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).

 

dished©zouptonuts

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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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sausage and egg fried rice

One of my favorite things to order at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant is chicken fried rice.  Even better, wrap it up in a soft tortilla and call it a Chinese burrito.  Either way, it’s comfort food through and through.  But we all know the fried rice at your favorite carry-out is, while incredibly delicious, not exactly scoring high marks for health food.  Also, we don’t eat out that much – have you seen the portion sizes?  And, frankly, we get a healthier meal at home.  Which is why I’ve always been curious about making my own fried rice.

Last night was the perfect night.  My people had gone off to have dinner with relatives.  Earlier in the day, in anticipation of dinner-for-one, I cooked up some rice (halving the recipe below) and set it aside to cool.  Fried rice is a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous dinner, but since I’m apparently so good at portion control, I rarely have leftover rice on hand.  Note to selves:  If you’re ever just hanging out with an hour to spare, make some rice and tuck it away in the fridge for dinner later that week.

The original recipe called for diced ham, but I used an organic turkey sausage, instead, since it’s what I had on hand.  I think it’s a perfectly good substitute, lower in sodium and fat, while still adding a nice boost of protein.  Since it’s a recipe that loans itself to personal adaptation, pick your protein for what suits your lifestyle.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I believed it would be nearly impossible to recreate the goodness of Chinese carry-out in my own kitchen.  But this recipe came pretty darn close.  I thought it was delicious…and much, much healthier.  The green beans added crunch and a pretty burst of color.  Onion and garlic gave it nice, heady flavor in combination with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Prep first and it all goes together really fast, as a stir-fry should.  Can’t wait to try the leftovers after the flavors have a chance to mingle, a bit.  Definitely a keeper on the first run, though.  Enjoy!

2014-01-26

Sausage and Egg Fried Rice (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly horizontally sliced green beans
  • 3/4 cup diced turkey kielbasa (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

Preparation:

  1. 1. Break up rice with hands to remove large clumps, if necessary.
  2. 2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until onion begins to brown. Add beans and ham; stir-fry 2 minutes or until ham begins to brown.
  3. 3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add cold rice to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Push rice mixture up sides of wok. Pour eggs in open space in center of wok; cook 30 seconds or until set, stirring to scramble. Gently stir scrambled eggs into rice mixture. Sprinkle with green onions.

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hoisin-grilled chicken with soba noodles

If my kid had to choose one thing to use as a dipping sauce…because, well, meat can’t be eaten in our house unless dipped in something, she’d choose barbecue.  Her sauce of choice is Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Tangy.  She’ll put it on everything, but particularly her least favorite meat of all time: chicken.

Isn’t chicken supposed to be every kid’s favorite meat?  I mean, it’s generally tender, virtually devoid of any offensive flavor (or, flavor of any sort unless dredged in Sweet Baby Ray’s)?  Well, not my kid, I guess, resulting in this recipe being a sort of double whammy – she detests chicken and the sauce is NOT Sweet Baby Ray’s.  The sauce is better, in my opinion, but I don’t have the culinary sensitivities of an eight year old.

I love hoisin sauce.  I love Asian-inspired dishes.  I won’t go so far as to say I love chicken because handling raw chicken is enough to make me contemplate full-time vegetarianism.  But once it’s cooked, I’m OK with it.  Fortunately or unfortunately, chicken is flavorless unless you do something good to it.  In this case, the sauce.  The hoisin adds sweetness and the chili-garlic the heat.  I love the savory warmth of dark sesame oil, too.  But the really interesting flavor comes from the Chinese 5-spice blend.

You can make your own at home; it’s a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Szechuan peppercorns, but 5-spice blend is readily available in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.  The spice adds a deeper warmth to an already savory combination of flavors.  Overall, this Asian-inspired barbecue sauce was quite good.  Don’t worry, Sweet Baby Ray’s.  A certain eight year old will  make sure my pantry remains well stocked with your products.  Nice change of pace, though.  Enjoy!

