Tag Archives: low-calorie

Baby Banana Crumble

19 Jun

I’ve gotten into a rut when it comes to breakfast foods.  Every morning I sling one of the following, based on what my audience wants on any given day: toast, oatmeal, cereal, or eggs.  For the most part, the kids are pretty happy with this functional and fast breakfast style.  But me?  I’m bored.

This morning I tried something new, which honestly was pretty risky for a Tuesday (but sort of a Monday since the kids were gone yesterday).  The recipe is very simple – smashed banana with a crumble topping, and then baked.  The prep is very simple, and the hands-off baking time leaves me free to make lunch/prep bags/yell like a drill sergeant to GET GOING PUT ON PANTS WHERE ARE YOUR SOCKS BRUSH YOUR TEETH.  Basically, this recipe is perfect for those mornings when you want something hot and sweet but are short on time.  I made ours in individual ramekins, but if you were cooking for a crowd simply increase the recipe and place the whole thing in a baking dish that can contain the number of servings you need.

The critics say:

“This would be good with some maple syrup on top.” – Martin

“This would be better if it were toast with French dressing on it.” – Sophie

Baby Banana Crumble
Serving size: 1 serving
Serves: 1

1 ripe banana
1 T. flour
1 T. oatmeal
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. non-dairy margarine
Dash salt

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a ramekin or small individual baking dish, smash a banana until it is creamy.  In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients.  Spoon topping over banana and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove, let cool a bit, and serve.

Estimated calories:  210 cal/serving

Print it: Baby Banana Crumble

Notes:
– Feel free to substitute the non-dairy margarine for regular margarine or butter.
– I used frozen and thawed bananas in this recipe.  If you haven’t frozen super ripe bananas before, I’d highly recommend it.  They thaw quickly, and after snipping off one end, you can squeeze the mushy banana right out of the peel like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.  The banana is basically pre-mashed and ready to go.  If you don’t have a freezer filled with black, ripe bananas like I do, any really ripe banana will work in this recipe.

Sriracha Shrimp with Steamed Coconut Rice

21 May

There are many nights when I sit, staring out the window and wish that somebody would drop off a bag of food.  It would be exactly what I didn’t know I wanted, from a restaurant that made excellent food and was conveniently located nearby.

On those nights, while I’m waiting for my food miracle to arrive, this might be my new go-to dish.  It is super easy, delicious, and practically cooks itself while I’m staring out the window.

Sriracha Shrimp with Steamed Coconut Rice

To prepare the rice part of this dish, I used a vegetable steamer with a rice insert.  I picked up an inexpensive one at Target this winter and I LOVE it (Model: Black and Decker).  To make the coconut rice, simply mix together the uncooked rice, water, light coconut milk and veggies, then add water, cover and leave alone until the timer goes off.  THAT’S IT.  The rice has a very mild flavor, isn’t sticky, and because it was cooked in the steamer it was easy to throw a few veggies in there and save myself a little effort.  With just a few minutes of prep and 35 minutes of doing something else, the rice and veggies are ready to eat.  AWESOME.

The shrimp part of this dish is SPICY.  Depending on your tastes, you could add more (to burn your face off) or reduce it.  Take note, there’s also a lot of garlic in here, which adds to the spice and also gives you pretty potent breath.  This might be good for the nights when you are sitting home, staring out the window BY YOURSELF.

The rice part of this dish would make an excellent side for all kinds of food.  The shrimp will be far too spicy for my kids, but I’d bet the rice will be popular.

Sriracha Shrimp with Steamed Coconut Rice
Serving size: 3 oz. shrimp + 1 c. rice
Serves: 4

1 c. Texmati rice
1/2 c. diced carrots
1/2 c. frozen peas
3/4 c. water
1/2 can light coconut milk
12 oz. shrimp (tails removed)
1/4 c. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 T. water
1 T. Sriracha
1 T. Worcestershire
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rice steamer, add rice, carrots, peas, water, and coconut milk.  Stir to mix.  Cover and steam for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together remaining ingredients and shake or stir to coat.  Let marinate while the rice mixture is cooking.  When the rice is done, add the shrimp mixture to a skillet over medium-high heat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the shrimp is done.

Fluff the rice, then divide between four bowls, then divide the shrimp, placing it on top of the rice.  Serve extra Sriracha on the side.

Estimated calories:  360 cal/serving

Print it: Sriracha Shrimp and Steamed Coconut Rice

Notes:

  • If you don’t have Texmati rice, Basmati or any other long grain white rice would be a good substitute.
  • I used cooked, frozen shrimp because that is what I had on hand.  Fresh would be better.

Honey Baked Chicken Tenders

19 Apr

When it comes to meat, there are very few options that Sophie is interested in eating.  Given a choice, she would eat primarily salami, pepperoni, sausage, summer sausage, and chicken nuggets.  All delicious in moderation, but not the healthiest choices on the block.  So when I suggested that we could make our own chicken nuggets, she said that I was sort of missing the point.  And while I was probably missing her point, my point was this – there has to be an option that would be both healthier AND something we’d all like to eat.

And of course, there is.

These chicken tenders were super easy to make, definitely healthier, and decidedly tastier than their processed-out-of-a-bag counterparts.  Without much prep and a little time in the oven, the chicken tenders were done in no time.  Made a bit crispy from an egg/flour coating and a little sweet with the addition of honey, they were delicious.  And everyone ate them – WITHOUT COMPLAINT.

Honey Baked Chicken Tenders
Serving size: 3 oz.
Serves: 4

Olive oil cooking spray
12 oz. chicken breast, cut into 16 pieces
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. garlic salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
2 T. soy milk
1 T. honey

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Spray baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, garlic salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix together a lightly beaten egg, soy milk, and honey.   Add chicken and stir until all of the chicken is coated in the egg mixture.

Remove each piece of chicken and dredge it in the flour mixture.  Place on baking sheet so that none of the pieces touch.  Spray all of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, turning chicken every five minutes and spraying again with olive oil cooking spray.  When chicken is lightly browned and a bit crispy, remove from oven and serve.

Estimated calories:  234 cal/serving

Print it: Honey Baked Chicken Tenders

Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey

27 Mar

As far as I’m concerned, the primary purpose for grapefruit is to make juice so a person can have a Greyhound once in awhile.  Other than that, I liken its consumption with penance, especially when combined with cottage cheese.  Until this week, that is, when my mom dropped off a few and they took over the fruit bowl.  Not wanting to waste them, I decided to give them a try and in the process have discovered one of my new favorite things.

Broiled Grapefruit.  

Much like people, the bitter side of grapefruit needs to be tempered a bit with some sweetness.  Before broiling, I added a bit of sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the open side of the grapefruit which when heated, created a slightly glazed and sweet surface.  After just a few minutes under the broiler, the grapefruit was warmed, sweeter, and ready for more toppings.  I added some raw pecan halves and drizzled the whole thing with honey.  The result was a really nice combination of textures and tastes.  For around 100 calories and with only a few minutes of prep, this would be great for a light weekday breakfast, or perfect to make on the weekend for a group of guests as a hearty, healthy side.

Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey
Serving size: 1/2 grapefruit
Serves: 2

1 grapefruit, halved
1/2  t. sugar
Dash cinnamon
12 raw pecan halves
2 t. honey

Cut the grapefruit in half and remove any visible seeds.  Run a knife along the sections to loosen the grapefruit from the membranes, and between the grapefruit and the peel.  Sprinkle the flesh side of the grapefruit with 1/4 t. sugar and a dash of cinnamon.   Place both halves, flesh side up in a pan.

Place the grapefruit under the broiler.  I like to start on low for 2-3 minutes then turn it up to high until the edges just start to turn brown, leaving the oven door open a crack so I can keep a watchful eye on the grapefruit.  When it starts to brown, remove the grapefruit, add a few pecan halves to the top and drizzle with honey.

Serve in bowls for easier scooping.

Estimated calories:  105 cal/serving

Print it: Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey

Creamy Chicken Soup

8 Mar

Earlier this week I spotted a recipe for Creamy Roast Chicken and Rice Soup at Fuss Free Cooking that sounded really good.  I LOVE creamy soups, but rarely make them because they can be a bit heavy and sometimes lose a little in the non-dairy translation.  This recipe, however, was ALREADY non-dairy and did not require any substitutes.  The trick here is genius – instead of adding cream or non-dairy cream, cook rice until it is mushy and then puree it to make a creamy base.  I loved the idea, but have to admit, that I doubted that it would work OR taste good.  I WAS WRONG.

