NEW RECIPE! Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup

Fresh in-season carrots are so sweet and delicious.
Don’t be afraid of leeks. They are awesome.

I picked up my CSA box yesterday that contained two fresh leeks and a bunch of carrots.  Because it’s late August, my immediate thought was “I’ve got to make some soup!”.  There was a time when I was petrified of leeks.  Like, I had absolutely no idea how to use them or prepare them.  I found myself intimidated.  But I decided several years ago to just get over myself and once I went leek, I never went back.  So, I got home from the farmer’s market, found a bag of potatoes in the pantry, and got to work. It was lunchtime and we were hungry so I didn’t stop to snap photos.  Trust me, though, this is a soup you’ll want to make over and over again.  Note: When leeks are unavailable, substitute any mild sweet onion such as Vidalia.

This soup is hearty without being overly heavy.  It smells fantastic while cooking. My husband, who was outside doing yard work, kept catching whiffs of it as he walked by the back door and couldn’t resist asking for a sample before it was done. You will find yourself making this a go-to soup all fall and winter long.


  • 2-3 Tablespooons butter (or olive oil if you want a vegan soup)
  • 2 large leeks, washed well and chopped, white and light green parts
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (I prefer using Better Than Bouillon)
  • 6 large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (I leave mine unpeeled, and you can use essentially any kind.  Russets might get mushy if you care about that kind of thing.)
  • 8 carrots, chopped (again, I wash mine well and leave unpeeled)
  • 1 squash, any size, quartered (you can omit this, but I happen to have a lot from the CSA box to use)
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt, depending on the salt content of your broth/bouillon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • Pepper to desired taste (generally 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)
  • Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  When the pot is nice and hot, cook leeks and celery until softened, about 5 minutes.  Make sure not to burn the vegetables.
  • Add the broth, potatoes, carrots, squash,  garlic, salt (if desired) and bay leaf
  • Bring the soup to a boil and cook until potatoes and carrots are fork-soft (about 20 minutes).  Remove bay leaf.
  • Using an immersion blender, blend soup in short bursts until you have a mixture of smooth and chunky soup.  If you prefer totally creamy soup, use the blender until everything is combined.  We prefer more of a “stew” consistency.  (If you don’t have an immersion blender, a counter top blender would also work.)
  • Return the soup to the burner and simmer on low another 20 minutes or so to let the flavors come together completely.

This soup makes fantastic leftovers.  The soup with thicken the longer it sits.  If you want a thinner soup, just add some water or other liquid when you reheat.

Run, jog, slog

Last night, after dinner, I admitted that I had put off my training run all day.  I had gotten caught up in fun summer activities with my 10 year old and her friend. So, instead of putting on my pajamas and sitting on the couch with my husband for an episode of Orange Is The New Black, I had to put on my running clothes and get out there.  The positives: it was a nice, cool night.  There’s a beautiful lake nearby. I would be inspired by everyone else who would inevitably also be out there running.  The negatives: RUNNING.   I’m not a natural runner.  Even at my most fit, as a high school athlete, I hated running.  I do it now because it keeps me challenged. I love that even after months of not running, I can revisit it anytime I want. It’s free.  It’s empowering. I’m never alone out there.

Three years ago I heard about a new race series called Esprit De She.  It’s a series just for women and it’s open to ALL women, runners, joggers, sloggers and walkers alike.  I say that I run but really it’s a mix between jogging and slogging.  It’s not pretty and it’s not fast. Anyway, I became a “founding finisher” of the two races in my area that summer, and I haven’t missed one since.  In fact, this year they made me an Ambassador because of my enthusiasm for this race.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a good portion of my enthusiasm comes from the free wine and dinner provided after each race.

esprit de she 4
You get two free glasses of wine and a keepsake glass after each race!

Also there is so much swag it’s insane.  I love all the samples. I love the cute tank I get every year.  I’m serious, but also I really love that it’s such an empowering event for women.  I see ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and ability out there, and they are all proud of their accomplishments.  They are smiling and hugging and high-fiving each other.  It gives me all the feelings.

