Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup

PhotobucketWhen I planned this week’s menu, I was craving this soup. Maybe with all the icky, sick germs in my house, my body needed the immune-building homemade penicillin that chicken soup always seems to provide.

I first found this ridiculous easy recipe in Rachel Ray Every Day, but over the years, I’ve tweaked it a bit by finding a way to reduce the fat without losing all the creaminess.  I also use less gnocchi than the original recipe.

It’s been a while since I last made it, but one taste and I remembered how much I love it and it’s always a hit with the family too.

With the nasty cold weather expected this weekend, bundle up and stay warm and then get this soup started for dinner tonight.  With this soup, you can prepare it ahead of time and then throw the gnocchi in just before you serve it.  The leftovers reheat and freeze nicely too, so you’ll have it for another cold, winter day.

Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup
(Adapted from Rachel Ray)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and tender green parts split lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
5 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup non-fat milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into small chunks
1 package gnocchi
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 Tbsp dry sherry
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream and milk, lower the heat and simmer until the soup bubbles at the edges.

Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken and gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and sherry.  Serve hot.

Makes  4-6 servings.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

While here, don’t forget to toss some cookies at The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap!

*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+


Everything But The… Cookies

PhotobucketEither my oldest daughter is obsessed with food as I am or she is one very creative kid.  We’ll go with the latter.  Either way, she does have some delicious and ingenious ideas when it comes to cookies.

We’re huge ice cream fans, especially Ben & Jerry’s, however, we only splurge on the Cadillac of ice cream when it’s on BOGO at our local supermarket.  Thankfully, that hasn’t happened in a while.  Though my taste buds miss the ice cold delicacy, my thighs can do without it.

Then, one day in a sad we-miss-Ben & Jerry’s moment, Allana says, “You know what would be really good?  An Everything But The… cookie.”

“Oh my God.  That’s genius!”  I felt a twinge in my thighs when I said it.

Then in like an ironic twist of fate, I woke up in the middle of the night with a Charlie horse in my right quad.  My thigh was already Jonesing for the chocolaty goodness.

These ice cream inspired cookies came out better than Allana and I imagined.  I just hope my thighs don’t beg for them in the middle of the night again.

Everything But The… Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup pretzel sticks
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup Heath English Toffee Bits
½ cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Using a standing electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Then add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.  Mix in vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add flour to wet ingredients a little at a time and mix on a low speed until well combined.  Mix in pretzel sticks and almonds.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in chocolate chips, Heath bits and mini peanut butter cups.

Drop about a tablespoon amount of dough onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for five minutes.  Then, move cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately three dozen.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

And while here, don’t forget to toss some cookies at The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap!

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili

PhotobucketThis week I was a sneaky chef.  When I made Skinnytaste’s Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili, I didn’t tell my kids there was pumpkin in the chili.  I added sour cream to hide the evidence and watched my kids stir the condiment into their bowls happily without a clue.  After all, we always add sour cream to the kids’ chili to mask the heat.

“This is really good, but it tastes different,” my oldest observed when she tasted it.

“You like it?”

She nodded.

Good.  And then like clockwork, my youngest daughter bolted off to the restroom, because she always needs to pee right in the middle of dinner.

Once she left the table, I asked my oldest again, “Do you really like it?”

“Yes, why?”

“I just want to make sure you really like it.”

“I do, but why?”

“Because there’s pumpkin in the chili.  Not like pumpkin pie pumpkin, but a pumpkin puree like a mashed up pumpkin.”

“Really?  Because this is good!”

“It is, isn’t it?  But don’t tell Emmalynn!”

Allana relished in our little secret.  Once Emmalynn returned to the table, Allana questioned her about the chili.  “This chili is really good, isn’t it Emma?”  She asked with devilish grin.

“Yes, it is really good!  We need to eat this every week!”

Sounds like a plan to me.

Actually, I was pretty surprised as to how good this chili turned out to be.  I had my doubts, but deep down inside, I knew my Gina (a.k.a. Skinnytaste) wouldn’t let me down.