I modified the recipe from the original to make a stock, added the meat that was used in the process, threw in some vegetables, and finished the soup in the crockpot.  As far as crockpot recipes go, this is a speedy one, which makes it perfect for those days when you have a little time but not the entire day for your meal to cook on the countertop.  This soup is very tasty, and as an added bonus, SUPER low in calories.  This recipe makes approximately 9 c. of soup, and each serving is only 157 calories.  Compare that to a regular cream of chicken soup which comes in around 240 cal for the same amount, and what you have is not only a tasty meal but a calorie saving jackpot.

This recipe was popular at our house, and I’d highly recommend it.

Creamy Chicken Soup
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 9

1 T. olive oil
3 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1/2 c. carrots
1 stalk celery, leaves included, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, quartered
7 c. water
1 c. uncooked jasmati rice
1-1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. frozen corn
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes, or until browned. Add carrots, celery, and onion and stir, then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly. Strain stock and discard solids. When chicken has cooled, remove meat and chop into bite sized bits, discard skin and bones.

Add stock and uncooked rice to a crockpot. Cook on low for one hour. When rice is cooked, puree with a hand blender. Add reserved chicken, carrots, and corn. Cook for at least one hour on low, adding water if it gets too thick.

Estimated calories: 157 cal/serving

Print it: Creamy Chicken Soup

Seven Layer Salad

16 Feb

A few weeks ago my friend Erin mentioned that she’d made a Seven Layer Salad, and much like a song you can’t get out of your head, this salad has sat in my mind just begging to be made.  In the 80’s, it seemed like you couldn’t go to a special occasion or a potluck without having a Seven Layer Salad on the table.  It has been YEARS since I had one and couldn’t exactly remember what each of the seven layers were.  After asking a few people, it turns out that there are lots of variations on this salad, each one OFFICIALLY THE BEST.  I’ll take every single person’s word for it.

The basic premise is this – pick six of your favorite ingredients, layer them in a tall-sided glass bowl so that they look beautiful, and top it off with a dressing made of sour cream and mayo.  In deciding what to put in this version, I chose ingredients that I knew would be well received by my family.  Of course, if you are not rigid like me, you could definitely add more than seven layers.  And considering some of the delicious ingredients people have used in their OFFICIALLY THE BEST salads, I would not blame you for making a nine or ten layer salad.  When you’re creating your own layered salad, consider the following ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Mixed greens
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Bacon
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cucumbers
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peas
  • Cheese (non-dairy, cheddar, feta, really any cheese because you cannot go wrong with a cheese layer)

For this version, I have also made it non-dairy by substituting non-dairy cheese and non-dairy sour cream (feel free to use dairy versions if you prefer).  The thing about non-dairy products is that sometimes they just don’t taste that great, and since the non-dairy sour cream is such an important part of the dressing, I decided to add in some flavor by using part of packet of Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix.  This dip mix does not contain any dairy, and really adds a lot of good flavor to the dressing.  Add as much or as little as you’d like, I found that about 1/4 of the packet seemed right to me.  The rest of it went into some more sour cream and we ate it with veggies this week.  I would also recommend making the dressing ahead of time so that it has more time to soak up the flavors of the dip mix.  The non-dairy sour cream really needs it, but if you’re using regular sour cream, you may not need that extra time.

This is a big, and hearty salad, but the calories are not super high per serving.  We ate loads of it at dinner, and we’ve been having the leftovers all week.  I was surprised at how well it holds up the next day.  I was also surprised at how good it was for breakfast.

See all that condensation on the inside of the bowl?  That happened because I made it ahead of time and it started to fog up a bit when I set it on the counter to serve it.  After just a few minutes at room temperature, the condensation was all gone.  Of course, so was about half of the salad.

Seven Layer Salad
Serving size: 1 scoop
Serves: 12

SALAD
10 oz. bag romaine
6 eggs, -, cooled, peeled, and sliced
4 strips bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1-1/2 c. shredded non-dairy cheese
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

DRESSING
1/2 c. non-dairy sour cream
1/2 c. reduced-fat mayo with olive oil
1/4 packet Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix
1 T. sugar

 

In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight to let the flavors come together.

