Saturday, October 31, 2015

Creamy Potato Leek Soup: Warm and Soothing

Looking for a quick and easy homemade soup? Creamy Potato Leek is an all time healthy favorite. I used organic red potatoes, organic onions and organic leeks in this filling, satisfying, and soothing soup . It's a perfect choice for these chilly nights. Serve it with a salad, some cheese, or an entree.


Easy potato leek soup

Would I make this soup for Thanksgiving? 
Why not? It's delicious, gluten free and vegan- 
If you are having guests, chances are that someone has special eating needs and can't eat this or that. This soup meets most allergy needs. ( GF, DF, Nut Free, egg free, vegan). It is a good standby,

I used a combination of leeks and onions in this recipe. Leeks add a rich flavor to the soup and make it taste extra special. However, leeks can also be pricy. So, if you want to cut down on the price ( and don't mind sacrificing a little of the flavor ) , you can just use an additional large onion to the recipe and skip the leek! If you are not ready to make it- don't forget to pin it for later!

My recipes require very little prep

The recipe is easy to make and the prep is fast, calling for only a few main ingredients. I love recipes that make my life easier while at the same time providing healthy nutrients!  The onions, garlic, and leeks provide protective immune building antioxidants.A generous batch of this recipe usually allows for some leftovers to be frozen for another meal.

Additional Time Savers
  • Frozen leeks will work fine 
  • Frozen garlic cubes work fine ( I get mine in Freezer at Trader Joe's- Dorot Brand)
  • This soup freezes well, so you can freeze some for another meal.

Why I don't usually make this soup

I'm going to admit, I don't usually make this soup. I don't usually buy potatoes because I personally don't do well eating too many carbs in my diet.  I usually only buy potatoes when I'm cooking for company. However, my CSA grows beautiful organic red potatoes of which I am entitled to my share,  and I don't want to refuse them!

Instead, I surprised my husband with two delicious recipes to enjoy the wonderful potatoes. First, I prepared this delicious soup. Second, I made him really easy homemade potato chips ( Recipe in a few days)! Needless to say he was in heaven ( as he has no difficulty eating carbs and his weight) and he enjoyed every bite !

This vegan soup has no cream, but it is creamy

Just for the record, this is not a creamed soup although it is creamy. There is no added milk or cream. The creaminess comes from the potatoes as they begin to disintegrate while cooking. Finally, the immersion blender can be used to make it as creamy as you like. We like ours a little chunky, so I just use the immersion blender very quickly. If you truly love a milk based soup , you can swirl cream or a non dairy milk of your choice to the bowl before serving. As always all the ingredients in my recipes meet gluten free standards!

Author: Judee Algazi
Prep Time: 10-12 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

6 large organic red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite size pieces ( no need to peel)
1 large leek, cleaned chopped ( white part only)
1 cup chopped onion
1 and 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 cups water
5 cups vegetable broth ( or chicken broth is you are so inclined)
Cracked Pepper to taste
** do not add salt as the vegetable broth is usually somewhat salty
2 shakes of 21 Salute  - ( a salt free herbal mix I get a Trader Joe's - Mrs. Dash is similar)
1/4 cup of olive oil or olive oil spray

Directions:

Heat oil in a large soup pot ( or spray with olive oil spray) . Add onion, garlic, leek, potatoes and sauté stirring frequently for about 5 minutes tossing the vegetables to coat with the oil. Add the water, the broth, and the seasonings. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a medium. Cook uncovered for about 25 minutes until vegetables are tender and potatoes begin to fall apart. Use an immersion blender to blend to desired consistency.

chopped leeks
I used only the white for the soup.
The tender part of the green leaves can be saved and chopped into a salad
chopped leeks

chunky potato soup in a pot


potato leek soup
I garnished the soup with a little uncooked chopped kale for a nice color contrast!

