But Sugar is Sweeter

Vegetarian

Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

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A couple weeks ago, I thought the soup making weather for the year was over – clearly I was wrong.  I guess a good way to embrace  the cold, is to look at it as one last opportunity to make a warm wintery soup!  When I was planning the grocery/menu list this week, I asked John what soup he would want for a (fingers crossed) last soup of winter meal, secretly hoping he would pick this soup.  Without any coaching from me, he said, “How about the potato one you make?”, so that sealed the deal – it went on the menu.  It also happens to be a quick meal (chopping is the only kitchen time), and a one pot deal (less clean up)!

What I like about this soup is that it’s a potato soup, with more than just potatoes and cream.  It has has a lot of vegetables in it, so it really feels like a balanced meal.  It does use some whole milk, but just enough to give it that creamy texture, while still keeping it healthy and relatively low fat.  I do realize that just before this I posted a recipe primarily made of butter and sugar – but what can I say, I like my sweets sinful and my meals, well the opposite.   This soup is pretty filling, and this recipe makes a lot – so if you’re not feeding a crowd, you might want to try halving it.  However, this is one of the few meals where I think the leftovers actually taste just as good or better than the original meal.  This is a rare finding for me, so I don’t mind making the whole thing and eating it later in the week.  I’ve never tried freezing it, but if you try it – let me know how it turns out!
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Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

Servings: about 8 bowls         Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the chopping)       Stove time: 25 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped  leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (about 8), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Dash of Salt & Pepper
  • Scallions/Chives/Parsley for topping

Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and red pepper and stir until tender (3-4 minutes).
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Slowly add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring constantly.  Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients (chicken broth, potatoes, corn, salt & pepper).  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or as long as you want – the starch from the potatoes will continue to thicken the soup).

Serve by topping with your choice of parsley, scallions, chives, or a mix.

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

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Twice Baked Potatoes

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured what would be better than a POTATO with the colors of the Irish flag!   I made mine with  broccoli, scallions, and cheddar, so I could get the green, white and orange effect.   I hope this brings a little St. Patrick’s Day spirit to your day!

My better half is interviewing people this week,  so it’s just me here until tomorrow.   Cooking for 1 can be tricky, but I think this recipe fits the bill – It’s quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  The recipe is for 4 potatoes, but can easily be adapted to make just 1, or 8.  I often forget how great a good baked potato can be.  In college, my friend Christine, once had a “Baked Potato Party” in which she baked a bunch of potatoes, and then had all kinds of fun toppings for us to put on them.  It was such an easy and creative idea, and I have been wanting to do it ever since – maybe this will inspire you to host your own.  Whatever you put on your baked potato, it can be a hearty, and filling meal that’s easy and cheap to make.  I also included some suggestions for alternate stuffed baked potatoes , which I am now dying to try!

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 4 russet potatoes – scrubbed and patted dry
  • Olive Oil and Salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 400°.  Rub potatoes with a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place potatoes directly on rack and cook for 45-60 minutes.  Do not wrap potatoes in foil because this will make the skins soft and it will be difficult to scoop the filling out later.

In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, broccoli, and 1/4 cup scallions.

Remove potatoes from oven and let cool slightly.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a soup spoon, scrape out as much potato as you can while leaving the skin intact – leaving about 1/8 inch.  The potatoes taste better when there is less plain flesh left in them.  Add the flesh to the large bowl with sour cream mixture.  Mash the flesh until combined.

Spoon the flesh back into the potato shells.  Place filled shells on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.

Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

To serve, top with remaining scallions.


Variation 1: Blue Cheese, Onion and Mushroom Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup crumbled blue cheese for the cheddar, and 1 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions for the broccoli.

Variation 2: Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup of herbed goat cheese for the cheddar, and 3/4 cup caramelized onions for the broccoli.

Variations inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook


Spinach Lasagna

The worst part about the first 2 years of medical school is that most of your time is spent studying alone. Despite the fun pictures on Facebook, we don’t actually get to hang out together that much.   To try to remedy this situation, John and I decided to have a little “Lasagna Party”.  It was a good excuse to get together with all of our friends, including the newest “member”- Baby Zoe!  We have some diverse tastes in our group, so we had quite a lasagna selection: Spinach Lasagna, Lasagna with a a beef and sausage sauce, and Lasagna made with chicken sausage.  It was quite a feast!

