“Vegilicious” Soup

SOUP is the ultimate winter comfort food. Curling up with a bowl of hot soup and a slice of hot bread is like heaven on a cold day.  And it’s nutritious too!

When I make soup, I love to start with a base of veggie broth and then throw in whatever vegetables are in my refrigerator. It’s fun and you can discover some incredible flavor combinations you’ve never experienced before by making it this way.

Soup’s History: It’s hard to say exactly how soup came to be because it’s been around for so long, but I suspect it was most likely for economic reasons. When food was scarce, you could certainly stretch it a lot further by making a broth and then adding pieces of chopped up food vs. having an entire meal to yourself. Plus, it was more filling to eat it this way too.

I think this kind of sums up the value of it:

In one form or another, soup has been around since 20,000 B.C. and it’s easy to see why. A handful of ingredients on their own will only feed a handful of people, but if you were to cook them with herbs and spices in water, soup can feed a whole community. https://www.gloriousfoods.co.uk/inspiration/a-brief-history-of-soup

“Nutritalicous” Veggie Soup: The recipe below has all of the ingredients you need to make a healthy, nutritious meal.  It has vegetables, protein (beans) and grains (pasta).  You can even sub out whole grain pasta for the gluten-free kind.

And here’s what I love about it!

  • It’s naturally low in calories, fat and saturated fat.
  • It’s an excellent source of fiber!
  • It’s high in protein.
  • It’s also an excellent source of iron and potassium. Two nutrients that Americans can’t ever seem to get enough of.

Most of the protein in this recipe comes from the beans. If you’ve ever heard me speak, chances are I’ve talked about how beans are the most “perfect” food.  They are naturally low in calories, fat and saturated fat and extremely high in fiber! For example, the white beans in this recipe can have up to 19 grams of fiber in a cup and the kidney beans – 16 grams.  Even if you only ate ¼ cup of each of these types of beans in your meal, you would still consume around 9 grams of fiber – still an excellent source!  Beans are also a great source of protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate and B6. And not to mention all of the phytonutrients or antioxidants they contain. Very healthy stuff!

This recipe not only has a savory flavor, but also has an added sweetness from the tomatoes that sneaks up on you at the end. I even added an ugly carrot to enhance the sweetness.

Vegetable Soup

Paula’s “Vegilicious” Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4-5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 zucchini – diced
  • 1 cup frozen Italian green beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) cannelloni (white kidney beans) – drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) red kidney beans – drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 4 ounces cooked pasta – small shells (about 1 cup)
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Sprinkle of pepper

Instructions

  • Heat oil in large sauce pan over med heat. Add onion and cook stirring occasional for 5 mins. Add garlic and cook 1 min.
  • Stir in broth, zucchini, corn, green beans and seasonings. Bring to boil and reduce to low, cover and simmer 10 mins until veggies are tender.
  • Stir in tomatoes with juice and drained beans. Simmer for 30 mins.
  • Add pasta to bowl and add soup on top with basil and seasonings and serve. I enjoyed this with a slice of avocado toast.  Ummm, ummm good!

A special thank you to Paula Schmelter Koszarek @wagthedogmedia for sharing this incredibly delicious vegetable soup recipe with us.

***If you have a recipe you would like to share with our teachers and students, please send it our way and if we can, we will highlight it, along with its nutritional value on one of our blog posts.

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HEALTHY Halloween – Veggie Skeleton

Are your student’s diets ghoulish?
Have them make a “scary as they want” skeleton using fresh fruits and/or veggies.
Add a healthy ranch dressing dip with:
 Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt
• 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
• 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon onion powder
• ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
• Sprinkle of salt and pepper
Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until well-blended. Serve with veggies from the skeleton.
This revamped ranch dressing vs. a traditional bottled ranch dressing has:
  • Less calories: 70% less calories in 2 tablespoons in this recipe
  • Less fat: 8 grams  in this one vs. 14 grams of fat in the bottled ones
  • Less saturated fat: .6 grams in this recipe vs. 2.5 grams in the bottled one
  • Less salt: 70% less salt in this one

“The Three Sisters” Squash

The word squash is derived from the Indian word askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” Although Native Americans mostly ate it raw, we generally like to cook it.  Squash is known as one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans.  The three sisters include corn, beans and squash and were three native plants that were farmed.  This was one of the first examples of sustainable agriculture, as each plant supported the others’ growth: corn provided stalks for the beans to grow, squash vines covered the weeds on the ground, and beans provided nitrogen for all three crops to grow.

