Barley, Bean and Vegetable Soup

Barley, Bean and Vegetable Soup
Barley, Bean and Vegetable Soup

I love eating soup in the winter, especially when it gets as cold as it has been.  Once the temperature dips into the 20s and below, I feel cold all the time and soups and hot tea or apple cider become staples for me.  Also, with soup you can get all the vitamins and nutrition you need in one pot.  Once you put it on to cook, you can go and do other things and it is ready when you are.  The recipe below is a barley, bean and vegetable soup.  Since I rarely eat meat, I like to be sure to get the vitamins and proteins I need using beans and grains.

Barley is a very healthy and nutritious grain.  It is high in fiber, which adds bulk to food, helps with digestion and makes you feel full longer.  It is also a good source of protein.  Protein is a source of energy and helps distribute oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.  Barley also is loaded with B-complex vitamins.  It contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9.  Vitamin B plays a vital role in metabolism and energy production.  Barley also contains iron which helps in the formation and function of red blood cells.  Barley contains the mineral Selenium which helps support the immune system.  If you don’t get enough selenium in your diet, it can increase your susceptibility to viral infections.  During the winter there are so many viruses going around you want to help ward them off.  Just one cup of cooked pearl barley provides you with 20% of the daily recommended value.

With the added beans and vegetables, this soup will give you plenty more vitamins and fiber and will keep you warm as well.  Instead of crackers, you may want to try this soup with a nice whole wheat crusty bread for some added fiber and grains.  I hope you enjoy it!

Barley, Bean and Vegetable Soup


  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup peppers (green, red, yellow, orange – any combination)
  • 1/2 cup of any other vegetable you may want to add (if any)
  • 2 Tbls of white wine
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 cup pearled barley (uncooked)
  • 1 can (14″) pinto or white beans (or your favorite bean)
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 large bay leaves

In a large stock pot, saute the onions and all the other fresh vegetables in the white wine for about 5 minutes, or until they are getting tender.  Add the frozen vegetables and continue to saute until they are starting to thaw.  Add the broth, beans, barley and all the spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the barley is soft and fluffy.  Serve with your favorite warm bread or whole grain crackers.


GMO’s as “Natural”??

"Natural" GMO?
“Natural” GMO?

This week I became aware that the GMA (Grocery Manufactures Association), which is known as the “Big Food” organization which represents companies such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, ConAgraFoods, Bayer CropScience, as well as more than 300 others, is petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) as “natural” and to block states from requiring GMO labels.  Both Maine and Connecticut have passed laws that require products with GMO in them to be labeled as such.  “Big Food” wants to block the FDA’s ability to give us a right to know if our food contains GMOs.

A representative from the Environmental Working Group told The New York Times that the association’s request is “audacious.” The Center for Food Safety is also appalled. “There is nothing natural about genetic engineering,” said Colin O’Neil, the center’s government affairs director. “Genetic engineering, by its very definition, is not a natural process. It is an artificial and novel process, which often involves inserting foreign (often bacterial) genetic material into a food plant, crop or animal. The U.S. Patent Office has granted numerous patents on genetically engineered plants, finding that they and novel elements in them are not naturally occurring.”

According to FDA policy, food labels can’t be false or misleading.  A reasonable consumer would not expect foods labeled “natural” to contain GE ingredients. As such, labeling GE foods with the word “natural” would be exceptionally misleading to consumers.”

