HOMEMADE SWEET POTATO AUTUMN SOUP

Soups make for a great meal option anytime during the year; but in my opinion, the best time is during the colder months – specifically autumn and fall. I find that by springtime I’m tired of all the soups and hot meals and am just aching to start the BBQ and salad diet!

One of my favorite soups to cook for us during the autumn/winter months is a very quick and easy creamy {minus the cream} vegetable soup.

This delicious + healthy soup is super easy and quick to make; the ingredients are simple; and the prep and cooking time is quick.

So, I don’t normally post recipes on here but I think it’s many duty for me to share this soup with you; here goes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized Yellow potatoes
  • 2 larger sweet potatoes
  • 2 regular carrots
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 medium sized broccoli
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to make it:

  1. Peel and cut into medium sized cubes the yellow and sweet potatoes. Rinse and put into pot. Pour water into pot so that it covers all the potatoes.
  2. Turn the stove on high to bring the water + potatoes to a boil.
  3. In the meantime, peel and cut into thick slices the carrots. Rinse them and also put them into the pot with potatoes. The water doesn’t have to be boiled at this point, but it’s good if the carrots are dropped into warmer water.
  4. Sprinkle pepper and salt into the pot – I’m not able to say exactly how much because I usually just eyeball it. You can always add salt and pepper later; so it’s better to use less now.
  5. Wash and cut into cubes the butternut squash. Rinse and drop into the pot with the potatoes and carrots.
  6. Use a wooden spoon to mix all ingredients in pot.
  7. Close the lid and let the ingredients come to a boil. Once boiling, mix everything again with a wooden spoon, close the lid, and change the temperature to somewhere between a low an medium. You want it to boil lightly; not simmer + not boil. Find a happy medium.
  8. In the meantime, cut up the broccoli and rinse. Set aside until ready to be added into the pot.
  9. Depending on your ingredients; everything in your pot should be soft + ready in about 30 minutes. Don’t hold me to it though; cook until potatoes, carrots, and squash are soft and basically ready to eat.
  10. At this point, you can add more salt and pepper as desired.
  11. Once you think it’s all done, throw in the broccoli. Give it about 5-7 minutes to cook.
  12. If you’re satisfied with the ingredients being cooked and done, turn the stove off and open the lid. Examine how much vegetable broth is left. I always grab a bowl and spoon a larger amount of the broth out. I never pour it out because it might have to be added back in later.
  13. Once you think you’ve taken enough of the broth out take a hand blender and start blending all the ingredients in the pot. At this point, if you think the soup is becoming too thick you can add in some of the broth; as desired.
  14. Blend until a creamy smooth consistency, of texture as desired. I always blend it pretty well; basically baby food.

It sounds super easy; and that’s because it is! It’s a quick meal that’s super delicious + healthy + filling. Since my husband agrees; my mission is accomplished.

So, this is the basic soup; you can add other ingredients as you think may like into the soup and/or add some toppings! When we recently made the soup we also cooked a grain mix which we added to the soup once it was in our bowls. Another great idea is to add sunflower or pumpkin seeds – I unfortunately didn’t have any on hand this time so we went with the grains.

Hope you enjoy my autumn soup recipe!

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INTERNATIONAL COFFEE DAY

Good Morning INTERNATIONAL COFFEE DAY 2018!

This day is for everyone; for those of you who drink coffee religiously, to those who enjoy a cup from time to time – even those who don’t drink it at all. Generally, this day is to celebrate all forms of the coffee life; from the farm to the store, and then to the table process. It’s quite the long one, actually. Process, I mean.

There is really so much to learn about coffee; I find it rather interesting actually. Coffee comes from so many parts of the world; there are so many different coffee machines you can use to brew yourself the perfect cup; and how about the flavours and aromas that are added to the traditional classic black blend.

When was the last time you took a moment to really think about these things? 

Well, today is your lucky day; take some time today to think about C O F F E E!

