Easy Pantry Minestrone from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now-and a Giveaway!

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51NVSI2WbxLLike so many people I know, I’m trying to eat a little healthier during this new year. So when I heard about the new cookbook, Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, I was definitely interested in reviewing it! Not only did I receive a review copy, the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is also providing a giveaway copy! I’ll tell you a little about the book and share a recipe from it with you, and then be sure to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment–see the end of this post for details on how to win!

This cookbook has more than 300 new recipes and lots of color photos. There’s a wonderful variety of great-sounding recipes to choose from–meals and desserts that your whole family can enjoy. And they look easy to prepare, too. All recipes include nutritional information and the Weight Watcher PointsPlus® values so those of you in Weight Watchers can easily keep track of your points. Even if you’re not in Weight Watches, though, I’m sure these recipes would appeal to any of you who are wanting to eat lighter and healthier.

The book starts out with tips and helpful information on good nutrition, the well-stocked pantry, must-have kitchen tools, food safety, and choosing and preparing fresh fruits and veggies. Then you’ll find recipes organized in the following chapters: Breakfasts and Brunches; Lunches; Appetizers and Snacks; Main Dishes–Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Main Dishes–Poultry; Main Dishes–Seafood; Main Dishes-Vegetarian; 20-Minute Main Dishes; Side Dishes; and Sweets. So there’s lots to choose from! Here are some recipes I’d like to try…

  • Coconut-Almond French Toast with Tropical Fruit
  • Asian Burgers with Honey-Lime Slaw
  • Spinach and Endive Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Italian Beef and Mushroom Meat Loaf
  • Brown Sugar-Dijon Glazed Ham with Sweet Potatoes
  • Maple-Glazed Grilled Chicken
  • Pan-seared Tuna with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
  • Warm Mozzarella and Tomato Flatbreads
  • Gingery Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
  • Garlicky Spinach and Fontina Pizza
  • Chocolate Brownie Ice-Cream Sandwiches

For this post, I decided to try the Easy Pantry Minestrone from the Vegetarian section, since I had been wanting to make minestrone this winter. It’s a good, healthy soup with lots of veggies (carrots, onion, celery, zucchini), red beans, and chickpeas. Dried basil also flavors the soup, and you serve it with a teaspoon-size dollop of pre-made refrigerated pesto which also adds nicely to the flavor!

EASY PANTRY MINESTRONE from Weight Watchers What To Cook Now

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup whole wheat macaroni or other small pasta (uncooked)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons refrigerated basil pesto

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add broth, kidney beans, chickpeas, macaroni, and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and zucchini and simmer until pasta and vegetables are very tender, 10 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls and top each with 1 teaspoon pesto.

PER SERVING (1 bowl): 307 Cal, 6 g Total Fat, Og Trans Fat, 1 mg Chol, 876 mg Sod, 53 g Carb, 10 g Fib, 14 g Prot, 120 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 8

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I really like the dollop of pesto–it gives the soup an extra little zing of flavor when you stir it in!

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations to commentor #8, Aline, for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of Weight Watchers What To Cook Now, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Wednesday, January 22, at 10 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Thursday evening, January 23. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite healthy dish is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it just means I need to click on it to approve it before it’s visible–I do this because of spam comments that sometimes come through!

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Lentil Soup with Bacon

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It was such a cold, cold, cold, cold day, and I just had to make some soup! Lentil soup sounded good and I already had lentils. I found a soup recipe at MarthaStewart.com that not only had lentils, but bacon, too–and that sounded really good!

I used turkey bacon in this, and I used a larger amount. And I added extra onions because I love onions. Since I like my soups thicker, I also added less water–I guess you could even call it a stew because it’s thick and chunky! If you prefer to keep this vegetarian, just omit the bacon–it’s still a very good basic lentil soup recipe! I like the little punch of flavor that the red wine vinegar gives this soup, which is added at the end of cooking, along with some salt and pepper. This soup is just what you need to help you warm up on a super cold winter day like today!

