Tomato Soup

Homemade tomato soup is a treat all year round. The soup is easy to make and versatile. You can serve it as a first course, with a sandwich, or eat it alone. Any way you choose you will not be disappointed. It is delicious and satisfying.

In this recipe I use chicken stock instead of water to enhance the flavor. Personally I prefer to use chicken stock, but you can easily make this a vegetarian soup by using vegetable stock. If you choose to use vegetable stock, use a good quality stock that you have tried and like.

Let’s get started. . .

Ingredients:

3 – lbs. fresh Roma tomatoes
1 – tbls. olive oil
2 – carrots
1 – medium onion
3 – cloves garlic
4 – large basil leaves
2 – tbls. tomato paste
2 – cups organic chicken stock
1 1/2 – tsp. sugar
1 – tsp. salt
1 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 – cup heavy cream

Directions:
Dice carrots and onion, and mince the garlic. Heat olive oil in medium sized pot and add diced vegetables and garlic. Sprinkle with a little salt. Sauté about 5 minutes until they begin to soften. In the meantime, dice the tomatoes, then add them to the pot.

Roll the basil leaves as one and slice into ribbons.

Add the basil to the pot and mix well.

Continue to cook about 2 minutes. Once the tomatoes start to make water, clear a spot in the pot and add the tomato paste.

Stir tomato paste and cook about one minute. Be careful not to let it burn. Add chicken broth (if you want to make this vegetarian, add vegetable stock instead).

Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Taste the soup to see if it needs any additional salt or pepper. Slowly add the heavy cream, stir and cook about one minute to warm the cream.

The soup will have some texture with pieces of tomato and vegetables, which is the way we prefer it; however, if you prefer it smooth, you can purée it in a blender.

Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.




Purée of Zucchini Soup

Purée of Zucchini Soup

These cold winter days are perfect for a bowl of creamy zucchini soup. Unlike most heavy cream soups, this one is light, smooth, healthy, and delicious without giving up any flavor. Instead of using heavy cream, this soup gets its thick, rich flavor from adding a potato and a little low fat milk. This soup makes a perfect after work meal not only because it is delicious, but also because it is a fast and easy one pot meal. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread for a great meal.

Ingredients:
4 – small zucchini
1 – large Idaho potato
1 – large onion
1 – carrot
1 – small bunch of celery leaves
2 – garlic cloves
1 -qt. Chicken stock
1/2 – tsp. Salt
Gound black pepper to taste
1/2 – cup 2% milk
Crema Mexicana (for garnish)

Directions:
Cut off the ends of the zucchini, peel the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Quarter each of the vegetables and place the them in a medium sized pot, add the garlic and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame to medium and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. Add salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are fork tender, turn off the flames and use an immersion blender to purée the vegetables. Be careful not to cause the hot liquid to splash.

Once it is smooth, add the milk and stir thoroughly.

This soup can easily be made either vegetarian or vegan. Use can substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock, and the milk can be left out all together. It will still be just as delicious.

To serve, drizzle a little crema on top and enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.




Pico de Gallo with fresh made Tortilla Chips

Pico de Gallo, tomatoes, onion, cilantro

Pico de Gallo is a delicious, healthy, versatile condiment to use any time of the year.  It is especially delicious in the summer months when tomatoes are in season.  The freshness of the tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and lime go great with tortilla chips, on tacos, on top of nachos, or with your favorite grilled meats.

You can use store bought pico de gallo, but this is so simple to make you won’t want to use store bought again. Not only is it great to serve at a party or barbecue, but because it is so easy to make you will want to keep it on hand to serve at home any time.

Here it goes…

Ingredients:

2 – cups dices ripe tomatoes
1/2 – cup diced onion
1/2 – cup cilantro
1 – jalapeño or Serrano pepper (optional)
1 – lime
1/2 – tsp. salt

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes, using a knife instead of a food processor so that the tomatoes are in small pieces and not crushed into a liquid sauce by the blades of the food processor. This will make a nice chunky salsa.

Chop finely the onion, jalapeño, and cilantro (we like a little heat, but if you do not you don’t have to use the jalapeño). Place all ingredients in a bowl and squeeze the juice of one lime over the tomato mixture and sprinkle the salt.

Mix well and set aside for about 30 minutes to let the flavors develop. 

Refrigerate it if you are not going to use it the same day; however, remove it about one hour before you want to use it to allow it to return to room temperature.  I always serve the pico de gallo at room temperature because it tastes best that way.  

Serve with fresh made tortilla chips . . .

It is very easy to do and the result is well appreciated.

Cut the corn tortilla in half and then in half again, making four triangle shaped pieces.  Heat a little canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Place the triangles pieces in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, then flip and cook the other side. It only takes a couple minutes, so do not walk away from the stove.

Remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with a little salt.  Continue cooking the rest of the tortillas.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!




Rice and Vegetable Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant, Rice, Vegetables, Vegan

This vegan stuffed eggplant recipe is delicious and nutritious. My mother’s stuffed eggplant is the model for this vegan version.  Her eggplant was stuffed with ground beef, rice, and  tomatoes, similar to a stuffed cabbage filling. She made it only once or twice a year, so it was a welcome treat. Today, however, I wanted to make a healthier and lighter version based on my mother’s original recipe. I used fresh ingredients that I had available, and I am very pleased with the result.  You’ll find that the stuffing is moist, hearty, delicious, and most importantly satisfying.

Ingredients:

1/2 – cup jasmine rice
1 – carrots
1 – stalks celery
1/2 – medium onion
2 – cloves garlic
Pinch of pepper flake
3 – cups vegetable stock
3/4 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. pepper
1 – cup grape tomatoes halved
4 – basil leaves
2 – tbls. parsley
1/2 – cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

First, put the rice on to cook.  Add one cup vegetable broth to a pot and bring to a boil.  Add the rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce the flame to a simmer.  Cook with the lid on for about 15 minutes.  Stir often and check that the broth does not dry up to quickly.  Cook until the broth is absorbed.  Test the rice to see if it is cooked, but do not overcook.

Next, wash the eggplant and cut it in half, then remove some of the meat of the eggplant to make a well to hold the stuffing.

Set the portion you remove aside, as it will be added to the stuffing.

Make the soffritto using a food processor. Add carrot, onion, and celery and pulse until finely chopped. 

In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 finely diced cloves of garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flake. Sauté about 3 minutes until the garlic starts to soften.  While the garlic is sautéing, chop the pieces of eggplant that you removed and add to the skillet. 

Stir and cook about 2 minutes, then add the soffritto.

Add more olive oil if needed. Sprinkle about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper to the soffritto, mix, and cook about 2 minutes.  Now add 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Continue cooking until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir often so it does not stick to the pan.

Drain the cannellini beans and add them to the soffritto along with the grape tomatoes.

Stir to incorporate them and cook another 3 minutes.  

Next add the herbs and chopped walnuts, stir to incorporate them.

Now add the cooked rice and a about 1/2 cup vegetable broth.  Stir and taste to see if it needs more salt.  

Assemble and Bake

Place the eggplant in a baking dish, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Drizzle olive oil on the eggplant, then fill each half with the stuffing.  Drizzle a little more olive oil over the stuffing and some on the bottom of the baking pan.

Place in a preheated 350° and cook about 15 minutes.  Add about 1 cup of hot vegetable broth to the bottom of the pan and return to the oven.

Cook about one hour until the eggplant is tender and the top of the stuffing starts to brown.  Use the broth in the bottom of the pan to baste the eggplant before serving.

Makes 4 servings

Buon appetito!

 




Chicken, Farro, Avocado Bowl

This chicken, farro, avocado bowl makes it easy to eat healthy. It has all the flavor and nutrition that you are looking for. You can easily get creative with this dish by using your favorite ingredients. A vegan version is also simple to accomplish; just replace the chicken with tofu or beans of your choice.

Start with a grain that you like. I chose farro, but you can use rice, quinoa, or couscous. Next, choose a protein such as chicken, beans, tofu, pork, beef, shrimp….anything your heart desires. However, if you want to keep it light and healthy, I suggest you use chicken, beans, or tofu. Add some sautéed or roasted vegetables, and top it off with a fresh garnish, such as avocado and/or homemade salsa.

