Posts tagged healthy

Easy Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato soup in bowl

Growing up I never liked tomato soup. Maybe it’s because tomato soup so often is thought of–and served–as the thin, salty version that comes right out of a can. A few weeks ago my husband and I escaped for a brunch date at Nosh Eatery just outside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the soup of the day? Tomato soup. We decided to give it a try.

At NoshSimple, fresh and soothing the tomato soup at Nosh had a thicker consistency perfect for dipping when paired with rye sourdough crisped with sharp American cheese inside. We’ve started a tradition since then of making tomato soup with grilled cheese every Saturday. We’ve finally come close to Nosh’s.

Tomato soup at Nosh

Next step? How to entice kids to give it a try. My first approach is not to overwhelm my kids with a big bowl. I gave them a small amount and encouraged them to use it to dip. So far, my kids have gradually been asking for more soup. It helps that we’ve been having it…every weekend.

Tomato soup for kids

 

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes including cooking

Servings: 6-8

1 white onion, diced

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

2 28-oz. cans whole plum tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

2 cups chicken broth

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tbsp. fresh basil, divided

1/4 tsp. sugar or agave

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (mild) or cayenne powder (if you like it hot)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Optional

Fresh tomatoes, diced

Prepared pesto

Parmesan cheese

 Tomato soup cooking

Directions

  1. Bring the oil to medium heat in a large soup pot and add the onions. Saute until translucent (about 5 minutes) – I cover the pot for the last 3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in both cans of whole tomatoes along with 3 tbsp. basil. Heat until it just simmers. Use a mixing stick to puree the tomatoes.
  4. Add in the chicken broth and fresh diced tomatoes (if using). Blend again with the mixing stick.
  5. Sprinkle with seasonings listed and adjust to taste. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Serve with a dollop of pesto and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and the remaining fresh basil.
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Coconut oil whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Coconut oil whole wheat chocolate chip cookiesShould you be swapping out butter and other fats in recipes for coconut oil in the name of healthier sweets? I love the idea that you can instantly healthify cookies simply by mixing in coconut oil for butter. If only it were that simple. After reading about the benefits of coconut oil on Snack Girl I thought I had to give it a try.

The smooth, nutty flavor of coconut oil soaks in the cocoa and amps up the flavor of the chocolate chips. It’s pure coconut-chocolate bliss. But is it healthier? Well, I’d like to think it is. Virgin, unprocessed coconut oil is thought to be healthier than some other fats–yup, we’re talking about you, butter–but it’s not quite outranked olive oil. And it’s not like you’ve nixed the fat entirely as you would when subbing apple sauce for oil (which sadly leads to smooshy sweets). My advice? Moderation in all things–with the exception of this weekend where I had to make a few batches of these to figure out if 100% coconut oil cookies are better. Yes, yes they do.

I tweaked my favorite King Arthur recipe for 100% whole wheat cookies to come up with this chewy version.

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: Around 20 cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup coconut oil (melt it in the microwave for 30 seconds)Cookies with coconut oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

3 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. black onyx powder or dark cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur’s white whole wheat)

1/2 cup chocolate chips, Ghirardelli preferred

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

  1. Beat together coconut oil, sugars, dark cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla.
  2. Mix in the vinegar, egg, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Next, beat in flour, chocolate chips, and walnuts.
  4. Refrigerate the dough for an hour then bake in batches at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Coconut oil chocolate chip cookies close up

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Lowfat, 2-ingredient brownies

Pumpkin browniesI wasn’t expecting much when I read about Yum Yum Brownies on Hungry Girl. Canned pumpkin plus chocolate cake mix. Sounded like Thanksgiving mixed with Ghirardelli. Eww. But, I had to give it a try–I mean, there’s chocolate in it. Add to that, I happen to love canned pumpkin–I never had it as a kid so now it seems like almost a delicacy (go ahead, laugh).

 

Looking online I discovered chocolate-pumpkin desserts have quite a following. I opted for Cookies & Cups version–one family-size box brownie mix and one can Libby’s Pumpkin. That’s it. Well, almost. I tweaked the recipe just a little bit.

 

A few notes:

  • The brownies end up with a fudge-like consistency. Nothing wrong with that! I cut them into squares and put them in the fridge. I think they’re better cold.
  • If you didn’t know there was pumpkin in the brownies, you’d wouldn’t guess it.
  • My tween loved these brownies–maybe because she convinced me to let her have them for breakfast, “They’re healthy mom, right?”

 

Recipe

Prep time: 5 minutes + baking

 

Ingredients

1 family-sized box brownies (my fav is Duncan Hines)

1 can pumpkin puree

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl blend together the brownie mix and the pumpkin puree with a hand-held blender. Now, here’s where I had to do a few tweaks–I also added in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon chocolate extract.
  3. Coat a 9″ baking dish with cooking spray.
  4. Spread the batter onto the baking dish and cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

 

Pumpking brownies with a bite

 

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Quick & healthy chicken gyros

Chicken gyrosTraditional gyros require hours of time and special equipment. Anyone have a vertical broiler handy? Yeah, me neither. Instead, I fake it with chicken marinated in Greek dressing. The better the dressing you can find, the better your gyros–Matsos is my favorite. If I have time, I’ll also grill the chicken breasts whole. But if I need dinner in a hurry, I’ll cut them into thin strips for fast cooking on the stove top.

 

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + marinating time

Servings: 4-6

 

Ingredients:Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 10.05.54 PM

4 chicken breasts

1/2 cup Greek salad dressing

4-6 good pitas

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

feta cheese

1/2 fresh lemon

1 tomato, sliced in wedges

1/2 white onion, in slices

2 Tbsps. olive oil

Thinly sliced cucumbers (opt.)

