Oct 282014
 

Goodbye summer!

Fall is here. We were soaking up the sun in Hawaii when Fall officially arrived to the NW. We got back to cooler temperatures, leaves turning colors and pumpkin everything. It seemed too soon and out of place. But after a week or so of being home, I started to settle in and welcome the coming autumn weather. Cozy sweaters, fires in the fireplace, hot tea, and soup.

from http://livinginportlandor.blogspot.com/

from http://livinginportlandor.blogspot.com/

I found this recipe somewhere…it’s not a blog I’ve ever read and I honestly don’t know what search I did that brought me to it but once I found it I thought, I need to make this! I knew Michael would love it. He’s a huge fan of spinach and wants to eat more of it. I have not-so-fond memories of cooked spinach from my childhood. In fact, they were so horrible that I never ate spinach again until I met Michael. I remember we were first dating and he made me this Greek scrambled egg breakfast with spinach in it and I wrinkled my nose and said “I hate spinach.”

Lo and behold, I didn’t hate spinach. I just hated the frozen spinach slop defrosted in a microwave and used as a side dish at dinner. Ever since then I’ve found that I actually quite like it and it went GREAT in this recipe. It was one of the highlights I think.

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I cooked the veggies in a skillet and heat the tomatoes and broth in a separate stockpot. It’s actually a wedding gift! Le Creuset stock pot from Michael’s coworkers. Very generous gift that we will use often. This was the maiden voyage of said pot.

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So I cooked the onions, carrots and celery separately and then added that to the stockpot of broth. The recipe was vegetarian but had options to make it not vegetarian. I didn’t have vegetable broth so I used about 1 cup of leftover beef broth and the rest was chicken broth. I had some leftover hamburger meat I needed to cook up so we browned that in the skillet with the garlic and then added that to the pot, too. I’d say it was roughly about the amount you’d use for one hamburger. It wasn’t much and I wish it had been a little more.

Here is the recipe:

ITALIAN ORZO SPINACH SOUP

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Calories per serving: 300-400 calories depending on servings

From: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/italian-orzo-spinach-soup-recipe/

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) DeLallo whole wheat orzo pasta, or other whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 cups loosely-packed spinach
  • salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, orzo (pasta), thyme, oregano, rosemary and stir to combine.
  2. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper to taste (if needed). Serve warm.
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I’ve never had orzo before (shocking) and I liked it a lot! Kind of a cross between brown rice and tiny pasta…I got roughly 7 servings out of this recipe. I topped the soup with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Michael said it was okay; I liked the recipe a lot but I’d make one change: I’d use spicy ground pork in it. I think the spice would go great with the rest of the flavors.

So while the evening darkened outside and we settled in to watch The Walking Dead, we ate our soup and felt it warm us from the inside. I love soup weather! We shared a few glasses of a sweet, smooth Malbec wine and it went perfectly with the soup.

I had some leftovers that I ate for lunch during the week. It was less soupy then because the orzo soaked up most of the broth. Despite that, it was still really tasty and it might even have been better the next day. I liked this dinner and would make it again. I’d probably also make some biscuits to go with it. Perfect fall meal for not many calories!

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Sep 092014
 

More zucchini…zucchini…zucchini! Everywhere! Recently Michael and I received a wedding gift from a very lovely friend who sadly can’t make it to the wedding. One of the items was a mini muffin baking pan. I was really excited to use it (and I was also doing some research on making some “dog” muffins that Bella can eat). But I had so much zucchini I decided to make some human muffins first and use up some zucchini. Here is the recipe:

Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins (vegan)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Adapted From: http://www.averiecooks.com/2014/07/banana-zucchini-chocolate-chip-muffins.html

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (vegetable or canola oil may be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk (coconut, soy, rice, cow's milk may be substituted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 2 small/medium bananas)
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded zucchini, measured loosely laid in cup (not packed in or squeezed; about 1 medium zucchini, I didn't peel it)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • about 11 teaspoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips divided, about 1 teaspoon for each muffin (regular-sized chips may be substituted)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a Non-Stick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan very well with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the bananas and whisk to combine.
  4. Before adding the zucchini, put it in a paper towel and squeeze tightly for about 10 seconds to remove some moisture. After squeezing, you should have about 3/4 cup of compacted shreds. Add zucchini to bowl and stir.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, optional salt and stir until just combined; don't overmix.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop turn batter out into prepared pan. Each cavity should be filled to about 3/4 full, but not exceeding or batter could overflow.
  7. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with mini chocolate chips, about 1 teaspoon each.
  8. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes (for mini muffins) or until muffins are set, domed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
  9. Allow muffins to cool in pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they've firmed up and are cool enough to handle. It's normal for muffin tops to be flatten as they cool.
  10. Muffins will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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I used the recipe as a base and adapted it. So the changes I made…

I used real milk (1%) instead of almond. I also used the Trader Joe’s gluten free flour. To make this a little healthier and reduce the amount of sugar,  I made another substitute. When you bake with Splenda it’s a 50-50 mix. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you use 1/2 cup of Splenda instead. For this recipe I halved the sugar and used splenda and I also included 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I probably could have skipped the Splenda/Sugar altogether honestly.

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I wanted to use the mini muffin tray, which was 24 mini muffins but I had a ton of extra batter after filling those so I did a few regular sized muffins as well. Because of that it kind of made the calorie count impossible to calculate but I’d say that the mini muffins are probably around 75 calories each and the regular muffins are around 100 calories, maybe a little less.

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These muffins were awesome! And addicting! And because they are so tiny, bitesize really, it’s easy to just keep popping them in your mouth. The muffins were definitely DIFFERENT than any I’ve ever done. They were very moist and gooey which I attribute to the addition of the applesauce. I think maybe using the melted coconut oil also did that. I’ve never baked with coconut oil before. It gave it a richer flavor I think. Each muffin had maybe 2-3 chocolate chips in it and so the chocolate flavor wasn’t overpowering at all. Just the perfect amount of sweetness.

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I would say that these tasted more like banana muffins than zucchini. Every once in awhile I’d get a bite of zucchini and really taste it but the most dominant flavor was the banana. These were great and I will make them again for parties. I ended up taking a bunch to my book club group and then I took some to a friend’s house the next day when Michael and I went over for dinner.

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book1
The muffins were a hit at the book club. I really, really liked them, too. They had such a different texture than I’m used to with muffins but it was pleasant. I think this is a great “base” muffin recipe. You could make some really interesting alterations…like maybe shredded carrots instead of zucchini or maybe dried cranberries instead of chocolate chips. I think the mini muffins were too small for nuts, but maybe with bigger muffins it would work well. Depending on how you end up changing the ingredients in the recipe, these muffins could be dessert or could easily be a breakfast treat.

I’ve never baked with coconut oil before and I have to say, I kind of love it! Will definitely be using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil in more future baking experiments.

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