Pumpkin Corn Chowder

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Snow has finally covered the ground here in Chicago.  Just when we were thinking that Chicago was about to blow it’s reputation for being miserable in the winter and no longer scare away those faint of foul weather, risking the import of thousands of southern souls clogging our CTA, snapping up the beautiful apartments and filling our beaches with their charming accents, our dear city came through.  Who else could be unpredictable and slightly cruel enough to dump 6 inches of snow on the ground between the end of the Super Bowl and a Monday morning?  Our friend, Chicago.  Thanks buddy, you’re always there for us

Fortunately cold weather and hearty soups go hand in hand, so pull on your boots and slog through the snow to pick up the few ingredients it takes to make this delicious pumpkin chowder; you wont regret it.  Packed with pumpkin, corn and spices, this really is a meal in and of itself.  Simple and delicious – our kind of recipe.

Pumpkin Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 15oz cans of corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of chopped red peppers (green work, too!)
  • 1 29oz can of pumpkin puree
  • Spices: cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of butter until soft.  Add canned pumpkin, 2 cups of chicken broth and spices.  (side note:  I personally season the hell out of this soup to make it spicy and flavorful, so I left the spice amounts open to interpretation!).  Let the soup simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Add rinsed and drained corn and the chopped peppers.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.  Check spices and adjust if necessary.  Just before serving, add heavy cream and stir to blend.  Tip – top with crumbled cotija cheese.  Enjoy!

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Chicken and Kale Burgers

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I had two cans of chicken breast on hand this weekend, and to save myself from myself and the extremely strong temptation to throw some mayonnaise in there and call it a day, I decided to get creative.

I added sauteed kale to the mix with organic breadcrumbs, an egg and seasoning, then pan fried the patties for a quick and healthy lunch with lots of flavor.

Chicken & Kale Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

  • 2 10-oz. cans chicken breast
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 Cup kale leaves, stems discarded
  • 1 Tb worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1 Tb lemon juice

*This may be the only recipe you’ll ever see from me that does not include adding salt, but I strongly recommend against it — the chicken is already salty! 

  1. Sautee kale leaves in olive oil until soft. Alternatively, you could steam the kale. Set aside to cool.
  2. Drain chicken breast, then add to a bowl with egg, breadcrumbs, and kale.
  3. Use your hands to mix all of the ingredients together – there’s really no way around getting in there and getting your hands dirty! A spoon won’t cut it.
  4. Add worcestershire sauce, chili peppers, and lemon juice.
  5. Mix it all up again, then divide mixture into four sections. Form one burger out of each section, rolling it into a ball and then flattening.
  6. Fry in a pan prepared with olive oil spray over low heat, flipping once until heated through and golden brown on each side.
  7. Eat! This would be great on a bun with condiments and extra veggies, but was juuust fine on a plate with spicy ketchup.

ll

Healthy Greek Frittata

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I’m currently redeeming one free week of yoga as a beginning at CorePower Yoga, which means that at least for the remainder of this week, I’ll be annoyingly healthy. Oh, except for that prime rib I devoured last night at Crosby’s Kitchen.

On a mission to atone for last night’s medium-rare and horseradish-cream covered sins, I insisted on Sunday brunch in this morning, and made an extremely healthy version of JB’s standard brunch order – a Greek omelette. Frankly, this could just as easily be an omelette but I’ve yet to make an omelette without it breaking/burning/running so I spared myself the stress, threw it in the oven and called it a very happy day.

Making a few of these would be a great option for entertaining. They’re almost embarassingly easy and totally fit into my new, yoga-enhanced healthy lifestyle! (This week.)  I’ve pasted in the nutritional stats below the recipe… kind of unbelievable, no?

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What’s up, aperture priority mode? Forgive the pointless pictures while I play with my camera. Slowly but steadily workin’ towards 10,000!

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Did you know there was such a thing as a tomato knife? I did not, and I have spent the past 28 years squishing tomato after tomato.

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Perfectly chopped!

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Breakfast feasting with AmyLu chicken sausage - the best.

Healthy Greek Frittata

Serves 4

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 5 egg whites
  • Large handful of spinach
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fat free feta*
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute chopped tomatoes and green onions in a non-stick pan, coated with cooking spray. Add spinach and cover to wilt.
  3. Transfer cooked vegetables into a pie dish prepared with cooking spray and allow to cool.
  4. Whisk together eggs, egg whites, and oregano, then pour the egg mixture over cooled vegetables.
  5. Sprinkle feta on top, then add pepper to taste. You don’t need salt, the feta is already salty!
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until egg is completely set.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Slice and serve!

