Better Nutrition With Homemade Soup

Many of my clients tell me how much they like having soup for lunch in the colder months, but most of the time, they name off various brands of soups bought at the store. Don’t get me wrong: many commercial soups are great options for the calorie conscious. The problem with canned soups, of course, is the sodium content. Some products have an excess of 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. To my way of thinking, this is far too much salt for one simple food item. So while it’s easy to turn to grocery store shelves for your lunchtime soup, consider making your own soup.

The beauty of homemade soup is that you can literally take any basic soup recipe and modify it based on ingredients you have on hand. You can make adjustments and get the sodium content reduced without foregoing good taste. Most soups start with a stock, broth, or a vegetable base. You can make your own stock if you have the time, but starting with a ready made broth can cut down on preparation time. If you buy ready made soup broth, I recommend that you read the labels carefully. Regular broth will make your homemade version of soup just as high in sodium as canned soup. The low sodium versions of broth have sodium too! I found that most of the “low sodium” brands of broth had close to 500 mg. sodium per serving. This is still too much if you are sodium conscious. I found several organic low sodium stocks with just 140 mg. per serving, so it pays to look around.

If you want to try making homemade soup for your lunches, here’s an idea: make one batch pot of a different soup every week. Keep enough of the soup on hand for one or two meals, and then freeze the rest in smaller containers, preferably 1-2 portion containers. If you make a different kind of soup each week, you will soon have a “selection”of different soups in your freezer that you can choose from for a quick lunch or dinner meal. Take a single serving of frozen soup to work and you’ll have a nice healthful meal ready to heat up.

Here is my favorite vegetable soup recipe:

Vegetable Barley Soup

2 Tb. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced carrots

12 oz. fresh mushrooms chopped

1/2 cup barley (use pearl or hulless barley)

6 cups low sodium beef, chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp coarse salt

2-3 cups chopped spinach, kale or Swiss chard

Heat oil in large pot and saut� onions and carrots until tender. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add barley, low sodium broth and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer until barley is done. (Pearl barley takes about 40 minutes; hulless barley takes about 60 minutes to cook). Add chopped greens and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serves 6.

Choosing Just the Right Tea

True Tea vs. Herbal Tea

This may seem like a silly issue. However, many different kinds of herbs can be made into teas. Generally, though, the agreement is that true tea comes only from one plant species, Camellia sinensis. All true tea is made from this species. Camellia sinensis is one of the many kinds of camellia that are otherwise known as beautiful garden shrubs.

True tea is usually distinguished from herbal teas by its production of caffeine. However, a small number of other herbs also contain caffeine. The most common of these is called Yerba Mat� (Ilex paraguariensis), which is a type of holly. Herbal teas may sometimes include the addition of another caffeine-producing species called guaran� (Paullinia cupana).

Black Tea

The different types of true tea differ by how they are processed after picking. Making black tea involves the most oxidation, which turns the leaves to a deep black color. This process if often erroneously referred to as fermentation, although no fermentation occurs. Tea becomes completely oxidized after it has been laid out to dry for 8-24 hours, then rolled to make the leaves to crack open and allow more internal contact with air. Oxygen in the air reacts with enzymes inside leaf cells to direct the oxidation of phenolics. Oxidized phenolics are what darkens the leaves.

Leaves are then dried once more after oxidation has been completed. The overall result makes for the strongest flavor of all the teas. This process underlies one of the more important black tea benefits, which is that the rich flavor will be preserved for many years.

Oolong Tea

In contrast to the processing of black tea, oolong tea is only slightly shaken in baskets after brief drying. This causes slight bruising that only allows a limited amount oxygen to enter the leaves. This partial oxidation process is stopped when heat is heat after a couple of hours of drying. The result is crisp, dry leaves with a red-brown color.

Oolong is known as one of the finest teas in the world. It is often referred to as the “champagne of teas.” Sought after oolong tea benefits include its delicate floral-fruity quality.

