Coconut Curry Vegetable Soup

Well, it’s official. My first sick day of the season.  Congested, achey, coughing, wheezing, the works.  I’m terrible at being sick mainly because I’m terrible at laying in bed all day; especially when a sunny, snowy mountain is taunting me through my window.  Strap on the skis and let nature do the healing?  It’s yet to be decided. But in the mean time, to appease my restlessness I decided to mix up a pot of my favorite go-to soup. I’m ashamed I haven’t posted any soup recipes to date but today, I right my wrong.  This recipe is a tasty, easy-to-make crowd pleaser.   Coconut milk gives this curried soup the right amount of creamy sweetness that will leave you and your guests begging for seconds.

Although a classic vegetarian recipe, if you prefer your soups with a little more gusto, feel free to add one chicken breast, shredded.  Also, try substituting the rice called for in this recipe, with any other grain you are trying to clear out of your pantry. Try barley for extra fiber. Try lentils for extra protein.  Not kidding, from start to finish, this takes 20 minutes.  That is hard to beat when preparing a healthy, filling, homemade meal.

Coconut Curry Vegetable Soup
(not necessarily in that order)
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 package (16oz) frozen stir-fry vegetables –if you’re feeling ambitious use fresh veggies
  • 1 can (14oz) vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup uncooked instant brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce1 can (14oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
*Makes 4 servings
1.  Combine vegetables and broth in a large saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  
2.  Stir in rice, curry powder, salt and hot pepper sauce.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 8 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring once.

3.  Stir in coconut milk; cook 3 minutes or until heated through.
4.   Remove from heat; stir in lime juice and serve.

TIP 1:  For a lighter soup with less fat and fewer calories, use lite unsweetened coconut milk.  This is found in the international of any supermarket.

This is the difference between regular and lite coconut milk. Lite coconut milk contains 50% less fat than regular coconut milk

TIP 2: Double this recipe.  Eat to your heart’s content and freeze the remaining half for an unexpected sick day, or a day you don’t feel like cooking.
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Homemade Nutella

You may be asking yourself why the word Nutella finds itself on a self proclaimed “health” blog.  If you’ll remember from my chocolate post, I state that for all chocoholics, such as myself, it is best to embrace the fact that, healthy or not, you are going to eat chocolate.  So it’s best to have healthier versions of chocolate on hand.  And so, I give you homemade Nutella.  With all natural ingredients, less sugar, and more fiber, this recipe is practically sinless…practically (please sense the sarcasm here).

As is often the case with packaged foods, companies change ingredients or portion sizes with the flux of product popularity.  Often times ingredient substitution results in a junkier product because true ingredients are replaced with cheaper, artificial ones.  Such is the case with Nutella.  The original recipe called for more cacao and less sugar.  But over time, cheaper ingredients have been substituted.  So this recipe brings Nutella back to it’s roots, replacing sugar with honey, and modified palm oil with powdered milk.

A few things to help you “healthify” this recipe:

  • Use skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Do not strain the hazelnuts – this will keep more fiber in the Nutella
  • Use high quality chocolate chips that contain more cacao and less sugar
  • Eat with whole wheat crepes instead of oreos.

With that being said, here is the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • pinch salt
  • 1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 scant (a little less than) cup milk chocolate chips

Toast hazelnuts either in the oven, @ 400ºF for ten minutes, or on high in the microwave for about five minutes.  While warm, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and blend until they go from finely ground to pasty and thick, like natural peanut butter.

Meanwhile, warm the milk, powdered milk, honey and salt in a small saucepan just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat. In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave), melt the chocolates, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate to the ground nuts and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well blended and as smooth as you can get it.

  • Makes about 2 cups
  • Takes approximately 30 minutes to make

I made this last night and it is delicious!!  I didn’t have time to take pictures of the cooking process, but mine turned out a little bit smoother than the picture at the top.  Guess it depends on how long you blend for.  This tastes almost identical to Nutella except a bit more chocolatey. When I make it next I’ll leave out an 1/8 cup of milk chocolate chips.  Overall, a definite success; I feel a little less guilty eating it, knowing there’s less sugar, almost no preservatives, and it’s homemade! Crepe night here I come!

Say Hello to your New Best Friend: Quinoa

As many of you know, I recently celebrated my 25th birthday, which was great.  I was able to enjoy a lot of my favorite things, including a whole chocolate Bundt cake from Corner Bakery.  If you’ve never tasted it, I’d recommending staying as far away as possible, for once that decadent, rich, chocolaty goodness reaches your lips, you’ll never be satisfied with regular chocolate cake ever again.  However, to offset the fatty, sugary goodness of the cake, my friend made a delicious, fresh tasting Mexican quinoa salad.  So I snagged the recipe to share it with y’all to make and enjoy.  It makes a lot, like, a lot.  So half, or even quarter it if you’re just cooking for one or two people.

