Chicken-less Soup for the Soul

As summer is sunsetting, my husband and I are looking forward to squeezing in a bit more Lake Michigan beach time with loved ones.

Moving away from family and friends in 2021 means that gatherings are less spontaneous and occur mostly on weekend visits. The memories we make feed the soul and usually involve comfort food.  If we don’t plan, we’ll end up eating too much processed food during these gatherings, which leaves the immune system more vulnerable.

Processed foods are loaded with junk oils and chemical toxins.  The buildup of chemical toxins in our tissues and blood stream can stagnate the immune system. Given the cold and flu season are around the corner, it’s vital to feed the immune system with healthy plant foods.

Deep down, most of us know that food impacts our health from head to soul. Think about chicken soup. Mothers throughout the ages have turned to chicken soup to help everything from the sniffles to a broken heart, with good reason:  It’s the ultimate healthy comfort food, and it’s easy to make at home.

While no research has proven that chicken soup cures a cold or flu, according to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that ingredients in chicken soup, such as the mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots, can reduce the inflammation associated with the common cold.

I now prepare chicken soup chicken-less; it’s more nutritious due to the absence of inflammatory saturated fat.  And in my soul I feel nourished knowing that healthy eating can happen without harming a feather on another’s head.

 Chicken-less Soup

This super simple recipe is quick and loaded with nutrition. The star ingredient is soy curls. Non-GMO soy curls are a great meat alternative made by boiling and dehydrating soybeans. The process is totally natural, which makes them a whole food and not a processed synthetic meat product. I am fortunate to live near a vegetarian grocery store that sells them in bulk. If you can’t find soy curls in your area, you can easily order them online.

Soy curls typically need to be rehydrated in warm water for 10 minutes before use, but when using them in soups, you can skip that step and throw them into the pot straight from the package. The texture is almost indistinguishable from chicken and takes on the flavor of the dish, just as chicken does.


8 cups water or vegetable broth

4 teaspoons minced garlic or 4 chopped cloves

3 tablespoons white miso

1-2 teaspoons sea salt or salt to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon pepper

3 stalks celery, diced

2 large carrots, chopped

2 medium onions, diced

¾ cup quinoa

6 ounces dry soy curls (once hydrated, equates to about 1 pound of chicken) broken into bite size pieces


In a large pot or pressure cooker, bring water or broth to a low boil. As water is heating, dice and chop the vegetables. Add miso and spices to warm water and stir until miso is dissolved. Add vegetables, quinoa, and soy curls.

If cooking on stovetop, cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is soft.

If cooking in a pressure cooker, cover, and using manual settings, set timer for 8 minutes.

Superfood option: add fresh herbs, chopped spinach, or Swiss chard after soup is done.

Peaceful Vegan Feeling

Have you ever heard of the song “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles?  I had that feeling recently when eating green rice for breakfast while gazing at our French Bulldog Buddha statue. The bully Buddha is purposefully placed across from the kitchen table to remind me each day that peace starts on my plate.

Now you might not think that green rice belongs on the breakfast table, or any table, although it’s truly a transformative dish. Whole grain rice is a breakfast staple of the macrobiotic diet, as are sea vegetables.

The macrobiotic way of eating was foreign to me before my health coach training in 2014, but after studying over 100 dietary theories, I explored many recipes and found macrobiotic meals appealing and satisfying. The basic principle is to eat lots of whole grains, sea vegetables, local seasonal fruits, veggies, and beans; all while limiting or avoiding processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugars. There is also a spiritual aspect that encourages cultivating intuition, gratitude, humor, self-reflection, and respect for others. Could all of this could lead to more peaceful, easy feelings?  Seems to have done so for me, and it might for you too.

Green Rice 

This dish could be especially health-promoting if what I recently heard is true.

There is chatter these days about nano particles and the negative effects they may have on our health and immune system. These particles appear to be increasing in our environment and medical delivery systems. The “scoop” I received was that the combination of brown rice, sea vegetables (a great source of iodine), and sea salt is a powerful detoxifier of these nano particles. While there is no proof of this as far as I know, the potent healing ingredients in my green rice recipe have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer — and that is something to bring more peace of mind.


1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped, or 4 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar

2 large portabella mush caps, or 8-ounce package of mushroom of choice, chopped

2 cups brown rice, rinsed

8 cups water

1 package of Nori or two .35-ounce packages of seaweed torn into pieces

1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt

½ to 1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (optional)

1 cup edamame, fresh or frozen


Add chopped onion into a six-quart (or larger) stock pot and dry sauté (meaning no oil) for three to four minutes. Add garlic and mushroom and sauté for another three to four minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low to medium heat for 45 minutes or until rice is soft, stirring occasionally.

