homemade food

How to navigate food (and life) transitions

How to navigate food (and life) transitions

“How do you get your family to accept a real food diet when all they want are chicken nuggets?” “My kid is a picky eater. He eats cereal three times a day. What do I do?” “I want to eat ‘healthy’ but I crave a sugary snack every afternoon (and evening, if I’m honest)!”

The struggle is real! You are now convinced of the basics: that eating a healthy diet means eating more real, whole foods, and less of the food-like processed stuff that comes in packages! Bravo! But how do you go from the head to the heart (or should I say to the mouth)? 

It's all about kombucha

This is how I feel right now. It's all about kombucha. I am absolutely crazyabout it. It is my go-to drink. I have blogged about it from time to time and have gotten a fair number of friends hooked on it, too. It is not a drug (ha, ha) but rather a fizzy, tasty drink with health benefits (so I guess in some senses it acts like a drug)! Kombucha is a fermented drink, born from a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Its roots go back about 2000 years, but it is VERY 2016. You can buy it at a store in a glass 16-oz. container (at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and even Safeway), or you can try brewing your own at home! Here’s my attempt. I’m just starting out. Don't judge.

kombucha home
kombucha home

Last fall I had the privilege of meeting Hannah Crum, the "Kombucha Mamma," at the Wise Traditions conference in Anaheim, California. There, I got the chance to pick her brain to learn more about this alluring drink known as the "immortal health elixir!" She told me about its history, benefits, and how to get started making my own!

If you want to learn what all the hype is about, listen to this 30-minute interview, the Kombucha Craze. Or just go out and buy a bottle. Once you try it, you’ll understand why so many are raving about it. Still unsure about trying it? Check out some of its healing properties below!

K- Kicks cancer – Studies have shown that glucaric acid (found in kombucha) has cancer-fighting properties.

O – Oh, the weight you’ll lose! Kombucha speeds your metabolism and improves gut health.

M– Makes your immune system strong. It is rich in anti-oxidents which boost immune systems and help prevent colds, flus, etc.

B – Boosts your energy with enzymes and vitamins; brings balance to your gut's bacteria.

U – Unique nutrients such as acetic acid, enzymes, and polyphenols improve your body's functioning.

C– Cleanses and assists with detoxing the body, through gluconic acid and probiotics.

H – Helps the digestive system (populating your gut with needed probiotics).

A – Arthritis can be warded off and joint pain eased by the glucosamines in the drink.

So join the KOMBUCHA craze! And drink a toast to your health with this unusual but uber-beneficial all-natural fermented drink!

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Hilda Labrada Gore, a long-time DC resident, is an Integrative Nutrition health coach and fitness professional. She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast. Wise Traditions can be found on YouTube, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Google Play Music, tunein, and at westonaprice.org. Basically, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts!

Six step simple squash soup! (A yummy tongue-twister of a dish)

True confessions. I used to be intimidated by squash. Its shape is weird. I didn't know what it tasted like. I never ate it growing up. Then I bought some butternut squash soup at Whole Foods and I liked it. A lot. Then my friends made it. I liked it even more. Finally, my daughters made it. It was delectable. I finally decided to go for it myself, before my cat got into the act!

Step one. Grab the squash and stick it in the oven at 350°. That's it. No fuss, no muss.

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Step two: Let it cook long enough so that it looks mushy (about 20-30 min). Then peel it by hand.

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Step three: Sauté onions, peppers, carrots---whatever you have on hand, really---in butter or coconut oil or your favorite saturated fat. :)

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Step four: Add broth.

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Step five: Start cutting off chunks of the squash. Get rid of some of the stringiness in the middle (but set aside the seeds for toasting and enjoying at a later time, if you want).

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Step six: Toss the 3-4" chunks in the pot and blend it all up with a hand blender.

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That's all there is to it! Once you've got the basics down, you can spice it up (literally) with paprika, garlic powder, turmeric, coconut milk, whatever you like! But it's perfectly yummy this plain and simple way, as well!

