Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creamy Corn and Vegetable Soup

 Ellie Krieger is an excellent cook who develops creative and interesting ways to make healthy foods taste great.  I have two of her books and have yet to be disappointed with her recipes.  I have made her Creamy Corn and Vegetable Soup several times with great success.  My good friends Sarah and Kristen were coming over for a girls lunch and since Sarah is vegan, I decided to make a vegan version of this soup.

Creamy Corn and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Ingredients
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen, thawed
  • 2 cups nonfat milk (I subbed 2 cups of vegetable broth)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium zucchini, (about 1/2 pound) diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk (in our case, the first two cups of vegetable broth) into a blender or food processor, blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and tomatoes and cook until warmed through, but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.


Put 2 cups of the corn and the first two cups of vegetable broth into a blender or food processor, blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 2 cups of corn and the broth and bring to a boil.

Add the pureed corn and tomatoes and cook until warmed through, but not boiling.


Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.


My vegan take on Ellie Krieger's Creamy Corn and Vegetable Soup turned out very well.  I personally enjoy the original version a bit more, but my friend Kristen who has had both said she could not tell a difference between the two.  I served this with a big loaf of crusty bread and a large green salad with tons of chunked up fresh vegetables.  The lunch was beautiful and it was so nice to relax and have some good old fashioned girl talk.  Don't get me wrong, I love watching sports with the guys, but there is just something really special about some great food, wine and conversation with your girls.

-Heather

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gingery Turkey Meatballs with Noodles

My goal each weekend is to prepare food that can be cooked, frozen fully, and then defrosted easily for meals during the week.  Meatballs always freeze well so I have been on a search for some unique new recipes.  Traditional meatballs eaten with pasta and red sauce are great, but it’s always nice to change it up a bit.  Cooking Light’s Gingery Pork Meatballs with Noodles seemed like a great new take on the meatball.  Because I have a freezer full of ground turkey and am not a huge pork fan, I will be changing the recipe to Gingery Turkey Meatballs with Noodles.

Gingery Turkey Meatballs with Noodles
(Adapted from Cooking Light's Gingery Pork Meatballs with Noodles) 
September, 2010.

Ingredients
Meatballs:
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean turkey (CL called for ground pork)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Noodles:
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat fettuccine (CL called for wide rice noodles)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup julienne-cut snow peas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preparation
1. Place a foil-lined jelly-roll pan in oven. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; stir gently just until blended. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Divide pork mixture into 20 equal portions; shape each portion into a meatball. Arrange meatballs in a single layer on preheated pan. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until done.
3. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Rinse noodles under cool water; drain. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, peas, salt, and crushed red pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add noodles; toss. Place 1 3/4 cups noodle mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 5 meatballs. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons green onions.

Nutritional Information Per Serving 
(According to CL's original recipe including the pork and rice noodles and omitting the turkey and whole wheat fettuccine.)

Calories: 506
Fat: 15.4g
Saturated fat: 5.1g
Monounsaturated fat: 6.2g
Polyunsaturated fat: 3.3g
Protein: 30.6g
Carbohydrate: 58.8g
Fiber: 3.7g
Cholesterol: 138mg
Iron: 3.4mg
Sodium: 700mg
Calcium: 81mg  

Place a foil-lined jelly-roll pan in oven. Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; stir gently just until blended. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Divide pork mixture into 20 equal portions; shape each portion into a meatball. Arrange meatballs in a single layer on preheated pan.

Bake at 450° for 20 minutes or until done.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Rinse noodles under cool water; drain. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, peas, salt, and crushed red pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add noodles; toss. Place 1 3/4 cups noodle mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 5 meatballs. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons green onions.

OMG....Gingery Turkey Meatballs with Noodles are amazing!!  We absolutely loved this.  The meatballs came together easily and the pasta was a cinch.  Slicing the snow peas gave them a great texture and shape.  I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light and it originally called for ground pork.  Ground turkey is an excellent substitute and I look forward to making this recipe again and again.  I will double the recipe next time so that I can have a start to an easy weeknight dinner waiting for me in the freezer. 

-Heather

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chicken Poblano Casserole

There are meals that are ideal for weeknights and also meals which are more labor intensive and only suited to weekends (in my humble opinion.) Usually I am drawn to recipes which come together quickly, but Cooking Light's Chicken Poblano Casserole naturally caught my eye because I love Mexican food and anything that comes in casserole form.  The first day of school was a minimum day so I knew I would have plenty of extra time in the kitchen, what better time to give this a try?

Chicken Poblano Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light, September, 2006

Ingredients

3 poblano chiles (about 12 ounces)
1 large red bell pepper (about 8 ounces)
3 ears shucked corn
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk (I used skim)
3 cups (12 ounces) preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided (I used cheddar)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (15-ounce) carton part-skim ricotta cheese
Cooking spray
18 (6-inch) white corn tortillas
3 3/4 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided

Preparation

Preheat broiler.

