Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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Great for a cold day or when you want to have something on the table in less than a half hour.

Ingredients:
1 jar of Roasted Red Peppers(drained)
2 cups of low-sodium Chicky Broth (Chicken Broth)
3 cups of low-fat Milk
2 cloves of Garlic (peeled)
2 tablespoons Butter/ Butter substitute
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons whole wheat Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: Fresh grated Parmesan

How to make it soup:
1. In a blender combine the jar or Roasted Red Peppers, Garlic, and Chicky Broth. Puree until smooth.
2. While Red Peppers puree, heat a medium sauce pan to medium heat. Add the Butter and Olive Oil.
3. Once butter and oil are melted together, add Flour and whisk quickly and cook until mixture is thickened. Slowly, one cup at a time, add Milk until it becomes thickened and then add the next cup. Continue whisking lightly with each added cup, scrapping the bottom.
4. Add the Red Pepper puree to the sauce pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until warmed through.
5. Serve.

Tips:
-You may want to serve with a toasted Italian Cheese sammy on whole wheat bread.
– Fresh grated parmesan makes a wonderful garnish, as does a little fresh cracked pepper.
-This also makes a great foundation for a pasta sauce.
-You may want to use vegetable broth in place of chicky broth for a vegetarian dish.

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Change is Good

Remember when we talked not long ago about reviewing your goals and adjusting them to fit your needs? I recently did a similar inventory of my blog. It needs change! The new facelift and content expansion will help make this blog more what I wanted it to be. My original intentions were to get information out there on how to be a food snob and to incorporate exercise. Really this blog is based on lifestyle and not just eating really well. Therefore the changes that are coming will hopefully better suit this frame. I look forward to your feedback! Until then please bear with me. Thank you!

Words to Shop By

Ultimately on this journey you will have to decide for yourself what foods are worth the splurge and what is not. Today we are going to peel back labels and see what is really in that can of beans you are buying. Remember to consult with a dietitian or doctor before making any changes in your diet. You want to ensure a safe and healthy change.
First let us look at the word organic. Is the food you are buying worth going organic? Starting in the produce section, if your fruit or veggie has a thick peel around it, you need not go organic. The thick peel, like those on oranges, protects the plant from chemicals penetrating the edible inside. I do find a major taste advantage in going organic with bananas. On the other hand, foods like strawberries, lettuce, and peppers should be organic when possible. My husband used to dislike strawberries because they tasted acidic to him. I bought organic ones and he loves the taste! Sometimes going organic is worth it if you simply prefer the taste. Some of us are on a tight budget and just need to know where to cut corners. Organic meat in my opinion is worth it when you can. The most important detail when buying meat is finding hormone-free meat. As far as grains go, it is nice to go organic when you can. Understand when you buy organic the difference is in the quality of the product you are buying. It does not make something laden with calories better for weight loss. It is easy to forget that when you get wrapped up in going organic.
Canned goods are not as good as you may think. If you are looking for a side item that cuts down your cooking time, it may not be worth the sacrifice. I am not saying never to use any canned goods. You should strictly limit them. Go for frozen or jarred varieties when you can. Canned goods often come with a host of problems. Some suggest there is mercury in the lining of the cans. Not something you want to in your body. Many canned goods also have hidden calories and salt lingering inside. The fruit is often kept in juice or syrup. That is loaded with sugar and preservatives. Those definitely take away from your nutritional value. Check the nutritional label to see what you are really getting into. Even jarred varieties need a second glance. If you feel you must use canned goods rinse the fruit or vegetable, make sure there are no dents in the can (a sign of mold), and make sure the product is swimming in water not sugar. While we are on the subject, check your pantry and ensure there are no outdated cans sitting waiting for that recipe you never got around to. It happens to the best of us.
Don’t be afraid of quality ingredients. If you are on a tight budget like me, it may seem difficult to splurge on a special gourmet item. The item worth the splurge may be different for you. I find good cheese and chocolate are worth the splurge to me! You obviously won’t be splurging just from your wallet. Enjoying your food and using quality ingredients are worth the jump. When you use quality ingredients, you won’t need a great amount to get satisfied. Simply find when your splurge item goes on sale and snag it then. This will limit how often you splurge and keep you within budget. When you eat like a food snob you get to enjoy in moderation.
Free is not always free. Fat-free and sugar-free does not always equal healthy. We have all heard about the dangers of aspartame and other chemicals in most sugar-free products. There are other dangers to look out for when going sugar-free. Usually companies add fat or salt to the product to help give a better taste. When buying fat-free some products have added salt or sugar. Read your nutritional labels and ingredients list to see what you are really getting. If you are trying to watch your sugar intake, try reduced-sugar products instead. I do like a few sugar-free products made with Splenda or the like. I use Smucker’s Breakfast Syrup for my pancakes. It tastes great unlike other sugar-free products. Believe me I have tried my fair share. You can also look for reduced-fat items, like slow churn ice-creams. Whatever you choose to buy, look at the label to see what you are actually purchasing.
Frozen foods can be tricky. When we browse the frozen isle we are bombarded with tempting words in bold print, beckoning us to buy. Words like Fast, Healthy, Grilled, Fresh, Natural, Family Sized, and Lean catch us in our moment of weakness. At my grocery store, the frozen isle is at the far side of the opposite end of the entrance. At this point, especially if you are toting kids, you are exhausted from near collisions, searching for that specialty item, trying to get around that indecisive shopper, thinking about the dishes palled up at home, etc. You are at a weakened state and convince yourself that some of these items are a good idea. Let me help you. They are not. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted something healthy and quick. I grabbed Healthy Choice Steamers. At my next prenatal visit, my blood pressure shot up from 104/60 to 130/72! I looked at the label of my healthy choice, and it was loaded with sodium. Dropped the frozen and my blood pressure went right back down. These convenient meals are not so convenient when you think of health problems that could put you out for longer than it takes to throw a salad or wrap together. The tag words are tempting, but you can be better than frozen! Trust me. The frozen items that are worth buying are fruits and vegetables not in sauce, frozen free-range meat, frozen yogurt, and frozen slow-churn ice-cream.
In the end we have to make positive changes without sacrificing taste. Once you get home from the grocery, you may be exhausted. As you become more familiar of what is really healthy shopping will be faster and your visits will be more efficient. When you make your list for the store, make sure that you divide your list into sections like produce, breads, isles, frozen, household, meats, and dairy. Then try to keep the list in order of what you would encounter. This shaves off time and prevents you from entering isles that temp you to buy things you do not even need. Keep reading labels of products you buy. What is in the food enters your body.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
1/3 cup Sugar
1tablespoon Splenda Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/3 cup Hot water
4 cups Low-fat Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Optional: Whipped Cream and Cinnamon for garnish

Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pan combine Cocoa Powder, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Cayenne Pepper, and Ground Cinnamon. Wisk in Hot Water.
2. Turn the stove to medium heat, and heat until you reach a low boil. Continue wisking for 2 minutes.
3. Add Milk in 1 cup at a time, bringing it slowly to warm. Turn down heat if the mixture starts to boil.
4. Remove your sauce pan from the heat and add Vanilla.
5. Ladle into mugs and top with whippy if desired. You may even want to sprinkle Cinnamon on top for looks.

Tips:
You can turn this delicious dessert into a special memory by packing it and heading outdoors for a scenic walk or planned adventure.

Veggie Quesadillas with Habanero Cheese

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Quesadillas with Habanero Cheese

Ingredients:
4 Tortillas (low-carb or whole wheat)
Cooking spray
1 cup shredded Habanero cheese
6 Baby Bella Mushrooms (wiped clean and sliced)
1 Green Pepper diced
1 small can of Diced Medium Tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 medium Onion diced
2 cloves of Garlic
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
Salt and Pepper
Sour Cream and Salsa as Garnish

Directions:
1. Coat medium sized frying pan with Cooking spray and heat to medium heat.
2. Place Onion, Peppers, and Garlic first. Sauté until warmed. Season with Salt and Pepper.
3. Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms start to soften. Add the Paprika and Oregano.
4.Add the can of Tomatoes with green chiles and bring to a low boil. Once at a low boil turn down to medium-low heat to simmer.
5. In a seperate small or medium pan, coat with Cooking Spray and bring to meduim-low heat.
6. On a plate, assemble the Tortilla in this fashion: First sprinkle Habanero cheese(approx. 3 tablespoons) onto half the tortilla. Second scoop up veggie filling, that is simmering, with a slotted spoon and spead evenly on top of cheese. Third, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Habanero cheese on top of that. Fold empty half over that and press down.
7. Using a spatula transfer the assembled tortilla to the empty, heated pan. Cook on each side, flipping carefully, for 2 minutes or once tortillas is browned and cheese is gooey. Repeat for remaining tortillas.
8. Garnish with Sour Cream and Salsa.
9.Enjoy!

Tips: You may also heat tortillas in oven for 3 mins at 350 degrees Farenheight.

