Easy and Healthy Bean-Vegetable Soup

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How about a simple and healthy bean soup recipe while the weather is still cold? I found this plain bean mixture at Fresh Market, but you can find bean mixes at all local grocery stores. I don’t use the seasoning packets that come with them, just the recipe below. Just look for a 1-pound bag, and this recipe will be a breeze. It’s so hearty, easy and flavorful. The hardest part is that you have to soak the beans overnight. Stay warm and enjoy!

 

Bean Vegetable Soup

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage can be added to this.

Prep: 20 minutes

Stand: overnight

Cook: 2 hours

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients

1 pound bean soup mix

6 cups water

4 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup diced carrot

3/4 cup diced celery

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preparation

1. Soak the bean mix overnight in plenty of water; rinse and drain.

2 Add beans to water and bring to a boil; simmer 1 hour. 

3. If adding sausage,  saute sausage in a large saute pan until browned. Add sausage and remaining ingredients; simmer 2 hours. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and Parmesan before serving, if desired.

Rigatoni to the Table in Under 20 Minutes

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Who doesn’t like pasta? My family loves it, but I don’t make it very often, especially when I’m trying to be good and eat moderate amounts of carbs at night. But, when the weather is as cold as it is (for so many of us), there’s really nothing better. This recipe is so wonderful for so many reasons. It’s quick, it’s a one-dish meal, it has great flavor and it’s really not too bad if you’re watching your weight. Not to mention, it’s 8 ingredients and can be prepared in under 20 minutes. What else can I say?

 

Quick and Easy Skillet Rigatoni

Prep: 4 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked rigatoni

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 pound lean ground round

1 (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup dry white wine or low-sodium chicken or beef broth

2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce  with garlic, basil and oregano (I used Hunts)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

1. Cook rigatoni according to package directions.

2. While pasta cooks, cook onion, ground round and mushrooms in a large lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 6 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Stir in pasta, tomato sauce, basil and red pepper flakes, if desired; cover and simmer 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Chicken and Broccoli Sourdough Cobbler

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When I told a friend of mine about this recipe, she said, “Chicken Cobbler? Don’t you mean, chicken casserole?” I said, “No, this recipe is much cooler than that!” First, the topping is made with crisp sourdough croutons that are laced with Parmesan cheese and add the perfect toasty crunch. Second it’s filled with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and a short-cut sauce, low-fat alfredo. Using chopped rotisserie chicken works great in this recipe (you can also use leftover turkey). Last, purchase bagged broccoli flowerets from the grocery produce section to make your life even easier, and there’s no need to pre-cook them. Try it and let me know what you think and whether it’s deserving of it’s special name.


Chicken and Broccoli Cobbler

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

3 cups cubed sourdough bread

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups broccoli flowerets

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)

1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 (10-ounce) container light refrigerated Alfredo sauce

1/2 cup light sour cream

Preparation

1. Drizzle butter over bread cubes in a large bowl; sprinkle with cheese, tossing gently.

2. Combine broccoli and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon filling into lightly greased 2-quart rectangle or oval baking dishes or individual baking dishes; top with bread cubes.

3. Bake uncovered, at 400F for 25 to 30 minute (20 to 25 for individual cobblers) or until bubbly and top is toasted. (Cover, if it starts to brown too fast.)

Healthy and Quick Chicken-Rice Soup

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After I posted my chowder recipe yesterday, my friend, Kevin, (who is a well known physical therapist for professional athletes) asked me for a recipe for Chicken and Rice Soup without cream. Kevin eats healthier than most people I know. He eats salmon at least three times a week and has an incredible palate for food. So, when I decided to develop this Chicken and Rice Soup recipe, I really had to think it out carefully with the healthiest ingredients. This soup is filled with fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, low-fat and low-sodium chicken broth, lean chicken, and a mixture of brown, wild and white rice. It takes less than 45 minutes to prepare, and it’s the ultimate way to feed the soul whether you’re under the weather or not.

 

Healthy Chicken Rice Soup

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

11/2 cups diced carrots

11/2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced leeks

1 tablespoon olive oil

Vegetable cooking spray

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 cups organic low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1 cup rice blend mix of white, brown and wild rice, uncooked

21/2 cups cooked chopped chicken (I used white meat only from rotisserie chicken)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Preparation

1. Saute first 4 ingredients in a hot oil in a large lightly greased Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic, mushrooms and pepper; saute 1 more minute. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Add rice, stirring well. Cover, reduce heat and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Add chicken and cook 5 to 10 minutes more or until heated through. Stir in parsley and thyme before serving.

