Wish Upon A Dish: January 2016

January 22, 2016

Creamy Roasted Kohlrabi Soup with Bacon ♥ A New Ingredient for the New Year - Recipe Redux Challenge January 2016

What exactly is kohlrabi?
I didn't even know what it was so I hit Wikipedia and found out that it is a root vegetable that has the same texture and taste of a broccoli stem. From the cabbage family, just like broccoli but looks more like celery root.

Why would I care?
The Recipe ReDux challenge for this month was to cook with an unfamiliar ingredient. Self explanatory, don't you think?

"A New Ingredient for the New Year
Pick a new ingredient that you’ve been wanting to try… and cook or bake up a new recipe in the new year. Are you curious about nutritional yeast, fish sauce, matcha, teff – or maybe even ugli fruit? Show us how you’re cooking with something new (to you!) in 2016."

Why should you care?
It's low in calories (37 calories per cup), has HUGE fiber, a ton of Vitamin C & Magnesium, can be found in the cold months and it's very inexpensive (stress on the very).

Why choose this vegetable over broccoli?
When I was young, my Mom cooked boxed frozen broccoli spears. You know the ones.
Me & my sister would trade stems for florets. Guess who wanted the stems?

A match made in Heaven, don't you think? Well, I needed to eat this veggie.
The best way to prepare kohlrabi (according to the experts) was to grate into a salad or make fritters.

So what did I do with the bunch of three sitting on my counter?
I peeled, sliced and roasted them.
Then I made a big batch of soup, in my slow cooker. Yup, I dumped everything in and let it do it's thing. I used coconut milk instead of cream to keep it dairy free.

Would I make it again?
I think next time I will either make fritters or roast big slices and use them as noodles in a vegetable lasagna (just like you would with butternut squash). It actually tasted like a broccoli and potato soup and since I am not a fan of potato soups...you can see where I'm going, but if you like soups with potatoes, you will enjoy this one.

Let's get cooking....

Creamy Roasted Kohlrabi Soup with Bacon
makes 10 cups

* 2 tablespoons coconut oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 4 cloves of garlic
* 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of peeled and sliced kohlrabi
* 2 large carrots, chopped
* 15oz broth and 15oz water
* 1 can lite coconut milk
* 1 teaspoon salt & pepper
* 6 slices of bacon, cut into lardons and microwaved until crisp

* optional garnishes - toasted Pepita seeds, walnut or seed oil

Preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the kohlrabi, onion, garlic and carrots on a large sheet pan. Toss with the coconut oil, salt & pepper.
Roast for 45 minutes.

Add the roasted vegetables and all the other ingredients to the insert of your slow cooker (a Dutch oven can also be used).
Set the cooker on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.

Stove top: simmer (low) until the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours.

Puree using a stick blender or stand blender. Do not use a processor, you want a completely smooth soup. If the soup is thinner than you want, you can add a few teaspoons of corn starch dissolved in water until you achieve the consistency you desire. I found that I actually had to add water to thin it out.

January 15, 2016

That's it. Fruit Bar ♥ Finally, a snack bar that does everything it says it does

One day last month I found myself walking down a local supermarket aisle that, and I kid you not, ran the whole one side down the length of the store, totally devoted to boxed snack bars.

I was in complete awe. You see, this was my first official visit to the "Healthy Snack" aisle. My initial goal was to find a simple energy bar that had all the good things and none of the bad things I needed for that 3:00 "I need to eat something FAST" time of day.

When it comes to a new food, I will read every label of every product I can literally "get my hands on". This aisle? was totally ridiculous. There was no way I could justify buying that many samples.

I knew I had to get smart and narrow down the choices I thought would be good. After massive research to check a dozen sites for comparisons about Top 10 Energy Bars (especially with the obligatory New Year resolutions to loose weight and exercise), Top 10 Power Bars, Best Health Bars and the "Eat This, Not That" articles, I still had no direction. I did what most people do, I tried one granola bar, 1 energy bar, a fiber bar, oh, and a breakfast bar, 2 snack bars, 1 travel bar, a hiking bar, and I copied 4 recipes for homemade bars.
A week of intense research and careful deliberations left me with the sad truth that at this pace only the squirrels and birds will have enough energy to make it through this winter. I even found a granola bar in my glove compartment, buried and glued to a receipt dated when I last bought tires.

When That's it Nutrition made contact to ask if I would be interested in trying a few samples of their fruit bar, I thought hmmm, why not. I had nothing to loose.
I am happy to report that a good first impression doesn't always apply to job interviews, first dates or restaurant reviews.
If the edible product was anywhere near as good as the presentation packet, I would be one happy, healthy snacker.

While I received 4 of their top sellers, they do have a total of 9 different fruit bars. That means, 9 different fruits.

Each bar is made of only two ingredients: Fruit and Fruit .... Seriously That's It! 

