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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: vegetable

hot cup of steaming tomato soup being held in gloved hands

Eating soup to take the chill off during a cold winter day is not its only benefit. Enjoy it regularly to help manage your weight. Studies based on adults who participated in a National Health and Nutrition Survey suggest that there’s a relationship between body weight and soup consumption — meaning weight goes down with more soup intake. Research conducted at Penn State finds that eating low-calorie soup before a meal (think appetizer course) may help you reduce the total calories you consume during the meal — perhaps by 20 percent.

Losing weight can be a challenge because you may feel hungry or deprived when you need to reduce your food intake. Soup can help by filling you up without too many calories and by offering you an option to order at restaurants when you go out to eat. According to the Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fiber and protein are filling nutrients, so choose a soup with ingredients such as vegetables, beans and lean protein.

Soup will not help you lose weight if it is high in calories, so avoid soups such as cheddar cheese or broccoli and cheese soup, as well as cream-based soups, such as cream of mushroom, cream of tomato or white clam chowder. If you order soup in a restaurant and it comes in a bread bowl, save yourself hundreds of calories by refraining from eating the bread bowl. Also skip croutons and other high-calorie toppings that often accompany soup courses. The soup recipes below will fill you up, but won’t add a lot of calories to your daily menu. All of the recipes are quite easy to pull together.

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Vegetable Bean Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut into small dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 onion, cut into small dice
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut into small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon, dried
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon, dried
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, discard seeds, cut flesh into small dice

Directions

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except the tomatoes, green beans, white beans and herbs. Simmer over very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

soup1

Italian Butternut Squash, Kale and White Bean Soup

Italian Kale: Lacinato kale (also called cavolo nero, literally “black kale”, in Italian and often in English) is a variety of kale with a long tradition in Italian cuisine, especially in Tuscany.

This soup comes together very quickly.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz Italian kale chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the broth, squash, rosemary, pepper and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer uncovered until the squash is just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the kale and cook while stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, adjust seasoning and serve.

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Meatball & Rotini Pasta Soup

This soup makes a great dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 oz whole-grain or brown rice rotini pasta
  • 8 oz extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey breast
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 whole jarred roasted red peppers 
(packed in water), drained and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus
 additional leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cook pasta according to package 
directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine beef, egg whites, oats, parsley, fennel and pepper flakes. Mix well and shape into 24 one-inch balls.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil 
on medium-high. Working in batches, add meatballs and cook, turning frequently, for 
7 to 8 minutes, until cooked through and brown.

To the empty pasta pot, add the broth, red peppers, oregano and salt; bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Add cooked pasta and meatballs and cook until just heated through.

Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle cheese on top and garnish with 
additional oregano.

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Winter Chicken & Barley Soup 

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/3 slivered almonds, toasted (toast by heating over medium heat in nonstick frying pan, stirring often, until golden brown)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Add oil to a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic and sauté until mushrooms are lightly browned (about 7 minutes).

Stir in carrots, diced chicken and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the barley, cover the saucepan, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour or until the barley is tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in parsley and almonds. Add pepper and salt to taste.

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Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup with Parsley Pesto

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and diced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 turnips or baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pint Brussels sprouts, cut in quarters
  • 3 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the onions, carrots, celery, turnips or potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until caramelized, stirring and shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking and to make sure the vegetables cook evenly.

While the vegetables roast add the vegetable broth and chopped tomatoes to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for 15 minutes and then keep warm.

To make the pesto:

Place the parsley leaves, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese in a blender and puree until smooth.

When the vegetables have roasted, remove and transfer them to the hot vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Pour the soup into serving bowls and serve with a spoonful of parsley pesto.

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gardenfreshcover

Take a trip to your local farmers’ market and check out all the fresh fruits and vegetables it has to offer. You will quickly see all the possibilities that you can make for dinner. In fact, I have to stop myself from buying more than I can cook in a week – it all looks so good. Here are some easy dinner suggestions to use up what you bring home from the market.