Let me know if you give it a whirl! Here's to making intimidating vegetable-itis a thing of the past!

The inside scoop on wellness

Starting the Wise Traditions podcast has been an adventure. I knew I wanted to help spread the message of the benefits of whole, real, nutrient-dense foods. That, after all, is the mission of the Weston A. Price Foundation, the group sponsoring the podcast. Their goal is to educate the public about healthy traditions and the science behind the foods that have helped cultures survive and thrive through millennia. DSC_0006

What I didn’t bargain for was that I would be getting an education in the process, myself. I loved sitting down with the authors, doctors, scientists, farmers, etc., who came on the show. Each individual was well spoken, entertaining, and brilliant. I was getting something out of every single conversation.

And then it dawned on me—I wasn't just educating John Q. Public, out there “somewhere,” in the distance—I was, in fact, educating myself! Below are some of the truths I’ve gleaned, after months of sitting at the feet of top health and wellness experts. I consider these truths to be the “inside scoop” on wellness.

  1. Outset. I’m just at the outset; they are waaaay down the pike! Yup, I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Oh, I studied to be a health coach, and I am a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, all right. But these people have spent decades in their field (sometimes, yes, literally in a field!) so they have a really good idea of what’s best for our bodies, in theory and in practice.
  2. Opposing views. Even the experts say we shouldn’t trust the experts. Almost every guest on the show has urged me (and the listener) to keep seeking, keep reading, keep educating myself. (It was a farmer who gave me the longest list of recommended books!) I have taken their challenge seriously. In fact, I am purposely seeking out opposing views to those shared by my guests, to discover the truth, as best I can, for myself.
  3. Overwhelmed. Our bodies are overwhelmed. Incidences of cancer, chronic diseases, mental illness, and the like, are on the rise. (I didn’t need them to tell me this. I could see that for myself, just by reading the headlines.) What I did learn from them is that our world is increasingly toxic and that there are ways to help our bodies cope.
  4. Organic is best. Processed, artificial, man-made, imitation, preservative-laden foodstuffs (that pass for food in our supermarkets) are part of the toxic soup that our bodies cannot process. These foodstuffs are cheaper, but remember this: bargain foods are no bargain for our bodies. They mess with our physical and mental capabilities.

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  5. Opt out. Opting out of the commercial, big-box, packaged food industry is a great place to start. Each guest has emphasized the importance of turning toward a more, natural, real food diet. Avoid the chains (supermarket, fast food, restaurants) that literally encumber us. While you are still free to move, take steps off the regular food grid. Look for real food whenever possible. Connect with farmers. Learn to grow or, at least, cook your own food. It's critical for your health and the health of your loved ones.

Oh, the things I’ve learned! Have you been learning, too? Comment below so we can educate each other! I look forward to more great conversations, both on and off the air.

Foodie presents to give (or receive)

Do you have foodies in your life? Foodies are those who...1) you think are praying over the food, but who are in actuality bowing over it to get just the right angle for the picture they are taking 2) eat so clean the word "McDonalds" causes them to break out in hives 3) are more likely to know who the big-name farmers are than the name of Kanye and Kim's latest baby (It's Saint. I had to google it to find out, though.)

Yup, it takes one to know one. So as a self-identified foodie, here are few things that I think would be just peach-y under any foodies' Christmas tree next week!

Homemade jellies or jams - Always a winner! My husband made rhubarb jam a few weeks ago. It's not hard (he tells me)! If you don't want to go to the trouble, buy some fresh jellies and jams at a farmers market. As long as the label doesn't say "Welch's" and it's not from a huge supermarket chain,  it shouldn't offend your foodie's sensibilities. On the contrary, they should see the gift for what it is: a truly sweet gesture!

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Beeswax candles - Candles are so festive and perfect for this time of year! A lot of candles out there have artificial scents that are stressful for the body. Why not give your foodie a candle made from beeswax? Beeswax is 100% natural! Such candles can most certainly be bought at just about any farmers market or craft show. Brownie points if you can make the candle yourself!

