Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

For the most part, when I think of hot soup, I think of the winter and fall. But when I see all the beautiful vegetables in the produce section, I can’t help but think of chicken tortilla soup. And the heat (spicy-heat, not hot-heat) really does make you feel cooler.

In the winter, I frequently use canned tomatoes in soups, but this time of year, the tomatoes start looking better and better at the store. The farmer’s market near me opens in a week, and I’m sure those will be even better. Using fresh in this soup keeps it tasting summery.

2 corn tortillas
Nonstick spray
1 32-oz. box of non-fat chicken broth
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cups corn kernals (frozen, canned, or fresh)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 avocado
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

Slice the corn tortillas into strips. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and spray with nonstick spray. Add the tortilla strips in batches, stirring gently until crispy. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer and add the chicken, onion, jalapeno, tomatoes, corn, garlic powder, and cumin. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the avocado and toss with the lime juice.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with a few of the corn tortilla strips, a spoonful of the avocado, and a bit of the cilantro.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 168 calories, 41 calories from fat, 4.9g total fat, 34.2mg cholesterol, 609.2mg sodium, 524.4mg potassium, 16.2g carbohydrates, 3.6g fiber, 3.2g sugar, 16.7g protein.

I love this soup. So did my kids, except the one who hates all soup and all tomatoes on principle. He had a quesadilla.

Low-Fat Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe

Low-fat potatoes au gratin? Okay, let’s say lower-fat instead.

One of my favorite parts of Easter dinner is ham with potatoes au gratin. My (former) usual potatoes au gratin came out to over 500 calories and 25 grams of fat per serving, though! And I’m too close to 30 pounds lost since my diagnosis on December 8 — and I really want to reach that milestone. Well, I want it, but not enough to forego au gratin potatoes altogether!

Luckily, I had stuff on hand to try to come up with a lower-fat version, and they were absolutely delicious at only 300 calories and 7.6 grams a serving. Okay, that’s a lot for a side dish in my world, but not so bad that I can’t have it for a treat. And since my boys don’t like potatoes, I’ve got two servings in the freezer for next time I want a bit of a splurge.

3 medium potatoes, sliced thinly
1 shallots, diced
2  tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 cup low-fat cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray 4 ramekins with nonstick spray. Layer the potatoes and shallots in the ramekins, with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then stir in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the evaporated milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the cheese and stir until melted.

Pour the sauce over the potatoes and shallots in the ramekins.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving, according to Living Cookbook): 300 calories, 67 calories from fat, 7.6g total fat, 23.5mg cholesterol, 250.3mg sodium, 1013.9mg potassium, 42.3g carbohydrates, 3.6g fiber, 12.2g sugar, 16.1g protein.

Goulash Recipe

This is a family staple – my mom used to make it (a little differently) when I was a kid, I make it for my kids, and my grown daughter makes it for herself and her boyfriend. I think we each put our own touch to it.

This is absolutely an Americanized version of goulash – it’s nothing like the Hungarian kind. I’m not even sure why we call it goulash, except for the paprika.  It does make a great budget-stretcher, though – I’ve made with as little as a quarter pound of meat and no one complained.

This also freezes well and makes terrific leftovers.

1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 Tbs paprika
1 tsp oregano
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 lb bite-sized pasta (I usually use shells or macaroni)

Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while it cooks. Remove any grease with a spoon and blot the meat with a paper towel, or rinse the meat under hot water in a fine mesh strainer.  Return the meat to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic,  onion, paprika and oregano, and cook and stir until the vegetables are translucent.  Add both cans of tomatoes, stir, and reduce to a simmer.

While the sauce simmers, boil the pasta until done. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 225 calories, 95 calories from fat, 10.4g total fat, 39.1mg cholesterol, 179.6mg sodium, 559.2mg potassium, 19.6g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, <1g sugar, 14.5g protein.

Oh, and for a laugh: After dinner, the kids asked if they could have dessert, and I told them they could each have 3 small chocolates. And then I said, facetiously, “There’s more broccoli, if anyone wants that for dessert instead.”Both of my boys started to put their chocolate back! I let them have both.

What to Do When Your Cake Falls — Make Trifle! (With Lemon Curd Recipe)

Last year, for my daughter’s fifteenth birthday party, she wanted a lemon layer cake — with four fluffy layers, a lemon curd filling, and a lemony seven minute frosting.