Dinner 1

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Grilled Chicken With Fresh Basil Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 25-30 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken cutlets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates

Chop basil (will yield about 6 tablespoons) and tomatoes coarsely.

Place tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the basil in food processor (or blender); process and set aside.

Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

Combine in a shallow bowl: 1 tablespoon of the oil, 2 teaspoons of the garlic and remaining 4 tablespoons of basil. Add chicken and turn to coat evenly. Marinate 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Place chicken on the grill and discard any remaining marinade. Close the lid and grill for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to accurately ensure doneness.

To the processed tomato-basil mixture add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar and remaining garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse 2-3 times or until just blended.

Serve sauce with the chicken.

Couscous with Peas, Lemon and Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain couscous
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup cooked fresh peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Stir in the broth and lemon zest. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the couscous and peas and remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fold the parsley and lemon juice into the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Dinner 2

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Garden Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup small onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable broth or two 14.5-ounce cans vegetable or chicken broth
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shelled peas 
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add fennel and onions; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.

Add green beans and carrots; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, undrained tomatoes, wine and Italian seasoning.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes. Add peas and simmer about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve in individual soup bowls.

gardenfresh1

Corn and Ricotta Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears fresh corn-on-the-cob, kernels removed from the cob
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup self-rising unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

Directions

In a medium-sized bowl, combine corn, basil, ricotta, eggs, flour and a pinch of black pepper.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.

Carefully add spoonfuls of the corn mixture to the hot pan.

Cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove cakes to a serving platter when they finish cooking.

Season with Kosher salt.

Serve with low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt on the side, if desired.

Dinner 3

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Grilled Lamb Chops with Vegetable Bulgur

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup Bulgar wheat
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 lamb loin chops, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning, divided
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups small spinach leaves 
  • One 7 ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and coarsely chopped

Directions

In a medium saucepan combine broth, bulgur and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Stir 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning, the spinach and roasted peppers into the bulgur mixture. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Turn off one side of the grill for indirect cooking.

Trim fat from the meat. Brush the chops with olive oil and sprinkle the meat with 1 teaspoon of the lemon-pepper seasoning.

Start the lamb on the indirect side of the grill. When the meat reaches 110°F for medium-rare on an instant read meat thermometer, moved the chops to the hot side of the grill.

They’ll quickly sear and come up to the desired temperature of 120°—130°F. Let them rest for 10 minutes off the grill on a platter before serving.

To serve: Divide bulgur mixture among 4 dinner plates. Top each with a grilled lamb chop.

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Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 3 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt  
  • 1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions

Halve cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick pieces.

Place the cucumber slices in a colander set over a bowl and toss with the salt; let stand 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, dill, vinegar and pepper.

Remove cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Add to the bowl with the yogurt dressing; toss to combine and serve with the grilled lamb chops.

Dinner 4

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Pasta with Shrimp and Seasonal Vegetables

Bread sticks would be great with this dinner.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium wild caught shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil,  divided
  • 8 ounces fresh, small, thin green beans, trimmed
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz linguine pasta

Directions

Cook the pasta according to directions for al dente. Drain.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and Italian seasoning to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more. Add the cooked pasta and the sauce. Toss gently and serve.

Dinner 5

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Grilled Sweet Potato Packets

Ingredients

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 (24 x 12-inch) sheet nonstick aluminum foil
  • Half of a 10 oz bag of frozen sweet potato fries (such as Alexia brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grates. Turn off one of the burners for indirect cooking.

Place peppers and onions in the center of the foil sheet. Top with the sweet potatoes, seasoned salt, pepper and cheese.

Bring up foil sides; double-fold the top and the ends to seal the package.

Place on the grill (seam side up) over indirect heat; grill 30 minutes or until the fries are hot and the cheese is melted.

Grilled Steak with Artichoke Topping

Ingredients

  • 1 (7.5-oz) jar marinated artichokes, undrained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Combine artichokes, onions and garlic in a small skillet. Heat on low and, then, keep warm until the steaks are cooked.

