Easy pumpkin soup

The temperatures are starting to drop and my love for all things pumpkin are back in full force.

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Last weekend I made some pumpkin muffins with a pumpkin pie filling on top that are wonderful(recipe to come soon). With the leftover pumpkin, I decided to make us a pumpkin soup. This soup is thick, warm and delicious and was ready in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of milk(can use cow, almond, coconut)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries(optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.

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Stir in fresh ginger. Cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Stir in curry powder and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, about another minute.

Add in vegetable broth and pumpkin. Stir well until combined.

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Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir in milk. Let heat for about 5 minutes.

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At this point, it is ready to serve. Or for a smoother and creamier consistency, blend or immersion blend. I used my immersion blender to make sure there weren’t any little pieces of onion.

Serve.  Top with dried cranberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you so desire.

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Tarragon chicken salad sandwiches

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This is an easy and flavorful recipe that I lightened up. Perfect for a quick lunch for unexpected guests or as smaller sandwiches/roll-ups for a party.

I lightened up the recipe by substituting plain Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and Brian didn’t even notice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise(regular or low-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries(I used strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice(I used almonds sunflower seeds and cashews)
  • 6 oz of shredded chicken

Mix everything except the nuts, dried fruit, and shredded chicken in a bowl.

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Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.

Stir in nuts and dried fruit.

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Toss with chicken. Let refrigerate for about an hour(if you have the time) to let the flavors mingle.

Serve on delicious bread or in pieces of lettuce for lighter fare.

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Greek tuna salad

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When I was traveling in December and dreading the unhealthy airport food, I ran across a really cute fresh and healthy restaurant/stand in the Houston airport called Camden Food Co. Right across from an organic pizza place. What? Two decent options right by each other in the airport? I love that it’s not impossible to get good food while traveling anymore.

Well, they had a Greek tuna that was so delicious. It was fresh flaked tuna with kalamata, cucumber, diced tomato, feta, herbs and a Greek vinaigrette. I bought a container of that and put in on a bed of fresh mixed greens from their salad bar and topped with a few chickpeas. So delicious.

I’ve been thinking about that tuna ever since. So, I had to attempt to recreate it as I don’t know when will be the next time that I am in the George Bush International airport to get more. It’s so good, it’s almost worth the trip just to get some.

Here’s my attempt at the remake. I also threw in some diced yellow and orange bell pepper. A great way to jazz up plain old tuna. It would also be great as a dip on crackers or in a pita. Mmm. Ican’t wait to make it again.

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Copycat Whole Foods date logs

I’ve mentioned before that I love Whole Food’s date logs. So much that I decided recreating them at home would be a good idea. This idea was encouraged when I saw the WF’s worker restocking the bin of them the other day and learned that they don’t make them in-house! What?!?! I had been believing that I was getting date logs fresh out of the kitchen only feet away from where they were sold. Not true. Not true at all. They come from one of their largest distributors. They come in a plastic lined box and are put into the bin by the nice WF workers.

I’m not getting my date logs minutes after they are made? But, I have to be! They are so fresh. I mean fresh tasting.

After I got over my disbelief, I picked up a 5 pound container of pitted medjool dates at Costco. Feeling like they may be a little dry, I attempted to rehydrate them a bit.

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This was probably unnecessary and wouldn’t do it again in the future. I think it made the dates too sticky. After re-hydrating and draining them, I tossed them into the food processor and began the process of pulsing and scraping the sides down. This took a bit of time. I felt like they were still too wet, so I tossed to unsweetened, shredded coconut with them to dry them up a bit. Worked like a charm. I sprinkled a line of coconut onto the wax paper then I scooped about 1/3 of the mixture onto wax paper and formed it into a log. Then I rolled that into the coconut to form a firmer log.

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I continued this method with the remainder of the date mixture. Then I placed the 3 logs into the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up. Then I took them out and cut them into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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These are almost identical to what you buy at the store. Price-wise, I am not sure how they compare, but I am sure they are at least a small savings. And more convenient to keep in my fridge than having to run to the store when I want one!

Oven baked veggie chips: multiple varieties

A few years ago…okay maybe five years ago I made some homemade vegetable chips. I think I did beet, parsnip, sweet potato and white potato. They were good, a lot of work and just plain easier to buy.

Thinking that my thoughts on the subject may have been misremembered, I decided to make some again. Well, it was again, time-consuming without a lot of reward. Here they are anyway.