LENTIL SOUP WITH BACON by NancyCreative, adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Makes 4 servings

  • 6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used turkey bacon)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 cups) or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (if you want a thinner soup, use 2 cups of water)
  • 1 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a Dutch oven or other 5-quart pot with lid, cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes (turkey bacon may need less time). Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat (if you use turkey bacon like I did, you won’t have much fat, so just add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to your cooking pot).

Add onion and carrots; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cooking about 30 seconds, then stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute.

Add lentils, thyme, broth, and water. Bring to a boil; lower heat and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.

Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Thick, chunky soups are a favorite cold-weather meal of mine! What do you like to eat when it’s really cold outside?

Gayla’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This is a thick, creamy, chunky, spicy soup that you really need to try! I first heard about it from my friend Ann, who raved about this soup that Gayla had made for a special luncheon. I had the recipe for awhile, and finally had a chance to try it–it’s a wonderful chicken tortilla soup! It has some peppers, onion, and green chilies in it, along with pinto and northern beans, and flavored rice. And the chicken chili seasoning gives this soup such a great flavor!

I’ve tasted some other yummy things Gayla has made before (she makes the prettiest decorated Christmas cookies!), so I’m not surprised this soup of hers is so yummy, too! Not only is Gayla a great cook and baker, she also creates pretty homespun decor items like rag quilts and burlap Christmas trees. You can take a look at these items, and many other things she’s made, at her site called Jubilee Fabric where she also sells fabric and quilt supplies. If you like crafts with a little more bling, you’ll want to visit her other site, Jubilee Rhinestones, that features supplies and craft ideas for iron-on rhinestones, transfers, and decal stickers.

If you’re not a crafter, you may just be interested in making this soup–and I’m sure you will love it as much as I do! It is a spicy soup, so use mild Rotel and omit the can of green chilies if you’d like it less spicy. I really like the spiciness in this, though! This recipe makes a big potful of soup, about 8-10 servings.

GAYLA’S CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

Makes about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (1.25-ounce) packets White Chicken Chili Seasoning (two brands I’ve used are Williams and McCormick)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded (or cook a package of chicken breast tenders and shred them)
  • 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies, drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (6 to 6.9-ounce) package of chicken-flavored rice (the “side dish” kind-I used Rice-A-Roni Chicken flavor)
  • 2/3 of a pint of heavy cream (or about 1 1/3 cups)
  • For garnish: crushed tortilla chips, grated or shredded cheese, and/or sour cream

In a large stockpot over low heat, melt butter and saute peppers and onion until tender. Add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Add seasoning packets and bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the heavy cream. Cook over medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Just before serving, add cream until the soup is creamy enough for your taste.

This can also be made in the slow cooker on the LOW setting–cook on LOW for several hours. Add the cream the last 30 minutes of cooking.

To serve, top each bowl of soup with crumbled tortilla chips, grated or shredded cheese, and/or a dollop of sour cream.

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This is the second chicken tortilla soup recipe I’ve tried this fall. Another good one that I’ve made is BZ’s Chicken Tortilla Soup. What kinds of soups have you been making?

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

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We’ve had several weeks of chilly weather, and I’ve been making more soup! This time I decided to try Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. I adapted my recipe from one I found at Taste of Home. It’s a savory-flavored soup that tastes a little like chili. So if you like chili and black bean soup, I’m sure you’ll like this! In addition to the pumpkin puree, which gives the soup a nice creamy consistency even though you don’t really taste the pumpkin much, other healthy ingredients include diced tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

PUMPKIN BLACK BEAN SOUP  by NancyCreative, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes about 8 servings (2 quarts)

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Optional: dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • For garnish: 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Place beans and tomatoes in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onions in oil until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in the broth, pumpkin, vinegar, and bean mixture, blending well. Add cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and, if desired, salt and pepper to taste.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish each serving with plain Greek yogurt and sliced green onions. Each 1 cup serving is about 240 calories.

I never seem to get tired of making and eating soup, and it’s fun to try different recipes! Have you made any soups using pumpkin as an ingredient?

