Feb 242015
 

veggies

Lately I’ve been craving vegetables like crazy. I’ve always been a fan of veggies but for some reason I recently started craving them. I made a switch in my diet and started incorporating more veggies in my diet to satisfy that craving and I found that I was really enjoying roasted vegetables for lunch during the week.

roasted

I’ve been rotating what I roast. For awhile I was doing carrots, onions, broccoli and pre-chopped butternut squash from Trader Joe’s. Then I did carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and onions. I don’t know why it took me so long to roast these babies. They are so good! I use a little bit of olive oil or the spray-on coconut oil from Trader Joe’s, then use salt, pepper and the Costco no-salt seasoning. That’s about it! And they come out delicious, perfectly cooked (although the sweet potatoes are often a little softer than the rest of the veggies).

This has been a base for my lunches at work lately. I love it! I tried it with some rice; for a few days I added some half a cooked spicy bratwurst (splitting one brat between two lunches); I also tried adding some cooked cubed chicken. All of those variations worked well and kept me fairly full for the rest of the afternoon.

One of the problems with the frozen meals (Lean Cuisines, etc) was that I would be hungry again in 1-2 hours after eating lunch. Then I’d start snacking on the candy at work. I was sabotaging myself by eating processed food that wasn’t filling, wasn’t enough calories and just made me hungry.

A tip that I learned a long time ago was to spend 1 hour doing food prep after grocery shopping. I am so glad I adopted this habit. I get home from the store and I take the time to chop the vegetables and on Sunday nights Michael and I cook up various meats (like pork sausage for breakfasts for the week, chicken breasts for lunches, etc). It makes it so much easier to make a good choice when looking to make something to eat quickly.

tip21

One night Michael and I went out for a date night dinner to Laughing Planet. It’s a great restaurant, especially if you have kids. They have tons of really healthy options, a rotating menu and they post the nutritional information for the meals. You also have the option to put your burrito in a bowl to make it low-carb.

laughingplanet

I ended up ordering the daily special. It was called the “Winter’s Bounty Bowl.” It was pulled pork with Korean BBQ sauce, spinach, roasted Brussels sprouts on top of a butternut squash puree. Then it was topped with an apple, ginger and mango relish. It was SO good! And it was really filling. I am totally going to try and recreate this recipe at home soon!

Back to lunches…I’ve been trying to look for some recipes and ideas for other lunch options. I’ve collected a few. Here is one:

Carrot Coconut Curry Soup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: 204

From: http://www.acouplecooks.com/2014/09/carrot-coconut-curry-soup/

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2½ cups vegetable broth
  • 14-ounce can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cilantro, lime wedges, and red pepper flakes (to garnish)

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion. Peel and mince 1 tablespoon ginger. Peel and chop 4 cups carrots.
  2. In a medium stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger, carrots, and 2½ cups vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer; cover and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. When the carrots are soft, carefully blend with an immersion blender (or in a blender) until the carrots are smooth.
  5. Return the carrot mixture to the pot and add 1 can coconut milk and 2 tablespoons red curry paste. Stir until well blended. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add about ½ teaspoon kosher salt, then taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  6. Serve with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and red pepper flakes if desired.
  7. Notes: Slightly adapted from Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=45882

I recently had the Thai carrot soup at Whole Foods from their soup/salad bar and it was OMG AMAZING. I immediately tried to find the recipe because I had to make it myself. I didn’t find one specifically from Whole Foods but I found a bunch of options and settled on this one to try first. It was super easy to make and didn’t have a ton of ingredients. The only thing I changed: I used the Light Coconut Milk instead of the full fat like the recipe said. It’s what I had on hand and honestly,  I didn’t want the extra calories from the full-fat version.

IMG_6959

One thing I’ve learned making Asian dishes–never add extra salt. A lot of recipes call for a pinch or two of salt (sometimes more). But if you’re using jars of curry paste, or chili paste, or other Asian ingredients from a can/jar/package–IT ALREADY HAS SALT! And sometimes a lot of it. I learned that lesson the hard way and now I almost never add salt to recipes I make when using these ingredients. It’s just not necessary.

IMG_6960
I cooked everything up and let it simmer for awhile and then used my immersion blender to get the soup creamy. I love that blender! It’s so easy to use and it works really well. Plus I don’t have to mess with pouring things into a blender and then spilling it all over the place. So much cleaner and easier. I blended up the carrot mixture until it was the consistency of baby food then I added the curry paste and coconut milk.

