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Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

I hope you’ve had a great 2016. Every year has its ups and downs. But hopefully the ups were high enough to offset the downs. I wish you all a Happy New Year this weekend.

One quick recipe to end the year – vegetable chowder. Hopefully it will be helpful in clearing out your fridge of any remaining holiday foods. And keeping you warm, as I see the forecast for many early next week is rather cold.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for awhile, and I’ve made most of my batches with leftovers from holiday veggie trays, cheese trays, etc. It is great for just cleaning out the fridge and pantry, which is great any time of year. Enjoy!

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Serves about 8)

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

4 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock
4 cups vegetables, chopped (broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini, etc)
1-2 cups small diced potatoes
2 tablespoons no salt added butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk (preferably skim)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (something more flavorful than mozzarella)

1. Heat stock to a boil in a large stockpot. Add potatoes and other long cooking vegetables (carrots, celery). Add other vegetables sporadically so they all finish cooking about the same time (total time, 15ish minutes).

2. When the vegetables are almost done, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add in flour. Stir for 1 minute. Add in milk, pepper, and thyme, stirring frequently. Cook for a couple minutes, until beginning to thicken.

3. Add milk mixture to vegetable pot. Cook until desired consistency (about 5 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted throughout.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 236
Protein: 13 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 491 mg

Recipe Notes: Sorry the recipe is a bit vague in places. It really depends on what vegetables you have, how big you cut them, and how crunchy/soft you like your veggies in the soup. If you have leftover cheese slices from a cheese tray, just crumble them up or dice them up small. They’ll melt faster that way than in slices.

Source: adapted from my mom’s broccoli cheese soup recipe

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Meaty Lasagna

A few days after Thanksgiving, we had some people over for dinner. We had a still untouched pumpkin pie, so we served it for dessert. They commented they had never eaten homemade pumpkin pie before. I was astonished! Imagine my surprise when I told this story to someone else who admitted the same thing.

It reminded me of a time in college when one of my roommates was making lasagna for dinner. Another roommate walked in and said, “You can make lasagna? I didn’t know that. I thought you only bought it frozen.” Upon questioning her, her mom had never made lasagna which she attributed to picky eaters.

All of these experiences plus the holidays (when I know many people seem to eat lasagna) inspired me to make my lasagna recipe and share it with you. Everyone (including myself) thinks lasagna is hard. It’s really quite easy. It is a “little” time consuming. Only in that you need to plan ahead. But it is pretty hands off for most of that time. And it can easily be made ahead of time. Enjoy!

Meaty Lasagna (Serves 8-10)

Meaty Lasagna

1 lb Italian sausage
½ large onion, diced
½ cup diced carrots
2 cloves minced garlic
2 (15.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
2 (8 ounce) cans no salt added tomato sauce
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 bay leaves
½ tablespoon dried basil leaves
½ tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
10 (or so) lasagna noodles (not the no boil)
1 (10 ounce or so) package frozen spinach
1 (approximately 24 oz) container ricotta or low fat cottage cheese
1 egg
⅔ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup mozzarella cheese

1. Brown sausage. Add onion and carrots. Sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes through black pepper. Stir to distribute seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until thickened to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove bay leaves before serving or blending.

3. While sauce cooks, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Before cooking, see how many noodles fit in your 9×13 pan (or lasagna pan). You will have 3 layers, so cook that many noodles.

4. Thaw spinach and squeeze out water. Mix spinach, ricotta/cottage cheese, egg, ⅓ cup Parmesan, and ¼ cup mozzarella. Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 350.

