Monthly Archives: November 2011

White bean and spinach soup

The colors are pretty amazing!

Brrr!   It is cold and windy here in the Ozarks tonight!  I must admit, I LOVE it when the weather finally turns from fall to winter.  Don’t get me wrong, fall is by far my favorite season, but there is something so peaceful about the short, dark and COLD days of winter.  I guess it gives me a good excuse to stay home, pour a big mug of hot tea, curl up on the sofa with a good book or food magazine and VEG!  It also makes me crave a nice big bowl of hearty soup!  Honestly, tonight was one of those perfect nights for chili, but the sensible side of me decided I better scan the contents of the fridge first to see if there was a smarter decision.  Glad I did!  I had an unusually large amount of baby spinach left for this late in the week.  I chalk that up to the fact that I have been digging the spinachless matcha smoothies at breakfast the past couple of days instead of my usual spinach based drinks.  Maybe it is time to change that up a bit and give matcha/spinach a try??  What do you think??

Anyway, I decided to go with a super simple tomato-based spinach and bean soup.  Sorta like a pasta fagioli without the meat?  After my husband took a peek at my latest creation he commented that it actually reminded him of an Italian wedding soup, minus the sausage.  I agree!  It definitely LOOKED similiar, but I CAN’T stand the taste of wedding soup (probably the sausage?), so to me, that is where the similarities end.  This soup had such a simple tomatoey, rosemary, sort of hard-to-describe, yet addicting flavor!  Even though my hubby was full after the first bowl, he liked it so much he went back for seconds!  Don’t worry, there is plenty for leftovers for tomorrow–I can’t wait!  I served it with a crusty french bread and an full bodied oatmeal stout from my hubbies homebrew collection!  Wonderful, just wonderful!  Now it is time for me to get back to my book and enjoy some much anticipated sofa time!  Bon Appetit!

Warm and delicious!

White bean and spinach soup

Servings 8

  • 6 c chicken or veg broth
  • 4 shallots or 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 T garlic, minced
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1-2 t ground rosemary
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more if you want a little extra heat)
  • 2 14 oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 14 oz cans great northern white beans
  • 6 c fresh baby spinach, cleaned
  • 1 c. whole wheat macaroni or your favorite noodle
  • 1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 T EVOO

In a big stew pot heat over med low.  Add the EVOO, chipotle pepper flakes, and rosemary for about 1 minute–until you can smell the rosemary.  Add the shallots (onion), basil, black pepper, and oregano and cook for 3-4 minutes–until the shallots begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Stir in the chicken broth and turn up the heat to medium high.  Add the canned tomatoes and let cook until the broth begins to boil.  Add the beans (with the juice from the can) and once again bring it to a boil.  Stir in the pasta and bring it back to a boil.  You can turn the heat down a touch and just simmer it now for 10-12 minutes.  In the last couple of minutes of the cook time add the spinach and most of the cheese, reserving just enough cheese to use as a garnish.  Serve and ENJOY!

 

 

Matcha Smoothie

Isn't the light green color awesome?

All you green tea lovers, be well advised to GIVE THIS SMOOTHIE a go!  I had to make an extra big batch this morning to satisfy  LARGE second helpings for both the Mr. and I!  Whew, I can’t say enough about this refreshing and healthful start to my day!  The earthy Matcha (green tea powder) mixed with the creamy frozen banana and the sweet/tart nectarines came together perfectly to make this one of my favorite smoothies yet!  As always, a big hit of protein powder and ground flax seed filled my stomach and kept me very satisfied until later in the afternoon–even after burning up all of my energy stores during an excruciating 90 minute power yoga session first thing this morning!

If you haven’t already picked up a can of matcha to make my green tea panna cotta or lattes, stop by your local asian grocer the next time you are in the neighborhood–it isn’t cheap, but don’t worry, a small amount of the powder goes a LONG, LONG way!

So the dietitian in me HAS to tell you all about the health benefits of this green powder.  I am sure you have all heard the health buzz on green tea, right??  Well, think about the fact that this powder is 100% ground green tea leaves–NOT just the water that the leaves have been steeped in–giving you concentrated exposure to the ‘good stuff’.  So what is so good about it you ask??  To start, matcha provides a whole boat load of antioxidants to help prevent aging (LOVE IT) and chronic diseases (doubly LOVE IT). Fruits and veggies are great sources of antioxidants, but matcha is unparalleled in comparison. In fact, matcha is packed with exponentially more antioxidants than even fruit’s best performers–pomegranates and blueberries!  Experts at Tufts University have uncovered that matcha possesses an amazing twenty times (yep, I said 20x!!) more so than pomegranates or blueberries.