Squashes are technically classified as a fruit, but have many culinary uses as a vegetable. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.  Some are big and round, while others are thin and short.  They can come flattened or tubular and with straight or crooked necks.  Colors range from white to yellow to orange to green – some with stripes, others that are solid.

They are classified according to when they are best harvested, in either the winter or summer. Summer squash is usually harvested during the summer. These plants have thinner skins and are smaller.  Examples include zucchini and yellow crookneck. Winter squash are harvested at maturity, usually at the end of the summer through the winter.  This type of squash generally has a harder shell, which allows them to act as storage containers for cooking their flesh along with other ingredients.  They have thick skin and hard seeds and can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.  Examples include butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.

Squash is extremely high in carotenoids (Vitamin A) – most orange fruits and veggies are high in Vitamin A.

It is also extremely high in the following:

Vitamin C
Fiber
Potassium
Magnesium

It is rich in Lutein, a carotenoid that contributes to the dark orange color of butternut squash and pumpkin and serves as an anti-oxidant.

Squash can protect you against cancer, heart disease and cataracts.

Fun Fact: It has the same composition as a fruit, so is considered a fruit and not a vegetable. All squash is considered a fruit with edible flesh.

Parent tip for cooking with kids: Many varieties of squash contain seeds that can be toasted and eaten as a snack. Pumpkin is a member of the squash family, and its seeds can be made into a tasty Halloween treat that kids gobble up! You can toast any kind of squash seeds, including butternut and acorn squash, and then coat them with a little olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt and add them to their favorite squash soup.

CinnaSquash Muffin

CinnaSquash Muffins
A healthy take on regular old muffins.

Yields: 24 regular-sized muffins (two pans’ worth)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 banana – mashed
1 cup butternut squash – baked or boiled
2 eggs
¾ cup apple sauce
1/3rd cup turbinado sugar or sucanat (or any other less processed sugar)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 cups whole wheat/white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Grease muffin pans or add muffin cake liners to pans.
• Mix together banana, squash, eggs, apple sauce, sugar and oil in a mixing bowl until  well blended. You can also use an electric mixer if this is easier.
• In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda and powder and cinnamon.
• Make a hole or well in the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients into the center and then start to blend the two ingredients together to form a batter.
• Pour batter into muffin tins and sprinkle with cinnamon.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes.
• Let cool and then serve.

Optional: Top with a glazed cinnamon icing

Nutritional information (per muffin):

Calories 90
Carbohydrates 12 grams
Protein 2 grams
Fat 4 grams Saturated fat 1 gram
Fiber 2 grams
Vitamin A 1% of daily rec amt
Vitamin C 5% of daily rec amt Sodium 130mg – low
Calcium 1% of daily rec amt
Iron 4% of daily rec amt
Sugar 1.5 grams

Why is this recipe healthier than a usual squash muffin recipe?

  • We used bananas instead of butter for moisture and tenderness.
    • A lot of recipes call for a cup of butter, which adds 1,600 calories, 176 grams of fat and 112 grams of saturated fat to the recipe.
    • 1 ½ bananas add only 158 calories, .6 grams of fat and .15 grams of saturated fat.
  • We swapped out butter for sunflower oil.
  • We added butternut squash for a boost of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
  • We lowered the amount of sugar added to the recipe – only 1/3rd cup.
    • Some recipes call for 3 cups of sugar!
    • We swapped out the sugar with apple sauce.  You can also use fruit such as figs or dates, fruit puree or vanilla extract to cut back on sugar in a recipe.
  • We used whole wheat/white flour to add more fiber and still make it appealing to kids.
  • We added only a teaspoon of salt for 24 muffins.
  • We included cinnamon for added sweetness and flavor.

