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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)


Sweet potatoes have my heart. I have a deep love affair with them. The kind of love that will last a lifetime. The "God must have spent a little more time on you..." type of love. Food crush Friday. Love struck by the vegetable cupid. Too far? Fair enough. What can I say? When you're in love, you're in love. You don't choose who you fall in love with, guys. In all seriousness, this silky smooth soup is sure to warm you up and fill you up with exuberant nutrition.

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

Sweet potato - One of the oldest vegetables known to man, the sweet potato is naturally sweet and undoubtedly nutritious. According to the USDA, 1 medium sweet potato provides more than a day's worth of vitamin A and 35% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Vitamin A is essential for healthy immune function, eyesight and for keeping our skin and mucous membrane cells healthy. According to this article written by Jennifer Brett, N.D., on the Discovery Fit & Health website, healthy membranes prevent cell damage largely due to the moisture they produce. This moistness prevents bacteria and viruses from causing infections in the body. Brett also spoke to vitamin A's cancer-fighting properties: "Healthy cells are also resistant to cancers. Vitamin A fights cancer by inhibiting the production of DNA in cancerous cells. It slows down tumor growth in established cancers and may keep leukemia cells from dividing." 

Interestingly enough, in order to receive all of the benefits of the beta-carotene (in the form of vitamin A) in this root vegetable, it must be eaten with a small amount of fat. Fortunately, in the sweet potato & kale soup, that healthy fat comes from the coconut oil.  

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, and fiber. Potassium is especially important to include in our diet when we're stressed because in that state of tension, potassium can be lost through urine. Also, much of the nutrition is in the skin of the potato, which is removed in this particular recipe, but it's a good thing to keep in mind. 

Sweet potatoes can be steamed, boiled or roasted/baked. Though research has found that baking a sweet potato increases its glycemic index (the measure of how a food effects blood sugar levels) while steaming or boiling lowers its glycemic index, it's more important to pay attention to the glycemic load. The glycemic load takes into account the quality and quantity of the carbohydrate in a food. If you look at a carrot, for example, it has a relatively high glycemic index (47) but a low glycemic load (2) because GL gets specific and takes into consideration the amount of food eaten and its nutritional quality whereas GI does not. Another example is in the case of diet soda and heavy cream. Because they both have 0 carbs, their GI and GL is 0! So, as you can see, GI can be misleading because you would never tell someone to avoid carrots and load up on heavy cream comprised mostly of saturated fat and diet soda aka disease in a can. Dr. David Katz put it this way in an article on usnews.com

"Consider, for instance, that one person weighs 170 pounds, and another weighs 120 pounds. Who is heavier?

The answer is obvious: The person who weighs 170 pounds. But that obvious answer might be totally misleading. What if the person who weighs 170 pounds is 6 foot 5, and the person who weighs 120 pounds is 4 foot 5? In all the ways that matter, the shorter person is now the "heavier" of the two.

The glycemic index is subject to this same limitation, because it compares comparable portions of "carbohydrate" in foods. Traditionally, comparisons are based on a 50-gram portion.

See the problem? Carrots, famously, have a rather high glycemic index. But it takes 4 cups of carrots to amount to 50 grams of carbs. In contrast, a cup and a half of vanilla ice cream has 50 grams of carbs. A small portion of ice cream is compared to a very large portion of carrots. Cotton candy provides more than 50 grams of carbs in less than 2 ounces.

So the glycemic index, while useful when comparing similar foods, may be rather misleading when comparing dissimilar foods—just as weight can be misleading when comparing people of very dissimilar heights."

Moving on... This soup is a cakewalk to make if you have a high-powered high-quality blender such as a Vitamix. If not, I would half the recipe (because it fills my 64 oz. Vitamix blender almost to the top) and see if that works.

If you've been interested in buying a Vitamix but have been hesitant to take the plunge, I found a company called Sunshine Juicers (<--- click that link) that sells the 5200 Vitamix blender (called the Vitamix Turboblend VS) for $50 off the original price of $449 with this discount code: 5200X. I realize that anything over $50-$100 seems to be a ridiculous amount to pay for a blender, let alone over $400, but let me tell you, it is worth every penny and then some. You'll only be sorry you hadn't bought one sooner. Plain and simple, this blender makes eating healthy easier and tastier. It saves time and hassle and the consistency of smoothies, soups, dips, desserts, etc. is as smooth as ever, not chunky one bit. That quality alone has made it worth the money because the one I was using before was an absolute nightmare and it eventually burned out. Plus, some people have said their Vitamix blender has lasted over 30 years. I just purchased mine in February so I obviously can't quite speak to its reliability long-term, but from my experience so far, I couldn't be more pleased. It's certainly added value to my life as I use it almost daily.

Think of it as an investment in your health. Over the long run, it saves money because you won't have to keep paying for new blenders that crap out on you in a few years. And for the record, I don't get paid to speak so highly of Vitamix or promote their products - I wish I did LOL - but it really is top of the line. I hope the discount will be helpful for some of you!

Getting back to the recipe... If you know your blender isn't up to speed or if you don't have a blender, you could use a food processor, but I would still half the recipe as most food processors are not apt to fit the volume of liquid and solids that the full recipe requires. If you're cooking for no more than 1 or 2 people, you'll love the fact that this recipe makes enough to have leftovers for days. On the other hand, this soup is also so great because it's suitable to satisfy 4 people. I hope you love it as much as I do, but don't fall too hard. ;-)

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup

YIELD: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
• 3 medium-large sweet potatoes, baked and chopped (about 6 cups chopped)
• 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
• 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
• 1 bunch lacinato/dino kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
• 1 Tbs virgin coconut oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp coriander
• 1 tsp cumin
• 3/4 tsp sea salt
• Black pepper, to taste
• 1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes and dry well. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or on a Silpat and bake for 50-60 minutes, until tender/soft. It may take more than 60 minutes depending on the thickness of the potato.

2. While the sweet potatoes are baking, prepare the garlic and kale to be sautéed. Mince the garlic and wash, dry and chop the kale.


3. When the sweet potatoes are done baking, let them cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Then, sauté the minced garlic for a few minutes until fragrant and soft but not colored (keep a close on it to avoid burning). Raise heat to high and add in 1/2 cup vegetable broth and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Uncover and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.

4. After the sweet potatoes have cooled, remove the skin and chop into big chunks. Save any leftovers for another dish or to snack on. Combine the almond milk, 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and 6 cups sweet potato in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth, no more than 30 seconds. Add more almond milk or vegetable broth if needed.
5. Place the sauté pan over low heat and pour the sweet potato mixture into the sautéed kale. Mix well. Next, mix in the coriander, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon (optional), and adjust seasonings to your liking. Top with parsley, if desired.

Just a side note on kale, since this post was dominated by sweet potatoes: the sautéed kale would be an awesome choice as a side to any other dish, too. :-) Let me know how you like this soup if you make it!

"Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free." Robert Tew

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