Italian Vegetable Soup

Italian Vegetable Soup by Produce with Amy“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

The first month of the new school year depleted my energy. Each evening I found myself returning home exhausted and in a fog. I felt filled up and content, but I had little energy to do anything but rest, eat dinner, and go to sleep.

Last week after arriving home from work I felt guilty sitting on the sofa as sunshine filtered Athenathrough the burnished leaves – autumn was quickly approaching and summer was making one last stand. The weather was warm and I should have been going for a walk.

Midweek I mustered up the energy to go outside and plucked a bouquet of blooms from my garden – late roses and the sunflowers that the birds planted. I placed the flowers in one of my Fiestaware pitchers and marveled at how splendid they looked set up against the setting sun. It was the perfect backdrop to snap a few pictures of a bowl of my latest recipe – a vegetable soup. Our cat Athena let her curiosity get the best of her, which led to a spontaneous photo shoot. Instead of shooing her away, I let the moment bathe me in beauty and I thought to myself how refreshing it felt to pay attention.

This tiny pocket of brilliance in my evening bubbled over into my classroom the next day. I took out a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and read to my creative writing students about how important it is for us to fill the well. I encouraged my young writers to fill their hearts and minds with sounds, scents, and sights. We talked about Cameron’s philosophy of going on an Artist’s Date to nurture our creativity.

I decided to follow my own advice and I took the weekend off. I did not grocery shop, cook, do housework, or grade. Sunday my husband Mike and I traveled a couple of hours north to Ontonagon, Michigan and visited the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and enjoyed the day basking in 80 degree weather. We swooned over the glistening beauty of Lake Superior and were rendered speechless at the sight of the Lake of the Clouds ensconced in waves of scarlet and copper hued leaves.
Lake of the Clouds

Two days into a new week and I feel a bit of my fatigue lifting. I believe it is because I allowed myself to be astonished by my surroundings and I made time to fill the well and nurture my own creativity. I snapped photos, scribbled in my journal, and laughed.

As testament to the lightness that I feel this week, I am able to share my latest recipe for soup. A steaming bowl of soup radiates fall and this combination makes the best of fire roasted tomatoes and the last of summer’s herb garden. Dried herbs will work – but as always – fresh is best.

Italian Vegetable Soup by Produce with AmyITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUPFire roasted tomatoes

*4 cups of vegetable stock
*3 chopped carrots
*3 ribs of chopped celery
*3 cloves of minced garlic
*2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (the cans that I used were 15 ounces each)
*1 can of tomato sauce (14.5 ounces)
*1 chopped green bell pepper
*1 small chopped onion
*1 spiralized zucchini (or chopped if you do not have a spiralizer)
*8 ounces of fresh, sliced mushrooms
*13-14 ounces of cannellini beans
*1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil (2 teaspoons of dried)beans
*1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley (2 teaspoons of fresh)
*2 sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon of dried)
*2 sprigs of chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon of dried)
*5 strands of fresh chives (1 teaspoon of dried)
*1 Tablespoon of cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
*Salt and pepper to taste
(I also added a few baby pea pods and green beans from my garden)

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, and carrots in the cooking oil until soft (3-5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional four minutes. Add the vegetable broth, fire roasted tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Cook on medium heat until the soup boils. Add the beans and fresh herbs. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the spiralized zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Since I like my spiralized zucchini al dente, I add it after the soup has cooked. If you are used chopped or sliced zucchini you may want to add it when you add the mushrooms.
I like to add the herbs close to the end of the cooking progress to maximize their flavor.

Simmering soupFinished soupItalian Vegetable Soup by Produce with AmyPrintable Recipe: ITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUP by Produce with Amy

Pin it HERE.

Find my other soup recipes HERE.

Thank you for your interest in my blog and please share if you enjoy my posts and recipes. I would love to hear from you. Make sure you follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and stop by my Facebook page and give it a like (all the links can be found on the right hand side of the page).

As we move into winter I promise to continue to share my ideas for healthy comfort food. This week I will be experimenting with a plant-based roasted vegetable stew. Have a wonderful week and I challenge you to pay attention and fill the well of your creativity.

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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.

