Soup & Salad Challenge: Weeks 6 & 7

Soup and Salad weeks 6&7.png

It’s weeks like these that I’m grateful to have a bunch of soup stocked up in the freezer.

Conversation with the person organizing the Teacher Appreciation Day lunch that I almost forgot about at my son’s preschool: “Oh, you still need a main dish for Teacher Appreciation Day Luncheon? No problem. I’ll provide homemade Caribbean Chili.”

Conversation with friend: “You just moved into a new house? Congratulations! Can I bring a meal over for you?” (In my head: All I have to do is grab some a batch of the frozen Hearty Chicken Stew and throw a salad together and I’ll have a meal for them. Woohoo!)

Conversation with myself after running around all day, feeling exhausted and coming home to an empty refrigerator: “What am I going to do for dinner tonight? Ah! Deep breath. There’s frozen soup in the freezer. Just run it under some cold water and heat it up on a pot. I’m off the hook…Whew! Mealtime just got a whole lot easier.”

Freezer Meals

So…yeah. It’s been that kind of week. It’s actually been that kind of month! The hubs is finally graduating with his MBA (this has been a long time coming) and is taking two super intense summer classes, which means I’m on super intense mom duty. It will all pay off when it’s over, but in the midst of the chaos I’ve realized I need to throw some of my ideals out the window until things slow down and we can catch our breath. Unfortunately, that means I’ve had to make the hard decision to end my Soup and Salad Challenge three weeks early. This is so hard for me, because once I commit to something, I’m all in. I’m an achiever and a bit of a task-oriented person, so going back on something to which I’ve committed feels like failure. Thankfully, I’ve received nothing but incredibly supportive feedback from all of you who have been in on this with me. Stuff like:

So glad you are stopping if it doesn’t work right now.  I have loved the meals and totally support your stopping.


No worries at all Jen, and sending a SUPER big hug and huge dose of grace for yourself. I’m really happy that you were true to yourself and have healthy boundaries and are not continuing something that was not sustainable for this season. You are a rockstar in my eyes…

So, I may just have the best friends and fam in the entire world. Thanks, guys. 🙂

In this final post, I’ll share the three salad recipes we have tried over the past two weeks (Yes, I’m behind):

  1. Apple Pecan Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
  2. Spinach Salad w/ Nuts Apples &  Bacon
  3. Bombay Chicken Salad

I must say Tiffany over at Creme De La Crumb has an incredibly delicious recipe for Apple Pecan Salad with Maple Vinaigrette. This went over well on Mother’s Day! Since I’m not a big fan of processed white sugar, I opted to replace the cinnamon and sugar which were supposed to coat the pecans with this recipe for Candied Pecans made with Pure Maple Syrup from Feel Great in 8. 

My hubs LOVED this Spinach Salad with Nuts, Apples and Bacon recipe from Mel over at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. There’s just something about bacon that makes everything better. Of course, I used high quality, nitrate-free and sugar-free bacon from Butcher Box, which made this extra delish. (You can use this link for $10 off your first order and free bacon!) I also replaced the processed white sugar in this recipe with pure maple syrup from my friend, Kristen’s family farm: Haynes Call Sugar Bush. Once again, I used this recipe for Candied Pecans made with Pure Maple Syrup from Feel Great in 8, but used walnuts instead of pecans and added a bit of cayenne pepper.

And finally, my Bombay Chicken Salad is a consistent favorite in our household. I took an old Weight Watcher’s recipe for Bombay Tuna, replaced the tuna with chicken and used a unique blend of Esther’s Seasonings to make this top notch. Enjoy the recipe below!

Bombay Chicken Salad

  1. 32 ounce chunk white tuna (packed in water) Or 4 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded, Pastured/non-GMO is best
  2. 1 1⁄3 cup mayonaise I recommend Primal Kitchen’s Avocado mayo
  3. 4 cup mirepoix (chopped celery, onion, carrots)
  4. 1 cup sliced almonds or chopped pecans
  5. 1 cup golden raisins
  6. 1⁄4 cup Lemon juice
  7. 2 tablespoon Esther’s Seasonings: Jamaican Curry
  8. 2 teaspoon Esther’s Seasonings: Gourmet Salt
  9. 2 teaspoon Esther’s Seasonings: West Indian Pepper
  10. 1 head bibb lettuce or Spring Mix

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate.

