Stuffed Pepper Soup

The other day my sister was hungry for stuffed peppers but she doesn’t like to bite into peppers. We were talking about ways to make stuffed peppers without actually stuffing a pepper. What about stuffed pepper soup!? My husband has the same issue. He likes the taste of peppers in cooked food but to actually bite into a pepper is a no-go.

I found some recipes on Pinterest but to be honest, I put a spin on everything I make. I’m not a recipe follower. A rule follower yes, a recipe follower…absolutely not. So I did find some recipes buuuut I like my own 😉

I’m telling you, this soup is good! So good that the babies and my daughter have put their stamp of approval all over it! Now, the boys eat just about everything, but still they were “yum yum yumming” all over the place and signing “more” every time their brother was getting another bite. My daughter is on the picky side.

Another side note: parents, you’re working too hard if you find yourself making the kids “special kid foods” for meals. They can and will eat whatever you are making if you allow it to become the norm. These boys eat anything we are eating (unless it has dairy as they have a dairy allergy). I don’t make two meals for dinner. I also sympathize with parents of picky eaters. My daughter was a great eater until she was 2, then it went down hill. She’s getting better but still has a meat problem. Lately she has helped me cook which is helping her to feel comfortable around different foods and trying new foods because she’s made them. I’m with you in the trenches, parents. Sure I’m a dietitian and kids should (and will) eat healthy foods but I also understand and believe me, it’s not an easy job being a parent. Don’t make it harder on yourself by preparing “kid foods”…there’s no such thing. Kids can eat whatever you are eating if that is the expectation.

OK back to the recipe. I use grass-fed beef. If you can find a farmer who has a herd of grass-fed cattle, go for it! I’ll get into more of the health benefits of choosing grass-fed over corn-fed in another blog but for now just know that it’s better for you (and the cattle). This recipe also uses tomato soup. I use Campbells because it does not have milk in it (babies have a dairy allergy so we adjust accordingly). It does have high fructose corn syrup but I do not add any other added sugars to this recipe.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound ground, grass-fed beef (90/10)
  • 1 large onion diced (almost to a mince)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 green bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 10.75 oz can tomato soup
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 32 oz beef broth (beef stock would be wonderful as well)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (I used a frozen bag)

Directions

  1. Heat a stock pot or large pot over medium high heat. Add canola oil and ground beef. Cook until beef is almost done and then add the onion and garlic.
  2. Cook until you see the beef is no longer red and then add turmeric, basil, black pepper, oregano, and parsley. Allow this to cook until the onions are almost transparent.
  3. Add red and green bell pepper and cook until they are tender.
  4. Add the cabbage and allow to cook for about 5 minutes until the cabbage cooks down and is tender.
  5. Add quinoa and stir completely through the soup. It doesn’t look like soup yet.
  6. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato soup, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth.
  7. Allow to cook on medium low for 20 minutes.
  8. Add cooked brown rice and allow to cook for 20 more minutes.
  9. Serve with some sprinkled parmesan cheese.
Ground beef with the onions and garlic
Added the peppers and spices
Look at all that cabbage!
Now just let it simmer

  NOTES:

  • This could be a great crock pot recipe. I would brown the beef and then add all of the ingredients to a crock pot allowing it to cook all day.
  • You could use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. You could also make it vegetarian and omit all meat and add lentils or a small bean like black beans.
  • Go ahead and add more veggies. Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, more peppers, more onion, more tomatoes, spinach, kale…go wild!
  • Add some cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, or even jalapeños to the dish. I usually do but since the boys were eating this I laid low (not because babies can’t have spicy foods, because they can…it’s because my boys get heartburn with spicy foods right now).
  • You can use just quinoa or just brown rice, or frankly any whole grain of your choosing. I prefer the blend of both quinoa and brown rice in this recipe.
  • Most of the recipes that I post are gluten free. It’s not on purpose! See how many options you have if you do have Celiac??? You CAN have a flavorful and fulfilling diet without gluten. **Make sure you check the broth, canned soups, and spices for hidden gluten**

I made it more of a mix of stuffed pepper and stuffed cabbage (halupki) soup. Perhaps my next adventure will be Halupki Soup with sauerkraut to add that punch of tang. Who’s with me!? #slovaksunite #easterneuropeanfood #halupkiorbust

Pumpkin Quinoa Overnight Oats

During pumpkin pie spice season I was looking for a warm cereal. I came up with this delightful nutrient packed recipe. Let’s take an in-depth look at all of these amazing ingredients and why they are really really awesome.

Oats – these grains are one of the most researched for their heart healthy benefits. They have been shown to reduce cholesterol. Fiber is the main reason for these be benefits but beyond that they are loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa – this rare grain is considered a complete protein meaning all of the amino acid your body needs is found in those tiny grains. This, along with tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants makes quinoa a super star.

Pumpkin – this gem is loaded with vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Super awesome for your eyes, gut, heart, and immune system.

