Thursday, March 29, 2012

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup

We're still having some chilly weather so I'm enjoying excuses to throw easy soups into the crock pot while I still can. 

I love the crock pot. I really do. 
It doesn't ask much of me, I can over load it and it still provides me with a delicious hot and soothing soup no matter what. And it doesn't ever complain.

And neither will your family when you serve them this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup. Loaded with fresh cauliflower and potatoes makes this super comforting and the cream and cheese make it creamy and mouth watering. 
I made this for my honey's parents when they came to visit and we ate this after they first arrived and had been on the road for four hours. They each ate two bowls exclaiming how great it was. They loved it so much that his mother even offered to clean up after dinner. 

Okay, so that had more to do with my huge belly full of baby, but whatevs.

The added bonus is that this literally took me about 20 minutes to throw together into the crock pot and then I went about my business cleaning the house and getting ready for company. Six hours later this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup was ready to eat after adding a little cheese and scooping into large bowls. 

Delicious simplicity.

My favorite kind of dinner.

I served it with Cheesy Bread Sticks that I made by simply stuffing shredded cheese in Pillsbury bread sticks rolling it up with some oregano and garlic salt and baking. Slice the bread and dinner was ready. 

But somehow it felt like I cared enough to make something home made for these guests that traveled to see us. 
And I do care. Dinner doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be filled with love, which this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup is loaded with.

So, on with the recipe!

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion; Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic; Minced
1 Cup Celery; Minced
4 Cups Cauliflower; Chopped (about 1 head of cauliflower)
1 Large Potato; Washed and Diced
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
4 Cups Fat Free low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 (12 Fl Oz) Can Low Fat Evaporated Milk
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 Cup Green Onion; Diced
1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, and celery. Saute until onions become translucent and fragrant, about 3-6 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large crock pot and add the chopped cauliflower and potato. 
3. Stir to combine, then add the salt and pepper followed by the stock and evaporated milk. Stir to combine and cook on low for 6-7 hours.

3. After the 6 or 7 hours, pierce a potato with a fork to ensure tenderness. Place half of the soup in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the blended soup back into the crock pot and stir. This will add more creamy texture and retain some of the chunks of potato and cauliflower as well. (You can skip this if you want it chunky or blend the whole thing if you want it smooth. 
4. Add the cheddar cheese and stir and allow to cook for another 15 minutes in order to melt the cheese. Then spoon into large bowls and serve topped with extra cheddar cheese and sliced green onions! Delish!

Servings: 8

Nutritional Skinny:

147 calories / 5 g fat / 20 g carbohydrates / 3.1 g fiber / 10.4 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: This is a great recipe for a busy weekday or hectic weekend filled with activities and to dos. Plus it's loaded with fiber and protein and not so loaded with fat. And using lots of cauliflower instead of lots of potatoes saves lots of carbohydrates and adds lots of soluble fiber. This meal couldn't be any better for your heart or your mind. Dig in!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes

I found this recipe for Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken and Potatoes in one of my Taste of Home magazines one Sunday afternoon and immediately put it on the top of my pile of recipes to try.

I actually only made two adjustments just because I didn't have all of the necessary ingredients on hand.  So a made a few minor swaps that worked.

And amazingly, it turned out just as delicious as it sounds. I mean really, you HAVE to try this. Plus, the bonus is it's compiled on one cast iron skillet and into the oven it goes and out comes this gorgeous skillet filled with lemon and garlic infused chicken topped with roasted rosemary potatoes and crispy skinned and succulent tomatoes. 
One skillet and about an hour of prep and cooking and dinner is on the table ready to go. Not to mention mouth-watering aromas are floating about your house for those 45 minutes getting your family salivating in preparation for the amazing meal ahead.

And that's it. Dinner is done and done. Perfect recipe for busy families, which as I know is pretty much all of us!

It has been promoted to one of our favorite easy week night meals in record time.

While we were eating, my honey made several comments such as, "Nice job honey, this chicken is really good." And he doesn't usually talk while he eats so this is something special. Nor does he usually comment on the food unless he as a suggestion for improvement. He's sort of my advocate and adversary in the kitchen.
But no constructive comments for this meal. I served it with fresh warmed corn muffins and it was the perfect sweet soft bite to accompany the Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes. 
Now all we need is someone else to come do the dishes and it would be a perfect evening!

Okay, on with the recipe!

Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes 
1 tbsp. Olive Oil, Divided
2-3 Lemons, Thinly Sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced and Divided
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt; Divided
1 4/ tsp. Pepper; Divided
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts; 8 Ounces Each
1 Pound Red Potatoes; Cubed and Washed
1 Large Tomato (or a bunch of cherry tomatoes); Chopped
1/4 tsp. Fresh Rosemary; Minced 

1. Add about half of the olive oil to the cast iron skillet and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Slice the lemons into thin rounds and place them on the bottom of the cast iron skillet making a thin layer of lemons.
3. In a large bowl, place the chicken breasts and add the garlic, lemon juice,and half the salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss the chicken breasts to coat them with the seasonings. Then place them on top of the sliced lemons in the cast iron skillet.
4. In a separate bowl, add the chopped red potatoes, minced rosemary, tomato, and the remaining salt and pepper. Toss to saturate the potatoes with the seasonings and then layer them evenly over the chicken breasts in the cast iron skillet.
5. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, checking after 45 to see if the potatoes are tender to the touch. Meaning they pierce easily with a fork. If not leave in for another 10 minutes and continue checking every 10-15 minutes. Climate, oven, and altitude will determine how long this takes.
6. Then remove from oven carefully (the skillet is HOT) and scoop onto large plates with a corn muffin and enjoy this simple rustic meal.

Servings: 4 Main Courses

Nutritional Skinny:

400 Calories / 8.7 g fat / 25 g carbohydrates / 3.3 g fiber / 50 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: This dinner is not only easy and super delicious, it's also great for the whole family. It's loaded with lean protein great for growing bodies as well as mature bodies to keep our engines running throughout the day. And it also is low in fat and has a significant amount of fiber. This is a meal you can feel good about throwing in a skillet and serving to your family. Not to mention the great healing qualities of licopene and it's cancer fighting agents from the tomatoes. It's a show stopper and a health bounty for sure!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

Quiche is definitely one of my stand bys when I have overnight guests or serving a few people for brunch.

It's easy, quick, and always a crowd-pleaser. Not to mention that its also a one dish wonder. No one really talks about it like that, but I do. You mix a bunch of vegetables, eggs, and cheese together and pop it in the oven and presto! Instant delicious meal!
It really is that easy. Just choose complimentary flavors that you happen to like together and hug it all together with some egg. I have also done this with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, and feta cheese. Yummy. But so is asparagus, tomatoes, peas, and monterey jack cheese.

Pop it in the oven while you chat away with your guests and in about 50 minutes... you're ready for breakfast, brunch, or even an unorthodox dinner. 
I love to serve it with some fresh fruit sliced or even a fruit salad if you want to be a little fancier, but no need really. Sliced oranges or cantaloupe are just as pretty and delicious. But a nice fresh salad is also delicious with a fresh quiche and it means more vegetable intake which never hurt anyone!

I have whipped up a delicious quiche for breakfast for many a guest using whatever I have on hand and everyone raves. It seems counter intuitive because it takes a lot less time that anyone would think and it always turns out gorgeous when you slice it and show off all the colors of the fresh vegetables and cheese inside.

Hopefully I've inspired you to get in this kitchen and impress your friends!

Now on with the recipe!

Cheddar and Broccoli Quiche

3 Cups Fresh Broccoli Florets
5 Large Eggs
4 Egg Whites
1/4 Cup Skim Milk
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Cup Cheddar Cheese; Shredded
1 Prepared Pie Crust 
1. Chop the broccoli into small bite sized florets. Place them in a microwave safe bowl with about a 1/4 of a cup of water in the bottom. Microwave on high for 3 minutes just to soften the florets. If you are using frozen broccoli you can skip this step.

2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and egg whites together with the skim milk until frothy. Then add the salt and pepper to the eggs and beat until combined.

3. Shred the cheddar cheese and combine with the partially cooked broccoli. Set aside.

4. Spray the bottom of a pie plate with cooking spray and unroll the prepared pie crust. Place into the pie plate. 
5. Add the broccoli and cheese mixture spreading it evenly throughout the entire bottom of the pie plate. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the broccoli evenly shaking the pie plate in order to evenly distribute the egg over the broccoli and cheese. Press the broccoli and cheese down into the egg mixture making sure it's evenly covered and coated using the back of a spatula. Then fold the edges of the pie crust over itself making a rolled design and tuck the pie crust into the pie pan 'hugging' the quiche.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes. The ultimate test for done-ness is to remove the quiche from the oven and give it a gently shake back and forth. If it doesn't shimmy or jiggle, then it passes the official 'jiggle test' and its done! Allow to cool and continue setting up for another 10 minutes on the stove top, then slice and serve! This extra 10 minutes makes serving so much easier! I promise it's worth the wait!

