Sunday, December 20

Basil Pesto Chicken

With two small children, meals that I can easily prep and make are seriously my best friend. I'm one of those people who love to cook but between entertaining a very busy and active 2 year old and nursing a two month little girl making anything elaborate or time consuming has gone out the back door.

The fresh pesto really makes this dish stand out but if your extra short on time jarred pesto would be a fine substitute. Juicy tender chicken, garlicky basil pesto, buttery mushroom all smothered in melted cheese! So good. Fantastic over brown rice or  your favorite whole grain pasta.

Basil Pesto Chicken
Serves 6

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley
4 small tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

1 1/2 lb chicken breast, tenders or boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated coby jack cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Cooked brown basmati rice or whole grain pasta

Preheat over to 350 degrees and lay out a 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a blender or food processor combine the basil, parsley, tomatoes, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. In a small saucepan over medium heat saute the mushroom in butter until soft, about 5 min.

Evenly spread 1/2 cup of the pesto on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with chicken. Sprinkle prepared mushrooms over the top. Top with the remaining pesto. Sprinkle cheese over pesto and give it a good dash of salt and pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden brown.

Serve with brown basmati rice or whole grain pasta.

Friday, December 18

Mushroom, Veggie and Chicken Sausage Soup

Some years back a sweet friend shared a recipe with my family for her husband's famous "Magic Mushroom Soup". Completely mellow the soup was full of mushrooms, bacon, chicken stock, kielbasa sausage and barley. Growing up, the soup was a family favorite and often requested for family dinners. Years passed and I lost the recipe. In my naivety I decided to "Google" "magic mushroom soup" big oops!!! Unless your planning on engaging in shroomery and psychedelic trips I suggest you try a different search term.

This winter soup is inspired by my friend's recipe and is a healthier twist on this family favorite. Even my husband who is usually not a huge fan of anything with mushrooms went back for seconds and maybe even thirds on this tasty soup.

 Mushroom, Veggie and Chicken Sausage Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 portobello mushrooms, finely sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 cup crimini or baby bella mushrooms finely sliced
3 small zucchinis sliced length wise and thinly sliced
3 jalapeno flavored chicken sausages halved length wise and sliced (we love the Trader Joe's one's found here)
1 cup dry lentils, cooked and drained
8 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups packed fresh spinach
Garlic powder
black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley to taste

In a small saucepan add dry lentils with 2 cups of water, bring to a boil than cover and simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes or until tender

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat add in butter and olive oil. Once hot, toss in onion, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms and onions are soft. Add in zucchini and sausage. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and spinach and heat through. Season to taste with garlic powder, pepper and fresh parsley.

Saturday, December 12

Chewy Healthy Baked Granola Bars

Let's be honest, finding a healthy chewy granola bar recipe is almost impossible. If they taste good they're loaded with sugar, if you actually make something labeled healthy... well you know it tastes healthy or seems to crumble to pieces. I've had success with some no bake bars but sometimes you just want that baked fragrant oatmeal taste. If possible use raw honey, so tasty and unlike most stuff you find in the stores raw honey actually has the good stuff still in it(anti bacterial, promotes digestive health, stabilizes blood sugar...the list goes on and on). If you want to know more take a look at this fascinating article by the Permaculture Research Institute .

But back to these tasty treats, filled with rolled oats, whole grain flour, flax meal, raw honey and your favorite nuts and dried fruits these bars hold together well, don't crumble when you take a bite and taste most delightful. To easily make these gluten free sub the whole wheat flour for oat flour or your favorite gluten free blend.

Yield 16 bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x9 inch pan with buttered parchment paper. 

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour
1/2 cup flax meal
2/3 cup roasted and unsalted pecan pieces
1/4 dried cranberries or your favorite dried fruit
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 

1/2 cup raw honey
3 T coconut sugar
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer the pink Himalayan salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, flax meal, pecans and dried fruit. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the remaining ingredients. Stir until smooth and sugar has dissolved. Pour over oat mixture and stir until well mixed. Using buttered fingers press down into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until oats are lightly browned on the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Let cool at room temperature. Cut into desired pieces and store in an airtight container or in the fridge. 

We love to individual wrap these for easy grab and go snacks and breakfast on the run.  

Wednesday, November 19

Healthy Pumpkin Spice & Cranberry Muffins

You know when you go to your favorite restaurant and your faced with the major decision of ordering your safe delicious favorite or branching out and trying something new and potentially being disapointed? There is this local Mexican restaurant in my town and I'm pretty sure the last three times my husband and I have been there we have ordered the same thing as the times before. Despite my INTENT to try something new I always fall back on my favorite. Anyway, not related to Mexican food I found this tasty recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins last year and pretty sure I have made them six times just in the last few weeks. If you have been following this blog than you know I love, love, love muffins! Although the original recipe was fairly healthy I wanted to make these truly guilt free and still taste and moist and delicious as the original recipe!

Once you try these you'll see why these have quickly become by favorite go-to muffin! Moist and fluffy bakery style muffins without all the sugar and bakery price tag.