 I’ve made brand new running friends at the Esprit de She events, and I’ve brought along lots of good pals too.

Esprit de she 8
Good friends sweat together.
esprit de she 2
One of these ladies is a good friend and one is a brand new one! Yay for friends.

I love that I’m showing my 10 year old daughter that I care about staying healthy, engaged in the community, and that friendships are important.

esprit de she 7

Esprit de She events are held all over the country.  And they really are so much fun.  Click on the link if you want to find one near you.  If you want a discount of 10% you can enter my code which is EDS074.  If you haven’t run or it’s been a long time and you need some structure and a training schedule, I really like Hal Higdon’s plans. They are easy to follow and will help you stay motivated.

Badge_200X200 copy

If you are in the Twin Cities area, please let me know that you are registered and we will meet up and start together! And have a glass of wine after! There is a Maple Grove race on September 17! 

Whatever you choose to do, I guess I would just like to say GET OUT THERE.  STAY ACTIVE. FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE.  MAKE TIME FOR IT. As someone once said to me, “You don’t have to exercise, you get to exercise”.  And they were right.

Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps For Back To School

peanut butter banana tortilla
Peanut butter, bananas and granola wrapped in a whole grain tortilla

Now that it’s back-to-school time, I have received several requests from friends for easy after school snack ideas.  I’ll admit, sometimes we just go with a Kind bar or a Lara bar (both options have less sugar and minimally processed ingredients).  But many times it’s apples and peanut butter, guacamole and whole grain tortilla chips, a whole wheat pita with some olive oil, a piece of fruit, or some fresh veggies.  Sometimes I get creative and try new things.  The after school snack is a great time to try new ideas with your kids, because they tend to be ravenous when they come home from school and more willing to try new foods!

One of my daughter’s favorite easy but delicious snacks is a whole grain tortilla filled with banana and peanut butter.  You could also add granola in there for added “heft”, especially when using this as a breakfast or lunch idea.  These wraps travel really well, so put them in your kids’ lunch boxes, and bring them along for when you need a quick dinner between activities.  There’s great protein and healthy fats in the peanut butter.  The banana is full of potassium and fiber (you could also use apples in here).  The granola has a nice crunch, especially if it’s homemade and/or one that isn’t crammed with sugar (I really love the Purely Elizabeth brand).

Keep an eye here for more healthy snack ideas. If you have any recipes for snacks your kids like, please comment and share below!

Rosemary Infused Simple Syrup

Rosemary infused simple syrup, gin, and seltzer water. Simple and refreshing.

In my world, the one in which I try really hard to eat healthy foods most of the time, I also leave room for decadence. Right now I’m sort of obsessed with cocktails. I’m not talking Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas (although they serve a very important purpose in very specific situations, let me get back to you on that). I’m talking about well made cocktails using high quality ingredients. Last weekend I posted a recipe for the Blueberry Balsamic Liqueur I made.  Sunday night I was lucky enough to try something called a Berry Patch which included blueberries, gin, lemon juice, and rosemary-infused simple syrup.  My favorite part of the cocktail was the rosemary flavor.  I got excited because I had leftover simple syrup from the blueberry concoction and I also had rosemary in the freezer that I harvested from the garden last fall.

It’s so easy.


  1. Take about five springs per cup of simple syrup and simmer both in a small saucepan on the stove for about 5-10 minutes, watching carefully that it doesn’t boil or scald.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Strain out the rosemary sprigs and pour the syrup into a clean jar.  It should last about a month or so in the fridge.

Wondering how to make simple syrup in the first place?

  1. Take equal parts of sugar and water and combine in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes.
  4. Pour syrup into a container to cool.  Store in a jar in the refrigerator.


Japanese Meatballs — Review and Recipe

meatballs and sauce

As you might already know, I’ve committed to cooking my way through Gwyneth Paltrow’s newest cookbook It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. This, by the way, is a huge statement.  These recipes will make me LOOK GOOD?  AND FEEL GREAT!? I feel like I should take before and after photos or something.