If using an Instant Pot, follow the method above and cook on manual setting for 25 minutes. This is my preferred method.

Once cooked, test and adjust sea salt and pepper to taste. When serving, a splash of liquid aminos or soy sauce and uncooked edamame gives extra punch and color.


It’s vegan & cheesy!  How beautifully deceptive is this plant-based mac & cheese? Kids of all ages will have no idea it’s good for them! The sauce is inspired by a popular online recipe that I’ve modified, making the gooey goodness healthier and less chalky tasting.


4 cups warm water

2 cups old fashioned oats

½ cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons of garlic powder or minced garlic

2 teaspoons sea salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon liquid smoke, or ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

2 roasted fresh red peppers, or one 12-ounce jar of roasted peppers in water

1 pound box of macaroni pasta, cooked according to package instructions. I used Barilla whole grain elbows. It’s a healthier pasta that has the texture of the less healthy version.  You could also choose a legume-based pasta, which I just adore!


For the cheese sauce, add all ingredients except the pasta into a high-speed blender. Blend on high until the sauce thickens to a melted Velveeta consistency.  You will hear the motor of the blender moan a bit when the sauce is ready. This usually takes about 5 minutes.

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, add all ingredients to mixer or standard blender and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer to a saucepan and heat to a low boil. Reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.

Pour warm sauce over cooked pasta, mix thoroughly and enjoy. Depending on your preference of cheesiness, you may have extra cheese sauce.  Leftover veesy sauce makes great nachos. Just add in salsa and dip with your favorite veggie or chip!

True Independence

We are already halfway through the year, and summer and sovereignty day are here.

On July 4th, 1776, thirteen colonies claimed independence from England, leading to the formation of the United States.  Each year on the fourth of July, Americans celebrate the freedom and independence that this historic event initiated.

I have a whole new appreciation for America and freedom these days. People are starting to gather more, masks are removed, and our smiles are shining from sea to sea. We have had struggles, yet life seems brighter recently.

In our case, the twists and turns of 2020 motivated us to sell our primary home. We now reside in our cozy weekend cottage in Michigan for the warmer midwestern months and a home in Florida during the winter months. We experience a feeling of freedom that we did not imagine one year ago. This is a result of re-examining priories and contemplating what we really value in life. Do we want to live in a big house, or do we want to have true independence and live a life that makes us more fulfilled?

I read this declaration today by an unknown author, and it really resonated with me:

“Starting today I will not depend on, wait on, or hope for luck, the lottery, the company, fate, or the government to help me change my life.  I will take responsibility for my own life. I will set my own course. I will make my own success. I will take action. I will persist. I will find lessons in setbacks. I will look forward not backward. I will turn haters into motivators. I will be empowered by my circumstances not impeded by them. I can achieve what I want and nothing can hold me back. I create my future. This is my Independence Day!”

True freedom is believing that you alone are responsible for your life. It is the basis on which this great country was built. This is true independence.

When it comes to eating healthy, creating a “food freedom” mindset can help you break free of the tyranny of cravings and food addiction. What you eat today you will crave tomorrow, unless it’s fruits and vegetables. These healthy, whole foods generously nourish you, therefore blunting cravings. The recipes I share with you this month are the kind that can really help you to break free from addictive foods and move closer to TRUE independence from dis-ease.

Grilled Watermelon Steaks – recipe and photo Betsy Bruns

This dish takes me back to my many visits to Key West where I enjoyed watermelon-basil mojitos poolside.  It does have the look and texture of ahi tuna, which for this vegan, is a bit strange. Yet the combination of watermelon, balsamic, and basil are juicy and unique. Plus, watermelon is hydrating and a significant source of vitamin C and lycopene, which will boost your immune system and regenerate your skin.


8 watermelon wedges, 1-2 inches thick

2 tablespoons store-bought Balsamic Reduction + more for brushing

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped or cut into thin strips

Grill mat for low fat, oil-free cooking, or you can oil the grill

Optional Pairings

Vegan prosciutto or deli slices

Vegan mozzarella or gouda cheese


Brush watermelon slices with Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Preheat grill to medium-high heat, cleaning and oiling grates if not using grill mat

Place watermelon slices directly on the grill grates, not moving each wedge in order to get grill marks and a good caramelization. Grill for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.

Remove from the grill and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle with more balsamic reduction and top with fresh basil.

Tater Peppers – Recipe and photo- Betsy Bruns

Did you know that potatoes blunt cravings and are one of the most satisfying foods on the planet? Now you do.


