Vegetable Tortilla Soup

Well, it’s been a while since my last post…  I recently took a part time job working as a cook in a restaurant, so now I’m working two jobs, going to culinary school, and making sure there’s quality time with the family in there with all of that going on.  Can we say busy?  Whew!  But, it’s amazing how much more I’m learning about cooking just by being in the environment itself.

I’ve been making this recipe for several months now, and always happily gobble it down.  During the day, I eat very healthy.  All the sinful goodies are saved for the evenings and weekends, and it has proven to be a happy balance for me.  So, I’m always looking for a healthy alternative to different recipes.

This recipe is a vegetarian/vegan twist of Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I actually came across putting this together when I was working on a sauce for one of my final exams in culinary school while pureeing the first five ingredients.  I loved the taste of this so much, that I decided to turn this into a soup.  So, if you love tortilla soup, but want it more of a vegetable base, here you go!

vegetable tortilla soup

Usually when I make this, I’ll portion it into smaller containers and freeze it.  This way, when you’re ready to have some, there is plenty in the freezer waiting.  You can either thaw it out in the fridge in advance, or directly put it in the microwave.  I’d recommend thawing it out some first though, because the cooking process isn’t as long.  This has become a regular in my household, and is made every couple of weeks.  Who knew something so healthy could taste so delicious?!

Vegetable Tortilla Soup Recipe:

1 onion, chopped into medium size pieces

6 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 poblano pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 corn tortilla, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 bags frozen corn, thawed

2 cans black beans, drained

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in stock pot at medium heat.  Add onions and garlic once oil is hot, sauté until tender.  Add poblano pepper and corn tortilla, cook for another five minutes.  Add two cups of the vegetable broth, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove to bowl to cool slightly, then puree in blender for about 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth.  To stock pot, add tomato sauce, remaining vegetable broth, and frozen corn.  Return to medium heat, add pureed mixture and stir well.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, add black beans, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until corn is tender and soup is thoroughly heated through.  Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t eat so healthy over the holidays.  All of the amazing cookies, chocolates, casseroles, gravy, stuffing, cakes, and everything else you could possibly think of that’s NOT healthy for you…that’s what I ate.  Oh wait, I believe there was a green veggie or two squeezed in there, although it was cooked in pretty much nothing but butter.  Yikes!  After going to bed with a bloated belly the other night, I swore to myself that I would only eat vegetables for the next few days, to bounce back from the sugar loading.

black bean veggie burger

Personally, I’m a fan of veggie burgers.  I started out with the frozen veggie burgers years ago…and although they weren’t bad, my family went to a restaurant that’s know for its delicious burgers.  As I was looking through the menu, there it was…the veggie burger.  Made from scratch.  So, I decided to get it…and wolfed that bad boy down.  It was awesome, so I decided to make one at home as well.  When it comes to veggie burgers, what’s great to top it with?  Veggies!  That’s right!  Adding sautéed onions and mushrooms to a burger only makes it better in my eyes, and this is a perfect example to add to its wonderfulness.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers Recipe:

1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut up into wedges
3 gloves garlic
1 egg
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons worcestershire
1/2 cup bread crumbs

If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

**These can be made ahead of time.  Wrap individually or store in ziplock bags in refrigerator for up to 5 days, and in freezer for up to 3 months.  To reheat, place in microwave for 45-60 seconds on each side.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Well, it’s a brand new year…AND it’s cold outside.  So, how about starting out the new year with a healthy, delicious, warm and satisfying classic comfort food?  Okay then, let’s do it!

chicken noodle soup

After making the chicken and corn chowder, I had to make more soups.  You can actually use the same procedures with this soup for that soup with the chicken and chicken broth.  Just as a head’s up…this is not a quick recipe.  But, it IS very nutritious and made with all fresh ingredients.  High in vitamins and minerals from using fresh veggies, but low in calories and still filling, all at the same time.  In culinary school in our soups class, one of the techniques we went over for thickening soups was pureeing vegetables and mixing that in with the broth.  Since there are some picky eaters in my family and some of them refuse to eat chunks of vegetables but will eat them pureed, this sounded like a great option to get some fresh veggies to those picky eaters.  Everyone has their own personal taste of how salty they like their soups, so you can play with how much salt you add…just don’t add too much at a time, because you can’t take away what you add!  After I made this, my husband took some to work with him to eat for lunch.  After lunch, I got a text message from him, telling me that the soup was awesome…and also suggesting that I make it again in a larger bulk so we can freeze it to have it on hand.  And you know what else?  My super picky brother that is one of my family members who refuses to eat any other vegetables besides peas, corn and lima beans ate the soup and loved it.  Success!

