Creamy Vegan Potato Soup

Eating healthy does not have to be boring, bland or painful. Sometimes all it takes is just trying something new that opens your mind to just how delicious healthy foods can be. So do not be afraid that this is a vegan recipe. Trust me, you won't be able to tell one bit! Plus you get the added benefits of eating foods rich in enzymes, vitamins and minerals, fiber and the list goes on.

Here is a simple recipe that takes roughly 45 minutes from start to finish. Perfect for these cold, winter days.

Creamy Vegan Potato Soup

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup sliced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
a nice splash of white cooking wine (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 large potatoes (Russet or Yukon is preferred)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups unsweetened almond milk


1. Heat oil in large 4-quart pot over medium heat.

2. Add onions, carrots, celery in oil for approximately 7 minutes until veggies are soft. (Add garlic in at the last 2 minutes of cooking.)

3. Stir in sea salt and thyme.

4. If onions are sticking to the pan, add a splash (approximately 1/4 cup) of white cooking wine to the pot and scrap the stuck on onions off the bottom of pan.

5. Add vegetable stock to mixture, cover and bring to a boil.

6. Once soup is boiling, add potatoes and simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes.

7. Remove soup from burner and add approximately 2 cups (or more depending on if you like it more chunkier or thinner) of the soup to blender. Blend quickly until smooth. (If you blend too long it will get too thick and starchy). Return to pot and stir.

8. Add 2 cups of almond milk and stir. Return to burner and warm over low heat until thoroughly heated. Serve hot. Season with more salt, if desired.

Yields: 7 cups


5 Benefits of Eating with the Seasons

"If you could do just one thing for your health it would be to make seasonal, farm-fresh produce the center of your diet." --- Preston Maring, M.D.

Eating in season may not be a new concept for you. It is for me. At my local grocer, I see strawberries in the winter and winter squash in the summer and think, "cool", but instead I should be asking "how?". It wasn't until recently as I've learned more about clean and healthy eating that when we decide to eat with the seasons there are many facets to it's benefits.

Seasonal eating is based on purchasing foods during their natural growing times. If you've never thought about choosing foods based on the seasons, I encourage you to start now. Here are a few thoughts on why eating seasonally is right for you and your family.

1. Fresh is just best.
Have you ever looked on the label of that pint of strawberries you just bought? Many times those foods are traveling thousands of miles to get to you. What exactly does that mean for the quality of the food? A lot! First of all, they are generally picked early before they ripen and therefore, their nutritional content is much, much lower. According to Brian Halweil, author of Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, “If you harvest something early so that it can endure a long distance shipping experience, it’s not going to have the full complement of nutrients it might have had.” Second, if they are not organic, they are covered in preservatives and pesticides to get where they're going and still look good to you the consumer. If you are able, purchase in season foods when they are abundant and freeze them for later which also does not significantly diminish the nutritional value of produce.

2. In season = better health.
Seasonal foods also pack the biggest nutritional punch. When you purposefully choose foods that are in season for your particular region, you will be healthier. Since produce starts to lose nutrients shortly after being picked, out of season options will have lower nutritional values. Preston Maring, M.D., the associate physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland hospital says, "If we can just get people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, we can really impact people’s health."

3. It helps you know your neighbor.
Buying locally when foods are in season is the ideal way to shop for produce. You begin to know who is growing the food you are eating and have a sense of supporting those working hard in your community. The authors of Simply in Season remind us that "before the advent of modern transportation and storage systems, eating locally grown food was the norm - as it still is in many parts of the world." They also go on to say that "we have become distant in our food and not just in terms of geography. Who grows our food? What are their lives like? Each food purchase we make is like a vote for the way we want food to be produced - and for the world in which we live." So buy locally when you can so that your area farmers can continue their great work.

4. Buying in season makes your wallet happy.
This is just the basic law of supply and demand. When there is more of something it will cost less, when there is less you will usually pay the price. Author Judi Gerber of the website care2 says, "If you buy items that are not in season, you pay a premium for them. How so? That basket of peaches you buy during winter can cost twice as much as it would if you buy it when peaches are in season locally. Having those South American peaches transported halfway around the world shows up in your food bill, not to mention it is very environmentally unfriendly." Keep this in mind as you shop during the peak harvesting seasons.

5. It strengthens our palates.
The plain fact is when you buy food that is in season plus purchased as close to your front door as possible, it is going to taste fresher and better. Professional chef Kurt Michael Friese states, "When we eat out of season -- gobbling shipped-in strawberries in January, for instance -- the taste degrades: 'Our palate weakens just as our eyesight would if left in the dark for too long.'" Be choosy with your food. Don't eat whatever, whenever... chose the best.

Here is a list of foods that are in season in your region, just skip over to this Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) site and plug in your state and the month you'd like.

