Monday, January 18, 2010

Lentil Zucchini Mushroom Soup

I threw this together the other day when I made split pea soup for my husband.  He loves plain split peas, water and salt.  That's it.  The kids don't like it, so I took my chance to make a soup that James wouldn't like but I would!

I don't measure much when cooking, so this is more of a loose guide to a soup rather than a recipe.

Put 2 or 3 tsps olive oil into a large pot.

Sauteed one diced onion and 3 med garlic cloves.

Add 3 small zucchini, diced. Could use more.

Throw in 4 large mushrooms, sliced (more--like 12--would be even better!)

Rinse 1- 2 cups french lentils, add to pot.  I love these kind, the green lentils.  They don't have them in the regular grocery store.  You can use any kind in this soup, but the green ones hold their shape and don't disintegrate like the brown do.

Add a bunch of water or broth.  (I threw in a veggie bouillon cube)

Let boil for a while until the lentils are getting soft, then throw in two cans diced tomatoes. 

When it's close to being done, salt and pepper if desired.  By waiting to salt a dish towards the end you use less since it all doesn't get absorbed deep into the veggies.

Then, I added frozen corn to each bowl of soup to cool it down.  It was SO GOOD with the corn just thawed, I highly recommend the flavor of the fresh corn with the rest of the soup instead of just cooking it all together.

That's it!  It made a huge stockpot full.  Vary the veggie amounts to what you prefer.

Edited to add:  I think I added some oregano, basil and thyme to this.  Thyme is good with lentils!  Add whatever herbs you like that sound tasty.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Ronis" - A Nut-Based Cream Sauce

Call it vegan, call it plant-based, call it healthy! Whatever you call it, this recipe is really yummy.
It has been in our family for years and adapted from a recipe my mom found. It was lovingly called "Ronis" when my brother was little and this was his way of saying "macaroni".

  • 12-16oz of prepared pasta or spaghetti squash
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (Update! I have use whole raw almonds to replace all or part of these. Amazing! For best results soak them for an hour, or at least 5 min in hot water.)
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup real lemon juice -many times I up this to 1/3 to make it even tastier!
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • black pepper to taste
Prepare your pasta or spaghetti squash.
In a blender, combine the water and nuts, blend until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend.

You have a few options at this point.
  • You can put the noodles and sauce in a baking dish, cover with bread crumbs (opt. butter) and bake until thickened and bubbly.
  • You can combine the sauce and pasta in a pot on the stove top and heat until the sauce thickens a little. It will thicken when cooled even more.
  • Or you can put the sauce in a saucepan and heat it on the stove top to a simmer, until it is thickened. Then serve it over your pasta or squash.

We love this recipe and many guest have as well. I hope you will too!

Low Calorie Alternatives for Weight Loss

Spaghetti Squash! I knew it before, but I had no idea how much better it was for you, than pasta. A cup of whole wheat pasta is about 175 calories, while the squash alternative is only 45 calories. Plus, it is much more nutrient dense so you get fuller faster! I use it with veggies and a tomato sauce or I made a nut-based cream sauce that has been in our family for years. It was SO good and it completely satisfied my cravings for pasta.

I just found this tip. Cauliflower! Now I've heard you can mash it like mashed potatoes, but I haven't tried it yet. On this diet you are allowed brown rice, in moderation, but this is a lower calorie alternative. You take a head of cauliflower, chop it up really fine like rice or couscous (food processor works great), then microwave it (NO water!) for about 3 minutes. You can use this instead of rice! I just tried it with stir fry and it was great. You don't want to use it in recipes that is supposed to soak liquid up though because it won't.

Fat free AND low calorie salad dressings. Yes, they aren't the same thing. I am getting salad dressings that are 40 calories or less a serving. Normal ranch dressing is about 13o I believe. Big difference. Also, watch for high fructose corn syrup. It's in many of the "free" dressings. Besides the health facts, HFCS is bad for weight loss. It is quickly converted to fat, addictive, and it does not register in our bodies that we are full, leading us to overeat.
These low calorie salad dressings can be used on other dishes too, to make them edible. My favorite is ranch on potatoes.

Sweetener. Okay, I can use pure maple syrup, honey, agave (really great), dates and fruit. But, as far as calories go, they are really high! If you use stevia (it is a plant and I have grown it!), it is calorie free. If you aren't familiar with stevia (you can buy liquid or powder forms), you can use the new Truvia sweetener. It isn't all stevia, it has some other natural extracts in it, but I know it's better for you. I know because every other sugar alternative makes me sick and gives me a nasty headache!

Dessert cravings..these are the worst! They make me want to dive into the peanut butter. I have found two things that keep it at bay. One, a banana with a TINY smearing of natural peanut butter. Still higher calories (175 maybe!?) so I came up with these.
Apple crisp, without the crisp. I just cut up some apples, put whatever spices I liked into it (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), some stevia or Truvia, a few raisins or dates, and a couple of nuts (walnuts or pecans). Microwave or bake until the apples are soft. Voila! It is so good.
Next, out of desperation, I found that the light whipped cream (real cream, people!) only has 15 calories for two tablespoons. I'm not a cream person, so a little will go a long way! I grab a banana (blueberries, whatever you want) and cut it up with some whipped cream in a bowl. It reminded me of banana cream pie and was really good.

Hope these help someone else as much as they helped me!
Remember to focus on the veggies and salad for your main dish. Those should be your first defense against those hunger pains and cravings!