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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Yes, you heard me right!

I absolutely love soup. Even though I live in a place where it is at least in the 80’s, if not the 90’s most of the year, I can eat soup all of the time. Maybe it’s because I am cold natured and once the air conditioning hits below 75 I am chilled. I don’t know, but I am not going to complain because soup is an easy meal that can be made a million healthy ways. I love the fact that it is usually hearty, but it doesn’t have to be laden with fat, calories and sodium to be that way.

With that said, you are probably thinking that cream based soups are definitely out of the question then. Wrong! A fellow blogger of mine, Cara at Cara’s Cravings, is always coming up with healthy, yet delicious and satisfying meal ideas. She is amazing at thinking outside of the box. Well, a while back I found a recipe on her blog for a Creamy Asparagus Soup. The word’s “Amazingly Healthy” were also placed in front of the title. This was definitely something I was going to have to try!

So, you ask, how does she make this so called “creamy” soup creamy while still keeping it healthy? Don’t you dare snub your nose at this when I tell you!!! Cottage Cheese. Yes, I said cottage cheese. As we all know, this is something that you either like or you loathe. I am pretty sure most people loathe it because of it’s not so appealing texture. I mean it is instilled in us from a young age that chunks in dairy products aren’t usually a good sign, except of course with cottage cheese. Well, I assure you that this “creamy” soup will in fact be creamy and not chunky. The trick is pureeing the cottage cheese so it actually has a completely smooth texture and resembles a cream substance. I honestly thought this was genius and would have never thought to do it on my own. As Cara reminds us in her post, not only are you making a soup creamy without guilt, but you are also adding a good amount of protein and calcium to your dish.

So, Cara dared us to make this for our non-cottage cheese eating husbands, which I did. The first time I made this I made it exactly the way she did. Although my husband was a bit freaked out by the thought of the cottage cheese, he did admit that it was a great soup and that if he didn’t know, then he would not be able to tell there was cottage cheese in it. Well, I decided to make it again recently, but try it with different veggies. Instead of asparagus I included broccoli and cauliflower. It turned out just as fabulous as the asparagus version. So I send you off to go try the cottage cheese method and experiment with it a bit. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

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Creamy Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

adapted from Cara’s Cravings

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. of fresh broccoli/cauliflower mix (or 6 oz. of each)
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth
6oz low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup nonfat milk

Wash the broccoli and cauliflower, and chop into small pieces, about 1/4-1/2″. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broccoli and cauliflower, salt & pepper, lemon juice and seasoning and stir to combine. Add chicken broth; this should be enough to just cover the vegetables in the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Blend together the cottage cheese and milk in a blender or in a separate container using an immersion blender, until completely smooth. Set aside.

Remove the soup from heat and process until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by transferring to a food processor or blender. Return to medium-low heat and gently stir in cottage cheese mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1-2 minutes to let it fully thicken.

*Notes:

-Cara used Penzey’s Greek seasoning in her version instead of the spice blend. If you have the Greek seasoning, feel free to use 1 tsp. of that in place of the garlic powder, oregano and lemon juice that I used.

-I have used both a blender and an immersion blender, I recommend the immersion blender over the regular blender if you have the choice.

-Be sure to blend the cottage cheese until it is COMPLETELY smooth. If you don’t get it completely smooth, then you will have small chunks in your soup.

-You can also make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock/broth.

Yields 4 smaller servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to Spark Recipe)
Serving Size: about 2 ladles full
Calories: 92.1
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 10.3 mg
Carbohydrates: 8.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 9 g

*The sodium content is going to vary depending on the type of stock/broth that you use. I recommend using a low sodium version. I used a cottage cheese that had a 4% fat content, feel free to use something less.

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Goulash, but not really.

You know how we all have a few meals that we grew up on and will always stick in our memory? This was one of those meals and it was a favorite of mine. My mom made it, my Nana made it, etc. The only thing that seems kind of funny to me now as an adult and as someone who is always looking through recipes, is that my family always called it goulash. Looking at the photo you will see that this is definitely not the goulash you will find on the menu somewhere. Even though that is the case, it will always be “goulash” to me, so please excuse my inaccurate naming of the dish.

