Maple & Bourbon Sweet Potato Soup


Thanksgiving is only 11-days away and I'm busting at the seams with joy and excitement! I absolutely LOVE this time of year! I love the anticipation of what each day holds. Yesterday, as I walked with my husband (Mike), I spent the majority of the time rambling about the different possibilities for Thanksgiving and how special this day was going to be. Almost as if I was willing it to be!  Of course I had to confirm that watching the Macy's Day Parade and reading the Black Friday ads were first on the agenda! I love an excuse to make a fuse, to throw a party, to gather with family and friends, the justification to showering others with gifts and the wonderful joy in the air of closing out another year with the hope and expectations of dreams to come in the looming year ahead! Its AMAZING!!!! It feels... HOPEFUL because I find I am more reflective this time of year than any other which allows me the chance to acknowledge the purposeful gifts and mighty ways God has shown up and showed off in my life!

Ok.... so I will stop digressing and get back to my point in writing this post.... THIS SOUP. AHHHHMAZING!  (and full of amazing nutrients as well!) If you really want to get creative this Thanksgiving and take the pressure off of providing a labor intensive meal... join me in my Laid-Back GREATFUL Holiday Extravaganza movement!!! I'm going rogue this year and getting away from traditional, and embracing more free time to enjoy the loved ones in my life!!!

I'll be serving up this amazing Maple & Bourbon Sweet Potato Soup alongside a fresh Cranberry & Spinach Salad with Turkey & Brie Crostini. Nutritious. Delicious. And Easy!!!

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Maple & Bourbon Sweet Potato Soup                                                         (Recipe Inspired by Half Baked Harvest)


  • 4 medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 1/2 cups Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
  • 1 cup Apple Cider
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne (to your taste)
  • Salt + Pepper, to your taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Bourbon (optional)
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (I recommend Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream)
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and bake for 1 hour or until soft and tender. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, slice them in half and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, add the maple syrup and cinnamon sticks to a large soup pot, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes. You want the maple syrup to thicken and reduce to a syrup like the consistency of honey.

Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel away the skins and add the orange flesh to the bowl of a food processor or high powered blender. Add 1 cup of broth and puree until smooth. Slowly stir the sweet potato mixture into the thickened maple syrup. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, the apple cider, thyme, nutmeg, cayenne and a pinch of salt + pepper. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the bourbon (if using) and cream. Continue to cook another 5 minutes and then add the cheese + butter, cook until the cheese is melted and the soup is silky smooth. If the soup seems too thick, add more broth to thin. Keep over low heat until ready to serve.

Whether you are planning a traditional menu or creating new menu, I would love to hear what you are planning on having for Thanksgiving! Regardless of your main entrée, make sure you serve it up with plenty of gratitude for the beautiful life that you lead!!!!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Need a quick weeknight dinner idea?

NutriFocusRD has got your answer!

This creamy, nutritious soup hits the spot!  It is a guaranteed family favorite!!


Creamy Tomato & Tortellini Soup:


  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • ½ lb. Italian Sausage
  • 1 Diced White Onion
  • 24oz Organic Marinara Sauce
  • 8oz Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
  • 32oz Reduced Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 8oz Diced Bella Mushrooms
  • 4-5 cups Fresh Organic Baby Spinach
  • 16-20oz Frozen or Refrigerated Whole Wheat Cheese Tortellini
  • ½ cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • French Bread or Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (Costco)


  1. In a stockpot, add EVOO, diced onion, and Italian sausage. Cook until sausage is brown.
  2. Add marinara sauce into the meat mixture and stir well.
  3. Using a whisk, stir in cream cheese until blended well. Once blended, add chicken broth and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms, baby spinach, and cheese tortellini to broth and combine well. Allow to simmer for 7-9 minutes.
  5. Serve soup warm, topped with 1-2 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, and with a warm, crusty French bread for dipping! Enjoy!!!

Gambling on Meat? Grass-Fed or Grain-Fed?

Confused by the hype of grass-fed versus grain-fed beef? Is grass-fed beef really worth the extra expense?

Today NutriFocus highlights 4 good reasons to consider choosing grass-fed beef....

  1. Grass-fed beef is much higher in nutrient levels. Grass-fed beef tends to be leaner, and have higher levels of vitamins, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and beta carotene.  Grass-fed beef has shown to have 4x the levels of vitamin E and 6x the levels of Omega-3 (compared to grain fed beef) which helps reduce the risk of arthritis, obesity, insulin resistance, allergies and autoimmune diseases.  It is also a good source of CLA which is a healthy fat that protects against cancer.
  2. Grass-fed beef is better for the animals. Supports a natural and humane approach to sustainable farming BC the animals are allowed to roam free on the land.
  3. Supports local farming science. Raising livestock on pasture requires knowledge and skill -- it is a true science!!
  4. Grass-fed animals are healthy and drug-free. Cows fed grain can suffer digestive problems because grain is not their natural diet and is not digested properly. This can lead to the use of  antibiotics and other medications which ultimately pollutes our food supply and environment.

This NutriFocusRD original recipe won me major points with my husband so I could not resist sharing this easy, slow-cooker meal with my NutriFocus Family!!!  This chili is super easy, full of fiber, powered with protein, and packed full with vegetables!  It is perfect for a weeknight dinner or to serve at your next tailgating party!! Best news is... it is even better the next day!!!  Hope you guys enjoy!!

Organic Beef and 3-Bean Chili:


  • 1 pound organic, grass-fed ground beef
  • unnamed[3]
  • 1 Red Onion, Diced
  • 3 Celery Stalks, Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded and Diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 (29oz) can Tomato Puree
  • 1 (15oz) can Red Kidney Beans, Drained
  • 1 (15oz) can Cannellini Beans, with Liquid
  • 1 (15oz) can Chickpeas, Drained
  • 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Cumin (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp Smoked Paprika (optional)
  • 2 tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha Sauce


Place ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. Season with 1 Tbsp Chili Powder, 1 Tbsp Cumin, ½ Tbsp Smoked Paprika, 1 tsp Garlic Salt, and Ground Black Pepper. Cook until evenly brown. Drain remaining liquid.

Place the beef in your slow-cooker. Add in onion, celery, green bell pepper, garlic, tomato puree, drained kidney beans, drained chickpeas, and cannellini beans with liquid. Season mixture with 1 Tbsp chili powder, dried parsley, garlic salt, dried basil, oregano, black pepper and sriracha sauce. Stir mixture well. Cover and cook on low for 8-hours!

Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese and low-fat sour cream and serve alongside sweet cornbread muffins!


To Locate Local Grass-Fed Farms, Check Out the Eat Wild Website for Farms Across the Southeast!

Recipe Recommendation - Golden Winter Soup!

A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday, the weather was brisk and I was extremely tired from the previous week, so I was in the mood for a warm, comforting meal.  I was in the mood for potato soup, but when I was looking for a new recipe to try, a recipe named “Golden Winter Soup” caught my eye!

Butternut squash has an odd shape, a cream-colored outer shell, and a highly nutritious, pumpkin-like center.  Butternut squash is considered a starchy vegetable because 90% of its total calories are derived from the carbohydrate family.  One serving of butternut squash provides the body with 298% of your daily recommended value of vitamin A, 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, and 3 grams (11%) of fiber in every serving.  The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components of butternut squash put it in the spotlight for cancer prevention & treatment.

Butternut squash also provides the body with certain minerals.  One serving contains 14% of daily recommended value of manganese, a mineral that is important in metabolizing proteins and fat.  Other minerals that are present include, potassium, which supports muscle action, and magnesium which plays a role in cell formation.

Let the cooking process began:

After cubing the butternut squash, I peeled and cubed the russet potatoes and melted butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

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Once butter was melted I added the butternut squash, russet potatoes, salt, and pepper to the dutch over and sautéed for approximately 3 minutes.

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While the mixture was on the stove, I added 1 chopped leek and sautéed for another minute before stirring in 4 cups vegetable broth.  The recipe calls for chicken broth (which I had also purchased) so to be honest, using vegetable broth was by mistake! I just wasn't paying attention when I pulled the broth out of the cabinet! Once broth was added, it was brought to a boil and simmered for 20 minutes.

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The recipe instructs you to place half of the potato mixture in a blender.  To make the process easier, I removed the soup from the stove, and used my Hand-held Blender.  This drastically reduced the time and effort needed to pull of this soup.

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I submerged the blender in the dutch oven and puréed the soup until it had a smooth consistency.  The consistency is also a place in this recipe that you can make adjustments according to your preferences.  I like my soups to have a little texture to them so I left a few pieces in small chunks.

