October 28, 2014

Leek & Potato Soup

Fall has officially rolled in, cold and wet, to Boston. It rained all week and has been chilly ever since which means I have one thing on the brain: SOUP. The other night we made an awesome lightened-up New England clam chowder and it was SO good, despite me being a liiiiittle weirded out by canned clams. Side note who really likes Manhattan style, anyways? I don't know of anyone who prefers it and it'd be blasphemous to make that red calamity in my Boston apartment.

Maybe this intro was misleading because this isn't a post about clam chowder...
Leek & Potato Soup
Dan is obsessed with leek and potato soup (ah yes, our focus for this post - leek and potato soup). He will not stop talking about it so I figured why not give in? I've always found it just a bit boring, a bit bland - it never offers anything exciting. This version, however, is (kind of) exciting because it has spinach, giving it an extra vitamin-rich punch and flavor boost. I added crumbled turkey bacon on top to add some saltiness and texture (and make it a little less booooring). Next time, I would definitely not purée all of the soup, so it had a little more variety - I like a chunky soup.

Leek & Potato Soup
Serves 6
Ingredients:
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 4 medium leeks, both white and green parts, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (Yukon Gold works well, I used a medley)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 slices turkey bacon, crumbled (optional, but delicious!)
Directions:
In a large pot, heat the butter over medium low heat. Once melted, add the leeks and garlic and sauté until the leeks are translucent and garlic is fragrant
leeks

Add the potatoes and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broth and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes
potatoes
Remove the bay leaf and using an immersion blender (if you're lucky enough to have one), purée the soup until it is smooth and creamy. If you don't have an immersion blender (like me), just purée the soup in a regular blender in batches. Add the chopped spinach leaves to the purée soup and pulse to blend
spinach purée
Season with salt and pepper and garnish with spinach leaves. Top with crumbled turkey bacon, if desired. I like adding hot sauce to literally everything I eat so if you're like me, load it UP
Leek & Potato Soup
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October 20, 2014

Meatless Monday: Baked Eggplant with Mushrooms

Meatless Monday: Baked Eggplant with Mushrooms | Hard Parade
I have a serious love-hate relationship with eggplant. I used to steer clear of it but then sort of fell in love with it when I tried this recipe. Now I don't usually go for the eggplant-centric dish on a menu nor do I look for it as the key ingredient when I'm searching for recipes but I figured after the positive stuffed eggplant experience I'd like it smothered in tomato sauce and topped with cheese (I was right). One of the best things about this recipe is that it's like, barely any Points - no seriously, it's only FOUR for a serving. FOUR!

Baked Eggplant with Mushrooms
Recipe modified slightly from Cooking Light
Serves: 6, Serving Size: 1/6th dish PointsPlus: 4 (!!!)
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 8-oz. mushrooms (of your choosing)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8-oz. can tomato sauce, divided
  • 3-oz. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1-oz. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Parsley, for garnish
Meatless Monday: Baked Eggplant with Mushrooms | Hard Parade
Directions:
  • Preheat the broiler
  • Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and broil for about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned
  • Preheat oven to 375f
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spring over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, tomato halves, oregano, and mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Increase heat and cook for 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates
  • Coat a baking dish with cooking spray (whatever size you have readily available) and spread half of the mushroom mixture on the bottom. Arrange half the eggplant slices on top of the mixture then top the eggplant with 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/3 cup mozzarella. Spread remaining mushroom mixture on top of that, top with remaining eggplant slices and then the rest of the tomato sauce
  • Cover and bake for 1 hour
  • Sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella (1/3 cup) and the Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly
  • Let stand for 10 minutes, divide among bowls and top with parsley
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October 17, 2014

Soynut Butter Roll Up

Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
I'm allergic to nuts. This is unfortunate because I love peanut butter, I love toffee, I love pistachios, and I love nut-things (etc). I also love going out to dinner and it sucks being 'that person' at the table. I'm sorry future waiters, I have an allergy, I'm going to tell you all about it, and I'm going to double check all my food. I won't however, complain to you and I'll be nice. Promise.

While soynut butter isn't quite peanut butter, it is damn close enough for me since it won't close up my throat or give me itchy hives (or the variety of other things that happen to me when I ingest nuts). This soynut butter roll up is almost like a PB&J - without the unpleasant reaction. Obviously, you can make this with regular ol' peanut butter if you don't have an allergy to it (LUCKY YOU). 

Stop & Shop started making these store brand flatbreads that I really like (and they're only 2 points, yippee!). I've used them for both sweet and savory sandwiches (roll ups, if you will) and they're always a nice change up to plain bread. 

This isn't really a recipe, considering it's just mixing things you have in the house and rolling them up, but I figured I'd share with you a healthy breakfast/snack/light lunch that you can take on the go.
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Soynut Butter Roll Up
Serves 1! PointsPlus: roughly 6 points, depending on how much soynut butter you use
Ingredients:
  • 1 flatbread (I used S&S brand honey wheat)
  • 2 tbsp soynut butter (I like I.M Healthy brand)
  • 1 small apple, cut into slices
  • 1 banana, cut into slices
  • cinnamon
Directions: (okay, you really don't need these...)
Take your flatbread and spread on the soynut butter. Cut up the apples and banana
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Arrange the banana and apple slices down the center of the flatbread, about 1/4 inch away from the edges
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Sprinkle with cinnamon. You can also drizzle some honey on at this point, too - YUM.
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Carefully roll that shit up, pushing in the sides as you go since the filling will want to bust out
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Soynut Butter Roll Up | Hard Parade
Slice in half and maow, maow, maow! Any of you have allergies? Sucks, doesn't it?

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October 16, 2014

Crock-Pot Sesame Chicken

Crock-Pot Sesame Chicken
I've always loved sesame chicken, especially from the Chinese takeout place down the street from my childhood home in New Jersey (Sunny Wok, how I miss thee). I don't order it much anymore because it's not exactly within my PointsPlus range and now that I've found this recipe there's no need for delivery.

When I started Weight Watchers, I praised the blogging gods for delivering SkinnyTaste to me (and I still do). This blog has so many recipes it's insane and all of them have the nutrition information and PointsPlus values. Oh, and all of them are delicious, let's not forget that. 

On Sundays, I like to make Crock-Pot meals so that I can lounge around all day while dinner is happily cooking away on the counter top. I paired this sesame chicken with some brown rice (1/2 cup to be exact) and broccoli to keep it feeling like takeout. Gina rules.

Crock-Pot Sesame Chicken
Recipe modified (just a tiny bit) from SkinnyTaste
Serves: 8, Serving Size: heaping 2/3 cup, PointsPlus: 4 (plus more for brown rice)
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Scallions, sliced for garnish
Crock-Pot Sesame Chicken, Slow Cooker recipe
Directions:
  • Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place in the Crock-Pot (slow cooker, what have you)
  • Combine soy sauce, honey, tomato paste, rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp water, sesame  seeds, and Sriracha in a medium bowl and then pour over the chicken. Cook on LOW for 3.5 hours
  • Once the chicken is done cooking, remove from the slow cooker and shred, setting aside
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining 1/4 cup water and add to the sauce in the slow cooker, stirring to combine
  • Cover and cook on HIGH until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes
  • Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker and mix well to combine
  • Serve over brown rice and alongside broccoli (if desired) and top with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Enjoy that takeout flavor at home!
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Running in the Morning

Hey! This is my first post about running!

Let's talk about early AM runs. Sometimes I have to run in the morning if I have a late meeting or if I have to go grocery shopping after work and IT SOOKS. I don't run well, I am exhausted (read: SLOW), I feel sick because I'm always dehydrated (I don't spend my night sleep-drinking water to get hydrated for a morning run), and I always am achy because my body is like GURL, I AM NOT AWAKE YET. Morning running sucks.

That being said, I still do it and I raise my arms champion-like at the end because I get to drink tasty glasses of wine in exchange for those activity points. HEYO. (Is it bad all my extra points go to drinking? Am I in the minority here or can someone back me up?) I've finally made peace with the fact that for those morning runs, it's not about how far I've gone or how quickly, it's that I woke up at the asscrack of dawn, got myself out of bed and into running tights, and out the door before 6am. A year ago, six months ago, even one month ago, I never thought I would be waking up that early, let alone waking up that early to go RUNNING.

Here's my run from Wednesday, October 15. I was pretty slow (for me) but I finished, didn't I? That trailing off at the end is me hitting 30 minutes and walking the rest of the way home to cool down. I earned 7 activity points for this run, woohoo!
Running in the morning stinks
If you want to virtually run with me, friend me on RunKeeper! I need all the support I can get. My profile is currently a little wonky since I stopped using RunKeeper for about 3 weeks and switched to MapMyRun and I recently switched back to RunKeeper (I know, I know, flip-flop). 

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October 13, 2014

Meatless Monday: Garlicky Linguine with Kale & White Beans

Meatless Monday: Garlicky Linguine with Kale & White Beans | hardparade.blogspot.com
I love love love garlic. I always up the amount asked for in a recipe and a big, smushy head of roasted garlic is seriously mana from the gods. I remember one anniversary early on in mine and Dan's relationship (I think it was our first year anniversary, to be honest), we went out to dinner and had an appetizer that was a head of roasted garlic with crispy toasts and blue cheese. I think I knew I loved him right then because we both dug in, despite knowing we'd have hot, fiery garlic breath later that night.  Whenever we roast vegetables, he always adds in extra garlic cloves, knowing I will dive right in for them and eat them straight out of the pan with my fingers.

