Friday, January 27, 2012

Italian Chicken and Kale Soup

A few days ago, I contracted a bit of a soar throat. Yep. 'Tis the season right?

I chat with my parents and my dad encourages me to purchase some Airborne. I head out to Target and discover a new flavor.. Berry. Sounds delicious!

With the box in my hands and some sugar free lozenges in the other, I'm about to check out when I remember... Wait... I'm pregnant?!?! Can I have this? I look down at my swollen belly, escape into the snack aisle and make a call to the dad-to be.

"Honey, can you do a Google search on pregancy and Airborne?" He doesn't ask questions, just does the search and comes back with.

"Yeah, it's uncertain the effects, but you probably shouldn't take it." We determine that the lozenges are safe; however, and I leave to find a new game plan for conquering this cold.

The game plan turns into soup. Not just any soup. No, it is a spicy, savory, hot, brothy, delicious Italian Chicken Soup packed with healthy Kale.

I don't pretend to be a miracle worker, but after a few bowls of this deliciously brothy soup that has just a hint of heat from the chili peppers floating down my throat, the next morning I woke up almost cured. Yep, after just one day with a soar throat.

And because this Italian Chicken Soup with Kale is crock pot friendly it takes no time to whip together. HOwever, alternately you could make it on the stove top over medium high heat in about an hour and a half. 

I say, whether you're pregnant or not. If you have a few symptoms or you don't allow yourself to be soothed by this amazingly delicious health packed Italian Chicken Soup with Kale! 

It just might cure you of what ails you..  You never know!

Now on with the recipe!

Italian Chicken and Kale Soup

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Whole Medium Onion, Diced
6 Boneless Chicken Breasts; Diced
2 Cans (14.5 Ounce) Cans Great Northern Beans, Drained And Rinsed
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 Can (28 Ounces) Diced Tomatoes
4 Cups Fat Free Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Bunch Kale (collard greens will also work as a substitution)
1 Bunch Fresh Oregano (or 2 tsp. dried oregano)
Plenty Of Torn Fresh Basil for garnish
Fresh Parmesan Shavings for garnish (if desired) 

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and stir to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. 

2. Add the diced chicken breast and continue stirring and cooking for another 5-7 minutes or until the chicken begins to brown. 

3. Stir in red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper; stir and cook for another 30 seconds.

4. Transfer to a large crock pot set to low. Add the canned tomatoes and chicken broth. Drain and rinse beans, then add to the crock pot. Stir to combine.

4. Rinse the kale and slice into chunks. I used kale from my garden that had already been cleaned, chopped, and frozen and just dropped it in. Stir into the soup. (It'll shrink quite a bit, so don't be afraid when you first add it!) Add a bunch of oregano and stir. 

5. Cook for 2-3 hours or up to 5 hours if you want! Then ladle into individual bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and fresh leaves of basil.

Servings: 8

Nutritional Skinny:

 231 calories / 3.4 g fat / 25 g carbohydrates / 6.7 g fiber / 15.5 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: I want to highlight kale here. It's a little bit crunchier and thicker than spinach, but can be substituted in most recipes where cooked spinach is called for. Kale is high in anti-oxidant qualities and rich in vitamin A providing protection from lung and oral cavity cancers. It also contains high levels of vitamin K which helps aid in neuronal damage thus helping ward of Alzheimer's. It also carries a heavy dose of vitamin C (this the cold sufferers best friend) and vitamin B-6. I'll eat to that! Let's raise a spoon to the delicious and nutritious kale!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Amaretto Pound Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I feel the need to warn all y'all that this recipe is sort of an indulgence...

I didn't make all of my usual substitutions, however I did make enough swaps to cut the calories, fat, and carbohydrates by more than half, without any of the luscious pound cake being lost!

The truth is this: 

I had amaretto in the house that I can't drink (but I'm counting down the days...), I also had this brand new product from Philadelphia Cream Cheese called Indulgence. It is cream cheese in chocolate heaven. Literally, it is tubs filled with a creamy, rich, sweet chocolate flavored cream cheese spread. Need I say more? 
Okay... it comes in White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate. Yum. Now, I have to be honest here. It isn't in stores yet.. but it will be soon. I know...

I'm evil for even bringing this up to y'all before you can go buy it yourself. It showed up on my doorstep on my birthday. Quite appropriate, I thought. So, to honor myself and my mom's birthing day, I grabbed a banana and the dark chocolate and spread a big amount on the banana and ate it straight away. It was heavenly. No cooking required. 

