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
Write a review
  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/

Meet Children’s Authors at the Newburyport Literary Festival

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Sweet Pea and Bean at a workshop with children’s author Anica Mrose Rissi during last year’s Newburyport Literary Festival.

For book lovers, literary festivals are akin to music festivals. Live discussions, readings, and conversations with those who inspire us with the written word are often a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Newburyport Literary Festival is just that, taking place in our historic city for its 11th year on April 29th and 30th. This year, the festival boasts an impressive line up of novelists, poets, and children’s authors. We are so fortunate to have such a comprehensive, annual literary festival right here in Newburyport!

Last April, our family attended almost all of the children’s events at the festival. We spent the day at the library together, with a stop back home to rest and eat lunch. It was our first experience with the festival, and one of the monkeys favorite weekends of the year!

We met Jarrett Krosoczcka (Lunch Lady series), Anica Mrose Rissi (Anna, Banana series), and the Newbury-Award winning author Avi. Not only were the monkeys captivated by their presentations, but we were also impressed with the stories the authors shared about their writing journeys. The monkeys even asked questions, eager to learn more. It was an engaging experience for kids and grown ups alike.

After each event, the authors were available to chat and sign books, which you could purchase through local bookstores. To be a kid and have a book that was touched by and signed by the actual person who wrote it? Priceless.

Instilling a love of reading has always been a priority of mine as a Mom. It’s so important for kids to learn outside the classroom. I go out of my way to bring the monkeys to meet authors. I’ll never forget the first author they met when Sweet Pea was 2 and Bean was 5: Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious series). They were completely star struck!

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Author Victoria Kann signing a copy of “Silverlicious” for Bean back in 2010 at Newbury Elementary School.

For children, meeting an author is like meeting a rock star. With their name across the bottom of a favorite book, they’re totally famous. Some more than others, but that’s not the point. Authors bring stories to life in your imagination, taking children to places they’ve never been before.

Literacy is even more critical in this digital age. Interpreting information from multiple sources makes growing up today much more complex. Discussing books becomes even more important than reading them. And what could be better than discussing a book with the person who wrote it?

Children learn from modeling our behavior. If we’re excited about a literary festival, they’ll be excited too. Check out the schedule and mark your calendar for the events that interest you most. Most events are free! Then head to the library to borrow some of the books that will be discussed at the event. Get excited together!

Events we’re planning to attend at the Newburyport Public Library:
– 9:00 a.m. Red Knit Cap Girl: Make origami hats with Naoko Stoop.
– 11:00 a.m. Pets With Benefits: Learn how to build a worm farm with Newburyport author Lucia Greene.
– 1:00 p.m. Let’s Make a Poem: Create and illustrate your own poem through collage with Micha Archer.
– 1:00 p.m. Families: The Good, the Bad, and the Wacky: Win door prizes and learn author secrets with Elizabeth Atkinson and Newburyport author Dana Alison Levy.
– 2:30 p.m. Writers in Wonderland: Write about your own wonderland with Genevieve Morgan.

Writing is a gift that authors share with us page by page, book by book. I hope you can make it to the Newburyport Literary Festival this year. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something.

If you’re not in the area, stay in touch with your library to find out when authors will be visiting for local events.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home - Under the Monkey Bars blog

We’ve never been happier to see our purple front door! It’s so great to be home in Newburyport.

Reading :: The Little Paris Bookshop. Finally finished The Flood Girls; I didn’t love it or hate it.
Exercising :: Gaiam’s Yoga Studio app in my living room. Can’t wait to get back to the studio!
Reveling :: In Don’s accomplishments. He started PT last week and is moving around much better.
Finishing :: Sweet Pea’s 2nd grade ancestry project on Germany
Watching :: Parenthood on Netflix until the new Life In Pieces on Thursday night
Cheering :: For our Villanova Wildcats in the national championship tonight! #NovaNation
Digging :: Out from a mountain of laundry
Missing :: The majestic mountains in Stowe
Making :: Oh She Glows Cream of Tomato Soup with chickpea croutons for a Meatless Monday dinner
Remembering :: The 28 days we spent in Vermont…all the laughs, scary moments, and the exhaustion. We’re in recovery mode at home in Newburyport, pretending that it hasn’t been snowing all day. What happened to Spring?

Home Sweet Home. XO

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
Write a review
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/

Our New Normal

Our New Normal - Under the Monkey Bars blog

As I type, my patient sleeps. My husband Don now knows what a 10 feels like on a pain scale, because when his ski boot was pulled off his foot with a dislocated knee and broken leg: he was a 10. It’s the first time the monkeys and I have seen true pain on his face. We’ve been through a lot together in our almost 15 years of marriage. But this? I wasn’t ready for this. It’s our new normal for as far as we can see.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me start this story on March 5th when a regular Saturday in Stowe turned into one of the scariest days of our lives.

