Simple Semi-Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup – The Skinny Version

I recently discovered that my man friend really likes Broccoli Cheddar Soup.  Like to the point where if its on the menu anywhere, he’s going to order it. No questions asked.  Don’t know why it took me so long to this find out, but better late than never! That being said, I scoured the internet for recipes and was a little put off by so many of them. So many call for full-fat cream, loads of butter and even more shredded cheese! All that equals = not a happy/healthy waistline! So, I took a few recipes and honed them down to better ingredients, lower calorie and fat content, upping the serving of veggies while still tasting FANTASTIC!  How you say?  Well, you’re in luck, cause I’m willing to share!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 cups skim or 1% milk
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth (I buy Campbell’s)
  • 4 fresh broccoli crowns (washed and chopped into bit sized pieces, stems included)
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I usually buy the “less fat” cheese, and found it tastes exactly the same!)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-Step (ooh-baby…yes I’m channeling NKOTB)

  1. In a small frying pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and saute chopped onion until onion pieces are clear. Set aside.
  2. In a medium/large pot melt 1/4 c. butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well. It’ll get clumpy, but it’ll all work out! Maybe 3-5 minutes here.
  3. With a whisk add the milk and broth to the pot and let it simmer for maybe 15-20 minutes.  Stirring quite a bit at the beginning to get the clumps of butter-flour mixed in well.  This step is quite like making a white sauce.
  4. Add in the already sauteed onion and all of the fresh broccoli and stir into the milk-broth until well covered.
  5. Continue to simmer and occasionally stir for another 25 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
  6. Take off the heat, and take an immersion blender to the soup and puree a bit. I like to leave a few chunks, but this makes for a smoother soup.
  7. Add the nutmeg and shredded cheese. Stir and let the cheese melt.  Serve and enjoy!

This made about 6 sizable servings. Two were eaten right away, two were packed up for lunches, and another two made their way to the freezer. 🙂 IMG_0602IMG_0763IMG_0604

Simple and Delicious Potato Leek Soup

I’ve always loved potatoes.  Not sure how that love manifested, but I’ve loved them forever and in all of their many forms. From mashed, baked, broiled, pan fried, roasted, deep-fried, boiled, barbecued etc. (the list continues…). All that love, and yet, I’d never made them into a soup.  Now, I have always liked potato leek soup, and will order it frequently when out at restaurants, but still never sat down and figured it out for myself!  2015 is my year to figure out how to make things I’ve always wanted to, but never did.  So here goes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 leeks (the more white, the better)
  • 4 medium potatoes (any colour, I used red), peeled and sliced
  • 3 1/2 c. chicken broth (make your own, or cheat and use Campbell’s in the tetra pack)
  • 1 c. milk (I used 1%)
  • salt & pepper

Step-by-Step

  1. Place butter and chopped onion in a large pot over medium-low heat and slowly soften the onions (without burning them).
  2. Once soft, add your leeks. Using only the white part of the leek all the way up the stalk. Be sure to rinse them well once cut as I find they can be quite dirty sometimes. See photo for how much to cut into the leek. Continue stirring and cooking the leeks with the onions.
  3. After a few minutes add the sliced potatoes, broth, and a few quick shakes of salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 25-30 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the potatoes are soft, take the pot off the heat and let sit for a few minutes.
  6. Using an immersion blender, delicately blend the ingredients while still in the pot.  How much you blend is up to you.  I like a few chunks of potato left in my soup, so I don’t blend it completely. But again, totally up to you. 🙂
  7. Add the milk and stir through.
  8. Add more salt and/or pepper to taste (I used a low salt broth, so I found mine needed a bit more salt when done).

You can serve right away, or put in containers for lunches etc.  I put a few freezer-safe containers in the freezer too.

ENJOY!!

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20 minute Nutella Gluten-Free Two Bite Brownies

Who doesn’t love two bite (I mean one-bite…) brownies?  Like really?  They are small, indulgent and oh so good!  So when we cut gluten from our diets I needed to find a little something to satisfy my notorious sweet tooth. One of my dear friends (who is celiac) sent me a link that I immediately knew was going to be perfect! I used a variation on the recipe from Gluten-Free Canteen (I tried to track down the original, but each page linked to another and another. haha).

So here’s my own:

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These seriously take less than 20 minutes to bring all together, which is perfect for those after dinner cravings…. This recipe makes between 12-16 two bite brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. Nutella*
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp gluten-free flour**
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla

NOTE: * or use another hazelnut spread, I used a half & half tub recently that was part vanilla flavoured as well and it turned out divine!
** I switch this up between coconut flour and this great all-purpose gluten free flour from Red Mill

Step-by-Step

  1. Heat oven to 350F
  2. Put everything in a small bowl and mix away!
  3. Grease mini muffin pan, or use mini muffin liners
  4. Fill each tin about 2/3 full (make sure to put a bit of water at the bottom in the empty muffin tins to keep the pan from burning)
  5. Bake for about 10-12 minutes
  6. Let them cool a bit and then nom nom nom them all

For the really indulgent, you could sprinkle icing sugar on top, add mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts!  Be creative and enjoy!

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Healthy Homemade Turkey Meatballs

Craving meatballs, but don’t want to added fat and empty calories of pasta, sauce AND the often time greasy meatballs, plus oodles of Parmesan cheese??  Well, I have an easy solution that uses lean ground turkey for a healthy option for this classic weekday supper. Its easy and fast enough to pull together and get on the table before the “hangry” side of myself comes out.

So hold on for the ride, and learn to make this easy healthy nutritious turkey meatball!

Meatball ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg lean ground turkey
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 2-3 carrots (peeled and shredded)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. quick oats
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning/basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper

Step-by-Step:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Quickly grease a baking sheet (I spray with a cooking spray cause its easy, and I like easy).
  • Combine ALL the ingredients in a glass bowl and smash together with your clean hands.  Really get in there and mash up all the stuff, making sure to mix thoroughly.
  • Form 24 equal sized balls and place on greased baking sheet.
  • Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Place water on to boil for pasta (I prefer to use rice pasta or other gluten-free pastas). Cook pasta as you normally would. 🙂
  • Place tomato sauce in a mid-sized pot and place on low heat.
  • Place cooked meatballs in the tomato sauce, stir gently to cover and let simmer on low/medium heat with the lid on.  Stirring every couple of minutes just to keep everything moving.
  • When your pasta is done, and your meatballs have been in the warm sauce for at least 20 minutes, drain the pasta and serve!  Garnish with more parmesan or fresh basil.
  • Enjoy!!!

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Healthy Carrot Muffins

Happy New Year!  Hard to believe its 2015 already…so of course I’m already baking. I’ve made these a few times now and everytime I add something or take away something else from the recipe, but I think I’ve got it down now.  So enjoy!IMG_0433

What you need to have in your kitchen:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3 c. shredded carrots (I needed about 9-10 small skinny carrots, but keep in mind that if you have larger carrots you won’t need to shred as many!)

And now the fun begins!

Preheat oven to 350F. (this recipe comes together pretty quick – unless you forget to shred your carrots ahead of time – like I always do)

In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flax

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THEN, use another small bowl (or in my case a large glass measuring cup), combine eggs, oil, applesauce and brown sugar.  Give it a good stir to make sure all the wet ingredients are well mixed

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Pour the wet into the dry and mix. Making sure not to over mix as it can make the batter a little tough, mix just enough to moisten the batter.  Add in your mountain of shredded carrots

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Spoon into muffin liners and they’re good to go in the oven! (you could also lightly oil the pans with oil/butter, but I don’t like the extra oil it adds to muffin recipes. AND I somehow had Ariel muffin liners on the shelf! Special treat for me indeed!)  Fill the muffin tin about 3/4 full.  I got a full two pans out of this recipe so 24 muffins altogether.  Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 F oven.  Keep an eye on them to prevent burning as everyone’s oven is a little different.  I chose to freeze half of them so they’d keep longer too 🙂

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Chewy Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Craisin White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wow!  That’s a mouthful! I guess it really just is my oatmeal cookie recipe with other add in’s, but still. Its more fun with longer titles.  These are easy and simply delicious (and moderately healthy because its got oatmeal in it…right??)

I really do have a problem with baking cookies.  Some weeks more than others.  And really, who doesn’t like things like chocolate, cinnamon and other yummies? Makes it a easy sale for me.  I can whip these up pretty quickly so I’d consider them really easy and not very time consuming.  You could always double the batch too 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½  tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I never measure salt, so this is my guess)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ cup butter (softened)
  • 1 heaping c. brown sugar (the more the merrier-AND chewier!)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract (again, the more the merrier, I seriously love the smell of this stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups rolled or quick oats (I used quick oats)
  • 1cup. raisins
  • ½ cup craisins
  • ½ cup (or more) white chocolate chips, but really any chocolate chips could work here.

 Recipe:

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

Soften the butter in a large bowl (don’t melt it, but you can soften it up with a few seconds in the microwave).  Add the brown and white sugar to the butter and mix together until well combined.

Add in the vanilla and the egg to the butter/sugar mixture and beat until creamy and light.

Slowly add in the flour mixture and keep stirring. If the dough is super sticky you can add a bit more flour.  Once there are no remnants of flour lingering around the bowl, add in the oatmeal, raisins, craisins and white chocolate chips and stir to incorporate all the ingredients.  Stir until well mixed, or just until there are little bits of the good stuff throughout the dough.

Roll in your palms a heaping tablespoon and drop onto cookie sheet. My perfect cookie comes from the Panderno sheets with the air-pocket underneath it for even cooking, worth the investment I promise. Slightly press the ball of dough to flatten just a little. The balls I make are maybe the size of a golf ball or slightly bigger (to give you a reference point)

Bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes. Until the edges of each cookie are browning, but the middle is still soft and doughy. Wait a minute to transfer the warm cookie to the cooling rack, as they might try to fall apart. Be strong, and don’t let them. Makes about 2 dozen, depending on how big you make the cookies. Remember, if you make them smaller, they won’t need as long in the oven.

Enjoy them while they last. I always find these don’t last very long in my kitchen…!

Incredible Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

Yummy cinnamon buns!  I mean really, who doesn’t love these? And then with the added twist of pumpkin its like a special fall treat!

If attempting to make these, make sure you’ve got the time, as the whole process can take up to say 3 hours. Other than that, I simply say enjoy!

The Ingredients

Dough
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup milk
2 ¼  teaspoons active dry yeast (one envelope)
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (+extra for kneading), *you could use Bread flour if you have it on hand.

Filling (yum!)

1 cup golden brown sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp  butter

Notes:

Make sure the pumpkin is pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix, as its not quite the same, and the results won’t be the same.

The Incredible Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, lightly brown the butter (2 tbsp). Let it bubble slightly but don’t burn it.  I like to keep stirring it slightly as I find it helps me keep an eye on it.

Once it’s a nice warm brown colour remove the saucepan from the heat and add the milk ( ½ cup).  Its easiest if the milk is room temperature.  Put the pan back on the heat and let it heat up again.

Phew!  Now it gets more exciting and science-y! (I love baking because it is basic chemistry in my kitchen!)

Pour the butter/milk mixture into a large glass bowl. (I find glass works best as metal bowls can sometimes leave a funky taste in bread dough, it’s a yeast thing). Making sure that the mixture it’s too too hot ( I don’t own a thermometer so I always guessitmate this part), but still warm enough add the yeast (2 ¼ tsp) and sugar ( ½ cup) and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  The yeast will react with the warmth and start to froth/foam up. (Hurray for science!) If it doesn’t foam, your yeast might be old.

After its all foamy add the pumpkin (1 cup), salt (1 tsp) and about half the flour (1 cup).

Stir together until all the major parts are combined, and then starting adding more and more flour (about a ½ cup at a time).  At a certain point stirring makes no sense and its best to wash your hands and get in there!  Kneading bread dough is very therapeutic, or at least I think so! (if you need to use a bit more flour, don’t be scared to do so).

Once the dough its smooth and not super sticky put a bit of vegetable oil in a clean large glass bowl (1 tbsp), form a ball with the dough and place the ball in the bowl with the oil, I usually wipe the bowl with the dough to cover the ball and get the oil on the rest of the bowl. (The oil keeps the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises; I find it helps later on).

Cover the bowl with a clean teatowel and leave to rise in a warm place.  *Now I like to cheat this part, especially when its dark outside… Typically if I’ve got sun streaming in one of the big windows during the day I’ll put the covered bowl in the sunlight and let the sun keep it warm, it not, I’ll turn the over on super low for a bit, turn it off, then put the bowl in the oven with the door open (so it doesn’t cook the dough, only keeps it’s a bit warm. OR turn the oven on for a bit and turn off and put the bowl over the vent the heat comes out from.   Maybe I’ll take some pictures next time…Confusing I know.* If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to explain better

Now the tricky part, walk away and leave it alone for an hour or so, until its doubled in size. Depending on timing this can take anywhere from between say 60 and 90 minutes. So sit and watch some tv, knit a scarf or tackle the laundry pile. haha

Once it’s a big doughy ball of goodness, take off the teatowel and PUNCH IT! (honestly my fav part, it’s so satisfying).  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and flop the dough on to it.  Work the dough and knead with clean hands for about 2 minutes.

