Creamy Veggie Soup (without the cream!)

I think I’m really getting the hang of this soup thing, you guys! I love coming up with new combinations of veggies and flavors that complement each other to whirl up into delicious soups. I am also LOVING my Vitamix more and more. I can whip up these soups on the soup setting and the result is a creamy, velvety soup that doesn’t have any dairy in it at all. It’s so mind boggling; every time I take a bite, I can’t believe there’s no cream or dairy in the soup.

The only thing I need to start working on is making bigger batches. Just when I think there’s going to be enough, it only makes about 3 servings, maybe 4 depending on how much you eat in one bowl.

So far this little makeshift soup cleanse we’ve been on has been very successful. We are getting all our veggies in and we still feel full after a bowl of soup. And the hubby and I are both down to below our pre-vacation weight!

 

Creamy Veggie Soup (without the cream!)

½ red bell pepper, cut in half

½ orange bell pepper, cut in half

1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise

1 poblano pepper

1 cup frozen corn

3 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 cup vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the peppers and zucchini on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

When the veggies are done, place the bell peppers and zucchini in a blender. Put the poblano in a zip top bag and seal it. After about 5 minutes, remove the poblano and peel the skin off. It should just pull right off. Cut it in half (carefully because it will be hot), and remove the stem and scrap out the seeds. Add the pepper to the blender.

Add the rest of your ingredients to the blender and let her whirl until done.


Taste to see if you need to add more salt.


I had some avocado I needed to use up so I topped mine with avocado. I didn’t do it this time, but it would probably be yummy to add more corn pieces as well, to off-set the texture a little bit.

Cauliflower Mash

Who’d have thought that cauliflower was so versatile?! I mean, Fried Rice? Check! Pizza Crust? Check! And now a legit mashed potatoes substitute? BIG FAT CHECK!

I’m going to start by saying that I am a big fan of mashed potatoes. I love them. They are so warm and creamy and just plain delicious. You can serve them as a side dish to pretty much anything. The only thing is, while the potatoes themselves are pretty healthy (full of vitamins and nutrients), what makes mashed potatoes so good is also what makes them not as good for you. We’re talking butter at minimum here. Plus milk, maybe some cream cheese or sour cream. The calories definitely start to add up. Plus, they are quite carb-heavy.

For me, the person who adores mashed potatoes so much, to say these are a totally legit substitution, is saying a lot. I feel like I could have served these at Thanksgiving and no one would have known they weren’t potatoes.

AND THEY ARE SUPER EASY TOO. They take less than 10 minutes to make. These definitely fit my “Trifecta” criteria: Easy, delicious, and healthy.

Cauliflower Mash

1 bag of Steam-in-bag cauliflower

Garlic salt (to your own preferences)

2 tablespoons greek yogurt cream cheese

½ tablespoon butter

Heavy pinch of shredded parmesan cheese

Steam the cauliflower according to package directions. It will usually give you a range (like 4-5 minutes). I did the longer time to make sure they were really soft.

Dump the bag into a blender or food processor and the garlic salt. I used quite a bit, but you can use however much you like. Start off on the low end because you can always add more if you need to. Also, add the greek yogurt cream cheese. I’ve talked about this before and it is so good. And way less fat and calories than regular cream cheese. Plus it gives a punch of protein. Finally, add the butter (it’s not that much, but it helps give the dish a more “traditional” mashed potato flavor) and a heavy pinch of parmesan cheese. The cheese is optional, but I had it out already for the kids’ dinner, so I just put in a little bit.

Run your blender or processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This only takes a minute or two. I would recommend stopping it at about halfway and scraping down the sides.

At this point, give it a little taste test to see if you want to add anything else. If not, then you’re done! I actually let it blend a little bit longer than I needed to at a high speed to help whip in some air and make them a bit fluffier.

I swear, this is my new favorite side dish! I can’t even wait to have them again!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I have a friend from high school who is now the owner of a very successful bakery. Seriously, her stuff is amazing. If I were her, I’d probably weigh about 1000 pounds just from samples of her dreamy cookies and cupcakes. Which is probably why she’s such a health nut.