According to “Big Foods” there is nothing unsafe about genetically engineered foods. But then I have to wonder why, if that is the case, they want to hide it?  Since about 93% of all processed foods we eat contains some type of GMO, maybe that is true.  On the other hand, this has been going on for quite some time and there are more and more diseases and health problems that our citizens face today.  Could these bio-engineered foods be the cause?  Big Food is spending billions of dollars trying to keep the public in the dark about what we are eating.  Could it be because people are starting to become more concerned and aware of what they are eating?  In 2013, 10% of all grocery sales were labeled “natural” and 5% of grocery sales were organic.  Starting in 2018,Whole Foods will require all products containing GMOs to be labeled as such.  I feel strongly that we should be able to decide for ourselves what ingredients we want to consume.  If you don’t care what ingredients are in your food, that is great for you.  But if you do care, why should you be kept in the dark about what you want to put into your body?  You should have the right to know so that you can make decisions that work best for you.  More than 90% of Americans say they want to know, but unless we let our representatives know how we feel, Big Foods will win and we will be at their mercy.  Big Foods is working diligently to be able to label GMO foods as “natural”, but on the other hand, they don’t want to label their GMO foods as containing GMO.  It sounds like they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Below are two links.  If you click on the first link you will get to the Environmental Working Group site.  Click on the “Take Action” button on the top right. Then click on the center action item that says “Don’t let Big Food hide the truth about GE foods!”  That will take you to a petition to sign telling your representative to oppose Big Food’s proposal.  The second link is for further information on this subject.

Industry Proposal Would Bar GE Food Labels | Environmental

Grocery Manufacturers Want Foods with GMOs Food Safety News



Get Empowered for 2014!

Vegan Vegetable Chili
Vegan Vegetable Chili

I can’t believe we have already been into 2014 for a week!  I gave some thought to the new year, but have been spending a lot of time wrapping up loose ends of 2013.  I am now ready to embrace 2014 and move forward..  I had a good 2013, but am hoping for an even better 2014.  I am extremely thankful for my health and plan to continue down the path of healthy eating and exercise.   Eating healthy foods is part of my life and I enjoy embracing new information on how I can eat even better.  I am convinced that what we eat makes all the difference in the world in how healthy we are.

I hope you are planning to take control of your life in a positive way.  Not by denying yourself, but by empowering yourself.  Own your life.  This is your life and your health.  No one can make you eat certain foods, rather they be healthy or unhealthy.  If you feel overwhelmed by changing your diet, just stop and make a plan.  Start with small steps and work your way up.  If you drink a lot of colas, replace one a day with a glass of water.  After you get used to that, maybe start replacing two, and so on.  If you simply can’t stand water, drink tea.   If you  eat chips or sweets for an afternoon snack, maybe replace that with some nuts of your choice or a piece of fruit with a few nuts.  Try to do that a couple of days a week until you get used to it and then add other healthy snacks.  If you eat at fast food restaurants for lunch every day, bring your lunch from home one day a week.  When it gets warmer out, if you have someplace to go outside at lunch, take your lunch from home and eat outside, taking in the vitamin D from the sun and maybe even taking a walk.  Even just a nice stroll is energizing and makes you feel better.  It doesn’t have to be an all out power walk or run (unless you want to.  By all means, go for it!).  Small daily changes in your life can bring great benefits.  Don’t beat yourself up when you slip.  Just start over.  If it helps you to do this with a friend or co-worker, than do it.  You have to do whatever works for you.  Make this the year that you get healthier on your terms.

I am planning to include more recipes this year.  I am constantly looking for new foods to try or new recipes to try with some of the foods that I include regularly in my diet, such as quinoa, bulgar, couscous, whole wheat pasta and brown rice.  Since I don’t eat meat, I am big on one dish meals that include grains, beans and vegetables.  It is easier and faster to prepare and looks more appetizing to me than a plate with a grain and a couple of vegetables sitting there by themselves!

Since it has been so cold, beyond cold for some of you, I decided to include a recipe for a Vegan Crock Pot Chili.  If you want to add meat, just substitute the meatless crumbles or like me, leave them both out.  I hope you enjoy it and it keeps you warm.


Homemade Apple Butter

Homemade Apple Butter
Homemade Apple Butter

Last week I posted a recipe for homemade apple cider.  It was quite popular with my family and as I said last week, if I was ambitious, I would make some apple butter as well.  Since I had ten pounds of apples and I was cutting them up anyway, I did go ahead and make apple butter.  It was wonderful!  Apples are always good for you and this recipe was easy and didn’t have to much sugar.  You can sweeten it as you like.  If you are using sweeter apples, (I used tart apples) than maybe you will want to add less sugar.  You could also substitute honey or any other type of sweetener you prefer.