Before I even took a bite, there were three things I immediately loved. Only real fruit (no glues, stabilizers or fillers), an 18-month verified shelf-life & no worry that I would find one melted and attached to the lining of my purse.

NASA approved these for space travel. What kid wouldn't think that was cool? I was impressed.

Before I get into the nutritionals, I will tell you what my test testers had to say.
I gave my husbands walking group 3 of each flavor to sample under one condition. They needed to try a piece from the fruits they thought they might not like and if they had children, share one with them.

It was interesting to hear the results since they mimicked those of mine.

1. They tasted exactly like those fruit roll-ups the kids love.
2. While kids loved the bars made with the most common favorite fruits (blueberry & strawberry), the adults (including me) raved about the bars made with coconut & mango.

Now for the attributes.
Calories: 100 (coconut 110)
Fiber: 2-5g
2 servings of fruit per bar
No Preservatives
Gluten Free, Vegan
No Nuts
Low Fat
Low GI <55 p="">Kosher
and best of all,
Non-GMO fruit

I was concerned that as with most new products, availability and inventory would be limited but I found a whole section at my local Shop-Rite. You can find them at Whole Foods, Publix, Starbucks, Costco, Raleys, Albertson's and these other retailers.

My favorite part about this experience is that I know exactly what is going into my body and there is no longer guilt, just pleasure. We honestly eat one every afternoon. I can't wait to try the other 5 fruits. I already have a few website recipes bookmarked along with a few ideas to create my own.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to run to the store for bird seed.

January 13, 2016

Cheese to Eat While on a Diet

Sometimes I feel the need to share healthy food tips I have discovered. These are great tips for people looking to lighten up their dishes without omitting the foods they love, especially if it is cheese.

Update: I am still on a self-imposed 1000 calorie-a-day diet and to date (meaning today), have lost 33 pounds, numerous inches, a full clothing size (so far) and have gained a recent convert (The Nudge)!!

While I love cheese and have had Swiss or cheddar as a snack, that mere recommended ounce just wasn't doing it for me, and I found myself eating twice as much. To compensate for the overage, I had to cut out some of the good, healthy foods needed to fill my tummy. Somehow that doesn't seem like a "good" swap.

So, in order to have my "cheese" and eat it too, I made adjustments, not eliminations, which would only make me crave cheese more.

This is what I did......

Top 6 high flavor but lower fat cheeses:

Parmesan Cheese

At only 20 calories a tablespoon, it's the perfect cheese to add to sauces, casseroles and dips.
When making lasagna, one could use part skim ricotta that is bumped up with Parmesan and benefit from lower calories in the part-skim without sacrificing that cheesy flavor.
Yay for us!

 Feta Cheese

Weighing in at 75 calories an ounce, Feta is naturally low fat and makes a great addition to salads and baked dishes. It's strong salty flavor goes a long way, so you can use less.
A win-win!!

Goat Cheese

Another cheese at 75 calories per ounce, goat cheese is creamy and tart and melts perfectly smooth, making it a great addition to a sauce for dishes that tilt the scale towards vegetables.
I love to eat this cheese with a nuts and no sugar added jams.
Finger licking good!

Fresh Mozzarella

Part skim is only 70 calories an ounce and for those who prefer whole milk, 85 calories. Still a great deal and the perfect snack paired with tomatoes and roasted peppers. I always have a bag of string cheese in my fridge and a container of bite-sized bocconcini at the ready. 
The small 1" balls bounce in at 40 calories each. Two of them with 4 grape tomatoes with a side of Italian dressing to dip into, makes a perfect pick me up.

Neufchatel Cheese

While we here in the US, this cheese it often promoted as a "1/3 less fat" cream cheese option, but in Europe it is THE only style cream cheese eaten.
Another creamy 70 calorie per ounce beauty, there are so many options for using this cheese in savory dishes, not just as a schmeer on that bagel. Cheaper than goat cheese, it makes a great addition to a "cream" based sauce with that tangy component I crave to liven up a long slow braised dish.
As a snack, make your own onion and vegetable dips, cut some celery and carrot sticks or mix with a full flavored (but no added sugar) jam and serve on top of graham crackers.

Camembert Cheese

I was totally surprised to learn that soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert were low in calories, especially when they are often advertised as double & triple cream cheeses.
Camembert is the lowest of the higher end cheeses at 85 calories an ounce and while I might not pick this as a snacking cheese, I will treat myself to a slice or two on a cheese board set out for a special occasion. As long as I was pairing a slice of cheese with a slice of pear or apple, I can be satisfied and move on to the veggie dips and shrimp cocktail.
You may be thinking that the savings on calories is small compared to the higher caloric cheeses like pepper jacks, Cheddar's or Goudas, but think like this.....a weeks worth of those "small" amounts of calories could add up to a well deserved glass of wine at the end of your week. A slice of cheese with that wine??
Don't mind if I do.........