Simple Chicken-Wild Rice Soup

I like simple things. Simple food, simple exercise, and simple recipes. I don’t like: trendy, complicated work-outs, exhausting preparation in the kitchen, or weird food on menus of restaurants that are trying too hard. No Thanks, I don’t want to try “Pad-Thai Ice-Cream” no matter how real it tastes.

I think when food gets too mixed up, we lose the point that food is fuel and can be enjoyed in it’s natural state. When we make food into an emotional experience, that’s when the problems start. I like to taste the real-ness of the food, not someone’s idea of what it should taste like. I go light on condiments and seasoning and I cook things that I can still recognize when they are finished. When I am craving simple comfort I make this easy, nourishing, Chicken Soup. which is very similar to my Stay Well Soup.

I started by boiling a 3-4 pound hen and adding fresh herbs. I picked what was in my garden which at this time of year is Rosemary, and then snipped some fresh Thyme that I have growing in the house. I added onion, dried dill, black pepper, and garlic. After about an hour, remove hen and let cool enough to remove meat from bones. It should basically fall off.

Slow Cooked Chicken

Save broth and add chopped carrots and celery. Bring to a low simmer until veggies are soft. Place meat back in pot and continue to cook. Add any other seasonings you wish at this point. I am staying away from salt so I used Mrs. Dash.

Chicken Broth

Add chicken meat to soup and let simmer.

homemade chicken soup

Next cook wild rice in 2 parts water, 1 part rice. Bring to boil, cover, let steam for 30 minutes or until rice is soft. Add rice to chicken soup.

WIld Rice with Soup

I added in some fresh baby spinach near the end to give it some green and vitamin C.

Simple. Delicious. Nourishing.

chicken wild rice soup

Check out my vegan broccoli soup here

Winter Wrap-Up + Snowday Cookies

It’s March and winter won’t let go! Yesterday we had ice and snow and today the snow has stayed because it’s so cold. That is not normal this time of year. It seems all I’ve been doing the last few weeks is trying to stay warm! I’ve been gravitating towards warm, comfort foods and vitamin C packed citrus. (Oh and the snow day prompted me to bake cookies!)

My yoga student brought me some oranges and grapefruits fresh from an organic grove. I’ve been cutting way back on fruit since following my lean meal plan, but I couldn’t not try these. I split the grapefruit in half, sprinkled a small amount of brown sugar on top, and broiled for 3-4 minutes to let the sugar caramelize.

broiled grapefruit

It was so good and juicy! The oranges were like candy and I limited myself to 2 of those.

I’ve also been enjoying healthy bowls of food for simple lunches and dinners. My boyfriend isn’t a fan of this, he likes a knife and fork,  but I love the idea of throwing everything together in a bowl and sprinkling with nutritional yeast. It’s simple and easier to clean up. I start with rice or a grain, then add a protein, and top with cooked veggies. I’ve made this with tempeh and tahini and called it a “Buddha Bowl” 

Buddha Bowl

Lola got a spring haircut a bit too early. She is shaved down to a slick coat and it’s still pretty cold out, but I think she loves it- her energy level is way up and she’s acting like a puppy. She’s been curling up with us on the furniture whenever possible as if she knows how cute she looks.

Peke haircut

The ultimate snowy day activity for me is baking! I have not baked in a long time and yesterday it was so fun to make these chocolate chip/oatmeal/peanut butter cookies.

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Recipe:
1/4 stick butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 peanut butter, 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1 teaspoon each of salt, baking soda, baking powder, 2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate chips, 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut.

Mix all wet ingredients, add flour, coconut, chips and oats. Drop on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 375.

They are SO good and I love that there is no white sugar or white flour in them. Check out my other healthy cookie recipe for Tahini Cookies 

Enjoy!