It’s really funny, actually, because even though she runs a bakery, she is so in tuned to her and her family’s health. Her Instagram photos from her bakery account are chock full of cupcakes and cookies and chocolate and frosting and mini pies and sweets galore. Her personal Instagram is chock full of her cute kids and all the healthy, organic, good-for-you foods you can imagine. It’s quite the dichotomy. 

The food she makes always looks so yummy, so I try to remember and make mental notes. She recently posted about making chocolate peanut butter ice cream from an organic food blog she reads. That was all I needed to hear. Chocolate and Peanut Butter? Ice cream? And, knowing my friend, good for you? I’m in. 

I finally had a free afternoon, so I decided to try a couple new recipes I’d been eyeing: honey roasted chickpeas and this ice cream. The roasted chickpeas were a total bust. I thought they were going to turn out a lot different than they did and I just really didn’t like the texture. So, sorry, no crispy chickpea recipe from me. But then I made this ice cream, which was super easy and turned out SOOOOO Good!! And my kids loved it! 

You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, but even if you don’t have one, you should think about getting one. They have lots of varieties that run the size and price range gamut. Homemade ice cream just blows the store-bought stuff out of the water. It had been awhile since I’d made some myself, and doing this made me want to make it more often. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for the kids. They love watching it come together.

This recipe is adapted from Deliciously Organic 

1 can coconut milk (I used lite, but I’ll bet if you used full fat, it would be even creamier)

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup honey

½ cup smooth peanut butter (I used the all-natural kind)

In a saucepan, mix together the coconut milk, cocoa powder, and honey over medium heat until combined well and the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from heat and add ½ of the peanut butter. Mix into the coconut milk mixture until well combined.  


Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture through it into a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly and put in the fridge for about 2 hours.

When ready, freeze the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. This wasn’t in the recipe, but while the ice cream was mixing and getting thick and ice creamy, I drizzled in the rest of the peanut butter in an attempt to get a peanut butter swirl in the final product. I think I put it in too soon because it just ended up getting mixed into the ice cream, so it was delicious, but not swirly.

If you choose not to do this, just add all the peanut butter at the same time in the earlier step.

Pour the finished ice cream into a container and let it set up in the freezer for about an hour or so before serving. It will still be soft.

The kiddos LOVED it!

If you are going to serve it the next day, I would suggest taking it out of the freezer for a little bit before you plan on serving it because it will get hard. Based on the texture from it being in the freezer overnight, I would think this mixture would make excellent popsicles.

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

It never really occurred to me until a few years ago that food can be trendy. I figured food is food, right? But, alas, just as with overalls and midriff shirts, food also comes and goes with the times. 

Cauliflower “Fried Rice” is one of those current food trends. I can’t say for sure, but from my extensive research on the subject (meaning about 10 seconds doing a Google search), it would appear that cauliflower was the “It Girl” of the 2015 food world and that star-status has not yet faded out. 

As anyone who knows their way around Pinterest can tell you, there are about a trillion and one ways to use cauliflower to make it more flavorful and fun. Which is good, because on its own, it’s pretty gross (in my opinion). You can make pizza dough out of it, “tater” tots, mashed “potatoes”, alfredo sauce, and “fried rice” (like I’m going to show you). You can even cut it into steaks and grill it. I always viewed cauliflower as basically white broccoli, but it’s actually a lot more versatile. It is a really healthy substitute for carbs and starches. And when prepared correctly, really delicious. 

I tried making this “fried rice” a while back and it was not good. I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember what ingredients I added or didn’t add. I just know that I tried it and it was no bueno. I just figured I must not like cauliflower after all and I should just cut my losses. 

Fast forward to this week. Ever since my nutrisystem slim down success, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching clean and healthy eating. I feel like maybe I know a little more about the world of healthy eats now so I thought I’d give the “fried rice” another go. Besides, I really like the buffalo cauliflower so that sort of negated my theory about not liking cauliflower altogether. 

Like I said, I don’t remember what I did or didn’t do the last time, but this time I made sure to write it all down because it was SO FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS!! I made this twice this week. My hubby loved it. I made too much and ended up eating it as my main meal (which is fine with it being pretty much all veggies), but it would be a good side or entrée. I haven’t tried making a big batch to reheat later because I’m not sure it would reheat very well, but if any of you have any experience with that, please let me know. 

