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!!!