Weight Watchers Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
― Leo Toystoy, Anna Karenina

Athena is even smiling that it is spring break.

Athena is even smiling that it is spring break.

Today is mid-week of spring break. My facebook status this morning read, “Green smoothies, Mike’s doing morning yoga, and I’m reading poetry while a sweet kitty purrs on my lap. It might be cold outside but our cozy house is a restful destination for spring break. A day of writing and exercise stretches before me and a pot of Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime bubbles on the stove. Tomorrow I have a trip to the salon and on Friday it’s Phoebe’s turn. As long as I can manage the mountain of grading I will return to work restored and renewed. ♥ I’m extremely thankful.”

So far I have had a wonderful and restful break. My dad, step-mom, and brother came from Crystal Falls for a visit TWO weekends in a row and I have caught up on a couple projects. I share a blog with my dear friend and fellow educator, Heather Hollands, and this month I am blogging out student projects for National Poetry Month on Blended Voices. This quiets a bit of the guilt I have been feeling for neglecting my professional voice and writing.

Today I also tried a recipe for Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime from the Weight Watchers turn up the flavor cookbook. It has been my intention to try this soup since February and I am thankful for the time that spring break has afforded me to finally do so. (Yes, it is still soup weather in Upper Michigan).  I snapped a few pictures along the way,  just in case, I decided to share a recipe review. After one taste, I knew that this would become one of my favorite soup recipes. Not only was it uncomplicated to prepare but it is super healthy and (as the cookbook name suggests) full of flavor.

Aside from the Light Coconut Milk the ingredients for this soup are basic pantry staples.

Aside from the Light Coconut Milk the ingredients for this soup are basic pantry staples.

Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut, Cilantro, and Lime
from Weight Watchers turn up the flavor Cookbook

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove of minced garlic (the recipe does not call for garlic but I add it to everything)
  • 32 ounces of vegetable stock (the recipe calls for chicken stock and I swapped out vegetable)
  • 1 ¼ pounds sweet potatoes; peel and cut into chunks (I used two medium sized)
  • 2 Tablespoons ginger root; peel and chop
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup light coconut milk
  • ½ lime juiced and zested (I used bottled since that is what I had on hand)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

The recipe also called  for the following which I did not have on-hand.

  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • 3 Tablespoons dried unsweetened and toasted coconut shavings
  1. Heat oil and cook onions and garlic for approximately 5 minutes until softened. Add broth, potatoes, and spices; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Until potatoes are tender.
  2. Let soup cool for 5 minutes. Puree soup, in batches, in blender. Return soup to pot and stir in coconut milk, lime juice, and gently reheat. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro and coconut.Serving = 1 Cup151 Calories, 5 g Total Fat, 2 g Sat. Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 0 mg Chol, 329 mg Sod, 23 g Carb, 8 g Sugar, 3 g Fiber, 5 g Protein, 37 mg Calcium

This literally took about 30 seconds to puree in my Vitamix.

This literally took about 30 seconds to puree in my Vitamix.

6

After returning to the pan you add the coconut milk and lime. Since I only used 1/4 cup the rest will be used for our morning green smoothies.

After returning to the pan you add the coconut milk and lime. Since I only used 1/4 cup the rest will be used for our morning green smoothies.

Soup is on. Since I did not have the toasted coconut or lime zest I garnished with a thin slice of tomato and nutmeg.

Soup is on. Since I did not have the toasted coconut or lime zest I garnished with a thin slice of tomato and nutmeg.

It is as delicious as it is pretty.

It is as delicious as it is pretty.

With the red table setting and the sunlight streaming in the window one can almost forget the giant snowbanks outside.

With the red table setting and the sunlight streaming in the window one can almost forget the giant snowbanks outside.

Today I feel grateful for spring break and health. I am enjoying precious time to write, reflect, and share with friends and family my plant based recipes. If you enjoy my blog do not forget to follow me on twitter, like my facebook page, and follow my Produce with Amy board on Pinterest. It fills my heart with joy that I can help others embrace a healthy lifestyle. While I look forward to going back to my classroom, I really anticipate more time this summer to explore new recipes with the abundance of produce that will be offered at area farmers markets and my own garden plot. Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you. Now, if I can convince Athena that my lap is not the most comfortable seat in the house, I can tackle some of my grading.


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“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.

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.