Tomato butternut squash soup

Pretty much every Friday at work a group of us order lunch out from somewhere in town. How we decide depends on if someone wants to run out and pick it up; which generally isn’t the case so we end up ordering from 1 of the 2 places that will deliver. If we can get someone to run there are so many more options and it is getting that time of year where most places have soup back on their menus.  There is a marketplace in the center of town that makes a mean tomato cheddar soup.  They are kind of “famous’ for it. Or at least here in town they are.  It is only soup that is on the menu every day of the week.
IMG_5520Many years ago one of my co-worker’s and I used to get a bowl of Tomato Cheddar each and split a loaf of their fresh made french bread at least once a month; we did this for a couple of years. The marketplace was sold and the new owner still made the soup it wasn’t quite the same so we stopped going there.  

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I think this looks pretty cool! It makes me smile…

A couple of weeks ago we decided to give it a try. I ordered a cup and was going to forgo on the bread; still trying to eat a little healthier. When I googled the nutrition of a cup of tomato cheddar soup I was shocked and so disappointed. I could eat that little cup of soup but that would have been pretty much it for the day. I had no idea; if nothing else paying attention to macros-protein, carbs and fat. I am trying to make better choices; but being a foodie I will not compromise eating yummy food.
IMG_5525I had heard and seen people on TV use butternut squash in recipes in place of cheese. I know I too was a skeptic. I hadn’t tried anything until I bought a cup of soup I didn’t feel I should eat. The I was on a mission I was going to make a hearty tomato soup that had the love that tomato cheddar has without taking up so much of my fat allowance.
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1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
1 ½ lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons sugar –  optional
chives and pumpkin seeds – optional but a very nice touch!

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent about 8 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the butternut squash and continue sauteing for another 10-20 minutes stirring a few times.

Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for about an hour.

Puree with whatever you have, I use my immersion blender for convenience
Add salt and pepper to taste.
IMG_5531Bonus is you can freeze the leftovers since there is no cheese or cream

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My husband and I taste tested adding sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds – pumpkin won!!!


Tomato & Butternut Squash soup
Macros = 8 ounce
68 Calories – 2.2g Fat – 10.9g Carbs – 3g Protein

Tomato & Cheddar Soup generic
Comparison Macro = 8 ounce
370 Calories – 28g Fat – 19g Carbs – 15g Protein

Bark – chocolate, pistachios, craisins

There is nothing more surprising to me when someone walks up to me or sends me a message to ask a question or make a suggestion about what I blogged about last week or last month. Or when someone I’ve never met makes a comment, hits the like button or starts to follow me.  Thank you for all who reach out, I truly appreciate it and you for taking the time out of your crazy life to acknowledge little ole me.  I am pretty proud of this weekly delve into my food and sometimes personal journey!
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I talked with my daughter about doing a blog of some sort with her for a few years until I finally pulled the trigger on writing about one of both of our passions. While it ended up being more of my food blog I do share this journey with her as she is my strongest supporter, she is my sounding board, my technical adviser, my social media guru and a huge inspiration – thanks sweetie!
IMG_5483So I have been trying to make things a little healthier around here for me and my family but sometimes you just have to have something that just totally rocks – good bad or indifferent I just have to share this ridiculously easy treat that I can’t believe I have never made before.
IMG_5485I saw it a few weeks ago, I can’t even remember where; TV, Magazine, Online I have no idea but I literally went to the kitchen and threw it together.  And I guiltily have made it at least a half dozen times since. Though my first few times were with semi sweet chocolate, almonds and craisins my brilliant daughter called me on her way to work with a batch for her co-workers and said “White Chips, Pistachios, Craisins” if you have never had this combination in anything you need to stop reading this and make SOMETHING – ANYTHING with this combo. We discovered them, well at least in my house, when we made the biscotti recipe I blogged about awhile back. I think they are magical together and this bark is crazy good!
IMG_5490Spoiler alert some of my close peeps that follow my blog might just be seeing some for a little Christmas love this year!

1 cup chips melted – your choice
Dried fruit chopped
Nuts chopped

Yeah its that easy!
IMG_54861 cup white chips melted in the microwave – takes a minute or so
½ cup Dried craisins – chopped a little smaller
½ cup Pistachios – chopped a little smaller

Spread the melted chocolate onto either parchment or if you are lucky enough to have a silpat mat; if you don;t ask for one or two for Christmas, Birthday, Thanksgiving or even Wednesday.

