Spring Soup & Salad Challenge – Week 1

Today was the perfect day to make soup! Outside, the Spring rain was falling. Inside,  I chopped vegetables while chatting with my sister who came down from NH to help me with the kids so I could cook.  She also served as my “Chief Taste Tester” while simultaneously keeping our two babies content. She’s kind of amazing like that..

This week we’re trying two awesome soup recipes: Loaded Split Pea Soup (recipe slightly adapted from Delish) and Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup from Marcie over at Flavor the Moments). I slightly adapted these recipes to suit my taste buds (my changes are in italics below), but you can find the original recipe linked above as well us listed under “source”. I’d say both recipes were a “win”…

Note the colored bowls in the pic above from my attempt at getting my family to take a little more responsibility for their dishes. (It’s still very much a work in progress!) Also note the book Q & A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal.We’ve started incorporating some of these questions into our family mealtimes and have been having great fun answering them! It definitely makes for a more enriching dinner time experience.

One other important thing to mention: I LOVE using Esther’s Seasonings in all of my cooking. If you’re interested in getting ahold of her delicious seasonings, give her a shout out. You can also enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! I hope you’ll join the Nourishing Foundations community in this endeavor.

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Loaded Bacon Split Pea Soup

Would you like a side of split pea soup with your bacon? Kidding! But, seriously, this split pea gets its bold smoky flavor from a whole lot of bacon.

Source: delish.com

Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 1 hr

Serves: 6 Scale Update


  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 large carrots diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • kosher salt I used a mixture of Esther’s Gourmet Salt & Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper I used Esther’s Zesty Peppermill
  • 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth I used a mixture of homemade Chicken broth and store bought organic chicken broth
  • 12 oz. split peas rinsed
  • Freshly chopped parsley for garnish


  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool, then crumble.
  2. Add onion, carrot, and garlic to bacon fat and cook until tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Add broth and split peas and let simmer, covered, until split peas are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Serve garnished with parsley and bacon.

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Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup

Coconut Curry Summer Squash Soup has plenty of warm, curry flavor with creamy coconut milk to make it silky smooth. This is an exciting, delicious way to use that summer squash!

Source: flavorthemoments.com

Course: Soup

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Total Time: 45 min

Yield: About 8 servings

Serves: 8 Scale Update


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 34 teaspoon curry powder* I use Esther’s Jamaican Curry
  • 1 12 lbs. summer squash ends trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces*
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock I use water and Seitenbacher Vegetarian Vegetable Broth And Seasoning
  • 14 cup coconut milk (I used full fat) plus more for serving
  • 12 lime juice of – plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh basil or thai basil, for serving
  • 1 tsp Esther’s Gourmet Salt Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s G.O.G. Optional
  • 12 tsp Esther’s West Indian pepper Optional


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and curry powder, and saute 30 seconds. Add the squash and saute 2 minutes longer. Add the stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove from heat.
  2. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!
  3. Instant Pot Directions (from Jen):
  4. Sauté onion in olive oil. Add Garlic, spices and a bit of broth/water. Cook for a minute or two, then add vegetables and cover with water/broth. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor leaving the insert out of the top to allow the steam to escape. Pour into a large serving bowl and add the coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the soup drizzled with a bit of coconut milk, chopped fresh basil, and extra lime wedges if desired. Enjoy!

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Join the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge!

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What better way to make it through the Spring rains than with a hearty bowl of soup?  And when lettuce and vegetables are in season, there’s nothing more satisfying than a fresh plate of salad. I’ll be trying some delicious new recipes along with friends and family participating in my 10-week “Jen’s Test Kitchen” offering. We’ll focus the first  5 weeks on nutritious & delicious soups and weeks 6-10 we’ll turn our attention to fresh, meal-size salads.

You should join us! I’ll be featuring simple, delicious & nutritious recipes from some experienced cooks as well as tried and true recipes that have made my list of favorites. You can follow the Vegetarian track, the Meat Lovers track, or mix and match recipes as desired. A complete list of schedule meals can be found here. 

You don’t have to officially sign up to participate in this challenge, however all those who participate in any capacity over the course of the next ten weeks (trying one recipe or all of the recipes) will be entered into a drawing to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack.

Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! I hope you’ll join the Nourishing Foundations community in this endeavor. Happy Spring!

P.S. This is not a belated April Fool’s joke; this was my car window this morning:

Nevertheless, I am determined to hold onto the hope of Spring! Sorry, Winter, you’re fighting a losing battle. Spring will come again!

A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Wife, Mom & Triathlon Competitor

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & triathlon competitor?

If you had asked me what a well-nourished life looked like 10 years ago when I
started my mothering journey, I would have said something like sharing weekly
meals with friends, coffee dates, and spontaneous adventures. My firstborn’s
incredibly easy-going nature afforded me the opportunity to travel and explore with
him where we lived, which was between the Middle East and Boston in his early years.

