Smooth Summer Squash Soup


Call me crazy, but sometimes even in the middle of summer a bowl of soup can be quite nice. I had the most amazing summer squash soup on our California road trip (when it’s 60 degrees in the evening hot soup doesn’t sound as crazy too). Anyway, I loved it so much I decided to try to recreate it when I got home. Plus, my freezer has been stocked full of homemade chicken broth for months.

I know I’ve promised a couple of times on here to share with you my recipe for making your own broths. There are so many health benefits to making stock the way it’s supposed to be made – from leftover bones. The process of slow cooking animal bones for broth pulls minerals, collagen and amino acids out into the broth. Our bodies then use these essential nutrients to rebuild cells and particularly the lining of our intestine – which prevents those food sensitivities that seem to be on the rise these days. I promise to go into all of this a lot more in another post and share with you my stock recipe. I know the image of slow cooking bones in your kitchen may not sound too appetizing, but trust me, the end result is delicious – so much more flavorful and rich than what you’d buy at the store. And so much better for you! It puts store bought to shame… Plus it’s practically free! Can’t beat that. More to come…

Anyway, back to this delicious, smooth summer squash soup. When I got home from our trip I did what I always do when I want to get ideas for a recipe – I started Googling. I am a nerd and read recipes for fun. Sometimes I find one and tweak it to make it my own, or I might combine ideas from two. For this one, I loved Whole Living’s idea to use cilantro stems – something that’s usually tossed. So I pretty much stuck to their recipe with one small change – I subbed in my homemade broth for an added nutritional boost.


Cilantro Fan or Phobe?
Cilantro (or coriander) is one of those herbs you either love it or you hate it. Cilantrophobes, as haters of the herb like to call themselves, say it tastes like soap or bugs. Turns out their taste buds don’t lie. Cilantro’s smell is produced by aldehydes. You know what else puts off aldehydes? Bugs and soap. Cilantrophobes make the association in their taste-smell memory bank and understandably then just can’t take it. I myself fall in the lover camp. I love adding cilantro to salads, curries and other dishes for a fresh bite of green.

Cilantro (the leaves) and coriander (the seed) are part of the same plant. Both are powerful detoxifiers and natural chelators that helps to draw heavy metals like lead and mercury out of the body. The leaves also have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. These benefits make cilantro a great choice to add to your green juice. Coriander has been considered a healing spice for centuries and long been used in cooking for it’s anti-inflammatory and preservative properties.  If you read the ingredients on your curry powder, you’ll likely find coriander listed there too.


Squash it to Me
Yellow summer squash is abundant in the summer which makes it great to use in a soup. Before making this recipe I stuck to winter squashes for creamy soups but opting for summer squash, especially this time of year, will be much cheaper and also keep you eating seasonally which is always a good thing. Yellow squash has a lot of water in it (also good in the summer) and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar stabilizing benefits. I love slicing it up and sautéing squash with sweet yellow onion, zucchini and some dark leafy greens. It’s the perfect quick, easy side dish to go with just about any meal.





Smooth Summer Squash Soup

recipe adapted from Whole Living


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems, plus 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 5 medium yellow summer squash (2 1/2 pounds), chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Sea salt
  • Lime wedges, for serving


Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cilantro stems, and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add squash and 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then season with salt. Puree soup in batches until smooth. (If too thick, thin with a little water.) Adjust seasoning if necessary and let cool slightly. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime.


The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

anti-inflammatory smoothie

Last week I mentioned how I use food as medicine to help relieve pain and heal. When you approach food from this perspective, food is more than just calories or something to silence a growling tummy. It is information that tells our cells what to do and how to react. Imagine your body is like a computer and everything you put into it is a command on the keyboard. With the right combination of key strokes the computer will perform a given function. In a similar way our bodies’ output directly depends on the input.

Just like any other chemical substance you might put into your body – pharmaceuticals, over the counter drugs, other drugs, alcohol, etc. – the foods we eat create a chemical reaction just the same. And believe it or not, certain foods can have an effect that is just as strong, if not stronger, than one you can get from a bottle.