Serve on a bed of Boston or Bibb lettuce.

I won’t be posting as regularly until I can come up to breathe at the end of June. I may, however, get a moment to throw together a post entitled: Quick, Easy, Healthy Meals for the Mama Who Doesn’t Have Time to Cook. What’s that saying about necessity being the mother of invention?

Also, as promised, I will be sure to make time to tally up the comments during the past few weeks of this Soup & Salad Challenge. I will randomly pick a name from this collection of commenters and this person will receive a complimentary sampling of Esther’s Seasonings. Stay tuned!

Soup & Salad Challenge: Week 5

Soup and Salad week 5.png

We are coming to the end of the soup portion of the Soup & Salad Challenge right on time (at least for New Englanders). The temperature has spiked to nearly 90 degrees this week. Hello, early Summer! We’re ending on a high note: Nourishing Foundations’ recipe for Caribbean Chili. The sweet potato in this recipe gives it a surprisingly sweet note, especially when corn is also used. If, however, you are following the Whole 30 diet, you will want to make a few adaptations to this recipe: replace beans with extra sweet potato & omit the corn. Still totally delish! Enjoy!

Nourishing Foundations' Caribbean Chili

This hearty meal has a little bit of spice as well as a sweet touch. It’s a filling, tasty dish and makes an excellent meal for company!

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
  • 1 lb Ground Beef (chicken, turkey or buffalo Unless you prefer the vegetarian version, in which case, omit!)
  • 3 TBSP Esther's Caribbean Chili (or Chili Powder of choice)
  • 1 tsp. Esther's Red Hot Pepper (or hot pepper of choice)
  • 2 tsp Esther's West Indian Pepper (or pepper of choice)
  • 1 TBSP Esther's G.O.G.
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 14 oz Mirepoix (or 2 stalks celery, 2 carrots)
  • 1 TBSP Chicken or Vegetable base (Rapunzel works well)
  • 1/4 cups Water or chicken broth
  • 1.5 cups Chopped Sweet Potato
  • 3-4 cups Beans of Choice (Cooked; Replace with sweet potato if following Paleo/Whole 30 diet)
  • 24 oz Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes High quality (no sugar added, whole ingredients (we recommend (Victoria's or Rao's))
  • 28 oz Diced tomatoes (Organic is best!)
  • 12-16 oz Frozen sweet corn (Omit if following Paleo/Whole 30 diet)
  1. To Make on Stovetop:

    Heat oil in frying pan. Cook mirepoix for 2-3 minutes, add meat, then spices.

    Cook completely. (~5 min)

    Add 1/4 cup water & allow to simmer

    In large pot, combine this mixture with ~4 cups beans or sweet potatoes, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, for approx. 10 min.

    Add frozen corn.

    Serve with cheese, avocado, sour cream etc.

To Cook in Instant Pot:

Using the sauté function on your Instant Pot, heat oil, then cook mirepoix for 2-3 minutes.

Add meat, then spices. Cook completely. (~5 min)

Add all other ingredients EXCEPT for corn.

Secure lid and set Instant Pot to 40 minutes on manual.

Allow for natural pressure release

Add corn at end.

Since I only made one meal this week, I had a little bit of extra time to mess around with a good and good-for-you dessert. This Avocado Chocolate Mousse by Food52 is UHmazing. I love it! Definitely worth a try.

Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I did this week!

Spring Soup & Salad Challenge Week 4

Soup and Salad week 4

It has been a wonderful week, jam-packed with fun, friends and food (which I’ll get to in this post, I promise). One of the highlights included hosting Steve and Susan Vinton, founders of Village School International, while they were here in the Boston area. Back in 2008 I taught with Village Schools and lived in the little village of Sawala, Tanzania. My husband and I returned there in 2012, for a short visit.


