Potato Corn Chowder

Last weekend I traveled to Michigan to visit some dear friends. My life has been a whirlwind ever since, so I’m glad to finally be able to relax and have time to post (and cook!). I put together a little collage to share some of the highlights of my trip.

We were the elements for Halloween – earth, fire, wind, and water – and went out to eat looking all glamorous and sparkly. I’m still finding glitter on my face a week later. My flight was out of Chicago the next day, and before I left we ate in the city at our favorite place in the world, Friends Sushi. They have the best vegetarian sushi on the planet. It was a marvelous weekend, but it’s nice to be back; there’s nothing quite so comfortable as coming home and sleeping in one’s own bed, except for maybe a bowl of hot soup.

I grew up in New England, chowder capital of the world – namely, clam. My family didn’t eat clams, but my mom made a mean corn or fish chowder. Chowder nights were an exciting event, and I remember many exclamations of “Mom’s making corn chowder for dinner!”

I’ve shared my enthusiasm about soup season before. Once the air has even the slightest hint of a chill to it, I’m ready for soup of every kind, every day of the week! However, at least in my biased, Massachusetts opinion, no soup will ever be as comforting and delicious as corn chowder. Chowder wears the crown.

So here’s my own personal recipe for thick, creamy potato corn chowder, no heavy cream or butter required.

Potato Corn Chowder
Makes approximately 8 servings

8 cups vegetable stock
3 lbs red potatoes, washed and chopped
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 t olive oil (to saute onions)
2 cups corn (or 2 small cans)
1 cup Silk creamer, unsweetened
1 – 2 T Smart Balance Lite (optional, for buttery flavor)
Dried herbs (optional: parsley, oregano, basil, bay leaves)
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Thinly sliced green onions and/or chopped basil, for garnish

Step 1: Bring vegetable stock to a simmer in a large pot. At the same time, saute the diced onion and crushed garlic in olive oil in a pan over medium low heat.


Step 2: While your broth simmers and your onions saute, chop your potatoes into bite-size pieces. I realize it sounds like I’m asking you to be a crazy multi-tasker here, but I promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds.

Step 3: When the onions are clear and tender, add them to the broth. Stir in optional dried herbs and butter substitute. You don’t have to be precise – I added a few generous shakes of the herbs listed above, but you can add more or less or omit entirely depending what you like. Add the potatoes, and let simmer until soft.

Step 4: Strain out 2 – 3 cups of softened potatoes into the blender (or fill the blender until it’s about 2/3 full). Pour the silk creamer on top of the potatoes in the blender and blend thoroughly until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little broth so it will blend more easily. It should be very thick and creamy (and hot, so be careful!). Pour the blender contents back into the soup.

Step 5: Add the corn and fresh herbs. Fresh parsley and basil play a huge role in the flavor of this chowder. While you can use dried substitutes, the results will not be nearly as satisfying. Use the fresh stuff – corn chowder deserves the best! 🙂

Step 6: Finally, bring to a very light simmer while stirring and at the first sign of a tiny bubble, turn off the burner. Add salt and pepper to taste until your tastebuds dance with delight. Garnish with more fresh herbs and green onions and serve!

Aah, there’s nothing like a belly full of hot chowder on a cold November evening!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

A Skinnyfat Halloween: Pumpkins, Monsters, and Homemade Candy

Happy Halloween! We’ve already had a partially Halloween themed post already, but now it’s time for the full-fledged version.

Earlier this week, Becky and I had one of our weekly Beckesha fun fests.  I drove out to her neck of the woods and we had basil mozzarella avocado paninis and pumpkin spice gelato at Pinocchio’s, a cute little cafe we’ve grown to love. After that, we decided to stop by the store to buy supplies to make our very own homemade peanut butter cups and peppermint patties.  It just so happened that located at the front of the store were the cutest pumpkins ever.  We couldn’t resist.

Once we got back to Becky’s place we began to set in motion what turned out to be quite an adventurous, and at times terrifying, evening.

