Winter seems to be getting a second wind around here. A couple weeks ago I was all “winter’s no big deal” and “it really hasn’t been THAT bad.” Really, it hadn’t been, by Michigan standards. However, yesterday morning the snow decided to make a comeback, bringing along his good pal, gusty wind. Unfortunately, it was a weekend I had to work, otherwise I would have stayed inside, nice and warm and dry, probably under a cozy blanket with a hot beverage. Instead, I was outside in a blizzard scraping snow and ice off my vehicle and slip-sliding my way to work. During my work day I would occasionally pass by a window, and catch a glimpse of the wild weather that ensued. The snow was moving in a horizontal fashion, which is never a good sign. At the end of the day I trudged through the snow in the parking lot, squinting against the wet flakes blowing into my eyeballs, and proceeded to scrape the accumulated snow from the car, again. Then I embarked on the drive home, doing some white-knuckle winter storm driving, thanking my lucky stars every time I passed by a car that was stuck turning a corner or sliding backwards while trying to climb a slick, snowy hill. When I finally got home safely, I could only think of two words. HOT SOUP.
Soup to Glow
Soups and stews have been my go-to meals lately, and I especially have a hankering for them when it’s cold and snowy. This delicious and hearty vegan corn chowder is the answer to all of your winter woes. The smoky and slightly spicy flavors will shake the snow and cold right off of you! Not only is it warming and satisfying, it is filled to the brim with nutritious and beautifying ingredients, like sweet potatoes, carrots, kidney beans, red bell peppers, cashew cream, and corn. That’s right, even corn has numerous health and beauty benefits. You may know that sweet potatoes and carrots are loaded with beta-carotene (great for skin health and a healthy glow), kidney beans are a good source of protein (as well as fiber and iron), red bell peppers are filled with vitamin C, and cashews are an excellent source of copper and other minerals (excellent for youthful skin and healthy hair). But corn? Is corn really a healthy food?
Choose Your Corn Wisely
The short answer is YES! Corn is a complex carbohydrate and has a place in a healthy, varied diet. I diligently researched the health benefits of corn, because despite being somewhat vilified, corn has many positives. Now, to be clear, I’m talking about organic sweet corn that is non-GMO. Organic, non-GMO sweet corn, and “field corn” are not one in the same. Unfortunately, corn gets a bad rap these days because, thanks to government subsidies, “field corn” has found it’s way into about 70% of processed foods (usually in the form of corn oil or high fructose corn syrup). Field corn is also used to feed livestock on factory farms. At least 90% of field corn is of the GMO variety (thanks to Monsanto). I won’t even get into a discussion about Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified Organisms because it would take up about 3 normal posts’ worth of space, at least. Suffice to say that there are too many studies linking GMOs to health problems for me to ignore, not to mention the devastating impact they have on the environment, that I personally feel it is best to avoid them as much as possible. (For more information on Monsanto, and GMOs, check out this documentary, or the resources on the Environmental Working Group’s website). Until recently, most sweet corn was non-GMO, but unfortunately that is starting to change too. So, when purchasing your corn, be sure to choose certified organic sweet corn, just to be on the safe side. Now,on to the fun stuff!
Health and Beauty Benefits of Organic Sweet Corn
Many people believe that sweet corn is fattening and full of sugar. In truth, an ear of sweet corn has about the same calorie count as an apple, and only a quarter of the sugar [source]. In fact, research has shown a link between sweet corn consumption and better blood sugar control for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Corn is a good source of fiber, and it has the unique ability to support friendly bacteria in your gut. Recent studies have shown that corn fiber has many digestive benefits, including a lower risk of intestinal problems and colon cancer. Corn contains a variety of B vitamins like thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folic acid (B9). These vitamins are important for clear skin and thick, strong hair. B vitamins are also important for managing stress and anxiety, and improving mental functioning. Most notably, and surprisingly, corn has amazing antioxidant capabilities, essential for preventing disease and looking and feeling young. The antioxidant phytonutrients beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin found in corn are important for healthy vision and also for smooth, glowing skin.
My apologies, I just couldn’t resist one more “corny” joke (hee-hee, ok, sorry sorry). Given all of the health benefits that organic sweet corn can offer, it is certainly a plant food that I feel good about including in my diet. Obviously, moderation is key, as with any food. Corn isn’t as low in calories as some plant foods. It is also high in complex carbohydrates, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re not consuming it in high amounts at the exclusion of other grains and veggies. If you’re eating corn as your main vegetable source (technically corn is a grain, not a vegetable), then you’re missing out on vitamins and minerals that you could be getting from more nutrient dense vegetables (those that are vitamin and mineral-rich, while being low in calories). I don’t eat corn everyday, and we rarely ever eat it on its own (unless it’s fresh, summer, corn on the cob). I love using it in recipes, however. For this hearty soup recipe I used frozen organic sweet corn. Brimming with vegetables, beans, smoky spices, and homemade cashew cream (aka dairy-free “half and half”), this creamy soup is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and iron. It’s a healthy and beautifying one-pot meal, that is sure to warm you up and keep your tummy happy. You can easily double the recipe and freeze the soup in single serving containers for more than a week’s worth of quick dinners or lunches. Hope you give it a try!
Smoky, Spicy and Hearty Vegan Corn Chowder
Inspired by this recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 1 cup)
1/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp of pink Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a jalepeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
32 oz (4 cups) of vegetable broth
1 large, or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz can of mild green chiles
1 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
2 tsp of smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or more or less to taste (optional)
1 3/4 cups frozen organic sweet corn, thawed (half of a bag)
15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 – 1/2 cup of cashews, soaked at least two hours (use 1/2 cup for a creamier soup)
green onions, thinly sliced or fresh cilantro leaves for serving
1. Begin by blending your soaked, rinsed, and drained cashews with 3/4 – 1 cup of water. For an extra creamy soup, blend 1/2 cup of soaked cashews with 1 cup of water until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions, carrot, garlic, and 1/4 tsp of the salt and black pepper. Sautee for 5 minutes. Then, add cumin, bell pepper, and jalepeno and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
3. Pour in the broth, sweet potato, chiles, bay leaves, smoked paprika, oregano, and optional cayenne. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until sweet potato is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add the remaining salt and pepper (or to taste) and add in corn and beans, cooking until heated through.
4. Stir in the cashew cream. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. Top with green onions and/or cilantro.