Eat Happy, Be Healthy!
It’s pouring sideways rain here in Bellingham, the perfect weather for a light pumpkin soup. I have been yearning for the Fall and all the bits of cozy that comes with it. Although I love salads, soups are a wonderful way to eat your veggies while also supporting digestion. Raw veggies are one of the hardest foods to digest, especially if you are not taking the time to chew them well. Therefore, soups can be an excellent meal for anyone struggling to optimally digest their foods. Soups are much easier for the stomach to breakdown because the ingredients are soft and tender. This is especially true if you make a pureed soup like this pumpkin soup. Usually, the stomach churns our food with stomach acid to make a liquidy soup called chyme. However, when the food is already pureed, the stomach has little work to do. Therefore, soups are a wonderful meal for anyone who has increased healing needs or has digestive concerns because the nutrients are much easier absorbed.
For this recipe I used a pie pumpkin (or otherwise known as sugar pie pumpkin), but you can choose whatever winter squash you have on hand. I also used homemade bone broth, rich in flavor and nutrition. I do not skim the fat because the fat provides flavor and increases the absorption of the beta-carotene in the pumpkin flesh. If you are using store bought bone broth (Bonafide is a great option) it is fat free, and therefore I would suggest adding organic heavy cream or full fat coconut milk to your liking.
Bone broth is an excellent choice to increase the protein content of otherwise a low protein meal. Rich in collagen, bone broth helps support the healing and repair of connective tissues (think, gut lining, bone, tendons, hair, skin, nails). Along with ample amounts of prebiotic fiber rich onions and garlic this pureed soup also supports the growth of good gut bacteria. If you want, you can even roast the pumpkin seeds for little salty and nutritious snack. Simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees, rinse the seeds under water to remove excess pumpkin fibers, and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spray with extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and your choice of spices. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Voila, now you have a nourishing soup and a tasty snack!
Simple Gingered Pumpkin Soup
1 small pie pumpkin (got mine at TJs)
1 large yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic
3 inches ginger root
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups homemade bone broth (see note above if using store bought)
2-3 T honey
2 T apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp sea salt (adjust as needed)
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch chili flakes
Quarter the pumpkin, scoop out seeds (roast if desired), and place into a pot filled with some water and a steamer basket. Steam, covered, over medium heat for about 15-20min or until tender.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. In a soup pot add a glug of extra virgin olive oil and sauté the chopped veggies over medium low until glassy and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the steamed pumpkin flesh (leave skin behind), and add the bone broth. Cover and cook over medium low for another 10 minutes.
Once ready, using an immersion blender, puree the soup to your liking. Season with honey, vinegar, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Adjust seasonings to your liking.
Note: If you want to keep the recipe vegetarian, simply use vegetable broth (may need to adjust salt down because most store bought vegetable broths are pre-salted), and add coconut milk or heavy cream for creaminess and flavor.
Nettles are originally from Northern Europe but are now found all over the world. They have been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal herb for hormonal imbalances, fatigue and lethargy, forgetfulness, allergies, constipation, and detoxification support. Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun and healer who was well known during the Middle ages, spoke of nettles highly. Today, functional medicine practitioners use nettles as part of treatment plans including seasonal allergies, detoxification, blood building, and balancing hormones.
Besides their medicinal background, nettles are a very nutritive plant, rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. It is also a great source of polyphenols, plant compounds known to provide many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and supporting the health of our good gut bacteria. However, today I want to highlight nettles and their ability to help reduce seasonal allergies.
Nature often works hand in hand. As the pollens burst into the air with the first warm spring days, nettles start to pop out along trails in the Pacific Northwest woods. Individuals struggling with seasonal allergies may find relief from the consumption or supplementation of nettles because they help inhibit the production and release of histamine from mast cells as well as their breakdown. Mast cells release histamine in response to foreign proteins, such as pollens, causing the classic symptoms of allergies including a runny nose, itchy and red eyes, and sneezing. Furthermore, nettles have been found to inhibit COX-1 and COX-2, enzymes that play key roles in the inflammation cascade. Although, clinical studies are lacking, there is one study from 1990 that found some improvement in allergy symptoms with the consumption of 600mg of freeze-dried stinging nettle powder 1-3x per day. Another more recent study in 2017, found that 150mg of stinging nettle powder taken for 1 month, significantly improved symptoms compared to standard treatment of allergic rhinitis (anti-histamines and inhaled corticosteroids). However, the placebo group also had improved symptoms post-treatment.
Although at present we only have two human clinical studies, that doesn't matter. Practitioners have used nettles successfully for thousands of years. This type of experiential clinical data also counts.
How do You Pick Nettles?
You will see nettles along your local hiking trail during the months of spring and early summer. You only want to harvest the top 2-3 tiers of leaves. The younger the plant, the more delicate and tender the flavor. Using gloves and a small scissor, cut the nettle at the desired point. If you don't want to forage for them yourself, farmers markets will often sell these during the early Spring months.
How Do You Use Nettles?