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And finally, I stir in 1 cup of half-and-half until mixed well. Cover to keep soup warm until served! I served this soup with a slice of Havarti cheese bread for ease, but you could also pair this soup with baked potato, salad, or half of a sandwich or panini!

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This recipe leaves room for you to be creative in how you serve it!   Great for a dinner party because it is easy to make and makes a large portion. Mike and I had a large bowl for a total of 3 meals and I still had to throw some of the soup out! But since we both loved the soup so much, we "filed" it in our favorite column to have again soon!

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Golden Winter Soup

Recipe by: Cooking Light

2 tablespoons butter 5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds) 2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium) 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth 1 cup half-and-half 12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese 3 tablespoons chopped chives Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatter). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

Recipe Recommendation: Broccoli & Cheese Soup

When it is snowy outside, and a BCS national championship game is being televised, a quick, hearty, comforting meal is in order!  I normally do not do two recipe reviews in row, but I had more time than usual so I tried out another new recipe that I would like to pass along to my NutriFocus family!

Broccoli and Cheese soup is a favorite at most restaurants.  This recipe by “Cooking Light” keeps the flavor of the soup without the saturated fat and trans fats found in some restaurant soups!

Broccoli is high in vitamin C, A, and K.  Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body's detoxification system and can provide cholesterol-lowering benefits.  Broccoli contains a strong combination of vitamin K and vitamin A which interact to keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance which can help solve vitamin D deficiency.  Broccoli is also a rich source of kaempferol, flavonoids that have shown the ability to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body.  And finally, broccoli contains an unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components in which make it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention.

While the potatoes were baking, I chopped one medium onion and 2 garlic cloves and placed in Dutch oven to begin the cooking process.

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Next, I placed 3 cups of chicken broth and 16oz broccoli florets into the Dutch oven and brought the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture was boiling,  I let it simmer for 10 minutes.

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While the broccoli was simmering, I cut up the cheese into cubes. The recipe called for 8oz cheese, but I ended up using around 12oz cheese to give it more of a cheesy flavor.

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And finally, I whisked together 2 1/2 cups 2% milk and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour and added to the broccoli mixture. I allowed that to cook until it thickened. Once thickened, I removed the soup from the heat, stirred in the cheese until melted, and served hot!

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I paired this soup with a hearty baked potato stuffed with cheese and sour cream.  This was the perfect combination for a cold, wintery night!  Mike and I both agreed, this was better than most restaurant soups we’ve tried in the past! This is a keeper!  

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Cooking Light

Total: 33 minutes Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (16-ounce) package broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2  cups  2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/3  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 8  ounces  light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta Light)

Heat a large nonstick saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add broth and broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Place one-third of the soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed soup mixture to pan.

Recipe Review: Quick Fall Minestrone Soup

With the temperature slowly dropping and the holidays are around the corner, my desire for comfort food is evident.  Comfort food means different things to different people, but to me, comfort food means a dish is warm, satisfying, inviting, and hearty.  This week’s recipe caught my attention because of the variety of hearty ingredients, ease of preparing, and the warmth that soup brings to a table. This week’s recipe review is a “Quick Fall Minestrone” soup from Cooking Light.  The preparation for this dish was extremely easy because it mainly consisted of chopping vegetables and opening a can of beans!  The most time consuming part of the prep work was cutting the butternut squash and taking the skin off the potato.

I really liked the fact that this soup incorporated BUTTERNUT SQUASH. Unfortunately, a lot of individuals steer clear of butternut squash because of its odd shape that can be intimidating. But don’t let that keep you away from incorporating this fall favorite into your meals. A few simple steps and you will have cubed butternut squash in no time!  Connect to the following link for easy to follow instructions:

The other star ingredient in this recipe is KALE!  Kale is a leafy, green vegetable that belongs to a family of veggies that include collards, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.  Kale can be spotted at your local grocery throughout the year, however, it is more widely available, and at its peak, from late fall through the beginning of spring.

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around and is a cruciferous veggie you should consider eating up to 4-5 times per week, with an average serving size of 2 cups.  Kale can provide a significant source of vitamin K which is the key nutrient in lowering your risk of chronic inflammation.  Recent research indicated that 45 different antioxidant flavonoids are found in measurable amounts of kale which is the key that makes kale rank high on the list of cancer-preventative foods.

