Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Soup with Asiago: Real Convenience Food

I came home last week from a sunny, warm vacation to a miserable, cold hailstorm. Needless to say, I needed some comfort food...fast. As I've mentioned before, I always keep some broth on hand for quick and easy meals. It definitely came in handy for this rich and satisfying soup, which also makes good use of my handy dandy stash of caramelized onions in the freezer. (I'm telling you, these things are great to have on hand!)

This isn't your grand-mère's french onion soup; it's a semi-homemade version with some calorie-cutting, health-boosting changes. I replaced that soggy bread with meaty, nutritious mushrooms. And I swapped out the usual loads of gruyere with just a bit of pungent asiago; at about 20 calories per tablespoon, asiago is a great way to add flavor and gooey texture, and even some calcium. 


Ingredients:
makes 6-8 servings
  • 2T butter
  • 4 cups (about 10 ounces) sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup wine (I used white because that's what I had open; red would add a richer flavor)
  • 2 cups caramelized onions
  • 32-ounce box low-sodium organic beef broth (can substitute vegetable broth)
  • shaved asiago, about 1-2T per serving
  • salt, to taste

Melt the butter in a pot until it gets foamy:

Add sliced mushrooms and saute until golden:
Add wine to the hot pot to deglaze. Add the caramelized onions and broth. 
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with shaved asiago.
Let the hot soup melt the cheese.


Even without the gobs of gruyeye, you can still have what you want most in an onion soup: cheese pull!
Hurry up and make some before winter ends!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Broccoli Devilled Eggs

We've previously discussed some ways to get kids to eat more veggies. But do you eat enough vegetables? Most of us could benefit from eating more. One great way to eat more is to incorporate them into pretty much everything you make. Even unexpected dishes, like devilled eggs.

Eggs are a great source of protein, of course. And pregnant ladies, take note: egg yolks are a fantastic source of choline, essential for healthy fetal brain development and preventing birth defects. Yolks also provide some Vitamin D, so vital to both mother and baby, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Broccoli provides fiber, as well as Vitamins A and K; this combination helps support our Vitamin D metabolism, so it's great to pair broccoli with eggs.
I love devilled eggs; I like to have one as a post-workout snack. I make just one at a time, so I'm not tempted to eat more than I really need or want. However, I do hard-boil a few eggs at a time, so they're ready and waiting for me in the fridge when I need them.

This isn't a recipe as much as a technique. Feel free to change it to suit your tastes. 

Halve a hard-boiled egg.
Steam a handful of broccoli florets (cauliflower or peas would work well, too) until just past al dente, so you can easily mash them; you could puree the broccoli if you prefer a smoother texture. My ratio is about a heaping tablespoon of mashed broccoli to a teaspoon of mayo--or Greek yogurt--to a touch of mustard.

Remove the yolk from the white and add to the rest of ingredients. Mash together and add salt, to taste. 

Spoon (or pipe, if you're feelin' fancy) the mixture back into the yolk.


Of course, these are great for kids, too. Just whip up some "green eggs" and the little Dr. Seuss fans will be sure to give them a shot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beer and Breastfeeding for St. Patrick's Day?



We love to hear from our readers! Here's a question we recently received:

Q: I breastfeed my baby. I'm planning to go to a St. Patrick's Day party. Can I drink beer?

A: As a board-certified lactation consultant, what I always tell my clients is: if you're too drunk to drive, you're too drunk to breastfeed - but not too drunk to pump and dump.

Alcohol from one drink peaks in breast milk around 30 to 60 minutes after you have a drink (longer if you're eating at the same time). Based on that, it would make sense to breastfeed your baby right before you consume an alcoholic beverage. 

"Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all…The mother can take some alcohol and continue to breastfeed as she normally does," according to Dr. Jack Newman, member of La Leche League International. "Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers." 

In fact, there are some studies that suggest beer can potentially stimulate prolactin levels and breast milk production; this is likely caused by the barley, since non-alcoholic beer has the same effects.

Of course, there are possible side effects from excessive drinking, including drowsiness and deep sleep in infants, and a potential decrease in your milk-ejection reflex. 

So when it comes to a celebratory drink or two on St. Patty's Day, moderation is the name of the game. Sláinte!

by Flannery Fontinell, R.N., B.S.N., IBCLC, LCCE

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mac-n-Cheese-n-Cauliflower-n-Artichokes

Want the recipe for this veggie-filled dish? Please check out my guest post at Taste as You Go!

Mouth-watering crispy bits.

Delicious, healthful cauliflower in every bite!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asparagus and Pea Soup: Real Convenience Food

Trying to lose some baby weight? Want to improve your health by eating more veggies? Pregnant and bone tired? Overwhelmed by the office? Stressed by staying at home with your kids? I bet we all have more in common than we think.

For instance, don't we all feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done? I'm here to tell you that - no matter how busy and tired you are - you can find time to cook real, wholesome food for your family and for yourself.

Shortcuts help. Here's one that I often rely on: cooking with good quality, prepared ingredients. Now if you have visions/nightmares of Sandra Lee and her Semi-Home Cooking empire...don't. I'm not talking about putting food coloring and Cool Whip in everything you consume.

