Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup recipe - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I always crave soup this time of year. This Potato Leek Soup really warms both the heart and soul. You’re going to love it!

Seemingly French inspired, this soup is actually an Irish recipe. I found it about 4 years ago after taking the advice of one of my doctors to cook with my roots in mind. I’m Irish, so we’re not shy with potatoes at our house. Potatoes get a bad rap but they’re actually pretty good for you because of their fiber, protein, vitamins B6 + C, and potassium.

Add the folate, vitamins K, A + C, and fiber from the onion and leek, and this soup packs a nutritious punch! Think about Potato Leek Soup as healthy comfort food. You won’t believe how rich and creamy it tastes without dairy.

Potato Leek Soup is a staple recipe in our kitchen. The monkeys request it frequently and often pack the left overs in a thermos for school lunch. With 7 basic ingredients, the recipe is super easy to make and really flexible. Add an extra potato and some extra broth and no one will notice. We end up eating it at least once a month. Everything in moderation, right?

If you don’t have one already, this immersion blender is fantastic. It’s a lot faster than transferring the soup to a blender and then back to the pot. I make quite a few soups that require blending and absolutely love the speed and simplicity of it.

Try this Potato Leek Soup recipe and let me know how you like it in the comments or click on the stars to review it. Cómelo todo!

Potato Leek Soup
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  1. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 leek, chopped
  3. 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  4. 6 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  5. 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  6. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop the vegetables. Use only the white part of the leek.
  2. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until soft, 8–10 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring just to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 30–35 minutes.
  5. Purée with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth.
  1. - Use organic ingredients when possible.
  2. - Try different kinds of potatoes. We like a combination of yukon and russet.
  3. - Serve with a green veggie like kale salad, sautéed zucchini or green beans.
  4. - Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or scallions.
Adapted from Saveur
Adapted from Saveur
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins Recipe - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Paleo Pumpkin Muffin Recipe - Under the Monkey Bars

I love muffins…always have. But delicious muffins without gluten, refined sugar, and dairy are few and far between. These Paleo Pumpkin Muffins though? Perfection.

I’ve been making these muffins for a few years with different variations. This version of the recipe strikes the perfect balance of ingredients. These muffins truly need a mix-in like raisins or dried cranberries so don’t skip that step. We like them best with a combination of both! 

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins travel well since they’re on the denser side. For muffins made with almond flour though, they’re more spongey than other recipes I make. The coconut flour helps to lighten it up and keeps the recipe grain free.

Even if you don’t follow the paleo diet, I’d still recommend giving this recipe a whirl. Paleo Pumpkin Muffins are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein.  They’re a great way to vary your diet or introduce new foods to picky eaters. The monkeys aren’t big pumpkin fans, but they cheer for these muffins. Probably because you can barely taste the pumpkin.

These silicone baking cups are my new favorite for baking. I line them up on a cookie sheet instead of using a muffin tin. The muffins end up browning on the bottom, and they pop right out of the baking cups. Totally genius! And easier to freeze too. 

When you try this muffin recipe, let me know how you like it in the comments. Cómelo todo!

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins
Yields 11
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Total Time
25 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  2. 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  3. 1 teaspoon apple pie seasoning
  4. 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  6. 3 large pastured eggs
  7. 1/3 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  8. 2 tablespoons raw honey, agave or pure maple syrup
  9. 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  10. 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  11. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  12. 1/4 cup raisins
  13. 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 11 muffin cups with paper or silicone liners.
  2. If your coconut oil is solid, melt it in a small saucepan and let it cool while you measure the other ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the almond flour, coconut flour, apple pie spice, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, honey, cooled coconut oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until blended. Fold in raisins and dried cranberries.
  6. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes until set at the centers and golden brown at the edges. Move the muffins to a cooling rack and let cool for 30 minutes (flavor enhances).
  1. - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  2. - Try a combination of 1 tablespoon honey + 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
  3. - We’re in love with the flavor of apple pie seasoning. If you don't have it on hand, use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.
Adapted from Power Hungry
Adapted from Power Hungry
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Dinosaur Smoothie

Dinosaur Smoothie Recipe - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Since I got my Vitamix last year, I’ve been making more smoothies than ever. I love trying different recipes. Over time, I’ve developed a few of my own. Our favorite lately is this Dinosaur Smoothie!

Did you read about my cleanse? This is the homemade smoothie I added to my nourishing cleanse. I started making it in the summer with coconut water for extra hydration. Now that it’s winter, I really love how it tastes with almond milk. They’re obviously really different, but the flavor and texture only changes a bit so use whatever you have on hand. 