I must also confess that this isn’t the exact dish I grew up on. Again, now that I am an adult and try to be very conscious of my food choices I decided to put my own twist on the dish to make it a bit more well rounded. The version that I grew up on was simply pasta, ground meat, onion and homemade tomato sauce. I decided to make it a bit healthier by using ground turkey, whole wheat pasta and adding veggies to the mix. In the end you have a nice comforting meal that you don’t have to feel guilty about.

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Nana’s “Goulash”

Olive Oil
1 small to medium zucchini, chopped
1 small to medium yellow squash, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
8 oz. ground turkey (I used 93/7)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
crushed red pepper to taste
salt and pepper
2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
4 oz. whole wheat elbows or rotini

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to time listed on the box.

Heat a pan on the stove and spray with olive oil. Add the zucchini, squash and onions. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add garlic and Italian seasoning. Continue cooking on medium heat.

Heat another pan and add the ground turkey. Add garlic powder, paprika, crushed red pepper and salt & pepper to taste. Continue on medium heat until cooked through.

When the veggies reach your desired tenderness, add the cooked ground turkey, marinara sauce and the drained pasta. Simmer to let flavors combine, about 5 minutes.

Yields 2 large servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to sparkrecipe.com)
Calories: 453.4
Total Fat: 12.8 g
Cholesterol: 80 mg
Sodium: 149.6 mg
Carbohydrates: 63.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.5 g
Protein: 33.3 g

*Please note that the nutrition facts can vary greatly based on the type of sauce, meat and pasta that is used as well as the amount of salt added to the dish.  These facts were based on the 93/7 ground turkey, homemade san marzano sauce and Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Rotini.

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Finger Lickin Good

Like most people, I am always looking for new chicken recipes. I mean it is just that go-to meat that you always have in your house that is healthy and versatile. You honestly can do a million and one things with it, but of course when you are trying to think of something new, you draw a blank. Well, at least I do. Therefore, any time I come across a new chicken recipe I am sure to put it in safe keeping for those, “I don’t know what I want for dinner,” nights.

I love chicken, but I tend to steer away from dishes that call for chicken on the bone unless it is a whole chicken or it’s being cooked on the grill and eaten with your hands. I don’t like to have to pick chicken off the bone when it is in some type of mixed dish (i.e. chicken cacciatore). Let’s be honest, you can only get so much meat off of the bone with a fork and knife.  Ironically, when I saw a recipe in Cooking Light for Braised Chicken with Vegetables, I just couldn’t resist it. The picture just made the dish look so appetizing and it made me forget about my dislike of picking through chicken that was surrounded by a gravy like substance.

It was a very tasty dish and I must say that I enjoyed it, even though I had to pick through my food.  Unfortunately my version is missing the peas sine Greg told me there were peas in the freezer when really they were lima beans (yuck). I did add some sliced mushrooms to the mix though.

braised chicken

Braised Chicken with Baby Vegetables and Peas

Courtesy of Cooking Light

2 tbs. butter, divided
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
12 baby turnips, peeled (about 8 ounces) (I cut up a large turnip)
12 baby carrots, peeled (about 8 ounces)
12 pearl onions, peeled (about 8 ounces) (I used frozen)
6 white mushrooms, sliced
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fresh green peas
2 tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan.

Add broth to pan; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add wine and next 7 ingredients (through bay leaves); stir. Add chicken to pan, nestling into vegetable mixture; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Discard bay leaves and parsley sprigs. Remove chicken and vegetables from the pan.

Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings back into pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Return liquid to pan. Bring liquid to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (about 5 minutes).