In large bowl (a flat-sided trifle bowl works great, but any deep bowl will do), layer the salad ingredients.  Press the layers to the outside of the bowl first, then spread evenly any remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle salt and pepper every layer or two.  After all of the salad ingredients have been added, drop spoonfuls of the dressing around the top. Gently spread to the edges, trying not to disturb the cheese layer.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Estimated calories:  230 cal/serving

Print it: Non-Dairy Seven Layer Salad

Venison Whiskey Stew

18 Jan

Lately, when it comes to dinner, I have faced two problems:
1. I don’t know what I feel like eating.
2. I’ve had a recent string of failed recipes.  The kind of failures that no one wants to eat, including me.

So yesterday, when it occurred to me that what I could really go for was some hearty stew, I was so happy.  Problem #1 solved.  Once that was behind me, I practically crossed my fingers the whole time I made dinner, hoping that Problem #2 wouldn’t show up along the way.

I am happy to report (super, super happy) that this recipe was delicious.  So good, that I was glad to have it again for lunch.  Looked forward to it, even.

From start to finish, this stew is pretty quick to make.  After some prep work, it comes together quickly and finishes in around 15 minutes.  Whiskey, tomato paste, and beef broth form a flavorful base for this thick, chunky stew.  It is very hearty, but still came in at 200 calories per serving.  For me that means I can add a little crusty bread and some fruit to the meal which makes it much more satisfying without too many calories.  I loved the stew, and will definitely make it again.

Regarding the whiskey:
1. I used 2GINGERS Irish Whiskey.  It was delicious, but you could substitute your favorite whiskey (and I know you have one).
2. If you don’t have any whiskey, you could substitute  bourbon, brandy, red wine, or dark beer.  Each one would add a lot of flavor to this stew.
3. If you would like to make it alcohol-free, it would lose some of the flavor that the whiskey brings, but would still make a mighty tasty stew. If you omit the alcohol altogether, add an extra 1/2 c. of beef broth and an extra tablespoon of tomato paste.

Venison Whiskey Stew
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 6

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. venison cutlets, cut into 1” pieces
2 c. carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 c. onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
2 T. flour
1/2 c. whiskey
3 c. beef broth
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add venison and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove venison and set aside.  Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes.  Add flour, stir until well combined and cook for about a minute.  Add whiskey and stir to combine, it should start to thicken and bubble.  Add beef broth and tomato paste, stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Stir in fresh parsley and serve.

Estimated calories:  200 cal/serving

Print it: Venison Whiskey Stew

Notes:
– If you don’t have any venison, or don’t care for wild game, sirloin would be a great substitution.  For this recipe, subbing an equal amount of sirloin would add about 70 cal/serving
– Don’t like mushrooms?  You must be my brother Ryan!  Whether you are Ryan or someone else, you can leave out the mushrooms but you may want to add something else in its place like diced potato, sweet potato, or red bell pepper would be my top choices.
– This recipe would be a good contender for the crockpot.  However, to build up the base of the soup, it really needs to start out in the pan.  The last 15-20 minutes of cooking could be replaced with 2-4 hours in the crockpot on low.  The advantage here is that you could start the whole thing out earlier in the day, and serve it up when you are ready.

Spring Rolls

9 Jan

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  For me, they are usually a long list of things I think I ought to do instead of the things that actually get done.  The notable exception to this is the year I resolved to pair up socks before putting them away.  Totally manageable, and not so hard to achieve and repeat.  So this year, instead of making a resolution that is hard to set into regular action, I’ve decided to give myself a challenge.  Introducing, the 2012 10 Food Challenge.  My goal is to make my way through the following two lists.

Six Items I’ve Never Made Before:
1. Beef Wellington
2. Spring Rolls
3. Non-Dairy Banana Cream Pie
4. Sunday Gravy
5. Spatchcocked Chicken
6. Croquembouche

Four Items, A Search for the Ultimate Recipe:
1. Hamburger Buns
2. Pizza Crust
3. Pizza Sauce
4. Italian Sausage, for Pizza

I’m worried about some of these more than others.  To start, I decided to tackle Spring Rolls – manageable ingredient list, not a ton of prep, and something my family will eat.