6. Spread a very thin layer of red sauce in the bottom of your pan (9×13 or lasagna). Top with a layer of noodles. Top with a layer of red sauce. Another layer of noodles. Now a layer of the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture. Another layer of noodles. Top with a layer of red sauce. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

7. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until heated through and beginning to brown slightly.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 355
Protein: 16 gm
Fat: 19 gm
Saturated Fat: 2 gm
Cholesterol: 29 mg
Carbohydrates: 30 gm
Fiber: 3 gm
Sodium: 264 mg

Recipe notes: You could use lean ground beef or turkey instead of sausage. I prefer the flavor of sausage. You could easily leave out the meat too for a vegetarian lasagna. You could also throw in a bell pepper to the sauce. This sauce is my basic marinara sauce recipe halved. I usually make the full recipe and just have leftover marinara to freeze. I think I slightly prefer cottage cheese, but that is because that is what I was raised on. Ricotta is yummy too.

If you want to make this ahead, assemble the lasagna. It can be covered and refrigerated for 1 day before baking. I’d increase the baking time to 45 minutes-1 hour then. Or, you could assemble it and freeze it. Then you’d bake it covered for about 1 hour, then uncovered for 30 minutes-1 hour, or until it is cooked through.

This might be a bit full for a standard 9×13 pan. Just keep your layers thin. I have a lasagna pan, which is a bit bigger. I love it. If you have a bigger casserole dish than a 9×13, use it.

Source: adapted from a family recipe

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Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

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Hummus Pasta

Today is a quick post about a quick, delicious lunch I discovered last week. I was looking at a fridge full of random leftovers and needed something new to eat. I gave this random idea a try, after some googling to make sure I wasn’t insane, and it was crazy good. And it got tons of veggies in me, which always makes me happy at lunch.

Hummus may sound like an odd “sauce” for pasta, but it works really well. It gives flavor and creaminess with no added work. This is more of an idea recipe than exact instructions. And as the idea was for lunch, I’m giving a single serving. Feel free to scale up each portion for more people.

Please pardon the slightly blurry picture. Apparently I was in a hurry to eat!

Hummus Pasta

Hummus Pasta

1 ½ cups chopped vegetables (broccoli, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, grated carrots, zucchini, etc)
1 cup tortellini pasta
2 tablespoons hummus (I used roasted red pepper, but use whatever flavor you like)
2-3 ounces shredded meat, optional
handful of cherry/grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons feta cheese

1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add vegetables and cook for 3-5 minutes or until basically as tender as you want them.

2. Add in pasta and meat. Cook according to pasta package directions.

3. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Mix hummus into pasta and vegetables. Add cooking water a teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the hummus to coat everything. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. A frozen blend would work well here as well. Just make sure it isn’t something that will cook for a long time, like big hunks of carrots. You could also use regular pasta, rather than tortellini. I’d just put the noodles in at the same time as the vegetables then. You want everything to finish cooking at about the same time.

Source: original recipe

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Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Confession: I love sweet potatoes. Maybe even more than regular potatoes. But I prepare them about 3 ways: mashed with brown sugar, casserole, or roasted as fries. And I have never felt bad about that. Those three are delicious, so why fix something that isn’t broken?

After my second baby was born, I rediscovered stuffed baked potatoes as an easy dinner. I figured sweet potatoes could work too, right? But everything seemed kind of strange and not appetizing enough to try. But I finally picked one and tried it.

Guys, it was delicious. Very different than you typical dinner, agreed. But very yummy. And with fall starting, sweet potatoes are in season and abundant. Go grab some and try this dinner soon. Your bravery will be rewarded.

Enjoy!

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (Makes 4)

IMG_7770

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon paprika
¾ tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey breast
3 cups torn curly kale
¼ cup golden raisins
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Pierce each potato with a fork a few times to prevent exploding. Wrap potatoes individually in foil. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a fork easily slides into potato. Let cool slightly.

3. Combine vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic in a bowl.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey to pan and cook 7 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Drain any excess liquid from pan; return to medium-high heat. Stir in vinegar mixture; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove meat from pan.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add kale; cover and cook 4 minutes. Stir in turkey, raisins, and lemon juice.

5. Cut each potato lengthwise. Spoon about ¾ cup kale mixture onto each potato; top each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Serve.

