On the Run: Easy Sweet Pepper Chicken Soup

IMG_4547

Within less than 30 minutes you can have a delicious, made from scratch bowl of chicken soup to the table. (and only one pot to clean!) This soup is full of immunity boosting vegetables to help ward of flu and colds so prevalent this time of year.   Quick-cook barley makes the soup filling for growing bodies (and cheap) and replaces nutritionally empty white-flour noodles.

Did you know that colored bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges? If you dice the peppers, picky eaters will happily eat.  I have “pepper haters” in my house, but no one complains when this soup is served!

Most grocery stores sell pre-diced peppers and onions to make this soup even faster. It takes me about 5 minutes to dice mine in the food processor. If you do not eat grains or are strict gluten-free you could replace the barley with lentils or with brown rice. This recipe is easily doubled.

Easy Sweet Pepper Chicken Soup

Serves 4.
  • 3 diced red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers IMG_4545
  • 1 sweet onion, diced (or 1/2 bag frozen)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 2 large chicken thighs (~1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle (smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes + 4 cups water (or use prepared broth)
  • 1 cup quick cooking barley
In a soup pot, sear chicken breast in coconut oil over med-high heat.
Add chopped vegetables and sauté 6-7 minutes, until soft. Add spices and stir.
Dissolve bouillon in water, and add to pot. Stir in barley.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover pan. Simmer 10 minutes.
Remove and dice chicken breast, return to pot and stir to distribute evenly.

2-Ingredient Healthy Chocolate Frosting

IMG_4635IMG_2766Warning, this is highly addictive and exceptionally easy to make. Excellent for cupcakes, cookies, cakes, fruit, and fingers, by the spoonful….

2-Ingredient Healthy Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 can organic full-fat coconut milk, chilled
  • 3 ounces (or 3/4 cup) 60% dark chocolate, melted

Make sure your coconut milk has chilled at least 4 hours.  Open carefully and remove the cream from the can.  Save the leftover water for a smoothie.

Add milk to a large bowl or blender and whip until creamy. Slow pour in the melted dark chocolate.  (I melt my chocolate in a glass bowl for 10 minutes in a warm oven)

At this point you could add some sort of sweetener, if you aren’t used to dark chocolate.  I have successfully added stevia and honey (in separate batches, not together.)

Cover and chill overnight, or 8 hours.

Add to frosting bag and pipe, or do it the old fashioned way, with a butter knife.

 

Grain-free Dairy-free Low-Carb Double Chocolate Cupcake

Healthy cupcakes you don't have to feel guilty eating!

Healthy cupcakes you don’t have to feel guilty eating!

Yes, this cupcake has it all.  I make these for my son to take to school when other kids bring in the whoknowswhatcrapisinthis cupcake for their birthdays.  Which seems to happen at least once a week.  And I’m all for celebrating birthdays.  But not with white flour, processed sugar and wild children.  This cupcake will satisfy even the sweetest tooth, and leave you without the dreaded crash or hangover.

And the frosting…oh the simple super healthy frosting…. just the frosting is enough to make the cupcakes!!

The secret ingredient is coconut flour!  If you haven’t discovered this amazing “flour” yet, do it now!  It is mildly sweet, the result of removing most of the milk and fat from the coconut flesh.

It is low in carbs and high in fiber, relative to most other flours.  For 1/4 cup, coconut flour has 120 calories, 6 grams net carbs, 10 grams fiber, and 4 grams protein.  The same amount of whole wheat flour has 110 calories, 19 grams net carbs, 4 grams carbs and 4 grams protein.   While cup for cup they may seem comparable – however the best thing about coconut flour in recipes is that you only use a tiny bit.  Usually 1/3-1/2 cup per recipe.  Compared to the 1-1/2 to 2 cups of wheat flour traditionally used, coconut flour really shines.  Not to mention it is grain free, gluten free (and far superior to those starchy rice gluten free substitutes), and super easy to use! No special gums or starches here.

I buy my coconut flour from Vitacost (psst use this link to get $10 off your first order!)  – I like RawSecret best but I have also bought from Tropical Traditions.

Low-Carb Double Chocolate Cupcake, aka The Healthy Kid Cupcake (that doesn’t taste healthy)

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or grapeseed or butter, for no coconut flavor)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F.

Mix dry ingredients. In a blender or with hand mixer blend wet ingredients.  Slowly pour dry mix into wet and beat to remove clumps.

Divide evenly between 12 lined cupcakes.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until tops are dry to the touch and toothpick removes cleanly.  Take care not to overbake, or it will taste eggy.

Cool completely and frost with chocolate frosting.

