All posts by Elle

We started switching our diet to less processed options and found that not only did we get healthier, but we enjoyed food more. I'll share reviews, tips, and books that have helped us make the transition. Follow us on Twitter!

Reducing Calories Without Losing the Flavor

Love Olive Garden? There’s a way you can save both money and calories without losing flavor. I add a degree of healthiness by replacing the sausage with chicken without changing the flavor of the dish. The secret is to make up for the spiciness lost by removing the sausage.

First, here’s a link to the ‘original’ copycat recipe I use as a foundation: http://www.food.com/recipe/olive-garden-copycat-zuppa-toscana-38298

Now, you will see what changes I make when preparing the dish. My changes to the recipe (and other input) are in red.

Servings: 4-6
Units: US | Metric

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast
  • 2 large russet baking potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes about 1 inch thick
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans chicken broth, or equivalent (I find it more economical to buy the bigger cartons.)
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1-2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes (depends on your spice level preference)
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Chop or slice uncooked chicken into small pieces.
  2. Sauté chicken in skillet until fully cooked.
  3. Add chicken, chicken broth and water to pot and stir.
  4. Place onions, potatoes, and garlic in the pot.
  5. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.
  6. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Turn to low heat.
  9. Add kale and half and half.
  10. Heat through and serve.

Most of these changes (chicken instead of sausage, half and half instead of heavy cream, etc.) can be applied to almost any dish containing a different type of meat. In this dish, the red pepper replaces the spiciness lost by removing the sausage. Even though this dish still retains the use of black pepper, I am a huge fan of using red pepper to spice up almost any dish. Instead of an obvious pepper flavor, it simply enhances the ‘heat’ level and the flavor of the other spices.

Easy Gourmet Meals

Most of us love dishes that are simple to make. We are tired from work or other activities and are very hungry. Fast food may be the most convenient option in these situations, but of course, they are not the healthiest. So we try to make something simple and tasty at home. However, we often run out of ideas and get tired of the same dishes over and over again.

Below are some tips to create gourmet meals that are quite simple:

Homemade Style Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • Chicken Noodle Soup (1 standard size can for 2 people or 1 family size can for 4 people)
  • Celery, chopped (approximately 1 stalk per person)
  • Carrots, chopped or shredded
  • Red Pepper
  • Parsley, optional

Instructions

  1. Take any can of chicken noodle or similar chicken based soup. Or take a packet of instant soup (like the Lipton kind) and add water as directed. If you use instant soup, you’ll need some precooked chicken – the kind you find already cut up for you.
  2. Add chopped celery and carrots as desired. As a shortcut, you can find shredded carrots in the store. Add red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Cook until carrots and celery are nice and tender.
  4. Add parsley if desired.

Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • Oil (preferably vegetable or olive)
  • Potatoes (approximately 1 medium potato per person)
  • Adobo or your favorite seasoning

Instructions

  1. Grease baking sheet with oil or cooking spray. If using oil, be careful to use just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut potatoes into wedges approximately ¼ inch thick.
  3. Lay potato wedges in a single layer (try not to put them on top of each other).
  4. Sprinkle with Adobo or your favorite seasoning.
  5. Bake until crispy and tender. If cut thin like described above, 20 minutes should be reasonable. You may want to check the tenders at least halfway through cooking time.

Sauteed Asian Style Chicken

Ingredients

  • Peanut Oil
  • Chicken Breast or Tenders (1/4 -1/3 pound per person)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oil in wok or similar style skillet.
  2. While oil is heating, cut chicken into pieces.
  3. Carefully toss cut up chicken into skillet. (Be careful, as peanut oil can get extremely hot.)
  4. Immediately add enough soy sauce to coat all the chicken. You may add more during cooking as desired.
  5. Cook chicken until thoroughly cooked. If adding teriyaki sauce, add now, and then heat a few extra minutes until piping hot.
toddler hummus dip

Expanding Your Baby and Toddler’s Palette with Dips

One of our favorite things to do with our toddler is introduce new foods and flavors. Sometimes, though, little ones can be hesitant to try something different. However now can be the best time for toddlers to expand their palettes.