Stop by my Produce with Amy Facebook Page and make sure that you sign up to receive email updates of my posts (on the right side of the page). Follow my posts on Twitter Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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

 

Hot & Sour Soup ~ Plant-Based Comfort Food

Plant-Based Hot & Sour Soup by Produce with Amy“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” 
― Thich Nhat Hanh

My Mason Jar Salad Prep

My Mason Jar Salad Prep

Time. There never seems to be enough, but I do make sure to cherish every moment. I am determined to not let the daylight savings time change derail my schedule. My meal prep for the week is finished and I have had a productive weekend. Yet, I still feel that Sunday anxiety creeping into my path. I am very behind in posting recipes so I decided that today’s posts will be short and sweet. While I love to reflect and ruminate, I am sure that many will appreciate it when I get right to the point and share the recipe.

Mason Jar Salads by Produce with Amy

Top: Dijon dressing, cucumbers, carrots, radish, bell peppers, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce. Bottom: Waldorf Inspired Slaw (recipe under salad tab)

While I love sharing recipes for Mason Jar Salads (make sure you check out my salad tab at the top of page) one of my other passions is soup (make sure you check out my soup tab as well).

A couple of weeks ago I was craving Hot & Sour Soup so I decided to come up with a plant-based version. It turned out fabulous and I had to share it with you. It is filling, spicy, and since it is homemade you can tweak it to fit your own personal taste. I always love to make a large batch of soup each week and I freeze a few portions to grab for a quick-lunch or side to dinner when I am busy.

IngredientsHOT & SOUR SOUP

  • 6-8 cups of vegetable stock (I used six cups of stock and next time I will use eight for a more “brothy” soup)
  • 8 ounce package of fresh mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into strips
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped (you could substitute a small onion or bunch of green onions)
  • 1 package of dried shiitake mushrooms (reconstitute with hot water. The package that I used rendered 8 ounces when hydrated. I purchased dried shiitake mushrooms in the produce section by the regular mushrooms.)
  • 1 can of bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup of cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil (you could also use coconut oil or your cooking oil of choice)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of tamari (soy sauce would work as a substitution)
  • Chili garlic sauce (to taste. I used two Tablespoons because I like my soup extra spicy. I found this sauce at Target)
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the leek (or onion), garlic, celery, and carrots in the sesame oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and lightly saute for approximately ten minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for thirty minutes. Before serving add a dash of rice vinegar, sesame oil (I highly recommend sesame oil since it imparts so much flavor), tamari, and chopped cilantro. Makes approximately 10 cups.

Printable recipe: Hot & Sour Soup

Hot and Sour SoupThis soup really hit the spot and I will be making it again soon. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Please make sure to stop by my Facebook page and feel free to share my recipes. I love hearing that others are enjoying my creations. Remember to breathe deep this week and savor every moment. I hope my blog helps you maximize a healthy lifestyle and makes a difference in your week.

Our Cavalier King Charles Phoebe is my photo assistant.

Our Cavalier King Charles Phoebe is my photo assistant.

Hot and Sour Soup by Produce with Amy

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Peppers & Carrots ~ Plant-Based

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Peppers & Carrots by Produce with Amy“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to what they want to do.” 
–Kathleen Winsor

This morning, as every day, I woke up with a list of things that I wanted to accomplish. At about noon, I felt my regular Sunday anxiety start to multiply. No matter how productive I am, I get that sick feeling in my stomach that I did not do enough. When this happens, I remind myself to breathe. I take a few deep, cleansing breaths and remind myself how fortunate I am to have a teaching career that I love. I might not get to the bottom of the mountain of papers I hauled home and my house and closets may not be fit for a magazine spread, but I am doing the best that I can. While the temperatures dip outside I have a cozy home that I am able to keep warm, a kitchen full of nourishing food, and my health is currently strong. Being thankful for what we have always sheds some perspective on stress and makes it seems less significant.

The fact that I have a food blog is proof that I have made many lifestyle changes. In January of 2013, I decided that I wanted to make time for my own writing and share some of my recipe ideas. While the entire process of coming up with a recipe, cooking, documenting with photos, selecting photos, and writing is time-consuming ~ it is worth all the labor. I feel a burst of elation every time that I hit publish because it is a reminder that I am making time to pursue my passion. That said, I have many recipes waiting in the wings to share. Therefore, I am going to make this post short and sweet so I can share a couple of recipes today.

You know from previous posts that soup is a weekly staple in our house. My husband Mike and I each have a cup with dinner. It bulks up a meal and allows us to have a smaller portion of our entrée. As a Weight Watchers leader I encourage my members to make soups that are full of Power Foods. The cauliflower soup recipe that I am sharing today works perfectly with Simple Start or the Simply Filling Technique.

I decided to roast the cauliflower first to make the flavor more robust. I cut one large head of cauliflower into florets and drizzled with the following mixture:

*2 Tablespoons coconut oil
*2 Tablespoons of tamari (soy sauce would also work)
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
*1 teaspoon cumin

I roasted the cauliflower for 60 minutes at 350 (I flipped the cauliflower at 30 minutes). (Normally, I roast vegetables at 450 for a shorter amount of time but I had bread baking at the time that needed the oven to be at 350)
Roasted Cauliflower

Words cannot even explain how amazing the house smelled from the roasted cauliflower. It would serve as an incredible side dish and I really regretted not buying two heads of cauliflower. 

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH SWEET PEPPERS AND CARROTS

  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 4 ribs of chopped celery
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (or your cooking oil of choice)
  • 1 head of roasted cauliflower
  • 3 small red bell peppers (or 2 large)
  • 5 peeled carrots
  • 1 seeded fresh jalapeno
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the celery, garlic, and onion in the coconut oil until soft. Reserve and put in a separate container (When I make pureed soups I often like the texture of the celery and onion so I add it to the soup after blending. If you want your soup to be completely smooth you may add all the other ingredients right to sautéed celery, onion, and garlic).

One nice thing about pureed soups is that you do not have to chop the vegetables into small pieces.

One nice thing about pureed soups is that you do not have to chop the vegetables into small pieces.

In the same pot add the rest of the ingredients (except the cauliflower). Bring to a boil and cook approximately thirty minutes until the carrots and peppers are soft. Let cool for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the blender and pour in the pepper and carrot mixture. Puree until smooth. Add the puree along with the reserved celery, onion, and garlic. Heat and serve. Makes approximately ten cups of soup.

Printable Recipe:Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Peppers & Carrots

Pin it HERE.

I did add the cauliflower to the mixture but next time I will add it directly to the blender since it is already cooked.

I did add the cauliflower to the mixture but next time I will add it directly to the blender since it is already cooked.

You may also decide to roast the peppers and the carrots with the cauliflower (which would reduce the cooking time of the soup and enhance the taste of both).

The color of the soup is vibrant and I think that the flavors really combined well together. It is rich and creamy and I think that if you served it at a dinner party your guests would be shocked that it is healthy and 100% plant-based. It tastes indulgent, comforting, and satisfying.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Sweet Peppers & Carrots

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I have enjoyed sharing the recipe with you. Make sure that you check out my other soup recipes. I would love it if you stopped by my Facebook page and please feel free to share my recipes. Together we can embrace a healthy lifestyle that is full of fresh produce. Check back often. In the coming days I will be sharing my plant-based version of a Hot & Sour Soup, a Mushroom Stroganoff, and more jarred salad recipes. Remember to stop and breathe when you are busy and I wish you a productive and powerful week!

Roasted Cauliflower by Produce with Amy

Cabbage Soup ~ Wholesome, Plant-Based, and Weight Watchers Friendly

Weight Watchers Friendly Cabbage Soup

“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”-Andy Goldsworthy

It would be a lie if I said that I did not do a jubilant snow-day-dance in my kitchen this morning when I got the call that school was cancelled due to inclement weather. I tapped on the window and mouthed the words to Mike, “SNOW DAY.” It may have been an act of unkindness considering the fact that he was brushing my Jeep off at the time. He scowled up his face in mock disgust. About forty-five minutes later he was headed out the door to work. He grabbed his Arctic Carhartts, planted a kiss on my mouth, and left the house with a smile plastered on his face from ear-to-ear. Mike is so thankful to be employed right now and loves his new job. We are so fortunate and will never take for granted the opportunities that we are given or our network of support. Last year at this time Mike was a full-time college student and we were stressed about our finances. It feels wonderful to have two incomes again and to be catching up on our bills.

