Healthy “Creamy” Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is a snap to whip up in less than 20 minutes (yes I said less than 20 minutes), and with the light coconut milk and the spicy curry, make it quite a unique version, and universal hit amongst those whom I have shared this with.   This recipe is  so nutrient dense and healthy , yet at the same time sophisticated enough to “wow” your friends at any dinner party.  Great as an Amuse-bouche in a shot glass at a fancy dinner or party reception, as an appetizer, or main dish.   From my own experience, I can assure you that this is a real crowd pleasing dish!

I make “Butternut Squash” soup all the time, yet through trial and error, find this version to really showcase the kind of depth, creaminess, flavor and balance, not frequently utilized in traditional butternut squash soup.  Even if you think you don’t like curry, I think you’ll find that in this recipe, the yellow curry addition, takes the flavor and exotic “wow” factor to a whole new level.  I really worked hard to hit my perfect Fat/Acid/Sugar/Salt balance  in this soup recipe to create a taste filled/ harmonic balance of  layered flavor notes in this recipe.  I also include tips on how you can “customize” this recipe to create the perfect dimension of flavors that works best for your palate.  I hope you love it as much as me, and if you do, please be sure to share your own photos and versions wither here on my blog in the comments section, as well as on my FB page.

* Special Note for chemotherapy patients or persons experiencing weight loss from chronic illness and need to up the caloric density to the foods your eating: I ate this while going through massive amounts of chemo and radiation, and this was one of my favorite foods to eat while I was sick, nauseated, and losing weight.  The spicy curry and the creamy coconut flavor really “knocks out” that yucky chemo flavor,  and the soup itself, so delicious I just kept eating more.  If you need to put on some weight or add  extra calories due to cancer or illness related weight loss, just use regular full calorie coconut milk (and heavy cream)  to really crank up the calorie density!

*To lower the calorie and fat content in this recipe even further: omit the coconut milk and use the full amount of chicken stock when doing the puree in the blender

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 can light coconut milk (Regular can be used but I prefer light for less calories and can’t taste the difference)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons yellow curry ( I use 2, but I really like curry, so 1 tablespoon might be enough for most)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 lemon to squeeze to taste (preferably Meyer Lemon, its less bitter)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or butter
  • Grade B Maple Syrup or sweetener of choice (Optional to sweeten ONLY if necessary)
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste (optional, and I used white pepper because you don’t “see” it in the soup, you can use regular pepper if you like)

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oil or butter over medium heat
  2. add onion and a dash of salt, and saute for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent and soft
  3. Add butternut squash and stir to coat with oil
  4. Saute the butternut squash for aprox 3 minutes
  5. pour in chicken stock, either the entire cup and a half, or just until it covers the top of the squash
  6. Bring stock to a low boil, turn down and then simmer, for aprox 10 minutes or until the squash is tender and can be pierced with a fork
  7. Pour the squash and only 1/2 of the stock into a vita mix/blender and puree, the consistency should be like a thick milkshake when through
  8. Return squash puree to the original pan on the stove and add the coconut milk, gently stirring
  9. Add curry
  10. Heat over medium, and squeeze in lemon to brighten up flavor
  11. Add salt to taste
  12. Taste and if the soup needs a little sweetening to brighten it up, add in a teaspoon or so of maple syrup (I choose maple syrup grade B because its healthier, but you can use whatever sweetener you have on hand or prefer)

Special Note:  As with any soup, but this one in particular, I find that creating that “perfect” balance  between the Acid/Sugar/Salt can really make a huge difference in the final soup masterpiece you have created.  Each time you make this soup, or any, is different.  So learn to  “play” around with it once your done with the final steps, taste and adjust.  With this soup you can make very subtle yet poignant adjustments to the overall final product just by playing around with the  salt, acid (lemon juice to “brighten it up”), and sweet.  The coconut milk and squash are naturally a little sweet so you may find you don’t need to enhance the sweetness at all, or just a teaspoon of maple syrup, sugar or sweetener.  Its up to you!

