Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumny Cauliflower Soup

I woke up early today to get my house ready for babysitting a 10 month old.  After unplugging all the plugs, barricading the plants and breakables, and vacuuming up all the swallowable debris.  I deemed the house sufficiently baby ready and ended up with a little time to spare.  I probably should have used that time to do some sort of exercise or read scriptures, but instead I decided it was going to be soup making day.  The weather here is beginning to turn into a crisp chilliness that makes you crave soup, hot apple cider, and candles that smell like cinnamon. So I took a peek in my fridge and saw that I had two heads of cauliflower that needed to be used in......soup!

So here is what I came up with, and I must say it is the best darn cauliflower soup I have ever tasted.

1 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks
1/2-3/4 c. white wine
4 c. vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp.dry
1/2 t. fresh ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

*for 8 servings
Start off heating the olive oil in a large pot over high heat.  Add in the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are softened, stirring often so they don't brown (about 5-10 mins).  Once, onions are soft and you can smell the garlic, deglaze the pot with the white wine and then let it reduce to cook out the alcohol, make sure to scrape up the good bits at the bottom of the pan.  When the wine has cooked down, add in the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat down to med-low.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.  Pull out the bay leaf and the stick from the rosemary (the leaves will have fallen off unto the soup) and transfer to a blender.  Blend that yumminess until it is velvety smooth.  

There you have it.  This is basically the easiest soup recipe ever.  The final product is thick and creamy and warms you right up on a chilly day.  I love how rich and creamy this soup tastes without having to worry about the calories you would normally get from a cream-based soup.  I hope you try it out and love it.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fast and Easy Potato Lentil Stew

We spent the weekend in Phoenix with J.R.'s sister and her family.  What does this mean?  Well I'll tell you what it means: An empty fridge upon our return.  So when I finally remembered that food is an essential part of functioning around 1 o'clock in the afternoon yesterday, the choices were slim.  And what do you do when choices are slim and you have just finished reading the "Hunger Games" books?  You make a stew.  So I scavenged through the cupboards and found lentils, potatoes, and vegetable stock.  Eureka!

1 T. oil (I used grape seed oil this time)
1 yellow onion diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and medium diced (about 1 centimeter cubed)
4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cans of lentils, or 3 cups cooked lentils (drained and rinsed)
salt and pepper to taste

So this is really easy: You heat the oil over med-high heat in a pot.  Then add in the onion and potatoes.  Once the onion is softened and translucent, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Pour in the vegetable stock making sure to scrape up any yummy brown bits and reduce heat to med-low.  Let the soup simmer until the potatoes are softened to about potato salad consistency.  Add the lentils in a couple minutes before the potatoes are done just to heat through.  That's it folks.  It is fast, filling, good, good for you, and a great way to stretch a buck.  I ate mine with some delicious toast we had left over from the previous week's whole wheat multigrain bread recipe.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Monkey Style Vegan Brownies

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Lately, I have been focussing on trying to reduce sugar and other processed sweeteners from my diet.  This has led me to revamp my original vegan brownie recipe to get rid of the sugar and bring in the bananas :)  I made these last night for dessert and they turned out great, so I decided to share.

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ancho chili powder (to amp up the chocolate flavor)
3/4 c. ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 c. unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
Serving size is one 2x4 inch brownie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.  Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add in all of the we ingredients and whisk until incorporated.  Once incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour the batter into the baking dish and smooth into an even layer.    Bake for 15-18 minutes until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the baking dish.

Once the brownies are done baking, place them on a wire rack and tent loosely with foil.  The trick here is to keep them as moist as possible.  Let the brownies cool for 15-20 mins before eating.  Make sure to store these in the refrigerator since they have banana in them.  I like to put my brownies in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to warm them up before eating.  These brownies are moist and fudgy with the perfect level of sweetness and the slightest hint of banana.  Makes 8 huge brownies.

J.R. and I were both busy in the kitchen tonight and didn't realize that our cats (mainly Champ) had found a roll of toilet paper and proceeded to do their best to destroy it.
J.R. presenting the evidence, you can also see bits of
toilet paper all over the living room floor
in the background.

