Sunday, December 18, 2011

Southwest Vegetable Soup

When I was doing my foodservice internship at Earhart Dining Court on the campus of Purdue University, I fell in love with their Southwestern Vegetable Soup.  With holiday festivities kicking into high gear this week, I thought it was a good time to make a comforting pot of my version of this favorite soup.  You'll find this soup loaded with both fresh and frozen veggies, chili beans and spicy flavorings.  Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste.  We like it pretty spicy!  This recipe makes a lot of soup but it freezes very well.  I like to serve this with cooked macaroni but I keep the noodles separate to avoid having them become soggy.  Just add a few noodles to your bowl, ladle over some soup and enjoy!!

Southwest Vegetable Soup

2 cups reduced sodium beef broth
12 ounces reduced sodium vegetable juice (like V8)
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, and sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4 cabbage, chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen green beans
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen peas
1 (15 oz) can chili beans
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Cooked macaroni

Mix all ingredients together and place in a slow cooker.  Cook on high 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours.  Serve with cooked macaroni.

This soup would be wonderful with some beef stew meat added !

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Brown Bread Ice Cream

 So I'm hoping that some of you made the brown bread recipe that I posted last week.  I hope you enjoyed it - but I also hope you have a bit of it left over so you can make this brown bread ice cream recipe !! I know some of you are saying "Whhhh-aaa-ttt???" and others of you are screaming "Yeeessss !!" especially if you've ever had the privilege of having Murphy's brown bread ice cream in Dublin.  You can visit their website here:  The first time I heard about this flavor of ice cream, I was among the crowd shouting "Whhh-aaa-ttt???, that's the strangest thing I've ever heard of".  But then I tried it and fell head over heals in love.  So, then I get home and decide that I need to make some because I can't wait until I get back to Ireland to enjoy it.  Ice cream making is fairly simple but takes some time, so I decided to find the most natural ice cream I could at the store and use it.  I know I should take the time to make my own, but the ingredients in the all natural ice cream are the same ones I'd use at home and it saves me loads of time !!  So here is my quick version of brown bread ice cream, used by modifying the Murphy family recipe that I found on their website.  Please give it a try, it might just become your new favorite ice cream !!

Brown Bread Crumbs drying

Quick Brown Bread Ice Cream

2 cups brown bread crumbs, dried (you need about 4-5 slices of bread)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1.75 - 2 qt All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream

Brown Bread, brown sugar and water mixture

Remove the crust and crumble the bread into pieces.  Let air dry overnight or until the crumbs are fairly dry.  Melt brown sugar and water until the sugar crystals are dissolved.  Stir in the crumbs until well coated and let cool.  Soften a container of ice cream and pour into a large bowl.  Stir the crumbs into the ice cream and return the mixture to its original container.  Refreeze until hard and serve.

Delicious crumb mixture and vanilla ice cream

Almost ready for the freezer

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Braised Pork Loin with Cabbage

Pork and cabbage have quite an affinity for one another.  Whether together or separate I love them both and this dish pairs the two perfectly.  Don't be afraid of the long list of ingredients - it's really not that bad and comes together quickly.  Once again Cooking Light hasn't let me down - but I have changed the original recipe a bit.  This is one of my all time favorite dinners.  I hope you like it too.

Pork Loin with Braised Cabbage
Cooking Light October 2006

2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2  teaspoon ground sage
1 (2 pound) pork loin
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
3/4 cup diced Canadian bacon (4 ounce)
14 cups sliced cabbage (2 pounds)
2 1/2 cups sliced onion
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 ounce) bottle dark lager (I used Sam Adam's original because it's what I had)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first 5 ingredients; rub over pork.  Heat a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with tablespoon of oil.  Add pork to pan and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. 
Remove from the pan.

Add bacon to pan and cook for 3 minutes.  Add cabbage, onion and carrot.  Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes or until cabbage begins to wilt, stirring occasionally.  Stir in tomato paste and next 5 ingredients.  Return pork to pan.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender and 165-170 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer.

Serve with boiled Yukon Gold potatoes and enjoy.  This dish reheats really well and leftovers taste even better !!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's a Guinness Stew and Brown Bread kind of day

I woke up this morning to a chilly, rainy Sunday. You know, the kind that makes you want to stay in and watch old movies or read a good book while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee?  It's also the kind of day that makes you want some comfort food - and my comfort food today is all Irish !!  Tonight's dinner will consist of a bowl of Guinness stew with mashed potatoes, brown soda bread with Dubliner cheese and probably a Guinness as well.  I can't think of a more cozy, comforting dinner.  Plus, it makes me feel close to my Irish friends that I miss so much.  Sláinte!

