Recipe: Chicken and vegetable pozole

Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy, meat (usually pork or chicken) and lots of delicious seasonings.

As anyone who regularly follows my blog knows, I’m always looking for ways to sneak more wholesome stuff like vegetables and fiber into my diet while ditching the bad stuff like added salt and sugar.

So I’ve created a variation on this favorite that reduces both calories and carbs, features extra veggies and eliminates added salt without sacrificing a bit of the flavor. It’s also gluten-free (be sure to check the label on the hominy). If you omit the chicken and substitute low-sodium vegetable broth for the chicken broth, it can even be made vegetarian.

This recipe makes about 10-12 cups of soup and is perfect for batch cooking. The soup can be frozen for up to three months.

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2½ teaspoons chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 small zucchini or yellow squash, sliced and quartered 
  • 4-5 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 4-5 carrots, sliced
  • Medium green pepper, quartered and sliced
  • Medium onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 16-ounce can white or golden hominy (pozole)

Directions

Stir together the oregano, cumin, basil and black pepper in a small bowl.

Add the chicken, blended spices, lime juice, bay leaves, garlic and cloves to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer.

While the soup is simmering, chop/slice the squash, celery, carrots, onion and pepper and add to the mixture.

Add 4-5 cups of water, or until the soup is of desired thickness.

Continue to simmer for about a half hour, or until vegetables reach desired softness (slightly al dente) and chicken is completely cooked.

Add the hominy when the vegetables are nearly cooked through.

Nutrition information

Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 75 | Carbohydrates: 8 g | Protein: 9 g | Fat: 1 g | Saturated Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 25 mg | Sodium: 130 mg | Potassium: 372 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 85% | Vitamin C: 30% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: 3% 

Meeting my 3-5 Challenge

One of my priorities is to stay healthy for as long as possible and help my husband do the same. Toward this end I’m working to develop the habit of eating 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as recommended by nutrition experts. 

I must confess that, for too many years, our eating habits resembled those of a rebellious 10-year-old. (Vegetables are gross! Give me ice cream!)

Add to that, the challenge of finding veggies my husband and I can both stand. We each have veggies we like and veggies we loathe. Problem is, the ones I like are too often on his “loathe list” and vice versa.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered all kinds of relatively painless ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables past our lips:

  • Add a glass of juice or a small bowl of fresh fruit to our breakfast (one fruit serving).
  • Add a small salad to other meals (one or two veggie/fruit servings, depending on the salad ingredients).
  • Turn a ho-hum sandwich into a Dagwood by piling on shredded lettuce, tomato slices and thinly sliced purple onion (one veggie serving).
  • Cook up enough vegetables for each meal to ensure leftovers. This means I can create a veggie plate from time to time (several veggie servings in one sitting!).
  • Add vegetables like spinach, broccoli or mushrooms to pasta dishes such as lasagna or mac and cheese (one veggie serving).
  • Munch on raw vegetables rather than potato chips. Baby carrots and celery sticks dipped in hummus make a great snack when I have that irresistible urge to nibble, and I usually consume enough of them to equal at least one vegetable serving.
  • Add cut-up fresh fruit and a couple spoonfuls of granola to a bowl of fat-free plain yogurt for another healthy snack (one fruit serving).
  • Replace my afternoon soda with an 8-ounce glass of V-8 juice (two veggie servings!).
  • Throw chunks of frozen fruit and yogurt into a blender – adding some Splenda if necessary – for a dessert that looks and tastes like soft-serve ice cream (one fruit serving, plus a bit of protein).
  • Order a la carte at restaurants. Although restaurant meals tend to include only one vegetable, I can often order a second one on the side for a small “upcharge.” 
  • Ask for substitutions, if this is allowed. When I mention my dietary restrictions, I can usually persuade food servers to replace fries or chips with a serving of coleslaw, fresh fruit or no-sugar-added applesauce (one fruit or veggie serving). 
  • Bring healthy snacks to gatherings. I’ve found that bringing a bountiful veggie platter with dip gives me something to nibble on instead of the fat and sugar-laden hors d’oeuvres usually on offer. This helps me add an extra veggie serving to my daily quota as well.

For more ideas and recipes, see the new “Recipes” page I’ve created. Link HERE.

Recipe: Spinach quiche

What a delicious way to sneak an extra veggie serving into our meals and meet our daily 3-5 fruits and vegetables challenge! By using Egg Beaters and fat-free feta cheese, I cut out most of the fat and cholesterol usually found in this kind of recipe. 

