Starters

Cauliflower Chowder

It’s been a cold and snowy last week or so in Chicago.  The weather is only about to get worse, unfortunately.   We are looking at more snow and super cold temperatures by the middle of the week.   I keep reading articles talking about coldest temperatures in 25 years.  I hope it doesn’t get that cold. However, what is better on a cold winter’s day but a nice bowl of a hearty soup.

Today I made cauliflower chowder.  It’s hearty but light at the same time.  I made this soup as a healthier alternative to traditional cream soups.  It’s very easy to even turn this into a Keto recipe. Check it out.  See cook’s notes below to make Keto.

Cauliflower Chowder

Ingredients:
3 T butter
1 T olive oil
3 T flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1  large red pepper, diced
1 cup gold potatoes, diced
3, 16 oz bags frozen cauliflower
3, 32 oz boxes unsalted or low sodium chicken broth
2 cups fat free half and half
8 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese (more for topping)
1 large bay leaf
2 t dried rosemary
2 t dried thyme
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
2 t chili powder
2 t salt (more to taste)
2 t pepper (more to taste)
1 t crushed red pepper

Toppings (optional)
Shredded cheese
Chopped Bacon
Green onion

Directions:

Heat a large soup pot on medium high heat.  Add in the olive oil and let heat a minute before adding in the garlic and onion.  Once garlic and onion are added cook about 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent.   Next add in the red pepper and cook another 3 minutes until soft.

Add in the butter and let melt completely.  Slowly add the flour and mix well.  Cook the roux for about 4-6 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock, potatoes and frozen cauliflower and mix.  Add in thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.  Simmer on medium high heat about 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.   Check potatoes and make sure they are soft.  Remove the bay leaf.   Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to break up the cauliflower, but leaving some chunks.

Once blended put back on the stove and add in the 2 cups of fat free half and half and mix well.  Season the soup with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, crushed red pepper and chili powder.  Mix well. Let simmer 15 minutes once the cream is added.

Remove the soup from the heat and add in 8 oz of cheese and mix to thoroughly melt the cheese.  Make sure to put the spoon to the bottom of the pot to make sure the cheese isn’t all fallen to the bottom.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese, bacon and green onions.

Chef Notes:  For Keto recipe, replace 3 T of flour with ¼ t of xanthan gum.  Do not add in with the butter.  Make a slurry with the xanthan gum some liquid and add into the pot.  Replace fat free half and half for full fat heavy whipping cream. Omit potatoes entirely.

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French Onion Soup with Garlic Crostini & Swiss Cheese

Happy December! I made French Onion soup for the first time in years. It’s a super easy soup to make. You don’t need a lot of ingredients or time to make this. I almost feel like it’s healthier compared to most soups because there is no cream and yes there is butter but I cut back on that as well.

This is perfect for lunches or with a salad for dinner. It’s nice and warm for those cold winter nights. What’s better than soup and bread? This recipe has BOTH!

French Onion Soup with Garlic Croutons and Swiss Cheese

Ingredients:
5T butter
6 large sweet onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large bay leafs
6 sprigs of thyme
3 T flour
1 ½ cups wine (I used white)
2- 32 oz cartons beef broth, no salt added
3 t salt
2 t pepper

Croutons:
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 loaf crusty French bread
2 T olive oil
½ T parsley
2 t garlic powder
Sprinkle: salt and pepper

Toppings:
Swiss cheese

Directions:

In a large soup pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add sliced onions and garlic and mix well. Add in the bay leafs and 3 of the thyme sprigs. The other 3 sprigs, remove the herb and sprinkle in the mixture. Cook on medium low heat until onions are tender and caramelized. This may take 30-40 minutes for the amount of onions we are using. I covered the pan and let them cook down mixing every 10-12 minutes. They will cook down, don’t worry if they seem to take up the whole pot. (That’s what happened to me.)

After onions have cooked down and are soft and starting to caramelize remove some of the liquid and add to a small bowl and mix with the 3 tablespoons of flour. Mix well to remove lumps. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Add in the flour mixture and the wine and whisk well. Cook on medium heat about 10-15 minutes mixing half way through with a whisk. A whisk will help make sure the flour mixture gets broken up. Add in the beef broth and salt and pepper and stir, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering make the croutons for the top of the soup. Slice the bread into ½ inch pieces. In a small bowl add oil, parsley, garlic powder, fresh garlic and salt and pepper and mix well. Single layer the slices of bread on baking pan covered with foil. Brunch the bread with olive oil mixture. Bake at 400° in the oven 12-15 minutes. It’s okay if they get hard, they will soften once added to the soup.

To serve ladle soup into bowl add 2-3 slices of bread and top with sprinkle of Swiss cheese. If you wish, you can add to an oven save bowl and put under the broiler for a few minutes to make the cheese brown and bubbly. I made this for lunches, so I just add in the bread slices and top with some cheese once the soup is heated through and the cheese melts perfectly. Enjoy!

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Herbed Goat Cheese Wonton Bites

Let’s talk about goat cheese! I’ll be honest, for years I use to avoid it. I just never thought about using in in dishes or cooking with it. A few years back I had a friend that turned me onto it and ever since I’ve been hooked. I don’t buy it often but when I do, I love to incorporate into different dishes. I now put ontop of pizza, in pasta, with eggs and also make cute little appetizers like these.

This is a simple dish. It may take a bit of time just stuffing the wrappers but this is perfect for an appetizer and the goat cheese mixure can be made ahead of time to cut down on time.