Himalayan salt - You can get small containers of this beautiful pink salt to spice up your food. (I received some as a hostess gift once, and I thought it was just perfect.) Or you can get the bigger salt stones that are said to ionize the air and reduce the effects of pervasive EMFs and RFs (electro-magnetic frequencies and radio frequencies) from wifi, phones, etc. I've been thinking about getting some stones for years, but have yet to do so. (I hope Santa is reading this list!)

Homemade granola - Foodies need something to go with their yogurt and raw milk. Homemade granola makes a great snack on its own, too. Use organic ingredients and your foodie will be over the moon with delight. Make it the regular way or go old-school and soak the oats overnight before baking. It makes the granola easier to digest. (See my own recipe from some posts back). Put your granola in a mason jar and tie it up with a cute ribbon or homemade card...and voila: foodie heaven.

Homemade body scrub - A Christmas ago, my daughters and I whipped up wonderful batches of homemade body scrubs. The ingredients were simple--sugar, essential oils, cinnamon and vanilla. We put them in little mason jars and they were just lovely. It wasn't hard to do and it was really fun to give out such a sweet-smelling, natural, homemade present. And bonus: we even had enough left over to use ourselves. Whenever I showered, I felt like I was one giant cinnamon bun! (No wonder people followed me around when I got on the metro!)

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A membership to a farm-friendly organization or CSA (community-supported agriculture group) - There are lots of groups out there that provide healthy, local food and/or support organic farming. Subscribe your friend to a group that he/she knows about or one they may never have heard of before! The Weston A. Price Foundation is one. And there are certainly others. Find a group that your foodie loves and give to it in their name. If they get food from it, that's a bonus! If they don't, they'll love that you are spreading the "foodie love!"

That's it for now. Comment below if you decide to make one of the above or if find a good deal on one. I've got to get going on some of these ideas myself. I hope your foodie finds your gift just fabulous!

What nourishment can do in a world of terror, mass shootings, and suicide

With the latest headlines coursing through my mind, how could I possibly continue to merrily write posts about food and farmers and health? Am I just sticking my head in the sand (or in the fridge) when I write about such things, when chaos abounds in our world right now? I know of a young 16 year-old in Maryland who recently took her own life. There were mass shootings this past week in Georgia and California. And, in Paris, Nigeria, and too many countries to count, people are reeling from recent terrorist attacks. Many respond to the sadness and turmoil by calling for legislative change and stricter gun control laws, advocating for help for the mentally ill, and reaching out with thoughts and prayers. All of these reactions are fitting and appropriate (despite blog posts to the contrary). But how does nutrition fit into this scene? Is a health blog relevant at all? Is it simply entertainment? What part can nourishment play in this world of terror, mass shootings and suicide?

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I submit that it is part of the solution, not a sidebar, not a pleasant indulgent distraction nor a pie-in-the-sky hope.  I see promoting nourishment as a critical preventative piece of the puzzle.

When we are truly nourished, I mean, all the way deep down to our bones, we are content, satisfied, tranquil, peaceful. We can respond to aggravations and irritations around us with equanimity. We are less likely to be flustered, worried, anxious, and unhappy.

Notice that I said "less likely." Of course, I'm not suggesting that we will never be disgruntled or worried; I'm simply saying that true nourishment brings us a settled, grounded feeling most of the time. Think about the term "hangry." It comes from that irritated, agitated state that leads us to react poorly when we've gone too long between meals. You've been there. I've been there. We lash out at the slightest provocation; we feel "off" and on edge.

Now imagine a person feeling that way most of the time. (I'm not talking about the hungry in developing countries right now. Clearly, they are underfed and often malnourished, simply hungry and not "hangry." It is important to look for ways to make sure they are nourished, of course.) Right now, today, I'm addressing those here in the U.S., who are overfed and undernourished.

The person who is undernourished, is chronically "hangry," i.e. irritable, volatile, and more likely to be aggressive and dangerous. I'm not making this up. I heard an NPR program about a school in inner city Chicago that had major behavioral and discipline problems. They changed nothing but the food available at lunch time and behavioral issues diminished significantly.