Besides being chock full of vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, E, and K, magnesium and potassium), it’s the perfect fall comfort food that’s so simple from start to finish.  And because it’s a crock pot meal, it’s the perfect quick healthy dinner to have prepared and ready to serve before a long night of trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili
(Adapted from Skinnytaste.com)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp chili powder, to taste
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 (15 oz cans) of white beans (northern, navy beans or cannellini), rinsed and drained
15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
4.5 oz canned chopped green chile
2 cups low sodium, fat free chicken broth
Sour cream for topping (optional)
Chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large heavy sauté pan and 2 Tbsp olive oil over high heat. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5 minutes.  Add to crock pot.

If needed, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the sauté pan. Then add onions and garlic and sauté about 3 – 4 minutes. Add cumin and sauté another minute.

Add onion mixture to crock pot along with beans, pumpkin puree, green chilis, broth, chili powder, oregano and bay leaf. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Adjust seasoning to taste before serving. Top with a dollup of sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Blackened Baja-Style Talapia

Photobucket“This is needs to be in the regular menu rotation.”


Whenever Iron Chef Allana declares a dish to be in the regular rotation, I know I’ve made a winner dinner.

This Iron Chef Allan approved meal, Blacked Baja-Style Talapia, was a Pinterest find.  Overall, the recipe looked and sounded good, except I thought the blackening spices needed a full teaspoon of cumin.

And the onion sauce needed a little salt and black pepper.

I sautéed the fish in canola oil, which surprised Allan, but I thought sautéing would bring out the blackening spices better than baking the fish.

The recipe recommends serving the fish in corn tortillas, but we don’t like the texture or taste of corn tortillas.  Therefore, I served the fish on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce in flour tortillas, but the meal was missing something: texture.  Ironically, the corn tortillas would offer that desired texture.

Allan suggested serving the tilapia on a bed of rice instead of a soft taco, like a Baja bowl.  Brilliant!  See this is why I keep Iron Chef Allan around.

Blackened Baja-Style Talapia
(Adapted from myrecipes.com via Cooking Light)

¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of one lime
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground red pepper (or cayenne pepper)
1 lb tilapia
Canola oil
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
Shredded romaine lettuce
Lime wedges

Add sour cream, cilantro, lime juice and jalapeño to a food processor and process until smooth. Combine jalapeño sauce and onion in a small bowl.  Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, salt and red pepper until well combined.  Then, sprinkle evenly over fish.

Heat oil in an electric skillet set to 325 degrees F or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish to skillet and cook 3 minutes on each side.

Serve tilapia on a bed of romaine lettuce over rice or a warmed corn tortilla. Top with onion mixture, avocado slices and a wedge of lime.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Saag Aloo and Kachumber Salad

PhotobucketIt’s no secret that Allan and I love Indian cuisine, but for whatever reason, it’s so hard for us to replicate in our home.  That was true until we discovered some of our favorite dishes on Pinterest and then we realized they weren’t really that difficult to do.

One of our favorite vegetarian dishes, Saag Aloo (Potato and Spinach), packs all the wonderful aromatic flavors and heat of Indian cuisine without all the clarified butter and fat. The potatoes add heartiness to the dish which also makes it rich and filling.

I submitted the recipe and all its secret ingredients to Iron Chef Allan for approval.  Then, while he prepared the Saag Aloo, I worked diligently as his sous chef by preparing the Kachumber Salad to accompany the main entrée.

The meal was like eating Indian take-away without having to leave our home.  Of course, our kids wouldn’t eat it, but at least we didn’t have to pick up fast food on the way to the Indian restaurant, like we normally do.  The kids ate loaded baked potatoes as Iron Chef Allan and I dined on our own five star Indian cuisine in the comfort of our kitchen.

Saag Aloo
(Adapted from Quick Indian Cooking)
4 medium waxy potatoes (Yukon Gold or red)
1 – 10 oz package of frozen leafy spinach, defrosted and completely drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green or red chili pepper, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Par boil the potatoes until still firm, about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, slice the potatoes into small one square inch cubes.

Mix the chili pepper, spinach lemon juice and leave to sit in a bowl.

Heat oil in a medium-sized pan.   Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté until onions are soft. Then add the potatoes, cumin and coriander and stir for five minutes.  If the spices stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon of hot water.

Add hot (not boiling) water to the pan until it covers the potatoes halfway. Lower the heat and cook the potatoes until soft are done, about ten minutes.  Stir often.

When you can easily insert a fork through the potatoes without breaking them, add the spinach mixture. Add salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Finally stir in the garam masala.

