Tomato Leek Soup

Hope you are enjoying lots of treats and not too many tricks. ūüėČ A lot of people at work really get into dressing up, so I joined in this year for the first time in a long time. Of course I promoted healthy foods by dressing up as a bunch of grapes. It was actually a lot of fun. ¬†I just can’t believe that October is already over. The holiday season is approaching just so quickly – eek! Today, I thought I would share with you this delicious soup Will made up the other night. It’s a perfect way to warm up on the approaching cold winter nights! Feel free to replace the butter with oil if you’d like to make it vegan – both ways are delicious!

Tomato Leek Soup

Tomato Leek Soup (vegetarian; gluten-free)

(Makes 4 Servings)

Ingredients:

  • 8 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 pint vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Toss in leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and tomatoes. Continue to cook and stir for another 10 minutes until leeks begin to soften.
  2. Stir in broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables softened, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in spices and cook another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and pour soup into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth (or puree only half of it to leave a few bits of chopped veggies like we did).
  5. Serve with cheese!

Vegetarian Tacos Made 3 Ways

An easy dinner meal that frequently makes an appearance on our table is vegetarian tacos! We live in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago, so we have easy access to some super cheap, yet delicious corn tortillas just a few steps from our door. This makes it especially tempting to make tacos frequently. ūüôā Even though you may think that tacos would be boring without meat, vegetarian tacos can be pretty tasty! We mix it up by changing out the meat with fish, crumbled tempeh, and marinated portobello mushrooms. With just a bit of vegetable chopping and some sauteing, tacos can literally come together in a matter of minutes – making it a great option for those nights when you are tight on time. We usually pair ours with a salad and just maybe, a brew!

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Tasty Tempeh Tacos

– Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil and toss in some chopped onion and bell pepper. Once the onion begins to become translucent, add crumbled tempeh and 1-2 teaspoons of taco seasoning OR 1/4 cup chopped, canned chipotle peppers in sauce and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Toss and cook until tempeh begins to brown.

IMG_0426Classic Fish Tacos

-These are great for using up leftover fish! Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. Toss in some chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Add 1-2 fillets of flaked, cooked mild-flavored fish (think tilapia) and 1-2 teaspoons of taco seasoning. Cook until fish is warmed through.

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“Holy Mole” Mushroom Tacos

-Chop 1 pound of portobello mushrooms. Toss with 1/4 cup mole sauce. Add a dash of hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Toss together until mushrooms are coated with sauce. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 1-4 hours. When ready to cook, spread the mushrooms out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook under a broiler on high for 5-7 minutes. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Our Favorite Taco Toppings:

  • Cheddar cheese or queso fresco
  • Sour Cream
  • Homemade pico de gallo
  • Avocado or guacomole
  • Lettuce
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Hot sauce

What about you, do you have a favorite way to prepare tacos?

Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa and Beans

Happy Friday, Friends! It has definitely turned chilly here in Chicago. So, you know what that had me craving last weekend? A big bowl of spicy chili. That’s exactly what I made, too! The thing I love about making bigger dishes like this is that there are always lots of leftovers.¬†That means Will and I have easy meals we can just pull out of the fridge any day we aren’t feeling up to cooking. The other reason chili is so wonderful?¬†It is so incredibly versatile! There are hundreds of different recipes for variations of chili. I feel like the options are practically endless. This chili is a great, wholesome and filling vegetarian version. One advantage of making a bean based chili is that you get a bunch of extra fiber¬†that you otherwise wouldn’t have from a meat based chili recipe. The quinoa also adds a bit more fiber and¬†additional¬†protein as well. It’s definitely a healthy, one-pot dish!

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Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa and Beans

(Makes 8-10 Servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2¬†tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced fire roasted¬†tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 pound beans, soaked overnight, or 2 (15 oz) cans beans
  • 1/2 (7 oz) can chipotle peppers
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth + 1 additional cup
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 3 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large cast iron enamel pot, saute the onion for about 3 minutes, or until it starts to become translucent. Add the squash, garlic, bell pepper, poblano and continue to sauté for another 7 minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown just a little.
  2. In a separate sauce pan, add the quinoa and broth. Bring to a simmer and then cover. Cook until all the broth has been absorbed.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, sauce, beans, quinoa, 1 cup broth, and chipotle peppers. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the spices and cook another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese, avocado, sour cream, etc and serve!

Fad Diets Debunked: The Intermittent Fasting Diet

Intermittent Fasting

After all the fun I had coming up with my detox diet post, I thought I would make a series of it and review a few of the most popular diet trends out there! Today, I wanted to chat about the¬†intermittent¬†or alternate day¬†fasting diet. Have you heard of this one? A few wildly popular books have been published recently toting this diet by different names like: The 5:2 ¬†Diet, The Fast Diet, or The Overnight Diet.¬†I know women’s health magazines and various blogs have been talking about this diet a lot over the past few months. However, is it really worth all the hype? Here’s the basic concept of the diet:

  • Eat your normal diet (or a little bit healthier version of your normal) 4-6 days of the week
  • On the off days you will either completely fast for close to 24 hours or drastically restrict your calories to about 25% of your needs. Another way to achieve the fast period is by skipping two meals one day.
  • Weight loss occurs because during your fast days, your body goes through your stored energy (glycogen) and then begins to use fat as an energy source

So, to lose weight all you have to do is fast a couple of days a week – no changes in your non-fast day diet required? Hmm… let’s take a closer look at the published research behind this diet concept and see what you think. To date, most of the research has been on mice so it is difficult to relate those same benefits to humans. Also, almost all human studies have been conducted at the same medical facility – University of Illinois in Chicago. Most have lasted on a few weeks, so we still have no data on long-term effects of this type of diet.