Serve and Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
via Spark People Calorie Counter

 

 

 

  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 92.1
  Total Fat 1.6 g
  Saturated Fat 0.3 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g
  Cholesterol 1.9 mg
  Sodium 374.3 mg
  Potassium 720.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 19.5 g
  Dietary Fiber 4.5 g
  Sugars 0.6 g
  Protein 3.1 g

 

 

 

 

 



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Healthy Spanish Paella, An Amazing Family Style Dish

 

Wow!  What an amazing class and dish I learned how to properly make with Local Silicon Vally Chef Joni Sare.  The back story is I run and organize a local “Healthy Lifestyle/Fitness” meetup group here in the San Francisco Bay Area and with the guidance and incredibly instruction from Chef Joni Sare.  Joni was kind enough to allow me to organize a very reasonably priced cooking class to offer my members last weekend.  And boy was it a BIG hit.  Thank you Joni!  We made a really healthy and nutrient dense Veggie/Chicken and Shrimp Spanish Paella that was just amazing and am so excited to share it with you.

Paella, is a traditionally “peasant style” Spanish dish that has been round for many many generations, and a delight to serve large groups, dinner parties, or large gatherings.  Paella, is technically a four stage dish, which can be put together quickly with a little preparation.  Even better, with a few family member or assistants to help with the cutting and chopping of the vegetables,  its easy to piece together and just flow through all 4 stages easily and with little thought. When you get to the last stage of the final cooking process, you just allow the ingredients to finish their final cooking phase and you can enjoy a glass of wine or sparkling water chatting with friends.  The final product is finished in the last stage of cooking for about 20 minutes. Llastly you turn up the heat and allow the rice to toast and caramalize or that tasty crispy bottom at the end, the lid on, for about 3 to 5 minutes.

There are many variations of Spanish Paella:

To get an idea of a basic Spanish Paella “how to” you can see a great link here in an older “Fine Cooking” magazine link.  For basic Spanish Seafood Paella recipe how to with video see here through this link.

Here is the recipe for the Paella we made yesterday that are reflected in the photos I have included on this blog entry.  This was a veggie, seafood, chicken recipe but you can make any variation of this from excluding the chicken and seafood for just a super veggie version, of by just excluding the chicken or seafood very your own preferences.

Classic Spanish Paella Recipes Include Many Of These Ingredients:

Rabbit, chorizo, pork sausage, chicken sausage, chicken legs or thigh pieces, shrimp, fish, mussels, clams, greens beans and peas. Seafood options can include: Shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, scallops, and fish (any variety).  Veggies options can include: Marinated artichokes, green bean, zucchini (any type, bell peppers (green , red, yellow, and orange colored), chickpeas, carrots sliced, asparagus, parsley, mushrooms and potatoes.

Recipe below Created AND Developed by Chef Joni Sare

Serves 4 and should be prepared in aprox a 10 to 12 inch pan

Ingredients Stage 1 and 2:

  • Chicken legs or thighs bone in, or for less juicy or “lower fat” meat, chicken breasts quartered
  • 1 whole  chorizo , pork or chicken sausage sliced at a diagonal
  • 1 cup short grain arborio Rice
  • 1 large pinch of saffron (aprox 8 to 12 strings crushed)
  • 2 large bell peppers of any color, we used red and green for this particular dish yesterday
  • 2 tomatoes chopped into bite sized piece
  • 1 zucchini green or yellow sliced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 red onion chopped1/2 cup of frozen green peas defrosted
  • 1/2 cup of green olives from a can (reserve liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced roasted piquillo peppers from a can

*** Remember that is just the ingredients from the recipe shown in the photos, you can be creative and use any of the ingredients I have listed as common ingredients used in Spanish Paella

*** Go to Stage 3 to make the cooking liquid if you have time before completing stage 2 so cooking liquid will be ready to go directly into pan at the end of Stage 2

Directions:

Stage One:

  1. Heat until soft in the olive oil the yellow onion dieced, the bell peppers diced, and the tomato diced
  2. Heat until soft aprox about 5 minutes, stirring often