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to cooking liquid; cook 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Return chicken and vegetable mixture to pan; stir in peas. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Yields 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to Cooking Light)
Calories: 324
Total Fat: 11.4 g
Cholesterol: 100 mg
Sodium: 818 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.2 g
Protein: 32.6 g
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Kicked Up Green Beans

I’ll be honest; I am not a huge fan of many vegetables. I mean I don’t mind them and I will eat most of them, enjoying some more than others, but if I were forced to not eat a good number of veggies I would have no problem with that. Greg on the other hand will eat almost any vegetable you put in front of him.

Knowing that it is a must for me to include lots of veggies in my diet, I take my so-so relationship with vegetables and try to find ways to spruce them up so I will enjoy them more. Green beans are a vegetable that I like for the most part and I love onions, so when I saw this recipe I figured it would be a great combination for my vegetable picky taste buds. It is a simple recipe but just gives that extra something. It is also a great side dish for gatherings; we have served it twice for family get-togethers and everyone loves it.

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Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

courtesy of Cooking Light

2 tbs. olive oil, divided
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt, divided
2 pounds green beans, trimmed

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pat onions dry with paper towels; add to pan. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté onions 5 minutes. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté 15 minutes or until onions are tender and golden brown. Spoon into a bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add beans; sauté 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated.

If you like a little heat, add crushed red pepper to taste towards the end.

Yields: 10 servings

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 89
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 249 mg
Carbohydrates: 15.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
Protein: 2.5 g
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Summery Soup

When it comes to dinner, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for meat, veggies and a starch; I want something different. So, while thumbing through my Ellie Krieger cookbook I came across a recipe for Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup and knew that would be a great change-up. It called for lots of my favorite vegetables and it was more of a chowder style so I knew it would be hearty.

I whipped a batch up one night and served it with a half of a sandwich. It was so filling! I couldn’t even finish my bowl. Greg was even satisfied by this “lighter” meal. It is jam packed with fresh and easy to find ingredients and is a cinch to make. What more could you ask for?

corn-chowder

Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup

Courtesy of The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

4 cups fresh corn kernels or two 10 oz. packages frozen corn, thawed
2 cups non-fat milk
1 tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
1 small zucchini (about ½ lb.), diced
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
¾ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and the tomatoes and cook until warmed through but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.

Yields: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to book)
Serving size: 1 ½ cups
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 365 mg
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 9.5 g

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My Ode to Pasta Salad

Oh how I love a great pasta salad. My mom always makes pasta salad in the summer; it is an old standby in our household. Her version is delicious, but it could probably add up on the waistline a bit. It isn’t that bad, but she does love to put chunks of cheese in it and lots of dressing. So over the years I have made my own versions of pasta salad and usually try to make them on the lighter side. I find it to be very subjective and I love that about it. You can make a million different versions and adapt it to practically anyone’s diet restrictions.

With summer in the air; yes I do realize it is only April but in south Florida we don’t really have a spring. So with summer in the air I decided to make a good old pasta salad for Greg and I. As some may know, I have really been trying to take some weight off, tone up and get Greg and I back on a more healthful and balanced diet. So I made this pasta salad with whole-wheat pasta and I went light on the pasta and heavy on the veggies.

As I mentioned earlier, I think pasta salad is very subjective so I have decided not to post an exact recipe. I figured this entry could serve more as inspiration than as a definite idea. So please, add what you like….have fun with it! I don’t think I’ve ever made a pasta salad the same way twice.

This past time I used the whole-wheat pasta, broccoli florets, zucchini, carrot, red onion, black olives, pimento, homemade Italian dressing and Italian seasoning. It was light, satisfying and deliciously summer.

pasta-salad

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Filling the need for Greek!

While living in the Clearwater area of Florida, Greg and I were spoiled by having some wonderful Greek restaurants around. This is due to the huge Greek population in the Tarpon Springs area. Unfortunately, since moving back to south Florida, we haven’t found a place to fulfill our need of great Greek food. So after having a craving for it, probably after seeing it on TV, we decided to take the matter into our own hands. If we can’t get it out, then we will have to make it in. So we decided on Greek style chicken and veggie kabobs with a side of orzo.

