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Okay, I was all excited to get on here and share a new pie recipe with you…apple berry pie, actually.  I wanted to tell you how absolutely scrumptious it was…moist, just a little tart, just a little sweet…how it practically melts in your mouth.

Then I screwed it up and now it sits on my counter, a little too dry, a little to tart and, well…let’s just leave it at that.

So, I’m moving on to the next recipe.  I’ve made this one once before and it was gone in no time.  My family, quite literally, inhaled it by the bowlfull.  It was so good, in fact, that I’ve made it again and thought I’d share.

Here’s the thing…with this Chicken Spinach and Gnocchi soup, you can go super-healthy, semi-healthy, super quick, or make it take all day.  If you make everything from scratch it takes about 3 hours.  That’s about what today’s batch took me, so we’ll just say it’s a great project for a rainy afternoon.  However, the payoff is the most extraordinary blend of flavors in a medium thick soup that has a ton of vitamins, nutrients and other health benefits.

Then, there’s the quick and easy way.  It still tastes good.  Just not as good.  You can go with canned chicken broth and frozen gnocchi, which knocks your cooking time down to about 20 minutes and your prep time down to about 15 minutes.  Either way, you still have a delicious homemade soup.

Using everything listed, I made enough soup to feed 8 of us (me, my husband, two teenage boys and 2 teenage girls, as well as one of our friends and her daughter, with enough soup left over to do it again.

The gnocchi recipe made enough for me to make this pot, set aside a freezer bag full of cooked balls and two freezer bags full of uncooked gnocchi.  I’m freezing them both to see how well they freeze and retain their flavor and texture.  I’ll be sure and let you all know the results.

Okay, here we go.

Start with a great chicken broth.  I always make my own because it’s incredibly simple and very nutritious.

Get a whole frying chicken and throw it in a pot.  Then, choose what you want to go in it.  I add herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, fennel seeds and peppermint), a little salt and pepper,  a few cloves of garlic, half a red onion, 4 stalks of celery and 1/2 a lemon.  Add distilled water to about 1/2 inch past the top of the ingredients, put a lid on it, turn it on medium and leave it alone for about an hour, until the chicken is fully cooked but not tough. Strain off the broth into a large pot.  Now, you have a delicious, healthy chicken broth.

Chicken broth

Pull the meat from the bones and chop, then set aside however much you want to add to your soup.  We use about half the meat for the soup and make the other into an awesome chicken salad for sandwiches!  We occasionally freeze the cooked chicken, too.  It’s great to use in chicken fajitas or tacos, or to add to a soup later on when I want something quick and easy.

This chicken broth totally blows away anything you can buy in a can and it gives you a very tasty,  healthy, nutritious base for just about any soup, plus a full chicken’s worth of meat, so you really getting enough food here for 2 meals.  Inspiringly economical of me, huh?

I’ve also found that the left-over broth freezes well.  I wait until it cools down, then stick it in a freezer bag and it’s ready to use whenever a recipe calls for chicken broth.  I’ve stored it for up to 3 months without it losing flavor.

I do have to warn you, though…when I make this in the springtime while my windows are open, I’ve had neighbors knock on my door asking what in the world I’m cooking that smells so good.  More than once, we’ve ended up with unexpected (but welcome)  dinner guests.  It also makes your house smell totally appetizing!

Next comes the gnocchi balls.  Don’t know what that is?  It is simply little balls made of flour, butter and potato.

Boil 8 potatoes until they are soft but not mushy.  I like to use the gold or red potatoes, but brown work just fine, too.  When they are done, drain them (I save the water and add it to my chicken broth), peel them, then mash them up.  Add 2 Tbsp of butter and enough flour to form a workable dough, usually about 2 cups.  When finding the right texture, think of slightly soft and sticky Playdough.

Roll the dough into long ropes and cut into 1/4″-1/2″ sections.  If you are feeling particularly creative, you can kinda squish them with a fork to give them a pretty texture.  I wasn’t feeling so creative today, so mine came out looking entirely ordinary.

Gnocchi ropes and balls

Next, bring a pot of  water to a boil.  I prefer to use a mixture of half distilled water, half chicken broth because it gives the gnocchi a bit of flavor.  Ordinarily, they are a bit bland.  Drop in the gnocchi balls and cook until they float to the top.  Drain them, then set them aside to add to your finished soup.

The gnocchi will float on top of the water when they are done

When the gnocchi is done, it will float on top of the water

Cooked Gnocchi balls

Finished gnocchi balls

I mix the liquid left over from cooking the gnocchi with the rest of the broth I’m using to make my soup. It makes the base a little thicker and yummier.  For now, just set it aside or pitch it.

Next, chop 1/2-1  red onion and 4-5 cloves of garlic.  Throw them in a large skillet or pot with 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Saute until the veggies are soft, then add 3-4 cups broth, 1 pint half and half and the chicken.  Let simmer 15-20 minutes.  Add gnocchi balls and simmer 3-5 minutes.  Add fresh spinach.  If you really like spinach, load the soup up.  I love it this way.  If you aren’t a huge spinach fan, just throw in 3/4 -1 cup.  Cook until it is wilted.

That’s it, folks!  Here’s what you end up with.

Chicken Spinach & Gnocchi Soup

So, let’s sum  up the quick and easy version:

1 large can chicken broth

Chicken ~ cooked and chopped

1 pkg frozen, pre-cooked gnocchi

1-2 cups Spinach

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

1 pint half and half

parsley ~ fresh is best, but dried will work

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

Saute onions, parsley and garlic in olive oil until soft but firm.  Add Chicken broth, half and half and chicken.  Simmer 15-20 minutes.  Add gnocchi and simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Add spinach and simmer until wilted.  Cool and serve.

