[Instant Pot] Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Cozy comfort food – it’s what I need right now! This creamy soup is made from roasted broccoli, real sharp cheddar cheese, and an earthy-sweet foundation of onions, carrots and celery. It’s also enriched (in both the culinary and nutritional sense) with a healthy dose of hemp seeds, which blend into a creamy texture without any need to add actual cream.

Reflecting on my favorite soup recipes, it’s hard not to notice a pattern: there are a lot of creamy soups made with roasted vegetables. Why? First, because roasting makes vegetables delicious! Second, because it reflects an efficiency in my food-prep workflow. If it’s the weekend and I’m heating up my oven to cook dinner or bake anything, I always try to double-down and bake or roast several foods in that single session. It saves time and energy, and it’s always handy to have extra roasted veggies on hand. 

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[Instant Pot] Loaded Potato & Cauliflower Soup

This is what I felt compelled to cook this week when, for the first time in my life, I got SNOWED IN. The three feet of snow that fell on my yard last Saturday came as a bit of a surprise – the forecasts predicted only a fraction of what arrived that day, and they also didn’t tell me it was going to keep dumping more all week. Can’t say I ever expected to see that happen this first winter in our new home on the Olympic Peninsula, famously one of the sunniest places in the Pacific Northwest which historically averages only 2 inches of snow annually. Out of my element, I set up camp in the kitchen.

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Special Series for National Nutrition Month! Introducing… The MyPlate Bake

The MyPlate Bake: healthy home-cooked dinner for 2. One pan. One hot oven. One hour, start to finish.
March is National Nutrition Month, and it’s prime time for talking up my favorite subject: healthy food, and how to enjoy it!

This year’s theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” and I’m celebrating by biting into an exciting new series of recipes inspired by USDA’s MyPlate. I’m a big fan of the simplicity of this food icon, designed to make it easy to build a healthier diet, one plate at a time. If you ask me, striving to make your plates look more like MyPlate (with half of the real estate covered by fruits and veggies) is one of the most straightforward ways to shift your eating habits to become healthier than ever.

For this recipe series, I’m calling my invention the MyPlate Bake. The concept is to follow the MyPlate formula of 1/2 veggies + 1/4 carbs + 1/4 protein, and roast it all together on a single sheet pan. This results in a healthy home-cooked dinner for two, made from scratch with whole food ingredients, in under an hour (prep and clean-up included). Believe it!

I’ll be updating the blog every week this month with a tasty new variation, so stay tuned! First up is an instant classic that I already know will be a go-to in my kitchen: the Maple Dijon Chicken MyPlate Bake.

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Sweet Chili Tofu Salad

Some people start the day with a crossword puzzle, but my morning mental exercise regimen is a little more practical. It involves staring into the fridge, jumbling together edible odds and ends to fill a lunchbox balanced enough to sustain myself through a day at the office. I’m usually pretty good at this game, so that’s my excuse for not being super organized with meal planning. But the day that I struggled to find a better “protein” than a bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels… I knew it was time to get serious.

Last weekend I made a very minimal investment of time and efforts, which yielded big lunchtime results. It started with an idea to attempt a copycat recipe for the sweet chili tofu cubes stocked at the Whole Foods salad bar. For a time I used to live in an apartment right across the street from Whole Foods, and since this was during my busy grad student years, I built a pretty strong affinity for some of their healthy convenience foods. That salad bar saved me for dinner many nights, and those sweet, chewy tofu cubes were always a welcome addition to my leafy greens.

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