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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Green & White Minestrone

Nick and I were in the mood for something on the lighter side after over-indulging a bit during Christmas. We've been eating a lot of soup this fall and winter, so a hearty minestrone seemed like just the ticket. This recipe isn't your classic tomato-based minestrone, but it is packed full of vegetables (including brussels sprouts!) for a satisfying yet low-calorie dinner. We served it with white toast (drizzled with olive oil and toasted in the ever-useful Cuisinart Griddler) and some apple slices. You'll still have room for dessert too!

My wonderful husband chopped and diced most of the vegetables beforehand (except the onion), so it was pretty easy to throw this together once I got home from work. Nick threw in a diced jalapeno pepper to add some a little heat.

I didn't have any dried sage on hand, so I scoured our spices and decided on dried thyme as a substitute (no particular reason). I think it was a pretty old bottle because I didn't notice much of the flavor in the finished product. Guess it's time to purge some of my old spices! Though I try to watch my sodium, I would recommend being generous with the salt (maybe if you have better dried herbs that would help too). Getting fancy with my amateur food photography here - action shot!

Next, add the potatoes and the sprouts. Pretty complicated recipe, right?

Finally, add in the macaroni and cook about 20 minutes more. We used Barilla Plus macaroni which tastes almost exactly like regular pasta but contains extra protein, Omega-3s and fiber. We served the finished product with some beautifully toasted bread on the side. I'm guessing the soup + bread is only about 250 calories! The leftovers will also make a great lunch for work tomorrow.  

Green & White Minestrone
Adapted from Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you) by Frances Price, RD
Serves 4

  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1/2 c. diced green peppers
  • 1/2 c. diced celery
  • 1 diced jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 t. dried sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 small new potatoes
  • 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (you can also use shredded cabbage)
  • 1/2 c. elbow macaroni

In a heavy 3 quart saucepan over medium heat, cook the onions, green pepper, jalapeno and celery in the oil, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not brown.

Stir in the garlic. Add the broth, sage, salt and pepper; raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.

Cut the potatoes into 3/4" cubes and add them, with the brussels sprouts, to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the macaroni. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables and pasta are tender.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition Index (approximate since the original recipe uses water instead of broth and some different vegetables)

Per serving: 157 calories, 4.1 g total fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 35 mg sodium, 4.3 grams protein, 27.5 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber

My Hubby's Love Affair with Brussels Sprouts

While my mom (a Registered Dietitian) introduced me to a lot of different kinds of vegetables as a kid, brussels sprouts were never a part of the repertoire. I think I ate my first sprout as an adult, actually. My husband, Nick, just loves them, and our freezer is usually stock-piled with brussels sprout steamer bags. He was practically drooling during a recent episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network which featured a recipe for brussels sprouts with cranberries covered in balsamic sauce. I attempted to make the recipe for a Christmas dinner at home (our first!) before we headed out to Michigan to be with my family.

Also - important to mention that sprouts contain a TON of nutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber and Vitamins A, C, K and B6! There is some sugar in the balsamic glaze and the dried cranberries, but all in all, it's a delicious, healthful and hunger-satisfying side dish.

Here we go!

Nick did the cleaning and trimming (basically cutting off the brown stem part) and then cut them in half on a non-stick rimmed pan.

I drizzled the sprouts with olive oil (probably used about 1/8 cup) and then roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I was supposed to sprinkle them with salt and pepper before roasting which may have helped bring out the flavor a bit more (note the balsamic glaze is pretty flavorful, so you may want to season lightly).

I love the color of  the roasted sprouts fresh from the oven. Next time, I'll probably use a bit more olive oil, so they don't get as dried out.

While the sprouts were roasting in the oven, I started on the balsamic glaze which is basically just a mixture of balsamic vinegar and sugar heated and reduced on the stove. Once the sauce had reduced, I transferred the sprouts to a bowl and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I poured the sauce on top and sprinkled with dried cranberries.

I just love the vibrant greens in the sprouts paired with the red cranberries! The sweetness of both the balsamic glaze and the dried fruit toned down the bitterness of the sprouts. The roasting process also softens the sprouts and improves the texture. This dish is easy enough that you can memorize the recipe and pull it together quickly. It is an impressive side that adds both color and interesting flavors to almost any meal. We served it with roast pork tenderloin and seasoned red potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries

Ingredients (note - we halved this recipe - 3 pounds of brussels is a lot for two people!)

  • 3 pounds Brussels Sprouts 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt And Pepper
  • 1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Dried Cranberries

Preparation Instructions

Trim/clean Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half if desired (or you can leave them whole). Arrange on two baking sheets and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown.

Combine balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts, then sprinkle on dried cranberries. Toss and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Being Honest with Myself

Greetings! Very excited to finally start blogging. I'm a bit behind the times, but better late than never. Decided on a food blog since I love to cook and bake -- well, sort of. If I'm honest, I think I'm more in love with the idea of cooking and baking since I actually do it very rarely. As I'm reading through Eat, Live, Run and SmittenKitchen, I imagine myself spending hours in the kitchen making delectable recipes with grace and ease.

And, then I get home after a long day at the office, grill a chicken breast and microwave some veggies and call it a night. Maybe I'll put some barbecue sauce on the side if I'm feeling adventurous.

We've all been there. It's just tough putting a meal together after a busy day - can't even imagine what it will be like once kids are in the picture! I'm hoping this blog will challenge me to try new recipes and expand my repertoire in the kitchen. My goal is one post per week highlighting a new recipe I've tried. Plus, I need an excuse to use all those new kitchen gadgets we received for our wedding! Can't WAIT to use the 5.5 quart Staub dutch oven.

Looking forward to sharing my home cooking journey with you.