The concept of the “bowl” reminds me of a deconstructed casserole. All the ingredients are put in one bowl and enjoyed together. It’s not baked like a traditional casserole, but it is just as comforting. My family and I like casseroles and “bowls”. They are not only fun and easy to eat, but they are also healthier than a traditional casserole, and delicious too.

Let’s get started. . .

Ingredients for farro:
2 – cups farro
1 – tsp. salt
1 1/2 – tbls. olive oil
1 – tsp. Herbs de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add salt and farro and cook until al dente or according to the package directions. Once the farro is cooked, drain it and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, herbs de Provence and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and set aside until the rest of the meal is ready.

You don’t have to worry about the farro getting cold, because it is delicious at room temperature.

Now let’s make the chicken . . .

Ingredients for chicken:
3 – lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 – tsp. oregano
2 – tsp. chili powder
1 – tsp. corriander
1/4 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1 -cup chicken stock
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 – tbls. tomato paste

Directions:
Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet. Once it is hot, add the seasoned chicken and brown on both sides. This should take about 2–3 minutes on each side.

While the chicken is browning, mix the oregano, chili powder,  corriander, cayenne pepper, and chicken stock in a small bowl.

Remove the chicken when it is browned, take a fork and knife and shred the chicken into strips then return it to the skillet. Pour the spice mixture over the chicken and stir well. Turn the flame to medium low and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Next, add the tomato paste and mix through the chicken thoroughly. Continue to cook the chicken about 10 minutes more, then remove from the heat.

Chicken and spices

While the chicken is cooking you can prepare the vegetables.

Ingredients:
3 – zucchini cut into bit sized pieces
3 carrots sliced on the diagonal
2 – bell pepper diced
1 – jalapeño pepper
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
1 – tsp. oregano
2 – cloves garlic
1 – tbls. olive oil

Chopped vegetables

Directions:
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic cloves to a large skillet. As the oil is heating, let the garlic sauté and start to brown and soften, then add the chopped vegetables and seasonings. Stir and cook until tender crisp. Try not to over cook the vegetables. They should have a little crunch to them. When they are done, remove them from the heat and set aside.

Toppings . . .

Ingredients for Salsa:
2 – cups finely diced cucumber
1 – cup diced grape tomatoes
2 – tbls. finely diced onion
1/2 – tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 – tsp. black pepper
2 – tsp. olive oil

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cucumber, tomato salsa

Slice two avocados to top off the bowl.

Assembly . . .

Start by placing about one cup of the farro into a bowl, add the chicken, sautéed vegetables, then top off with salsa and a few slices of avocado.

Makes about 6 servings.

Enjoy!




Tofu Scramble with Potatoes, Peppers, and Spinach

 

Tofu scramble, spinach, potatoes, peppers

Tofu scramble is one of my favorite vegan dishes.  It’s easy, delicious, and versatile.  This recipe uses spinach, potatoes, and green bell peppers, but you can use any vegetables you prefer.  Kale, zucchini, and mushrooms are just a few tasty options.

You can make this for breakfast or brunch, but I like to make it for a light, healthy dinner.  I’m not vegan, as you can see from my recipes, but I do like to eat healthy and prefer not to eat meat every day. Tofu is a good protein source for those days when I want to go meatless.  I find the tofu scramble to be a full-proof vegan dish.  It doesn’t take any special skill to make it taste delicious.

Let’s get started. . .

Ingredients:
2 – tbls. olive oil
2 – cloves garlic minced
1 – large red potato
1 – large green or red bell pepper
1 – small onion
5 – oz. baby spinach
10 – oz. extra firm tofu
1/2 – tsp. cumin
1/2 – tsp. Adobo seasoning
3/4 – tsp. turmeric
1/2 – tsp. oregano
3/4 – tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towel to soak up some of the liquid. Cut the potato into thin bite sized pieces, with the skin on. Heat 2 tbls. Olive oil in a large skillet, add the potatoes, minced garlic and sprinkle with a little salt and ground black pepper.

Cook until the potatoes start to brown. Flip over to brown both sides. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion into small pieces and the green pepper into bite sided pieces. You can use any bell pepper you like.  I happened to have green peppers available, but I prefer red bell peppers.  They are sweeter and they add a nice color contrast to the dish.

