Vegetarian Tortellini Soup

Vegetarian Tortellini Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)

¾ cup tomato paste

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tsp sugar

1 bay leaf

½ tsp Italian seasoning

½ tsp salt

1 cup cheese tortellini

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until tender but not brown, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tomato paste, tomatoes, broth, sugar, bay leaf, Italian seasoning and salt.  Bring to a simmer and add tortellini.  

Simmer until tortellini is tender, 10-12 minutes or according to package directions.  Add addition chicken broth to thin soup, if desired.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

3 servings, 300 calories per serving

Oven Braised Pork Roast with Red Cabbage and Leek

Oven Braised Pork Roast with Red Cabbage and Leek

4 tsp paprika, divided

2 tsp dried thyme, divided

1½ tsp salt, divided

1½ tsp black pepper, divided

1 tsp dried sage

2 tbsp olive oil

1 pork roast (2 lbs)

1 small red cabbage, quartered and sliced (1 lb / 6 cups)

1 leek, cleaned and sliced (¾ lb / 6 cups)

1 large carrot, julienned (5 oz)

1½ beef broth

1 tbsp tomato paste

Preheat oven to 350℉. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

Combine 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and sage in a small bowl. Dry pork roast using paper towels and rub with spice mixture. Add pork to hot oil and brown on all sides. Remove pork from the pan and place in a 10”x13” baking pan.

Arrange cabbage, leek and carrot around pork roast in pan. Combine remaining spices, beef broth and tomato paste, pour evenly over vegetables.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and cook in oven for 1½ hours or until pork reaches an internal temp of 145℉. Allow pork roast to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

4 servings, 300 calories per serving

Hack: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen in tightly sealed containers for up to 3 months.



Basic French Toast

Basic French Toast

1 egg

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp vanilla

2 slices day-old or stale bread

Whisk egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in square 6”x8” pan.  Lay bread in egg mixture and let rest for 10-15 minutes, flipping once, to allow bread to soak up liquid.

Heat skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.  

Transfer bread slices to pan and cook, flipping once, until bread reaches desired brownness, 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove to plate.

Top French toast with fruit, jam or syrup, if desired, and serve immediately.

1 serving, 300 calories (French toast only)

Hack:  This recipe can be double or tripled for multiple servings and frozen for up to 3 months.  Lay cooked french toast on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.  Wrap toast tightly and store in the freezer.  To reheat,  microwave, covered with a damp paper towel, for 15 second intervals until hot.  Alternately, warm in the oven for 8-10 minutes or pop in the toaster.


Did you know this? 20 Fun Food Facts

I love trivia. My family and friends will be the first to tell you that I’m a plethora of useless facts but I can’t help myself. (“Did you know this?”) Perhaps I’m a philomath or perhaps I just love having the answer to whatever ridiculous question that gets posed sometime after the second round of drinks. And to the delight (or dismay?) of everyone, the advent of technology has made it possible for me to instantly look up any information I don’t currently have in my arsenal.

Because I also happen to love food, it makes sense that it was only a matter of time before I came up with an article full of fun food facts

It’s All In Your Head

Do you like spicy food? Or can’t you take the heat? You might be surprised to learn that there actually is no heat in hot peppers. There’s a chemical in chili peppers called capsaicin that tricks your mouth to feeling like it’s being burned – that’s why spicy food hurts.

Food phobias, anyone? Cibophobia is the fear of food in general. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of your mouth. Lachanophobia is the fear of eating vegetables while Fructophobia is the fear of eating fruit. I’m very happy that I don’t have any of these!

Restaurants use certain colors to increase your desire to eat there…and to eat more. Bright reds and yellows elevate heart rate and blood pressure, causing diners to eat more quickly and be more impulsive, while warmer shades of red, orange and brown promote relaxation and boosts appetite. Purple and blue, on the other hand, tend to decrease appetite and are used more rarely.

