, this soup will help warm you and your loved ones up. Making soup for others is a simple act of kindness that reminds us that many of life’s greatest pleasures are homemade. Make sure you check out my my soup tab for over twenty other healthy soup recipes

Our community has been through a lot of challenges and I hope you are able to reflect and count your blessings. Take care of yourself, take care of each other, and embrace the positive!


“The elimination diet:
Remove anger, regret, resentment, guilt, blame, and worry.
Then watch your health, and life, improve.”
Charles F. Glassman

It is that time of the year where many people make healthy resolutions (and perhaps have already abandoned them). If you are like me you believe, no matter how difficult it is, that it is important to make time for ourselves. For example, since my schedule has been extremely busy it feels sacred to me to enjoy a quiet house. For the new year I wanted to make time to write and be more reflective on my personal and professional life. Of course, it’s the end of January and I have not carved out the writing time that I hoped I would. However, I have written endless poems in my mind’s eye. Every time I step outside I marvel in the beautiful place in which I live. I have not given up hope for that precious writing time. After all, here I am on a snow day off of work – writing!

Truthfully, our winter until the last few weeks has been relatively mild. Mid-January delivered some significant snow storms and freezing temperature. Like every year, in January it is light that I crave. This time of year I covet posts from my friends who live in southern locations and I peek at my photos of sunshine sifting through my summer blooms. Perhaps it is this hope that helps us go on with our days. I believe that metaphorically summer gives us something to look forward to and encourages us to toil and work hard. (Plus, I did notice this week when driving my step children to hockey practice that our days are getting longer. At 5:00 pm it was still considerably light out).

The eternal optimist in my heart believes that we must make our own sunshine. Therefore, the spaces that I try to create in my life (whether it be my home, my classroom, or my blog) are filled with color. I think that is why I am so passionate about eating a variety of fruit and vegetables. I find myself in constant awe at the glorious colors and art in nature and food presentation.

I had winter in mind when coming up with this recipe. I intentionally wanted to create a bright bowl that utilized orange and yellow hued produce specifically for its health benefits. I also wanted to give the dressing a little heat, so I kicked it up with fresh jalapeno.

These bright-colored fruits and vegetables contain zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene (Vitamin A).

According to,, these nutrients help our bodies in many different ways:

  1. Aids in eye health and reduces the risk of macular degeneration of the eye
  2. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
  5. Promotes healthy joints
  6. Promotes collagen formation
  7. Fights harmful free radicals in the body
  8. Encourages pH balance of the body
  9. Boosts immune system
  10. Builds healthier bones by working with calcium and magnesium”

I have heard that nutrients found in yellow and orange produce have complexion promoting benefits. This time of year I find my skin really suffers from the effects of the dry air and lack of sunshine so it gives me another reason to eat my vegetables.

In January, as I dream about sunshine, winter ices over precise words that I could use to describe a gold washed sky. So, I will let my Sunshine Bowls articulate.


  • 3/4 cup of rice vinegar (your favorite vinegar will work. Rice vinegar is a great choice because it is less acidic than a lot of vinegar. Some of my other favorites for homemade dressings are raw apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar. I really like tart dressings and if you do not, I suggest adding a little vinegar at a time)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (often I do not add the oil to the dressing but add it individually to each jar for portion control)
  • 1 peeled and pitted mango (you could substitute a cup of frozen)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • teaspoon of onion
  • 1 lime (both the juice and the zest)
  • Jalapeno (I used 1/2 of a large pepper. I added a little at a time until I was satisfied. If you do not want a big “kick” you could use a banana pepper or green chilies)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro (parsley also works well if you are not on Team Cilantro)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend well. I store the leftover dressing in a jar in the refrigerator and it keeps for over a month.


  • Orange Segments
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Orange and Yellow Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Orange Peppers

In the past I’ve also used pineapple, butternut squash, and grapefruit. You can also toss in kale or spinach and some of your favorite beans, chicken, or nuts for protein.

