Corn & Potato Soup

Now that I’ve already divulged the decadent dessert we made for my Dad’s Birthday last week, I’ll show you what we made for dinner.  I have been still in soup-mode after my boyfriend Dave had some dental problems recently.  This recipe should have been a chowder, but i chose to replace Half-and-Half with the Fat Free version, losing out on the thickness of a typical chowder.  Instead, we ended up with a “soupier” broth… creamy but definitely soupier than you’d expect from a chowder.

Corn & Potato Soup

Recipe adapted from:  Corn & Potato Chowder, Cooking Light 
Serves:  4 Dinner-Portions
Ingredients:
1 Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 Cup Green Onions, finely chopped and divided, separating 2 Tablespoons
3 Slices Bacon, cooked and chopped.  Reserve a few pieces for garnish.
2 Cups Frozen Corn Kernels
3 Cups Water
1 teaspoon Old Bay (or other seafood seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
Pinch Ground Cayenne Pepper
1 lb Baking Potatoes, skin-on, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Cup Fat-Free Half and Half
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 cup Shredded Reduced-Fat Cheddar Cheese
Directions:
1.  Spray a large pot and warm over medium-high heat.  Add bell pepper and most of the green onions.  Saute for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
2.  Raise heat to high.  Add bacon, corn, water, Old Bay, Thyme, Red Pepper, and potatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Check a potato to make sure they’re cooked (stick a fork in it… literally.  If it goes in easily they’re done!).  Lower heat to medium-low and stir in half-and-half, parsley, salt, and pepper.
3.  Let cook until you’re ready to serve or the soup boils down to your desired consistency.  I had mine cook about 15 minutes longer over med-low heat.
4.  Ladle into 4 bowls and garnish with green onions, cheddar cheese, and a few crumbles of bacon.

Results:  We all really enjoyed this soup- but I should make a few recommendations for you.  If you aren’t watching your weight, use full-fat half and half.  You’ll be happier with the consistency.  Also, this soup was a little too spicy, even for ME!  It had a kick that lasted long after you were done your spoonful.  Start with just the old bay, and taste it.  Add some cayenne later on if you feel like it needs it.  Otherwise, the soup was awesome and everyone was happy with it!

Nutrition:  One serving of this soup contains just under 300 calories and 7.5 grams of fat… pretty good for a creamy soup, right?

Mashed Sweets & Apples

Do you know how healthy sweet potatoes are?  After making a personal pact with myself to eat more sweet potatoes… I decided to look up the details.  Here’s just some of the stuff that makes up a sweet potato that’s good for you:  Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Beta-Carotene, Potassium… the list goes on!  ALSO, they are fat free!  I have always loved sweet potatoes but have had a new-found respect for them after learning how healthy they are.

My mission for this post was to create a Sweet Potato side-dish that could turn any non-believer into a SP lover!  My very own boyfriend, Dave has only recently started to admit to liking them.  He used to not like the Thanksgiving-Style super-sweet w/ Marshmallows ontop type of sweets, so I didn’t want to kill it with sweetness.

I think this recipe has just the right amount of flavor and sweetness without compromising all of the great nutrition that the Sweet Potato already has to offer.

Mashed Sweets & Apples

Recipe by:  It’s Good to be the Cook
Makes:  4 Servings
Ingredients:
3 Sweet Potatoes
1 Apple (I used Gala, because that’s what we had in the house)
2 Tablespoons Skim Milk
1 Tablespoon Light Butter
1 Tablespoon Light Brown Sugar (on the heaping side, not packed)
Zest from 1/2 of an Orange
Cinnamon, Sea Salt
Directions:
1.  Boil water over high heat.  Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes, gently placing them into the boiling water.  Meanwhile, peel, core, and slice the apple into 1-inch chunks.  You can add it into the boiling potatoes once you’re done chopping.
2.  Test the “done-ness” of the potatoes by sticking a fork in it.  If the fork goes into the potatoes with ease, they’re done!  Drain, keeping the potatoes and apples in the pot.  Return to stove but lower heat to medium-low.
3.  Add milk, Butter, Brown Sugar, Orange Zest, and just a sprinkle of cinnamon and just a shake of sea salt.
4.  Using a potato masher or just a fork, mash together until it reaches your desired consistency.  The apples do not mash as well as the sweets.  Don’t worry… it will still taste delish!