Fermented Vegetables

 

In sticking with our theme of gut microbe trends, I thought I would highlight a couple of probiotic powerhouses. One of the best – “fermented” vegetables.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is high in fiber and provides a good source of iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It is also considered a “cruciferous” vegetable, which have been shown to lower your risk of cancer.

Kimchi is also made from fermented cabbage. It also includes radishes, scallions and cucumbers and seasonings.  Kimchi is an excellent source of Vitamin K (64% of the daily recommended amount in a cup), iron (25% of the daily rec amt) and folate.  It also provides Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and zinc. And since it’s a cabbage, it is also a “cruciferous” vegetable.

Pickled cucumbers, beets, onions, carrots, etc. – You get many of the vegetable benefits from these including Vitamins A and C. Plus, they have been shown to lower blood sugar, are excellent sources of anti-oxidants, help relieve muscle cramps and may treat restless leg syndrome. Just make sure it is the live, raw, fermented kind to help keep sodium levels low.

One final note:

The Vitamin C in cabbage becomes more bioavailable (more able to be digested and absorbed) when it’s fermented to become sauerkraut and kimchi. The process also creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus that improve digestion and gut health.

Hearts on Fire

Valentine’s Day week is a great time to share with students “foods that fuel their heart” – starting with the RED ones. When we are having a discussion about fruits and vegetables in our classes, I like to point out that the natural chemicals in them are responsible for their color. They give fruits and veggies vibrant, bright colors! These chemicals are known as “phytochemicals” or “phytonutrients.”  A good example is anti-oxidants, readily found in these foods. Although they do not contain nutrition, they are still responsible for helping to protect us from disease.

Although each color performs a multitude of disease-preventing functions that may cross over into other colors, I like to associate one color with one function to help students remember it.  Sooooo, the white ones protect your immune system, the orange/yellow protect your eyes and the green prevent against cancer.

So then what do the red ones do? Protects our “red” hearts of course!

The red ones contain a chemical called “lycopene” (found in tomatoes) that is responsible for its red pigment. Lycopene may inhibit the production of cholesterol and reduce LDL or the “not so good” cholesterol in your blood. Some studies have suggested too (although results are mixed) that higher concentrations of lycopene have been associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

So what are some of the best “red” Valentine’s Day foods you could recommend to students to help melt their “beloved-ones” heart?

  •     Tomato soup
  •     Valentine’s Day salad topped with red heart tomatoes
  •     Red pepper dip
  •     Baked red snapper
  •     Spaghetti with red lentil pasta sauce
  •     Desserts with strawberries, raspberries or cherries

A simple, luxuriously sweet, “red” recipe that you can make with your students is Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce.

Poached Pears in Raspberry Sauce  

poached-pears-in-raspberry-sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm Bosc or Bartlett pears
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (not from concentrate)
  • ¼ cup raspberry jam or jelly (I use jam that is fruit-juice sweetened and not from concentrate)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh raspberries, strawberries and mint leaves for garnish

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Cut pears in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and core with a spoon.
  3. Place pears cut side down in a baking dish.
  4. Combine juice, jam or jelly, cinnamon or nutmeg and salt in a separate bowl.
  5. Pour sauce over pears and cover dish with foil.
  6. Place pears in the oven and bake until they are soft (about 25 minutes).
  7. To serve, place pears cut side up on serving dish. Spoon sauce from baking dish over them and garish with berries and mint.

A popular option now is instead of cutting pears in half; cook them whole and then serve  standing up dripped in raspberry sauce.   