Thanksgiving is in a few days, and if you are traveling, near or far, this apple butter would be a great gift to take along with you.  Just put it in a mason jar and tie a ribbon around it.  Or, if everyone is coming to your house, it is great to snack for later after the big meal digests and everyone starts looking around for snacks.  It is good on toast, bread, and biscuits.  My daughter substituted it for the jelly on her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and loved it.  I put some peanut butter on a Wasa cracker and then some apple butter on top of that.  Yum!   I even sweetened my oatmeal with this apple butter.

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.  If you are traveling, be safe and enjoy the time you are spending with the people you are traveling with.  They are your blessings.

Here is the recipe for Homemade Apple Butter

  • 12 medium-sized apples
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbls cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  1. Peel, core, and roughly chop all the apples.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugars, spices, lemon juice and water.
  3. Add the apples and the sugar/spice/liquid mixture to a large saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Mash up the apples as much as you can, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in a splash of water (about a couple of tablespoons).  Cook uncovered for another 45 minutes, stirring frequently (every 5 to 10 minutes) so the apples on the bottom don’t burn.
  5. When the apple butter has reached your preferred consistency, remove the pan from the heat, and allow it to cool for a few minutes.  Then, puree it using an immersion blender, food processor or regular blender.
  6. Let the apple butter cool off before putting it in jars and refrigerate it for up to 5 days.  Apple butter can also be frozen.

This recipe yields about 1-1/2 cups.


Homemade Apple Cider

Hot Apple Cider
Hot Apple Cider

I don’t know how it is where you are, but here in North Carolina we are having colder weather than usual.  It usually doesn’t get this cold until the end of December or January.  So, when I noticed that November 18 is National Apple Cider Day it seemed like a good idea to make some apple cider and try to warm myself up.  I order produce most weeks from a local organization called The Produce Box.  They deliver local produce to your door. Apples are in season and they had a special on ten pounds of apples.  These are the “flawed” or “slightly bruised” apples so the timing is perfect because they are great for making apple cider.  If I am really ambitious, I plan to make some apple butter as well!

Apples are a super healthy food.  They are filled with fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.  Eating apples regularly, can help prevent heart attack and stroke because the fiber helps absorb the cholesterol that may block your arteries.  Apples have abrasive qualities which fights stains on your teeth so they may make your teeth whiter.  In a Brazilian study, women who ate an apple before each meal lost 33% more weight than those who didn’t eat an apple.  Apples can boost your immune system and is a great snack to eat before a workout because it increases your endurance.  Apples have also been shown to improve your memory.

I realize that when we make cider out of apples, we lose most of the nutrients and fiber.  So, when I made the recipe below, instead of removing all the pulp by straining it when it was finished cooking, I put it all into my Vitamix blender and blended it all up until it was liquified.  Yum!

Click here to view the recipe for homemade apple cider


Trans Fats Being Removed From Foods Per FDA

Trans Fat and Your Heart
Trans Fat and Your Heart

On November 7 the FDA released a preliminary report stating that partially hydrogenated oils in foods is no longer considered safe.  This is great news and will hopefully pave the way for elimination of artificial trans fats in foods.  Many companies and industries have been reducing the amount of partially hydrogenated oils (which translates into trans fats) since 2004.  But, hopefully this will move companies to work harder to eliminate this harmful product altogether.  Trans fat promotes heart disease at a faster rate than other fats.

There are still many items that contain trans fats, such at popcorn, coffee creamers, margarine, cookie dough, frozen pizza, canned frosting and baked goods to name a few.  Just be sure to look at the label before purchasing these foods, as well as any processed foods.  As you may know, when you look at the amount of fat and types of fats in a product, if there is .5 grams or less per serving it does not have to be listed.  So be sure to read the ingredient label and look for the words “partially hydrogenated” to see if there are any trans fats.  Then see what the serving size is and how much you plan to eat.   Trans fats can add up before you know it.

Even if it becomes a law, it will probably take years for the elimination of partially hydrogenated oils to be removed from all foods.  But you can do your part  to take control of your health by reading the ingredient labels carefully and choosing wisely.

If you would like to read more about this, click on the link below…

FDA Moves to Reduce Trans Fat in Processed Foods | Food Safety


Healthy Food on a Budget

Healthy Food
Healthy Food

I think we all strive to eat well.  If you are on a limited budget you want to make sure the foods you eat are the best ones you can get for the money you spend.  We all hear that fruits, vegetables and whole grains are where we will get the most nutrition.  Some fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially when they are not in season, so the guide below can help you choose your produce to benefit you the most.  EGW  lists a group of the most popular fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and oils which contain the least amount of pesticides and then lists which are lower in cost and other helpful hints and recipes.  Be sure to click on the food list to see which foods they recommend and the tips for other information on how to get the most nutrition on your budget.

Click here for additional information


Cold Weather Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup
Mushroom Soup

Fall weather is here and getting cooler fast.  It is supposed to get down into the 30’s this week so I found myself going through my soup recipes looking for that warming, comforting soup.  I came across a really good mushroom soup recipe that we enjoy in our home.

I don’t think most people realize just how healthy mushrooms are.  They are not a very exciting food.  I was going to say vegetable, but mushrooms aren’t vegetables or fruits.  They aren’t even plants, but rather a fungus.  But don’t let that discourage you from eating them.  They are a powerhouse of nutritional  benefits.  Some benefits of mushrooms include:

  • They lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • They reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Since they are low in carbohydrates, they can keep blood sugar levels under control.
  • They provide kidney support and liver protection.
  • They improve blood flow.

Those are just a few of the many benefits of eating mushrooms.   They are also filled with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, and folate, to name a few.

Another great thing about mushrooms is that it doesn’t matter whether you eat them raw or cooked because mushrooms contain antioxidants that are not deactivated or destroyed by cooking.

So, go get your mushrooms and lets start cooking!


  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 6 cups low-sodium mushroom or vegetable broth
  • 1-1/2 pounds sliced mushrooms


Heat olive oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add carrots, celery and onion and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes.

Add bay leaf, thyme, barley and stock and bring to a boil quickly over high heat.  Lower the heat and let simmer 30 to 40 minutes until barley is completely tender.

Add mushrooms and let simmer five to seven minutes until tender.  Remove bay leaf and adjust salt and pepper.  Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Nutritional Information:  Makes 6 servings – Calories 122, Protein 4g, Total carbs 23g, Total fat 2g, Saturated fat 1g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sugar 5g.

Note:  If you don’t want to use oil, you can cook the carrots, celery and onion in white wine.  It may take a little longer to cook than if you use oil, but it tastes great and cuts out the fat.

10 Foods to Help Fight Breast Cancer

Cancer Fighting Foods
Cancer Fighting Foods

October is breast cancer awareness month.  There are many events going on this month to bring awareness of this disease.  At the high school football game on Friday night, it was pinkout day and everyone wore pink, including the football players who wore pink socks.  There probably aren’t many people who have not known someone who has had breast cancer or struggled with the disease themselves.  I have a friend right now who is currently going through breast cancer treatments.

I am always looking for healthy ways to try and combat any illness, either as a prevention or to heal.  I have been reading about nutrition and diet and how it affects our health and recently found the article below.  I thought Breast Cancer Awareness month would be a good time to pass it on.

Studies show that a diet low in fat is best because high fat diets have been linked to more aggressive types of cancer.  Also plenty of fruits and vegetables help promote breast health as well as overall health.  The 10 top breast-cancer fighting foods are:

Broccoli is number one on the list. Broccoli contains isothiocyanates which have the ability to break down breast cancer cells by activating genes that fight cancer and turning off others that fuel tumors.

