Friday, August 20, 2010

Black Bean Soup

This soup is really hearty and delicious.  Also, it is pretty quick to make - it took me about 30 minutes, start to finish.
The main ingredient - black beans.

Let me give you some benefits of black beans from The World's Healthiest Foods:
     -Lots of fiber
     -Lots of protein
     -Lots of antioxidants
     -Lots of iron
     -They help to lower cholesterol

Fast and Delicious Black Bean Soup

I modified the recipe -- no bell pepper (because I can't always find organic bell peppers, and bell peppers are on the Dirty Dozen list of fruits/vegetables), ground turkey instead of ham, no salt, and no cheese or sour cream on top (but only because I forgot to add them).  Also, I didn't bother to puree one of the cans of black beans.  I've done that before and it just seemed like an unnecessary extra step.

Put the following in a pot and heat for about 5 minutes:

     -2 tablespoons olive oil
     -1 medium onion, chopped (I used quite a bit less)
     -2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
     -3 cloves of garlic, minced

Next, add the following:

     -2 15-oz cans of black beans
     -1 14-oz can chicken broth
     -2 cups cooked ground turkey
     -1/4 teaspoon cumin
     -ground black pepper to taste

Bring it all to a boil, and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Garnish, if you like, with some shredded cheese and/or sour cream.

This is wonderful with some corn bread on the side!  (I didn't feel like making any so I had some toasted homemade bread).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spinach Basil Pesto

I was looking for recipes to use spinach in a way that I would enjoy, because I'm not a fan of vegetables.  I found this one a year or two ago and I was very surprised at how much I liked it.

Here is where I found the recipe:Spinach Basil Pesto

It is fabulous with either pasta, chicken, or both.  

Here is how to make it:

- If you're planning to use this with chicken and/or pasta, get that cooking first.

-Next, throw the following into a blender or food processor:
     -1 1/2 cups baby spinach
     -3/4 cup basil
     -1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (often, I cannot find these at the store, so I have substituted almonds)
     -1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
     -4 cloves garlic, peeled & quartered
     -3/4 teaspoon salt (I leave this out to reduce the sodium)
     -1/2 teaspoon pepper
     -1 tablespoon lemon jice
     -1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I leave this out cause I never feel like grating lemon peel)
     -1/2 cup olive oil

-Blend/process.  I have to add quite a bit more olive oil as it's blending; otherwise, this is too thick for the blender to handle.  If you have a food processor I bet it would work much better.

-Once your pasta and/or chicken is finished cooking, just add a few spoonfuls of the pesto and voila!  I keep the extra in the fridge (but then again, I am just cooking for two people so you may end up using the entire batch).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chicken Packets

The recipe I have for these chicken packets originally came, I believe, from "Once a Month Cooking", and calls for refrigerated crescent rolls.  Those are horrible for you though, so I found a recipe for homemade crescent rolls and figured that I would just use whole wheat flour in order to make them healthier.

I followed the recipe for crescent roll dough, halving it, but used half white flour and half whole wheat flour.  I also used butter instead of shortening and sucanat instead of sugar.

After I let the dough rise the first time, I rolled it out and cut it into rectangles instead of circles.

The recipe says to roll the dough into a circle, cut each circle into triangles, roll them up, and then freeze them.  I didn't do that...I just let the dough sit while I prepared the chicken.

I boiled 4 chicken breasts and then shredded them.  Next I added about 3/4 a package of cream cheese.  I started with just 3 ounces but ended up using more.  I also added a few chopped chives.

Here is the chicken mixed up with the cream cheese and the chives:

Next I took a rectangle of dough, rolled it out a bit more, and then put a pile of the chicken mixture on it.

I folded the dough over and pressed the edges together to make a little packet.  I guess I didn't put enough chicken in this one cause I had extra dough, which I trimmed.

Using the 4 chicken breasts, I had enough to make about a dozen packets.  However, I had lots of dough left over - I think I could have fourthed that crescent roll recipe.  Oh well, I just put the extra in the freezer and I can use it to make actual crescent rolls another day.

I baked one of the packets at 350 for 15 minutes so that I could try one right away, and popped the others in the fridge so that we will have a quick meal ready for Sunday after church.

These are fun to eat and I think they would be great for taking to work for lunch.  They can be eaten cold, if you like.

