Monday, October 25, 2010

Turkey Chili with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

I read Real Housewives star Bethenney Frankel's Naturally Thin over the weekend and came across this recipe for a turkey chili which I thought sounded really good. I make an amazing chili in the winter using my mom's ground pork-and-beef tried-and-true recipe, which is hearty and delicious and full of flavor, albeit high in fat and calories. I tried to make a turkey chili a few years ago using a recipe from Shape, but it came out rather bland and unappetizing (waaaaaay too many vegetables for my liking). So I thought I'd give this a go.

I made a lot of changes to this recipe since the ingredients listed in her book made one serving (who wants to go to the trouble to make one serving of anything, besides maybe a sandwich?), and added some of the spices and herbs that go in my mom's recipe. So, here is my variation on hers!

Turkey Chili with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground turkey breast (what I got with the supermarket came with a bit more than a pound, so I used all of it)
28 oz. puréed canned tomato sauce
1 zucchini, diced
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Bring oil to medium heat in a large soup pot. Sautée onion and garlic until onion is translucent, then add celery and carrot. Cook for another minute or so, then add chli powder and cumin. Cook for about a minute to bring out the flavor of the chili powder and cumin, then add 1 red bell pepper, diced, followed by the ground turkey breast, breaking up the pieces of turkey as you go. Allow the turkey to cook for a bit, browning, then add the tomato purée.

Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes and add the diced zucchini. Cook for about 20 minutes, add the pinto beans, allspice and oregano, and cook for at least 20 minutes, longer if you have the time. This is almost as delicious as my mom's super fatty traditional chili!

Spinach, Tomato and Chickpea Stew

I made this the other week to have on hand for lunch and dinner, and I think it's one of my healthiest, cheapest and easiest recipes to prepare. I originally found the recipe in a cookbook I borrowed from a friend, and I can't remember the name of the book! So please, don't sue me. I add chicken to this to bulk it up, and it makes about 3 servings, possibly 4 if you're eating a salad along with it or another side. I like to top if with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese if I have it on hand. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make it at any time of the year, substituting fresh or frozen ingredients depending on the time of year (baby spinach and cherry tomatoes instead of frozen chopped spinach and canned tomatoes, for example). Which means that if you keep the frozen ingredients on hand, this is a quick and easy dish to prepare when you've got nothing else in the house.

Spinach, Tomato and Chickpea Stew

4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion or 1/2 white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 2 tsp sweet paprika
pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 package (10 oz) frozen spinach or 4 cups baby spinach
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, cored and diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
sherry or wine wine vinegar to taste

Cook the chicken thighs, about 20 minutes, either on the stove or in the oven. Remove from heat and cool.

In a pot, heat oil to medium and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent, then add paprika, cayenne and coriander. Add spinach and tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, and add chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes. While chickpeas are cooking, remove chicken from bone and shred. Add to the stew and simmer for an additional 5 - 10 minutes. Add a bit of sherry or white wine vinegar (just a dash or two) and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Minestrone Soup

I may not have created a truly perfect Minestrone, but this recipe I'm slurping down on a cool fall day has come pretty darn close.

It's based off a recipe from Simply Recipes, one of my favourite food sites out there, in terms of sheer simplicity and wholesome dishes. But I played with a couple of things, in part because I couldn't be bothered to track down the salted pork it calls for (plus I find sometime too much pork in a soup dish to be rather unappetizing). The only thing I might do differently in the future is to use a bit more white beans; I personally am a big bean lover and would like to have even more floating around in the soup. But that small point aside, this soup is hearty and bold, with just a hint of smokiness coming from the bacon used in the onion-celery-carrot base. Delicious, and yields so many servings, I have lunches for at least 5 days and 2 servings tucked away in the freezer.