Kachumber Salad
(Adapted from Chef in You)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green or red chili
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
Juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 tsp zest
Dash of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Few sprigs of cilantro for garnish

Mix lemon juice, spices and sugar in one bowl.  Toss in all the vegetables and combine until well coated.  Cover and chill for about 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+;

Skinnytaste’s Chicken Tikka Masala

PhotobucketI am a Skinnytaste stalker fan.

I follow her on Pinterest and I love clicking through the recipe box on her blog.  Her photos and recipes are truly outstanding and drool-inducing.

On Skinnytaste.com, you will uncover tons of low calorie, low fat recipes that don’t compromise taste for caloric content.  All recipes I’ve tried so far (like this one or this one) have been a hit in my house and that’s no easy task.

Skinnytaste’s Chicken Tikka Masala was the most recent to pass Iron Chef Allan’s palate.  After one taste, he gave this dish two forks up and remarked, “This is really, really good.”  That is a HUGE compliment.

Iron Chef Allan also said he wouldn’t change a thing other than maybe adding cream, but then it wouldn’t be “skinny” now would it?

In this dish, you will find all the full, earthy and aromatic flavors that make Indian cuisine so unique but often difficult to replicate at home.  Not anymore.  Skinnytaste has discovered the right balance of spices as well as simplified a complex dish.

Seriously, this dish is perfect as is.  If you love Indian cuisine as much as we do, but don’t love all the fat, then you have to try your hand at this.

You can find Skinnytaste’s Chicken Tikka Masala here.  For the chili powder, I used my own concoction, which you can find here. Enjoy!

Honestly, I am so impressed with Skinnytaste’s recipes that I’ve made it my mission to try a new one every week.  I challenge you to do the same.

For next week’s Friday Food Fight, let’s all attempt a Skinnytaste recipe, review it and share it.  Give us a real rundown.  What did you think?  Would you add anything?  Does it need some tweaking?  Then, swing back to Run DMT to link up the Skinnytaste recipe you tried.

Will you take on Run DMT’s Skinnytaste test challenge?  Who’s in?

***Let’s have fun, but avoid a lawsuit or a blogging war.  Please note when sharing a recipe on your blog, you should not repost the recipe unless you’ve tweaked it by adding new ingredients.  It’s bad blogging etiquette to repost a recipe without permission or credit to the original post.***

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what yummy food everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Aunt June’s Struffoli (Honey Balls)

PhotobucketI don’t know what my obsession with balls is lately.  First my MIL’s potato balls and now I can’t get my Aunt June’s sticky balls out of my brain.

Aunt June would make her famous honey balls for every special occasion and they were always a hit.  (Since my mom and her sister are NYC girls, you have to respect the ball and pronounce it as “bawls”.)  Basically, Struffoli consists of small dough balls fried and slathered in honey.  So simple and yet something about these balls always made mouths happy.

I have such fond memories of holidays gathered around Aunt June’s dining table and everyone huddling over a large bowl of honey balls.  My sister and I would always scrape extra honey off the bottom of the bowl before popping a ball into our mouths, which of course, is the proper way to handle my aunt’s balls.

Aunt June passed away two years ago this September after a battle with lung cancer.  Tomorrow I run 5 Miles for Moffitt in her memory.  Today, I share her Struffoli recipe with you in her memory.

Aunt June’s Struffoli (Honey Balls )


2 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

¼  tsp salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ stick unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Canola oil for frying

1 ½ cups honey

Multi-colored sprinkles (Rainbow colored nonpareils)


In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Add the butter and pulse  a few times until crumbly. Add the eggs and vanilla.  Pulse until sticky.

Remove and form into a ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough until ¼ inch thick. Using a knife, cut each piece of dough into ½ inch wide strips.

Then cut each strip into ½ inch squares. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball about ½ inch in size.   Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess.

Using a small fryer, pour enough oil to fill about a third of the way and heat oil to 375°. Fry the dough in batches until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate line with paper towels to drain excess oil. Once cooled, transfer balls to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat honey over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally (about 3 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the honey on top of the fried dough.  Stir until evenly coated in the honey. Allow the mixture to cool for 2 minutes.

Serve in family style in a large bowl or scoop a few honey balls into cupcake liners. Decorate with sugar sprinkles and allow to set for 2 hours. Struffoli can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for at least a week.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+