Take turmeric for example. I talk a lot about this root here because it has incredible healing properties. And several studies have shown it to be as effective as Ibuprofen at relieving pain. So I add it to a variety of foods and dishes when I cook to give myself a regular does of its healing benefits.

Super Power Spices 
Turmeric, along with ginger and cinnamon in this smoothie help to reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it. Here are a few more specific benefits of each:

Turmeric: One of the most powerful medicinal herbs that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis, bruises and wounds. It also aids protein digestion, decongests the liver, acts as an antioxidant and can reduce menstrual pain.

Ginger: In addition to it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, ginger is used to ease an upset stomach, reduce nausea, improve digestion, clear congestion and warm up the body.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon can reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects and fight bacteria. It’s been shown to help regulate blood sugar, reduce LDL cholesterol, and help with hormonal balance that can improve fertility. It’s also high in calcium, iron and manganese.

pre-blend smoothie

Oh-Mega Dose
Another way to bring down inflammation is to make sure you’re getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids daily. Omega-3s reduce inflammation and work to balance the abundance of the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids we tend to get so much more of in our diet. When the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 gets out of proportion and skews to the pro-inflammatory side, it lays the ground work for all sorts of problems from allergies to aches and pains to the more serious stuff. The key is to get plenty of Omega-3s from food and even supplements to maintain a proper balance. The hemp and flaxseed in this smoothie are two of the best plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get Omega-3s from salmon, walnuts and dark leafy greens.

So there you have it, five (count ’em – five!) superfood inflammation fighters crammed into one glass. That’s a mega dose of anti-inflammatories to help kick your pain to the curb and boost your immunity.

The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie


1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp vanilla hemp protein powder
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash black pepper*
1/2 banana (preferably frozen)
handful ice cubes


In a blender combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

 *black pepper is added to enhance the potency of turmeric and help it get into the bloodstream. A dash a black pepper enhances the benefits of turmeric 2,000 times. 

You Can Feel Better with Food
If the idea of using food as medicine intrigues you or if you’re curious about how you can start using food to feel better, I’d love to help.

Last week I introduced my new program, No Pain, Everything to Gain: 90 Days to the Real You. This program is about making shifts so you naturally crave and want to eat good-for-you foods. We’ll work together to identify problem foods and replace those with ones that make it easy to make the necessary changes for you to feel your absolute best. We’ll look at the complete picture to help you manage all the areas of your life that can affect your well being including stress, physical activity and emotional health to give you a sturdy foundation for long-term health and healing.

I’m offering five free 30 minute strategy sessions this week. If you’re interested in learning more about how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, email me at

cooking, recipes

Coconut Chicken Curry


Since getting back last week from India… I mean Austin… I think I’ve had curry four times. Why am I confusing Austin and India, you ask? That was my little joke during our long weekend visit with friends, because every day involved something Indian. We were there primarily to see my friend Lauren perform in a Bollywood production – Om Shanthi. Bravo, Lauren! Maybe all that Bollywood energy stuck with us. But the next night we ended up at G’raj Mahal, an Indian restaurant near Rainey Street. And then, the following day, I found myself loading up a plate of curried cauliflower and chickpeas at the Whole Foods on Lamar, which, by the way, also thinks it’s in India – I couldn’t believe the assortment of Indian curries in the to-go food section and naan in the bread aisle. Anyway….


Curries like this one are on the regular dinner rotation at our house. I’m a big fan of anything that you can cook in one pot and I love using lots of spices. So, Indian food, and actually most cuisines from the eastern hemisphere make regular appearances. We joke about how our future kids’ friends will react when they stay for dinner and then find out we’re having dahl… Iguess I better get working on a back up healthy mac & cheese…


Usually when making curry I don’t stick to a particular recipe. I like to change it up and just go with whatever vegetables I have on hand. It’s a great “clean out the fridge” dish or if you’re shopping you can try to save a little and opt for what’s on sale. Serve over brown rice (or enjoy just by itself) add a little cilantro and BOOM!


