Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Last night I had a craving for tortilla soup - though I have never made it and not sure I have ever eaten it - it sounded good. As I often do I looked at several recipes for inspiration and then made my own variation. This is what I came up with and it was good! The kids loved it which is always a good sign - though they are not picky eaters.

Tortilla Soup

4 cups chicken broth (I used my homemade)
4 cups water
2 chicken breasts
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bag of Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper


green onion
mozarella cheese (leave out to make dairy free)
yellow peppers (that is all I had on hand)
tortilla strips (recipe to follow)

other suggestions that I did not have on hand
green pepper

For the soup I boiled the chicken breasts in the broth and water for about 20 minutes. (You could use thighs as well but breast was all I had on hand.) I would add the chopped onion here as well but added mine near the end as an afterthought. Once the chicken breast is cooked take it out of the broth and shred it. Season the broth with cumin and chili and salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and add frozen corn to the broth and simmer until corn is cooked.
Serve with the toppings and enjoy.

Tortilla strips
6-8 corn tortillas
oil (I used grapeseed oil)

Brush both sides of tortillas with oil and stack as you go. I used a pizza cutter and cut the tortillas in half then cut crosswise in 1/4 inch strips. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven until they are golden. Stir every few minutes while they are baking.

Sorry this recipe may be a little hard to follow as I am doing it from my head on what I did last night. Hope you can follow and enjoy! :-)


We have been under the weather for the last couple weeks so have been making and eating a lot of soup! I love to make my own chicken stock and use this recipe that is on my sister's blog. While we have been sick I made a lot of broth and we ate soup at least once a day for a few days when nothing else sounded good. I stuck to a basic chicken soup but there are many other yummy soups you can make with this homemade broth. I think it makes a huge difference in how your soup tastes!
My sister is looking for a good Minestrone soup today so I will post one here for her. I got this at one of the cooking classes I went to. I made yummy tortilla soup last night and will post it soon.

Minestrone Soup

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks, chopped or one onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can diced Italian tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can kidney beans
1 14.5 oz can cannellini or lima beans
1/2 cup Italian green beans
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 zucchini, chopped in large pieces
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup pasta
salt and pepper

Saute leeks or onion in oil over medium hi temperature, add garlic, carrots and celery and saute for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and water, oregano, diced Italian tomatoes, all the beans, and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Turn heat on low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the zucchini and cabbage and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add pasta and simmer for another 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

My notes: I add the veggies based on what I may have and what we like in soup. For instance I usually leave out the Itialian green beans. Also, since I am going wheat free these days I would substitute the regular pasta for quinoa pasta or just leave it out. I have been using quinoa in my chicken and rice soup in place of rice as well. It makes for a good substitute.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Exercise is a key component to weight loss. In the past couple of years I have found this very difficult as I have been in so much pain with my back. It was all I could do to get through my day and take care of my kids. This summer I finally got the answer to what is wrong with my back and was referred to a great physical therapy clinic that concentrated on active therapy. I basically worked out 30-40 minutes a day. It has made such a huge difference and has motivated me to continue working out on my own. We really can't afford a gym membership and finding the time to go would be a challenge - so I have a great routine that I do at home. I bought a stationary bike as this is the safest way for me to get the cardio I need. I ride it for 15-20 minutes, then I work with a resistance band that my PT gave me. He showed me how I can do almost anything that you would do with weights at a gym with the band. I also do some other exercises that he had me doing that are simple and I am able to do them at home without equipment. After I do that for about 5-10 minutes I do a 1 mile Walk Away the Pounds video. This also has some resistance band exercises with it. That takes me about 15 minutes - so in all my workout takes me about 45 minutes.
I love when I am done and feel good that I have spent some time exercising. I love that I can do it as well and that my back, along with the rest of my body, is getting stronger and healthier!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What do I eat - now that I am eating differently?

I am not sure that anyone is reading over here still but just thought I would continue to blog so I have a record of my journey to this new way of eating.

Today I will give you a brief glimpse of what I am eating on a daily basis. As I walk this out I am sure my repertoire will grow and expand and even become a little more exciting - but for now I am liking it :-)

For breakfast I usually eat eggs. I like mine fried, over easy - so I fry them in a little olive oil. Over the years eggs have gotten a bad rap - but they are really not the beasts everyone thought they were. It has taken me a while to bring myself to eat eggs about 5 mornings a week. The other two mornings I usually drink a smoothie lovingly prepared for me by my husband :-) We use the Quest Protein powder in our smoothies because it is low glycemic, lactose free and yet uses no artificial sweeteners. We use almond milk for our base (we use almond milk for everything - including cereal for the kids which they only eat one or two mornings a week) and add frozen mixed berries, frozen blueberries from our garden and sometimes some banana or other fruit we may have around.
Another favorite for breakfast which I have not fixed for awhile is a veggie "omelet" When I get home from the grocery store I cut up my veggies and put them in ziplocs in my crisper - green onion, red pepper, zucchini (from my garden in the summer), asparagus (in season) and anything else that might sound good. In the morning I just grab all the baggies and throw a little handful of each in my frying pan with some olive oil. I saute these until they are just a little tender and then add a huge handful of spinach. I cook it down and then pour a couple of eggs over and it and let it cook. Yum and it is filling and satisfying as well.

Lunch is almost always the same - I am not a big salad person but I think a lot of times it has to do with not finding the right dressing. With the way I have been fixing my salads I find I am craving them! I buy already prepared lettuce - usually romaine - and put a little in my bowl. To it I add the above mentioned veggies and a cut up grilled chicken breast. (I try and buy chicken on the weekend, marinate it and grill it. I do enough for Troy and I for lunch for the week.) If I have an apple I chop up half and apple and add it as well - just went apple picking so will have plenty for awhile :-) I then mix about a tbsp of olive oil and tbsp of red wine vinegar and a little fresh ground pepper together and toss it with my salad - yum!

Can't wait for lunch! Tomorrow I will probably have salmon with my salad instead as I did not have a chance to buy my chicken yet.
As the weather gets cooler I will probably have veggie or chicken soup for lunch some days. I have been cooking chickens when they are on sale and freezing broth - nothing better than homemade chicken soup!

This post is getting rather long so I will end now and talk about dinner another time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Changes in our Kitchen!

For the past few months I have been convinced through different things I am learning that our eating, though seemingly pretty healthy, needed a great overhaul. Honestly with all I have had going on in my life over the past two years - two international adoptions and they ensuing bonding and transition issues, a father who relied on me for transportation and attendance at all of his doctors appointments and then his final illness and death this summer and my severe back pain which made me almost unable to stand for more than 30 minutes - I was a bit overwhelmed. Add to that being overweight and not having much strength or energy.
Well, things are changing for me and with those changes I am feeling more energy, clearer thinking and a desire to overhaul our eating once again.
My preschoolers are now in preschool two mornings a week which gives me just enough free time to feel like I am getting a little break. I finally got a diagnosis for my back and some real help from active physical therapy. I basically got to work out with a personal trainer all summer and get an exercise routine that has helped me sooo much!
Last year while we were waiting for AJ I felt led to really concentrate on loosing weight. There is a whole story behind that and God really did a supernatural thing in my life which we later realized was necessary for our adoption - but that is another story. One of the things that I felt led to do at the time was to go off of all wheat. I really believe it was a key. Over time I began eating wheat products again and gained back almost all the weight I had lost.
I have been trying for a few weeks to get myself psyched up again to get off wheat - I have always been a bread and pasta person and at first could not imagine giving them up but did it last year so knew I could.
About two weeks ago I went off wheat again. The transformation has been amazing. I have been virtually pain free with my back, I am not retaining water (by evening my ankles would be so swollen it was really scaring me) I have dropped 6 pounds (probably a lot of water - but can feel the difference) I am not feeling bloated. I was diagnosed with a spastic colon when I was young - do not have issues related to that when I am not eating wheat. I am feeling much more energy - last week I actually cleaned both bathrooms thoroughly and then the next day spot scrubbed my carpet and had no ensuing back pain. This is amazing - I have not been able to clean my house much at all because of pain. I am thinking more clearly and more positively. I feel like I can think through these changes I need to make.
There is a lot of research out there about wheat and it's affects on our body. A lot of it has to do with the way it is processed and prepared and I am not going to expound on it because I don't understand it all yet but if you are having any of the above symptoms and cannot find answers I would encourage you to check it out.
I am not sure anyone is even checking my blog anymore but I am going to write some more about this and how we are eating now and the changes we are making. It will still be a process and learning new things all the time.
What I used to think was healthy has changed - drastically! I am excited to see what develops over the next few weeks and months. I will be posting some links to some great blogs and sites with more information - so stay tuned if you are interested :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries!!!