Heart-Beet Valentine Dip

IMG_2681

This shockingly pink colored dip is loads of fun for a festive Valentine’s Day dip for lunch or to accompany a dinner. It is slightly sweet, slightly savory and very creamy.  I used fresh roasted beets although I’m sure canned would work fine.  The hands on time is short after you roast the veggies, and worth it. Beets rock!

Creamy Beet Valentine’s Dip (or Anytime!)

  • 2 cups cooked white beans (1 can)
  • 1-1/2 cups beets (1 can)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp ume plum OR red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

If you don’t have almond meal, simply grind raw almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder to a powder. 

Rinse beans and beets well. Place beans, beets and garlic in large sheet of aluminum foil. Gather sides to form a pouch, closing the top.

Cook 45 minutes at 300F.

When cool enough to touch, peel beets (if fresh), and garlic.

Carefully place into blender or food processor with vinegar and almond flour and purée. With blender running, slowly drizzle olive oil until incorporated. Add additional vinegar or salt to taste.

Pair with organic tortilla chips, crudités or on light rye flat bread.

Sweet Potato Strawberry Smoothie

IMG_0173

Winter takes a toll on your skin.  Load up on beta-carotene to promote glowing skin with sweet potatoes and carrots. Regular consumption of beta-carotene rich food gives your skin a beautiful golden glow.

Did you know that just one cup of strawberries have 141% of the daily recommended amount Vitamin C? Wow!  Strawberries help stabilize blood sugar and when eaten regularly, provide anti-inflammatory benefits.  It’s strawberry season, perfect for Valentine’s Day, so eat up!

We drink this easy to make smoothie at least once a week for lunch or dinner. The taste is sweet, and it’s a good way to get your kids to eat their veggies with no attitude.  There are  many things to do with leftover baked sweet potatoes, so load up and cook an oven full.

Sweet Potato Strawberry Smoothie

  • 1/2 baked sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 carrot, or 5 baby carrots
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, optional
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • sweetener, to taste

If you don’t have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix) consider removing the skin of the sweet potato. However I recommend leaving it on, as it contains the majority of the fiber and many trace minerals.

Blend sweet potato with milk, juice, and carrots. Add in 1/4 cup walnuts, protein, if using, and puree smooth.

Add frozen strawberries and blend  until smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust to taste with sweetener (I usually add a few drops of stevia or honey).

Drink and glow.

Strawberry Beet Granola

IMG_4639

Bright, hot pink granola. Veggies and fruit in your breakfast cereal… Just in time for Valentine’s Day breakfast.  And it turns the milk pink!  Beets provide a beautiful, amazing red-pink hue and loads of benefits, including the phytonutrient betalain, which provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

If you aren’t used to eating beets, use less beet and more sweetener.  If you love the earthy, healing taste, go for it and add more beets.  The amounts listed are what I used.  5 out of 6 liked this in my household.

UPDATE: As I wrote this, the entire batch of granola disappeared.  The comments were “Tastes like cake pops”. Okay so 6 for 6 like it.

IMG_4641

Strawberry Beet Granola

  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (or grapeseed)
  • 1 small beet, roasted and peeled (can use canned)
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • 5 cups thick rolled oats

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a high powered blender or food processor puree dates, maple and oil. (If your dates are hard and dry, soak them in hot water 10 minutes before adding).IMG_4632

Add strawberries and beet and puree.  I roasted a bunch of beets in the oven earlier this week. Simply wrap in foil and cook in oven 350 for 1 hour. The skin slides right off.  I assume you can use canned beets, though I’m not sure how the flavor will compare to fresh. Just rinse well.

Pour over oats and stir to combine.

Spread on a lined baking sheet and bake 45-55 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until desired crunchiness is reached. NOTE: granola will harden as it cools.

Strawberry Chia Breakfast Pudding

IMG_4621

We avoid dairy whenever possible as we all have various reactions.  This is the closest, healthiest alternative. Not only is it super healthy, it is creamy, thick and delicious, full of healthy fiber and omega-3s to fill your belly and fuel smart brains.  You can use any fruit you like, but strawberry is by far our favorite!  Quick, easy, and simple.  This is also great for a Valentines breakfast or snack.

Many of my clients enjoy this plain for breakfast – it is amazing for weight loss, as the fiber and fat give a full satisfaction to the belly, but the healing properties wipe toxins away and clean the intestines.  One woman ate this religiously for breakfast for 6 months as she dropped 30 pounds. Nice side effect, eh?

Strawberry Chia Pudding

IMG_4619

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup  unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk)
  • sweetener, to taste (I use 1/2 dropper vanilla stevia)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit

Stir chia seeds and milk together. Stir in sweetener.

Wait 10 minutes. Stir again, breaking any clumps. Add frozen fruit.  Place covered in fridge overnight.

In the morning,  toss in the blender to puree. You can add more fruit if you want. You really can’t mess this up.  Eat as is, or top with crunchy homemade granola or cocoa crunchies.

