Posted in Warm the Soul

Minestrone

Partys_Minestrone pic

More soup is on the menu at my house. This is recipe is one of the first soups I learned how to make. It’s simple and comforting. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping. I have omitted the pasta in this recipe, but it can certainly be added in if you like. Just add about ¼ to ½ cup broken spaghetti or small pasta in the last 10 minutes. You could also add Italian sausage or another meat of your choice. Just a half pound will do. Make it your own.


Minestrone

4 servings of about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 32 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage or grated zucchini
• 1 15.5-ounce fire-roasted diced tomatoes
• 1 15.5-ounce cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Directions
1. Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Sauté until onions are soft.
3. Add basil and salt. Cook 2 minutes more.
4. Stir in broth, cabbage or zucchini, beans, and tomatoes. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.
5. Enjoy!
Weight Watchers, this is a great addition to your Freestyle menu. Zero SmartPoints as is. With pasta, it becomes a 1sp about 1 ½ cups of soup.


 

“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” — Laurie Colwin

 

 

 

Posted in soup, Warm the Soul, Yumminess

Soup’s On! Creamy White Chicken Chili

Creamy White Chicken Chili

The weather has turned on us here in my part of Southern California. The nighttime temperatures have dipped below freezing and in response I have been making soup. Tonight, it was a White Chicken Chili. Oh man, was it delish. Hope you enjoy it, too. And by the way, this will work very well in your crock pot, too.


Creamy White Chicken Chili

Ingredients

• 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 15.5-ounce cans white beans
• 1 15.5-ounce corn
• 24 ounces chicken broth
• 2 4-ounce cans green chilies (mild, medium, or hot)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 4 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
• ¼ cup half-and-half (I used fat-free)

Directions
1. Place all ingredients except cream cheese and half-and-half in soup pot.
2. Bring to boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until flavors mingle and chicken in done.
3. Remove chicken from pot and shred. Return to pot.
4. Add the cream cheese and half-and-half.
5. Heat on low until cream cheese melt and incorporates into soup, about 15 minutes.
6. Serve with your favorite chili toppings.

Note: If using the crock pot just dump in all the ingredients except cream cheese and half-and-half. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred chicken, return to pot. Turn on high. Add cream cheese and half-and-half. Cook until cheese melts and is incorporated into soup, about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

If you’re doing Weight Watchers like I am, the new Freestyle program makes this recipe 3 SmartPoints for 1 1/2 cups of soup. It’s so delicious and satisfying. I have now lost 17.2 pounds eating well.


Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.
Louis P. De Gouy

 

Posted in Camp Food, Main Dish

I Love To Go A Wandering: Good Food Wherever You Are

Mountain hike

This past Thanksgiving week, my husband and I have been camping. It was nice to get away and be in the peace and quiet. We stayed at a national forest campground called Laguna in mountains of San Diego county. The weather was perfect, reaching into the low seventies. The area has really nice hiking and biking trails that are mostly flat with a variety of lengths. We enjoyed a couple different trails. The scenery is beautiful, and we even encountered a couple surprises. One morning a bobcat spotted us and scurried away to a safe distance. Then on another hike, we stopped at the side of the path for a drink of water, and found an Indian grinding stone was beneath our feet. Fun to imagine women gathering together to prepare of a day’s meal. Not really a kitchen as we would see it, but a party happened all the same as they sat together to make flour out of acorns and seeds.

I have posted before about how we do camp food. I am all about “if you are what you eat, then I want to eat the good stuff.” Our meals this past week have been great. Roasted Pork Mole, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, and Chicken Cacciatore have made their way to our stomachs. Yum. Last night, we enjoyed a baked pasta dish that had been lightened up, like in the case of Enlightened Mac and Cheese for my last post, with the addition of cauliflower. Don’t be alarmed. It turned out quite delicious and for an added twist we baked it, like all the other recipes on our menu, in a Dutch oven over coals. (Gotta have the camping experience somehow.) No Dutch oven? Your regular oven works just fine.


