Winters in New England are cold and harsh. When snow blankets my home and the wind rattles the windows, I crave comfort food that tastes delicious and is hearty. I don’t want excessive fat and calories, so I create recipes that fit my eating requirement! Soups, stews, and casseroles for healthy eating are a satisfying experience, and you won’t feel deprived. You can have a glass of wine with dinner or a small dessert if you cut unnecessary calories—no need to feel deprived. That will sabotage your new year diet or healthy eating intention.
Simply replacing meat with veggie crumbles in chili makes a significant difference without sacrificing taste. I also added butternut squash to this recipe as it pairs well with the beans and tomatoes. Additional I added baking cocoa for richness in taste and color.
If you like five-alarm chili, add additional hot sauces. I freeze the chili in individual for a quick lunch or supper.
2 tbsp. olive oil 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 cloves minced garlic 1 package (20 oz.) cut butternut squash 1 can (14 1/2 oz. ) no salt added diced tomatoes 1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed 2 cans (15.5 oz) cannellini beans 1 can (15.5 oz.) garbanzos beans, drained and rinsed 1 box (32 oz.) unsalted vegetable stock 3 tbsp. tomato paste 2 tsp chili powder 2 tsp baking cocoa 1 teaspoon oregano leaves 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 package (12 oz) Morning Star Farms Veggie Crumbles
Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add butternut squash and cook for additional ten minutes.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Cooking for me, is fun and creative; I derive enormous pleasure from preparing a delicious recipe. I inherited my passion for cooking from my mother. I loved to return home from school and sit on the countertop, sharing my day with her as I watched her cook. My time spent cooking with my mother motivated me to start my blog and share her cooking philosophy; I am amazed when I hear people say they can’t cook or don’t like cooking. I say if you love to eat, there is every reason to cook.
On my blog, my goal is to make cooking easy and fun. I’m not interested in being intimidated by an overly pretentious recipe with expensive or hard-to-locate ingredients. And my personal dislike too many waisted steps. I don’t show off on my blog; I want you to easily make my recipes to enjoy with family and friends. I love to entertain, and when I do, I want to enjoy my guests, not hibernating in the kitchen.
During the winter months, I make large vats of soups and stews to freeze for consumption later that provides quick and easy dinners when you are short on time. My life is like yours, with an endless to-do list, so when I am short on time, I can open my freezer and discover an array of made ahead meals.
I make my own soups and stews because I find the commercial and restaurant prepared versions are seasoned with too much salt. If you use the right seasonings, salt is a minimal ingredient for a good soup or stew. Limiting salt improves the taste of food and is a healthier option.
I hope I have given you a few reasons to be adventurous if you have never made your own soup or stew! Oh, did I mention I’d love to hear your successes!
If you want to make this a vegan or vegetarian stew, substitute plant-based sausage for chicken sausage.
White Bean and Sausage Soup
2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2medium carrots, finely diced
2celery stalks, finely diced
2garlic cloves, finely chopped
1tablespoon tomato paste
½teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (15.5 oz.) Cannellini beans, rinsed, I like Goya Organics, low salt
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1large rosemary sprig
2teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1pound sweet Italian chicken sausage or veggie sausage, cooked and sliced 3/4-inch thick*
½teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans, vegetable stock, salt, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
Add the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Remove the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
Roast the sausage on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Cooking should be fun! I am amazed when I hear people say they hate to cook! Why would you dislike something essential to survival and can be so creative? I like everyone who cooks has experienced disasters in the kitchen. I once made a cake that, when I frosted, slid off the plate and onto the floor.
Every misshape has made me the cook I am today, and I am grateful for all my cooking experiences.
If you are tackling a new recipe, my first suggestion is to read the recipe in total. Then gather all the tools you need and the ingredients and arrange them on your countertop in order of their use. This makes it so easy to follow the recipe for a novice. Even though I am an experienced cook, I take out my tools and ingredients before cooking.
Cooking is like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you become.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. And so delicious with kale in a vegetarian lasagna. I roast both to bring out the flavor; instead of a traditional tomato, I used bechamel sauce. No-boil noodles cut the preparation time.
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
1 package (20 ounces) butternut squash
4 cups kale, cut into 2-inch pieces and stems removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 sage leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
15 ounces ricotta cheese (can be part-skim)
2 eggs, beaten
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash and kale with 2 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt.
Roast, rotating the baking sheets once until the vegetables are tender, 18 to 20 minutes; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour until smooth; cook, whisking, until the flour is lightly golden but not brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, occasionally stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Stir in the nutmeg.
Assemble the lasagna. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Toss the cheeses and the flour in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Evenly coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the bechamel.
Lay 3 noodles side by side on top. Cover with one-third of the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese mixture, half of the ricotta cheese, and top with half of the vegetable mixture. Arrange 3 more noodles on top and repeat the layers (bechamel, cheese, ricotta, vegetables). Top with the remaining 3 noodles, then cover with the remaining bechamel; sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until browned and bubbling. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and follow baking instructions.
To freeze, cover lasagna tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To bake, remove the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
An interesting salad adds to a meal with taste, texture, and color. Food should appeal to all the senses not just taste. Lately, I have been obsessed with Slaws which create for different seasons and occasions. And Slaws are healthy especially dressed with simple ingredients. for a colorful holiday slaw, I added pomegranate arils and pecans for crunch.
This recipe works well with other veggies like Brussel sprouts, kale or broccoli. Experiment and see what works for you.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup baby kale
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 Anjou pear, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place cabbages, carrots, and kale in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing, and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperated 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Add pecans, pear slices, and pomegranate arils, and toss to combine. Drizzle with remaining dressing just before serving.
Healthy eating during the Holiday Season is not an easy task, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuous munching to the New Year. Celebrating, enjoying food with family and friends is an essential facet of the season for me. To not become unhealthy and pack on the weight, I’ve created vegetarian options for our everyday meals that are flavorful and healthy. I make my vegetarian meatball Italian style to add to homemade tomato sauce. I make a large batch of marinara and freeze to have available for a quick meal. You can purchase a good quality sauce if you prefer. The link to my sauce is below.
2 tablespoon olive oil 1 (8 ounces) package mushrooms, I used portabella. 1/2 cup chopped onions 3 cloves chopped garlic 4 teaspoons Italian Herbs 1/4 teaspoons crushed red 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed. 3 tablespoons tomato paste 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese 1 cup plain bread crumbs or cooked Arborio rice 1 egg, beaten salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 450F. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions, mushroom, Italian herbs, and red pepper. Saute until onions are soft. Add minced garlic a saute a few minutes longer. Do not let garlic brown.
Transfer to a food processer. Add beans and tomato paste. Pulse until combined, not pureed.
Add parmesan cheese, pulse to combine. Next, add bread crumbs and pulse.
Transfer to a bowl and add beaten egg. The egg binds the mixture together. Once the mixture binds together, make the meatballs. I like my balls’ smalls. They can easily be made large, like big meatballs.
Place meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for 12-14 minutes until browned.
Add to tomato sauce for meatless spaghetti and meatballs.
When I am short on time yet want to make a tasty, delicious meal, I turn to my repertoire of easy, quick delicious meals. Pasta is a go-to for me since I am of Italian heritage. My mother made fabulous meals every night for our family, and I was fortunate to have her as my gold standard.
When I cook, I remember sitting on the kitchen countertop as my mother worked her magic with a recipe. A pinch of this, a dash of that, combined with a few other ingredients, and she created a special dinner for her family.
My mother didn’t write her recipes down because when she cooked, it was a new adventure for her; she never made the recipe the same!
I inherited my love of cooking from my mother. And I get lost in the kitchen creating new recipes from old favorites, experimenting with different flavors and combinations. Every recipe isn’t a success; I’ve failed many times. With each failure, I’ve learned so much from the mistakes.
Have fun, experiment, add your spin when you cook!
1 package(9 oz.) Buitoni fresh Linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 pound porcini or baby portobello mushrooms halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (smaller mushrooms can be left halved)
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 heavy cream
1-ounce Pecorino Romano, finely grated (2/3 cup)
Porcini Butter Sauce Heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium. Add oil, butter, and garlic. When butter melts and garlic sizzles, add mushrooms; season with salt. Cook, occasionally stirring, until mushrooms are tender and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds more. Add cream and stir until combined.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain. Add pasta water to the skillet with mushrooms. Bring it to a simmer, stirring until half evaporated. Add cream, stirring until combined, coating the mushrooms.
Toss over pasta. Add half of the cheese, tossing to combine. Serve topped with remaining cheese, pepper flakes, and a drizzle of oil.
Soup has a special place in my heart! My mother made the most flavorful homemade soups. She would have hot soup ready for us when we came home, frozen from playing in the snow or ice skating on the pond near our home. And she had a variety of frozen soups ready for an after school snack to hold us over to dinner. My father didn’t return home from work until six or seven o’clock, and we waited for him to eat together as a family.