Roll the dough out on the floured surface into a nice big rectangle.  I flour my rolling pin as well, keeps the dough from sticking to it.  I never measure, I just roll til I’m satisfied.  (I know that’s really vague… my bad). Either way, you need a big rectangle, if I had to guess say 12 x 20 inches?

Once rolled out and even cut the butter (2 Tbsp) into small chunks and lay out ALL over the dough. *you could melt the butter and brush on as well*. Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg on the dough and then do the same with the brown sugar. After you’ve covered every square inch of the dough with the yummy goodness, start to roll it up starting with the longest side (photo).

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Rolled out pumpkin dough

 

Grease some circular pans (I used two, but depending on the thickness of the dough, and how thick you cut the pieces this can vary). Take your yummy rolled up log and start cutting.  I ended up with 14 rolls and two little end pieces. 🙂

Place them in the greased pans, making sure to leave some room (as they will continue to rise and expand). Place in a warm place again *see above* and cover with a teatowel for about 30 minutes. Just long enough for them to grow and touch each other (photo).  I forgot to take a picture before they rose, but I left about half an inch in between each roll.

 

 

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Risen pumpkin cinnamon rolls

 

While waiting, preheat an oven to 350 degrees. After they’re done their second rise, bake them for 30-40 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown.

Let cool, and EAT! You could also make a simple icing for these to drizzle on, but I like them just the way they are.  Once cooled, store in an air tight container, and I highly recommend 10-12 seconds in the microwave when eating them the next couple of days.  Because really, nothing is better than a warm pumpkin cinnamon bun!  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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baked pumpkin cinnamon roll deliciousness

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Super Easy and Fast Guacamole

Seriously, it’s almost stupid how much money I have been spending recently on guacamole. I love the stuff. So this week while at the grocery store I decided that instead of buying the pre-made garbage, I was going to pick up an actual avocado and make the stuff myself.  Just my luck avocados were also on sale this week (it was like a sign!). So tonight after work I popped  few things in a bowl and voila – instant awesomeness.

Guacamole Party!

Recipe:

1 – avocado (ripe, but not too ripe)

1 – small firm tomato

1/4 – fresh lime

1/4 – small onion (I’m not the world’s biggest onion fan, so this was plenty for me)

Some garlic powder and sea salt

I cut the avocado in half, and scooped the yummy stuff into a bowl.  Instead of mashing it to bits I left a few small/mid-sized chunks cause that’s the way I roll.  Chopped the onion (super tiny; mostly because I don’t want to see it), cut the tomato into small-ish pieces and added it to the mix.  I took a quarter sliver out of my fresh lime and squeezed as much juice as possible into the mix.  I added some garlic powder (I had no fresh garlic in the kitchen) and a dash of good ol’ sea salt for good measure.  Stir it up and let it sit in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes (this lets all those yummy flavours mix together to create a masterpiece).

Take it out of the fridge and enjoy!  My favourite chip at the moment are the Old Dutch ‘Sea Salt & Hint of Lime” (which I can only ever find at Safeway for some reason).  There are so good!

I would have loved to share a photo of the finished product, but I ate it all so quickly, that I totally forgot!  Whoops! Next time.

Other options include adding a bit of salsa to the mixture, or a favourite of mine is fresh bacon crumbled into it!   Enjoy!

Easy Mushroom Beef Stew

While I did say I would keep up with the blogging I’ve somehow already fallen behind! To remedy the situation here is a super easy recipe for beef tomato mushroom stew in a crock pot. Yum!!

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Well that looks good right?!! I know you’re thinking that there is no way that anything that delicious looking could be easy right? Wrong! Follow along and you’ll see.