Once the potatoes are browned, push them aside and add the peppers and onions.

Cook until the peppers begin to soften then mix together with the potatoes. This will take about 4 minutes.

Add the spinach and mix all together. Cover the pan with a lid until the spinach begins to reduce, which will take about 3 minutes.

Cut the tofu into cubes, then push the potato and vegetables to one side of the pan and add the tofu, leaving a space to put the spices.

Add the cumin, Adobo, turmeric, oregano and salt.

Pour about 1/2 cup water into the spices and mix until completely dissolved, then mix through the tofu, potatoes, and vegetables.

Cook about 5-6 minutes mixing occasionally.

 

Serve immediately with pita bread or any bread of your choice.

This recipe should make 4 servings, but for my family it only makes 3 servings.

Enjoy!




Loaded Chicken Pot Pie with Creamy Polenta Topping

Chicken Pot Pie, PolentaChicken Pot Pie is one of my favorite dishes. The tender bites of chicken, firm vegetables, creamy gravy, and the flaky, buttery pastry crust make the perfect comfort food. The only draw back is the guilt I feel after I eat it. So I decided to make a chicken pot pie that was equally satisfying, but with more vegetables, less salt, less fat, and a creamy polenta topping that equals a healthier, delicious comfort food with less guilt.

Let’s start with the filling.

Ingredients for Chicken filling:

1 – lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 – cups broccoli florets (fresh)
1/2 – medium onion diced
3 – carrots
2 – stalks celery
6 – oz. crimini mushrooms
2 – cloves garlic
1/2 – cup frozen peas
2 – cups chicken stock (no salt added)
1/2 – cup 2% milk
2 – tbls. butter
2 – tbls. flour
Salt
Black pepper
3/4 – tsp. herbs de Provence

Directions:

First prepare the vegetables. Dice the onion, slice the celery, carrots, and mushrooms, and cut the broccoli florets into bite sized pieces.

Add one cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup milk to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. This will be used to cook the polenta.

Next heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Mince garlic and add to the oil. Cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces, and add to the skillet. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Cook the chicken until it is no longer pink, stirring often. This will only take about 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped vegetables and a little more salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Make a little space in the skillet and add the butter and flour.

Stir and let cook about 1 minute then add the chicken stock, and milk.

Next add thefrozen peas, mix well and bring to a boil.

Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat when done, cover and set aside until the polenta is ready.

Time to Cook the Polenta

Now the chicken stock and milk mixture should be boiling, so it is time to start cooking the polenta. I use regular corn meal. It takes a little longer to cook, so if you want to cut the time down you can use the quick cooking corn meal.

Ingredients for Polenta:

3/4 – cup corn meal
1 – cup chicken stock
1/2 – cup 2% milk
1 – tbls. butter
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese
3/4 – cup fontina cheese
1/2 – tsp. salt (or to taste)

Reduce the heat on the chicken stock and milk and add one-half teaspoon of salt. Next slowly add the polenta, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue to stir and cook the polenta until it becomes tender. It will take about 15-20 minutes. If the polenta seems too thick, add a little more chicken stock as necessary.

Once the polenta is ready, add the butter and cheese and stir until well incorporated. The consistency should be smooth and creamy.

Assembly

Fill individual oven-safe crocks with the chicken filling. Place the crocks on a cookie sheet for safer handling.

Top off with the polenta and bake under the broiler until the polenta starts to brown on top.

Keep an eye on them because this will only take a few minutes.

Serves immediately.
Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings




Kielbasa, Sauerkraut and Potatoes in Beer

Kielbasa, Sauerkraut, Potatoes, Beer

Kielbasa, Sauerkraut and potatoes cooked in beer is a delicious meal. I like to add carrots and mushrooms to add another level of flavor, and to round out the all-in-one meal.

My husband is Polish and he loves Kielbasa, so I make it on a regular basis.  It is great grilled, on a sandwich, or served with our favorite pierogis.  I am always trying new ways to prepare it, but I especially like this recipe because I don’t feel as guilty eating it because of the nutritional benefits of the sauerkraut.  It is rich in vitamins and minerals and high in fiber, and the fermentation process makes it a probiotic-food.