The star of this smoothie is lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale. Those deep green leaves make the smoothie color super bright. Kale adds tons of vitamins to this smoothie including vitamin K, A, C, and manganese. It’s cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory, a natural detoxifier, and it helps support your brain, heart, and eyes. When you shop for kale, try to buy organic as it is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops. 

I love this Dinosaur Smoothie recipe because there’s no sweetener. Most healthy, non-dairy smoothie recipes call for honey, syrup, agave, dates, or nut butter. Pineapple sweetens up this smoothie naturally, while aiding heathy digestion. Did you know pineapple also supports a glowing complexion? More pineapple please!

Cut up a whole pineapple and freeze it into chunks. You’ll have plenty on hand for the next time you make a Dinosaur Smoothie. Use the hard pineapple’s hard to make flavored water. It’s one of the monkey’s favorites after school!

Try this smoothie and let me know how you like it in the comments. Cómelo todo!

Dinosaur Smoothie
Serves 1
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  1. 3 leaves dinosaur kale (lacinato), rib removed
  2. 5 chunks frozen pineapple
  3. 1/2 banana
  4. 5 oz coconut water or almond milk
  5. 5 ice cubes
  6. 4 inches of cucumber, sliced
  1. Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  1. - Yields 16 ounces.
  2. - Buy organic ingredients when possible.
  3. - Freeze the other banana half for another day’s smoothie.
  4. - Substitute any leafy green for the kale: bok choi, swiss chard, curly leaf kale, spinach, etc.
  5. - Avoid almond milk that contains carrageenan. Always read labels!
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Cleanse Virgin

Cleanse Virgin - Under the Monkey Bars blog

I’ve watched many friends go through cleanses. Not once have I been interested in jumping on the bandwagon — until now. I’m happy to report that I’m longer a cleanse virgin!

My body has gone through a lot fighting Lyme over the past 6 months. I’ve taken more medicine and supplements than I ever thought I would at age 38. I started looking for a way to detoxify my body without depriving it.

Cleanses clear out toxins from your body, like pesticides on produce and automobile fumes. They often involve limiting your food intake to different concoctions of pressed juice that can remove these harmful toxins from your body so it can focus on healing. A typical juice only cleanse helps shift your intestines away from digestion and absorption and towards ridding the body of toxins.

This makes sense to me, but I’m a firm believer in feeding your body and soul. In my mind, traditional juice cleanses do just the opposite. I don’t have time to sit around feeling exhausted and hungry all day. These two monkeys need their Mama! So I assumed cleanses just weren’t for me.

But what about a cleanse that’s more than just juice? As soon as I heard about Jubali’s nourishing cleanse, I knew it was just what I needed. Have you heard of Jubali? It’s is a certified organic juice, dairy-free smoothie, and herbal tea company based in Boston. They use only whole food ingredients, mostly sourced locally, with no added sugars or preservatives. All products are gluten free and vegan — my kind of company! I’ve been drinking their yummy smoothies for a while now but never realized I could use them as a cleanse.

Jubali’s whole foods smoothies keep fiber, healthy fats, protein, and sugar together. With this nourishing cleanse, you won’t get the massive sugar spikes and hunger pains of a mainstream juice cleanse. Plus, their super herb infusion teas help balance and heal throughout the cleanse process. 

I was able to really customize my cleanse, and I loved that flexibility. I kept a dairy so you could see what the cleanse was really like, minus what happened in the bathroom of course. I’m not ready to talk about poop on the blog yet, guys!

Cleanse Diary :: Day 1
6:30am :: 14 ounces of water
7:30am :: 10 ounce bowl of raw chocolate buckwheat parfait with berries
9:00am :: 14 ounces of water
11:00am :: Jubali Greena Colada smoothie: great flavor combination. Didn’t waste a drop – licked the cap!
12:30pm :: 16 ounces of Jubali Reishi Revive super-herb infusion tea, cold.
2:20pm :: Jubali LaLa Berry smoothie: loved the raspberry seeds. Didn’t need to chew them but I was happy to chew something!
3:30pm :: 14 ounces of water. Feeling a little cranky. Craving black tea.
5:15pm :: 14 ounces of water. I’m normal hungry for dinner. Not going to fall over surprisingly.
5:45pm :: Homemade potato leek soup with a small bowl of kale salad.
6:15pm :: I actually feel really good! Thought I’d be dragging.
6:30pm :: 14 ounces of water
8:00pm :: 4 ounces Jubali almond milk with 1/4 cup of homemade applesauce (apples + lemon). Feeling less tired than usual with balanced energy.