  • 16 obese adults followed an alternate day fasting diet (eat one day, “fast” on 25% energy needs the next) for 8 weeks and lost an average of 5.8% of their original body weight. They also noted a significant decrease in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. (Source)
  • A group of 8 non-obese¬†men and 8 non-obese¬†women fasted every other day for 22 days and lost an average of 2.5% of their body weight. Of note, hunger did not decrease on fast days over time so many subjects felt the diet wasn’t sustainable in the long-term. (Source)
  • No significant or consistent positive effects on blood sugar have been found using alternative day fasting to date. (Source)
  • The effect of intermittent fasting on cancer risk is yet to be tested in humans, but mice studies show it might be protective against certain types of cancer. (Source)

My take home message for those thinking about intermittent/alternative day fasting? It may be a great idea in theory, but I feel like making simple, healthy diet changes will be a lot more effective for weight loss in the long run. Plus, the research out there on the subject is still very limited. You may see a pound or two come off in the first couple of weeks you try intermittent fasting, but over time, you will get much better results by changing the type of food you eat, not the timing.

What do you think? Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? 

Vegan Coconut Cream Cups

Happy Monday! Hope you had a lovely fall weekend. To start your week off on a sweet note, I thought I would share this simple vegan coconut cream cup recipe with you. The inspiration for these came for those ultra sweet, gooey mallo cups that I used to love when I was younger. Have you ever tried one before? They are like Reese’s cups but stuffed with marshmallow cream and coconut instead of peanut butter. So delicious! Of course, now that I’m a dietitian, I can’t have any sweet treat without thinking about how I can create a healthier version at home. Although these are still technically¬†a dessert, they are still better than the¬†packaged version with a lot less sugar, loads of ultra dark chocolate, and a bit of healthy fat from the creamy coconut filling. These make for an easy to prepare, fun dessert that is perfect for guests with diet restrictions since they are vegan, gluten free, and paleo-friendly. (You’d never guess it by the way they taste!) If you aren’t a big fan of dark chocolate, feel free to substitute milk chocolate instead.

coconut cups

Vegan Coconut Cream Cups

(Makes 8)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut cream, chilled
  • 2 bars of chocolate (3.5 oz each – I used Trader Joe’s 85% Cacao Chocolate Lover Bars)

Directions:

  1. Mix maple syrup, shredded coconut, and coconut cream together in a small bowl. Place in the fridge to firm while preparing the chocolate.
  2. Create a double boiler by filling a small saucepan halfway with water. Fit a glass mixing bowl over top and bring water to boil. Melt chocolate bars in bowl.
  3. Place 8 cupcake papers in muffin tin. Pour 1/2 of the melted chocolate in the muffin cups. (Should be just enough to cover the bottom.) Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes until hardened.
  4. Take out of the freezer and place 2 tablespoons of the coconut cream in the chocolate cups. Place back in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the freezer and cover with the rest of the melted chocolate. Place in the freezer to chill until firm. Peel away from the paper cupcake liners and enjoy!

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Roasted Pears with Cinnamon and Almond Butter

I can’t believe we are already halfway through the week! After such a lovely long weekend catching up with my Memphis friends who came to town to run the Chicago Marathon, it was tough to head back to work. Do you know what can make the work week better though? These simple, oven roasted pears with cinnamon and almond butter! We have been picking up pints of pears at the market over the last couple of weeks that have been so juicy and sweet; just can’t get enough of them. I knew they would be delicious in a dessert dish without the need for added sugar. So, I baked up a few for a healthy, vegan, gluten-free, paleo-friendly dessert that is super simple to make.

Roasted Pears

Roasted Pears with Cinnamon and Almond Butter

(Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 pears, cored and sliced in half
  • 4 tablespoons almond butter
  • Additional cinnamon for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish, combine coconut oil, water, cinnamon, and vanilla. Spread over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Set pears cut-side down in the baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until softened.
  4. Pull dish out of the oven and turn the pears cut-side up. Place 1 tablespoon of almond butter in the hollow of each pear. Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve warm! Sprinkle with additional cinnamon for serving.

10 of My Favorite Foodie Bloggers

To follow up with my 10 favorite RD bloggers post, I thought I would share with you 10 of my favorite foodie blogs! Of course, there are dozens of other fabulous ones that I also follow, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too many at one time.

10 Foodie Blogs

  1. Pinch of Yum: All of Lindsay’s recipes look absolutely delicious and I always admire her food photography skills.
  2. Eating Bird Food:
  3. Eat Live Run: Jenna’s blog was one of the very first that I started reading. I love how she can mix her delicious recipe posts with a sprinkle of fashion and travel.
  4. Oh She Glows: Angela posts mouth-watering vegan recipes for everything from breakfast to dessert.
  5. Joy the Baker: Who doesn’t love Joy the Baker?! I love how she can perfectly blend wonderful recipe posts with real life talk. Her podcast is also fabulous!
  6. How Sweet It Is: Jennifer’s site is dangerous for someone with a sweet tooth like me! Her desserts always look so yummy. She does add a few great salad and entree recipes as well to balance it out.
  7. The Vegan Stoner: These super simple recipes are accompanied by cartoon veggies and ingredients. So fun!
  8. Oh My Veggies: Love all the creative vegetarian recipes on this site! I could seriously spend days just admiring the awesome food photography as well.
  9. Cookie and Kate: Love all of her recipes! She can have me craving soup or casserole one day and cookies the next!