About 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, plan on cooking the steaks on the direct side of the grill.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the direct side of the grill and cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 3-4 minutes more minutes or until the temperature of the meat reaches 125°F on an instant read meat thermometer for medium rare.

Remove steaks from the grill and place them on a serving platter. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and top with the warm artichoke mixture.


springsoupcover

Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!

Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.

A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.

You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.

If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.

A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.

The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

springsoup4

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
  • Salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.

Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.

Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.

To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.

If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.

Makes 5 quarts.

springsoup1

Spring Vegetable Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.

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Creamy Asparagus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.

springsoup2

Vegetable, Fennel Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.

springsoup5

Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

6 servings.

Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.

Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.


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Soup is a great way to make the most of seasonal produce. Vary your choices throughout the year and stock up on what’s in season. Not only will it taste delicious, it will work
out a lot cheaper than buying vegetables that are being grown out of season. Making a big batch of soup, even if you’re only cooking for yourself, is a great dish to keep on hand.
You can keep a batch in the refrigerator for light suppers, lunch or freeze portions  for the future.

It’s that time of the year again: the season when rich, hearty soups add some much needed warmth and comfort to the long winter months.

Sweet Potato and Bean Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 cartons (32 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb. (3 – 4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil or parsley, coarsely chopped

Directions

In a large pot over high heat, pour in broth and add the sweet potatoes, onion, celery, tomato paste, paprika and oregano and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in beans and chickpeas. Cover and simmer until beans are heated through, about 3-4 minutes.

Gently stir soup until well mixed and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve.

For creamy soup, purée a portion of the soup in the processor or with a hand immersion blender and stir well before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

soup2

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced
  • 1 pound bag of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 6 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 head of kale, chopped
  • 32 ounces chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat add broth, onion, celery, carrots and potatoes.

Add garlic powder, fresh cracked pepper, a generous amount of sea salt and enough water to cover the vegetables.

Cook for about 30 minutes and then stir in the tomatoes and kale. Add sea salt and pepper, as needed.

Cook another 10 minutes and remove from the heat.

Winter Soup with Sausage, Leeks, White Beans and Rapini

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Ingredients

  • 2  leeks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1  dried bay leaf
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound pork or turkey sweet Italian sausage with fennel
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2  large bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) woody stem ends removed, and chopped (6-8 cups kale, collards or any hearty leafy greens would also work here)
  • 1 – 15-ounce can cannellini beans, or 2 cups beans made from scratch
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions

Wash and trim the leeks. Slice the tender white ends into thin rounds to make 1 cup.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, onion, carrots, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over medium-low heat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, brown all sides of the sausage. Remove the sausages from the heat and slice into ½-inch-thick rounds.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the chicken broth and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add the rapini and sausage rounds. Cook until both vegetables and sausage are cooked through, about 8 more minutes of simmering.

Add the beans to the pot. Turn off the heat and let all the ingredients rest. Taste for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to your liking.. Fish out and discard the bay leaf.

Scoop the stew into large shallow bowls and scatter chopped parsley over the top. Pass around bowls of grated Parmigiano and red pepper flakes.

Tuscan Herb White Bean Soup

soup4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 container (32 oz.) vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pkg. (4.5 oz.) Baby Kale or any greens to your liking
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Heat oil in large sauce pot.  Add garlic, onion, carrots and herbs.  Cook over medium-high heat until onion and carrots are just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add vegetable broth and beans; bring to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.  Add baby greens and cook until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chicken Risotto Soup

soup5

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces trinity mix (fresh diced onions, bell peppers, celery)
  • 8 ounces sliced baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1 (32-ounce) box chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 10 ounces cooked chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions

Preheat olive oil in a large saucepan; swirl to coat. Add trinity mix, mushrooms and black pepper. Crush garlic into the pan using a garlic press. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables begin to brown.