I use store-bought pie crusts – much easier! If you’re looking for a healthy alternative or have dietary restrictions, Wholly Wholesome makes whole wheat, as well as gluten-free ready-made crusts (link HERE).

One thing I love about this quiche is its versatility. I may have a slice for breakfast, for lunch or for a light evening meal. Depending on the meal, pair it with either a fresh fruit cup or a salad.

Another thing I like is that this quiche freezes well for up to three months, which means the recipe lends itself to batch cooking.

Ingredients

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach
Dash of black pepper
1/2 cup fat free feta cheese
1½ cups plain Egg Beaters or similar product
9-inch frozen pie crust

Directions

Allow pie crust to thaw for about 20 minutes before adding filling. Using a fork, poke holes evenly throughout the pie crust to prevent bubbling. 

Thaw spinach in microwave for about 5-10 minutes or leave in refrigerator the night before to thaw out. Make sure spinach is thoroughly thawed and drained. It is important to press out all the moisture from the spinach before using.

Sauté the garlic in olive oil. When the garlic is lightly browned, add the spinach. Lightly sprinkle black pepper over the mixture and continue to sauté until the mixture is heated through.

Remove from heat. Add the eggs and feta cheese, stirring only until blended.

Spoon the spinach mixture evenly into the pie crust.

Bake in pre-heated 350-degree oven for approximately 75 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

I usually top a slice of the quiche with a dollop of Hollandaise sauce, which I make from a pre-packaged sauce mix. Knorr makes a sauce mix that is very quick and easy. 

If heating up leftover quiche, pop single servings into the microwave for approximately 90 seconds to two minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information

Calories: 225 | Carbohydrates: 16 g | Protein: 11 g | Fat: 12 g | Saturated fat: 3 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 396 mg | Potassium: 93 mg | Fiber: 1.5 g | Sugar: 0 g | Vitamin A: 9% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 5% | Iron: 20% 

Recipe: Pineapple lime jello salad

This salad was a Sunday dinner staple at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up, and I still think of it as comfort food.

I took the classic recipe and removed some of the calories, fat and sugar content by using fat-free cottage cheese, sugar-free jello and pineapple canned in its own juice rather than syrup. And the salad is still delicious.

Ingredients

  • Small .3 ounce package sugar-free lime jello
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 8 ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice (no added sugar)
  • 1 cup fat free cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

Bring the water to a boil and add the powdered jello, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes, stirring until all the cubes have melted.

Drain the crushed pineapple and add to the jello.

Add the cottage cheese, then the chopped nuts, and stir until well blended.

Refrigerate for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

Makes approximately 6 servings.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 2/3 cup | Calories: 85 | Carbohydrates: 9 g | Protein: 6 g | Fat: 4 g | Saturated fat: 0 | Cholesterol: 2 mg | Sodium: 195 mg | Potassium: 140 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 7% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 2%

Recipe: Homemade granola

Granola is so-o-o-o tasty. 

But alas, the store-bought variety is often chock-full of unhealthy ingredients – refined sugar, saturated fat and salt. And did I mention that most granola is a veritable calorie bomb? Some store-bought granolas have as many as 250 calories per 1/4 cup serving. 

So I decided to make my own. This version replaces the unhealthy fat with omega-3-rich olive oil and eliminates both the added sugar and added salt. The recipe can be made gluten-free as well. (Just make sure the rolled oats are certified gluten-free.) 

What’s left is good-for-you protein and fiber and about half the calories.

Now I’m going to confess: I just go ahead and allow myself a more realistic 1/2 cup serving rather than limiting myself to 1/4 cup if I’m eating my own granola as cereal. And I add 1/4 cup rather than the recommended two tablespoons to my yogurt if I’m having a fresh fruit parfait. That means I’ll end up consuming the same number of calories, but I get to eat twice as much.

This recipe makes approximately 4-5 cups of granola, depending on whether one adds the optional dried fruit. I generally make some with the fruit to enjoy as cereal with nonfat milk, and some without the dried fruit so I can add it to a fresh fruit parfait.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsalted sliced almonds or chopped pecans
  • 1 cup unsweetened raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oil, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Use a stick blender if necessary to mix thoroughly.

Add the oats and nuts and stir until completely coated with the oil and syrup mixture.

