Monday, November 26, 2012

Potato Leek Soup

Most potato soups that I come across use milk or cream to thicken the soup.  Obviously it makes the soup taste great, but it also adds a lot of calories.  For those of you who are looking for a healthy, dairy free, and flavorful soup, this is for you!  The secret is pureeing the potatoes with a blender or immersion hand blender.   Many thanks to my Dad (the master of soup making) for this easy and delicious recipe!  

Potato Leek Soup


2 leeks, about a pound                            
6 cups low sodium chick stock                
2 T olive oil                                             
3 C coarsely chopped onion                     
1 C chopped carrot                                  
1 C chopped celery                                  
2 garlic cloves, minced                         
2 C cubed, peeled potatoes or Yukon Gold   
1/2 t black pepper                                   
1/4 t sea salt (or Kosher)                         
Dried pepper flakes if desired


Remove roots, leaves, and green tops from leeks.

Cut leeks lengthwise in half, submerge in cold water.  Swirl, drain.  Slice into 1" slices.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan over med-high heat. 

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Add leek, onion, and next 7 ingredients (thru red pepper flakes).  Partially cover and cook on low for 25 min, stirring occasionally.  

Add hot broth and potatoes to leek mixture, bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat, simmer 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Stir in pepper/salt.

Puree in a blender or with an immersion hand blender.  Return to Dutch oven to reheat.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be Thankful, Be Mindful

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us!  I am sure that many of us will be gathering around the table later enjoying some sort of feast.  It is so easy to overeat on this particular day, so I challenge you to be mindful about what goes into your mouth today.  Try to find balance and not overdo anything.  Sure, that second helping of stuffing looks good now, but how will it make you feel later?  Try to stop eating when you feel satisfied, not full.  Try small samples of all of your favorites, so that you don't feel deprived.  Incorporate some physical activity today as well.  Go for a family walk, a bike ride, a run...just move!

It is easy to get caught up in the buzz of the season and to forget what we are actually celebrating.  We need to remember that it is not about the parties, the parades, or the shopping.  Let's all be thankful for what we have, each and every day.  Treat everyday as if it were Thanksgiving and cherish the moments that you can spend with your loved ones.  Stay tuned for some healthy after-Thanksgiving recipes!  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grandma Over's Baked Corn

I have been eating baked corn at Thanksgiving and Christmas for as long as I can remember.  It is so easy to make and is a nice twist on a very predictable vegetable.  I assume that it is some sort of Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, because when I moved farther east most people had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned baked corn.  This is a recipe that will always remind me of my dear grandmother.  Hopefully when I make it this year it will turn out as good as hers always did.

Baked Corn


3 cans of Cope's corn

3 1/2 cups milk

4 T melted butter

2tsp salt

2tsp pepper

5 beaten eggs


Preheat oven to 375

Drain the 3 cans of corn and mix all of the ingredients together.  Pour into a buttered casserole dish.  Bake 60-75 minutes until set and browned.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sneaky, But Delicious

A few years ago I came across a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  For anyone who has small children, or picky eaters, this book is a must!  Seinfeld does an amazing job at creating meals and snacks with hidden vegetables.  The basis behind this book is the vegetable puree.  As long as you have a blender, making purees is very simple.  This particular recipe uses spinach puree.  I used a bag of baby spinach, a little bit of water and made a puree in the blender.  Any leftovers can be stored in ice-cube trays and used later in another recipe (or even in a smoothie).  My son took this recipe to school for his snack day and his teacher told me that the kids loved it.  The recipe says to cut the bars into 12, but I cut them into smaller squares so they would fit into little hands.  Enjoy!!!

Blueberry Oatmeal Bars (with spinach)


Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup Smart Balance (trans-fat free soft tub spread), chilled

1 cup blueberry preserves

1/2 cup spinach puree


1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat and 8x8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and vanilla, and stir to mix well.

3.  Add the margarine and cut it quickly into the dry ingredients with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal and is no longer powdery.  Do not over-mix, bits of spread will still be visible.

4.  Set aside about half of the oat mixture; press the rest of it firmly into the pan.  Bake until lightly browned at the edges (but not fully baked), 13 to 15 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, mix the preserves with the spinach puree in a small bowl.