I’ve been asked if there’s a particular brand of curry powder I prefer, or if I make my own. I don’t have any regular go-to’s really, but as we’ve experimented more and more, it’s sort of fun combining my own spices rather than going off the shelf. The one in this recipe comes from a recipe provided by Dr. Amy Myers from Austin UltraHealth. If anyone out there has a brand or personal blend they swear by, please share!


This recipe uses butternut squash (I found the cutest little baby one… makes me excited for fall!), celery, green onions and kale. But change it up and use what you like… cauliflower, zucchini, squash, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots… the possibilities are endless. Don’t have that mix of spices? Use a prepared curry powder or paste. Here’s an old vegetable curry recipe from way back when that uses curry powder for another option.

Did I mention this meal has super powers too? The pungent spices – turmeric, cumin and coriander (just to name a few) – in curry have been used medicinally for centuries. Pungents, which are usually lacking in our modern American diet, are drying which should balance out the sweet (considered mucus forming) foods that it’s easy to get some much more of. Think about the last time you had a spicy chili and it left you with a runny nose, clearing your sinuses. The spices really were “drying you out.” Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, teaches that a truly balanced meal should include all six flavors – spicy, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter – for satisfaction, balance, optimal digestion, health and harmony. It may sound like a tall order for just one meal, but it shows, food is powerful. And when it’s powers are used for good, magic like this happens…


Coconut Chicken Curry

(recipe adapted from Austin UltraHealth’s recipe)

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut into crescents
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced small
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups kale, torn and roughly chopped
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into pieces
1 can full fat coconut milk

Heat large skillet ove medium heat and add coconut oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Add spices and stir to coat onions. Then add squash, celery and green onions and stir to mix well. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Cook until you can pierce squash with a fork. Add kale and continue to cook until wilted. Add chicken and coconut milk and simmer to allow flavors to combine. Add black pepper to taste. Serve as is or over brown rice and topped with cilantro.


Curried Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup


It may look like just soup… but this is so much more than that. That little bowl right there is jam packed full of flu fighters – ginger, garlic, onion and sweet potato. We’ve been cramming these ingredients into alot of meals these days to help get us through the winter flu-free. So far it’s working (knock on wood). And with delicious finished products like this rich, creamy soup, getting that daily dose has been quite tasty, I must say.

Here’s a little more about why each of these four ingredients can help keep you from getting sick:

Ginger: Ginger is a root and has extremely strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident and anti-microbial properties. It’s long been a remedy to treat nausea and upset stomach (think gingerale on the airplane). Ginger is also an immune booster. Its heat drives circulation, warming the body and even causing a sweat to break. This helps to move colds and flus out of the body and leads to overall detoxification, which is necessary to maintain good health.

Garlic & Onion: Garlic, onion and other white vegetables are the scrub brushes of the vegetable world. When consumed, they get in there and scrub away the stuff that our bodies need to get rid of – viruses, bacteria, parasites (ick). That pungent smell you get when you cut into them comes from sulfides, which give them their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties among other health benefits.


Sweet potato: Just like its orange-fleshy cousins, carrot and butternut squash, the sweet potato is oozing with vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese –  critical components for immune support and function. What’s more, they taste like dessert  – quite a delicious way to load up on the essentials.


One more pro: curry, with its bitter and drying spices, helps to clear mucus and reduce inflammation as well. For centuries civilizations have used curry to flavor and to preserve their food. In fact the combination of ginger, garlic and turmeric is one of the oldest in the book dating all the way back to between 2500 and 2200 B.C. making curry possibly the oldest dish on the planet. Looks like those ancients were on to something….


Curried Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup


4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2″ chunks
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 tsp curry powder
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or virgin coconut oil)
1 can coconut milk


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once you’ve chopped the sweet potatoes, spread them out on a baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive and a few shakes of salt and pepper and toss. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are browned.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Then add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Next add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so. Then stir in the sweet potatoes and cook five minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and pour in coconut milk. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and a little cayenne, if desired. Cover and simmer fifteen minutes.

To blend the soup into a smooth, creamy consistency, you can use either a blender, food processor an immersion blender. If you’re using a blender or food processor the steam can create pressure and cause the lid to pop off. So take caution and blend in batches if necessary.