Champ's mug shot with exhibit A.  He is also not supposed to be on the table and he knows it.  So this is his, "oh crap, I'm caught!" face.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Going Bananas for....Bananas

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I have been seeing a new trend popping up online where people take frozen bananas and puree them into banana ice cream.  It looked interesting so I decided to give it a try and fell in love.  Here is my technique for how I have made this simple treat my own:

1 c. frozen banana slices from ripe bananas (brown spots are a good thing here)
2 T. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder (optional)

Slice the bananas into 1/4 inch coins, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until solid.  I like having bananas at the ready, so I usually slice up an entire bunch of bananas and keep them in a bag in my freezer.

Add the bananas, cocoa powder, and ancho chili powder in a food processor and let it rip until the mixture reaches an ice cream consistency.  Sometimes the bananas will clump into a ball in the food processor.  If this happens, just squish them down with a spoon and continue processing.

That's it!  I like mine topped with toasted almond slices.  My husband likes his with marshmallows because he says it takes like rocky road ice cream.  The best part for me is that the banana ice cream is so reach and creamy that a half cup serving is more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

*2 servings not including almonds

Fun Fact:
Banana peels have many useful uses
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Using Up Veggies and Creamy Polenta

I went a little crazy at the farmer's market in the last couple of weeks and ended up with a fridge stuffed full of fresh produce that needed to be used up.  So I threw a bunch of it together in a wok and the result was pretty darn tasty:

1 c. yogurt whey or skim milk plus 1 c. water
1/2 c. polenta
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (optional)
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 t. olive oil
1/2 onion, medium sized slices
2 garlic cloves sliced thin
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 bunch of beet greens, washed and chopped into large pieces
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped into large pieces
1/4 c. vegetable stock
3 tomatoes, large dice

Start by boiling the water and yogurt whey in a medium sized pot.  Whole the water is coming up to a boil, chop up your veggies and begin sautéing the onion on the olive oil on medium-high heat.  When the onions are translucent, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant then deglaze with the veggie stock.  Add in the beet greens and kale and cover with a lid.  Turn heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.

When the water/whey liquid starts boiling, add in the polenta and whisk constantly for 3 mins.  After 3 minutes, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.  Allow the polenta to simmer on low (stirring occasionally) for 30 mins until thick and creamy.  Stir in parsley and parmesan just before serving.

Once the greens are softened, remove lid, add in tomatoes, and allow any liquid to cook out.

Based on 4 servings
Serve the sauteed greens over the polenta.

A couple of notes:

  • I saved the stems of the parsley, kale, and beet greens to use in a green monster smoothie later.  A great way to use the whole veggie.
  • Quinoa would also be a great with the sauteed greens if polenta isn't your thing or if you want more protein in your starch.
  • This is a great use for the leftover yogurt whey that you get when you make greek yogurt.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Multigrain Bread using Yogurt Whey

I made this week's bread with yogurt whey from my yogurt recipe, all whole wheat flour, and substituting olive oil for the butter.  It turned out great!  Here is the updated ingredient ratios if you have some yogurt whey to use (the process is the same as in the original multigrain bread recipe):

Based on 22 slices per loaf
1 1/4 c. seven-grain hot cereal mix 
1 1/2 c. boiling water plus 1 c. yogurt whey
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. olive oil
2 1/2 t. instant yeast
4 1/2 c. whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
1 T. table salt

There you have it.  The calories are the same as the original recipe, but you get a little more bang for your buck with added protein from the yogurt whey, harder for your body to break down because of the whole wheat, and a better kind of fat from the olive oil.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pineapple Fried Quinoa

I basically have been hanging out with the same crowd of people since high school.  Our lives have certainly become more busy and hectic over the years and girlfriends/boyfriends and spouses have been added into the family, but we still manage to meet up every Monday for "wing" night.

Wing night started in high school where we would basically go out to this one wing place and eat wings, simple.  Well we finally got sick of going to the same place all the time, so we started changing it up.  Wing night at Thai, wing night at Mexican, wing night at Greek...... for some reason we never thought/wanted to change the name.  So wherever we go or eat, it is still wing night regardless.  

This week, wing night was at Chez Blackham and we had Chinese-ish.  One of the dishes I made was pineapple fried quinoa and it was delicious.

