Creamy Tomato Soup

This bad boy was my favorite discovery of my Whole30. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve made a batch of it every week for the past five weeks. No joke, it’s that good. And that easy–which is extremely helpful when you’re diving into a completely new way of eating and looking for anything familiar to cling to 🙂

Easy, delicious, and versatile. The inspiration recipe here is pretty basic, but I’ve given it a bit of zhoozh each week by adding extra veggies, different proteins, more/less balsamic, different herbs, etc. You can literally do anything to the basic recipe and it will remain amazing. You can even eat it cold (gazpacho, anyone?) and I bet it would serve as a great marinara over some zucchini noodles…or pasta, if you eat that stuff, you lucky bastard.

Oh, and finally, don’t fear the coconut milk here–used as the “cream” in this creamy tomato soup. It will not add a coconut flavor to your soup, you will not notice it’s presence other than the delightful silkiness it adds to the dish.
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Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients
2 tablespoons oil or cooking fat of choice
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed, diced or whole peeled tomatoes
1-1⁄2 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock if making vegetarian)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil), plus more for garnish if desired
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • In a large soup pot that is already hot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until softened. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients, and simmer for at least 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Carefully pour a cup or two of the soup mixture into a blender (until it is only halfway full) and puree until smooth. Remove to a separate soup pot or container, and repeat with the remaining soup mixture, working in batches. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup mixture—or you can skip blending and enjoy the chunky texture of the soup.
  • Serve hot (or cold!), topped with some minced basil for garnish.

Whole30: Week 1

So, remember all those grandiose plans I had for this weekend–you know, to reboot my year? Well. Instead, my weekend consisted of what I think was a stomach flu bug and Netflix binging with the roommate. It sucked, but I did love the excuse to do nothing for 48 hours.

Thankfully, I did feel well enough Saturday afternoon to get my Whole30 stuff all ready to go: recipe research, meal plan, shopping list, shopping and all meal prep.
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I’ll definitely be sharing more of my favorite Whole30 resources as we go–I’m finding some great new recipes and really trying to push past my typical food comfort levels. Here’s a peek at what I prepped this week:
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Creamy tomato soup (with coconut milk!), ground turkey for “spaghetti” and taco salads, zucchini noodles (my loves), sauteed mushrooms and spinach, pot roast, and white balsamic salad dressing. Yum! I also be doing lots of eggs for breakfast, fruit for snacks…and I did splurge on some legit natural almond butter for those moments on weekends where I find myself tempted by the lure of the peanut butter jar.

I’m both anxious and excited for the next 30 days. I’ll definitely be faced with challenges, so I’m looking forward  to seeing just how well I handle them. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Twitter to get the daily blow-by-blow, and stay tuned right here–this could get very, very interesting, my friends…

Magic In Ordinary Times

This past weekend was one of those rare collections of days where everything seems to be happening for a very specific reason, like the Universe is telling you to pay attention.

The message this weekend? Well, there were plenty of them, just read on. But number one with a bullet? You are stronger than you think.
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We’re all aware of what happened on Saturday…conquering fears, pushing past limits, breaking down boundaries. Well, my Sunday played out in a similar, though less dramatic, way.

The morning started with yoga in the park with one of my dearest friends. And this was no sluff of a class, either. With the Minneapolis skyline in front of me, and a soft, summer breeze blowing across my face…man, I was blissed in. It felt so amazing to just be, stretch, breathe, and connect with everything around me—especially after the frenetic pace of Saturday! After class, my friend and I were chatting when she suddenly stopped and said, “Look how big we’re both smiling right now! I love it!” That comment stuck with me throughout the day. Do more of what makes you happy.

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20130804_09475620130804_09474720130804_110742After yoga, we grabbed a coffee and headed to the Animal Humane Society to play with the little cuties. Old Manda Kay would have had to go home, shower, do my hair and makeup, change, etc. New Manda Kay just changed shirts and went. Makeup-free, sweaty matted down yoga hair. Out the door. You are good enough as is. Don’t waste life worrying on the opinions of others.

We spent a few hours over lunch enjoying a healthy meal, discussing the future, and doing a little house hunting (we’re both looking to move to a new place in the city). Decide what and who to be, then go be it.

After lunch, we headed back to our garden. We weeded, watered, and thinned out. We also got to harvest lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, and zucchini.
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20130804_15480120130804_15182220130804_151325 20130804_204159Later that evening, I did a little experimenting with the carrots and turnips (neither of which I’ve ever enjoyed eating) and created a simple new recipe: pan roasted honey glazed carrots and turnips (recipe coming tomorrow!). Nothing feels better than living a clean, healthy lifestyle.

