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The Ultimate Comfort Food: White Bean, Sausage, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

The current state of the weather and the election may leave you searching for something comforting. Instead of reaching for that mac-cheese or glass of wine, you might want to consider this ultimate comfort food: white bean, sausage, kale, and sweet potato soup.

Comfort Food

Ultimate Comfort Food

If you know me, I love food and especially soups at this time of year. This nutrient-dense soup is one of my all-time favs. Why? Because it not only tastes good, but it packs a lot of good stuff, is quick to prepare, and freezes well for leftovers.

What’s in the soup? Well, I’m glad you asked because this soup has a lot of greatness going on!

Highlight of Nutrients

  • Kale– is fiber-rich, has cancer-protective properties, is anti-inflammatory, may help reduce cholesterol and protect vision due to lutein which is a carotenoid found in the leaf. Rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, B3, Folate, Magnesium, Manganese, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Iron, Carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin; flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol); omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
  • Carrots & Sweet Potato– these powerhouse foods are packed with compounds called carotenoids. Beta-carotene, a carotenoid, gives sweet potatoes and carrots their rich color and converts to vitamin A. Carotenoids also are antioxidants that can help protect your cells from daily damage. Beta-carotene helps to protect your eyes. Lutein, found in yellow carrots, can help prevent macular degeneration. Sweet potatoes also contain B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, and zinc. Carrots are also rich in vitamin K, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
  • Cannellini beans– aside from being fiber and protein-rich, they offer many nutrients such as magnesium, copper, vitamin B6, folate, iron, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. Copper helps with iron metabolism. Iron has many functions in the body, but a key one is the production of hemoglobin which helps to transport oxygen throughout your body. This bean is also high in polyphenol antioxidants which can help protect against chronic disease.
  • Garlic & Onion– Garlic and onions contain sulfur compounds that could lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Garlic is also helpful in protecting against oxidative stress and acting as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Celery- this vegetable has recently enjoyed the spotlight and for good reason. Celery contains a high level of flavonols and flavone antioxidants. These compounds contain anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds in it including flavonols like quercetin, kaempferol, and phytosterols. It is also rich in vitamins A, K, C, folate, potassium, and molybdenum.
  • Oregano– This herb has long been used for medicinal purposes offering antibacterial and antifungal properties. It may be helpful with a variety of conditions including metabolic syndrome, cancer, and cholesterol.

This soup is incredibly versatile and can be made vegan friendly by omitting the Italian chicken sausage and swapping the chicken stock for vegetable stock instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (roughly 3 cups cubed- so if you need another one to hit this amount, go for it!)
  • 1 lb Organic Italian Chicken Sausage (chopped)
  • 4 cups Kale, roughly chopped (about 3 ounces or 4 large handfuls)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (or approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 11/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 6-8 cups of vegetable broth or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Dice sweet potato into cubes and set aside. Dice the yellow onion, chop the carrots, celery, and mince the garlic. Drain and rinse the beans.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and sauté a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery are soft. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne (optional) and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the sausage and cook until slightly browned. Stir in the sweet potatoes, then add the vegetable or chicken stock, cannellini beans, bay leaves, and bring to a slight boil.
  3. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and simmer 15 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender. While simmering, roughly chop the kale and thinly slice the green onion.
  4. When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove from the heat and stir in the kale, green onions, and lemon juice. Allow to cool slightly before serving. If desired, add pepper to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with fresh parmesan cheese (optional) and a small dollop of plain Greek yogurt (optional), a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, diced sun-dried tomatoes, or even some crusty bread.

Tips

  • Include a mix of yellow and orange carrots to maximize your nutrient intake! Oh, and as much as I LOVE purple carrots, hold them for something later. If you put them into the soup, it will turn it and everything in it a love shade of grey making this soup not so appealing!
  • I prefer Lacinato kale for this recipe, but any kale will do. If you choose the common curly kale, you may want to slice down the center of the leaf and remove the stem before chopping.

Get Back Into the Groove

In any normal year, the fall would bring visions of kids heading towards yellow school buses with their backpacks. Or maybe college students heading back to school. Instead, we enter a new world of online learning at home or on college campuses. The world continues to be an uncertain place; our routines continue to be disrupted. But unlike the summer when routines are normally askew, we need to pull it back in and adjust to something different this fall.

It is time to get back into a groove and get your health back on track. Here are some easy ways to do that.

Create A Roadmap for Eating

One of the easiest places to begin is with food. How do you do this? Well, it begins with a plan. No, I am not talking about some grand meal plan, just a roadmap of how you will eat for a week.

    • Decide on your day to shop.
    • Review the week, the weather, your activities (which nights is it near impossible for you to cook), and begin to map out what you might want to cook. Check what is for sale at your local store. You can use things like Pinterest or websites/apps like –> Yummly for inspiration. And you can make “theme” nights – Mexican Monday or Soup Sunday, etc. If you’ve never planned your meals for the week, >>here<<is an easy meal plan guide to help you. It maps out each day, an area for recipe reference, and if the meal is a leftover or not.
    • Within your plan, allow for leftovers either for another dinner or lunch. You can also freeze leftovers for a meal the following week!
    • Define time to prep the ingredients you can for your upcoming meals or even pre-cook components of your meals. This doesn’t have to take forever- just even an hour can be helpful.
    • Be careful about overloading your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. If you don’t see it, you might miss it and either buy it again or find it has spoiled.
    • Have some defined “back up” meals that you can easily defrost or make, or even go purchase for nights when your plan won’t work after all.

