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Chicken Pot Pie is one of those homey, full-of-goodness meals that can bring a family to the table.  It’s easy to customize- fill it with your choice of meat (chicken, turkey, or beef) and the vegetables you know your family will love.  Store-bought and frozen versions can be loaded with saturated fats and preservatives, but it’s easy to make your own.  One bite and you’ll know your efforts were worth it.  I’ve tried out recipes over the years, but recently found one that I’ll hand down to my daughters one day.  It can be made traditionally, or gluten-free, and is delicious either way.

A moist and filling Pot Pie

This first photo gives an idea of what the inside of the Pot Pie looks like. The top was fluffy with a slight crunch to the crust, and the inside was creamy and thick.  The recipe comes straight from The Gluten Free Gourmet, and is called Bette’s Best Chicken Pot Pie.

Pot Pie Filling:

  • 2 small chicken breasts (about ½ lb.)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • ½ c. diced carrots
  • ½ c. sliced celery
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • ½ c. frozen peas
  • 1 c. peeled, diced potatoes (about 2 small potatoes; this wasn’t in the original recipe but I added it in because I think Pot Pie needs potatoes)
  • 3 T flour (regular or gluten-free)
  • 2-3 T water
  • ¼ c. cream (I used milk)
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, sauté or poach chicken breasts until cooked through.  Remove from pan, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.  Place chicken stock in pan and bring to a boil.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes, and cook for 15 minutes.  Add chicken and peas and cook for five minutes longer.  In a small bowl, mix flour and water to make a thin paste.  Thicken stock with flour paste, cook on low one to two more minutes.  Add cream, season as desired with salt and pepper.  Spoon into a greased, 2-quart round casserole.  Preheat oven to 350, and prepare Pot Pie crust.

Pot Pie Crust:

  • 1 T sugar
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. rice flour (if not making gluten-free, substitute flour)
  • 1/3 c. potato starch flour (if not making gluten-free, substitute cornstarch)
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1/3 c buttermilk

Mix sugar, butter, and egg together.  Sift together dry ingredients, add to sugar mixture, alternating with buttermilk.  Spread evenly on top of Pot Pie.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is lightly browned and liquid bubbles around the edges (see below).

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Chili is one of my favorite meals, for many reasons.  To start with the obvious, a bowl of flavorful, warm-cooked goodness can’t be beat.  Chili comes together quickly and makes the house smell inviting.  Everyone in my house is always happy with chili night.  To go with the less obvious, it is naturally gluten-free, and our recipe required no substitutions or alterations when we switched over.  Lastly, my own two little chili secrets: I fill it with vegetables, triple the recipe, and freeze the two extra two batches in freezer-safe bags.  On a busy afternoon in the near-future, I will be thrilled to have a healthy, home-cooked meal waiting for me in my freezer.

 Hearty, healthy chili

My husband, who does precious little of the cooking but tends to have very discerning tastes (I love him anyway!), found this recipe online when he decided our chili recipe was boring.  I have to admit, we’ve enjoyed this one since we switched to it last year.  I’ve made a few changes to make it a little healthier and family friendly.  Those who know me well know that I almost never cook a recipe as is.  Recipes are just jumping-off points, right?

To start with the meat, I brown and drain a pound of lean ground turkey in place of the shredded turkey.  I skip the green pepper (no one in our house is a fan) although next time I think I’d substitute red pepper.  Since we don’t like our food spicy, I halve the ground cumin and chili powder, and omit the red pepper flakes entirely. Of course, adjust this to your family’s tastes.  Rather than two cans of kidney beans, I go for variety- one can of kidney, one can of either pinto or a white bean, and a can of black beans.  Drain and rinse your beans if they’re canned.  Lastly, and for my favorite part, I add the vegetables.  Grate in two medium zucchini (peel them first, or use yellow squash, if you think your family will pick out the green) and add in 1/2 cup of pureed butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato.  Serve over brown rice, with sour cream and shredded cheese, and I promise, everyone will eat it up.  My husband’s friend came over recently when we made this, and afterwards he admitted that although he didn’t usually like chili and was hesitant to try it, he loved the meal and asked for the recipe.  Success!

One word of caution.  If you are gluten-free, double-check your ingredients.  Although everything in this recipe should be naturally gluten-free, I was dismayed to find that some canned beans, bags of dried beans, cans of diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and spice containers stated, “Processed on equipment shared with wheat,” or “Make contain traces of wheat.”  When we became gluten-free, I switched some of the brands that we were using, and made calls to companies to make sure their products were safe.  An easy fix, but worth your time to ensure safety.

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I’ve decided that eating fresh pesto is like eating summer.  If you grow your own basil, then what’s the difference between basil and summer, really?  To me, they’re fairly synonymous.  Cooking with home-grown fresh herbs is one of the treats of the season, and I look forward to it all winter long.

 Making Pesto

My basil plants were overflowing with great-sized leaves the other night, and I decided it was time for some pesto.  Every year at the end of the season I make a few batches of pesto, and freeze them to use throughout the winter.  This batch, though, did not last past dinner.  In a food processor, combine 2 c. well-packed basil leaves and 1/4 c. chopped nuts (pine nuts or walnuts).  Pulse till shredded, then add 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground pepper, and pulse again.  Add 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, and pulse until smooth, pushing down as needed.  If you’d like to freeze this in a jar for later use, don’t add the cheese until it’s been thawed and you’re ready to serve it.

A Pesto Pasta Salad

Once the pesto was ready, I poured it over a lb. of cooked pasta, then stirred in 8 oz. of cubed fresh mozzarella and a handful of grape tomatoes.  Served with some fresh fruit, it was the perfect savory, gooey dinner that satisfied the whole family.

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Something about the sound of “zucchini fritters” makes me feel like I’m at a carnival, about to taste a magical creation, and perhaps win one of those ridiculously giant stuffed animals to boot.  I came across this recipe last week, and knew it was just the thing to do with those glorious shiny green zucchini I’d picked up last weekend.  I cook with zucchini just about every chance I get, and was excited that fritters were about to be my next endeavor.

Crunchy zucchini fritters

With this recipe for zucchini fritters being the main inspiration for dinner, I looked for something that would complete the meal.  Bunless turkey burgers worked perfectly, along with a handful of fresh strawberries.  The fritters were incredible- moist, slightly crispy, and full of flavor- and we were sad when they were all gone.  I pan-fried the burgers since I was already at the stove, and within 20 minutes we had a complete and really delicious dinner.  Abundant zucchini this time of year is a blessing!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Like many others, I bake much less in the summer.  Who wants to turn on an oven in the middle of a hot afternoon?  Breakfast, however, is the one time of day when I can justify using the oven without feeling too guilty (or overheated).  A friend of mine posted pictures of an enticing breakfast she’d made the other day, and I hit her up for her recipe source. As soon as I got a look at the recipe, I was hooked, and knew I’d be trying it out the very next morning.  I love cooking with in-season produce, and the idea of fresh blueberries melting into the dough sold me on the spot.

Blueberry breakfast cake

This recipe comes from a wonderful site, Alexandra’s Kitchen, which is filled with delicious meal ideas (her zucchini fritters are next on my list!)  I made just one change, and substituted whole wheat pastry flour for 1/3 of the white flour.  Usually I also replace at least half of the butter with applesauce, but I was too dazzled by her recipes to remember to do so.  I’ll do that next time.  Everyone in my house gobbled a piece, and then had seconds, so I highly recommend making it!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Chicken is a kitchen stand-by, but it can get boring if the preparation isn’t varied.  Especially when feeding a family, you’ve got to keep things interesting, and have your repertoire varied for picky eaters.  As I’ve said before, I constantly keep an eye out for new recipes, and collect my findings in a giant binder.  Flipping through a Rachel Ray magazine, I came across not only a chicken dish, but an entire dinner.  I was excited to try it and add it to my collection, and wasn’t disappointed when I did.

Crunchy chicken with green beans and rice

I followed this recipe closely, making only a few changes.  Rather than mayo in the recipe, I used light sour cream, and I found a crusty ciabatta roll to be perfect in the place of a baguette.  Finally, I steamed the green beans rather than boiling them, as I hate to lose veggie’s nutrients to water, and added 1/2 cup of pureed cauliflower to the rice.  Everyone enjoyed the chicken, and it was a nice change from a regular bread-crumbed breast.  It came together quickly, and paired with some strawberries, it was a great dinner.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Everyone knows how to make salad. A salad as a main course, though, is much trickier, especially if you are feeding it to children.  It must then be filling, supply adequate protein, and most importantly, be interesting. There are a few restaurants at which I look forward to ordering a big salad.  Like anything else, I analyzed what made the meal so special, and recreated it at home. What makes a salad enticing enough to serve as dinner? For me, it must be super fresh, offer plenty of variety, and contain items that challenge my expectations. It’s not the basics, like lettuce or carrots, which make the salad, but the extras that transform the dish from a side plate to a main attraction.