Setting the Table

How do we actually become food snobs? There are a few tools we can use to prepare us. Educating ourselves on healthy eating is one way to ensure a stable foundation. Planning ahead for busy schedules can help us stay on the right path, even when things get hectic. Understanding your personal needs, tastes, and personality can equip you to adjust the program to suit your life. Learning to make friends with the kitchen can boost your confidence and become an exciting part of this chapter of your life. Success boils down to this “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”-Benjamin Franklin.
     With so much information out there on healthy eating, it can become overwhelming to know what to do. Contradicting information, undecided stances, and know-it-alls become complications. I will do my part to try and educate you on what my thoughts are on healthy eating. You will have to decide for yourself, based on the information you receive what is important to you. My facebook page offers a “Daily Bite” of food information that can be used to make decisions yourself. One basic piece of information is eating as natural as possible this helps minimize the amount of chemicals that enter your body. When reading labels 100% whole wheat or whole wheat should be the first ingredient listed for it to be considered truly whole wheat. While choosing good fats and carbs are worthy of applaud, remember you still only need so much in a day. Talk to a dietitian/ nutritionist or visit www.choosemyplate.gov to see what your daily needs might be.  
   Plan ahead for the grocery store. List your favorite foods. Think of healthier options you could replace some ingredients with. It may take a few trial and errors to find what products or exchanges work for you. Use this to make a menu of every meal for the week. Packing lunch is a great way to cut costs and calories. You could make yourself a soup or sandwich to make coworkers jealous! Heck, you can even pack leftovers if your job has a microwave available at lunchtime. Breakfasts should include the bulk of your grains for the day. Accounting for what you need and like will help you succeed. Use the menu to make a grocery list. Divide your list into sections of the store and in the order you may encounter them.This is especially nice when toting children. If you know you are eating out plan accordingly. Eat a light snack before or choose healthy options off the menu. If your plan is indulgence, eat lighter every other meal that day. You can check out the nutritional information on most restaurant websites. Another way to plan ahead is to pre-baggie snack portions. Heck you may even find cutting veggies and fruits helpful. Go a step further and portion them out for recipes and label each one. Some people choose to cook for a week ahead of time and freeze the meals with ingredients separated and labeled. Freezing some leftovers may be a great quick meal in a pinch.
     Once you have your groceries stocked and ready to go, you must confront the kitchen and its gadgets. Read the Confidence in the Kitchen page on my blog for basic tips. You can usually catch local cooking demonstrations to help you learn something new. Many cooking demonstrations are on www.foodnetwork.com and many other sites. I will eventually be posting some of my own. Find the techniques that best suit you and your style. Make the kitchen less scary by involving someone you enjoy. Have a friend over and try a new recipe. Make a date out of it with your significant other. Get in there and conquer your fears. Start with the basics and then move up from there. You can always check out my recipes on here.
    However you plan, make it your own! There is not one plan that is going to suit everyone. We are different people with different lifestyles, hobbies, jobs, preferences, and abilities. We can make a change when we look at what works for us. Be able to be patient and flexible with yourself. This may be a new endeavor for you and these things take trial and error. You, your body, your loved ones, and your future are worth the effort. Plus your tummy and taste buds will thank you!
Have a recipe you would like to see made over? Post your ideas to me! Your feedback keeps me motivated to continue helping others.

Spaghetti and Meatballs (low-carb option)

Spaghetti
This is one staple in almost every home. Everyone has their way of making it special. I won’t reveal some of my secrets, but here is a healthier version that is low-carb friendly.

Ingredients:
Sauce-
3 cloves of Garlic
1 can of Organic Whole Tomatoes peeled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Pinch of Sugar (or substitute if you must. It helps with the acidity of the tomatoes)
1 teaspoon of each (if dried):Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Majoram, Black Pepper, and Basil
Pinch of Sea Salt
1Tablespoon of Tomato Paste
1/2 medium sweet Onion diced
1 tablespoon of pure Olive oil
Meatballs:
1/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 medium sweet Onion diced
1 teaspoon of each (if using dried): Rosemary, Oregano, and Black Pepper
1/2lb GroundTurkey Sausage
1/2lb Ground Turkey
1/2 teaspoon of crushed Red Pepper
2 dashes of Hot Sauce (more if you would like)
Cooking Spray to coat pan
Pasta:
1 box Dreamfields Spaghetti Pasta (5 net carbs per serving) or whole grain of your favorite brand
1 clove of Garlic minced
1Tablespoon of pure Olive Oil

Directions:
1.In a medium-large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients listed for meatballs, except the cooking spray.
2.Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Follow the instructions on the box of Pasta.
3.While pasta cooks, bring a wide saucepan to meduim-high heat and coat with Cooking Spray.
4. Use a tablespoon to scoop out Meatball Mixture and place in heated pan, leaving space for a bit of expansion. Use thongs to turn meatballs over as the sides become browned.
5. Once the meatballs are browned evenly, remove from pan and set aside on a plate.
6. If the Pasta is done cooking, put one tablespoon of Pure Olive Oil in the pan you just used and saute 1 clove of Minced Garlic until brown. Remove the Garlic. Toss drained Pasta in the oil and set aside.
7. For the Sauce: In the same pan, heat 1tablespoon of Pure Olive Oil on medium- high heat. Saute the Onion and Garlic until softened.
8. Add the Can of Tomatoes, crushing each with your hand (you can use a processor or blender or immersion blender if you prefer a smoother sauce).
9. Add the Tomato Paste, Sugar, Seasonings, and Parmesan. Bring the sauce to a medium boil, and then simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. Add the Meatballs to the Sauce, one at a time.
11. Cover and let simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring very gently once every few minutes.
12. Taste sauce. If it needs something, add it!
13. Serve the Pasta topped with your yummy Sauce and Meatballs! Enjoy!

Tips:
-You can cook sauce the day before for best flavor.
-You can cook the meatballs in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
– I like to check the pasta a few minutes before cook time given on boxed instructions.
-If you are using whole grain pasta, it still has a lot of carbohydrates.