I’ll update this post later on and let you all know how the frozen gnocchi turned out.  I’m hoping to have enough soup left over to try freezing.  We’ll see how that goes….

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Okay, we’ve had some great discussions on vitamins, minerals, herbs and foods that help us repair and maintain our health.   Still, the phrase ‘health food’ brings to mind images of tofu and bean sprouts.  Add to that the rising cost of everything from milk to gasoline, and  it can be tough to feed your family a healthy dinner without spending a ton of money.  Let’s face it…organic food is hardly cheap.   And it is so much more work than popping dinner in the microwave!

With the following recipes,  a few extra minutes and a couple extra dollars, you can be serving your family a tasty meal that is packed full of vitamins and nutrients!  These recipes will change your mind about eating healthy and have you looking forward to your next meal!

veggies

Red Sauce

This sauce is a great alternative to pre-packaged  spaghetti sauce.  It is fantastic over whole-grain noodles, baked eggplant or zuchinni, on ravioli or anywhere else you want to add a burst of flavor that is full of vitamins and nutrients!Because it is so fast and easy, this is  a great dish  when your are feeding a group
Prep Time: 10-20 min ~ Cook Time 20-45 min ~ Serves 8~10.

Here’s what you’ll need:
2 cans tomato sauce, organic if possible
2 TBSP Olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lg tomatoes, diced
1 bell  pepper, diced
1 lg portabella  mushroom, diced
Fresh or dried  herbs, to taste (basil, oregano,
sage, thyme, peppermint, etc)

Optional Ingredients:
Browned beef, chicken, turkey, etc.

In a medium pot combine olive oil, onion and garlic, mixing thoroughly.  Saute  on medium heat until onion is translucent and soft.  Add all other ingredients.  Cover and simmer on medium-low heat  for 20-45 minutes.

Tips:

The longer you simmer this one, the stronger the flavor.  You can easily adjust the flavor as it cooks by adding red wine, sea salt, bragg amino acids (tastes like soy sauce and is available in any healthfood store), or any of your other favorite spices.  Remember that when using herbs and spices it will take 10-15 minutes to detect a flavor change, so be careful not to overdo it!

Veggie & Rice Stir Fry

Veggie & Rice Stir Fry

Tamara’s Veggies & Rice Stir-Fry

For a quick, simple meal that is overflowing with vitamins and nutrients and is perfect for feeding a crowd, try this delicious stir fry.   You can easily customize it to fit your family’s favorite veggie preferences.

Prep time: 20-25 minutes      Makes 8-10 servings

Stir Fry Sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar,
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups vegetable, beef or chicken broth
Optional
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or a bit of fresh minced ginger)

Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Ingredients:
2-3 cups rice (cooked)
3-4 cups fresh veggies, sliced to 1/4″
Stir-Fry Sauce
Optional Ingredients:
1 lb chicken, beef, turkey, etc, cooked and cubed
1 can water chestnuts
1 can mini-corn

Tips:

Don’t be afraid to experiment!  Try something besides long grain or white rice  to give this dish a bit of extra flavor.  Our favorite rices are basmati and jasmine!

There aren’t many veggies that don’t go fabulously with this dish.  Some that are especially delicious are yellow squash, red onions, zuchinni, eggplant, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers (red, green and yellow!)

This is a dish that is exceptionally suited to fresh, organic veggies!  Canned and frozen lose most of their flavor, so they don’t add much to this dish.  Fresh is definitely better, but for the most flavor and the highest level of vitamins nutrients, organic is the way to go!

Simple Veggie Quiche

Simple Veggie Quiche

Simple Veggie Quiche

This is one of our favorite meals!  We change the ingredients to suit our mood and often have it for both breakfast and dinner!  Add some bread or a salad on the side for an extra delight!

Prep time: 10 minutes          Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

6 eggs (organic, cage free)

1 Cup heavy cream

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup grated cheese (whatever kind you like best.  For a healthier alternative, try some organic cheddar or mozzerella!)

1/2 cup veggies/meat (see tips for suggested ingredients)

3 Tbsp Bread crumbs

Coat pie pan with olive oil.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over pan, thoroughly coating bottom and sides.  Aside.

Mix eggs, heavy cream, cream cheese and grated cheese with a hand mixer 2-3 minutes.  Pour into crust.  Add in veggies/meat and gently blend throughout egg mixture.

Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until eggs are barely browned and fluffy.  Let cool 15-25 minutes.

Tips:

When blending eggs/cheese, the longer you spend mixing it the lighter and fluffier the quiche will be.  Mixing adds air bubbles and truly changes the texture of this delicate dish!

When adding veggies/meat to your quiche, here are a few things to keep in mind.

If you are using canned or frozen veggies, drain them well.  Any excess water will change the consistency and texture of the finished dish.  I usually squeeze mine between two paper towels to remove excess water.

Our favorite veggies in this quiche:

spinach (frozen or raw.  We like raw best!), artichokes (canned works best), tomatoes (raw), mushrooms (raw)

others that work well: cauliflower (raw or frozen),  peppers (any color, lightly sauteed in olive oil), garlic (raw or sauteed)

Meat should be thoroughly cooked before adding it to the quiche.  Lunch meat (chopped) works really well.  We have added bacon, sausage, venison and chicken to this dish with great results!

If you don’t like the bread crumb crust, try phyllo dough crust!  Available at any grocery store, this is a great alternative.  It provides a light, flaky crust that blends nicely with the veggies and egg.

Note: While this dish has plenty of healthy ingredients, it is not recommended for anyone with high cholestorol or lactose intolerance.  As with anything, use some common sense!

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