We last made Vegetable Potstickers that were a huge hit.  We ate those up very quickly.  To summarize the experience: they weren’t super difficult to make (although they weren’t easy either) but were very messy.  I was looking forward to making the Japanese Meatballs because they looked much easier and less messy to make.  Plus we like meatballs.

With some help from my blog readers, I decided that I am allowed to make substitutions to recipes as I see fit.  My good friend Becky pointed out that I was actually doing my readers a service by suggesting substitutions and tweaks that other busy people might also appreciate.  Take, for instance, the Chinese Five Spice Powder called for in the dipping sauce.  I really dislike the taste of this particular spice blend.  My sister in law told me that she hadn’t ever heard of it and could I please recommend something different.  I’m thinking that a lot of other people probably don’t have it on hand.  So, I made the Hoisin Sauce without the spice powder thinking that I could taste it and add something back if I thought it needed it.  Turns out the Hoisin Sauce tasted phenomenal without it.  So, there you go. Another substitution came in the form of using turkey rather than chicken, because the grocer was out of ground chicken.

Here’s the recipe, adapted:


1 lb ground turkey or chicken (or beef or lamb or any combo you prefer)

1/2 teaspoon salt (I like sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon pepper (Gwyn would say freshly ground, I say use whatever)

1 garlic clove or more if you love garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder or 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium if possible)

2 teaspoons real maple syrup

meatball spices
Look at these beautiful spices and ingredients.


Mix all ingredients in a bowl with your hands and form into small balls.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes but keep an eye on them.

Hoisin Sauce (recipe below)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup miso paste

1/4 cup real maple syrup

2 tablespoons rice vinegar


Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk to combine.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly for a couple of minutes.  Let cool and serve.

A couple of notes about the meatballs: there are no bread crumbs in there.  Gwyneth is gluten-free (of course she is.  I mean, obviously) So when you are shaping them they have a very soft, sticky, almost doughy consistency.  See?

uncooked meatballs
Uncooked meatballs

Not to worry, they bake up very nicely.  The recipe states you can bake, pan fry, grill or however-you-want these meatballs but gave no directions for any cooking, so I looked it up and decided I’d bake mine at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Check every few minutes to make sure they aren’t being overcooked. 

The result was that my family really enjoyed them, the sauce was my favorite part (visually, it isn’t beautiful — My daughter and I thought it looked like apple sauce, and my husband assumed it was a peanut sauce). I would definitely make these again and double or triple the recipe for freezing.

Stay tuned for the next recipe!

Weekend Cocktails–the Blueberry Balsamic Liqueur is ready! 

I pulled out the Blueberry Balsamic Liqueur that’s been brewing/marinating/getting delicious in my cabinet for the last week. The directions said it should smell strongly of blueberries. And it did. So, I strained it through a mesh sieve and promptly tasted a bit. It was heavenly. I patiently waited until evening to settle in with a proper cocktail. A bit of the liqueur and some tonic with a few fresh blueberries thrown in for health reasons (antioxidants).

The verdict is that it’s totally fresh and delicious and would taste amazing in mojitos, lemonade, or with simple club soda and muddled oranges. Click the link above for the recipe!



The Japanese have a word that describes time spent in nature — it roughly translates to the phrase “forest bathing”.   It essentially encapsulates fully immersing yourself in the experience of being in nature.  You are “bathing” in the trees, the branches, the leaves, the sounds, the smells.  It might sound completely woo-woo but hold on a second — there is really something to it.

My favorite place to walk my dog Sammy. It’s right in the city and I can feel myself relax when I’m there.

Back in the 1980’s a neurobiology researcher named Robert Ulrich discovered that when hospital rooms had a view of nature, the patients healed faster than those that didn’t. Newer research has found a link between walking in natural settings and less depression and anxiety.  Not to mention we all know being outside and walking helps us stay active and fit.  Adding a natural component means we can also reduce our stress levels (which can lead to further health benefits).