Servings: 6 Main Courses

Nutritional Skinny:

216 calories /  19 g fat / 22 g carbohydrates /1.1 g fiber / 17.6 protein

Mental Health Benefit: Quiche is one of those fast and easy to prepare dishes that are visually gorgeous. You can also do wonders for your vegetable intake by loading them up with broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peas, asparagus, mushrooms, or whatever you happen to have on hand. The crust holds it all together and provides a delicious crumbly and sweet flavor. It adds a little fat, but it's worth it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tropical Fruit Pizza

I made this incredible Tropical Fruit Pizza about a week ago to take to our natural child birth class. This class is where we're told what is really happening with my body during labor, how my honey can help, and also where, afterwards; I contemplate canceling the whole thing. 

Then I look down and it's become painfully obvious that it's to late for all that. The seed has already been planted so to speak.
Snacks at class help alleviate this self induced trauma. This Tropical Fruit Pizza definitely did the trick.

Let me illustrate: Just as we were talking about the actual squeezing of the baby out of my privates, I took a bite and thought, "Wow, this is super sweet, yet creamy with a great tang." Much better than, "Do you think if I packed up and moved to Hong Kong the baby would follow me?"
The magic of sweet pizza.

The weather was also amazingly spring-like for a Montana March on the day that I created this Tropical Fruit Pizza.  Today the clouds have settled in and snow is pattering against our large windows it feels comforting to remember the tropical flavors and the sunshine. 

I also cut some corners and used a sugar cookie mix and instant sugar free pudding mix making this a super easy recipe.  You could use any kind of pudding you want though if you want to switch things up. Vanilla pudding, white chocolate, or even pistachio would be kind of fun. 

I used mangoes and kiwis, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Strawberries, blueberries, bananas. Seriously, you are Michael Angelo and this pizza is your Cysteine Chapel. Get after it!

And then slice this with a pizza cutter and take a big 'ol bite that has the rich flavors of cheesecake and sweetness of sugar cookie paired with the tangy bite from the fresh mango and kiwi. 

It's perfect really.

Just like I've decided my child birth experience will be.

Now on with the recipe!

Tropical Fruit Pizza

1 Package Sugar Cookie Mix
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter; Softened
1 Large Egg
1 Package Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding
1 Cup Skim Milk
1 Fresh Mango
4 Ripe Kiwis

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar cookie mix, butter, and egg. Mix with a mixer or spatula until a thick batter has formed.

3. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and evenly spread the cookie dough on the bottom of the cookie sheet making one layer of continuous cookie. Bake in the oven for 7-9 minutes or until cookie is done.

4. Meanwhile combine the pudding mix and the skim milk. Whisk together until smooth and refrigerate in order to set the pudding.

5. Peel and slice the kiwis into thin round slices. Then slice the mango into small cubes. 

6. Once the cookie dough has baked allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes. Then we can begin building the pizza! Spread the pudding evenly over the top of the cookie 'crust' in one even layer. Then place the kiwi and mango slices evenly over the pudding in a fun pattern or just throw them on.

7. Slice using a pizza cutter and serve chilled. You can refrigerate until ready to serve! 

Servings: 20

Nutritional Skinny:

 118 calories / 2.4 g fat / 24 g carbohydrates / .5 g fiber / 1.5 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: This is a seriously fun way to get your fruits. It may not be the healthiest way, but if you are craving some dessert this goes a long way with only just over 2 grams of fat and still has a little bit of fiber and protein. It's also a really attractive dessert to bring to a party and easy to eat! A total win-win situation for everyone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mung Bean Dal Soup and Garlic Whole Wheat Naan

This blog post of delicious Garlic Whole Wheat Naan and Mung Bean Dal Soup was inspired by a book I just finished. 
Does something you've read ever inspire you? Maybe it's a book that inspires you to try out a new hair style, a new parenting direction, or a new flirting technique?

These are my favorite kind of books... the ones that make you go... "Hummm?... I wonder... "

This time I wondered if I could recreate the tastes of Egypt. And the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

The book I just finished is Red Goddess Rising written by Halle Eavelyn. It's a fantastic read outlining her travels through Egypt. And make no mistake, she hasn't just been to Egypt once, she actually runs a spiritual travel tour group that takes people to Egypt to show them the most ancient and sacred sites. 

