My Pretty Apron: Cookbook to the Rescue

Last week’s cooking marathon for Thanksgiving really tested my wits in the kitchen which is always a good time, but it left me a bit high and dry for this week’s My Pretty Apron. What could I make that wasn’t going to break the bank (or my head) while offering something nutritious and easy to cook?

There are three things I turn to when I’m confronted with this kind of culinary crisis: Pinterest, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon (to save on what I like at the bookstore!). I found myself standing in front of the cookbooks table on a lunch break earlier this week, holding a copy of Dr. Andrew Weil’s new cookbook, True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. It’s a beautiful edition with loads of amazing recipes, but I put the book down and filed it away in my mental shopping list (just imagine a massive Pinterest board) for my cookbook collection.

I made my way over the magazine section, picked up the December issue of Whole Living, Martha Stewart’s publication focused on wellness and healthy eating, and found myself looking at Dr. Andrew Weil’s face again. Several recipes followed his impressive bio and after taking the time to read more about his food philosophy, I took it as a sign that I’d tackle one of his recipes this week.

Dr. Weil is a major celebrity in the health and food world and has garnered support from notables like Marion Nestle (my personal hero), along with running a very successful restaurant business in the southwestern US. He’s proven that there is a market for healthy food and that people are willing to eat nutritiously as long as the meals are prepared well. He’s pioneered his own meal plan by created an anti-inflammatory food pyramid depicting a diet heavy in organic vegetables, fruit, fish, and whole grains. Coupled with his integrative medicine theory, Dr. Weil’s goal is to improve the mind and body through both mainstream and alternative means. It’s a fascinating concept and something I’d like to spend more time researching, especially as I continue to shape my own nutrition philosophy.  For now, I have another great source for recipes which means more excitement in the kitchen!

What’s even better is that it’s coming out of an actual real-life cookbook and not from a website which I find kind of nice after spending hours clicking away online. Do any of you actually pick up a book off the shelf and use it in the kitchen or are you like me where you have dozens of printed recipes pinned messily to your fridge? Or even better, do you drag you computer or tablet to the kitchen for easy access? There’s nothing wrong with either method, but its funny to think about how we’ve changed the way we cook with the introduction of all this technology…..and I’m getting dangerously close to tangent territory here! Ok, back on track.  Cookbook or not,  I’ve included a link to the recipe online just to keep the best of both worlds, digital and print, alive and kicking. 🙂

Let’s begin with the nuts and bolts and then get into this week’s recipe.



Fennel, often associated with Mediterranean cuisine, is nearly entirely edible. The bulb, stalks, leaves, and seeds can be used as both an herb and vegetable and is closely related to parley, carrots, coriander and dill. It has an anise or licorice flavor and is rich in nutrients and anti-inflammatory benefits which makes this a tasty and healthy addition to your recipes. When buying fennel, be sure the bulbs are clean and firm and that they are white or pale green in color. If the bulbs still have the stalks attached, check that there are no flowering buds as this will indicate an overly mature vegetable. You can store fennel for up to four days, however it should really be eaten within a day or two of purchase while its still fresh.

Some of the major nutritional and health advantages of fennel include:

  • Low calories and fat: With only 27 calories and less than 1g of total fat in each serving of raw fennel, this vegetable will help maintain a healthy body weight while pumping up the flavor of your dishes.
  • Vitamin C: Fennel is an excellent source of Vitamin C with nearly 18% of your DV in a 1 cup serving. Vitamin C helps promote wound healing and the normal growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Potassium: A serving of fennel yields about 360mg of potassium or 10% of your DV. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure and heart beat.
  • Fiber: 3g of dietary fiber or approximately 11% of your DV can be found in a serving of fennel. Diets rich in dietary fiber can not only aid digestion, but help protect against coronary heart disease.
  • Women’s Health: Tea made from fennel seeds may help alleviate menstrual cramps and abdominal bloating (among other ailments) due to its antispasmodic properties which help relax uterine muscles.

This versatile vegetable has so many applications that can really allow for some fun experimentation for your taste buds as well as some positive side effects for your health. We are in a prime time for fennel as it’s in season from Fall through early Spring. Even if you can’t find fresh fennel bulbs, consider investing in fennel seeds for your spice pantry. It’s definitely worth it to use as a seasoning or for your herbal tea.

For more information on how to use fennel and some basic recipes, take a look at Cooking Light’s great profile here.

This weeks recipe is a bit of a departure from the paleo lifestyle I’ve been exploring this past month. I’ve sort of gone back and forth with some of the aspects of paleo and I really wasn’t looking to over think my cooking this week after all the work I put in the kitchen last week.

