It’s been a difficult year for me personally, but also one of growth. Being ever the optimist, I’m taking the opportunity to end 2014 on a bright, positive note. I’m back to my recipe and book writing, so here’s a peek at what’s to come: I’ll be taking things to a whole new level of health and wellness, with a focus on prevention and healing. To that end, this super easy soup has a “secret,” potent cancer-fighting combination of turmeric and black pepper with coconut oil. It’s made even healthier, spicier and more delicious with the addition of turmeric’s cousin, ginger. The oil and black pepper compound, piperine, help increase the effect of curcumin, one of the best known natural anti-inflammatory compounds (and a proven cancer-fighting substance), and is the active compound found in turmeric root.
Enjoy and eat to your health!
Susan’s Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
This rich and heavy-tasting soup is actually a light yet potent cancer-fighting combination that can be a meal starter or the “star” itself. Make it vegetarian/vegan by switching to vegetable broth or water. This bright, bold soup is nourishment for body, mind and soul!
1 butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)
2 Tb coconut oil
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 Tb chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp each cinnamon, black pepper, salt
½ tsp cardamom
4 cups organic chicken broth (low-sodium)
2 cups water
Cut butternut squash neck from base. Peel skin, remove seeds, and cut all parts into small chunks.
Melt oil in large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger and all spices. Let cook until shallots soften, about 10 minutes.
Add squash chunks, stir and let cook 2 minutes, then add broth and water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer 30 mins. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Alternatively, pour into blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Makes roughly 9 one-cup servings. Garnish with fresh parsley and 1tsp crème fraiche swirled on top if desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 kcals, 4 g pro, 13 g carb, 4 g fat, 320 mg sodium, 400 mg potassium, 2 gm fiber
The great thing about being invited to join a virtual potluck is that you can be fashionably late and the food won’t get cold. Despite being a bit “delayed”, I’m thrilled to be a part of this and introduce you — I mean ya’ll — to Tasia’s Table.
I’ll try to make a long story short, or at least shorter than what’s typical for me. As fate would have it, more than 4 years ago my dear friend and neighbor Stephanie sadly moved from NJ to AL . The story couldn’t be farther from sad, however. Once she survived the initial culture shock, Stephanie embraced her “new life” with the help of her new neighbor and fast friend who happened to be a really amazing woman and entrepreneur named Tasia Malakasis. Missing my old friend a lot, I made several trips down to Stephanie’s new home and met this super cool celebrity cheese-making friend I had heard so much about. Voila! I now had two friends in Alabama! During that first trip (or so my memory tells me) we talked about Tasia writing a cookbook, and I wanted to be involved. Actually I had always wanted to write my own too. So what really happened was that she both motivated and inspired me to do it for myself. … Here we are 4 years later, and both Tasia and I released our first cookbooks this year! Woo hoo!!! What’s even cooler is that the Stephanie I knew in NJ had her own darkroom in the basement of her very old, historic home when I met her, and photography was “just” her hobby. Well…the move to AL brought out the food photographer in her, and I couldn’t be happier for her or more impressed by the beautiful work she did for Tasia’s Table. Maybe I should pour a little bourbon and skype with Stephanie to gush more, but I’m late for that potluck, remember?
So… On a different trip to visit to AL, Tasia was putting on one of her simply perfect “Sunday suppers,” and I was lucky enough to be there. (Even if it means flying across the country, if you ever have the chance to be a guest at one of Tasia’s suppers, GO!) I was so impressed by it all, but I’m hanging on to memories of the “greens pie” and Tasia’s tradition of having the guests share three things they’re thankful for before starting to eat. Since I’m a big greens eater and pie lover myself, that dish really hit home with me, as did the reminder to be grateful and give thanks often. (Not just daily in fact!)
Ok, fast forward to me opening the email about the book release and virtual potluck with instructions to pick which recipe I’d like to make, there was almost no question! Greens pie, baby!
The sad reality of my life right now is that I honestly have no time (and I really mean none) to be making perfect buttery homemade crusts, but as I was standing (no, make that running around) in my kitchen taking care of my family’s needs and wants (and there are many…)
Three simple ingredients…
… and thinking about how I’d like to be making the the greens pie recipe, the thought of the greens and goat cheese triggered what I’m calling Tasia’s Greens Pie turns Greens ‘n’ Goat Cheese Toasts in 3 Simple Steps. I happened to have the three simple ingredients required on hand the other day, and I’m thankful I did. It’s my new favorite lunch, dinner and/or appetizer.
I wish Stephanie were here to have photographed these, but trust me, they didn’t even last long enough to get a photo done the first time! If you love goat cheese and ciabatta and think you like kale but don’t know what to do with it, here you go! Expect to see them in my next cookbook. 🙂
Roasted Kale & Chevre Ciabatta
1 bag chopped kale
1 fresh ciabatta loaf
1 log (8 oz) fresh goat cheese, preferably Belle Chevre of course
(I’m not exact on the amounts, but for this one you don’t need to be.)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 or 3 Tbsp olive oil. Toss evenly coat kale, then turn onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Put in oven to roast for 10 minutes.