Stage Two:

  1. Brown the meat in the onion, bell pepper and tomato mixture, until meat is nicely browned on all sixed, then remove meat and set aside.
  2. Add the rice, cook, stirring often allowing for the rice to have a nice oil and vegetable mix while allowing the rice to “toast” somewhat.
  3. Make a “well” or circular area in the middle of the pan, add the saffron and toast it for about one minute.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients except the browned meat

 

Stage 3 Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves of garlic minced or crush (or 1 tablespoon can prepared crush garlic)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 14 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 small 4 ounce jar of pimentos (liquid too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1.2 cup of the olive juice from the canned olive can
  • 1.2 cup of white wine or 1.4 of a cup vermouth

Stage 3 and 4 Directions:

Stage 3:

****If you have time while meat is browning in Stage 2, begin on Stage 3 while its browning

  1. In a 2 quart sauce pan , mix the liquid ingredients well, and keep warm on stove until time to add to Paella dish in Stage 4
  2. Mix the chicken broth or stock, the tomato sauce, the jar of pimentos with liquid, the bay leaf, the dried thyme, the reserved olive juice from the can, and the white wine or 1.4 cup of Vermouth

 

Stage 4:

  1. Add the broth mixture to the paella pan, mix well, making sure the rice is evenly distributed.  Add the brown meat to the paella pan in strategic places (wait on the seafood).  If you are using whole chicken legs or thighs, try to kind of nestle them into and within the rice in the pan so they are nicely surrounded by the warm mixture to insure complete cooking.
  2.  Keep the lid off and do not disturb the mixture until serving!
  3. Cook uncovered on a low simmer for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is well below the rice and just about gone.
  4. 4. When liquid is about gone, at the point add the seafood, if using, in strategic places, and push down into the mixture.
  5. Turn the heat up now to medium high and allow the underside of the rice to toast and caramelize, making the “soccorat” aka the crispy rice bottom that Spanish paella is known for.
  6. Remove from heat , cover and let stand for 5 minutes, this allows the  “soccarat” or crispy browned rice bottom to loosen and lift from the bottom of the pan

Recipe Developed by Chef Joni Sare www.Jonisare.com

Serve and Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 430; Fat (g): 13; Fat Calories (kcal): 120; Saturated Fat (g): 2; Protein (g): 22; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 54; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 710; Cholesterol (mg): 65; Fiber (g): 2;

 

 

 

 

 



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Basil Walnut Pesto

Pesto  in its traditional form is made with pine nuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Costs for pine nuts have really increased dramatically over the years, so I just make mine with walnuts instead.  I actually think pesto tastes just as good, if not better, with walnuts, as opposed to pine nuts anyways, and some would argue walnuts are healthier  being so high on the antioxidant index.   Pesto with walnuts its also a very economical way to add some bold flavor on any budget.   The flavor is rich but filled with good fats from the olive oil and the walnuts.  It freezes well, defrosts quickly and is so versatile it can be used in sauces, on pizza and pastas, and as a big dollop of flavor on meat, seafood, poultry and veggies.   I usually will make a big recipe and then freeze in several small serving containers.  The recipe included below is a fairly generic version of the recipe.  You can blend the ingredients into a paste in a food processor, or in my case I use a high speed blender.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of packed fresh  basil leaves (found in the produce section by the fresh herbs)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 2 cloves of minced or crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (opt)

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leave, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor or blender
  2. Blend until thoroughly combined
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and blend 10 to 15 seconds or more
  4. Serve and enjoy, or store in freezer until ready to use

Nutrtion facts

Servings per container: 6

Calories: 213 calories per serving

Calories from fat (good fat): 188 per serving

Total carbs: 2.7

Total sugars: 1.1 g

Protein: 5.6

Total Fats: 20.9 g

 

 



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Lowfat Pan Crisp “Little Dragon” Chinese Dumplings

 

 