Chopping all those sweet potatoes was a lot of work!

So it's not pretty... but its very tasty! You won't want to share 🙂 ... I didn't!

Green Eggs & Matzah

Happy Passover, everyone  (and almost Easter to everyone else)!

It’s only 11am and I just got home from kicking some major workout ass.  Starting at 8:30, I took an intense “Power Strike” class (similar to kickboxing) and then immediately after, an hour-long spin class with my favorite instructor.  It was exhausting but I feel great.  I force myself to take a shower, somehow finding the strength to stand for more than five minutes.  Almost right after I hop out… I’m starved!  What to make that’s… a.  Passover-safe (I am “keeping” it this year which for me just means nothing with yeast in it for a week) and b. that won’t “ruin” the amazing workout I just had.

Since I can’t sop it all up with toast… poached eggs are out.  Pancakes, French Toast, out and out.  Knowing that this would be both my breakfast and lunch, I wanted to think big.  I also wanted to give breakfast potatoes another stab… since I normally screw those up.

Green Eggs & Matzah it is!  Oh, and I’ll throw in a small potato’s worth of the BEST Breakfast Potatoes I’ve ever made!

Green Eggs & Matzah

Ingredients:
6 pieces Frozen Broccoli (small ones)
1/2 Cup Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Large Egg
3 Egg Whites
1 Tablespoon Avocado
1 Slice Sargento Deli-Style Reduced-Fat Swiss Cheese
1 Sheet Egg-Whites Only Matzo
1 Tablespooon Light Butter
1 small Yukon Gold Potato
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Directions:
1.  Microwave broccoli and spinach until it’s mostly heated up, about 1 minute.  Spray a saute pan and heat broccoli and spinach.
2.  Stab the small potato with a fork a few times, and microwave it for about 4-5 minutes, depending on size.
3.  Beat Egg, Egg Whites, and a teaspoon of water, then cover the green veggies in the pan with it.  Season if you’d like.  Cook on Medium heat and cover.
4.  Meanwhile, let the potato cool for a few minutes.  You can smash it with the heel of your hand or slice it (it will smush a little bit… don’t worry).  Throw these in a smaller pan with oil already heated up on medium or medium-high.  I seasoned w/ my favorite Montreal Spicy Steak Seasoning and Paprika.  You can do just salt and pepper, or really anything.  Mix up occasionally to avoid burning.
5.  Check on the eggs.  Run a heat-safe rubber spatula around the edges to make sure it’s not sticking.  If it is- cut your losses and just make a scramble!  Once the top is mostly cooked, take the avocado and place it in a few pieces throughout the egg.  Break up the slice of cheese and evenly distribute.  You can fold here  or put the cover back on.  Lower heat to warm/low to avoid burning the bottom of the egg.
6.  Once the egg is fully cooked, and the potato is cooked to your liking (crispy for me!) Serve on a plate.
7.  Where’s the Matzah?  I took one sheet of Matzah and broke it up into three.  Since I’m so indecisive, I had to have it three ways!  (Light Butter and Sea Salt on one… Light Butter and TJ’s Coffee/Chocolate/Sugar Grinder on the second, and homemade strawberry jam on the third).

Results… OMG!  First of all, the potato was fantastic.  It’s my first time making any type of breakfast potato successfully.  YAY!  The eggs turned out humongous, which was perfect for my grumbling post-workout belly.  I should remember for next time, that when I add avocado to my omelets, I don’t need ANY cheese!  The creaminess of the avocado is a great replacement for cheese.   Now, for the Matzah part… I love it but I’m sure most people wouldn’t agree.

This entire meal, cheese… matzah… and even the light butter included… only ran me around 500 calories!!!!  Can you believe that?  A full breakfast and lunch with all of that stuff.  Nice!