*fat free feta is the least scary fat free cheese, and personally, I don’t mind it. However, you could easily substitute in reduced fat or even full fat feta here and still have a very healthy dish!

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From myfitnesspal.com

Asian Lettuce Wraps

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*Lives are officially changed after receiving fancy new knives from our parents for Christmas – can’t.stop.chopping!

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Dinner dates with my sister are always the highlight of my week. We’re pretty good at catching up about once a week, but in the whirlwind of the holidays, it had been too long since we caught up over some vino and cooked dinner together.

We remedied that last night but wanted to keep it relatively healthy — new years resolutions, you know the drill. We made Asian-inspired lettuce wraps and they definitely fit the “healthy” requirement, and happily were also really, REALLY good.

Sadly, we don’t have a picture of the actual wrap because I literally ripped every single piece of lettuce in half trying to make the “cups” (does someone have a trick for this?! Pinterest? Mom?) so they were morbidly less than attractive. It was somewhat like eating a salad with your hands. We wish you better luck on the wrapping front but can promise you that the filling, at least, will be out of this world.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

This makes enough for two starving people with some leftovers or four reasonable adults.

  • 1  medium onion, diced
  • 1 yellow or pepper, diced
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 lb package ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 Tb five spice seasoning
  • 1 Tb brown sugar
  • 1/4 C reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tb chili garlic paste or to taste
  • Peanuts, chopped
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping
  1. Sautee diced onion and pepper in olive oil until soft. Drain any liquid and set aside.
  2. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, and five spice in a bowl and stir well until combined.
  3. In a separate pan, brown turkey meat until cooked through.
  4. Add the sauce mixture and vegetables, mixing to coat.
  5. Spoon meat into lettuce cups, adding chopped peanuts and cilantro. Wrap, and feast!

ll

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

 

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

An office holiday bake-off requires many things: nerves of steel, buying a presentable pan to cart cookies to work and a sure-fire recipe.  Recalling my expletive peppered, off key “ohmygodohmygodthesearesogood” sonata singing when I tried the Sprinkles pumpkin cupcake, I figured the only winning recipe-route was to recreate the moist, pumpkiny goodness in a cookie.  Cake-like and full of flavor, these pumpkin cookies are remarkably easy to make.  Adapting a recipe from Food Network will get you a basic cookie recipe with a cup of pumpkin, a hefty dash of spice and lots of yummy noises from serious work-type people who don’t usually make yummy noises.

Forgive the dark pictures, the Christmas tree lighting wasn’t soft and romantic but rather gloomy and a bit gray.  But only in photos – in real life it’s gorgeous.

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Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

For the cookies:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
For the frosting:
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and eggs. Mix to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and mix to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks. When cool, ice with the cream cheese frosting.

For the Frosting: In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, add the cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in the lemon zest. When cookies are cool spread with some of the frosting. Garnish with a whole pecan.

Copyright © 2004 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

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Spicy Shrimp Salsa

Spicy Shrimp Salsa

This recipe is simple and easy, and completely delicious.  Perfect for a football game or a girls night in, throw together these ingredients, pair with handful of baked tortilla chips and enjoy your little heart out.

Ingredients:

  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Lime
  • Cooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • Lime
  • Salt
  • Chili garlic paste – because we just can’t seem to make a recipe without it
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  • Chop all ingredients.  Combine.  You’re welcome.

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Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Sometimes a little comfort food is necessary.  The holidays are fast approaching and as the cold weather sets in, it’s certainly understandable to crave a little home cooking.  This pot pie recipe is direct from Ina Garten, who I assume MUST know her shiz when it comes to a flaky crust and hearty filling.  Though in the interest of full disclosure, this Chicago version uses puff pastry from the freezer isle.  It’s amazing, get on board.

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Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

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Artichoke and Olive Hummus

 

Artichoke and Olive Hummus

I feel like hummus is one of those recipes that is so simple, it seems to consistently surprise others when you describe the process.  Fear not, non-cooks, we aim to surprise you as well!  This hummus recipe combines the classic variety and tops it with a lemony, garlicky, olive oil-licious batch of chopped artichokes and green olives.  Of course, any grocery isle will remind you that hummus comes topped with an incredible variety of veggies, nuts and flavors, so feel free to substitute as your testy taste buds or choosy guests require.