Guinness Stew
From Liam Neeson - Glens of Antrim Irish Stew
Serves 4

1 oz. butter
2 pounds lamb or beef, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
8 ounces beef stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 potatoes, cubed
1 bottle Guinness
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional

Melt butter in a large pan and fry the meat until browned on all sides.  Do not crowd pan; brown the meat in two or three batches if necessary.  Remove meat from the pan, add the onion and carrots and cook until slightly softened; add garlic.

Return the meat to the pan, add the flour, stock, tomato paste and sugar.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and add the potatoes, Guinness, thyme, parsley, bay leaf and salt and pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Just before serving, stir in the peas if using and serve over mashed potatoes.

I also frequently make this in the crockpot !!

Hargadon's Brown Soda Bread
From the Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson
Makes 1 loaf

3 cups coarse whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 9x5x3 inch bread pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.  With a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  Spoon the dough into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula that has been dipped in water or buttermilk.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Turn the bread out onto the rack and let cool, right side up, for about 1 hour to make slicing easier.

Amazing when served with Kerry Gold Irish butter and/or Dubliner cheese !!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bring on the Boxty.....

Have you ever had just a little bit of mashed potatoes left at the end of dinner?  You know, just enough that you don't want to finish them off but more than you want to throw away.  If you have about a cup of leftover mashed potatoes, I have the recipe for you -Boxty !  There are many variations on this recipe but the one I love the most is fairly thin and wrapped around any number of fillings.  I've had boxty at Gallagher's Boxty House in Dublin and I've had boxty at The Fiddler's Hearth in South Bend Indiana - both equally delicious.  Today I decided to make the Boxty (potato pancake) from Gallagher's with the filling I like the most from the Fiddler's Hearth.  What resulted was simply amazing !

Gallagher's Boxty (courtsey of Food Network)
8 ounces grated raw potato
6 ounces mashed potato
8 ounces all-purpose flour (I've also had this with buckwheat flour)
1 pint milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and drain the grated raw potato at least twice to remove all the starch.  Place the raw and mashed potatoes in a bowl, add flour and milk. Season with salt and pepper and blend to a smooth consistency.  Drop a ladle full (about 1/2 cup) into a hot skillet or griddle; push the mixture from the center outwards with the bottom of the ladle, cook for 2 minutes then flip the boxty over and cook through.

Fill with your choice of fillings.  The recipe for the filling I used today appears below !  But you could also make a breakfast version stuffed with scrambled eggs, sausage/ham/bacon, cheese and veggies; a leftover Thanksgiving dinner vesion with stuffing, turkey, veggies and a bit of gravy - the filling ideas are only limited by your imagination !  Let me know what filling you use in your favorite boxty recipe.

Pork filling for boxty

3 center cut loin pork chops, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 portobello mushroom, cubed
1 jar homemade Ballymaloe country relish (recipe to follow another time) or your favorite BBQ sauce (about 1-2 cups depending on how thick you want your filling)

Brown cubed pork, add onions and mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes.  Add sauce; cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or longer if desired.

Spoon sauce into freshly cooked boxty and serve with a huge green salad with apples, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cheesy Pasta Goodness with Butternut Squash

On a particularly windy, rainy and cold day, I felt like making some comfort food.  What could be more comforting than a steamy, cheesy, butternut squashy bowl of goodness?  I found the following recipe in Cooking Light (March 2004) - have you figured out yet that I love this magazine?

I've recently been trying to incorporate even more varieties of vegetables into my menus and butternut squash happens to be a favorite right now.  Butternut squash is not only really tasty, it's also an amazing source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese.  It's also a good source of folate and omega 3 fatty acids and contains about 80 calories per one cup serving.  If you're looking for a way to incorporate winter squash into your menu, try this recipe.  It does have a number of steps but it's worth every one of them.  This recipe goes particularly well with roasted Brussels sprouts or roasted broccoli. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon


  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw) (I used 4 because that's all I had)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (I used yellow onion)
  • 8 ounces uncooked mini penne (tube-shaped pasta)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese (I used a blend of provolone and mozzarella)
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.
Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

If you make the original recipe (serves 5), the nutrition facts are as follows:
Calories 469; Fat 14.4g; Sat Fat 7.3g; Protein 22.1g; Carbs 66.6g; Fiber 6.8g; Cholesterol 40mg; Iron 3.5mg; Sodium 849mg; Calcium 443mg

You can lower the calories, total and saturated fat levels by using less bacon and 1% milk.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I don't know about you but I love stuffed peppers - they can just be such a pain to make.  So, I found a recipe for a stuffed pepper soup and made it my own.  The original recipe came from

This soup is really quick and easy to put together and many of you probably have most of the ingredients on hand.  On days when I have some extra time, I cook up a bunch of ground beef with onions, rinse and drain when the beef is cooked through, then divide among freezer bags for later use.  I also chop up green peppers when I can find them at the store or Farmer's market for a good price and freeze those for later use.  The ones I used today were from my garden !

This soup is great when topped with shredded cheddar cheese and served with corn bread.  Let me know if you try this one and if you come up with some interesting twist.  For instance, I like my stuffed pepper soup to have a distinct Mexican vibe so I add salsa and corn and black beans occasionally .  What would you add to make it your own??

Stuffed Pepper Soup

1/2 pound lean ground beef such as ground round
2 cups chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14 ounce reduced sodium beef broth
1 jar salsa (about 1 1/2 cups) - you choose the heat level you like (I used homemade from the freezer and it was nice and zippy)
10 3/4 ounce can tomato soup, undiluted (I used the tomato soup with the rice already in it - saved time)
3/4 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Heat a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add beef; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. (If you have a lot of fat in the pan from the beef, drain and rinse under hot water for about 20 seconds to remove some of the fat and return to Dutch oven).  Add chopped green pepper and onion; cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Stir in black pepper, beef broth, salsa, tomato soup and corn; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve with 1/4 cup rice and 1 cup soup. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

I have been totally craving homemade, warm and chewy chocolate chip cookies for about 2 months now!  I just haven't had the gumption or time to make a fresh batch until today.   The original whole wheat version by Kim Boyce at is worth every second it takes to make them (not that it takes very long but you still have to get everything out, mix it up, bake them and then clean up  - I mean, it's a process!!).  I have, as usual, slightly modified the original version.
These cookies have everything I love in a cookie with some healthy whole grains included.  The edges are crisp while the center remains chewy and the chocolate chunks are the perfect melty addition.  The next time you want some chocolate chip cookies and you want your family to have some whole grains without knowing it, try this recipe.  Fireman just came home and gave them a huge thumbs-up !!

Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies
3 cups whole wheat flour, I used Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Wheat Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or spray with non-stick spray.  Keep in mind that the chocolate chunks may stick to the pan without the parchment.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  In another bowl, mix butter and both sugars for about 2 minutes or until creamed together.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined.  Add the chocolate chunks and mix with your hands until everything is well incorporated and dough has formed together.  This dough is a bit more crumbly than some doughs but it comes together well and bakes up beautifully.

Scoop mounds of dough (about 1 1/2 tablespoons, about the size of a walnut in the shell) onto baking sheets leaving about 3 inches between cookies.   I used 11x17" baking sheets and got 12 cookies per sheet. 

Bake cookies for about 16-18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly brown.  Let cookies cool for about 2 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.  Repeat procedure with remaining dough.  Yields about 44 3" cookies.

Nutrition info per 3" cookie:  137 calories; 6.1g fat; 3.6g sat fat; 21mg cholesterol; 106mg sodium; 18.7g carbs; 1g fiber; 1.8g protein

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hunter's (Sauerkraut) Stew

Tomorrow we are hosting our first OktoberFrost party! I have been cooking up a storm today and have the Hunter's, aka Sauerkraut, stew finished as well as the sauerbraten. I just need to finish the gravy for the meat tomorrow and finalize a few odds and ends and we'll be ready to go.

Since some of you can't make it to the party and it's supposed to be cooler later in the week, I thought I'd share the stew recipe with you today. Please don't let the long list of ingredients scare you away from making this hearty stew. Once it's all put together, you just have to let it cook for a couple of hours, stirring occassionally. You could also make this in your crockpot. 

The first time I ever had a stew like this was at the Feast of the Hunter's Moon in Lafayette, IN.  I fell in love with this stew and have worked and worked to come up with a version that even comes close.  I think this one is just about right.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Hunter's Stew
Makes about 8 servings

2 thick (or 4 regular) slices bacon, diced
1 pound Polish or smoked sausage, sliced
1 pound beef or pork stew meat, cubed
1/4 cup flour
Vegetable oil as needed
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, diced
4 cups green cabbage, thickly shredded
1-2 pounds sauerkraut, drained and rinsed (I used 2)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine
4 cups beef stock
1 bottle dark beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup diced fresh tomato
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed

In a large (6-8 quart) pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until it renders its fat and turns light brown, not crisp.  Using slotted spoon, carefully remove bacon to a large pot or crockpot.