Breakfast Baked Potato

My new obsession with poached eggs is getting out of control. While I was working out yesterday, a brilliant idea came into my head… breakfast for dinner. I love breakfast so much, so this isn’t a rare occasion. The newest creation: The Breakfast Baked Potato. I took everything in a great savory breakfast and put it into one package- a baked potato!

Ingredients:
1 large Russet Potato
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Light Butter
1 teaspoon Chives
1 teaspoon Cilantro
2 slices Bacon, cooked (I over-cooked mine- so it will crumble… in a pan with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of brown sugar)
2 Tablespoons Shredded Red.-Fat Cheddar Cheese
1 Egg, poached (see how to poach an egg in the microwave)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Green Tabasco Sauce (or hot sauce… optional)

Directions:
1. Bake the potato in the oven for an hour or longer, depending on how many you make. You can also bake it in the microwave for 8-10 minutes. Either way, I cover mine with a spray of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Check w/ a fork to see if they are done when the time is up.
2. Cook the bacon. Again, you can do it the way I did in a pan or you can simply cook it in the microwave on a paper plate covered with papertowel (cover the bacon too). If you do it in the microwave, cook it for 20 seconds at a time until it is crisp.
3. Cook the egg when everything is almost done.
4. Open the baked potato, and top with butter, cheese, bacon, salt, pepper, chives, cilantro, and anything else you’d like. Gently place the egg ontop. Break the egg over everything and ENJOY!

This turned out to be fabulous. I added some Green Tabasco for some heat and just a little bit more light butter. The potato I made was huge and this was all I needed for dinner. It was so tasty!

What else should I do with Poached Eggs?

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Heart-Healthy Menu

It’s time to take care of your heart!  With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, I figured the end of January was the perfect time to create an entire heart healthy menu for you. If your family has a history of Heart Disease or high blood pressure, it might be a good idea to start paying attention to what you’re eating.

How to eat “Heart Healthy:

Avoid:  Saturated Fat, Trans Fats, Sodium, Cholesterol, and Caffeine.

Eat More:  Healthy Fats (Raw Nuts, Olive Oil, Fish Oils, Avocadoes), Omega 3 & Protein (Fish, Shellfish, Poultry), Low-Fat Dairy (Skim Milk, Yogurt), Potassium (Avocados, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Bananas)

Today’s Heart-Healthy Menu:

Red Pepper & Bean Dip w/ Toasted Pita

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

Pan-Grilled Strawberry Balsamic Chicken & Sautéed Spinach

Apricot, Banana, & BerrySmush over Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Everything in this menu creates a well-rounded, low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber and potassium loaded heart-healthy meal.  You may also even be able to find most of the ingredients already in your kitchen!

First, start with the Bean Dip.  When my family cooks, we like to have a healthy snack available for us to munch on, instead of taking snitches of what we’re making.  It’s probably the only way I can make dinner after work without starving myself to death!

This bean dip makes 8-1/4 Cup Servings, with one serving totaling only 63 calories,3.5 gramsof fat, 272mg of sodium, and1.5 gramsof fiber.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip

(Cooking Light, January 2007)

¼ cup Fresh Basil, chopped

1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar

1 (16oz) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

1 (7oz) bottle Roasted Red Peppers, rinsed and drained

1 Garlic Clove

2 Tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Whole Wheat Pita, sliced & toasted

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor and let it rip!  Process until smooth.  Slowly add the oil through the chute with the processor still on.  Once well combined, stop the processor and stir in the salt and pepper.  Serve with toasted Whole Wheat Pita (I recommendSahara’s small Whole Wheat Pitas, they are 70 calories/piece) or carrots & celery.

What a simple appetizer! The roasted Red Pepper & Basil flavors really stood out in this amazing dip!

Since I was going to have the oven going for the veggies already, Roasted Potatoes seemed like a wonderful addition to this meal.  The Red Potato has such a high level of Vitamin C and Potassium!  They also are a great source of fiber & protein, with 4g of protein in just one medium potato.  Pretty impressive!

