Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Italian Chicken Soup

Since Thanksgiving feasts are just a couple days away, I wanted to fix something for dinner that was much lighter. Plus, it's really cold here in upstate New York, and a slow-cooked, warm soup seemed perfect!

I found the base recipe for my soup at The Crepes of Wrath blog. It didn't take too many changes to make her recipe for Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore carb-free and a little more soupy. First, I substituted chicken breast for fatty chicken thighs. I omitted the flouring and browning of the chicken before adding it to the crockpot. Since I wasn't going for a true cacciatore, I didn't need the crispy skin/breading. For the broth, I first left out the wine (which contains fruit sugars that are incompatible with a strict carb-free diet), and then added more chicken stock and a little water. It makes an incredibly easy and delicious soup that can be thrown into a crock pot in the morning and savored in the evening!

Italian Chicken Soup
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 lb of mushrooms (I used about 3/4 of a pre-sliced package)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced (I left this out because I am currently not a fan of green peppers)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (can increase if you like a stronger garlic flavor)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced (I really like carrot in this, and I needed to get rid of an old bag of carrots, so I used 4 small carrots)
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Layer in the bottom of a 5 quart crockpot with vegetables on bottom (carrot, onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms). Then add the can of tomatoes and seasonings (red pepper flake, basil, parsley, salt & pepper). Top with the chicken and then the broth and water.
2. Cover, then cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.
3. Shred chicken with forks before serving.

Carb options
This soup would not only go great with traditional crackers (multigrain Clubs by Keebler-- yum), but tonight for dinner, I made a single serving of polenta and put it in the bottom of the hubby's soup bowl. This gave the soup a creamy texture and the added deliciousness of polenta!

Final Note
We are leaving tomorrow to visit my husband's family for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I won't be able to post again until the beginning of next week. I hope everyone has a wonderful time of friends and family, laughter, joy and love! Enjoy the feasts!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Herbed Roast Pork and Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere

This Herbed Roast Pork recipe came from Cooking Light Magazine (October 2008). They did a wonderful article and recipe collection on the Shakers, and I have found this to be one of the most simple and delicious ways to make a pork tenderloin. I did make one small change to the recipe. The original Shaker recipe calls for 1 1/2 Tablespoons (Tbsp) of butter for the herb "paste" that is rubbed onto the tenderloin. In order to lower the fat, I have replaced the butter with olive oil. Contrary to popular belief, this roast pork can be a quick dinner! This entire dinner plan can be on your table in about 30 minutes.

The Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere is my own creation. Gruyere is a hard, yellow cow cheese from Switzerland. It has a pretty strong, nutty flavor which I think goes perfectly with crisp roasted asparagus. The asparagus recipe is directly following the pork. Place your jelly pan of asparagus in the oven just after removing the pork and roast while the pork rests.

Herbed Roast Pork
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 1lbs. pork tenderloins, trimmed (just cut off any excess fat on the outside of the tenderloins if necessary)
  • cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 475°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Rub oil mixture evenly over pork tenderloins. Place pork on a broiler or roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake in oven for 17 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 155° (slightly pink).
4. Let stand 5 minutes; thinly slice.
Yields: 8 servings of about 3 oz each.

Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere
  • one bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed (bend at the bottom until asparagus "pops". You can do this with each asparagus, or you can pop a few stalks and then cut all others at roughly the same point)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • gruyere cheese
1. Arrange trimmed asparagus in one layer on a jelly roll or other shallow baking pan.
2. Drizzle with olive oil lightly. Toss with hands to evenly coat all stalks.
3. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Toss with hands again.
4. Place into oven (still heated at 475° from the pork!) and roast about 10 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through to loosen the asparagus. Asparagus roasting times can vary, so watch carefully. You want the asparagus to maintain a bright green color, and be a little wrinkled.
5. Using a cheese slicer, or vegetable peeler, shave thin slices of gruyere on top of the asparagus.

Carb options for others
Not everyone is on a low-carb diet. My husband enjoys his breads, and does not need to worry about weight loss, so I like to provide him with the well rounded meal including carbs. When I made this meal, I simply made some crescent rolls (from a can, I know... gasp) in the toaster oven for him.

I hope you enjoy this first recipe! Again, if you have any suggestions for recipes or another section to include (like wine pairings or alternative side dishes?) let me know!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's get cooking

I love to cook. I've always enjoyed helping in the kitchen, and making good meals. Then, in March 2008, I married a wonderful man, and have been able to be a part-time housewife to him. Since then, I've really been breaking out of my cooking comfort zone for meals and other food. I've been baking, grilling, sauteing, chopping and boiling for months now, and I'm REALLY enjoying the process and the product.

However, about six weeks ago, I was given the charge to lose weight by my doctor. I am not morbidly obese, but I could definitely stand to lose 50 or so pounds; and I am facing a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which is best managed by weight loss and maintenance. My doctor gave me a diet plan to follow, which is a low-carb and low-fat way of eating. I began to look online to find various recipes to support my food addiction that fit into the diet. It was incredibly hard! I would find recipes that look good on the surface, but then had some hidden flour or sugar or something that wasn't conducive to my new life style.

Therefore, I began to get more creative. I would take base recipes, and then change them to fit my dietary restrictions. I've now decided to share those. Not only do I plan to share a few recipes (and photos!) a week, but I hope to include posts to encourage anyone else out there looking to make a change in their life. I want to discuss the spiritual and emotional side of food and eating, along with the physical. I am constantly open for discussions and questions, and especially suggestions! If there is a dish or something you'd like for me to de-carb or lessen fat in, please let me know (but also please be reasonable-- there's no chance for a carb-free cake, friends)!

Meet you in the kitchen soon, y'all!