Meanwhile, chop spinach coarsely. Stir in rice and spinach. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring often, until spinach wilts.

Stir in broth, half-and-half and wine (in that order); bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; set aside.

Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl until well blended. Stir chicken into soup. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring continuously, until blended and soup begins to thicken. Cook 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally, to heat chicken and blend flavors.


Soup can be anything you want it to be – quick, slow-cooking, hearty or light. You can also experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans and meats to make delicious meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and soups make wonderfully satisfying meals. Here are some tips for making great tasting soup.

1. Start with a Delicious Liquid Base

Soups are mostly water, but often include broth or stock, wine or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink. The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. The best to use is homemade but many delis, supermarkets and butchers sell freshly made frozen stock that works well, too. If you buy store- bought broth, dilute it with water (4 parts of broth to 1 part water) and find a brand sold in boxes instead of cans to avoid a slight metal taste. When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol taste. For cream or milk-based soups, check the expiration date to be sure you are using fresh dairy products.

2. Sweat the Aromatics

Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.

3. Use the Right Tools

A large and heavy pot with a cover

A powerful blender or hand immersion blender

An ample soup ladle.

4. Salt in Layers

Canned and prepared soups and broths are known to be high in sodium. You want a satisfying homemade soup that is full of flavor but not overly salty. Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you are cooking them. If you’re cooking meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before adding more salt.

5. Include Something Fresh

You’ve used great ingredients. You’ve cooked and salted them properly. Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt or pesto. A hint of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep melded flavors in the rest of the soup.

6. Garnish at the End

Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper. The best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.

  • Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a pureed vegetable soup )
  • Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht )
  • Bitter on savory (herbs on a lentil soup)
  • Salty on sweet (diced prosciutto on sweet potato or squash or carrot soup )

Fall Soups

Take advantage of the fall vegetables that make great additions to soup:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mustard Greens
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Squash
  • Turnips

Tuscan Peasant Soup with Pancetta

Yields 3-1/2 qts.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 -1 cup small-diced pancetta (about 4 oz. or 4 thick slices)
  • 4 cups large-diced Savoy cabbage (about ½ small head)
  • 2 cups medium-diced onion (10 to 12 oz. or 2 small)
  • 1-1/2 cups medium-diced carrot (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 28-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 7 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 2 15-1/2-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained (about 2-1/2 cups, drained)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 4- to 5-qt. Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp (the oil will also be golden brown), about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and with a slotted spoon or strainer carefully transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the chopped cabbage and salt lightly. Cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until limp and browned around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat again and transfer the cabbage to another plate.

Put the pot back over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and the vegetables are browned around the edges and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, 8 to 9 minutes.

Add the last 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the fresh rosemary and the ground coriander. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stir together, and cook the mixture 2 to 3 more minutes.

Return the cabbage to the pan and add the chicken broth. Stir well, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes to infuse the broth with the flavor of the vegetables. Add the beans, bring back to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary and let rest a few minutes.

Taste the soup and add lemon juice to brighten it—you’ll want at least 1 teaspoon. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Serve the soup hot, garnished with the reserved pancetta crisps, the toasted breadcrumbs and the grated Parmigiano.

Fall Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped, thick stems discarded
  • 2 or 3 cabbage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch chard, preferably white, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini, with their liquid. (If using canned beans buy low sodium.)
  • Water

Directions:

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pot and turn the heat to medium.

Add half the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, which takes about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and repeat the process, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

Add the parsley, cabbage and chard and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is softened but not browned.  Add the tomato paste and stir.

Mash half the beans and leave the remainder whole. Add this mixture to the pot, along with any bean cooking liquid and enough water to cover the ingredients completely.

Continue cooking, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as necessary, until all the vegetables are very tender and the soup is hot. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Roasted Butternut Soup with Apples and Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock 

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the oil.

Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Set aside some of the bacon for garnish.

Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.

If you’re using a roasting pan that can be used on the stovetop, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat. Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat.