In celebration of the new year I cannot help but feel wonder for the opportunity that I have as a blogger to connect with people from all over and share my passion. I love healthy food, writing, photography, and brilliant color. Food should be savored and appreciated as a piece of art. The composition of flavor, color, nutrients, and attention to detail are vital to both pleasure and health.

As always, if you try this recipe, I would love your feedback. Please feel free to share my recipes with others. Make sure that you check out my other healthy salads at the tab at the top of the page.

Have a sunny day, My Friends! Even if in the winter it means having to manufacture your own sunshine. May your 2019 be filled with vibrant meals, health, and plenty of laughter.

February Recipe Round-Up: Winter Bok Choy Slaw from “Vegetarian Times”

“I hate the notion of a secret recipe. Recipes are by nature derivative and meant to be shared – that is how they improve, are changed, how new ideas are formed. To stop a recipe in it’s tracks, to label it “secret” just seems mean.” 
― Molly Wizenberg

Green Smoothies (Baby kale, spirulina powder, mango, strawberries, chia seeds, and water) with a vintage covered glass dish that I bought at a thrift store for $3.

Green Smoothies (Baby kale, spirulina powder, mango, strawberries, chia seeds, and water) with a vintage covered glass dish that I bought at a thrift store for $3.

It feels empowering to report that Mike and I have fueled every morning of 2013 with a luscious green smoothie. We love how satisfying they are and how they hold our hunger over until lunch. The addition of chia seeds makes them especially filling. My weekly shopping list always includes plenty of fresh ginger root and cilantro since those are two of my favorite additions. I love the zing that they give my taste buds. Another ingredient that I have been adding to our smoothies a couple times a week is Spirulina Powder.

I found Spirulina powder in the bulk spice section of our local co-op.

I found Spirulina powder in the bulk spice section of our local co-op.

I was able to buy a small amount (about a cup) from the Marquette Food Co-op in the bulk spice section and I add approximately four teaspoons to the Vitamix before blending. A couple times a week I also add Wheat Grass Powder to our smoothies. One of my future projects is to try to sprout my own wheat grass at home.

People often ask me if I have noticed any major differences in how I feel or look after adding green smoothies back into my diet. Mike and I both feel a surge of energy in the morning after drinking our smoothies and they can really help curb a carb craving if you feel one coming on. A few times since the new year I have blended up a small green smoothie in the evening to enjoy as a pre or after dinner snack. Mike said

Amy during a date Night at the Landmark Inn in Marquette on February 9, 2013.

Amy during a date Night at the Landmark Inn in Marquette on February 9, 2013.

he thinks that my skin is glowing from all the fresh fruit and vegetables that I have been eating. Upper Michigan winters are harsh and normally in February I notice that my skin looks dull and is in desperate need of sunshine. So obviously, Mike’s comment really made me glow. He may be biased, but we ran into my cousin last night and she commented that she could tell from our skin that we are both eating healthy. Talk about a marvelous incentive to eat more plants!

Going back to plant-based eating I knew that one of the pitfalls that I had to work hard to avoid was a food rut. Not only does eating the same thing over and over get boring, but it also prevents our bodies from a getting a wide-range of nutrients. In order to prevent myself from eating the same things over-and-over I asked my Weight Watchers members to join me in a February Recipe Round-Up. The guiding philosophy behind Weight Watchers 360 is that we learn how to make positive behavioral changes in our life. In the months ahead we will be encouraged to contemplate our Spaces and Routines to help us achieve our weight management goals. So what better way is there for us to do this than to get ourselves in the Routine of trying new recipes? I am very guilty of shopping for ingredients for a new recipe and never following through with actually making the food. The fresh ingredients get used for another meal and the shelf stable ingredients sit in our pantry. Many of my WW members said they were guilty of doing the same and have countless cookbooks and Pinterest boards brimming with recipes that they have been meaning to try. Some of the members are joining me in the challenge because they say cooking is out of their comfort zone and they want to be able to prepare their own fresh and healthy meals.  Here are the rules for our Recipe Round-Up Challenge that I created in  a facebook event and shared at the meetings:

The Recipe Round-Up Challenge consists of these steps:

1. Commit to one NEW recipe a week (it cannot be something you have made before).

2. The meal and day of the week is optional (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snack) It can be a main entrée, a soup, salad, or a side.

4. Share serving size and PP values.

4. If the recipe contains any unusual or “exotic” ingredients share where you shopped.

5. Give a recipe review. Is it something that you would make again? Would you make any variations?.

6. At the end of the month give Amy a hard copy of the recipe and she will print and make cookbooks for all the participants. In addition to a cookbook we could even have a pot-luck event after one of our meetings to sample our favorite recipes.

5. *Optional ~ post pictures of your recipe experiment on our facebook group.

This Recipe Challenge has been a great incentive to commit to new recipes because it is important to me that I am a role model and do not let my Weight Watchers members down. My number one goal for my first recipe was that I wanted to try a new fruit or vegetable. While I have had Bok Choy before in dishes, I had never purchased it myself. I was tantalized by a Winter Bok Choy Slaw recipe that was featured in the February issue of Vegetarian Times photo (4)magazine. In 2012, I subscribed to VT and am always excited when a new issue lands in my mailbox. Though, regretfully, I have only tried a couple recipes. This is about to change! I highly recommend VT for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The magazine features incredible recipes that utilize an abundance of fruit and vegetables. The magazine is informative and I find it is a terrific educational tool to help me learn more about nutrition.

The recipe made approximately nine cups (I added extra Bok Choy) and was a tasty addition to my lunch last week. The flavor of the slaw improved as it sat in the refrigerator and it is definitely a dish that I will make again. Because Bok Choy is sturdy this would be a fantastic salad to bring to a pot-luck.

Vegetarian TimesFor my version of the Winter Bok Choy Slaw, I did add extra Bok Choy and substituted olive oil for the sesame oil because that is what I had on hand. I also used raw nuts

The raw nuts that I purchase from Target.

The raw nuts that I purchase from Target.

instead of the smoked almonds. The mango was so delicious in the slaw that the next day I also added some pineapple. Both were a sweet and juicy accompaniment to the zesty cilantro and spicy jalapeno.

Raw nuts are a staple in our house and I buy a container every couple weeks. I found an unsalted mix at Target and it includes: cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Many of my Weight Watchers members cite that nuts can be a trigger food and I always recommend that they try raw nuts. Raw nuts are filling, have many health benefits (including healthy fat and protein), and I personally find that raw nuts are not as addictive as roasted, salted ones. The key with nuts is to portion them out because the Points Plus value can add up very quick. I eat the nuts on their own for a quick mid-day snack and I often use them to top a salad so I make sure that I am getting protein.

Winter Bok Choy Slaw. The taste is as vibrant as its colors.

Winter Bok Choy Slaw. The taste is as vibrant as the colors.

What a colorful way to perk up a bland February day!

What a flavorful way to perk up a bland February day!

This was part of my lunch today. Five days later and the Winter Slaw is still appealing and crunching.

This was part of my lunch today. Five days later and the Winter Slaw is still appealing and crunchy.

Vegetarian Times shares more uses for versatile Bok Choy

Vegetarian Times shares more food ideas for versatile Bok Choy

What will be on my plate this week for the February Recipe Round-Up? I have challenged myself to try TWO new recipes this week. Today I am making a Creamy Peanut Butter Soup with Ginger and Chili from the Weight Watchers 360 Cookbook, Turn up the Flavor. The cookbook was a delightful holiday gift from Florine Mark. Thank you, Florine, for your tasteful and handy gift!

I also have a decadent looking Sweet Potato Veggie Burger recipe on a Pinterest board that I have been meaning to try for a long time. Stay tuned for future blog posts and recipe reviews of the February Recipe Round-Up. Hopefully this post has inspired you to add some new recipes to your weekly meal plan. I would love to hear about your favorites!
I have a wide selection of WW cookbooks and my goal for 2013 is to put them to use.

I have a wide selection of WW cookbooks and my goal for 2013 is to put them to use.