Herbed Goat Cheese Wonton Bites

Ingredients:
24 Wonton wrapper
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
2 t dried or fresh oregano
2 t dried or fresh parsley
2 t dried or fresh thyme
1 garlic clove
1 shallot
2 T olive oil
1/2 t crushed red pepper
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Olive oil spray
1/4 cup sriracha or chili sauce, for dipping

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor add in goat cheese, garlic clove, shallot and spices. Pulse slowly while drizzling in olive oil. Pulse until creamy. If mixture becomes too think, add more oil slowly. Taste and add more seasoning as needed.

Add a spoonful of goat cheese to the middle of the wonton wrapper. Fold the edges in and place in a mini muffin tin. Complete with all remaining wonton wrappers.

Spray Olive oil over the wonton wrappers. (This will help brown the wontons.)

Bake in oven 12 minutes then remove from oven and cover loosely with aluminium foil. Add back in the oven and cook for another 6-7 minutes. Using the foil will help make sure the top of the wonton wrappers don’t burn while cooking the bottoms.

Make sure to keep an eye on these as they can burn quickly. Serve warm with sriracha or chili sauce.

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Shrimp & Bacon BBQ Ranch Salad

I’m about 2 weeks into doing Weight Watchers and I’m finally realizing that dinner doesn’t have to be a production every single night. I have a habit of over thinking a meal and then getting frustrated or discouraged. I always feel like every meal should have a a protein, a vegetable and a starch. That must be my culinary professors in my head telling me that.

So, I’m learning it’s ok to have eggs for dinner or a quick thrown together salad or something simple. With doing Weight Watchers I feel it’s easier as I can really eat anything I want.

I put this salad together this for dinner that was full of protein and very delicious. It really was super simple.

Shrimp & Bacon BBQ Ranch Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients:
20 medium shrimp, cleaned and cooked and slightly warm
1 small avocado
½ cup no salt black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 small red onion, diced
¼ cup shredded cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and rough chopped
6- 8 cups romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped
2 oz bbq sauce
2 oz ranch dressing

Directions: In a small bowl mix together bbq sauce and ranch dressing. Add lettuce to a large bowl. Add in corn, black beans, onions, cheese and dressing and mix well. Separate into individual bowls and top with even amount of shrimp, bacon and avocado. Enjoy!

Notes: Feel free to mix all these ingredients together and serve it up. I always like to make sure the main proteins or higher fat/calories items are equally distributed to both bowls especially when county calories or points. In this case, that would be the shrimp, bacon and avocado. Use any bbq sauce you’d like, mine had a slight kick and it gave a nice flavor profile. If you don’t have cooked shrimp, feel free to use raw and just cook them up. That’s exactly what I did.

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Lemon Arugula Salad

I made an arugula salad for the first time since culinary school.  I never really liked arugula as it has a peppery taste.  I decided that since my pallet has probably changed over the years I’d give it a try.  This salad really surprised me.  I really liked the spicy flavor of the arugula with the lemon.

This is very basic and easy to make.  It’s a different take on a healthy salad.  Great for lunch or served with dinner!  Give  it a try.

Lemon Arugula Salad
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
10 oz arugula, thoroughly washed
6 grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 T shallot, minced
2 T chopped candied pecans
2 T crumbled feta cheese
1/2 Lemon, juiced (more or less to taste)
2 T olive oil (Good quality) (more or less to taste)
Sprinkle: salt

Directions:  Add arugula, tomatoes and shallots to a medium bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with salt and mix well.  Separate into 2 bowls and top with feta and pecans and serve.

Notes: You can add extra toppings to this salad or use balsamic and oil. I just liked the lemony flavor with the spice of the arugula.

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Black Bean & Corn Salad

Tonight I made a black bean corn salad to go with my main entree.  While trying to be healthy I really try and make other sides that aren’t just your typically potato or rice sides.

That’s what I did here tonight.  It’s pretty basic but you can definitely add other flavors.  I used what I had on hand.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

15 oz black beans, (rinsed) (I used no salt)
1 cup frozen corn
1 T lime juice
1 T olive oil
3 T cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeño, diced (remove seeds for less spice)
3 T red onion, chopped
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
1 t chili powder
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:  Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Growing up I really didn’t care for brussels sprouts.  They smelled horrible and tasted just as bad, even if it had bacon mixed in.  As I got older I learned to like them prepared in certain ways.  I started experimenting with different recipes.

Earlier this year I had a brussels sprout salad at a Chicago restaurant and it was absolutely delicious.  It was something I never thought I’d enjoy, especially with raw brussels sprouts.

This is my take on a brussels sprouts salad.  Take a look and next time your in the store look for shaved brussels sprouts.  You can shave them or chop them yourself, but why put yourself through that if you can buy them shaved.  This is a great alternative to a lettuce salad. Use any toppings you like. Below are just an idea of some I’ve used.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:
3 cups shaved brussels sprouts

Optional Toppings:
Blue cheese
Roasted Pecans (or any nut)
Dried cranberries
Crumbled bacon
Avocado
Green onion (or any onions)
Olives (your choice)
Sliced tomatoes

Dressing:
4 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 t red wine vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 small onion, grated
1/2 T Dijon mustard

Directions: In a bowl whisk together all ingredients for the dressing and set aside.  Let sit 15 minutes so the flavors can marry.  Then mix shaved brussels sprouts, toppings and dressing and toss together.  Serve immediately.

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