Weekly Winner: Fall Harvest in a Bowl

As the weather gets cooler, my craving for soup increases. There is something just so incredibly comforting about tucking in to a big bowl of luscious, creamy soup. And if said soup happens to have some crispy, crunchy topping on in — all the better! The problem with all this, is that most of the time a big bowl of creamy soup with crunchy toppings is not always the healthiest choice — usually that means loads of cream, cheese, fried toppings and (if you’re lucky) even bacon! What’s a creamy, comforting soup-lover to do?? The answer? Make this beautiful Carrot-Ginger Soup with Roasted Vegetables.

Not only is this soup gorgeous – its healthy and incredibly satisfying. The puréed white beans thicken the soup and make it very creamy all while boosting the fiber and making this soup stick with you for a while.

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine and while it may not be the quickest, easiest soup you’ll ever make, its beauty and taste more than make up for it.

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 scallions, sliced (white and green parts separated)

2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, smashed

5 carrots, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 14-ounce can light coconut milk

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, undrained

1/2 acorn squash, seeded and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces

3 cups broccoli florets roughly chopped

3 cups roughly chopped broccoli florets and tender stems (about 1 head)

2 slices crusty bread cut into 1-inch pieces

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large wide pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk, beans with their liquid and 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, toss the squash, broccoli and bread with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and browned and the bread is toasted, about 15 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer to a regular blender in batches and puree); season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup among bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and top with the vegetable-crouton mixture and scallion greens.
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Weekly Winner: Pistachio-Pesto Pappardelle Perfection (with poultry)

I am not easily surprised by pasta. I think that’s because, while I dearly love pasta, I find it difficult to do something surprising with it. There’s not much I don’t like in my pasta but you always kind of know what you’re getting into and what it’s going to taste like. Until last night.

I decided to try Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto simply because it looked, well… different. I love pistachios and am always anxious to try out a new pesto. Pappardelle is one of my favorite pasta types and you can’t go wrong with chicken and tomatoes. It seemed like a no-brainer.  The zucchini and yellow squash were really the only wild cards here because, while I don’t mind them, I don’t generally seek out recipes with them. If I do eat them, I prefer them raw, which is exactly how they are served in this pasta.

In a word, this dish was amazing! So easy to make and so different from anything else I make on a regular basis. It was bright and hearty yet tasted like you were eating something healthy and nourishing because, well… it is healthy and nourishing. The recipe comes from Food & Wine magazine and is the perfect quick, guilt-free pasta for a satisfying weeknight meal.

Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (I️ used lightly salted)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

8 oz pappardelle pasta

12 oz shredded rotisserie chicken (3 cups)

1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced or shaved

1 small yellow squash, very thinly sliced or shaved

1-1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large

Procedure:

1. In a food processor, combine the mint with the pistachios and lemon juice and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated and the pesto is nearly smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, chicken,zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and reserved cooking water to the pesto and toss well. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again.

Weekly Winner:  Guilt-Free Cheesy Goodness

This is the time for comfort food.  The weather is cooling off, its getting dark earlier and earlier, holiday planning has begun and when it all gets a bit overwhelming, it’s nice to dive into a big bowl of comfort.  I don’t know about you, but when I think “comfort food” two things instantly come to mind: Cheese and Pasta.  The good news is both of those can easily be had with mac-n-cheese.  The bad news is you never feel good about diving into a big bowl of mac-n-cheese. That is, perhaps, until now.

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese takes the regret out of cheesy mac-n-cheese. And, if you’re like me and truly love roasted vegetables, it doesn’t even seem like you’re making a sacrifice to “healthy-up” a bowl of pasta and cheese.  The vegetables take up a lot of valuable “real estate” in your bowl, so you wind up using and eating a lot less pasta.  Also the veggies fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than a vat of pasta.  It’s a win-win-win kind of situation.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine, and the only concession I made was to use regular pasta instead of whole-grain. I still can’t go the whole-wheat route with pasta.  I’m getting enough fiber from all these tasty veggies so I can enjoy my good old-fashioned pasta without feeling bad. I did swap out the boring elbow macaroni for the more interesting and fun wagon wheel shape.  They seemed to better fit the size of the veggies. What? Don’t you match up your pasta to what else is in the recipe?

So the next time you need to curl up on the couch with some serious comfort food, try this mac-n-cheese and come away feeling a bit better about yourself!

Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray

10 ounce fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce cauliflower florets, cut into 1-in. pieces

10 ounce butternut squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice

10 ounce quartered Brussels sprouts

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta (or any small-shape regular pasta)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups fat-free milk

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 ounces freshly grated white sharp cheddar cheese (about 1-1/4 cup)

4 ounces freshly grated creamy Havarti cheese (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and coat with olive oil spray. Toss broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, and season with salt. Spread vegetables in an even layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring vegetables and rotating pans halfway through cooking time, until vegetables are soft and have begun to brown around the edges.
  • While vegetables roast, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain, and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Add onion, and cook over low about 2 minutes. Add flour, and cook another minute or until the flour mixture is golden and well combined. Add milk and broth; whisk, increasing heat to medium-high until mixture comes to a boil. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes or until it thickens slightly, and then season with pepper.
  • Remove pan from heat; add cheeses, and mix well until cheeses are melted. Add cooked pasta, and mix well; fold in roasted vegetables.