Most of us are a week into resolution purgatory now, and I’m betting those of you that swore off carbs are already wondering how many more days you can go before either losing your mind or just laying down and dying of exhaustion and starvation. You’re also dealing with the cold weather that naturally makes you want filling comfort foods, while struggling to cut calories to lose body fat. Starting a weight loss routine in the coldest month of the year is extraordinarily bad timing. Winter months are a good time for either maintenance where you just maintain your current weight, or a bulking phase where you eat in a slight calorie surplus to add muscle before cutting in the spring.
Freezing temps and a calorie deficit will never make a buddy cop action movie together, and it’s just another of many reasons why most people fail at maintaining a new lifestyle when starting in January. Cardio, for lack of a better term, really sucks when it’s cold as well, while it’s a little easier to lift heavier weights in the dark of winter. Getting stronger and adding muscle is a winter activity, and you’d be surprised how much body fat you can lose by getting stronger and eating complex carbs.
To build lean muscle and turn your body into a fat burning machine, you need protein, fats, and complex carbs to give your body what it needs to repair and fuel growth. I found out the hard way what happens when severely cutting calories and carbs while following an intense work out program. I was in a severe calorie deficit, my diet was all protein and fat, with under 30 grams of carbs a day. My body began to search for other sources of fuel and began to break down muscle tissue.
I found this out by going to the bathroom to relive a full bladder, and instead of urine, it was all blood. It looked like I had slaughtered a chicken in there, or an Ozzy concert from the 80s broke out every time I went to the bathroom. And even as cool and totally metal as that looked, I knew that I could not sustain that condition for long without losing strength and developing serious medical issues. The fix was adding more complex carbs to my diet. Simple as that. I was terrified of gaining back the body fat I had worked so hard to burn off, but instead of fat, I added about 8 lbs. of muscle to my frame over the next 6 months. I felt much better with a big increase in energy and stamina. I also stopped having those shimmering black out moments from a loss of blood pressure when standing up, which is always a plus.
One of the best ways to get all those macros into your diet during the winter is soups. Thick, hearty, stick to your ribs soup that not only has protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs, but also is brimming with vitamins that will help your immune system perform at it’s best. Now, we all know store bought canned soup is not what we are talking about here. Canned soup is full of additives and loaded with enough sodium to choke a saltwater fish. Even the so-called healthy soups have ingredient labels that have so many chemical preservatives in them that it could double for a bottle of anti-freeze in your car radiator. We can do much better, both in taste and in health. Also, if you haven’t made the cornbread recipe from my first article, now’s a good time to pair it your home made soup. You will forget you are even on a healthy diet.
Today I’m showing how to make my version of Italian Sausage and Kale soup. This stuff is seriously good. There’s more veggie’s in here than a V8, and it has everything you need to fuel your wintertime workouts. For all my keto devotees out there, you can leave out the purple potatoes, carrots, and cannellini beans if you must, but I implore you to try it this way. One cool trick with fiber rich veggies like the potatoes and beans, once they are cooked and cooled in the fridge, the carbohydrates are converted into resistant starches so they have minimum impact on blood sugar levels. They are also great sources of protein in their own right, and are powerhouses in fiber and iron. Most soups of this style call for bulk pork sausage, but that carries too much grease and gristle for my taste. I go with a cleaner fully cooked chicken sausage from Applegate for this soup. No matter what brand you use, read the ingredients label and only pick the ones that have words you can read without having to sound out phonetically. Here’s an example:
- Organic Chicken. Contains Less than 2% of the Following: Sea Salt, Organic Vinegar, Baking Soda, Organic Spices, Organic Fennel. Organic Garlic
Easy to read, right? Nothing to hide, no scary test tube chemicals lurking in your soup bubbling like a witch’s poison brew there. Here’s what not to buy:
- Pork, Water, Salt, Potassium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Natural Flavors, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Diacetate, Lemon Juice Powder (Maltodextrin, Lemon Juice Solids), Collagen Casing.
See the difference? Not only do you not know what those words are, neither do your internal organs. They have no idea what to do with that stuff. It does not belong in your food, and it does not belong in you. For the broth, I use an unsalted bone broth. Using unsalted puts you in control of the sodium content, both for health and taste. If you season your ingredients properly along the way, you’ll find you don’t need to add any salt to the broth. There are A LOT of ingredients in this (some would say a plethora for all my Three Amigos fans out there) so a large dutch oven or pasta soup pot is needed for this one. Turn on some music in your kitchen and get to chopping. This is a fun one to make as well as eat. Winter is coming, eat soup and stay warm.
Italian Sausage and Kale soup
- 1 qt unsalted chicken bone broth
- 2 packages pre-cooked chicken sweet Italian Sausage
- 2 cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 package celery, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 bunch carrots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 bunch Kale, rinsed and de-ribbed
- 1 package purple potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz grass fed cream cheese ,softened
- 1/2 cup grass fed half and half
- 1/2 a wedge of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
Cut purple potatoes into quarters and place in an Instapot pressure cooker with a cup of water to steam for 5 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, steam conventionally until just fork tender.
While the potatoes are steaming, rinse and dry the carrots and celery, then dice along with the onion and garlic:
Pour the bone broth in the dutch oven and add the rinsed beans and 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning. Set over low to medium heat on the stove-top to start warming. Then cut the chicken sausage into slices:
If you have a floppy eared fuzz faced sous-chef in the house, this is the step in the cooking process when they show up:
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and then cook sliced sausage until GB&D (golden brown and delicious) and then add to the broth:
Pour the white wine in the same pan and use a wooden spoon to de-glaze the pan, then add the chopped veggies and potatoes. Season with sea salt and pepper, then cover and cook for 10 minutes until the carrots soften, stirring often. Add to the soup after the ten minutes are up. Cover and cook over medium heat just until it starts to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer.
Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and whip with a hand mixer, then add a few tablespoons of half and half, blending until smooth. Repeat until all the half and half is incorporated and the mix is smooth and lump free:
Add the cream cheese mix and grated Parmesan cheese to the soup. Pat dry the kale and tear the leaves off the rib:
Fold the kale into the soup in batches until wilted. Taste test and add salt to taste if needed.
Serve with low carb cornbread and enjoy.
See the list of the Shirtless Chef columns/recipes at www.mysaline.com/shirtless.