Of all the lasagna choices, this spinach lasagna was probably the healthiest. (Not quite sure I can call it healthy – it’s still lasagna after all).  But in general, the cream sauce used in spinach lasagna usually makes it much more fat and calorie laden than it’s meat and tomato counterpart.  However, I found a recipe that didn’t use cream, and used non-fat ricotta, to make this a healthier and much reduced fat version.  At first I was skeptical that this lasagna would just taste like a lowfat version of the real thing, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that this was “reduced fat”, and it was really quite easy to put together (it does take some time though).

Spinach Lasagna

– Makes a 13 x9 dish to feed 8-10 people.

  • 2 cups nonfat ricotta (16 oz)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (about 10 oz)
  • 1 grated parmesan cheese (2 oz)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 cups 1% milk (I used skim milk and substituted  about 1/4 cup cream)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3o ounces (3 packages)  frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 lasagna noodles

1. Heat a large pot of water over high heat.  Season with salt and olive oil.  Add lasagna noodles to water and cook for about 9 minutes. (It’s better to undercook the noodles slightly.).  Drain,  and lay noodles onto paper towels to dry separately.

2. Combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, slightly beaten egg and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir to combine, then set aside or refrigerate for later assembly.

3. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and cook to soften (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and stir until just fragrant (30 seconds).  Add flour and cook for about a minute (cook it just enough to eliminate the raw flour taste, but do not brown.)

4. Slowly whisk in all 5 cups of milk and 2 bay leaves.  Simmer, while stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly.

5. Remove from heat, and remove bay leaves.  Stir in spinach, nutmeg, and remaining (1/2 cup) parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

7. To assemble: Place a heaping cup of spinach sauce on the botton of the 13×9 inch pan.  Layer 4 noodles, overlapping, on the bottom of the pan.  Spread about 1 cup of ricotta mixture over the noodles.  Top with a heaping cup of spinach sauce.  Repeat 2 more times, ending with ricotta and spinach sauce.  The top layer should have 2-3 cups of spinach sauce poured over top.  Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  To avoid spills you can place the lasagna dish on a large baking sheet lined with foil (I didn’t do this because I didn’t have space in the oven). After 40 minutes, remove foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted from America’a Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

*In the ATK recipe, they actually suggested making 4 layers of lasagna, using 16 noodles but the same amount of filling.  If you really like pasta this might be a good option for you!


Latin Inspired Falafel

If you’ve got glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency*,  or if you generally just don’t like falafel, you might still enjoy this dish!  Traditional falafel is made out of fava beans and deep fried,  and personally I’m not a huge fan of fava beans or deep frying things.  So when I found this recipe for a healthy version of falafel made out of pinto beans, I knew I’d be in love.   Plus this gave me another excuse to make my own pita bread, and it came out so much better the second time!  Watching pita bread puff up in the oven is one of the coolest baking experiences EVER!

I had made this once before, and I wanted to make it again since I’ve been on such a “bean kick” lately.  Unfortunately, I tried using a cast iron skillet this time and the patties really stuck to the pan.  Because of the small amount of oil used to cook these, you really need a non-stick skillet.  Using the right pan, these patties are a cinch to throw together, and another easy weeknight meal.  I almost didn’t post this because I had a lot of trouble taking a picture of it that looked appetizing. But I couldn’t bare not sharing it with you  because I think it’s such a unique dish!  It really adds some variety to the weekly menu, and seems fancy while actually being really easy!  I hope you try it, despite the bad pictures.

*G-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency is a common x-linked disorder, in which affected persons can have attacks of hemolytic anemia brought on by fava beans (as well as infections and certain medications).  Sorry for being a dork, just trying to be educational around here.

Latin Falafel Patties

– Makes enough for about 4 pita halves.