It was a truly transformative weekend, one that has inspired and motivated me to push harder and keep moving forward. Your journey may be long, but it is always worth it.
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Rhubarb Streusel Bread

This recipe was born out of pure necessity. But it’s delicious. So I don’t mind 🙂
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While home for the Memorial Day weekend, my mom mentioned that she received a bunch of rhubarb from a neighbor and she would like me to whip up something delicious, please and thank you.
20130623_174455After some discussion and much Googling, we settled on a decadent rhubarb streusel bread from the Taste of Home website. No longer being one to cook with ingredients like oil, butter, and all-purpose flour, I put my own spin on the recipe and healthified things a bit/a lot.
IMG_20130623_183200This bread (which also, obviously,works as muffins) in so incredibly moist thanks to the Chobani—not to mention the extra punch of protein you get, too. Over the weekend, in between thunderstorms, stifling humidity, and losing power, I made a big batch in muffin-form to enjoy for breakfasts and snacks all week.

Enjoy!

 

Rhubarb Streusel Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 16 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 C rhubarb, chopped (and thawed, if frozen)
1 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1 C brown sugar (or 1 C granulated white sugar + 1 tsp. molasses)
1/2 C Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat (I always use Chobani)
1 egg
1 C milk, skim
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Topping

3 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

  • Add rhubarb to colander over a sink or paper towel, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Let sit for up to one hour. This helps draw out any excess moisture and any bitterness in the rhubarb.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar and yogurt. Beat in egg, then stir in milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into yogurt mixture until just combined. Fold in rhubarb. Pour into lined muffin tins or two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.
  •  For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes (12-16 minutes for muffins) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Where I live is just the best. Trees and rolling green lawns, good shopping, food, and drinks, rivers and waterfalls, neighbors who know you by name, everyone walking/running/biking up and down the streets and trails…my little urban neighborhood is quite the welcome urban respite.
20130607_173207Nestled in my perfect little neighborhood is my perfect little apartment complex. Gorgeous apartments and new (to me) this year: the community garden!
20130518_161508My raised 4X8 little plot of land is nestled among about 10 others. Earlier this spring, we all got together to clean out our gardens, have a few beers, and get to know each other. How lovely! The small town, slightly hippie-ish girl in me absolutely loves this stuff!
20130518_140958Since this is my first year gardening on my own (outside of some previous “supervising” of Mama Ruthie’s gardens and a few squirrel-ridden tomato planters), I roped my friend Stephanie into helping. We had been looking for a community garden to join, so this ended up being a perfect situation!
20130518_16331520130518_162641Neither of has a clue what we’re doing. We’ve been taking a “let’s just try it” approach. That approach includes guessing the needed number of bags of soil and compost, planting everything from seed (who knew they sold vegetable plants?!), throwing entire packets of said seed into the dirt, and finally, minimally attending to the planted garden.

Not to mention it’s been raining literally nonstop for the past several weeks. Summer? What summer?
20130518_16175720130518_16153320130518_172031But lo and behold! It’s a miracle! This little garden is sprouting up like a weed…see what I did there?
20130606_16350520130613_19244420130613_192518Tomatoes! Those are actual real life tomatoes! And carrots, turnips, peas, two kinds of lettuce, spinach, butternut squash, cucumber, zucchini, and green beans. All that little space!

And then there’s our other garden…the stepchild of gardens, I guess? Kale and thyme on the windowsill…
20130601_112522Basil, parsley, garlic chives, and chives. Baby red potatoes in the ground.
20130601_112540And finally: bell peppers and jalapeno peppers.
20130601_112546I am so excited to harvest all of this nutrient-packed, fibery goodness. And save a bunch of money on produce to boot!

I’ll keep you all posted on my green thumb progress this summer. Hopefully I’ll even have some new veggie-packed recipes to share!

Do you have a garden? What did you plant this year?

White Chicken Chili

We’re stuck in a never ending winter here in the good old Midwest. And while it’s completely, soul-suckingly depressing (and cold), there’s not a whole lot you can do to change it (I mean, unless you move). So, if you can’t beat Mama Nature, you can at least make Mama Ruthie’s White Chicken Chili…and let the warm spiciness transport you somewhere warm.

My mom usually doubles this recipe and freezes half. I’d recommend you do the same, so that way you’ll have soup on hand for when the snow flies on Memorial Day…stupid winter…

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White Chicken Chili
Makes about eight 1 1/2 cup servings

Ingredients
1 tbsp butter (I use light butter)
1 1/2 C celery, chopped
1 C yellow onion, diced
1  green pepper, chopped (when doubling the batch, Ruthie uses 1 green and 1 yellow/red/orange pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cans great nothern or cannellini beans (look for reduced sodium varieties)
1 C chunky salsa (I use Mama Ruthie’s salsa because it’s the best, duh)
3 C chicken, cubed (about 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 tsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 C fat-free half & half
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt & pepper


Directions

  • In a large dutch oven, melt the butter and add the celery, onion, pepper, and garlic. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and saute the veggies until softened.
  • Add the chicken broth, beans, salsa, chicken, cumin, and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
  • Place the half & half and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly stir the slurry into the soup.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  • Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Peanut Butter Granola

My nut butter love affair is well documented, from breakfast to desert . I have serious boundary issues with the stuff. Whenever my nutrition stats are a bit low, I reach for the jar. When I’m menu planning, you better believe that peanut butter factors into each day. I am constantly reminding myself that I already had my daily serving and that no, I can’t have more.
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All of which makes this new recipe I’ve put together highly problematic.
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That would be peanut butter granola. With almonds, honey, and a bit of cinnamon and vanilla.
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An amazing snack all on it’s own, it’s even better mixed in to a cup of banana Chobani greek yogurt. Peanut butter and banana? It’s okay. Give in to the addiction.