2-4 servings

2 red bell peppers

2 medium golden or yellow potatoes (about 6 ounces each)

½ cup canned cannellini or pinto beans (reserve juice)

1/4 cup or more nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (can be cooked on the grill, on indirect heat)

Cut the tops off of peppers or cut in half. Remove seeds and rind, then rinse. Place upside down on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes and set aside to let cool.

As peppers are baking, wash, peel (optional — I like skins on), and cut potatoes. Boil or steam until soft. Drain potatoes, then mash and mix in the remaining ingredients with potato masher or in a food processer. Add a splash of reserved bean juice (aquafaba) if more moisture is needed.

Stuff the cooked peppers with mashed taters and return to baking sheet, tops right side up. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until they start to brown.

Optional toppings:

Chives, fresh herbs, salsa, vegan sour cream, vegan mayo, or hummus.

Veggie Grilling

Veggie Grill

I’ve never had much of a green thumb—more like a brown one. Although it’s my mission to inspire others to eat more plants, I’m much more comfortable in the kitchen than in the garden.

This year, a friend planted a small garden for my husband and me. Perhaps now I’ll grow a green thumb. We’ve been able to harvest kale and are anxiously waiting for the brussels sprouts, tomatoes and zucchini to come in.

We are also back to grilling more often. For some reason, we abandoned our grill for a time, but we’re back to firing it up regularly now, and I look forward to grilling our harvests from our little garden one day soon.

The truth is most of us are not grilling enough vegetables. Throwing veggies on the barbie is one of the best ways to cook them. The high, dry heat means less cooking time, or nutrients lost in water, preserving more of the good stuff that makes them so healthy.

Grilled vegetables, unlike meat, don’t become toxic from the cooking process. When meat is grilled, a chemical reaction occurs and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are released. HCAs form when amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, sugars, and creatine (substances found in muscle) react at high temperatures. When we eat meat cooked at high temperatures, this chemical reaction can cause mutation in our DNA and can increase the risk of cancer. This chemical reaction does not occur when grilling fruits and vegetables. Not only can we cook plants on the grill without concern about carcinogens, but also grilling is a healthier way to cook veggies as most of the vitamins and nutrients are preserved in the cooking process.

Many kinds of vegetables can be cooked on the grill. For a general rule of thumb, the lower the water content, the better. Plants can be cooked directly on the grill, in a basket, or on a grill mat. They are delicious plain, without seasonings or sauces. If “sauce is boss” for you, skip the oily marinades. Oils are not needed for flavor or nutrition, and they add unnecessary, unhealthy fats.

My go-to marinade is smoky and light, using ingredients you probably have in your pantry. However, you can use your favorite recipe, grab a store-bought brand, or opt for simple seasonings
and spices.


Marinade time: 1-3 hours

Whisk together:

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup low sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup aquafaba (juice from a can of chickpeas)

2 tablespoons tamari, liquid aminos or low sodium soy sauce

Liquid smoke to taste (optional)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

Pepper to taste

Guide for veggie grilling:

Preheat clean grill to medium-high heat. Lightly coat rack with cooking spray, unless using grill mat or basket. If desired, you can lightly coat your veggies with cooking spray, too.

Now, throw them on the heat and listen for the sizzle when the veggies hit the grate. Don’t move them for three to four minutes, or half of the cooking time, to get good marks and that signature grilled flavor.

Asparagus: Trim away the bottom inch. Grill time 3-4 minutes

Peppers: Seed and cut into quarters. Grill time 8-9 minutes

Onion: Peel and quarter. Grill time 8-9 minutes

Eggplant, squash and zucchini: Cut lengthwise into long strips, about one-quarter inch thick. Grill time 7-8 minutes.

Portobello mushrooms: Remove dirt and stem. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side.


Makes 4 Servings

We are now in peach season. Sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and I end up with a bushel or two. There are so many ways to enjoy peaches. You can eat them plain, use them in smoothies, oatmeal, pies, or make preserves. But have you ever grilled one? If not, try this delicious dessert recipe from the Physicians Committee. It’s doctor approved.

4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted

Butter-flavored vegetable oil cooking spray (to taste)

½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

Fresh mint sprigs (to garnish)

Heat gas grill to medium-high. Coat peach halves with cooking spray (use about two sprays per peach half).

Place peaches cut side down on the grill and grill for about four to five minutes per side, until grill marks appear and peaches are slightly softened.

While peaches are grilling, prepare the glaze. Add vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil vinegar until it is reduced by half and looks thick.

Add sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract.

Remove peaches from the grill and place cut side up on a dessert dish. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and garnish with a mint sprig.