I skied down Nosedive behind Don on one of the most gorgeous mornings of the season. The sky was blue. The conditions were better than we expected. The snow was groomed beautifully over this season’s dreaded New England ice. We were on our second run of our usual Saturday ski date while the monkeys were conquering Mt Mansfield with their Buster teams. 

The moment he fell still plays in my mind like a video. Don was in the middle of a right turn, almost in a lunge when his already bent left leg slid into a groove in the ice. His knee popped and dislocated before he even fell. Then his femur came down on his tibia like a hammer. It was a total fluke thing. I’ve seen Don take some pretty sick falls; this was not one of them. When his knee gave, he twisted around on his back clutching his left leg. 

I skied down below him and yelled, “Should I call Ski Patrol?” I’ve asked him this question dozens of times. The answer is always no. We always joke about how predictable he is. I wish on that day he could have been more predictable. Instead of no, my sweet husband cried out, “YES!” in a voice I’ve never heard before.

I pulled out my phone to call Ski Patrol, realizing instantly that I didn’t have the number. I looked up in a panic and magically 2 red coats with white crosses appeared gliding down the snowy trail. Ski Patrol expertly tended to Don, initially assessing a fracture based on the fact that his knee was not where it should be. These guys were our angels that day, and I’ll never forget their professionalism, how they took control, and eased my nerves. 

While we waited for a sled to arrive, Bean skied down the trail with her team. I tried to reassure her that Daddy would be okay, but even I wasn’t sure if my words were true. After a much needed hug, I asked her to look out for Sweet Pea. I knew their coaches would take care of the monkeys while I stayed with Don wherever this awful day would take us.

You never know how you’ll handle a crisis until you are in the situation. Apparently I’m pretty good under pressure — especially with friends by my side. 

All of the decisions that go along with a trauma injury have been the hardest part. Does the surgery need to be done asap? Do we trust these doctors? Should we go back to Newburyport or stay in Stowe? Should we keep the monkeys with us or get them back to school?

Ultimately, we decided to put our trust in the local doctors here in Vermont, and they didn’t disappoint. The ambulance took Don to Copley Hospital in Morrisville where an orthopedist performed his first surgery, installing an external fixator to set the break and reduce the swelling for his next surgery. Catastrophic was the word the surgeon used to describe Don’s injury. Not a good sign.

That contraption of metal pins sticking out of his leg, known as an “x-fix” in medical lingo, stayed on for 10 excruciating days. I lived in fear of bumping it and causing him more pain all day every day (I ended up only stepping on his foot once…not bad for my debut as a nurse).

We chose to have Don’s second surgery at UVM Medical Center with a rock star orthopedist who repairs this type of injury at least once a month. That 4 hour surgery on March 14th was successful in repairing his tibial plateau, ACL, and meniscus. Between surgeries, Don suffered through complications that brought us to the UVM ER. His pain has been off the charts, with bad days around 8 or 9. Every day has been a challenge. 

The monkeys were with us until this past Sunday when their grandparents graciously brought them back to Newburyport for school (only to be met by a snow day!). While friends and family thought we should get the girls back to school and their routine right away, I’m so glad we kept our family together. We decided that their routine is with us. Missing two weeks of school isn’t nearly as important as our family. We needed them as much as they needed us, and we’re all stronger because of what we’ve been through together.

Our new community in Stowe overflowed with support for our family. We truly couldn’t have managed without them. Family and friends both near and far were there for us in every way imaginable. Help came by way of packages to keep the monkeys busy, grocery shopping, babysitting, and rides for the monkeys. I’m forever grateful to the friends that cheered us on with texts and messages. Funny stories from home and pictures from friends were the best distraction. 

Here’s what Don went through so far by the numbers: 1 ambulance ride, 2 ER visits, 2 surgeries at 2 different hospitals, 6 hours in the OR, 3 X-rays, 1 MRI, 2 CT scans, 1 ultrasound, 4 pins, 8 screws, 2 plates, 2 roommates, 8 nights in the hospital, 2 crutches, and we’re not counting pain killers because I lost track long ago. I think we’ve met our deductible. 

In the wise words of a nurse on our first night at the hospital, “You never know where you’re going to end up when you wake up each morning.” These past few weeks were definitely not how we planned to spend the last days of winter. But we’re okay and it could have been much worse. Don’s pain lessens a bit each day and we’ve accepted our new normal. He’ll be in the immobilizer for 12 weeks with a possible 3rd surgery in a few months. Until then, I’ll be healing him in the way I know best: with food as medicine.

Thanks for reading and supporting Under the Monkey Bars. Blogging is an important part of my life, but my family will always come first.