Baked Shells and Cauliflower with Meat Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

• 1 pound lean ground beef, I used 9% fat
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 8-ounce container mushrooms, sliced
• 1 24-ounce pasta sauce
• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 ¼ cup medium pasta shells
• 4 cups (approx. ½ head) cauliflower, cut into small florets (about the same size as the pasta.)
• 1 10-ounce frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, placed between paper towels, and liquid squeezed out
• ½ cup ricotta, I used part-skim
• ¾ cup shredded Italian cheese blend, I used reduced fat

Directions

1. In large skillet, cook ground beef with salt over medium heat. When finished, transfer to medium bowl.
2. Return skillet to medium heat, add mushrooms. Sauté, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 5-7 minutes.
3. To mushrooms add pasta sauce, red pepper flakes, spinach, and reserved beef. Simmer to mingle flavors, about 10 minutes.
4. Cook shells according to package instructions in a medium pot.
5. Add cauliflower to pasta during last 3 minutes of cooking time.
6. Stir pasta mixture into sauce mixture. Transfer to baking dish.
7. Spoon ricotta by small teaspoons over the pasta.
8. Bake at 375F until bubbly around the edges, about 25 minutes.
9. Sprinkle with cheese blend, and bake until cheese melts, about 10 minutes.

Dutch oven cooking

 

Note: If cooking in 10 inch Dutch oven, line the oven with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Add pasta/sauce mixture, top with ricotta. Cover with lid. You will need 23 hot coals: 16 on top and 7 on the bottom. Cook, rotating oven and lid every 15 minutes. After a half hour, added Italian cheese blend and cook 10 minutes more. This method gives the dish an added smoky flavor. Enjoy.


I get way too much happiness from good food.

Elizabeth Olsen

 

Update: In case you were wondering about how weight loss was going with Weigh Watchers, I have now lost sixteen pounds. All the food I cooked while camping was Weight Watcher friendly AND delicious. You can’t beat eating the good stuff. This recipe is 8 Smart points for 1 1/2 cups when using fat free pasta sauce and reduced fat cheese.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gather Together

The Party is STILL On!

Macandcheese

I love food. I love to shop for it, prepare it, and eat it. My daughter who also likes food, calls us recreational cooks. We do it for relaxation as well as for creativity. The only downfall of enjoying this activity the way we do is unwanted weight gain.

Recently, I had to make the decision to do something about it, so I joined Weight Watchers. I have used the program before with great results and I anticipate the same this time. The beauty of this particular way of eating is everything is still permissible. Nothing is eliminated. I can continue to enjoy creating wonderful things to eat. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

The party is STILL on in the kitchen.

(Oh, by-the-way, I’ve lost twelve pounds so far.)


Here is something I tried recently that was very delicious and great for any gathering. It works for anyone who loves the comfort of Mac and Cheese.  (Except, maybe, those who only like the kind that comes in the box.)

Enlightened Cheesy Mac with a Twist

Serves Main Dish 4; Side 8

Ingredients
• 1 teaspoon olive oil, or your choice
• 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, I used panko
• 1 20-ounce package of peeled and cut-up butternut squash
• ¾ cup vegetable broth
• 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, I used reduced-fat
• 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
• 2 tablespoons cream cheese, I used light cream cheese
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 4-ounces small pasta shells, 1 ¼ cups
• 2 cups small cauliflower florets

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
3. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil and add breadcrumbs. Toast until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
4. Add squash to boiling water. Cover and return to boil. Cook uncovered until squash is very tender, about 10 minutes.
5. While squash is cooking, combine broth, cheddar, pecorino, cream cheese, mustard, salt and cayenne in blender. When squash is very tender, use slotted spoon to transfer it to blender. Purée. (Leave water in pan.)
6. Bring water bake to a boil. Add pasta and cook ½ the time called for in cooking instructions on package.
7. Add cauliflower to pasta during last minute of cooking time.
8. Drain pasta and cauliflower and return to pot.
9. Stir purée into pasta/cauliflower mixture. Toss to coat.
10. Spread pasta mixture in prepared pan. Sprinkle with toasted panko breadcrumbs. Spray with nonstick spray.
11. Bake until top is golden, and casserole is bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Note: Herbs, such as fresh thyme, can be added to the breadcrumbs during the toasting. Also, a little drizzle of truffle oil just before baking can elevate the yumminess of this dish. Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Weight Watchers. 1 ¼ cup serving equals 7 Smart points when using reduced-fat cheeses.