Backup Plan

This last point is super important. We all have days where we end up working later than expected or something else happens and we don’t have the time to cook. I think of these moments as “fire drills.” In a fire drill, you have a plan right? You know where the route to safety is. Eating is no different. When the unexpected happens, have a plan because you will be less likely to say, “screw it” and eat something really unhealthy. Part of this plan might be getting carryout from a local restaurant. Yes, carryout. The difference is, you already know where and what you will order that meets your dietary goals.

Pack Lunch

Yep. That’s right, pack your lunch. You may think that you don’t have to do this for yourself or your kids because, well… you’re at home working and they are doing virtual school. Actually, this is when these steps are even more important. When you are sitting around at home and only have a moment to grab food before your next meeting or your child’s next class, you will reach for something easy to grab. Unfortunately often the easy to grab foods aren’t the healthiest. If your lunch is already ready to go and you only have to pull it out and eat it, you will be more likely to eat good food. The bonus is with everyone home, you can make use of leftovers more easily for kids lunches.

Get Moving

If you use a step tracker, you may have noticed your daily steps have dropped over the last few months. Think about it. Maybe you are using Instacart more, or you’re not commuting, or you aren’t out running errands or transporting kids to activities.  Instead, you are in your home. You and your children are sitting in front of their monitors for hours on end. Simply put, you aren’t moving. What can you do?

  • Set a step goal using a tracker or even your smartphone.
  • Join a movement challenge via an app or with a group of friends. Social Steps for Apple devices is one, but there are many out there. You could also take it up a notch and participate in a paid challenge to help raise money for a cause like supporting the World Wildlife Foundation with a challenge like this –>one.
  • Set a time goal for movement each out. This could be to go up and down stairs once per hour, or walk up and down your street for five minutes. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time, even moving five to ten minutes several times a day would help.

Eat fresh. Eat local.

The sun is shining, and the local produce is fresh and vibrant!

But, why is eating local beneficial? If you want to eat fresh, you need to eat local! Aside from supporting the community, the food actually is fresher. If a food item is grown in the U.S., it may travel 5 days to reach a distribution center before ending up in a store; if it is harvested from outside the U.S. and travels by refrigerated ship, the travel time could be several weeks. The longer the duration from harvest to consumption, the greater the losses. Produce picked at its ripest point with minimal travel time will yield a better tasting and more nutrient-rich food. This is why eating local means eating the freshest possible food.

The selection of foods available locally varies by farm and time within the harvest season. Commonly available foods might include berries, leafy greens, peppers, beans, melons, cherries, asparagus, beets, radishes, carrots, peaches, and squash.

Fresh, local produce is often featured at local markets such as The Common Market, MOM’s Organic Market, Wegmans and even in smaller quantities at Giant.  Additionally, you can seek out freshly picked items at any of the following farmers’ markets per Homegrownfrederick.com. If you are not local to Frederick, you can search for a market near you:https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets

Farmer’s Market List

Market/Dates

Location

Hours

Emmitsburg

June 22-September 21, 2018

302 S. Seton Ave. Emmitsburg Fridays

3:00pm-6:00pm

Farmers Markets at NCI

April 10-October 30, 2018

Parking Lot in front of NCI Cafe/Scientific Library

NCI-Frederick Located on Ft. Detrick

(open to the public)

Tuesdays

10:30am-1:00pm

Frederick City 

May 13-November 18, 2018

Old Carmack Jays Parking Lot

331 N. Market St, Frederick

Sundays

9:00am-1:00pm

Frederick Farmers Market

April 28-November 17, 2018

Wolf Furniture Parking Lot

1215 West Patrick St, Frederick

Saturdays

10:00am-1:00pm

Frederick Farmers Market at 

Eveready Square & Shab Row

May 31-September 27, 2018

Downtown Frederick

113 North East Street, Frederick

Church St & East St, Frederick

Thursdays

3:00pm-6:00pm

Field Fresh Farmers Market

April 28-November 17, 2018

Holiday Markets: December 1, 8, 15

Frederick Fairgrounds

797 E. Patrick St, Frederick

Saturdays

9:00am-1:00pm

Friends of Frederick

May 20 -November, 2018

1 Wormans Mill Court, Frederick Saturdays

10:00am-2:00pm

Grace Farmers Market 

May 19-November 17, 2018

649 Himes Rd, Frederick Fridays

3:00pm-6:00pm

Jefferson

April 4-September 12, 2018

Jefferson Ruritan Center

4603 Lander Rd, Jefferson

Wednesdays

4:00pm-7:00pm

Key City Food & Farm Market

May- October

121 N. Bentz St, Frederick Fridays

10:00am-1:00pm

Lake Linganore

June 7 – August 23, 2018

6718 Coldstream Drive, New Market Thursdays

4:00p-7:00pm

Middletown 

May 3-October 11, 2018

Christ Reformed Church Parking Lot

12 S. Church St, Middletown

Thursdays

4:00pm-7:00pm

Myersville

April 14 – October 27, 2018

301 Main St, Myersville Saturdays

9:00am-12:00pm

Thurmont

June 2-September 22, 2018

Municipal Parking Lot

South Center St, Thurmont

Saturdays

9:00am-12:00pm

 

