How do chefs make the best of winter? For me, shorter days and colder nights mean warm, creamy soups. This week’s recipe makeover of the Food Network’s Potato-Leek Soup with Bacon uses better-for-you local and seasonal ingredients like onions, garlic and cumin that not only taste great, but also boost your immune system — perfect for cold and flu season.
- Swap the butter and bacon grease — both high in saturated fat — for organic extra-virgin olive oil, organic extra-virgin coconut oil or organic ghee from grass-fed cows. Cultures around the world use these culinary heavyweightsfor their beautifying and health-giving properties (think radiant skin, slim waistline and strong immune system).(If eliminating bacon from a recipe feels sacreligious, consider using nitrate-free bacon from pasture-raised pigs. Love that buttery taste? Look for butter made from the raw milk of grass-fed cows. Our second choice? Organic butter.
- Add a teaspoon of organic ground cumin while the onions and leeks are cooking to bring some spice to the sweeter flavors of the sweet potatoes. Cumin is a particularly useful spice at this time of year as it helps fight viral infections like the common cold.
- Replace processed croutons made with all-purpose white flour variety for whole wheat croutons (recipe follows).
- Add flavor and avoid additives by choosing organic, sodium-free or low-sodium chicken stock. Up for making your own? See our simple recipe below.
- Increase your antioxidants (and boost flavor) with organic sweet potatoes from your local farmer’s market in lieu of conventional russet potatoes. A super food, sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition that are filling and won’t derail your post-holiday weight loss goals.
- Substitute mineral-rich and toxin-free Himalayan crystal salt or Real Salt from Utah for Kosher salt. Both are pink-hued, unrefined salts harvested from ancient salt deposits.
- Boost your metabolism and add some extra heat with organic cayenne pepper instead of ground black pepper.
- Replace regular heavy cream with organic heavy cream from grass-fed cows not injected with antibiotics or hormones. Check out Eat Wild and Local Harvest’s websites to find organic dairy from pasture-raised cows in your area. If you’re allergic to cow’s milk, replace with organic unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk.
For a vegan-friendly version of this recipe, follow the directions above, then make the following additional changes: substitute organic vegetable stock for the chicken stock and use organic unsweetened coconut milk instead of heavy cream.
To Make Whole Wheat Croutons:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Slice organic whole grain bread into crouton-size cubes .
- Spread the cubes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and dry in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until dry and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool until ready to use.
To Make Your Own Chicken Stock:
- In a large pot, place 1 (3-lb) chicken, 2 carrots (peeled and chopped in a large dice), 2 stalks celery, 1 yellow onion (peeled and quartered), 1 bay leaf, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 sprigs fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns in a large pot.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, skimming the foam.
- Strain the entire contents through a colander and discard the solids.
Lisa Roberts-Lehan is a freelance writer, holistic chef, and nutritional counselor based in New York City. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she loves nothing more than being in the kitchen and developing new recipes. Her work has been featured in Brad Lamm’s JUST 10 LBS, Erika Lenkert and Brook Alpert’s Healthy Nutritious Pregnancy, as well as AOL, Fox Latino, Plum TV, SOBeFiT magazine and McFadden Performing Arts publications.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto