Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Frozen corn from last season’s harvest is a special treat to enjoy this time of year. It shines in my Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup, which also features delicate squash. A perfect blend of winter and summer produce to enjoy this time of year when drastic weather changes leave you sporting flip-flops one day and snow boots the next. This colorful bowl of produce will surely brighten your day regardless of the weather you are experiencing.

The ingredient list may look long, but the recipe is easy to prepare and is mostly hands-off. Topping your bowl with oven-baked tortilla strips elevates this simple bowl of soup to restaurant quality, but without extra the calories of fried tortillas.

Soup Ingredients:
1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 small delicata squash, seeded and chopped, leaving the skin on
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¾ teaspoon salt
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen yellow corn, defrosted
1 lime


Tortilla Strip Ingredients:
4 corn tortillas
½ tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Optional Toppings:
Chopped cilantro
Diced avocado
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker and top with delicate squash, onion, jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika and salt. Add tomatoes with their juice and chicken broth. Cover with lid and cook on high for one hour. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for five hours.
  2. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker and add corn and lime juice. Stir to combine and continue cooking on low while you prepare the tortilla strips.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush both sides of each tortilla with olive oil and cut into ¼-inch thin strips. Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 12 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.
  4. Serve soup topped with tortilla strips and optional toppings of choice.

Servings: 6

Butternut Squash Grilled Pizza with Blue Cheese and Bacon

I am one of those pumpkin-crazed people who embraces all things, from lattes to ravioli and lip balm to candles. Fall squash is also one of my favorite things to cook with and I enjoy it throughout the winter. I particularly love sweet and creamy butternut squash, which is the star of my grilled pizza. A touch of maple syrup enhances the sweetness of mashed butternut squash, which is smothered on top of the crust and topped with sharp blue cheese, crispy bacon and toasted pecans. Round out the meal with a salad, like spinach with apples or roasted beets.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup blue cheese crumbles
5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a small baking sheet, place squash halves flesh side up. Place 1 teaspoon of butter in the hollow of each squash. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to touch. This step can be done several hours earlier or the day before.
  2. Scoop inside flesh of squash from skin and place in a food processor or blender. Add maple syrup and puree until velvety smooth, without any lumps.
  3. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel is handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom. Remove crust from the grill and place on a workable surface.
  5. Spread a thick layer of butternut squash on top of the cooked side of the crust. Top with mozzarella, blue cheese, bacon and pecans. Return pizza to the grill and continue cooking for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and light grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove from the grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

BOURBON MAPLE PORK TENDERLOIN WITH GOAT CHEESE MASHED POTATOES

The aroma of grilled meat lofting in the air makes me hungry, even if I’ve already had a meal. Add a little bourbon, maple syrup and Dijon mustard in the mix, and the smell of your pork tenderloin on the grill may even bring your neighbors over for dinner. Paired with creamy goat cheese mashed potatoes, this recipe is simple enough for a throw-together meal and impressive enough to serve when entertaining. Doubling the recipe will give you more to pass around if you are serving a crowd. Add some grilled broccoli to round out this delicious meal and serve with your favorite bourbon of course.

Bourbon Maple Pork Tenderloin Ingredients:
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Goat Cheese Mashed Potato Ingredients:
1 pound potatoes (about 2½ cups), diced and unpeeled
water
½ tablespoon butter
½ cup skim milk
4 ounces goat cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pork on a large plate or platter and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, bourbon, mustard and rosemary. Reserve half of the glaze in a clean bowl and brush the pork with the other half of the glaze.
  2. Grill the pork tenderloin for 17 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally and brushing with the remaining glaze, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pork on a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Let the tenderloin rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain water and return to the stove over low heat. Add skim milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher while butter melts. Add goat cheese and use a hand-held mixer to whip potatoes on high until smooth and creamy.

My Heart Beets for You Risotto

I love a good vegetable pun and this one is perfect for Valentine’s Day. This is a delicious and easy meal to make for your sweetheart and it pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir. Nothing says I love you like this bright and beautiful, heart-healthy meal.