Adapted from The Fit Housewife

Healthy Pumpkin Spice & Cranberry Muffins

Yield: 12 Muffins

2 scant cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Dash of cardamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup kefir or plain yogurt
1/3 cup raw honey, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrots
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
Additional cinnamon to top muffins
Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan with liners or by lightly greasing the tins.

In a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl combine the egg, pumpkin puree, kefir, melted honey, oil and vanilla. Gently stir in the carrots and cranberries.

Gently fold in the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined. Be careful not to over mix or your muffins will not rise properly.

Divide muffin batter evenly between tins and sprinkle with ground flax, cinnamon and chocolate chips(optional). Bake 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Saturday, November 15

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

As a long time lover of the classic chicken noodle soup the idea of turning the soup creamy was was new for me. Don't ask me why it took 20 something years to reach this "enlightened" stage. At this point I'm just trying not to regret the years I have lost with this new found delight! Fresh carrots, celery, onions, garlic, super tender chicken, my all time favorite homemade style egg noodles and whole milk create this fantastic fall soup. Homemade whole wheat bread makes this satisfying meal complete.

***My favorite and absolute easiest way for tender, fall off the bones chicken is with the crock pot. Pop a whole chicken in the crock pot, add 1/2 cup water, cover and set the crock pot for 6 hours. At this point lift your chicken out and fork off the meat. So tender, flavorful and easy!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6

Adapted from Cooking Classy

Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
4 large carrots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cooking juices from chicken
1/4 teaspoon crushed bay leaves
1 teaspoon parsley
2 cups dry homemade style egg noodles
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water
2 cups whole milk
2 cups cooked chicken***

In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, add in onion, celery and carrots. Saute for 6 minutes than stir in garlic and cook, stirring for an additional minute. Pour in chicken broth and 1/2 cup of cooking juice from the chicken, Add spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta until al dente.

In a small saucepan melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute then remove from heat and whisk in water until mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.

Pour the roux back into the soup and stir until smooth. Bring to boil than reduce heat to medium-low and stir in milk. Stir in noodles and simmer soup on low until ready to serve.

Friday, November 14

Chicken Parmesan & Cream Cheese Egg Rolls

There is something almost magical about egg roll wrappers and their uncanny ability to transform just about anything into a delicious pocket of food bliss. These chicken, Parmesan & cream cheese egg rolls are positively perfect! Okay, I've probably gone off the deep end just a bit but seriously these rolls may have just become my favorite party appetizer, that is if they can make it from the oven to the table without me sneaking the whole tray!

Chicken Parmesan & Cream Cheese Egg Rolls
Yield: 18 Rolls

Olive oil
1/2 cup button mushrooms, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup onions, minced
2 cups cooked chicken, finely diced
18 egg roll wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a large cookie sheet.

In a large skillet over medium heat, drizzle in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the mushrooms, garlic and onion and saute for about 5 minutes or until veggies have softened. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and chicken. Gently stir until cheeses have melted.

Fill each wrapper with 1 tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of the wrapper and dampen edges with water. Beginning with one corner fold up towards the center then fold in the sides like an envelope and tightly roll. Place seam side down on prepared cookie sheet. Lightly brush tops with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping rolls halfway through. Rolls should be golden brown and crisp to the touch.

My husband and a friend of ours sampled these with a variety of sauces and the winners were:

1. Valentina Salsa Picante (Hot Sauce)
2. Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce
3. Kraft Sweet and Sour Sauce

***For an easy make ahead appetizer, freeze unbaked rolls between layers of wax paper. Simply pop into the oven when ready to serve. No need to thaw before baking. ***

In retrospect, I should have left these rolls in the oven a couple minutes longer, but I was fighting the daylight to get some good pictures before the sun went down :)

Wednesday, November 5

Creamy Fresh Pumpkin Soup

Last month we packed up the car and made the 12 hour road trip to spend some time with my husband's grandparents. It was lovely visit, from shopping, attempting to play poker (and losing miserably), pumpkin patches and apple orchards, local boutiques, yummy breakfast nooks and delicious coffee stands. On one of the evenings my husband's grandmother served us this absolutely gourmet meal. Roasted pork loin, herb quinoa and brown rice stuffing, sauteed apples with pears and bacon. Waldorf salad, dutch apple pie from a local shop and this incredible creamy pumpkin soup. Soooo goooood! Borrowing a few favorite elements from the soup she served us and adding some of my own I promise you this soup will quickly become a Fall favorite!

Creamy Fresh Pumpkin Soup
Inspired by Doris C. 
Serves 6

1 baking pumpkin (about 3 1/2 cups chopped pumpkin)
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 golden delicious apple, chopped with peel
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 half n half

Peel and remove seeds and pulp from your baking pumpkin. Cut pumpkin into two inch pieces. In a large pot combine the pumpkin, onion, garlic, carrots, apple, chicken broth, pepper and parsley. Bring to boil then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 35-45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender. Using a blender, blend soup until smooth and no lumps remain. Transfer soup back to your large pot and stir in half n half. Check for seasons and serve.

Optional Toppings
Roasted pistachios
Dried cranberries
Roasted pecans
Sour cream
Plain Greek yogurt