Add the stock and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes. You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up with a potato masher. Garnish with bacon before serving.

Chicken Kale Soup with Pesto

If you are pressed for time, you can substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto.

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces), cut into quarters
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 6 ounces baby kale or spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can low sodium cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot, bell pepper and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly salt the chicken and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add kale (or spinach if you cannot find baby kale in your market) and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan cheese and basil in a food processor (a mini processor works well). Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water if needed, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sauteed Leeks

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped and thoroughly rinsed
  • 6 slices Pancetta, diced
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

In a wide, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (do not brown), about 5 minutes.

Add cauliflower, potato and 2 tablespoons butter; stir to combine. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add leek and diced pancetta, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 cups broth and a pinch salt; cook at a very gentle simmer for 15 minutes. Strain liquid into pot with cauliflower; reserving pancetta and leeks for garnish.

In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, carefully purée cauliflower mixture. Return purée to pot, if using a blender, and gently heat to warm through. Adjust seasoning. Add additional broth to thin soup to your liking. Ladle soup into bowls, top with pancetta and leeks and sprinkle with parsley.

 


lowcarb-diet

Your body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. Sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re also known as blood sugar (glucose). From there, the glucose enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin. Some of this glucose is used by your body for energy, fueling all of your activities, whether it’s going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.

The theory behind the low-carb diet is that insulin prevents fat from breaking down in the body by allowing sugar to be used for energy. Proponents of the low-carb diet believe that decreasing carbs results in lower insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately helps you shed excess weight and reduce risk factors for a variety of health conditions. A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates — such as grains, starchy vegetables and fruit — and emphasizes dietary protein and fat. Many types of low-carb diets exist, each with varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.

When most people think of Italian food, their minds immediately leap to dishes which are overwhelmingly carbohydrate –- pasta, pizza and bread. But lots of Italian dishes are great choices for people who must watch their carbs or who are just looking for a lighter dinner option. Finding them is easier if you start to “think like an Italian”.

Low-Carb Italian Eating – Dos and Don’t

Italians are known for shopping daily for the freshest and choicest produce, seafood and meats, often with a fairly simple preparation, so as not to hide the wonderful fresh flavors. So cook with lots of healthy fresh ingredients.

Use olive oil. This type of fat, as well as the antioxidants in olive oil, are part of the reasons for the healthfulness of the “Mediterranean Diet.”

Italians eat their main meal slowly over several small courses.

Minimize the following which are high in carbs: pasta, bread, risotto, polenta, bruschetta, crostini.

Be aware that fried items, such as a calamari appetizer, will usually be breaded.

Appetizers (Antipasti)

In Italian, “pasto” means “meal,” and “antipasti” or “antipasto” is “before the meal.”

Antipasti are usually made with meats, seafood and vegetables, such as salami, cheeses and marinated vegetables, such as artichokes and peppers.

Gamberoni (shrimp) is a common antipasto dish, either cold or hot, often sautéed with garlic and wine.

Grilled, roasted or marinated vegetables.

Steamed clams or mussels

Soups

In Italy, soups are often served instead of pasta. Many Italian soups are low in carbs, even the soups with beans or pasta in them often only have small amounts of these per portion. Since there are so many different soups, the exact carb count depends on the cook, but generally you’ll want to go with thinner soups. Seafood soups are a good choice and another good choice is Stracciatelle, an Italian egg drop soup. Also, look for soups with lots of vegetables.

Salads (Insulata)

Salads are almost always a good bet, if you avoid croutons or other bread. An Italian salad could contain many fresh vegetables –- and, of course, olive oil. The classic caprese salad has mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.

Meats and Seafood – Secondi

This course  is the main concern for someone eating low carb. Most of the meats and seafood on an Italian menu have little starch or sugar. Avoid breaded meats, such as chicken or veal parmesan or milanese.

True Italian tomato sauces have little or no sugar, although many pasta sauces in the United States are loaded with added sugar. Read the labels on the jars or make your own.