                                                             


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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Butternut Squash Skewers + Dip

     
Squash Skewers are a simple, yet clever, way of serving butternut squash especially for the fall holidays. It makes a great appetizer and eating the squash off a skewer is fun and easy to eat.


My friend Laura mentioned to me that she likes holiday recipes that can be eaten at room temperature so she doesn't have to keep heating and reheating to try to get the timing right for the meal. Roasted butternut squash tastes great at any temperature.

Whether served hot out of the oven, eaten an hour later at room temperature, or finished off the next day cold right out of the refrigerator, it's always delicious!

I bought my wooden skewers at my local supermarket ( they came in two sizes and were inexpensive- about $1.59) and roasted the winter squash first and then slid the roasted squash cubes on the skewers. My photo shows the basic idea, yet you could serve it with many variations.

Some additional ideas to assemble the skewers



Some additional ideas to assemble the skewers

1. Alternate the butternut squash cubes with sweet red grapes on the skewer.

2.  Slice up oranges and lay the squash skewers on top of the orange slices to absorb the citrus flavor.

3. Sprinkle the roasted squash with cinnamon

4. Alternate the butternut squash with blueberries or cooked cranberries.

5. Serve and dip into some flavored vinegar ( I had black cherry- amazing) in a dipping bowl

6. Serve with any dip of your choice

7. Alternate squash with chunks of cheese and grapes

This is a great side dish for any fall meal and especially appropriate for Thanksgiving. If you are making appetizers, these skewers would be great with a dip!

In addition, I'm always looking for healthy snacks for my grandkids! How delicious and fun would a cold butternut squash and grape skewer be for an after school snack. ( Yes, they taste that good!!)

The right tool makes your job easier

If you have the right kind of peeler , peeling the squash is a cinch! I use and OXO Good Grips Y Peeler which just slips the skin right off without any struggle. It only takes me 5-8 minutes to peel, scoop out the seeds, and chop the squash into pieces.

I then toss the squash in just enough olive oil to coat the pieces and place it on a rimmed cookie sheet that has been covered with parchment paper ( I use a brown non chlorinated parchment)

Try This Time Saver

  • If you are pressed for time, most supermarkets sell packages of butternut squash in the produce isle already cut up and no additives- It cuts down on a little time and the mess.
  • Trader Joe's usually has some packages at reasonable prices and fresh!

I bought a fig jam and served it as a dip for the squash !




How many times do you have a pot that needs scrubbing - well here is an easy solution that I found on Youtube using dryer sheets! 
One of my Fabulous Finds- No More Scrubbing!!

Watch this Youtube for an easy way to 
clean dirty pots and pans!


            
                












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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Paleo Butternut Apple Cranberry Bake


This is a fabulous Paleo side for your Thanksgiving table! It's colorful, festive, and incorporates a variety of delicious fall seasonal fruits and vegetables. The sweet roasted butternut squash mixed with roasted apples and slightly tart cranberries not only makes a beautiful presentation, but are healthy to boot!




Allergy Friendly 
It's a great choice for a Thanksgiving side because it will satisfy vegans, vegetarians, and those who are gluten free, Paleo diets, nut free diets, and egg free diets. So matter who is coming to dinner, and no matter what his/her dietary preference, this recipe is a winner!

The combination of ingredients is a sweet treat, but with no added sugar. In fact, my husband thought it was as tasty as an all natural pie filling.

My CSA farm share is still active through November. I got sweet potatoes, leeks, lots of varieties of greens, garlic, onions, cauliflower, and butternut squash this week. The local farms are ripe for apple picking too. Hence the recipe because I've got lots of butternut squash and apples! I love using seasonal fruits and vegetables in recipes!

The advantage of this type of recipe is that although it is intended to be consumed hot, it also tastes good at room temperature. So, if it's on the table longer than expected, it will still be delicious!




























