10-Spice Vegetable Soup

It’s Foodie Friday again!  This week the most delicious thing we made was this soup from the “Oh She Glows” cookbook.  SUPER Winter comfort food!  Full of awesome gorgeous color, veggies from the garden (I ran out and picked some of our hardy wintering kale, and used frozen tomatoes saved from last fall!).

The real story though:  one component though stands out as rockstar!

Cashew Cream.



So to make cashew cream, you soak cashews for 6-8 hours, rinse, and then puree/blend with some water or stock.  Varying the amount of water, changes the consistency – and it is WEIRD how much ground up cashew tastes like dairy!  I’ve used powdered cashew in place of Parmesan cheese on pasta dishes – BELLISSIMA!  Anyway.  The creamy base for 10-Spice Vegetable Soup ~ cashew cream!  I left the cashews soaking all day while I went to work, so all ready to go in the soup in the evening.

Now onto the SOUP!

vegan10spicesoup 065A8717


  • 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
  • 6 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (we only had green, but it was fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped sweet potato, regular potato, or butternut squash
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce/796-mL) can diced tomatoes, with their juices (or sub with fresh tomatoes – see blog post for my how-to)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1  1/2 tablespoons Homemade 10-Spice Blend (recipe follows), to taste
  • Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 cups baby spinach or destemmed torn kale leaves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or other beans, drained and rinsed (kidney beans are fun too)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1.  Place cashews in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Soak the cashews overnight, or for at least 2 hours. Drain and rinse the cashews.
  2. In a blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews with 1 cup of vegetable broth and blend on the highest speed until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Season generously with Herbamare or sea salt.
  4. Add the carrots, bell pepper, potato, celery, and diced tomatoes with their juices, the remaining 5 cups broth, the cashew cream, and 1-1.5 tablespoons of 10-spice blend. Stir well to combine . Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Season with salt and black pepper and add the bay leaves.
  5. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and black pepper. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the spinach/kale and drained beans.
  6. To freeze, ladle the soup into containers (leaving 1-inch for expansion), cool slightly, secure lid and place in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.

Tips: 1) If you don’t wish to make the 10-Spice Blend, feel free to use your favorite store-bought Cajun or Creole seasoning mix and add to taste. 2) You will have leftover spice blend. Store it in a container and keep it handy anytime you want to spice up a dish! It’s great for pasta, soup, tofu seasoning, stir-fry, and more. 3) When thawed (this freezes really well!), this soup’s broth looks a bit grainy, but rest assured when it’s heated up again it will return to its former smoothness.



FFF Farm Fresh Food!

In other Casa Sam-Squared news – the ducks have started laying!  One of my favourite ShaunT quotes EVER – and we say it all the time, “I like ehhhhhhhhggs, cuz I like my muhhhhhcles”.  With 7 full size hens, 5 banty hens, and now 3 ducks – we have a really fantastic egg supply!  Eggs got a bad rap for a while – but I absolutely REFUSE to avoid eating the amazing dark yellow yolks from fresh, free-range eggs!  That’s just crazy talk.

Our beautiful Black Cayuga duckies!
From biggest to smallest: 2 duck eggs, 2 regular chicken eggs, and 3 banty chicken eggs!

I looked into the whole egg-cholesterol thing a while ago when I built a giant flock of egg factories – I wanted to know how many eggs were actually bad for a person – if they were bad at all.

“Long vilified by well-meaning doctors and scientists for their high cholesterol content, eggs are now making a bit of a comeback. While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol—and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels—eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.” [read more:  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/eggs/]

I think basically, unless you have super high cholesterol or another medical condition like diabetes, eating egg yolks is not going to hurt you (haha, the bacon or sausage that goes with is WAYYYYY worse!).  Which is GREAT, since I have a lot of eggs.  (We give a lot away, nobody can go through 6 eggs a day!).  Since I started having Shakeology for breakfast every day, my lipid panel has begun to approach “super hero status” to quote my doctor, so, it’s all good, and I’ll take food from my yard any day of the week!


