Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Taste of Fall: Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Here in Pennsylvania, the weather has been acting a little bipolar, but I am not fooled. Even if the boys and I were able to slurp ice-cold smoothies while running around in sandals and 80 degree October days last week, it's still fall and I am still going to embrace all things fall-ish. Enter pumpkins, squash, soups, scarves, tall boots, et cetera. Woo-hoo!

I can always tell the autumn itch has begun when my dear husband starts asking for butternut squash more often - and specifically, this soup. I have been making it for several years, and it keeps evolving to something (I believe to be) more magnificent. I have served it to company on numerous occasions and it is always met with requests for the recipe. A little over a month ago we started following the Trim Healthy Mama eating style. (More on that in a bit). I didn't have to change much to make it fit THM guidelines, just a few small tweaks, and we are happily enjoying our favorite fall dinner as an E for Energizing meal.

I bought and read the book Trim Healthy Mama in early September and it made so much sense to me. Since starting to follow the plan I have lost about 5 lbs. and a whole pant size! I am absolutely loving it. In a nutshell, the authors, sisters Serene & Pearl, have done a lot of research and put together a plan that is not a fad or a diet- but rather focuses on eliminating blood sugar spikes so that insulin does not have to work overtime, causing fat to be stored. This is done by eating healthy fats (with protein) at one time and low-glycemic carbohydrates (again always with protein) at other times- but NOT large amounts of fat and carbs at the same time. By eating only one fuel source at a time, it allows your body to more efficiently use your food for fuel and not store excess glucose as fat. I am so excited that I get to nourish my body with coconut oil, real butter, olive oil, cream, etc. and embrace yummy carbs like fruits, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and oatmeal. That is the short version. Check out and follow the THM facebook page for lots more info!

Onto this recipe, which is of course the reason for this post. I will have a few notes as we go along as it is very much open to modification.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
Trim Healthy Mama E Meal
Serves 8-10

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large sweet potato, also peeled and cubed
2 red or sweet yellow onions, quartered
1/2 bag (8 oz.) of baby carrots OR 2 whole carrots, chopped
1/2 large head of cauliflower or (for those not following THM) 2 white potatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic, halved
2 T. coconut oil or butter
Rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper
4 c. vegetable or chicken stock plus more water as needed
1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 lb. extra-lean ground turkey, chicken, or sausage
Crushed red pepper for topping, if desired
Optional: other root vegetables such as rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, etc. Go wild! I use what I have on hand.

1. You will want to peel and chop your vegetables to a uniform size and place on a 2 large baking pans/cookie sheets. Do not try to shove all the peelings down your garbage disposal. Not that I would know what would happen if you were to do so :-o. I once heard that a plumber's busiest day is Thanksgiving.. because many a person thinks their garbage disposal can eat massive quantities of vegetable scraps. Moving on...
2. Drizzle vegetables and garlic cloves with coconut oil and toss to coat. Don't fret, THMamas- this makes a LOT of soup and your serving will certainly have under 1 tsp. to keep it in E territory! Dust generously with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
3. Roast trays of vegetables in a 400 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until soft.

Here are my roasted vegetables, all soft and caramelized!

4. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
5. Pull out your trusty food processor or blender (I use our Ninja for EVERYTHING. You will see I mean this literally in a few minutes). Fill 3/4 full with roasted vegetables, 2 c. broth and 1/2 c. cottage cheese. Puree until smooth. Repeat in batches until all vegetables are pureed with the rest of the broth and cottage cheese to the consistency you desire. You may need to add more water or broth to get it to a smooth, soupy consistency. We like ours somewhat thick.
6. Transfer vegetable puree to large pot to heat through. Can also use the crock and cook on high (or low if longer time) til dinner.
7. This step can be done while vegetables are roasting, or after.. it won't take long. Brown ground turkey or chicken to add to the soup- to boost the protein content (and yummy factor). Season with ground sage, ground fennel, pepper and garlic salt to achieve a sausage taste. Back to the Ninja: I found today that I can grind raw chicken breast in it!! This makes me SO excited and will save us money for sure.
8. Add ground meat to soup, heat through and simmer for a bit to blend flavors, taste and adjust salt and other seasonings, and serve! Top with crushed red pepper if desired.

I actually may have filled it a bit too full and we may have had slight overflow-age upon coming home to dinner. Oops, should have used my big one!

Comfort food at its best.

This creamy deliciousness is how I followed up my dinner:

It is just the Frozen Yogurt from page 376-377 of the Trim Healthy Mama book. So easy and refreshing- and I totally wanted to make a second helping. Good thing it is a FP!!! :)

This post is linked up at Stacy Makes Cents and Gwen's Nest for Trim Healthy Tuesdays! Stacy is cooking up Spaghetti Squash Primavera and I can't wait to try it! Gwen tells us how to make sweet tea concentrate, which looks fabulous. Stacy's blog is actually where I first read about THM and saw it explained. So I owe the thanks to her for introducing me! Thanks, Stacy!