These little Chinese dumplings are so TASTY you would never in a million years guess that not only are they packed full of protein and good nutrition, they are juicy with a crisp outer skin, yet not greasy like most pan fried dumplings.  I know some people have an “issue” with calorie restricted food diets, and by no ways do I condone any kind of diet with severe calorie restrictions.  I came up with this healthy style “crispy” dumpling concept in my twenties while trying to create a crispy pot sticker style of dumpling I could eat, which had lots of flavor minus all the grease. In this recipe I use 100 percent fat free ground turkey breast or chicken breast in the filling and  combining it with chopped shrimp and Asian flavors. I then utilize a non stick skillet to pan “crisp” or brown the dumpling  on both sides, later adding low fat or non fat chicken broth or stock to “steam fry” the dumpling.  The  “pan steaming” works to infuse flavor and moisture to the bland or “dry” ground poultry, while the “crisping” the dumpling wrapper  on both sides providing the texture and taste you normally associate with greasy pot stickers.  Since I just posted a Steamed Shrimp Shu Mai Style Dumpling a couple of weeks ago, for ease of translation, I use most of the same ingredients for the filling in this recipe at the same time demonstrating how just some little changes in ingredients and cooking method can create a completely different result.

Ingredients.

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (found in the Asian section of your market, usually by the soy sauce.  example here)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1/2 lb of prawns/ shrimp peeled and deveined, chopped
  • 1/2 lb of ground fat free chicken or turkey breast
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 can of water chestnuts for some crunch and texture, finely chopped
  • package of gyoza or “round” Chinese dumpling skins
  • optional: white pepper
  • neutral oil spray for the pan to cook
  • chicken broth or stock for “steam frying” the dumplings

Directions:

  1. Very finely chop the shrimp by hand or pulse in food processor for a minute or two
  2. Combine soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and ginger in a bowl and stir
  3. In a bowl combine the ground poultry, shrimp, scallions, cilantro, and sprinkle of the optional white pepper, water chestnuts and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture from step 2 and mix with a fork, making sure the sauce is evenly distributed through out the mixture
  4. Let the mixture or “filling” sit in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour or more so the Asian flavors can really infuse throughout the shrimp and poultry aspect of the filling
  5. Place each dumpling skin on a work surface, moisten the edges with water and 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Fold over the skin at the median line to create a little “half moon” shape (see above photo at the top of this recipe).  Use a fork to press in and indent around the corner to make sure the dumpling skin stay folded over and stuck together.  Repeat with the remaining dumpling skins and filling until all filling is used. Note:  Store any left over skins in an airtight zip lock bag or wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge.  Make sure its not exposed to any air or it will dry out
  6. To cook immediately: working in batches, spray the bottom of a non stick pan lightly to the pan and heat over medium high heat.
  7. When pan is nice and hot quickly place dumplings on the bottom of the pan, working in batches.  Brown or “crisp” the dumpling on one side and then flip.  Crisp the dumpling on the other side until lightly browned, making sure not to burn
  8. Add a 3  tablespoons or more, to the hot pan with the crisp dumplings and quickly put the lid on to steam.  If necessary, add some more chicken broth when the first amount completely evaporates into the dumpling.  You want to make sure the dumpling is cooked all the way through and the chicken is completely cooked.
  9. Repeat until all the dumplings are cooke

Serve with the soy dipping sauce and enjoy

**Note if making a big batch ahead:  These freeze and store extremely well.  If you want to make a large batch ahead of time and freeze, at step 5, instead of cooking, transfer the uncooked dumplings to a cooking sheet lightly dusted with corn starch and then when full immediately put in freezer and “flash freeze”.  When dumplings are frozen, carefully remove them from the cookie sheet and transfer to a freezer zip lock bag, remove most of the air, and store.    When you decide you want to eat them, just  begin at step 6 and then make sure you steam a little longer, using a little extra chicken broth steaming steps to make sure they are cooked all the way through.

 

 

 



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Easy Saffron Honey-Roasted Butterflied Whole Chicken: A Cat Cora Inspiration!