Wrongly Accused

Pasteurized processed cheese is typically referred to as American cheese but it was actually invented in Switzerland. Cheese alchemists Waltz Gerber and Fritz Stettler came up with the idea in 1911 to lengthen the shelf-life of emmental before it was shipped overseas. James Lewis Kraft patented the idea 5 years later.

Froot Loops has been sued at least four times for being misleading due to the fact that it does not contain any fruit. The Courts have always ruled in Kellogg’s favor due to the company’s deliberate misspelling of “fruit”. Since “froot” isn’t a real word, it can’t be reasonable to interpret it to mean “fruit”. And, for the record, all Froot Loops are the same flavor.

“As American as apple pie”? Nope. Pie was invented in Medieval England, while the modern recipe for apple pie with a lattice crust was created and perfected by the Dutch.

German chocolate cake does not hail from Germany. It’s named after its inventor, Sam German, who came up with the cake as a way to promote a blend of chocolate that he also invented: German’s Chocolate.

White chocolate isn’t chocolate at all. This is because it doesn’t have any components of regular chocolate. It’s really just a mixture of sugar, milk, vanilla, lecithin, and cocoa butter.

Until 2013 beer and other alcohol that was under 10% ABV was classified as a soft drink in Russia! Even today, it’s common for people to drink beer in the streets and parks as commonly as you would see soda.

Bugs, Bugs, The Magical Fruit

Red Skittles get their color from common red food dye, carminic acid, which is made from the crushed bodies of a beetle called the dactylopius coccus. This dye also is used to color maraschino cherries, strawberry and raspberry flavored candy, and lipstick.

Next time you’re in South Africa, you may want to skip the popcorn. It’s more common that what they call popcorn is actually roasted termites and ants.

According to FDA standards, there’s an allowance for the level of traces of bugs could be in your food. For example, chocolate can have no more than 60 insects fragments per 100 grams. Peanut butter can’t have more than 30 insects per 100 grams.

Figs are actually inverted flowers with a unique pollination process requiring wasps instead of bees. Female wasps lay their eggs in male figs (which we don’t eat), but it’s also necessary for a wasp to enter a female fig (that we do eat) to pollinate it. The wasp gets stuck and dies inside. Luckily for us, the female fig produces an enzyme that digests this wasp completely so we’re not actually crunching on a wasp…just a seed!

Time For A New You

Scientists at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany have discovered that since peanut butter is so rich in carbon, it’s possible to turn simple Skippy into diamonds. All you need to do is to extract the oxygen from the carbon dioxide found in the peanut spread, and then enact immense pressure on the carbon left behind.

According to the National Carrot Museum in the UK, the first carrots looked nothing like they do today. Originally these vegetables were purple or white with a thin root. The orange carrots we know and eat today are actually the result of a genetic mutation in the late 16th century that won out over the original color.

Wild salmon is naturally pink because of all the shrimp they eat but farm-raised salmon have a different diet and end up being white. These pale faced fish are fed specific plant pigments to achieve the same hue as the wild salmon.

The famous Three Musketeers candy bar originally had vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate flavors all in one! During World War II, they changed to only chocolate due to rationing.

The More You Know

In this case, I suppose “The More You Know” amounts to nothing but a fun conversation. There’s nothing wrong with that! I hope you enjoyed it!

What about you? What little known trivia facts do you have about food? Or any subject, really. Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com



Western Breakfast Burrito

Western Breakfast Burrito

 

¼ green pepper, chopped (¼ cup)

¼ orange pepper, chopped (¼ cup)

¼ onion, chopped (¼ cup)

1 slice ham, chopped (1 oz)

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese (¼ cup)

1 10” tortilla or sandwich wrap

 

Heat skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add peppers and onion and saute until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add ham during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Break eggs into a small bowl and add milk. Beat thoroughly to incorporate and add to the pepper/onion mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Scramble eggs until set and remove from heat.

Lay the tortilla on a plate or other flat surface. Spread eggs on ⅓ of tortilla, fold sides in and roll to form a burrito. Serve immediately.

1 serving, 500 calories

Hack: Frozen chopped peppers and onions can be used in this recipe

Hack: Substitute your favorite cheese for cheddar or use whatever you have on hand.