Green Tea

The health benefits of green tea are well-researched and widely known. They are based primarily on a rich array of antioxidant ingredients that remain intact and active after a post-harvest process that prevents most oxidation. The process involves heating leaves quickly to dryness, which stops oxidative enzyme activity and enables leaves to remain greenish or greenish-yellow in appearance.

Green tea retains a light, grassy flavor and an astringency that you might expect from the lack of oxidation. The delicate flavor is often augmented by adding jasmine flowers, resulting a popular tea for accompanying Asian styles of cooking. Jasmine green tea is usually just called jasmine tea, even though it is really a mixture that is comprised mostly of green tea.

Which Will It Be for You?

Selecting any one of these teas may be a simple choice – a black for its richness, an oolong for its floral-fruity quality, or a green with jasmine for its sweet aroma and light flavor. Of course, having all three in your kitchen or office would keep your options open for any situation. Black tea is a wonderful way to start the day. Oolong tea, the “champagne of teas,” is great as a relaxing special treat any time. Green tea, with the lowest caffeine content of all, is delicious as an all-day staple, through dinner and into the evening.

One more consideration for deciding on which tea or teas you want to have is quality. Indeed, tea quality is perhaps the most important factor for deciding on which brand to purchase. The possibilities of which brand to choose may seem overwhelming.

This is where the Smacha Tea Company stands out. Their teas are imported from their own tea gardens overseas, which is a rarity for the majority of tea companies. Furthermore, Smacha does its own harvesting, processing, and importing. This is how the company keeps strict control of every step in tea production. Quality control, from the garden to your cup, is the foundation for their guarantee of having only top quality teas.

For The Love Of Tea And Your Health

February is American Heart Month. Have you kept your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you remain committed to better living and taking better care of yourself and your family? February is a good time to remind everyone to “Do something good for yourself, drink tea.” Second only to water, tea is a very popular beverage whether it is enjoyed hot or cold. Drinking tea can be part of a healthy diet.

January was National Hot Tea Month and it was hotter than ever and all over the news from numerous new product launches to wide-reaching reports on the health benefits of tea. Have you seen all of the research about tea and its health benefits?

Decades worth of research shows that tea-the second most consumed beverage in the world- may help prevent chronic diseases, promote weight loss, improve heart health and slow progression of certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes to name just a few of its health benefits. Research about the important role of tea in human health continues to be compelling. Thanks to the Tea Council of the USA and the Tea Association of the USA’s sponsorship of the Fifth International Symposium on Tea & Human Health, held on September 19, 2012 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the research studies presented at the Symposium were published by the leading nutrition publication, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in its December 2013 issue and featured 12 new articles about the relationship between tea and human health.

To highlight one of the reports published through the AJCN, Tea Catechins are Cardioprotective: Numerous studies suggest tea supports heart health and healthy blood pressure, and appears to be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. New research, published in the AJCN provides further support.

Humans have been drinking tea for some 5,000 years, dating back to the Paleolithic period. Modern research is providing the proof that there are real health benefits to gain from enjoying this ancient beverage.

Tea is good for you and also provides a restful, mindful break to a busy day. Tea can be uplifting, energetic, and calming at the same time. When you know you are doing something good for yourself and you share the experience with others, tea becomes your go-to drink and puts you on the road to healthier living. Do something good for yourself, drink tea.

How to Make Super Easy Orzo Pasta Salad

This quick and easy recipe for orzo pasta salad makes an elegant and enticing garden-fresh salad that is loaded with bright, summery color and flavor – making it the perfect summer side dish.

A sophisticated pasta salad that looks and tastes like one of those fancy gourmet deli salads, this one is miles ahead of that rubbery tri-color pasta salad we’ve all seen again and again.

This no-mayo pasta salad is also safe for picnics, beach trips, boat rides and relaxing backyard BBQs with friends and family. Kid friendly too!

You can even make this one ahead as it holds up well once assembled.

Try this orzo pasta salad for your next summer fete and see if you don’t get rave reviews!