Desserts

In Italy, meals often end with fresh fruit..Needless to say, rich desserts are high in carbohydrates.

Pasta

There are many low-carb alternatives to pasta. Many vegetables are bland enough to use as a “blank canvas” for pasta sauces and most of them are far more nutritious than pasta ever thought of being. Take the classic, spaghetti squash. Cup for cup, it has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti (even whole wheat). It’s delicious with pesto and other pasta sauces.

Veggies that serve as good “beds” for pasta sauces:

Zucchini or other summer squash, shredded, julienned or just cut into ribbons with a peeler.

Cauliflower mashed

Cabbage – shredded and sautéed with sliced onion.

Use your imagination – many vegetables have compatible flavors with sauces, for example, green beans with pesto sauce or eggplant strips with marinara.

Low Carb Antipasto

Asparagus Rolls with Prosciutto and Basil Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup lowfat ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound medium asparagus spears, about 16 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 slices thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Trim two inches from ends of asparagus. Have a medium size bowl of ice water ready for chilling basil and asparagus. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil with salt. Add basil leaves to water and blanch until leaves brighten, about 20 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into ice water. Remove and squeeze out excess water. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until ends are soft when pinched. Remove from water and chill in ice water to stop cooking.

Place blanched basil leaves into blender or food processor. Add ricotta cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Lay out slices of prosciutto on a cutting board. Place dollop of ricotta mixture on one end of the prosciutto slice. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Arrange two asparagus spears at the edge of each prosciutto slice and begin rolling around the asparagus until the end of the prosciutto is reached. Arrange on platter and serve.

Italian Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped carrot or squash
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 3 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 15 oz can tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups swiss chard or spinach or other dark leafy green – cut into thin strips
  • 10 oz frozen green beans (or fresh)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 cups low salt stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot, put oil, onion, and celery. Cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables are softened.

2. Add garlic and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or so and add the peppers and carrots. Cook another minute or two and add the spices. Stir and cook until fragrant — another minute or so.

3. Add tomatoes and stock, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add frozen beans and chard and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the beans are cooked.

4. Adjust seasonings.

Low Carb Second Courses

Italian Grilled Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts halves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

Directions:

To grill: Preheat grill. Skin chicken breasts and rub with black pepper to taste.

Blend basil, olive oil, butter, garlic and parmesan cheese using an electric blender or processor at low speed until smooth.

Baste chicken lightly with mixture.

Grill over medium coals basting during cooking time with more basil sauce.

During this time add the rosemary branches to coals for added smoke flavor.

Grill 10 minutes on each side or until chicken is done when the temperature reads 160°F. on a meat thermometer.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with Zucchini Lasagna, recipe below.

Low-Carb Zucchini Lasagna

This low-carb lasagna uses zucchini “noodles” instead of pasta noodles. The trick to making this work is to take some of the water out of the zucchini first by salting the “noodles”. Then they firm up and are more noodle-like, instead of mushy. This recipe can be made with or without meat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of zucchini
  • salt – enough to lightly salt the zucchini – between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups jarred pasta sauce (any variety with no added sugars) or homemade
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated 

Directions:

1. Slice the zucchini into strips, lengthwise. The strips should be about 1/8 inch thick.

2. Put the zucchini strips into a colander and sprinkle the salt on them. Toss to coat. Put the colander over a bowl to catch the juice. After 10-15 minutes, toss the strips again so that the brine will more-or-less evenly coat the strips. Drain for an hour.

3. While the zucchini is draining, cook the meat. Then, combine the ricotta, eggs, and basil or parsley.

4. Spread the zucchini strips on paper toweling or a cotton tea towel to take away most of the surface liquid.

To Assemble:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Put 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, and combine the meat with the rest of the sauce.

2. Begin layering by covering the sauce with a layer of zucchini. Then cover the zucchini with about one third of the ricotta mixture, one third of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat, only arrange the zucchini strips in the other direction, e.g. if in the first layer the strips are lined up along the length of the pan, for the next layer line them up across the width of the pan. Alternate again for the third layer. After the third layer, finish with the Parmesan cheese.

3. Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. (Note, if you refrigerate the lasagna before baking, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook an additional 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.)

Makes 8 Servings.

 

Meatballs and Eggplant with Fresh Mozzarella

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound 96% Lean Ground Sirloin
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar tomato sauce or homemade marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel eggplant and slice it into 12 circles. Sprinkle evenly with salt. Place eggplant in colander in the sink for 15 minutes.

While eggplant drains, mix ground sirloin in a large bowl with onion, garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, Parmesan, egg and almond flour. Mix thoroughly and shape into 12 meatballs.

Slice mozzarella into 12 thin pieces.

Rinse eggplant well with cold water. Squeeze dry by pressing down on eggplant in the colander and spread on kitchen towels to dry. Place eggplant into a 9×9-inch square baking pan and spread with 1/3 cup tomato sauce. Place meatballs on top of eggplant slices and pour remaining sauce over all. Top each meatball with slice of mozzarella. Bake in the oven 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately. Serve with Italian Marinated Vegetable Salad, recipe below.

Italian Marinated Vegetable Salad

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

Vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms (cut in half if too large)
  • 1 cup half-moon-sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup half-moon-sliced yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips
  • 1/2 cup marinated, quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted

Italian Marinade:

 Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon thinly-sliced fresh basil leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish

Equipment: 1 large stock pot with submersible pasta basket

Directions:

Make the Vegetables: Fill the stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice and salt. Fill the pasta basket with the broccoli rabe, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini and squash. Submerge in the boiling water and cook, covered for 2 minutes. Remove the basket and refresh the vegetables under cold running water. Drain well.

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and mix with the pepper strips, artichokes and olives.

In a blender, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix on medium until completely blended. While the motor is running, slowly pour in the oils in a steady stream to make a smooth dressing.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Add the basil and toss well. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Arrange on a decorative platter garnished with fresh basil and lemon wedges.

 

 


Nothing beats the winter chill like a steaming bowl of soup. Soup can be filling and also budget-friendly, since it can last for weeks or months in the freezer. Let the soup recipes below warm your cold bones. Soup doesn’t have to be rich and creamy to be satisfying, though. The soup recipes here include recipes for a vegetable soup, a chicken soup and several other easy soup recipes that are healthier versions of their more traditional counterparts. I have also added recipes for homemade broth, if you are so inclined.

Here are a few tips to help you add flavor to your soup recipes. These tips will help take bland tasting soups and turn them into delicious, full flavored soups.

Use fresh ingredients at their peak of flavor. Many make the mistake of using old or leftover ingredients, especially vegetables, to make soup. The basic soup vegetables needed for starting soups are, onions, carrots, leeks, celery, sometimes green and/or red bell pepper, parsnips and garlic. Of course you can add other vegetables depending upon your soup recipe.

Homemade broth can really make a difference in how your soup tastes. Soups need bones. Unless you are a vegetarian, this is important to develop a flavor base. You need a flavorful broth or stock and soup bones are key to making a flavorful broth. I save bones from steak, chicken or roasts, etc., in my freezer for this purpose. If not, you can buy soup bones or meat parts that have bone attached. You can buy a whole chicken and keep the non-meaty parts like the neck or back for soups. Chicken wings or a turkey carcass also make a delicious soup stock. Beef shanks make excellent beef stock.

Roasting the bones in a hot oven first also adds more flavor and you do not need to add fat to brown them in the soup pot. Delicious vegetable broth can be made by roasting the vegetables first.

Fish bones are needed for a good fish stock, even shrimp shells will work for this type of stock.

Remove Fat From Chilled Broth

An advantage to making the broth ahead of time, is that the broth can be chilled overnight and, the fat that accumulates on the top of the broth, can be removed before making the soup.