Athena absorbing the snow day magic from her chair.

Athena absorbing the snow day magic from her chair.

This morning I enjoyed a silent house and the company of our furbabies. I had a bottomless cup of tea and felt my energy levels restore. While I spent my afternoon working on lesson plans (yes, a snow day really throws things out of whack) this morning I allowed myself to be steeped in the bliss of writing in my journal, yoga, and brainstorming future blogs.

Today’s recipe is one that I have been meaning to share for quite a long time. It is an old healthy favorite that my mom and I loved making when I was in high school and college. In fact, I talked to my mom today and she said she was getting ready to make a pot. I have seen recipes for many different versions over the years and this is a recipe that I often share with my Weight Watchers members.

I am going to share a basic recipe and you may decide to bulk it up with pasta or beans and flavor it with your favorite spices. You can also add other vegetables (I have added zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale or whatever I have on hand). When I ran it through the recipe builder it came out to 1 PP per cup but I do count it as 0 when I follow the Simple Filling Technique (even though juice is not a Power Food).
Cabbage Soup by Produce with AmyCABBAGE SOUP

*1 medium head of chopped cabbage
*1 medium chopped onion
*4 ribs of chopped celery
*3 chopped bell peppers (I use one green, one red, and one yellow. I really like the flavor that the bell peppers bring to the soup)
*2 cups of chopped carrots
*6 cups of tomato juice
(You may want to buy a low sodium version since tomato juice is often high in sodium. Sometimes I use 3 cans of tomato juice and 3 cans of vegetable stock depending what I have on hand. I especially love this soup with my mom’s “homemade” tomato juice from her garden tomatoes)
*2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
(or your oil of choice)
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Lemon juice to taste
*Worcestershire sauce to taste
*Hot sauce 
(Optional. I recommend adding it to your cup or bowl before serving. If you like some heat you could also add a diced jalapeno pepper to the pot)

Sautee garlic, onion and celery until soft and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer 45-60 minutes.

Printable Recipe: Cabbage Soup

That is it. It is a simple and versatile soup and it is packed with flavor and nutrients. While it is wonderful hot, I must say that I even enjoy it cold (similar to a gazpacho). One of my WW friends, Linda, tried this recipe a couple of weeks ago and she said she swapped out the tomato juice for fire-roasted tomatoes. One of my other friends Theresa said that she loves to have a cup of vegetable soup at night for a filling and healthy snack.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and please share your feedback. I always love to hear the tweaks and additions that people make to dishes to suit their tastes. If you are interested in other soup recipes, please check out my Soups tab.

Pin recipe HERE.

Have a wonderful and healthy week my friends and thank you for sharing my recipes with the world. Make sure you find my page on Facebook and stay tuned for more fruit and vegetable filled dishes. In the next couple days I will be sharing a new Mason Jar Salad that features blue/purple fruit and vegetables and a homemade tangerine dressing made two ways. Thank you for sharing this journey with me!
Cabbage Soup for Your Health

Cabbage Soup for a Cold Day

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

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness.”
~Eli Brown

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and TomatoesAnother Sunday is here and I have been given the gift of time to relax, reflect, and regroup for a short work week before the Thanksgiving holiday. As everyone else is surely doing today, I find myself wistful for passing time and I cling to each minute ~ wishing that the weekend would never end. Do not get me wrong, teaching is my calling and I love being a teacher, guide, and student in my classroom, but the weekend has been so cozy and peaceful that I do not want to let it slip between my typing fingers. I could easily spend the entire weekend blogging but I also had to fit in my Weight Watchers meeting, shopping, cooking, grading, and household chores. Though, I made sure that I remembered to breathe deep, savor, and find gratitude for some rest and relaxation.

It was snowy, cold, and blustery yesterday and the scale and I were not friends at my Weight Watchers meeting. Or maybe we were, it was just time for a reality check and some tough love. I faltered with my healthy goals in the beginning of November. My bedtime crept up and events pulled me away from exercise. Last weekend I picked myself up, brushed off the excuses, and I am proud to say that I started Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred (today will be Day #6). Sore muscles may have attributed to my gain this week, but I have also been negligent in making sure I am drinking enough water and a couple of days I was sloppy with tracking.

