My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

24 Oct 2017

Beta Carotene Blast Soup Recipe

October is one of my favorite months. The bounty of fall veggies, the colorful landscape, the pumpkins and squashes – and then of course, Halloween – have got my creative juices flowing with all the options for meals and décor.

Halloween is exponentially more fun with kids around, and kids are exactly the excuse I need to waste spend time re-purposing household objects into haunted house accessories.

I’m a little superstitious, so I tend to veer away from the terrifying, bloodied body parts and skulls and opt instead for the “this old house hasn’t been cleaned in decades look” evoked by spider webs, apothecary jars and fuzzy black crows.

And food takes on a whole new purpose. Strangely, pizza tastes better with huge gooey eyeballs all over it. It's super easy to make and is guaranteed to be gobbled up by my little goblins in minutes. This one was made with organic tomato sauce, mozzarella sliced in thin rounds, black olives and a sprinkling of dried basil. Sometimes I'll add a dab of pesto here and there for extra flavor.

Keeping with the monster eyeball theme, it wouldn't be Halloween around here without Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins with melted marshmallows and candy eyes. The recipe, adapted from My Whole Food Life, might be the only way I can get my kids to eat pumpkin or squash. You do what you have to do, right? 

The one exception is butternut - the prettiest, sweetest, most versatile of the winter squashes, at least in my view. On it's own in, over salad or in a soup, butternut squash is always welcome on our plates, and as temperatures cool and warming foods make their way into our daily menus, butternut squash soup becomes a staple.
When combined with sweet potatoes and carrots - literally the two best food sources of beta carotene - you get a blast of the powerful antioxidant. Half a cup of sweet potato provides 11,509μg, and the same amount of carrot gives you 6,499μg. A half cup of butternut squash provides 4,685μg... hence the name of this recipe, Beta Carotene Blast Soup. Beta carotene gives these beautiful fall veggies their bright orange color. Once it's in the body, the carotene is converted into vitamin A, an important nutrient that protects the skin and mucus membranes, and is especially important for eye health. 

Beta Carotene Blast Soup is an oldie - originally it's from the vegan cookbook I wrote almost two decades ago! - but still a goodie, with a few modifications.

Firstly, rather than chopping up the raw, tough-as-nails hard-shelled beast, I put the whole butternut squash in the slow cooker or oven to roast. It takes more time, but at least all my fingers are intact when it's ready to serve. As soon as it's soft enough, I'll poke a few holes in the shell to speed up the cooking process. 
Secondly, I've replaced almond or soy milk with coconut milk for a creamier texture. Sooooo gooooood. Plus, the extra fat from coconut oil helps the body absorb beta carotene.

Beta-Carotene Blast Soup

1⁄2 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
1⁄2 large (or 1 small) sweet potato, chopped
1⁄2 large (or 1 small) butternut squash, chopped (or roasted in the oven or slow cooker until tender)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups water, vegetable stock or bone broth (option: 2 cups water + 2 cups stock or bone broth)
1 can full fat coconut milk
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. sea salt
Cinnamon to serve

1.    In a large pot, boil the water or stock/broth on high heat.
2.    Add the carrots, sweet potato, squash, garlic, and onion. Cook until tender. (If the squash was pre-roasted, add it once the carrots and sweet potato have softened).
3.    Using a ladel, pour about 3 ladels-full of the vegetable mix with some of the stock into a blender. Add 1⁄2 can of coconut milk to the blender. Purée until well blended.
4.    Pour the contents of the blender into a separate bowl or pot and put aside.
5.    Continue this process with the rest of the vegetables and coconut milk until everything is blended and placed in the separate bowl. Some of the water/stock will remain in the cooking pot. You can use this as vegetable stock in another recipe.
6.    When all of the soup has been puréed, add the nutmeg, cloves and sea salt and stir well. 

Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon over each bowl just before serving. Serve warm.

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