Monday, May 8, 2017

Pea Soup with Mint--Good for the Tummy

I'm always thinking about gut health and whenever I can add prebiotics and probiotics to a recipe, I feel like I've done my work well for the day.  Here's a recipe that supplies both.  Extra bonus points!

Prebiotics-- You can think of prebiotics as food that feeds the friendly bacteria that like to live in our gut.  The more we can help them thrive, by feeding them the food they like to eat, the healthier we will be.  In this recipe, the prebiotics are the oligosacharides provided by the leeks and onions. Lactobacillis (very beneficial) love to feed on oligosacharides.

A pair of gorgeous leeks loaded up in the trunk of the olive oil vendor's car at the Foothill Farmer's Market in Auburn, California.
Probiotics--  As for the probiotics in this soup, these are found in the fermented kefir, yogurt or live-cultured sour cream that I've dolloped on as a topping just before serving.  Homemade kefir has been shown to contain up to 50 different strains of beneficial bacteria that help promote superior gut health. These beneficial bacteria help us to digest our food properly, reduce inflammation, support our immune systems, influence hormone function and metabolism, break down vitamins and minerals and perform a myriad of essential functions that contribute to our good health.  The more we can cultivate a wide diversity of beneficial bacteria the more we will enjoy good health.

Homemade Kefir-- I like to make my own kefir from raw milk* (I live in California where raw milk is available for purchase), and I always encourage everyone to make their own kefir (it's easy, here's a link).  However, if you choose to buy store-bought yogurt or sour cream, make sure you buy a brand that says "live cultures".  Unfortunately, commercial brands supply only a handful of bacteria strains.  Bacteria are killed by high heat, so add the yogurt or sour cream to the bowls of soup at the very last minute and gently float it on top.

Bone Broth-- By the way, homemade bone broth is another food that is excellent for healing the gut and reducing inflammation of the intestinal lining.  (By the way, it takes only about 5 minutes of effort to toss the ingredients for homemade bone broth in a pot and after that, you just let it simmer.  For directions, see here.)

Fresh Peas laid out for sale at the Auburn, California Saturday Farmer's Market, May 2017.
Fresh or Frozen?  It's springtime and fresh peas are at the Farmer's Markets.  You can use fresh peas for this recipe, or if the shelling is simply too much work, use a package of frozen organic peas, as I did.

Pea Soup with Mint

2 Tablespoons coconut oil (I like butter flavored)
1 leek, cleaned, dark green sections discarded and chopped into 1/2" dice
1 onion, chopped into 1/2" dice
1 bag frozen organic peas, or fresh spring peas shelled
4 cups chicken broth (homemade, or store-bought from pasture-raised chickens)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh mint, rough chopped
Homemade kefir or yogurt, or store-bought live culture sour cream
Additional fresh mint or chives, fine chopped

Saute the onions-- In a soup pot, melt the coconut oil and add the leeks and onions.  Saute over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the peas, chicken broth, salt, pepper and mint.  Simmer over medium-low heat for at least another 10 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

Puree--When all vegetables are softened, puree the mixture using a food processor, blender or blending stick.

To serve, top with a generous dollop of homemade kefir or yogurt (preferably made from raw milk, if available in your state) and bits of chopped fresh mint or dill, as desired.

More on gut health. 

*Raw milk contains many live probiotic strains, whereas the pasteurization process that most milk goes through in this country kills off the beneficial bacteria, which mostly can't survive above about 110-120 degrees.  Fermenting raw milk, which occurs in the process of making kefir and yogurt, cultivates and multiplies these beneficial raw milk strains and adds other strains, as well.