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Peanut Butter Granola
Makes approx. eight ¼ cup servings

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp honey
1 C oats
¼ C (approx. 20) raw almonds, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon

Directions:

  • In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter and honey. Microwave for approximately 20 seconds, until peanut butter is melted.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Dump mixture onto baking sheet covered in parchment paper or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Spread into a flat, even layer and bake at 325° for about 10 minutes, until browned. Watch closely, as it tends to brown quickly.

Chocolate Protein Pancakes

Lazy, gray Sundays call for extra coffee, a permanent spot on the sofa…and pancakes.
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Lots of pancakes.
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But these are not your average carby, fluffy, full of calories flapjacks. These babies are loaded with protein, low in calories and carbs, and just as indulgent as the real deal.

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You just won’t need to full guilty all day after you scarf down a plateful. Or four.

Chocolate Protein Pancakes
Makes 6-7 smaller pancakes

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, smashed
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I love Designer Whey)
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp flour of choice (optional, but helps thicken the batter)
dash of salt

Directions:

  • Mash the banana with a fork. Mash it real good.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  • Spoon the batter into pan. These cook up pretty quickly, so watch them closely. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side (if that). Cover in maple syrup, slather in peanut butter, top with sliced strawberries…the possibilities are endless!

Eat Your Veggies!

Carbs are my weakness. Above any and everything else, I love carbs. Bread. Oh my god, I love bread. And cake and cookies. Potatoes? In every form, yes.
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For some reason, I’ve always thought of cauliflower as a high-carb vegetable. It looks starchy and the white color is misleading, in my opinion. But it’s not. One cup of cauliflower has only about three grams of carbs and 25 calories. That stinky veggie has got some great stats!

Similar to when I discovered overnight oats, a lot of bloggers have been posting their recipes for cauliflower pizza crust—a super low-carb substitute for the carb-heavy, gluteny, flour-based real deal.
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3 angleI’ve got to say: this stuff is legit. After several misfires, including a burned bowl of cauliflower and a crust I couldn’t get off the tinfoil, I perfected the perfect alternative pizza crust.
burnAnd the real test? I got my dad to eat it. And he even enjoyed it! Right, Dad?

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Oh, and Mama Ruthie helped me perfect the recipe. Really, though, she just stood around, looking pretty…
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Now I’m intrigued to try all the other vegetable-based alternatives to some of my favorite carby dishes: cauliflower mash and rice, pumpkin brownies, almond flour in my breads. Gotta sneak those yucky vegetables into my diet any way I can!

Complex carbohydrates, I’m gonna try real hard to quit you once and for all, you delicious devil.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Makes 3 crusts

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower
2 large eggs
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese (reduced-fat, if you can find it!)
1 tsp basil
1 clove garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

  • Remove cauliflower florets from the stem, chop into small-ish pieces. Toss cauliflower into food processor and pulse until it’s the consistency of rice.
  • Cook cauliflower in a large bowl in the microwave for approx. 8 minutes. To ensure it doesn’t burn, stir it every few minutes.
  • Once cooked, let cool for several minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and scoop on to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Shape into a crust and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375° until crust is lightly browned.
  • Top with your favorite pizza toppings, making sure they’re all pre-cooked since the pizza won’t be in the oven long. Return the pizza to the oven and cook for 3-4 additional minutes.

Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

Not much has changed over here—I’m still a bit of an emotional hot mess. A little less of a hot mess, but a mess I am nonetheless 🙂

When Im feeling a little raw around the edges, one of the things that helps keep me physically on track is indulging in my favorite comfort foods–once I’ve made them over into healthier options, of course. When I’m stressed or bummed out, a giant salad is just not going to cut it. If I go that route, history has shown time and time again that I’ll be shoveling the Ben & Jerry’s into my face in a matter of minutes. So tricking myself with delish secretly good-for-me food is the way to go.

On that note, let me tell you: I love a good a meatball. Slather it in a gravy or red sauce, slap it on a hoagie bun or pop ‘em on a pile of pasta and I’m a happy girl.

Healthy? No way. But swap the ground beef for turkey, sauté some mushrooms and onions with balsamic vinegar, bake them instead of fry, and you’ve got the makings for a revamped, slimmed down meatball that you can toss in just about anything. Like a giant salad.
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See? Compromise. It makes the world go ‘round.

Balsamic Turkey Meatball
Makes approx. 2 dozen meatballs

Ingredients:
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 20 oz. package of extra lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
dash of chili powder

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Add olive oil to a pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and saute until onions are softened and translucent.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and let the mixture cook until the vinegar is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Meanwhile, mix ground turkey, egg, and spices in a large bowl. Add the cooled onion, mushrooms, and balsamic mixture and mix to combine.
  • Begin to form the mixture into balls—it will be very wet, so I wouldn’t recommend attempting to roll them into balls. Form the balls gently with your fingers, then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes and then eat up!