Friday, February 26, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

I've been eyeing this Giada De Laurentiis recipe for quite some time but never got around to making it. But then I picked up a three-pound package of ground turkey at the grocery store at a great price and decided to make meatballs from it. This soup was a great way to use the meatballs.

I went ahead and made three pounds of meatballs, baked and froze two-thirds and put the rest in the soup.

The original recipe calls for ground beef and ground pork, but the ground turkey works great, too. Another obvious change is the omission of Parmesan cheese. I also added some pasta.

Pair this with a loaf of crusty Italian bread. So yummy!

Italian Wedding Soup

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 slice MSPI-friendly fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces or use 1/3 cup MSPI-friendly dry bread crumbs
1 lb. ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small pasta, such as orzo
12 cups MSPI-friendly chicken broth
1 lb. curly endive, coarsely chopped (escarole or spinach would also work)
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs: Stir the first six ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the turkey. Using 1-1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

Bring a small pot of water to boil and add pasta, cooking according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Add in the cooked pasta.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Tip: This soup is very dependent on a high-quality chicken broth. Do not skimp here by using a salty bouillon or base! But, if you must, check out the Better Than Bouillon line of products. I really like the reduced sodium products.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Italian Shepherd's Pies

I will be the first to tell you that the photo I took of this recipe is, well, gosh darn unappetizing. But, it really does taste good! It's really a great go-to meal for ground beef, when you don't feel like just plain spaghetti, tacos or sloppy joes.

The original recipe for this was in the February/March 2010 issue of Taste of Home. (The recipe won a contest, so unless you're a subscriber, you won't have access to the link.) They recommended making individual servings in ramekins, but, hey, I'm a busy mom and wanted to simplify things for myself. I just baked it all together in one casserole dish.

Want to get more veggies in your kids? Then saute some with the beef. Carrots and zucchini would be yummy!

Italian Shepherd's Pies

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups MSPI-friendly marinara sauce
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup rice milk
1/4 cup MSPI-friendly margarine, melted

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the marinara sauce, salt and pepper; cook and stir for 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Spoon into four 8-oz. ramekins or one casserole dish; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and Italian seasoning. Stir in the rice milk and margarine just until moistened. Spoon dough over meat mixture. If using ramekins, place them on a baking sheet.

Bake at 450° for 12-15 minutes, if using ramekins, or until golden brown. Add a few extra minutes to the baking time, if using a casserole dish.

Tip: The topping is pretty thick and can be kind of difficult to spread over the meat mixture. I just dropped it on top, like dumplings. They'll puff up and cover the entire mixture during baking.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

Who doesn't like to bite into a yummy baked good and find a yummy surprise inside? Not only are these muffins topped with cinnamon and sugar -- yum! -- but they have a jam filling -- double yum!

I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home. I think the next time I make it (and there will be a next time very soon!) I'm going to leave the cinnamon and nutmeg out of the batter. The muffins taste great as is, but I think leaving the spices out will give the muffins more of a "doughnut" flavor.

Cinnamon Doughnut Muffins

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup rice milk
1/4 cup MSPI-friendly margarine, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a small bowl, combine sugar, oil, egg and rice milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full; place 1 teaspoon jam on top. Cover jam with enough batter to fill muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place melted margarine in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, dip tops in margarine, then in cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm. Yield: 10 to 12 standard-size muffins.

Tip: Do you ever have problems with your muffins sticking to the paper liners? Before pouring the batter into the muffin cups, spray the liners with cooking spray. After cooking, the liners will pull away from the muffins cleanly!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chicken Breasts Diane

Do you have a favorite cookbook that you've been neglecting since going on the MSPI diet? I know it's easy to just assume that your old cookbooks are useless right now, but you would be surprised what you can make and adapt from "regular" cookbooks when on this diet.

I've recently started going through some of my favorite cookbooks page by page and marking recipes that are MSPI-friendly -- both in the index and on the recipes. I've even made notations about what I would change in the recipes to make them that way -- using rice milk, leaving out the cheese, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover well over half of the recipes in my copy of "The Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook" can be made MSPI-friendly -- and there are over 500 recipes in this book!

Here's a classic chicken recipe from the book. Make sure you serve the chicken with a side that can soak up the sauce. I went with whole wheat couscous (made with MSPI-friendly chicken broth) but rice, mashed potatoes or pasta would be equally good.