Certainly nutrient-dense food can change our mood and disposition. But what about the person who is mentally unstable or depressed--can it help them, too? Studies have shown that a changed diet can be as effective as medication, if not more so. And, of course, nourishment of the spirit is as critical as nourishment for the body. Sharing a meal around a table meets our deepest needs for community and connection. Seeking help and hope from faith and friends goes far in giving us a sense of purpose and contentment.

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All this to say, we must pay attention not only to what is happening "out there" but to what is happening "in here," inside ourselves. How are we being nourished on the deepest levels? Are we being nourished on the deepest levels?

With all of the insanity swirling around us, let us not discount the role of nourishment--physical and spiritual--in addressing this world's turmoil, and our very own. The fix may be much closer to home than we realize. It may even be as close as our kitchen table.

 

 

5-minute, 3-ingredient, no-hassle apple "pie"

If you've got a hankering for apple pie and you'd like to avoid the hassle of a multi-step process that involves flour and sugar and a big mess in your kitchen, I've got a great fall recipe for you! The word "recipe" is actually overstating things a bit. This is the simplest, sweetest, tastiest thrown-together side or dessert ever! I just made this sweet apple treat for my family. My mom took one bite and said "Boy!" That means she liked it. A lot.

Here's all it takes. Start with three ingredients: apples, cinnamon, butter.

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Step one: Cut apples into wedges. IMG_5085

Step two: Sauté apples in butter. (Use butter liberally.) IMG_5086

Step 3: Sprinkle with cinnamon (again, liberally). IMG_5089

Step 4: Cook until apples are soft.IMG_5091

Step 5: Enjoy this warm, yummy fall apple pie-like treat! (Bonus: It's gluten-free!) IMG_5095

Help! I have a sweet tooth! A three-step plan for staving off that sugar craving

Okay, so you have a sweet tooth. No, actually, for you, it's more like you have sweet teeth. You are the girl in "Oklahoma" who can't say no, only your downfall is not a traveling salesman, but anything that appeals to that sugary taste bud. You simply can't resist one little taste of that ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin. (And, no, I am NOT referring to a four-in-one treat. Some of you were like, "What!? There is an ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin?! Must. find. it. NOW!") sweet tooth

First off, let me say that it's quite natural to like sweet stuff. All of us were born, hard-wired, if you will, with a predisposition for something sweet to eat. If a food was sweet, it meant 1) it wouldn't kill us, and 2) it would give us energy for day-to-day tasks. Unfortunately, we no longer have to hunt around for sweet stuff. To the contrary, now we are hunted (if not haunted) by it. And we can't seem to get away. So, how do we begin to curb that craving? Is there any way to nip it in the bud?

1. Log it (just for a day or two). The prospect of this may scare you, but it just might also scare you "straight." Challenge yourself to write down every morsel that goes in your mouth. In the margins, write down any time you feel a craving. Awareness is a great first step toward wellness. Looking at your patterns in black and white will help open your eyes to where you're at and what needs to change. I took a financial course that recommended a similar step: look at your bank statement...and don't blink. Take a good, hard look. It was an unhappy prospect at first, quite frankly, but knowing the unvarnished truth helped me get on course to a balanced budget. Same thing goes with diet!

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2. Look in your log for foods with added sugar (or all sugar). You probably know by now that sugar has many aliases in food products: corn syrup, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, etc. (Click on this link for more specifics.) Highlight those foods, and, again, look for patterns. Are you binging at night? Overdosing on muffins mid-afternoon? When are you ingesting the most sugar? And why?

3. Make a plan to replace one or two of the "regulars" that show up on your list. Don't tackle too much at once. See if you can spot one or two foods that don't necessarily hold huge appeal, but that you turn to because of the time of day or out of habit. Look to take out the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. (Speaking of fruit, it is a great substitute for a sickly, sticky-sweet sugar-laden dessert. Our family recently made one-ingredient ice cream with frozen ripe bananas. We just added a splash of vanilla extract. So technically it was two-ingredient ice cream, I guess. At any rate, it was a hit!)