Serving Suggestion with Sauteed Wilted Arugula and fresh Lemon zest

 

 

I love Chef Cat Cora!  Her food is so fun , whimsical, and  never pretentious.   In magazine interviews or TV cameo’s she always seems to go out of her way to make her food  easy and approachable to even the most inexperienced chef . How can you not love this lady?

Amongst the many things I love about the recipe one aspect I like most is is how inexpensive it is. Check out this cost for a whole roasted organic chicken on sale at Whole Foods.  Its only 1o bucks and this recipe feeds 4 to 6 people.  You can do the math.

One great thing about buying poultry at Whole Foods is that the butcher will be happy to “butterfly” your chicken before wrapping it up for you.  The rest of the ingredients in the recipe are pantry staples, like just organic honey and a pinch of saffron.  Saffron to some may seems “expensive” but I buy mine at Trader Joe’s for 6 bucks or at  Cost Plus World Market here for only $4.99

This recipe is so easy a complete novice could throw this together in a snap and wow the pants off of friends and family.  The secret to the ease?  None other than my favorite “Butterflied Oven Roasted Chicken Cooking Method” . If  you ever followed me last summer, you’ll know I discovered the “Butterflied Chicken” roasting only method after I almost ruined a dinner where I was having company over and was desperate for a “quick fix”.   My butterflied chicken was originally supposed to be something “Balinese” on the grill, but I had problems with the marinade and grill, and eventually was left with only a butterflied chicken,  an oven and 60 minutes to work with.  That day became my first ever experience with oven roasting a butterflied chicken and I will never cook a whole chicken any other way in the oven again.  If your unfamiliar with what a “butterflied” chicken is, you may have heard it’s other name  called the “Spatchcok”  method.

This Saffron Honey-Roasted Chicken completely reflects the best of what I love about Cat.  I poached this recipe from her “Cooking from the Hip” cookbook .  Its one of my favorite little cookbooks.  I would proudly serve this Saffron Honey Chicken to my “foodie” friends at a nice dinner, but its my new favorite “go to” recipe for  simple night at home with Victor and myself.  I am one of those people who loves to use all of the bird.  After roasting a whole chicken,  I always madke a small pot of  real chicken stock within days of making this dish for dinner with the leftover bones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole roasting chicken 2 1/2-  4 lbs, then butterflied by the butcher or here is a video to show you how to butterfly a whole roasting chicken yourself yourself
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted preferably local organic butter
  • aprox 1/4 cup raw organic honey or organic honey
  • 2 tablespoons water (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 415
  2. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Place butterflied chicken  a(A) cavity side down/breast up either on a rack in a foil lined roasting dish or (b)  its also completely fine to place the chicken cavity side down, breast up on a greased double foiled line dish in a roasting pan and place in oven with dark meat, or legs towards the back of the oven for 5 minutes while melting butter in step 2
  4. Melt the butter in a pan (I cheated and went microwave), and then drizzle some of the butter on the chicken rubbing it in with the sea salt all over the outside of the exposed surface.
  5. Meanwhile pour the honey and water into the remaining butter, Add the saffron and the heat in a small sauce pan over low heat until thin enough in consistently to brush over the chicken.  With a pastry brush, brush the honey mixture over the chicken.
  6.  Roast the chicken for another 10 minutes and repeat step 5
  7. Continue to baste chicken with remaining water, butter, honey mixture  over the chicken until an instant read thermometer registers the chicken breast at 150 to max 155 degrees, and the dark meat in the thigh at 160 to 165  max degrees
  8. Turn on broiler to high and allow the chicken to finish cooking and allow  skin to crisp up and brown under broiler. Again while basting if any leftover marinade of the water honey/ water/ butter mixture.
  9. When Chicken breast reaches 165 degrees and the dark meat in the deepest part of the inner thigh reaches no more than 175 degrees remove immediately from oven
  10. Let chicken  rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before carving…. (this will be hard because it will smell so incredible and looks so juicy!)

Photo from right out of the Oven so Tasty!  Juicy and dripping with flavor!

