What Do They Eat? - Sweet Potato Soup

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meet Whitney Hubbard, she is a yoga instructor that I met at the CrossFit South Brooklyn gym. Whitney has a naturally bright, friendly aura (as you can see); she reminds me of summer with those golden locks and when I learned that she's a surfer that cemented that idea in my brain.  At CFSBK Whitney teaches an excellent yoga class "for athletes" which is a great relief for my tight muscles. Check out Whitney's website, YogaPeel NYC to see where and when you can catch her next yoga class.

For this month's "WDTE" Whitney shares her mother's recipe for a nourishing sweet potato soup just in time for the cold snap.  This soup is loaded with vegetables and has a kiss of ginger and garlic so it's the perfect elixir to keep the cold season at bay.  First let's learn a little more about Whitney's yoga practice and get her thoughts on nutrition.

Q & A with Whitney:
What inspired you to become a yoga instructor other than the practice of yoga itself and how long have you been practicing?
I completed my 200-hour vinyasa yoga teacher training in the Spring of 2010. I think beyond diving deeper into the practice itself, I was interested in becoming an instructor because I've had so many incredible teachers in my life. I was inspired by the capacity of those around me to facilitate change and transformation in myself and others -- whether it be learning how to breathe deeply, balance in a handstand, or just sit quietly and listen for a few moments. I also grew up dancing and went to college for dance, so I've always had an interest in the human body and a passion for movement. I love to nerd out on anatomy!  I think that if everyone was at least a bit interested in how their physical vehicle operated then we'd be moving in a healthy and happy direction.

What would be your advice be for someone who is interested in yoga but has not tried it yet because they feel like they are not flexible enough?
I'd suggest going to a Basics or Beginner class, a "brand new beginner" workshop, or scheduling a few private sessions with a teacher that you trust. Get some referrals. Start slow, but commit to a certain period of time where you'll practice consistently so you can really give it a go and see what happens. Use props. In the beginning, I would not advise my students to attend an all levels class, intermediate class, or any class that has the word "flow" next to it. Anyone and everyone can have and probably could benefit from a yoga practice of their own, from the competitive athlete to the working parent to my grandmother. You just need to experiment and find the practice that works for you.

How important is food and nutrition in your practice and daily life?
Very important, though it doesn't always take the seat of priority that it deserves. I really believe that nutrition is the foundation for building and sustaining health over a lifetime. 
When I'm in sync with my food and nutrition I'm usually:
  • cooking and preparing my own meals regularly
  • eating enough nutrient dense food at meals so that I don't blow it on snacks and treats
  • thinking ahead for my grocery shopping 
  • able to enjoy and afford a few meals out with friends 
Everything just seems to fall into place a bit better when I follow these steps. I sleep well, I wake up more refreshed, my energy is consistent, I stay motivated to move (practice yoga, lift heavy things, run, play), and I feel good! I also think that while some nutrition "prescriptions" make more sense overall than others, everyone needs to explore and discover the diet that serves them best individually.

You mentioned that this recipe is your mother's.  Can you tell us what you love about this soup and sweet potatoes?
My mom first started making this soup for my family around holiday time, probably Thanksgiving. I think that's why I have such a fondness for it. It reminds me of going home to my parents' house and being taken care of, particularly on a cold winter day when you just want to curl up on the couch. I've been progressively making more big pots of soup lately.  It's great because I put in the effort once and the reward of a home cooked meal lasts all week! 

I love sweet potatoes because I think they're quite versatile and they add a level of completeness to a lot of different dishes. Other than this soup, I use sweet potatoes in a hearty black bean chili, alongside eggs and greens for a brunch-y breakfast, and to make Paleo pancakes. They're equally as good dressed up with butter and cinnamon, lime and hot sauce, or greek yogurt and paprika! 

The benefits of eating sweet potatoes:
  • Sweet potatoes are capable of raising our blood levels of vitamin A.  Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin, supporting the immune system and producing red blood cells.
  • Be sure to eat your sweet potatoes with 3 - 5 grams of fat this will enable your body to increase it's uptake of beta-carotene aka vitamin A.
  • The color-related pigments in sweet potatoes (orange, purple) are valuable for their anti-inflammatory health benefits. 
SWEET POTATO SOUP                    
makes 8 - 10 cups

This recipe is one of Whitney's favorites from her mother's kitchen.  It reminds her of the warmth of family and home.  She also loves the fact that one pot can last her for a weeks worth of meals.

1 sweet (Vidalia) onion
2 leeks, washed well and sliced thin (float in a bowl of water to remove sediment, then drain)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1” piece ginger root, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric 
3 large (or 4 medium) carrots, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 medium russet baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
6 cups vegetable broth
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cups water

1.  In large pot, add: butter, onion, leek, garlic, ginger, turmeric, carrots, bay leaves then add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 to 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
2.  Add the sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, broth, wine, and water to the pot. Simmer covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender. (This depends on how small you cut the potato slices.)
4.  When the potatoes have cooked through and are easy to cut into then transfer the vegetables in batches, without much broth to another large bowl or pot.  IMPORTANT: discard the bayleaf before pureeing!  Puree with a hand blender until starting to become smooth. Add about a couple of ladles of liquid (maybe a cup), and continue to blend until very smooth.  You can also do the pureeing in a blender just be sure to be careful to let the soup cool a bit beforehand.  This will ensure that you avoid an explosion of hot soup from your blender.
5.  After pureeing the first batch place your pureed soup vegetables into large storage bowl.
6.  Continue to puree in batches as in steps 4 & 5, until everything is done.
Now you are ready to enjoy your soup!
Note:  You can puree this to whatever consistency you prefer -- chunky or smooth.
Here are a few more recipes for sweet potatoes.  AND here!


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