Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup

"Summer Solstice" vegetable soup with garlic cheese bread

I’ve recently found out that onions are generally a bad idea for me.  If I don’t want to end up having certain health issues that I won’t discuss here, I need to generally avoid them like the plague.

To say the least, this has really put a cramp in my cooking-style.

Almost every recipe out there involves onions of some description or another. Sliced, diced, chopped, minced, pureed… somehow, it’s present in everything from soups and stews to burgers and meatloaf. What’s an onion-avoiding girl to do??

With the recent rainstorms and cooler summer weather, I’ve found myself craving a good, hearty, warming soup. Yes, soup in the summer — I’m not crazy, I promise! But again: soup = onions. Right? Well, not exactly. I’ve found  that I have no adverse effects from onion powder. There’s hope yet! Based on this and wanting to get something equally tasty and nutritious into me, I went out to buy some veggies I haven’t had in recent days: cabbage  and sweet potatoes.

Sure, I’ve got potatoes in my pantry but the  sweet potatoes are generally so much better for you and they just have a different taste. So, today, after I had gotten up from a short afternoon nap, I started chopping and slicing and  whipped up this yummy little number. I’ve dubbed it Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup because I created it on the Summer Solstice and the flavours are warming without being “spicy”. Feel free to play with the seasonings to make it more to your taste, but  I have to say that this turned out better than I originally imaged!

This also makes a huuuuuuuuuge pot of soup/stew, so feel free  to cut these measurements in half to make a dutch oven’s worth of soup. This one took my large stewing pot, just as a warning.  (See the end of this posting to see the “leftovers” after hubby and I both had two full bowlfuls!) Also, this was an instant hit with my hubby, though there was no meat in the soup. Woo! Here’s what I did…

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Homemade chili seasoning (mild)

A side view of a small Mason jar with a label that says "Chili Seasoning".Since I’ve been cutting back on my sodium intake, I’ve been finding it challenging to find spots to cut back on salt. I never really used to cook with a ton of salt to begin with — or so I thought. I suppose I should actually say that I never really added extra salt to cooking because it already exists in so many of our foods already!

Take a look at canned tomatoes. While I understand that sodium is used a lot in preserving foods, I know they have cut back on some things, marking them as ‘reduced sodium’ or ‘lower sodium’. So I compared two cans of diced tomatoes of the same brand. For half a cup of the regular brand, it was about 450 mg of sodium, but for the ‘reduced sodium’ can, it was only 25 mg. What a difference!

I didn’t even want to guess how much sodium was in a package of chili seasoning. Too much, I’m supposing. So I scoured the web, took some advice from a few different recipes and came up with my own chili seasoning to cut back on the sodium levels. Keep in mind that this is relatively tame compared to other seasonings, but in higher quantities in the crockpot, it can have a bite. My tastes prefer mild seasonings, so bump up the hotter ingredients if you prefer it spicy!

Here’s what I did:

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Lower-carb / lower-sodium adventures: chili stew

A bowl of chili stewI’m sure that I’ve probably posted my chili/chili stew before somewhere, but let me state for the record that it is not what most people think of when they think of chili. It’s more of a stew or soup with chili seasonings. I throw all kinds of vegetables into it and there are no beans.

But lately, I’ve been watching my sodium intake and carbs, so I’ve been  changing some of my old favourites up, as mentioned in previous posts. For this one, I focused on cutting right back on the sodium. Did you know, for example, that 1/2 a cup of diced tomatoes from a can generally has about 450-500 mg of sodium, but the same amount from a ‘no salt added’ can of tomatoes may only have 20-30 mg? It’s a HUGE difference! It allows you the room to regulate the salt how you’d like it, rather than dealing with all that sodium right from the start.

I managed to get my chili stew to the point of only being about 170 mg of sodium per 1 cup serving, which means I could have two servings if I wanted to! 😉

Here’s what I did:

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Thai-inspired dinner

A plate with grilled chicken with Thai peanut sauce, beef-flavoured noodles and grilled pineapple slices.Thai food is not something I normally indulge in. I can’t handle spicy-spicy foods. (Yeah, I’m a wuss.) But I was in the mood for something different tonight, so I poked around online for a dipping sauce recipe that would strike my fancy and dove into whipping something up.

First, I cannot claim the Thai Peanut Sauce as my own. I did cut back slightly on the amount of chili powder and added more brown sugar for my own tastes, but otherwise, check out the recipe at tasteofBBQ.

All I did with the chicken was cut it up into strips and then marinaded it in a bowl in the fridge filled with half a bottle of low fat Italian dressing for about an hour. Then I skewered them on metal skewers and grilled them on my indoor grill for a few minutes. Carefully, I removed the chicken from the grill with tongs (as those skewers would be hot)! and pulled the chicken off the skewers into a serving bowl, sprinkling it all with a little bit of coarse salt.

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Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken part 1 – tacos

Two tacos filled with pulled chicken, cheese, lettuce, peppers, onions, sour cream and salsa.Hubby and I enjoy tacos and fajitas at home. With instant taco kits out there, it makes it very easy to whip this family favourite up in no time. But this weekend, I wanted something different.

Inspired by a friend’s pulled pork dinner at their place a few weekends ago, along with seeing something on the Food Network about pulled brisket tacos, I decided to do something similar — only, with chicken. Here’s how I did it. Continue reading

Cajun Chicken Alfredo – Guy-Style

A plate full of Cajun chicken alfredo, garnished with chopped green onions.It’s no secret that I’m a Food Network junkie. One of the shows I enjoy watching is The Best Thing I Ever Ate and its counterpart, The Best Thing I Ever Made. Watching The Best Thing I Ever Made this weekend, I saw Guy Fieri show off his Cajun Chicken Alfredo dish. He said it got him through culinary school and was the first dish on his menu when he opened Johnny Garlic’s.

I’ve always shied away from Cajun or Creole dishes for fear that my palate would not be able to handle the spiciness of  it. But something he said caught my attention. He said that some people avoid Cajun/blackened dishes for fear of them being too spicy, but he said that blackened doesn’t necessarily mean spicy, but flavourful. He said you can control the heat with the proportions of cayenne and such.

The dish looked fantastic, sounded like it would be delicious, and the recipe was online, so I thought I’d try it, in my own way. I didn’t have heavy cream and such, but I had jars of Alfredo sauce (store-bought). I also don’t have a cast-iron skillet, but an indoor grill. So here’s what I did… Continue reading