Turns out, Spring Rolls are not that hard at all.  Most of the ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble.  To me, this is a big deal.  Most nights the time between when I start cooking and when we eat is pretty short, so if I can have most of the work done ahead of time it makes dinner much less stressful.  One other thing I really liked about this recipe is that since each one is assembled separately, it makes customizing the spring rolls to the palate of the eater super easy.  For example, Sophie hates shrimp and cilantro and carrots and cucumbers, so I made hers without those items.  Martin hates rice wrappers, so he ate chicken and cucumbers while his Party Pizza was baking in the oven.  Please note: Party Pizzas are not in the ingredient list for this recipe, but it never hurts to have one on hand.

The thing that kept me from making Spring Rolls for so long is the rice wrapper.  How would I know when it was soft enough?  Could I assemble them without tearing the wrapper?  Would they hold together?  Like many things in life, I worried about this far too much.  Rice wrappers come in a package that looks a bit like a frisbee, and a quick soak in hot water is all it takes to turn the disk into a pliable wrapper.  For me, this transformation took about 15 seconds (longer as the water cooled).  I placed the soft wrapper on a flat surface, lined the ingredients in the middle, and folded over the top and bottom (see above).  Then, folded one long end completely over the ingredients in the middle and tucked and rolled until I reached the end.  I had a one roll learning curve to assembly confidence.

There are lots of variations on Spring Rolls, and this one is most like the Vietnamese variety.  However, I added more vegetables, and adjusted the sauce to be more like the one served at a nearby Thai restaurant.  So while not totally traditional, we thought they were delicious.  I think it is a very flexible recipe – feel free to add other vegetables, use beef or pork, or omit meat for a vegetarian roll.  As long as the ingredients are cut into strips and are cooked, it should work just fine.

Spring Rolls
Serving size: 1
Serves: 8

SAUCE
1/4 c. water
2 T. lime juice
2 T. sugar
1 T. fish sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. sriracha
1/4 t. chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

SPRING ROLLS
4 oz. chicken breast
1 oz. bean vermicelli
8 medium-sized shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, halved lengthwise
2 c. lettuce, shredded
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 c. carrots, julienned
1/4 c. cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 rice wrappers

Place all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped and everything is incorporated.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Cook chicken breast in a pot of boiling water for 5-7 minutes until fully cooked.  Remove and shred or cut into thin strips, set aside.  In still boiling water, add bean vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove and drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.

Prep all other ingredients and set up like an assembly line.

Add very hot tap water to a large bowl.  Take one rice wrapper and place in the hot water and move it around so that it is fully coated.  The rice wrapper will begin to soften.  Remove the rice wrapper once it is just soft enough (a bit stretchy, flexible, but just before it starts to tear).  When the water is hot, this takes about 15 seconds, and a bit longer as the water cools.  Place the wrapper on a flat surface and add little bits of ingredients to the center.  Fold down the top and bottom sides, then fold over one remaining side to completely cover the ingredients.  Tucking as you go, roll as tightly as you can without tearing the wrapper.

Repeat with remaining rolls.  Serve with a side of sauce.

Estimated calories:  106 cal/serving

Print it: Spring Rolls

Notes:
– Feeling nervous about the assembly part?  I was.  Until I watched this, then I felt ready to give it a go.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw-7pYq7wSc

Pump Up the Jam Muffins

13 Dec

I have a pretty extensive collection of cookbooks from Minnesota churches and nursing homes.  These are the cookbooks I turn to whenever I need a recipe for the simple comfort foods I remember from my childhood.  On the whole, these cookbooks contain a whole lot of the following:
– Hot dishes
– Bars
– Pickles
– Bread (as in zucchini or banana)
– Salads that contain no greens but are likely to have either cool whip or mayo

Most of the recipes can be made out of pantry staples with a focus on easy prep, used in a time when low-calorie and reduced-fat were not part of the vernacular.  A bonus to these cookbooks is that they are usually loaded with bits of advice for the homemaker, like this gem:

In flipping through the Luther Memorial Memorable Meals cookbook (pub. 1982), I found a recipe for Strawberry Jam Bread submitted by Cindy Mack.  I decided to give it a try.  As usual, I made a few changes – less fat, less sugar, turned the bread into muffins, and added diced apples to boost moisture and give it some texture.  I’m not sure if Cindy would approve of the changes, but I like to think that she would be glad I used her idea to feed my family.