Cauliflower, the New Comfort Food

In 1621 the pilgrims celebrated their first fall harvest. They held a ceremony to show gratitude for their good fortune and to give thanks. Over time this tradition became known as “Thanksgiving”. What you might imagine this to look like is quite a bit different than the stereotypical “Turkey Day” image of grandpa napping on a couch with a full belly, pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies, stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits and a large juicy bird on the table and a football game.

While the original Thanksgiving was a gathering of family and community, their dining table looked a little different than what we are now accustomed to. The table they feasted at in 1621 had less overindulgence, less refined carbohydrates and saturated fat, and a wider variety of local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. I want to zoom in on one particular item on their Thanksgiving table, cauliflower.

Mark Twain said “a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”. That’s because the cauliflower plant actually is in the same family as cabbage, along with kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts and broccoli. These are cruciferous or brassica vegetables. One of the most significant characteristic of vegetables in the Brassica family is that they contain glucosinolates, a phytochemical in some plants that releases a pungent taste when chewed.  

Cauliflower can be found in white, green, purple and orange varieties, each one offering different nutrients, dependent on their color.  In general cauliflower contains:

  • Glucosinolates
  • High amount of vitamin C
    • A powerful antioxidant that protects the immune system
  • Potassium
    • Keeps your heart beating and muscles from cramping
  • Manganese
    • Important for metabolism, bone development and wound healing
  • Vitamin K
    • Needed for bone development and helps stop bleeding when you have a cut
  • Fiber
    • Aids in healthy digestion and makes you feel full
  • Omega-3
    • Cauliflower is one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3. It’s important to fight of inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels and have been shown to help with helps keep our minds sharp.

Fun Fact: Romanesco Cauliflower is a great example of sacred geometry in food. Sacred geometry is a term used to describe patterns we see repeating themselves over and over in nature. They are the building blocks or seeds of nature. Pinecones or nautilus shells are other good examples of this. This has got to get your students excited about cauliflower because. . . well, it’s really cool!

romanesco-cauliflower

How To Cook It:

The recipes below provide a twist on traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Imagine Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes or stuffing… no thank you. But what if instead of the heavy bread and eggs for the stuffing or the potatoes for the mash, we lightened it up with cauliflower? Changing an unhealthy habit into healthy choices is made easier when we just tweak what we already know and love. This is a way to help your students add more vegetables in their diet and get excited about what they are eating.

Here are some other ideas on how to use cauliflower:

  • Cauliflower pizza crust
  • Cauliflower buffalo wings
  • Cauliflower hash
  • Cauliflower tots
  • Cauliflower tacos (see recipe in previous beet article here)
  • Cauliflower fried “rice”

You can also throw it into an omelet, drizzle some oil on it and roast it, puree it into soup, toss it in a stew or curry, or make a sauce and to dip it in and eat it raw.

Mashed Cauliflower

mashed-cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads cauliflower, florets, rough chop
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock per every cup of cauliflower
  • 3 tbs plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

(Optional) chives, rosemary or parsley for garnish or 2 tbs chopped and mixed in

Directions:

  1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan, add the cauliflower and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until cauliflower is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of the oil on a pan and lightly sauté garlic on low heat until it begins to brown. Set aside.
  3. Reserve cooking liquid and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add yogurt, garlic and seasonings and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the oil and then the cooking liquid until you reach desired creaminess.
  4. (Optional) Mix in fresh parsley or chives.
  5. Serve and eat.

Cauliflower Stuffing

Cauliflower Stuffing.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, florets rough chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, dice
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup polenta, dried
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp sage powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Put cauliflower florets into food processor and pulse until it is small and rice-like.
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add the cauliflower, salt, pepper and sage and bring to a low simmer. Allow to simmer until it becomes tender and reaches a porridge like consistency, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add the vegetable oil. Over medium heat, add the onions, carrots and celery. Once these have softened, add the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and parsley for an additional minute or two.
  4. Once the cauliflower has finished cooking, add the polenta and stir for about 3 minutes. Then, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Serve and eat.