1 carrot, diced small
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 T. sesame oil
1 c. quinoa, rinsed and dried
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. vegetable broth, plus 1/2 c. water (can omit the veggie broth for all water)
1-2 T. low-sodium tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
Siracha to taste
2-3 egg whites scrambled (or more if you are crazy into eggs)
1/2 c. pineapple, large dice
1 green onion, sliced small
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Get Cookin':
Heat sesame oil in a pot over med-high heat.  Add in the carrots and onions and saute until onions are translucent.  Add in the quinoa and garlic and toast until you can smell the garlic, stirring constantly.  

Deglaze the pan with the veggie broth/water and allow the concoction to come up to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.  While you are waiting for the quinoa to cook, place the egg whites in a microwave safe bowl and cook for one and half to two minutes.  

ooooo look at that dietary fiber!
When the quinoa is done cooking, fluff with a fork and add in the rest of the ingredients (tamari, siracha, egg, pineapple, green onion, and sesame seeds).  

Lastly, and most important, enjoy the yummy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Homemade Greek Yogurt

CDN Thermo Probe
I really like greek yogurt.  It is a great way for me to incorporate non-meat protein into my diet.  It is also incredibly versatile and tasty and keeps me from eating a lot of otherwise super fatty creamy alternatives (like mayo, sour cream, and cream cheese).  What I don't love about greek yogurt is how much it costs.  I recently purchased some organic greek yogurt from Whole Foods for a whopping eight bucks.  That is two dollars a cup!

"Riiiiiiiidiculous!" I said to myself.  "I bet it wouldn't be that hard to make it myself."  This thought prompted me to do a web search into the process of making greek yogurt and guess what, I found out that it is actually incredibly easy and inexpensive to make.  So I headed on down to the market, bought a gallon of organic skim milk and got started.

6-8 cups of organic skim milk (depending on the size of your yogurt maker)

Euro Cuisine yogurt maker
Don't forget to use the lid :)
1 T. of fresh plain yogurt with active cultures

So here's what you do.....
Place the milk in a pyrex bowl and microwave on high for 16 minutes (stirring every 4 minutes) until the milk reaches a temperature of 175-200 degrees.  Then let the milk cool down to 110 degrees (about half an hour).  I use a thermometer that has an alert built in so it just yells at me when the yogurt has dropped down to the right temperature.  If any skin has formed on the top of the batch, make sure to skim it off at this time this will make sure that your final product is nice and creamy.  Whisk in the fresh plain yogurt and place the mixture into a yogurt maker for 8-12 hours.

While I highly recommend owning a yogurt maker, some people don't, so you can also put the yogurt in an oven at 100 degrees (covered) or just outside (also covered) if it is a hot day.  The main goal is to keep the yogurt at a steady temperature of about 100 degrees.  If your oven doesn't go down to a hundred degrees or it is the middle of the winter, you can use the technique on this blog.

The way I test to see if the yogurt is done is to take a scoop out with a spoon.  If it holds up on the spoon pretty good then it is done.  It will kind of have the consistency of flan.  You can let the yogurt ferment longer if you like it to be a little more sour.

When the yogurt is done, line a mesh strainer with a thick blanket of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Then scoop the yogurt into the strainer and allow to drain for about 20-30 minutes depending on how thick you like your yogurt.

Once your yogurt has reached the desired consistency, scoop it back into the original bowl and whisk until smooth.  There you have it, greek yogurt at a fraction of the cost :)

Note: If you let the yogurt drain overnight, the next morning you will have yogurt cheese which you can use to replace cream cheese in just about any recipe.  Do I hear a low-fat cheesecake experiment coming on?

Double Note: Make sure to save the liquid (whey) that strains out.  It is full of wonderful nutrients and lots of protein and also has many other uses such as:

  • Substitute for buttermilk
  • Substitute for water or milk in baking and cooking (I am going to use this instead of water the next time I make multigrain bread)
  • Stir it back into the yogurt to thin up the consistency and add tang
  • Instead of protein powder, use yogurt whey to make protein shakes
  • Boil it down to make ricotta (best if you are making whole milk yogurt)
  • Use it to soak your beans or steel cut oats before cooking
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Quinoa Burgers with Baked Sweet Potato Skins

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I may or may not have developed a slight obsession with Pinterest lately.  I recently stumbled across two recipes in my pinning adventures that I felt would go together very well and it turns out they did.  The original recipes didn't really fit in with my current dietary restrictions, so I did a little bit if an overhaul:

Quinoa Burgers (10 servings/patties)

First, cook the quinoa:
1 c. quinoa, rinsed well (I get it in bulk from Costco.  They carry a good organic brand.)
2 c. water
1/4 t. salt

Bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat, then add in the quinoa and turn the heat to low and cover.  Let the quinoa simmer for 18-20 mins.

