A Hearty Vegetable Stoup

Hello all!

I’m way under the weather with a nasty cold today and nothing sounds better than a nice piping hot soup when I’m battling a headache, stuffy nose, and body aches. One of my favorite soups to make is this hearty vegetable soup, which my husband and I have decided to call a “stoup”, since I prefer the consistency of my soup to be thicker, like a stew.

The ingredients are simple and nutritious, and there’s room to play if you feel like adding or subtracting any ingredients. I always double the batch and put the leftovers in the freezer for a night when I’m not up to cooking, but don’t want to sacrifice a healthy meal. This recipe is adapted from Cooking Classy.

 

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Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • peeled and chopped carrots
  • chopped celery (i like to keep the leafy green stalk tops included)
  • minced garlic
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • cubed Russet potatoes
  • parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh green beans
  • chopped onion (optional)
  • ground beef, turkey or chicken (optional)

*You’ll notice I have very few measurements listed here. I much prefer to eyeball everything. I make this soup in a large, two handle pot, and I fill it to the brim. Fresh tomatoes can be substituted for canned, just make sure you get all the juicy goodness in there. Onions are also commonly added to this soup, but Shawn isn’t an onion fan, so I just add some onion powder into the mix. You can use either dried or fresh herbs for this soup, just remember that if you use dried herbs, you don’t need to use as much as if you use fresh. I added ground beef and ground chicken to our stoup because we wanted a little more umph from our meal. And we were super hungry.

Directions:

If using ground beef, brown it in a pan and season it however you like (I use s&p and ground sage) and then set aside until it’s time to add it to your stoup.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute 3 – 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds longer. Pour in the broth (again, I eyeball this, so add as much or little broth as you’d like based on your consistency preference) and add the tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then add green beans, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 – 30 minutes. If adding meat, put it in now and let it simmer for about another 5 minutes. Serve warm and bon appetit!

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Our Whole30 (27.5)

Yep, that’s right. We ended our Whole30 program on the eve of Day 27. I know what most of you are probably thinking.

WHAT? How could you quit with just three days left?” “Why did you give up?”

Well, we didn’t give up. We didn’t throw our hands up in the air and say “WE CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” After all, we’d made it 27 days in, we definitely had the willpower to finish. We simply had a real, honest conversation and came to an informed decision that we were quite confident in. We felt we’d reached a point where we would be able to allow ourselves to reintroduce certain foods early, without spinning out of control and we wanted to prove it. We couldn’t be happier with the results.

Let me start from the beginning.

I’ve mentioned in the past my emotional connection addiction to food. Food has been my steady comfort for my entire life. Food has been at the center of just about every major life event for me. I either quit eating altogether if I was depressed, or I ate everything in sight if I was happy…or depressed. I love food.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving food. Food is what gives us life, it’s our fuel. That is, the right kinds of food. But I wasn’t filling my body with the right kinds of food. I was filling my body with fake foods processed with tons of sugar and artificial ingredients. I’ve almost always been heavy as a result, and very unhappy with my body.

Organic romaine lettuce with bell peppers, chicken breast, organic guacamole and Tessemae's Southwest Ranch dressing.

Organic romaine lettuce with bell peppers, chicken breast, organic guacamole and Tessemae’s Southwest Ranch dressing.

Shawn and I made the decision to do Whole30, not for weight loss, although that’s definitely a huge plus, but to help us break the bad habits we’d formed, and to help me finally have a breakthrough in my own emotional addiction to food. We talked about doing Whole30 for two years. TWO YEARS. That is how long it took us to summon the courage to enlist our buried self control and discipline for merely 30 days. Does that give you a better idea of what we’re dealing with here?

I’d heard about It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, and that it was a wonderful resource for anyone considering participating in Whole30, so I ordered a copy and read it a few weeks before we started. It was SO helpful. This book explains so well how our bodies respond to food and all of the participating elements. Knowing how my body is going to react internally to the food I eat helps me now in what I decide to put in it.

So, now onto an overview of our experience. The first week was undoubtedly the most difficult. If you’re a follower of my posts, you know that I’m currently walking through a very tumultuous season in my life, and while things have started to get better, they were still really, really hard when we first began Whole30. I lamented dramatically to Facebook one day about how mad I was at Whole30 and how I needed a fainting couch to help me better display my food angst. I was trying to be funny, sure, but it’s really how I felt. I had days in the beginning where I didn’t want to eat anything at all because I was so upset that I couldn’t eat my comfort foods.

Fresh raspberries, a sliced banana, and toasted coconut flakes.

Fresh raspberries, a sliced banana, and toasted coconut flakes.

Someone read that post and told me “it shouldn’t be THAT hard”. I understand they were trying to be helpful, but it’s impossible to explain an emotional addiction to food to someone who doesn’t or has never struggled with it. When the emotional ties are that strong, it IS that hard. I felt lonely without my foods. I felt sad and abandoned. Those feelings are the whole reason I was so determined to find success with this program. I didn’t want to be held captive to those foods anymore.

