Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthocyanins are plant pigments widespread in nature. They play relevant roles in plant propagation and ecophysiology and plant defense mechanisms and are responsible for the color of fruits and vegetables (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry).

Being the antioxidant chemical that it is, anthocyanins help to fight free radicals in the body, and is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer plant-based compound.

Medical research with anthocyanins, have found that the compound may protect against obesity. Medical study’s have noted that mice fed an anthocyanin-enriched high-fat diet for eight weeks gained less weight than mice fed a high-fat diet without anthocyanins.

The reason for less weight gain in the mice fed a diet high in foods containing anthocyanins, is the fiber content as well. When eating foods high in fiber, the food eaten benefits the body more in respects to nutrition, rather then turning it to fat storage in the body.

Fruits and vegetables are not the only food source containing anthocyanins, as legumes or beans also contain this natural plant compound, and are also high in fiber (Read More Here About Legumes: The Health Benefits Of Beans).

Enough of the science lesson, now for our featured recipe: Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup, and here is what you will need.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced fine

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

2 – 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups chicken stock

Radishes, avocado, and cilantro for garnishing (optional)

cooking onions and sweet potatoes in a sauce panIn large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, and cook onion, garlic, salt, chili pepper, and sweet potatoes, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until mixture smells fragrant.  

bring soup to a boilAdd chicken stock, and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook another 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

mixing ingredients with chicken broth in a large sauce potNext add the black beans, and stir in, cooking another 5 minutes.

Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Unexpected Chedder CheeseLadle into soup bowls and top with radish slices, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and shredded cheese.

We used a cheese exclusive to Trader Joe’s. One day they were giving out cheese and wine samples. The cheese sample include the “Unexpected.” You red right, the Unexpected.

The store clerk explained to me, that the cheese manufactures made a mistake in processing this cheese.

But Joe said keep making it, and we will purchase it, and so it is. The cheese taste great. As the package describes, it is a Cheddar with hints of Parmesan.

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Greek Grilled Chicken

 

Grilled Greek ChickenSusanna Hoffman wrote an article for the food magazine “Saveur” in 2010 stating that Greece is the fountainhead of European culture. The mysterious Minoans were among the first residents of Greece, arriving around 2700 B.C, writes Susanna.

Besides finding wild grapes and making wine with them, they also discovered a bitter native berry they began to cure and press, and if you guessed the olive, you guessed correctly. The olive, and its oil, became the economic foundation of their civilization (Food History Of Greece – Saveur).

Making Greek Grilled Chicken

We love barbecuing as the food always seems to have a special flavor. Our featured recipe is Greek Grilled Chicken, and before we bring out the recipe, we wanted to show you what we did to evenly and flavor-fully cook the chicken.

slits cut into chicken breastsWe cut small slits crosswise on each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. Doing this helps the marinade penetrate the meat, which disperses the marinaded flavor throughout the meat and not just on the surface. It also helps the chicken cook evenly.

We also did this method with roasted chicken breasts (Roasted Chicken With Chipotle Cinnamon Orange Glaze), and we have to say it always gives exceptional flavor to the meat, as well as the meat cooks evenly and retains its juices. Making those slits in the meat before marinading it, makes for awesome BBQ or roasted chicken.

A Greek food expert on “About Food“, expresses Greek seasoning as the “quintessential” Greek flavors, which are olive oil, lemon, garlic, and oregano (About Food).

With that said, our mouths are watering, so let’s bring out the recipe, and here is what you will need.

making Greek Grilled Chicken marinade The Marinade

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (bought at Whole Foods Market)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Dash black pepper

In a glass measuring cup or an equivalent vessel, add all 7 ingredients and mix well.

marinading chicken breastsUsing 6 to 8 chicken breasts, without the skin and bones, make those slits in the meat. I don’t like using plastic bags to marinate my food. In a large bowl, while layering the breasts, pour marinade over meat. If you noted in our first image, the chicken breasts are sitting on a piece of wax paper, take it, and invert it over the chicken. Place bowl in the refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

Grilled Greek Chicken on the BBQHeat your BBQ grill, and place the meat on the hot grill with flame turned down. Turn chicken about every 4 minutes. If you are using some thick chicken breasts, it will take about 25 minutes or so to cook the meat to 165 degrees internal meat temperature.

Grilled Greek ChickenPlate and serve your Greek Grilled Chicken with a side salad or vegetable. Enjoy those “quintessential” Greek flavors!!!