Foodie Friday

Winter Garden Win!  So this year I just didn’t pull out the kale plants in the garden.  They looked fine after the frost, and then we had a serious cold snap, yet the kale was set to prevail!  So it’s still out there in the middle of winter.  It might not be as pretty as it is earlier in the year, BUT, I read that the taste is less bitter and less “kale-y” in the cold – TRUE!  I was inspired to USE SOME OF THE MAGIC FROZEN KALE….


photo by localkitchener.ca

So what I made…  Hearty, delicious, filled with colour – the dressing was DIVINE.

Barley Kale Tabbouleh

Prep time  15 mins;  Cook time  20 mins; Total time 35 mins 
From Michael Smith’s Family Meals Cookbook
Serves: 4-6


  • 4 large kale leaves, tough center stems trimmed away (I used more)
  • 1 cup (250mL) of any barley
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) of salt
  • A handful of finely chopped parsley
  • Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint (500mL) of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large dill pickle, minced


  • The zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) of honey
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) of your favorite mustard
  • ½ teaspoon (2mL) of salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2mL) of your favorite hot sauce
  1. Stack the kale leaves, then roll them up tightly. Slice them as thinly as possible, forming fine threads. Cram into a small saucepan and add ¼ cup (60mL) of water. Cover and cook over high heat until the kale softens, just 2 or 3 minutes. Drain and spread out on a plate to cool.
  2. Measure the barley into the same saucepan and add 3 cups (750mL) of water and the salt. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Cover tightly and continue cooking until the grains swell, absorbing the water and tenderizing, about 30 minutes.  (I did mine separately right in my rice cooker)
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. Throw in the tender barley, the kale, parsley, mint, green onions, tomatoes and pickle. Toss the works together, evenly mixing the flavors, textures and colours.  Serve and share!
So at the end I cut up some left over chicken satay skewers and put them on top with some feta cheese… FAN-FRIKKIN-TASTIC!!!


Foodie Friday (Again) ~ Vegetarian Chili

Hahaha, well, a slow start is better than no start.  Foodie Friday it is!

IMG_20150115_152806This week’s most fantastic dinner:  Vegetarian Chili loosely based on a recipe from Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet Cookbook

From Tosca’s Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook: Beans are an ideal source of Clean-Eating protein and even those who aren’t vegetarian love this “meaty” meatless chili recipe. It is still a satisfying version of chili without losing out on hearty flavor. Use leftovers in a wrap for lunch the next day.  So I STARTED with the Tosca Reno recipe below.  But I used whole cans of beans, rather than just 1 cup each, added some homemade Mexican Chili Paste, and then BEST ADDITION:  Romanesco!  (And sliced mushrooms, but those are not as exciting).  Christmas Tree Chili for the win….


2 Tbsp/30 ml cumin seeds, toasted*
2 Tbsp/30 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 head roasted garlic
3 Tbsp/45 ml chili powder
¼ tsp/1.25 ml red pepper flakes
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup/240 ml canned white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup/240 ml canned great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup/240 ml canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup/240 ml canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup/240 ml canned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
2½ cups/600 ml water or low-sodium vegetable stock (gluten free if necessary)
2 tsp/10 ml crumbled, dried oregano
2 tsp/10 ml crumbled, dried basil
4 squares dark (75% or more cocoa) organic chocolate
28 oz/784 g canned tomatoes
Juice of one fresh lime
Juice of one fresh lemon


  1. vegetarian chiliIn a Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper and grated carrot and sauté until onion becomes soft and translucent. Stir in chili powder, toasted cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients. Blend well. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

This recipe can be served over brown rice for a hearty variation.  (prep picture from nourishdrinkcafe.com)


Foodie Friday!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions (besides the one about actually posting to my blog!) is all about eating.  It’s so easy to stand in front of your pantry and pick the fastest 20 minute meal that you make all the time.  I decided after one such “default” meal, that I would start working a little more on meal planning.  I’m not yet willing to make vast weekly menus, with everything planned to a T – plans stress me out too much!  But what I will do, is sit with my favourite cookbooks and my coffee on Saturday morning, make a list of 5-6 recipes to try during the week, and add any special ingredients to my grocery list.  It especially makes me sad when all these awesome veggies start going by in the crisper drawer, so this week I did it, and made some really great recipes!

