Curried Pumpkin Soup

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Fall is all about pumpkin. Last year I was trying every pumpkin dessert recipe I came across. This year, being busier with my doctoral work, I’ve slowed down a bit and tried my hand at savory pumpkin recipes this season.

On Halloween, I had a small dinner party with close friends as part of our weekly supper club. We call it “Lovely Ladies Supper Club,” and it’s a blast. Every Thursday we visit a different friends apartment or home, get to see how they live, who they live with, what fuzzy family members they live with, and how they like to cook.20131106-142939.jpg

I love soup–and you already know I love pumpkin–so my Harvest Pumpkin Chili seemed perfect. The problem is I have this not so awful habit of always wanting something new. I hate trying the same restaurant twice, and the same goes for recipes.

So I came across this Curried Pumpkin Soup from Better Homes and Gardens online. They said it would only take 30 minutes, and they were right. Very fast, very tasty. No complaints from me (and I might even try this one again!).

Make it. Save the leftovers for your lunches. That’s what I did, of course, because life moves fast. Packing lunch is my least favorite thing to do in the morning. So fresh, homemade soup that’s ready to heat and serve is perfect for my busy lifestyle.

Ingredients

1 – 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree20131106-142952.jpg

2 qt. chicken stock

2 t ginger

2 t cumin

2 t curry powder

dash of onion powder and hot sauce, if you want to give it a kick

3/4 cup roasted corn or softened lentils

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced into small strips

1 T olive oil

Directions

-In a large sauce pan, heat your oil and add in the veggies to sauté them. Add in seasonings and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until softened up.

-In the same pan, add in half of the chicken stock. Set the soup to boil, and then add in all of pumpkin, mixing well. Add in remaining stock + 1/2 cup water if you want a thinner soup. Mix well.

-Let boil just a few minutes and then return to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes if you have the time for fullest flavor. If you don’t, grab a slice of cornbread and dig in.

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Garden Shrimp Rotini

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Way, way back, I got on a cabbage kick. And since then I really haven’t put the kibosh on cabbage.IMG_1193

Friends, especially Derek Smith, have noticed that I’m a sucker for veggie+protein+pasta combinations. Usually, there’s red sauce in the mix. But sometimes I shake things up, literally. Shake a little lemon, a little EVOO, red wine vinegar, and herbs for a fresh alternative.

Some more veggies and sauteed shrimp make this delightful. Plus, cabbage is a fab mix-in because it gives a bulk to the pasta that’s very, very good for you.

Veggie and seafood lovers, you will definitely want to give this one a go.

IngredientsIMG_1195

2 oz. dry whole-wheat rotini noodles

1 cup cabbage, sliced into “noodles”

1 Roma tomato

2 T sliced onion

2 oz small shrimp

dash of rosemary, sage, basil

1 T olive oil + 1 t red wine vinegar + a big squeeze of lemon (optional: grated parmesan) IMG_1185

Directions

Bring 5 cups water to boil in a pot and add in wheat and cabbage noodles. Boil until cabbage is tender and wheat noodles almost cooked all the way through–a little al dente is good for controlling the blood sugar levels, in case you’re wondering.

Meanwhile, slice tomato up and sauté with onion and herbs in a medium to large skillet. Then add in shrimp.

In a small container you can seal, add in liquids: olive oil, vinegar, and lemon. Add in grated parmesan if you like that, too. Shake well. Set aside.

In skillet, add in the noodles once they’ve boiled and have been strained fully. Turn up the heat for a minute or so (medium to medium-high) to extract out any remaining water. Let sauté for a few minutes, tossing occasionally.IMG_1188

Transfer to one large bowl. Serve warm as is; but I of course had to have a little red sauce under my pasta. I still can’t resist a good marinara.

And honestly, this recipe is probably big enough to serve two people, but it’s so good and healthful there’s no shame in eating it all yourself, I think.

Appetizer Idea: Basil-Tomato Margarita Bites

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So continues my obsession with egg roll and won ton wrappers.tres tomato aerial

If you’ll recall my post “Appetizer Idea: Bite-Sized Fajita Bowls,” I picked up a pack of  Nasoya egg-roll wrappers at HyVee. It’s been true love ever since.

Another one of the won-ton wrapper apps I see floating around on Pinterest.com features a combination of tomato and mozzarella.

