Saturday, March 12, 2011

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Creamy soups are some of my favorite indulgences and I've often wondered why it's so hard to make them in a healthy way.

When I found this creamy broccoli soup recipe in CLEAN START, I was really excited to try it out!

I modified it from the original version (I left out the miso it calls for and added pepper) and the soup definitely didn't disappoint! My 2-year-old and I both loved the soup in the original form, but the ingredient list would be really easy to modify for babies and toddlers.

For babies, hold back some broccoli and steam it while you're cooking the soup. Mix in a little vegetable stock, mash and, voila! A perfect baby-appropriate, wholesome meal.

For toddlers who might not like the strong taste of the soup, follow the same steps listed for babies above, but skip the mashing. Mix steamed broccoli and the stock for a toddler-friendly soup.

Ingredients:
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups rice milk
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper

Directions:
In soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium heat, saute garlic and onion in olive oil until soft (about 3 minutes).

Prepare broccoli by peeling stalks and discarding tough ends. Cut remaining stalks and tops into bite-sized pieces and add to pot with onions and garlic. Add rice milk, oats, pepper and vegetable stock. Bring to boil and stir, making sure all oats are submerged in stock. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until broccoli is soft. Remove from heat.

Using handheld blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth and creamy.

Bon apetit!

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Book Review: The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

I don't know about you, but I was a HUGE fan of Clueless. I still remember over-using the phrase, "that was way harsh" when I was in high school after seeing Alicia Silverstone in all her fabulous-ness on the big screen.

Ok, who am I kidding? I STILL use that phrase!

Since I've always been a big fan of Alicia's, I was really curious about her new book, The Kind Diet. I remember reading in People magazine a while back that she's vegan and even served all vegan foods at her wedding. Since my son seems to be a self-directed vegan, I thought this book might give me some insight into cooking for him.

Here's a description from the publisher:

In The Kind Diet, actress, activist, and committed conservationist Alicia Silverstone shares the insights that encouraged her to swear off meat and dairy forever, and outlines the spectacular benefits of adopting a plant-based diet, from effortless weight loss to clear skin, off-the-chart energy, and smooth digestion. She explains how meat, fish, milk, and cheese—the very foods we’ve been taught to regard as the cornerstone of good nutrition—are actually the culprits behind escalating rates of disease and the cause of dire, potentially permanent damage to our ecology.

After the first few pages, I realized this book was so much more than a "how to go vegan" manual. Alicia did a great job of explaining the benefits of going vegan, particularly all the health benefits.

As a cancer survivor, I took particular note of the references she made to the link between dairy/meat consumption and cancer.

This book is divided into two sections: information and recipes. By the time I finished the information section, I was ready warming up to the idea of giving this whole vegan thing a try. The recipes sealed the deal. They looked fantastic, had short ingredients lists, featured healthy products and I could tell immediately that my son would enjoy them.

Things I loved about this book:
- The information presented in the first half of the book has been well-researched and is well-documented. It's not one of those "do this because I say so, not because anything has been proven" kinds of books. I feel like I can trust her sources.
- The recipes are GOOD. I've tried more than a few and have served about half of what I've made to meat eaters. When I tell them after the fact that the tasty goodies are vegan, they look surprised and ask for the recipes. That, to me, is the highest compliment!

Things I like:
- The book was a quick read. It didn't take long to get through the information section and it was easy to flip through the recipes to find the ones I wanted to try.
- The author - I mean, come on, can you really beat Cher from Clueless? Plus, her engaging, sweet style is really refreshing.
- She divides the recipes section into flirt, vegan and superhero, to give everyone a way to ease into eating in a more healthy way.

Things I would change:
- I'd include more recipes. They're all so great, I'd love to see more. Hmmm ... maybe she'll do a follow-up?
- I'd reduce the emphasis on soy products. Emerging research is showing that soy isn't as beneficial as we've thought for years. For more on the soy controversy, see this great article by Dr. Mark Hyman, one of my favorite IIN guest lecturers.

Bottom line:
- Buy for your shelf. This is a great reference book and, whether you're going to flirt, go vegan or be a superhero, you'll love having these recipes on hand.