Happy fall, friends!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breakfast Muffins Fit for Dessert

Sunday was a double-hitter in the kitchen. We hosted our home church meeting and had friends stay for lunch afterwards. I was feeling adventurous (the night before of course, since I "come alive" in the evening) and tried two new recipes for these occasions. For breakfast at church, I made two kinds of muffins, Strawberry Banana and Chocolate Coconut. For lunch, I threw together a Sweet and Savory Sausage & Rice Soup. The strawberry-banana muffins were just ok in my opinion. Some people loved them. But the chocolate ones? Whoa. We will come back to that. All of these recipes I sort of invented. Now with me and experimenting in the kitchen, usually things turn out ok, but every once in awhile they don't, so trying new things for guests may not always the best idea, right? I usually push this thought to the back of my mind and go for it. In this case, everything was met with raving reviews. (Phew!)

Back to the Chocolate Coconut muffins. I doubled the recipe so we would have enough to serve the group- which means we have quite a few left over. I cannot eat just one. I have tried. They are addicting. There is something SO chocolatey, moist, subtly sweet, something so DELICIOUS about them that they beckon you after you've finished the first.

I will try to recall what exactly went into the batch- I did a lot of revising the following morning after they got a bit dry overnight in the fridge.


Chocolate Coconut Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups hazelnut coconut milk coffee creamer (I happened to have this on hand due to finding it on sale at a discount store. If you can't find it (very likely), substitute non-coconut-milk creamer or unsweetened coconut milk).
1/2 c. sugar (adjust to taste if you are using sweetened creamer)
1/2 c. Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1/4 c. coconut oil OR other veg/canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
 2 T. milk or more to right consistency
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients and coconut.

In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine coconut milk/creamer, egg, applesauce, milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to dry, mix just until combined. At this point if you are using coconut oil you will add it. If you add it to cold ingredients it will solidify, something we want to avoid (although it will melt again in the oven, obviously). Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 20-25 minutes in a greased muffin pan until centers are done when tested.

I will be making these again! Thanks for tuning in.. If you make them, let me know how they turn out!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Milestones:: Bittersweet

My eight-month-old cutie learned to crawl this past week. About this I have these sentiments:

Short is the Time

Short is the time
Hands are little
Grins are toothless
And words are few

Bittersweet it is
To see milestones reached
These little ones grow
Becoming their own

A proud mama am I
But tighter I do hold
His chest to mine
Embrace its rise and fall
His head on my shoulder.

For short is the time
A baby is a baby
Mama is his world
Sweet innocence reigns...

So today I will snuggle
I will get down and play
For overnight my baby
Will become a man.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Humbled by love

There are certain things that inspire one to begin blogging again. Sometimes things happen in life that just must be shared, or at least processed through writing.

This is a post about humility. It is also a post about marriage, and the essential role humility must play in love.

As a stay-at-home-mom with two young boys, a large part of my attention, emotions and energies are poured into these two sweet ones during the day, as it should be. After all, they need me. Not only am I responsible for their physical needs (although it is often all I can focus on as they are clamoring for breakfast, or snack, or to go potty, or...), but I also seek to stimulate my three-year-old's mind effectively so that it develops into that of a genius (of course every parent wants their children to be smart, right?), as well as comfort them both when they are tired, fall down, get upset with the dog, etc. I also share in their joys when they learn how to figure out a puzzle, explain their emotions in words, or begin drawing faces that actually have heads, eyes and hair, or in the case of my 7.5-month-old, when he learns to feed himself finger foods, makes new sounds, and scoots across the whole floor. That adds up to physical, mental, and emotional needs for two human beings (and a canine one) SEPARATE from my own that I am constantly watching out for day after day.

Enter Mr. Right. By the time he comes home at night, I am so happy to have help with the lot of them that his needs are altogether eclipsed. After the boys are sleeping like angels (read: the baby... toddler finds reasons to come out of his room for a full hour after bed), I still haven't remembered that he has needs. My narcissist side thinks it's a good time to meet my needs: rest, relaxation, tuning out or doing things I can't do with the little monsters. This often looks like Pinterest, facebook, TV or a movie- you get the picture. If I do "selflessly" deny my desires to do something I want to do, it's usually because the sink is full of dishes, the kitchen counters look like a hurricane blew through, or the piles of laundry rival Mount Vesuvius.

So when does Mr. Right come in? In a broken conversation over dinner about the events of our days, amidst flying handfuls of baby food, the dog thinking our feet are chew toys, and repeatedly reminding the three-year-old to talk less and eat more? In a hurried "I love you" before bed? Heck, sometimes he is asleep before I even make it to bed.

Last night all of this came to light. Mr. Right indicated with a wounded look in his eyes that it felt like I didn't love him as much anymore. This caused me to take a step back and look at why he might be feeling this way, and that is when I arrived at the conclusion of all stated previously. He then proceeded to give me some straight talk which was humbling but true and necessary to hear. I gave up "my needs come before yours" when I got married and had kids. I can't just forget that he has needs. I HAVE to pour into my husband even after I feel like I've poured every ounce of my energy into the kids. Because I love him! And that is love. That is love.