So many people have asked how I’m feeling now, after having completed Whole30. “I bet you feel great!” “I bet you feel so much better now.” “I bet you have tons of energy!”

The truth is, I’m feeling SO many things now, and I felt SO many things during the past 27 days. “Great” and “better” actually aren’t the words I’d use. The words I’d use?

Emotional. Energetic (some days). Exhausted. Anxious. Stressed. Bored. Scared. Insecure. Proud. Strong. Balanced.

Physically, I don’t feel so different. But emotionally, I feel like I’ve gained the strength of a warrior. I credit a good portion of that to yoga and therapy, but Whole30 definitely had a hand in it too. It helped me start to truly see what my relationship with food was doing to me. It helped me learn to crave the way I felt (emotionally) after eating good, whole foods. I no longer felt gross or guilty after meals. That feels SO GOOD.

I want to talk just for a minute about the actual food elements of Whole30, because I’ve had lots of questions about it. Whole30 is all about filling your body with good proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables, and healthy fats. The following food groups are on the no fly list for Whole30: Sugar of any kind, other than what is found naturally in fresh fruit, Dairy, Grains and Legumes.

Organic eggs, sunny side up, over hickory smoked pulled pork and over roasted sweet potatoes.

Organic eggs, sunny side up, over hickory smoked pulled pork and oven roasted sweet potatoes.

We ate lots of chicken, ground beef, eggs, pulled pork, chicken apple sausage, pork chops, ground turkey, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans, berries, melon, avocado, coconut, bell peppers, spinach, asparagus, white potatoes, romaine lettuce, olive oil, coconut oil, cashew butter, certain nuts, guacamole, hot sauce and ghee. We used various seasonings and spices and herbs to liven things up, as well as Tessemae’s dressings made with approved ingredients. We ate mostly organic, when we were able. We drank ALL THE COFFEE.

I’ll admit, it got a bit tedious at times to prepare every single meal and to eat a lot of the same things over and over. But we learned to love new things through it as well. I found out a few things about my palette.

For example, I learned that no matter how hard I try, I still don’t care for avocado unless it’s in guacamole form, or covered in paprika, salt and lime juice. I also learned that I can now no longer live without Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage, this cashew butter, raspberries, toasted coconut flakes, fresh green beans (oven roasted) and coconut cream pie Larabars.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also tell you that I broke a few teensy rules during our Whole30 run.

I used store bought (organic and unsweetened) almond milk. I used Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. I chewed gum four times. I know, I know. I’m a rebel.

Organic eggs scrambled with bell peppers and spinach, topped with Aidell's Chicken Apple Sausage and Frank's hot sauce.

Organic eggs scrambled with bell peppers and spinach, topped with Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage and Frank’s hot sauce.

During the second half of the program, I also lost a huge portion of my appetite, and due to that and to being busy and forgetful, I didn’t always eat three square meals a day. Whole30 prefers that you try to keep up with eating three meals a day, but I wasn’t always hungry, and for me it was more important that I (re) learn to listen to my body and feed it when I was truly hungry and not because a schedule told me to.

All of this brings me to last night when we came to our conclusion that our first swing at Whole30 was ready to come to an end.

Shawn and I had been very thoughtful and thorough in making decisions about what foods we were and were not going to introduce back into our lives after Whole30. The foods we have decided to reintroduce include wine and beer, some dairy, grains on occasion, legumes on occasion (mostly black beans), and some sugars (honey or raw organic cane sugar) on occasion, but mostly rarely.

We’ve managed to condense all of our grocery shopping down to Costco and Whole Foods, which helps us tremendously to avoid the temptations screaming at us from every aisle in Safeway or Target. Our Friday night tradition is a fresh, house made (bbq chicken) pizza from Whole Foods and we feel fine about bringing that back to the table.

We felt very confidently that we’d reached the point in which we could treat ourselves without completely undoing all of our hard work. And we did. We enjoyed a few drinks, our favorite Whole Foods pizza and a few bites of something sweet. I HAD SOME WHOLE FOODS JOLLY BEANS, PRAISE THE LORD. We didn’t overdo it and we didn’t make ourselves sick. We stopped when it was time to stop and you know what? I feel really proud.

Balance was everything we had been missing. We woke up this morning, and all we wanted was eggs and avocado. We didn’t feel the need for a sweet breakfast or chips to munch on while we watched a movie. This was the entire point behind our decision to embark on our Whole30 journey and I could not be more pleased with the outcome.

I lost weight, yes. I lost 13 lbs in 27 days, actually. Not too shabby, right? But I’m most excited about the confidence and strength I’ve gained. A friend asked me how I managed to stay motivated. I told her I didn’t really. More than motivation I felt apathy, if that makes sense. Inside the Whole30 bubble, falling off the wagon wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t have the choice to binge on sweets and chips. It legitimately reminds me of when an addict is locked up and their body goes through a detox, not because they tried to quit, but because they had no other choice.