Sprinkle your toppings and place in the fridge till it hardens.  Break apart and enjoy!
IMG_5489I’ll give you the macros for the 2 I have been making; but they are not great. OK! am back I just made a batch so I could give the most accurate measurements.  You’re welcome and Thank you 🙂

Macros = 1 ounce white bark
210 Calories – 11 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 3 g Protein
Macros = 1 ounce semi-sweet bark
243 Calories – 13 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 4 g Protein

Chicken Parmesan Bites

It’s around this time of year when I start thinking about what appetizers I want to make. Who’s with me???
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Holiday party and get together season is coming up rapidly fast and the invites for us have already started with a Halloween party, next up will be Thanksgiving, Christmas and ending with New Years oh and I also need to throw a few birthdays in there.
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Most people; when planning a party will take care of a few of the main dishes; then rely on their guests to fill in the gaps. I am curious to know if you spend as much time as I do trying to figure out something that is not only easy to make it needs to be easy to transport. But on top of all of that it HAS to taste delicious!
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I am still in my wrist brace from my carpal tunnel surgery a few weeks ago, I think I should be able to take it off sometime next week; I know it’s still going to take some time to get my strength back but I haven’t stopped cooking this whole time. Though I have decided to use a few shortcut staples that I knew about but honestly can’t recall using before. Pre-chopped frozen onions and minced garlic while not my favorite has come in quite handy! Get it “handy” yeah I know not funny! I also found a garlic mashed potato that you heat up in the microwave which are surprisingly creamy, garlicky and the entire family felt they were pretty darn good!

I have actually shared this recipe in a slider form awhile back but I thought it would make a great little pick up and go kind of app.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chicken
1 ounce parmesan reggiano cheese, grated
1 cup marinara sauce
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Mozzarella balls, sliced in half
Few sprigs of small leaf basil

Directions

Saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper and oregano just until the onions are translucent. Place mixture in a large bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Add chicken and parmesan plus ½ cup of the marinara sauce.
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Mix well and then using a small scoop, which helps keep them all the same size; makes approximately 24 meatballs. Preheat oven to 400’F for 15 minutes. I turned my to broil for another 4 minutes. Trying to get a little color on them, even though they will be covered with a small mozzarella ball and some basil.    
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Heat the remaining marinara sauce and cover and sit the meatballs in the sauce
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Macros = 2 Meatball
54 Calories – 3 g Fat – 3.5 g Carbs – 4 g Protein

Pumpkin spice mini chocolate chip protein muffins

Not sure if you noticed that I had written my last 3 blogs on the same day 3 weeks ago. I do try to write my blog about something I had made at some point during the current week but in preparation of being out of commission for about a month because of carpal tunnel surgery I was scheduled for I wanted to get a little ahead of the game.  
IMG_5495I am doing better but still on limited use for another week or so.  I have found it virtually impossible to limit my most dominant hand to 1 lb and limited chopping for a month. For someone who loves to be in the kitchen and garden it hasn’t been easy; don’t tell my doctor but I know I have cheated a little more times than I can count.
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IMG_5496IMG_5497IMG_5498Since we are in the midst of pumpkin season I thought I would share a Pumpkin Spice Muffin with you all. I am still trying to be a little more healthy but without compromising taste; this recipe is low in calories and fat and has a nice supply of protein – for those like me counting macros; you can find them listed at the bottom of this and hopefully most all of my blogs.

Pumpkin spice mini chocolate chip protein muffins

1 cup oatmeal flour (quick oats ground in food processor – see below)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
3 egg whites
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium banana, peeled and mashed
1 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 container applesauce

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°
Place liners in one muffin pan and lightly spray with baking spray.
In a large bowl combine egg whites, yogurt, pumpkin puree, honey, vanilla extract, banana, applesauce.
In a second bowl combine oatmeal flour, almond meal, vanilla whey protein powder, pumpkin mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Combine flour mix and egg mix together until smooth.
Fill each tin ¾ of the way full, spreading evenly.

Bake for 20 minutes.
Store in the refrigerator

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Macros = 1 Muffin
170 Calories – 5 g Fat – 24 g Carbs – 8 g Protein

Fish en Papillote – baked fish in parchment

I have always wanted to try making fish e paillote which is a fancy way of saying fish baked in parchment paper. Don’t ask me why it has taken me SO long; it was easy, delicious and was a huge hit with the fam. plus it looks pretty cool.
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I bought some wonderful cod from my local market along with some asparagus; I really didn’t have a plan yet but I thought it would at least look pretty with the green vegetable over the white fish. I figured I would slice up some onions or shallots or both and add a slice of lemon a little salt and pepper and voila a meal was born. Well almost!
IMG_5460I figured I needed to add some liquid so everything would steam in the packet and from some reason I was leaning toward an Asian profile.  So I started looking around the internet for some flavor Ideas and there are some great ones out there but I wanted something simple with ingredients I had on hand. I always have soy sauce and I found a bottle of Mirin next to the Soy Sauce; which Mirin is a type of rice wine vinegar that along with some sugar and it made a wonderful light taste to go along with the everything else in my little paillote; well mine was much larger than I think it should have been. When I make it again I will use a smaller piece of fish or at the very least only a few pieces of asparagus. I would do everything else the exact same, it was a very nice simple meal that took under 30 minutes from start to finish even cleanup was minimal.
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Ingredients
Cod Fillet – roughly 4 oz serving per person
Asparagus – trimmed
Fresh Thyme
Lemon – sliced
Cherry tomatoes – halved
Shallots – sliced
Onion – sliced – one of my super small ones from my garden
Kosher Salt
Freshly cracked Black Pepper