Add sliced Polish sausage to pan and cook, stirring constantly, until sausage browns.  Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage and add to pot or crockpot.

Dredge beef or pork stew meat in flour and brown in pan with drippings from bacon and Polish sausage.  Work in batches until all meat is browned then remove and add to bacon and sausage.  You should have about 2 tablespoons fat left in the pan.  If you don't add some olive or canola oil.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, and sauerkraut, and cook, stirring frequently until carrots begin to soften - 5 to 10 minutes.  Do not brown vegetables.

Put all vegetables in large pot or crockpot then add:  bay leaf, basil, marjoram, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, wine, stock, beer, tomato paste, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Stir well to incorporate all ingredients.  If making on the stove top, cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.  If using a crockpot, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for about 6 hours.

Serve with rye bread and enjoy!  This stew tastes even better the next day.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pork Green Chili Stew

As I was making my weekly dinner menu and grocery list, I realized that I had a 2 pound pork shoulder in the freezer so I decided to make some pork green chili stew.  I remember, years ago, having a client who was from Colorado and she talked about this dish all the time.  I had no idea why she went on and on about it, but now I know.  It's really, really good and perfect for a chilly Fall day.  Unfortunately, today was not one of those days as we hit the mid 80's here.  Oh well, the dish hit the spot anyway.  Serve this with a side of corn muffins or cornbread and some shredded cheddar cheese (low fat if you like) and you'll have a new family favorite.  Did I mention that I made it in the slow cooker?  I love my slow cooker!!

Pork Green Chili Stew
Makes 4 servines

1 medium onion, quartered
2-3 New Mexico Green (Anaheim) Chilies, seeded and chunked
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and chunked
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 3/4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin (depending on taste preference)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos, husked, washed and quartered**
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 pound pork shoulder, some fat removed and cubed
1 (15oz.) can golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

Place onion, chilies, garlic and 1/2 cup chicken broth, cumin and oregano in blender. Pulse to blend.  Add quartered tomatillos to onion mixture and blend thoroughly.  Add mixture to slow cooker.  Add oil to skillet and brown pork cubes, in batchers if necessary, then add to slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients (hominy, cilantro and lime juice) and stir well.  Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

Don't let the hominy scare you away from this dish.  I used to think I didn't like it either.  It adds great texture to this stew and nice pop of color too.  You could always use corn kernals if you must, but please try it with the hominy once!!  Enjoy!!

**If you can't find fresh tomatillos, look for canned ones in the Mexican food section of your supermarket.  As a last resort, you can use a jar or two of tomatillo salsa (salsa verde), just reduce the amount of chicken broth so you still have a stew consistency.

Friday, October 7, 2011

OktoberFrost - planning the menu!

For years now, Fireman and I have been wanting to have a party in October and call it OktoberFrost!  I know, clever right?!!  Every year now for awhile, we have considered this party, asked a few of our friends what they thought, and always found that people were already busy with other commitments.  Lots of times, there was a home football game that day which would have resulted in a small turnout for the party.  Well, this year we decided to just plan it anyway and see what happens.  So far loads of people have responded that they can come - some only for a little bit before heading off to other parties and some after attending other functions early in the day.  No matter, we are happy to have our guests show up for as little or as long as they'd like (or at least until midnight - Fireman has to work the next day!!!).

So, for the past week or so, I have been really trying to get the menu set.  At this point, I think I'll be making some sauerbraten sandwiches, brauts/hotdogs with sauerkraut topping of course, and sauerkraut soup.  AC is going to bring Bavarian dip with cocktail rye, crackers and veggies, one cousin is bringing her famous carrot cake (seriously, I should blog about that cake - it's just about the best thing ever), and a neighbor is bringing a hot potato/sauerkraut dish.  I've already purchased the crunchy pretzels and spicy mustard and I'm working on finding one of those soft pretzel machines that you find at a concession stand.  If I can get my hands on one of those babies, we'll be in business for soft pretzels with mustard or cheese!  I even went so far as to order some Oktoberfest music on iTunes so we can set a festive atmosphere!!  Chicken dance anyone??

As of right now, let the count down begin!!  One week from tomorrow we will kick off our first annual OktoberFrost.  Here's hoping for a nice sunny but cool and dry day with loads of friends and plenty of beer and food.  For all of you that can't make it this year, never fear, there's always next year!!