Instead, I utilize things like organic broth and frozen veggies to create quick, healthful, easy, and quick (did I say that before?) meals, like this soup. Enjoy a bowl of it for dinner, pour it over pasta for little kids that aren't great with spoons yet, or bring it to work in a Thermos. It's versatile and satisfying. 
This soup is also chock full of nutrition. Asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse for all of us, but especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It is an excellent source of the birth-defect-fighting folate and is rich in Vitamin C. Peas are high in protein, iron and fiber. Both asparagus and peas are great sources of Vitamin K, necessary for proper blood clotting. In rare cases, newborns may be deficient; increasing your K intake can raise the levels in your breast milk.

Ingredients:
  • 1T EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 onion
  • a couple of garlic cloves
  • bag of frozen organic asparagus (preferably thawed)
  • 2-3c of frozen organic peas
  • box of organic, low-sodium vegetable broth
  • dried red pepper flakes (optional)
Chop the garlic and onions; don't worry about making them tiny or perfect - they're going to get pureed, anyway. And make sure you use fresh onions and garlic, which provide lots of nutritional benefits and much better flavor than powders.
Sautee the onions in the EVOO, adding the garlic after a couple of minutes; cook until the onions are translucent. Add the whole bag of asparagus and cover everything with the broth. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if using. 
Simmer until the asparagus is bright green and tender (if you've thawed the asparagus it will only take a couple of minutes). Turn off the heat and puree using an immersion blender. Asparagus is quite fibrous, so be patient and blend until smooth.
Add peas (the heat of the soup will quickly thaw them) and puree until smooth; add more until it reaches the thickness you like. I usually add closer to two to two-and-a-half cups, but do more if that's what you prefer.
Top with chives and a small dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream or greek yogurt. Big croutons would be great, as well.
Take a few extra moments to garnish the soup and make it seem like a decadent treat.
Can you taste the delicious green-ness of this??
Note: Asparagus has diuretic properties, which is great for reducing water retention and bloat. But if you're pregnant and already peeing constantly, make sure to have this soup early in the day; if you have it for dinner, you may have to make extra bathroom trips during the night. You need all the sleep you can get!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's Fat Tuesday: Make Your Own (No Cook, No Sweat) Creme Fraiche!

Creme fraiche is one of those things that is in every European supermarket but only in gourmet stores here in the U.S. It is similar to our sour cream; creme fraiche has a less tangy and more buttery flavor. It's wonderful with both sweet and savory dishes. Try it under berries with a touch of honey, or on top of warm, wilted greens. 
If you buy it in a specialty store, you'll pay a pretty penny. But if you make it yourself, it is much more affordable -- plus, you can control the quality of the ingredients (think organic, grass-fed dairy!).
It's ridiculously easy to make. Most recipes call for buttermilk and cream. I never have buttermilk in the house, but I always have kefir so I used that. It came out perfect!
Put two tablespoons of plain kefir in a glass jar:

Pour two cups of heavy cream on top of the kefir.

Cover and shake gently, just to combine. Now here comes the really easy part: let it sit on your kitchen counter or other warm-ish place (inside your turned-off oven or on top of your fridge are good spots) for about 24 hours. This lets the active, beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) from the kefir multiply and culture the cream. You'll know it's ready because it will be super thick and smooth.

Creme fraiche is high in fat and therefore quite caloric, so watch your portions. I like to add it to low-calorie foods, like fruits and veggies; it's a tasty balance. Try a teaspoon swirled into a bowl of pureed vegetable soup...


...or a tablespoon or two mashed into a couple of cups of steamed cauliflower and topped with chives: 
Chives make everything better.


Enjoy!

Note: if you put the jar in a really, really warm spot, it'll be ready faster; in a cooler spot, it'll take longer. You can check it at about 12 hours. 24 hours works for me in my oven.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tropical Popsicles: Lean, Green and Clean Eating


Smoothies are magical: just throw a bunch of healthy stuff in a blender and out comes something delicious. They are also super versatile. You can enjoy them for breakfast, post-workout, or for dessert; freeze them in popsicle molds for a healthful kiddie snack or as an energy-boosting treat during labor.
Make sure you use BPA-free pop molds
This is one of my favorite smoothie recipes. It gives a hint of warm weather and vacation, even in the dead of winter. It's flexible, too. Make it vegan or sweeter or greener - whatever works for you. 


It's also a great way to incorporate raw greens into your (or your finicky toddler's) diet. As you know, we're not fans of "deceiving" kids into eating healthy foods. But there is something to be said for simply incorporating veggies and fruits into all the foods you make, whether you have children or not. My son helps me put all these ingredients in the blender - yes, even the raw spinach; he knows it's in there. Would he eat a plate of spinach? Not a chance. Does he happily consume this? Damn skippy he does!


Ingredients:
  • 1c pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
  • 1c mango chunks (fresh or frozen)
  • 1c kefir (or yogurt or the plantmilk of your choice - coconut milk would be great)
  • 1c mango or pineapple juice (100% fruit juice) or coconut water
  • 2c (packed) baby spinach leaves 

Puree until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth. It yields about 32 ounces. We drank some for breakfast...

...and used some to make popsicles:

They made for an especially popular playdate treat!

You can also put some in a reusable, BPA-free, to-go cup and sip on this smoothie while you're at work. Much better than diving into those stale cookies from yesterday's board meeting!

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