I’ve shown this served with a simple wilted sauteed arugula side dish.  This leftover chicken makes for a great shredded cold chicken salad as well, and save the chicken bones in a zip lock bag in freezer.  Great for making home made chicken stock. I’ll be doing one and posting it on here within the next week.

 

 



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Cannoli Creme Parfait: Low Calorie and Low Fat

 

I have been tivoing ABC’s new daily cooking TV show called “The Chew” ever since it first debuted last month.  One of the regular cast members is none other than Daphne Oz,  oldest daughter of  Dr Oz, resident  medical expert from the Oprah show and now having his own daily  TV show on Fox.  Daphne Oz is only 25, and while the youngest regular cast member on the show, is the designated  health expert.  (Although all of them look and act pretty health conscious to me)  While I have yet to watch a full 2 weeks of my taped shows, I am fairly impressed with what I have  managed to watch so far.  For starters the show is fun, interactive, and even for someone like myself who cooks a lot, I have gotten something educational or “new” out of every episode.  I consistently love the recipes they have been featuring, whether they are healthy or not.  And although I don’t think Daphne is a trained chef like some of the other heavy hitter’s on the show, mainly chef’s Mario Batali and Michael Symon of Iron Chef, I really like what she has “brought to the table”, so to speak.  Mainly her role seems to be the provider of healthy little tips and fun, easy to recreate recipes almost anyone can do.  And that  “easy to do” spirit she brings to the show is a great thing for viewers who want to eat healthy and be able to cook some of the  show’s dishes at home without some complicated grocery list or cooking process.

I saw Daphne create this dessert on the show, and while I am absolutely no fan of ricotta cheese or even desserts for that matter, for some reason I saw the final product and thought “hmmm… that might be good”.  The process was certainly simple enough,  the dessert inexpensive, and I liked the fact it was stated it was only 150 calories and 7 grams of fat.  I embedded here the recipe and video from the show featuring this dessert, but if you do watch it and read the recipe from the show’s website I provided, you’ll notice there is a bit of confusion translating the ingredients stated on the show and then what was actually stated in the recipe provided on the website.  None the less, my recipe on here is accurate, and I really do suggest watching the 4 1/2 minute clip from the show for directions and serving ideas.  Also, when I first mixed up the ricotta and tried it with the ingredients, I did not like this at fridge temperature. It just tasted like whipped ricotta to me, and I was a little disappointed.  So after my initial tasting, I put the whole thing in the freezer.  A couple hours later I removed it and let defrost for about 20 minutes before eating, and LOVED it. Its a totally different dessert frozen.  I highly suggest freezing this dessert after its prepared and eating it very cold.

 

Ingredients:

Makes 1 serving

  • Aprox 2 to 3 thin lowfat almond cookies broken up (I used this kind)
  • 1/2 cup skim Ricotta cheese (really do try to get the better organic kind, it tastes so much better)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons organic honey
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate crushed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon or so of orange, grapefruit or lemon zest
  • slivered almonds for garnish (I toasted quickly in a skillet first)

Directions:

  1. In a parfait, small serving bowl or dessert type glass (I was desperate and used a martini glass as you can see from the photos), place 1/2 of the broken up cookie pieces at the bottom
  2. In a bowl whip the ricotta, vanilla, and honey together by hand
  3. Stir in chocolate chips to the ricotta mixture
  4. Spoon and layer in the ricotta/chocolate chip mixture over the broken cookie pieces
  5. Sprinkle the remaining cookie pieces over the mixture.  If you want to spend the extra time for presentation value, you can even add in a layer of cookie pieces between the ricotta mixture and then sprinkle the rest over the top.
  6. Sprinkle the est and slivered almond pieces over the top
  7. Place in freezer for at least an hour (I’ve kept it in the freezer  for up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap or tin foil, and it tasted just fine. May even be able to stay yummy in the freezer for longer periods of time, I just haven’t tried it) and defrost for 20 minutes at room temp when ready to eat
  8. Add the optional cinnamon and mint sprig

~Serve and Enjoy

 

 

 



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Raw Healthy Pumpkin Banana “Shake”

