As a native Minnesotan, you’d think I’d be used to the cold weather. But, no matter how many layers I put on, some days I just can’t warm up. That’s when I start making soups. I figure soups warm us up from the inside out!
Canned soups are quick and easy way to make a meal. The range for NuVal® scores for soups is 1-91. That’s a pretty large range! However, the average soup is a 25. I am figuring that the lower scores are due to sodium content. So, I went on a hunt at Coborn’s for some higher scoring canned soups. Here’s what I came up with (click on each of the photos if you can’t see the score).
While canned soups work well when I’m in a hurry, I prefer a homemade soup. There’s something about the scent of a soup simmering on the stove that just warms up a kitchen.
My friend Julie is an avid gardener. In fact, she recently quit her day job to go back to school for a sustainable farming degree. One perk of being Julie’s friend is that, in the fall, she has an abundance of fresh veggies and gives them to her friends. This year she handed me a peachy colored, oblong gourd-looking thing. I had to ask her what it was. She looked at me like I was from outer space and responded, “duh, a butternut squash.” Clearly, I had never prepared a butternut squash before, even though they score a perfect 100 on the NuVal® System. So, I set out to find a recipe and came across this, delicious, velvety butternut squash soup.
Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons Butter (NuVal 2)
1 small Onion (NuVal 93)
1 stalk Celery (NuVal 96)
1 medium Carrot (NuVal 99)
2 medium Potatoes (NuVal 93)
1 medium Butternut Squash (NuVal 100)
1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken broth (I used Swanson NuVal 3)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Half & Half – just a splash ~ optional (NuVal 29)
Directions: Chop the onion, celery, carrot and potato. Peel, seed and cube the squash. Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
Transfer the soup to a blender, and puree until smooth. Be careful and do not over-fill the blender. Nobody wants a hot soup burn! Small batches work best.
Return to pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. I added a splash of half & half for a hint of creaminess, however it is not necessary. Heat until warm and serve. Makes 4 Servings. (Recipe adapted from the Allrecipes website. Nutrition information is also available on that site).
A SOUP-ER GIVEAWAY
Congrats to Meredith, winner of the “Smells of the Season” giveaway from my Christmas blog. This week one lucky reader will win all 5 canned soups shown above. To register, all you need to do is leave a comment below (or click on “comment” at the top of this blog) telling me your favorite kind of soup. I’ll select one winner at random on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013.
Until next time, stay warm!
Passionate about food and good nutrition, Kelly, a BLEND Program Specialist for CentraCare Health Foundation, is also a mom who wants to set her kids up for a lifetime of good health. NuVal is a system designed to lead customers to the most nutritious food choices. It is not a diet or weight-loss plan. The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation.
Convinced that great health is key to a more abundant life, Evan, a Maximized Living doctor & chiropractor, is the owner of Legacy Family Chiropractic. He utilizes the 5 Essentials for real health in his own life and in helping bring true health transformation for others. He and his wife, Maureen, are expecting their first child in December, 2012. Evan also loves sports, hunting, fishing and most anything outdoors!
Health and Holidays do not typically go hand in hand. While family celebrations are a wonderful part of the holiday season, they usually happen with a complete disregard for one’s physical wellbeing – especially the kids. All of those treats you see here? Yes, I must admit I enjoy eating them, too. But did you know refined sugar and carbohydrates deplete your body of nutrients, and are also linked to depression? Not only do they worsen one’s mood, but they also interfere with proper brain function and hormone levels, and cause poor concentration. If Christmas presents don’t make your kids crazy enough, think of what’s happening to them when you add lots of sugar on top of it… a house that suddenly doesn’t feel so sweet.
Sweet desserts and sugar-laden meals cause irritability and digestive issues. When you think of a family gathering, do you think of stress? Consider how the foods your child eats will affect their behavior, activity level, and respect for others. Sugar doesn’t just cause hyperactivity in a child. A spike in blood sugar sends the body into a tailspin as it works to negate the toxic foods. This is all to protect you – and your organs! While you overeat, your body is constantly fighting to rebalance, which comes with a high health expense.
Holiday celebrations include many traditions. I love it. This is one of the best parts: leaving a legacy and passing on faith-based values. Yet through the years, an overabundance of junk food has become one of the main traditions. I encourage you – rather than passing down traditions leading to obesity, heart-disease and/or diabetes – to share in health. While ‘healthy’ may seem like a party pooper… the real fun-spoiler is stress, pain, sickness and disease.
Preserve your Family
As a parent, you are the leader given the blessed responsibility of teaching, molding & leading your child’s precious life. As I anticipate the birth of our child in a few weeks, this is fresh for me. A child will not reach their full potential with poor health. So what positive changes can be made? Include a healthy mix of vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and whole foods into your meals.
Cut back on the sugar content of the main meal (i.e… those sweet potatoes are sweet enough without marshmallows! ) Focus more on a holiday craft, Christmas decorations, a family game or exercise outside, instead of the ‘main event’ being frosting cookies. Not only do your choices affect today, but the life you’ll lead tomorrow. Don’t sacrifice yourself for the sake of pumpkin pie.
You’re not alone – join us!
Are you overwhelmed? We invite you to learn more healthy tips for thriving through the holidays. Our office is holding a free event on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 – Dealing with Holiday Stress: Healthy for the Holidays. It will be a life-transforming evening, providing you the knowledge & tools to be well this year. Health is a gift, and on Tuesday, Dec. 11th it’s free! The experience will start at 6PM – call our office to reserve your seat!
Sending wishes of great health!
Doesn’t it seem today’s children are predisposed to dislike healthful foods? “I don’t like carrots!”…”broccoli is gross!”…”what is that?!?” It’s not easy to get our little one to eat healthy foods. Ok, so it’s not easy to get our teenagers to eat healthy, either.
Parent’s are challenged with “picking their battles”, fussy eaters, and time. Pre-packaged convenience surely makes it easy for parents on the go. And, let’s not forget brand loyalty or fast food restaurants. It’s hard for cauliflower to win the battle over french fries…or, milk over sugar-sweetened beverages.
So what can parents about it? Learn from our little ones – take little steps and changes will begin to happen. It’s best to crawl before we walk…and, walk before we run!
- Become a great role model! Children are more likely to mimic want mommy and daddy are doing. It wouldn’t work to tell a child to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages if their parents are drinking them. Same as fruits and vegetables…if one or both parents cringe at broccoli it’s likely the child will cringe at the sight of broccoli, too!
- Teach children where food comes from! If we were to ask young children where carrots come from some might say “the supermarket”. The more children know about healthful foods – where they come from and how they grow – the more likely they are to eat the food. And, yes – that means carrots!
- Plant a garden! Children who take part in garden activities benefit significantly from those who don’t. What better way to teach a child how vegetables grow than to plant a few seeds. They are more willing to eat the fruits (and vegetables) of the labor.
- Incorporate more fruits for desserts! Kids grow up thinking desserts come in the form of cakes, cookies and ice cream. Set limits on sugary treats and encourage desserts to come from the produce isle.
- Go for color! Teach children at a young age that plates should look like a rainbow with fruits and veggies in hues of blue, red, orange, green and yellow.
- Bring children in the kitchen! Kids are more likely to eat foods they’ve prepared. Have them clean, chop or stir the food – anything to keep them engaged.
- Be creative! Try dips to help kids eat vegetables, or cut them into fun shapes. You may have to add cheese or butter to win over their taste buds…and, trust!
- Have healthy conversation! Talk about food as fuel for the body. Healthy food equals a healthy body. A game to play with children is “My Heart is Happy”. Here’s what you do…when shopping, preparing a meal, or eating say the phrase “My Heart is Happy” when I: eat apples…carrots…pineapple, or, whatever is healthful. It can even be said for physical activity…”My Heart is Happy” when I: bike…run…or, play on the playground. The game can be reversed…”My Heart is Sad” when I: eat candy…sit, etc.
- Shop local! Bring your child to a farmers market or local produce stand and have them pick something out. Look for new and creative ways to prepare the produce…or, ask the farmer how they like to eat it! The kids will be intrigued and will likely eat it and go back for more!
- Shop NuVal! When shopping at your local Coborn’s grocery store ask your child to help you make the selections. Let them know the higher the NuVal score the better the nutrition. Play the “My Heart is Happy” game, too – the higher the NuVal score the happier the heart will be!
Small changes means big rewards. Teaching children the basic principles of eating healthfully can improve their chances of a lifetime of good health. What are some of your tips to get your children to eat healthier?
A quote from the Old Farmers Almanac reads…“It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!” It’s true! Starting off small is important to build confidence and success. I’ve witnessed it first hand!
Hello, this is Kathy Geislinger – I’m the Program Specialist with BLEND. I’m very passionate about healthy eating and believe it started with my parents’ obsession with gardening. I hope you enjoy their story!
My Parents Garden
My parents started off with a modest garden years ago as a means to feed their growing family. Both inherited garden skills from their parents and both viewed the garden as a way to save money during penny-pinching times. They quickly realized the enjoyment of gardening and had tremendous success with production year after year. Today, their small garden has turned into enormous gardens. Yep – “gardens”! They have two gardens massive enough to accommodate a field tractor to plow through them (a front tine tiller takes hours/days to work up the soil). They’ve adopted the spaces to accommodates the more than 65 tomato plants, 75 pepper plants, 280 potato plants, 300 onions sets, rows and rows of beans, and more,
The photo above shows the garden furthest from the house and intended for low maintenance, vining, and late harvest produce (potatoes, corn, peppers, squash, etc). The photo below is the garden closest to the house perfect for produce that needs attention and frequent harvesting (beans, peas, raspberries, strawberries, etc.).
Gardening has become a way of life for my parents…certainly a passion (maybe an obsession). Starting in February my mother begins sowing tomato, pepper, cabbage, and cucumber seeds in her makeshift greenhouse. My father then figures out where to place the above-mentioned plants…he’s a crop farmer so crop rotation is a priority of his. They both plant and maintain the garden, though, my father has a bit more time. He’s a retired carpenter and spends much of his time outside putzing around looking for things to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct on the farm and in the garden.
Like other gardeners, my parents’ gardens are a work in progress – if something works they’ll leave it alone and if it doesn’t they’ll try something new. They may research online or in a magazine, they might ask a fellow gardener for advice, but above all they try to be creative. Although, it appears gardening has initiated some friendly competition among their friends and some don’t like to share all their secrets to garden success. The competition is trivial to most but to gardeners (at least my parents) it’s how they measure their ability to garden (who yielded the most beans or strawberries, who planted the most potatoes, or who canned the most jars of tomato juice). From April through October my father ponders about his gardens and looks for ways to be the first to harvest a radish or tomato, pick the most beans, or grow the biggest strawberries.
Several years ago my parents added raised beds to their garden repertoire so that pests (rabbits and dogs) couldn’t get to their herbs and lettuces. These had worked perfectly and served their purpose, but my father was looking to make some “improvements”. This year, his pondering got the best of him and he came up with a couple of innovative ideas that he says would maximize productivity, continue to provide ease - and, of course add another secret to his success portfolio. He built a temporary greenhouse over one of his raised beds and planted potatoes in it. My mother said growing potatoes in that was “absurd…the heat would be too intense and kill the plants.” The photos above show the greenhouse and the potatoes picked on 6/28/2012.
The photo below is another example of my fathers quest for improving productivity. He devised a sprinkling systems to evenly water his green beans. He says “all I need to do is drop in the water hose, turn on the water and walk away for a bit.” I think it’s pretty genius!
So, you might be thinking “what do they do with all the produce?” You’re right, with this much garden comes a lot of produce to harvest starting in June and going through October. My parents have come up with a lot of creative ways to prepare and preserve their produce. They have five freezers to store strawberries, raspberries, beans, cabbage, corn and other “freezer-friendly” foods. They also maintain a cool, damp cellar in the basement with hundreds of jars either filled (or waiting to be filled) with jellies, tomato sauces, picante sauce, relishes, and anything pickled. It’s a lot of work but my parents are proud and enjoy “their” food all year long. Of course they brag a bit…and, save a lot of money. No kidding, it’s been years since they bought green beans, potatoes, tomato products or strawberries from a supermarket.
The rewards are enough for my parents to continue to plant their gardens again and again. It’s a way of life for them – it’s a sustainable practice, it’s a conversation at a coffee shop, it’s thought-provoking, it’s physical activity, it’s practical, and above all it’s healthful.
Over the years, healthy eating has become a passion for my parents, too. This time of year is exciting for them - the gardens are producing and it’s only natural for them to go out to the gardens and determine a meal or snack based on what it provides. Often times it’s as simple as cucumbers in vinegar milk or carrot salad over tomato wedges. My parent’s have become somewhat adventurous with their garden goodies and will explore new recipes and methods, but always fall back to their favorites. I’ve listed a couple below. Unfortunately, these aren’t the exact recipes as they aren’t written on paper (they’re preserved in their memory), but they are very close.
- Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage
- Fresh Green Beans with Tarragon
- Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
- And, the family favorite…Garden Variety Pasta. Gather ripe vegetables from the garden - whatever is in season (beans, peppers, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions) and saute in olive oil and garlic…add cooked whole grain pasta…top with fresh herbs (basil, Italian parsley, etc.) and Parmesan cheese. It’s simply perfection!
I’m happy to say gardening is a way of life for me. My garden isn’t as big as my parents - it’s only 700 square feet but I love every inch of it. Particularly the three raised beds my father built for me. I am grateful my parents passed on a valuable and lifelong skill to me. It’s not easy…it’s work from planting to harvesting, but I look at it as positive and productive, and as a healthy activity with healthy eating benefits. Having a garden has given me another great way to connect with my parents - we plan and plant together, problem solve, share thoughts, and best of all enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor at family meals, holidays and at the cabin!
As a member of BLEND staff, I am a strong advocate for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. As part of the BLEND mission, we strive to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, help make the healthy choice the easy choice (NuVal), and promote healthy eating early in life. To encourage young children to eat healthier foods, BLEND developed the BLEND Beginnings Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for Child Care in which a unit specific to agriculture education was included to help educators teach young children about farms and gardens. The unit is called “My Food Grows Where?”.
Gardening with children can have many benefits, both now and in the future. There is evidence that recognizes a distinct connection between healthy food choices and knowing where food comes from, how it grows, and who grows it. Children are more likely to eat healthy foods and “new” foods if they help plant it and grow it. Like I said above “I’ve witnessed it!” When I was a child I ate directly from the garden. I continue to eat an abundance of garden produce and I’m happy to say my children do too!
Tell me about your garden, your garden experiences or your families garden story! Share a picture of your garden! Do you have a favorite garden dish or recipe you’d like to share with our readers?Healthy regards, Kathy Geislinger BLEND Program Specialist