Here are some more  "swap" suggestions to get you started: Swap soda for any of the following: coconut water (naturally sweet and rich in potassium), sparkly kombucha (for that fizz and probiotic benefit,too), seltzer with lime (fizz and zing). (Caution: diet soda is NOT a good substitute for regular soda! It's as bad as the "real thing." Diet soda is a chemical concoction only suitable for cleaning a carburetor. It negatively impacts your metabolism, throws a wrench in weight loss, and causes cell damage. See this article on more of its dangers from Prevention magazine.)

Diet or no, soda's gotta go!

Look for foods with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar. They at least have some nutritional benefit. Refined sugar has zero!

Swap sweet cereal for homemade granola or oatmeal. And, actually, I'd recommend homemade cookies, muffins, and the like, over store-bought, over-processed products anytime. They are bound to contain less sugar, and at least you can control how much goes in (and what kind).

Any other ideas? Anyone with a sweet tooth (or teeth) please chime in! Let's help each other out with tips on what to swap out!

 

 

 

Sweeeeet sweet potato fries

Spring has sprung and summer's just around the corner. If you're like my family, this time of year, you love your burgers on the grill, with a side of fries (homemade, of course)! A small "upgrade" on this classic combo is to make sweet potato fries instead of regular ones. I often order these when I eat out but had never tried to make them at home--until now. I'm glad I did! Sweet potatoes are delicious and nutritious. They have beta-carotene that gives them their lovely deep orange color and also helps fight cancer-causing free radicals. They also give our bodies vitamins A, D, C, and E. They even have antioxidants! It's clear that they pack a powerful nutrition punch! (See this article, from a recent LA Times column, for a more complete list of their benefits. And this one from livescience.com)

I'm sure you don't need any more convincing (especially if you've ever tasted sweet potato  fries). Without further ado, here's the step-by-step recipe for making these sweeeet fries. (They are based on a Paula Deen recipe that I found and tweaked to make my own.)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and cut your potatoes into fry-like strips.

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2. Toss your fries in a large bowl to coat them with olive oil. I used beef tallow. (It's a healthy saturated fat. Really!)

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3. Line the potatoes up, making sure they're not too crowded on the baking trays. Sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, salt, and pepper.

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4. Finally, bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes and you're all set!

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Some of ours got a little black around the edges, but we didn't mind.

It made them all the crispier! Let me know how yours turn out!serving suggestion serving suggestion

Homemade granola from soaked oats, like nothing you've ever had before

The cinnamon smell wafts through my home and wraps around my heart. It's cold outside, but I have this warm, heavenly scent filling up every nook and cranny of my place. And all is right with the world. I'm making granola. But it's not the crunchy kind they sell in boxes and bags at the store. It's soft and melts in your mouth like a fresh-from-the-oven oatmeal cookie. There's nothing like it! photo-92

I laugh when I realize I'm raving about something that once held little allure for me. I never touched the stuff till I started including yogurt in my diet. I wanted to help make the yogurt more palatable and granola gave it just the right crunch. At first, I bought any old granola from a box at the grocery store. Then I got hooked on Michele's brand from Whole Foods. It was yummy and it was a bonus that it was made locally with organic ingredients. Winning…except for the big price per tiny bag: $5.99.

Then my voice teacher told me that she made granola from scratch. Time for me to "upgrade" yet again. She gave me her recipe and I decided to give it a try. Wow! I loved it. It was tasty, crunchy, and much more fresh and satisfying than the Michele's brand. I became a fan.

But my latest granola iteration (and the one I want to introduce today) is one that my daughter recommended. (Yes, this is what happens when your kids get older---they start leading you!) It's a recipe that calls for soaking the oats beforehand.