Even better, matcha contains a unique, potent class of antioxidant known as catechins, which aren’t found in other foods. More specifically, the catechin EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) provides super-charged cancer-fighting properties. Most importantly, EGCg and other catechins counteract the effects of evil free radicals from the likes of pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals, which can lead to cell and DNA damage. Since over 60% of the catechins in matcha are actually EGCg, a daily matcha regimen can help restore and preserve the body’s integral well-being and balance.  Sound pretty good?  Just wait, there is more!

Over a thousand years ago, matcha came to Japan as an aid to meditation practice.  I know, SNOOZE-VILLE, right!??  Which is why they would routinely drink matcha — to remain alert, yet calm. Modern science has recently confirmed the lessons of centuries of tradition. Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, a rare amino acid that actually promotes a state of relaxation and well-being by acting upon the brain’s functioning. While stress can induce beta waves—an excited, more agitated state—L-Theanine creates alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. And while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than common black and green teas. As an additional benefit (and maybe because of this), L-Theanine may help memory and learning ability–I am sure we can all use a little help there!  Simply put, it promotes concentration and clarity of mind without any of the nervous energy found in coffee. So a green tea latte (made with Silk’s vanilla coconut milk, of course) really does make a lot of sense as an afternoon snack/pick-me-up!!

Guys and gals you are going to LOVE THIS…one of the most unexpected benefits matcha drinkers experience is a boost of energy through the day. In one study, researchers had thought that this was from the caffeine in matcha, but they found that it was actually the combination of matcha’s natural properties. Another recent study in particular found that matcha even improved physical endurance by 24%. Even if you aren’t facing a grueling workout, matcha can help you through the everyday marathon, whether it’s that project due the next day or getting the kids from school to soccer practice.  Oh, and on top of that a recent study shows that if consumed regularly, matcha may boost metabolism and burn calories up to as much as 4 x!

Whew, I am FINALLY done!  So, can you think of anything with health benefits comparable to matcha–all for next to ZERO calories??  Me either!  Fire up your blender and get ready to FEEL the beauty of this sensible, yet delicious breakfast or afternoon drink!  If you discover different scrumptious ways to use your matcha powder please send me a note with the details–I would love to hear your ideas!  Cheers!

Creamy smooth, lightly sweet, and full of healthful ingredients!

Matcha Smoothie

Servings:  2

  • 1 fresh banana
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 c frozen nectarines or peaches (mango would probably work too!)
  • 1 scoop ground golden flax seed
  • 1/4-1/3 c ground hemp protein powder (or your favorite HBV protein)
  • 1 t matcha (add more to taste)
  • 1-1 1/2 c coconut milk (depending upon your desired consistency)

Throw it all in your blender or smoothie machine and let it rip!  Drink and ENJOY!!

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian angel’s hair lasagna

Introducing Vegetarian Angel's hair lasagna

I am sure the title to this post raises many questions in your mind–like, do angels really have hair?  why would I want hair in my dinner?  and many, many more!  Stick with me and I will shed some light on the origins of the name, sound ok to you??

A couple of night’s ago I was craving lasagna and was disappointed to find that I was out of lasagna noodles.  Bummer, right?  Not if you work with what you already have in the pantry like I do!  I had plenty of about every other type of noodle just waiting for a big pot of boiling water, so I decided angel hair would work heavenly–ok, that is pretty bad, but I am still on my first cup of coffee and it is early, so back off!

As I was saying…once I decided on the noodles (hence the name) the rest was pretty easy.  My biggest concern was that this would turn out more like a baked spaghetti or spaghetti casserole rather than a lasagna.  Easy solution?!   Yep, layer the ingredients!  Another caveat is that I wanted to try adding beans to the dinner, why?  ‘Cause I have never seen a lasagna with beans before and I thought (with an attitude) this is MY vegetarian, angel’s hair, potentially bean containing lasagna, so what the hay!  That is when I decided to skip the ricotta (which I didn’t have on hand and never use anyway) and replace it with a bean puree!  Quickly enough, I was busy pulling ingredients out of the fridge and pantry and honestly ended up making a pretty big mess in the kitchen…but it was very worth it!  I was chopping and roasting and boiling and mixing and pureeing and baking and most importantly LOVING every second of my afternoon!

I had just finished pouring a couple of big glasses of Lodi Cab, when the oven timer rang.  I had to laugh as my husband entered the scene wide-eyed with fright at the shape of the kitchen.  The most enjoyable part of the evening though, was watching the transformation on his face (and a hint of drool develop at the corner of his mouth) as I pulled the lasagna pan out of the oven.  The change from fright to delight told me everything I needed to know about my latest creation.  The lasagna was beautiful–and the nose on this one was even better than the wine.  You can almost smell it from the picture, can’t you?!

Is your mouth watering yet??