TOP THREE FARMERS MARKETS IN OTTAWA

For those who are looking for healthy, organic, or fresh from the farm products, Farmer’s Markets are a true gem – especially for those who live in the heart of a big city and don’t have too much spare time to venture out to these local farms. (Yes, most stores carry “fresh from the field” products, but read on, and you’ll see why a Farmer’s Market is worth your while).

Since moving to Ottawa, one of our main weekend attractions has been searching for these organic + fresh from the farm products. We have ventured outside of the city as well to a few farms to pick our own strawberries, raspberries, or currant, but always find ourselves being drawn back to these farmers markets. Here are my top three picks for Farmer’s Markets to venture out to this summer:

CARP FARMER’S MARKET

The Carp Farmer’s Market, located in (you guessed it) Carp, is open on Saturday’s between 8:00am – 1:00pm, from May to October. The Market features an incredible selection of locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, flowers + plants, and arts and crafts. At the entrance of the Market you will find a few food stations with hot and ready items to try (and snack on) while you shop around. One of the biggest fan favourites is the bacon on a bun; the lineup always seems never ending. Across the street from the Market, sits the cutest + coziest coffee shop called Alice’s Village Cafe we like to stop in for a coffee (and sometimes a snack) before or after our Farmer’s Market adventures. Click here to read more about our experience at the Carp Farmer’s Market.

LANDSDOWNE PARK – OTTAWA FARMER’S MARKET

Located in the heart of The Glebe, this Farmer’s Market also boasts all of your favourite fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and plants + flowers, and is open on Sundays between 9:00am – 3:00pm. Although the layout is set up into two rows, it never takes us just two strolls up and down to look at everything. One of the main reasons why this market is at the top of my list (besides the delicious selection) is the fact that it’s inside a park, minutes from the canal, and next to one of my all time favourite food markets; WHOLE FOODS. Before moving to Ottawa, Whole Foods Markets were merely a destination for me while on trips to the USA (I believe I spent na hour in the store in San Francisco), but now that it’s right at my fingertips it’s become my actual grocery go-to for specific organic and healthy products.

BYRON PARK – WESTBORO FARMER’S MARKET

This Market, open on Saturdays between 9:30am – 3:00pm, stretches linearly through Byron Park in the beautiful Westboro neighbourhood, where vendors bring forth a great selection of organic and healthy options. In addition to the Market shopping, you can cross the street and enter into the heart of Westboro where you will find neat shops and cozy restaurants; including many healthy and vegan options as well.  PLUS if you’re feeling the need for some clothes shopping as well, you’ll find unique boutiques along the street, as well as one of the most popular Lululemon store locations in Ottawa.

I definitely don’ need much convincing for why a trip to the Farmer’s Market can turn into an adventure on its own. Not only are Farmer’s Markets a great place to pick up fresh products, but they’re also a nice place to just stroll around and take in the atmosphere and environment. Many Markets offer food stands with hot/cold snacks that are ready to eat; keep in mind that these yummy snacks are usually also organic and fresh from the farm! BONUS! Most are situated in quaint neighbourhoods you can venture out to after your shopping!

Best to set aside a few hours to a trip to the Farmer’s Market these days!

PLATE TALK: A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

I like to think that I live a fairly healthy lifestyle when it comes to food – I don’t drink pop, I don’t eat potato chips, and I try to make as many “healthy snack” options as possible. I do believe though in the theory of “a little bit of everything”. I think that if you limit yourself and try to exclude entirely something you’ve always enjoyed, you will somehow find your way back to it sooner or later, and your entire “healthy lifestyle” will basically be shot. Now, that being said, a “a little bit of everything” means that you don’t have to say no to a piece of cake at a party, unless you are going to a party every single week – that’s when you need to think about another option; maybe have that piece of cake once every two weeks? Also, it’s okay to have “a little bit of everything” when you literally are having everything; veggies, fruits, grains, etc. This little piece of cake will balance out all of the other healthy options you are consuming.