First, we mixed together the ingredients for the chocolate layers (cocoa powder, coconut oil, vanilla, honey, and agave nectar).  Then we poured the first thin layer of chocolate in the the mini muffin cups.

We put them in the freezer to harden and decorated our pumpkins. They’re probably the cutest couple I’ve ever seen.

I was amazed at how fast the chocolate solidified; it seemed like barely 10 minutes and they were ready for the next layer. The peanut butter layer consists of peanut butter (hello, obvious) and agave nectar.  The mint layer is coconut oil (solid, not melted), stevia, and mint extract.  It sounds too simple doesn’t it?  Use your fingers or a spoon to spread the mint layer onto your mint chocolate cups and the peanut butter layer to your peanut butter cups.

As you can see, we used melted coconut oil, which turned out to be a big hassle. Trust me, use solid coconut oil and save yourself some trouble. We put them back into the freezer and Becky made us each a cup of chai tea.  While I was enjoying the first sips of my tea, I heard a blood curdling scream from behind me.

Becky had her hands over her mouth in horror.  When I went to see what she was looking at, I saw the most terrifying sight.  There, waving his evil claws, was the scariest scorpion I have ever seen!

Of course, at this point I, too, began jumping up and down and shrieking in horror.  Chai tea, peanut butter cups, and mint chocolate cups forgotten, Becky and I attempted to calm ourselves down enough to formulate a plan to destroy the evil in our midst.  I have had great success in the past in killing evil insects by throwing phone books at them (seriously), but we didn’t have a phone book.  The next idea was to try to scare him from out of the oven burner and smash him with a shoe.  This idea was quickly vetoed as neither Becky or I had the nerve to try to chase him down.  Then I had the brilliant idea to cover the burner with a pot to prevent his escape and to fry him.  Maybe we were not in our right minds, but frying seemed like the best option at this point.

Pot in place, we cranked the burner up as high as it would go on until we smelled burning. We turned the oven off and each of us tried to build up the nerve to lift the pot, expecting to see a black, crispy scorpion.  We were still terrified and persuaded Becky’s hubby to lift the pot.

Our nemesis was nowhere to be found.

He’d disappeared. Vanished into thin air.  Becky and I stood frozen in shock and fear for a few minutes until we regained some of our composure. We reasoned that he must have fled into the stovetop the moment things got uncomfortably warm and there was nothing else we could do. We agreed to try and forget about the monster for the time being and got back to our chocolates.

We took them out of the freezer, poured the last layer of chocolate on top, and put them back in the freezer to harden the final layer. We finished our chai while discussing the very real possibility of the giant scorpion taking up permanent residence in Becky’s stovetop. After about 10 minutes, the last chocolate layer had solidified and we bit into the most decadent and wonderful chocolate candies ever! Any fear or unhappiness caused by demon scorpion was forgotten and replaced with blissful chocolate pleasure.

They even have creepy spikey edges.  If this isn’t the perfect Halloween treat, I don’t know what is.

Here is the recipe so that you can make these treats too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Peppermint Patties
Adapted from this recipe
Note: we doubled this recipe and ended up with about 25 cups

Chocolate Layer:
1/3 c  coconut oil
1/4 c cocoa powder (we used dark)
2 T agave (or honey, we used a combo)
1/2 t vanilla (do NOT omit)
Pinch sea salt

Peanut Butter Layer:
Combine peanut butter and agave (or honey) until you like how it tastes. Really, it’s that easy.

Mint Layer:
1/3 cup solid coconut oil
1 T stevia blend (or sweeten to taste)
1/4 t mint extract (or more, if you really like  mint!)

Instructions: To make the chocolate, melt the coconut oil in the microwave and mix thoroughly with all other ingredients. Stir frequently, as the agave tends to settle to the bottom. Pour a thin chocolate layer into the bottoms of mini muffin cups. Freeze for about 10 minutes, until solid. Remove and cover with a peanut butter or mint layer. Freeze for about 20 – 40 minutes, until solid. Remove and cover with a final layer of chocolate and freeze until solid, about 10 more minutes. Remove and enjoy! Store in the freezer.