6.  Spread the blueberry mixture over the partially baked oat layer, then sprinkle with the reserved oat mixture.  Bake until the topping is slightly browned, 20-25 minutes.  Set the pan on a rack to cool completely before cutting.  Cut into either 12 large bars, or into smaller squares.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Healthy Habits Start at Home

I am a strong believer when it comes to feeding kids healthy foods.  When I was growing up my parents taught me healthy eating habits, and I feel that this gave me a strong foundation.  I am trying to do the same with my son, so that he can have the best advantage possible.  My son is now almost two and he does not drink juice, and has no concept of what "fast food" is, aside from how fast I can actually get it on his plate. I am not fanatical about restricting his diet; my little guy can still have a few bites of cake at birthday parties, or a treat after dinner here and there.  However, on a daily basis, I try to be mindful of what goes into my family.  Last week we were at BJ's buying our standard staples, when we walked past one of the food "traps".  The women was serving chocolate chip cookies and was practically waving it in front of my son.  She asked if he could have one and I said "no".  She looked at me like I was the meanest parent ever!  In her mind she couldn't understand why I would deny him that cookie.   I feel that it is my job as a parent to set up healthy eating habits for him now, and if that makes the BJ's lady give me a funny look, so be it.  My son can't make his own choices yet, he won't be able to purchase his own food for many years, so as long as I am providing it, I want it to be as nutritious as possible.

Sometimes this becomes a challenge when we go out to eat.  Children's menu's at restaurants typically offer terrible choices, and many of these places should be ashamed of themselves.  When did our society decide that it is acceptable to fill our children full of processed and fried foods?  Children do not need chicken fingers, french fries, macaroni and cheese, pizza, etc.  I know that some will argue that their kids are picky eaters, and I get that, but I don't think that we should throw in the towel when our kids are picky and just allow them to eat junk.  We should continue to offer a variety of foods to try to expand their palates.  When we go out to eat I always make sure that I pack my son some nutritious foods.  It is not hard to pack some steamed vegetables, a cheese stick, and some fruit.  When we arrive at the restaurant, I typically choose something from the menu that we will both like.  Sometimes I even order him a small piece of plain grilled fish, or some grilled chicken.  Most restaurants are very accommodating, you just have to ask.

As parents we also have to think about what our kids are eating when they are away from us.  Many health problems/eating issues can be avoided later in life if children are given the tools to make good decisions, especially when they are on their own. It is sad to say, but the public school system in this country provides some of the unhealthiest food choices for our kids.  Some kids are eating breakfast and lunch at school, and the majority of their daily calories and nutrition are coming from highly processed foods.  Parents think that they are sending their kids to a safe place that focuses on not only their minds, but also their bodies, but sadly this is not the case.  Budget cuts and politics seem to override the focus on nutrition in schools.  Packing a lunch is the best possible solution to this problem. And packing doesn't have to mean that you get stuck in the peanut-butter sandwich rut.  Think outside of the box and try wraps, last night's leftovers, salads, or an english muffin pizza.  Allowing the kids to help and make their own lunch is a fun way to have them be involved in the process.

Bottom line:  It comes down to being diligent about what goes into our kids.  Even our little ones can benefit from a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  

~Stay tuned for some healthy, kid-friendly recipes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Deconstruction: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Halloween always seems to be a busy night around here.  The kids parade that we go to starts right around dinner time, and as soon as we get home the trick or treaters are at the door ready for their sugar fix.  Because of this, I knew that I needed something quick and easy for dinner.  Earlier in the week when I was planning our meals, I took an inventory of the freezer.  The frozen pizza crust was taking up way too much space, so pizza went on the list.   Along with the crust,  I had lots of cherry tomatoes, and an avocado.  These simple ingredients inspired me to take the traditional elements in a Cobb Salad and make a Cobb "Salad" Pizza.  I must admit, it was amazing!!  This recipe can easily be transformed into a vegetarian pizza as well...just eliminate the chicken and bacon, or substitute your favorite soy products.  

Cobb "Salad" Pizza

1 whole wheat thin crust pizza shell (Boboli or Artisan)

2 chicken breasts (slice thin for faster cooking)

Italian dressing

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

3tb tomato sauce

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

2 tb real bacon pieces (I use Hormel or you could saute and crumble 2 slices of bacon)

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

***Marinate chicken in Italian dressing at least 30 minutes prior.  

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  While oven is preheating, saute chicken and dressing in a pan.  When chicken is finished cooking, let cool.  Dice chicken into cubes and set aside.  

2.  Coat the pizza shell with 3 tb of tomato sauce and spread the chicken evenly over the sauce.

3.  Evenly distribute the halved cherry tomatoes and the bacon pieces.

4.  Top with crumbled blue cheese and the mozzarella cheese.  

5.  Place the diced avocado on top and place into the oven.

6.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.