Here is the kicker to this story of humility and love. We had this conversation at dinner, then went on a walk, got the boys in bed, etc. I came down to clean up a bit and had just sat down on the couch when Mr. Right took my hand, pressed "Play" on his iPod, and began twirling me around the living room to "Earth Angel." In recent months, he's kept it no secret that he does not like dancing. At weddings I have to beg him to take the floor with me. Nonetheless, I give him a hard time because in our teenage years, he was a great dancer and loved it. Last night he danced with me at will- just because he knew I'd had a rough day. Does he love me? I have no doubt at all. He showed me in a way that spoke louder than anything. He's a fool for me, I could see it written on his face.

I ended the day feeling so humbled. I thanked him before we drifted off to sleep "for everything." He mumbled some mumbo-jumbo about just being a husband and loving his wife, but I know that he is an exceptional one. He really, truly loves me.

And I pledge to show him that I really, truly love him. However much humility that will take.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eucharisteo and the prayer of my heart

Following is a quote from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I challenge you to ponder its meaning for you today.

"In the original language, 'he gave thanks' reads 'eucharisteo.' .....The root word of Eucharisteo is charis, meaning 'grace.' Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning 'joy.' ....Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black. A threefold cord that might hold a life? Offer a way up into the fullest life? Grac,e thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo. A Greek word... that might make meaning of everything?"

Now, pondering that, here is another quote I came by today that really moved me.

"The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor.

Everyone could smell it.

Whenever you meet someone who has… gone through things for the Lord, is willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance.

There is a savor of the Lord.

Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.’

–Watchman Nee

How simply beautiful. The prayer of my heart is that I would be filled with eucharisteo and give him thanks in all things so that the sweet odor of the Lord would radiate from my life. Thank you Jesus!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Days gone by: please come again

Does anyone remember xanga? I spent an hour there tonight on my old one... who knew that some of my best writing happened on that blog? Wow.

It's left me very pensive. I wrote so often about my relationship with my boyfriend, then fiance, and the emotion and passion in those words just takes my breath away. Now that he is my husband and we have a two-year-old, I can't help but wonder- what has changed?

Being separated by 200 miles week after week during our engagement was so difficult, but we prayed together over the phone every night and grew so much in that time. Going back even farther, to our dating period, everything was so new, exciting, and we couldn't wait to see each other, or to race home after school and see if the other had posted a comment on our xanga to read. We prayed for and encouraged each other every chance we got.

How much has changed?

Now I live daily life with this best friend of mine. We have to work to provide a life for ourselves. Sometimes we wonder what motivation we have to go forward. At the end of the day we swap stories about the cute things Eli said or talk about how to make sure he doesn't do or say a particular thing again. Where is our faith in daily life? It takes such a different shape from our dating and engaged years. It means being diligent and intentional to pray together rather than watching a TV show. I want to encourage each other with Scripture again. I want to be so in touch with each other spiritually that we are growing like never before, drawing closer to our Maker with each interaction we have, like it once was.

It will require effort on both our parts and true intention to do it. And an intervention of the Holy Spirit, of course. I believe.

Mark Schultz says it so well:

I believe that He loves you where you are
I believe that you've seen the hands of God
I believe that you'll know it when
You're back in His arms again

I believe that He never let you go
I believe that He's wanting you to know
I believe that He'll lead you 'til you're back in His arms again

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I was struck once again today by the beauty of children.

My friend Dawn and I visited our Nepali friend, Durga this morning. Each of the three of us has a toddler boy- ages 19 months, 20 months, and 4 years. Elisha was very shy at first, as it was a new place, new faces, and he was a little out of his element. What was beautiful to watch was his face light up when he saw Saureb, the 4 yr. old, hiding behind a semi-transparent curtain. It was as if he realized at that moment that Saureb was just like him. A little boy who loves to have fun. His face broke out in his signature adorable smile, he scrunched up his nose and said, "Funny," over and over, laughing when Saureb would come out from behind the curtain. What simple joy! Watching the boys play together was such a delight. Saureb can speak not much more than 10 words in English, and yet they had so much fun chasing each other, playing with balls, and being boys. He is getting to the age where he can actually play with other children, and it is so fun to watch. He is very attached to Aiden, the other boy his age there today- Dawn's son. They see a lot of each other, as Dawn is a good friend of mine and part of our house church group. Eli has begun crying when it comes time to say goodbye to Aiden and saying his name repeatedly. It's so fun to watch them grow together.

This afternoon I was having some "me" time during Elisha's nap and just kind of chilling on the bed with my laptop. I had heard E begin talking and knew he had woken up but hadn't gotten up to get him yet. The next thing I knew, after recalling that I had heard a small noise resembling a crash, our bedroom door was being pushed open by a barefoot toddler who looked at me shaking his head and saying, "Night night. Sleep." The momentous moment happened, friends. He got out of his crib alone. I knew it was only a matter of time, as I have caught him of late putting one leg over the edge. I'm afraid for what naptimes will look like from now on when he does not want to sleep. It will probably be time to transition to a toddler bed- hopefully around his 2nd birthday, which is rapidly approaching!

Here's to hoping the groundhog does not see his shadow tomorrow! Happy February, everyone! One month closer to springtime. :)