Sexy Sunday Omelette

What’s not to love about a Sunday morning? The slow awakening, the lingering in bed, staying in pajamas until we feel like it, the breakfasts……Oh the breakfasts are the BEST part of my Sunday morning!

buckwheat waffles

During the week my breakfast is the same every morning: Oatmeal with berries and cinnamon and 5 egg whites with spinach and avocado. I follow my clean-eating meal plan pretty strictly during the week so on Sundays I like to mix it up a little bit and take my time in the kitchen. Cooking in pajamas is sexy, right?

I still want my protein and carbs but every once in awhile I will have a delicious buckwheat waffle or pancakes as a treat. Or maybe even a mimosa if it’s a very special Sunday.

Today I made a lovely, high protein, chicken, spinach, and feta cheese omelette. I started by placing 1 cut up grilled chicken breast in a heated skillet.

grilled chicken

I used 10 eggs, but only 3 yolks. This was for 2 people. Just typing this I realize how much food we put away together. You may not want/need 10…..

eggs

Add about 1 and 1/2 cups baby spinach to chicken and stir over medium heat just until spinach begins to wilt.

spinach chicken omelette

Add egg mixture, black pepper, garlic granules and cover to steam for 5 minutes.

spinach chicken omelette

Add crumbled feta cheese and re-cover. I only used about 1/3 cup. I use cheese very sparingly, if at all. It’s a treat and not something that I need in my daily food intake.

Flip omelette over after edges begin to brown and firm up.

spinach omelette

Cook thoroughly with pan covered until firm and fluffy!

spinach cheese omelette

I served this with sliced white and sweet potatoes browned in coconut oil- YUM!

Comforting Spinach Stuffed Shells

Comfort food is traditionally eaten food (which often provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it),[1] or simply provides the consumer a familiar meal, soft in consistency, and rich in calories, nutrients, or both. (wikipedia)

Hopefully being with family evokes feelings of nostalgia and comfort. When my sister visited this weekend so we could plan my mom’s upcoming birthday party, I definitely must’ve been craving comfort food. I wanted to cook a big Sunday dinner with no regards to counting calories and watching ingredients. I managed to keep it simple, yet still comforting with these savory, stuffed shells.  This recipe is not complicated but always impressive! Great for leftovers too.

Boil Jumbo Shell Pasta until soft. Not too soggy, but firm. Drain and let cool.

Jumbo Shell Pasta

Prepare sauce by browning meat (I used ground turkey), onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and spices. I added a little red wine and a tiny bit of agave to the sauce.

red sauce

In a large bowl combine 1 container ricotta cheese, 1/2 container cottage cheese, 1 egg, dash of nutmeg, and 2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach. Mix well. Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and mix well.

ricotta cheese stuffingUsing a small spoon, stuff each shell with cheese filling and set in a large rectangular oiled baking dish.  Line shells closely together, “stuffed” side up.

stuffed shells

Spoon meat sauce over shells evenly.

stuffed shells with meat sauce

Top with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

stuffed shells

Cheese should be melted and edges beginning to crisp

stuffed shells

3 or 4 shells are a good serving size so this is good for a large group. I don’t eat like this often, but I love cooking this when I get the chance. Vary the ingredients by adding other chopped vegetables to the cheese or make vegetarian by skipping the meat.

spinach stuffed shells

Nashville’s BEST Hot Chocolate

Since before Christmas I’ve been a little obsessed with hot chocolate. For me, it was about finding the perfect hot chocolate; dark, sweet, but not overly sweet, steaming and comforting. Since giving up coffee, I have been drinking only tea which I love, but something about cold, grey, wintry days makes me crave the rich sweetness of hot cocoa. I set out on the quest to find the best.

I started in my own neighborhood that has lots of great coffee shops.

Portland Brew. I love the quiet atmosphere and the industrial decor. They take their coffee very seriously here too. The hot chocolate was mildly disappointing. It was chocolate syrup pumped into a cup of steamed milk. Too sweet, too bland. I enjoyed the whipped cream on top but couldn’t finish it because it was too sweet.