You’ll need:

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Large package of stewing beef (like Costco big, or two of the smaller ones from the grocery store)
5-6 medium potatoes
3 big carrots
3 stalks of celery
2 big packages of mushrooms (I LOVE mushrooms!)
1 medium onion
1 garlic bulb
1 can of tomato paste
Worcestershire sauce
Olive oil (for browning the beef)
Spices!
1 carton of beef stock/broth (any will do, I had the Campbell’s less salt in my cupboard)

Super easy, cut the bigger pieces of beef into smaller pieces, you want the pieces to be big enough so they don’t dry out and get tough, but you also don’t want them so big that it’s unmanageable to eat!
Put some olive oil in a frying pan and heat up. Drop some of the beef chunks into the pan and just sear the outside of each piece. I did mine in about four batches to even out the heat distribution. Be sure to not let the beef cook too much or it won’t be tender and yummy later.

20120306-212102.jpg Once browned put the beef in the crock pot. While I wait for that stuff to brown I cut me some veggies!
Potatoes- cut into bite sized pieces
Mushrooms- cut into quarters
Carrots- slices, good sizes (vague I realize)
Celery- slices, but not to thin
Onion- teeny (I don’t like seeing onion in my cooked food….but I like the flavour)
Garlic- I cut up the whole bulb. Yum Garlic!

 

 

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Once all the beef is browned and in your crockpot, dump all the veggies (potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, onion and HALF of the quarter mushrooms) in the crock pot and gently stir it up. Add the tomato paste and lots of worcestershire sauce. Gently stir again. Add spices- basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, basically anything you want! Remember its your stew, do what you want! I usually stick a bay leaf or two in as well. Pour a little more than half the carton of beef broth and gently fold again. I have a big crock pot, but I still only start with half the mushrooms cause I can never get them to all fit, but I love mushrooms so much and because they get so much smaller as they cook I dump more in later.

 

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Depending on what kind of time you have you can cook on high for about 3 or 4 hours (or until all your potatoes and carrots are soft), or you can leave the crock pot on low for 6-7 hours. Just remember if you’re a mushroom lover, put the other half of the mushrooms in about half way through.
Remember that it’s not always a good idea to lift the lid and the stew…it lets heat escape which you want to avoid. So be strong and leave it alone (except to add those extra mushrooms!!)
After all your patient waiting. Take the bay leaves out (you don’t want to eat those, ick) You’ll know everything is done when the potatoes and carrots are easy to poke with a fork, and the beef pieces can be easily pulled apart. Eat and enjoy!!

Speedy note: if strapped for time put everything in a really big pot with more of the broth being to a boil on the stove and everything could be ready in about 35-45 minutes. I find the slow cooking works better but I’ve done it the cheater way as well with great results.

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Blueberry Cake with Crumble Topping

Who loves cake? Seems like a silly question, right? Personally I’ve been a big fan of cake in all its marvelous forms since my first birthday. I believe I was given a chocolate cake with a clown wearing a pink hat on top. Classic 80s. Since that fatefully day I’ve been asking these same simple questions—-
Did someone say there was cake? Can I have some? Is there icing? Can I have another sliver please? Can I have the recipe?
Sound familiar? Well, heck yes! While I will admit that I am not expert at making basic cakes from scratch (I’ll admit to using the boxed stuff… eeep), but I can whip up a mean blueberry cake with a yummy crumble topping. Trust me on the yummy part of that sentence. This recipe is one I may have borrowed from mom.To begin to make this delicious 8×8 cake with the even more delicious topping you’ll need to:
Cream together in a large bowl:
-1/4 c. softened butter
-3/4 c. sugar
-1 egg
Leave aside.

In a separate small bowl mix together:
-2 c. flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-pinch of salt, about 1/2 tsp.
Mix these dry ingredients into the wet mixture alternatively with 1/2 c. milk
Mix well, the batter will be thick

Add 2 c. blueberries. (Frozen is fine, but make sure they have thawed enough, or they’ll freeze the batter and make it incredibly difficult to stir, trust me, I’ve made that mistake one too many times). The batter will turn purple because of the berries, but that’s normal. Once its baked, the cake won’t be purple anymore 🙂

Pour the batter into a lightly greased 8×8 glass pan (I greased mine with some butter to make it easier when removing the cake later.)

The topping:
-1/4 c. softened butter
-1/3 c. flour
-1/2 c. brown sugar
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Mix well, and then crumble with your fingers on top of the cake batter and bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Now comes the easy part, wait for the cake to cool and you can cut the pieces right out of the glass pan. I promise tasty. The crumble topping makes the cake absolutely delicious, guaranteed. Enjoy!!