Cleanse Virgin - Under the Monkey Bars

Cleanse Diary :: Day 2
6:00am :: 14 ounces of water. Woke up feeling great. Not hungry at all.
7:30am :: 8 ounces of hot Jubali Clover Cleanse tea. This tea flavor was tough to get used to.
9:00am :: 16 ounces of homemade dinosaur smoothie
9:15am :: Gentle yoga. Felt so great to move slowly and massage my organs with twists and stretching. Not dizzy.
10:30am :: 14 ounces of water after yoga
11:15am :: 10 ounces of hot Jubali Deep Mineral tea: my favorite!
12:00pm :: Orange Jubali smoothie: made with bee pollen, which is apparently the single richest source of vitamins found in nature. Delicious flavor and great texture. Yum!
1:30pm :: 14 ounces of water
2:00pm :: Small sweet potato with avocado oil and salt
2:30pm :: 8 ounces of hot Jubali Clover Cleanse tea
3:00pm :: Slight headache.
4:00pm :: Jubali Mocha Bliss smoothie: totally cleared my headache.
4:45pm :: 14 ounces of water. Feeling zen. Would be a good time to curl up with a good book! Finished mine yesterday 🙁
5:15pm :: 14 ounces of water
6:00pm :: Homemade carrot soup with a small bowl of roasted cabbage.
7:15pm :: 6 ounces of hot Jubali Deep Mineral tea
8:00pm :: 4 ounces of Jubali almond milk with 1/4 cup of homemade applesauce. More energy than usual again at this time of night.

Now that I’ve done a cleanse, I can definitely see myself doing something similar seasonally. Besides detoxing, it’s a great way to give your body a kick start and change your habits. I was a little cold the first day. I realized on day 2 of the cleanse that I could warm the tea, which was a total game changer.

After the cleanse, I didn’t have a sip of caffeine for almost 2 weeks. I have more energy. I’m not craving sugar. I’m not as hungry. I truly feel more balanced. Next time I cleanse, I’ll clear my calendar and treat myself to a few days off with gentle yoga classes, a good book, and maybe get a massage. We all need more self care. A cleanse is a great way to start.

Every body is different. It’s really important to listen to your body, which is the number one way you can evaluate whether or not a cleanse would work for you. You can’t do a cleanse and expect to be healthy. Health is a journey. It needs to be a part of your daily life — not just a few days where you starve yourself. For me, this nourishing cleanse helped my body heal. It removed toxins from my body and gave me a fresh start for 2016.

If you’d like to check out Jubali’s products, head over to the Natural Grocer in Newburyport or look for them at Whole Foods Market. Jubali delivers in Boston by bike!

Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

New year…new recipes! If you’re looking for dinner ideas, you’ve found the right post. Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce with pasta has been a favorite weeknight meal at our house for the past 6 years. Everyone devours it!

When the monkeys were toddlers, I diced up the eggplant really small so that a bite or two would sneak into their picky, little mouths. Now eggplant is Bean’s favorite part of the dish! Small Mommy victories like these keep us going, right?

Eggplant is full of antioxidants, low in calories, and high in fiber. It protects against inflammation and disease formation — including cancer. Eggplant helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. Plus, it’s shiny and purple. Plenty of reasons to pick up some eggplant next time you’re at the market!

This recipe for Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce comes together quickly with only 8 ingredients, most of which can be kept in the pantry or freezer. The sauce is naturally gluten free if your sausage is gluten free. In fact, it tastes best with sausage from a local farm or butcher. We love the sweet Italian pork sausage from either MEat (Kittery, Maine) or Lilac Hedge Farm, which is available at farmers markets across Massachusetts including Boston Public Market.

Serve this Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce over any kind of pasta or pasta alternative. Choose Jovial or Andean Dream pasta to make it gluten free. For a veggie packed meal, try this recipe over homemade zoodles like in the picture above. It’s a great way to eat more vegetables. I use this spiralizer to make the noodles from zucchini. Sweet Pea loves to crank the lever to help make noodles.

Leftovers freeze well or pack it up for tomorrow’s lunch. Cómelo todo!

Sausage Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Serves 6
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  1. 1 eggplant, diced
  2. 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  3. 1/2 cup red wine
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves, diced
  5. 1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken or beef broth
  6. 25 ounce box of chopped tomatoes
  7. Olive oil
  8. Salt to taste
  1. In a dutch oven, saute eggplant and garlic in olive oil until eggplant is soft, stirring frequently. Remove to a plate.
  2. Cook the sausage in the same pot. Add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits. Reduce the liquid.
  3. Add broth and tomatoes. Return eggplant to the pan and salt to taste.
  4. Simmer up to one hour until the liquid has reduced slightly and sauce has thickened. If you're short on time, crank it up and cook for about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve over hearty shaped pasta, zoodles or steamed broccoli.
Adapted from Cooks.com
Adapted from Cooks.com
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/