Ingredients:

whole chicken, giblets removed (4-5 pounds)

1 pound onions, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound carrots, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound celery, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2-1 whole package egg noodles (depends on how much noodles you want in your soup)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

9-10 cups chicken broth (if you’re not making your own with the chicken)

extra salt and pepper to taste for soup

Cook the Chicken:  Get a whole chicken that weighs about 5 pounds.  What we’re going to do is cook the chicken with the vegetables, so all of the flavors are absorbed together. Place the chicken in the baking dish or crockpot.  Combine olive oil, salt, and pepper, brush over chicken.  Add Mirepoix.  Mirepoix is the combination of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% carrots.  Since we’re using two pounds of mirepoix, that comes out to be 1 pound of onions, 1/2 pound celery, and 1/2 pound carrots. Mirepoix is used commonly in stocks and broths for flavor, so we’ll be using this as a way to flavor the chicken, as well as soaking up all the flavors of the pan drippings from the chicken during the cooking process.  After that, we’ll remove the chicken from the vegetables, and puree the vegetables and pan drippings in a food processor or blender.  The veggies will be tender enough from the cooking process to blend into a thick puree.

You can cook the chicken and veggies in your crock pot (on high for about 5 hours) or in the oven in a covered dish at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  If you don’t have a covered dish, just cover tightly with foil…you don’t want the moisture escaping during the cooking process.  VERY IMPORTANT:  CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR CHICKEN!  It needs to be at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken (safety rule for all poultry, so the same goes if you make this recipe with turkey instead of chicken).  This will prevent anyone from eating undercooked poultry, which is a huge cause of food poisoning…and no one wants that!  After the chicken is done cooking, remove from dish or crock pot, and pick all of the meat (discarding fat, bones and carcass) bits that you want to be in your soup, shredding and breaking up into bite size pieces.  Once you have the meat picked out, set aside in a bowl.

Make the Broth:  In a large stock pot, fill a little over halfway with water, and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken fat and carcass, and simmer in water for an hour.  Remove carcass, then strain liquid into another large container using a fine mesh strainer.  You’ll be using 9-10 cups of chicken broth in this recipe for the soup, depending on how thick or thin you want it to be.  SHORTCUT:  Use reduced sodium canned chicken broth instead of making it yourself.

According to noodle package directions, boil noodles in chicken broth.  When noodles are done cooking, stir in pureed vegetable mixture.  Add chicken and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm, store leftover soup in fridge for up to five days, and in freezer for up to three months.  Since everyone has their own taste with salt, you can add as little or as much as you feel it needs.  Personally, I thought 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper was the perfect amount…but my husband thought it was a little too much and my brother thought it needed more.  Perfect example of preferences.  😉

When reheating in microwave, cook in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute until heated through.  This ensures soup is heated evenly.  Depending on how much soup you’re reheating, this process takes 2-4 minutes total.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

**Make it Gluten-Free!  Just use gluten-free noodles, corn, or potatoes!

Baked Quinoa Ratatouille

In our Vegetables, Grains, and Starches class in culinary school, Ratatouille was one of the dishes that we made.  When I told friends and family about what we made that night, I realized that very few of them had actually tried it, which surprised me…but they’d heard of the name before because of the movie.  And honestly, that was also the only reason I’d heard of that name as well.  After that class though, seeing how simple and incredibly healthy this dish was inspired me to make it at home.  My husband told me that he wanted to start eating healthier, so I decided to start looking into some quinoa recipes.  Quinoa is a high protein seed that is gluten free and is actually one of the highly recommended super foods to eat.  Before this dish, I had only tried one bite of it when my friend was putting together really healthy recipes, and she ate it a good bit.  It reminds me of rice…smaller in texture, but somewhat of a bland flavor that could easily be accented with natural spices, but fluffy like rice.

baked quinoa ratatouille

While at the health food store the other week nosing through the aisles, I came across quinoa and picked up a bag to make something at home…just wasn’t sure what yet.  After looking through a quinoa recipe book, I saw this recipe and thought,  Hey, I’ve made ratatouille at school, so I can easily make this at home!  Done.  I did change a few things around with this recipe to mimic the original ratatouille recipe that I made at school, and this was delicious.  My husband even asked if there was any meat in this dish since I was making it for lunch, but told him that quinoa is very high in protein.  He shrugged and agreed to give it a shot.  Two helpings later, he told me that he really liked how the flavors of the veggies all went together.  This could also be a really great Vegan dish, just remove the cheese or replace it with soy cheese.

Baked Quinoa Ratatouille Recipe:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

14 oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 large eggplant, cubed

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 zucchini, cubed

2 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dry, 2 cups cooked)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes, or until softened.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.  Place remaining chopped vegetables in bottom of 9×13 inch baking dish.  Spoon onion and tomato mixture on top of vegetables.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, spread quinoa on top, then sprinkle mozzarella on top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 5 minutes.

**I actually made this with fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  To do this, cut an X in the bottom of two large tomatoes and place in boiling water for 20-30 seconds.  This loosens the skin from the tomatoes, making it easy to peel off.  Place the tomatoes in ice water to cool, then peel the skin off the tomatoes.  Slice horizontally, then scoop out as many of the seeds as you can get.  Chop them up, and there’s your tomato mixture to add to the garlic and onions cooking in the olive oil.  Can’t beat fresh veggies!