I baked her cake layers the evening before, and for the first time in my life, my cake fell. Now, I grew up with the high altitude cooking, and know how to adjust, so I don’t think that was the problem. I have a very old oven in the home that I rent, and the oven is full of hot spots and the temperature varies like crazy — if I set it at 350°, it might decide that means 250° one minute and 500° a few minutes later.  Sturdier cakes, like yellow cakes or snacking cakes, can survive my oven, but a white cake is just too delicate.

Nonetheless, the morning of her party, I tried again. And it fell again.

With only two hours until her party, to try a third time, I would have to run to the store for more ingredients. I had already made the lemon curd, so I decided that she’d have a birthday trifle instead of a birthday cake.

I cut the cakes up into chunks, and layered them in my trifle dish with the lemon curd and heated raspberry preserves. I whipped some cream to top the trifle with, and just stuck those candles in the top.

It really looked pretty — and it tasted absolutely wonderful.

It tasted so good, I ended up making this trifle again for a potluck I attended a couple of months later.

I won’t post a recipe for the white layer cake, since I haven’t made it successfully, but here’s a recipe for the lemon curd:

Lemon Curd

(For a cake filling or a trifle layer – or just on toast. Yum!)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 lemons
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs + 6 large egg yolks

A few hours before you start to make the curd, cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and put it in the freezer.  When it’s frozen, juice the lemons. Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the rest of the lemon juice, the sugar, and the salt for about a minute, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, but don’t boil it.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks together. Slowly whisk in the hot lemon mixture, and then return it to the saucepan and and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until it’s thick enough to run a spatula across the bottom and leave a trail. Remove from heat.

Stir the gelatin and lemon juice mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Stir in the frozen butter until it’s melted and smooth. Strain the curd through a mesh strainer into another bowl. Cover it with cling wrap that’s pressed onto the surface and refrigerate until firm.

Makes 3 cups.

Low-Calorie Cinnamon Streusel Muffins Recipe

My entry today is later in the day because the muffins I made last night only rated a 7, 9, and 6, according to my kids. So today, I re-worked the recipe and got a 9.5, 10, and 9. Here’s the improved recipe:

2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon  nutmeg
pinch of ancho chili powder (optional)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup water
1/4  cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a 12-muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Mix together the butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons flour until the mixture resembles crumbs. Set aside.

Mix the remaining flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix remaining sugar, egg, milk, applesauce, sour cream, and water. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture just until moistened.

Spoon  half of the batter into the twelve cups in a muffin pan. Top with half of the cinnamon mixture, and then the rest of the batter, and then finish with the rest of the cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 12-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

Servings: 12

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition according to Living Cookbook (per serving): 135 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2.3g total fat, 22.5mg cholesterol, 236.4mg sodium, 107.7mg potassium, 25.7g carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 7.5g sugar, 4g protein

Menu Plan for March 28 – April 3 and Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Menu Plan


Sunday: Roast chicken with oven roasted potatoes (see below)
Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage
Tuesday: Tuscan soup with breadsticks (recipe to come)
Wednesday: Chicken and dumplings
Thursday: FFY
Friday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have some fish and asparagus
Saturday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have something from the freezer

Lunches: Quesadillas, sandwiches, beans and weinies, Madras lentils and rice, smoothies

Breakfasts: Cinnamon streusel crumb-top muffins, oatmeal and fruit, smoothies, cold cereal

Oven-roasted Rosemary Potatoes

By mixing this in a plastic bag instead of a bowl, you can get every surface of the potatoes covered with oil and seasonings without having to use very much oil. This is more frugal (olive oil is pricey), and lighter.

2 potatoes
1  teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
2 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Scrub potatoes and cut them into one inch chunks. (If your potatoes are a little green, you can go ahead and peel them, like I had to do with last night’s potatoes.)  Put them in a plastic bag and add the other ingredients. Mush it around until all of the ingredients are well dispersed, and all the potatoes are covered with the other ingredients.

3. Spread the potato chunks out in one layer on a cookie sheet. Put in oven and roast for 30 minutes or until a fork inserts easily and the edges are golden brown.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 130 calories, 46 calories from fat, 5.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 476.9mg sodium, 457.7mg potassium, 19.3g carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, <1g sugar, 2.3g protein.

Sweet Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips Recipe

We had beef and bean burritos the other night, and for dessert, we had a fantastic fruit salsa with cinnamon chips. We really loved this, and it’s something we’ll have again and again.

5 large frozen strawberries
1/4 cup orange juice
2 kiwi, peeled and chopped
1 small mango – peeled and diced
1 peach, peeled and diced
1 banana, peeled and diced
3 whole wheat tortillas
butter flavor non-stick cooking spray
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. In a food processor or blender, process the strawberries with the orange juice to make a sauce.  Combine the kiwi, mango, banana, and peach. Stir in the strawberry mixture. Cover and refrigerate.