Spread the mixture onto a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking oil.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until golden brown.

Add the fruit after removing from the oven.

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Nutrition information for plain granola

Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 200 | Carbohydrates: 19 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 0 | Iron: 3% 

Nutrition information for granola with dried fruit added

Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 245 | Carbohydrates: 32 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 5 g | Iron: 3% 

Sometimes I just pour skim milk on the granola and enjoy. But on mornings when I have a little time to relax, I figure, “Why stop there?”

One of my favorite breakfast treats is a fresh fruit parfait. I start with about 3/4 cup of fat-free plain Greek yogurt, pile on a generous layer of fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, add about 1/4 cup of my homemade granola, and top with a dollop of sugar-free whipped cream.

Yummmmm!

Nutrition information for Fruit Parfait

Calories: 235 | Carbohydrates: 25 g | Protein: 20 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 10 mg | Sodium: 75 mg | Potassium: 395 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin C: 50% | Calcium: 15% | Iron: 1% 

Recipe: Chocolate cream pie

The only healthy eating plan I have any hope of sticking with needs to include an occasional treat. This is especially true now that my husband and I are hunkered down in our house for who knows how long and every fiber of my being is screaming, “Comfort food! Now!”

This recipe for no-bake chocolate cream pie is so-o-o easy to prepare. And I’ve used some fat-free and sugar-free ingredients to make the dessert a little bit easier on the waistline while the protein content actually adds nutritional value – not just empty calories.

Ingredients

  • 8-inch pre-made graham cracker pie crust or pre-made Oreo pie crust
  • 2 8-ounce packages fat-free cream cheese
  • Large package (2.1 ounce) instant sugar-free chocolate pudding mix
  • 1½ cups fat-free (skim) milk
  • 1 8-ounce tub sugar-free whipped topping

Directions

Combine pudding mix with milk and whisk until well blended and smooth. 

Add 1 cup of the whipped topping to the pudding mixture and stir until blended. 

Place cream cheese in microwave-safe bowl and soften in microwave oven until easily stirred (about 30 seconds to 1 minute).  Whisk cream cheese until all is softened. Add to the pudding and whipped cream mixture and whisk until blended.

Continue to blend mixture in a food processor, or with immersion hand blender, until completely smooth.

Spoon mixture evenly into pie crust and place in freezer for up to an hour until mixture is firm. 

Spread remaining whipped topping evenly over the top of the pie.

Refrigerate the pie for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. Refrigerating overnight will make the pie firmer and easier to slice.

Nutrition information

Serving size: 1/8 of pie | Calories: 260 | Carbohydrates: 39 g | Protein: 8 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated Fat: 6 g | Cholesterol: 1 mg | Sodium: 737 mg | Potassium: 86 mg | Fiber: 0 g | Sugar: 12 g | Vitamin A: 24% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 13% | Iron: 5% 

Recipe: Vegetable beef barley soup

One of my best-loved comfort foods is homemade soup, and vegetable beef barley is one of my favorites. 

As I almost always do with home-cooked meals, I’ve tweaked the traditional recipe to make it healthier. I leave out the teaspoon or so of salt the recipe usually calls for, use reduced-sodium broth and no-added-salt tomatoes, and substitute a bit more spice to retain flavor. I also cut the amount of meat in half to lower both the calorie count and the cholesterol/saturated fat levels and double the veggies. The result is nutritious as well as delicious.  

The soup is super easy to make. As a bonus, it freezes well, and therefore lends itself to batch cooking. This recipe makes approximately 10 one-cup servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 32-ounce carton reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 28-ounce can no-added-salt diced tomatoes
  • 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 small bay leaves

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat, barley and vegetables are tender. If the soup begins to get too thick, add a cup or two of water.

Enjoy!

Nutrition information

Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 168 | Carbohydrates: 17 g | Protein: 12 g | Fat: 5 g | Saturated fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 31 mg | Sodium: 244 mg | Potassium: 477 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 5 g | Vitamin A: 128% | Vitamin C: 24% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 6% 

Recipe: Reduced-fat dips

I’ll confess: Sometimes I give in to that irresistible urge to nibble between meals. And I’ve found that having fresh cut veggies in the refrigerator – celery, carrot or zucchini sticks, cauliflower and broccoli florets or mushrooms – reduces the chance that I’ll snack on junk. 

