Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quick & Easy: African Chicken-Peanut Soup

This soup is one of my favorites for many reasons, mostly that it's good, quick, and easy. If you have little geeks, prep the veggies while they nap, then throw together dinner about 20 minutes before you're ready to eat. From the ingredients, you might expect this to be spicy, but the peanut calms it down and makes it easy for all the geeks to enjoy. Baby geeks can have sweet potato chunks. ;)

It should be noted that I rarely (if ever) measure the veggies. I just put them in the pot. I put how many of each veggie I use in parenthesis.


1 1/2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato (I like a little more, so I usually do 3 sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (1 pepper)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (1 large breast)
1 cup bottled salsa
1/2 tsp cumin
2 (16-oz) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (4 cups)
2 (15-oz) cans low-sodium chicken & rice soup (I use Healthy Choice)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Place large dutch oven coated with cookign spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add vegetables and saute 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients (through the beans). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add peanut butter, stirring with a whisk, and cook 2 minutes.


I know it sounds weird, but it's REALLY filling and good--perfect for a fall or winter night.

You can alter the vegetables as suits you (although you really should leave the sweet potato and red bell pepper). I've tossed in a can of corn, extra carrots (in addition to the carrots in the pre-made soup), extra celery--whatever you have that you need to use.

Vegetarian option: throw in some extra sweet potato, use veggie & rice soup and vegetable broth. You could also use tofu in place of the chicken if you like.

Yield: 11 1-cup servings

From Cooking Light

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Easy Fall Flavors: Maple Glazed Ham, Spicy Creamed Spinach, and Pumpkin Muffins

I tried this last night for the first time, and I have to say it's really darned easy. I plan to make some adjustments to make it a little healthier, but if you have access to a working stove, you can make this in about 20-30 minutes--faster if you have a 2nd cook.


1 Tbsp butter (original recipe calls for 2. I think 1 is enough--you really just want the flavor, you don't "need" the butter, so maybe 1/2 tbsp would be plenty, or maybe just butter flavored Pam--I have to experiment.)
24-oz ham steak (I had to buy a hunk of ham and slice it--ham steak would be easier if you can find it), cut into 4 pieces
2 Tbsp maple syrup (REAL syrup only!!!)

2 bags spinach (recipe calls for 1, but I think it needs 2 and then each serving would be fewer calories)
4 oz pepper jack cheese, grated (if you can find low-fat, yay for you--you could also use monterey jack but then it won't be spicy, which may be a bonus for those of you with little geeks)
4 oz Neufch√Ętel cheese (or regular cream cheese if you don't care about fat)
salt and pepper

First, get all your ingredients ready and place them near the stove. You will be happy you did this later because it will make things easier.

Fill a large skillet with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Add spinach and cook until the spinach wilts (2-3 minutes, possibly longer for 2 bags). You may need to add one bag at a time if you do 2 bags.

While that cooks, melt the butter in a skillet. Brown ham in the skillet (a couple minutes on each side).

Between ham-turning, drain the spinach in a colander, pressing out extra water. Return to skillet over medium heat and add both cheeses, stirring until melted whenever you aren't flipping pieces of ham. Once cheese is melted, add salt and pepper to taste, stir, cover, and keep warm.

When both sides of ham are browned, drizzle with maple syrup, turning pieces to coat. (You might have to cook the ham in batches and then return it to the skillet for this step, depending on the size of your skillet.)

Serve and enjoy!

If you're going to make this for dinner, I strongly suggest making pumpkin muffins earlier that day. If you use them to sop up the extra sauce in the ham skillet after everyone else is done eating and has left the kitchen, you will not be sorry, and no one will know.

Unless, of course, you post about it in a blog. . .

Anyhow, there are zillions of pumpkin muffin recipes, but this one is the easiest EVER. You probably already know about it, but here it is just in case.

You need:

1 box spice cake mix (if you can't find it, you can use yellow or white and just add some pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon/nutmeg/ground cloves in pinch).
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)

Mix pumpkin and cake mix until well combined. Spoon into prepared muffin tin (spray it with cooking spray or use cupcake liners). Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Great for those with egg allergies!

The Big Geek and I enjoyed this. The little geek currently announces she doesn't like everything before she even tastes it, so I don't know if I trust her reaction. She does like the muffins, as does the baby geek.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Christina's Easy Cheesy Garlic & Rice

My friend Christina shared this recipe, and I've made it twice so far. This is my adapted version, which is a big hit with all the geeks and is so easy that I'll probably make it often, even though it's not exactly diet-friendly. I did what I could to move it that direction. :)

1 jar Ragu Roasted Garlic Parmesan sauce (I've also used a store brand, which was ok)
1 can petite diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 can chicken broth
1 cup shredded or diced cooked chicken (original recipe calls for 1 can, but I like using leftovers)
1 cup uncooked brown rice (original recipe calls for long grain)
2 cups shredded 2% Italian-blend cheese (or full-fat)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a baking dish and cover with foil.
Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes covered. Remove from oven, uncover, stir, and cook for an additonal 10-15 minutes (brown rice takes longer--sample some when you take it out and decide how long it needs at that point). If you want to be "fancy" you can save about 1/4 cup of the cheese and sprinkle it on the top at that point, or just sprinkle some additional parmesan or something.

The original recipe said to cook "until the top is brown and bubbly," but mine never got to that point (perhaps b/c of the 2% cheese). The first time I made it it cooked for absurdly long before I finally just tasted it and decided it was actually done.

This has to be the easiest casserole ever, and it takes about 5 minutes to throw together and then you can just walk away from it for 45 minutes. AWESOME for those nights when you just.can' Add a salad and you're good, and the leftovers are yummy the next day. Plus you can use up some leftover chicken.

Horeseradish Beef Strudel

This was easier than I thought it would be, and you could prepare the filling in advance and toss it together at the last minute. It worked out well for me tonight because I could assemble them while The Big Geek did baths, then put the baby geek to bed while they cooked, and then come out for dinner with The Big and little geeks.

TAKE THE PUFF PASTRY OUT OF THE FREEZER TO THAW about 40 minutes before you start cooking. If you're like me and forget anyhow, you can try what I did and stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it seems thawed enough to roll out.

I believe this came from a Rachel Rey magazine.

1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2-3)
2 Tbsp butter (you could use evoo if you wanted)
1 small-medium onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
2-3 Tbsp prepared horseradish
salt and pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten with a splash of water

Preheat the oven to 400. While it's heating, add the potatoes to a large saucepan and add enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil adn cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, then mash in a large bowl.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt butter (or heat oil) in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Transfer onions to mashed potatoes (or bowl for potatoes if they aren't done yet). Add the beef to the skillet and cook, breaking it up, over medium-high heat until barely pink, about 5 minutes. Stir the beef, sour cream, and horseradish into the mashed potatoes and onion, season with salt and pepper.

On a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out 1 sheet puff pastry into an 11 x 15 rectangle. Spread half of the meat mixture in the center, covering 2/3 of the surface and leaving a 1-inch border along the long ends. Fold in the borders on the long ends and, beginning from a short end, roll up to enclose. Or you can do what I did and leave slightly more pastry on the edges, fold the sides up to enclose, and then roll up the ends.

Transfer, seam side down, onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

I thought this was pretty good, although it could have used more horseradish for my taste. Next time I may make one (for the small geeks) and then add more horseradish to taste to the rest of the filling to make one for The Big Geek and myself.

The Big Geek dipped his in A-1 (I give up). The little geek ate a few bites and then had salad and leftover mac 'n cheese from lunch. I'm betting the baby geek would have eaten it--we'll find out tomorrow as I've got an entire "strudel" left.

Probably not that healthy, but not awful and very quick/easy.