IMG_4626 IMG_3564

Sweet Potato Brownies

Although they are satisfying and sweet, you won’t feel sluggish and tired after eating sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a special remedy for those who are overweight but have strong cravings for homey, rich treats through the holidays and changes in seasons. When you eat sweet foods, your circulation and metabolism become sluggish. Dessert spices like cinnamon and nutmeg rev up your circulation and heart rate, helping you burn off (or keep off) unwanted calories, and flush your system of any fat residues. Almond butter and pure maple syrup are rich and sweet, but are significantly lighter, healthier alternatives to wheat flour, butter, and white refined sugar, and may be consumed in moderation.

Sweet Potato Brownies

  • 1 medium baked sweet potato, with skin
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional, for more cake-like result)

Bake sweet potatoes as desired. (I like to use leftover sweet potatoes from a previous meal) Cut the hard ends and spots off the sweet potatoes, leaving the skin on. Cut into chunks.

In a food processor, puree sweet potato chunks until broken down, scraping sides as needed.

Add the eggs, maple syrup, spices, cocoa and almonds – puree on high speed until thick and smooth.

Gently smooth into lightly greased 9×13 glass baking dish.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center removes cleanly.

;

On the Run: Quinoa Veggie Lettuce Wraps

 

One of the biggest challenges I face when cooking dinners is how to satisfy the male “meat lovers” while still adhering to my 99% plant based  diet.  This dish is one that makes everyone happy, is simple and quick to prepare, full of vegetables, and FUN!

I buy grass-fed, pastured organic meats for my family, as they are nutritionally superior for many reasons, as well as kinder to both the animals and the environment. Adding vegetables and red quinoa to lean ground meat not only saves money by “stretching” the meat mixture (depending on the amount you add, you can double your meal!) but also reduces the fat content, adds important fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients not present in plain ground beef.  Plus, red quinoa is a little scary looking to kids on its own, but mixed in beef, it fits right in!

I take the time to dice my vegetables small, so there are no complaints from the crew. This meal I saved the extra time and leg work by using a pre-cut veggie mix from Trader Joe’s. I gave it a few whirls in the food processor to mince the veggies.  Although I offer specific amounts of spices, seasonings, and vegetables here, this is really just a blank template to use whatever you have on hand.

If you are plant-based like I am, reserve quinoa and vegetable mix in a separate bowl before adding the meat, or allow older family members to make their own mix.  If you consume soy, you could add a soy-based beef crumble, or textured vegetable protein (TVP).

Quinoa Veggie Beef Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 lb lean grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 cups mixed vegetables, diced (onion, carrot, red cabbage, radish, leeks, celery, etc)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup unhulled sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • romaine lettuce leaves, washed and de-stemmed

 

In a fine strainer, rinse quinoa several times. In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook about 10 minutes. Remove from stove.  You do not want to fully cook the quinoa, rather cook “al dente” for a firmer, chewier texture.

Meanwhile heat coconut oil in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté 10 minutes.  Stir in dill, sesame seeds, garlic, paprika, worcestershire and soy.  Set aside in a large serving bowl.

In the same skillet, add ground beef. Cook over medium high heat until cooked thoroughly.

Combine vegetables, quinoa, and meat in desired portions and serve with large romaine lettuce leaves (remove the bitter white stems).

Spread 2-3 spoonfuls mixture down the center rib, roll, and eat!  Ketchup face – optional.

 

Apple Pumpkin Granola (low fat, low sugar)

Capture the essence of fall with cinnamon laced apples and pumpkin granola. The sweetness of the apples and the creamy pumpkin combine beautifully to reduce the amount of added sugar and fat necessary. With added nutrients from walnuts and sesame seeds, this breakfast will fill hungry stomachs for hours. Fruits veggies low sugar and low fat? That’s one yummy breakfast.

Healthy Apple Pumpkin Granola

makes 18, 1/2-cup servings

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (can sub any sweet squash, or mashed sweet potatoes)
  • 2 medium sweet apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • stevia, optional, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 8 cups rolled oats, not instant (I use Quaker)
  • 1/2 cup diced walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sesame pumpkin seeds

this recipe has been updated to avoid some baking issues

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a food processor combine apples pumpkin, almond butter, maple syrup, spices, and stevia. Whirl 45-60 seconds to combine thoroughly. Add apples and pulse to chop. You don’t want to overprocess the apples or they will release too much moisture.

In a very large bowl add oats, walnuts and seeds. Fold in pumpkin mix and stir to coat evenly.

Divide evenly between 2 parchment lined cookie sheets and spread to cover pan. Bake 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Bake additional 10-15 minutes for crunchier cereal. Note: granola will harden as it cools.

Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.