This was an incredibly delicious meal. It was light but satisfying and I highly recommend it to everyone!

greek

Marinated Greek Chicken Kabobs

adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 cup fat-free plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt)
½ tsp. lemon zest
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed dried rosemary
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
Marinated veggies (recipe below)

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place the chicken in a large freezer bag and pour marinade over it. Turn to coat. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for 3 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill at high heat.

Thread the chicken and veggie pieces alternately onto skewers. Discard the remaining yogurt mixture.

Grill the skewers on the prepared grill until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Marinated Veggies

adapted from AllRecipes.com

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbs. dried oregano
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1-2 zucchinis, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into wedges
cherry tomatoes

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, oil and garlic. Place the prepared veggies into a large freezer bag and pour marinade over the top. Make sure all of the veggies are well coated. Refrigerate until ready to gill.

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Love is in the air.

Since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, Greg and I decided that we were going to celebrate at home. We didn’t want to be bothered with the crowds at restaurants to only receive a sub-par meal from an overwhelmed kitchen. We thought that cooking together and enjoying a romantic dinner with a bottle of great wine would be much more enjoyable. As a side note while I am mentioning wine, I picked up a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir a while back since Pinot is Greg’s favorite and I had read that this was a fantastic wine for the price.  This was the bottle we chose to have with dinner and to my surprise and happiness, Greg loved it and thought it was one of the best Pinots he has ever had. Score one for me!

Getting back to dinner, we decided that Greg would grill up some steaks, which he does incredibly well, and I would be in charge of side dishes and dessert. For the sides, I ended up going with a cheesy smashed potato crock and zesty asparagus with shallots and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

After sitting down to our home cooked masterpiece, we both agreed that we made the right decision by staying in. The food was amazing; especially his steaks and we were able to enjoy each other’s company without the hustle and bustle of the Valentines crowd. This may just be a new tradition for us.

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Cheesy Smashed Potato Crocks

1 large baking potato
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
½ cup cream (or milk)
1 tbs. unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped green onion
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the potato and cut it into about 1 inch chunks.  Place the cut potato into a medium pot of salted water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until a knife can be inserted easily.
Drain the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl.  Using a fork, smash the potatoes to the consistency you desire (I chose to leave small bits in ours).  Add ½ cup of cheese to the bowl (please note that you can use as much or as little cheese as you desire).  Add the cream (or milk), butter, green onion and salt & pepper to taste.  Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the potato mixture into two crocks or individual sized casserole dishes.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each dish.  Place the dishes on a baking sheet and insert in oven.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until tops have golden brown specs.

Serve the hot crocks carefully.

Yields: 2 servings.

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Zesty Asparagus

1 package fresh asparagus
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbs. butter
1 ½ tsp. Penzey’s Tuscan Seasoning (or Italian seasoning)
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes.
¼ cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Wash the asparagus and cut into 2 inch pieces. Place the butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the butter has begun to melt, add the sliced shallot and the cut asparagus. Add the Tuscan Seasoning and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until your desired tenderness. Remove from pan and put in a serving dish, sprinkle the top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Yields: 2-3 large servings.

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Amazing Brussels Sprouts!

I have never been a fan of Brussels sprouts. I tried and tried to like them since they are a favorite of Greg’s, but I just couldn’t acquire a taste for them. At least I couldn’t until I came across this recipe. I not only converted myself to loving these Brussels sprouts, but I also converted my mother, who absolutely hated them in the past. I have made them two or three times and can’t get tired of them.

If you are looking for a great veggie side dish, look no further. These Caramelized Shallots and Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta will wow you and your guests.

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Caramelized Shallots and Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

adapted from Cooking Light, October 2008
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved (I prefer to use fresh)
cooking spray
1 tbs. olive oil
2/3 cups thinly sliced shallots
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 ounce finely chopped prosciutto
4 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Add shallots, pepper, salt, and prosciutto to pan; toss well. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Add sugar and white wine vinegar; toss to coat. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until caramelized.

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