MMM recipe adjustments:
- Almost every recipe has an ingredient that you can pull out to prepare for baby - whether it's a carrot in one or a sweet potato in another. Pull out extras and steam them for your baby, then chop a few up for your toddler to enjoy as a finger food while you're cooking.
- Most, if not all of the recipes in CLEAN START are suitable for toddlers. Try each one with your toddler, just to see what happens. Note that the exception to this note is any recipe that calls for nut butter. Make sure you don't try nuts of any kind with babies or toddlers until after the age of 2. Even then, make sure you work with your doctor to decide when it's ok to try introducing nuts.

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Cincinnati-area Group Announcements

Hey Friends!

If any of you are located in Cincinnati, check out these great groups, all of which are now forming:

- Cancer Care Support Group in Montgomery
- Cincy Organics Buying Co-op: No web link for this one, so send me an email if you want more info. A bunch of families are getting together to start a buying co-op to save some money on organic products. We'll start with dry goods (cereals, flours, crackers, etc) and eventually expand into produce, meat, etc.
- Holistic Moms Network: Cincinnati will soon be getting our very own HMN Chapter! I'll post another announcement when the chapter is up and running!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cookbook Review: CLEAN START by Terry Walters

Ahh, how I love Terry Walters. Not just because she's a graduate of the same nutrition training program I'm currently in. And not just because she generously donated recipes to Bites of Health last year. Both would be more than acceptable reasons to fall in love with Terry.

But, the MAIN reason I love love love L.O.V.E. love Terry is that she shares clean, wholesome, yet DELICIOUS recipes with the world, through her cookbooks CLEAN FOOD and CLEAN START.

CLEAN FOOD, Terry's first cookbook, introduced readers to the concept of eating seasonal, minimally-processed foods that were as fun to eat as they were to prepare.

CLEAN START delivers more of the same, but the 100 recipes in this book are even tastier (in my opinion). They're fresh, simple, delicious and easy to prepare. Terry focuses on using fresh and seasonal ingredients, which makes these recipes pop with flavor.

This is my first MMM cookbook review, so here's some info about how I'll structure these going forward. First, I'll cover the things I love about each book ... the things that make me jump up and down and want to share. Next, I'll cover the things I like ... the things I'm not super super excited about, but the things that are still good about the book. Then, I'll cover the things I would change, if I were the author. Last, I'll tell you whether I'd check it out at the library, buy it for my kitchen, or give as a gift. Giving as a gift is a compliment of the highest order. In each review, I'll also give you my thoughts on how to adjust the recipes, in MMM style.

So, back to CLEAN START....

Things I love:
- The simple ingredients lists. I HATE it when I get really jazzed up about a recipe in a cookbook and realize the ingredients list is a mile long. Who has the time or money for those recipes, anyway?
- Terry's focus on minimally-processed, seasonal, organic foods. They're so much healthier for you, your family ... and me and my family.

Things I like:
- The variety of recipes. You'll find muffins, pizza, even chocolate covered peanut butter balls!
- How good the finished products taste. These recipes are GOOD. Don't believe me? Test me. Give them a try!
- The photography is gorgeous.

Things I would change:
- The cover is weird. I know that sounds strange, particularly because the linen-like cover looks really cool. But, I've found that it holds onto food stains. I guess I tend to be a messy chef, because I have spots on my book, but the finished products are well worth it, I'm sure.

Bottom line:
- Give as a gift. Both times, I've been thanked profusely and I've heard back from the gift recipients that they love their books.

MMM recipe adjustments:
- Almost every recipe has an ingredient that you can pull out to prepare for baby - whether it's a carrot in one or a sweet potato in another. Pull out extras and steam them for your baby, then chop a few up for your toddler to enjoy as a finger food while you're cooking.
- Most, if not all of the recipes in CLEAN START are suitable for toddlers. Try each one with your toddler, just to see what happens. Note that the exception to this note is any recipe that calls for nut butter. Make sure you don't try nuts of any kind with babies or toddlers until after the age of 2. Even then, make sure you work with your doctor to decide when it's ok to try introducing nuts.

Ok, I'm off to eat some chocolate peanut butter balls, straight from the pages of CLEAN START.

Bon apetit a mi :)

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