This orzo pasta salad is one of my go-to recipes when I need to bring a summer salad or side dish to an outdoor event. Easy to make and beautiful to serve, this one is always a hit.

The recipe calls for orzo pasta, a small rice-like pasta that holds up exceptionally well in cold salad and absorbs the flavors of the dressing and the other ingredients without getting mushy or chewy. Ripe but firm cherry tomatoes bring a sweet summery taste. Use plenty of fresh basil and parsley for color, subtle flavor and brightness. Small bits of crumbled feta cheese add a welcome saltiness that perfectly suits the al dente pasta. A light toss with a good quality Greek vinaigrette dressing is all your need to bring the flavors together and keep the dish moist and delicious. Enjoy!


1 lb. ( a box) of orzo pasta
6-8 oz. of organic feta cheese (avoid the processed crumbles for best flavor)
A very large handful (2 cups) of gently torn fresh basil leaves, (don’t cut it or it will bruise and turn dark)
A large handful (1 cup) of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, rough chopped.
A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup of a good quality Greek vinaigrette, home made or bottled, with extra as needed.
Plenty of fresh-cracked black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon of salt for the pasta water


Rinse the herbs and the tomatoes and set on paper towels or linen to dry completely.

Put a large pot of water (4 quarts) on to boil. Place a small-holed collander in the sink.

While the water is heating… tear the basil by stacking the leaves, same side up, and gently tearing off thumb-size pieces from the stack. If the leaves are small, use them whole. Set aside.

Rough chop the parley leaves and set aside. Discard the stems.

Slice the tomatoes in half and set aside.

When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, add a generous tablespoon of salt and drop in the orzo. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook according to the package directions until just al dente (still firm).

Drain the orzo in a collander and immediately rinse with plenty of cold running water to stop the cooking process and rinse off any starch from the pasta. Drain well.

Place the drained pasta in a large bowl and gently toss with 1/2 cup of the Greek dressing until thoroughly mixed. The flavors in the dressing will be absorbed by the still-warm pasta as it cools. The oil in the dressing also keeps the pasta from sticking together.

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down over the pasta in the bowl. Allow to cool completely in the fridge.

When the pasta is cold, add the tomatoes, the basil, and the parsley.

Cut the feta into 1/4 inch slices and then use your fingers to crumble the feta into pea size bits. It’s a messy process but worth it to use the non-processed feta! Add plenty of fresh-cracked black pepper and toss well until everything is nicely incorporated. Adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt as the feta is very salty and the pasta has been flavored during cooking.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of dressing and toss well. If it is too dry, add more dressing, a splash at a time and stir it in well. Greek dressing is quite strong and it should just compliment the subtle flavors of the salad, not overwhelm it. Don’t drench the salad in dressing. It should be moist but not soggy.

Transfer to your serving bowl or plastic container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Keeps well in the fridge up to a week.

Cold Soups or Hot Soups, Which One is The Ideal Meal

There are many soups that are called “comfort foods” and this is because there really is nothing that can compare to the feeling of cradling a warm vessel of delicious soup in your hands on a cold day. However, soup is also a summer food when you make it with fresh vegetables and sip it cold under a shady tree.

Additionally, the smoothie craze has led more and more people to give a lot of different cold soups a try as well because they are often quite close in taste and texture to healthy smoothies.

Just think of that wildly popular favorite known as gazpacho. This is something that usually has very little salt and relies instead on the freshest herbs, garlic, vegetables, and a bit of healthy vinegar to give it zing. Whether eaten as a snack, a meal substitute, or the first course of a larger meal, it is one of the cleanest and most invigorating foods you can ever experience. It is, as many say, “like drinking a summer day”.

Naturally, many people want a nutritious hot soup as well, and though cooking and processing can decrease the nutrient counts of some foods, there are ways to still enjoy the pleasures of warm and hot soups while also getting a lot of “bang” for the buck. For instance, the classic miso soup recipes can deliver a high number of enzymes, nutrients, and loads of protein. Whether enjoyed with or without noodles, these hot or warm soups really give a ton of nutrition.