Cut poblanos and bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place poblanos and bell pepper, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Place corn on baking sheet. Broil 10 minutes or until poblanos and bell pepper are blackened and corn is lightly browned. Place poblanos and bell pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop; set poblanos and bell pepper aside separately. Remove corn kernels from cobs.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat until slightly thick (about 12 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Combine 1 cup milk mixture and poblanos in a blender; process until smooth. Stir pureed poblano mixture into remaining milk mixture.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine bell pepper, corn, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup Mexican cheese, red onion, cilantro, eggs, and ricotta.

Coat bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of dish. Arrange 6 tortillas over sauce, overlapping slightly. Spread half of ricotta mixture over tortillas; top with half of chicken. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup green onions and 2/3 cup Mexican cheese. Pour about 1 cup sauce over cheese. Repeat layers with 6 tortillas, remaining ricotta mixture, remaining chicken, 1/3 cup green onions, 2/3 cup Mexican cheese, 1 cup sauce, and 6 tortillas. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas. Coat 1 side of foil with cooking spray. Place foil, coated side down, over casserole. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Uncover; sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup Mexican cheese and 1/3 cup green onions. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 15 minutes.

Nutritional Info Per Serving

Calories: 369
Calories from fat: 29%
Fat: 11.9g
Saturated fat: 6.1g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.9g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g
Protein: 33.1g
Carbohydrate: 33.8g
Fiber: 3.6g
Cholesterol: 98mg
Iron: 1.8mg
Sodium: 594mg
Calcium: 536mg  
Preheat broiler.

Cut poblanos and bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place poblanos and bell pepper, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Place corn on baking sheet. Broil 10 minutes or until poblanos and bell pepper are blackened and corn is lightly browned.

Place poblanos and bell pepper in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes.

Peel and coarsely chop; set poblanos and bell pepper aside separately.

Remove corn kernels from cobs.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat until slightly thick (about 12 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Combine 1 cup milk mixture and poblanos in a blender; process until smooth.

Stir pureed poblano mixture into remaining milk mixture.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine bell pepper, corn, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup Mexican cheese, red onion, cilantro, eggs, and ricotta.

Coat bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of dish. Arrange 6 tortillas over sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spread half of ricotta mixture over tortillas; top with half of chicken. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup green onions and 2/3 cup Mexican cheese. Pour about 1 cup sauce over cheese.

Repeat layers with 6 tortillas, remaining ricotta mixture, remaining chicken, 1/3 cup green onions, 2/3 cup Mexican cheese, 1 cup sauce, and 6 tortillas. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas.

Coat 1 side of foil with cooking spray. Place foil, coated side down, over casserole. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Uncover; sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup Mexican cheese and 1/3 cup green onions. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 15 minutes.

Cooking Light's Chicken Poblano Casserole is pretty darn good...not out of this world...but pretty darn good.  It was similar to many of the other tortilla based casseroles that I have come across.  The roasted pablano sauce was really tasty but the final product needed a little more heat.  Fortunately we had some leftover spicy avocado sauce from a local Mexican market so we added a little to our portions.  I prepared this casserole a day before and then did the baking portion the night we ate it. I will try this again in the future and play with the ingredients a little.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to create this dish, it is not a dinner for weeknights!

-Heather

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mozzarella, Ham, and Basil Panini

I am very aware of most people’s ability to make sandwiches without a recipe.  Often I pass right by these types of recipes because they seem a little silly to me.  I had bought a large amount of black forest ham when my parents were in town (Dad’s favorite).  We planned on making sandwiches to bring into the Angels vs. White Sox game but ate such a late lunch that we didn’t even bother.  I certainly didn’t want the ham to go to waste so when I found Cooking Light’s Mozzarella, Ham and Basil Panini in the September 2010 issue that I was deconstructing, it seemed like a perfect recipe to try.

Mozzarella, Ham and Basil Panini
David Bonom, Cooking Light, September 2010

Ingredients

1 (16-ounce) loaf ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
12 basil leaves
8 ounces sliced 33%-less-sodium cooked deli ham (such as Boar's Head)
2 sweetened hot cherry peppers, sliced
1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
Cooking spray


Preparation

1. Brush cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush cut side of top half with vinegar. Top bottom half with mozzarella, basil, ham, peppers, and tomato. Top with remaining bread half.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sandwich to pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges.

 
Nutritional information per serving


Calories: 371
Fat: 12.5g

Saturated fat: 6.1g

Monounsaturated fat: 5g

Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6g

Protein: 20.2g

Carbohydrate: 44.9g

Fiber: 1.8g

Cholesterol: 46mg

Iron: 3mg

Sodium: 976mg

Calcium: 220mg

 
Brush cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush cut side of top half with vinegar.  (I had some nice whole wheat rolls so I used them in place of the ciabatta.)