 Easiest and Fastest Peeler that I highly recommend

I have a really good peeler that can slip off the skin of a butternut so fast that it's a cinch to peel.
Owning the right tool really does make a difference.  I have two peelers that look almost identical.  One is the OXO Good Grips Y Peeler.and the other looks just like it- but is another brand.


I've tried both peelers and the OXO Good Grips Y Peeler wins out for ease every time!
It just seems to slide the skin right off! Believe me I wouldn't make a big deal about it if it wasn't such a difference! I always struggled with other peeler and would often give up peeling a butternut squash or just avoid it altogether.

If you really don't like to peel,- then buy the packages of pre chopped squash. I've seen them at Trader Joe's and most supermarkets. It usually is in the fresh produce isle and does not contain additives.

Author: Judee Algazi from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients: 
1 med/large butternut squash, peel, scoop seeds, and chop ( or buy a pre cut package)
4 medium organic apples, cored and sliced ( I didn't peel)
1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil
1 cup of organic cranberries
optional: 1/2 cup of sliced red grapes
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Cinnamon to taste

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Divide the oil in half. Toss the chopped butternut squash in the oil and then the apples in oil. Using two covered cookie sheets ( covered with parchment paper), place the apples on one and the butternut squash on the other. Roast the squash for 30-40 minutes; the apples for 20 minutes.
While the apples and squash are roasting, put the orange juice and cranberries into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the juice and set aside.
Mix the roasted squash, roasted apples, and cooked cranberries in a pyrex dish. Add a tablespoon or two of the orange juice to the casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.

Cut in bite size pieces before roasting
Sometimes I add roasted kale for some variety 
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Skinny Zucchini Pasta ( Spiralized)


Skinny Zucchini pasta ( spiralized zucchini)  is a delicious substitute for a regular bowl of high carb/ high calorie pasta . Remember, even gluten free pasta is also high in carbs and calories! I find that spiralized pasta made from a zucchini is the way to go. It's low calorie and low in carbs making it the perfect and delicious meal!

Many zucchini pasta recipes serve the zucchini noodles raw; I like to lightly saute mine. I love the zoodles ( zucchini noodles)  prepared this way. It satisfies me as much as real pasta. In fact, I like it so much, I usually make it for lunch or a side dish at least two or three times a week. It's versatile and lends itself to many variations. Don't overcook it or it will become watery!!

This is such a fast and easy recipe! Basically, you just need to spiralize your zucchini, which takes about one minute.

If you are not familiar with how to do this, go to my zoodles post which explains in detail

This is a simple vegan and gluten free recipe. 

Ingredients: 
1/2 medium onion, sliced in half moons
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2-3 cups of spiralized zucchini noodles
olive oil spray
1/4 cup of marinara sauce

Directions:
Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil spray until soft. Add the zucchini and toss a few times for about 30 seconds. Add the marinara sauce, stir and remove from flame and serve immediately. It tastes best when eaten immediately!

Additional Variations : 

  •  Add 1/4 -1/2 cup of ricotta cheese when you add the sauce to the recipe for a lasagna like  taste- 
  •  Add 1/4-1/2 cup of any grated cheese when you add your sauce.
  •  Jen at  Driftwood Gardens suggested topping with nutritional yeast for another vegan variation



This photo is without marinara sauce. The plate is about 50 years old and 
belonged to my mom!




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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Golden Cauliflower Soup in 25 Minutes



Golden Cauliflower Soup is as healthy as it is delicious! You'll be happy to know that this quick and easy yet highly nourishing vegan soup is very low calories as well as low in carbs! In fact just like my zero points plus spinach soup, this soup is also counted as zero points on Weight Watchers. Don't you love a guilt free soup that can be eaten as a healthy snack or starter for lunch and or dinner that won't pack on the pounds?

This Youtube Video explains why I need to make zero points plus soups! ( just for fun!)