PS If any of you have tried and true recipes for sauerbraten sandwiches or sauerkraut soup, please feel free to send them my way.  I'll be sure to give you all the credit!!! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Soup

When I was in San Diego I got a free, autographed copy of the cookbook "Hungry Girl - 300 under 300" by Lisa Lillien.  You might have seen her on the Food Network - her second season just started recently!  The cookbook, as the title says, has 300 recipes that are all under 300 calories.  That's a lot of recipes and I have a serious addiction to cookbooks!!  I find it next to impossible to pass up a free one! 

As I was flipping through the pages on the plane, I found an interesting sounding recipe for "The Whole Enchilada Chicken Soup".  It says that it's one of the most popular Hungry Girl soups of all time, so I decided to make it this week.  I was really hoping the recipe would turn out well because it calls for a whole can of pumpkin!  Yep, that's right, pumpkin (don't worry, it doesn't taste like pumpkin)! And, I don't know if you've heard but there's a pumpkin shortage this year.  Finding canned pumpkin at the store is getting difficult.  I hate to waste a whole can on a recipe that might not turn out.  Well, all I can say is Wowza!  That's some seriously good soup and it uses ingredients that you are likely to have on had.  Dinner can be ready in less than 20 minutes!!  So, if you like Mexican-type foods, you'll love this dish.  The following is my slightly modified version - you know I can't just leave recipes alone!! Give it a try!

The Whole Chicken Enchilada Soup
By: Hungry Girl/Lisa Lillien

3 cups fat-free chicken broth (Low sodium too)
1 1/4 cups finely chopped celery
1/2 cup diced sweet yellow onion
2 10-ounce cans green enchilada sauce
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
10 ounces cooked and shredded chicken breast
1 cup frozen corn
Optional: dash hot sauce, shredded low fat cheddar cheese, baked tortilla chips

In a large pot, add about 1/2 cup broth, celery and onion and simmer/saute until slightly tender, about 5 minutes adding more broth if it gets too dry.  Stir in the rest of the chicken broth, enchilada sauce and pumpkin; stir well.  When the soup returns to a low boil, add chicken and corn.  Cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until soup is heated through.  Add a dash or more of hot sauce, if desired.  Top with shredded cheese and baked tortilla chips!

Nutrition facts per one cup serving:  105 calories, 1.75g fat, 641mg sodium, 12.5g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugar, 11g protein

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spinach and Butternut Squash Lasagna

I had a huge craving for some lasagna the other day but I didn't want the usual, meat-laden, heavy lasagna that leaves you feeling weighted down and in need of a nap.  So I found an interesting lasagna at Cooking Light with spinach, butternut squash and ricotta.  I love all of these ingredients on their own, so I thought I'd give it a whirl!  It was amazing.  Fireman and my Dad went nuts over it too - and there was no meat whatsoever in the dish!  Awesome!!  The following is the modified recipe that I used.  The original is from Cooking Light/March 2003.  One great thing about this recipe is that it can easily be doubled so bake one tonight and freeze one for later.  How awesome will it be to come home from work one night and just pop a ready-made lasagna into the oven for dinner?  I have included the freezing instructions at the end of the recipe! 

I hope you'll try this one.  It really is easy to put together and contains two of the veggie groups that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans tells us people don't eat enough of - green and orange!  I also included roasted broccoli and fresh bread for a vitamin packed and delicious meal that I can't wait to make again.

So pick up a bag of baby spinach and a small butternut squash the next time you're at the store.  I bet your family, even the meat loving ones, will love this recipe!  Let me know if you make this one!!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Ingredients for 1 8x8 lasagna
  • Cooking spray
  • 1.5 cups chopped onion
  • 5 cup fresh spinach
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup + 1 T (1.5 ounces) shredded provolone and mozzarella blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) carton part-skim ricotta cheese 1/2 (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups diced peeled butternut squash
  • 3 cups marinara sauce - I used a sun-dried tomato marinara
  • 6 oven-ready lasagna noodles (such as Barilla)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375°.
Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 1 1/2 minutes or until spinach wilts then sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg. Combine provolone, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheeses in a large bowl.
Place squash in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high 5 minutes or until tender.
Coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of prepared dish. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread half of cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange squash over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over squash.
Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread remaining cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange the onion/spinach mixture over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over spinach mixture.
Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Cover the pan with foil.  Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.
**Please note:  I used one 15 oz. container of part-skim ricotta because it's what I had - note that the nutrition facts are for using half part-skim and half fat-free ricotta!
To freeze unbaked lasagna: Prepare through Step 6. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
To prepare frozen unbaked lasagna: Thaw completely in refrigerator (about 24 hours). Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover lasagna with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving): Calories: 254, Calories from fat: 30%, Fat: 8.5g, Saturated fat: 4.5g, Monounsaturated fat: 2.2g, Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g, Protein: 18.6g, Carbohydrate: 27.6g, Fiber: 3.3g, Cholesterol: 69mg, Iron: 3.2mg, Sodium: 560mg, Calcium 414mg