Alas, raw veggies tend to taste much better with dip, which itself can add too many calories if I’m not careful. So I’ve created some dips that make the crudities more appealing while reducing the guilt factor. 

These dips also work well on baked potatoes as a replacement for butter or margarine.

The secret is a “base” that cuts out the fat without sacrificing flavor. I use the base to create a variety of delicious dips. Here I’ve included directions for making blue cheese dip and feta cheese dip.

Dip Base

The following recipe makes approximately 2 cups of the “dip base,” which lasts up to 10 days in the refrigerator. 

Ingredients for dip base

1 8-oz. package fat-free cream cheese

1 5.3 oz. individual size container non-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 cup fat-free mayonnaise

Directions

Soften cream cheese in the microwave for about 30 seconds to one minute until softened and easily stirred. Add yogurt and blend until smooth. Then add mayonnaise and blend until smooth. I use a hand-held “stick” blender when making the base to achieve the smoothness I desire.

Nutrition info for dip base

Serving size: 2 Tbsp | Calories: 30 | Carbohydrates: 4 g | Protein: 3 g | Fat: 0 | Saturated Fat: 0 | Cholesterol: .5 mg | Sodium: 210 mg | Potassium: 33 mg | Fiber: 0 | Sugar: 2 g | Vitamin A: 3% | Vitamin C: 0 | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 0

Blue cheese crumbles and feta cheese crumbles both come in reduced-fat varieties, and make delicious dips when added to the above base.

When blending in the additional ingredients, I recommend stirring them in by hand rather than using a blender or food processor because I like preserving the original consistency of the crumbles.

Blue Cheese Dip

Mix together equal parts dip base and reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles and stir until well-blended. For example, I might mix together ¼ cup of the base with ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles, reserving the rest of the base for another use.

Nutrition info for blue cheese dip

Serving size: 2 Tbsp | Calories: 35 | Carbohydrates: 2 g | Protein: 3 g | Fat: 1.5 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 4 mg | Sodium: 200 mg | Potassium: 16 mg | Fiber: 0 | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 3% | Vitamin C: 0 | Calcium: 5.5% | Iron: 0

Feta Cheese Dip

Mix together equal parts dip base and feta cheese crumbles. Finely chop 3-4 slices of pickled jalapeno pepper and add to the mixture. Stir until well-blended. 

Nutrition info for feta cheese dip

Serving size: 2 Tbsp | Calories: 28 | Carbohydrates: 2 g | Protein: 3 g | Fat: 1 g | Saturated Fat: .5 g | Cholesterol: 3 mg | Sodium: 187 mg | Potassium: 17 mg | Fiber: 0 | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 2% | Vitamin C: 0 | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 0

Irresistible veggie recipes wanted!

“Cardiac event” was most definitely not on my To-Do list.

Following an extended pull-my-hair-out busy patch that seems to happen for at least two weeks each month despite my retirement, I was looking forward to a short stretch of downtime. Instead, I began a beautiful October weekend with a ride in the back of an ambulance.

The good news: My radiating chest pain and rapid heart rate (200-plus beats per minute) turned out not to be a heart attack. The bad news: After an overnight stay in the hospital spent hooked up to a Holter monitor, I left with a diagnosis of A-fib and “diastolic dysfunction.”

The upshot: My eagerly-awaited downtime this past couple of weeks has been supplanted by a round of follow-up doctor visits. I’ll need to add three new heart medications to my ever-expanding drug salad, and a lot more salads to my increasingly restricted diet. And veggies.

Alas, since I prefer chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie bars to celery, it is even harder for me to adhere to a healthy eating plan than it was for me to quit smoking 15 years ago. Add to that, the challenge of finding recipes my husband and I can both stand. We each have veggies we like and veggies we loathe. Problem is, the ones I like are on his “loathe list” and vice versa.

But the cardiac event that hijacked my calendar has reminded me of my need to keep “self-care” on my list of priorities – after all, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s past time to stop taking my health for granted.

So I’d love to have readers of this blog share their irresistible veggie recipes. Or yummy salad recipes. “Quick and easy to prepare” is a plus.

Count on my husband to add a bit of levity to a tense situation. While waiting for me to be released from the hospital, he and I were discussing the health issues we’ve both been experiencing this past year.

I said, “At our age, we probably need to get used to this. It’s going to be the new normal.”

To which my sweetie pie replied, “You mean the new abnormal? We were NEVER normal, my dear!”