Since garlic scapes are not in season in February, I use frozen pesto that I have stashed away for winter meals. If you don’t have garlic scape pesto, simply use any store-bought pesto and add some garlic to your dish when you are sautéing the onion.

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup red wine
2 medium to large roasted beets, diced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon garlic scape pesto
Parmesan cheese, grated for serving

Directions:

  1. Warm vegetable broth in a small stock pot over low heat.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add the rice and stir to combine with the onions. Add red wine and continue stirring until absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle full of broth, stirring constantly until absorbed. Continue, slowly adding broth and stirring for about 25 minutes, until all broth has been added and the rice is soft but still has a bite.
  5. Add diced beets, salt and pepper, stirring to combine until risotto is bright red in color. 
  6. Spread garlic scape pesto around the edge of the plate, making a full circle. Fill the center of the circle with risotto and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Fall Harvest Overnight Oats

I enjoy a healthy and hearty breakfast every morning, but busy mornings leave me with little time for food prep. Overnight oats are one of my favorite go-to meals for hurried weekdays. They are almost effortless to assemble the night before and in the morning you have a delicious breakfast just waiting for you to open and enjoy. Preparing this recipe in a mason jar makes it a great portable breakfast option.

Pureed butternut squash is a fresh alternative to cooking with canned pumpkin, and it is extremely easy to make. After roasting the squash, simply puree in a food processor. If you have extra on hand it freezes well for future use, saving even more time when making these nutritious Fall Harvest Overnight Oats.

Ingredients:
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup pureed butternut squash
½ cup skim milk or non-dairy milk of choice
¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt of choice
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. In a pint-sized mason jar, add all ingredients and gently stir to combine. Place the lid on the jar and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy as a cold cereal for breakfast in the morning.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

I love the way the leaves fall off Brussels sprouts when you quarter them, resembling flower petals and creating a beautiful centerpiece for your plate. This cooking method caramelizes the vegetable, bringing out its natural sweetness. If your family members don’t love Brussels sprouts, this recipe may just change their mind.

This dish is so simple and mostly hands off, which is why I love roasting vegetables. You can step outside and grill your favorite lean protein while your Brussels sprouts roast. Pair this side dish with grilled salmon, a simple salad, fresh whole grain bread and your favorite white wine for an elegant and easy stay-at-home, date-night meal.

Ingredients:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1½ tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters, keeping the leaves (or as I like to call them, petals) that fall off.
  2. Place Brussels sprouts on a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt and pepper on top and toss with a spatula to evenly coat.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking cycle. Brussels sprouts will be tender with dark brown outer leaves. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, toss and serve.

Delicata Squash Cheese Spread

Picky eaters will not even know they are eating a vegetable when they bite into this velvety cheese spread with a delicate taste of pumpkin pie. While pumpkin is all the craze, let us not forget about other varieties of winter squash that offer the same delicious taste of the season. If you are unable to find delicata squash, use any variety of locally grown squash. Delicata squash has a silky smooth texture when roasted and a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. If you want to enhance the nutty flavor and add a little more protein to your plate, top your toast with walnuts or pecans.

Ingredients:
1 medium delicata squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, plus more for serving
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, or reduced fat cream cheese, softened
Whole wheat toast

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash slices, skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut butter into six cubes and place three in each squash cavity. Drizzle each squash half with a tablespoon of maple syrup. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Remove squash from oven and set aside until cool enough to touch. With a large spoon, remove the golden squash from the skin and place in a food processor. Add pumpkin pie spice and cream cheese. Process until smooth.
  4. Spread on whole wheat toast, top with a dash or two of pumpkin pie seasoning and serve.

Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Hash

Vegetables are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast, but I had never thought about combining spaghetti squash with eggs until I had a similar dish for brunch at Posana in Asheville, NC. Their garden vegetable hash was superb and I enjoyed it on their dog-friendly patio where they even have a menu for fur babies. Back at home in my kitchen with my four-legged-boy, Rocco, beside me, I crafted my version with a light and creamy Dijon sauce in place of their leek vinaigrette.