Beta-Carotene Loaded Foods such as carrots, pumpkin, apricots and other bright orange fruits and vegetables.  These antioxidants can neutralize the free radicals that are damaging the cells in your body.

Mushrooms – Studies found that women who eat at least a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day were 64 percent less likely to develop a tumor.

Red-Purple Cabbage – Red cabbage contains a chemicals called glucosinolates.   Specifically, glucosinolates are able to block  dangerous substances that can cause cell damage and tumor growth, as well as help eliminate carcinogens from the body.

Garlic contains allyl sulfur which helps reduce the risk of cancer cells in the body.  However, for this to work, you need to chop the garlic and then let it sit for 10 minutes before cooking it (or eating it if you like it raw).

Wild Salmon – The omega-3 oils in salmon help protect against breast cancer.  However, it is recommended that you eat wild caught salmon.  Most farm raised salmon contains chemicals such as dioxin and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  These may increase your risk of other diseases as well as counteract the benefits of the omega-3.

Vitamin D and Calcium – These vitamins help protect against the most aggressive kinds of breast cancer but seems to benefit only premenopausal women.

Red Grapes contain resveratrol which may work to prevent cancer in breast cells.  This has not be confirmed yet in clinical trials.

Tomatoes contain carotenoid lycopen which neutralizes free radicals which then prevents oxicative damage to the cells.  Cooked tomatoes have more lycopen, so be sure to cook your tomatoes.

Berries are full of flavonoids and may decrease the proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Most of these foods are easily obtained and if you only like a few of them, then eat the ones you like.  The important thing is that you eat the right foods to help prevent breast cancer or any other cancer or disease.

For more in depth information on these ten foods, click here





Sugar Affects Your Body More Than You Think

Which one would you choose?

Did you know the average adult eats over 100 pounds of sugar each year?  You may not think you are eating that much, but think about it.  There is sugar in almost everything we eat.  We are aware of it in baked goods and when we add it to coffee or tea or drink a soda, but almost every item you pick up off the shelf at the store has some kind of sugar in it.  That pasta sauce?  It has sugar in it.  Be careful of cereals with high sugar contents.  Sugar comes in many names, such as evaporated cane juice, any word ending in “ose” and a host of others.  Look for the amount of sugar per serving to see just how much you are getting.

The problem is that excessive amounts of sugar in our diet can create an imbalance in our bodies, especially the B vitamins.  Excessive intake of sugar can cause mood disorders such as depression.  It can also contribute to weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, crying spells and over time, emotional issues.  To much sugar suppresses the immune system and can cause us to have more illnesses.

To much sugar can throw off our mineral balance which include magnesium, calcium and iron.  When these get out of whack, you may feel ill or fatigued.   It can also cause inflammation of the bones and joints leading to Arthritis.

Eating to much sugar can accelerate the signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines and grey hair.  It can damage the pancreas which can lead to diabetes or hypoglycemia.  Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are fatigue, headaches, depression, memory loss and heart palpitations.

Children can be especially vulnerable to eating to much sugar and some common conditions they may suffer from are anxiety, obesity, trouble concentrating, and hyperactivity.  It is especially important to monitor children when they reach puberty and their hormone levels increase.

How we eat affects our mood and our body chemistry so it is important to look at the nutritional content of the food you are eating.  If you can just change one meal per day and make it a whole nutritional meal with whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, you may feel a big difference in your energy level and overall well being.  Sometimes we just don’t realize how much sugar we are consuming.

Our country is in a serious health crisis and it is important to that we take control of our own health and choose foods that will work to make us healthier and not sicker.  Be good to yourself and take a few minutes today to examine what foods you are eating and figure out how you can cut back, just a little at a time, on the extra added sugar.

To see a Sugar Addiction Infographic starting from 1960 click here

Inside Your Food