3. Coat one side of each tortilla with cooking spray, and then cut into 10 triangles with a pizza cutter or knife. Arrange on a cookie sheet with the sprayed side down. When all the tortilla triangles are on the sheet, spray them again with non-stick spray. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the tortillas.   Bake  until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Cool and serve with the fruit salsa.

4. You can make the fruit salsa up to a day ahead, and the chips earlier in the day.

Servings: 6

Nutrition (per serving): 160 calories, 18 calories from fat, 2.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 247.4mg sodium, 299mg potassium, 34.9g carbohydrates, 7.6g fiber, 20.9g sugar, 5.2g protein.

It tastes like a really decadent dessert, but that salsa is all fruit! It’s a very healthy (lots of fruit, lots of fiber, low calories) treat. I used the Santa Fe whole wheat tortillas from Costco, and they were only 100 calories each.

Not only is this healthy, it’s also frugal — you can use up the last bits of all kinds of fruit (pears or apples would be really good in this, and so would cantaloupe).

I think this salsa would also make an amazing ice cream topping, or if made with bigger chunks of fruit, a great fruit salad. And it’s gorgeous enough to serve for company or to take to a potluck or party.

This is definitely one of my favorite new recipes!

Freezing Banana Slices

I use bananas in a lot of recipes — banana muffins, smoothies, banana bread, empanadas, more muffins, fruit salsa, and more. It can be a problem having bananas of the right ripeness around, though. It seems like there are a whole bunch of almost-ripe bananas, and then, as if by magic, there are one or two overripe bananas. The minute they get ripe, the boys want to eat them, but the second they start to turn brown (which is when they start gettingreally good, in my opinion), none of the kids want them anymore. And one or two bananas isn’t enough for a lot of recipes.

For years, I’ve thrown them in the freezer when they get too brown for the kids to eat them.  I’ve found, though, that it can be very difficult to peel a frozen banana. I’ve tried thawing them and then peeling them, but the banana is so mushy after freezing that it’s also really hard to peel (although the mushy texture is perfect for banana bread).

So for awhile, I’ve peeled the bananas before freezing them, and that works pretty well, but sometimes I just needed half a banana for a smoothie or one of the other snacks I like to make with bananas.

Finally, I figured out to cut the bananas into coins and lay them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and freeze them for a couple hours. Then I throw them into a zip-top bag, and I can get as much or as little banana as I want.

I can even just grab one little banana “coin” for a snack when I’m hankering for something sweet and cool.

Black Bean Burritos Recipe

Black bean burritos are a favorite standby here. The kids like them, and I love them because they are made with stuff I always have around – so if I forget to take something out of the freezer,  I’ve still got dinner.

They are also great for those times when I’m really trying to stretch the grocery budget.

Black Bean Burritos

Black Bean Burritos

8 flour tortillas

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup water or broth

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Put all ingredients except tortillas and cheese in a sauce pan and heat until it just starts to boil. Turn down the heat to simmer and simmer the beans until most of the liquid is gone (5-10 minutes).

Heat two tortillas at a time in the microwave for 15 seconds, or heat them individually in a hot, ungreased frying pan, flipping once.

Put 1/4 cup beans down the center of a tortilla. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of cheese on top of the beans. Fold the ends in and then fold the bottom up to cover the filling, and roll into a burrito. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

These are amazing with sour cream, and/or with shredded lettuce and tomato.

Linked to:

Frugal Fridays

Foodie Friday

Food on Fridays

Grocery Cart Challenge

Split Pea Soup Recipe

A couple weeks ago, spiral hams were on a ridiculous sale, so I bought one and we had a lovely, decadent dinner, with ham and mashed potatoes and rolls and applesauce. We also had enough ham left over for a second dinner, plus meat for lots of sandwiches, and a ham bone to freeze for soup. I made our favorite, split pea soup.

1 pound of split peas
2 quarts water
Ham bone
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme

Rinse peas and pick through and remove any stones.

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Simmer for 2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Remove the ham bone and allow to cool enough to  handle. Pick the meat off and return the meat to the soup. Discard the bone.

Add salt and pepper to taste, but be sure to actually taste it – the ham can add a lot of salt.

And THAT made such a large pot of soup, that I still have some in the freezer for yet another meal or two.  And the moral of this story is: Never pass up a fantastic sale on ham.