Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tomato Bisque With Italian-Sausage Meatballs

This is the ultimate comfort soup for frigid, winter nights like this one.  We added a dollop of pastina to each bowl, which made the meal a bit more appealing to the kids.  On another day, I added whole-wheat rotini and a handful of fresh spinach to some leftovers instead of pastina.  This recipe is variation of this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, and is a versatile and delicious alternative to chicken, beef and bean soups (that you might be sick of by now). 

Tomato Bisque With Italian-Sausage Meatballs

8 Tbs butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 small bag real bacon pieces (or 2 slices of bacon, crumbled)
2 large cloves garlic
10 Tbs whole wheat flour
4 cups chicken broth (add salt to taste if broth is unsalted)
1 46-oz can 100% tomato juice
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
3 to 6 sprigs of thyme (or 2 tsp. dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream (or less if desired)
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: add cooked pastina, whole-wheat rotini, fresh spinach, etc.

Instructions: Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 5-6 min., or until onion gets soft.  Add the bacon and garlic and stir for a minute or two until meat is crisp.  Add the flour and stir vigorously for approx. 2 min.  Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly.  Add herbs and simmer on low heat for 30 min.  Remove the herbs and puree the soup with a handheld immersion blender (much easier than a food processor!).  Stir in the cream.  Add optional ingredients like meatballs, pasta or spinach.  Serve warm.

*This recipe makes at least 12-16 servings, if not more.  I was able to freeze half of the soup, and the other half yielded two dinners and a lunch.

Italian-Sausage Meatballs

16 oz. bulk Italian sausage
1/4-1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1 large egg
olive oil for frying

Instructions:  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Roll into meatballs of desired size and fry in a light drizzling of olive oil.  Cook until meatballs are browned throughout.  Add to soup bowls.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Papaya Daiquiri Smoothie Recipe

Alright, well it's not exactly a daiquiri because there's no alcohol involved, (although I suppose there could be...) but it's certainly reminiscent of one.  This is definitely a drink I would want to be sippin' on a sandy white beach - or poolside next to a tiki hut of some kind.  Can you tell I'd rather be somewhere warm today?!

Back to reality...this recipe is really very simple and versatile, and the papaya gives the smoothie an amazing texture and color.  I'm not a fan of papaya as an eating fruit (because it's rather bland), but I would take it in a smoothie over almost any other fruit.  I used fresh papaya in this case (from Super Walmart, of all places, and it was actually good!) although frozen would work just as well.  Aside from the papaya, the other key ingredient in these smoothies is the Pineapple Coconut juice (that I also found at Walmart) pictured above.  AMAZING flavor, and it's 100% juice with no additives!  I made two big batches - we ate one batch and stored the other batch in 8-oz. mason jars and the plastic 8-oz Ball freezer jelly jars with the screw-on lids (for easy transportation). 

These smoothies were a hit with both the kids and husband alike, even though no sugar was involved (my husband usually likes to add sugar to smoothies, even though it's totally unnecessary).  Enjoy a taste of the tropics, even if you're in the midst of Arctic weather like me!

Papaya Daiquiri Smoothies

1/2 medium fresh papaya, cubed
1 frozen banana, halved
1 large handful frozen strawberries
2 cups Pineapple Coconut juice (or more or less, depending on the thickness you desire)

Directions:  Place papaya in blender or smoothie maker with frozen banana.  Pour the juice in until about 1/3 of the fruit is covered.  Pulse until blended.  Add strawberries and blend well.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator (makes approx. 4-6 servings).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Detox Project: Make Your Own Facewash!

I have combination skin that is acne-prone, and I have learned over the years that the face washes formulated with salicylic acid to "fight" acne are much too harsh on my skin and definitely too drying in the winter time (not to mention loaded with chemicals I don't want on my skin in the first place).  As a result, I have been experimenting with a couple of face wash recipes that I absolutely LOVE!  I have included two variations in this post, but the possibilities are endless!

Also, there isn't a set amount to the ingredients, really, so don't worry that you're putting in "too much" or "too little" of any one ingredient.  Besides, the amounts depend on how large your container is.  I used a trial-sized, flip-top dispenser (that I purchased at Drug Mart for under $1) for the Honey Face Wash (pictured above).  Play around with the recipes until you find the combination of components that works for your skin!

Recipe #1.)  Honey Face Wash

Ingredients:  Vegetable glycerine, raw honey, and lavender-scented liquid Castile soap

Directions:    Fill your container about 3/4 of the way with vegetable glycerine.  Add approximately 3 Tablespoons of raw honey and about 2 Tablespoons of liquid Castile soap.  I used Dr. Bronner's lavender-scented Castile soap, but you could also use the unscented baby variety and add essential oils, or one of the other scented soaps available.  Shake ingredients together.  When using, massage into the face and neck and let sit for a few seconds to loosen dirt.  Rinse well.

Review:  It is a watery face wash, but don't let that fool you.  You only need a little bit to wash your face, and it lathers up nicely.  I especially liked that if I got any of this in my mouth by accident, it was sweet and tasted good!  Otherwise, it left my skin feeling very clean and moisturized.  One thing I didn't like was that the lavender Castile soap was very strongly scented.  A little too strongly...

Recipe #2.) Aloe & Tea Tree Oil Face Wash

Ingredients:  Distilled water, unscented Castile soap, pure Aloe Vera gel, tea tree essential oil and sweet almond oil (optional)

Directions:  Fill your container 3/4 of the way with distilled water, and add about 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of unscented Castile soap.  Then add about 1 Tablespoon of Aloe Vera gel and 2-4 drops of tea tree essential oil, and add 1 drop of lemon essential oil and 1 drop lavender essential oil if available - makes a very pleasant scent.  I also added a dash of sweet almond oil because I had it on hand.   Shake well.  When using, massage into the face and neck and let sit for a few seconds to loosen dirt.  Rinse well.

*Note - Make sure you are using Aloe Vera gel that does not have any additional additives - it's the type that's often refrigerated for freshness.  You can even scrape some out of an aloe plant if you happen to have one.*

Review:  This is also a watery face wash, but lathers up well, just like the Honey Face Wash, and a little goes a long way.  The scent is much more agreeable (especially with the lavender and lemon).  It is also cheaper, due to the use of distilled water as opposed to vegetable glycerine.  Of the two recipes, this recipe has worked wonders for my acne and IS NOT DRYING.  My skin feels a little tighter afterwards than it did with the Honey Face Wash, but overall, this is my pick for acne-prone skin!