Use herbs and seasonings. Find good fresh, flavorful salt free seasonings. Experiment with different herbs and spices. Try different chilies (they range from mild to hot) and, they are especially good to add to bean soups. Adding freshly ground black pepper can also make a difference and increase flavor in a soup recipe.

Take your time and let good flavorful soups simmer for a few hours or use a crock pot. Make plenty and enjoy delicious, healthy soups even more the next day. Also, put some in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner.

Stock Vegetables

Easy Method for Making Homemade Broth for Soup

Vegetables do not need to be peeled – just wash – peel and all. Use these broths in the recipes below. Of course, you can use canned broth, if you do not have time to make the broth.

CHICKEN STOCK

Roast 2 lbs. of chicken bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of chicken stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

SHELLFISH STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of shrimp or lobster shells or fish bones in the oven at 325 degrees F. for 40 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of fish stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

VEGETABLE STOCK

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a roasting pan add 4 carrots, 3 onions halved, 2 leeks, 3 stalks of celery, 2 shallots and 4 tomatoes cut in half. Roast for 45 minutes. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of vegetable stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

BEEF STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of beef bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of beef stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

Winter Soups

Potato and Kale Soup

Collard or mustard greens can be substituted for the kale.

Servings 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium canned
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, root ends trimmed
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2. In a heavy stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a bowl; lightly mash with a fork (or use an immersion blender). Return mashed vegetables to the soup pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in kale, a handful at a time. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Stir in the reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Apple Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, large, peeled and diced
  • 8 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 small onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable broth or low sodium canned
  • 1/2 cup Marsala (optional)
  • 2 ounces dried apples
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche or Greek yogurt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Place the diced vegetables and fresh apples on a baking sheet and toss with the walnut oil, honey, rosemary, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Roast, turning often, until vegetables are softened and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Combine the vegetable broth, Marsala, and dried apples in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; simmer for 20 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables.

Immersion Blender

4. Working in small batches, puree the ingredients in a blender; (or use a hand immersion blender in the soup pot) and transfer to a saucepan. If the soup is too thick, thin with hot water or vegetable broth.

5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle a little creme fraiche or yogurt over the top of each serving and swirl with a skewer or a knife. 

Easy Minestrone

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, medium-sized, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low sodium canned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red potato, large-sized, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves or Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta (whole wheat, if possible)
  • 15 ounces white beans, canned, drained and rinsed
  • 2 zucchini, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed or a bag of baby spinach
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Pour in broth and water. Add potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. Add orzo and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 5 minutes. Add beans and zucchini and continue to cook, partially covered, until the vegetables and pasta are tender, about 8 minutes.

3. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season the soup with vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with Parmesan.

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Serves 8

To make a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth and substitute quartered button mushrooms and/or cubed firm tofu for the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups homemade chicken broth or low sodium canned, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 small chicken breast (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced or other greens of choice

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook about 8 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Add remaining 7 1/2 cups of broth, water, rice, chicken and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 35 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

3. Remove bay leaf and stir in kale. Continue cooking just until kale is wilted and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Bean and Cabbage Soup

A thick, simple soup for a chilly afternoon, this dish is easy to make and tastes even better a day later.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red or white beans (1/2 pound), rinsed and picked over (or use low sodium canned beans)
  • 2 quarts water or homemade chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 head cabbage (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 1 – 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each parsley, thyme, a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Directions:

If using canned beans skip step 1.

1. Combine the beans and broth or water in a large saucepan or pot. Discard any of the beans that float. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Season to taste with salt. Do not discard bean cooking water.

2. In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until tender, five to eight minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant, and add the cabbage and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for five to 10 minutes until the cabbage has wilted.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste and the red pepper flakes or cayenne, and continue to cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture smells fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add more so that they’re just covered. Add the bouquet garni, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The beans should be soft. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, passing grated Parmesan, if desired, to sprinkle on.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for four days in the refrigerator. The soup also will keep for that long and can be frozen.



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