Urbana Library

May 20-October 28, 2018

Urbana Regional Library

9020 Amelung St, Frederick

Sundays

11:00am-2:00pm

Walkersville

June 9- August 11, 2017

Walkersville Volunteer Fire Department Fridays

4:00pm-7:00pm

YMCA of Frederick County

May 22-October 30, 2018

YMCA of Frederick County

1000 N. Market St, Frederick

Tuesdays

3:30pm-6:30pm

Community Supported Agriculture

Alternatively, you could choose to participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA is a relationship between the farmer and the consumer whereby you invest an up-front amount in exchange for a portion of the harvest through the season, and you both share the risk. The portion sizes purchased can vary and may include full or half shares. There are several CSA programs out there, including those at Thanksgiving Farms as well as the Big White Barn. Additionally, some of these venues are open to selling their produce harvested directly to the consumer without participating in the farmers’ market.

Make It A Culinary Adventure

Eating with the seasons can present a wonderful opportunity to expand your culinary horizons. Maybe you pick up a vegetable that you’ve never seen before. Or maybe you seek a different way to prepare corn. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong. Take a chance and explore your food, you never know the surprises which await you!

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism. You may know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Your body is comprised of a series of biochemical reactions. It is an amazing machine that takes in nutrients and oxygen and uses them to fuel everything you do. The word “metabolism” actually describes all those biochemical reactions that an organism, in this case, you, need to live. It’s three main purposes are to: help convert fuel for use in cellular processes, provide building blocks for cell growth and healing, and for elimination processes.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

-Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).

-Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).

-Allow storage of excess energy for later.

When you put all of these processes together to form your metabolism, sometimes they can work too quickly, too slowly, or (ideally) just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate.”

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in kilocalories, or more commonly abbreviated to just “calories.”

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

-Fuel physical activity (i.e. work, exercise, and other activities).

-Fuel for biochemical reactions in your body to exist.

-Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine, the more calories you burn as fuel for activities or biochemical processes, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how many calories your body needs just to perform the basic functions to live like your heartbeat, moving your blood through your body, fueling your lungs to breath.  Imagine what your body needs to function while you lie in bed without any physical activity; this is your RMR.

Now imagine you get up, go to work, hit an exercise class and later return to bed. Just like a car, your body needed more fuel for those activities. This is where the other energy expenditure measurement comes in. The “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) includes both the resting metabolic rate (RMR) or what you need to just exist AND includes the calories you need to actually function, work or exercise over the course of a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

More than you can imagine!

Age, gender, and body size all play a role. But it isn’t just about size, what is also crucial is body composition.

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

Sometimes when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Speaking of exercise, physical activity is also important.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work.”

When people have a hard time losing weight, sometimes they will wonder if their thyroid is operating properly. The thyroid gland is located at the front of your throat and releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn. If the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, your metabolism will be impacted. This is a great example of how a hormonal imbalance can impact metabolism.

Other factors which can impact your metabolism might include genetics; environmental changes such as heat or cold variances; certain medications and even dietary intake.

Yes, the type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example, increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.  However, be mindful. This is not an excuse to eat only proteins. Too much protein can actually be tough on your kidneys.

Last, but not least, don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows stress and sleep have an influence as well.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

dash salt & pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs, and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more roasted, then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Summer Hydration Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bodies are comprised of 50-70% water. A reduction of as little as 1-2% of our body water can result in cognitive issues and increased fatigue. The heat of the summer will drive water losses through sweat, and even more with exercise, all of which can lead to dehydration. So what can you do to make sure you are covered this summer?

  1. Drink water as your primary beverage and avoid high sugary drinks, alcoholic drinks, and caffeinated beverages.
  2. Monitor your intake through a smartphone app.
  3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (yes they contain water!).
  4. Keep a graduated water container in plain sight as a reminder to drink.
  5. Mix it up by drinking infused water. It tastes great and doesn’t contain added sugar or chemicals.

Infused water is easy to make and one of my favorite things to do. I typically will toss some fruit or berries into one or more largemouth mason jars and let them infuse overnight, so I am ready for the morning. I like watermelon and basil or mint; slices of grapefruit or blood orange; cucumber, mint and a slice of lime; or just simple lemon water. At a minimum, you will want the mixture to infuse for 3-4 hours.  If you are looking for further inspiration, Wellness Mama has some great recipes for this! https://wellnessmama.com/3607/herb-fruit-infused-water/

If you engage in summer exercise, hydration is especially important. But instead of drinking down an athletic drink, which can have 34 grams of sugar (almost as much as a 12 oz soda) and is full of food coloring, why not try one of these healthier alternatives?

  • Coconut water
  • Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator
  • Nuun Hydration