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Traveling and Dining in San Diego II

So FNCE started bright and early on Sunday so we had to get up, eat breakfast and get to the conference by 8:00 a.m.  Embassy Suites, where we stayed had a wonderful breakfast buffet with some cook to order options.   Unfortunately, they didn't start serving breakfast early enough for us to take part on Sunday morning.  The good thing is that we went to Richard Walker's Pancake House!  They have a huge selection of not only American pancakes but also German pancakes, waffles,crepes, and omelets.  I decided on an omelet and was so glad I did.  It was super fluffy and filled with vegetables and came with a side of pancakes, which I didn't even eat because I was so full from the half omelet I was able to fit in my belly!!  Take a look at this thing: 
Omelet from Richard Walker's Pancake House!!  So Good!
This massive omelet kept me going until lunch when I decided to go to the Expo floor to see what kind of samples they were giving out.  I stopped by the Dairy Council and had some chocolate milk, Laughing Cow for a baby bel cheese (have you laughed today?), Chobani for a super yummy passion fruit Greek yogurt, and the Boar's Head table for a mini-sandwich.  I love the conference - no need to buy lunch!! 

That night we decided to try Karl Strauss Brewery.  We heard that they had great food and are known for their amazing macaroni and cheese.  Just look at this picture: Broccoli and  roasted red pepper cheesy goodness.  I don't think I need to say anything else about this one!!!  It was so worth the splurge!
Monday's conference was another long day of session after session.  Some of them were better than others but that usually happens.  I kept finding myself sitting in a session that wasn't what I expected, I already knew the information, or was just plain boring.  I'd get up, check my schedule and head to another one.  I usually found an interesting one on the second try but if I didn't, I'd go hang out on the Expo floor and learn about new products.  On this day, I ran into some awesome dietitian friends from home and we decided to all go to dinner together.  We chose seafood - I mean, we were in San Diego right?!  Anthony's Seafood was recommended on our cab ride from the airport and then again by the information desk at the Expo center so we decided to give it a shot.   The restaurant sits right on the water and offers many fish, seafood, and chicken options.  Most of us decided on the Seafood Trio - crab cake, salmon fillet, and garlic shrimp.  All very good and well priced with good service.  Unfortunately, I seem to forget to take food photos when I'm with a group!  Sorry!!

I already told you about our awesome last night when we went to Freddy's Mexican food for Taco Tuesday so I won't rehash it.  All I can say is, if you ever get a chance to go to San Diego there are somethings you shouldn't miss:  The Zoo, Coronado, Gaslamp district, Balboa Park, Freddy's Mexican and The Field Irish Pub (where Fireman spent some afternoon time waiting for me)!  It's a great place to vacation, not overly expensive, super clean and easy to get around.  So go! Enjoy!! - - and take me with you!!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Traveling and Dining in San Diego

Sorry to have been away for a week but I was attending the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in sunny San Diego, California!  What a beautiful city - so clean, sunny and full of things to see and places to eat.  Since I was attending a conference, I didn't get to see as much of the city as Fireman but heard about the museums, marinas, Little Italy and Coronado.  We were able to go to the San Diego Zoo before the conference started and loved every minute of it. It's very clean and the staff is friendly and willing to answer questions.  We started by taking a double decker bus around the park so we could determine in which areas we wanted to spend more time.  After the bus ride, we set off on foot and just wandered through the areas that interested us most.  Below are a few pics from the Zoo!  I had been to this Zoo many years ago with my Aunt, Great Uncle and his wife.  My Uncle was such a fun and funny guy.  I'll never forget how he heard a seal calling and said, "Listen, that seal is calling my name - Fred, Fred" and it really did sound like that.  My Aunt (AC) and I still laugh about that today.  As a matter of fact, she emailed me the day we were there and asked if I remembered.  I thought about Uncle Fred all day!!


