Romanian Potato Soup (Ciorba de cartofi)

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It’s 90 degrees today. My kids asked me to make them their favorite soup for lunch: this authentic Romanian potato and vegetable soup. This recipe has been In the family for years, but my mom’s way (the way I’m sharing with you all) is by far the best I’ve ever had. I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom. I’m totally honest here! She is known ’round these parts for her delicious Romanian soups and savory dishes. And now I am sharing it with everyone else!

Romanian Potato Soup
Serves ~8

Ingredients:
• 3 tbs oil, divided
3 celery stalks, diced
• 1 large onion, diced
• Smoked bacon, pork belly or “slanina”, chopped small
• 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used 5 mini sweet yellow, red and orange peppers)
• 3 carrots, chopped
• 2 green onion, chopped
• 4-5 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
• 4 oz tomato sauce
• 2 tbs flour
• 1 tbs vinegar or lemon juice
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 1 tbs paprika
• Salt, pepper, to taste
• 1 tbs garlic powder
• 1 bay leaf
• fresh dill, to taste
• vegeta seasoning (optional)
• ham hock (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:
Heat a large pot and render down your bacon until pretty much crispy. Mine was smoked and didn’t render off much fat, so I added 1 tbs oil and then all the vegetables. Sautee until onions are translucent.
Add paprika and mix well, then add the rest of your seasonings.
Fill pot with water to the top, keeping in mind that a lot of it will evaporate. This is going to make your “broth.”
Add bay leaf and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for about 30-40 minutes. If you have a ham hock on hand and want to use it, this will flavor the broth even more.
When vegetables have softened, add in your potatoes. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so, until potatoes are tender.
In the mean time, in a sauce pan, heat remaining 2 tbs of oil with flour. This will make a roux. Let it get brown, this will happen fast, so make sure you mix continuously so it doesn’t burn. If it burns, you must start all over with the roux.
When browned, add tomato sauce while mixing so that it doesn’t splatter. Let it thicken for about a minute, then add a few ladles of your simmering soup broth. Let this boil for about 5 minutes until thickened.
Then, CAREFULLY, pour or ladle this mixture back into your soup pot. Bring to boil for about 5 minutes, until thick.
When thickened, remove pot from burner and slowly stir in your beaten egg until it starts to curdle.
Finish off by adding in the vinegar and dill. Adjust seasoning and serve.

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Healthy Poppy Seed Dressing

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I call this a “dressing,” when in fact it can be a marinade and dip as well!  It’s tangy, sweet and flavorful.
Marinade cubes of chicken breast in this, then skewer and grill them to make chicken kebabs! Or you can pour this over chilled pasta to make pasta salad. The possibilities are endless.

Healthy Poppy Seed Dressing
Yield about 5-6 oz of dressing

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
3 tbs mayonnaise
3 tbs honey
2 to poppy seeds
3 tbs apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Milk or buttermilk, for thinning (optional)
1 small sweet red pepper, diced (optional)
1 small strawberry, diced (optional)

Mix all ingredients together well. If texture is too thick, thin out with milk or buttermilk until you reach your desired consistency.
Chill for at least one hour.
May be stored in refrigerator for up to one week in airtight container.

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Watermelon Fruit Punch

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This is very refreshing, sweet and sugar free!
My kids are really into making their own Popsicles. They love to press the button (with my supervision) on our Ninja Blender. Then they love to pour the liquid into popsicle molds.
Well, great news! This drink can also be turned into refreshing Popsicles!  Follow the same instructions. Only difference is that you pour into a popsicle mold and freeze for a few hours. That’s all!

Watermelon Fruit Punch
Serves about 6

Ingredients:
1/2 large seedless watermlon, cubed (about 6 cups)
2 pouches Crystal Light Pure (fruit punch flavor)
1 1/2 c strawberries
1/3 c coconut water (more if needed)

In a blender, add all ingredients and blend until there aren’t any chunks left. Pour into pitcher.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, stir contents well with wooden spoon and immediately pour into cups. Garnish with some fresh mint or lime wedge.
May be stored in refrigerator for up to two days.