If you are trying to add more vegetables into your weekly menus, this is the way to do it! Homemade soup provides valuable nutrients and fiber. And my quick homemade soups are easy and quick to make! There is nothing more important to your health than building a strong immune system. Healthy vegetables and spices are key to giving your immune system a boost.

I've been reading lately how a strong immune system is paramount to not just fighting flu viruses, but also important for degenerative disease like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer etc. Let's not kid ourselves, even health food store packaged or prepared foods are still high in salt, sugar, and some additives.

You will only find "real food"( as opposed to processed food) gluten free recipes that taste good and can be made quickly on my blog. With this hearty soup, you simply sauté the cut up vegetables in a saucepan and then add water and broth and cook for about 15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Puree with an immersion blender, top with some almond milk, or (coconut milk or cream for low carbers)  and enjoy!
What gives this soup it's golden color? Turmeric!

What is turmeric and why is it so healthy? 
Turmeric is a spice that is worth adding to your diet. If you are not familiar with it, it looks like fresh ginger when it grows ( sold in Whole Foods Mkt) , except that the inside is bright orange/yellow. It is most commonly ground into a powder and sold in the spice isle of most supermarkets and Asian Indian ethnic stores. Turmeric is the spice that gives mustard it's bright yellow color. It has a mild bitter taste that seems to disappear in soups and other hot liquids. It is felt to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body which again is important for health. Many studies suggest that inflammation contributes to diseases including Alzheimer disease. In villages in India where they use turmeric daily in their food, Alzheimer and dementia is non existent. So, if you have inflammation and want to add turmeric to your diet, try this soup!

Author: Judee Algazi from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time:  10-15 minutes
Cook Time:  15 minutes
Soup: Gluten Free, Vegan, Fast and Easy

Ingredients:
1 medium- large cauliflower, washed and cut into flowerettes
8 stalks of celery, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves ( not bulbs) garlic, diced
1 teaspoon of turmeric
6 cups water
2 cups of full flavored vegetable broth
Pink Himalayan salt ( provides minerals)
Black cracked pepper to taste ( helps the turmeric work better)
Olive oil cooking spray ( or if low carb- use olive oil or coconut oil)
Optional: Top with chopped red onion
Optional but good: Add almond milk, coconut milk, or half and half to your bowl before eating.

Directions: 
Spray a wide deep saucepan with cooking spray. Add the garlic, onions, and celery and saute for a few minutes, then add the cauliflower, the turmeric, ( salt optional) , black pepper and continue to saute, stirring until everything is coated. Add 6 cups of water, (2 cups more if you used a really big cauliflower)  bring to a boil, turn heat down somewhat but more than a simmer and allow to cook covered for 5 minutes . Remove the cover and allow to cook another 5 minutes uncovered. Add vegetable ( or chicken broth if you desire) and cook uncovered at a medium heat for 5 more minutes until the cauliflower is very tender and beginning to fall apart. Using an immersion blender, puree . Serve with some low calorie unsweetened almond milk ( or coconut milk or half and half for low carb)

The cauliflower is tossed with the turmeric in this photo

This soup and the cauliflower has already cooked down before I added the broth
How I Make This Soup Even Easier
It can be made in 2 stages if time is a pressing issue ( you have twin babies, a new baby and other children, work too many hours, are exhausted, burned out, etc). I suggest cutting up your vegetables ( onion, garlic, celery, cauliflower) the night before. It should only take about 10-15 minutes to prep the veggies ( depending on your experience) then you can just assemble the soup the next day and allow it to cook for about 15 minutes. A bowl of fresh, nutrient dense, hot soup will nourish you, relax you,  and help you feel better.


My Notes: I think that adding some low calorie almond milk adds a nice flavor to the soup and coconut milk or cream ( if you eat low carb) is amazing! In addition, I added a few shakes of Trader Joe's 21 Salute ( a salt free herbal seasoning) to the soup. All of my recipes are gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan. ** you can substitute 2 small fingers of fresh turmeric for the teaspoon of powdered turmeric in this recipe HOWEVER, which ever one you choose to use, I must warn you that the any kind of turmeric stains! Don't get it on your clothes or plastic items. It stained my immersion blender. Yup , the head is now yellow!!

 
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Turn Your Pumpkin Into a Serving Piece + recipes


Turn your "mini pumpkin" into a serving piece in 3 easy steps!
Just slice off the top, scoop, and fill!

I simply took one of my mini pumpkins - the ones that sell for about a $1.00 in most supermarkets or road side stands-, sliced off the top ( this is the tricky part- see instructions below),  scooped out the seeds and filled the pumpkin with dip- turning my pumpkin into a pretty fall "serving piece".





I decorate my kitchen with all kinds of colorful pumpkins and fall squashes this time of the year. I usually have at least 4 or 5 of the mini pumpkins as accents on my shelves. This is the first time I ever thought of actually scooping one out and trying to use it !

I love this idea for a Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner, Succot, or any fall party. If you entertain a small crowd, you could make one for each person at his/her seat, or for a larger crowd make a few and use them for appetizers accompanied by crudite, GF chips, apple slices, etc. 

My mini pumpkin photo is filled with a simple guacamole 
( mashed  avocado,  diced celery, lemon juice and Himalayan pink salt). Another guacamole recipe is listed below. 

No matter which filling you serve, the presentation will be festive and colorful!

Try One Of These Dips or Fillings

Some of my easy and delicious GF pumpkin recipes: 
pumpkin pie 
pumpkin pudding bars 
pumpkin rice pudding ( vegan) 

Author: Judee Algazi from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time: 3-5 minutes for slicing and scooping the pumpkin

Materials Needed:

A large chefs knife
1 mini pumpkin


How I sliced my mini pumpkin

Instructions: 
As easy as it sounds, it could be a little tricky to slice the pumpkin since the pumpkin is extremely hard. I used a large chopping type knife. I read about this on Pinterest, but it didn't give any instructions, so I had to guess. This is how I sliced it.


I couldn't cut it in one blow so I scored the pumpkin in a circle all around and then cut into it at one of the scored openings. When the knife was in the pumpkin, I then proceeded to use the knife to bang the pumpkin on my counter ( gently) until the pressure started to split the pumpkin. I then cut through and ended up with a clean cut. Good Luck!










DIY Craft: How I made my white Decorated Faux Pumpkins in the photo on the top of the page

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Low Calorie Spinach Soup: Perfect for Weight Loss

Do you love sauteed spinach and garlic? Then you will love this low calorie spinach vegetable soup which is perfect for fall and can be made in just 20 minutes. AND if  you following Weight Watchers or just want to lose weight, this delicious soup is a dream come true.

A hearty bowl is low calorie, low carb, vegan, and Zero Points Plus on Weight Watchers according to my calculations. Yet it is flavorful, fast, and full of fiber.
This healthy soup is a winner!


Weight Watchers zero point spinach soup

The main ingredients are generous amounts of spinach, celery, onions and garlic simmered for just 5-7 minutes in a vegetable broth ( or chicken broth if you are so inclined) and then pureed. The soup boasts powerful immune building protective antioxidants which is a plus during the fall and winter flu season!

Yes, fall is officially here and the weather is getting chillier. Wouldn't a hearty bowl of hot soup  warm the soul and the belly?

Zero Points Plus on Weight Watchers!
The best part is this wonderful soup is Zero Points Plus on Weight Watchers! That means  you can enjoy a bowl and not even has to subtract any points from your daily point allotment of points on Weight Watchers! That means it's low in calories for every diet!

Pin it Now - Make it Later
If you are not ready for soup yet, pin it now so you will have this recipe for later- you won't want to miss it!