Top bottom half with mozzarella, basil, ham, peppers, and tomato.  (I had pepperoncinis so I chose to use them instead of buying the hot cherry peppers.)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sandwich to pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges.  (I used my griddler but have used this suggested method many times before with great success.)

Yum, yum, yum.  This was a great sandwich, it honestly would have never occurred to me to use balsamic vinegar, an addition that put it over the top.  The basil leaves added freshness and the pepperoncinis that I replaced the cherry peppers with added a nice spice.  I had some leftover whole wheat rolls that I used instead of the ciabatta bread.  The cooking method suggested in the directions is one that I have used often times before with great success.  You can also cover a brick with foil and use that to weigh down the sandwich in your pan.  I used the Cuisenart Griddler that I treated myself to a few holiday seasons ago to press my panini.  CL’s Mozzarella, Ham and Basil Panini is simple to make and much more special than your typical sandwich.

-Heather

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creamy Parmesan Orzo


I've noticed that I am a one pan type of girl when it comes to cooking.  Casseroles and pasta dishes seem to be my go-to items.  When I do prepare meals that have different components I seem to find lots of great protein and vegetable recipes, but I need to acquire a few more starch recipes.  I came across Cooking Light's Creamy Parmesan Orzo from March 2004 during my quest to purge my extensive magazine collection.  It seemed as simple as they come, so I gave it a try.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2004


Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted
Preparation
  • Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Info Per Serving

Calories: 236
Calories from fat: 24%
Fat: 6.4g
Saturated fat: 3.2g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g
Protein: 9.9g
Carbohydrate: 34.8g
Fiber: 1.7g
Cholesterol: 12mg
Iron: 1.8mg
Sodium: 412mg
Calcium: 82mg
Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes).

Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately. (I omitted the basil and pine nuts because I did not have any on hand.)

In one week, I have made CL's Creamy Parmesan Orzo three times!  I initially served it with rosemary lemon chicken kabobs and the Green Beans and Red Onion with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette recipe from my last post.  This pasta side dish is fantastic, it doesn't call for very much cheese, but the flavor of the Parmesan comes through sharply.  We enjoyed it so much the first time that we experimented two days later with whole wheat orzo, and it was just as tasty.  When my parents flew into town from Chicago for cousin Timmy's wedding, I made this a third time because I knew they would love it.  CL's Creamy Parmesan Orzo would compliment any main dish well; steaks, burgers, grilled fish or chicken would all benefit from being served along this delicious side.

-Heather

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Green Beans and Red Onion with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette


Organizing my home has been my top priority lately.  I am trying to de-clutter as much as possible so that my transition from super-fun summer to super-lame school year can be a smooth one.  Stacks and stacks of cooking magazines were found in my closet and I have been going through them, ripping out recipes to try.  Our best friends Stephen and Christy and their little guy Andrew were coming over for dinner yesterday and I knew I wanted to grill some Lemon Rosemary chicken kabobs. From my giant new pile of to-try recipes, I chose Green Beans and Red Onions with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette from Cooking Light, December 2003 as our vegetable side.


Green Beans and Red Onion with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2003

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preparation
  • Cook green beans in boiling water for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender, and drain. Combine the green beans and onion in a large bowl.
  • Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and black pepper; cook over medium heat 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, stirring vinaigrette constantly with a whisk. Drizzle vinaigrette over bean mixture; toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutritional info per serving
  • Calories: 69
  • Calories from fat: 38%
  • Fat: 2.9g
  • Saturated fat: 0.4g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4g
  • Protein: 2.6g
  • Carbohydrate: 10.4g
  • Fiber: 4.3g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0mg
  • Iron: 1.5mg
  • Sodium: 232mg
  • Calcium: 54mg
Cook green beans in boiling water for 6 minutes or until crisp-tender, and drain. (I steamed mine for 7 minutes.)

Combine the green beans and onion in a large bowl.

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and black pepper; cook over medium heat 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, stirring vinaigrette constantly with a whisk.

Drizzle vinaigrette over bean mixture; toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

WOW.  CL's Green Beans and Red Onion with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette is awesome!  I haven't been this excited about a vegetable side dish in quite some time.  This recipe is very easy to make and the sauce is made from pantry staples that most people always have on hand.  I actually steamed the green beans earlier in the day and just nuked them in the microwave for two minutes before adding the sauce.  It really couldn't be more simple.  All of the vegetable eaters at the table gave these green beans two thumbs up, and Christy asked me to send her the recipe.  This recipe is already on the menu for next week when my parents come to town.

-Heather