This is super healthy and tastes great.    Perfect flavor combination with the canned pumpkin and the “Pumpkin Pie Spice” for the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving holiday to entice picky children yet with all the healthy nutrition and non dairy aspects parents love.   This is naturally sweet on its own, but you can add a little bit of sugar, honey or stevia for added sweetness.  I utilized a few “light coconut milk” cubes to add some healthy fats give  a nice frothy rich milkshake feel to a “raw” shake.  I finished it off with some sweet nutmeg spice and chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 4 “light coconut milk” cubes or 1/2 cup unfrozen coconut milk (coconut milk frozen in an ice cube tray)
  • 1/2 cup organic canned pumpkin (I used Trader Joes brand from last year)
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pumpkin Pie spice, couple shakes to taste (I used Trader Joe’s brand or you can make homemade)
  • stevia,  a bit of honey, sugar to taste (I didn’t need any)
  • Optional : top with  sweet nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice and chopped wlanuts

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients except sweetener in a high speed blender
  2. Taste and add sweetener if necessary
  3. Pour into two glasses and top with sweet nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and chopped walnuts
  4. Serve and enjoy

 



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Steamed Shrimp and Cilantro Chinese Dumplings (Shu Mai)


I’ve been making AND eating Chinese dumplings since I was a little girl.   One of my favorite memories from when I was a child was going to authentic Dim Sum Restaurants in San Francisco’s China Town on a Sunday morning.  My favorites being the Steamed Pork Buns, Pot Stickers, and the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings.  At home we used to make large batches of pot stickers ahead of time and freeze them.  In the last 15 years I started playing around with the fillings and found that there are endless different ingredients you can combine to make a really great dumpling.  I still make large batches and freeze them ahead of time.  Whats great about freezing them is that they store well up to 3 months ahead of time, and still cook quite quickly in a hot pan or skillet with some steam.

I was really happy when I saw this Mark Bittner recipe in the New York Times because he really simplified the whole process with his video demonstration so that it would translate well to even a novice chef.    I also just *love* Mark Bittner’s food column in the NY Times.   This recipe is naturally low in fat.   I only made a few changes.   These were  so great,  my boyfriend and I gobbled them down… literally.   There were none left.  Next time I will double the recipe and freeze some.

If you don’t have  a bamboo steamer or anything to steam the dumplings in, that is fine, you can still make these.  All you have to do is heat up a skillet, place the dumplings in,  add a little water or chicken broth and quickly put the lid on making sure not to leave the skillet on the heat so long the bottoms of the dumplings burn.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped scallions, white parts only
  • 1/2 or 1 whole can of water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 round dumpling (or gyoza) skins
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Optional: 1 to 3 tablespoons oil,  and water as needed if cooking in a non stick pan

Directions:

  1. Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and ginger in a bowl.  Put half the shrimp, half the cilantro and all the scallions in a food processor and pulse: add just enough of the soy mixture to create a smooth paste, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.  Transfer to a bowl.  Roughly chop the remaining shrimp and cilantro, add them along with the water chestnuts to the bowl and stir to combine.
  2.  Place a dumpling skin on a work surface, moisten the edges with water, and put  teaspoon of the filling in the center.  Gather the edges of the wrapper up around the filling, squeezing gently, to plea the sides;  some of the filling should remain exposed.  Repeat with the remaining dumpling skins and filling, keeping the dumpling wrappers and dumplings covered with the damp towels while you work. Video Here.
  3. Add the lime juice to the remaining soy mixture to make a dipping sauce

Cooking Methods: Steaming or Pan Seared and “Steamed”

  1. Option A. Rig a bamboo steamer over a large pot with about 1 inch of water; bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Option B.  Heat a non stick skillet with 1 tablespoon neutral oil over medium high heat
  2. Option A: Put as many dumpling in the bamboo steamer (lined with parchment paper) as you can fit in a single layer and cover the pot.   Option B: place dumplings in skillet with hot oil and wait 1 to 2 minutes until edges are brown and then add a couple tablespoons of water and quickly place lid on skillet to steam
  3. Option A : Cook until the exposed filling turns pink and the wrappers are tender: in steamer 4 to 6 minutes, in skillet aprox 4 (do not burn the bottoms)
  4. Serve with leftover soy sauce mixture with lime juice as dipping sauce