2. Slice ciabatta in half lengthwise, then cut into smaller pieces or leave as two long pieces. Spray grill pan or electric skillet with olive oil cooking spray and grill or toast bread on the cut side until golden brown.
3. Spread goat cheese on top of toasted bread and using tongs, top with roasted kale. (You may need to press kale down a bit.)
Serve & enjoy!
Note: Leftovers can be wrapped and refrigerated for several hours or a day. Reheat in oven at 400 degrees for 4 or 5 minutes.
I’m hoping to still get to the greens pie someday… but in the meantime I’ve already picked out a few recipes from the book that I must do, and the first is Fennel Goat Cheese Mash. Oh! So excited for this one, and I’m serving it alongside a simple grilled steak with Tasia’s “compound butter.” Now if that tempts you, then be the first to tell me and you’ll win a free signed copy of Tasia’s Table. Simply email me at: email@example.com or tweet me @SusanCGreeley #TasiasTable.
Finally, I’m going to close with 3 things I’m thankful for at the moment. (The first may surprise Tasia to learn that I also have both a Southern and a Greek connection…)
1. My Kentucky-girl mother who made kick-ass chicken ‘n’ dumplings, homemade pies, loved all greens and who claims I was conceived in Greece 🙂 (God bless her!)
2. Sea salt and olive oil (I use them together, so I’m counting them as one.)
3. Virtual potlucks. I’m thankful to be a part of this, Tasia!
I confess I did not know the reason for celebrating “Cinco de Mayo” until I Googled it. It’s the day the Mexicans kicked some French butt and prevented us eating Napoleons on this day. (Had the battle been between the Mexican & French cuisines, we all know who would have won!)
Growing up in the Midwest, I don’t remember ever celebrating “Cinco de Mayo” or even knowing what it was. Does it count that in my early teens my friends and I loved to go to Chi-Chis to chow down on baskets of nachos with salsa and drink virgin margaritas?! (Thankfully Tex-Mex food has come a long way since then…)
Somehow my move to Boston after college would be my first introduction to the 5th of May festivities, which at the time meant decorating the hospital cafeteria, playing Mexican music and serving what was considered Mexican fare — burritos, tacos, nachos with cheese, etc. After work was time for real margaritas — you get the idea.
As I get older and lose the desire to drink tequila on a “school night” since I still have to function as a mom the next day, I would rather honor the day that is celebrated more in the US than in Mexico as it were, in a more subtle way and with some healthier food than what one typically eats that day.
If you’re trying to follow my “2-week challenge,” you don’t have to let Cinco de Mayo sabotage it. Start the day with a hearty, delicious vegetarian version of my “Healthy Huevos.“ Removing the flour tortilla, refried beans and cheese and replacing it with TJ’s frozen organic brown rice, fresh avocado slices and salsa is a great way to enjoy a lighter huevos rancheros. I apparently like strong flavors and wash this down with 2 cups of black coffee. (Did I mention I have 4 boys?)
Black coffee isn’t necessarily a part of a Cinco de Mayo menu, but I definitely think black beans should be! If you weren’t planning on including them, I’m hoping my twist on a black bean salad entices you to. This “Loaded Black Bean Salad” — which you may recognize as the cover shot for Lighten Up! — is my favorite way of eating black beans when they’re not in a soup! I make this salad over arugula for nutritional value but primarily for the great, strong flavor of arugula sort of as a replacement for cilantro. I love this “soapy” herb, but it has a polarizing effect on people’s taste buds, so I just try to avoid it since I don’t want to turn off cilantro haters from even trying my recipe if they see that ingredient! In any case, here it is — a healthy way to get loaded on Cinco de Mayo!
Let me start by saying this is my favorite, delicious, easiest, any-night-of-the-week meal that requires virtually no cooking talent or experience!
Okay, I know what you might be thinking — the dietitian eats potato chips?! The answer is “occasionally” of course! Haha. That’s the R.D. in me talking. The truth is, my husband loves them and so do my boys, so sometimes I just have to buy them, right? The problem is, if I bring those darn mesquite barbeque kettle chips into the house, they don’t last long. I suppose having them in my house at all makes me feel I need to justify their guilty pleasure and presence, and one evening I got this idea … It turned out to be a huge score with both the kids and my husband (and myself!) This has to be the simplest way to get everyone to eat salmon and enjoy it. It’s honestly the best feeling when everyone gets up to leave the table, and each carries an empty plate to the sink — not because they were forced to “clean” it, but because they devoured what was on it. So no, I’m not at all embarrassed to admit I buy those oh-so-yummy chips and eat them too, particularly since I came up with what my husband calls the best salmon he’s ever eaten! Wow, that was easy. Why try to impress (him) with a beurre blanc when I can dip some salmon fillets in milk and crushed potato chips?!
