Changes and Opportunties

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In addition to new resolutions, my 2018 began with braces and a requirement for soft foods. So my first week yielded new smoothie mixes, mashed potatoes, smoked gouda mac and cheese and good ‘ol grits and egg. As a person who typically eats well balanced meals, it’s been a struggle to find right balances with soft foods outside of smoothies; however, challenge accepted.

This week I decided on comforting Sheppard’s pie with a twist to boost my veggie intake. In addition to the traditional peas and carrots, I did a mix of yellow cauliflower with potatoes to give me a little more nutrients.

I also have the fixings for bowls of egg drop soup which takes minutes to make and can be made as needed. Also depending on how hungry I am, I can beef it up with more egg or even a small can of chicken.

Check out the recipes for both dishes below.

Sheppard’s Pie
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cups diced onion (one large)
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 1/2 cup of peas
1 small head of cauliflower (2 cups)
4 medium red potatoes or 1 large white potato
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. onion power
1/2 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup cream cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it heats, rinse and peel potato(es). Cut in half. (If one large, cut in half longwise, then into fourths).
3. Rinse cauliflower and peel off leaves and cut off the tough stem end. The cauliflower should be about the same size as the potatoes.
4. Peel and dice a large onion and add half the onion, the potatoes and cauliflower to the water and boil for 15-17 minutes.
5. While that boils, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground meat and the remaining onion and a pinch of water to brown the meat. Break into small pieces and brown evenly.
6. While the meat browns, peel carrots and chop finely by hand or with a food processor, small blender or magic chopper. Add to pan of beef.
7. Add defrosted peas and seasoning and cook for 10 minutes.
8. Remove potatoes from stove and strain. Add them back to the stove and reduce heat to low. Add butter, cream cheese and milk and mash until creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.
9. Remove beef mixture from heat and add to a standard 5 quart baking dish (large rectangle).
10. Add potato mixture on top and smooth evenly. Bake for 10 minutes until top browns slightly.

 

Egg Drop Soup
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. diced green onion
1-2 large eggs
1 tbsp. Low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 cup canned chicken (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder

Directions:
1. Add broth or stock to a small pot. Add green onion and all seasoning over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 3 minutes.
2. In a bowl add egg with a pinch of salt and whisk with a fork.
3. Add egg in a slow stream to pot. The egg will cook instantly. Remove heat.
4. Wash bowl from egg and add your finished soup. Enjoy.

Stewed Comfort

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Cold weather calls for soups, gumbos and comfort food. One of my favorite comfort meals as a kid was stewed chicken. It’s something easy to make, whether you are breaking down a whole chicken yourself or taking some help from the store with a mixed pack or a package of your favorite piece of meat. It’s helpful, when you can, to go for the whole chicken whether the store cuts it up or you and you can save parts for gumbo or a homemade stock for some chicken noodle soup for another week. Stewed chicken is simple dish and easy to serve over rice or with potatoes. I like to double down on the veggies with sautéed greens and a side salad. The cook time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, though the slow cooking for the latter 35 minutes can be spent elsewhere in the house with a set phone or stove timer. Though a standard 10″ deep pan will do, a cast iron pot or a Dutch oven. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:
1 3-3 1/2 chicken (cut into serving pieces)
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion (2 cups diced)
1 small bell pepper (1 cup diced)
4 cloves of garlic ( 2 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. onion power
1tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. salted butter
1 cup chicken stock or water

Directions:
1. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat.
2. Rinse chicken and pat dry with a paper towel before sprinkling on salt and pepper. Brown chicken in 2-3 batches for 2-3 minutes per side. Add batch to a plate once browned and repeat.
3. Add butter and then flour to melted butter. Using a fork or whisk, mix flour continuously for 3-5 minutes, browning in the pan dripping and butter. Once brown, add water or stock and remaining seasoning and mix with the fork or whisk.
4. Peel and mince garlic. Peel and dice onion and bell pepper.
5. Add onion and bell pepper, garlic and chicken back to the pan. Top and reduce to medium-low heat to simmer for 30-35 minutes.
6. Put on rice 10 minutes after chicken begins to simmer so that food is ready about the same time.
7. Plate and enjoy.

A Bit of Pesto

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Pesto is an incredibly flavorful addition to pasta. I love a nice bowl of pesto alfredo pasta with shrimp or chicken and colored myself inspired with the lovage pesto that I saw at the farmer’s market on Saturday. Though, I love a good bowl of pasta, I wanted to try my hand at zucchini pasta to see what all the fuss was about. I found a nifty, hand held veggetti spiraler for $9.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond and was sold. Now if you’re thinking, the pesto and pasta alternatives are too much change for one dish, you can always stick to traditional pesto, and mix the zucchini pasta with traditional or whole wheat spaghetti. As I am frequently touting the perks of separating shrimp or other proteins ahead of time, this dish is where that’s super helpful. I pulled out a couple of serving bags for this dish and defrosted the shrimp in the bag in lukewarm water for 10 minutes while I cooked everything else. If you are not a fan of shrimp, I’d recommend cubing chicken breasts or thighs and sautéing it with diced onion until cooked before adding to your pasta. I also picked up some purple long beans from the farmers market which made a great side to my creamy bowl of pesto alfredo zucchini pasta. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini
1 cup whole milk or 2%
1/2 packet (4oz) of low fat cream cheese cubed
1/2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. pesto
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. onion powder
1tbsp. coarse black pepper
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 lb. peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 tbsp. parsley (optional)

 

Directions:
1. Add frozen shrimp to a bowl or sink of lukewarm water to defrost.
2. Over low heat, add milk to a medium pot.
3. Cube cream cheese and butter and add to the pot. Let melt for 1 minute, then mix with a fork or whisk until dissolved.
4. Add flour and mix until dissolved. Add seasoning and pesto and mix well.
5. Wash spiraler and zucchini. Spiral zucchini and add to the pot.
6. Add defrosted shrimp. Let cook for 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked and zucchini tender.
7. Chop parsley for garnish. Serve and enjoy.