Those cherished memories return to me when I make soup for my family. Maybe that is why I enjoy making soups. I am transported to my childhood sitting on a stool in the kitchen, watching my mother make magic. My repertoire of soups is extensive for so many reasons. Soups, first, are delicious, easy to make ahead, and by limiting fat and salt, very healthy!
A favorite ingredient I use often is mushrooms. I love their earthy taste and nutritional benefit. And the variety is of mushrooms is considerable. I like to use portabella mushrooms, dark and earthy, complementing the brown rice melody. My mushroom-rice soup is healthy and flavorful; I added four cloves of garlic. The aroma of sauteing garlic is so delightful!
Baby Bela Garlic Mushroom Soup with Brown Rice
2 tablespoon olive oil 4 cloves garlic, minced 8 oz baby Bela mushrooms, chopped 32 oz low salt vegetable stock 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence 1/4 cup brown rice, I used Trader Joe’s, Brown Rice Melody
Rinse mushrooms well and pat dry—heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic sauteing for 5 minutes on low heat. Don’t let garlic brown. Add mushrooms; continue sauteing for 10 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add pepper, salt, herbs, and rice; cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Like The Seven Kingdoms of Westerly, I do miss Game of Thrones, winter is coming to New England. To ward off the frigid, snowy weather, I love to create tasty, healthy soups and stews filling but low in fat, salt, and calories but not short on flavor. My vegetable stew fits that description perfectly. Totally healthy, vegan, flavorful with just the right kick from the hot sauce. I make a big batch for future dinners when snowdrifts are blanketing our homes.
Hearty Vegetable Stew
2 tablespoon olive oil 4 cloves garlic crushed 1 large shallot chopped 8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, sliced 1 can(14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, Hunt’s no salt added 2 cups vegetable broth 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 cup chopped baby carrots 1 cup farro, rinsed 1 can (15 oz) Cannellini Beans, rinsed Griller Crumbles, Morning Star 2 tablespoon Franks Hot sauce
In large stock pot heat olive, add garlic and shallot cooking for 5 minutes until translucent. Don’t brown. Add mushrooms cooking another 5 minutes. Combine tomatoes, vegetable broth and chili power adding to vegetables mixture. Add carrots, farro, cover, simmer for 15 minutes. Finish stew by adding beans, Griller Crumbles and Franks Hot Sauce. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
Autumn is here and waking up to chilly mornings my thoughts turn from summer food to Fall comfort food. Tomato soup is the perfect fall comfort food and I love to use the last of the garden fresh tomatoes. Roasting the tomatoes, onion, kale and garlic enhances the flavor. I added kale for a more rustic soup and added texture. Serve this delicious soup with a salad and fresh baked bread.
3 pounds tomatoes, quartered
1 yellow onion, halved and quartered
4 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cup kale, stems removed and chopped
5 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
Fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional) for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Spread tomatoes, onion, and garlic in 1 layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper.
Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes; add kale and continue roasting until tomato mixture is tender, about 15 more minutes.
Bring vegetable stock and basil to a boil in a large stockpot; reduce heat and simmer.
Put half the tomato mixture into a blender. Cover and hold lid down; pulse a few times before leaving on to blend until smooth, adding a small amount of the warm vegetable stock if liquid is needed. Pour pureed tomato mixture into stockpot with vegetable stock. Puree remaining half of tomato mixture and add to vegetable stock mixture, mixing well. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of baguette, toasted. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Autumn has holds a special place in my heart. I was born in the fall, school starts in the fall (I loved school), and I mysteriously become energized, renewed with the changing of the leaves and the crisp fell of morning New England air. Along with the change in season, my cooking and baking use different ingredients and flavors.
I love hearty stews packed with veggies and flavor. I prefer to make my own soups and stews, and I can control the fat and salt content, making healthy dishes.
Kale can be tough, and lightly cooking before adding to a stew tenderizes the veggie. Colorful vegetables, fragrant fresh herbs, and a low salt vegetable broth make this a hearty, healthy option.
This recipe makes a large quantity of stew and freezes well. If I am not feeding a group, I like to freeze the stew in individual containers.
1 small bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed Kosher salt ½ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for serving 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 2 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 2 cans diced tomatoes, no salt 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed 4 sprigs thyme 1 sprig marjoram or oregano 1 bay leaf
1 cup Italian farro, rinsed
2 inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper Shaved Parmesan (for serving)
Working in batches cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Rinse to cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is evaporated and tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, 10–15 minutes.
Add broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, reserved greens, farro and partisan rind; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard sprigs and bay leaf.
DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. I also like to freeze in small containers for later.