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

1lb Baby Red Potatoes

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

These babies are ready for some roastin'

Preheat the oven to 400.  Scrub the potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.  If you have an Olive Oil sprayer, place the potatoes in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray and thoroughly spray the potatoes with the Olive Oil.  If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets, you can just toss the potatoes in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO.  Evenly sprinkle the potatoes in the baking dish with garlic, rosemary, pepper, and sea salt.  Mix well.  Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can easily remove a fork from one of the larger potatoes.

I chose Zucchini for this meal, not only because it’s one of my favorite veggies, but because of its’ high nutritional value.  Zukes & Squash provide a great source of Vitamin C & Potassium- a key word for heart-healthy cooking!

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

2 Zucchini

2 Yellow Squash

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Paprika

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Sea Salt

Your oven should already be heated to 400 to be roasting your potatoes.  You should put the veggies in after the potatoes have been cooking for about 20 minutes.  Slice the veggies in ½ inch thick circles.  I cut the larger circles of Yellow Squash in half circles too.  Toss in a bowl with Olive Oil and seasonings.  Place veggies in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray.  Bake in the oven for around until they are fully cooked and the potatoes are done, stirring occasionally.

Now that you have your potatoes and squash in the oven, it’s time to start making the chicken.  I like to buy thinly sliced chicken because the fat is already cut off and it cooks much faster than normal chicken breasts.  If you have normal large chicken breasts, I would slice them thinner if possible.

Once the potatoes have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, you can start the sauce for the chicken.  This recipe can also be made with plain Balsamic Vinegar or add some cut Strawberries into plain Balsamic.

Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

½ cup Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar

½ cup Ketchup

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon HoneyDijonMustard

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Pepper

Put all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir often with a whisk while the sauce simmers.  Simmer and stir for about 15-20 minutes or until it becomes thicker and about 1/3 of the original size.  Keep the sauce on low, stirring occasionally. (and don’t forget to check your roasting potatoes and veggies!!)

Next, you’re going to start to heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Take one piece of chicken and slather just a little bit of the Balsamic on one side with a silicone pastry brush, then place the sauce side down on the grill pan.  Brush a little of the sauce on the top side of the chicken and repeat.  Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes or until cooked all the way through.  Now, pour a ladel-full of sauce ontop of the chicken and let it cook for a minute.  The chicken is done!

Remove the chicken and place in aluminum foil to keep warm.  Dump an entire bag of fresh spinach into the same grill pan with the leftover balsamic in it.  Stir after about 2 minutes, and the spinach will be done a minute after that.  Spinach is one of the best foods you can eat!  Click here to read about this antioxidant rich food!

Here, I plated the chicken over the sautéed spinach, with potatoes and roasted zucchini & squash on the side.  Everything was unbelievable.  I cooked the potatoes for about an hour and the veggies for about 45 minutes total.  They were perfect!  The Balsamic sauce on the chicken was unbelievable, it was tangy and sweet and so different than anything else I have ever cooked.

The finished products:

No amazing meal would be complete without dessert, right?  Well here is your super heart-healthy dessert!  Complete with 3 Potassium rich fruits!

Banana Frozen Yogurt Smush

1 Cup (or a little more) Fat Free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1 Banana, sliced thin

¼ Cup Polaner’s All Fruit with Fiber – Blackberry

6 Dried Apricots, sliced/diced

1 pinch Cinnamon

In a glass dish, microwave the banana and All Fruit for 2 minutes, stirring/smushing the banana after one minute.  When it’s finished, spoon over the Frozen Yogurt and top with Apricots and a little sprinkle of cinnamon.  MMM!!

Tastes so good! I love smashing it all together and making the Fro-Yo melt.

I found a ton of information on Heart-Healthy eating and dieting on the CDC’s website for Heart Disease Info, as well as Livestrong’s Food & Drink Website.  You can find them here!

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/243231-what-are-the-benefits-of-squash-zucchini/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/385187-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-red-potatoes/