Discover Great Starts To Healthy Soup Making

Get out your soup spoons, everyone, as I believe we have officially hit soup season! There is nothing like a nourishing, steamy bowl to take the chill off and make you feel cozy and full.  It certainly is one of my favorite ways to eat a healthy meal!  But, how do those great, healthy soups all begin? Besides digging out your favorite stock pot or extra large ladle, what do most soup recipes call for up front?

A mirepoix, a soffritto or maybe even a "Holy Trinity?"  Call them what you want, but they all are a convivial gathering of aromatics, occasional herbs and spices and usually a bit of fat to get the party started. These various flavor combinations go by different names in different cuisines, but they always play an upfront role in how that soup turns out. They provide a foundation of flavor to distinguish it from one healthy pot to another.

How to Make a Flavor Base 

Most flavor bases from around the world break down into three or four aromatic vegetables, sometimes herbs, and occasionally a small bit of fat. Asian cuisines often add freshly ground spices as well. The vegetables, cut into uniform small pieces, make up the largest part of the flavor base and are typically given a slow, easy start over low heat to extract the flavor.  It is then enriched with the herbs and spices, if using.

Perhaps the most recognized trio may be the French mirepoix of onion, carrots and celery. Watch this quick video from Mario Batali on how to create the classic mirepoix. Cooking in any country has many variations of their flavor bases, as well as cooks adding their flair to the pot, just to keep things interesting.

10 International Cuisine Trios

Here are some of the most commonly known flavor bases to give a cultural boost to your next bowl of chicken soup or will it become a Vietnamese Pho Ga or perhaps even a Mexican Posole Verde this week . . .

1.  Portuguese:  Right out of the gate, I introduce the rebel with a cuisine that usually starts with four vegetables as a base than the typical three: onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes.

2.  Cajun/Creole:  Often referred to as the "Holy Trinity," onion, bell pepper, and celery make up the base for many classic gumbos.

3.  Chinese:  Multiple Chinese dishes start with with a base of scallions, ginger and garlic. There are vairiatons that add various chili peppers, too.

4.  Hungarian:  The Hungarians often reach for paprika, lard and onion as a flavor base for their soups and stews.

5.  Indian:  Garlic, ginger and onion are the beginnings of many wonderful Indian soups.

6.  French:  The familiar onions, carrots and celery create many great soups in those French kitchens.

7.  Thai:  Many Thai traditional dishes are flavored with galangal (a kind of ginger), kaffir lime and lemon grass.

8.  Italian:   Regional differences apply from the north to the south in Italy.  Much like the French, northern Italy adheres to celery, carrots and onions while those in the south, go for garlic, tomato and basil.

9.  Spanish:  Garlic, onion and tomato all jump in the soup pot for great beginnings.

10.  West Africa:  The base of most west African cuisines is a trio of chili peppers, onions and tomatoes.

Destination Soup Making

Once you learn a few flavor bases, you can change up the base to change up the soup.  Let me explain:

Consider a simple tomato soup recipe like this one. Instead of the French mirepoix listed, begin that soup with a flavor base of ginger, garlic and onion, and add some curry powder and finish with a splash of coconut milk and that basic tomato has become a simple Indian Tomato Soup.  Or, if you begin with the Hungarian flavor trio base listed above, you take that tomato soup in a smokey, spicy Hungarian direction.  You could always go traditional and keep it Italian by maintaining the northern Italian base of celery, carrots and onion but add a big handful of fresh basil and some oregano and cheese croutons.

So, next time if you want to take your pot of soup in a whole new orientation, maybe you should consider how you start.  That base you begin with could take you across the pond or even on a safari! Your destination is your choice.

Need a bit more?

Please share a favorite soup recipe link in the comments or any other flavor bases you use in your country to start your dishes off right!

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Sleep Like A Baby: Night Time Routines

Oh, the bliss of a good night's sleep like this darling one!  For those of you who have children or care for children or are around others that do, we all are aware of the critical bedtime routine you take with them to get them ready for sleep time.  So, when did that stop, I ask? Why don't we continue with that self care to get ready for slumber?

For me, that requires some work! An active mind is what I have.  I appear relaxed and mellow, but inside my brain is firing away.  Noticing that.  Thinking this.  Analyzing how best to go about something. Wondering about, curious about, well . . . just about anything!

Everyone has a lot going on, but I have discovered some are better at shutting it off than others. I am not a member of that group.  I would call myself inquisitive as a lot of things, people and places interest me and get me thinking.   My relationships mean everything to me so I put a lot of thought into them as well.  So, I think. and think some more.  A lot.  Ask my husband, my children. They will tell you.