Healthy Chocolate Mousse

Whenever I go over to my brother’s house for dinner, dessert is always my responsibility.  And honestly, I can happily take that assignment.  My sister-in-law asked me a few weeks ago if I could start bringing something that’s a little more healthy, since we’re all trying to do a little better with our health improvement.  She’s actually making more meals from healthy cookbooks that give nutritional information for the meals.  A couple of weeks ago, I took the Oreo Trifle over there for dessert.  Even though I used light whipped topping and low fat milk….it was still very heavy and rich.  After that dessert, my brother felt guilty for eating a big helping of it, and he also asked if I could start bringing something that’s a little more on the healthy side.  So, I started to do some research.

Cooking Light has sent me a few recipe books over the past few months, and they’re wonderful.  And these aren’t just little recipe books, but the big ole fat ones with tons, and tons, and TONS of recipes.  Well, I have three of these books now, so this should keep me busy for a while.  In all honesty, I haven’t made a REAL chocolate mousse yet, so I didn’t know what all was involved in the ingredients of the original…but after taking just one look at the ingredients and nutritional information…holy cow, this thing was healthy.  It was light in taste and texture, and none of us had any guilt with eating a full serving of it.  And again, our professional taste tester (my two year old daughter) approved.  Again, and again, and again.  As soon as I got a spoonful in her mouth, she was reaching for more.  At 147 calories per serving, this was perfect.  It’s not as amazing as the original chocolate mousse, but if you’re looking for something sweet to follow a meal and isn’t packed with all of those calories, this may be it!

Healthy Chocolate Mousse Recipe:

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

12.3 oz package firm low fat tofu

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup water

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place melted chocolate chips and tofu in a food processor or blender, and process 2 minutes or until smooth.  Place salt and egg whites in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.  Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250 degrees.  Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed.  Gently stir in one fourth or meringue into tofu mixture, gently fold in remaining meringue.  Spoon 1/2 cup mousse into each of 8 (6 oz.) custard cups.  Cover and chill at least 4 hours.  If desired, garnish with lite whipped topping and sprinkle cocoa on top.  Yield:  8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup).

Calories- 147  Fat- 5.6g  Protein- 5.2g  Carb-22.5g  Fiber- 0.2g

Chicken Divan

As I’ve gotten older, it seems as though I’ve been looking for more recipes that contain higher amounts of protein and vegetables, with a less amount of carbs.  No one seems to like eating the same meals over and over again, day in and day out…so the research has begun to find things that my family will enjoy.  But shh, don’t tell them it’s on the healthy side.  They’ll never know.

I found the original recipe for this in the Glycemic Load Diet book, and I made a few slight changes in the recipe.  I didn’t have a couple of the original ingredients, so improvising was the way to go…and it turned out delicious.  While my husband was scarfing this delicious meal down, he says, “I really like this broccoli thing.  It’s good.”  And you know what?  I didn’t even have to ask!  Even better!

Chicken Divan Recipe:

1 lb. cubed, cooked chicken

2 (10 oz.) boxes of chopped frozen broccoli, thawed

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup reduced fat grated cheddar cheese, divided

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Combine soup, mayonnaise, water, seasoned salt and 1/2 cup cheese in bowl, stir together well.  Layer broccoli on bottom on 9×13 inch glass dish, top with chicken.  Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli, spreading until it covers the chicken and broccoli completely.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbly.

High Protein Vegetable Soup

Here we are, back with another soup.  Get ready for these, because my outlook on the soup from last week, the Chicken Taco and Black Bean Soup was a huge success.  Not only was it delicious and easy, but it was very nutritious AND a perfect convenience food.  All I had to do was scoop some soup in a bowl and pop it in the microwave for a super quick meal, and it was just as good leftover as it was fresh.  So, I decided to make another soup this week.

With the last soup, I loved how the addition of Greek yogurt added to the protein content, so I decided to use that again…hence the pink color of the soup, since it was pureed with a can of tomatoes.  So pretty.  Reducing the sodium content of the soup for this week was important to me, so water replaced the use of chicken broth.  The lean hamburger meat that is used (96/4) was a perfect protein addition as well, and there is tons of fiber between all of the vegetables.  Another great thing about this soup is being able to pack it into a thermos that keeps it warm up to 7 hours, so it’s a great lunch to-go as well.  Now I have my lunch planned out for the week, AND it’s healthy!  Double whammy!

High Protein Vegetable Soup Recipe:

1 lb. lean hamburger meat, cooked and drained

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots and green beans), thawed

1 bag frozen lima beans, thawed

1 can diced tomatoes

3/4 cup lowfat Greek yogurt, plain

1 cup water

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic (you can use 3 teaspoons minced garlic)

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Puree yogurt, tomatoes, water, seasonings, and garlic until smooth.  Pour into crock pot, add remaining ingredients and stir together.  Cook on low for 3 hours.

*Vegetarian?  Subsitute the hamburger meat with tofu and/or black beans.