This recipe is also a great one to make when serving breakfast for dinner. Looking for a grab-and-go breakfast option? Serve the hash in small containers and add boiled egg slices on top in place of the poached or fried eggs. Hope you enjoy this unique take on spaghetti squash and comment below to let me know about your favorite breakfast veggies.

Ingredients:
1 medium spaghetti squash
16 ounces small potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 leek
1 bunch or 6 ounce bag of spinach
salt and pepper
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic
4 eggs, poached or fried

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends of the squash and slice in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the center of the oven until tender and squash flakes with a fork into noodles, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Roast until tender, for 25 to 30 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Remove vegetables from the oven and cover potatoes with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let spaghetti squash sit until cool enough to touch.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the dark green stalk from the leek, keeping the light green and white section. Wash the leek well to remove dirt in between the layers and thinly slice. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek to the skillet and sauté until tender and fragrant, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, for a couple more minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside on low heat to keep warm.
  5. In a small bowl, add yogurt, mustard and garlic and stir to combine, creating creamy garlic sauce.
  6. Use a fork to remove the strands of spaghetti squash by lightly raking across the inside surface. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add ¼ of squash, spinach and potatoes to each plate and serve with an egg on top and a dollop of creamy garlic sauce.

Servings: 4

Halibut with Tropical Salsa and Coconut Rice

I created this recipe while on vacation using fresh seafood from a coastal fish market. I have enjoyed this dish back at home with local bell peppers from my CSA share and the taste brings back wonderful memories from vacation. The tropical salsa and coconut rice also make a great pair for grilled pork chops and filet mignon if you want to serve a variety of options for your guests. Cheers to firing up the grill with your protein of choice as we enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer.

Ingredients:
2 cups white rice
2 (13.5 ounce) cans unsweetened, light coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
1 lime
8 (4 to 6 ounce) halibut steaks or cod filets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 small or 2 medium bell peppers, any color
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Directions:

  1. Bring coconut milk to a boil, add rice and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until milk is absorbed and rice is tender. Add sugar and coconut flakes and stir to combine, allowing sugar to melt into the steamy rice.
  2. Meanwhile, zest lime with a citrus zester or microplane grater. Brush halibut or cod with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and zest from lime. Set aside while preparing the tropical salsa.
  3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove seeds from bell pepper and slice in half. Brush pineapple and bell pepper with remaining olive oil. Grill produce until light grill marks appear on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside until cool enough to touch.
  4. Grill fish for about 4 minutes per side until the center is firm and opaque. Remove from the grill and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  5. Dice pineapple and bell pepper and place in a medium bowl. Juice lime over salsa and add cilantro and salt, stirring to combine. Serve fish over coconut rice and top with tropical salsa.

Servings: 8

Greek Chicken Salad Wraps

A salad you can hold in your hand is the perfect backyard grub to serve on a hot summer night. The fresh vegetables make a colorful presentation for this build-your-own dinner, and you can change or add more protein options by grilling pork or tofu along with your chicken. Grill your meat and slice your toppings in advance to have a meal you can serve in just a few minutes on a busy night or on an evening when you’d rather kick back and enjoy the sunshine.

Wrap Ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup feta cheese crumbles
¼ cup pitted Greek olives, thinly sliced

Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:
1 small cucumber, roughly chopped
1 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Trim the bottom of the lettuce and separate leaves. Wash and set on a towel to dry.
  2. In a small bowl, combine oregano, garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir to combine and rub the mixture over chicken. Grill chicken breasts until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and thinly slice.
  3. Combine cucumber and yogurt in a small bowl. Zest and then juice lemon, adding 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice to the bowl. Add garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Add lettuce leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese and olives to a couple of large plates along with the Zatziki sauce, and serve buffet style.

Servings: 4