If you are more concerned with fiber, you can get a classic “cream” soup by using roasted or boiled potatoes (or other starchy vegetables) and pureeing them for a soup base. This would allow you to gently heat the mixture, rather than boiling it and killing off a lot of enzymes. You could make everything from a creamy broccoli mixture to a classic “chowder” without the dairy and fat. Bean soups work in this way as well, and you can easily puree half of the cooked beans to make an amazingly “creamy” result. Blending beans really adds flavor and texture and is a “trade secret” of vegetarian and vegan soup fans.

We suggest you have a good mix of hot and cold soup recipes on hand. These should put an emphasis on cold soups because it means that they are, technically, “raw” and full of enzymes and nutrients in a way that cooked and processed foods just cannot be.

Like all foods and recipes, however, you do want your soups to be made from the finest whole and fresh foods. While it can be tempting to purchase vegetables that are not in prime condition, thinking that because they are going into the soup pot their “ugliness” won’t matter, but just think of the nutrition they have already lost. You want food to bring vitality and to do that it needs to be made from the best ingredients. The keys are fresh, organic, and local (whenever possible).

Wheat Pasta Salad

I hear a lot of people complaining about the taste of wheat pasta. I don’t like to eat it plain because of the wheat taste. I must have something like some dressing or sauce on it in order for me to eat it. I came up with an idea to use other salad recipe ingredients with some wheat pasta and surprisingly it was actually good tasting. If you like seven layer salad then you will love this salad because the ingredients are the same except pasta is a substitution for the lettuce and I added a few extra ingredients. I omitted the hard-boiled eggs for this recipe.


1 package wheat rotini pasta

1 can sweet peas

1 jar bacon bits or you can use real bacon

1 can black olives

11/2 cup miracle whip/mayo

� cup olive oil (or use the mayo that has olive in it)

1 onion

1 bell pepper any color

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Cook the wheat pasta according to package directions. I usually add some oil and salt in the water first. Drain the pasta then put into a bowl. If you want to layer it you can use a square casserole dish but I like mixing all the ingredients together. It’s best to use cooked bacon but jar bacon bits is okay. If you are cooking the bacon make sure that it is good and crispy and drain them on paper towels. Crumble the bacon into the pasta or add in a good brand of jar bacon bits in with the pasta. Slice the onion and add to the pasta. Cut up whatever color bell pepper you have and add to the bowl. Drain the can olives and the can sweet peas and add into the salad. Pasta absorbs liquids so I like to add some olive oil to the mayo/miracle whip then mix it all together. Kraft mayo has olive oil already in it if you choose to buy it mixed. Add a cup or more depending on what you like of sharp cheddar cheese and mix it all up. Salt and pepper the salad then place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour. You can experiment with different ingredients if you don’t like the ones listed. Also this salad goes great as a side or as a main dish by adding cut up chicken breasts, chicken tenders or seafood such as shrimp, lobster or tuna.

Smokey Vegetable Soup With Pasta Smells Good and Tastes Good

Smell has a lot to do with appetite and how much food we eat. Years ago, a friend of mine caught a terrible cold and lost his sense of smell. He didn’t lose it for a week or so, he lost it for six months. “I didn’t want to eat,” he admitted, “and had to force myself do it.”

The smoky smell of this nutritious soup will bring all family members to the kitchen. But the best thing about it is that it’s made primarily with leftovers. My refrigerator seemed to be stocked with a little of this and a little of that. Not one to waste food, I started removing food cartons from the fridge and vegetables from the bin. It was time to make soup.

Some vegetable soup recipes are tomato-based, while others are meat-based. Clear and cream soups are in categories of their own. My goal was to make delicious soup packed with vegetables and flavor. I started with half of a leftover onion. I found some leftover ham and pre-cooked real bacon pieces in the meat drawer. It was time to start cooking.

When you make vegetable soup it’s wise to cut vegetables about the same size. This original recipe may also be made in a slow cooker. I wanted soup for lunch, so I made it in a large saucepan. Because I had some ring pasta in the pantry, that’s what I used. You may use any small pasta of your choice. If you have other vegetables on hand, such as zucchini, throw it in the pot.