This brings me to my night time routines that I need to do to rest the brain from all that thinking!  I wrote about designing a restful bedroom here and it is absolutely helpful in getting great shut-eye, but for thinkers like me, we have to do more.

Do's and Don'ts Before Bedtime

Here are the things I try to do before bedtime and the actions I try not to take too close to bedtime to try to sleep like a baby or at least close to it:

Create daytime movement.  When I exercise regularly, I sleep better.  But other than an after dinner walk, I try not to do any big exercise routine too close to bedtime. For some, it can make you more awake. But. some studies are saying for others, however, it does not matter.

Pick your channels.   I try to avoid violent or doomsday television programming or movies at night. I am not always successful at that as watching the news lately falls in that category! But, I do get wrapped up in them and find them alarming.  Instead, I try to select funny or relaxing shows to wind down.  Or, I read as well.


7 Easy Ways to Design A Restful Bedroom

Your bedroom should be an area of rest, should it not? It is your personal area of restorative space where you slumber and revitalize yourself for the next day. It is also a room where you could safely say you spend the most time because those eight hours of nod (or thereabouts) can add up to a big chunk of your life.

With so much time spent there, it makes sense to make is a hazard-free, health promoting space.  It really is not a big task and, in fact, a few of the tips listed here are free!  These easy steps can be done right away or a bit over time to make it that area of your home that you can safely and surely rest easy!

Hot to Create a Health Promoting Bedroom

Follow these easy ways to purge your bedroom of health hazards and create a revitalizing, dream-promoting space:

Suds up.  Got a favorite pillow? Great, but best keep it that way. Wash those pillows regularly along with your sheets to keep those germs, bacteria, dust mites and other allergens away.  Here is information on how to best wash your bed pillow.  

In the market for a new one as your pillow is not giving you the support you need for a restful sleep? Check out what to look for here and where to shop for one.

Color a restful hue.  Blue appears to be the color of choice for a rest-inducing bedroom. But, keep those paints free of volatile organic compounds (VOC) to keep the toxic load low.


How to Make Your Best First Impressions

The connections that we form with others can play a big, big part in leading a healthy and meaningful life.  And, all those connections had to began somewhere, sometime. Those first impressions you formulated of someone and they of you may have given an indication of wanting to learn more . . .  or not. And, maybe those first impressions then led to some pretty great and lasting relationships . . . or not.

So, think back to your first impressions of those that are a large part of your life now. Were they off to a good start?  What about you? Do you think you gave a good first impression to them? Or, have you ever wished for a "redo" on those first encounters?

Studies say those first impressions are hard to erase.  Thus, with that in mind,  I gathered some commonalities of how some of those first impressions that have gone well not only for myself but what others have done with me to provide an especially positive experience. Read on and let me know what you think.

Bring Out Your Best: Nine Tips When First Meeting Someone

Perhaps these actions at social situations could help you bring out your best side and make a lasting impression of the especially positive kind:

1.  Smile warmly.  Who can resist an engaging smile? Not an overdone grin, but just "I am really happy to meet you smile."

2.  Keep the gaze.  Don't look down or over there. And, a sure way to make someone feel annoyed and insignificant is to look over someone's shoulder searching the room at a party for someone else more influential to go to next. Nope. Look people in the eye with that warm smile and forget about the other people nearby.

3.  Be yourself.  It really is the easiest, is it not?  Don't pretend or put on airs.  And, besides, that can be exhausting, keeping up a disingenuous act that is usually quite transparent anyway.


Create Easy, Delicious Clean Eats All Day

We all need inspiration sometimes. And, I received just that in the kitchen when I reached for Clean Eats, a book I reviewed here. All of the dishes below come directly inspired by Dr. Junger's book. I have not enjoyed a cookbook as much as this one in a long time.

You can find the original recipes in the book. (See the page number next to the adapted recipe below.) But, I made a several changes and adapted them based more than anything on what I had already in my kitchen or my family's preferences.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Clean Eats

Wouldn't it be fun to have breakfast, lunch or dinner with Dr. Junger and his program staff to learn more about the clean eating approach? Or . . . we can create a bit of it right here at home.

Here we go -- a day of Clean Eats: breakfast, lunch and dinner!

First up, a great way to start your day . . .

The original recipe calls for pumpkin, which I think would be delicious, too.  However, I used plain mashed sweet potatoes I had from dinner the night before. I also took liberty with changing a few spices and the amounts around and used almond milk instead of coconut milk as that is what I had as well. I also warmed the blueberries in with the porridge to soften them a bit rather than creating a topping with them.