Also recommended – play Pump Up the Jam by Technotronic while eating these muffins.  It really sped up breakfast.  Hard to say if this was due to the influence of the peppy beat, or in an attempt to get out of the kitchen quickly to avoid watching me move and groove.

Pump Up the Jam Muffins
Serving size: 1 muffin
Serves: 12

1 apple, peeled and diced
2 T. non-dairy margarine
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. non-dairy sour cream
1/4 c. strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place liners in muffin pan and coat with cooking spray.

Place apple bits into a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Set aside until cool, or rinse with cold water and drain.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together margarine and sugar.  Add egg and vanilla, mix until combined.  Add flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda, and mix until well combined.  Add reserved apple bits, non-dairy sour cream, and jam.  Mix until blended.  Spoon into paper liners, dividing evenly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden or a toothpick comes out clean.  Place on rack to cool.

Estimated calories:  125 cal/serving

Print it: Pump Up the Jam Muffins

Notes:
– Feel free to substitute dairy ingredients for the non-dairy counterparts used here – butter or margarine and regular sour cream would be fine in this recipe
– Any sort of jam or jelly would work in this recipe, use whatever you have or like
– These muffins are a bit on the pale side.  I don’t really care, but the original recipe countered this part by adding red food coloring.  I skipped it, but experiment with it if you’d like.

Venison Barley Mushroom Soup

5 Dec

I am highly suggestible when it comes to food.  Last week my friend Nicole mentioned that she was making Beef Barley soup, and just like that, I was trying to figure out how I could get some.  She looks too far away for me to beg for her to bring me a bowl, so my next best option was to make some myself.

One of the things that sets a good barley soup apart from a mediocre one is the silkiness of the broth.  A watery soup base that lacks flavor and texture just makes a disappointing soup.  I’ve found that this happens a lot when I try to lighten up soups.  By taking out much of what makes a soup taste rich and flavorful (namely the fat), the soup becomes boring.  Really, really boring.  I’ve been experimenting with ways to boost the texture of soups without adding a ton of fat, and have found two super star ingredients:  1) bacon (duh), 2) gelatin.

If you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian soup, this won’t help you at all.  But for the rest of us, these two gems can add a lot texture without a big impact on the overall calories in the soup.  In this soup, I decided to use gelatin since I planned to have a lot going on in the soup already.  The gelatin’s job in this recipe is twofold: thickens up the soup and adds a silky texture.  Sounds weird, but really makes a difference.

Venison Barley Mushroom Soup
Serving size: Approx 1 c.
Serves: About 12

1 c. boiling water
1 packet gelatin
1/3 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb. venison, cubed
3 T. flour
1 t. Cooper’s spice (or pepper spice blend)
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. carrots, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
6 c. chicken stock (or beef)
1/2 lb. frozen pearl onions
1 c. pearl barley
Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a small bowl, mix together boiling water and gelatin until dissolved.  Pour over dried mushrooms and set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove mushrooms and chop finely, reserving liquid.

In a bowl, mix together venison, flour and pepper spice blend until the meat is well coated.

In a large pot, heat 2 T. oil over medium high heat.  Add venison and cook until lightly browned.  Remove meat and set aside.  Add remaining oil and add onion, garlic and carrots; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add chopped porcini and venison to the pot and stir.  Add reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil.  Scrape up browned bits from the bottom.  Add stock in two or three batches, scraping up all the bits from the bottom and bringing back to a boil between each.  When the bottom is scraped clean and the liquid is boiling, add pearl onions and pearl barley.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until barley is tender (should be kind of al dente). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Estimated calories:  166 cal/serving

Print it: Venison Barley Mushroom Soup

Notes:
– If you don’t have venison, lean beef would be an excellent substitute in this soup
– You could also make it without meat altogether.  In that case, I’d suggest omitting 1 T. olive oil, and adding the flour/spice mixture to the vegetables after they’ve cooked a bit, but before you start adding the liquid.
– I made this ahead and reheated it, and it thickened up quite a bit.  In some cases, you may want to add a little broth when reheating.