The bright colors of vegetables and fruits can entice some of the pickiest eaters to at least have a bite or two. If your toddler loves to dip his foods, preparing some hummus, avocado, or even eggplant dip can be the way to get them to enjoy eating well.

Easy Hummus

toddler hummus dip
Think beyond chickpeas with hummus

You can use this hummus recipe with vegetables, tortilla chips, or pita wedges. You can also adjust and add the recipes to introduce more flavors.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups canned chickepeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini sauce
  • 1/2 clove of minced garlic (you can add more if your toddler really enjoys garlic)
  • lemon juice
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

Preparation

  • Rinse and drain chickpeas thoroughly
  • Put the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin in a food professor
  • Process it until it’s smooth (you can add more lemon juice and olive oil to you preference)

You can store the hummus for about a week in an airtight container.

Easy Eggplant Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Preparation

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prick the eggplant several times with a fork. Bake until soft, about 45 minutes.
  • Allow the eggplant to cool, and scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin.
  • In a blender or food processor, combine the eggplant and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Thoughts on Feeding Picky Eaters

What dips have you made that have been a hit with your picky eater?

Photo Credit:  yummyporky

food and wine pairing

Tips on Food and Wine Pairings

It’s no secret that drinking the right wine while dining enhances the flavor of the dish itself. The trick is to find the type of wine which will complement the dominant elements of a given meal. Basic guidelines by Food and Wine Pairing state that there are determinants to take into consideration before uncorking a bottle of wine.

The dish should first be classified as lean or fatty, mild or flavorful, or acidic or rich. Once established, select a wine which will balance the flavors of the meal. For instance, Indian food with strong flavors may be matched with a sweet and spicy wine.

Wine Folly also gave a few factors to consider for ideal food and wine pairing. One tip is not to pair bitter food with wines which have high tannin content. So before selecting a high tannin M&S wine from the cellar, make sure that the dishes to be served are either fatty or salty.

If wine is to be paired with desserts, the wine should be sweeter, otherwise it will only leave a bitter taste. To avoid drinking flabby-tasting wine, it should have higher acidity than the dish.

According to Wine Mag, the six basic elements to food and wine pairing are acid, salt, texture, fat, sweetness, and bitterness. Acid adds freshness both to the wine and dish. An acidic dish should go with an acidic wine—a tangy salad is perfect with herbal flavored wines. For fried and salty meals, opt for sparkling wines.

Textures of the wine should match that of the food—if the food is light, the wine should be too. Fatty prime steaks will mix well with cabernet-based wines. Desserts which are based on dark chocolate may be paired with sweet red wine. Remember that bitter-tasting food combined with a bitter wine (which usually comes about when unripe grapes are fermented), the unpleasant tastes combine, so it’s best if they aren’t paired.

Photo Credit: wickenden

sweet ipa india pale ale

Honey I.P.A.

I’m not a big fan of most India Pale Ales (I.P.A.) since most are extremely bitter and to me most don’t have offer anything to balance it out.  My husband is a big fan of them so we’ve brewed a couple of batches. We mused around with a few recipes and one that we both enjoyed was from Brooklyn Brew Shop. They have an Everyday I.P.A. that is hoppy and smooth if you can believe that.

Honey I.P.A.

After the first batch was done and gone, we started on another one, but this time we modified it just a bit to make it more of our own. Here’s our take on an I.P.A. It’s for an all grain 1 gallon batch, but you can use a tool like BeerSmith to convert it to an extract recipe or for a bigger brew. sweet ipa india pale ale

Grains

  • 1lb 12oz American 2-Row malt
  • 6 oz Caramel 20 malt
  • 3 oz Victory malt
  • 2 oz Munich malt

I think if you want to go a bit sweeter to balance out the hops you can add some more Caramel malt in it.

Hops

  • Columbus
  • Cascade
For the yeast, you can use Wyeast America Ale II. Brooklyn Brew Shop also recommended Safale S-05, but our local brew shop didn’t have it in their inventory.

 Thoughts on Brewing I.P.A.s

For those of you who love to homebrew, do you enjoy making India Pale Ales? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Photo Credit: Moor Beer Company