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the distant future, I decided that I do not want to face another gain. What is my plan? My plan is to build in exercise EVERY DAY (yes, even on Thanksgiving) and I will be packing my DVD, yoga mat, and weights when I travel out-of-town to visit family. This week my meals will be brimming with vegetables, I will drink plenty of water, and I will bring some of my own food and healthy snacks on my travels. I know that I can work in indulgences and still stay On Program. I will have to make smart choices and make sure that I am creating balance with nutrition and activity.

One of the secrets to my Weight Watchers success over the past seven years has been soup. Not only does soup make a hearty lunch but it is a terrific way to bulk up dinner. Add a side salad and a cup of soup to a meal and you can eat smaller portions of your dinner entrée (this will also stretch your grocery budget). Though, my husband Mike and I can easily make soup and salad dinner. Mike loves when I top his salad with steak, chicken, or salmon and I can add protein to mine with raw nuts, beans, or tempeh.

Black bean soup is one of my favorites and I make many different varieties. I do confess that I normally do not follow a recipe and often add whatever I have on hand. This means that I often am not being 100% accurate on tracking the Points Plus value of the soup and depending on ingredients count it as 3-5 PP per cup. Imagine my surprise last night when I made a pot of soup and after running it through the Recipe Builder discovered it was only 2 PP a cup. I am thankful that blogging and sharing my recipes with others has made me more accountable to accurate tracking in Weight Watchers eTools.

This soup really is fiber rich and full of nutrients with the addition of sweet potato and pumpkin. Sweet potatoes are my current obsession and I love their taste and texture. I also love spice so I added a large can of Ro-tel brand tomatoes with green chilis and a Tablespoon of taco seasoning. If you do not like spicy food you could use a can of regular diced tomatoes.

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

*4 cups of vegetable stock
*28 ounce can of Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilis (regular tomatoes would work well if you do not want the spice of the chilis)
*3 cups of black beans
*2 cups of peeled and cubed sweet potato (I used one large potato)
*2 cups of chopped celery
*1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
*1 cup of pumpkin (I used canned but fresh/frozen would work well)
*1 cup of chopped onion
*3 cloves of minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon of homemade Taco Seasoning
*1 teaspoon of cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Recipe renders 12 cups of soup

10Sautee onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper in oil until soft.

Add sweet potato and vegetable stock and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through.

Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool enough to put in blender.

Please excuse my messy blender. ;)

Please excuse my messy blender. 😉

Since I have a high-powered blender (a Vitamix) I did a quick blend (20-30 seconds) because I wanted a little texture to the soup and did not want to completely puree the mixture.

You can skip this step if you want chunks of sweet potato in your soup. Sometimes I cut the potatoes in tiny pieces and skip the blending.

Add the mixture back to the pot and add the black beans, taco seasoning, and pumpkin to the pot. Bring to a boil and turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

*Recipe renders 12 cups. 

Other possible additions to this recipe are corn, spinach or kale, white beans, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.
Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, and Tomatoes

I had two cups of this soup for lunch and before serving I squeezed fresh lime on top and added a dollop of plant-based sour cream, a couple of slices of avocado, fresh cilantro, and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.
Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and TomatoesBlack Bean Soup with Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and TomatoesIt was delicious and FILLING. The pumpkin and sweet potato give the soup a slightly sweet background which is balanced out by the spice of the chili infused tomatoes and taco seasoning. Let me know if you try this soup and what you think.

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Check out my soup tab for other recipes.

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Also, please think about joining my December Green Smoothie Challenge to get a jump-start on the New Year with 31 Days of Health. Stay tuned for  a “Getting Started” post  with a suggested shopping list, tips, nutritional information, and recipes.
December Green Smoothie Challenge

Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving holiday! May your blessings be so abundant that they are difficult to count and I hope you are able to relax and find laughter and peace. This year I am extra thankful for those who are reading my blog and for the reciprocal nature of social networks. Thank you for sharing this journey!
Gratitude