So, when I say this is a spiritual guide to Egypt through Halle's eyes, you can assume that her eyes have seen almost everything there is in Egyptian travel. The book takes you through the most famous Egyptian markets to buy classic keepsakes, then to the tombs of King Tut to meditate and chant, and the most famous Egyptian museum and St. Catherine's library as only a few travelers and tourists get to see.

The best thing, in my humble opinion, is that if you want to go and experience what she talks about in the book, all you have to do is visit her website and book a trip and she'll take you! It's amazing and worth every penny. And Egypt isn't the only place she'll take you. Spirit Quest World goes to Bali and China just to name a few others.

I didn't get to travel with Halle on my trip to Egypt, but I was blessed enough to meet her on my plane ride home as the fates arranged for her to stay a few extra days after her tour and sat her right behind me on our flight from Cairo to New York. 

Halle's book is dazzling and my favorite parts are the ones where she describes the huge piles of soft bread puffs (called Naan) and the saffron laced rice, slow cooked stew with curry and cinnamon, and the amazingly tender meats.
The taste of the soft bread puffs we call Naan (or Indian fry bread) and the warm soothing flavors of cumin, curry, and saffron are unparallelled and deliciously soothing as is Red Goddess Rising.

To recreate these flavors all of the spices you will need are in your local grocery store. Including the Garam Masala (found in the spice aisle). 
Plus this Mung Bean Dal Soup is a crock pot recipe making it a cinch. If you can't find Mung Beans you can always substitute some yellow lentils to achieve the same flavor and texture. Not to mention this meal is loaded with health benefits. Check out the Mental Health Benefit section for more information. 
I promise, your house will smell of rich and earthy cumin and curry along with hints of cinnamon and saffron. To these flavors your taste buds will bow. But I beg you, please use the soft puffs of Whole Wheat Garlic Naan to soak up every last drop of the flavorful Mung Bean Dal soup.

If you have a great book that inspired you, please leave a comment! I'd love to find another great read!
Now... on with the recipe!

Dal Soup with Mung Beans
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Large Onion; Chopped
3 tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 Cup Carrots; Chopped
1 Cup Celery; Chopped
1/4 Cup Fresh Ginger; Minced
3 tbsp. Garam Masala
2 tsp. Curry Powder
6 Cups Fat Free Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Cup Dried Green Mung Beans
1/2 tsp. Salt and Black Pepper
1. Saute oil, onion, garlic, pepper, carrots, and celery over medium heat until all are softened. About 5-7 minutes. Stir in the ginger, garam masala, and curry powder and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until aromas saturate the vegetables.

2. Transfer the sauteed vegetables to a large crock pot and add the chicken broth, and mung beans, and the salt and pepper.

3. Stir everything together and set the crock pot to low and cook for  6-8 hours. The beans will be softened and the soup will have thickened slightly.
4. Serve in large bowls with plenty of Naan for dipping!

Servings: 8

Nutritional Skinny:

215 calories / 2.4 g fat / 36 g carbohydrates / 9.3 g fiber / 14 g protein
Garlic Whole Wheat Naan
1 (.25 ounce) Package Active Dry Yeast
1 3/4 Cup Warm Water
1/4 Cup White Sugar
3 Tablespoons Skim Milk
1 Large Egg, Beaten
2 teaspoons Salt
3 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 tbsp. Curry Powder
1 tbsp. Cumin
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. 

2. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and flour. This will make a soft dough. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and flour is absorbed to create a thick dough.

3. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until the dough is smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
4. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic, curry, and cumin.

5. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
6. At this point you have a choice. If you like soft dough puffs you can throw them in a 350 degree oven and bake them for 30 minutes. Or you can preheat a large saute pan or stove top grill with olive oil cooking spray. Take each ball of dough and roll out until about 1 inch thick. Place dough in saute pan nor on grill and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until puffy and lightly browned. Turn over and repeat cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan/grill and sprinkle with sea salt and place in a warm oven, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
7. Serve immediately Mung Bean Dal or use to scoop up a bite of Homemade Garlic Hummus.

Servings: 12 pieces of naan

Nutritional Skinny (per piece):

200 calories /1.7 g fat / 43 g carbohydrates / 4.4 g fiber / 8 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: I could go on and on about how great this meal is for you, but I'll give you the short break down instead. The Dal is loaded with lean vegetable based protein from the mung beans and both the Dal and the naan is loaded with fiber. If you have a bowl of dal with one piece of naan we are talking a whopping 14 grams of fiber! Now that's something to feel good about. Not to mention how good the spices are for your immunity, digestion, and peace of mind. Please make this immediately... please.