My objective will always remain the same: to eat clean, healthy, nutritious food that can be sourced locally as often as possible while limiting my carbon footprint by consuming sustainably. Oh and it must also taste yummy-obviously! I hit the target this week with Dr. Andrew Weil’s Sweet Potato Poblano Soup.

Not only are you already getting a hefty dose of vitamin C, fiber and potassium from the fennel, but you are now getting a major boost of those same vitamins and minerals from the addition of sweet potato.  Remember that one cup of sweet potatoes have about 38% of your DV in Vitamin C, 15% DV of potassium and 15%DV of fiber along with being a vitamin A superstar, providing a whopping 384% of your DV. Add this to the fennel and you have a serious powerhouse in a small bowl. Although there are a few non-Paleo ingredients in this soup, I find the nutritional profile here to be more than enough to compensate. Also, it’s delicious.

Here’s the recipe (which can also be found by clicking the link above, or in this month’s issue of Whole Living by Martha Stewart OR in Dr. Weil’s cookbook, True Food ):

Ingredients- serving 6

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed*
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 small bulb fennel, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 poblano chile, seeded and diced
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine*
  • 1 14-oz can unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • 2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

*Notes and Alterations: The corn and white wine are the culprits keeping this from being fully Paleo. You can choose to omit these altogether and replace the wine with a stock and the corn for tomato or even a leafy green like kale (I had that brainwave after I was done while washing the dishes). Also, I used canned corn. Yes, CANNED corn. I don’t normally eat corn and it seemed silly (and wasteful) to buy a bag of frozen when I have cans stored in my cupboard. In the meantime, this is vegan-friendly and gluten-free! If you don’t like things too spicy, you can cut down the chili powder and cayenne like I did. The poblanos are a must however, and do give the soup a nice round kick.

Special Tools:

  • Mortar and Pestle
  • 5 quart pot or dutch oven
  • Baking Tray

Put your apron on and get started!

1. Turn on your broiler and preheat.

2. Peel and chop the sweet potato, carrots, fennel bulb, and onion and place in a large bowl.

3. Peel and mash garlic in your mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one of these (although I’ll keep saying it: BUY ONE!) , use a garlic press to mash up the cloves as much as possible. Add to the bowl of veggies and mix together with the olive oil.

4. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the veggies in a single layer. Put it in the broiler and let it cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning once halfway through. The vegetables should be browned when done.

5. While the veggies are in the broiler, set up your spices. Measure out the oregano, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, turmeric, salt and pepper in a small prep bowl. It’s a time savor and you can also adjust here according to your taste. I actually increased the amount of salt from the original recipe and used fresh ground sea salt for added flavor.

6. Once veggies are done, remove from the broiler and put them into the big pot, along with the spices, wine, and water. *Note:  I used less water (about 1 1/2 quarts) than what’s advised in the original recipe. This was just for me, but even with the reduction there was enough soup left over for four people. If you’re cooking for lots of people, then keep the quantity the same.

7. Mix well over a medium-high heat and allow it to boil. Once it reaches this stage, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for approximately 45 minutes.

8. Chop up about 2-3 scallions and a big handful of cilantro and set aside.

9. Taste the soup throughout for salt and seasonings. Adjust as necessary.

10. After 45 minutes, remove pot from the heat and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Then whisk in the coconut milk and mix well into the soup.

11. Ladle yourself a bowl and garnish with a generous helping of scallions and cilantro. Finito!

Here’s my pretty bowl, all dressed and ready for you. 🙂

I really love this recipe and found it to be a simple and delicious soup that can be adapted pretty easily to suit your tastes. I’d actually love to give this another go with some winter greens and maybe some root vegetables like squash or turnips. One quick tip to consider is swapping out the water for a vegetable stock to give it a richer flavor. There was a nice bit of heat that was just enough to make it interesting but not so spicy that I couldn’t enjoy the soup. All in all, a great recipe that I’d recommend whether you’re a paleo-file or not.

Hope you enjoyed this recipe as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. Are you planning on trying this out?? If so, tell me all about it and show me your pics! I’d love to hear more about your fun apron adventures as well. Until next Thursday, keep it clean and keep paying it forward. 🙂

5 Replies to “My Pretty Apron: Cookbook to the Rescue”

  1. Love the fennel information. Really good to know!
    Your soup looks incredible! Light and delicious : )

    I had a nice little chuckle because I go through my printed cookbooks, and the laptop, and the many handwritten recipes when deciding on what to prepare!


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