 



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Basic Green Drink Recipe for 1

 

This is my basic “go to” recipe for my green drink I make in my high speed blender a couple times a week.  Great for beginners.  I like this recipe because the ingredients are easy to find, store and blend together in a snap.  There are a lot of “extras” you can add, or variations you can do with  this basic recipe which I will be going over here in the future.  I think adding in a a few basic “green drinks”  made for just one person is an simple quick starter item to add if your starting a healthy diet.  Just add in a couple of times a week if your just beginning out, and then start getting more creative.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 cup chopped Dino (also called Tuscan)  kale
  • 1 small apple or 1/2 of a large apple,  sliced, skin on (your choice)
  • Half to one whole banana (I use frozen banana slices for a colder drink)

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a high speed blender (I use a Vita Mix) for a minute or two, until well blended.

Optional: (you can add a small scoop of vitamin fortified “Greens” powders, there are many on the market, I use Green Vibrence, Vital Scoop, ect.  There are many on the market at Whole Foods or any supplement or vitamin store.

Drink and Enjoy

This drink is filled with lots of nutrition and less than 200 calories if using unsweetened Almond Milk, and around 230 with an added greens powder

 

 



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Slow Cooker “Chicken Tikka Masala”

I’ve been tooling around with this recipe for awhile.  I wanted a healthy version of Chicken Tikka Masala, to put together in the slow cooker with all the depth and flavor of the traditional Chicken Tikka Masala.  No small feat, and this following recipe was only the result after a lot of trial and error.  Lots of error.   And I’ll be honest up front.  Although this is a “Slow Cooker” recipe, there is prep work, with an overnight marinade, and then some additional cooking steps required before putting it all into the “slow cooker” to finish it off.  The result is really awesome, but its not a “5 minute investment of your time”  meal.  There is a bit of planning involved here,  but worth the effort.  I will be working on trying to create a simple and quicker version of this recipe, but this was the best I could come up with so far that satisfied my palate. Additionally,  I added the extra step of quick “broiling” the chicken after the marinade, to add some extra depth of flavor to it before putting it in the slow cooker with the marinade.  You can skip this step if you like.

 

If you make this recipe an make any adjustments or changes, by all means let me know and I can post it in the comments section.  Thanks you guys!

Ingredients for Chicken and Marinade:

  • 2 cups non fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 inch peeled fresh grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder (adjust for your own personal likes on the “heat” factor”)
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons of either white or black pepper
  • 2 to 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts quartered (you can use thighs as well, but I prefer breasts)

Directions for Marinade:

  • Combine all the ingredients together, then add chicken until all pieces are coated
  • Cover and let it marinade for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  I marinated this batch for 24 hours

Masala Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, ghee or neutral cooking oil.
  • 2 medium onions peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 inch of ginger peeled and grated
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup of organic cream or light coconut milk, and chopped cilantro to add in at the end

Directions for Masala and cooking chicken

  1. On stove take large sauce pan and saute the onions and garlic until soft over medium heat
  2. Add ginger and tomatoes, stir for aprox a minute
  3. Add cumin, coriander, garam masala and tomato paste and stir until heated through
  4. Add mixture to slow cooker
  5. (Optional: Broil Chicken without marinade at HIGH in oven until browned or brown over stove in skillet.  for the additional browning step, BE SURE to remove the marinade from the chicken first.)
  6. With slotted spoon or tongs, add the chicken to the slow cooker.  ***For a thinner base (my preference) add the remaining marinade, for thicker base, discard marinade.
  7. Cook on “high” for 6 to 8 hours or until chicken is cooked all the way through.  You can adjust the heat if the chicken looks like its become to cooked, and turn it down to “low” halfway in between.
  8. Add optional cream or coconut milk, and cilantro
  9. Serve and Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

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