BZ’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Brenda, one of our art directors whose last name starts with a “Z,” is also known around the office as BZ. She gave me this recipe, adapted from Food.com, so I thought I’d call it BZ’s Chicken Tortilla Soup! It’s a creamy, mildly spicy, cheesy soup that really warms you up and fills you up!

Brenda has said she likes to throw in extra garlic sometimes when she cooks, so I thought I’d add a little more garlic to this soup. I also used olive oil instead of corn oil and Half & Half (light cream) instead of milk. If you want to try a vegetarian version, another friend, Mary, said she likes to substitute firm tofu for the chicken, cut into small chunks and browned in a skillet with olive oil.

The directions below are for making the soup on your stove top, but you can also make it in a slow cooker–see the end of the recipe for how to do that! If you have a large nonstick stock pot, that would well, too. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Brenda!

BZ’S CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP adapted from Food.com

Makes 8 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 to 2 fresh minced garlic cloves
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies, drained
  • 1 to 2 (1 1/2-ounce) packet(s) taco seasoning mix (start with one packet and use another packet or part of another packet if you want a stronger seasoning flavor)
  • 12 ounces chicken meat, poached and diced (or substitute pre-cooked grilled chicken strips, cut up into small chunks; or substitute rotisserie chicken); to make this vegetarian, substitute firm tofu, cut into small chunks and browned in olive oil in a skillet)
  • 1 (10-count) package corn tortillas, cut into small pieces (or substitute 1 cup of Masa Harina (Masa Flour)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Half & Half (light cream) or milk (I just used 1/2 cup)
  • 12 ounces Monterey Jack or Fiesta/Mexican blend cheese, shredded
  • Corn Tortilla chips, crushed into small pieces, for garnish

In large stockpot, on low heat, add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic powder or fresh garlic, and saute until tender.

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, Rotel, taco seasoning, and chicken. Cut corn tortillas into small pieces and add to broth mixture. Let boil for 20  minutes or until tortillas are thoroughly incorporated into soup, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

Reduce heat and add 8 ounces of the cheese to the soup mixture. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Add light cream or milk and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with remaining shredded cheese and some crushed tortilla chips.

Note: I thought the thickness of the soup was just right, but if you’d like it thicker, you can add a few more cut up corn tortillas to the soup while it’s cooking (or if using Masa Flour, add a little more flour to the soup).

You can also make this soup in a slow cooker–that’s actually how Brenda makes it. She puts all the ingredients except the milk and cheese into a crock pot on the LOW setting (she doesn’t cook her chicken beforehand, letting the chicken cook in the crock pot). Stir ingredients several different times the first hour of cooking, then cook on low for another 3 to 4 hours, or until chicken is done. Shred the chicken right in the crock pot with a fork. The last hour of cooking, stir all ingredients well and then add the cheese and milk (or light cream). Stir occasionally that last hour, until cheese is well-blended. Total cooking time  in your crock pot is 5 to 6 hours on the LOW setting.

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This was my first time making homemade chicken tortilla soup, and I’ll probably be making it many times during the fall and winter! Have you made it before?

Heirloom Tomato Soup

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I like eating soup in the cooler weather–it’s great having a hot bowl of soup on a cold rainy or snowy day, isn’t it? I have several new soup recipes friends have given me that I’ll be trying out. Julie, who is a wonderful cook and baker, shared this tomato soup recipe with me from the August/September 2012 Issue of Healthy Cooking. It’s also posted at Taste of Home.

This is a wonderfully thick, creamy soup–and the great thing is, it doesn’t have any cream in it, unless you choose to drizzle it with some cream before serving. It’s the veggies and seasonings that make it thick and creamy, because you blend or process the soup before serving. In addition to tomatoes, this soup also has onion, olive oil, garlic, carrot, corn, sea salt, and basil in it, so it’s very healthy! It also has chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock if you want to make this vegetarian.

The original recipe makes 20 servings, so I halved the recipe, since I didn’t need to make that much soup! Julie uses less onion when she makes this, so if you’re not crazy about onion, you can do that too. I actually used a little more onion and basil in my version. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Julie! :)

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SOUP slightly adapted from Healthy Cooking

Makes 10 servings (about 2 1/2 quarts)

  • 1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 medium heirloom tomatoes, quartered (about 4 lbs.)
  • 1 medium size carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn (or use frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken broth (regular or reduced-sodium–or substitute vegetable broth)
  • optional: 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream to drizzle for garnish

In a large stockpot, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the tomatoes, carrot, corn, basil, and salt. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are softened, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, process soup in batches (to be safe, just fill your blender or processor about half full–if you overfill, the hot soup could overflow and possibly burn you). As you are processing the soup, you’ll need another bowl or container to put the processed soup in. When finished processing, return all the processed soup to your pot and heat through.

To serve, ladle into bowls and drizzle each serving with about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon heavy whipping cream if desired. Each serving is approximately 75 calories.

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Serving your soup in a teacup is a fun idea–especially if you love vintage teacups like I do!

I also love all kinds of soups, but tomato is one of my favorites! What’s yours?

Southwestern Black Bean Soup

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Winter seems to be trying to hang on in some areas! Have you had a lot of cool spring days where you live? Well, next time the temperature drops, this is a great soup to make if you like black beans. I found this recipe at Eating Well, and thought it sounded good. And after tasting it, I thought it was great!  It has a little chili powder, cumin, and even some salsa to give it a little zippy Southwestern taste. Since you puree half of this soup, it has a nice creaminess with a little chunky texture. And it tastes great with some sour cream (or greek yogurt), shredded cheddar cheese, and chopped fresh cilantro on top. I added less water than the original recipe calls for, which was a good thing, because the soup would have been too watery for my liking if I had followed the recipe exactly. I really like the way it turned out–it’s great for lunch or a lighter dinner.

SOUTHWESTERN BLACK BEAN SOUP by NancyCreative, adapted from EatingWell.com

Makes about 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 small or medium onions, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • Optional garnishes: sour cream (about a Tablespoon), shredded cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin, and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add beans, water, salsa, and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree (use caution when pureeing hot liquids)–you may have to puree half the soup in two batches. Stir the puree back into the saucepan. Serve soup garnished with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or chopped cilantro, if desired.

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Do you like black beans? What’s your favorite way to prepare them?

Easy Pea Soup with Ham or Bacon

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I like Split Pea Soup but have never made it before. I was looking through a little soup cookbook I had called Soup Gourmet and found an easy recipe I thought I’d try. I made my version thicker because I like thick and hearty soups. I like this soup because, in addition to peas, it has lots of other good-for-you veggies in it–carrots, onion, and celery. And you can add ham or bacon if you want, or make it without any meat.

After looking at some other recipes, I decided I would try garnishing this with croutons and feta, and I’m so glad I tried that out–I really liked it! The feta cheese gives a nice zing to the soup, and the crispy croutons make a nice touch, too. Serve this soup with a salad and some crusty bread–it makes a great lunch or dinner during the cold winter months!

EASY PEA SOUP WITH HAM OR BACON by NancyCreative, adapted from Soup Gourmet

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 2 (16-ounce) packages frozen peas, thawed (or you can use 2 (16-oz.) cans of peas)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken or vegetable broth (this is a thick soup, so if you’d like it to be thinner, add an extra 1/2 to 1 cup of broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiled ham or cooked bacon, diced (if you’d like this to be meatless, leave out the ham or bacon)
  • 1 cup carrots, finely diced or grated
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • additional seasonings to taste, if desired
  • croutons for garnish, optional
  • crumbled feta cheese for garnish, optional.

Place peas and broth in blender or food processor and puree until smooth (the peas and broth will fill your blender almost to the top, so you can blend them half the amount at a time, if you prefer–you’ll need to do this, too, if you are adding extra broth to make a thinner soup).

Transfer blended mixture to a large pot. Add ham or bacon, carrots, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Halfway through cooking, add salt and pepper, and additional seasonings, if desired.

