Perfect winter dinner: salsa verde soup!

I’ve been making this soup for months and haven’t ever posted it, and I’m not really sure why. It’s delicious, one of the easiest recipes I know, and it’s incredibly convenient as it’s made in the slow cooker. When I get home, it’s ready, and no one has to wait, which is good because everyone’s usually starving by then! I usually serve it with something simple like mini vegan quesadillas or corn muffins. (Last night I made my jalapeno corn muffins — yum!) ¬†This is a good one to please the non-vegans in your house, too. My husband’s exact words: “I was skeptical about this, but it’s actually really good!” Future note to self: find more vegan-friendly slow cooker recipes. Meanwhile, here’s this one:

Salsa Verde Soup

Serves 3-4 people

Dump the following into the crock pot:

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups beans (white or pinto work best)
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa verde*
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt
Screenshot_2016-01-26-19-05-15

Because I forgot to take one this time, this is a screenshot from Instagram, when I first made it over a year ago!

Set slow cooker on low and cook for 7-8 hours. Turn down to warm, then add 2 cups of coarsely chopped spinach or kale. (You can do this in the beginning, but I found that the greens turned an ugly brown and kind of disintegrated, so I prefer to add it at the end.)

*Salsa verde – you can make this yourself by roasting and pureeing tomatillos, which isn’t difficult, but more time-consuming and unnecessary since you can find it at any grocery store. I did this once, but didn’t notice a difference in flavor. You can find it in the Mexican food aisle, and it looks something like this:

20160125_204827

I actually found this one at Big Lots ūüôā

Serve with a squirt of lime, chopped avocado, and cilantro. For non-vegans, you can add some shredded cheddar cheese, but I really don’t think it needs it.

20160125_180339

The avocado provides a nice, creamy element and really compliments that little zing from the lime juice. 

Just for kicks, here’s that jalapeno corn bread recipe:

  • 1 7-oz package of corn bread mix
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax mixed in 3 Tbsp water (this replaces the egg)
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray and place in oven to warm up. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Remove muffin pan from the oven and spoon cornbread evenly into 6 wells. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I would tell you to take the leftovers for lunch the next day, buuuuuut there won’t be any left ūüėČ

 

Original Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n’Cheese

Pasta is a well-known vice of mine, and macaroni and cheese was a particular comfort food for me growing up. Because dairy just does not agree with me and no dish is worth the stomach pains, I had to find another way to enjoy this childhood favorite. I’ve come across many of these recipes using butternut squash, but I like to play around until I come up with my idea of perfection. The sauce is creamy, cheezy, and satisfying, (with a “z” to distinguish from ACTUAL cheese), and truly is the ultimate comfort food. We had a bout of extremely cold, windy, wintry weather this weekend, and I made this Friday night in a desperate attempt to warm my bones. It worked! I think you’ll find it¬†quite effective too.

Also, this recipe is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. I add¬†some of this into my hubby’s “real” mac n’ cheese — it allows me to use less butter and milk and therefore cuts the fat significantly. He doesn’t seem to notice ūüėČ

This recipe takes a little preparation, so I recommend making the cashew cheeze ahead of time. (I pretty much always have a batch made¬†— it’s so versatile!) Otherwise it takes less then 30 minutes to prepare.¬†So, without further ado:

Butternut Squash Penne & Cheeze

Serves 3-4 (depending on who you’re feeding — I have a 16-year-old son, so this only feeds the two of us!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • 1 cup cashew cheeze (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the butternut squash one of two ways.

1) Quick prep Рfill a casserole dish with about 1 inch of water. Slice the butternut squash and place the halves face down in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap (BPA free) and microwave for 10-15 minutes until pierced easily with a knife.

2) If you’re not pressed for time, preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and brush with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until pierced easily with a knife. (I prefer this method simply because roasting brings out some great flavor from the squash!)

Cook pasta while squash is cooking, as per usual pasta-boiling directions.

Cashew Cheeze:

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (boiled for 10 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3¬†cup warm water
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Scoop cooked squash out of the skin and into the food processor. Blend until it looks like this:

20160122_171139

Your cheeze sauce is ready. When pasta is done cooking and has been drained, dump it back into the pot and pour the cheeze sauce over the top. Stir well to combine, season to taste, and serve immediately. Served with steamed broccoli or other favorite green veggie.