Now for the burgers:
Cooked quinoa (above)
1/2 c. fat free organic cottage cheese (blended smooth)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (optional)
1 large carrot shredded fine (or 1 c. zucchini, lightly salted and drained then squeezed)
1/2 c. egg whites (I am imagine you might be able to use flax a water instead of eggs here)
3 T. whole wheat flour
2 green onions sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic minced fine
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
oil with high smoke point

Preheat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat with oil.  I use grape seed or avocado oil spritzed on with a misto.  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Scoop out 1/2 c. servings of the mixture into the skillet and form them into patties with a spatula.  It is best to treat these kind of like pancakes, you want them to be pretty well set before you try to flip them or you will just have a big mess.  Also, it is a good idea to mist some more oil on the uncooked side before flipping.  Cook until they are golden brown and crispy on each side.

Serve them with any normal burger toppings you like.  I ate mine with sliced tomatoes, avocado, and a little geek yogurt with dill mixed it.  It was super duper good :)

Baked Sweet Potato Skins (4 servings)
It is great to get this started as you are waiting for your quinoa to cook.

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 t. Italian Seasoning blend
1 T. avocado, grapeseed, or olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat over to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil.  Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side down on the baking sheet.  Bake for 30 mins. until tender.  Set potatoes aside to cool.

While potatoes are cooling, set the oven rack so that it is 6 inches from the top of the oven and preheat the broiler.  Combine the Italian seasonings, oil, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.

When potatoes are cool enough, scrape out about half of the flesh from each potato half (keep scooped out flesh for a sweet potato mash at another date).  Cut the sweet potato skins lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips.  Place the strips on the baking sheet.  Brush the skins with the oil/herb mixture and place them in the oven. Broil the potatoes until they are well-browned.

Nutrition Facts: Quinoa Burger                                                             Nutrition Facts: Sweet Potato Skins

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not So Bad For You, But Super Tasty, Vegan Brownies

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I went through a phase a couple months ago where I was making these vegan brownies from the Peas and Thank You cookbook just about every single day.  Yes, they were that good, and yes, they are low-fat enough where I could make them a lot.  I hadn't made them in a while, so I decided to make them tonight :)

Now let me set your expectations.  These are not going to be super ooey gooey brownies.  If you find a recipe that produces that kind of brownie with no oil or sugar, please let me know.  These brownies are going to be kind of fluffly, but there are a couple tricks I use to make sure they are super moist, uber chocolatey, a still pretty fudgy.

The original recipe calls for sugar, but I can't really have sugar, so I use agave nectar.  I have also been amazed by how far sugar free chocolate has come.  I didn't use sugar free chocolate in this recipe because my nephew ate my last bar, but using sugar free chocolate would also be super good and would decrease the calories by a good amount as well.

So here is the recipe:

3/4 c. whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. unsweetened applesauce (I recommend making your own, it is very easy.)
3/8 c. agave nectar
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (or sugar free chocolate chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together (except chocolate chips).  Add in all of the wet ingredients and stir until well combined.  Add in the chocolate chips and stir until well incorporated.

Pour the ingredients into the baking dish and back for 18-20 mins until the edges start to pull away from the pan.

Now here is the trick to keeping the brownies moist.  Pull the brownies out of the oven and onto a cooling rack.  Cover brownies with aluminum foil, this traps in the moisture as they cool down.  Let the brownies cool to room temperature then slice into 2x4 inch brownies.

You can substitute 1 c. of mashed bananas for the applesauce to make banana brownies which are also very tasty.

Quick Tip: If they make it to the next day, I heat my brownie in the microwave for 10 seconds to melt the chocolate chips before devouring :)

So yeah, they get a c- score on nutrition. But they are a dessert :) and 3.1 grams of dietary fiber is not too shabby. Especially since you can't even tell that they are made from whole wheat flour. These are the nutrition facts for using regular chocolate. I wonder what they would look like with the sugar-free chocolate. hmmmmm......