Before I divulge the recipe, let me tell you a little bit about the miracle grain that is quinoa (Keen-wah).  It’s perhaps the easiest of all grains to make, prepare, and digest.  It has the same protein level as a glass of milk. It has high levels of B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E.  It’s GLUTEN-FREE which means if you or anyone in your family suffers from Celiac disease, this little guy is a great alternative.  It’s ideal endurance food. So if you’re training for a race load up on the stuff; it’s a power food that packs a punch: will keep you nice and full, longer than pastas will.  And it’s a great source of fiber. 

Something to note: when preparing quinoa be sure to rinse before cooking.  Quinoa produces an outer toxic coat (to protect it) that gives it a somewhat bitter flavor.  You’ll be able to tell it’s sufficiently washed when there are no more soapy-like bubbles streaming off of the grain.  Most grains produce a toxic coat, so it’s always best to wash your grains before preparing.  With that being said, here is the tasty recipe:

 MEXICAN QUINOA SALAD

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa & 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onion
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn (thawed)
  • zest from 2 limes
  • 1/2 c. queso fresco or jack cheese

DRESSING:

  • 3-4 limes (for juice)
  • 1/4 c. white wine or rice vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1 Avocado (optional)

Cook quinoa according to package directions, using the 2 can of chicken broth as a substitute for water. (You may need to add water to make enough liquids to the recipe, just  like with rice. For every cup of quinoa, you add 2 cups liquid) Let quinoa cool in fridge (for at least 1hour) Once cooled, in large bowl, add quinoa and salad ingredients together.

In blender, add ingredients for the dressing and pulse until mixed together.  Pour over salad.  Refrigerate for 1+ hours and serve. Add extra cilantro, avocado, and lime wedges as a garnish.

Eat This Not That

It’s time for a rousing game of…dramatic pause with drumroll…Eat This Not That! – both an exciting and educational game in which two different foods are listed side by side, and you are told why you should replace the unhealthy food, with the healthy food. 

So what, you may be thinking to yourself, is the game part of this… game?  Trying the substitutions 🙂  I can tell you from firsthand experience, that just like spinning the Big Wheel, or playing Plinko,  it is a gamble trying out some of these substitutions.  In theory they are great.   But at my current level of cooking prowess, I am in no position to advocate all of these food exchanges.  However I’m certain for the average person, making the substitutions is easy peasy.   As for me, I am lucky to get the oil/applesauce switch right.  So for both the average cook, and more culinary daring folk, here is  a comprehensive list of tried and true substitutions that help cut out unnecessary fat, boost fiber/protein consumption, all without substituting flavor.

Behind Door #1:

Rolled Oats/Bran Cereal for Breadcrumbs – Substitute rolled oats or crushed bran cereal for breadcrumbs in foods like meatballs, or breaded chicken.  WHY? Cutting out empty carbs and replacing them with fiber is a GREAT way to flatten the stomach and boost digestion.

Behind Door #2:

Spinach for Iceberg Lettuce—Substitute any need you have for Iceberg lettuce with Spinach, or ANYTHING with a deep green color.  WHY? You will get SOOOOOOO much more bang for your buck.  Besides containing more vitamins and minerals, spinach has three times as much folic acid than iceberg lettuce, which, in a nut shell enhances one’s ability to lose weight.

Behind Door #3:

Brewers Yeast for Cheese – Substitute shredded cheese on salads with a sprinkle of Brewers Yeast.  WHY?  Cheese is loaded with saturated fats, which can quickly turn a healthy salad into a calorie sucking hole.  Brewers Yeast helps cheese lovers lessen their grip on cheese by adding the same cheesy flavor to any salad.

Behind Door #4:

Avocado for Butter – Substitute half of the butter in any cookie recipe with mashed avocado.  WHY? You will reduce the fat content by almost HALF, and reduce the number of calories by nearly as much.  You still get the creaminess of butter, and the fatty taste and won’t even taste the difference.  NOTE: your cookies may come out with a hint of green.

Behind Door #5:

Beans for Flour/Shortening—Substitute straight across pureed black beans for flour/shortening in any brownie recipe.  Put the whole can of beans into your blender of choice and blend until smooth. If you use boxed mixes, still add in the extra beans.  WHY?  It will lessen the fat content of the brownie while majorly boosting the fiber.   Having tried this substitution a few times, I can soundly say this is a GREAT switch.  You can’t taste the difference and the brownies come out very moist and dense.