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2013-08-28

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2013-08-282

Hoisin-Grilled Chicken w/Soba Noodles (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 3 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces uncooked soba noodles (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste), or 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 10 minutes or until done, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Thinly slice across the grain,
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook 2 minutes. Add peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain. Combine rice vinegar and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Add noodle mixture; toss to coat. Arrange about 1 cup noodle mixture in each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with about 3 1/2 ounces chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and onions.

hoison_grilledchicken©zouptonuts***Cook’s Note:  Per the picture, I was convinced I had Soba noodles in my pantry when I didn’t.  Substituting any pasta will serve you well, however.

shrimp tacos with roasted corn salsa

Tired of the same ol’ same ol’ of fish tacos?  This is a no-brainer substitution:  just add shrimp.  But you’ll find the real magic to this recipe is in the roasted corn salsa.  It was bursting with flavor and really pretty to the eye.  The original recipe called for avocado instead of tomato, but no one in my house is really a big fan of the avocado, and the tomato added lovely color to what would have been a fairly bland looking salsa.  Roasting the corn really enhanced its sweetness, and that was nicely complimented by the tanginess of the lime and the pungent cilantro.

There’s a fair amount of chopping for prep, but once you have all that finished the dish flies together pretty quickly.  The shrimp cook rapidly, so pay close attention otherwise they’ll be chewy and overdone.  It’s a perfect recipe for weeknight dinners when you don’t have a lot of time to slave over the stove, too.   I’ll definitely be putting this one in the rotation and the salsa has a lot of potential for use in other dishes, as well.

I hate to type and run, but I have to hurry off and pick up the kiddo from a friend’s house.  Let me know if you give it a try.  Enjoy!

2013-08-07

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Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, August 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 large ear)
  • 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Combine corn and oil in small bowl; toss gently to coat. Arrange corn in an even layer on a jelly-roll pan; broil 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine corn, onions, cilantro, 1 tablespoon juice, salt, pepper, and avocado in a medium bowl; toss gently.
  3. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon juice, and honey in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Add shrimp to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done.
  4. Combine sour cream and remaining 1 tablespoon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Top each tortilla with about 1/4 cup corn mixture, about 4 shrimp, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sour cream mixture.

plated_tacos©zouptonuts

beef and lentil sloppy joes

First off, I’m going to apologize for posting two sandwich recipes in a row.  Generally, I like a little more variety in my rotation than that.  But these just…happened.  And they were too good not to share.

Second, this recipe sort of just happened after a conversation with the husband about buns, and how bad buns can spoil the whole….sandwich experience.  (You see now why my mom always liked to call them rolls).  Anyway, in a rush through Target a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a package of their Market Pantry brand hamburg buns.  Wow!  What a huge mistake.  If ever there were Worst Buns Ever competition, that’d be the winning bun!  They were flimsy, flavorless, flaccid, and forgettable.  Not that the bun (roll – sorry, Mom) needs to knock your socks off.  But to hold up to sandwich fixin’s with any sort of juicy, gravy, or sauce, well…flimsy, flavorless and flaccid won’t cut it.

Not that this post is about buns.  Ahem…rolls.  Just saying, if you make these, select a better quality bun.  Oh, and a skim coat of butter and a little time under the broiler doesn’t hurt, either.

So, on to the real reason for this recipe:  it just sounded good.  My husband had his cholesterol checked a while back and, despite my predominantly healthy cooking choices, it was still elevated.  With exercise and supplements, he’s been able to get it in to a healthier range, but it made me ever more mindful of how food choices (especially if you’re pre-disposed to high cholesterol) are so very important.

What attracted me to this recipe in the first place was the lentils.  They’re a super source of protein, inexpensive to purchase, easy to cook, and provide a whole host of health benefits.  You can read more about lentils here at Whole Living and Alive, but if you’re not including more lentils in your diet, you really should give them a try.  Adding them to Sloppy Joes is just an act of pure genius!  The original recipe actually used lentils as a replacement for the beef, but I followed the adapted recipe, then made a minor change of my own to adjust the seasoning for my sometimes picky eater.   After having tried them (they were delicious), I think completely replacing the beef with lentils would be a perfectly acceptable way to go for a truly meatless dish.