Not that Whole30 made me feel like a prisoner, it didn’t. But it made me feel contained, in a safe way. It helped me break bondages I never, ever thought I could overcome. Would we do it again? I think so. But for now I want to bask in my newfound freedom, knowing that I could finish off the tub of Jolly Beans sitting in the pantry if I wanted to, but that I’m perfectly content without them. Amen.

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The Clumsy Chef does Banana Bread

It’s time for another recipe! Woo hoo! Today’s spotlight is on my homemade banana bread. Everyone say it with me now…mmmm! I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t enjoy a hearty slice of warm banana bread with the succulent hint of butter melted into each delicious bite. If y’all think your mouths are watering, you should smell my kitchen right now. Oh. My. Heavens. Alright alright, enough drooling. Let’s get down to business!

Banana Bread

Prep Time: 15 min         Cook Time: 60 min         Ready in: 1 hr 15 min         Servings: 8-10

TOOLS:

1 standard loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 in)

3 mixing bowls

1 wire cooling rack

INGREDIENTS:

1 c. granulated sugar

8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

ripe bananas

1 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

–crushed walnuts may be added if desired–

          

DIRECTIONS

1. G’head and throw on that beloved apron. We all know that’s your favorite part. (I know it’s mine!)

2. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

3. Butter your loaf pan. I use a paper towel to spread the butter evenly over the surface of the pan (no lumps!). That’s a little trick my momma taught me to keep from making an enormous mess. Wise woman, that one.

4. In one of your mixing bowls, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It’s very important that the butter be room temperature or softened! Otherwise trying to cream the butter and sugar is going to be quite the challenge. It’s very obnoxious. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. 

5. In a separate mixing bowl, smash the bananas with a fork. It’s so fun! Add the milk, cinnamon and nutmeg, mixing well.

          

6. In your third bowl, carefully mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

7. Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir or beat until combined.

8. Add the dry ingredients to the banana creamed goop, mixing just until the flour disappears. Don’t over mix.

9. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

10. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

11. Enjoy your banana bread! (Oh yeah, I made a double batch. Yes I surely did.) My favorite way is to add one pat of butter onto a warm slice of bread and enjoy it alongside a hot cup of coffee. Mmm…

The Clumsy Chef does Chicken Pot Pie

“There is no greater spectacle on earth than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”

–Thomas Wolfe

It’s time for a recipe! As I have previously mentioned, cooking is a great passion of mine and I absolutely relish cooking for those I love. So, from time to time I’ll be posting my original recipes of some of mine and my loved ones favorite dishes with the hopes that you might feel so inclined to try one for you and yours. On the menu tonight: homemade chicken pot pie. This is one of my husband’s all time favorite meals that I prepare for him. I enjoy it not only for it’s tastiness, but because of the extra veggies and lack of potatoes, it’s definitely a healthier choice. Enjoy!

p.s. I should make mention of the fact that I just may be one of the least graceful people on this planet, hence “The Clumsy Chef”.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Prep Time: 20 min      Cook Time: 50 minutes      Ready in: 1 hour 10 minutes      Servings: 8

TOOLS:

1 9 inch pie pan

1 saucepan

1 cutting board

1 large pot

INGREDIENTS:

2 large chicken breasts roughly cut into bite sized pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt (I use fine sea salt)

1 cup sliced carrots (fresh or frozen)

1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup frozen green peas

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1 cup frozen corn

2/3 cup milk (I use Horizon Organic 2%)

1/3 cup butter (I use unsalted sweet cream butter)

2 9 in. unbaked pie crusts (homemade or store bought)

1 3/4 cups chicken broth (I use Swanson 100% all natural organic chicken broth)

1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour



DIRECTIONS:

1. Don a darling (or manly) little apron! Place the first pie crust into the dish. 

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. You might want to turn on a floor fan while you cook, because it is about to be quite toasty in your kitchen!

3. In a large pot, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and corn. Add water just enough to cover and boil for 15 minutes. While the chicken and vegetables are boiling, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Once butter is melted, stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat.

4. Once the chicken and vegetables are finished boiling, drain over the sink. IMPORTANT: DO NOT DRAIN WITH A COLANDER. (tiny peas and corn will be forever lost in your garbage disposal) Instead, drain using a pot lid and be sure to wear oven mitts on both hands! That steam is mean.

5. Pour the chicken and veggie mixture into the bottom pie crust. Pour the hot liquid mixture evenly over. Cover with top crust, cut away the excess dough and seal the edges (I use a fork to seal and create a decorative edge). Make a few small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the inside filling is hot and bubbly. I always place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pie for the first 20 minutes to prevent over browning. Cool for 10 minutes or so before serving. Bon Appetit!