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half (12 oz)

2 cups mozzarella pearls (8 oz)

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

3 tbsp balsamic reduction

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Place tomatoes and mozzarella pearls in a bowl.  Tear basil leaves and sprinkle over top.  Toss with balsamic reduction, salt and pepper.  

Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

4 servings, 230 calories per serving


Toasted Ramen Noodles

Toasted Ramen Noodles

2 tbsp olive oil

½ onion, chopped

½ cup frozen peas

1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp parsley

2 oz block of plain, dried ramen noodles, slightly crushed

1 cup beef bouillon, hot

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup leftover beef or pork, chopped

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until onion is soft and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add peas, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add crushed ramen noodles and saute, stirring continuously, until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.  Turn heat up to medium high.

Pour beef bouillon over noodles gradually to maintain sizzle in the pan and allow liquid to absorb, still stirring constantly.

Add balsamic and Worcestershire to pan, scraping the bottom to deglaze.

Stir in meat and cook just until warmed through.

Serve immediately.

2 servings, 360 calories per serving


Hack:
½ cup frozen onions can be substituted for fresh onion in this recipe.

Traditional Chinese Hot Pot

Traditional Chinese Hot Pot
(Courtesy:  Yuhong Sun)

 

1 lb beef flank*

4” knob fresh ginger (1 ounce or ¼ cup sliced)

5 cloves garlic

2 green onions

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

3-4 dried hot peppers to taste

1 onion

Dipping sauce:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Ingredients to cook in hot pot: Typical hot pot ingredients include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, vermicelli, sliced potatoes, dumplings, tofu, small meatballs and seafood but feel free to use whatever you like or have on hand.

 

Put beef and ginger in water. Bring to a boil and cook until the blood comes out, about 15 minutes. Drain water and cut beef into 2” chunks.

Place meat and ginger in an Instant Pot. Add garlic, green onions, bay leaves, anise, hot peppers and onion. Cook for one hour.**

While broth is cooking, assemble individual bowls of dipping sauce for each person.

Strain and pour broth into an electric hot pot (or hot plate topped with heat proof container) that has been placed on the table within easy reach of all diners (Use two or more pots if needed). Adjust heat to keep broth at a simmer.

Using chopsticks or other utensils, drop pieces of food into the hot pot to cook. Once the item is cooked, use chopsticks or a small strainer to remove items to your plate. Season with dipping sauce, if desired. Separate utensils are recommended for handling raw and cooked food.

The broth is usually strained and consumed after everyone is done eating or kept for use in a future meal. It can be frozen for up to a year.

*Beef, pork or chicken marrow bones can substituted for flank

**If preferred, stock can also be simmered, covered, on the stove over low heat for 6 hours or in a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Hack:  Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root?  Grating it in it’s frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it!  Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack:  Chop leftover green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use. While they won’t retain the crispness that would make them suitable for salads or garnish, they will be fine for cooking.

Barriers To Healthy Eating

Changing your eating habits can be hard. The intangible aspects such as emotional eating, food disorders, education, attitudes and upbringing can, even though difficult, be worked on from where you currently are as a person. Small changes can add up to big benefits.

But what about physical barriers? It’s a fact that some people, no matter how motivated, can’t imagine how they could possibly put their newly discovered knowledge into action.

While the reasons for this are many and varied, let’s take a look at some of the more common hurdles that create barriers to healthy eating.

Family Size

We all want to feed healthy food to our children but let’s face it: if you’ve got more than one child, that doesn’t always feel possible. Like little baby birds, they gather around with their little beaks open chirping “Food! Food! Food!” And you end up tossing in the first thing that comes to hand just to fill their bellies.

I know, I’ve been there.

And it doesn’t get any better when they get older. You don’t have to physically feed them, true, but they can plow through a kitchen like Tasmanian devils, leaving nothing in their wake but empty shelves and dirty dishes. Those $1 frozen pizzas and burritos may seem like the only way to keep your sanity and your pocketbook intact.

Do not despair…I have solutions.

Save Those Leftovers! Put them in a prominent spot in the fridge and attach a post-it that says, “Eat Me!” If it was good for dinner, it’s good for a snack.

The Incredible Edible Egg. With an average cost of less than 15¢per egg and an amazing nutrition profile, it can’t get better than this. These can be whipped up in a pan or microwave in no time flat by the most rudimentary cook. Hard boiled eggs last for a week in your fridge and take less than 20 minutes to prepare so cook up a dozen (or two) to keep on hand for egg salad, pickled eggs or just straight-up noshing.

Not So Forbidden Fruit. Fruit is high in fiber and provides bulk that helps to keep your little darlings full faster and longer than some other foods. Bananas are always a good (and inexpensive) choice but keep an eye out for deals on other fruits as well. Melons (including watermelon) tend to cost less per pound than other fruits but require prep that may not be appealing or safe for the younger set to take on. I always remove the rind and cube melons in advance. You’ll find them to be much more popular when they can be scooped directly from the bowl!

Uncan Me, You Cad! Canned tuna is high in protein, low in fat (when packed in water) and often available for less than 80¢per can. Mix it up with a bit of mayo or mustard for a delightful snack on crackers or bread.

Spread It Around. Peanut butter is good for the soul. It’s also inexpensive and has a great balance of healthy fats, carbs and protein to leave a person feeling satisfied and full. It goes with bread, crackers, apples, celery or straight off the spoon. It can even be mixed up with some soy sauce, honey and red pepper sauce to serve over noodles.

Sow Some Oats. ½ cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats mixed with one cup milk or water will cook on the stove top in about 5 minutes or in the microwave in half that time. This quick, easy and nutritious snack can be mixed with cinnamon, sugar, milk, jelly, bananas, peanut butter or about a million other things that are just hanging around the kitchen! Let your kids use their imagination to come up with creative combos!

Food Desert

A food desert is defined by the USDA as having “limited access to supermarkets, super centers, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food”. In one report, nearly 6% of the US population claimed they did not have adequate access to healthy food because it was difficult to get to the store.

There are a number of reasons for this including age, physical/mental/emotional difficulties or income but the most common cause is not having a vehicle to get there. Even in areas where public transportation is available, the act of juggling numerous grocery bags while riding a crowded bus or subway (including transfers) is a daunting prospect.

Many of these people are reduced to obtaining food at local fast food restaurants, corner or convenience stores that lack fresh, healthy choices.

All is not lost.

Many convenience stores (especially the large chain gas/grocery combos) have responded to the call to eat healthier. Many offer fresh fruit and healthy snack options such as hummus cups or hard-boiled eggs.

Take a good look at the grocery items that are available. It’s likely that you’ll be able to find healthy choices such as milk, eggs, natural cheese, unflavored oatmeal, peanut butter or canned tuna. Don’t forget to check the freezer section for frozen meats (such as uncooked burger patties) and vegetables.

Check for nearby farmers markets, which often carry locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats. While some of these items (especially the meats) can be more expensive than the supermarket, they can be stretched by serving them in soups, stews or stir frys.

Reach out to friends and relatives who have transportation and ask if you can “tag along” the next time they go shopping. If they’re going anyway, there’s probably no reason that you couldn’t go with them.

When you get a ride, concentrate on finding items that will last until the next you’re likely to get a ride. Consider canned items such as tomatoes, legumes or tuna. Shelf stable products like pasta, dried beans, bouillon and rice are always good choices.

Get some meats to package for the freezer (make sure you have the containers or bags needed to protect their freshness!) and cruise the freezer section for frozen vegetables and fruits. Breads can also be frozen for up to 3 months or buy the yeast and flour you need to make it yourself.

Income


OK, so maybe you just don’t have the money to buy groceries. Maybe you got laid off or had an unexpected expense that has left you short on funds. Maybe you’re living on a fixed income. Or maybe you took the only crummy job you could find while you look for something that actually pays the bills. It happens. I’ve certainly been there.