 

Directions:

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips and marinate in the Greek dressing at least 30 minutes. (I usually put the chicken strips in the marinade in the morning so there’s one less step come dinner time.)
  2. In a large saute pan, bring the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the chicken strips and cook through. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lemon at the end of cooking along with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl stir together the Greek yogurt and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. I also like to add in some cayenne pepper. Mr. Squid adds a little bit of extra Greek dressing too–I like to keep mine with just a garlic zing.
  4. Warm up the pita bread in the microwave or on a heated nonstick pan.
  5. Prepare each pita by slathering it with Greek yogurt dressing, then add chicken strips, 2 tomato wedges, a few onion slices, and a bit of feta cheese (and cucumbers if you’re using them).

Teen with gyro

 

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Quick kitchen tip: roasted peppers and onions

peppersI’m always looking for ways to cut cooking times while still making meals flavorful. I’ve found one way to do that is to double up on ingredients when I’m making meals.

 

Last week I roasted a whole pan of yellow and red peppers and onions for fajitas on one night. With the leftovers I pureed the peppers into a shrimp dish the following night and still had some for rice too.

 

Here’s a few ways you could go through a pan of roasted peppers during the week:

  • Puree them into spaghetti sauce
  • Chop up to use in quesadillas
  • Add into omelets
  • Mix into casseroles
  • Toss in with pasta dishes

You get the idea!

 

Easy roasting: Cut 4-5 red and yellow peppers into strips along with 2 medium-sized white onions. Place all of the slivered veggies into a plastic bag and add in 1 tbsp. olive oil (I used garlic olive oil). Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt. Shake the bag to coat the veggies with the oil. Pour onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until the ends just begin to get crisped.

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Kid-pleasing zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Do you have a favorite zucchini bread recipe? I had some extra zucchini on hand this week that needed a home so I used a quick bread recipe from Eating Well. But instead of bread–which takes around an hour to bake–I made muffins instead shaving a good 40 minutes off the cook time.

My kids ate these muffins as dessert after dinner, as treats for school, and after school snacks… Yeah, they really liked these. My youngest even told me these were “the best kiwi muffins, ever.”

Recipe

Courtesy of Eating Well

Prep time: 15 minutes + 15 cooking

Servings: 18 muffins

Ingredients:

3/4 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small zucchini; I used my Cuisinart)
2 cups white whole-wheat flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

My additions (opt.):

1 tablespoon ground flax

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar.
  3. Stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in another bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just moistened.
  5. Stir the chocolate chips and zucchini into the batter. (You can also stir in the optional additions here too.)
  6. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes or until just browned (insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin to test for doneness, if the toothpick comes out clean, your muffins are done!).
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7 summertime snack ideas

Taking a breather from the hot weather, poolside

It’s been one hot summer! Normally, you can find me cooking up something in the kitchen even in 90-degree weather. Not this year! All those 90-degree days with a heat index pushing 100 add up to me looking for cool snacks for the kids.

Here’s a few of my favorite hot-weather treats:

5-minute yogurt popsicles. Yogurt + fruit + freezer = a kid-pleasing snack once they’re done with their water gun fight.

Watermelon limeade. Update your lemonade! Try using limes instead and mix in fresh raspberries, watermelon, or blueberries.

3 Grab ‘n go snack packs. We make these to pack with us when we head to the zoo.

Firefly crackers. Inspired by my kids’ fascination with catching lightning bugs.

Magic smoothies. Secret ingredient? Spinach. It gives the smoothies some heft and nutrition, but your kids won’t even know it’s in there.

Energy bites. My version of granola bites feels like you’re eating cookie batter, only they’re good for you.

Elvis ice pops. Mini frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, then crushed peanuts. Yum!

Fireflies! Don't worry, my kiddos let 'em go at the end of the night

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Whole wheat chocolate yogurt loaf

Reading the description of chocolate yogurt loaf in Debbie Koenig’s Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook I was struck by two ideas: the recipe was inspired by New York City delis (as a former New Yorker I was intrigued) and it’s chocolatey goodness is hypnotic while still being dietlicious.

I’m all for chocolate treats that taste decadent but don’t pack too many calories or fat (think: brownie craving satisfier right here). But I wondered if I could boost the nutrition just a bit. That way I wouldn’t feel too bad adding in some chocolate chips too (hey, we all need more anti-oxidants in our diet and dark chocolate happens to have them, which is why I try to get a little dark chocolate in each day–it’s tough, but I somehow manage).

I figured this recipe with a hefty dose of yogurt would be perfect paired with whole wheat instead of all-purpose flour. I also added a tablespoon of ground flax, 1/4 cup chopped almonds, orange zest, and mini Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

Kid reactions: Well, it’s chocolate, of course they loved it! My teen who has quite the discerning taste buds didn’t like the added orange zest. In her words, “the orange zest brings out the flavor of the whole wheat instead of the chocolate so I’d skip it next time.” If your kids are begging for brownies but you want to try something that might be just a little healthier than your standard recipe, you might consider making this loaf.

Want to see more recipes from Parents Need to Eat Too? Enter the giveaway that’s going on now through next week for a chance to win a free copy.

Recipe

Servings: 9

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking


Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt (I used Greek)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan. (I thought two mini pans would work nicely here too).
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar together on high speed. Then add in the egg and vanilla.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture; blend.
  6. Add half of the yogurt into the batter; blend.
  7. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and yogurt. (The batter will be stiff.)
  8. Mix in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, if using.
  9. Spread the batter into the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.
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