Interesting Seasoning Variations
The basic recipe is very tasty but mild- so it lends itself to the following variations: ( but additional seasoning is not necessary) 

You can spice it up with one of the following spices:
  • cumin 
  • curry spices
  • nutmeg  
  • cayenne 

Trust me. The soup doesn't need anyone of the spices, it is wonderful just the way it is.
 I just wanted to point out that it lends itself to other variations.

Low Carb Diet?

Sometimes I'm following a low carb diet like an Atkins type, so I can add lots more fat to the recipe and make it taste like a richer creamy spinach soup.



***All of my recipes are gluten free and quick and easy to prepare! 


Don't like spinach? Try one of my other quick healthy soup recipes like 



Author: Judee Algazi from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 10- 15 minutes
Adapted from : Celery, Onion and Spinach Soup at FatSecret

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray
1 large onion, chopped
1-2  cloves garlic, diced ( depends how much you like garlic)
8 stalks celery, cleaned, remove strings, and chopped
1 bag of frozen spinach ( 10 or 12 ounces)
4 cups of vegetable broth
2-3 cups water ( start with 2)

Directions: 

Spray an 8 qt soup pot with olive oil spray. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic for about 4-5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the frozen spinach, spray again.  Stir and saute an other few minutes. Add the vegetable broth and water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Using your immersion blender to puree the soup. ( or use a regular blender).Weight Watcher zero point spinach soup


weight watchers spinach soup

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Healthy Pumpkin Cake Pops ( grain free)


Looking for healthier dessert alternatives? Tis the season for pumpkin, and these adorable healthy pumpkin cake pops are easy to make, nutritious, and look like little pumpkin donut holes. Made from healthy real food ingredients, they bake up in just 20 minutes in the oven or in 5-8 minutes in the cake pop machine.



I found pumpkin decorated paper straws that we inserted into the pops as a stick. It worked great, but the majority of the pops we just popped in our mouths without a stick and were delighted with the simple but rich pumpkin treat!

These seasonal snacks are healthy for kids of all ages. They pack easily into a lunchbox, are perfect for after school, and especially fun for Halloween! They are nutritious as well as grain free, gluten free, and can be made vegan making them ideal for many types of allergies. The sweetness comes from a ripe banana and a 1/4 cup of coconut crystals ( per 20 pops).

They look cute and taste moist and delicious.  Add a few dark chocolate chips or unsweetened coconut for a tasty variation !

The recipe uses coconut flour and almond flour, both readily available in Trader Joe's and any health food store. I like grain free recipes and flourlessless recipes even better. My flourless Pumpkin muffins are a favorite.

Author: Judee Algazi from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes
Bake Time : 20 minutes
Makes : 20 cake pops


Ingredients: 

1/2  cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 large eggs (vegan?  substitute two chia egg replacer recipe )
1 medium ripe banana ( mashed)
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree ( or mashed cooked sweet potato)
2 tsp of melted coconut oil
1/4 cup of coconut crystals ( Trader Joe's or health food store)
1-2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice ( your preference)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional: 1/2 cup of chocolate chips ( dairy free)

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Mix dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients.
Make into small balls ( 1-11/2 teaspoons) and place each ball into a well greased mini muffin tray ( makes about 20)
Bake for 20 minutes until done
or if you are using an electric cake pop machine, follow directions according to the machine.

I made them both ways and both ways were delicious, but I thought the one's that I made in the little cake machine were a little moister than the ones made in the oven.
What is it about pumpkin ??? As soon as the fall begins, I just have to have it!! I'm not even sure I love it- but it is like a fall addiction. I'll be searching for pumpkin recipes for the next few weeks.
  1. Make these pumpkin cake poppers for dessert to kick off the Halloween celebration! They are nutritious and very filling because coconut flour is packed with fiber! Fill up before the Halloween candy frenzy!
    Insert a stick or a straw for the kids or just eat them like donut holes!
    This is the inside of the cake pop machine
    These are the ones I made in the oven in a mini muffin tray. Just a tad drier- but still very good!

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