Tag Archives: New Year’s Resolution!

Chicken Soup with Kale and Quinoa {Healthy + Easy}

16 Feb

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-3

All I ate yesterday was this soup, and cookies.

I mean, a lot of each of them, but very little variety throughout the day. I made both because I had cravings – and satisfy said cravings, I did. I hear this cold spell they call “winter” may be breaking soon, but until then, I am all comfort foods, all the time.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup

This soup is incredibly healthy and satisfying – homemade stock, organic chicken, quinoa, kale, and veggies. It also serves as a reminder that when you like all of the ingredients that go into a dish, chances are very high that you will like the end result … and return to the pot for more. Like 4 times.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-2

Stay warm!

Ingredients:

– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 3/4 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and dried
– 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed and sliced in to thin ribbons, and then roughly chopped

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second large bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Now, you could choose to cook right through to completion {if you do, skip down to the next curly brackets}. But because the quinoa and kale will soak up the stock, I would stop here to refrigerate the stock overnight, to let the fat rise to the top (then the quinoa and kale will be cooking in slightly healthier stock – I mean, not a TON healthier, but every bit counts, right?). To do so, let the stock cool enough that you can put it in a container that seals tight (like a thick plastic pitcher with a snap-on lid). Pull the chicken off the bone, and refrigerate separately. Refrigerate the carrots, onion, and garlic as well.
  • The next day, skim the fat off of the stock.
  • {If you decide to cook straight through, start again HERE:} Heat a large soup pot over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained, skimmed stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • Add the quinoa, and cook with the lid off for 10-12 minutes, or until the “tails” form on the quinoa.
  • Add the shredded kale, and cook for just a few minutes more. Add the chicken and heat through.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-4

More info please?

This is another great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating.

The kale will hold up well to the boiling and being submerged in liquid for a few days.

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Chicken Noodle Soup {Healthy + Easy}

8 Feb

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-5This is a LONG cold stretch, isn’t it? The winter has been unrelenting for so many parts of the country. Know what helps? Soup.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-7

Soup helps so many things. It is an ultimate comfort food for a reason – it warms from the inside out, and somehow always brings a smile. This winter, I have been thrilled every time I have seen a big bowl of chicken noodle soup staring back at me when I open the fridge. Score.

Making chicken soup from scratch is not difficult, and you know exactly what is going in to it: chicken, vegetables, garlic, herbs, water. Noodles if you want them, and salt to your taste. It is barely more work than boiling all of those things together, I promise. Healthy, easy, satisfying.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-3 copyIngredients:
– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 1 c wide egg noodles {optional}

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Take the empty pot and heat over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • While you are waiting for it to boil, pull the chicken off of the bone. I usually just use the white meat in my soup. You can chop it or shred it.
  • Add the noodles {if using} and chicken, and cook until the noodles are cooked through.
  • You could eat the soup now, but you will probably find it to taste a bit greasy. So, if you can bear to wait, once it cools a bit, refrigerate it over night. I find that a thick plastic pitcher (or two) with a snap-on lid words great for refrigerating and serving purposes.
  • In the morning, you will find that the fat has risen to the top and solidified. Just scoop it off with a large spoon and throw it away. You may be scooping out a bit of thyme this way, but don’t worry, you already cooked the flavor out of it.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-8

More info please?

This is a great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating. It also freezes really well, I would recommend portioning into the round ziplock containers before freezing. You can change up the noodles you use, but the wide egg noodles just scream chicken noodle soup, don’t they? Want to make your own chicken stock for use in another recipe?  I would use this same method and just stop at the point where you strain the stock. Use the chicken for another purpose, like a chicken salad.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-6

Cheesy Breakfast Grits

28 Jan

Cheesy Grits-3I grew up in the Midwest, where all I knew about grits was “That’s something they eat in the South.” Really? How was this corn derivative not a staple in the Corn Belt?

I first became acquainted with grits when I attended law school in the South – Shrimp and Grits made a believer out of me. But it wasn’t until the last year or two that I have kept a package of it in my pantry and cooked with it on a regular basis.

Grits are just ground corn. Depending on the brand you buy, they may look exactly like cornmeal that you would use to make corn bread. I am currently working on a bag of Bob’s Red Mill, and the grains are a bit bigger than Quaker, which had been my previous standard. Both are great; Bob’s is a bit heartier, while Quaker is smoother. Just a matter of personal preference. In this video, Bob explains that his family has found a method of grinding corn that does not “degerminate” it – that is good news! It means that their particular variety qualifies as a whole grain – which is healthier than when the germ is removed.  Corn GritsGrits are cooked in liquid, either water or milk. Experiment as you will, but I find that 1/4 c of grits and 3/4 c skim milk, with a pinch or two of cheese, makes a perfect, filling, warm (fast!) breakfast. It will keep you full until lunch, for sure – and what a great way to sneak in another serving (or so) of milk and whole grains (if the brand you use has the germ intact). Just pop the bowl in the microwave, and it will be ready in the time you take your morning shower {if you keep your shower to less than 7 minutes}.

Cheesy Grits-6

Ingredients:
– 1/4 c grits
– 3/4 c skim milk
– 2 t shredded cheese {I used a cheddar-jack mix – you should experiment with any mild cheese you have on hand}
– 1/4 t grated parmesan

How do I make it?

  • In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl (bigger than a cereal bowl – it will bubble up just a bit), place 1/4 c grits and 3/4 c skim milk less 2 T (so, use all of it except 2 T).
  • Microwave on medium power for 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining milk, and extra if you would like, until it has a creamy, thick consistency.
  • Stir in cheeses of your choice.
  • You may want to add a pinch of salt, because grits have no sodium, but your cheese may give it the flavor you need, so give it a taste first.

Cheesy Grits

Cheesy Grits-2

Cheesy Grits-4

More info please?
Polenta is also just ground corn, but from my understanding and research, polenta (Italian) and grits (Southern American) are traditionally made from different types of corn, and ground to a different consistency. This results in a slightly different taste and texture. But do you want to know what Bob’s Red Mill thinks about that?

Bob's Red Mill Grits PolentaI also enjoy a bowl of cheesy grits with a poached egg on top – the runny yolk stirred in to the grits is a treat.

New Year’s Resolutions

14 Jan

We are two weeks in to 2014, and I thought I would check in on how everyone is doing with their New Year’s Resolutions. How goes it?

I try more and more to not have to find a reason to make positive changes, but there is something about a crisp new page on the calendar that is conducive to new behaviors, attitudes, and … food! New ideas in the kitchen, new recipes, new ingredients, you name it: 2014 seems like a great opportunity.

I have a few food-related New Year’s Resolutions for myself and want to share them with you here, and then I will check those boxes, so to speak, in future posts. I even made a “New Year’s Resolution” tag, if you would like to follow along that way. We are more likely to stick to our goals when we share them with others, right? Well here we go!

  1. Take healthy lunches and snacks to work: It’s often a struggle for me, time-wise, to plan meals for the week, get to the grocery store, cook, pack lunches the night before, and remember to bring it the next day. I would love to get this down to a system! It seems like casseroles and other one-pot comfort foods might be a good option (one container – easy to transport; and filling – our work cafeteria closes at 2pm so healthy afternoon snacks can be challenging). For snacks, healthy, filling, and easy to transport are also key. On busy days, I maaaay be guilty of trolling the halls for unattended candy jars (sigh), and I would love to curb that habit.
  2. Eat filling and healthy breakfasts: Too often I find myself needing to hunker down and work hard between 10:30 and 11:30 on weekdays … not because of any particular deadline or project at work, but because 10:30 is about when my coffee buzz has waned, and 11:30 is when it’s socially acceptable to eat lunch. When I have a full breakfast, I can power through; when I skip breakfast, I feel it. I generally don’t have a ton of time to prepare breakfast in the morning, but oatmeal is one option; I would also like to get into a routine of make-ahead breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, and other similar dishes that I can grab on the go or heat quickly right when I get to work.
  3. Eat less meat: I love meat. I do. But I would like to exercise more moderation. I can’t promise that I will have “Meatless Mondays,” but I don’t think that one or two days per week is unreasonable.
  4. Get to know a few herbs and spices better: How many spices are in your spice rack? I counted once, when a friend of mine was writing an article for a magazine on a related topic, and it was more than 60 – I have to guess I am over 70 or 75 now. Some I crank through, like oregano, cumin, and red pepper flakes … others, like garam masala, tarragon, and even paprika I would like to find a few solid recipes for. And as fresh herbs become more bountiful in the warmer months, I am looking forward to picking up something pretty at the farmer’s market and exploring! Which herbs do you wish you knew more about or used more?
  5. Make my father proud: My dad wishes I had a Jewish food blog. I don’t. That niche is not really sustainable for me, but I like the idea of trying to make one traditional recipe per month. It will be worth it even if only to hear my dad do his impersonation of what he thinks it sounds like when I write blog posts. So cute.

If you have ideas for anything in this post, please leave them in the comments!