This recipe is easy to make and works well for family dinner, barbecue with friends, or watching Sunday football.  Give it a try, I think you will like it.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. Kielbasa (use your favorite brand)
32 – oz. sauerkraut
1 – cup diced onion
2 – cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups carrots (sliced in 1/2” rounds)
2 – medium golden potatoes (cut into bite sized pieces)
8 – oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
12 – oz. beer
1/4 – cup brown sugar (use more if you want it sweeter)
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. coriander
1/4 – tsp. sage
1/4 – tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:
Dice the onions and potatoes; slice the carrots and mushrooms, and chop the garlic. Heat one tablespoon canola oil in a heavy pot, then add the diced vegetables and garlic. Sauté about 8 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle with the coriander, black pepper, and sage. I don’t add the salt until the meal is cooked because it depends on how much salt the sauerkraut and kielbasa have.

Cut the kielbasa into one-inch pieces. Push the vegetables to one side and add the kielbasa to the pot.

Cook about 3 minutes or so until the pieces start to brown.

In the meantime, put the brown sugar into a large bowl and add the beer. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Use any beer you like, they all work well. Then open the sauerkraut and rinse under cold water and drain. I prefer to use sauerkraut in the bag, and organic if possible.

When the kielbasa is ready, add the beer and cook about 3-4 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the sauerkraut and 1/2 cup water. Stir and bring back to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium low, cover the pot and let cook about 25 minute.

When ready, taste and add salt if necessary.

Enjoy!

Serves 4




Brussel Sprout Hash and Eggs

Brussel Sprout Hash, Bacon, Potato, Eggs

Brussel sprout hash and eggs is a delicious and healthy meal any time of day—breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner.  I don’t know about you, but my family and I like all-in-one meals, and this hash fits the bill perfectly. The shredded brussel sprouts are enhanced with a little bacon and diced potato to make a very tasty hash. The egg on top balances out the meal perfectly.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. brussel sprouts
1 – large red potato
2 – slices of thick-cut bacon
1/2 – cup diced red onion
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flake
1/2 – tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
4 – eggs

Directions:
Peel the potato and dice it into small pieces about the size of a blueberry. Finely dice the bacon and add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet. Once the oil is heated, add the bacon and cook about 2 minutes. Next add the potatoes and diced onion. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and black pepper, red pepper flakes, and stir well. Cook about 5-6 minutes until the potatoes are about half way cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, thinly slice the brussel sprouts. Add a little more oil to the skillet if needed, then add the brussel sprouts along with the remaining salt and black pepper. Stir well, and add 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until the spouts are tender. Stir occasionally.

When the hash is ready, turn off the heat and set aside. In a small skillet, fry one egg over easy for each serving. Add a little salt and black pepper to taste.

Place a helping of hash and top off with the fried egg.

Makes four servings.

Enjoy!

Brussel Sprout Hash, Bacon, Potato, Eggs




Chicken Stew

Chicken Stew is the perfect dish for the winter months. It’s hearty, healthy, and delicious. Stew is a great way to use up vegetables you have in the refrigerator or freezer.  This recipe includes, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes, but you can use any vegetables that you prefer.  Brussel sprouts, green beans, or any root vegetable works nicely.

Ingredients:
2 – lbs. skinless, boneless, chicken thighs
2 – stalks celery
1 – large onion
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flake
4 – large carrots
1 – tbls. tomato paste
8 – oz. crimini mushrooms
2 – large potatoes
32 – oz. chicken stock
1 – can diced tomatoes
2 – cloves garlic
1/2 – tsp. oregano
1/2 – tsp. Herbs de Provence
Salt
Ground black pepper
Adobo Seasoning

Directions:
Using a food processor, finely chop the celery and onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the chopped celery and onions, and red pepper flake. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle a little salt, black pepper, and Adobo on both sides of the chicken pieces. Move the celery mixture to one side of the pot to make room for the chicken. Add the garlic and chicken pieces, and brown on both sides.

Clear a small spot and add the tomato paste and carrots.

Cook for 1 minute then add the mushrooms and potatoes. Stir and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, herbs de Provence, oregano, and salt to taste.

Stir and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the flame down to a simmer and cook about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with a crusty bread and enjoy!