As I reminisced with Steve and Susan, I was reminded of the rich hospitality displayed in Tanzanian culture, particularly around food. Following is a blog post I wrote ten years ago (!) while living in Sawala:


A Snapshot of Life in TZ

This morning (Sunday) I was too lazy to start a fire and make breakfast. I opted instead to take a three-minute walk up the road to Mama Shemaya’s duka (roadside shop) where I thought I might be able to buy a cup of chai (tea) and mandazi (fried bread). I set out, Starbucks travel mug in hand, planning to be back to the house within a few minutes. Unfortunately, Mama Shemaya had no tea and no mandazi. I decided to walk a bit further in hopes of finding breakfast somewhere else. Soon I ran into one of my students, Tatu, on the road. She saw the Starbucks travel mug I was carrying and asked where I was going. When I explained my situation, she adamantly exclaimed, “I will make tea for you. Go, get mandazi and when you return, come to my house.” A polite decline wasn’t happening, so I promised to return with mandazi for both of us to share over chai at her house.

Shortly after saying goodbye to Tatu, I came to a mama selling soup on the side of the road. A few minutes later I found myself sitting in her living room slurping soup. After finishing and thanking this mama, I continued on my journey and came to Mama Henry’s house, where she was selling mandazi. But simply buying mandazi and leaving was not an option. Mama Henry gave me a big hug and invited me into her home. I tried “my level best” (as they often say around here) to communicate in Swahili to Mama Henry that I was happy to see her but couldn’t stay because I needed to return to my student’s home. She wouldn’t hear of it. After a short visit I purchased two pieces of mandazi; Mama Henry gave me three pieces. I thanked her and was on my way.

I finally arrived at Tatu’s “ghetto” (rented room where she and another student live) where she, her roommate and I talked and enjoyed tea and mandazi together. I couldn’t help but notice the 2004 calendar that hung on the wall as a decoration. When I was ready to leave, Tatu made sure my travel mug was filled with tea to take home. She and Mainess then “escorted” me on my walk home. I arrived back at the house around 9:30am. My three-minute jaunt up the road had turned into an hour and a half excursion. The level of hospitality in this culture never ceases to amaze me!


It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed from this time. One thing, I’m sure, has not changed: the continual sense of welcome that is displayed in everyone you meet. No need to “schedule” a visit; just drop by. A simple “hodi” (May I come in?) will always be followed by, “Karibu!” (You are welcome!)

I long to create this sense of welcome in my home, too. There’s nothing like a cup of hot soup on a rainy day to do the trick…


This week I found two delicious gems:

  1. Mel over at A Virtual Vegan will make your taste buds dance with her simple, tasty, nutrient dense recipe for Creamy Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup. I’ve used this recipe on numerous occasions and I’m delighted every time. The only changes I made were adding garlic, because it’s so darn good for you! 
  2. Kristi Barnes, who blogs at Farmstead Chick, offers this healthy and lip-smacking good Whole 30 version of Zuppa Toscana. My one recommendation? Use Butcher Box Breakfast Sausage. It doesn’t get any better and you KNOW the meat is humanely raised with no antibiotics or hormones.

Give these recipes a try and be sure to let me know what you think!

Soup & Salad Challenge Week 2

I have a confession to make. I ate THREE brownies before bed last night….and then I ate two brownies for breakfast this morning… And even now, as I write this, I am eating brownie crumbs… And I don’t really feel guilty about this very much at all. Why? Because they’re BLACK BEAN Brownies. Which you might think sounds gross, but they’re so not.


I know this post is supposed to be about Soup. I will get to that, I promise. But can I just share this AMAZING brownie recipe with you? Isabel, who blogs over at, really hit the nail on the head with this one. 

And here’s the thing: It’s not even Friday yet, but it has been a week. I won’t get into all the details. Let’s just say, I was distracted when making these brownies and I may have put NUTMEG in the blender instead of Cinnamon. Yes, I did that. But I decided to roll with it and see what happened. The results were AMAZING. Or maybe I just like nutmeg… Whatever the case, I was a happy camper with this batch of fudgy, “nutmegy” goodness.