(NOTE: Although these are technically “frozen”, they do not taste like a frozen treat. You’ll be able to eat them like regular peanut butter cups or peppermint patties, but remember that if you leave them out for too long they’ll get melty).

In case you were wondering, the monster did not reappear before I left. He’s still out there, biding his time, plotting his revenge.  I know I’ll be watching my back, and Becky sleeps with one eye open.  He’s sly, this one.

~Elesha, a skinnyfat girl

Mini Apple Cinnamon Empanadas

I’ve been thinking about tarts a lot lately. Fruit tarts, savory tarts, chocolate tarts, ugly tarts, pretty tarts, any and all tarts. I came home with every intention of making tarts (three ways, mind you), but at the end of the night I had 25 mini empanadas staring me in the face and not a tart in sight.

I don’t know how that happened. I must’ve been baking on auto-pilot again.

Fear not, fellow tart-lovers, they’ll make their debut. For now, let’s enjoy what tastes like a bite of warm apple cinnamon cheesecake wrapped in a whole wheat blanket. As it turns out, empanadas don’t have to be fried or filled with greasy meat to taste utterly sinful. Waistlines, rejoice!

Mini Apple Cinnamon Empanadas

Dough Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 T stevia (or other dry sweetener)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter or alternative (I use Smart Balance Lite. You can also sub half oil of your choice. And please, PLEASE don’t ever use margarine!)
1/4 cup cold water

Apple Filling Ingredients:
3 – 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 – 2 T butter alternative
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 – 2 tsp agave (optional)

Cream Cheese Mixture Ingredients:
4 oz tofu cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese, non-vegan alternative)
1 – 2 tsp agave (depending on desired sweetness)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Step 1: Prepare your dough. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sweetener, then cut in the butter (or alternative) with a fork or pastry cutter. Sprinkle the water and cut in until the dough is crumbly. Knead the dough lightly for a minute, form into a ball, wrap, and put in the fridge to rest for about a half hour.

Step 2: While the dough chills, peel, core, and chop the apples. Chop small pieces for smooth filling or larger pieces for a chunkier filling.

Step 3: Heat a pan to medium low and add the apple filling ingredients (apples, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and agave). Cook down, stirring frequently, until the apples are completely soft, gooey, and about half their original size. While they’re cooking, preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine all cream cheese mixture ingredients (cream cheese, agave, and vanilla), beat until smooth, and set aside.

This is the beginning of the cooking process; as you can see, they're not gooey yet. The aroma was irresistible, and I was burning my fingers so bad picking out apple chunks that I eventually just got a fork to eat them straight from the pan to spare my scorched fingers. These apples are dessert all by themselves.

(Note: Brandy would be an excellent addition to the apples. I was momentarily tempted to tell my husband that I was taking up drinking so that I’ll always have alcohol on hand just in case a recipe calls for it, but I must have caught another waft of buttery vanilla and lost my train of thought. All this to say that if you happen to have Brandy in the cabinet, please add a splash or two.)

Step 4: Remove the dough from the fridge and roll onto a floured surface until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as many 4-inch rounds as you can (I used a large jar lid to do this; be creative if you don’t have the right tools!) and line them on a floured cookie sheet. Gather the leftover scraps of dough, knead together, and repeat the rolling and cutting process until all the dough has been used.


Step 5: Top the dough rounds with a spoonful of the apple filling and cream cheese mixture. Fold one side over and seal the empanada closed by crimping the edges with a fork.


Step 6: Brush the tops of the empanadas with a very light layer of non-dairy milk (optional) and add a few more sprinkles of cinnamon (if you’re a cinnamon freak like me). Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until slightly crispy around the edges. Let cool for five minutes and serve warm with a drizzle of coconut cream or a little scoop of non-dairy ice cream if you want to really indulge!

Warm, seasonal, and so darn cute! These little guys just took my cinnamon obsession to a whole new level. I’m beginning to think that in addition to calcium, manganese, and vitamins A and K, cinnamon may also contain a significant amount of crack. Autumn is the season of giving and generosity, so give yourself permission to be generous with cinnamon at all times. It’s critical to your health. 🙂

Here’s hoping autumn never ends!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Pumpkin Brownies

It finally feels like fall! Fifty-degree nights mean Thanksgiving must be just around the corner, and I’m becoming dangerously giddy as visions of sweet potato casserole dance in my head. I’m wearing boots and a sweater today despite the fact that it’s supposed to be 85 degrees this afternoon. I wish Texas weather would cooperate and embrace autumn as wholeheartedly as I have.

When I came across this recipe combining the flavors of my favorite season with one of my very favorite desserts, I knew that these brownies needed to be in my belly ASAP. Brownies have it all; they’re chocolatey, fudgy, gooey, melty, and best of all, they’re healthy! At least, this recipe is. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because we’re adding pumpkin!


I truly hope you’re not tired of pumpkin, because I don’t see the end of pumpkin recipes anywhere in sight for the next few weeks. I’ve still got a few cans patiently waiting to be used in my next bowl of oatmeal and Elesha’s Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bars.

I have to mention that I was housesitting when I made this recipe and was without the ingredients to make the brownies from chickpeas, as I usually do. However, I strongly suggest using the chickpea brownie recipe rather than the original, as chickpeas provide a great fiber and protein boost! Just remember that the brownies pictured are made with whole wheat pastry flour and are more crumbly than those made with chickpeas, which turn out fudgier. I’ve included the chickpea brownie recipe following the original, so if you’ve got beans on hand, I recommend skipping to the bottom first!

Pumpkin Brownies
Adapted from this recipe, makes a 9 x 9 pan

Brownie Layer (from original recipe, pictured)

4 oz  chocolate, melted (I used dark)
1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar (or substitute – please do!)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin Layer

1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
2 T cornstarch
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup sugar (or substitute)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground allspice

Directions:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 and oil your pan. I like to measure out all the ingredients at the beginning because it makes things easier and more enjoyable. Sipping a hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee while baking is also recommended. 🙂

Step 2 (Brownie Layer): Melt the chocolate (the microwave is the easiest way, in my opinion). In a large mixing bowl mix together pumpkin, sweetener, oil and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Sift the dry mixture into the wet mixture until smooth.

Step 3 (Pumpkin Layer):  Mix all pumpkin layer ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

Step 4: Spread the brownie layer into the prepared baking pan and pour the pumpkin layer over it. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pumpkin layer looks fairly firm and is golden brown.


Step 5: Let cool for 20 minutes and then transfer to the fridge to set for at least an hour and a half. In the meantime, make a delicious spinach salad to offset all the dessert you’re about to consume.

Step 6: Devour a brownie or two with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and store the rest in the fridge. These absolutely must be refrigerated or they’ll go bad pretty quick, which I’m very sad to say I learned the hard way. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoyed a few of them beforehand!

Below is the alternative brownie layer recipe I promised.

Brownie Layer with Chickpeas (healthiest method!)
Note: this make a large batch, you may not need to use all of it.

  • 2 cans (or 3 cups cooked) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dry sweetener
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup cocoa (I like dark)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or canola)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (optional if you want it less fudgy)
  • 1/2 cup (or more!) canned or pureed pumpkin (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions: Blend all ingredients except chocolate chips and walnuts in the food processor until very smooth. Boiling the garbanzos first is helpful because they’re softest when hot, and will be easier to blend, resulting in a smoother brownie. Harder beans make the batter gritty. Add walnuts and chocolate chips if desired and finish with the recipe above, starting with Step 3.

There are more delicious autumn recipes on the way – and I promise they won’t all contain pumpkin! If you’re interested in giving your favorite fall recipe a skinnyfat makeover, just leave a comment and we’ll see what we can come up with. We love a good challenge!