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Ingredients – Hummus:

  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans, drained but reserve the liquid
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • Tahini (if you follow my instructions, I would tell you to put at least a quarter cup, but I love sesame.  Some recipes omit all together, others call for as a little as 2 tablespoons so obviously the choice is up to you.  I love the smooth, nutty flavor and tend to be a bit heavy handed)
  • 1/5 cup of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Garlic Chili Paste – because we can’t post a recipe without it!
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend or pulse the drained garbanzo beans, minced garlic, tahini and olive oil together until well combined.  Slowly add – still blending! – the reserved liquid from the cans of beans until the mixture becomes smooth and most of the lumps disappear.  Add lemon juice and garlic/chili paste to taste. For this hummus recipe, I typically use the juice of half a lemon as the artichoke topping also uses lemon juice.  Add salt and a bit of pepper and combine well. 

Ingredients – Artichoke and Olive Top-Hat:

  • 1 can of artichoke hearts (NOT marinated, if you use marinated, you’re on your own)
  • 1 large clove of minced garlic
  • 1/5 cup of chopped green olives
  • Lemon, halved (you can likely use the second half from the hummus)
  • A few heavy tablespoons of good olive oil

Chop well the artichoke hearts, discarding any hard or spiky outer leaves.  Add the garlic, olives, lemon and olive oil. Combine well and let set at room temperature for a few hours.  Just before you serve the hummus, top the serving with a few mounds of the artichoke mixture and dig in.  Serve with garlic toast points or warmed pitas triangles.

CheekyKitchen

 

Note: right after making the recipe I threw the ingredients in tupperware to transport to the ol’ annual holiday party.  I took the liberty of assuming that cheekykitchen wouldn’t mind my borrowing her awesome hummus photo to showcase a final product, albeit, not my own.

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Super-Healthy Vegetable Stew

I am a total savory person. Yup, I love to bake, but 95% of the joy I take in mixing up a batch of sweet treats in the happiness it brings others. The remaining 5% we can attribute to licking the spoon.

However, something comes over me every single December and I become a total and utter cookie fiend. The second coming of Cookie Monster, if you will give me that very obvious (and mildly sacrilegious) analogy. Part of it is just the heightened availability – parties, gifts, cookie exchanges – but it also just feels festive to eat cookies. “But it’s the holidays!”

Anyway, these last two paragraphs are totally misleading because by now you’re probably looking forward to a sweet cookie recipe and wondering how I could have possibly mis-labeled this post so very incorrectly, but sorry my friends, veggie stew it is.

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Veggie stew is the ANSWER to my holiday cookie issue. It’s the ying to my baked goods’ yang. It’s super filling, warm and comforting, and despite its lackluster appearance, completely delicious.

And it’s just about the healthiest thing you could ever put in your body. Dairy free! Fat free! Gluten free! Cholesterol free! So cheap it’s practically free!

Here’s the jist of it:

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Buy a ton of vegetables. Whatever combination you’d like, but I do think you should use something a bit starchy, like sweet potatoes, to ensure that it has a nice, thick consistency. Unpictured are the already chopped onion and garlic, which I would also recommend including in your combo for flavor. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it, you deserve it.

Wash everything, chop it all into chunks, then put it all in a large, heavy pot.

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Add a quarter cup of water, whatever herbs tickle your fancy, and a generous pinch of salt. Or no salt, if you want sodium-free, but I think we’re being healthy enough here.

Heat over a medium flame, covered, for about an hour. The vegetables will start to break down, and you can use a potato masher to make it the consistency that you want. Stir every once in a while to ensure it all cooks evenly and mash it up as the veggies start to soften.

That’s it!

Not very scientific, I know, but trust me when I assure you this would be very difficult to screw up. This amounted to 6 very large bowls of hearty stew that left me absolutely stuffed and annoyingly smug about my uber-healthy meal choice. I did bastardize it’s cleanliness a bit with a Laughing Cow wedge and Thai chili sauce, but that’s 35 processed calories I can live with.

With this for lunch, I can happily indulge in a cookie a day and still fit into holiday party dresses without tears and a pair of pliers to zip me up. And it’s GOOD! So yes,  I am having my cookie and eating it too.

ll

Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Do you see that cross-section of peanut butter goodness? I am drooling as I type this.

Our supremely sweet-toothed “baby” brother’s birthday was last weekend, and we decided there was no better way to send him back to school than armed with a disgusting amount of sweet treats.

College-aged metabolisms can handle the madness :)

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I fear that I have set the bar pretty high for myself with the Slutty Brownies, so just any old cookie wouldn’t do.

So I took the world’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe, the Nestle Tollhouse classic, but only used half of the chocolate chips it called for. Then I squished a little Reeses baking square down into each spoonful and covered it with a smidge more dough.

The cookies were much bigger than usual to accommodate the Reeses so they took longer to bake, but it was worth the wait.

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Without question, one of the best things I’ve ever made!

ll