From time to time I’m going to turn my blog over to a friend or colleague who is really “the pro” in their respective area of healthy living. This week I’m pleased to announce my first guest blogger, Natalie Oliva, a bright, young foodie, with a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York. She has a passion for fresh, healthy foods that incorporate seasonal ingredients.
When you hear, “Baby, it’s Cold Outside,” there’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of hot soup!
Hello, all! My name is Natalie. I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger for The Non Toxic Lifestyle this week. I really love reading Christy’s blog and I’m excited to be invited to join the dialogue. She is focused on helping us all live a more healthy, less toxic lifestyle, and I’m all for that!
This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite healthy winter soup recipes. It’s hearty, comforting, and quite good for you! Hearty soups are perfect for colder weather as they warm you from the inside out. As I write this, our friends in Boston are especially in need right now!
Before I share the recipe though, let me give you some background on how I came across this wonderful soup. Nearly three years ago, I worked at a four-star Italian restaurant outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a very fancy place with white linen tablecloths, Laguiole flatware, and waiters who wore tuxedos.
In the confines of the rather small kitchen, nine chefs, including myself, worked tirelessly to prepare the restaurant’s famed cuisine surrounded by stainless steel, sharp knives, and the hot flames of the gas cook top.
Before I even started working there, I knew that being a “line cook” was not going to be “my thing.” I wanted to parlay that experience into something I was genuinely passionate about, creating approachable, healthy food. Although my time in that hot, cramped kitchen was short lived, I learned to prepare some great recipes, including the one I’m about to share with you in this blog post.
Restaurants often add unnecessary fat, sodium, and sugar to enhance the flavor of their dishes. While that fact is no secret in the industry, it may come as a surprise to some of you. These additions can make practically any dish more palatable, but at what cost to the consumer? Fat, salt and sugar are cheap, easy, and fast flavor enhancers, but clearly are not healthy additions to a meal. Since fine dining customers do not get to see any nutrition facts, they are none the wiser. Ignorance is bliss, right?
When someone would order the soup I’m about share with you at the restaurant, it took only a few minutes to prepare – granted, all of the vegetables were cut in advance, the beans were pre-rinsed, and the rosemary had been steeping in the stock for a few hours.
Out of all the recipes I was exposed to while working at this restaurant, the seasonal soup was one of my favorites. It is elegant, easy to prepare, and every ingredient provides excellent health benefits. It can be served as an appetizer or as a main course.
The foodies of the world have been “buzzing” about the benefits of eating “bone broth” lately and this soup gives you all of those wonderful health benefits. The homemade chicken stock provides a great source of gelatin for joint health and calcium for bone density. Many recent studies claim that chicken stock in itself has an almost magical immune boosting power. Though “the chicken soup effect” may also be explained by the positive health benefits of feeling “cared for.”
White beans, another key ingredient in this soup, are an excellent source of antioxidants and magnesium. They are the most elegant bean to cook with and can elevate any dish without breaking the bank, which is likely why they often appear in French and Italian cuisine.
Swiss chard is one of the world’s healthiest foods and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is an especially good source for fiber, choline, calcium, phosphorous, and protein. In this recipe, “ribbons” of Swiss chard are cooked gently for only a few minutes, just to soften them, without cooking out too many of the nutrients.
What really gives this soup some oomph is the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The nutty sharpness of this cheese gives this soup an extra bit of pizzazz that takes it to the next level. “But cheese isn’t healthy,” you say. Check this out this article on www.deliciousliving.com.
Because of its long aging time, natural Parmigiano-Reggiano is lactose free and easily digestible. It provides amino acids, calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Make sure you don’t buy that powdery clumpy “Parmesan” you see all too often in the grocery store on the shelf next to the pasta sauce – you know what I’m talking about. It’s not “the real thing” and to be frank, it kind of freaks me out! The real stuff may be a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it for this soup.
Trust me, good ingredients make good food. Think of all the money you’re saving with the other ingredients in this recipe. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself
Special thanks to Natalie Oliva for sharing her healthy white bean soup recipe and being the first guest blogger on The Non Toxic Lifestyle.
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