Friday, March 25, 2011

Semi-Homemade Super Soup

I must admit that I eat a lot of canned soup. It's such an easy and quick lunch and, when I'm busy, opening a can is about as much time as I'm willing to take to prepare a meal. I want to share with you my tip for making ordinary canned soup much more nutritious and exciting to eat.

First, you will probably notice and agree with me when I say that soup companies can be pretty skimpy with their ingredients. Even though I usually choose a vegetable-based soup, such as minestrone, I'm always disappointed in the small quantity of vegetables included, usually far less than 1 cup per serving. Also, there are some brands in which potato is the main "vegetable." That just doesn't cut it with me!

My solution is to always have a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and another of chopped spinach on hand. Look around, there are many excellent mixtures available in your grocer's freezer. Chopped fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are another great vegetable add-in. Sprinkle in different herbs to enhance the flavor. Finally, keep canned beans in the pantry. Drain and rinse about a half-cup, toss them in the pot and you'll quickly and easily super-size your soup (but in a good way). If it's too thick, add a splash of broth until it reaches the desired consistency. The addition of extra vegetables and beans will provide more vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber to what would have been a dull, lifeless can of soup! Not only that, but your portion size will be much larger and more satisfying. Give it a try -- it works for me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Roasted Celery Root with Prosciutto

"And the winner of the ugly vegetable award goes to....celery root!" Sometimes called root celery, knob celery or celeriac, this scary-looking vegetable is extremely low in calories, carbs and sodium while also being a good source of calcium and potassium. I've always been curious about this vegetable, but its appearance in the vegetable bin has kept me from picking it up, much less trying it, until now. My mission this past week was to try a new vegetable and, after looking over the entire vegetable section, it was either celery root or golden beets. The celery root won, but only barely.

After reading about it, I discovered that the taste is rather mild, like celery. It can be boiled, mashed or roasted, much like a potato. As a matter-of-fact, it pairs nicely with potatoes in a gratin or combined with boiled potatoes and mashed thereby cutting the carbs of either of these typically "potato" dishes by quite a lot. I found an intriguing recipe in the book In Season by Sarah Raven. She wrapped it in pancetta, which is unsmoked Italian bacon, and roasted it in the oven. Pancetta is high in saturated fat, so I made some adjustment and used very thinly sliced prosciutto. The flavor was incredible and turned the celery root into a spectacular side or main dish. I served it with a chopped tomato & fresh mozzarella salad drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Honestly, this strange vegetable prepared in this way both surprised and delighted me and, more importantly, my apprehensive husband. You've got to give this one a try!

Roasted Celery Root with Prosciutto
(Makes 2 servings)

1 celery root (about the size of a large potato)
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
pinch of garlic powder (if not already included in the Italian seasoning)
4 thin slices of prosciutto

1. Using a sharp knife, remove the outer skin of the celery root. Slice it in half, then slice one-half of the root into 4-5 wedges (about ½" to ¾" thick). Set aside and reserve the remaining half for another use. Steam the wedges over boiling water for about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften.

2. Pat dry with a paper towel and place the steamed wedges in a medium-sized bowl. Add olive oil and season with salt, pepper and herbs. Toss to coat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

3. Wrap each wedge in a slice of prosciutto. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Turn the wedges and increase the heat to 375-degrees. Continue roasting for another 15-20 minutes until the celery root is soft when pierced with a fork and the prosciutto is crispy on both sides (you may need to turn them another time to achieve the proper amount of crispness). Serve hot.

Nutritional Information per serving (2 wedges, not including salad): 84 calories, 9.1 g carbohydrate, 4.2 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 287 mg sodium, 1.9 g fiber, 3.3 g protein.

Recipe adapted from one found in the book In Season by Sarah Raven.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cheesy Creamy Nonfat Dip

I learned about a new Facebook app to help people wishing to follow and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's called Health Seeker Game and that's exactly what it is, a game! You set weekly "missions" for yourself, such as incorporating more vegetables and fruit into your food plan. (That's my mission for this week.) Then the game suggests many easy ways to do this, but I only had to choose three actions I'm willing to complete. So, for this week, I'm challenging myself to replace one lunch or dinner with a salad, to choose a snack of vegetables or fruit three times and to try one new fruit or vegetable before the week is over. The fun part is that I can invite my family and friends to join the game, allowing us to encourage and challenge each other, send kudos or share progress. As I progress, week after week, I will be rewarded and move up level by level, so positive reinforcement and motivation are built into the game. It's free to play, so check it out!

My first action was to prepare and cut vegetables for quick and easy snacking. I usually don't like just munching on raw celery, but am quite willing when it's coated with a savory, creamy dip. The recipe below is my version of Ranch Dip. It's nonfat and very high in protein and calcium because the base is simply nonfat cottage cheese. It takes only minutes to prepare and tastes great! I hope everyone reading this post will join me to play the Health Seeker Game ( and invite all your friends to join, too.

Cheesy, Creamy Nonfat Dip
(Makes 1 serving)

½ cup non-fat cottage cheese
herbs & spices of your choice

I chose the following from my cabinet: onion powder, parsley, pinch of dill weed, dried chives, pinch of paprika, sprinkle of garlic powder, salt & pepper.

1. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Serve with cut vegetables.

Nutritional Information for the entire recipe (not including vegetables): 80 calories, 6 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 410 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 14 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011