Corn Chowder with a kick

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2 cups frozen organic corn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion (7 to 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red bell pepper (6 to 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon) {I used dried thyme because it was all I had on hand}
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric & cayenne {less cayenne if you want less spice}
2 large Yukon Gold, Red, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cups vegetable broth
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 cup 2% milk {original recipe calls for heavy cream but I decided to lower the calories and fat and use what I had on hand}

Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion and pepper are tender but not browned.

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Add the corn kernels, potatoes, and stock, turn up the heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some of the potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Reduce the heat to medium and season the chowder with salt and pepper.

Carefully blend at least half the soup in a cuisinart or blender until smooth and return to the pot.

Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the milk or cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

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When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives if desired.

I served the soup with baking soda biscuits on the side,

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but a hearty rustic bread would be wonderful as well.

Adapted from Corn Chowder Recipe | Leite’s Culinaria

Soft & Chewy Cookies

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We like a chewy cookie around these parts. Not terribly a fan of crunchy or hard cookies. A little while back the hubs put me on a mission to make a “Toll House” style chocolate chip cookie. Basically what he wanted was a perfected thick and chewy cookie. I found that perfected cookie over at the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog. She has absolutely perfected the chocolate chip cookie, recreating the Toll House cookie in all it’s glory. She’s even got down the method to create that irresistible crinkly top that I thought only was available in store bought cookies. I HIGHLY encourage you to head over to her blog and try out her recipe. There’s simply nothing like it!

This blog actually isn’t about the Toll House cookie that the Brown Eyed Baker taught me to perfect but an easily added ingredient that I have found keeps my cookies soft and chewy….flaxseed meal or ground flaxseeds! They work amazingly well to keep cookies soft and you can use it in replace of the eggs called for. Sometimes I’ll use only one egg and substitute flaxseed meal or ground flaxseed for the second egg. I either buy flaxseed meal in a bag {Bob’s Red Mill brand makes a good one} or use my coffee bean grinder to grind whole flaxseeds that I buy in bulk.

What to do: In a small dish or cup measure one tablespoon of flaxmeal or ground flaxseed and add 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit a few minutes before adding. Add to the recipe when the eggs are called for. That’s it!

I would share one of my personal cookies recipes but I never follow directions with cookies {well, rarely} so every cookie I make is an estimate of this and a dash of that. I do however, love to use flax!! And how could I not?! Flaxseed is an excellent source of protein, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium and copper. It is also a great source of Omega-3’s and lignans.

If you try it, let me know what you think!

Socca

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Okay, do you remember going to Mexican restaurants as a child and if it was your birthday the server would bring a {for lack of a better description} giant tortilla chip with honey, cinnamon, powdered sugar and jam drizzled all over it? I think there were tufts of whip cream around it as well. This Socca that I made for dinner would make such a great alternative to that greasy old chip. But, before I get into that, let me tell you how good Socca is for dinner!

Socca is a French chickpea-flour type pancake {think healthy version of crepes, sort of}. It’s naturally gluten-free, vegan and high in healthy carbs and protein. When serving for dinner, you can arrange any number of toppings to create a delicious and hearty dinner. I laid out most everything I had laying around: arugula, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, pinto beans, salsa, sour cream, scrambled eggs, thin sliced onion, thin sliced red bell peppers, avocado… They are super easy to make and replace a tortilla or even pizza dough superbly! Try a breakfast burrito with Socca for a healthier take on eggs wrapped in tortilla. One thing I HATE about burritos is how soggy the tortilla gets. Bleh!! Not with Socca! Other toppings I imagine would be tasty are kalamata olives, sundries tomatoes, fresh basil, feta or Parmesan… The list could go on.

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An alternative to dinner is to turn it into that Mexican restaurant birthday dessert treat. It’s like a glorified dessert crepe. I mocked up {and then devoured} a Socca just as I remembered the old greasy tortilla chip version.

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Oh my, it was good! A dollop of vanilla frozen yogurt is on top in replace of whipped cream. Are you going to try this? Please let me know what you think!!

Homemade Socca

Serves 2 or 3 {makes about 3 seven inch soccas}

1 cup chickpea flour {also known as gram flour or garbanzo flour}
1/2 tsp salt
Big pinch cumin {if desired}
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/4 warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
Olive or coconut oil for pan {I used coconut}

•In a bowl combine chickpea flour, salt and pepper. Wisk in warm water and oil. Let sit covered at least 30 minutes, but as many hours as possible is best because it aids in digestion the longer it sits.
•Place a heavy skillet {preferably cast-iron} in the oven and preheat to 450*.
•Remove skillet and add a tad oil to hot pan. Pour Socca batter until it reaches the edges. Bake around 8 minutes, or until the edges are set.
•Either flip the Socca or set it under the broiler to brown the top side. {I flipped mine and it worked well}. Let cook a few minutes longer.
•Cut into wedges or leave whole. Fill with toppings of your choice.

