Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday: Hearty Veggie Soup


This is a quick post featuring a real-quick answer to dinner when you can't devote much thought or time to what to prepare (that was the case for me today). Still sticking with a Meatless Monday theme, though...

Do you remember the (now seems ancient) Cabbage Soup Diet? The theory was that if you spent a week eating the prescribed Cabbage Soup, you could lose up to ten pounds. I hope none of us (ahem) ever subscribed to such nonsense! However short-term the weight-loss benefits, some people found they actually liked the Cabbage Soup!

In a nutshell, you dump a lot of vegetables into a soup pot, along with cabbage, obviously, and let it simmer away. The variations on the theme can be endless, but the basic recipe served as my inspiration for today's Veggie Soup.


My Hearty Veggie Soup
  • 2-3 cans Diced Tomatoes with juice *
  • 1/2 head of Cabbage, cut into small chunks
  • 1 bag frozen soup veggies: carrots, peas, green beans, corn, potatoes*
  • 2-3 stalks & leaves celery, chopped
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. I imagine this recipe would work great in a crock pot as well.
To bulk up the recipe, but keep it veggie, add a can of beans, or some cooked brown rice.

* I only had one can of diced tomatoes on hand, so I pureed three fresh tomatoes for the soup base, and added some vegetable broth for volume and flavor.

*If you can use fresh chopped veggies - awesome!

Nutrition Round Up
  • All of the veggies add up to a good amount of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals
  • Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene - an antioxidant

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

Let's put one hand over our heart, the other on The Book, and testify that we'll never buy pre-packaged granola bars again!
Well, you can say I was a bit moved by the ease and yum factor of this recipe, and how I never happened upon it before, I do not know.
If you can make Rice Crispy treats, you can make these. Be sure to see my tips after the recipe, and report back if you come up with some killer flavor combos!

Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars

adapted from HERE

Snack, Dessert | Servings: 18 servings
Prep time: 0 | Cook time: 5 min | Total time: 25 min


  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar**
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups plain granola**
  • 1 cup rice cereal (Rice Krispies, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips**


  1. Line one 11×7 inch baking pan with foil or parchment. Lightly butter or spray the foil. Set aside.
  2. Combine honey and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar after butter starts to melt.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  4. Add the granola and rice cereal into the saucepan and fold them into the sauce until evenly coated.
  5. Spread the mixture into the prepared pans and press firmly with a spatula to evenly fill. Sprinkle the chocolate and peanut butter chips onto the top of the granola and gently press them down with the spatula.
  6. Let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or until mostly cooled and set; lift out of the pan and cut into bars.
**My Tips**
  • My bars were a little "loose," and didn't want to hold their bar shape (not like that kept anyone from scarfing them!) Anyway, next time I'll up the brown sugar a bit to see if it provides a bit more "glue."
  • In reading the original recipe, I learned that the type of granola you use can be a factor in the success, and actually, the calorie count on these bars. The Brazilian granola I used was very loose and barely toasted. It's probably best to stay away from pre-boxed cereal granolas that possibly have added sugar, binders and other preservatives. If you have a bulk-foods section in your market, that may be where you can find plain, lowfat granola.
  • Sky's the limit on what you mix into these babies. I happened to have white chips on hand, but my preference would be something like toffee chunks (slurp!) If you wanna go a bit more...well, Granola, try adding in something like Craisins, dried apricot pieces, and/or nuts.
Back to the Cutting Board also has some good tips on making the ultimate granola bar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meatless Monday (sorta): White Bean, Butternut and Kale Stew


Last Sunday morning, I suggested to Ben that he take control of planning dinner, and he said OK.
A little later, I walked into the kitchen and saw this:

Not my pic, (hers) but it's what I saw....Camera not handy - I'm a last-minute food post planner.

With the exception of our 4 year-old, I'm probably the snobbiest foodster in our casa, so the idea of an entire meal of white beans didn't have me doing cartwheels. Now that I think about it, I can't even recall what we DID eat that evening, but the beans soaked overnight, and I told Ben I'd "deal with them."

On Monday, I found
this recipe for White Bean, Butternut Squash and Kale Stew. I still wasn't overly excited about this impending meal, but at least it would be nutrient-dense.

Bit of Background: We live in Brazil. Brazil is very carne-centric, and we probably eat more than our fair share of beef and pork, lean though it may be. Anyway, I'm trying to make an effort to cook at least 1-2 meatless meals per week. "Meatless Monday" being a good start, and this recipe fit the bill.
....except I promptly forgot, and put bacon into the bean pot. We'll get there.....

I can't wait forever and a day to cook beans, so a pressure cooker ("PC") is THE way to go. Don't freak. Today's models are not your grandmother's PCs. They have safety mechanisms, won't explode, and are without a doubt, a staple in our kitchen. They'll cook dry beans in 30-45 minutes.
While the beans were hissing away in the PC, I prepped the other veggies: fresh kale, butternut squash, and red bell peppers. (I'm simplifying the recipe, you know)

To prepare them for the stew, I cooked them in a Dutch Oven with some onion and oil until tender, then added vegetable broth. When the beans were done, I added them in, too. The final result looked something like this:
image via WholeFoods

...which neither of our kids would touch with a ten-foot pole.
*Lightbulb* What if we puree it - disguise all that veggie goodness?

After mere moments with the blender (immersion-style rocks if you've got one) we ended up with a smooth, even more savory soup. Ben thought the puree actually tasted better than the stew version. Served up with some warm, crusty bread, and we were set. We ALL ate it like champs.
*NB: The original stew recipe called for black olives, which I omitted. If you plan to puree the stew, I think it's probably better to leave the olives for your martini. ;)

So, our lesson for the day is: Never underestimate the possibility of a bag of beans!