For this first one, I wasn’t feeling mozzarella. I’ve been using a soy-based garlic-herb cheese a lot lately, so I crumbled that over the top instead, tossed in some basil, parm, and spice, and felt my eyes roll back in my head when I tasted the crispy-cheesy-flavorful crunch of this appetizer.

Hope you get a pow in the yum like I did. These appetizers are right up my alley. I’m sure I’ll continue to make them for myself, but I suspect they might become my new favorite stand-by for potlucks and dinner parties, too. Very easy, and very good.

Ingredientsbite tomato

1 egg roll wrapper (Get a good healthy brand like Nasoya)

1/2 Roma tomato, diced into medium chunks

red pepper flakes

1 oz. cheese of choice, mozzarella or a heartier herb one will do

dash of parmesan

1 t basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Set aside.

Take the egg roll wrapper and slice into four equal squares. Press into pan, folding sides to fit down as necessary, but not pushing too hard.

In a small pan, saute the tomatoes in a little cooking oil for a few minutes, adding in the basil, then the red pepper flakes. Evenly  distribute among the wrappers.four bore tomato

Bake for about 7 minutes or until edges of wrappers turn golden brown. Top with cheese of choice (cubed or crumbled), dash of parm, and more basil if you like. Bake another 2-3 minutes until cheese melts.

Serve right away and warm, if possible. Enjoy!

S’ghetti Squash Bake

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I eat a lot of squash. I’m no paleo fanatic, but I can’t get over how much I love these sweet noodles. So tasty!SAM_5825

So I’ve had my eye on some spaghetti squash bakes for a while. I finally decided to try this one. A lot of them are overloaded with cheeses–which you know will make me so sick–but this one is fresh and zesty. Plus, a sprinkle of parm on top gives it a nice cheesy taste that won’t upset the lactose intolerant.

Interestingly… When I went to make these, I thought it would be cute to place them in a ramekin. (You know, to be more single-serving like.) Imagine my surprise when all the noodles could fit into 3! What does this tell me?

First, these would make adorable sides.

Second, I eat a lot of squash noodles on a regular basis. I usually eat an entire one–a small one, but an entire one no less. And maybe that’s another reason why I like them so much. You get a lot of food that will fuel your body in a healthy way. That’s pretty great.SAM_5844

And pretty tasty.

Ingredients

1 small or half of one medium spaghetti squash

1 small roma tomato or a handful of grape tomatoes

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2 T onion, chopped & to taste

1 T parmesan

chopped basil

dash of cayenne

1 T olive oil

spritz of lemon
DirectionsSAM_5848
-To “bake” the squash in the microwave, you’ll want to halve the squash and spritz with cooking spray. Microwave on high for 3 minutes facing down. Turn squashes upward and microwave another 3 minutes. You may need to microwave for another minute if you can’t take a fork to the squash and pull out a few tender noodles with ease. Scrape out all the noodles into a medium bowl and set aside.SAM_5835
-Meanwhile, prep ramekins by spraying with cooking spray and setting broilers on high.
-Meanwhile and meanwhile, you can start sautéing onions and tomatoes in a small frying pan with cayenne, to taste.
-Now once your squash is finished and your veggies sautéed, mix both together in one large bowl. Now spritz with lemon and toss in oil and basil.
-Dish out the squash mix evenly into ramekins. Top with a little Parmesan, if desired.
-Broil until desired crispiness is achieved. I waited about 4 minutes, once the Parmesan crumbs had melted down a bit.
-Serve right out of the oven, nice and warm.
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Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

You know I love turkey burgers. Love them because they’re tasty, not a red meat, and quickly becoming a favorite in my family.SAM_5551

 

I also love a good veggie burger or bean burger. The spice in those patties is usually phenomenal–maybe because they have a lot of skeptics?

What I don’t love is that restaurants often make them in a way that’s super caloric and overdone, sometimes dressing them up too much or making them too large and squishy to enjoy.

Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided them for so long. I never thought it would be an easy recipe. I’ve also had my fair share of goopy bean burgers, and well those are just gross.

Then I found myself with about 5 cans of black beans leftover from that nutrition study and no great ideas for how to use them. I found this black-bean burger recipe from Ari’s Menu on Pinterest.com, and I thought, “Why not?”