Black bean & butternut soup

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Sprouted Kitchen just posted this delicious soup and after I tried it last night I just had to share it! I was a bit skeptical actually because it didn’t seem like anything about it would knock my socks off, but what was so surprising and unexpected about it was how nicely the cocoa and cumin played in the overall flavor. I halved the recipe and used both butternut squash and sweet potato as suggested as an option to solely using butternut. I did everything else as it said, including making to crispy tortilla strips, adding hunks of avocado and chopped cilantro.

Black bean and butternut soup

serves 4

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups peeled & cubed butternut squash {alternatively you can use sweet potato, or a mix as I did}

1/2 cup frozen corn {optional}

1 1/2 cups black beans

2 cups vegetable broth {low sodium preferable}

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp cocoa powder {I used unsweetened baking cocoa}

pinch cayenne

salt to taste & crack some fresh pepper if you like

2-4 corn tortillas

1 avocado, cubed

small bunch cilantro, chopped

sour cream {optional}

  • In a medium soup pot add chopped onion and saute in small amount of olive oil or coconut oil for a few minutes on medium heat. Add garlic and squash {&/or sweet potato} and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer and put on the lid for about 10 minutes.
  • Add black beans, corn, cumin, cocoa, cayenne. Stir and simmer a few minutes more.
  • Add salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • Ladle half of soup into a blender or food processor and pulse until somewhat smooth. {this step is optional, but will leave you with a thicker soup, vs a chunkier one. I don’t think you can go wrong with either!}
  • Add blended soup back into the pot with the other half and stir.
  • Cut corn tortillas into strips {cut directly across keeping the length of the entire tortilla}. Toss with a scant amount of oil and tiny pinch of salt. Lay on a baking sheet and heat in a 350* oven for just a few minutes. Keep you eye on them, or they will be burnt before you know it {as you can see, mine came close}. You want to remove them when they are crispy.
  • Ladle soup into bowls & top with chopped cilantro, cubed avocado, sour cream {if desired} and crispy corn tortilla strips.
Ole!

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{one with cilantro & one without}

Lentil “meatballs” with pesto

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I made these as an appetizer for a Superbowl party but they could easily be paired with a bed of fresh or sautéed greens, noodles, hot and fresh marinara or pesto for a nice dinner. Pop them in the fridge as-is for a quick snack too! I am eating them the day after and they are still really good.

Lentil “meatballs” with pesto
As seen on Sprouted Kitchen {a fav of mine}.

2 Cups Cooked Lentils {I used black lentils}
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 Cup Ricotta {I bought fat free Ricotta from Trader Joes}
1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed {I used Aniseed because that is what I had on hand}
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
Hefty Pinch of Dried or Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. Each Sea Salt and Pepper
2/3 Cup Breadcrumbs {fresh or panko. I made mine fresh from sourdough bread}

In a food processor, pulverize the lentils into mush. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 400′. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1” round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another Tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs until the ball with stay together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don’t need lots of space between, they won’t spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.

Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Bake longer if they don’t have a slight crust on the outside. Remove to cool slightly.

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Lemon Pesto Sauce

{I bought mine at Trader Joes because I didn’t have time to make it fresh. Fresh pesto, or marinara, would be ideal}

1 Clove Garlic
1/4 Cup Pinenuts
Zest and Juice of one Meyer Lemon
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Packed Basil Leaves
1/4 – 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Water to thin

For the pesto sauce, put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

Smear pesto or marinara sauce, on a plate. Slightly roll meatballs in sauce {or what I should have done would be to thin the sauce slightly and pour some on the plate first, then drizzle the rest over top}. Stick with individual toothpicks to serve as an appetizer. Voila!

{these photos do not do them justice. they are really good!}

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PB.C.C {&S} Cookies

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Yum! Peanut butter & chocolate chip coconut cookies {some with salt on top}!! These cookies turned out to be quite good considering the large combo of flavors battling each other head to head. Using coconut oil {Earth Balance Coconut Spread} in place of butter added a different demention to somewhat regular ol’ cookies. Adding coconut on top is what brought out the flavor even more. I omitted the coconut on top of some and replaced it with a course rock salt for a salty sweet combination.

The recipe is based on Bob’s Red Mill’s WOW cookies.

PB&C.C {& Salt}

1/2 cup Earth Balance Coconut Spread {or any coconut oil for baking}
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3/8 cup milk {soy, rice, cow}
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour* use gf flours if desired
1 cup rolled quick oats* use gf oats if desired
1 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
1 cup mix of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips
Shredded coconut
Course salt

•Cream together coconut spread, oil and sugar. Add in milk, vanilla and blend.
•In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking soda and powder.
•Stir dry ingredients into wet. When half blended add chocolate chips {chopped walnuts too if desired}.
•Mix until just blended but don’t over mix.
•Refrigerate 20 minutes.
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•Gather a tablespoon’s worth and dip into loose shredded coconut and place coconut side up on a greased cookie sheet. Or alternatively, place cookie on sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of course salt.
Note: you may choose to flatten the cookies slightly before baking because they don’t spread much.
•Bake at 350 for 11 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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A good start to a new year

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The hubs and I challenged ourselves to a month without alcohol.  It was a good start to a new year. Honestly, I thought it would be more of a challenge, and was pleasantly surprised when going completely cold turkey proved relatively easy peasy. It was good to know that passing up the social beverage was not as daunting a task as we thought. It gave good prospective at how often we would absentmindedly grab for a beer or glass of wine if we had some around the house.

I would say the first week was the hardest, just because there is somewhat of a reprogramming of the brain’s habit to grab the evening drink to unwind. For the hubs it was an easy way to ease into the evening after a long day in nursing school or long clinical shift at the hospital. For me it was a welcoming way to kick my feet up after putting the little one to bed.

We definitely consumed a few mugs of hot chocolate on a nightly basis, but I’m an addict of hot chocolate to begin with, and have been for as long as I can remember.

All in all it was still a good challenge to go a month without it but even better was the money we saved not buying it every week. We figure around $15 per week was typically what we spent. So to save $60 felt good. It actually felt like we saved much much more because we didn’t go on any dates where we typically would have. Now that it’s February 1st, I better find a sitter and go hit the town with hubs. It’s a luxury us parents savor every minute of.

Do you think you could go a month with out drinking? How much would you expect to save during that time? I bet you would surprise yourself!

Iron super salad

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If you need a quick and easy iron rich salad that is easy to please, then I have a salad for you. I whipped this baby up in literally less than 10 minutes.

Iron super salad

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•A couple handfuls chopped kale {I used the curly kind} – probably 6-10 leaves would do
•3 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
•Raw almonds, roughly chopped or pre-sliced
•Golden raisins
•Goat cheese {also called cheve}
•Salt, pepper, garlic powder, red chili flakes
•Balsalmic, olive oil, clove garlic chopped finely, juice of 1/4 lemon, real maple syrup

In a cast iron skillet, heat a small amount {1/4 cup} of water until steaming. Throw in chopped kale. Steam with lid on, tossing frequently, for just a few minutes to take the rawness out of it but not making it too wilted.

Once done remove and lay out on baking sheet or cutting board. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, fresh cracked pepper, red chili flakes and garlic powder {both to taste}.

Toss both kale and spinach into a salad bowl.

In the same cast iron, now dry, heat the chopped or sliced almonds and golden raisins on medium heat for a few minutes until the almonds have a slight aroma, or until they appear slightly toasted {being careful to not burn them}. Once done toss on top of greens.

Crumble hunks of cheve on top of warm almonds and raisins.

In a small jar with a lid {or salad dressing shaker}, pour approximately 1/4 cup balsalmic, 1 tbsp olive oil, chopped clove garlic, 2 tsp lemon juice and drizzle of maple syrup. Shake vigorously.

Choose to drizzle on top {careful not to toss around salad too much or the almonds, raisins and cheve will end up on the bottom}, or keep dressing on the side for guests to add themselves.

Serves about 4 or 5 smaller portions

Sweet potato frittata

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When I glanced at the evening’s menu all I had written down was “frittata & homemade bread,” so I surveyed the veggies I had on hand and came up with a filling and nutrient rich frittata.

Sweet potato and vegetable frittata

2 small sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 egg
2 egg whites
Favorite cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onion, chopped for garnish
Cornmeal for dusting pan

•Heat skillet {I used a cast iron} over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and add chopped sweet potatoes. Stir occasionally until tender.
•When sweet potatoes are nearly done add onion, garlic and toss for 1 minute, then add remaining veggies.
•Cook, tossing occasionally.

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•Meanwhile whisk egg, whites, pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper in a small bowl.
•Pour everything into a bread pan oiled and lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Shake bread pan around to evenly spread cornmeal along the bottom and slightly up the sides.
•Pour whisked egg mixture over veggies and sprinkle shredded or small hunks of any cheese on top {I did shredded sharp cheddar on half and sprinkled feta on the other}.
•Bake at 350* for 20 minutes or until egg is set and cheese is nearly browned.
•Add chopped green onions on top.
Serves 2 or 3

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Quinoa with lemon and parsley

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Last night I threw together a tasty salad of quinoa, garlicky chickpeas, broccoli, and parsley all drizzled with lemon.

It was a refreshing protein filled meal without being overly heavy. I paired it with a side of spinach, avocado, onion and sunflower seeds.
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•Make 1 cup dry quinoa by bringing 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. Fit with lid and simmer 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let sit {lid askew} for 10 minutes.
•Add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan and heat 3/4 cup chickpeas with 3 cloves minced garlic.
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•Chop 1/2 cup loosely packed flat Italian parsley
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•Lightly steam 1 or 2 cups of broccoli florets.
•Toss everything except the quinoa together then lightly toss this mixture with the quinoa and squeeze half a cut lemon over the whole thing.
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There you have it, a fresh and fast dinner the whole family can enjoy.
Makes great leftovers too!