IMG_6961

The one downside of the immersion blender–I did get splattered a few times when I used the fast speed. Ooops! After everything was all mixed in I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then tasted it. It needed a little something…I added a pinch of Splenda and then tasted it again. I added one more pinch of Splenda and then it was perfect. I hadn’t expected having to add sweetener because carrots are already so sweet but the soup was just a tad on the bitter side. The Splenda fixed that right up and the soup was perfect!

IMG_6962

I got 5 GENEROUS servings out of this recipe instead of 4, which made the calories more like 165 calories instead of 200+. This could have easily been 6 servings for dinner–with maybe some crunchy French bread and a salad. The soup was creamy and the texture was perfect. It was also surprisingly spicy!

IMG_6965

photo-1

I loved the soup. It was SO CLOSE to the Whole Foods recipe. I’m not sure where it’s different. I need to have the WF version again. I’m sure they used fresh ginger (I used powdered) and they probably used the full fat coconut milk. Maybe those small changes made the difference? I’m not sure but I loved my version. It was tasty and filling, low in calories and spicy!  Yum! Yum! I also had a bunch of leftovers for work lunches. Perfect!

What are your favorite veggie recipes?

Share
Jan 142015
 

I remember when my best friend Rachel and I went to Chicago and on our last day there we went out to a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant and did the “chef’s choice” meal. It was like 5 courses of whatever the chef decided to make for us. It was the first time I’d ever tried ahi tuna and it was the first time I’d ever had butternut squash. It was a creamy butternut squash soup in an espresso-sized cup and it was so amazing; I wondered, how had I never had butternut squash soup before??

photo 1

I wanted to make it for myself. It sure took me long enough to give it a try…Like 10 years! But finally, I tried. I searched for awhile to find the right recipe. I remembered it being pretty sweet and I found a lot of recipes that claimed it was so sweet it could almost be a dessert. That wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted savory, with a hint of sweet.

I found this recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Cashews

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: About 169

From: http://whatagirleats.com/butternut-squash-soup-with-toasted-cashews/

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 6 cups cubed.
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ? teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Heavy cream or half and half, thin to desired consistency
  • Kosher salt, and white pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Halve squash and place cut side up in a baking pan with ½" of water. bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.
  3. Squash won't be fully cooked, but slightly tender. Cool.Using a vegetable peeler, peel of outer skin and scrap inside to remove seeds and stringy fibers. Cut into cubes. Should yield about 6 cups. (I think you can actually cheat on this and get pre-cubed squash in the produce section of your market).
  4. In a Dutch oven or large pot heat butter and oil until hot and shimmering. Add shallots and stir, for a minute or two. Add garlic, stir.
  5. Add squash and broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add thyme and bay leaf, reduced heat and cover.
  7. Simmer on low about 45 minutes until squash is tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme sticks, if there are any.
  8. Puree soup using an immersion blender or upright blender, until smooth.
  9. Return soup to pot, add half and half or cream to thin to desired consistency. Finish with toasted, chopped cashews and a drizzle of cream.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=10283

It sounded pretty good to me! I knew I’d add a little bit of extra things here and there that I had seen from other recipes I liked. For example, a few recipes called or a pinch of cayenne pepper and I LOVED that idea.

photo 2

Other than that I followed the recipe pretty closely, except for the bay leaf (didn’t have one) and I added cayenne. I put it all in my Dutch Oven and let it simmer down. I used my immersion blender (which I LOVE) to puree it up.

I taste-tested the soup after pureeing it and added a pinch more of the cayenne pepper. Once I felt like it was good, I dished it up. I thought it was a little odd that the recipe called it “Butternut Squash with Toasted Cashews” when the cashews were really just a garnish. I read the recipe a few times to make sure I wasn’t skipping a step. Sure, the cashews were nice and added a nice crunchy texture to the soup, but I don’t know that it added anything else beyond that. I originally thought the cashews would be ground up and mixed in.

The texture was super creamy. It was a little too close to baby food/applesauce in consistency and I could have added more milk to it to make it more soupy.

soup3

I served the soup with a green salad (swiss chard, spinach and kale) with Bleu cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I also had one large cheesy kaiser roll that I split in half for Michael and I to share.

soup2

Michael and I both liked the soup a lot. It was pretty easy to make. I would add more spice to it next time I think. I got 4 servings out of this recipe and that made it around 150-165 calories a serving. Super low but it was filling and I didn’t feel like I was deprived of food afterwards or hungry in an hour.

soup1

I had some leftovers that I took to work for lunch on my two rest days (there weren’t enough calories in it to eat on a gym day). It was just as good the next day. A little bit of spice, but not too much. It was creamy and the best part— SUPER filling for less than 200 calories!

I will be experimenting more in the future trying to find the perfect squash soup recipe. Do you have a favorite? Please share!

Share