Healthy Potato Leek Soup

The inspiration for my Potato Leek Soup came from my dear friend Kelly, a 10 time Ironman and 2 time 50 mile endurance runner.  This courageous woman is battling leukemia for the second time.  While undergoing chemotherapy, Kelly requested potato leek soup made without cream for lunch.

The potato leek soup also served as a nutritious and tasty breakfast prior to a long run or trail race, where I am running anywhere from 3 to over 6 hours. Chicken Rice Soup and Potato Leek Soup are now my two favorite early morning meals to help fuel my long workouts.  Both also provide potassium.  I usually consume half a bagel or some oatmeal in addition to the soup.  Some races offer broth on the course or soup at the end of the race.  At the finish of this weekend’s trail race, I grabbed warm soup and chased it down with low-fat chocolate milk.  Since I often cannot tolerate solid food immediately after an endurance event, I find that calories in liquid form are the easiest way to get nutrition down.  I personally prefer real food over “recovery” drinks.  Remember, it’s important to consume calories within 20 minutes of your workout.

Leeks belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables which includes garlic and onions and contain many of the same beneficial compounds.   For more information on the nutritional value of leeks, check out this article:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26

Serving size: 8

Equipment:  Hand held immersion blender or regular blender

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large leeks or 4 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and diced
  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 7+ cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder (for Kelly, I reduced or omitted this)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté the leeks in olive oil for 8 minutes until the leeks are softened but not brown.

Add chopped garlic, thyme, potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  If using a hand held immersion blender, puree soup until smooth with no lumps.  Be careful.  The soup will be very hot.  If using a regular blend, allow soup to cool down before pouring into blender.  Once in the blender, puree soup in small batches, using a towel to cover the lid in case the hot mixture escapes.

Add additional broth to obtain the desired consistency.  I prefer it to be a little creamy and loose enough to drink out of a mug.

Stir in chili powder and salt to taste.  It’s important to add a bit at a time and keep tasting.  You can always add more but you can’t take it back out.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or croutons.  Add additional broth to soup if it becomes too thick when re-heating.

Use the white and pale green parts of the leek.  Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers.  I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer.  Then slice.
Use the white and pale green parts of the leek. Cut the stalk in half length-wise and rise out the layers. I prefer to remove the outer tougher layer. Then slice.

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When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.
When re-heating, you can add additional broth to thin out the soup if it gets too thick.

Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes

A couple of my Ironman training partners are on a vegan diet.  Both maintain a busy schedule working full-time while training 6 days a week.  This doesn’t leave much time to prepare healthy vegan meals.  One hired a nutritionist to cook meals for her while the other is a single bachelor.  I created My Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes for them.  It’s a healthy, carbo-loaded recipe that is quick and easy to prepare.

A single serving of this dish contains a cup of broccoli, one of the super-foods.  Broccoli is low in calories and rich in nutrients including protein.  Broccoli also contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, which scientists believe may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The broccoli is cooked for only a couple minutes.  Experts recommend that broccoli be cooked for only 2-3 minutes and remain crunchy in order to retain its health benefits.

For more information on broccoli, check out this article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011112501.htm

 Serving size: 2

 Ingredients:

  • 1 small garlic clove or ½ large garlic clove
  • 1 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta (or gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, plus more if desired
  • ½ cup pasta water
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese freshly grated (optional and may be omitted for a non-dairy diet)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice off enough of the top of the garlic clove to expose the cloves.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.  Roast for 25 minutes.

While the garlic is roasting, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and then add pasta.  Cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.  Uncooked spaghetti, about the diameter of a quarter when held together between your thumb and index finger, should yield about a cup of cooked spaghetti.

In small sauté pan, sauté mushrooms in 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Saute for about 5 minutes until mushrooms are lightly brown.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked peppercorns.

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Boil or steam broccoli for 1 minute.  Discard the water in the pot used to boil or steam the broccoli.  Return cooked broccoli to the empty pot.

Once the garlic is roasted, peel each garlic clove by removing the outer most cloves first.  Then cut the tip of the skin off the top of each clove.  The roasted garlic clove should now be easy to remove.

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Course chop the garlic gloves and add to the broccoli.  Then add mushrooms, red chili pepper flakes and olive oil.  Saute over medium heat, for approximately 1 minute, mashing the garlic into the broccoli and mushrooms.

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Add the pasta and reserved pasta water.  Season with salt and freshly cracked peppercorns and toss for 1 more minute.

Place in individual serving bowls and add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese before serving.  Sprinkling a pinch of red chili pepper flakes on top makes a nice presentation.

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Salmon Nicoise Salad for Two

This attractive salad is packed with a lot of heart healthy ingredients and requires very little cooking time.   Salmon and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can boost heart health, lower triglycerides and may help with rheumatoid arthritis and depression.  Olives and olive oil can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, maintain levels of HDL “good” cholesterol and protect against heart disease.  Avocados are also heart-healthy, a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins C, K, folate and B6.

This salad is very easy to prepare and the ingredients can be exchanged depending on what you are in the mood for.  Any variety of tomatoes can be used.  The avocado can be replaced with blanched string beans.   For more complex carbohydrates, small boiled potatoes can be added.

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces Salmon (I prefer wild sockeye salmon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard*
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce*
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced and fanned
  • skinless and boneless smoked sardines*
  • sliced heirloom tomatoes, or grape tomatoes cut in half or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • balsamic vinegar*
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 boiled eggs, sliced
  • lettuce or kale
  • 1 cup olives
  • roasted red peppers (optional)
  • green beans, blanched (optional)
  • boiled baby potatoes cut in half (optional)

* NOTE: If you are a gluten-free diet, ensure that the ingredients you are using are gluten-free.

Directions:

 Preheat oven’s broiler.

Whisk together Dijon mustard, soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Pour over salmon and marinade for 10-30 minutes.

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Boil eggs.  I prefer soft boiled which I achieve by placing the eggs in a pot of water, then bring the water to boil.  Allow the eggs to sit in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the eggs and allow to sit for 3 more minutes.  Rinse the eggs in cool water and then place them back into the pot with cold water.

Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick spray.  Crack fresh pepper over salmon and place salmon skin side down Broil the salmon in the pan, skin side down, for 8-10 minutes.

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The salmon skin should be easy to remove and recommend you do this before plating.  Prepare the salad dressing by whisking together balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup of olive oil with a pinch of Kosher salt.  Arrange all ingredients on a plate and drizzle ablout 2-3 teaspoon of salad dressing over lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables.  Take care to arrange your plate.  We eat with our eyes first, so presentation is key.

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We eat with our eyes and taste with our nose too.  When entertaining, I always take a moment to think about presentation.
We eat with our eyes and taste with our nose too. When entertaining, I always take a moment to think about presentation.
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Nicoise Salad with heirloom tomatoes, string beans, butter lettuce, olives and sardines.
Salmon nicoise salad with cherry tomatoes, string beans, sardines, olives and soft boiled eggs.
Salmon nicoise salad with cherry tomatoes, string beans, sardines, olives, avocado and soft boiled eggs.
Nicoise salad with kale, avocado, cherry tomatoes, sardines, eggs and olives.  Doesn't get much healthier than this!
Nicoise salad with kale, avocado, cherry tomatoes, sardines, eggs and olives.  It doesn’t get much healthier than this!