So how did it taste, you ask??  HEAVENLY–as expected!  Plus, the leftovers are even better–the Mr. had a big piece for breakfast AND lunch yesterday and will likely do the same today!  I guess that is a compliment to the chef?  Indeed it is!

Bon appetit my friends!

Vegetarian angel’s hair lasagna
Servings:  12

  • 2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce (Bertolli organic tomato and basil is my favorite–they carry it at Sams)
  • 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes (I buy mine at Costco–they are in oil)
  • 1 # of asparagus, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 c baby spinach
  • 1 large jar of artichoke hearts (in water, from Sams)–reserve 2 T of the water for the sauce
  • 4 T minced garlic
  • 1 can great northern white beans, drained
  • 1 package angel hair noodles
  • freshly grated aged Parmesan cheese (I get this in bulk at Sam’s)
  • Italian cheese blend
  • 1/4 c sour cream (I use tofutti)
  • 1/4 c red wine (make sure this is something you would drink!)
  • 1/2 t dried rosemary
  • 2 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chipotle pepper flakes
  • water for your boil pot
  • PAM cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Chop up the red bell peppers and asparagus into bite-sized pieces.  Throw them in a lidded bowl with some EVOO, a generous grind of black pepper, and a sprinkle of chipotle pepper flakes.  Shake vigorously to coat the veggies.  Once coated, put the veggies in a baking dish and cook until the veggies are softened–about 25-30 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking start the sauce.  In a large sauce pan, add a splash of EVOO and warm over medium low heat.  Add 2 T garlic, a sprinkle of chipotle pepper flakes, 1 t each of dried basil and oregano and saute for just a minute or two–don’t let the garlic brown!  Add the wine, artichokes and 2 T of the water from the artichoke jar and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Turn down the heat to low and add the sauce.

Meanwhile, put the drained beans, 2 T (or 2-3 large cloves) garlic, basil, rosemary, sour cream, a dash of chipotle pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper, and about 1/4 c parm cheese in the food processor and blend until smooth.

In a big stock pot bring some salted water to a boil**.  Add the pasta and cook until just al’ dente.  Drain and get ready to build your lasagna!

Give your lasagna pan a quick spray of PAM.  Add about 1/3-1/2 (depends on how many layers you want) of the noodles to the pan.  Spread the 1/3-1/2 of the bean puree on the noodles.  Layer on 1/3-1/2 of the pepper and asparagus mix.  Add a thin layer of the spinach leaves.  Cover with 1/3-1/2 of the sauce.  Sprinkle with a combo of the parm and italian cheeses.  Start the process over until you are out of ingredients or room in the pan!  Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.  Let cool for 5 or so minutes before you serve!  ENJOY!

Can you see the layers??

 

 

 

Pumpkin smoothie

I know you already know how much I love smoothies, right?  I drink one pretty much everyday!  I usually load blender up with fresh baby spinach, frozen fruit, protein powder, ground flax seed and use coconut milk as my liquid of choice.  I also know that if you are reading this post you must enjoy a smoothie from time to time yourself!  Which means that at this time of year you have seen plenty of pumpkin smoothie recipes, but don’t worry, this one is not like the rest…I promise!  There is no sweetener or frozen yogurt in my pumpkin smoothie–it uses the awesome sweetness of bananas to help make it delicious (and much better for you!).  Like 30 seconds ago, my hubby had his first drink and said…”it tastes just like pumpkin pie!”.  Yep, that is exactly what I was going for!  It is super smooth, thick, creamy and so very healthful!  You would seriously think that I threw the pumpkin pie mix in the blender instead of my short list of GREAT FOR YOU ingredients.  So fire up your blender and give this one a spin.  I might just make these instead of pie this year on the big day!  If I add a dollop of whipped cream on top I don’t think anyone would be disappointed, do you?!

Holy cow, I just finished my 6 oz serving and I am stuffed!  Thanks to all of the protein and fiber in this one, I have a feeling this will power me through my 90 minutes of yoga and well into the afternoon!  Cheers to easy and delicious ways of taking good care of yourself!

Pumpkin smoothie

Makes 2-6 oz smoothies

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 c puree pumpkin (or more, to taste)
  • 1 c Silk’s vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 t pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 2 big scoops of HBV protein powder (I use hemp protein powder, which I buy from Amazon)
  • 1 scoop ground flax seed (I use Stober Farms Natural Milled Golden Flax Seed–this stuff rocks!)

Thow it all in your blender and let it rip!  Oh, make sure BEFORE you freeze your banana that it is cut into 1-2″ pieces–leave the peel on so you don’t have to prefreeze it before bagging–this will save your blender a lot of extra work and you a lot of extra time!  Then all you will need to do is dip the banana in warm water when you are ready to use it to easily remove the peel!