easy black bean soup

Like anyone who prepares meals every night of the week, I don’t always have time to languish over a pot of soup.  Some days, there’s just not time for all the chopping and dicing and stirring required.  If you feel my pain, you’ll appreciate how fast this black bean soup comes together.  Classic flavor reigns with the cilantro, red bell pepper, and cumin.  Optional toppers, aside from the yogurt (or sour cream, if you’re so inclined), include some shredded pepper jack cheese, a dash of hot sauce to kick it up a notch, or some baked tortilla chips.   My only qualm with the recipe was it didn’t make enough to put it to the “yesterday’s soup” test.  We all know things like this taste even better the next day.  But this one tasted pretty darn good the first day!  Nonetheless, next time I’m going to double the batch to insure some leftovers.

Also, this soup is only a couple of substitutions away from being a perfectly acceptable vegetarian meal:  swap out the chicken stock for veggie stock, and bulk it up with tofu or more beans.  Personally, I’d go with the beans.  Tofu is just…well.  Tofu is just tofu.  However you make this your own, you’re sure to enjoy!!

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Easy Black Bean Soup (recipe adapted from: Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c red pepper, chopped
  • 1 low-fat turkey kielbasa (Hillshire Farms), cut into pieces
  • 1 15 oz can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 oz can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp basil/garlic/oregano flavored tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp reduced -fat Greek yogurt (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat until hot.  Add onion and pepper; saute 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  2. Add chopped sausage, beans, and chicken broth to onion mixture.  Stir in tomato paste and cumin; bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes or until soup is slightly thickened.
  3. Ladle soup into individual bowls; dollop each serving evenly with yogurt, and sprinkle with cilantro.
  4. Serve with home-made tortilla chips (optional).

 

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tilapia tacos with fresh tomato salsa

It seems lately I’m ever so slightly bordering on obsessed with fish tacos.  I’ve pinned ump-teen recipes to my Pinterest board, I’ve bookmarked a bunch in my favorites bar, and I’ve cooked them…a lot…recently.  If there’s any kind of taco I’m happy to eat, it’s fish.  Don’t get me wrong.  It would be my worst nightmare to be served up a plate of Rubio’s fish tacos and ordered to eat!  First, it’s a chain restaurant and fast food, at that.  Second, while I understand it’s a popular place for fast (see above) fish tacos, crunch the numbers on the Original Fish Taco (2 taco plate) and you’ll devour 620 calories, 360 or which are from fat, 40 grams of fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, and 780 mg of sodium.  Which is why I make them myself.

Being able to control portion size and ingredients is a huge deal.  And, believe me, it doesn’t have to be breaded and deep-fried in artery-clogging oil to taste good.  This recipe is the perfect example of how a variety of spices and minimal oil can come together to create a mouth-watering meal without all the fat and calories that come standard at your local fast food taco joint.  This recipe went together really fast.  I made the rub ahead of time and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  The recipe doesn’t say you need to do that, but I thought the fish had a truly developed flavor because it had been resting in the spices for a longer period of time.

The salsa was bright and lively, too.  I threw on some fresh cilantro from our garden just before serving, and gave an extra squeeze of lime juice, too.  Low-fat and delicious.  So much better than fast food.  Enjoy!

2014-02-25

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Tilapia Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa (recipe courtesy ActivewearUSA)

Taco Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • ½ pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the herb and spice mix into a resealable plastic  bag.  Add the tilapia fillets and shake until the fish is completely covered.  Set aside to infuse with flavor.
  2. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil into a pan over medium heat and add the onion and corn.  Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, or until the onion is soft and the corn begins to blacken.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch.
  4. Remove the tilapia fillets from the Ziploc bag and place them into the pan, using a spatula or spoon to divide the fish into bite-sized pieces as the fish cooks.  Place a lid on top of the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  5. While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa by roughly chopping the tomatoes and onion into small pieces.  Add them to a bowl with the minced garlic, lime juice, red wine vinegar and coriander, stirring until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is solid white and flaky, warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave.
  7. Divide the tilapia, onion and corn mixture evenly between them. Serve immediately with salsa for topping.

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spiced red lentil soup with lemon

I’m a big fan of the lentil – healthy, filling, packed with protein, full of iron and budget-friendly.  I’m also a big fan of soup.  It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I love lentils in soup!  Not to disparage beans, which I also love, but you can whip together a soup containing lentils in a matter of an hour, or so.  Beans require forethought…something I don’t always exercise.

Friday night the kiddo had gymnastics until 5 p.m., which doesn’t leave a lot of time to get home and start cooking.  So earlier in the day I threw this soup together on a whim after finding the recipe on Twitter.  Of course the lentils caught my attention first, but we’re heavy into citrus season in these parts and lemons are plentiful.  Also, the list of ingredients was really short and all stock pantry items so there was no need for a last-minute scramble to the grocery store for obscure items.

The soup goes together really fast, so to enhance the flavors of the spices they’re dry-fried ahead of time.  This method gives them a fuller, headier flavor I don’t think you would experience if you stirred them in straight for the jar.  The citrus is fresh and crisp, and a nice compliment to the warm, spiciness of cumin and coriander.  I served this with some chopped, fresh cilantro from our garden and it was absolutely delicious.  For a recipe tossed together on a whim, it turned out to be delightfully pleasing and I’ll definitely be making it, again, in my regular rotation of meatless meals.  Enjoy!

2014-02-07

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 c low-sodium, organic chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 c yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c Red Lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain lentils; set aside.
  2. Heat heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil and swirl to coat, reducing heat to medium.  Toss in onion and stir frequently for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, or so, stirring frequently.
  3. Add lentils and cook for 2 minutes more, until well combined with onion and garlic, then stir in chicken stock.  Bring liquid to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are softened.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat.  Place the cumin and coriander into the pan and dry-fry for 2 minutes.  Do not let the spices scorch.  Add to soup mixture along with juice of one whole lemon.  Stir together and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to serving bowls, salt and pepper to taste, and top with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional).

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***Cook’s Notes:  Similar recipes have you remove and puree half the soup, then return it to the pot.  This is obviously a textural issue.  I didn’t do that.  Honestly, I liked the texture of the softened, whole lentils.  It gave the soup a more rustic, heartier quality.  Blend or don’t blend, that’s up to you.  Also, although this is photographed with parsley, I served it with chopped cilantro, which I much prefer.  It was excellent.  Again, it’s a matter of preference.  You can easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan by choosing vegetable stock over the chicken.  I’m a proud omnivore and much prefer the depth of flavor in a chicken stock.  Choose low-sodium, organic stock if you can.

white bean chicken chili

I’ve never been a huge chili fan.  As an adult, I’ll be polite and eat it if someone invites me to dinner and serves chili.  I’ll eat, but I wouldn’t ask for seconds.  In fact, I’ll probably feign fullness about 3/4 of the way through the bowl.  If there’s anything else on the menu, I’ll order that.  My poor mom, though.  Oh, the torment.  As a child, I hated chili.  The world record for the longest time taken to eat a teaspoon of chili was most certainly set by yours truly in 1973.  If there was a way to consume that teaspoon of chili without ever allowing said chili to touch my teeth, lips, or tongue, I mastered it.  There weren’t enough Saltine Crackers in a box to make a bowl of chili palatable to my budding taste buds.

And my mom was a good cook!

So how I became fixated upon white bean chicken chili, I have no idea.  For some reason, a couple of years ago, I began ruminating.  White beans instead of kidney, chicken instead of ground beef, lots of flavor from fresh veggies in lieu of dried spices, etc., etc., and the obsession was born.

This recipe is absolutely, positively going in the regular rotation.  It’s so good, so flavorful, so healthy and delicious, I can’t wait to make it again.  Even the kiddo, who has the world’s slowest chili eating record in her cross-hairs, wasn’t terribly offended by getting chili on her teeth, lips, or tongue!  How’s that for raves from an 8-year-old??

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional red bean and beef chili, this one is an excellent replacement.  It goes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of attention while it simmers to perfection.  It was even better the next day, too.  Serve it with some baked tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro, and/or low-fat sour cream to adapt to your particular tastes.  I think it’ll be a hit.  Enjoy!

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White Bean Chicken Chili (recipe courtesy Mayo Clinic Diet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz diced chicken (I used a roasted chicken)
  • 3 C white beans, cooked, or 2 14-oz cans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 medium orange or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • low-fat baked tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, add chicken, beans, tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer over medium heat.
  2. While soup mixture is simmering, spray a nonstick pay w/cooking spray.  Add onions, peppers, and garlic, and saute approx 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and pepper mixture to the soup pot.  Stir in the spices and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, or until veggies are soft.
  4. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with cheese (optional) and cilantro.  Serve with baked chips.

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pumpkin pie smoothies

October is here.  That means pumpkin pies, spice breads, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, and…the pumpkin smoothie!

This recipe appears in so many places all over the internet I don’t even remember where I found it.  Frankly, there are so many variations on this recipe, it’s hard to say where it was first conceived.  Again, it’s a recipe that takes well to adaptation.  This one is dairy-free and vegan friendly.  You can easily make this gluten-free, as well, by using a gluten-free rolled oat (i.e. Bob’s Red Mill).  I thought it was delicious.

My child, however, did not.  She tried it, rolled it around over her taste buds, and then promptly handed the glass back to me and asked for an alternative snack.  I’ll give her credit for actually trying it, though.  My husband refused it outright.  He never even tasted it.  Something about the color!  Admittedly, he saw it a few hours after I’d made it, and anything with banana in it is susceptible to discoloration.  Bananas turn brown pretty quickly once you peel them, and this smoothie is not exception.  Make it, drink it.  Don’t save some for tomorrow.  Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (recipe adapted from all over the internet)

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 3/4 C pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 C rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp flax seeds, ground (optional)
  • 1 tsp all-natural maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice
  • fresh grated cinnamon or nutmeg for topping

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Add whipped topping (optional) and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice,

Dive in!

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grilled vegetable sandwiches

Summer is ending.  Fall is arriving…slowly, but arriving.  We had a couple of evenings recently where we sat on the patio and enjoyed what had the makings of a cool breeze.  I think we’ve survived another desert summer!  Which is good and bad, because that means summer veggies are going by the wayside.  But it also means fall root veggies, key to many comfort foods and soups, will be in abundant supply.

While flipping through a cookbook looking for something entirely different, I came across these grilled veggie sandwiches which sounded (and looked) delicious.  My usual cooking routine includes incorporating a meatless meal or two each week.  And, since no one has put up too much of a fight, I’m not rocking that boat.  These veggie sandwiches were the perfect meatless meal, and made for a tiny celebration of the end of the season by using the last of the summer veggies.  For those of you in colder climates, the benefits will be two-fold: enjoying the last of summer vegetables and lighting up the grill one more time – before the lid is frozen shut!  Enjoy!!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches (recipe courtesy Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, Oxmoor House Publishing)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp light mayo
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into eighths
  • 1 (1 lb) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions:

  • Prepare grill.
  • Combine mayo and minced basil; cover and chill.
  • Combine oil and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bell pepper, eggplant, onion, and zucchini to dressing mixture;; toss vegetables to coat.
  • Place bell pepper and eggplant on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill about 6 minutes.  Add onion and zucchini; grill 5 minutes.  Turn vegetables often, baste with dressing, and cook just until tender.  Remove from grill and keep warm.
  • Place bread on grill, cut side down, and grill 2 minutes.  Turn bread, cut side up, and place half of cheese slices on bottom half of bread.  Grill 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt.
  • Spread mayo mixture over top half of bread.  Top bottom half with vegetables, remaining cheese slices, and top half of bread.
  • Serve immediately.

sandwich©zouptonuts***Cook’s Notes:  I used a grill basket for the veggies, which made worries about losing vegetables through the grill grates a non-issue.  Choose a nice, hearty roll.  The ciabattas are great because they hold up well to the moisture from the dressing, grilled veggies, and melted cheese.  Also, I came across this little gem while working on the post; the website for the book Simply in Season, which offers a fruit and vegetable guide for tips on how to choose, store, prepare, and use selected fruits and vegetables.  Good stuff!

raw brownies

Sooooo…while I’m on a roll with recipes I think were good, but failed me for one reason or another, let’s cut to the chase.  These sounded great.  I’d made something like them, a no-bake homemade power bar, and posted the recipe over on my other blog.  Not sure why I never got around to sharing them here, but…click over and give them a try.  They’re really good and a big hit on my Pinterest page.  But I’m wandering off topic here.  Let me stick to the raw brownies.

