Monday, January 28, 2013

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Mmm-Mmm Good!
This weekend it was rainy and colder than usual here in Southern California. I know, I know…our idea of a “storm” is laughable to most of you in other parts of the country. But for us, when the temps start dropping into the 60s it’s clearly time to build a fire and bust out our winter coats.

There’s nothing better on a chilly day than a steaming, delicious bowl of soup. And this time of year, a hearty chicken noodle just may be the perfect meal. What could make this recipe even better? It’s made with a Crock Pot—the best kitchen gadget EVER.
I based my recipe on the one I found here. My healthy “swap”tions included omitting the extra salt and the corn, changing the egg noodles to whole wheat rotini, increasing the amount of vegetables and chicken broth, and adding minced garlic.
Here’s what I came up with.
Creamy Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 8-10
9-10 cups chicken broth, divided use
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of chicken condensed soup
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup white onion, diced
1 cup green onions, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I used meat from a whole rotisserie chicken)
1 (10-13.25-ounce) package whole wheat rotini or other whole wheat noodles *
*Be sure to check the labels on your pasta products. Real, unprocessed whole wheat noodles should have only one ingredient: durum whole wheat flour. (For an excellent overview of healthy grains—and 1,000 other awesome posts about eating healthy, unprocessed foods—visit this blog post. Lisa Leake is my idol…seriously.)

Place 6 cups broth, condensed soup, carrots, celery, onion, garlic and pepper in the Crock Pot. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours.
Add cooked chicken and uncooked pasta, cover, and cook on low an additional 2-3 hours.

Add remaining 3-4 cups chicken broth (less broth for a thicker soup), cover, and cook on low until soup simmers.  Reduce heat to warm until ready to serve.
I used more noodles than the original recipe called for and they soaked up A LOT of the broth. That’s why I added so much additional broth once the noodles were cooked through. If you aren’t serving a crowd or don’t feel like having lots of leftovers, you could cut the amount of noodles in half and possibly eliminate the need to add extra liquid.

That being said, I wouldn’t change the way this soup turned out. It was savory, creamy, and the perfect meal for a chilly winter night. The hubs said it reminded him of the inside of a chicken pot pie. I’ll take that!
We’ve been trying to cut a few carbs around here but that all went out the window when I served this soup with the Cheddar and Green Chili Drop Biscuits I posted last month. It was totally worth the cheat.  

On a side note, we all know that when we are sick, chicken noodle soup always makes us feel better. TLC factor aside, there’s actual scientific studies out there (Chest, 2000) that suggest chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties and may well help alleviate upper respiratory tract symptoms.
So, whether you need a little piping hot soup to clear your stuffy head or you’re just craving a little old-fashioned comfort food, this delectable chicken noodle awesomeness may be just what the doctor ordered.

Until next time,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Crock Pot Broccoli Beef

Healthy and delicious Chinese food--in the comfort of your own home!!!

I don’t know about you, but I love a great Asian-inspired meal. Problem is, head to your local Pick Up Stix, Panda Express, or any other Chinese/Japanese joint and you’ll likely end up with a hefty dose of sodium and MSG with your combo meal.  
When I ran across this recipe on Pinterest it caught my eye 1) because I had a bunch of broccoli in the fridge I needed to use, 2) because it looked fresh and tasty, and 3) because it was a Crock Pot meal, and by now you all know that I’m obsessed with my slow cooker.
I didn’t stray much from the ingredients used in the original. I like my Crock Pot meals with a little more liquid so I added more broth than was called for. I also cut back on the amount of brown sugar and added a packet of stevia instead for a bit of natural sweetness without the calories and carbs. Trader Joe’s didn’t have boneless beef chuck roast so I used steak tips instead. Additionally, I added pepper and swapped the regular soy sauce for the low-sodium version.