Ari’s version supposedly crumbled easy, but I was surprised because mine didn’t at all. Maybe it’s because I ground the beans down a bit more than normal–I’ve adapted this one quite a bit. Or maybe my preference for broiling them is what helped them emulsify better? I’m not certain, but I’m happy they didn’t get goopy and fall apart.SAM_5535

Try them! You’ll love them, especially for a quick Meatless Monday dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 ccup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • dash of minced garlic
  • a dash of each: chili powder, cumin, onion powder, red pepper flakes
  • 2 t ground oats or 1 t cornmeal
  • a few cilantro leaves, chopped
  • dash of hot sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to broil. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients in your food processor. Blend for 20-30 seconds until combined. Remove and set on a plate or other clean surface for molding. Use your hands to form the patty, being sure not to make the patty too thin or too thick. I recommend about 1/2 an inch in thickness and well packed.SAM_5554
  3. Place on pan and broil for about 3 minutes on one side, 2 on the other. Serve immediately on a toasty bun with all your favorite veggies and a little more hot sauce if you’re feeling crazy.
  4. If you have a can with 3 to 3.5 servings you can go ahead and triple the ingredients to make extra. The directions will stay the same, just be sure to serve warm. Or if you’re a singleton like me (with no roomates or family members to serve) store leftovers in refrigerator for up to one week, or 3 months in the freezer.

Roasted Corn & Black Bean Soup

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If you know me, you know Happy Fit Mama is one of my favorite bloggers. A successful young mom running her way to happiness and writing about it. What’s not to love.SAM_5001
Oh, and on Wednesdays, she shares her healthy little recipes. Oftentimes, they sound delicious, but I never get around to trying them.
But you know how much I love soup, especially soup I can freeze in mason jars and grab any time I need a quick lunch to take to work.
So I tried her Roasted Corn & Black Bean Soup one Saturday sometime back. It was delicious. The recipe, which serves about six, follows…SAM_4991
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Red Onion, Minced
  • 1 Red, Yellow Or Orange Pepper (or combination), diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 14.5 Oz Vegetable Broth
  • 15 Oz Can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 Oz Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Trader Joe’s Roasted Corn
  • SAM_49971/2 Cup Zucchini, diced (optional)
  • Additional optional toppings: avocado, shredded cheese, plain greek yogurt, cilantro
Instructions
  1. Place 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add red onion and pepper. Cook till softened.
  3. Add garlic, cumin and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn and zucchini (if using).
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 15 minutes.
  6. Serve with toppings, such as diced avocado, shredded cheese, yogurt or sour cream and cilantro.

Pizza Hummus Dip

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Having eaten more St. Louis-style Italian dishes than one can imagine, I know all too well that what makes a perfect Italian dish is a perfect blend of seasonings. I have my favorites. This recipe, modified from Drizzle and Drip’s version, is similar to the season blends I love, plus I add in a few twists.SAM_4910

I actually prepared this hummus for a Super Bowl Party in early February. Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the somewhat chunky consistency of my hummus–the enriching aspects of being a graduate student also come with less enriching realities, like mediocre food processors–it was still a big hit at the party. Again, I blame a good blend of seasonings and one of my favorite all time flavors, simmered tomato.

Try it out! It’s especially good with lightly toasted pita triangles. And if you’re looking to make it even more similar to regular pizza, throw some cheese on top.SAM_4902

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T chopped onions
  • 2 T  tomato paste
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 1t  dried basil /or finely chopped fresh (I used fresh because I didn’t have dry)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tin of  chickpeas /garbanzo beans , drained and rinsed – (but save the liquid)
  • 2 T cup tahini
  • 1T fresh lemon juiceSAM_4907
  • optional: 1t  sea salt / kosher salt
  • optional: ground caraway seed

Directions

-In a small pan, add olive oil, onions, and the first two herbs. Simmer for a minute or so, then add in tomato paste. Simmer another minute.

-Add in chickpeas and garlic. Simmer 3-4 minutes so the flavors become more robust.

-Transfer to food processor. Start processing.

-If your food processor is awful like mine, gradually add in the chickpeas and paste. Alternate settings. Stir frequently and gradually start introducing the tahini, lemon juice, a little more olive oil if you like, salt, and caraway. (Caraway gives a nice pizza spice flavor, I think, but that may be a uniquely St. Louisan preference.)