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Five Ingredient Butternut Squash Soup

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Tonight I was faced with the question every person dreads.  What should I make tonight for dinner?  At least I dread it because asking myself this question means that I didn't plan a meal and now I have to come up with one on the fly using stuff I already have in the kitchen.  So in my search for inspiration, I came across some butternut squash that had been sitting in the fridge for a while and needed to be used.  "Liiiiightbulb", I said to myself.  I remembered that I had read some research on PCOS and found that reducing meat consumption is a good thing.  So yeah! Go me for listening!

I have never made butternut squash soup before and I was too lazy to look for a recipe online, so I decided to wing it.  Here is what I got:

1 large yellow onion, large dice
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 T. olive oil
64 ounces of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
8 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Heat a large pot on medium-high, add the olive oil and onions and cook until onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until you can smell it.

Next, add in the butternut squash and vegetable stock and allow to simmer until squash is tender.

Now comes the fun part.  You can puree the soup in a couple of ways.  You could blend is in a blender, or run it through a food processor, orrrrrr you can bust out the fancy immersion blender your husband bought you for Christmas.  I chose to bust out my new immersion blender because I hate dirtying stuff if I don't need to aaaand I wanted to show my husband how much I loved his gift.

Using the immersion blender also allows me to puree the soup in the pot and then salt and pepper to taste.  If I were to use a blender or food processor, I would have to season each batch separately.  Not fun.

The result is a naturally creamy, nutrient packed soup that is only 73 calories per serving.  Whhhhhaaaat!?!  Yes that's right, only 73 calories.  And in each bowl, you get 100% of the vitamin C you need in a day.  Plus loads of other beneficial nutrients.  You can check them all out here.  And did I mention that it tastes awesome and is basically the easiest soup in the world to make.  You seriously can't go wrong here. Pin It

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Avocado Chicken A.K.A Party In My Mouth Sandwich

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Martha Stewart puts out a killer food magazine.  The best part is that she includes the calorie count for all the recipes in said magazine.  So I was reading through this month's issue and came across a recipe for an avocado chicken sandwich.  This is nothing like her recipe, but I did feel inspired to make my own version and it tasted a-mazing.  I made it again for my brother-in-law and he agreed.  So now I am going to share this awesomeness with the world:

1 avocado, cut in half, pit removed
2 T. greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
1 chicken breast cooked and shredded
1 green onion, sliced thin using only the white and light-green part
1 stalk of celery, small dice
alfalfa sprouts
4 slices multi-grain bread toasted

Take half of the avocado and smash it up in a small bowl, add the greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix all together.

Take the other half of the avocado and cut it into cubes then add to bowl of mixture.  Add in the chicken, green onion, celery.  Mix everything together and spoon on top of bread slices.  Add the alfalfa sprouts on top to make open-faced sandwiches.  Makes four good sized servings at about 261 calories each and goes really well with vegetable soup :)

Spinach Omelet, You Say?

Lately, I have been getting a little sick of my typical breakfast food items.  Sometimes oatmeal just doesn't cut it for me.  So I had eggs and spinach in my refrigerator and I said to myself, "Self, you should tots (pronounced "totes" as in totally) make a spinach omelet for breakfast!"  So I did:

1 egg plus 2 egg whites beaten
1 big handful of fresh spinach
2 T. red onion, small dice
1/4 c. greek yogurt
salt and pepper

1 heat resistant rubber spatula

Heat a 6-inch non-stick pan on medium-high heat.  Spray in some cooking spray and sauté onion until translucent.  Rinse the spinach and place it in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat on high for 30 seconds, take it out of the microwave, and allow to cool.  Once the spinach is cool, squeeze out all the water.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add eggs.  Using the tip of the spatula, pull in the sides of the omelet slightly and and tip the pan so that the runny part of the egg fills in the gap made by the spatula.  Work your This will make your omelet fluffy and will also help to cook faster.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the omelet is no longer runny on top, add the spinach and flip in half.  Cook on each side until the inside of the omelet is fully cooked.  About a minute before cooking is complete, spread the yogurt on top of the omelet to warm up a little bit.

And that's it.  Super tasty omelet action and only 170 calories, yes!!!!!