Green Lentil Dahl

It may not be the prettiest of meals, but for a simple dinner on the quick, cheap and healthy, it’ll do just fine. This has become a go-to at our house when the fridge is bare and dinner comes down to pantry staples. It’s called dahl, an Indian lentil dish that’s strong in flavor and low in maintenance. Not the most pleasing to the eye, but what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in flavor. And did I mention it’s quick… and cheap?…

Super-Power Spice
It’s the spices that really make dahl, dahl. The lentils are cooked with tumeric — a spice that’s been used to treat everything from bug bites to congestion to menstrual cramps. The vibrant yellowy-orange powder is a staple in Indian cooking, though it was originally thrown in as a preservative to make curries last longer. Sure enough, the same way tumeric kept the curry from going bad, it works to protect the living tissues in our bodies. And looking at the health stats for people in India and Pakistan, there’s something to it. They have substantially lower rates of cancers, particularly colon cancer. Perhaps they’re on to something…

For centuries, tumeric has been used as a potent medicinal herb in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fill-in-the-blank properties. Let’s just say it has super powers. And what have we Americans traditionally use this cure-all for? To make stain-your-clothes yellow mustard. Huh.

Tumeric brings balance to the body as a warming and bitter herb. It helps with protein digestion and also works to decongest the liver and protect it from toxins. As an anti-inflammatory, some say it’s comparable to Hydrocortisone or Motrin. And if you want to up the ante, add a little black pepper. As if super powers weren’t enough on their own, the synergistic combo makes tumeric 2,000 times more potent. Whoa.

Lentil Love
Spices bring these bad boys to life, but on their own they’re worth talking about too. Lentils are one of the best vegetarian sources of protein and are a fabulous alternative to beans as they take half as much time to cook. They come in several varieties in different colors and sizes. They’re good for the heart and cardiovascular system and stimulate the adrenal system. Of course they’re also low in calories and fat, but filling. Adding spices – particularly cumin, coriander and ginger – help to make them easier to digest as well (you’re welcome).

Eat dahl in a bowl with brown rice (the combo makes a complete protein) or add some sauteed veggies to the mix. For something warming, hearty and spicy, look no further…

Green Lentil Dahl


1 cup lentils, uncooked
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp cumin, whole seeds or ground
2 whole cloves
dash pepper, to taste


In a large pot, place the lentils and vegetable broth, and bring to a slow simmer. Add the turmeric, cayenne and salt, and cover. Allow to cook for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cumin and clove and stir to combine. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until onion is soft. When the onion begins to brown, add to the lentils, and allow to simmer for at least 5 more minutes.

Add a dash of pepper and more salt, if desired, and serve on it’s own, or with rice, veggies or both.


Mushroom and Rice Soup

I may have mentioned before that I was a picky eater as a kid. Until college, my diet consisted mostly of carrots and turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. Like most kids, I had very strong opinions about certain foods that would never (never) enter my mouth. I couldn’t tell you where these strong opinions came from. They were certainly not based on taste. Because I knew with the utmost certainty that something dreadful would happen if I ate that. As you might imagine, a food labeled “fungi” fell into this category. And I may or may not have pitched a legendary fit over a certain mushroom spaghetti sauce that went down in the annals of my childhood. And here I am 20+ years later eating, cooking and telling you to try nothing other than… mushrooms. Oh the irony.

I’m not sure exactly what turned me on to mushrooms, but now they’re a regular staple of my grocery list. With some dark leafy greens and a little onion, you’ve got one of the quickest and healthiest weeknight meals you can make. Mushrooms are one of the most powerful healing foods on the planet. They’re a staple of Chinese medicine and have been used for thousands of years to treat everything from viruses to tumors. There are more than 200 varieties used medicinally with different powers and properties. But even the most common of mushrooms will do your body good.

Generally, mushrooms are natural immune boosters and also work in the body to help regulate inflammation. I’m talking about the kind of inflammation that can exist and linger at low levels in the body and contribute to all sorts of diseases, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. We’ve also learned that mushrooms help balance the level of estrogen in the body, essentially helping to prevent certain estrogen-related cancers, like breast cancer. In the world we live in today, where we come into contact with estrogens regularly from plastic bottles and containers, and added soy in so many foods, mushrooms work to block it. They’re also high in vitamins and minerals that are critical to cell and immune function – selenium, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese.