Chicken Breasts Diane

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup MSPI-friendly chicken broth

Place the chicken breasts between sheets of waxed paper and pound slightly with a mallet, if desired. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the chicken on each side until done, about 15 minutes total. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Add the green onions, lemon juice, parsley and mustard to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Whisk in the broth and stir until smooth. Return the chicken to the pan and serve with sauce.

Tip: I found the sauce to be a little too sour for my personal taste. I added a pinch of sugar to the sauce to combat the tartness.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Broccoli Salad

My mom has been making this for years, and it has always been one of my favorites. The combination of sweet, salty and crunchy is a true winner!

It's easy to put together, although cutting up the broccoli can be time-consuming. To save time, you can buy packages of broccoli that are already cut up in the produce area of the store or even try using a package of broccoli slaw.

For a vegetarian version, leave out the bacon. (You may need to add a bit of salt to the dressing, though.)

Broccoli Salad

5 cups fresh broccoli, cut up
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 cup MSPI-friendly mayonnaise
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds

In a large bowl, toss together the broccoli, raisins and onion. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, vinegar and mayonnaise until smooth. Pour over the broccoli. Chill several hours or overnight. Just before serving, mix in the bacon and sunflower seeds.

Tip: The original recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of raisins and 1 cup of sunflower seeds. I personally find that to be too much, but feel free to adjust the amounts to your preference.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So you want to know the trick to baking the softest, chewiest cookies? Just replace a half-cup of the sugar in your recipe with a package of pudding mix. It's that easy! Your cookies will stay soft and chewy, even days after baking -- if they last that long.

You can experiment with different flavors of pudding in your cookies, but vanilla is my hands down favorite.

And in case you're wondering, there are MSPI-friendly pudding mixes. JELL-O brand makes several -- do check the ingredients very carefully. But one word of caution, these puddings are MSPI-friendly, not safe. There could be cross-contamination during the production process, so only use these mixes if your little kiddo can handle it.

Here's my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe using pudding. It's based on the Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on the back of their semi-sweet chocolate chips packages. I also scale back the vanilla a little bit, since there's plenty of vanilla flavor from the pudding.

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter-flavored shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1 box (3.4 ounces) MSPI-friendly vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup MSPI-friendly chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated.

In separate bowl, combine flour, pudding mix, baking soda and salt. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: I highly recommend lining your cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Much easier to clean-up!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy

Here's a great comfort food recipe that satisfies cravings for pasta, meat and creaminess.

I adapted the recipe from My Recipes. It was originally published in Cooking Light magazine, so it had some "nicer" ingredients, such as shallots and baby bella mushrooms. I had their plainer cousins on hand, onion and button mushrooms, so that's what I used and listed here. Feel free to dress yours up with the nicer ingredients.

This would also be a great freezer-friendly recipe. You could easily double the ingredients (except the pasta) when you cook it, reserving half of it for a later dinner. Just cool it down, place it in a freezer-safe package and freeze. Later, just thaw completely, reheat on the stove or microwave, cook the pasta and serve.

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Gravy

2 cups uncooked egg noodles
Cooking spray
1 lb. top sirloin steak, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. MSPI-friendly Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups MSPI-friendly beef broth
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
3 fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 tsp. dry

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

While noodles cook, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add steak; sauté 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan; cover.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Add pepper, salt and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thickened.

Return beef to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard thyme sprigs. Serve over noodles.

Tip: This does have a peppery bite, so you might want to scale back the black pepper if your family prefers a milder flavor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Two-year and new baby updates

Well, my baby boy isn't a baby anymore. He is most definitely a BIG boy with a BIG personality!

JD turned 2 about three weeks ago. I held off on posting his 2-year-update because he's been undergoing a dairy challenge. So far, so good! He's been eating yogurt and foods that have dairy in them for over two weeks now, and no problems!

I'm taking things very slowly because his body is obviously not used to processing these foods, and I don't want to push his innards too hard. I'll probably start giving him some cheese next. For now, he's still drinking rice milk, but I hope to start mixing in some cow's milk in the next month or two. (I wasn't kidding when I said I was taking it slow!)

The ironic thing is that JD will probably be completely OK with dairy right around the time I have to go back on the MSPI diet with the new baby. Will my home EVER get back to "normal"? Yes, in about three years ... ;)

The kids' pediatrician has recommended I start the MSPI diet the last month of the pregnancy. (Which means Easter is going to be my swan song!) That way my breast milk will be clear for the baby right from the get-go. She also recommended I start taking a probiotic, like Culturelle. Hopefully, these steps will make our baby's first few weeks much happier -- and a saner mama in the process.

I've got some new recipes to post. Check back over the next few days to see what I've been cooking and baking!