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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Honey almond roasted carrots

These carrots are a fall delight.

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I was ready to hunker down, make soup, watch football and eat my fair share of roasted root vegetables then we got a spike to hot temperatures again. That didn’t stop me from making these carrots!

I may have also been motivated to make these carrots as I was desperate wanting to use my new Le Creust dish that I received forma  dear friend as an early wedding gift. I named her Camille, because she’s French. Enough about the why and a little more about the how:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup silvered or chopped almonds
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Thoroughly wash your carrots and cut green end off. If you feel so inclined to peel your carrots, you can do that, too.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a thick bottomed pan. Place carrots in bottom of pan and toss to coat with carrots.

Salt and pepper your carrots to your liking. Drizzle with honey. Top with almonds. Place rosemary sprigs on top.

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Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, or simply place lid on pan if it has one. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Cook closer to 20 minutes if you are using closer to 1 pound of carrots or if your carrots are on the thinner side. If using closer to 2 pounds of carrots and/or your carrots are on the thicker side, cook closer to 25 minutes.

After your 20-25 minutes is up, remove lid and cook another 20-25 minutes(follow the same guidelines). The carrots will start to brown and be nicely caramelized when done.

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Serve as a tasty side dish. I love the slight sweetness that the honey gives with the crunch of the almond. It’s really a great flavor combination. Upon eating them, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t wait to make them for Thanksgiving!

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Holiday weekend

Maybe it wasn’t technically a holiday weekend, but with the 4th falling so close to the weekend, it seemed like one. Thursday we had a few people over to grill out and enjoy the back yard. There was a ton of food and festivities(maybe a little too much for some of us).

We now have oodles of left overs that I have been trying to recreate into other dishes so that we aren’t eating burger after brat after burger.

Saturday I woke up at 5:15am and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I headed up and did some work in the garden and headed to water aerobics, only to learn that it started at 11am, not 10am. I didn’t want to wait around so I headed home and started creating some calzone dough. I made two different fillings, one being ground taco meat, corn and black beans with cheddar cheese and the other of chicken, pesto, tomatoes and swiss. I thought they turned out pretty tasty.

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Saturday afternoon I spend relaxing and watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. Delightful. It’s amazing how crimes can be wrapped up neatly in a one hour TV segment. Saturday night I headed to Michael’s craft store and browsed their clearance. I got some fun glitter paint and goods to make some bracelets. A wonderful little night at home.

I had recently heard in a podcast that if you want really fluffy eggs for omelettes to put them in the blender. It will also make your eggs go farther, needing you to use less. So, after making a batch of almond milk, I cleaned out the blender and threw in one egg and 3 egg whites. I also threw in a few handfuls of spinach(who not???). It made my eggs super fluffy and green! I had a 12 inch skillet full of eggs. I topped them with marinara. Delicious and colorful.

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Once my food settled, I headed to meet some friends for an aquatic exercise class. Get a tan and exercise? Yes, please! Lunch consisted of BBQ chicken salads and fruit. I topped the salad with grilled corn, black beans, carrots, cucumber and some crushed tortilla chips.

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After realizing that yesterday was National Chocolate Day and being a little tired of eating meat at every meal, I decided that we would have chocolate chunk waffles for dinner. Well, Brian would. I had half of a waffle, veggie patty and some fruit. I don’t care for sweet breakfast foods all that much and I would have been really cranky later if I didn’t eat some protein.

Brian:

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Me:

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I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend as I did. So happy it finally felt like summer!

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

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First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

donut

Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

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I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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orange

Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

Afternoon snack

I eat this almost everyday. It’s one of my favorite snacks. An apple with 10 almonds.

The trick to making it taste extra good? Take a bite of the apple. Put an almond in your mouth. Chew together. Tastes way better than almonds and apples separately.

apple and almonds

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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Ban holiday bloat!

Ugh! It’s the sixth of December and I haven’t blogged once this month! Shame on me.

It seems like the holiday season has already started to take its toll on me. I haven’t been getting to the gym nearly as much and instead have been going out  for fun social events that involve drinking and eating foods I don’t typically eat. While they are always a good time, I can always feel it the next day.

I would say, when did I become so old? But I think  it’s more that I started taking better care of myself(less booze, less processed foods, more exercise,  more organic food and tons of fruits and veggies) and now I can really feel it when I veer from that lifestyle. I literally crave salads and water.

To help counteract the junk I have been taking in, I have tried to throw some more green smoothies in my diet. Yes, they often taste like salads in a glass, but it makes me feel so much better that something good is going into my body. It also helps with all the bloat I get from deviating from a less processed diet.

Here is one I have been making:

A few hand fulls of romaine and spinach. 3 stems of kale with leaves on. 1 apple. 2 stalks of celery. 1/4 of an avocado. Squeeze of lemon. 3-4 cubes of ice. 1/2 to 1 cup of water.

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Blend really well.

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If you aren’t a fan of the glowing green smoothie, you probably won’t like this. To make it taste more like a smoothie than a salad, add in banana or a pear. Parsley is really good thrown in there too.

I thought it was good enough to drink down and made me feel a ton better, too!

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Here’s to finishing the year as healthy as I started it! Bottoms up!

Eggvacado

This is a delightful and simple breakfast.

Cut an avocado in half. Remove pit. Scoop out a little extra avocado on each side. Those chunks of avocado when directly in my mouth.

Crack an egg in the crater that you have made. You might have some egg white spill over, so it’s best to do this in a baking dish or ramekin. Salt and pepper.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.

This was my eggvacado after 15 minutes. Still with a runny yolk hidden inside.

One of my coworkers was cooked all the way through. So, cook it how you like it.

But it is a very filling, creamy, buttery and naughty tasting breakfast. Just think how delicious it would be to have some toasted points to dip in all that goodness?

A very farmer’s market breakfast

I hit up a total of 3 different farmers markets this week, leaving me an abundance of fresh and tasty produce to craft meals from.

My favorite table at the farmer’s market is the mushroom guy. They grow tons of mushrooms and they are 10 million times more flavorful than any mushroom that you buy in the grocery store. He had fresh garlic this week, as well. He told me that most of the garlic sold in the US is grown in China. What? Did anyone else know this? His garlic is insanely garlicy. But in a mellow, wonderful way. And it is crazy huge. Take a look at it:

Just one clove:

I knew I had to use some in my breakfast on Saturday morning. I sauteed some mushrooms and garlic. Some of that wonderful garlic. While that was cooking these were waiting in the wings:

I tossed the spinach and the tomatoes in at the last second to wilt and warm them.

Then I cooked two farm fresh and local eggs to top off these veggies.

Now that is the perfect way to start off the day and pack a punch of antioxidants while eating better food and supporting the local economy.