Eighth and Roast is another newer coffee shop that we go to a lot. In the summer they make home made fresh strawberry lemonade that is to die for. I ordered hot chocolate and had to ask for whipped cream on top. It turns out they just heat up chocolate milk and serve. Bummer. Not what I was looking for. The whipped cream was freshly made from a local creamery which was a treat.

I was getting frustrated. 2 great coffee shops and 2 very mediocre hot chocolates. I did some research……

Bang Candy Company: When I googled “best hot chocolate” this is the place that came up. Known for making marshmallows and candy, I was pretty excited to see what they offered for hot chocolate. I ordered a medium hot chocolate and got my choice of marshmallow flavor- I chose spicy cinnamon. Sadly, I was disappointed at the weakness of the chocolate flavor. My drink literally tasted like hot milk. The marshmallow was bangin’ but the cocoa not so much. Cute shop and super nice people!

Starbucks: I don’t like going to starbucks. I don’t like the corporate feel or the food they serve that’s been pre-made and shipped in. In my opinion, they are the Wal-Mart of coffee shops- BUT I had a gift card which trumps integrity. Plus the BF loves his caramel macchiato’s. I asked how they made their cocoa and was told “Dark syrup, vanilla, and milk” The Dark Syrup piqued my curiosity. Again, I had to special request whipped cream- I thought that was a given??? The cocoa was oh sooooo disappointing. Watery, sweet, blah. I was ticked off that I wasted my gift card on it.  I threw a tiny fit in the truck and left it sitting there and to be fair, it actually tasted a little better after it cooled down.

I took a few more passes at more shops, a bakery, and friends well-meaning suggestions. My eyes glazed over as I envisioned finding my perfect cup of cocoa. I wanted to stumble across a little thatch-roofed shop where people wore cute hats and wooden shoes as they shaved curls of bitter dark swiss chocolate into gently boiling milk,  stirring it up with a long handled spoon. I wanted exotic spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and REAL vanilla sprinkled lovingly into the hot goodness. I wanted a big white fluffy cloud of fresh whipped cream cooling my mouth from the top of the cup………….

Fantasy over. I took matters into my own hands. I’m a good cook, why couldn’t I make the perfect cup of hot chocolate exactly like I wanted? On a rainy afternoon I made the city’s best hot chocolate in my own humble kitchen. And I wasn’t wearing wooden shoes.

photo (91) hot chocolate photo (93) photo (94)

I cup milk (I used lowfat but almond/coconut could be used)

2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large scoop unsweetened cocoa

dash of cinnamon or nutmeg

Bring all ingredients to a slow simmer (just til milk begins to bubble) over medium heat, stirring constantly. I think the stirring really blends the flavors together perfectly.

I topped mine with Peppermint Whipped Cream- from a can. We can’t have it all…..

Yoga: Religion or Exercise?

It’s a touchy subject isn’t it? Maybe it’s because I live in the South, but the question “Is yoga a religion?” does come up and I want to share my view on how I handle it. Since yoga has become more mainstream and has found it’s way into gyms, schools, and even churches, there is a lot of room for different opinions on the spiritual aspect of yoga and how it fits into western religious beliefs.

There are purists on both sides who would argue strongly that without the spiritual aspect, yoga is simply stretching. There are also christians who believe that yoga is going against their own beliefs and they are skeptical of trying it for this reason.

I say this: Let Yoga be whatever it is YOU are seeking, not what someone tells you it must be. Let it be there for you in any way you need. And let others enjoy it how they need to without judgement.

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

If it’s the strong physical practice you desire then so be it. That’s OK. There is no better way to move your body than through the asanas and breath work of yoga. I am so happy more people are trying it and feeling the physical benefits.