The best part? This is so easy to throw together. Trader Joe’s makes PRE-RICED cauliflower! Another reason Trader Joe’s is the greatest place on earth. They have it in the refrigerated section and the frozen section, so I just grabbed a few of the frozen bags and keep them on hand. There are a few other things I want to try with this riced cauliflower that hopefully I can sneak into the kids’ food.

This recipe is more a method than a hard and fast set of instructions. You can change up the veggies. You can add meat or seafood. It can be enough for a couple entrées on its own or four entrees with added chicken or shrimp (for example). Or it could be divided up even more as a sidedish. It’s entirely up to you and your tastes. The amounts are eyeballed, so again I say, use what you want and however much of it you want.

2 tablespoons oil

2 eggs, beaten

½ zucchini, diced

½ leek, diced

½ cup baby carrots, diced

½ cup frozen peas

1 to 1 ½ cups riced cauliflower (pretty much whatever looks good with the amount of vegetables you have in your pan)

½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

*Tip: Since this is basically a stir fry, it will cook fast over high heat. Make sure all your veggies are prepped and ready to go before you start.

In a skillet, put ½ tablespoon of your cooking oil. I used the garlic infused olive oil from Trader Joes, but you can use regular olive oil, or canola oil, or even coconut oil if you want. Add your eggs and scramble. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of your oil and the veggies. Start with what takes the longest to cook. I started with the carrots and then added the zucchini and leek. Sautee until soft.

Add your cauliflower and peas and cook until just about soft. Add the egg back in and then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together and continue cooking until the cauliflower is nice and fluffy (like rice) and cooked through. You can taste it at this point and more of whatever you want.

This is a fun dish to play around with so try it with the flavors you like. Any tips? Pass them my way!

Black Bean Brownies

Let me guess. The title of this post made you think I was crazy? Thought so. I thought I was crazy at first too, but I promise you all, Black Bean Brownies are totally a thing. 

I’m not a huge health food stickler and I am about as far from a granola mom as you can get, but I’ve been really looking into eating cleaner and removing unnecessary things from my life. That includes my food. I figure, if we (my family and I) eat cleaner and healthier the majority of the time, it won’t be as bad when we do go get a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza every once in a while.

So I began my research and in doing so discovered black bean brownies. At first I was super skeptical. I mean, how good could they be? They are made out of black beans, for crying out loud. But, I figured if they worked out, I’ve figured out a way to make brownies with no flour or butter and get extra fiber and protein into my kids. 

I’m so glad I stuck with it and made the brownies. They turned out delicious! And my kids loved them! They don’t even know they are full of beans!

I couldn’t really find any one recipe that I loved so I made my own. The whole thing makes 16 brownies at 160 calories a piece. There is still regular sugar in the brownies, but I’m not really very familiar with sugar substitutes yet. I did do a little research and you don’t really save too many calories on something like Agave syrup vs. Regular sugar. Everything in moderation.

I would definitely recommend making these. They are perfectly cakey and chocolatey. You would never guess they had beans in them. They are a great way to get added nutrients into your day, especially the kids. 

Black Bean Brownies

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 eggs

1 T coconut oil

¾ cup sugar

½ t salt

1 t baking powder

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (you could use cocoa nibs too and save even more calories)

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips until smooth.

Gently stir in ½ the chips and pour into an 8×8 greased baking dish. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips and bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Slim Down Update & Buffalo Mac n Cheese

It just came to my attention that I haven’t updated my slim-down here recently! I guess after I was done with my food reviews, I didn’t really know what else to say!

I will say that it has been 10 weeks and I have lost 17 pounds! Sooo crazy, right?!? I can only wonder where I’d be if only I hadn’t kept putting this journey off.


One of my favorite side effects of all this healthy eating and working out, is when I do have an “off” day or night, my body is in a mode that it won’t ruin everything. My hubby and I went to Vegas last weekend with a couple friends to see Garth Brooks (amazing!) and when I got back, I was only up 1.2 pounds and it came off very quickly when I got back. Not hating that!

I now have two other friends who have joined me on doing Nutrisystem. One has been doing it for a little less than a month and has lost 10 pounds and the other one just started.