Book Look: Clean Eats by Alejandro Junger, M.D.

With the abundance of healthy food bloggers for inspiration, I do not turn to cookbooks for ideas as much as I used to.  In fact, many of my beautiful cookbooks sit rather dusty on my shelf.   But, I had heard so many good things about Clean Eats by Alejandro Junger, M.D., I ordered a copy this past summer, and it has not disappointed. Not in the least. And, I promise not to let it get dusty for long!

Why I Would Recommend Clean Eats by Alejandro Junger, M.D.

Yes, Clean Eats was on my summer reading list and it was a great choice.  Here are some of the reasons why:
  • If you are new to clean eating or healthier eating practices, the tone of the book is welcoming and not intimidating at all.  Yes, it espouses clean eating and what that means so you won't find processed foods, unhealthy fats, refined grains, etc. in the ingredient lists.  However, it is done in such a positive, gentle and inspiring way, it motivates you to be better and do better for you and those you feed.
  • The recipes are abundant (over 200) and there is something for everyone: vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters, too.  Plenty, if not most, recipes are gluten-free and dairy-free as well.
  • The recipes are easy to follow and not complicated.
  • The recipes I tried taste great and they were fun to make.
  • If you are into specific meal plans, several are offered.
  • It is organized well and written well.
  • I especially enjoyed the wonderful "big picture" essays on clean eating and what that actually means by many leading in the field. There are many recipe contributions from names you may recognize as well. 


Boost Up Your Smoothie With Four New Ingredients To Swirl

Smoothies are a frequent choice for me. They are a filling, on-the-go mini-meal I can take with me anywhere and sip away on busy days.  I also like all the nutrient-dense items I throw in them.  But, I like to vary it up a lot and change the smoothie swirl scene and throw in different items to expose my body to various superfoods.

I wrote about smoothies here and here and here and why you may want to incorporate them in your diet and how best to do so.  I also have a Pinterest board, In Liquid Form, that contains a lot of specific smoothie recipes (and soups) from around the web that you can pop on over to browse.  (I wish you would!) But today,  I wanted to share some nutrient dense foods that I have been adding to my smoothies lately (not every day, though) to benefit me in a number of ways.  Read on to find out what and why I am watching these items swirl up in my blender lately.

Foods to Throw in Your Smoothies

Here are four superfoods that I have been including in my smoothies recently:

1.  Matcha:  The green tea powder, matcha, is a real energy booster in the gentlest of ways.  This is great for an afternoon smoothie addition as it gives you a nice nudge to power up for the rest of the day.  I wrote about the endless health benefits of this powder here (and there are a lot), but I have found I prefer it in a smoothie as it dissolves so much better than when I brew it as a tea in hot water. (If there are any hints you have on matcha tea brewing, please inform in the comments as I would love to know.) It really makes your smoothie such a pretty color too!

2.  Bee pollen:  Technically, I do not swirl this in my blender but rather I sprinkle a bit on top after the smoothie has been swirled.  I did not care for the texture when I blended it with the rest of my smoothie ingredients.


Get Outdoors: How to Create Great Day Hikes With Your Kids

Time together as a family; breathing fresh air; exercising your mind, body and spirit. All of it can be achieved with a family day hike.  It is a fantastic way to connect as a family and with nature, and, with a wee-bit of planning, it can turn into a favorite way to get off the couch!  I listed the many health benefits of spending time in the great outdoors here and hiking the trails is a great way to do just that.

Tips for Hiking With Children

I have wonderful memories of day hikes with my family that we have taken over the years both near our home as well as on many vacations. I bet you can create great memories, too, if you follow these easy tips to a fun day on the trails with your young ones:

Start early.  Children usually wake up early so hit the trail and and beat the crowds. You’ll enjoy cooler weather and better odds of spotting wildlife, too.

Easy does it.  For at least the first few times, select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous. Keep it a positive experience not a marathon that they will never want to repeat.

Be a game player.  Sing songs when the trail gets a bit boring or it is taking longer than expected. Games like "I Spy" or "Who can be the Quietest?" can really distract from a less than engaging patch of trail.

Once while hiking in the Grand Tetons on this trail with our children years ago, we got delayed coming back down a mountain and there was no way back to our car without hiking through "bear country during feeding hours." (According to the signs!) Because we did not want to be on the dinner menu, we had our children clap rocks with their hands to create a beat while singing and talking loudly to keep the bears away and to distract ourselves from the stress we were feeling. And, we moved quickly -- very, very quickly!


Health Clicks: The Great Outdoors

Imagine being here right now!

Or, maybe here!

I wouldn't mind walking through a field and looking over and seeing that.