Of course while we were in San Diego we had some amazing food!  The first day we had fish tacos at a place called Tin Fish.  It is right in the shadows of the stadium where the San Diego Padres play baseball.  I know for some of you a fish taco sounds pretty strange but they are amazing when you find somewhere that does them well.  I prefer to have the fish (shrimp or calamari) grilled instead of breaded and fried but you can get either.  Fish tacos generally have some type of avocado cream, garlic sour cream or guacamole along with shredded cabbage instead of lettuce.  These tacos also had a little cheddar cheese and some salsa.  They were good but not nearly as good as the fish tacos we had later in the week at a place called Freddy's Mexican Food in the Gaslamp district - AMAZING!  and we happened to be there on Taco Tuesday so the tacos were only $2-$3 each!  We were there with some awesome dietitian friends so I forgot to take photos - again!!  But here's a pic of the Tin Fish tacos that I had the first day!

One mahi mahi taco and one calamari taco!! YUM!
That evening we went to a nice little restaurant in the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego.  Sammy's Wood-fired pizza has salads, sandwiches, tapas and pizza.  Somehow we neglected to get a photo of the pizza and salad that we ordered - oops!  The next morning we went to the Zoo before attending the opening session of the conference.  Dinner was at La Bocca where I had the Osso Bucco and Fireman had the gnocchi - both equally delicious.  The Osso Bucco is only offered once per week and was highly recommended by both the Hostess and the Waiter.  Boy am I glad to have listened to them.  The meat was absolutely falling off the bone - no knife necessary and the risotto was perfectly cooked.We traded half way through so we could double the experience!  Here is a photo of the Osso Bucco with risotto.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about the other things we did and show you some photos of more amazing food!  Stay tuned for part 2 of FNCE and San Diego...........!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From eeewwww Brussels Sprouts to mmmmmm Brussels Sprouts!

So, in general, there are two opinions when it comes to Brussels Sprouts.  One is the opinion of total disgust and the other is the opinion of total appreciation.  But, if you're firmly in the total disgust category I bet it's because you've only ever had these tiny cabbage-like veggies boil or steamed - To Death!!  Well, I predict that this recipe is the one that will convert  you to the total appreciation group.  Seriously, Fireman and I ate this whole pan of shredded and sauteed Brussels Sprouts and neither one of us could stand them while growing up.  This recipe is amazing.  You should give it a try!  Seriously!!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (I used Olive Oil because it was on hand)
4 slices thick cut bacon
3/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded (I used shredding blade on my food processor)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, and oil; set aside.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon, cut or crumble into pieces, and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of drippings in pan (if there aren’t enough drippings to equal 2 tbsp, add a little butter or oil).  Heat drippings over medium-high then add onion and shredded brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just tender.  Remove from heat and stir in bacon, walnuts, and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.  Serves 4.
Adapted from:

I found this particular recipe on the website but I also love to roast Brussels Sprouts and many other vegetables in a hot oven.  For Brussels Sprouts trim ends and peel away outer leaves.  Then quarter large sprouts and halve smaller ones.  Place in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, or other vinegar and oil based salad dressing.  Toss until very lightly coated and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in a 400-425 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisp tender.

Either way, I think you'll find a new appreciation for the humble Brussels Sprout.  Give them a try - they are especially good when served with sweet potatoes!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The best of Fall produce

Summer may be gone but that doesn't mean fresh produce from local farms is gone too!  Indiana still has loads of delicious fresh produce that's in season now.  Here is a guide to Fall seasonal produce:

From mid-September to late October look for:
  • Apples, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Grapes, Lettuce, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Snap Beans and Spinach.

Also look for these items until late November:
  • Beets, Carrots, Collards, Mushrooms, Onions, Turnips, Turnips Greens, and Winter Squash.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggests we consume more dark green and orange vegetables.  Many of the fruits and vegetables listed above fit into this category.  Dark green and orange vegetables are major contributors of under-consumed nutrients including folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and the Vitamins A, C and K.  Consumption of increased quantities and varieties of fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.  Not to mention that fruits and vegetables are low in calorie making them great additions when you're watching your weight.  All of us should strive to load half our plates with fruits and veggies at every meal!

The next time you're planning your weekly menu and shopping list, don't forget to pick up some fresh Fall produce.  Need ideas for how to use some of this bounty?  Try some of these!