Nutritional Information (per stuffed potato):

Calories: 407
Protein: 29 g
Fat: 18 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 95 mg
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 577 mg

Recipe Notes: You could also microwave the potatoes if you don’t have an hour in the oven. I do think the flavor of the potatoes is a little better from the oven, but not essential. The original recipe for this was trying to make a “chorizo” like mixture out of the meat, but healthier than using store bought chorizo. While yummy, I don’t think it ended up tasting like chorizo. You could sub in chorizo for maybe half of the meat. All chorizo would be very fatty, sodium rich, and kind of overpowering (I think, and I like chorizo). I used smoked paprika and it was tasty. The original recipe called for sweet paprika, which is what you generally find in the store. The original recipe also called for goat cheese. That would be yummy as well. I just had feta, and figured it is a kind of goat cheese and went for it. If you aren’t a sweet potato lover, this would be yummy on regular potatoes too.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Easy Granola

A year and a half ago, I visited my in-laws. My mother-in-law was on a very strict low carb diet at the time. The day before I arrived, however, she had a bit of a fall out with her diet. Now, while most of us would go for cake and cookies and ice cream, she made granola. I gave her props for at least caving for something whole grain and mostly good for you.

That story is to try and give you some indication of how good this granola is. Good enough to blow a diet for, rather than all the normal sugary stuff. And it really is pretty good for you. Granola only gets a bad rap because we tend to eat A LOT at one time, which can add up in the calorie department. But a little as a snack or on some yogurt is perfect. Enjoy some today on this beautiful first day of fall!

Easy Granola (Makes about 8 cups)

Easy Granola

5 cups oats (quick or old-fashioned are fine)
1 cup non fat powdered milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
½ cup canola oil
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried fruit (or more if you like)

1. Preheat oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner, or spray with cooking spray.

2. Mix all the ingredients together with a rubber scraper or wooden spoon. Spread in an even layer on baking sheet.

3. Bake for about 30 minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t start to burn). Remove from oven and let it cool for 30 minutes. Break into chunks as desired. Store in an airtight container.

Nutritional information (about per ¼ cup):

Calories: 171
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: less than 1 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 94 mg

Recipe notes: I never have coconut, so I leave that out. You could sub coconut oil in for flavor, but realize that it will change the fat ratios. I like walnuts and craisins. You could use whatever dried fruit and nut combo you like. Or you could use some premixed trail mix if you have that around.

Source: my sister-in-law

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Caprese Pasta

I’m back! Sorry for the two month hiatus. Between computer troubles and life being life, I haven’t been on here in awhile. I’ve got a bunch of great recipes and ideas I’m excited to share with you. And please be patient if things are different. Some recipes may not have nutrition information, since they aren’t exact formulations.

Today, I’m sharing an incredibly easy and delicious pasta dish that is great as a side or vegetarian main. It tastes like the end of summer, which is perfect. I created it when I looked at my garden and saw a bunch of tomatoes and basil that needed using. Whether you have your own produce or are getting it from the store, this is completely seasonal and delicious. Enjoy!

Caprese Pasta (Serves 6 as a side, 3 as a main)

Caprese Pasta<

1 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
1 pound whole wheat pasta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
2-4 tablespoons pesto (recipe here or from a jar is fine)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

1. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and honey to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until reduced to ⅓ cup. Set aside to cool.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving out oil or salt. Drain.

3. Into hot pasta, toss mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto, and fresh basil.

4. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the balsamic sauce over the top. Toss to coat. Serve warm or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Recipe Notes: Sorry for no nutrition information today. The balsamic sauce and pesto are kind of oddball ingredients that will vary based on cooking time of the vinegar, how much you use, what kind of pesto you make/buy. I highly recommend fresh mozzarella for this. If you have to use the regular kind, I’d still cube it up, but very small, so you have more of a chance of it melting.

Source: Balsamic reduction from allrecipes.com; rest is original recipe

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