Serve hot in soup bowls or cups and garnish with croutons and crumbled feta cheese, if desired.

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I really like it served with the croutons and feta cheese–they add an extra special touch to the soup! Have you tried any new soup recipes lately?

Lentil Soup with Chard And Lemon from The Essential James Beard Cookbook

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the+essential+james+beard+cookbookInfluential American chef and food writer James Beard wrote over 21 books during the course of his career. Known as “The Dean of American Cooking,” he helped educate and mentor countless professional chefs. He died in 1985, but left a strong legacy in the food world with his innovative recipes and culinary excellence. And now there’s a recently published collection of his best recipes– The Essential James Beard Cookbook: 450 Recipes that Shaped the Tradition of American Cooking. I received a review copy and wanted to share a really delicious soup recipe I tried from this book–Lentil Soup with Chard and Lemon. You can substitute spinach for the Swiss chard, which is what I did, and I also added extra garlic to the recipe since I’m such a garlic-lover! It’s a fabulous soup–and it’s so healthy, too! I love the lemon flavor combined with with lentils, onion, and garlic. If a simple soup recipe from this book is so good, can you imagine how great the other recipes must be?

ncCalifOliveRanchI do have to say, though, that I think one of the reasons the soup was so great was because I used some very high quality olive oil from California Olive Ranch. They generously supplied me with several bottles so I could experiment with some recipes. They offer a great selection of olive oils that  come in wonderful glass bottles, which I’m saving to use as vases after the olive oil is all gone! And I read that the distinct green California Olive Ranch bottle actually keeps their premium extra virgin olive oil fresh longer–another plus!

Here’s the soup recipe so you can try it yourself!

LENTIL SOUP WITH CHARD (or Spinach)  AND LEMON from The Essential James Beard Cookbook

Makes 6 servings

A rather different, Syrian version of lentil soup, tartened by lemon juice, that is also delicious served cold. Serve with crusty French or Italian bread.

  • 1 1/2 cups lentils
  • 2 1/2 pounds Swiss chard or spinach (I used baby spinach leaves)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves ( I used 6 cloves)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (I used unbleached flour)

Put the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and simmer, covered, until tender–between 30 and 45 minutes, depending upon processing; taste to see when done. Wash and chop the chard or spinach, and add to the lentils with 1 cup water. Cook until the chard (or spinach) is wilted.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet. Crush the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic until soft, then add to the lentils. Mix the lemon juice and flour and stir into the soup. Simmer, stirring, until the soup thickens slightly. Taste and correct seasoning. serve in soup bowls, with crusty French or Italian bread.

I love lentil soup, and this is such a nice change from the lentil soup I usually make! Are you a lentil soup lover too?

Beef or Chicken Tex-Mex Soup (and a Meatless Version)

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I like eating soup in the cold winter months, and this is an easy soup recipe I came up with the other day. It’s a thick and chunky soup with ground beef, beans, and veggies in it, and you can make it without the beef, too, substituting chicken or more beans in  place of the meat. Jalapenos give the soup a little spiciness, along with the taco seasoning you mix in. Make it in a big pot and you’ll have enough soup to serve 6 to 8 people. Serve it with some bread or rolls–it makes a nice hot lunch or dinner on a cold day!

BEEF OR CHICKEN TEX-MEX SOUP by NancyCreative

  • 2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes (regular or no salt)
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked, crumbled, and drained of excess fat OR 1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cut into chunks (you could use leftover rotisserie chicken in this, too); if you want to make this meatless, substitute an extra can of pinto or kidney beans for the meat
  • 1 medium-size onion, diced
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10 to 12-ounce) package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup sliced jalapenos (from a can or jar, or fresh, with seeds removed)
  • sour cream for garnish (optional)
  • sliced green onion stems for garnish (optional)

In large stockpot, over medium heat, add diced tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, and taco seasoning, blending well. Add in cooked ground beef or chicken, diced onion, beans, corn, and jalapenos, stirring everything well. Turn heat high enough to heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately and garnish with sour cream and green onion slices if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Do you have a favorite winter soup you like making?