Try this, you’ll LOVE it and I’m hoping your kids do too! My menu is:
BBQ Kettle Chip-Encrusted Salmon
served with green beans and brown rice
It should take you 30 minutes from the start to sitting down at the table ready to dig in. Go!
BBQ Kettle Chip-Encrusted Salmon (serves 4)
1 lb. fresh salmon fillet
1/2 cup milk
2 cups BBQ (mesquite or similar) kettle-cooked potato chips
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse salmon, pat dry and then cut into 4 even slices.
2. Pour milk into a shallow dish and chips into a large bowl. Crush the chips with bottom of measuring glass. Alternatively, pour chips into a Ziploc bag, seal and crush, then pour into bowl.
3. Dip each salmon fillet into milk and then into crushed chips, coating the fish but not the skin side. Place fillets on baking tray. Cover with remaining chips if there are any.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: I find there’s no need for salt or pepper with these. So simple, so good… ENJOY!
The BBQ Kettle Chip-Encrusted Salmon is so simple, so good… ENJOY!
Ahh, lemons. The meaning of that little saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…” is simple yet profound, inspiring and hopeful. Whether or not we’re talking about the unexpected life “lemons” or the real ones in our diets, I’m happy about and thankful for all the lemons in my life! You know why? Because they help me turn ordinary into extraordinary. Not to mention they are so good for you. It’s winter. It’s the New Year. It’s time to add lemons to your life! All other meaning aside, this simple little citrus fruit can make you happy and keeps you healthy. It’s color and peel alone do that for me, and then I squeeze it or zest it and add it to all sorts of foods and drinks, and WOW! (For the record, I have the same love of limes for virtually all the same reasons. No discriminating, but yellow is my favorite color.)
Winter foods may seem boring until we add this colorful, flavorful little gem. Let me share with you a few of the lemon’s health benefits and some of my favorite ways to add it to your diet during these dreary winter days.
Reasons to rejoice:
Lemons are high in vitamin C. Most people know this … but by adding it to certain foods, it helps absorb other important nutrients, such as iron or calcium. One little lemon has about 140% of the RDA for vitamin C.
Lemons can help you lose weight. Really? Yes! I recommend them to all who do my “two week challenge” and any type of weight loss or detoxifying diet. Hot water with lemon is liver-friendly, and “cleansing” the liver is a key component of weight management.
Lemons have cancer-preventive compounds in the peel. These phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds) may also help lower cholesterol. Organic versus conventional? If I am using the zest or adding the whole lemon to a dish, I buy organic since conventional lemons are both sprayed with pesticides (harmful chemicals in our bodies) and typically waxed. In this case, while the price may be cheaper, the flavor is as well! Chemicals in the zest are really not desired. Go organic. Otherwise for juicing the lemons, just wash them well before using.
Ways to spruce up your food:
Green tea with lemon — it’s truly a smart thing to do for your health with all the tea and lemon phytochemicals.
O.J. — I cut up lemons and add them to my morning o.j. (preferably freshly squeezed.) Add seltzer and lemons or limes and drink that any time of day.
Hot water with lemons and honey — even if you’re not a singer, this is good for you and maybe will improve your singing voice?
Pancakes, muffins, waffles or scones — add some zest to any batter.
Yogurt — squeeze lemon juice into your yogurt and add chopped fresh fruit and granola for a vitamin blast to start your day.
Snack or Salads:
Papaya — (my favorite) — sure it’s exotic but it’s also available. It’s soooo good simply peeled and cut up (remove the black seeds) with lemon squeezed on it. Boost up yogurt by adding this combo to plain yogurt and drizzle with honey or agave syrup.
Goat cheese — zest a little lemon and squeeze the juice into a small amount of goat cheese. Add a dash of salt and any herbs or garlic too. Smear on some Triscuits, flatbread crackers or toasted whole wheat pita. Top with some sliced grape or other tomatoes and feel good about this healthy snack!
Guacamole — At a minimum, mash 1 avocado with the juice of 1 lemon (or lime) and salt. Smear it on toast, pita, bagel, a tomato or a piece of lettuce. Just eat it, often!
Dinner, Lunch, Etc.:
The options are endless … sometimes we just need a reminder. If lemons are in your kitchen, use them!
Lemons are great on just about any poultry, pork, or fish — baked chicken, poached fish, steamed lobster or fried shrimp — lemons enhance them all.
Sautéed or steamed vegetables. Even mashed sweet potatoes taste better with some lemon juice!
Legumes love lemons. Lentil soup and bean salads (black bean or white cannellini in particular) are great with fresh lemon juice and zest. Seafood or even a simple corn chowder begs for fresh lemon as well.
Salads — lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of sea salt & pepper can never do you wrong (add a pinch of sugar and dijon mustard too.)
I’m rejoicing because life is sooo much better thanks to all the lemons. Happy New Year, happy winter fruit and here’s to your health!