This time I made sweet and white potato, beets and zucchini chips. The zucchini chips were my favorite. I ate them all in one sitting. Don’t judge that last sentence until you see photos of the product.

I preheated my oven to 350F. Then I mandolin-ed my little heart out. Slice. Slice. Slice.

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Then, I tossed the slices with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I arranged the slices on to cooling racks placed on baking sheets(to help with air circulation) and baked for about 20 minutes.

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The veggies shrank a lot in size and reminded me a lot of shinky dinks from my childhood.

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After spending time baking all those chips, I had very little finished product to show. And quite honestly, they didn’t bake very evenly. Half of a chip would be burnt and the other half would be soggy. The ones that turned out the best were the zucchini. This is the amount of chip I got from 2 medium zucchini:

chips5Yes, two zucchini fit in the palm of my hand. This is the size of one zucchini chip:

chips6The size of my finger tip.

So, from now on, I will be buying my chips.

Rosemary fig crackers

These crackers are amazing. The batch didn’t last the weekend in our house. And I ate almost all of them.

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They are super easy to make, flavorful, and loaded with protein. They are great for parties, because they cater to several special diets. They are gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian and paleo friendly. If you plan on making them for a party, plan on making a double or triple batch, because they are addictive. They taste great on their own and really don’t need anything else, but we spread a little honey goat cheese on a few of them which was super tasty, too.

Even better, it only cost about $3.00 to make the batch and I bought all of the ingredients at Whole Foods. I bought the almond flour and figs out of the bulk bins.

I made the recipe exactly like on Elana’s blog. Here are some pictures:

fig1 fig2 fig3 fig4 fig5fig6 fig7 fig8Just look at these beauties:

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Superbowl party food

I don’t plan on watching much of the Superbowl on Sunday. I love college football, but am  not a huge fan of pro football. What I watch will be mostly for the commercials and half time show. But it is always a good excuse to make some delicious food!

Football and buffalo chicken go hand in hand. With this years previously reported chicken wing shortage now being reported as a lie, I will still give you a wingless buffalo recipe in case there really is a shortage.

I love crock pot buffalo chicken. It’s way healthier than wings, full of flavor and super easy to make. It’s also very versatile; use it to make buffalo chicken salads, pizza, sandwiches or nachos.  In fact, I made a batch yesterday. Leftovers on Sunday? There’s a good chance.

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Wait? You are a vegetarian or vegan but love that buffalo flavor? How about some Tofu hot wings?

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How can you go wrong with homemade guac and chips? You can’t!

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Need something more exciting than mixed nuts or pretzels to set in bowls to munch on? Why  not make some sweet and spicy roasted chickpeas.

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Or what about a big tray of healthy coconut shrimp? I would go to any party serving these tasty little suckers!

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Another way to have a stress-free party is to utilize the crock pot. I am a huge pan of Rick Bayless’s pork tinga and can’t think of anything tastier than a taco bar!

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Two more slow cooker recipes that will wow the crowd are Epic chicken taco soup or Chipotle apple turkey chili.

Hopefully there are enough tasty recipes here to get you on your way to having the best Superbowl party ever!

Getting back on track

So, I haven’t written my blog post on my 10 day trip yet. But I am going to go ahead and write this one anyway.

I feel like I have a little bit of a jumbled brain and might ramble. Sorry.

I am shockingly tired for having just returned from a vacation. Usually I am energized and ready to take on the day. Not this week. I am just dragging! I have been eating healthy, working out and getting enough sleep. What gives? I have no idea but I am going to keep on, keeping on.

The other thing that has suffered(besides my energy levels) has been my cooking. Tuesday night, I had to be an adult and skip a fun dinner with the ladies to go grocery shopping and get my life back together after being off of a schedule. Last night, I went to the gym then came home and made a quick batch of homemade sweet potato and black bean veggies patties to eat over the next few days. (Sorry for the shoddy picture. It was late.)

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Tonight, I would like to make a big batch of veggie soup. I love soup in cold weather. Not to mention, you can make a lot to eat for a week and put some in the freezer for later. And it’s healthy. It’s a great meal starter, side or main dish.

This weekend I want to crock pot  or oven braise some chicken and veggies. Can you tell I am in total comfort food mode with the cold temperatures that we are currently appearing in Chicago? A pasta bake might be in order, too. Really, I need to reload the freezer with meals for us.

