Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamy Tomato Bisque

I made this Creamy Tomato Bisque because after my honey and I returned home from our road trip to Chicago he had a bit of a sinus cold. Nasty really. Coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, the whole bit.

I put him on a prescription of lots of orange juice, vitamin C tablets, and lots of rest. Then my honey started talking about this Tomato Bisque we had on the trip for dinner one night and how yummy that would be. He went on and on. 

So I did what I do best; I headed to the kitchen to recreate that bisque. At the restaurant I had done my usual smelling, tasting, and then smelling again and I was feeling pretty confident.
It turned out even better than the resturant style bisque, but that's my own opinion. So it's sort of slanted.

However, what happened the next day after we ate the Creamy Tomato Bisque is fact and it was nothing short of miraculous. 

My honey was cured. 


No longer stuffed up, no sinuus head ache, just a small lingering "Kermit the Frog" voice. 
And this soup isn't just 'sick people' food. It is light, creamy, and full of flavor. Not to mention easy to make. All you need is a food processor and a crock pot. If you don't have either you can also use a blender and a large soup pot.  
Hey, it's all good in love and cooking. And the tomato, herb, cream flavor is worth the few minutes it takes to put this together. You'll probably thank me. 

And if you don't that's okay, you'll be too busy slirping down every last bite! 

Now on with the recipe! 

Creamy Tomato Bisque
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium White Onion
1 Cup Baby Carrots; Chopped
2 Celery Stalks; Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic  
28 oz Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
 32 oz Fat Free Chicken Broth, Canned or Homemade
1/4 Cup Prepared Garden Fresh Pesto (or your favorite)
6 Ounces Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Sour Cream

Shredded Parmesan Cheese and extra fresh basil for serving (optional)
1. Chop onions, carrots, celery and garlic into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the vegetables are smooth. I processed in batches because my food processor isn't huge. Add the canola oil to a large skillet (or your slow cooker if it has saute mode). Add the pureed onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook stirring often until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Then transfer the vegetables to a 7 quart slow cooker set to high heat. 
2. Pour the tomatoes into the food processor and process until they are smooth. Add them to the slow cooker and stir well to combine.
3. Then add the chicken broth, pesto, and tomato paste. Stir together using a wire whisk to ensure everything is incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Leave the crock pot on high for an hour to two hours and then switch it to low heat for 4-5 hours.  

4. In the last 30 minutes of cooking stir in the sour cream and cook until heated through, another 20-30 minutes.
5. Ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated cheese and fresh basil if desired.

Servings: 6

Nutritional Skinny:

207 calories / 5.4 g fat / 17 g carbohydrates / 3.6 g fiber / 9.6 g protein

 Mental Health Tid Bit: Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C and A making this a great meal to combat those winter germs during these transitional months. Not to mention the colder weather seems to beacon us towards indoor activities and lots of warm soups that we can gently cup in our hands and slurp mercilessly in the comfort of our own living rooms. No one else is watching just the fly on the wall the the bottom of an empty soup bowl. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Once again we have an abundance of zucchini. It seems avoidable this time of year, but lucky for me I love zucchini and I love all of the sweet and savory things that I can turn zucchini into.

It really is one of the most versatile vegetables. 

Think about it... What other vegetable can we make into a decadent dessert, a sweet morning snack to serve with tea, turn into a show stopping main course, serve as a sauteed fresh side, or create a delicious stew with this as the main ingredient? 
Really? I can't think of anything else, except for maybe carrots, but we aren't making a main dish with carrots as the center peice. At least not in my house without a whole lot of complaining!

I decided to start with these delicious, moist, and slightly chocolatey bites. They are great for breakfast with a mocha latte or great as a light dessert with a dash of chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top!
They are moist, tender, and melt in your mouth delicious. And don't forget you're sneaking in your vegetables for breakfast or dessert! Now, how's that for a double bonus! 

Now on with this simple and delicious recipe!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
3 Eggs
2 Cups Baking Splenda
1 1/2 Cup No Sugar Applesauce
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Grated Zucchini
3 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 Heaping tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Heaping Ground Nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners. Or do in batches if you only have one muffin tin. 
2. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Stir in the splenda and apple sauce. 
3. Add the cocoa, vanilla, grated zucchini and stir well.
4. In a separate bowl combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir with a whisk to combine.
5. Pour the flour mixture into the sugar and egg mixture. Stir well to combine until it becomes a thick batter. 
6. Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tins filling 2/3 of the way full. I used an old fashioned ice cream scoop that worked like a charm! Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Store covered in the fridge. 
Note: These can also be frozen for up to 3 months. In order to thaw, just set them out over night and they will be thawed by morning.