One of the things we were blessed with when we moved into our house was 4 well established blueberry bushes. We have had our share of trials with the blueberry bushes - the first year was a good one - then the next year they got a common blueberry disease called mummy berry - we thought our blueberry days were over. After that diseased crop we pruned the bushes way back and wondered if we would be able to get rid of the disease. The next year was so so and one bush was still pretty badly diseased - again we did a major pruning. This year we are reaping the benefits of the deep pruning - we have had a bumper crop of beautiful, big, juicy blueberries on all four bushes. I love the spiritual principles here of pruning and bearing fruit as well. One day I would love to write a little devotional on "Lessons from my Garden" - but that is another story.
So back to the subject of blueberries!! I have had the opportunity to make some yummy things with our blueberries this year and here are the recipes:

Blueberry Coffee Cake

for the topping

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the cake

1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch diameter cake pan. To make the topping, in a small bowl, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Blend in the butter, using your fingertips or a pastry blender, until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

To make the cake, in a large bowl, beat together the egg, milk and butter. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a small bowl and add the egg mixture. Beat until just blended. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and spinkle with the topping. Bake until a wood toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm from the pan.

Serves 6-8 - I double this in a 9x13 pan when I need more and it works fine.

Blueberry Buckle

A buckly by definition is a tender cake generally baked with fresh berries inside or on the bottom of the cake.
This cake really is tender - it is so good!!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Beat 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating mixture well. Add egg, and beat well.

Combine 1 1/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt: add alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into greased 8 in square baking dish. Top with blueberries.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1/4 cup butter with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle crumb topping evenly over blueberries.

Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes. Yeild 6 servings. (I have also doubled this in a 9x13)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Chicken and Biscuits

Many years ago I found some chicken recipes in Good Housekeeping magazine and they are still a couple of my favorites. One of them can be found in an earlier entry here. In the May 2009 issue there are several chicken recipes that I am looking forward to trying. We tried the first one tonight and it was good. Not sure it will become a classic at our house but it was good and was fairly easy to prepare (which is a prerequisite for any recipe in my kitchen :-) )
So without any further ado - here is the recipe:

Spring Chicken and Biscuits
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose baking mix (not with buttermilk)
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup reduced-fat milk
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves (1 1/2 lbs)
Salt and pepper (or sepper as my 3 year olds call it)
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 small onion (4 to 6 oz), chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill plus additional sprigs for garnish if desired
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In medium bowl, mix baking mix and 1/3 cup milk until just combined. Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop biscuit dough to make 4 even mounds. Bake biscuits 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, with meat mallet, pound chicken (I put mine in a ziploc bag) to an even 1/2 inch thickness, cut chicken into 1/2 inch chunks and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
In 12 inch skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium high until hot. Add chicken and cook 6 to 7 minutes or unitl no longer pink throughout, stirring occasionally. Transfer chicken to bowl.
To the same skillet add remaining 3 teaspoons oil, reduce heat to medium. Add carrots, onion and celery and cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and heat to boiling on medium high. In cup, stir cornstarch into 1/2 cup milk and add to skillet. Heat to boiling on medium-high; boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat; stir in peas, dill, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and chicken.
To serve, spoon chicken and vegetable mixture into 4 shallow dinner bowls. Top each bowl with a biscuit; garnish with dill sprigs.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Crispy Chicken Fingers

We were invited to join a couple other families on an outing today. At 8:40 am the one who organized the day called me to say everyone was running late and it came up that I was supposed to make chicken :-) She had sent an email at 6 something this morning but I had just turned my computer on when she called. Unfortunately, I had no chicken in the house. Fortunately Troy had just left the house and I called him to run to the store for chicken and cereal. Unfortunately he forgot the cereal. Fortunately I needed to let the chicken soak in the buttermilk for 15 minutes. Anyway, my fortunately and unfortunately could go on and on but I will get to the point. I got the call at 8:40 am with no chicken in the house and out the door at 10 am with these chicken fingers cooked and ready for our yummy lunch. It is a fast, easy, semi-healthy (compared to McD or W*ndys) recipe. We had the leftovers tonight for dinner and they were still yummy :-)

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut across into 1/2 inch-thick slices
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk (could use coconut milk or almond milk for dairy free option)
Cooking spray
4 cups whole grain cereal such as Corn Chex (for a gluten free option) or corn flakes (not gluten free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine the chicken and buttermilk in a shallow dish, turning the chicken to coat it with buttermilk. Cover and chill for 15 minutes.
Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
Put the cereal in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow dish and season them with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of chicken in the cereal to fully coat and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Leave the chicken on the baking sheet to cool slightly. It will become crispier.
Serve with honey mustard sauce or other sauce if desired.