Tomato Basil Avocado Soup

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This cool, summer soup sounded good to me because it didn’t involve any cooking, and it has been so hot these past couple of days! This is a “raw food” recipe. You may have heard about all the health benefits there are to eating raw. I’ve read a little about it, although I’m no expert on the subject.

I found this recipe over at Beach House Kitchen and modified it slightly. I loved the way it tasted! I actually liked it much more than I thought I would. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since I love all the ingredients in this soup…tomatoes, red pepper, onion, garlic, basil, avocado…but I think my favorite ingredient is the sun-dried tomatoes. They really make this soup wonderful!

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This soup is so easy to make, too–all the ingredients are mixed in a blender, then you just pour it out and serve. It’s the perfect super-easy, super-healthy summer meal!

TOMATO BASIL AVOCADO SOUP adapted from Beach House Kitchen

Makes two cup-size servings (3/4 cup per serving; for two “large bowl” servings, double the recipe)

  • 4 medium size tomatoes, cut into fourths
  • 1/2 of a sweet red pepper (seeds removed), chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (use the ones that are packed in oil in a jar–I used julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, so I didn’t need to chop mine)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of a medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup well-packed basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 of an avocado, cut into chunks
  • dash of salt to taste (optional)
  • additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, for garnish

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ingredients are well-blended and mixture is just slightly chunky (you may have to stop the blender once and help the mixture along with a spoon). Pour into soup cups or bowls, garnish with additional basil leaves, whole or chopped, and serve immediately.

NOTE: This soup doesn’t take long to blend, especially if you have a high-power blender–it just took mine a minute or two to blend all the ingredients. If you have a lower-power blender, it may take a little longer. 

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This is only the second cold soup I’ve ever made–I’ll have to try more of these out! Have you made any cold soups? Or have you tried out any raw food recipes lately?

Lentil Soup and Red Lentil Soup

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One of my favorite chilly-weather meals is soup, and we have had some chilly weather the past few days…not super-cold, but just cold enough that a hot bowl of soup sounds really good! And one of my favorite kinds of soup is Lentil soup. I have two Lentil soup recipes I like to make, so I thought I’d share them both with you in this post. I’m not sure where I originally found these recipes, but my versions are thicker than the originals. One recipe actually calls for red lentils, but you can substitute brown lentils…that’s what I’ve done. For some reason, my grocery store does not carry red lentils! (Note: After I posted this recipe, I found out from a helpful reader that red lentils are available at Indian or Middle Eastern stores, and that when you cook them, they disintegrate into a thick broth or gravy–so your soup texture will be different if you use red lentils).

These soups are thick (especially the Red Lentil Soup recipe, if you substitute brown lentils in it), hearty, and filling, and have lots of healthy ingredients in them. I don’t really have a favorite between the two…I like them both. You can look over the recipes and see which one you think you’d like best!

LENTIL SOUP by NancyCreative (shown above)

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes [or 1 (28-ounce) can]
  • 1 (16-ounce) package dry lentils, rinsed
  • 3 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • shredded Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Place olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot and heat a minute or two over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until translucent and glossy. Add in carrots, celery, garlic, and salt; saute all ingredients for 10 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, lentils, chicken broth, cumin, and coriander, and stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook at a low simmer until lentils are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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RED LENTIL SOUP by NancyCreative (shown above)

Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 3 1/2 to 4 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken or vegetable broth (about 7 to 8 cups–for a thinner soup, use a cup or two more broth)
  • 2 cups dry red lentils, rinsed (or substitute brown lentils, which is what I did)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, or the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 1-2 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (or your favorite shredded cheese) for sprinking on top, optional

Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, lentils, and carrots; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low to maintain simmer and cook until lentils are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes (Note: this makes a thick soup-if you want a thinner consistency, add a cup or two more broth). Stir in lemon juice and cilantro and mix well. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with shredded cheese if desired.