Other things on the agenda this weekend?

  • Blogging. I have so many recipes that I am behind on. Sorry guys.
  • These Rosemary Fig crackers! Don’t they look amazing?
  • Some sort of baked good. Probably muffins. I want to make something so that Brian has a quick and healthy grab and go breakfast. Pumpkin and peanut butter? Apple cinnamon? Blueberry coconut almond? Who knows.
  • Bagels. Another breakfast option or sandwich stuffing holder. I found a recipe the other day to make the dough in the bread maker. I’ve made bagels by hand before and really have enjoyed them, but would like to try this method, too.
  • I also want to make these grain free peanut butter cookies. Without the chocolate chips. I was doing well with the very limited sugar. Then I went on vacation for 10 days and ate sugar. Not everyday, but about half of them. Yikes.  Now I’m back off the sugar and missing sweet treats. Hopefully I will be over it by the weekend and not make these.
  • I also want to make a big batch of rice so I can throw together a quick meal and not have to make the rice at the same time. I’m curious about these two recipes. Crock pot fried rice and perfect brown rice that I first saw via More Cheese More Chocolate.
  • I’ve been eating hummus like it’s going out of style lately. So, I need to make a batch of homemade hummus instead of continuing to buy tub after tub.

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Well, after reading back over this post, it looks like I have a very busy weekend ahead of me. Not to mention, making it to my favorite early morning Saturday day class. So hippy dippy and relaxing.

What is everyone else looking to do this weekend?

Homemade tomato soup

I have been in soup mode lately. I think it’s the perfect starter, side dish or even main course. I like tomato soup, but not really a fan of the canned stuff. I like mine nice and thick with a lot of flavor, not just a bowl of boring acidity.

Since I have never made tomato soup before, I started out by googling things like “the world’s best tomato soup” and “best tomato soup ever.” I quickly eliminated several of them based on the amount of cream they used or the lack of flavor in the ingredients. When I saw this recipe I knew it was similar to one of the favorite bowls of tomato soup I have ever eaten.

Ingredients:
8 baby carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
pinch of thyme
pinch of oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar(optional)

Preheat oven to 450F. Separate tomatoes from their juice. Reserve juice to the side.

Place pieces of tomato in a roasting pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast for about 20 minutes or until deep red and caramelized.

While the tomatoes are roasting, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pot. Add in carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

Cook until onions translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Make sure you get those nice and tasty little brown bits.

Then add roasted tomatoes, tomato juice, vegetable broth, butter(use Earth Balance to keep it vegan), thyme and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables softened.

At this point, taste the soup. If it’s too acidic or you prefer a sweeter taste, add the sugar. If you add sugar, simmer 5 more minutes. Next, use immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to blender and blend to desired thickness. I put the soup in a blender and left the spout open a little to let the steam out then pulsed until nearly smooth.

This soup is so good that I might have to make another batch. Roasting the tomatoes really gives it depth and complexity of flavor. The added vegetables really help to cut the acidity, too. Even my tomato hating boyfriend loved it.

Social appetizer

While in Seattle, I was introduced to my new favorite appetizer.

Steamed artichoke.

It’s such a sophisticated and social appetizer that is extremely easy to prepare, if you have the time. Aaron made one for us before dinner on Sunday with a frost tipped artichoke from the market. We hadn’t heard of frost tipped artichokes(as noted by the brownish tips) before, but the man promised up that it would be more flavorful than your average artichoke and that they are only available during limited times throughout the year. It had an extremely nutty and delicious flavor.

Mel and I were so impressed by the artichoke that upon returning home and having my friend Katie over for dinner, we decided to make it a second night in a row. This artichoke was not frost tipped, but bought at the local grocery store and was far less flavorful than the one we had in Seattle.

To make:

Cut the sharp tips off the leaves of the artichoke. Steam on the stove top for 40-50 minutes. While it is steaming, melt a little butter in a bowl for dipping. I added some garlic and pepper to the butter, which gave it nice flavor.

When the ‘choke is done steaming, place it in a bowl and set it out for guests to pull off one leaf at a time and dip in butter. Eat the white, meaty part at the end that was connected to the heart of the ‘choke. The outer most leaves will have very little “meat” on the end to eat with more as you get towards the center.

Discard leaf in spare bowl. Continue pulling and dipping.