Income based programs such as WIC (for families with young children), SNAP (food stamps) and CSFP (for seniors) are all programs that are available to those in need.

Child Nutrition Programs offer free and reduced meals programs for school-aged children and typically provide breakfast and lunch, often even during periods when school is not in session. Ask at your child’s school or visit their website.

Many people make the mistake of assuming they’re not eligible or are embarrassed to apply for these services. Many programs have surprisingly lenient income levels so it doesn’t hurt to check. Applications can usually be done online from the comfort of your own home and benefits are often loaded on debit cards so you’ll look like every other person in line using a debit card!

Food pantries are also a great option, whether you use their services on a sporadic basis or regularly. Some have income and/or residency guidelines while others are open to all. It’s likely that, with a few phone calls, you’ll find one that will work with you!

For more information on these programs and other ideas about how to stretch your food dollar, please click here.

Lack of Time / Competing Priorities

This is a big one but it’s often not given the attention it deserves. What happens when we tell people we don’t have time for something? We often hear things like.”You need to learn to manage your time better” or “If you really wanted to, you would find the time”. Not helpful.

There are countless reasons why some people literally don’t have the time to cook. Some work long days or multiple jobs. Others have a long commute. Parents have to oversee homework, grooming, transportation, school meetings and other basic needs of their children, often in addition to a full time job and their own household chores. Many of us have had to, at some point, care for a family member who is sick or has other special needs.

Time management and desire often have no place in our inability to find time to plan, shop, prepare and cook healthy meals. What’s the answer, then?

Meal Kits. They’re all the rage now and for good reason. I’ve tried different ones, both as a guest at someone’s house and one that I ordered for myself (see my review here).

These kits are easy to order and easy to prepare. The cost, including shipping, generally starts around $12-$15 per person, which is a similar cost to picking up takeout on the way home.

Slow Cookers and Instant Pots. The main difference between these are that one is prepped in the morning and cooks all day while the other is prepped when you get home and cooks your meal super fast. They’re both an effective time saver because you can make a one pot meal with very little effort. The only decision you have to make is whether you prefer to dump everything into the pot in the morning or when you get home.

Groceries To Go. I’ve used this option on many occasions and it’s a real time (and frustration) saver. Put the app on your phone, pick a time and make a grocery list. Items can be added or removed from the list right up to a few hours before pickup, as well as adjustments to your pickup time. Simply pull up to the door on your way home from work and your very own personal shopper will load those groceries right into your car. This is usually available without any added fees, as you often see with delivery or shipped goods.

Leftovers. You’re probably tired of hearing me harp about leftovers but here I go again. I love ‘em. They’re great for no effort meals later in the week!. Eat them as they are or turn them into quick and easy soups, sandwiches, salads or stir frys! Click here for more of my thoughts on leftovers.

Pre-Prepped and Ready To Go. Check in the fresh produce and freezer sections for fruits and veggies that are already trimmed, sliced, diced, chopped or julienned. The same goes for meat and seafood.

Have The Whole Family Help. Sound impossible? I spent a considerable amount of my childrens preteen and teen years driving them to sports, music, clubs, field trips…you name it! And this is what I said, ”I don’t have enough time to come home from work and make supper (lunch, breakfast, snack, whatever) before your (whatever it is they’re doing). If you want a ride and if you want to eat, please pack food to take with us.” Or I would ask them to prepare a simple meal if we had time to eat at home. And it worked. Sandwiches and fruit/veggies are easy to put together and kids enjoy it when they can choose the menu!

What About You?

These are just a few suggestions but I’m sure there are many more situations and answers out there.

What about you? What barriers to healthy eating have you faced? How did you overcome them?

Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com



Barbecue Mayo

Barbecue Mayo

2 tbsp barbecue sauce

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp spicy brown mustard

1 tsp red-hot or sriracha sauce

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Allow flavors to blend for 30 minutes before use.

Refrigerate leftovers in a tightly sealed container.

2 servings, 75 calories per serving