If you are considering picking up kale on your next grocery trip, it is important to know what to look for when choosing this vegetable.  Fresh kale will have firm, smaller-sized, deeply colored leaves, hardy stems that are moist, no signs of wilting leaves, and free from browning, yellowing, or small holes.  Kale should be displayed in a cool environment to prevent warmer temperatures from negatively affecting the flavor.

Improper storage can bring out a bitter flavor in kale.  To properly store this vegetable, place unwashed kale in a plastic storage bag and remove as much trapped air as possible.  Avoid washing kale before storing to prevent spoilage.  Kale will typically keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

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Recipe Review Summary: This soup was over-the-top DELICIOUS! I must say, it ranks on the top of my list of recipes I’ve recently reviewed!  It is a broth based soup, but due to the starch in the potatoes, butternut squash, and orzo, the broth had a creamy texture.  The kale added next text and a fresh flavor.  I served the soup with a Tomato, Bacon, and Havarti Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  Mike and I each enjoyed a bowl, as well as, I’ve packed us each a bowl for lunch and put 3 bowls worth in the freezer for a later date so this recipe would make plenty for a large family with no problem!

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Quick Fall Minestrone Soup

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups soup and 1 tablespoon cheese)


  • 1  tablespoon  vegetable oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 6  cups  vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2  cups  (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 2 1/2  cups  (3/4-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
  • 1  cup  (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1/2  cup  diced carrot
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  cups  chopped kale
  • 1/2  cup  uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1  (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 1/2 minutes or until tender. Add broth and the next 7 ingredients (broth through salt); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Add kale, orzo, and beans; cook 5 minutes or until orzo is done and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with cheese.

RD's Recipe Review: Sante Fe Soup for the Soul

Happy Fall Yall
Happy Fall Yall

According to the majority of my clients, the most common barrier to success in terms of following a meal plan is, LACK OF TIME!  As a full-time, working professional, as well as a wife, daughter, and friend, I know time can easily hinder our ability to nutritionally care for ourselves. We live in a fast pace society which is clearly evident by the high number of fast food restaurants, take out menus, and pre-made meals at local groceries.  So if you feel pressed for time, you are not alone. As a young girl, I can remember sitting down to a hot meal every night for dinner. I consider my mom a “super mom” for many reasons, but one reason being her ability to complete a full day of work as a school teacher and still manage to place a piping hot, comfort meal on the table for my two brothers, my dad, and me to enjoy.  I still marvel at her ability to manage time and I’m so thankful for the priority she placed on meal time as a family. It was not only a time to nourish our bodies, but also our souls by reconnecting with each other at the end of an eventful day. All of us may not have the gift of time management, but that does not mean we have to skimp on enjoying delicious, home-cooked dinners on a weeknight!  Each week I will be reviewing recipes that my family personally enjoys and that I find time to make with my busy schedule.  Our bodies are important and the best preventative medicine is nutrition, so I encourage each of you to make meal time a priority, not only for your physical bodies, but also as a time to reconnect with loved ones.  For this week’s “RD’s Recipe Review”, I decided put together a quick “Santé Fe Soup” recipe.

This recipe is a modified version of the Southwestern Soup recipe that can be found in “Super Fast Suppers” by Cooking Light.  This particular recipe caught my attention because of the short amount of cooking time, but more so because the ingredient list contains mostly pantry staples!

Soup Ingredients
Soup Ingredients
Sante Fe Soup II
Sante Fe Soup II

This soup was extremely easy to put together.  It really made my house feel like a home by filling it with the comforting smell of soup bubbling on the stove.  After all, there is no better comfort food than soup!  This soup brings vibrant flavors by combining the taco seasoning, ranch seasoning, and jalapeños. A dollop of sour cream added a nice touch by incorporating a creamy texture and a nice temperature differentiation.

This soup will help you meet your daily vegetable servings by incorporating onions and a heaping amount of tomatoes!  Tomatoes are full of lycopene which is a carotenoid considered a potential agent in the prevention of certain types of cancer. Your protein needs will be met by the fajita chicken strips and the black-eyed peas!  And finally, your carbohydrate needs are partially met by the addition of corn and black-eyed peas.  In order to complete the meal I simply served the soup with a hearty slice of Mexican cornbread, of which I would share the recipe but I must admit, I did not make the cornbread. It’s my mother-in-law’s specialty which she was kind enough to make while visiting us this past weekend in Birmingham!

I can confidently recommend this recipe for a quick weeknight meal or for entertaining guest on a budget!  Enjoy!