Kat started Brownies last week and I’m helping out as an “assistant troop mom.”  I can’t juggle the responsibility of a troop leader, so I’m doing my best to carry at least some of the weight for the mom who has agreed to shoulder the burden.  During our discussions about snacks for the girls during meetings, we decided processed sugars were out.  Kids eat way too much junk, anyway, and part of our goal is to show and set good examples for them to take into their every day lives.  Teaching them the value of eating whole foods is part of that lesson.

Hence, raw brownies for Brownies.

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Sadly, that’s not how the story ended.  The girls never ate the brownies.  The brownies, although absolutely delicious, ended up in the garbage.   Because even though they looked pretty when I plated them, and they have an uber-chocolately delicious flavor, they looked like this as soon as we put a fork to them:

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I exchanged a couple of comments back and forth with the author of the original recipe, Tina Jeffers, and we decided the dates I used probably weren’t fresh.  Having worked with dates before in other baked goods, I noticed they seemed a bit dry when I was handling them for this recipe.  This doesn’t surprise me as I didn’t buy them at my usual health food market, but picked them up on a quick trip through Albertson’s – where, in my experience, freshness isn’t their motto!

Long and short of it, I’m going to pick up more dates…at Sprouts, this time, and give these another try, because the flavor was amazingly chocolatey and delicious.  These wouldn’t be a tough sell to a bunch of hungry Brownies, either, and would be a great lesson in how everything sweet and delicious doesn’t have to be unhealthy!  Enjoy!

Raw Brownies (recipe courtesy Scaling Back Blog)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole walnuts, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 cup raw cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa for dusting

Directions:

  1. Place  walnuts and oats in a food processor or food chopper and blend on high until the mixture is finely ground.  Add cocoa and salt and pulse to combine.  Add the dates one at a time, running the processor continuously.  The mixture will ultimately be crumbly but will hold together in a ball if you roll it between your hands.
  2. Even press the cocoa and date mixture into a 9×9 pan, then place the pan in the freezer or fridge until ready to serve.  Lightly sprinkle with cocoa before serving.
plated2©zouptonuts***Baker’s Notes:  Make super sure your dates are fresh!  You can also use, as I did, a 9 inch cake pan, and serve in wedges.

parmesan crusted tilapia

While putting this post together I realized we eat an awful lot of tilapia.  In fact, in 2012, the U.S. imported about 500  million pounds of it.  That’s a lot of fish considering tilapia is generally considered, despite being high in protein and low in fat, to offer the least return on investment if you’re trying to eat more Omega 3s.  For example, salmon has 10 to 15 times the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids as a serving of tilapia.

Overall, though, a serving of tilapia will go a long way in replacing a cheeseburger and fries in terms of healthy choices.  The key seems to be to rotate your fish selections to make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3s, and make sure you know the source of the fish.  Generally, if you’re eating farm raised tilapia (which seems to be about all that’s out there), U.S. farm raised is superior.  An article I read came down pretty hard on farm raised tilapia from South America and China, noting the lack of aquaculture regulation and poor habitat conditions.

On that note, a tilapia recipe.  Honestly, I do serve it a lot for the reasons noted in almost every article I read:  it’s plentiful, relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, and has a neutral taste – which is especially important if you’re cooking for kids who have…sensitive noses?  But I’ve also enlightened myself a little bit about broadening the types of fish I’ll serve to make sure we’re fully benefiting from the addition of more fish in our diet.  So, find yourself U.S. sourced fish and pop an Omega 3 supplement after dinner, because this recipe was a keeper.  Or, try it with halibut, walleye, or whitefish (can you tell I’m a Great Lakes girl?).

Calling this recipe  “crusted” was a bit of a stretch.  This really is more of a sauce, but an additional sprinkling of parmesan a few minutes before the fish is finished under the broiler might give it a bit more crunch.  Nonetheless, the end product was really flavorful.  It was quick to prep, making it perfect for a mid-week meal when most families find it hectic to sit down for dinner.  I served it with some broiled asparagus and a side of pearl couscous and the grown ups gave it two thumbs up.  I’m still working on expanding the culinary horizons of the little one, though…slowly and steadily.  Enjoy!

2013-05-06

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Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (I used less)
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder (I used 1 tsp fresh onion, finely minced)
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt
  • 2 pounds tilapia fillets
.
Directions:
  1. Preheat broiler.  Line baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes.
  4. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.

