Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vegan Autumnal Soup

OR: Acorn squash - sweet potato - coconut - cashew soup with a maple - lime - balsamic - cashew cream.

Good title? While I do blog about food, nutrition, and cooking, I am hardly a top notch food blogger. While I once had romantic visions of snapping away photos of beautiful beets, those dreams quickly dissipated when I realized that: 1) I am not even close to being a top notch food photographer (but I try!) and 2) I have an almost one year which gives me about half a second to even remember to take a photo of meals before they are demolished by tiny hands or the camera/phone is ripped out of my hands.

But I digress.

This soup is delicious, comforting, creamy, filling, and vegan! We are not vegans but we do eat a lot of vegan meals and I am always looking for ways to substitute cream without compromising flavor and texture. Enter: cashews. It's amazing how the consistency of blended cashews makes for a silky and think soup. If you haven't tried this yet to "cream" soups, go for it! It's super easy and adds protein to your meal without sacrificing richness. It is also such a neutral taste that it won't taste "nutty."

So do you want to know the secret to this marvelous "cream?" You soak the nuts. That's it! You soak them for a few hours, until they are soft enough to blend up.

On a side note, Phoenix is still sensitive to cow's dairy so while we do eat goat cheese and he can tolerate cow's milk yogurt, he and I try to avoid milk and cream. But he is happy to eat dairy less meals.

Anyway, here is a loose recipe. Loose because I didn't plan on posting it so I didn't take any measurements. This was literally a "what's-in-the-fridge" kind of meal. The only thing I did in advance was soak the cashews because I knew I wanted soup earlier in the day so by dinner time they were ready. With the rest of the ingredients more or less ready to go, all I had to do was blend it all together and warm it up. Easy!

The quantities are based on how much squash or potato you have on hand. You can play around with the cashews also, depending on how creamy you like your soup. I also added coconut milk because I wanted the flavor but you don't need to.

1 steamed or roasted sweet potato (I had leftovers in the fridge)
1 small roasted acorn squash (can also sub butternut or kabocha)
1/2 cup soaked cashews
1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk (depending on how loose you want the soup)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can really season it however you like)
salt to taste
water to loosen soup

Blend. Done. Top with maple - lime - balsamic - cashew cream. Yum.

The cream is equally as easy. I had extra soaked cashews left over so I just made this little sauce up and it was delicious.

1/2 cup soaked cashews
Juice from half a lime/whole lime depending on the size
Splash of balsamic
About 3 tablespoons maple syrup. (Taste as you go, this depends on your desired level of sweetness)
Pour some water in your blender as you blend. You will know whether or not you need more depending on how thick it is. You want to be able to use it as a sauce on your soup.

The left overs of this sauce are also delicious spread on bread or tossed with vegetables, spread on meat/fish, or mixed into a grain salad.

Run, don't walk, to make this soup.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hurts So Good

I never realized how physical the act of mothering would be. When I was pregnant, I imagined how exhausted I would be (not even close!) and how little sleep I would get (ha!). I had visions of a tiny baby sleeping on my chest, his breath raising and lowering that tiny body. Then, he's crawling towards me, barreling into my open arms. Not only did I dream this, all of it happened. Phoenix is the most loving little snuggle bug. He loves nothing more than being close to me. It is an amazing feeling knowing that someone's most favorite thing is just to be held by you. That you can bring such comfort and security to a tiny soul, just by hugging them. As overwhelmingly powerful as this is, it is also so draining some days. 

Phoenix is a strong boy. Really. From the time he was 2 weeks old, he was grabbing our little fingers to pull up his neck and from about 6 weeks he was grunting and pulling up with his whole upper body. His physicality is evident in everything he does. He hasn't been weighed since his 9 month well visit, but I have a feeling he is well over 25 lbs at this point. When anyone is holding him, it's not uncommon for them to comment on how they didn't expect him to be so heavy. Now, I'm not writing this to be all braggy "my-kid-is-BIGGER-than-yours!" because, honestly, I'm tired of those comments/attitudes. My point is, all this cuddling and loving, it hurts sometimes. 

With painful little teeth cutting up through tiny gums every few weeks, my boy has been known to gnaw on my shoulder while being rocked to sleep. If I don't keep up with clipping his razors nails, I suffer the consequences by being covered in a slashed up chest from loving rubs during nursing sessions. Since it is a very tactile and exploratory time for Phoenix, he often pinches or pokes me when we are talking about parts of the body. And if you've ever held a baby, you already know about the hair pulling. Ouch. 

I know there isn't much time left with all the snuggles so I just practice being present and putting it into perspective. With sore arms and a full heart I will cuddle my boy, rock him, and swing him around in the grass. Soon he will be wiggling out of my hugs and setting off on his own adventures. For now I will hold on.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting Ready for Colder Months

Phoenix and I have come down with some summer sniffles. We are not properly sick (thank goodness), just stuffy nosed. It may be allergies. In any case, it got me thinking about getting my home and body ready for cold weather and the dreaded cold season. As the days get shorter and playground gets filled with icky germs and sneezing babies (ew), we like to make sure our bodies and immune systems are ready to fight the good fight.

Here are some things we do and products I like to have around when summer turns to fall (and into winter):

Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus Soap

We like all of Dr. B's soaps around here but I enjoy the Eucalyptus one in the colder months as it helps to clear out stuffy noses with it's soothing vapors. It also clears your head on a dark, cold morning.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is the best. Since it is unprocessed, it retains all the natural enzymes and nutrients. Did you know raw honey is a natural antibiotic? It is really powerful stuff. As long as it is not that stuff in the bear. I am not partial to this brand. I've had it. It's delicious. But there are plenty of great options at your local health food store or even better, the farmer's market! I believe even Trader Joe's has a raw honey now. Bonus: you can apply it to burns and it works better than any burn cream I've ever used. Truth.

I love my neti pot. At first, I didn't understand it. I made a mess. And it didn't help at all. Now, after a few youtube videos and some practice we are pals. I use my neti pot all the time. Allergies, colds, stuffiness, and even headache. It works so well. Don't feel like you have to buy the special salt that is recommended. You can use any sea salt that doesn't have anti-caking agents in it. So no table salt. I even have a tiny one for Phoenix. (Which he hates...)

Wellness Formula

Wellness Formula is a powerful combination of herbs, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals formulated to boost your immune system. If I feel even the tiniest trace of a cold someone on, I load up on these capsules and usually it knocks it out of my system. Now, it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women so I didn't take it last winter and it's likely I won't be taking it this winter but I highly recommend adding this to your winter supplement rotation. In the past, if I was feeling run down, I would take one daily. Good stuff.

Tomorrow I will be posting foods that are beneficial to incorporate in colder months.