20160122_175553

Dig in!!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

 

 

 

Snacks you can feel good about

Happy New Year everyone!

One of my resolutions is to be more active on this blog. I have been gaining more followers and I don’t want to lose them out of boredom. Sooooo, you can definitely expect to see more from me this year! Hurray!

To start it off, we’re going to talk about snacks, because who doesn’t love snacks? Many of my clients feel that snacking is a bad thing. They feel guilty and hang their heads in shame when they admit to me they’ve been munching¬†between meals. What do I tell them? Snacking is a¬†good thing! It helps keep you satisfied when it’s not time for a meal, and can actually help keep you from overeating when you do have a meal. HOWEVER — WHAT you snack on very much matters. I’m always being asked for suggestions, so to help you make smart choices, I’ve compiled a list of snacks that you can enjoy without feeling guilty.

General rules – For most people, snacks should be under 200 calories and should contain at least two food groups — one of which should be a protein or healthy fat. If you eat only carbs, the satisfaction won’t last long and you’ll be hungry again in no time. Some great combinations:

  • Apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Baby carrots with 1/4 cup hummus
  • Trail mix: 2 Tbsp dried fruit, 2 Tbsp raw almonds, 1 tsp dark chocolate chips
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced fruit and 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Small banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter spread on it
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with 1/4 avocado smashed on top
  • Homemade smoothie, such as the one below: 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup desired fruit, 1 cup baby spinach

20140910_071928

Now, for specific products:

Bars – you must be careful with these. Look for bars without¬†HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), soy protein isolate, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. They often have over 200 calories and are loaded with sugar, so I don’t generally recommend a bar unless it’s meant as a post-workout refuel and meets the criteria above. Protein bars from GNC or other “nutrition” stores are usually poor quality.¬†The brands I like:

  • Larabar (particularly Alt as they have 10 g of plant protein)
  • Kind (including Healthy Grains)
  • Kashi GoLean roll
  • Raw Revolution
  • Chia Warriorraw revolution

Really, you should make your own. There are tons of recipes out there. I love to make the energy balls from Rich Roll’s The Plantpower Way book:

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (soak in water for 30 minutes before making the recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp hemp seeds (Walmart carries them)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Grind walnuts in the food processor until mealy. Add in the nibs, cocoa powder, and half of the hemp seeds.  Add dates one at a time and blend until everything is a paste consistency. Turn off the food processor, remove the blade, and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the rest of the hemp seeds. The way I make them I usually get about 16 balls out of it, and 3 of them would equal about 180 calories.

FB_IMG_1452823420951 (1)

The energy balls I made last week.

Salty – when I say salty, I simply mean they taste salty. Everything listed here is still considered low sodium, although many of them don’t taste that way! Some Jean-approved products:

  • Skinny Pop — all varieties
  • Lesser Evil popcorn (try the wasabi — yum!)
  • Air-popped popcorn (not microwave…the bags have cancer-causing chemicals, yuck!) ¬†— Can you tell I like popcorn??
  • Most brands of kettle corn
  • Newman’s Own protein pretzels (hard to find, Vitacost has them)
  • Snapea Crisps
  • The Good Bean crispy crunchy¬†chickpeas
  • World Peas (see my review in the previous post)
  • True North Nut Clusters (bonus: also sweet!)

Sweet – now let me be clear on something: this should NOT be your first choice and should NOT replace healthier snacks. Sugar does not keep you full and you will likely end up craving more if you’re not careful. Treat these as desserts¬†or emergency supplies (you know, like if you’re having the worst day ever or PMS). I personally allow myself a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every day after lunch, but wouldn’t eat it in place of my morning snack. It’s all in the balance! Some 200 calorie ideas:

  • Five Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate-covered nuts
  • 1/2 cup ice cream (preferably non-dairy versions like cashew or almond)
  • 9 Hershey’s kisses
  • 2 fun-size candy bars

coco-ice-chocolate-pb

 

darkchocolate

Happy snacking!