As long as you’re making soup, you may as well make a big batch and freeze some for future meals.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large rib celery, sliced into small pieces

2 peeled carrots, sliced into small pieces

1 pound 10-ounce carton unsalted chicken stock

2 cups water

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen green beans

14.5-ounce can petite tomatoes

1 cup ham, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup pre-cooked real bacon recipe pieces

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup ring pasta


Pour olive oil into large soup kettle. Saute onion, celery and carrots over medium heat for about three minutes. Add all other ingredients, with the exception of the pasta. Cover and cook soup over low heat until the vegetables are tender. Add the pasta, cover and cook about 10 minutes more. Serve with French bread, crusty rolls or salty crackers. Makes about 10 servings.

Paleo Tomato Soup Help

Paleo tomato soup has many different variations for cremes that you can use. There is the regular style of cream witch is usually something dairy. The other style is more vegan which is the version with coconut milk. Other people simply ignore the cream and just add water witch isn’t bad if your look for a more simple taste. Each person has there needs so it’s up to you to determine by testing the different and seeing what you want to go for.

So the first one is using simple cream in your soup. You may want cream if you don’t like the natural texture of tomatoes in your soup. This can be cream made with dairy so if you don’t mind dairy products then it’s a good one to use. There are a few to choose from at your local market so look carefully to see what you want.

Another option for cream if you wish to stay away from dairy products would be coconut milk witch isn’t a bad alternative. Coconut milk has many health benefits and can give your tomato soup a unique taste. Coconut milk also can give your body a lot of hydration witch is good your skin and body and general. If you need a healthier alternative then coconut milk is a good option for anyone.

Just adding water can also be a viable option. It’s really up to you if you think you need cream or not. Some people just decide to forget the cream all together and go with the natural ingredients that are already in the soup. If you have a good soup then the cream may not even be necessary. It really depends on witch recipe you are using and how you are making your tomato soup. If you feel like the cream doesn’t need to be there then it doesn’t because there doesn’t always need to be cream.

So soup cream is really a personal thing and it’s up to your taste buds to decide if you need it or not. If you feel the need to add cream then add it and see what you think and if not then just add a bit of water and forget the cream. Each is a good option and has it’s own unique taste. The more you cook tomato soups the more you’ll get a feel for it and develop your own style of tomato soup. In the long run your taste buds need to get honed in and trusted.

Top 5 Teas That Help You Lose Weight

People, especially women, are crazy about losing weight by all means. They put their body through tough diets and spend hundreds on bogus miracle products, without realizing that there is a much simple and healthy option for losing weight – drinking tea.

Although not every tea type will help you lose weight, there are some types that can drastically help. Here are the top 5 tea types that will go to work on your body and help you achieve good results regarding weight loss.

Green Tea. Green tea is recognized as the absolute best weight loss beverage. This tea is rich in antioxidants and catechins, which help the liver to better process fat cells and decrease the levels of stored body fats. Together with caffeine, these substances also work to suppress your appetite and make you feel full longer.

Oolong Tea. This type of beverage is filled with potent antioxidants that will help boost your metabolism, which means this tea also helps the body burn fat cells more quickly and effectively. Also, in this type of beverage, there is caffeine, which is known to speed your metabolism to help you reach your desired weight loss goal much quicker. Oolong tea will also stabilize blood sugar levels, which means craving fewer sweets and feel more balanced and satisfied.

Yerbe Mate. This is a herbal tea specific to South America and it contains some particles that are said to stimulate substances in your body, which leads to faster burning of fats and calories. This tea also suppresses your appetite, as it slows the digestion process. Yerbe Mate also acts as a stimulant, so you are recommended to drink it only during the day or it might interrupt your sleep.

China Black Tea. Also known by the name of Pu-Erh, this type of tea is a delicacy in China. This herb is naturally fermented and the more it is aged, the better it tastes. China Black tea contains special enzymes that have been proven to decompose fat cells effectively.

White Tea. This type of tea slows the body’s ability to retain fats from the food you consume. Drinking White tea helps burn existing fat as well as prevent the storage of new fat, reducing the body’s overall weight.

You can enjoy any of these tea types exactly as you wish, but you might consider drinking it in such manner that it does not lose its natural flavor. You can add sugar, cream or honey to your cup, or opt for the natural way, without any additives.

Keeping the healthy Properties of these Tea Types

Of course, if your goal is to lose weight drinking tea, you should consume it with as few additives as possible for the best results. In its natural form, tea does not contain any calories, so this is definitely the best way to drink it for your weight loss plan.

You can drink these teas every day without dread, as they taste very good. These teas are a wonderful option for losing weight and are much healthier in comparison to other methods of losing weight.

Which of the above named teas do you think tastes the best?

Which is best for a picky palate?

Banana Squash, What Is It

Banana squashes are native to South America, specifically Peru, and made its way to the United States in 1893. They require over half a year to cultivate and only yield one crop. This makes them less desirable for farmers, which makes the squash less available in produce stores.

A banana squash is a winter squash. It is yellow/orange in color (when ripe, it is salmon colored) and is about 2 to 3 feet long. It smells like a cucumber, the meat looks similar to a pumpkin, but it has its own flavor. It can weigh up to 35lbs but is generally around 10lbs.

They are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, and an excellent source of vitamin A and C. They can be stored up to six months if in a dark, low humid environment and can be used in the same way as any other winter squash. It makes great stews, soups, and salad toppings. It pairs great with butter, cheese, lamb, pork belly and truffles. The best herbs/spices to use are the ones we love for winter: thyme, bay, sage, rosemary, cumin, curry, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

I had no idea what to do with a banana squash when I purchased it. The following recipes were my first attempt at using a banana squash and were followed with rave reviews from family and friends. I hope you enjoy!

Banana Squash Pie

First, wash the squash and then cut the ends off. Use a serrated knife to keep from slicing your hand. Cut into pieces and scoop out the seeds. Keeping the pieces as big as you can, put them in a microwaveable bowl. You may have to do this several times in order to get all of them done. Put two inches of water in the bowl and then put the lid on. Now place in the microwave for approximately 12 minutes (until the squash is soft).

Take the squash out and scoop out the meat. It is OK to let it cool before scooping. The squash will yield more than enough, so you don’t have to be overly precise. Blend the squash (I used a food processor but you can also use a blender).

Now your squash is ready for the recipe.

3 cups squash puree

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp all spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 can evaporated milk

2 graham cracker pie crusts

Mix it all together and put in pie crusts. The mixture is very liquid, that is OK.

Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Then turn temp to 350F and cook around 60 minutes. You test done-ness by inserting butter knife or toothpick and it coming out clean.


Banana Squash-Raisin-Walnut Bread

I had left over squash. So I made some bread.

Rest of squash

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp all spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 can evaporated milk

3 cups Bisquick

Chopped walnuts


Mix together and put in bread pans. Cook at 350F for 40 minutes.

Freezing Option

It is possible to retain some of the Banana Squash meat in the freezer, but not for too long. Take the meat out of the skin and put in a vacuum seal bag. Don’t have a vacuum sealer? No problem! Put it in a ziploc bag. Place a straw in the bag and seal it up (straw will be poking out). Suck out the air, pull the straw out and seal the bag. This isn’t as good as vacuum sealing, but works pretty well!

Laura is an author, writer, consultant, photographer, homeschool mom, Mary Kay consultant and Army wife. Her passions in writing are in food/health, Christian persecution and children’s curriculum. Laura loves to travel, volunteer, photograph, cook, and learn as much as she can about everything! Connect with her at

Because of health issues and special diets in her family, Laura has learned how to eat healthy while keeping the expense down and the taste elevated. She strives to reach out to those that have special diet requirements, are looking for alternative solutions to medicine, and/or just trying to be healthy with a budget.