I upped the amount of garlic in this already garlicky recipe but left the original amount in the ingredients because I'm not sure anyone is up for that much garlic. I don't usually go for pastas that have light, oily sauces because I'm a sauce fanatic, the more the better I say, but this dish was pleasantly filling and flavorful. The recipe suggests serving it with toasted bread rubbed with even more garlic, which I'd usually say YES YES YES to but I skipped it in my version to keep the PointsPlus value down.
Meatless Monday: Garlicky Linguine with Kale & White Beans | hardparade.blogspot.com
Recipe modified slightly from Cooking Light
Serves: 4, Serving Size: 1 3/4 cups, PointsPlus: 10
Ingredients:
  • 8-oz. uncooked, fresh linguine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12-oz. kale, chopped (I like the ribs, so I didn't remove them but you can if you don't eat them)
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute, until garlic starts to sizzle. Add 1/2 cup water and kale, cover, and cook until kale is tender, stirring occasionally
  • Add cannellini beans, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook until heated through
  • Add pasta and cooking liquid, tossing to coat. Season again with salt and pepper
  • Divide among 4 bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese
  • Serve with toasted, crusty bread slices, if desired (this will bring up the PointsPlus value, but not sure by how much!)
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October 10, 2014

Runnin', Runnin'

Alright two things:
1. Were you surprised when you saw this blog's redesign? (that is, if you were a reader beforehand - not sure there any out there...) It's pretty and clean and full of succulents which makes me happy - they're the most gorgeous, low maintenance flora I've ever encountered. It's more grown up than the last version and it's making me want to post more and connect with you (the readers, if I have any?)

2. I have a confession to make...I love running.
Never did I ever think that I would write or say the words, "I love running." But I'm a convert. I decided to just get up and go out one day and since then, I've been setting small goals for myself and busting through them. Run 15 minutes, done. Run 2 miles, done. Run to the next T stop, done. Run for an hour, DONE! Sure, I'm slow and yeah, I am bright red and I breathe like I'm gasping for my last breath but I'm running and I'm feeling my legs get stronger and my mind get clearer and I am loving it.

I have to say, alot of this good feeling is because of my sister, Laura, who has been supporting me and helping me through the newness of all this (Why is my body feeling that way? Why do I always burp when I finish a run?) and telling me what to eat before I run and what to wear and giving me her sweet Road Runner Sports discount so that I can get awesome new sneakers. In fact, I'm so excited about running I bought two pairs of sneakers, the good socks (I didn't know there were bad socks before), custom-fitted inserts, and a foot roller all at once because I'm committed and I am a runner. Apparently.

So what does a new blog design and a new found desire to run have to do with one another? Not a ton, other than the fact that I'll probably start posting some more about running here and my struggles and triumphs with it.

Boston Marathon here I come! Just kidding, trying to get through a 10k first.

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October 2, 2014

Barley & Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Barley & Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash | Hard Parade

Hey, it's fall! I've worn pants three days in a row, that means it's officially arrived, right? WOOO, BRING ON THE SCARVES! When I first set about trying to eat better, I discovered Gina of Skinnytaste. She has all your favorite recipes but significantly lightens them up and even provides PointsPlus values with each one. Gina also just released a fantastic cookbook that I am dying to get my hands on. 

In my first week of Weight Watchers, I planned out seven recipes - one for each day - and this was one of my first forays into what healthy eating could be: filling, satisfying, and above all - still delicious. Accidentally, I planned a few too many squash-based recipes that week and have been semi-squashed out since so I haven't repeated this dish in our kitchen yet but I am planning to soon!

Gina's original recipe calls for farro but at the time, I couldn't find any in the grocery store so I went for barley which is similar but may change the PointsPlus value slightly. 

Barley & Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
Recipe slightly modified from Skinnytaste
Serves: 6, Serving Size: 1/2 squash filled with 1/2 cup stuffing, PointsPlus: 5
Ingredients:
  • 3 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds and fibers removed
  • Cooking spray
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (I use Better Than Bouillon)
  • 2 links raw, Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 4-oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • Parsley for garnish
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350f. Place the cut squash on a baking dish and add 1/4 cup water to the dish. Coat the cut side of the squash with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool down before stuffing and serving
  • While the squash is baking, cook the barley in the chicken broth according to the package directions
  • In a large pan, cook chicken sausage on medium heat, breaking it into smaller pieces, until it is browned and cooked all the way through. Set aside
  • Add olive oil to the pan and sauté the chopped onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
  • Add the mushrooms to the pan, stirring 5 minutes. Cover and cook for another few minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juices. Return the chicken sausage and barley to the pan and mix well, heating through
  • Divide the sausage and barley mixture evenly between the roasted squash halves, garnish with parsley and serve! You can eat the squash too, not just the stuffing :)
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