For more information on eating in season, here is a list of links you might be interested in:
The Locavore app :: find what is in season in a snap with your smartphone.
Simply in Season cookbook :: get inspired to eat in season and locally by these amazing stories along with healthy recipes. Also available for purchase on Amazon here.
Local Harvest :: for a list of farmer's markets and organic food near to you.
Eating Well in Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook
Perpetual Produce Calendar :: gives a list of produce in season for your particular region.
Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket

Do you eat with the seasons?


The Lessons I've Learned from... {A Series}

There are many people who inspire me. All my life I have been one to notice things... notice people and their behavior... notice the way they interact and the way they respond to... life. As much as I have been capable, I've tried to either steer clear of certain behaviors I've seen that I don't appreciate or take on those behaviors that I admire. Whether it was the mothers I babysat for, my youth leaders, college professors or even people who do not share the same religious beliefs as I do, I've learned from them... and maybe one of those people is you!

I would like to start a series of {rather short and sweet} posts of the lessons I've learned from those I see around me. I hope they inspire you too!

The person I want to highlight in this post is none other than... Michelle Duggar :)

I am not an avid viewer of her show, 19 Kids and Counting, but I have seen enough to pick up on a few things about her.

The first thing I love about Michelle is how she honors and adores her hubby, Jim Bob. She smiles when he's around and they kiss a lot even in front of millions watching on TV. I love that about her. She is proud of him and doesn't really care what others think. She treats him with respect and truly follows his lead in the home.

The next lesson I've learned that truly inspires me from Michelle is the patience she shows to her children. Wow! Ok, I have 4 kids and she has 19 so let's do the math here... ummm, she has 15 more kids than I do to mother, love, discipline, hug and so on. I know we don't see everything that goes on in her life, but I see enough to conclude, this mama definitely practices what Paul talks about in first Corinthians 13... which is actually the very first thing that describes love... patient.

Finally, the last thing that Michelle Duggar has taught me is her grace through times of criticism. Be it for homeschooling, having so many children or choosing not to use birth control, etc... she handles tough questions and criticism with confidence and resilience. She doesn't seemed phased by critics and knows her ground and stays firm.

Are there other qualities that stand out to you in Michelle? If you could ask Michelle one question, what would it be?


"Cookie, Peas..." {A Healthy Cookie Recipe!}

If you are anything like our family, we've gotta have a sweet snack every once in awhile. I don't generally buy packaged cookies at the store. They are full of bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, soy and artificial stuff. So if I have the time and ingredients I will make some cookies from scratch.

Over the last couple months, I have tried several healthy cookie recipes in search of that one, go-to healthy cookie. To my dismay, it has taken me many tries to find one worthy of a place on my blog. My sweet family has been patient and suffered through a few really bad ones. So lucky you, as a result of my failed attempts, are given the gift of a good, yet healthy cookie recipe that are a perfect combination of sweet and tart! These cookies are also loaded with fiber and top-notch, health-promoting antioxidants... so enjoy!

side note.... When I made these, my two-year old found the step stool and stole several until we took the stool away. Then he sweetly came up and said, "Cookie, peas..." with a look you couldn't say no to. He loved them and I hope you do too!

Cranberry-Chocolate Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour recipe

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 T (no pulp) orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large cage-free egg, room temperature
1 1/4 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add orange juice, vanilla and egg until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Once combined, gradually add to the butter mixture until flour is absorbed. Stir in chips and cranberries.

***here are those awesome anti-oxidants!***

Drop by tablespoons full of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let chill on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Yields: 2 1/2 dozen.


2012: I Resolve To...

A new year is here. I love new beginnings... maybe because I like to {sometimes} forget what is behind. 2011 was a tough year. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of blessings along the way, but it was a year of growing, molding... a lot of molding.

So here it is, 2012! A new year to learn, risk and challenge myself. Besides wanting to be a good mama and wife, eat healthier and exercise more... here are some thoughts into what I resolve to do in 2012.

1. Risk more. I want to look back on this year and say I risked more spiritually. I hope to be kinder when I could have lost it. I want to reach out to people when they could have easily been ignored. I don't want to pass up opportunities of loving others... maybe to the point of looking ridiculous.

2. Worry Less. I just heard a quote I know God intended for me to hear.

"The more I obsess of what people think of me, the quicker I forget of what God thinks of me."

I have lived my life in a maze - with many dead ends - of pleasing people to the point at times of neglecting my first love, Christ. This year will be one that focuses more on living life in complete worship to Christ and less searching for fulfillment in the crazy race of man's approval.

3. Get wise. I want to know my limits, but at the same time still risk things for God. For me, risking and pleasing might go hand-in-hand. Like James, this year I am asking God for wisdom to know where to put my energies, but then to know when to reserve them. Know when to risk, but have the knowledge to know when to sit and cheer from the sidelines. When to live crazy for Him, but also to know when to chill.

I hope your 2012 has many great days even through the growing and molding ones. I pray your journey brings about more faith and wisdom too.

What are you resolving to do... or not do.. in 2012?

Happy 2012 to you!