I think that the butternut/cheese purée could be used for a variety of recipes that include a cheese sauce. I am thinking of trying it with a Chicken and Broccoli Casserole or even a Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear them.


Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.

Guy Fieri

 

Posted in Warm the Soul

Take the Chill Off

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Soup weather is upon us. This delicious lentil dish is just the thing. The curry seasoning are sure to warm you up on a cold day. It is one of those fall into the comfort food category for me. I took it to a gathering recently and it was gobbled right up, but if you find yourselves with leftovers, it tastes even better the next day.


Curried Lentils with Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped,
  • 1 32-ounce chicken broth
  • 1 pound peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, I used light
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in broth, squash, curry powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne.
  4. Bring broth to a boil, then adjust heat and simmer until squash begins to soften, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in lentils. cook until lentils begin to fall apart, and vegetables are tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Stir in coconut milk and heat through.
  7. Add spinach just before serving and allow to wilt.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.

Marge Kennedy

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dumping Dinner

Dinner Party? Why Yes!

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This past week was SOUPer Friday.

“What one earth is that?” you may ask. Well, it is a gathering of friends who get to together to enjoy each others company, share a meal, and talk about what they share a passion for. (See more here.) I was inspired long ago by a story of a women who repaid her friends’ dinner invites by bringing them all together for a meal in her home. Her menu? Bean soup. It was cheap and could feed a crowd. I combined this idea with another story I heard of a couple who hosted concerts in their New York apartment and invited their friends who enjoyed the fine arts. They also shared a meal as well as something they had a passion for—the arts.

My dinners have kept the soup idea but our reason for gathering is to hear from mission workers who practice their calling locally as well as a round the world. It’s a marvelous night of good news. This month we heard of a local ministry helping those with special needs, outreaches using the arts in Germany, prevention of human trafficking in India and Thailand, and upcoming opportunities to help the homeless in Mexico. Every month is different and the reports of positive action bring hope to those who hear the stories.

If you are local to the Victor Valley in California, feel free to join us. Contact me directly for more information or join our Facebook page SOUPer Friday.


One of last week’s soup offerings was Mexican-Style Beef and Hominy Stew. It was delicious. All the ingredients can be dumped into a crockpot in the morning and by suppertime you will have something pretty delicious.

Mexican-Style Beef and Hominy Stew

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

  1. Dump all ingredients into crock pot, leave ground beef in one large piece.
  2. Cook on low 8-10 hours, or high for 4-6 hours.
  3. When finished, use a potato masher, break up ground meat into bite-sized pieces.
  4. serve with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.
  5. Enjoy!

All ingredients can be put into a gallon zipper bag and frozen for a later cooking date. to cook—dump frozen meal into crockpot and follow cooking times.


 

People want real, flavorful food, not some show-off meal that takes days to prepare.

chef Ted Allen

 

 

 

Posted in Matters of the Heart, Warm the Soul

Warm and Comforting

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My kids that are local are coming for dinner tonight so I thought I would whip up a pot of Pumpkin Chili. Pumpkin may seem like an odd addition to you soup pot but in this recipe, it adds richness making it very hearty and comforting. For those eating less/no meat or avoiding gluten in their diet, it is a dish that satisfies. Enjoy

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 15-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 15-ounce can corn
  • 12-ounce beer or 1 1/2 water (for gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in spices and garlic. cook another minute or two until spices are fragrant, stirring often.
  4. Add tomatoes and pumpkin. whisk to combine.
  5. Stir in black beans, corn, beer or water, and salt and pepper.
  6. Reduce heat to low, simmer covered for at least 30 minutes, stirring often. The longer it cooks, the more flavor develops, so feel free to get started in the morning for a day full of the comforting smell of something yummy for dinner.

 

Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.

Ina Garten