Curry Butternut Squash Bisque

As the holidays wind down and the cold months of winter are spread before me, I love the excuse for delicious comfort food at the end of a busy, cold day. This soup is particulary delicious after a day on the slopes, with a cold nose and tired achy muscles.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large (3 lb) butternut squash
  • 1 large apple, skinned and chopped (Honeycrisp is particularly delcious)
  • 1 large orange sweet potato (or yam)
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 TBSP Coconut Oil (or Olive Oil)
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Tobasco sauce
  • 4 cups of Chicken broth (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)
  • 14 oz can of Light Coconut Milk (or low fat 2% evaporated milk)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put butternut squash in the microwave for 2 minutes. Take it out, cut off the stem, and then cut it half at the waist of the squash. Put the flat edge of the squash down on the cutting board, and slowly cut down to skin the squash. Cube the squash into squares and set aside.IMG_5472
  2. Peel sweet potato and chop into cubes. Steam squash and sweet potato in a basket until it’s soft (20-30 minutes). Set aside.IMG_5473
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Add chopped onions, apples, curry, pepper and salt, sautéing over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.
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  4. Add squash, sweet potato, Tobasco, and chicken broth to the onion base. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth. IMG_5481
  6. Add the coconut milk to the soup, return to simmer, and the soup is ready to serve. This recipe freezes very well for spur of the moment soup on a cold winter day.IMG_5482

Makes 8 cups, 140 calories per cup.

Chips and Dip … Revised

From book clubs to movie nights to prayer groups, I love inviting people to come into my home, drink wine and be together. While there is something profoundly delicious about the standard “chips and salsa” fare for such occassions, I have added a few additional dips and and dippers to add color and diversity. This is not so much “cooking” as it is an idea for a quick way to create a vibrant, colorful spread for a party.

Book Club Chips & Dip

DIPPERS:

  • Tortilla Chips (look for the 3 – 5 ingredient chips: corn, oil, salt, touch of lime)
  • Mini Bell Peppers, halved with the tops cut off
  • Jiama, skinned and cut into flat strips, spritzed with fresh lime and chili powder

DIPS:

  • Guacamole (fresh avocados, garlic, salt and pepper, and some fresh salsa)
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Cowboy Caviar (available pre-made at Trader Joe’s or Costco; bell peppers, black beans, and corn)

Eggplant Caprese

As the cool spring sunshine gives way to a warmer summer blaze, the really good tomatoes are returning to us. The gritty, hard tomatoes in the winter are hardly satisfying, but those sweet juicy summertime tomatoes are just delicious! This is one of my favorite summer recipes, bringing the delicious open-faced caprese sandwich to a veggie-loving palate, offering a grilled eggplant disk in lieu of a crusty bread.

Eggplant CapreseINGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Eggplant, cut in discs, 1/4″ thick
  • 2 Beefsteak Tomatoes, cut into discs
  • 4 oz Soft Mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar, drizzled

PESTO INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2 Tomatoes (chopped to 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Combine all the pesto ingredients and puree in a blender until smooth.

2.  Heat olive oil on grill (or in a flat bottom pan on the stove top.

3.  Fry eggplant on both sides in the olive oil. Season with salt.

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4.  Spread pesto on the eggplant, then top with tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil.

5.  Top eggplant stacks with freshly ground pepper and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


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Egg White and Sweet Potato Casserole

Casserole (3)

Finding the time and motivation to prepare a healthy breakfast every day is rather challenging, so I have become a huge fan of making frittatas and casseroles that will last for several days in a row. That way, I can reheat my delicious, veggie-rich and protein breakfast in just a couple minutes. This recipe almost functions as a quiche, as the sweet potato lined dish almost functions like a crust. As always, subbing other veggies for the zucchini definitely works.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium 5″ sweet potatoes (orange and/or white flesh)Casserole (1)
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • seasoning to taste (sea salt, fresh ground pepper, fresh rosemary)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and then slice them into very thin discs. Set aside 12 discs for the top, then layer the bottom of a glass casserole dish with the sweet potatoes.
  3. Pile the grated zucchini, cheese, chopped onions and seasonings.
  4. Add the leftover 12 discs of orange sweet potatoes on the top of the casserole.
  5. Whisk together the egg whites and almond milk and pour over the vegetables.
  6. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes. The casserole is done when it doesn’t jiggle.