If you seek spiritual guidance and direction from Yoga then great- Go deep, study, and absorb everything you can from this ancient practice. Read, learn, and embrace it.  Find a teacher who is knowledgeable about this side of yoga and practice with them.

half moon

But please don’t tell either side who is right and who is wrong. I know students who cannot stand incense, chanting, or meditation. I don’t judge that because I know they need something else from Yoga and who am I to stop them?

I also know teachers who get irritated and defensive if gyms or fitness centers teach yoga without using sanskrit or bringing the spiritual side into the practice. In the big picture, who cares? Let people enjoy what they can from a beautiful and complex form of exercise and practice how you want.

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

I recently had the opportunity with some friends to teach yoga at a very large Baptist church group fitness symposium. It was amazing to witness all of the congregation in prayer pose and moving in unison. There was no barrier or judgement to what anyone believed or who they worshipped- we were just all there together breathing and moving and being present. They were connected to themselves and we were connected to each other for that brief period of time.

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Isn’t that what Yoga is all about; Connection?

The Lost Art of The Dinner Party

Do people still have proper dinner parties? I’m worried about that. I’m worried that because of convenience and time, restaurants have taken over and people have forgotten the art of throwing fabulous dinner parties.  The kind where friends linger and lounge on couches and armchairs with drinks in hand, waiting for the home-cooked meal to be served, but in no hurry to eat and run. I LOVE the whole concept of dinner parties and have wanted to host them since I was a little girl. I would scour my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook looking at the delicious recipes and party themes for any occasion.

Retro cookbook

My childhood treasure that started my love of the kitchen

Luckily I love to cook so having a dinner party is not a source of anxiety for me but I know it can be to some. It doesn’t have to be though; it can be so simple that anyone can host a successful dinner party and have fun doing it. I had a birthday dinner party last weekend and here are some ways I kept mine simple but still fabulous….

Choose an easy main dish that you have made before: I chose to make lasagna. It’s easily prepared ahead of time with minimal effort and it always looks and tastes like a ton of work went into it. I made one large pan with meat and a smaller pan for a couple of guests who are vegetarian. Same ingredients, same prep time. To make it special I added red wine and fresh basil to the sauce!

tomato sauce

Have a great assortment of simple appetizers: My favorite thing is to buy a variety of crackers and chips and then make homemade hummus. I made garlic and chipotle pepper- same batch, just used different spices. Easy to make ahead too.

homemade hummus

I also bought a small amount of interesting cheeses from TJ’s. Yes, I bought cheese with chocolate in it, it was my birthday! I always splurge $ on cheese because the sizes are so small and quality makes a difference in taste.

chocolate cheddar cheese

Create a simple fresh salad: Greens, rasberries, slivered almonds, goat cheese. Done. Choose a light, versatile dressing and toss just before serving. Everyone loooooved the salad, I think the fresh berries and goat cheese was the tipping point.

Have an impressive dessert; I chose to buy a decadent chocolate ganeche cake from the bakery at whole foods. It’s easier to buy a fancy dessert than to try to make one but if you have a speciality like a pie or cobbler with seasonal items then go for that. I served caramel frozen yogurt with the cake and that was what made it really special.

recipe-image-legacy-id--1043451_11

BYOB; if you’re comfortable with it, ask guests to bring their own liquor. People like too many different things for you to try and stock the bar. Plus you never know how much people drink so it’s hard to know how much to buy. My friends all brought wine, beer, and champagne and everyone enjoyed just what they wanted.

Create ambience: scented candles, a fire in the fireplace, good music, plenty of seating, fresh flowers. Make sure pets are bathed, well-behaved, and introduced properly. All of these little details can really seal the deal on a successful dinner party.

appetizers cheese and crackers

Mix it up: Invite a wide variety of your friends, or just invite 2, there is no magic #. It’s ok to mix and match people from different parts of your life. If you only have “work” friends, guess what the conversation will be about?

ENJOY: Don’t forget it’s your party to enjoy! Eat, Drink, and Be Merry- the dishes can wait……

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