Soaking?! What!? Why? It turns out that that many grains have phytic acids that can make them difficult to digest. Once inside us, phytic acid can bind with minerals in our body and block their absorption. Eating oats or grains that haven't been soaked can strain our whole digestive system leading to allergic reactions, indigestion, and various illnesses.

To be honest, at first, soaking the oats seemed like one more step that I didn't want to add to my granola-making process. But my daughter did it the first time around, and that's when I realized 1) that delegating is fun and 2) that soaking isn't as onerous as I thought.

Below is the recipe that results in amazing (and soft) granola, which is also guaranteed to be easier on your insides, making it a joyful indulgence.

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Ingredients for soaking (easy as 1, 2, 3): 1 can organic coconut milk 1 cup coconut oil 2 cups filtered water 4 Tablespoons organic raw apple cider vinegar 5-7 cups rolled organic oats

1. Mix the coconut milk, oil, water and apple cider vinegar over medium heat. photo 1

2. Pour over the rolled oats. photo 3

3. Cover and let soak 12-24 hours.

photo 3 That's it for the soaking! In the morning, add:photo 2 1 cup organic honey or maple syrup 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon

photo 2Then, lightly butter 2 cookie sheets (or use parchment paper instead). Spread the oats over the 2 pans. Bake at 170° for 4-6 hours, turning the granola every 2 hours. (Don’t raise the temperature in an attempt to speed up the process. It’s important to keep the heat low.) Let cool for one hour. This makes the granola a little more “clumpy.”

Once the process is done, make this granola your own by adding nuts and raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, etc. To reiterate, this recipe will result in a softer granola, compared to what you'd find in a  supermarket. But, hey, if you wanted that, you wouldn’t have read this far, right? photo 3 Happy baking…and eating!

Soup's on: three easy peasy steps for making a winter favorite

I know why Andy Warhol used cans of Campbell's tomato soup for his pop art. It is a classic that most of us grew up on. To be honest, as a kid I thought that buying soup from the store was the only way to make it. soup

Step one: Open can.

Step two: Dump contents into pot. (Note: contents often were still in the shape of the can.)

Step three: Add water.

Step four: Heat soup.

As I grew up, my taste became more sophisticated. I started to buy Progresso soup. (No need to add water!) Then I switched to soups in boxes that had the word "organic" emblazoned on them. I felt so virtuous and smart but I was no closer to making my own soup. Then I noticed one day that the Pennsylvania farm that delivered in my area offered chicken stock. (Click here if you want to know the difference between stock and broth.) A friend of mine said that this farm's stock was like gold---chock-full of collagen, fats, minerals and important nutrients.

 

Me on farm delivery day!

So I was psyched. There's been a lot of hype about bone broth lately and I understand why. On top of being deeply nourishing and delicious, it helps fight colds, boosts the immune system, eases achy joints and leads to glowing skin and contributes to            vibrant health.

This "gold" stock would be the base for my homemade soup, instead of chicken bouillon cubes or the thin fat-free watery broth that is sold in grocery stores. Now I had to roll up my sleeves and get cooking. Little did I realize how simple it would be!

 

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Step one: Chop up whatever veggies you happen to have on hand. I've used kale, onions, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, what have you.

Step two: Toss them in the broth and simmer.

Step three: Add spices (or meats) to suit your taste on any given night. For a southwestern meal, like chicken tortilla soup, I add chicken, salsa, and paprika for a kick. (Right before serving, we add chips, avocado, and shredded cheese.) For an eastern-inspired Thai-like dish, I add chicken, coconut milk and lime or lemon juice.

We have been drinking soup this winter like there's no tomorrow. I want to keep plying us with the good stuff, so when my family tires of soups, I use the stock (in place of water) when I make rice, or I use it as a base for chili.

The finished product last week: Chicken tortilla soup a la Hilda!

I am not there yet. My goal is to make stock from the chicken itself. (If you're ready to make your own stock, check out Sally Fallon's recipe from The Nourishing Traditions cookbook!) If you've done it already, tell me all about it. Let's spur each other on in making tasty soups this winter and nourishing our families to the best of our abilities!