Thank goodness week 3 is over with! I don't know about you, but that was the hardest week for me. And I cheated more than I had in any of the previous weeks. I even had a soy latte yesterday. I know, I know—but I'm moving on to week 4.
Week 4 is the final week in this 30-Days of Clean Eating adventure. I hope it is going to be the easiest week since you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, these 30-days aren't about dieting. There's a million diets out there; they are all restrictive and when you are done with them, you gain whatever weight you lost during the diet right back. Instead, these 30-days are about getting you to think about what you are putting into your grocery cart at the store and then into your mouth and body. They are about making a lifestyle change. And it doesn't have to be a huge lifestyle change, although it can be. Decreasing your alcohol consumption, cutting down on sugar, adding flaxseed meal to your smoothies or oatmeal, adding a few more meatless meals to your repertoire and lowering your risk of heart disease by eating less dairy—these small changes are what the 30-Days of Clean Eating challenge is all about.
Let's talk sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes tend to get a bad wrap. They are mushy and bland. Most people only eat them during the holidays and usually not by choice. And when you do eat them, they are sugared up, topped with marshmallows and baked. First off, yuck. Second off, as the name implies, they are already sweet! Why add all that additional crap to them? It's time to let the sweet potato shine. I eat them year round and often by just roasting with oil, salt and pepper. They are actually delicious.
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, potassium and vitamin A. They are made up of complex carbohydrates—these are the slow release sugars we talked about last week that get you going and keep you going. They are a great vegetable for athletes for that reason alone. They are also a good source of protein and calcium. So much nutrition packed into these orange tubers.
I've really been craving sweets lately and so I decided to create this little gem of a soup using sweet potatoes and corn—two of mother nature's candied vegetables. Although this soup takes a little while to make and has numerous steps, it's actually really easy. Adding the roasted poblano peppers and the caramelized onions and garlic give it a nice deep smokey flavor. My husband does not like sweet potatoes—but he loves this soup. I promise, you won't be disappointed!
Start by roasting the potatoes. And by all means, save yourself some time and do this a few days before and store them in the refrigerator. Wash your sweet potatoes and pierce a few times with a fork. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, squishing with your oven mit to tell when it is done. Depending on the size of your tubers, you might need to roast them a little longer. When they are soft, remove them to cool completely before you cut the stringy ends off, peel and dice them up into large chunks.
Now turn your oven broiler on. For some reason, a lot of people are afraid of roasting peppers themselves. It is so easy. Take a shallow pan and line with foil. Drizzle or spray a little oil on the foil. Put your clean peppers on the foil and put under the broiler for 5 minutes. Flip the peppers and put back under the broiler for another 5 minutes. If your peppers have three sides, flip again for another 5 minutes until they look like the picture below.
Now here's the key. Immediately dampen a paper towel. Wrap the hot peppers in the towel and put the bundle in a paper bag (some people use a plastic bag) and roll closed. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then remove from the bag. The skin should peel right off at this point. Skin, de-seed, and dice them up to prepare for the soup.
While all of this is going on, cut your sweet onion into thin slices. In a large skillet, add the olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Saute on low to start to caramelize. Add the sliced garlic cloves about 10 minutes into the process and continue cooking at a low heat for another 20 minutes or so until the onions are a lovely tan color and have sweetened up.
Those three steps are the hardest part of this soup. And they aren't hard, they are just the prep work. You are building flavors here and it makes for a delicious soup. Throw all three into a big dutch oven or soup pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes so that your flavors start to marry.
Now you need to puree your soup. There are a few tools I use to make my pureed soup making a cinch. My Vitamix, a large pyrex measuring cup and extra liquid on hand. Have those out and ready. If you don't have a Vitamix or other high powered blender, you don't know what you are missing. I use mine every single day. There is no comparison between it and a regular blender.
Blend your soup in two batches. Ladle half into your blender. Blend for about 15 seconds, adding 1/2 cup of water as needed to thin out enough to blend. Pour that into your large pyrex container, then blend the rest of your soup.
Return the pureed soup to your pot and heat back up, adding a little ground ancho chili pepper at the end for an added kick. It is ready to serve! Garnish as you want. I enjoy either chopped avocado and crushed up tortilla chips or my new favorite is some Cuban seasoned cashews, a spoon full of vegan sour cream and left over corn kernels. The Cuban seasoned cashews are so easy and add a yummy crunch. Plus you have leftovers for appetizers or to munch on during the week. Simply heat some oil in a skillet, add the raw cashews and your seasonings and cook, stirring often, until they are golden. Allow to cool completely to crunch up.
I promise you will love this flavorful, smokey, spicy and lightly sweet soup. Enjoy! Xoxo
Time: 2 hours
2 large sweet potatoes
2 large poblano peppers
2 tbsp. olive or avocado oil
2 sweet onions, sliced thin
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1/2 tsp. course kosher salt
1/4 tsp. course black pepper
2 c. frozen corn
3 c. water
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground ancho chili pepper
1/2 tsp. course kosher salt
1/4 tsp. course black pepper
1 c. water
1/2 tsp. ground ancho chili pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Scrub sweet potatoes, pierce a few times with a fork and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake until they are soft to the touch with your oven mit, approx. 1 hour (depending on size). Remove and let cool.
In a skillet, heat up the oil and add the thinly sliced onions, salt and pepper. Lower heat to a simmer setting and slowly cook onions for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the sliced garlic and continue caramelizing over very low heat for another 15-20 minutes, stirring often.
At the same time, Set oven on broil. Line a pan with foil and spray with olive or avocado oil. Wash poblano peppers and place on the foil lined pan. Place under broiler for 5 minutes. Flip the peppers over and broil for another 5 minutes. Dampen a paper towel and once the peppers are out of the oven, wrap in the damp paper towel and place the peppers in a paper or plastic bag for 10 minutes. Remove and pick/scrape the skin from the peppers and de-seed them. Chop the roasted peppers.
Take the skin off the roasted sweet potatoes, chop the ends off and discard both. Next chop the sweet potatoes into large chunks.
In a large dutch oven or soup pot, place the chopped peppers and sweet potatoes. Add the frozen corn and the water. Add the caramelized onions/garlic mixture and the seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
In two batches, blend the soup in a Vitamix, high powered blender or immersion blender. You will probably need a total of 1 cup water during the blending process to thin the soup out. Return to the soup pot and reheat. Add the additional 1/2 tsp. ancho chili pepper for a final kick.
Serve as is, or add a spoon of sour cream, spiced nuts and corn kernels to garnish. See my Cuban Spiced Cashews recipe.
Nutritional Estimations: Calories 158. Total Fat 6 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 356 mg. Potassium 373 mg. Total Carbs 25 g. Fiber 4 g. Sugars 7 g. Protein 3 g. Vitamin A 177%. Vitamin C 11%. Calcium 3%. Iron 6%.