Nutritional Round-Up:
White Beans: Very good source of Fiber and Folate. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese

Kale: A very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

Red Bell Peppers: Very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin B6 and Folate, as well as several other vitamins, minerals, and

Info via here

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Quickie Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

...Aka: the Least Photogenic Food. Seriously. It's tough to take a pretty picture of enchiladas, especially once they've been plated up. Poor lighting doesn't help. Witness:

DSC_2396 was one of those afternoons when I inventoried the fridge, and tried to decide what to make for dinner based on a Google search of, "Chicken Breast and Spinach recipes." I don't necessarily recommend this tactic, but in this case, it worked.
I found a recipe for chicken and spinach enchiladas that didn't seem to involve hours of work or a trip to the grocery store. Score.

Deciding to photograph the process, and release it to the world was another thing altogether BUT I promised to keep this food blog free of unrealistically-perfect cookery, so here goes:

First, boil about 2 lbs of bone-in chicken. (I {ahem} had two breasts.) I always put onion and celery in the water so I then have an impromptu soup base for later. The recipe also called for cumin and coriander. Done.
While the chicken was doing its thing, I quickly sauteed a package of chopped, frozen spinach. Once the chicken was done and cooled, I deboned the meat, and put it into a food processor with the cooked spinach, and pulsed until "well chopped."

Have you ever seen the product of a cow chewing its cud? No? Well, now you have.

Next, (and this is a good non-fry tortilla prep substitution) the recipe calls for the corn tortillas to be dipped (one at a time) into the reserved, warm broth from the chicken. It softens the tortillas so they won't crack (as much) when you go to roll the enchilada.


Then, fill the tortilla with the chicken/spinach "cud" mixture, roll it up, and place it seam-side down in a 9 x 13 Pammed or Oiled Pyrex dish. Rinse and Repeat.


After rolling all the tortillas, the recipe calls for you to "gently warm sour cream with a couple of tablespoons of the chicken broth." We don't have sour cream in Brazil (I did mention we live in Brazil, right?) So, I substituted this


It's kinda like cream cheese, but a tad more pourable. Mixed with the broth, it worked fine. Once the enchiladas were properly coated with a thick, cheesy topping, I cooked them at 350 degrees (F) for 30 minutes.



The recipe calls for you to sprinkle the top with paprika, shredded cheese, and jalapeño slices, but I had some tomatillo sauce I needed to use, so our enchiladas got the verde treatment.
Overall, I'd say it was a success with the Fam, but I thought the filling was a tad dry. Next time, I'll mix a bit of the cheese sauce in with the chicken/spinach filling, and all should be good.

Recipe adapted from HERE

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zucchini and Carrot Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Like many other households with children, ours is hectic in the morning. I'd like to say my kids get a perfect, well-rounded meal to start their day, but truly, there's a lot of cold cereal going on. I have found, though, if I keep some sort of "healthy" muffin or easy-to-eat item made, it eases the chaos of "What do you want for breakfast?"

I came across an image for Zucchini and Carrot Bars on (where else?) Pinterest, and thought I'd give it a go.... Yes, yes, they're iced, so I lose some points, BUT

...when else am I going to get my girls to include this in their breakfast?

*Of course, I tweaked it a bit, but here goes:

Carrot and Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from here)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts *I used 1 T of flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose *I used whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest *I used orange zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, honey, and vanilla. Don’t worry about clumps of the brown sugar, those will dissolve as it sits while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Then fold in the carrot, zucchini, and walnuts
  2. In another bowl combine add the flour, baking powder, ginger, and baking soda. Whisk to blend together.
  3. Add to flour mixture to the wet mixture. Stir just until combined. Spread batter into an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  4. Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  5. Once the cake is cooled prepare the frosting. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the fosting ingredients with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Spread or pipe the frosting over the cooled bars. Makes 36 bars.
*Note on substitutions:
  • I will generally substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose unless I believe it will affect the integrity of the item. Let's get our fiber, peeps!
  • I didn't have any walnuts on hand, but I still wanted the benefit of a) some texture and b) some Omega-3 fatty acids - Flaxseed provides both.
  • I subbed orange zest for lemon simply because I think orange better compliments carrot - and I can't resist any reference to a creamsicle.
All part of a Balanced Breakfast, right!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Festive Pancakes

We make pancakes fairly often on weekends. I have a go-to "Basic Pancake Recipe" that has never failed me, even when I've pushed the limits in adding and substituting ingredients. If you try this, I promise you'll never go back to Bisquick, or even worse, frozen Aunt Jemima!

For the Labor Day holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to make Strawberry "Red," Banana "White" and Blueberry "Blue" whole wheat pancakes.

...had to go with frozen blueberries, as fresh are rare and expensive here in Brazil.

I substitute Whole Wheat flour for All-Purpose, so the pancakes tend to be more dense, but we're good with that. Serve them with honey, and a sprinkling of ground, raw cacau (our latest obsession - more on that later), and you've got one awesome, kinda superfood-ish* breakfast!

Basic Pancake Mix (adapted from here)
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour (I substitute most if not all for Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  1. In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients
  2. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk
  3. Start with 1 1/4 cups milk, adding up to another 1/4 cup if necessary, as you mix it with the flour
  4. Add the two eggs, vanilla, and oil, whisking until mixed but still a little lumpy
  5. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-to-medium low. When hot, ladle pancake mix to the size pancake you like.
  6. If adding fruit, sprinkle onto batter.
  7. Flip pancake when batter begins to bubble.
  8. Serve warm with maple syrup, honey, or commercial syrup.
*Raw Honey, Raw Cacau, blueberries, and to some degree bananas are all considered "Superfoods" - rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants