Tag Archives: Healthy

Pasta e Fagioli alla Russ

Growing up in the Midwest, Pasta e Fagioli wasn’t anywhere on my culinary radar. When I moved East decades ago, I quickly learned it was quite common in this region of the country. Minestrone, is a similar type of soup but the main difference between it and pasta e fagioli is the variety of vegetables in minestrone. Fagioli (pronounced fazool) is mainly pasta and beans in a broth, although this version includes kale and herbs among other plant additives.

A traditional Italian soup, it started as a peasant dish, being composed of inexpensive ingredients.

The key to a soup with fully developed savory flavor starts with the soffritto—a mix of aromatic vegetables that are slowly cooked in the first stage of cooking. Take your time sweating down the vegetables until they are completely softened before letting them take on any color. You’ll be surprised by how much volume they lose and how much liquid they release and by how much unquantifiable richness they lend to the final dish, which is nothing more than a combination of humble ingredients.

Even though we soaked our dried cannellini beans overnight,
it still took several hours before they became creamy.

To up the flavor quota, Russ used two smoked ham hocks and 1 quart of homemade ham stock and included fresh rosemary and thyme, all of which are noted in the list of ingredients below. This recipe is doubled from the original Bon Appétit version, so you can easily cut it in half if desired. Be prepared that this soup is time consuming, so you’ll want to schedule a long lazy afternoon to make it.

Pasta e Fagioli alla Russ

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dried medium white beans (such as cannellini), soaked overnight if possible*
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 carrots, scrubbed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, coarsely chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzlingFreshly ground black pepper
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
  • 4 Parmesan rinds (optional)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3-3 1/2 qts. water and/or ham broth
  • 1 lb. small pasta (such as ditalini)
  • Finely grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, and crusty bread (for serving)

*If you haven’t soaked the beans, do a power soak: Place beans in a large pot, cover with water by 1″, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove pot from heat, stir in a palmful of salt, cover pot, and let beans sit 1 hour.

Directions

  1. Pulse carrots, leek, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat ⅓ cup oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add chopped vegetables, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables start to sweat out some of their liquid, about 4 minutes. The goal at this stage is to slow cook the soffritto until the vegetables are very soft but have not taken on any color.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so and reducing heat if mixture starts to brown, until vegetables are softened and juicy, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add ham hock and cook, uncovered, stirring and scraping bottom of pot every 5 minutes, until soffritto is starting to brown in places and has lost at least half of its volume, about 10 minutes more.
  4. Add beans and their soaking liquid, tomatoes, and kale; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then add Parmesan rinds (if using) and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook soup with lid askew, adding water (or stock, if you have it) as needed to keep beans submerged by 1″, until beans are very tender, 1–3 hours, depending on size and age of beans.
  5. Fish out and discard Parmesan rinds. Remove ham hock and use a fork to pull meat off the bone. Return meat to soup; discard bone and any large pieces of fat.
  6. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta and add to soup, then taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. (Do not try to skip a step by cooking the pasta in the soup. The noodles will absorb all the available liquid and the liquid will be thick and gummy.)
  7. Divide soup among bowls. Top with Parmesan, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with bread for dunking if desired.

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Adapted from a recipe from Bon Appétit

Slow-Cooker Vegetable & Chicken Meatball Soup

Aren’t meatballs fun? There are so many options as far as which ground meat to use: beef, pork, veal (or a combo of all three), turkey, and finally chicken, as in this healthy soup recipe. And size is another matter because you can make mini, medium, large or colossal, and serve them as appetizers, in soups, with pasta, as a side, in casseroles, as sliders on buns, or the ever-popular meatball sandwich… the options are limitless. Below are links to over a dozen more meatball recipes.

Here, we’ll concentrate on soup which we know can require a fair amount of prep in chopping all of the veggies, and with the addition of forming meatballs it’ll take about 30 minutes of your time in total. The slow-cooker does all the rest for the next two and a half hours, so your free to indulge in other pursuits.

However, don’t skip cooking the onions for the meatballs. This step softens the onions so they more easily add their sweet flavor to the meatball mixture. And as always, use homemade chicken stock if at all possible for the most flavor. I really think it would be too bland if you use canned or boxed store-bought broth. A few other changes we made included slightly increasing the amounts of most vegetables.

Plan on feeding 4 as an entrée or 6 as a first course.

Slow-Cooker Vegetable & Chicken Meatball Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped 
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 4 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ⅓ cup panko
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • Grated parmesan cheese for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the onions, garlic, salt, and pepper to the skillet; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes.
  2. Remove 1/2 cup of the cooked onion mixture, and place in a medium bowl; set aside. Transfer the remaining onion mixture to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and stir up the browned bits to the pan to deglaze. Stir the stock, carrots, zucchini, green beans, and celery into the slow cooker.
  4. Add the chicken, panko, 1/2 tablespoon of the parsley, and 1 teaspoon of the oregano to the reserved 1/2 cup onion mixture in the bowl; stir gently with a fork to combine.
  5. Shape the chicken mixture into 18 (1 1/4-inch) meatballs. Carefully submerge the meatballs into the chicken stock mixture in the slow cooker without stirring.
  6. Cover and cook on HIGH until the meatballs are done and the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
  7. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and 1 teaspoon oregano. Ladle the soup into bowls and top some grated cheese, if desired. And if you’re not counting carbs, serve hot crusty bread too.

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Adapted from a recipe found on EatingWell.com

Related Meatball Posts:

Cellentani with Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Tomato Sauce

Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Meatballs in Almond Sauce

Pork, Veal and Fennel Meatballs

Italian Meatballs with Tomato & White Wine Braise

Ginger-Chicken Meatballs with Chinese Broccoli

Swedish Meatballs

Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup (Canh)

Sweet and Tangy Retro Meatballs

Festoni Con Polpette Di Mamma

Sheet-Pan Meatballs with Red Onions and Artichokes

Cumin Spiced Chicken Meatballs

Lion’s Head Meatballs

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

What’s better than a good soup for lunches during the cooler months, or for a quick, healthy dinner in a time crunch? This Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup is a load-and-go crock pot recipe adaptation from one we found on Eating Well.

While there is really nothing “quick” about it because you first have to soak the beans overnight, the “fast” method in a slow cooker takes four hours on high, and the “slow” method takes seven or eight hours in the crockpot. Not exactly my idea of a quick turn-around. But the prep is quite simple and then its hands off for hours, allowing you to do other things.

As with many recipes, we alter them to suit or own personal preferences. In this case, we increased each of the three bean types from one-third cup to a half cup each. Then we included 4 pressed garlic cloves and a can of crushed tomatoes to address the moisture for the extra beans. All of these changes are noted below.

Bump up the Southwest flavors like we did with all, or some, of these garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, some crumbled Cotija (or ricotta salata) cheese, sliced scallions and a squeeze of lime, if desired.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 cups water 
  • 4 cups chicken broth, (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried great northern beans
  • ½ cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Soak black beans, great northern beans and kidney beans in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes. Drain and add to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, water, broth, tomatoes, barley, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low.

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Recipe adapted from Carolyn Malcoun for EatingWell.com

Steamed Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms

Lean white fish is mild in flavor, so before steaming the fillets we season it boldly with garlic, ginger, oyster sauce and fiery-sweet Sriracha. We often carve out the start of our weekday meals for a “Meatless Monday” and this combo from Milk Street (MS) fit the bill.

From their “New Rules Cookbook” it emphasizes a gentle heat as best for keeping the delicate flesh of fish tender. Steaming is ideal because the heat surrounds the fish, cooking it from all sides without movement. An aromatic sauce is added to complement the mild fish.

Because we are fungi fanatics, we increased the shiitake mushrooms by 50% for a total of 12 ounces. For a little spice, drizzle the plated fish fillets with a little chili oil before sprinkling with the scallions. Or sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with steamed or stir-fried greens and jasmine rice.

Pairing the cod with stir-fried baby bok choy made with garlic, ginger soy and a few red pepper flakes, and a side of steamed jasmine rice brought the entire dinner together. And plating it all on a singular platter makes for an easy presentation and allows each diner to serve themselves as much as they want.

Simple. Healthy. Tasty. What more could you ask for?