Easy, delicious, and yes, a little naughty, but it was my birthday after all. But I had a lot of it and I wanted to use this amaretto and we were invited to a friend's for a house warming and I thought Amaretto Pound Cake using a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting might just be our ticket in the door.

And I was right on. It was amazing! Soft, buttery, dense and the perfect compliment to the white chocolate cream cheese frosting. 

I cheated because you can't exactly do this today. But you will be able to very, very soon. If you need to make this now.. just combine 3/4 cup of amaretto and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Poke holes in the cooled cake and pour liberally over the pound cake to saturate.

And don't worry, I'll let you know when you can get your own Philadelphia Indulgence

In the mean time, allow yourself to indulge in this delicious Amaretto Pound Cake!

Now, on with the recipe...

Amaretto Pound Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Cup (8 Ounces) Unsalted Butter, softened
8 Ounces Fat Free Greek Yogurt 
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 2/3 Cup Baking Splenda
4 Large Eggs
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
4 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsps. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 Cup Fat Free Milk
1/4 Cup Amaretto

White Chocolate Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/4 Cup Amaretto
8 Ounces Philadelphia Indulgence White Chocolate

1. Heat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, cream butter and yogurt and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the milk and the amaretto liqueur. 
4. Add dry mixture to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and ending with dry ingredients. Mix the batter until smooth and well blended. Pour batter into the prepared Bundt cake or tube cake pan. 

5. Bake for 1 hour to an hour and a half. Check after one hour and if still not firm and a toothpick or cake tester doesn't come out clean when inserted in center, cook for for another half hour checking after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15-30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, combine additional amaretto with the Philadelphia indulgence and whip with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. 
7. After the cake has cooled to the touch, about 30 minutes, smooth the creamy frosting over the top and sides. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve!

Servings: 20 slices

Nutritional Skinny:

223 calories / 10 g fat / 29 g carbohydrates / .2 g fiber / 3.5 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: This is a bit of a splurge, I won't hide behind it. I rarely post such indulgences, but it was my birthday, I had booze, and I wanted a little sugar. What can I say, nobody's perfect and a splurge is allowed no matter who you are. But by making a few swaps such as using Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese and cutting the sugar in half and using Splenda for the other half I have managed to make this a slightly skinnier version which saves over 200 calories, 20 g of fat, and almost 60 g of carbohydrates! I hope you have this kind of "guilt-less" indulgence in your future too!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Three Bean Winter Chili

Chili season is here! 

It's been an unusually warm winter here out in wild Montana, however on my birthday (Jan 10th), as with many birthdays, the temperatures took a nose dive and the snow started flying...

And you know what that means!


I just love a great winter storm, a blanket of fresh white snow outside, and the smell of warm chili wafting through the house. Nothing says 'winter' like some delicious spicy chili and fresh crisp temperatures outside.
I used a three bean approach for this one and kicked it up with some Slap Yo Mama seasoning. Although if you don't have that seasoning from Louisiana I have included the measurements for a version using regular spices you should have on hand.

Chili isn't only warm your soul food, but it's also hearty good for you faire loaded with lean protien, fiber, and lots of vegetables that you hardly even notice, but the nutrition is intact.

So, if your snow has started flying start your own winter tradition and make some super easy slow cooked Three Bean Winter Chili!
Go ahead and grab a big bowl, a big spoon, and take a big 'ol bite and let me know what you think? Pretty delicious isn't it? 

And on with the recipe!

Three Bean Winter Chili

1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 Large White Onion; Diced
6-7 Small Cloves Garlic; Minced
1 Green Pepper; Diced
3 Stalks Celery; Diced
1/2 Pound Lean Ground Beef (or Turkey)
1 (15 Ounce) Can Reduced Sodium Kidney Beans
1 (15 Once) Can Western Style Chili Beans
1 (15 Ounce) Can Reduced Sodium Black Beans
1 (14.5 Ounce) Can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp. Slap Yo Mama Spice (or 1 tbsp. Chili Powder, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. garlic salt)
1 tbsp. Black Cracked Pepper

Garnish: Shredded cheddar cheese and fresh chives (if desired) 
1. In a large skillet add the oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, green pepper, and celery. Saute for 6-8 minutes or until the onions and peppers have softened. 