Here’s what I came up with.
Crock Pot Broccoli Beef
Serves 3-4

Olive oil spray
1 pound steak tips or boneless beef chuck roast
1½ cups beef broth (low-sodium preferred)
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
1 packet stevia (I used Stevia in the Raw but any brand will do)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼-½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons broth from the Crock Pot after meat is cooked through
2-3 cups broccoli florets (fresh preferred)
Steamed brown rice (optional)
Lightly spritz Crock Pot with olive oil. (This step is optional but it helps the food to not stick.) Place steak tips in the Crock Pot. Add broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, stevia, sesame oil, garlic, and ground pepper and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

In a small bowl, collect 4 tablespoons of cooking liquid from the Crock Pot (make sure meat is cooked through first!). Combine cooking liquid with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and whisk until smooth.  Pour mixture back into Crock Pot and stir well. You can shred the meat a little at this time. Add fresh broccoli florets, cover, and cook on high for 30 more minutes. This will allow the sauce to thicken and the broccoli to cook through.
Serve over steamed brown rice if desired.  

I was pleasantly surprised at how well this dish turned out. The meat stayed juicy and tender and wasn’t at all fatty or stringy. I thought the flavors were to die for…due in part to the fact that I love the combination of garlic and sesame oil. The hubs gave it a thumb’s up and the baby liked it too. (Winning!) We enjoy a little heat so I used Huy Fong’s Chili Garlic Sauce (the one with the bright green lid and the rooster on the jar) to kick it up a notch. All and all, I’d chalk this dish up as a success.
If you are looking for a healthy, guilt-free Chinese meal in the comfort of your own home, this is the perfect recipe for you. Grab your chopsticks and enjoy!  

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Balsamic Pesto Chicken

Mmm-Mmm Good--And Good for You Too!!!
In my last post I commented on the fact that I couldn’t believe it was already December and that the holidays were in full swing. Well, we’re already a week into the New Year and I’m starting to feel like I’m in a time warp. (Seriously, where does the time go?!?)  

Instead of making excuses as to why I haven’t been blogging a lot lately, I’m just going to hop back in the saddle and try to get back to posting on a semi-regular basis. (“Blog More” was #7 on my list of New Year’s Resolutions—see photo below for proof.) Though I’ve tested several yummy recipes over that last couple of months, I just haven’t actually sat down to write them up. But that all changes today!!!!
I'm putting it out hold me to it, Friends!
One of the latest food trends out there seems to be “clean eating.” I’m not sure exactly what that means other than trying to use fresh, organic, as-close-to-nature-as-possible ingredients. But when I saw this post on Pinterest I was inspired.

It sounded easy, yummy, and healthy so I decided to tweak it a bit and make it my first recipe of 2013. I left out the mushrooms since they aren’t my favorite, used chicken broth instead of water to boost the flavor, and added pepper and a little bit of parmesan cheese—because EVERYTHING is better with cheese. I also changed the preparation a bit to make it even easier. Here’s what I came up with.
Balsamic Pesto Chicken
Serves 4


Olive oil spray
1-1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or chicken breasts cut into strips
Freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup chicken broth
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup white or yellow onion, sliced
½ cup parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a glass baking dish with a little bit of olive oil. Place chicken in dish and coat with as much freshly ground pepper as desired.
In a food processor or blender add garlic, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chicken broth and pulse until smooth.
Place tomatoes and onions on top of chicken breasts and pour balsamic pesto over the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  (Cooking times will vary depending on thickness of chicken breasts.)

*Optional step* If desired, broil chicken under high for about 2-3 minutes after it’s done cooking. This will brown the cheese on top.


This recipe turned out even better than I anticipated. And it smelled like some sort of sinfully delicious cheesy Italian delight while it was baking. There’s just something about the aroma of garlic and basil cooking. ARRRRRLLLLGGGGHHHHH!!! (That’s the Homer Simpson drooling noise.)  It’s so good, I’m actually making it again tonight for dinner.

If you want to be extra healthy, you can go ahead and omit the cheese. But it’s so tasty that I promise it’s worth an extra few minutes on the treadmill.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and that 2013 is off to an amazing start.

Until next time,