Flavoring
3 Tablespoon Mirin
3 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
whisk all in a small pan and heat long enough for the sugar to melt
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place fish in the middle of your piece of parchment, salt and pepper, add slices shallot and tomatoes, place a few pieces of asparagus and a slice of lemon. Pour some of the soy sauce mixture over each packet.
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Start on the side of the parchment and crimp and roll until it is completely closed. Place on a sheet pan with your other packets and place in a 350’F oven for about 15 minutes.
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Macros per packet using 3 spears of asparagus
212 Calories
23.5 Protein
24 Carbs
2.7 Fat

 

Egg Roll in a Bowl

Tis the season for the gardens to be cleaned out and prepped for next year!  It has been a pretty disappointing gardening season for me this year.  My garlic and onions were small, I didn’t get any cucumbers, my pepper and eggplant plants died and I may have gotten 10 squash in total. It wasn’t a total loss I still have a couple of enormous cabbages and I still have some rainbow beets and rainbow carrots that I am leaving in the ground until I need to take them out.
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So processing produce has been kept to a minimum this year and that is OK with me; though who eats that much cabbage? I know we don’t I gave some to my family but they wouldn’t even take one of the huge ones – gosh I can’t understand why…
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I did find a great recipe for Eggroll in a Bowl. Basically it is everything that goes into an eggroll minus the fried wrapper. I know that is probably the best part, this very easy and better for you. The first batch I made it was a little too spicy for my husband so I cut back on the crushed red pepper flakes and it still taste delish. Since I made it twice in a very short period of time, I ended up portioning it out and put them in the freezer. Great when/if you bring lunch to work and have access to a microwave.
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Egg Roll in a Bowl

Ingredients

9 cups shredded or chopped cabbage
1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 medium onions, diced
1 1/2 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup beef broth
4 teaspoon Tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 pound ground or diced chicken – can also use turkey or pork
Scallions for garnish

Instructions

using a large skillet cook the meat till browned, add the onions and sesame oil. cook until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium; add spices and broth and stir well.
Add the cabbage and stir to coat. Cook stirring frequently until the cabbage slightly wilts.
Add carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft.
Add tamari to taste and adjust flavorings as desired.
Serve plain or you can serve over rice
Garnish with green onions if desired.
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Macros – using diced chicken and 1 cup
97 Calories
2 Fat
16 Carbs
5.5 Protein

Pasta e Fagioli – similar to Olive Garden

Soup season came pretty quickly; at least for a couple of day. Nothing like going from 90’ to 40’ within a couple of days to start me thinking of making soup; literally any soup is fine with me. I do have a secret fantasy; well I guess it’s not a secret anymore; but to open a little soup shop. Kind of like a loaf and ladle kind of place. Because having a nice piece of bread with a warm cup of soup is just plain heaven to me.
IMG_5441I remember being in NY City quite a few year ago doing some sightseeing with my husband and we went looking for the Soup Nazi – you know the one that the show Seinfeld made a little more famous than he might have wanted to be. It really was a small hole in the wall kind of place on a side street and I thought it was simply brilliant. I can’t remember the exact wording but the sign said something like know what you want to order, have your money ready, place your order and move all the way to the left. Me being; well me I couldn’t stop smiling so I can only guess he knew I was only there because of the Seinfeld episode. My husband and I stepped up with our order and money ready, placed and paid and moved to the left. Apparently not far enough; or he played along; but we were pointed at and motioned to move further to the left. Still brings a smile to my face.
IMG_5439Anyway I loved how you got your soup, a spoon, napkin, an apple and a piece of bread ripped from a loaf all in  brown paper bag. What a great lunch; I would go there daily if I lived or worked close by. So simple yet so fulfilling.
IMG_5440Pasta e Fagioli Soup makes approximately 12 cups – freezes nicely

Ingredients
1 pound lean ground turkey (your choice – chicken, beef, sausage all would be great)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
32 ounce low sodium beef or chicken broth plus a little more as needed or use water
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
28 ounce can tomato sauce
1 ½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried marjoram – or substitute with more oregano
1 cup ditalini pasta – or substitute with another small pasta
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can northern beans, drained and rinsed
Kosher salt and fresh crack Black Pepper to taste

Instructions
Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat, crumble in the meat and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Drain fat and transfer to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining olive oil add carrots, celery and onions over medium-high heat until tender, about 6 minutes, add garlic saute another minute or so. Reduce heat to low, add the tomato sauce, broth, tomatoes and all the spices plus the meat back into the pot. Cover with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.
Prepare pasta according to the directions on the box. Add cooked drained pasta to the soup along with both cans of beans. Allow to meld for a few minutes. Serve warm with grated parmesan or romano cheese.
IMG_5446Macros = 1 cup using ground turkey
Calories 221
Fat 7.54
Carbs 21.25
Protein 18.2