Next, by allowing yourself to basically not eliminate these “treats” you are actually helping yourself get on the right track with eating healthier. You know that saying; “you want what you can’t have”. Well, I think that’s exactly how this healthy lifestyle goes; if you know you can’t have a cookie, you will crave it until you crack. But, if you know you can, you will have that cookie, and because you satisfy your craving of it, you will be more optimistic about eating that “healthy option”.  I also found, with myself specifically, after a while of living this “healthy lifestyle” that craving for those “treats” started minimizing. I won’t say it’s disappeared, because I don’t think it’s humanly possible for me, but I no longer have sweet cravings for unhealthy options as often, that’s for sure.

Portion control is another major factor to the “little bit of everything theory”. My issue is, that if I make a favourite dish or am really enjoying the food I’m eating, I don’t know how to stop myself from eating it. I just can’t help myself with it being so delicious. This, my friends, is a torture and death sentence for your insides. If you regularly have large meals, then another large meal really doesn’t impact you because your body is used to receiving that amount to consume. Personally,  I eat a light breakfast, regular dinner, and have “snacks” every two hours or so.

So, when that off day comes when I am in love with what’s on my plate and can’t stop eating, it really doesn’t do me any good. Breaking eating patterns is actually one of the worst things you can do for your body – it breaks routine basically. This actually works both ways; if you eat regularly and then all of a sudden have a huge meal, your body starts working double time to break down the food you’ve just devoured – which is not good. If you eat regularly and then decide you are on a hunger strike; same thing, your body begins looking for that routine food to break down, but instead of food it finds air – not good again. Both of these patterns can lead to serious stomach bacteria developments and gut problems. I can personally say I’m guilty of this sometimes, and am really trying to keep my eating habits together.

I have been on both ends of the spectrum, and will openly say that food and I have not had a good relationship in the past; but slowly things are looking up, mainly because I am educating myself more on these topics. So, that being the final point of this speech I’ve gone on here; educate yourself on the food you are consuming, or want to be be consuming. The more you know the more comfortable you will feel purchasing it, and then, the more eager you will be making it. Find groups or websites that share the same food interest as you, or who maybe have already overcome this stage and can provide insight. It’s always easier with someone else.

For a very long time, I felt like I was alone in my consuming patterns; especially my in-laws who put milk, cream, and butter into anything and everything possible. It took some time to get used to either not being able to taste everything at a dinner party, or having a separate dish made just for me. Honestly, this still happens all of the time, so don’t think that you will be fully in the clear, there will always be unhealthy options around you (or just options you are intolerable to); I still often skip out on many items offered at parties for that exact reason. But, that’s okay! Say no when you feel you should – don’t push yourself to consume something that you know will not sit right with you, just to “be polite”. 

This is your one and only body so give it what it needs to take you through this amazing life! 

Now, I might be getting a bit off topic here with the “healthy lifestyle choice” and the “medical dietary restrictions” matter, but, all in all, it comes down to one thing, and that’s your own determination and motivation to make a plan and stick to it. Whatever works best for your body and lifestyle.

Nevertheless, now more than ever, there are SO many options for food choices; many restaurants offer substitutes, vegan, vegetarian, and other options to choose from. There are an unlimited amount of resources to educate yourself on benefits, cooking techniques, recipes, etc. Like I mentioned, just start educating yourself, and the decision will come naturally.

 

VEGETABLE S O U P

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Cooking healthy meals is definitely something that we thrive for in our household – but, with both of us working full-time sometimes taking the time to put together a well-rounded healthy meal is not in the cards. We have learned a few tricks over the past years on how to meal prep and cook in a way that is both healthy, and that works for our busy schedules.

One of our favourite quick and healthy dinner options is soup – we have now managed to find a few easy go-to soup recipes for any season, which we often use on those busy evenings when neither of us feels like standing in the kitchen and cooking a full meal.

Vegetable soups are really one of the easiest and fastest way to get our daily vegetable and nutrient intake because there are so many great ingredients that can be added to the pot. For me, vegetable soups are a great way to actually eat all of my vegetables, especially when they are blended.

Although I would like to take the time to make my own chicken or vegetable broth, we have found a great alternative product; Organic Chicken Broth, which you can purchase at Costco has become the second best thing to the home-made broth. Since the broth is very delicate in flavor (as to keep it healthier there aren’t too many ingredients), we like to add a variety of spices such as turmeric and black pepper.

In terms of the vegetables we add, it really depends on the season and what is available fresh in stores and markets. Our soups always include carrots, peas, broccoli, and corn, but we also like to add zucchini, red pepper, green beans, cauliflower, etc. Sometimes, when we are doing a lighter version (less of a variety of veggies) we like to add in a pasta such as Ditali.

During the winter months, we tend to lean towards more blended soups; we add all or some of the above ingredients as well as sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc. When everything is cooked, I blend it all together, and serve it with either soda crackers or toaster  baguette.

All in all, soups are a great and healthy choice for dinner, it’s a meal that you don’t have to stand next to for the whole time it’s cooking – put it on simmer and you’re free to do other things while it takes its time to cook. Also, all of the vegetables in the soup can cover a good portion of your daily nutrient intake, which is such an important factor to keep our bodies healthy.

Finally, doesn’t a bowl of soup just make you feel better – it’s great on our stomach and digestive system as it’s a warm meal, which we should have at least once during the  day! So, if you’re not on the soup-train yet, I highly recommend it for a quick, easy, and healthy warm meal!

SUPERFOOD: A V O C A D O

Avocado oil on table close-up

The older I get the more I pay attention to the food I put into my mouth; and it’s not that I have to try, it just happens. For the past few years I have actually started to enjoy food and have become interested in the ingredients list on products.

I still find it hard to include more fruits and veggies into my diet though, so imagine how happy I was to find out that one of my favourite foods was actually a S U P E R F O O D.

Hello A V O C A D O and welcome to my diet.

The amount of proven health benefits that come with one of these little pear-shaped fruits is stunning – from various vitamins, to healthy fats, it’s loaded with great nutrients.

Not only is the avocado fun to peel; cut in half and twist out the seed, it can be eaten in so many different forms. My favourite form is freshly peeled and sliced on toast with salt, or diced into a salad with salted sunflower seeds.

Without even realizing all of the great benefits to avocado, my husband and I have also been using Avocado Oil for all of our cooking. I know the hype was all about the coconut oil, but I am here to say that I prefer Avocado Oil 100%. I think I love it more because there is no flavour to it really, and I am not entirely a huge fan of coconut.

So, do yourself a favor and google the health benefits to an avocado – and then add it to your grocery list for your next shopping trip!

CW

HOMEMADE F R I T E S

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I know I should be writing about the healthy food choices that I make, but how can I be real, transparent, and truthful with you if that’s all I show. We are all human and we all need a little bit of unhealthy grease once in a while.

A few nights ago, my husband and I were having a very lazy and difficult evening of the “what to make for dinner” debate – this happens once in a while, but he’s tired of my trying to make soup night after night.

So, has anyone ever made home-made french fries? I had totally forgotten how much better they are than the store-bought frozen ones or the ones fast food/restaurant ones! So, you guessed it, we pulled out the sack of potatoes and started peeling. We cut them up into fairly thick slices, then once more to make a nice sized fry.

I agree, this is not the healthiest of options; though potatoes are considered a vegetable, and one of my favourite vegetables, the oil we fry them in is not so great. Instead of frying them, you could also put the slices into the over, sprinkle some spices and salt and let them bake their way to crispiness. But, when craving calls, you answer.

My grandmother taught me one of the best lessons in terms of eating;

“Eat E V E R Y T H I N G but in M O D E R A T I O N.

I have tried to follow that technique and I’d say it’s been working out so far. I am lactose intolerant to I don’t eat any dairy, and I am not a fan of seafood, but other than that, I am trying to be more open with my food to expand to more items.