2. Add the ground beef (or turkey) and continue sauteing until the meat has browned and the pink is gone, about another 5 minutes.

3. Transfer to a crock pot set to low heat. Add the cans of kidney, chili, and black beans, un-drained. Pour that bean juice right in also! Then add the roasted tomatoes with their juices. Stir to combine. 

4. Add the tomato sauce and all of the spices to the crock pot and cover and allow to cook for 6-7 hours or set to high and cook for 3-4 hours. 

5. The serve in large bowls with shredded cheddar cheese and chives, if desired!

Servings: 6 main dishes (approx 1 cup each)

Nutritional Skinny:

356 calories / 6.2 g fat / 45 g carbohydrates / 13.4 g fiber / 28 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: Here's the best part. All of those carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates driven by all the highly nutritious beans that are packed in this chili. Plus it is loaded with lean protein from the beans and the lean ground beef. And seriously, we all need tons of fiber every single day. Do you think you get it? I sure try, but often fall short. This chili is packed with over 13 grams of fiber per serving! If that doesn't help us reach our quota, I have no idea what will! So why not fix yourself up some easy and delicious Three Bean Winter Chili and delight in the flavor and let your body sigh with the abundance of nutrition packed into each bite!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

One of my favorite winter foods is warm and savory butternut squash. I also happen to love risotto, however it is usually loaded with tons of calories, carbohydrates, and fat due to the rich arborio rice and cream used to make these dishes extra creamy and flavorful. 

Due to this I work to avoid risotto, that is until I found out that Pearl Barley can be used as a substitute for risotto and it turns out amazing!

This amazing pearled barley contains as much protein as a cup of milk and has 6 grams of soluble fiber. Count me in!

Paired with butternut squash, this Butternut Squash Barley Risotto is a sure to become winter classic. Not to mention a great vegetarian option without feeling deprived.

I put all of the ingredients in the crock pot and got busy cleaning the house. In 4 hours dinner was ready and delicious.

The pearled barley soaked up the broth just like risotto, minus all of the labor intensive stirring, making a rich and creamy base for the softened and sweet butternut squash to nestle. 

I added a little spinach and vuala! Instant healthy and creamy comfort food without butter or cream! Isn't life beautiful?
Okay, now on with the recipe! Happy New Year!

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

1 Medium Butternut Squash (about 4 cups), Peeled and Seeded, Cut into 1/2 inch Cubes
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Shallots; Sliced Thin
2 Fresh Springs Rosemary
2 Cups Pearl Barley

4 Cups Low Sodium Fat Free Chicken Broth
2 Cups Water
Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper
2 Cups Frozen or Fresh Spinach
2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1. Let's start with the butternut squash. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Then peel the outer 'shell' off using a pairing knife or a triangle vegetable peeler. Then slice into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.
2. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and place the sliced shallots in hot oil. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until the shallots soften. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stem (I do this by pinching the bottom of the stem and running my opposite hand along the leaves in the opposite direction of their 'flow' and they fall right off!). Place the rosemary leaves in with the shallots and cook until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. 
3. Add the barley to the skillet and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. The barley will begin to smell nutty and brown. Make sure to stir and agitate the skillet frequently to avoid burning the barley.

4. Transfer to a large crock pot set to high. Add the butternut squash, chicken broth, and water. Stir to combine all ingredients. Cover and allow to cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours on high heat. 

5. After 3 1/2 hours the barley should have absorbed the excess water and the mixture should be thickened. Add a pinch of salt and pepper (about 2 tsp each) and the spinach and parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and cover and allow to cook for another 15 minutes. Stir as needed.

6. Serve in large bowls with extra Parmesan cheese and cracked pepper. This is delicious and completely satisfying!

Servings: 6 main dishes

Nutritional Skinny:

178 calories / 5.2 g fat / 14 g carbohydrates / 4.2 g fiber / 6 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: Using pearl barley instead of traditional arborio rice saves you 380 calories and 82 g carbohydrates per cup. Now if that isn't a steal I don't know what is. Not to mention it provides double the fiber and the same amount of protein. Plus you won't miss out on any of the flavor or rich creamy texture. In fact I think the pearled barley actually provides a more rich and creamy flavor than arborio rice, original risotto maker. So relax, stuff the crock pot and enjoy with the winter comfort food reformed to meet even your wildest New Year's resolutions!