Steamed Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 6-oz. skinless cod, haddock or halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together the oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the fillets and turn to coat, gently rubbing in the sauce.
  2. Add the mushrooms and toss until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  3. Place a steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of pot without touching the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high.
  4. Meanwhile, mist the steamer basket with cooking spray. Arrange the fish in an even layer in the basket and top the fillets with the mushrooms, evenly arranging them. Return the basket to the pot, cover and steam over medium until the fish flakes easily, 8 to 12 minutes. (Ours took the entire 12 minutes.)
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and ¼ cup water.
  6. When the fish is done, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the fillets and mushrooms to a platter. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve with the sauce on the side.

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Adapted from a recipe for Milk Street

Kung Pao Chicken

In this Kung Pao Chicken recipe, the dark, rich sauce clings to the chicken and veggies, with just an undertone of heat and aromatic flavor from the chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. I’m typically a white meat fan, but here we used boneless, skinless dark thigh meat which imparts more flavor. Use whatever suits your preference.

Have you been confused before on the difference between Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken recipes? The main difference between the two is how the meat is cooked. General Tso is fried in a crispy coating, however Kung Pao Chicken is seared in the wok. Both are coated in a similar sauce, but Kung Pao typically always has veggies and peanuts mixed in.

Plus, Kung Pao Chicken is a healthy choice for most people, containing a range of vitamins and minerals, as well as complete protein. It is also low in saturated fat and calories. To up the ante in nutrition, fiber and color, I added a yellow bell pepper and some snow peas.

Because of these extra ingredients, I altered the directions to accommodate them. Instead of adding the veggies with the chicken still in the wok, we moved the poultry to a bowl while we stir-fried the peppers and snow peas, then added the chicken back to the wok before stirring in the broth mixture.

As with most stir-fries, this process goes very quickly so make sure to prep everything BEFORE you start cooking. Keep in mind, rice typically takes about 20 minutes total, so it’s best you start that process first. And don’t omit those roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns. A half teaspoon may seem like a minor nuisance, but they add a necessary flavor component. Serve with steamed rice, preferably cooked in homemade chicken stock.

Kung Pao Chicken

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 4 to 8 dried red chili peppers, snipped on one end
  • 1/2 tsp. roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 6 0z. snow peas, strings removed, cut in half on a diagonal if large
  • 3/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  • Steamed white or brown rice for serving
Add the peanuts and scallions.

Directions

  1. Before you begin prepping the stir-fry ingredients, start the rice according to package directions, preferably using homemade chicken stock as the liquid.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, add the chillies and ground Sichuan peppercorns, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chillies just begin to smoke.
  4. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through. Move to a bowl.
  5. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and snow peas then stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften. Add the chicken back to the wok. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through.
  6. Add the peanuts and scallions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green.
  7. Serve over white or brown steamed rice.

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Braised Red Cabbage With Apples

What do you do with a red cabbage leftover from a Farmers Market Arrangement made for your garden club? I know this is a dilemma for many of you…

Initially, my red cabbage was part of this arrangement.

Kidding aside, cooler October temps invite the braising season to commence. And this is one of those dishes that’s even better the following day, so go ahead and make it when you have time and then serve it on a weeknight with quick cooking chops of some sort.

Be sure to soak the shredded cabbage in cold water as suggested in Step 1. The cabbage absorbs water, which is then released in cooking, and helps to steam the cabbage for utmost tenderness.

We concur, this is probably THE BEST braised cabbage we’ve ever had, and no sugar!

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 large red cabbage, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds, quartered, cored and cut crosswise in thin strips
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tart apples, such as Braeburn or granny smith, peeled, cored and sliced
  •  About 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  •  Salt
  •  Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Prepare the cabbage, and cover with cold water while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet or casserole, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until just about tender, about three minutes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until the mixture is golden, about three minutes, then add the apples and stir for two to three minutes.
  4. Drain the cabbage and add to the pot. Toss to coat thoroughly, then stir in the allspice, another 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Toss together.
  5. Cover the pot, and cook over low heat for one hour, stirring from time to time.
  6. Add freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt, and add another tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar as desired.

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Recipe from Martha Rose Shulman for The NY Times