Ok - now for my notes :-) First I did a lot more chicken than this recipe called for. I did about 3 or 4 pounds and since I was making it for several 3 year olds and younger I cut it up into chunks rather than strips. I used the Corn Chex and ended up using the whole box.
I baked mine for double the time it says here as well. After 8 minutes they were still pretty pink in the middle - 16 minutes was good and they were still very moist. I did not have time to let them cool on the baking sheets as I was short on time so they were not as crispy as they could have been. I reheated the leftovers in the oven for dinner and they were nice and crispy. Everyone who tried them today thought they were great.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Garbanzo Beans

The Garbanzo bean, also called a chick pea, is gaining popularity. I have always liked them but used to think they were only for salads. A couple years ago I found a great low fat Hummus recipe in my WW cookbook and started making it. Even my hubby, who is not a garbanzo lover, likes my hummus. I began to explore other uses and found some interesting recipes.
Tonight I was the cook at one of our International Cooking Nights we have through our church. I decided to share some of the recipes that I have found using this great "bean".
In doing some research for the class I found that this is one of the healthiest "beans". It is high in fiber, high in iron, can help lower cholesterol, low on the glycemic index, and one of the highest protein plant foods. It has many other great features as well.
So here are the three recipes I shared tonight. They all got rave reviews.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

2 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
1 Tbsp. chili seasoning
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss chick peas with chili seasoning and olive oil. Spread out in a single layer on a nonstick jelly roll pan. Place on the center rack of the oven and roast 40-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
The chickpeas are done when they are browned and taste crispy. If they're still soft in the center, continue roasting in 5-minute increments until done. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately. Roasted garbanzo beans do not keep well, even in an air-tight container.


1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
½ cup plain low fat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, puree all the ingredients until blended, but still a little chunky.
Serve with pita chips or vegetables.

I served this with homemade pita chips - just cut pita bread in 8ths and split it. Lay the bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. You can also put olive oil and other seasoning on the bread before toasting but I prefer mine plain.

Indian Cauliflower Curry Stew

I got this recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine. It is a great vegetarian dish but you could add meat (chicken or pork) if you just had to have meat with it. I added a little more curry than it called for and did the final cooking just until the cauliflower was done - the 15 to 20 minutes final cook time is a little to long in my opinion

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 medium head cauliflower (2 lbs) cut into small florets (4 ½ cups)
2 15 oz cans Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup plain low fat yogurt plus additional for serving
1 ½ cups brown rice

In 6 quart Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high until hot. Add carrots and onion, and cook 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned and tender, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, prepare rice as label directs; keep warm.

Stir ginger, curry, and ¾ teaspoon salt into carrot mixture; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth; cover and heat to boiling on high. Stir in cauliflower and garbanzo beans; cover and cook on medium 15 to 20 minutes longer, gently stirring every 5 minutes until cauliflower is tender.

To serve, stir chopped cilantro and ¼ cup yogurt into cauliflower stew. Spoon rice into serving bowls; top with stew. Serve cauliflower stew with additional yogurt to dollop on top if you like. Makes about 8 cups.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

Here is a very simple recipe that makes a very yummy, fast dinner. Warning - it is not WW friendly or even healthy living friendly but oh so good for an occasional treat :-)

Here is the link to my sister's blog where she has it detailed.

Check out some other recipes while you are there - she has some great ones!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hamburger Cornbread Casserole

This recipe is from my Healthy Cooking Magazine. We really like it. I did not have ranch style beans the second time I made it so just used white beans and added a few other things to it.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can ranch-style beans
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the beans, tomatoes, chili powder, and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.
2. Transfer to an 11 in x 7 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Combine the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Spoon over filling; gently spread to cover top.
3. Bake uncovered, at 425 degrees for 14-18 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.