    Servings: 18

    Nutritional Skinny:

    100 calories / 1.4 g fat / 18.4 g carbohydrates / 3 g fiber / 3.6 g protein

    Mental Health Tid Bit: These muffins are the perfect treat for a busy morning or much needed relaxing evening. Plus they are low in calories and fat and filled with moist chocolate goodness. They are also great smeared with peanut butter or low fat cream cheese for added protein and creaminess. Plus they are great to have in the freezer for when overnight guests arrive. Just thaw and place them out with a bowl of fruit and you have a great morning treat for your guests. They won't even have a clue how healthy they are!

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Sole

    It has taken me way too long to share this recipe with you all. Please forgive me. The road trip to Chicago ate all of my time. Amen.

    This Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Sole was inspired by one of my friend's favorite meals at Macaroni Grill. Every time we go we order a huge jug of wine, lots of rosemary bread, and he starts salivating as he tells the server his plans to eat their Crusted Sole. When it arrives we don't hear a peep out of him until he has licked his plate clean. 
    After a jug of wine it's amazing what you'll do in public.

    The bliss that he achieves through this meal seemed like a great challenge. I set out to recreate that same mouthwatering-plate-licking-goodness. 

    I poked around, played with a few recipes and then of course 'hot messed' things a bit and added some of my favorite ingredients: walnuts, artichoke hearts, wine, and capers. 

    What we ended up with was nothing short of plate licking. There was nothing left and I made the beurre blanc sauce with such furry that I barely got a picture. Please forgive my feverishness, but let's see you try to stop and take photos when your guests are hovering like starving grizzly bears. It got pretty scary during the last moments.

    But the result was nothing short of crisp buttery fish with a river of salty sweet smooth white sauce. We used crusty Italian bread to soak up any leftover sauce. 

    We also served it with Pesto Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons. The pair was perfection. No one spoke during the whole meal. All I heard were the soft slirps of wine, scraping of forks, and the soft moaning of pleasure and hunger satisfied.

    That's what makes me happy.

    Special Note: If you are worried about the higher fat content, you can also bake this fish rather than frying it in butter and oil. This will save you about 70 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving. Just heat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 20-23 minutes flipping once after 10 minutes!

    And believe it or not, this recipe saves 1,000 calories over the Macaroni Grill favorite and has also 20 less grams of fat than the restaurant inspiration! So dig in. Bake it and you save even more!

    Now on with the crispy sweet flaky delicious recipe!

    Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Sole
    1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour 
    1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
    1/2 tsp. Chili Powder
    4 Sole Fillets - 4-6 Ounces Each
    2 Eggs
    1/4 Cup Fat Free Half and Half
    1/4 tsp. Salt
    1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
    1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
    1/2 Cup Walnuts
    2 Tbsp. Milled Flax Seed
    2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    1 Tbsp. Salted Butter
    1 Cup Artichoke White Wine Beurre Blanc (See recipe below)
    1. Special Note: If you are planning to bake the fish, preheat the oven to 375 now. Place three medium sized deep bowls on the counter. Combine the whole wheat flour, garlic, and chili powder. Stir together with a fork. In the next bowl, crack two eggs into one bowl and add the half and half. Whisk together with a fork and season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. 
     3. In a food processor blend the walnuts and place them in the last bowl with the Parmesan cheese and stir together with a fork.

    4. Heat a large skillet with the butter and olive oil until the butter is melted and if you flick water into the pan the oil sizzles. Special Note: Or if baking place each fillet in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for 20-23 minutes flipping each fillet after 10 minutes.
    5. Take the sole fillets and dredge the first sole in flour, then egg wash and finally in the Parmesan/walnut mix. Pat the Parmesan and walnut into the sole until the mix sticks to the fish.

    6. In the large heated saute pan carefully place sole in the pan and shake the pan to make sure the fish doesn’t stick. When sole is golden brown (approx 3 minutes), flip over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. When sole is done (120° F internally), transfer to plate and top with the Artichoke White Wine beurre blanc. Serve immediately!
    Servings: 4

    Nutritional Skinny (Just the sole without the sauce):

    387 calories / 23 g fat / 9.5 g carbohydrates / 2.2 g fiber / 16.6 g protein

    Artichoke White Wine Beurre Blanc

    1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    1 Tbsp. Salted Butter
    1 Tbsp. Minced Shallot (or white onion will work too)
    3 Cloves Garlic; Minced
    1 Cup Dry White Wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc work great)
    1 Tbsp. Capers
    4 Tbsp. Fat Free Half and Half
    1 (14.5 Ounce) Can Artichoke Hearts; Diced
    1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
    1 tsp. Black Pepper

    1. In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and butter and melt the butter then add the shallot and garlic. 

    2. Once the shallot has become caramel in color, approx 2-3 minutes add the wine and capers. Continue stirring until the wine has reduced almost half.  Add the half and half and continue to cook reducing by half. Turn the heat to low and add the artichoke hearts and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled over the Parmesan and Walnut Crusted Sole.