These are my current favourite cookbooks – I have yet to make a recipe from any one of them that I didn’t LOVE! Very Whole Foods-y, super great. Even though google is a go-to, I still love using a book.

My favourite triumph this week:

Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup:

Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup from the “Oh She Glows” cookbook (photo by Antonia James)

This one is so warm, with super rich curry flavours…

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons curry powder, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained (I used green lentils)
  • 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite-size florets
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • chopped cilantro for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5-6 minutes, until translucent.  Stir in the ginger, curry powder, coriander, and cumin and sauté for 2 minutes, until fragrant.  Add the broth and lentils and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more.  Stir in the cauliflower and sweet potato.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the cauliflower and sweet potato are tender.  Season with the salt and pepper, and add more curry powder if desired.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with cilantro, if desired.  (Serves 4)

My only deviation was we didn’t have any spinach, so I crumbled in 2 handfuls of frozen basil leaves – definitely a yummy addition!



Spicy Tomato and Lentil Soup

This has got to be the easiest, most delicious soup ever…  This is from the Les Mills Combat Nutrition Guide and is 100% WIN…..  I think these portions are for 1 person, so probably make MORE.

  • 1 tsp EV olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup low sodium organic broth (I used chicken, it says to use vegetable)
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes (I used Fire Roasted – added this smoke that made it SOOOOOO amazing)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • sea salt to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over med-high heat, cook onion, stirring frequently – 3 minutes or so.

Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, and cayenne, cook 5 minutes or until heated through

Season with salt if desired


Smokey Black Bean Hummus

Smokey Black Bean Hummus

Even though “Hummus” is actually Arabic for “chickpea”  and there’re no chickpeas here….

Start to finish @ 25 minutes; Makes: 1 2/3 cupsblack-bean-green-chile-hummus

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (I used chives from the garden
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (I used EVOO)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (or make from scratch!)
  • 1/2 cup water (I didn’t add this….)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp finely chopped canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Saute onions in oil with coriander and cumin until very tender, stirring (10 minutes or so)

Transfer onion mixture to a food processor or blender; add black beans, lime juice, chipotle pepper, cilantro, and salt; blend until smooth.  SO here’s where you could add 1/2 cup of water.  I looked at it and thought “why would I do that, it looks perfect….”

We had this spread on a whole wheat tortilla/wrap with spinach, romaine, tomato, green pepper and a sliced grilled chicken breast.  It was a PERFECT lunch!!!!

Chicken & Vegetables en Papillote

I made these delicious packets of goodness for dinner tonight and they were WONDERFUL!  Just the right amount of tanginess from the lemon and artichoke, and just the right cookedness for the asparagus   Prep: 35 minutes; Bake @ 30 minutes; Oven 400F; 4 servings

  • 1lb boneless Moldiv_1399946664099skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1tsp dry)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 10 oz asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces (2 cups)
  • 6 oz pea pods, trimmed (2 cups)
  • 1 cup (I used the whole can) canned artichoke hearts, quartered (I halved)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp (or more!) chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives or chopped green onions

1. cut chicken breasts into 1 inch slices (I cut the long way to make strips, but it says to go crossways).  In a medium bowl combine oil, oregano, thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice, salt, pepper.  Add chicken and toss to coat, let stand while preparing veggies

2. on “large enough” pieces of foil, arrange asparagus, pea pods, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and parsley – I layered them all; top with servings of chicken; then with servings of the green onions (amount will depend on how many packets you want to make).