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Split Pea Soup

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My kids both absolutely love peas. They like all green foods. Start young, ladies and gents, and I promise they will retain those habits for a long time!

They weren’t feeling too well a few days ago, so I made them a split pea soup. It was creamy, delicate, comforting, healthy and delicious. The tasty broth was made from simmering the vegetables and ham hock low and slow. Here’s how I made it:

 

Split Pea Soup

Yield: About 8 servings of 1 1/2 cups

 

Ingredients:

1 lb dry split peas, rinsed and picked

1 or 2 ham hocks (your preference)

4 carrots, grated

4 green onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup uncooked sushi rice

1 tbs oil ( I used coconut oil)

1 bullion cube (I used chicken flavor)

1 tbs Vegeta seasoning (or substitute Mrs Dash)

1 tbs paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Dill, fresh and chopped, to taste

 

Directions:

In a large pot, heat oil and add all vegetables and seasonings except the dill and bullion cube. Saute on medium heat for about two minutes, add split peas and ham hock. Fill the pot with water. For me it was about 10 cups. Then, add the bullion cube and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to simmer with lid partially covering the top of the pot. Cook until the peas are tender, about an hour. Then carefully remove the ham hock and take off any meat that might be left on the bone. Chop it and add it back to the pot. Taste for seasonings and add the dill. Serve with my white bread or a side of sour cream.

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Caramel Sauce -THAT DOESN’T HARDEN

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You know how you sometimes want to add caramel to something to sweet it up, and then suddenly after you pour it on, it hardens up like a rock? Unpleasant and unacceptable in my book. I came up with a sauce that will not harden up. Not even after refrigeration. It stays soft and gooey. And in my opinion, it tastes its best warm.

Use this caramel sauce for ice cream topping, cheesecake topping, pretzel dipping, even coffee drizzling. Whatever your heart desires, this caramel sauce will be a winner in all of your baked goods. And if you don’t want to use it all up at once, make a batch and use it as needed throughout the course of the week!

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Spaghetti Squash With Chicken Marinara

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Spaghetti. Squash. Spaghetti squash. I know what some might be thinking. There is no way those delicious, stringy little membranes inside the squash can replace pasta. Well, you’re right. It can’t “replace” carb-a-licious pasta. But it comes pretty darn close.
I have a way with carbs. Any type, any form, just GIVE ME THE CARBS! But on some days, I want need fewer carbs to meet my nutrition macros. Some days, I just want something lighter but equally delicious.

Spaghetti squash is delicious. The stringy texture inside the squash is excellent. The color is beautiful. It cooks relatively faster than most other squash. What is there NOT to like about spaghetti squash? If you’ve never tried it, here is an easy recipe to follow, that will convert you! AND it’s husband approved. I typically will never post a recipe unless my husband loves it. Which is almost always. Lucky me! :) Continue reading

Strawberry Shortcake Cups

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Doesn’t the phrase “Strawberry Shortcake” just put a big smile on your face? It sure puts one on my face! Memories of my childhood in California come to mind when I think about this. Warm summers, no worries, just me and a few of those strawberry cake rolls they used to make back then. I would spend hours pondering over my takes on how they got the filling inside the roll. I was a kid. I had time to ponder. I would eat them slowly, layer by layer, cake, then icing, then filling.

Well, now I’m in my grown up years, I don’t have as much pondering time. Nor time to make the strawberry rolls each time I want a quick snack to curb my sweet tooth craving. So I decided I would take the components apart and turn this dessert into something fast and satisfying. These would be perfect for a party!

And would you believe that this Strawberry Shortcake is# Weight Watchers friendly? Or that the strawberry reduction sauce is Paleo friendly? Well, it is! Continue reading