For starters you can buy nettle tea, and drink that. It is easy and requires minimal preparation. It is earthy in flavor. However, if you want to use nettles in your meals, I recommend making either nettle pesto (recipe below), nettle potato soup (recipe below), nettle frittatas or quiches, or use nettles any way you would use spinach. Personally, I feel like nettle pesto is the most versatile. You can make 1-2 batches, and freeze what you will not use right away. Then you can add cubes of thawed nettle pesto to soups, sauces, egg dishes, pasta (of course), parchment baked chicken breast or fish, etc. The list goes on.
How Do You Prepare Nettles?
First wash all your foraged nettles in clean cool water. Then, in order to use nettles culinarily, you must heat or vigorously process them to remove the sting. Interestingly, once the hairs on the nettle are broken, the nettle no longer stings. I personally prefer blanching nettles. Blanching gives the nettles a brilliant green color and makes them easy to handle and trim. Blanched nettles can be frozen for use later.
Making Your Own Nettle Pesto
The nice thing about pesto is it's versatility. I suggest making two batches of this delicious pesto to freeze for year round nettle infusions. You can also add basil or other herbs to this as desired. Makes ~ 3 cups.
1 produce bag full of raw nettles (to make about 2 cups blanched and trimmed nettles)
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup organic extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt (I used ½ teaspoon)
Fresh ground pepper
Soak the nettles in fresh, clean water. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using tongs, transfer the nettles into a colander, and then transfer to the boiling water. Blanch for 1 ½ minutes. Meanwhile, make an ice bath with 1 tray of ice cubes and a bowl filled with cool clean water. Transfer the blanched nettles to the ice bath and let sit a few minutes and strain.
Once the nettles are strained, squeeze the nettles by hand, to squeeze out the excess water. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and spread them out. Using your scissors, cut the thicker stems off, leaving behind only the leaves and delicate stems.
Measure out 2 cups of these blanched and trimmed nettles and transfer to a food processor along toasted pine nuts, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse until cohesive but not too smooth. Adjust salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking. Freeze what you don't use right away in a silicone ice cube tray or small glass mason jars.
Nettle and Potato Soup
Another less work intensive recipe for nettles is simply soup! This creamy, green soup can easily be made dairy free by substituting the cream for canned full fat coconut milk. Use bone broth in place of vegetable broth to increase the protein if desired. Serves 4-6
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 medium sized yellow potatoes, rinsed and dice
2-3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces (or ¼ cup diced pancetta)
3-4 handfuls rinsed baby nettle leaves, base stems trimmed*
3 cups vegetable broth or bone broth
1/3 cup heavy cream (may replace with canned full fat coconut milk)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of ½ lemon
Splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)
Pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with fresh parsley
Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and when hot, add the shallots, garlic, diced and bacon/pancetta. Allow the shallots to turn glassy and the pancetta to turn crispy. Stir occasionally. Add the nettles to the pot sauté until wilted.
Add the potatoes and pour in enough vegetable broth until the potatoes are covered. Bring the soup to a simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Once the potatoes are tender, remove the pot from the burner, and using an immersion blender puree the soup. Return the pureed soup back onto the burner and heat on low.
Next add the cream and honey. Stir well to combine. Finally, add the lemon juice and a splash of apple cider vinegar to brighten the soup. Season with chili flakes, sea salt and pepper to taste. You could even add some frozen nettle pesto if desired. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Serve with buttered fresh bread and a side salad.
*Note: By trimming the nettles, and leaving only the delicate stems, keeps the soup more delicate and smooth.
Although most Americans may be weirded out by chicken feet, many cultures use chicken feet as part of their home cooking. Since feet are really high in connective tissue, they make a very gelatinous broth, more so than beef bones. If you want that jelly...then make chicken feet broth! If you are feeling a cold or flu coming on, needing extra collagen for healing after surgery or birth, or are wanting to boost your skin health, then drinking homemade bone broth can help.
Makes 8-10 servings
Time: 6-8 hours or more
2lbs chicken feet (I buy mine from Osprey Hill Farms)
1 whole onion, cut in half (keep peel on)
1/2 small celeriac root
2 carrots (cut in half)
1/2 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 thumb length ginger root
1 sprig rosemary (or 2-3 sprigs thyme)
1 bay leaf
Splash apple cider vinegar
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken feet to the pot and boil for 5 minutes. Strain the chicken feet and briefly rinse under cold water. Using scissors, cut the nails off at the first joint. This is done very easily, you don't need special kitchen shears for this. Meanwhile, sear the onion face side down in a skillet until browned.
Place the feet, seared onion and all the rest of the ingredients into a pot (or slow cooker) and cover with filtered water. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Allow to very gently simmer for at least 4 hours, preferably 6-10. If using a slow cooker, put heat on low for 10 hours.
Use only what is needed from the base pot of bone broth for soups or simply for drinking. Season that separately with salt, bouillon and/or dulse flakes. Pour more fresh filtered water into the bone broth pot to replace what has been taken out. Continue to simmer. Repeat this until the broth lacks flavor. Alternatively, you can transfer all of the bone broth into glass mason jars and freeze what is not needed for immediate use.
For individuals with IBS & SIBO: If you want to make a Low FODMAP alternative simply omit the garlic and onion, and use only the green parts of the leek. Keep in mind some individuals with SIBO do not tolerate collagen rich broth. Use small amounts as tolerated.
I hope you enjoy my creative, flavorful, and nutrient dense approach to whole foods cooking. All recipes are gluten free.