As you can see, my little Sous Chef was helping me cook dinner that evening.  We only had one minor disaster!!  Yikes!  Thankfully, the tomato sauce was right out of the can and wasn’t hot when it sloshed over the edge of the pan.  We decided that one might have gotten us downgraded on Worst Cooks in America!!  The end product, though, was really good.  Lots of flavor, even without the chili powder, and great texture.  Next time I might actually try them without the beef.  Enjoy!

2013-05-03

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Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes (recipe adapted from One Ordinary Day)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder (I left this out completely, but 3 Tbsp is just way too much chili powder: adjust according to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • burger buns or sandwich rolls

Directions:

  • Place lentils in a sauce pot with the 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain and set aside.
  • When the lentils are about halfway cooked, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute ground beef until crumbled but not fully cooked through.  Add the onion and saute until beef is no longer pink. Add garlic and saute about one minute.  Add the cooked lentils, oregano, and salt and mix.
  • Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and combine…gently.  Cook for about 10 minutes and then add brown sugar and mustard.  Stir until well blended.
  • Reduce heat to lowest setting and let the favors come together for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve on broiled or grilled buttered rolls.

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Cook’s Notes:  Easily adaptable to a completely vegetarian meal.  I think these would be just as delicious with only lentils and no beef.

marcella hazen’s four ingredient tomato sauce

I’m not a superstitious person.  Breaking mirrors?  Walking under ladders?  Black cats crossing my path?  Pppplllbbbhhhh…..whatever!

I do, however, believe in signs.  Ok, this might sound freaky, but when my dad passed away suddenly 16 years ago, my contact lenses would consistently be in the wrong compartments.  You know, the left would be in the right and the right in the left.  I wouldn’t notice, obviously, until I put them in my eyes.  But it occurred more than regularly.  It was incredibly frequent, in fact.  Now, I know it’s possible I was simply rattled by the sudden death of my dad and grief can make us absent-minded, but, really – I’m sure it was a sign.  A little, humorous calling card from Dad that everything would be alright.

When my mom passed away suddenly right after Thanksgiving 2011, I had a house full of people at her home in Michigan for most of a week.  My mom’s alarm clock never went off during that week.  The first morning I was alone in the house, after all the guests and family were gone, the alarm clock went off!  It still gives me chills.  Call me crazy, but that was a sign!!!  Everything’s gonna be alright.

So….the long and short of it, when this recipe appeared in different searches, and different websites three times over the course of a week, well, that’s a sign:  Make This Sauce And Everything Will Be Alright!

Friday night I was short on time because Kat had been at a friend’s house after school, and the weather was crazy: rain, hail, high winds, flooded washes (desert living at its best).  Since my pantry is always stocked with canned tomatoes of some variety or another, butter, kosher salt, and onions, this was my go-to meal plan.

Yes, you heard me:  canned tomatoes, butter, kosher salt, and an onion.  Sounds like it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, but don’t let minimalist fool you.  This sauce is spectacular!  Maybe it’s the butter, but it was intensely creamy and delicious and savory, with great depth of flavor.  And it took me all of three minutes to put in the pan (only because I had to photograph it), and 45 minutes to simmer.  Life doesn’t get more alright than this.  Enjoy!

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Marcella Hazen’s Four Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Recipe Courtesy Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, no salt or herbs added
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half
Kosher salt

To serve
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, butter, onion halves, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat. Crush the tomatoes lightly with the back of a spoon as they cook, and stir occasionally. Simmer very gently for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat appear on the surface of the tomatoes. Remove and discard the onion.

Serve over hot pasta with Parmesan and black pepper, if desired.

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Cook’s Notes:  I also smashed a great, big garlic clove and let it steep with the tomatoes and onions, as well.  And, as you’ll see from the pics, I didn’t use canned plum tomatoes, either.  I used what I had on hand and the sauce was wonderful.  Next time I’ll probably try it with the plum tomatoes and see if “wonderful” could somehow be transformed to “out-of-this-world.”  Not that it matters much.  Wonderful is pretty darn good in my book!