The Big Salad

Here are three salads-for-dinner I’ve made recently.  As you can see, there are some basic tenets, like romaine lettuce, baby spinach, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs.  Then there are the toss-ins that make each salad a little different– beans, crunchy noodles, homemade croutons, different fruits, etc., so that each salad is unique.   I use salad night as an opportunity for a vegetarian meal, letting the eggs and beans serve as the primary protein, but grilled chicken or steak could be a nice addition.  Finally, I always arrange each item on the plate individually, rather than a big messy pile, and then it’s fun for my kids to dip and eat.

Big Salad, one way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, steamed carrots, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, strawberries, chow mein noodles, and cucumbers.

Big salad, another way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, diced apples, grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots, zucchini sticks, cantaloupe, and hard-boiled eggs.

Big salad, a third way: Romaine lettuce, baby spinach, zucchini sticks, steamed carrot sticks, red peppers, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, fresh berries, homemade parmesan garlic croutons.

Most importantly, include family favorites in your salad, and always keep one or two of the ingredients changing.  It’ll never be the same old, and with the opportunity to raid the garden or the farm stand for fresh fruits and veggies, salad for dinner is a treat, not a punishment.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

I love zucchini.  I eat it fresh, cut into sticks; I eat it steamed, with a little olive oil drizzled on top; and I grate it and put it into chili, bread, and muffins.  But this morning I did something new- I put it into pancakes.  Yep, zucchini in pancakes.  I thought it sounded a little kooky, but a friend emailed me a recipe from a cool blog we both follow, so I decided to give it a try.  I was a little unsure as I mixed shredded zucchini into the batter, but once I smelled them cooking on the griddle, I knew I’d found a new family favorite.

Zucchini bread pancakes

The recipe for the pancakes can be found on A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, which is a really nifty blog with cute recipes, home DIY projects, etc.  For once, I followed the recipe without modifications, although I probably used a little more shredded zucchini than she specified.  The oats gave it a nutty crunch, the zucchini tasted so fresh against the cinnamon, and they were truly delicious. My husband, who can be very picky about pancakes, raved about them.  With zucchini so plentiful, either from your garden or a local farm stand, I highly recommend giving this breakfast a try!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

One thing I really like to make for my kids are healthy snacks.  Especially since I have a grade-schooler who needs daily packed snacks, I’ve had fun getting creative.  Mini granola bars, roasted chickpeas, and trail-mix blends are fun to make, and my kids enjoy the little treats they find in their bags.  The best part about these snacks is that you can assemble them in bulk, and store extras in the pantry or freezer.  With an adequate stash on hand, they’re ready to toss into a lunch cooler or backpack on the fly.

Power sticks

This recipe is a Weight Watchers recipe that a friend had given me almost ten years ago.  My daughter says they taste like cookie dough, so I take that as a very good sign.  It requires no cooking, is incredibly quick to assemble, and is very portable.  I always make this in a triple batch, wrap the extras individually in wax paper, and keep them in the freezer.  On a morning when we need a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack, a power stick accompanied with a banana is the way to do it.  To make a single batch, combine 1/2 cup of all-natural (sugar and oil-free) peanut butter, 3 Tbsp. of honey, 2/3 cup of whole grain flakes, and 1/3 cup of instant fat-free powdered milk.  Mix ingredients in a bowl until well-blended.  Form six sticks, and wrap individually in wax paper.  Store in an airtight container.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Sometimes, an elaborate meal is fun, but on many weeknights, that’s just not possible.  The other day, we were running around doing errands, and I knew I had to put together something very quick for dinner.  I turn to the crockpot on such occasions, because it is an opportunity to combine some simple ingredients during a less-pressured time of the day, and have dinner ready when I want it.  If you don’t have a crockpot, however, do not fear- this one would come out just as well if cooked in the oven.

Chicken in a peach mango salsa

Using a very simple recipe found here, I made a couple of changes.  The recipe calls for turkey cutlets or even pork, but I had chicken breasts, and they worked perfectly.  Secondly, instead of the can of diced chile tomatoes, I used salsa, which made it much more flavorful.  Finally, I threw in some chunks of pineapple as well, and the flavors were great.  I served it over rice with some cauliflower puree mixed in, a side of fresh veggies and fruit, and it was a nice summer dinner.  If you don’t have a crockpot, I’d combine the ingredients as recommended and cook it in the oven at 350 until the chicken is cooked through.  It may need less water, but other than that, should be an easy meal to replicate.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

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