Cranberries – best known for their urinary tract benefits, cranberries also boast a host of other benefits like being anti-inflammatory, a great source of fiber and vitamin C, as well as tons of antioxidants.

Fairlife brand milk – this is my new favorite find as of recent. It’s ultra-filtered so it has more protein and calcium with less sugar. As a bonus for me it’s lactose free!

Maple syrup – sometimes used in place of sugar…and most famously on pancakes, maple syrup has roughly 13 antioxidants that haven’t been found anywhere else. Along with that this liquid gold has vitamins and minerals. BUY THE REAL STUFF! The fake stuff is corn syrup with coloring…ehh. Pictured above is REAL Pennsylvania maple syrup.

Pumpkin pie spice – I’m hoping everyone knows that this is just a blend of different spices. These spices, however, boast some awesome health benefits. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugars. Ginger is a great cure of nausea plus it shows some pretty powerful anti-cancer properties. Nutmeg has an immune boosting property along with it’s ability to reduce pain. All-spice has tons of gut health benefits. Cloves are a natural anti-septic and anti-inflammatory. See!?! So awesome!

Chia and flax seed – both are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and some protein.

PUMPKIN QUINOA OVERNIGHT OATS

You can really do anything with overnight oats. The one thing you want to remember is that oats double. So if you add 1/2 cup oats (plus the liquid) that makes about 1 cup (this doesn’t count all of the other ingredients you add).

Here’s my recipe and it makes 2 servings of the overnight oats.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup quick oats (you can use steel cut or other regular oats but you’ll need more liquid)
  • 3 tablespoons quinoa (uncooked, it’ll soak up the liquid too)
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (this will add some sweetness so remember that when adding the maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup Fairlife milk (or your choice of any milk variety…I like the protein in cows and soy milk)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (add to your liking but remember that maple syrup is sugar too)
  • 1+ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (again add to your liking, the more the merrier!)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of each chia and flax seeds (if you have one and not the other just add 1 tablespoon of what you have…remember this soaks up liquid too)

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together and let set in the refrigerator over night.
  2. In the morning, microwave and eat! You may need to add more liquid depending on the consistency you like.

Christmas Quinoa

In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.

At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.

img_0012

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.

This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.

One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.

img_0010 img_0008

The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!

img_0018

Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
  • 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
  • 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons

img_0006

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
  2. Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
  3. Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

img_0021    img_0022

NOTES:

  • This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
  • You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
  • Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
  • Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!

FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.

Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!

Souper Easy Wellness Soup

Lame title, I know but it truly is super easy!

It’s fall and where I live, the leaves are gorgeous! Vivid colors that pop out of the green landscape and the cool weather that makes you want to eat warm soup. Here’s a picture taken on a walk last week. Simply beautiful.

img_8778

Listen, eating well and homemade cooking does not have to be hard, time consuming, or tasteless. That’s the theme of this blog. I want to show you how to eat well, simply; without having to buy rare ingredients at a specialty store, recipes that take minutes, and taste delicious! This recipe is what I call a “dump” recipe. I dump all of the ingredients into the pot with very little prep time. Easy peasy!

I have spun this soup recipe many ways but I must admit this one may be my favorite. It’s vegan which means it is entirely animal product free! I wanted to do it in October because you could also call this anti-cancer soup or anti-inflammatory soup but wellness soup fits more peoples wants/needs.

You cannot get too many veggies. If I’m missing a vegetable that you usually use in a soup or stew, add it. If there are leftover veggies in your freezer or refrigerator and you want to use them, throw those kids into the pool! Same thing with herbs and spices…use what you have and what you think will taste good together. You can’t go wrong with veggie soup, add what moves you!

To quote my dear friend and fellow dietitian Heather Tressler “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” meaning that when you bake something you probably should follow the recipe or it may not turn out well. Cooking however, is an art meaning that it is up to interpretation. Add, subtract, make it your own piece of art!

Let’s get down to it because I know you want the recipe!

Amanda’s Wellness Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or more up to you)
  • 1 medium chopped onion (shortcut: use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you want to really spice it up)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (surprise ingredient)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 32 oz frozen soup vegetables (microwave for 5 minutes in a glass bowl)
  • 7 oz frozen corn
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage (you can shred yourself (about 3 cups) or use already shredded
  • 7 oz can of mushrooms (or any type of mushroom you like)
  • 5 oz frozen chopped kale
  • 1, 32 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat, pour canola oil in and follow it up with garlic and onion. Allow the onion to cook until for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar and allow the vinegar to cook down slightly (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add bay leaves, basil, oregano, lentils, and quinoa. The pan will be fairly dry but that is ok! Allow the lentils and quinoa to toast for about 1 minute before pouring the veggie broth.
  4. Place the soup veggies, corn, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and diced tomatoes into the pot.
  5. Allow soup to cook down (I had mine in the pot all day on low/simmer) or put in a crock pot on low all day.
  6. It’s ready to go right after all of the veggies warm up but I like to let the flavors marry for a few hours.