Minestrone Soup
(makes about 8 servings)

1 1/4 cup Great Northern beans, soaked over night and rinsed (about 1/2 lb, could use even more if you love beans like I do)
6 cups water or chicken or beef stock (I used 2 cups water and 2 packets of Herb's Ox beef broth seasoning)
1 bay leaf

2 strips bacon, diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, cored and cut into thin strips (about 1/4" thick and 1" long)
1 15 oz. can Italian whole tomatoes, chopped
1 potato, diced
1 zucchini, diced
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 rind from a block of Parmesan cheese (about 2" long and 1" thick)
Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving

In a large saucepan or stock pot, combine beans, water or stock, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour.

In a separate stock pot, render bacon over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add celery, carrot, cabbage, tomatoes (and juice), potato and zucchini. (I add these as I'm finished chopping each one in sequence, allowing each to cook a little before adding the next ingredient, putting the lid on to allow the cabbage in particular to begin steaming.)

Add 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used vegetable) and cook about 20 minutes. If you have a chunk of Parmesan cheese on hand, chop off the hard rind and drop it into the broth. It helps the soup to thicken and adds wonderful flavor, plus is a great way to use a typically unused piece of the cheese!

Towards the end of the 20 minutes, transfer about half the beans and liquid into a blender and purée (do this in small batches as hot liquid in a blender expands and can cause quite a hot mess). Add the puréed bean mixture into the soup, along with the remaining unblended beans and liquid. Simmer for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, adding any additional herbs you like (the original Simply Recipes recipe calls for parsley, which I omitted because I didn't have any on hand).

Serve with Parmesan cheese. I had some Italian sausage in the freezer that needed to get used up, so to the unfrozen servings, I cooked the sausages, blotted them with paper towels to get rid of some of the excess grease, and added them to the soup as well for a little additional sustenance.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lemony Lentil and Spinach Soup

This is one of my old standby recipes, something I like to make when the weather is just starting to get cold, but also when I feel like going very healthy and very cheap. I first started making this recipe in Spain -- before leaving to go to the English teaching program in Barcelona, I tore a bunch of recipes out of some issues of Shape magazine I'd purchased during the previous year, and set to work trying out a variety of healthy dishes. Which, looking back on it, was kind of an accomplishment, since a lot of the ingredients were hard to find in Spanish supermarkets. But not this recipe. Lentils are a Spanish staple, and frozen spinach and lemons were not hard to come by. As the years have gone by, I've added some chicken meat to the dish to make it a bit heartier; Shape's original recipe called for pairing the soup with a poached egg, but it's a lot of work to go through that every time you want to eat a lunch. I've brought this in for a work lunch countless times, and as it's on the lighter side of food, have often paired it with a 1/2 cup of lowfat cottage cheese and piece of fruit to help make it a little more substantial. Did I mention it is a breeze to make and pretty easy to clean up? Here you go. Cheap, healthy as can be, easy, and no mess. Every cook's dream.

Lemony Lentil and Spinach Soup (with chicken)

1 tsp butter or olive oil
2 small carrots, diced
1 - 2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb lentils (half a bag, usually)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 cups cold water

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
12 oz frozen spinach
1 - 2 lemons, juiced (to taste)

4 chicken thighs, cooked and meat removed and diced

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter or olive oil, then add carrots, celery, onion and garlic, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add lentils and 3 cups of cold water, plus salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. When it's boiling, reduce heat for a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. (I usually cook the chicken thigh, skin removed, during the same time, first in a tsp of olive oil on the stove to gently brown, then in the oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.)

After 25 minutes, remove bay leaf, and pour contents of saucepan into a large soup pot. (If you're preparing the chicken, it should be done by now. I'd remove the pieces from the pan to allow them to start cooling so they can be added to the soup later.) Add the chicken stock, and turn on low heat.

As soup combines and warms, thaw spinach. (I don't have a microwave, so I tend to do this using hot water in the sink.) You don't have to totally thaw it, but you do want to get it a little less frozen solid so that you can squeeze the excess water out before adding it to the soup. Add the frozen spinach to the soup and combine, bringing soup to a simmer.

Prepare chicken meat and add to soup, followed by the lemon juice. The soup at this point really does not need to cook for much longer, just long enough to combine the flavors and heat through.

Nutritional info (for 4 servings): 383 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated, 44g carbs, 36g protein, 18g fiber