Holiday and Christmas Morning Cranberry Punch

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Who doesn’t love a hot beverage this time of year to beat the winter chill? This mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves spice up cranberry and pineapple juice to comfort you this time of year. My sister, Natalie, makes this punch every year during the wintertime holidays, so I thought I would share it among friends. It is very similar to a recipe I developed when I was a Food Editor with Southern Living magazine. It’s perfect to serve Christmas morning to set off the festivities in a warm cheerful tone. Cheers! 

 

Spiced Cranberry Punch

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup water

11/2 quart cranberry juice

1 (48-ounce) container pineapple juice

Preparation

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large 5-quart pan; bring to a boil. Add pineapple juice and bring back to a boil. Serve warm.

Easy and Healthy Christmas and Holiday Gift Idea-Dried Fruit Mix

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Some of you may know that my background and love is really in healthy and light cooking, but I know with the holidays, it’s hard to focus on that. Even in my profession of being a Recipe Developer, I deviate from my healthy schedule, especially when working on holiday recipes. Usually, most magazines work six months in advance so I am preparing heavy holiday foods in the summer (during bathing suit season), and am grilling light summery food in the winter (luckily, I live in the south). As far as healthy gift ideas, I thought I would share one of my (and my kid’s) favorites-dried fruit mixed with a touch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. We went threw our jar in less than one day, so I hope this will be as popular as it was at our house.

 

Dried Fruit Mix

Prep: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried apples

3/4 cup pitted prunes

3/4 cup dried aprictots

1/2 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preparation

1. Layer all ingredients in a 1-quart jar in the order given; tightly seal. Makes 1 gift jar.

Easy Chocolate Lava Cakes for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years

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I have always wanted to learn how to make Chocolate Lava (molten) Cakes, as it is one of my favorite desserts. I have been searching for a way to prepare these without a lot of effort, and I finally hit the jackpot with this recipe. These are simple to prepare, and you can even make the chocolate mixture at least 12 hours ahead of time. Pour the mixture into ramekins, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking. I also had a couple of baked and prepared ones left over, and I left them in the ramekins and reheated them in the microwave for 15 seconds, and they worked great! Try them on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years or just for a weeknight or weekend surprise. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or just with confectioners sugar.

 

Easy Chocolate Lava Cakes

Dark chocolate may be substituted for semisweet in this recipe.

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease 4 (8-ounce) ramekins (custard cups or souffle dishes). Place on a baking sheet.

2. MIcrowave chocolate and butter in a large microwaveable bowl on High 30 seconds or until butter is melted. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in vanilla and confectioners sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and yolk. Stir in flour and pour batter evenly into prepared custard cups.

2. Bake 13 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Carefully loosen edges with a knife. Invert cakes onto serving plates and sift powdered sugar over the top. Serve immediately.

Pecan Pie-Traditional Thanksgiving Dessert with a Twist

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Pecan pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, and I thought I would feature two of my favorite tried and true recipes. The first is laced with the incredible combination of bourbon and semisweet chocolate. How can you go wrong? The second is a White Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe that I developed for a holiday menu for Oxmoor House books a few years ago. This is for those of you, like my husband, who are white chocolate lovers. Just remember, be sure to save room for dessert.

 

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 8 servings

Ingredients

1/2  (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts

1 1/2  cups  chopped pecans

1  cup  (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels

1  cup  dark corn syrup

1/2  cup  granulated sugar

1/2  cup  firmly packed brown sugar

1/4  cup  bourbon or water

4  large eggs

1/4  cup  butter or margarine, melted

2  teaspoons  cornmeal

2  teaspoons  vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon  salt

Preparation

1. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.

2. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate evenly onto bottom of piecrust; set aside.

3. Combine corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk about one-fourth hot mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared piecrust.

5. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.

 

White Chocolate Pecan Pie

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 8 servings

Ingredients

1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts

1/4  cup  butter or margarine, melted

1/2  cup  sugar

1/2  cup  light corn syrup

3/4  cup  chopped pecans, toasted

1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon  salt

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

6  (1-ounce) premium white chocolate baking squares, chopped (I used “Bakers”)

1  cup  pecan halves

Preparation

1. Unfold piecrust, and press out fold lines; sprinkle with flour, spreading over surface. Place crust, floured side down, in a 9″ pieplate; fold edges under, and flute. Bake at 450° for 5 minutes.

2. Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Let cool slightly. Add chopped pecans and next 3 ingredients; stir well. Pour filling into prebaked piecrust; sprinkle with two-thirds of chopped white chocolate. Top with pecan halves.

3. Bake at 325° for 50 to 55 minutes or until set. Cover with aluminum foil during last 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Let cool on a wire rack.

4. Place remaining chopped white chocolate in a small heavy-duty, zip-top plastic bag; seal bag. Submerge bag in hot water until chocolate melts. Remove bag from water. Snip a tiny hole in one corner of bag, using scissors; drizzle chocolate over pie.