5 Quick Nutrition Lessons (from this recipe)

  1. Frozen veggies are just as awesome as fresh. In fact when vegetables are not local/seasonal then frozen is actually better than fresh. After veggies are picked they begin losing antioxidants within hours. Frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen soon after harvesting which saves those amazing antioxidants. So this winter go for frozen vegetables!
  2. Turmeric is amazing (as you notice I have it in almost all of my recipes). It doesn’t work as well by itself so you need to make sure that you are pairing it with black pepper, garlic, and/or ginger for the anti-inflammatory properties to come alive. It’s also not as effective in supplement form. Cook with it! Enjoy that subtle smoky flavor in most of your cooking!
  3. Herbs and spices help improve the flavor of food without having to add a ton of salt. I do add some salt (not a lot by most standards) and let people shake it on if they prefer. We use way too much salt as a society so sometimes it takes a while to get used to the flavor without a ton of it in our food. If you (or someone you cook for) has high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and some other diseases you may have to cut back. Reduce the salt and increase those delicious herbs and spices!
  4. Lentils, quinoa, peas, and corn are used as protein in this dish. You don’t need meat in order to eat protein…at all. All of these are actually less expensive than meat but more nutrient rich. So eating well doesn’t have to cost more, especially when you use these plant sources as protein. This soup is a meal in itself…protein, starches/carbohydrates, and vegetables all wrapped up into one delicious dish!
  5. This is a great soup for cold and flu season as well. It has been shown that garlic and onions are natural antibacterial and antiviral foods. They can help your body fight off these nasty viruses and bacteria! Remember when mom made chicken soup for a cold? There’s something to be said about that especially if she used garlic and onion. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is a building block for your immune system and cayenne pepper has also been shown to ward off illness.

img_8816

Basically you cannot go wrong with this soup! From chronic disease prevention to common colds this soup has you covered!

I had leftovers that I wasn’t able to eat so there will be delicious leftovers in a few week!

img_8831

I’d like to hear from you! What would you add to this soup to make it even more healthy and delicious?

 

Healthy Kitchen Shortcuts

I have 3 kids, 4 and under. Don’t be alarmed, two of those are twins. My goal as a wife-mom-dietitian is to provide the best food I can for my family. That means making healthy, homemade meals in between diapers, spit up, and toddler problems.

Cooking dinner tonight I came up with this blog post. You can read about me in my bio section but I like to get as fresh and as local as possible. But let’s get real, sometimes we are looking for healthy AND quick. Taking shortcuts has been my go-to since having children.

Here are the 5 quick and healthy items I keep in my kitchen always:

  1. Minced garlic. Yep, I buy the garlic in the glass container and I LOVE IT! Almost everything I cook has garlic in it. Any time I need a clover or two I get in my refrigerator, grab a spoon and boom, it’s done! Fresh garlic is delicious but when I need a time saver (which is daily at this point) I go with it!
  2. Diced frozen onions. Similar to the garlic, I could grow my own onions, dice, and freeze them and someday I will. But right now I need diced onions without having onion juice all over my hands when the babies are screaming. Frozen diced onions it is! This only works if you’re cooking, if you are making a dish that isn’t cooked (summer salsa, salads, etc) then use fresh onions.
  3. Frozen veggies of all types. When I’m making vegetable soup in the winter I buy frozen. If I have any fresh then of course they go in the pot but frozen is so much better than fresh in the winter. All year long I keep frozen broccoli and cauliflower bulk bags in my freezer. Corn isn’t a veggie but that’s also a staple frozen food that we keep on hand.
  4. Lemon and lime juice concentrate. There’s nothing better than fresh lemons or limes but in a pinch, concentrate can be a recipe saver. You can use the concentrate in any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice so it works well in fish and chicken dishes, salsa, sauces, and tea.
  5. Quick grains like quinoa, farro, and brown minute rice. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and farro (pronounced fare-oh) are whole grains packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients. All three of these power packed grains cook completely in about 15 minutes unlike regular brown rice or other grains that may take about an hour to cook. To flavor these up toast them in a dry pan first and then cook with vegetable or chicken broth or stock.

I’ve learned, after having twins, that sometimes shortcuts are A-OK and you have to be A-OK with the shortcuts. Cooking healthy doesn’t have to mean preparing a gourmet meal, using tons of ingredients or ingredients that you have to find at a specialty food store, or spending hours in the kitchen.

Final thoughts: We unfortunately do not live on a cooking show set where there are tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs/spices, and any ingredient we so desire. Sometimes we need shortcuts to make our lives easier especially when cooking for our family day in and day out. Use some shortcuts to make your life simpler!

Challenge – if you are overwhelmed with cooking and menu planning for your family, figure out which shortcuts would work best for you and run with it! Share your shortcuts with us!