    Servings: 4
    Nutritional Skinny (1/2 cup of the beurre blanc):

    91.5 calories / 4.4 g fat / 5.7 g carbohydrates / 1.3 g fiber / 1.4 g protein

    Nutritional Skinny (For sole with beurre blanc):

    478.5 calories / 27.4 g fat / 15.2 g carbohydrates / 3.5 g fiber / 18 g protein

    Mental Health Tid Bit: This recipe is a bit of a splurge with over 400 calories and 27 g of fat. Here's the tid bit... if this is your favorite meal, or maybe your favorite is mac n' cheese, or meatloaf, or lobster dipped in melted butter. Whatever it is, every once and a while we have to let ourselves really enjoy and eat exactly what we want. Life is too short. Enjoy each mouthful and chew carefully savoring each flavor and leave the dishes for tomorrow. On a splurge night I think it's important to relax and really allow yourself the fullest enjoyment possible. Soak the dishes and sit around the table and talk to your guests or family. Make the splurge a sharing moment. You deserve it!

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Pesto Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons

    Has anyone noticed that I sort of disappeared for a second? A sister's wedding 2,000 miles away will do that to a gal. But, here's the good news:

    1. My sister is successfully married,

    2. I'm back at home in my kitchen, and

    3. This recipe is so delicious the zucchini ribbons with literally put you in a head lock (you've been warned)!
    I found this recipe from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, otherwise known as the author of Orangette. Her memoir is deliciously inspiring. I have already tried about four of her recipes out of the book and I just came off of a 4,000 mile road trip, so that's saying something. If you haven't already check out her blog and pick up her memoir! It's a delicious read!

    This recipe had me at pesto. In case you didn't notice by my last post, pesto is one of my favorite things and zucchini is everywhere in everyone's garden (including mine believe it or not!) And making zucchini into 'noodles' that's just genius! It's great served hot, luke warm, or even cold at a fall picnic.

    All you'll need is one yummy bite swirled around your fork and you'll be hooked. The bright pesto-garlic paired with the slightly crunchy zucchini and the soft pasta just melts all together on your tongue to create the perfect sink into your chair and moan kind of feeling.

    I served this as a side dish to accompany some Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Sole and it was a perfect marriage, but it can also be a stand alone vegetarian meal or you could add some chick peas for extra protein and keep it vegetarian. It would also be great with come diced grilled chicken stirred in at the last minute! The possibilities are endless! 
    Enjoy and let's get on with the recipe!

    Pesto Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons
    1/2 Cup Garden Fresh Pesto
    1 Large Zucchini (approx 2-3 cups of ribbons needed)
    1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    1/2 Box Whole Wheat Spaghetti Noodles
    Pinch of Salt
    Parmesan Cheese (for serving)
    1. Rinse the zucchini to clean the skin of any dirt. Then using a vegetable peeler, mandoline, or large cheese slicer, cut the zucchini long ways into long 'ribbons' or noodles if you will.

    2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti noodles and cook according to package directions leaving them a little less than done, otherwise known as al dente. We will want to add the noddles straight from the pot of boiling water into the zucchini so you'll want to time this so the noodles are ready after you have already started cooking the zucchini.
    3. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large pot or deep skillet. Add the zucchini 'ribbons' and cook stirring with large tongs until tender, but not mushy, about 5-7 minutes over medium heat. 
    4. Once pasta is cooked, add the pasta using metal tongs straight into the zucchini. This will bring some of that yummy pasta water with it giving the zucchini and pasta some yummy liquid for the pesto to marry with.  Then add the pesto to the pasta and zucchini and toss with the tongs until each ribbon and noodle is covered in the pesto. Add salt to taste and serve immediately with lots of Parmesan Cheese for sprinkling on top!

    Note: This can also be prepared in advance and covered on the stove and served at room temperature when you are ready to eat. I made this before the guests arrived for our dinner party and covered it and placed it on the back of the stove. When we were ready to eat, I uncovered it and we dug in. It was great at room temperature served with Walnut and Parmesan Crusted Sole on a cool fall day!

    Servings: 8 for side dish (4 for main course)

    Nutritional Skinny (for side dish/double everything for main course serving):

    139 calories / 6.3 g fat / 4.3 g carbohydrates / 1.2 g fiber / 2.2 g protein

    Mental Health Benefit:  Not only are we abundant in zucchini right now, but it's fantastic for us and this is a great way to hide it from picky eaters! It has 10% of our daily fiber requirements and helps lower cholesterol by attaching itself to bile acids which are excreted by the liver helping to reduce the amount of fat that is stored in our bodies. It's also loaded with Vitamin A and C plus the magnesium in zucchini helps us lower our blood pressure and the large amount of folate helps us fight inflammation! This is another one of those great super foods and making then into noodles is the perfect disguise to get your kids and/or spouses to enjoy the health benefits even if they are picky eaters!