Then ask me that same question 5 years ago, after dealing with years of secondary
infertility, but being blessed with our twins, I would have told you that I’m sorry I
don’t have time to write about it.

I didn’t know what “well-nourished” was when I was just trying to survive our days with meager finances and a spouse who was a full-time student.

I was so grateful to have our miracle babies, but I thought that also
meant I couldn’t admit how difficult they were. My insecurity in trying to meet all
three of my kids’ needs was masked by the confident exterior I painted on my face
each day.

And just 3 years ago, when our 4th child (surprise!) arrived and I had twins under the
age of 2, I would have told you I’m just doing my best to keep everyone alive but
honestly, my body feels like it’s falling apart at the seams! During that time, a friend
tried to get me to join a gym with childcare, but I excused the idea as impossible, still
scraping by with 4 kids in a high cost of living area. Eventually I hit a wall of extreme
burnout, got seriously depressed, and various parts of my body did require surgery,
starting with my back.

katilin quote
In response to those very difficult years, I’ve come to see the nourishment of my
body, soul, and spirit as intertwined, vitally important, and not something that can
be pushed aside till some arbitrary time in the future. I’m not exactly referring to
work/life balance but more the idea of devoting time to nurturing my full identity–
not excluding my mom identity but not limited to it either. We change throughout
life, but there are parts of our being that are always there, even if not fully expressed
in some seasons. The key is staying in touch with our talents, interests and
attributes, expressing what we can in the chapter we are in, and being content with
what has to wait for another time.

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

I’ve learned to create little windows of time for self-exploration, even if that means
giving up social media for months. I’ve gotten back in touch with the things that
make my heart beat faster, that bring tears to my eyes and laughter to my lips, and
I’m bringing those things back into my life. I dream, plan and reflect in a journal, and
I read to keep my mind engaged in the bigger world and in all the areas of my
interests. Listening to books and podcasts, with wireless headphones, makes my
cleaning much more entertaining.

I’m also doing my best to say what I need and ask for help instead of just trying to
pick myself up by my bootstraps. I believe that we can do a lot more than we think
we can when we share the burden of parenting by sharing our struggles with our spouses and authentic friends whom we can learn from and lean upon. I love the
saying, “Don’t mom alone!”

Looking back over this last decade of parenting really motivates me to nourish my
own interests and my children’s. I’m trying to express the artist, writer, musician,
athlete, social butterfly, community organizer, and refugee aid activist– just not all at
once! Right now I’m training for a triathlon, which not only keeps my body healthy
and strong, but also gives me something (outside of household chores and child-
rearing) on which to focus my mental energy. I like to visualize different parts of the
race and think through how to better improve my training schedule. I find it very
uplifting to work hard toward a goal, never give up, and just get stronger. And really,
the way I approach my physical training has become the way I parent and approach
other areas of my life: not seeking perfection but greater strength instead.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Fruit salsa:
1/4 of a watermelon diced
1/2 of a cantaloupe diced
3 mangoes diced
1/2 of a red onion diced
1 or 2 jalapeño minced
1 bunch of fresh cilantro chopped finely
Juice from 1 or 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste

Play with the ratios of the ingredients to get the flavors you desire!

Serve with lime chips. Also delicious with white fish. This recipe is time consuming with all the dicing but a wise older gentleman once told me that cutting fruits and vegetables while practicing mindfulness makes each cut less of a chore and more of a relaxing experience. Enjoy!

Get your FREE copy of my new eBook: 5-Star Freezer Meals!

5-Star Freezer Meals Spiral bound Book Cover.jpgYou guys! I’m so excited to announce that I’ve finally finished my 5-Star Freezer Meals eBook and you can get it for free here on my website. Most of these recipes came out of my first ever “Jen’s Test Kitchen” offering, when I was making meals for some wonderful mamas. These dear ladies offered super helpful feedback (from surveys) on the recipes I tried each week. I took the best, highly-rated meals and tweaked the recipes to turn them into freezer meals. They’ve been tried and tested multiple times and are guaranteed to be easy, practical, healthy and delicious!

I use Esther’s Seasonings in much of my cooking, but have written these recipes in such a way that you can substitute general spices/seasonings if you don’t have access to Esther’s. However, if you do want to give Esther’s Seasonings a try (highly recommended) give her a shout out. She ships!

Esther's seasonings

The recipes are written in an easy-to-follow format and include a sheet with day-of preparation instructions for you to print out and include if you are making the meal(s) for someone else (a new mom, sick friend, someone going through a tough time etc.). In addition to being highly rated by other mamas, these freezer meals are some of my own family’s all-time favorite quick, easy and nutritious eats. I hope you will enjoy them as much as we do! Below is a sample from the eBook.

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OK, enough with the details. How do you get it? Simply click here to sign up for my mailing list (you will receive a monthly email with an inspiring collection of recipes, ideas for cooking with kids and health/wellness tips). It’s that simple! I always keep your information private and you can unsubscribe at any time. Enjoy!