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Spicy Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook

By Beach Eats

First off, I want to wish a heartfelt, yet belated, Happy Mother's Day to all you beautiful moms out there! And especially to Mama Diva ... the greatest mom a girl could have! Love you the *most* Mama Diva! I hope you all had a spectacular day.

Talk about timing - no sooner did I post my Pitch Policy, when a copy of The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook showed up in my mailbox for review. And I couldn't be happier about it!

The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook, due to be released from Rodale Books on May 11, 2010, is the most interesting South Beach Diet cookbook to date. They have not only expanded their section of Phase 1 & 2 recipes, they've branched out to include some really fabulous ingredients as well. I was delighted to note the use of chickpea flour, flaxmeal and agave nectar, as well as a much expanded meatless meals section in this new offering. The book also includes a wide variety of ethnic meals, such as: Thai Vegetable Stew, African Red Bean Stew, and Coconut Shrimp Curry. All of which combine to make this not simply a "diet cookbook" but a cookbook that foodies can love as well!

A brief word about the diet before we move on. For those unfamiliar, the South Beach Diet is not a no-carb diet. While it is true that carbs are limited during the initial two week period (Phase 1), the intent of the diet is not to eliminate carbs but rather to encourage the choice of healthy, whole grain and high fiber carbs over simple sugars. And, honestly, you can skip the first phase and move right to Phase 2, if you like. Phase 2 allows for whole grains, whole grain breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, and more. In fact, I'm willing to bet that many of you are already eating the South Beach way without even realizing it.

Preceding the recipes, the book offers tips on budget conscious shopping, stocking your pantry, maximizing use of your freezer, as well as suggestions for: Meals for Two, Grab and Go Breakfasts and Lunches, and even Post Work-out Snacking. Its not only a cookbook, its a wonderful resource, dedicated to my favorite topic - eating well with an eye toward health.

Today, I'm featuring my take on The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook's Spiced Sweet Potato and Tomato soup. I have adapted this recipe from the book, changing both the method of preparation and the ingredients to suit my tastes.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup ... Diva's Way:
1 1/4 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil1 large shallot, peeled and minced1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dicesmall pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optionalpinch of Kosher salt1/2 teaspoon ground coriander1/4 teaspoon ground cumin1/4 teaspoon Ras el Hanout 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamonone 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes with jalapeno1 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)1/4 cup of grated aged Gruyere cheese2 tablespoons non-fat milksome chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnishsome freshly popped popcorn for garnish
1. Using a vegetable steamer, steam the sweet potatoes until fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from steamer and reserve.

2. In a soup or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the shallots, carrots, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of Kosher salt, and saute briefly, until the shallots are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ground coriander, the cumin, the Ras el Hanout, and the cinnamon and saute, stirring to blend, for one minute.

3. Add the entire can of diced tomatoes with jalapeno and stir to blend for one minute. Return the steamed sweet potatoes to the pot and add the vegetable (or chicken) broth, stirring to blend. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from the heat and, using an immersion blend, puree the soup until thick, creamy and smooth. (Alternately, you could use a blender or a food processor to puree the soup.) Return the soup to medium heat and add the shredded Gruyere cheese and 2 tablespoons of non-fat milk, stirring well, until the cheese has melted and is fully incorporated. Should the soup prove to thick for your liking, you may add a bit more broth to thin to desired consistency.

5. Serve immediately, garnished with some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro and some freshly popped popcorn to make it festive! Enjoy!

As written, this recipe will yield 4 (1 1/2 cup) servings.

The original recipe calls for the inclusion of "light spreadable cheese", rather than Gruyere ... but I just couldn't bring myself to add a processed cheese product to this lovely, wholesome soup. I've opted for the sharp Gruyere and a bit of skim milk here, but I'm certain you could leave the cheese and milk out altogether and still enjoy the marvelous flavor of this soup. The cheese does add a certain creaminess though, which is absolutely lovely. Do as you see fit.

This is a hearty, healthy, warmly spiced meal-in-a-bowl that is sure to satisfy and comfort dieters and non-dieters alike. I like so much I'll probably double the batch next time and freeze half for a quick reheat when needed.

I've also switched out the garnish, due to necessity ... the original calls for toasted pumpkin seeds, which would be fantastic ... but I didn't have any on hand. I've long enjoyed a bit of popcorn as a garnish for tomato soup, so I've resurrected that penchant here. Again, the choice is yours.

I'll be submitting this recipe to both Hey What's for Dinner Mom?'s Just Another Meatless Monday feature and Kahakai Kitchen's Souper Sundays feature.

Lastly, although I received my copy of The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook for review, it is a book I would have purchased myself, just based on the index alone. I recommend it to dieters and non-dieters alike and I can't wait to explore it further. Its absolutely ... Divalicious!

Bon appetite!

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