  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4  cup  crushed tortilla chips
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Avocado Spread:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2  tablespoons  chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Sprinkling of salt

For Serving:

  • 2  (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise (For updated pictures and my recipe see: Pita Bread)
  • Toppings such as lettuce, red onion, peppers (if desired)

1. First make the avocado spread by mixing all ingredients in a small serving dish.

2. To make the patties, combine all patty ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3.  Preheat oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Combine mashed pinto beans, Monterey jack cheese, crushed tortilla chips,  cilantro, green onion, cumin and egg white in a mixing bowl.

5. Form the pinto bean mixture into patties and place them in the oil in the large skillet.

6. Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side, or until brown and heated through.

7. To serve, place 2-3 patties in a pita half, and top with avocado spread and any other desired vegetables.

Adapted from “Falafel with Avocado Spread” from Cooking Light


“Doctored Up” Bean Burritos

I’m done with cookies for a while…back to some healthy meals!  This is a super easy and healthy, but surprisingly delicious meal!  I know you might be thinking, “Bean Burritos”, do you even need a recipe for that?  Well I have made bean burritos by just warming up a can of beans, and I think that this recipe is much better.  Adding a few ingredients really makes this meal go from  simple to exciting!  You can always add more or less spice, I tend to like my food a little on the less spicy side.

Usually have a problem eating a meal without a serious source of protein – usually meat – but I’ve found that both John and I will find a meal with beans satisfying.  It’s just a plus that they are also cheap, easy and healthy!  Plus, I’ve found I’m much more likely to eat the leftovers of a meatless meal, because unlike meat, beans don’t really taste all that much different a day later.   I think I am going to start buying black beans in bulk from my new favorite store, Costco.

Easy Bean Burritos

– Makes 4-6 burritos depending on the size.

For the Beans:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/3  cup  water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  black beans, drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  pinto beans, drained
  • 3  tablespoons  salsa

For the Burritos:

  • Tortillas
  • Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • sliced green onions
  • light sour cream

*These come in a small can in the “Mexican” aisle of almost any grocery store.

1. Heat oil at medium high in a large skillet.

2. Add garlic, and 1 teaspoon of each chile powder, cumin and chipotle peppers to the oil.

3. Stir for about 45 seconds, or just until fragrant.

3. Add the 2 cans of drained beans, salt and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

4. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer, without a lid, for about 10 minutes. (You can use this time to cut up the tomatoes, lettuce and green onions for the topping)

5. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa.

To serve: Spread the bean mixture down the tortilla, and top with your choice of toppings.

Recipe found at Pink Parsley, and originally from Cooking Light.


Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

I am on a huge pizza kick lately!  Ever since I started making my own pizza dough, it seems like we have homemade pizza for dinner about once a week.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the pizza, and it’s really not much more work than ordering!!!  I’ll post a tutorial on making your own pizza dough soon, but for now substitute any pizza like dough or crust you’d like!

John even likes this pizza, despite the fact that it has a lot of vegetables!    The recipe for the sauce calls for fresh basil, which can be hard to find and really expensive.  Thanks to Monnette’s Market, I was able to buy a bunch of it for several recipes this week, right here in cold, wintery Toledo. A little hint with fresh basil is to roll up several leaves into a “cigar” shape, and then thinly slice them.  This is how they get the basil to look so fresh and not wilted in restaurants.   But if you can’t find fresh basil, substituting dried would probably be okay.  Also the sauce recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas – but it freezes well.  I usually make one pizza and freeze the other half of the sauce for pizza another week.

New York Style Pizza Sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can petite-cut tomatoes, undrained

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1  1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

7  Tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wisk.

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon (about 2 cloves) minced garlic

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup part-skim mozarella

2 Roma tomatos – sliced very thin

1/2 of the above recipe for New York Style Pizza Sauce

Pizza Dough

Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone (which is an awesome investment because it makes the pizza crisp on the bottom), preheat it as well in the oven.  Roll your choice of pizza dough into a circle or square. Lightly brush the outer crust with olive oil.  Evenly spread the pizza sauce over the pizza, leaving a thin border for the crust. Top with the Parmesan cheese, garlic, and spinach leaves.

Then sprinkle mozzarella over the spinach, and top with small spoonfuls of Ricotta.

Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown.  Carefully remove from oven and top immediately with sliced tomatos.

Slightly adapated from Cooking Light