Comforting Soup

  • By:  Anya Wolfenden

Here are two recipes that taste so luscious they inspire gratitude when you partake.

In the United States we seem to have an extreme capacity for forgetfulness. Like the optimistic, young country we are, we scan furiously for the next new (a.k.a. fad) diet that guarantees we’ll lose 15 pounds in one week just like the celebrities. We learn its rules, follow it, succeed, fail, and a few months or years later follow some form of it again.

I remember the Atkins diet back in 1978. It repeated itself with greater furor about 26 years later. I’ve taught “A Different Approach to Weight Management” for years. In one class of 85 women, only one or two answered ‘yes’ to the question, “Are you happy with your body?” This pattern was repeated every class.

Somewhere in the midst of all the diet books, eating fads, and hype there are some constant truths:

• One way of eating doesn’t work for everyone. We have different histories, preferences, allergies, and cravings. We have energy needs and expenditures and individual set points (a habitual weight the body stays at until it’s convinced to change).

• Diets don’t work on a long-term basis, but they can be useful to retrain yourself about portion sizes and food groups.

• There is a core loneliness within us that is as elemental as the desire for mother love. When we learn to take care of our inner selves with all the tenderness of a loving mother, then the need for dieting becomes obsolete.

• We will be healthiest when we discover our passions and decipher our needs while also serving others.

• If we eat in line with the way our bodies are composed (2/3 water laden fruits and vegetables, 1/3 protein, high fiber grains, and fats), then we help structure our bodies accordingly.

• The best antidote to dieting is to learn how to wake up craving life. If we are doing what we love to do and living authentically, there are few cravings that get out of hand.

What remains true is that we are beautiful human beings in need of nutrition, exercise, and something useful to do and love.

If we enjoy what’s in season and what feels right to our body the majority of time, we satisfy our needs appropriately. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet? It illustrates how conscious seasonal eating can revolutionize our planet and our daily lives. Please your desire for seared Brussels sprouts or caramelized beets while they are in season. Then chow down on some locally caught fish.

Another tack is to eat according to your ancestry or within the wisdom of a culture that appeals to you. Learn from native methods of preparation or spice up your routine dishes. Feed your brain with squashes and sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, and local red wine. Share abundantly, cook with neighbors or those who don’t have family nearby. Food is meant to enhance and restore our senses. Let’s not make eating austere and recriminatory!

When the air turns cool, I love to be outside, so I get really excited about soup. Warm, soft soups flow into my body as if they are comforting every pore of my being. The key to soup is to add greens and texture so that the colors, nutrition, and flavors are most appealing.

Here are two recipes that taste so luscious they inspire gratitude when you partake.

Hatteras Clam Chowder

I’ve never been a huge fan of Cape Cod (milk-based) or Manhattan (tomato-based) chowders, but I adore the hearty stew-like flavors of Hatteras clam chowder when it’s made like this. It has the perfect consistency to pack in a thermos for a cold outdoor game, a winter picnic, or a hike through the woods. Serves 4

6 slices low-fat bacon or meat alt

2 cans whole baby clams in juice

2 stalks celery

1 onion, diced

2 tsp. grapeseed oil

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 can corn, drained

½ bag frozen chopped spinach

1 tsp. old bay seasoning

sea salt

black pepper

Chop bacon and microwave it between paper towels until desired texture. Sauté chopped celery and onion in oil in a large soup pot until translucent. Add bacon, clams with broth and two cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil for 5 min. Add corn and frozen spinach and simmer for ten minutes. Season to taste and serve with crusty bread or whole grain crackers.

Curry Chicken Soup

This soup can be made so quickly that it’s an easy answer when I haven’t planned what to make for dinner. Add more curry powder if you prefer it spicier, but this is a version my kids like, too. Serves 4

1 pound skinless hormone-free chicken breast, diced (or boil the whole to make your own broth and chicken in a crockpot the day before and chill to skim off fat)

2 tsp. olive oil

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 cup sliced baby carrots

2 scallions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 chicken bouillon cubes

6 cups water, divided

1-2 cups fresh or frozen spinach, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt to taste

1/4 tsp. black or cayenne pepper to taste

In a non-stick soup pot, sauté diced chicken in olive oil for five min. Add chopped celery and carrots for another couple of minutes. Add scallions, garlic, cumin and curry powder and sauté for another five minutes. Dissolve bouillon in 1 cup of hot water. Add bouillon and the rest of the water and bring to a boil. Add chopped spinach and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Season with S & P and serve.

NOTE: Try an Asian version using chicken bouillon, chicken, leeks, straw or baby portabella mushrooms, baby spinach, minced lemongrass, red chili sauce, and a dash of cayenne pepper!

Anya Wolfenden, M.A., is a Product Innovator for Nutraceutical Corp. Anya wrote regular columns for TW when she served as communications director for what is now Heritage Natural Market—www.heritagenaturalmarket.com—where these organic ingredients can be found.

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