A new program called ParkRx is seeing pediatricians and other physicians literally prescribing time in nature to their patients who are sedentary, obese or overweight and suffering from the repercussions, like asthma.  As one doctor said “Park Rx, therefore, serves two purposes: (1) to help create a healthier, happier society, and (2) to preserve and create more natural places through our next generation of environmental stewards, conservationists, and activists.  Giving children time in Nature to explore, especially through unstructured play, is essential to their overall development and well-being.”  I would add that giving ANYONE time in nature is essential to our well-being.

The photo above shows my daughter and her pals at the end of a two week horse camp. She comes home each day filthy and exhausted but so happy.

I have a friend who works for the USDA Forest Service in Arizona and he literally sleeps under the stars many nights.  His job is building trails and directing a team of employees and volunteers.  His Instagram account is stunning, and I can feel myself physically relax at just the sight of his photos.  It is such an amazing thing to see how being outside in the elements day after day contributes to his health and happiness.

Sunset at Camp
One of my friend Andy’s stunning shots of his adventures on the trail. This one is called Sunset at Camp.

So, if you are trying to add some healthy habits to your lifestyle, I would strongly suggest starting by finding time to be in nature several times a week.  If you are starting at no times a week, try just adding one or two.  If you are in an urban environment, find a tree.  Any tree.  Pay attention to how doing this makes you feel.  Do you breathe more deeply?  Do your shoulders become unhunched?  Can you feel your heart rate slow down? Take advantage of this totally free health benefit, and encourage your children to do the same.

Until next time!

Japanese Chicken Meatballs Are Coming Your Way!


See the photo above?  That’s the wishful thinking version of how I envision my meatball will turn out.  As we witnessed with the Veggie Dumplings, my reality wasn’t really on par with the beautiful photo I wishfully posted.  That’s ok though, because they were still really tasty.

We are moving on to the second choice winner in the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook IT’S ALL GOOD, which you might remember is the Japanese Chicken Meatballs.  These seem quite easy to make.  They were featured in “The Kids’ Menu” section.  There’s a hoisin sauce to serve on the side which includes miso paste.  Weirdly, I found some in my fridge from the time I decided I was going to make homemade miso soup and never did.  So, we will have to ascertain if that container will give us botulism or if I need to purchase a new one. Other than the ground chicken and the possibly the miso, I’m super excited to announce that I have all the ingredients for this recipe!  The ingredients include pantry staples like garlic, sea salt, ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup and Chinese five spice powder.  The last one is tripping me up a bit because I have used it before and am not a huge fan of the taste.  I’m wondering as I cook my way through the cook book if I should be allowed substitutions based on my family’s personal preference, or if I really should follow it to a “t”.  What are your thoughts?

One last thought of the night, which has literally nothing to do with meatballs or Gwyneth Paltrow (that I can reliably confirm anyway):  OLESTRA.  Remember Olestra?  It was that super creepy calorie-free fat substitute that was featured in all those potato chips and snacks back in the late 1990’s/early aughts?  It was supposed to be this super awesome ingredient that would allow us to eat snack food guilt-free?  That was until weird things started happening to people’s digestive systems .

tummy ache

I wonder when we will stop looking to quick fixes and magical products to allow us to continue to eat junk food and just realize that maybe we need to cut back on the junk food. I love chips and fries and crackers.  I really do.  But if I’m going to eat them I’m going to eat the real version, and I am going to moderate my intake.  I know they aren’t good for me and that they have no nutritional value (except I did tell a friend today her potato chips had a ton of potassium in them, which is actually true, so there. For more on why potato chips are not super villains, check out this link). I don’t believe every single thing we eat has to be virtuous.  Let’s just aim to do 80% virtuous and 20% whatever we want.  But if you are at 30%/70% I would say you can start slowly by trying to achieve 50/50.  And then 60/40, and so on.  Small changes beget bigger changes.