Superpowers aside, mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and add a richness to whatever it is that you’re cooking – like this soup, and I’m sure too that spaghetti sauce I turned my nose up at when I was five.

Mushroom and Rice Soup


1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
20 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme


In a medium-sized pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add a little salt and 1 cup of rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Saute until the onions are translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the carrot and celery and cook, covered, for 6 minutes more.
Add the mushrooms, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, covered, until they release their juices, about 4 minutes.
Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the cooked rice; remove and discard the bay leaves. If desired, season with additional salt and pepper.


Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup

I bought the herb turmeric months ago after reading about it’s healing powers and thought I’d give it a try. It’s hailed as a digestive aid, inflammation fighter and cancer defender. It can also be applied directly to the skin to heal wounds and eczema. But until a few weeks ago all it had done is brighten up the spice cabinet with a little yellow.

It was time to put this guy to work. I tried this Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup in Cooking Light. Mine was a bit amateur – I didn’t have coriander or fish sauce and I swapped the snow peas for frozen peas and carrots. But you wouldn’t have known the difference. I was also missing the pad thai noodles, but I did have some leftover cooked spaghetti squash in the fridge. Worked just like noodles. Inventive, no? This is my new favorite now. I’ll definitely be making it the next time the temperatures drop below 30 again.

Recipe serves 7

Here’s what you need:
4 cups water
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
1 package pad thai noodles or brown rice noodles
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tsp red curry paste
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 can light coconut milk
1 pound shredded cooked chicken (or diced)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp sugar (or substitute agave nectar or honey)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
7 lime wedges

Here’s what you do:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add spinach and peas to pan; cook for 30 seconds. Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl. Add noodles to pan; cook 3 minutes. Drain; add noodles to spinach mixture in bowl.

Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the next five ingredients (through garlic) to pot; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk to pot; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Pour chicken mixture over noodle mixture in bowl. Stir in cilantro and red pepper. Add dash of cayenne if you’d like. Serve with lime wedges.


The Power of Giving

Helping others feels good. But this takes it to a whole new level. Cami Walker, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, followed the advice of a holistic health educator to give one gift a day for 29 days. Then she wrote a book about it – “29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.” I just read about her and the book here.

It’s all about how the act of giving – “stepping outside of your own story long enough to make a connection with someone else,” as Cami puts it – has changed her attitude and consequently helped her cope with a difficult disease. She is more mobile and less dependent on pain medication now. And she credits it to the power of giving and positive emotions.

Pretty cool. But wait, there’s more. The article goes on to suggest that self-centered people have a higher risk of heart disease. OK, exaggerating.  More like it points out a correlation between the severity of one’s heart disease and the amount of time spent talking about oneself. Still, interesting. One obnoxious talk show host who speaks in third-person comes to mind. Tyra, taken a stress test lately?

That was negative. I’m going to go do a random act of kindness now to balance.

Cami’s 29 days has sparked a movement and a web site: There’s also a store. That’s quite a lot to come out of just a few simple acts of kindness.


An N.F.L. Shaman?

Ricky Williams has turned over a new leaf. After traveling the world, getting lost at an ashram, and “feeling the healing powers of touch” following a football injury, Williams is interested in pursuing a profession in healing.

He’s studying shiatsu massage and plans to get a degree in premed and then go on to do graduate work in osteopathy. According to the NYT:  “He envisions becoming something like an N.F.L. shaman, responsible to a team or players for a holistic approach — body, mind, soul — to healing.”

A long way from his days as a self-proclaimed “poster child for marijuana.”

Here’s what he has to say about N.F.L. teams and chainging their appraoch to healing….

“I mean, it needs to happen. It needs to happen. Because when you get hurt as a football player, there’s such a huge emotional component to it. Because it’s your livelihood. It’s your job. And I’ve seen so many guys who aren’t able to get over the emotional part of it, and they weren’t able to get better, and they ended up losing their jobs.”