Don’t forget to like us on facebook and follow us on twitter!

~ Becky, a skinnyfat girl

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally that time of year! The time of year when you decorate your home with dead leaves. The time of year for hot tea, acorns, sweaters, and pumpkins. The time of year when you can throw everything that’s been sitting in your fridge all summer into the crock pot before bed and have a magical soup ready in the morning. Yep, that time of year: soup season!

For the record, I encourage you not to put three-month-old ingredients into your next soup. Or any soup, ever. What I meant was that a good soup can be made from almost any vegetable known to man – except for  brussel sprouts. Those things just shouldn’t even be eaten in the first place. Yes, you heard me, I don’t like brussel sprouts. Hey, it’s not written somewhere that I have to like every single vegetable, okay?!?

Lots of recent blog browsing has led me to the conclusion that I’m not the only one who appreciates this season of hot, liquid food. In fact, I blame other bloggers for my current soup obsession. I found a wonderfully simple and delicious-looking tomato soup recipe that I plan on testing out over the weekend. But it was Elle’s post that gave me the idea of concocting a butternut squash soup recipe, and Lauren’s post sealed the deal – it was butternut squash soup or bust!

The thing I love most about butternut squash is that it doesn’t taste like butter or nuts but tastes delicious with both of those flavors. It’s almost as if the guy who named the squash was suggesting that it be combined with nuts and butter, so I followed his advice. I wish he could taste my soup and I could thank him for his brilliant suggestion, because I am confident that this soup will make it into the Soup Hall of Fame. Oh, it’s a real place – or at least it will be after I build it to ensure that this soup is remembered for eternity. You’re witnessing history, people!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
Olive oil
4 – 6 cups vegetable broth
1.5 cups cashew cream
3 T butter substitute (I used Smart Balance)
Seasonings to taste (I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper)

Step 1: Roughly chop all veggies. This is a creamy soup, so nothing needs to be neat or bite-size – it’s all going in the blender. Saute the onion, carrot, celery,  and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.

Step 2: While the veggies are getting soft, prepare your cashew cream. You will need to plan ahead and cover 2 – 3 cups of cashews with water and let them soak overnight in the fridge. After soaking for at least 12 hours, rinse the cashews and cover with fresh water in the blender. The less water you use, the thicker the cream will be. Blend for at least 2 minutes until smooth.

I ended up adding more water to this because it was too thick.


Step 3: Don’t get so preoccupied with your cream that you forget your veggies are on the stove. Then you’ll have to start all over. 😦


Step 4: When veggies are soft (but NOT burnt), add the squash and the butter alternative. Remember to stir frequently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot or burns. You can add more olive oil if necessary.

Step 5: Let everything cook until the squash is soft and falling apart. When all the veggies are very tender, scoop them into the blender. Add a portion of the vegetable broth and a portion of the cashew cream to the blender with the veggies and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Repeat this process until all the veggies have been blended with all of the cream and broth.

Step 6: Wash your pot and put it back on the burner on low. Pour all of your smooth, creamy soup back into the pot and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. You can add other seasonings if you want to make it interesting, but the squash is so simple and flavorful that you probably won’t want to add much more to it. I actually added a teeny dash of pumpkin pie spice, mostly just to see if my husband would notice (he didn’t). Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.

I added a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick and an extra swirl of cashew cream. Parsley would be a nice garnish as well, but I didn't have any

My husband went absolutely crazy over this and ate two enormous bowlfuls. When my dad handed me his empty bowl he declared, “This soup is restaurant-worthy!”, but it was really hard to take him seriously with big orange globs dribbled all over his beard.

Pull on a sweater and enjoy a hot bowl of delicious, creamy butternut squash goodness. Then enjoy a second bowl, because it’s all vegetables and cashews, and it can’t get much healthier than that! This is what soup season’s all about.

EDIT: I made this again with Silk creamer and it was equally as tasty!

~Becky, a skinnyfat girl

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