Do you like Lentil Soup as much as I do? What other kinds of soup do you like?

Black Bean Chicken Chili

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I was searching for a chicken chili recipe and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I came up with this recipe. I really love this chili! It tastes great and it’s healthy, too! It’s a little different from your typical chili…with chicken instead of beef, and lots of tasty ingredients like onion, garlic, tomatoes, corn, black beans, and fresh cilantro. I think this recipe could work with ground beef, too, if you prefer that over chicken. This chili is so nice and thick… it’s thick enough to serve over rice if you want. And it’s great when you top this bowl of chili with a heaping helping of fresh cilantro and shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Cheddar cheese…yum!

Here’s the recipe…hope you like it!

BLACK BEAN CHICKEN CHILI by NancyCreative

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (1 lb.) package boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, uncooked and cut into chunks (about 1/2″ or a little smaller)
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice, fresh-squeezed or bottled
  • 1 (15 oz.) can corn, well-drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • dash of salt, if desired
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, for garnish
  • finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a large saucepan (a 4-quart size works well), heat olive or canola oil over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion, garlic, and chicken chunks in oil for 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center (if you’re having trouble cutting the chicken before you cook it, you can cook it first and then cut it into chunks).

Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, and lime juice; stir until mixture is well blended. Add corn, black beans, and green chiles, stirring until blended. Next, add ground cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and a dash of salt if desired, stirring until blended. Then stir in 2 Tablespoons of the chopped fresh cilantro, stirring until it’s well blended in the chili mixture.

Heat chili to boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and garnish with finely chopped fresh cilantro and shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese.

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You can also serve this chili over rice if you’d like to. It makes a great meal on a chilly day!

Tomato Veggie Garbanzo Soup

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Tomato soup is one of my favorite soups, and when you combine tomatoes with veggies and garbanzo beans, you end up with a really great-tasting, healthy soup! I was inspired to make this when I found a recipe over at Grown From Scratch, and I modified it slightly. I used less chicken stock so the soup would be thicker because I love thick, chunky soup! And I also used more leeks and garlic, and a little less spinach. I really like the taste of this soup–hope you get a chance to try it!

TOMATO VEGGIE GARBANZO SOUP (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, thinly sliced (an easy way to slice them is to halve lengthwise and then slice crosswise–if you don’t have leeks on hand, you can substitute 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced)
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can chicken broth (I used the low sodium broth)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can garbanzo beans  (also known as chickpeas)
  • 3 firmly-packed cups fresh baby spinach leaves (about 4 oz.), chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling on top

Saute thinly-sliced leeks and diced zucchini in olive oil until tender. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and garbanzo beans. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir into the soup. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 to 5 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired, and serve with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top–the Parmesan cheese gives it a great little zing!

The soup also goes great with a crusty loaf of bread or garlic bread!

Are you a tomato soup-lover too? Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe?

Three-Bean Veggie Chili

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A friend of mine told me she made veggie chili by just substituting three cans of different kinds of beans for the meat in a regular chili recipe. That sounded pretty good to me, so I looked up a variety of chili recipes and created a veggie chili recipe of my own! I think it’s the best-tasting veggie chili I have ever made and it’s very easy. If you like meat in your chili you can add a pound of ground beef if you like, but it really tastes great without any meat. It’s a good, thick chili…great-tasting and very healthy, with black beans, red beans and pinto beans. It’s great for lunch or a simple, healthy dinner, and it makes 4-6 good-sized servings.

THREE-BEAN VEGGIE CHILI by NancyCreative

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • 2 medium size yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, not drained (I used Italian-style diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano)
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 15.5 ounce can pinto beans
  • 1 15/5 ounce can red beans
  • 1 15.5 ounce can black beans

Heat oil in a large saucepan over  medium heat. Saute onions and garlic in oil until onions are tender and translucent.

Mix in the two cans of diced tomatoes, undrained, and the tomato sauce. Add chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander; blend ingredients together. Stir in the three cans of beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes to an hour…then it’s ready to serve!