Now that I’ve been doing this for awhile, I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with ingredients and food combos. I’ve been doing a lot of research on eating better and clean and I can’t wait to be “on my own” soon. I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m excited.

One of the combos I have discovered is adding Frank’s Buffalo sauce to the Nutrisystem Mac n cheese. It is So. Good. I love it! I’ll bet you could even make mac n cheese on your own (substituting white cheddar) and then add the sauce into it. It would be delicious! 

Slim Down: Week 4

So there was a bit of a delay in this week’s post. If you noticed, sorry about that. If not, then, you should be fine. :0) I tend to type these posts up in spurts of downtime at work and I was not feeling well Wednesday or Friday so I didn’t have anything I’d already written and I really didn’t want to re-write anything. Better late than never, right?
I’m really starting to notice the weight loss in myself. The way my clothes are fitting, how I feel when I sit or lay down… there’s just less of me and that’s a good thing. I also feel healthier. The working out and the vegetables that were missing before are really making a difference.


I’ve also noticed that when I do cheat, it’s easier to only cheat a little and it doesn’t completely ruin all my hard work. One night, my hubby and I went to celebrate losing 10 pounds each and we split our favorite cheeseburger. Because of the portion control we’ve been experiencing, I was perfectly content with only half of the burger (it is a big burger). I was only up .2 pounds the next morning and it quickly melted off by the day after that.

Also, this past weekend, a friend and I went to see The Little Mermaid concert at The Hollywood Bowl (so, ridiculously amazing, but that’s another post for another time), and we picnicked with a group of people. I didn’t eat terribly, but it was definitely not in the Nutrisystem plan. The next morning I weighed in and I had maintained my weight.

Progress report: 4.6 lbs lost this week* for a total of 12.4 lbs lost since May 1. (*Well, a week plus a few days…)

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal Cranberry Bites: I really liked these! They were really delicious! At first I didn’t think there’d be enough, but I felt like it was a good breakfast.


Dinner:

  • Meatballs in Tomato Sauce: The package calls this “spicy” tomato sauce, but it wasn’t spicy at all. It tasted like regular marinara sauce. That being said, this was very good. I made some spaghetti squash to go with it (since it is part of the unlimited veggies) and it made for a really good meal. Oh! About the spaghetti squash: I’ve always roasted my spaghetti squash. You know, cut it half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, put it the oven. I don’t really like doing it this way because 1. Cutting uncooked hard squash (like spaghetti or butternut, for example) terrifies me. I swear, I’m going to stab myself one of these days; and 2. I never felt that the cooked squash was really a good noodle substitute. The squash remained a bit crunchy.


Well, all that changed when I made this, dear readers. Are you ready for this? I used my slow cooker!! I know, I know… I’m probably really late to the party on this one, but let’s just pretend I’m not and I just blew your mind with this amazing kitchen discovery. Deal? It was perfect. All you have to do is poke some holes all over the squash (no stabbing threat!), put it in the slow cooker with 1-1/2 cups of water, and cook for 5-6 hours on low. You cut it in half after it is cooked (much easier) and the squash inside was so soft! It was life-changing I tell ya.

  • Turkey medallions with mashed potatoes: This was really, really good. I loved it. The turkey was good. The gravy was good. Even the mashed potatoes were good. I made some veggies to go with it and it was a really filling meal. I’m definitely adding more of these for future orders.


Dessert:

  • Cheesecake Bar: Not bad! A lot of these bars I find to be good flavor-wise, but really chewy. Like, my-jaw-hurts-when-I’m-done-with-it chewy. This was soft and creamy in the middle and actually did taste like cheesecake. Two thumbs up!
  • Chocolate cupcake: Really good. It was almost like a Hostess cupcake, but without the cream filling. The only thing I didn’t like about it is that it was frozen and you just have to let it sit out to thaw. Usually when I’m ready for my dessert, I’ve just been grabbing it and eating it. If I had known, I would have taken it out of the freezer sooner, but it didn’t take too long to thaw, so it wasn’t that bad. Just good to know for next time.

  • Apple pie: One my guiltiest of guilty pleasures for food are those little handheld pies you get at the grocery store for, like, 50 cents and they never expire. You know what I’m talking about, right? This was a healthier version of one of those. I would have liked a little more of the apple filling—and maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream—but it was really good.