Steam it - steam veggies until they are bright and just tender.
Roast it - roast vegetables in the oven at 425 degrees until browned and tender-usually about 15-20 minutes - try this with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and carrots.  Toss vegetables with a small bit of olive or canola oil (just enough to lightly coat) and season with your choice of spices before roasting.
Add it - add spinach, collard, or turnip greens to lentil soup, lasagna or rice
Stuff it - apples, onions and winter squash are all great stuffed.  Fill hollowed out produce with sausage and dry bread cubes seasoned with sweet or savory herbs and spices.
Mash it - mash potatoes, sweet potatoes or winter squash.  Also try mixing any of these with mashed carrots, turnips, broccoli or cauliflower.

Enjoy it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Polish Family Favorite - Pierogies!

With Fireman at work today and everyone else at the Purdue football game, I knew I had loads of uninterrupted time to fill.  So I thought it would be a great time to make pierogies.  Pierogies are typically semi-circular dumplings that are filled with a variety of ingredients including potatoes, meat, and/or cheese.  These dumplings are generally boiled and then fried.  This is my Mother-in-laws family recipe that we all love.  Making pierogies is a labor of love as this process is not a quick one.  First you make the filling, we use dry cottage cheese seasoned with minced onion, a tiny bit of sugar and salt and loads of black pepper.  Then you make the dough.  I like to make a double batch of dough to be filled with one pound of the dry cheese mixture.  Once the dough is made, I divide it into about 14 individual balls and cover them with a damp paper towel so they don't dry out.  I hand roll each of these dough balls into about a 5-6" circle then fill it with about a golf ball sized scoop of filling.  Then fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges well.

This is what the filled pierogies look like before boiling!

  Now you're ready to boil these babies!  Boil three at a time for 10 minutes then place them on some parchment paper and cover with a damp towel. 

Boil 3 pierogie at a time for 10 minutes

I hope you can see that the bottom pierogie is larger than the top one!  The bottom one has been boiled!
Fry 'em up!!
At this point, you can fry the pierogies in a mixture of butter and olive oil (this is my favorite way to fry them as the olive oil keeps the butter from browning too much). 
If you don't want to fry all of them, this is the point where you can freeze the extras.  Place in a container or sealed freezer bag with layers of wax paper between.  When you get a craving for pierogies, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or while you're at work and then fry them up when you get home.  We like to serve these with ketchup.  I know, I know, it sounds really weird but you have to taste it to believe it.  I've been hooked every since I had these for the first time probably 18 years ago.  My MIL, having 7 kids, had to make upwards of 90-100 of these to feed her hungry crowd.  Keep in mind that I just made a double batch and it made 13 filled pierogies and it took me two hours and I haven't even fried any yet - that's for tomorrow!  Because this process takes so long, MIL instituted a rule that you have to say "mmmmm, thank you Mom" with every bite!!  Obviously, she gets loads of appreciation for making these but no one really talks at all when we sit down to platters of fresh pierogies.  It's the quietest meal ever with a few mumbled 'mmmm's' here and a 'pass the platter or ketchup' there.  I hope if you're feeling adventurous one day, you'll try this recipe too.  The dry cottage cheese is sometimes really hard to find but your grocer will often order it for you if you ask.  I generally get mine whenever I'm in South Bend and then freeze it until I'm ready to use it.

Was aiming for another photo, but
Fireman starting eating them
before I could!!

Homemade Pierogies

For the Filling:
1 pound dry-curd cottage cheese
salt and pepper - heavy on the pepper
1 T sugar
1/2 small onion, diced

For the Dough:
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 t each butter and shortening
Mix these ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender then add:
1 beaten egg and water to make a soft dough (I'd estimate about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water for a batch of dough)

Once you have the dough mixed, cut into balls about the size of a small lemon.  Cover these with a damp cloth so they don't dry out.  Roll out one at a time and fill with about a golf ball sized scoop of filling.  Place the filling down the center of the dough and fold the dough over to make a half-moon shape.  Seal the edges by pinching them shut (you could also press with a fork).  Place the filled pierogies on parchment paper and cover again with a damp towel until all the dough balls are filled and you are ready to boil them.  Boil three at a time for 10 minutes and place back onto parchment paper.  When you are ready, heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry over low heat until they are golden brown. I generally use 1 stick of butter and about 1/4 cup olive oil to fry all of these.  You may have to add more of each during the process. If you are making a large batch, keep the fried pierogies in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) until you are ready to serve them.  Serve with ketchup and enjoy!!
Note:  I double the dough recipe but not the filling recipe.  This generally makes about 12-14 pierogie for me.

This is obviously not the most low calorie meal I make but since we rarely get to have them, I throw nutrition to the wind and just enjoy!  Notice the brussels sprouts and carrots - I didn't say I completely forget about being a dietitian when I make these!!!  Enjoy!