-Continue to process until you reach a consistency you like. If the dip starts to look too dry, you can add in some of the chickpea juice or more olive oil to keep it moist. Sprinkle with some more Italian herbs and serve with your favorite veggies or pita triangles.

Easy Caprese Skewers

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So quick.

So easy.

And yet, still so darling.

When I didn’t know what to bring to a writing center meeting last fall, I remembered those fancy little caprese skewers on Pinterest. They pop up all the time, but I can’t help but wonder if anyone ever makes them? They look easy enough. But I imagine that the caprese skewers, like so many other popular pins, are pinned and forgotten.

But I remembered. And I wanted to try.SAM_3610

Ingredients

Mozzarella, fresh preferred

1 carton of grape tomatoes

balsamic vinegar for dressing the skewers

fresh herbs to garnish

Directions

Not exactly rocket science on this part either. Just skewer–in whatever order or pattern or amount you like–drizzle with balsamic, and serve on something cute. (Great-tasting food is always 50% presentation.)

A bright, healthful addition to any potluck, and as always, my co-workers thanked me for bringing something fresh to the table. It’s always a pleasure to hear that.

Pigs-In-A-Blanket: All Grown Up & Healthified!

This little piggy went to market,

 

 

 

 

And this little piggy stayed home (in his healthy whole-wheat blanket),

 

 

 

 

This little piggy was actually made from soy,

 

 

 

 

And this little piggy was anything but processed.

 

 

 

 

 

And this little piggy went “Whee! Whee! We all need to eat better, but we don’t have to ditch our favorite meals!”

Okay, certainly not the best story, but the moral is good. You don’t have to give up your favorite meals. You just have to prepare them in a way that’s better for you.

I love kid food. I love pigs-in-a-blanket because growing up I ate them all the time. Even as adult, I still crave them. The problem is that the overly-processed pig parts in regular hot dogs and the hydrogenated oils in store-bought crescent dough is anything but nourishing; it’s the exact opposite.

The solution? Try soy dogs! Unless you’re one of those people who can’t taste salt (and there is so much sodium in regular hot dogs), you’ll never be able to tell the difference between soy dogs and regular dogs.

And then take problem solving a little further with a homemade, whole-wheat “blanket.”

I’ll list the recipe below, but before you protest that you don’t have time to make your own dough, let me assure you that this recipe takes a minute to make and rises in 15 minutes or less. In 15 minutes, you can wash the dishes, prepare other foods, make your lunch for tomorrow, or take a quick cat nap. That’s what I typically do anyway.

Makes 4 little pigs

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 t stevia

1 t onion powder

a little salt, if you must have it

1/2 t yeast

7 T warm (but not piping hot) water

1 t olive oil

2 soy dogs

Directions

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-Combine all dry ingredients, except yeast. Push to one side. Drop yeast on the other side, and then add water. Mix up a bit before blending water with the rest of the dry ingredients.

-Mix in olive oil. Cover with a towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

-When dough has risen, separate into four sections. Roll out into long skinny triangles. Roll the pigs up in their blankets and bake for about 11-13 minutes.

Serve warm and with my absolute favorite condiment of all time: Trader Joe’s organic ketchup! You can even have a little fun like I did decorating the pigs with the ketchup or whatever other condiments you like.

Garlic & Herb Roasted Green Beans

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that will bother quite a few people, I imagine.

 

Green bean casserole

 

And I’m going to do this by going off on a sprout.

 

Green bean casserole. Love the veggie. Hate the fixings that make it a casserole.

 

Don’t get me wrong. A little cream or crispy texture can do a lot for a dish, but green bean casserole overdoes it. Too much cream, too much processed onion crisp, and not enough flavor.

 

That’s why I love this fresh, but flavor-packed alternative. It’s perfect for the holiday dear who wants all the healthiness of green beans without overwhelming your palate (seeing as how it will be overwhelmed by many other heavy dishes and flavors at big meals this holiday season).

 

From EatingWell.com, Serves 8

 

Ingredients

 

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

 

Directions

 

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of ice water next to the stove.
  2. Add half the green beans to the boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer the beans with a slotted spoon to the ice water to cool. Repeat with the remaining beans. Place a kitchen towel on a baking sheet and use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans from the ice water; blot dry with another towel.
  3. Just before serving, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the green beans and stir. Add parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 3 minutes.