Enjoy our other Greek inspired recipes:

  1. Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad
  2. Greek Yougurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread
  3. Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing – (Figs and Eggplant are part of the Greek cuisine)

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Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing

Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig DressingFigs are a fruit native to Italy and Greece. The fruit is available in both fresh and dried forms, and they offer a nutritional advantages due to their nutrient content.

Are you worried about the appearance of your skin? Figs are rich in nutrients that build and maintain healthy looking skin. The nutrients include B-complex, vitamin-C, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which are all essential nutrients for boosting and rejuvenating the skin’s health. Figs contain high amounts omega-3 fatty acids which helps to keep skin moisturized and conditioned.

Rubbing fresh figs on your face and allowing it to dry can help cure acne.

Fig leaves are also used is used for skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo (loss of pigment color). The milky sap from the tree is used to treat skin tumors and warts, when applied directly to the skin.

Research with the chemicals found in the leaves of the fig tree reports that a tea made from fig leaves could help use insulin more efficiently and reduce insulin requirements in people with type 1 diabetes. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels after eating (WebMD).

Let’s enjoy the healthy benefits of figs as well as their natural sweetness with our featured recipe: Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing. Here is what you will need.

Bellas Blackberry and Fig Dressing6 black figs, stemmed , cut in half

1 small eggplant, sliced

1 cup fresh blackberries

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

4 cups mix tender leafy greens (can mix spring greens with some spicy greens)

1/2 cup goat cheese

1/3 cup pecan pieces

1 jar Bella’s Blackberry and Fig Balsamic Dressing (3 to 5 tablespoons each plated salad)

sliced eggplant and figsThe eggplant we used is a long narrow purple and white Asian eggplant. According to Grow Organic, they are a “new” eggplant on the garden scene, though it is a much older Asian variety. They are long and narrow, and come in a variety of colors including white, purple, magenta and green (Grow Organics).

Slice the eggplant into 1 inch slices, and cut the figs into two.

olive oil coated sliced eggplant and figsIn a large mixing bowl, add the oil, salt, and slice produce and toss until coated.

on the bbq - grilling eggplant and figs

bbq grilled eggplant and figsNext place a piece of tin foil on to a BBQ grill, and heat BBQ until hot.

Place figs and eggplant on to hot grill, and turn after 2 minuets.

After turning  you should hear the figs make a pop noise (skins are bursting slightly), about 1 minute, then remove from grill and set aside.

Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing- detailed close upNext, per plate add two hand fulls of leafy greens. Top with grilled eggplant, figs and blackberries. Next sprinkle on cheese and nuts. Now splash 3 to 5 tablespoons of balsamic dressing (about 1/4 cup or 2 ounce). You can purchase the dressing at your favorite market if available, and if not, you can find it at the Whole Foods Market.

The number of eggplant and fig pieces, including berries you place on each plated salad will determine how many salads you will be preparing.

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Tomato Basil Chicken

Tomato Basil ChickenYou have some chicken breasts and are looking for a new idea to prepare them? Well you have arrived to the right place for a quick and easy recipe. It’s our Tomato Basil Chicken entrée. Besides being healthy with all fresh ingredients that include tomato, basil, and garlic, this recipe is reminiscent of warm weather and luscious Mediterranean summers.

According to Spice Pages by Gernot Katzer, basil is native to India, though it is not used as a culinary herb, but rather is considered sacred and use in religious rites. Besides the most common Mediterranean type basil sold in the Western world, there is also varieties from the Asian world, such as Thailand‘s sweet basil with a licorice flavor, and a lemon basil which has a distinct balm-like flavor. Katzer states there are also verities introduced to European gardeners from Africa as well (Spice Pages: Basil).

Now for our featured recipe: Tomato Basil Chicken, and here is what you will need.

Tomato Basil Chicken - ingredients

1 lb boneless chicken breast (about 2-3 medium sized pieces) with the skin on

1 teaspoon of rock salt, Himalayan or Sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon if salt is ground

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 handfuls of fresh chopped basil, about 1 1/2 cups

1 ½ -2 cups fresh diced tomato

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves of garlic

Fresh chopped ingredients for Tomato Basil ChickenDice the tomatoes, and chop the garlic. Tear the basil apart by hand.

adding salt and pepper to chicken breastNext, season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. You may use the ground salt, but the rock salt lends a more rustic appeal to the dish.

adding chicken meat to a preheated pan with olive oilIn a preheated ceramic coated pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and place the chicken skin side down.

adding garlic and browning the meatNext add the garlic and allow the chicken to brown on both sides, turning once.

adding tomatoes and basilOnce both sides are adequately cooked, add the tomatoes. Sauté for about 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and some of it has formed a sauce with the olive oil and garlic. Next add the basil and cook for another minute.

adding cheeseNext add the grated Parmesan cheese and remove from the heat.

plated- Tomato Basil ChickenPlate and serve. Makes 2 to 3 servings. Add a side of cooked Mediterranean vegetables or a Greek salad.