Aside from the nutmeg snafu/brilliance, I made a couple of other adaptations to these tasty treats:

  1. I used coconut oil instead of butter  to make them dairy-free
  2. I used maple syrup instead of sugar (and a little less than called for) to keep the processed sugar to a minimum.
  3. I used dark chocolate chips on top

If you’re feeling brave, throw in a bit of nutmeg when you make these and let me know what you think!


Okay, now onto soup (as promised). First up was a big batch of Thai Beef Stew. I used this recipe from Danielle at Against All Grain. Definitely one of my new faves! Did I mention that this has been quite a week? Well, I somehow managed to forget to include the broccoli. Even still, I think it turned out well. It’s a rich soup, so definitely best over rice.

And then there’s this gem I came across from Winona over at Pearls and Sneakers: Creamy Paleo Potato Soup. Definitely another keeper! I made just a couple of adaptations:

  1. I added a 12oz pkg. of riced cauliflower blended with broth to make it extra creamy.
  2. I added kale at the end for some extra nutrition.


Bacon is definitely the best topping, IMHO!

So, that’s what I’ve got for ya this week. Don’t forget: you can enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! Hope to hear from you!


Spring Soup & Salad Challenge – Week 1

Today was the perfect day to make soup! Outside, the Spring rain was falling. Inside,  I chopped vegetables while chatting with my sister who came down from NH to help me with the kids so I could cook.  She also served as my “Chief Taste Tester” while simultaneously keeping our two babies content. She’s kind of amazing like that..

This week we’re trying two awesome soup recipes: Loaded Split Pea Soup (recipe slightly adapted from Delish) and Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup from Marcie over at Flavor the Moments). I slightly adapted these recipes to suit my taste buds (my changes are in italics below), but you can find the original recipe linked above as well us listed under “source”. I’d say both recipes were a “win”…

Note the colored bowls in the pic above from my attempt at getting my family to take a little more responsibility for their dishes. (It’s still very much a work in progress!) Also note the book Q & A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal.We’ve started incorporating some of these questions into our family mealtimes and have been having great fun answering them! It definitely makes for a more enriching dinner time experience.

One other important thing to mention: I LOVE using Esther’s Seasonings in all of my cooking. If you’re interested in getting ahold of her delicious seasonings, give her a shout out. You can also enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! I hope you’ll join the Nourishing Foundations community in this endeavor.

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Loaded Bacon Split Pea Soup

Would you like a side of split pea soup with your bacon? Kidding! But, seriously, this split pea gets its bold smoky flavor from a whole lot of bacon.


Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 1 hr

Serves: 6 Scale Update


  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 large carrots diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • kosher salt I used a mixture of Esther’s Gourmet Salt & Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper I used Esther’s Zesty Peppermill
  • 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth I used a mixture of homemade Chicken broth and store bought organic chicken broth
  • 12 oz. split peas rinsed
  • Freshly chopped parsley for garnish


  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool, then crumble.
  2. Add onion, carrot, and garlic to bacon fat and cook until tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Add broth and split peas and let simmer, covered, until split peas are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Serve garnished with parsley and bacon.

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Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup

Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup has plenty of warm, curry flavor with creamy coconut milk to make it silky smooth. This is an exciting, delicious way to use that summer squash!


Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Total Time: 45 min

Yield: About 8 servings

Serves: 8 Scale Update


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 34 teaspoon curry powder* I use Esther’s Jamaican Curry
  • 1 12 lbs. summer squash ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces*
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock I use water and Seitenbacher Vegetarian Vegetable Broth And Seasoning
  • 14 cup coconut milk (I used full fat) plus more for serving
  • 12 lime juice of – plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh basil or thai basil, for serving
  • 1 tsp Esther’s Gourmet Salt Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s G.O.G. Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s West Indian pepper Optional


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and curry powder, and saute 30 seconds. Add the squash and saute 2 minutes longer. Add the stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove from heat.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!
  3. Instant Pot Directions (from Jen):
  4. Sauté onion in olive oil. Add Garlic, spices and a bit of broth/water. Cook for a minute or two, then add vegetables and cover with water/broth. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!

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