I will post my Japanese Chicken Meatball recipe as soon as it’s tested!  Until then!


Liebster Award

Being a blogger for such a short time, I was thrilled to be nominated today for a Liebster Award! What a fun surprise.

Thank you Jan Baillargeon of Loved And Nourished for the nomination! I really have enjoyed reading your blog and seeing all the adorable photos of your baby girl, the wonderful meals you prepare, and the love you have for your family.

A Liebster Award is an online award originally given by more established bloggers to bloggers with less than 200 followers who post worthy, quality material. If the blogger accepts the award, s/he then nominates a few more favorite bloggers waiting for their awesome stuff to be “found” and thus the chain continues. Click here for a  description of the Liebster Award and what goes into accepting it, nominating others, and keeping the awards flowing to others.

The Rules
1. Thank the Nominator.

2. Display the award.

3. Nominate 10 more bloggers with 10 new questions.

4. Answer the questions provided by the Nominator.

5. Notify the Nominees.

10 Questions Answered

What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

I really am passionate about helping other people realize that they don’t have to be perfect in order to be well.  There’s room for treats and indulgences and mistakes.  I am passionate about meeting each person exactly where they are. And I want to get people excited about health and wellness.

What’s your favorite blog post you ever wrote? (link it here)

It definitely is the Vegetables Schmegetables post.  It really illustrates how even with the best of intentions, kids of nutrition and wellness enthusiasts still give up their veggies sometimes. I am far from perfect.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Be your authentic self.

What’s your favorite smell?

Pine trees in winter.  Followed closely by a fire in the fireplace.

What is your best advice for a new blogger?

Don’t try to be anyone else.  Write with your authentic voice.  Pick topics you are enthusiastic about.  There will always be someone who shares your enthusiasm.

What are three things still left on your bucket list?

Skydiving, attending a Presidential swearing-in, running a 10k

What is your favorite meal of the day?

Dinner.  It’s when my family is gathered together after a long day.

If you could give your 18 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?


What are three words your best friend would use to describe you?

Funny, resourceful, kind.

What is your favorite memory of this past year?

Showing my daughter I could overcome my fear of waterskiing.

10 Questions for Nominees

  1. What is the inspiration behind your blog?
  2. What’s your favorite thing to eat/favorite recipe?
  3. What would you tell your high school self?
  4. What do you hope to achieve with your blog?
  5. Where is your favorite place to visit?
  6. If you could do one thing over in your life, what would it be?
  7. What is your favorite sport/activity to participate in?
  8. What movie could you watch over and over again?
  9. What are the 3 things you hope to accomplish this year?
  10. What wisdom can you share with brand new bloggers?

Here are the blogs I’ve chosen as Nominees (in alphabetical order)

Bananas Over Nutrition

Cooking Without Limits

Food Is Life

Get Your ‘Tox Off

Homemade Health

Legumes and Layettes

Mod Nutrition

Organic Baby Roots

Swift Fit Kitchen

Zag Bites

Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Quinoa salad

Ok, so last night we were lucky enough to be invited to a private event at the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis which included the coolest theater experience we’ve ever had (a fully immersive and interactive performance of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) followed by a traditional lobster boil by Smack Shack.  It was amazing.

I woke up this morning feeling like I wanted to eat a bit lighter, and I had some leftover cooked quinoa and tofu from the Veggie Dumplings we made yesterday so I decided I’d make a salad for my family to have for lunch today.  I wanted something light and easy.  I had some fresh green onions and cucumbers from the farmer’s market in the fridge and peas in the freezer.  I always have garlic powder, salt and pepper, so those were no-brainers.  Below is the recipe I created, which is totally vegan.  It’s easy to sub out the tofu for another protein of your choice: beans, feta cheese, even shredded chicken.  

Quinoa super up close


Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa (I like adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to mine when cooking)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • course sea salt and pepper to taste


  • Mix everything together (think you can manage?)

This would be an easy salad to double the recipe and keep it around for lunches and side dishes all week.