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Food Synergy the Concept of Food Combination

Food Synergy the Concept of Food Combination

Research shows certain foods when paired or combined together become healthier. The thought behind this or the concept is refereed to as “food synergy.” The health experts explain the concept as how two foods can be greater than the sum of their parts, or when eaten alone. Synergy can also mean a collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, working together, or in unity.

Much like our head article image demonstrates. A time watch with many parts that work in synergy or in harmony to keep time.

Food Combinations Working In Synergy

Tomato and Cheese with olive oil

Image credit: Guide To Healing Herbs – Winter 2014 edition – page 76

That is what food does when paired and eaten together. The most common example we can think of is, tomatoes paired with mozzarella, and including fresh basil and olive oil.

Eaten together, makes each of these foods, cancer fighting, anti heart disease compounds more available to the body. In other words, they each have a benefit to the body, but together, it is like 5 times more beneficial than each alone, and that is food synergy.

The concept of food synergy stress that good health may not just be the wonderful verity of healthy foods we eat, but rather how you combine them. Eating food combinations that biochemically balance each other.

Here’s another example, rosemary and steak. We know that steak when charred can produce carcinogenic compounds which are cancer causing.

But when you marinate the steak with the herb rosemary, which is rich in antioxidants, like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, it nutralizes the caroinogenic compounds when a steak reaches 325 degrees.

The website, Health News Library has a new page – How Food Works To Make You Healthy. They have slide show which explains how food works when combining different foods together for a greater health benefit.

Link over and enjoy the information to better health: Health News Library

 

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Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

All products made from wheat flour will have the same glycemic index, whole grains include the bran component, which contains additional dietary fiber and B-vitamins. Also there is 7 to 12 grams of protein in whole wheat pasta. Protein is a needed daily to live well, making whole wheat pasta a better choice.

Our featured recipes has goat cheese that is about 7.21 g of fat, but it also has 5.88 g of protein. Remember, protein is needed to keep the body active and to make a repair muscle tissue. If you are active you will burn the fat. Also the monocular structure of the fat in goat’s milk is smaller than in cow’s milk, making goat cheese easer to digest. If you are lactose intolerant, goat milk is the way to go.

The recipe also calls for poultry, which is full of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

So here is what you will need:

ingredients for Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

Also you will need 6 tablespoons of olive oil, divided. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the Penne pasta according to the packaged instructions. Over medium high heat in a large frying pan, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil.  Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Stir in flour and salt.  Slowly whisk in milk, chicken broth; whisk constantly so no lumps form.  Return to heat, whisk in parmesan cheese, basil, oregano and black pepper. Set aside.

whisking milk ,chicken broth, cheeses and spices for Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil. Once heated add diced onions and sauté; then add chicken breast chunks, cook until pink is gone.

frying chicken and onions for Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

Next add spinach but do not stir in. Cover pan with lid. Turn heat to low and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in spinach.

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Spread a third of the cheese mixture in the bottom of the dish.  Top with a third of the pasta, then a third of the chicken/spinach mixture, Repeat twice.

preparing Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta first layer

Once you have prepared the pasta dish to bake, sprinkle additional parmesan cheese on top if you wish too.

Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta prepared to cook

Place into oven and bake uncovered for 35 minutes. When done let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Plate and serve.

Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

Chicken and Goat Cheese Spinach Pasta

8 oz. penne pasta, whole wheat

6 tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 tbsp. flour

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups milk

1 ½ cups chicken broth

¾ cup Parmesan, grated

½ tsp. basil, dried

¼ tsp. oregano, dried

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 medium onion, diced

3 chicken breasts, large; cut into 1-inch chunks

12 oz. baby spinach, fresh

1 ½ cups mozzarella, shredded

12 oz. goat cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Over medium high heat in a large frying pan, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil.  Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Stir in flour and salt.  Slowly whisk in milk, chicken broth; whisk constantly so no lumps form.  Return to heat, whisk in parmesan cheese, basil, oregano and black pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil. Once heated add onion and sauté; then add chicken breast chunks, cook until pink is gone. Next add spinach but do not stir in. Cover pan with lid. Turn heat to low and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in spinach.

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Spread a third of the cheese mixture in the bottom of the dish.  Top with a third of the pasta, then a third of the chicken/spinach mixture, Repeat twice.  Sprinkle additional parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Bake uncovered for about 35 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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