I will note that using whole wheat flour for the crescent rolls sure made them heavier than the light-and-fluffy refrigerated kind you buy in a store.  Also, using sucanat made them not quite sweet enough for my taste.  Perhaps I'll try honey next time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

Why I made homemade bread:

-Store bought bread has preservatives.  Google "dangers of preservatives" and you will find lots of information on why you want to avoid them.  Here is one quote, "Preservatives are toxic and tumor-causing. Most impact the nervous system, changing behavior. Some have an impact on reproductive health or weaken the immune system."

-Store bought bread has sodium.  I don't mind it so much but my husband has hereditary high blood pressure and will not eat any store bought bread because of the salt content.

-Many store bought breads have high fructose corn syrup (although it is possible to find some without it if you look hard enough).

-Usually I cannot find any organic bread in stores, but with homemade bread, I can use organic ingredients.

Thus, my attempts at homemade bread.  I even went out and bought some 9x5 glass loaf pans.

Making it really isn't that hard but it just takes a lot of time because I don't have a bread machine.

Here is the recipe I tried today:  Simple Whole Wheat Bread

The recipe does call for both bread flour and whole wheat flour.  I went ahead and bought bread flour, because it said "Unbleached."  I thought that meant it would still be whole wheat...but when I opened the package it was pure white refined flour.  I don't want to waste that bag of flour so I went ahead and followed the recipe but I think next time, I will attempt it using only whole wheat flour.  Oh, also, I left out the salt. 

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes THREE loaves.  So I can keep one loaf out and pop the other two in the freezer until needed.

Let the dough rise...

Then, punch it down.

Next you divide it into three loaves and let those rise.  Then you put them in the oven:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (and a couple cherries...)

Goal: To eat more fruits and vegetables.

I often buy lots of delicious looking fruits at the grocery store, with the best of intentions.  But so often they get moldy after only one day.

So one day I discovered that if I cover some strawberries in chocolate, I will eat them ALL within a day or two.  I know that chocolate covered strawberries have been around forever, but they have never tempted me because strawberries have never tempted me...they have all those little seeds and make for a weird texture.  But somehow they are really good with chocolate.  I guess if you use dark chocolate then it doesn't make it unhealthy.

1.  Wash the strawberries.

2.  Melt the chocolate.

I used this 85% dark chocolate plus some regular chocolate chips because the 85% is not sweet enough for me.

I broke the bar into small pieces and melted it all in a saucepan on low heat, stirring constantly.  I only used maybe a third of the bar along with some chocolate chips.

3.  Dip
Just tilt the pan a bit so all the chocolate gathers into one little pool, grasp a strawberry by its stem, and twirl it around in the pool of chocolate until it is covered.  Or, you can use a spoon to drizzle chocolate around the strawberry while you're holding it above the pan.

Place the strawberries on a plate covered with wax paper and pop it all in the fridge for a little bit.  Pretty soon the chocolate will harden.

As you can see, I dipped some cherries too, because I happened to have them on hand and wanted to see how they would taste covered in chocolate.

Now whenever you have a sweet tooth, you have a delicious snack in the fridge ready to go, and you can feel so good about all the vitamin C and antioxidants you're getting!  Enjoy! =)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicken and Lentils

My husband has been wanting to eat more lentils because because he discovered how healthy they are for one's heart.  (See World's Healthiest Food's info on lentils.)  They also have lots of fiber and iron.

So, I searched for lentils on and found this recipe.  (I have modified it, somewhat.)

First, I took 3 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts and boiled them.

Next, I heated up some coconut oil and added some chopped onion.

I then added chopped carrots and garlic. 

Next, I added the 3/4 cup of dried lentils (after rinsing them) and 14 ounces of chicken broth.
The recipe says to boil it, cover it, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes it became VERY dry so I had to add quite a bit of water.

20 more minutes of simmering and then I added the cooked chicken after shredding it.

The recipe then calls for a 10-oz can of tomato sauce.  I had to add more water, too, because it was getting too dry.

After 10 more minutes of cooking, I added some basil and some marjoram (had no rosemary on hand) and stirred in some fresh lemon juice.

I wasn't expecting to like this stew because I'm not a fan of lentils but I was surprised at how much I did.