Casserole (2)

Makes 4 servings, 130 calories per serving.

Homemade (Dairy-Free) Creamer

Vanilla Spice Almond Milk

When a certain well-known coffee shop recently came out with the delicious Vanilla Spice latte, I was enthralled! The simplicity of a warm vanilla latte mixed with the spicy cardamom was absolutely delicious. After indulging in this sugary treat one too many times, I decided it was time to see if I could recreate my own version with raw ingredients and less processed sugar. And now I cannot get through my morning without it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 Gallon of Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk (or Coconut Milk works too)
  • 1 tsp Cardamom seeds
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine all ingredients in large sauce pan over low-medium heat.

photo 12.  Cover and let it simmer for 45 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer it simmers, the more of the delicious cardamom flavor will come out.

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3.  Pour the liquid through a mesh strainer to catch the cardamom seeds.

4.  Pour the strained liquid into a glass jar and store in your refrigerator.

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5.  Serve a healthy portion with coffee (I add 1/2 cup of the milk for a 16 oz cup of coffee). Due to the chemistry of the almond milk and the coffee, curdling does occur sometimes, but the texture and taste should be unhindered.

Makes 8 cups, 60 calories per cup (or 30 calories per 1/2 cup serving)

Cheesy Vegetable Polenta

My Texas-bred Uncle Ron has this incredible recipe for  Jalapeno Cheese Grits, an ultimate comfort food. My version captures the same delicious cheesy texture with lots of vegetables and without all the extra cream and butter.  This recipe is one of my favorite plan ahead meals, particularly as a filling, easy breakfast for early mornings before work.  It also works well as a side dish for dinner, doing double duty as the starch and vegetable. I have experimented with all sorts of vegetables (including spinach, mushrooms and asparagus). All of the variations have been delicious, though I am particularly fond of the zucchini bell pepper combo that I have laid out here because it provides some great color contrast to the yellow polenta.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium zucchini, grated (a large tooth cheese grater works well)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 sweet (or yellow) onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups of boiling hot water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup polenta (dry corn grits)
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the vegetables and lay them out in a 13 x 9 oven safe casserole or glass dish.

photo 1 photo 2

3.  Add boiling water to polenta and sea salt.  Mix together well, then pour over vegetables.

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4.  Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

5.  Take casserole out of the oven and add the sharp cheddar cheese. Mix well and return to the oven for 20 more minutes.

6.  Remove casserole from oven and let it cool at least 10 minutes before serving. If you are making this for later, I scoop out the warm polenta and put into individual microwave safe dishes so that it is easier to grab and go during the week

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Recipe makes four hearty servings, 240 calories per serving.

Bell Pepper Nachos

Whenever I am craving a cheesy indulgence that I can eat with my fingers and top with creamy guacamole and chunky salsa, nachos would be the obvious choice! Enter in Mini Bell Pepper Nachos: they are super quick and easy to prepare and you are indulging in all your cravings while essentially just eating veggies and a little cheese. Yes!

Bell Pepper Nachos

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 – 10 Mini Bell Peppers
  • 1/2 cup of Cowboy Caviar (black beans, corn, and mini red peppers)
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Optional Toppings:

  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Fresh Cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut off the stem of the mini peppers, then cut them in half longwise
  2. Stuff each of the open peppers with Cowboy Caviar (shredded chicken or pork also works well)
  3. Microwave the stuffed peppers for 2 minutes
  4. Sprinkle the peppers with sharp cheddar cheese and return to the microwave for 1 – 2 more minutes (until cheese is melted)
  5. Let the nachos cool for a couple minutes, and then add your favorite toppings

Recipe makes one serving, 260 Calories (without optional toppings)