3. fold up foil packets, place on baking sheets, and bake for 20+ minutes at 400F.  Check and see if chicken is pink.  (I ended up cooking for 35 minutes, but my chicken strips were THICK)

If you make this into 4 servings:  250 calories each, 8g fat (1g saturated), 498mg sodium, 13g carbs, 6g fiber, 31g protein

The Sonoma Diet

So I found The Sonoma Diet, by Dr. Connie Guttersen, at Goodwill yesterday.  I went through a phase a while ago where I did a LOT of French cooking and totally wished I lived in Provence, so of COURSE the cover of this book appealed to me.  The Sonoma Diet is an “eating lifestyle” inspired by sun-drenched vineyards, embracing simple flavorful meals of vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains ~ a Mediterranean diet.  Really, we already pretty much eat this way, but the book has a meal plan and is about 50% recipes, so it’ll be fun to just follow it.  The tagline on the cover says “trimmer waist, better health in just 10 days!” ~ that’s after the phase one stage of the actual diet, I suppose…  The diet (if you were dieting….  we’re just EATING) is divided into 3 phases.  In the first phase the focus is removing sugar, processed or not, so you aren’t supposed to have fruit and certain vegetables are on the do not fly list…  But it’s pretty straight forward, there’s a list of phase 1 veggies, lean meats, acceptable fats ~ especially olive oil, and whole grains.  But even better, there’s a complete meal plan, followed by all the recipes.  They haven’t gone so far as to prepare the shopping list, but that was pretty easy to compile – no weird ingredients, everything is easy to find, though I’m guessing at how many red peppers I could possibly eat in a one-week period – according to the recipes, A LOT…. The first phase is just for 10 days – sugar detox and rapid weight loss if that’s what you’re after. Phase 2 allows the addition of fruits and power food berries, some of the no-fly veggies, and this is where one would just stay until goal weight was reached.  Then in Phase 3  (keeping in mind I haven’t read the whole book yet, just the beginning) you add some of the fats that were restricted, butter, bacon…. Maybe there’s never any bacon…  But that’s pretty unrealistic…  ANYWAY, by phase 3, you’ve attained your goal weight, you’ve eliminated sugar cravings and only have occasional sugary treats, have replaced refined flour products with whole grains, and have eliminated hydrogenated and, for the most part, saturated fats.   Part of the point of this style of eating is to savor amazing, healthy food.  Too often the way we’re living our lives at high stress, high speed, and yet high LAZINESS, results in quick, shoddy food choices, scarfed in a hurry because we’re starving.  I think taking the time to buy nice whole, unprocessed foods, and then taking the time to actually cook with them ~ finally leading to savoring them, is so much better!

SO I think I love this book, and I think I love the recipes.  We’re actually going to follow the 10 day phase 1 plan starting tomorrow (though I’m going to keep having Shakeology for breakfast), I’ll keep posting about it and about the recipes.  Tonight we had lemon-garlic pork chops and a salad topped with lemony vinaigrette dressing and feta cheese. It was like ambrosia! I’m not sure why we ever BUY salad dressing, because making it at home is SO MUCH YUMMIER….

Lemony Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots (I used chives from the garden)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 clove garlic (squished through the press)
  • 3 tbsp EV olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and thyme from the garden)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

I put all the ingredients into a jar, capped it, and shook.  This is a tangy, wonderful, magical dressing.  I tossed it with a mixed salad with spinach, romaine lettuce, parsley, tomatoes, radishes, green pepper, and feta – it was fantastic!

The pork chops were cooked on the barbeque, but here’s the recipe for the marinade:

Lemon-garlic pork chops

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon (didn’t have it, used basil and dill instead)
  • 4 cloves garlic (squished through the press)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

I mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl and turned the chops every 10 minutes or so for about an hour, then drizzled the remaining mainade over the meat as it cooked on the grill.

The whole meal was delicious and totally simple!



25-25-25 Challenge is MADE OF WIN!


25-25-25 Challenge is ON! And everyone is kicking butt!  So we decided to do Beachbody’s Focus T25 for 25 days, starting April 25.  One of the group lost 5% body fat the FIRST WEEK.  Can you say KILLING IT???? Double Fridays sure are tough!

I, for one, am absolutely in love with this program for the simple fact that the 25 minute workouts GO BY SO FAST.  It’s Shaun T, It’s everything you love about Shaun T, but by the time you start to really feel like you might die, there’re 5 minutes left and you’re in the last “burnout”.  It’s GREAT.  And short enough that I can do it in the morning before work without getting up wayyyyy earlier!  After 10 days we’re all feeling leaner and just the right amount of sore.  Stay tuned for more of our results and reviews of the Alpha Phase workouts from T25.