Behind Door #6:

Nuts & Seeds for Pretzels – Substitute mindlessly snacking on pretzels with nuts and seeds.  WHY? Nuts and seeds are loaded with fiber and protein, which will satisfy your craving for a crunchy snack, and will keep you fuller longer.  Pretzels are just empty carbs with no health benefits.   Be careful however, because some nuts are high in calories.  If you’re a mindless eater with a need for a food to keep you busy for hours on end, stick with sunflower seeds.

Behind Door #7:

Applesauce for oil – Substitute straight across vegetable oil with applesauce in any baked good recipe.  WHY? The applesauce will keep any baked good moist and delicious while easily cutting out saturated fats and calories in vegetable oil. 

Behind Door #8:

Cauliflower for Rice – Substitute your side of rice or potatoes with sautéed cauliflower.  Break up cauliflower into tiny rice size pieces and sauté them in olive oil and garlic.  WHY? Cauliflower is a healthier carb with a lower glycemic index than rice.  Your blood levels won’t spike after eating cauliflower like they do when eating potatoes or rice.  It is that spike in insulin that leads to further carb cravings.

Behind Door #9:

Yogurt for Sour Cream – Substitute any sour cream based veggie dip with plain yogurt.  WHY?  Yogurt is lower in fat and calories.  Add a packet of Ranch dip seasoning to yogurt and you won’t even be able to tell the difference.  So whether it be to dip veggies, potato chips, or pizza in, yogurt is a leaner option.

Behind Door #10:

Sliced Zucchini for Lasagna Noodles—Substitute lasagna noodles with lengthwise, thin slices of zucchini or eggplant.  WHY?  Pasta noodles are wasted carbs, which will spike insulin.  Zucchini/eggplant are full of fiber and will help keep you fuller longer and help you eat less. 

Behind Door #11:

Dark Chocolate for Milk Chocolate  — Last but not least, make sure your chocolaty indulgence  is in the form of dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  WHY? Dark chocolate is richer and will satisfy that sweet tooth quicker, so you don’t have to eat as much chocolate.  It is packed with anti oxidants, which will help you feel happier and healthier.  Just remember the key to eating chocolate: moderation.

Here is a great recipe for Amazing Black Bean Brownies to put your newfound knowledge to the test.  I’ve tried this recipe a few times and it is delicious.  Just make sure you blend the black beans thoroughly before adding them into the batter.  When I firstmade these I didn’t have a blender so, I mashed the beans in a Ziploc bag instead.  Epic fail.  Lesson learned: if you don’t have a blender, don’t try this recipe.

Kale and Chocolate Combined at Last!

 

Since starting this blog, I have been challenged to find a recipe, which combines my two favorite ingredients to form something nummy.  I am pleased to say I have done just that:
I can’t say the idea came straight from my own culinary creative mind.  Rather, I was recently inspired while perusing a cookbook published by one of my all time favorite actresses, Gwyneth Paltrow.  As it turns out she is a zealous kale fan as well (which in discovering, only increased my level of nerdy fan-ness, first nurtured by her performance in Emma).
In the book I was pleased to find a handful of kale recipes, including a simple recipe for kale chips.  I have to admit, I did a double take at the thought of this.  But at second glance,  I was pleasantly surprised with the idea: a homemade, healthy, preservative-free, chip!  This is a GREAT recipe to help cut calories that are usually wasted on normal potato chips.  The best part?  You can actually pronounce all of the ingredients in these chips, unlike 80% of packaged chips.  So give it a try.  It’s FAST, CHEAP, EASY, HEALTHY, and DELICIOUS!    Not to mention, this may be the BEST way to introduce your kids and/or spouse, to kale.  It’s something they (and perhaps you) will want to eat as opposed to have to eat.   
KALE CHIPS
Ingredients
1 bunch kale (I like curly kale. It crispifies even better, to give that authentic potato chip crunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil (don’t be too generous otherwise the leaves will become soggy.  No one likes a soggy chip!)
Sea salt, to taste  (If you’re not used to the taste of kale I’d recommend using a seasoning salt/herb mixture to match what your mind says a “chip” should taste like)
1/4 c melted dark chocolate
Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2.  Remove the leaves from the thick stems  and tear into chip size pieces. Wash and completely dry the kale.
3.  Toss kale with olive oil in a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.
4.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until crisp.
And now for the best part:
5.  Drizzle melted chocolate atop the kale chips. Sprinkle with additional salt, or if you’re feeling particularly spicy, a dash of chili powder.
If you opt to use seasoning salt rather than sea salt, probably best not to drizzle with chocolate.  I’d say either/or, but not both.
Try it, enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think.