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Cook’s Note:  Reduce the butter.  You don’t need that much.  I think I used a little less than 3 Tbsp.  Also, I’d suggest heavy duty foil to line the baking pan to resist tearing with the spatula when you flip the fish.

mediterranean-style stuffed pork tenderloin

Let me start by saying I’m particularly challenged when it comes to stuffing food with other food: tortillas, burritos, lettuce wraps and, apparently, pork tenderloin.  While I’m incredibly diligent about portion sizes when I’m eating, I seem to lose all sense of proportion during preparation.  So, while it was clear to  me I had more than enough stuffing to fill my tenderloin adequately, I used all of it.  Every last morsel.  I hate to waste, you know, and if I didn’t use it I’d probably have just sloughed it  into the trash.  Senseless, I think.  Because when push comes to shove, I’ll just make it fit (as you’ll see in the photos below).  Hey, this isn’t a professional photo shoot, here.  I make it, I shoot it, we eat it.  I don’t have time to “style” my food.

Ignoring the obvious over-stuffing, this recipe is fantastic. super healthy, and brimming with an incredible array of flavors.  Since pork is a super lean meat, the dish comes by that flavor via lots of other good-for-you ingredients.  The red pepper, capers, pine nuts, and feta cheese play off each other perfectly and give the meal a truly Mediterranean flair.  It’s heart-healthy, low-fat, and high in protein.  I served it with a mixed grain rice and a small salad since the stuffing is full of veggies, anyway.  We love it.  Hope you try it and enjoy!

Mediterranean-style Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, butterflied and pounded flat
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 oz spinach
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp capers, depending on preference (you can also use pitted Kalamata olives)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c low-fat Feta cheese, crumbled
  • kitchen twine
Preparation:
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped red pepper and saute for several minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch the garlic.  Add spinach, cooking until wilted, then remove from heat.
Butterfly the pork tenderloin (cut vertically down the middle but not entirely through the pork), and use meat hammer to flatten, being careful not to break through the pork. Place hammered pork over three or four long strands of kitchen twine.  Add the spinach and red pepper mixture, spreading across the flattened meat.  Next, add nuts, capers, and Feta cheese.  Gently roll the pork together and secure with the kitchen twine.
2012-11-02
Rub the pork with olive oil and bake at 375° F for about 40-60 minutes (depending on the size of the pork roll).  I usually check with a meat thermometer and pull the meat from the oven when internal temp reaches 140.  Let rest for 5 minutes, slice, and serve.
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easy homemade marinara

I made this recipe for a friend at school who recently gave birth to her fourth child.  She seems relatively non-plussed by the whole situation.  Apparently I’m the one who’s totally freaked out.  I feel frazzled for her!  So, putting myself in her shoes, I thought, “If I had four kids, what’s the one thing I’d want someone to do for me?”  I mean, before they locked me up in the loony bin.

Cook!

There, that was easy.  So I scoured a bunch of recipes suitable for cooking in large quantities: enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles of all varieties, etc., etc., and I found this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis at The Food Network.  Now, I’ve always been a meat sauce kind of gal.  It’s what my mom cooked.  It’s what I’ve always cooked myself.  To boot, nobody has ever complained when I make spaghetti sauce with meat.  Bam!  So that’s what I’ve always done.  But I always cook with health in mind and I’ve regularly pondered the marinara!

Not knowing whether any of my friend’s kids were averse to meat sauce, I thought marinara would be a safe bet.  The problem was, I made it and gave it away, keeping only what wouldn’t fit in the Tupperware container.

Last night I made a batch I intended to keep all to ourselves and I’m almost afraid to admit I might never make a meat sauce again.  This sauce is so good, so flavorful, so aromatic, so….easy.  The prep is more time consuming than the original recipe indicates (I think they say 10 minutes, but that’s if you’re Giada DeLaurentiis), but if you get all your fine chopping done ahead of time, it all goes together relatively quickly.  Simmer and serve.  Like all good sauces, stews, soups, etc., this one is delicious the day of, but mellows beautifully after a day or two in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marinara

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Directions:

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

***Cook’s Notes: I threw in a small handful of fresh basil leaves close to the end of simmering. Remove with bay leaves before serving. Also, because I was working against the clock on this batch, my “finely chopped” was a little less than fine. After simmering, I ran my emulsion blender through the sauce to smooth out the consistency.