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I found this recipe online, allrecipes.com to be exact. This is ineffably one of the most delicious things I've made - especially for fall weather. Get your chopping knife, soup pot and can opener ready. Make sure your freezer is clear so you can freeze half and have delicious easy lunch when it really starts getting chilly. I never add any extra salt because the canned goods have plenty. I purchase one can of tomatoes that have green chiles. I always add a little cilantro to mine, too, because I love it. Trust me, it's easy once you have everything chopped. Here's my ever-so-slightly modified recipe for The Best Vegetarian Chili in the World! (Did I mention it's healthy?)

You'll need: 
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 med. red onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped - leave seeds if you want spice!
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (12 oz) packages vegetarian burger crumbles
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/4 c. chili powder
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn

1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. 
2. Stir in onion, drop in bay leaves, cumin and oregano. 
3. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then mix in celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic. 
4. When vegetables are heated, mix in veggie burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.
5. Mix in tomatoes and cilantro. No need to drain, unless you like a thicker chili. 
6. Season chili with chili powder & pepper. Stir in kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. 
7. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. 
8. Stir in corn, and continue cooking 5 minutes before serving.
9. For non-vegetarians, top with low-fat sour cream and reduced fat cheddar cheese. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Tip: Spoon leftover chili into individual containers & freeze them. Put a container in the fridge the night before to have a super delicious meal thawed by lunchtime! I also bring a small container with cheese & sour cream too! 


 
 
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Normally I'd actually cook the chicken and attempt making the pesto, but tonight I just didn't feel like it.

I discovered Flatout flatbread today. They're delightfully thin and are only 90 calories each. A fabulously perfect size for a personal pizza.
You'll need:
1 Flatout flatbread in Light Italian
1/4 c. Pesto (optional)
4 oz. Grilled chicken breast
6 mini fresh mozzarella pearls
10 grape tomatoes
Basil leaves to taste
Pam Olive Oil Non-stick spray (not pictured)
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Lightly spray both sides of Flatout flatbread with Pam.
3. On a cookie sheet, bake sprayed flatbread for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, dice tomatoes, discarding the pulp.
5. Slice chicken into small cubes
6. Make a chiffonade of basil.
7. Remove flatbread from oven.
8. Spread pesto on flatbread with a spoon.
9. Arrange chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil evenly.
10. Add cracked black pepper if you wish.
11. Bake for about 7 minutes or until the mozzarella is melty!

Serve on a big fancy plate and enjoy your Lazy Night!

 
 
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It's no mystery I like Italian-esque food.

I adore pasta, but sometimes it's just too much at the end of the day. I'm always trying to get in more veggies, you know, because More Matters and all.

Zucchini is actually a wonderful substitute for the carb-backed noodles.

You'll need:
3 straight Zucchinis (I used two green and one yellow)
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 c. Baby Bellas mushrooms
2 Roma tomatoes
1/4 c. red wine
1/2 T. Minced Garlic (I use jarred when cooking for myself)
a few basil leaves (of course!)
1/2 c. Prego Mushroom tomato sauce (I cheat a little)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Shredded Asiago cheese for garnish
1. Measure EVOO in a sauté pan and put on low heat.
2. Slice tomatoes, basil and mushrooms to sauce-sized pieces and place in a saucepan. 
3. Add red wine, garlic and Prego to saucepan and then turn to Low-medium heat.
4. With a vegetable peeler, start making "noodles" by peeling zucchini. Yes, you can use the skin. Peel zucchini until you almost get to the seeds. Discard core.
5. Stir sauce in between peeling zucchini.
6. When all zucchini is peeled, turn heat in sauté pan to Medium.
7. Add zucchini "noodles" to oil and stir often. Zucchini will only take 2-3 minutes. It's done when it begins to turn translucent.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste, then strain excess water from zucchini.
9. Place in the middle of a pretty plate, top with your "homemade" sauce and Asiago cheese.

 
 
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The smell of basil makes me hungry for tomato + mozzarella. With basil of course.

Try this quick & easy lil' recipe for a salad that is a good way to change up your greens grazin' repertoire. I add spinach to give this plate a little bit more substance. Make a chiffonade to make it a little fancy - because you know how much I like my food all fancy-like.

All ingredient amounts are to taste - or whatever makes your plate full of the colors of the Italian flag. Start with a little of everything, and add more if you need to! Use the most fresh ingredients you can find.

You'll need:
Fresh Basil (you can get your own basil plant at your local grocery store)
Fresh Tomatoes (your favorite kind - mix and match is scrumptious!)
Fresh Mozzarella (shreds will not be good with this recipe)
Kosher salt
Fresh-cracked black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar
Baby Spinach (optional)

From here it's easy.
1. If you're using spinach, make this the base of your salad. You want to see all the pretty tomatoes, basil & mozz when you're done!
2. Slice up your tomatoes, place over spinach.
3. Strain your mozzarella and scatter all over.
4. Use a pinch of Kosher salt, a few turns of a pepper grinder.
5. To make a chiffonade: stack up the basil leaves, roll 'em really tight and slice into thin strips. (Click either word "chiffonade" to get a better idea.)
6. Fluff up your pretty basil and adorn your nearly-finished caprese!
7. Drizzle EVOO (not too much!) and Balsamic vinegar (careful!)

Ta da! Beautiful. Delicious.
Grab a glass of Pinot Grigio and sit on your patio to enjoy your creation.

P.S. If you must make this in advance for your fab dinner party, don't make the chiffonade until you are ready to serve it!

 
 
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Sometimes you need something a little out-of-the ordinary. Monday night was one of those nights. I needed comfort food. Really delicious comfort food. One of my favorite comfort food meals is none other than grilled cheese and tomato soup. But plain just wouldn't do. I needed a little extra pizazz!  Enter herbs, avocado, tomato, garlic, chicken and "fancy" cheese (okay, fancier than American).
Literally everything in this recipe can be substituted for something that you like better.

You will need:
2 slices Oat Nut Brownberry bread
3 slices of your favorite cheese (I used Colby and Muenster, pre-sliced because I was lazy that night)
A few tomato slices, deseeded.
1/4 Avocado, sliced thin
6 slices Oscar Meyer Deli BBQ seasoned chicken
Salt & Pepper

Campbell's Tomato Soup
Garlic Powder
Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Pepper
Optional: Milk instead of water for soup




1. Start your soup (read directions on can) in a small saucepan on Med-Low heat.
2. Add desired amount of seasoning: garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, etc.
3. Butter one side of "bottom" piece of bread. Place it butter-side-down in a small omelet pan (don't start heat yet).
4. Build your sammich:
         2 pieces of cheese, tomatoes, avocado, a little S&P, chicken slices and one more piece of cheese.
5. Butter another piece of bread and place on sandwich butter-side-up.
6. Stir soup! (And continue with stirs in between checking your sandwich)
7. Grill sandwich on Medium heat. Be patient, you don't want this beauty to burn!
8. Carefully flip to check for browning. I had to use TWO spatulas so it wouldn't fall apart. Be careful!
9. Once cheese is melty and bread is browned, cut in half and make it look even more fancy by stacking it.
10. Pour yourself a cup of your fancy tomato soup. (It's fancy because you put seasoning in it.)
11. Voila! Beautiful AND delicious fancy grilled cheese & tomato soup.

Consider yourself comforted. And fancy.

 
 
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This is one of my most favorite dishes to make. I always get "oohs and aaahs" over it. And besides all the chopping, it's incredibly simple, and definitely can be tweaked to your liking (or dis-liking) of ingredients.

You will need:
1 box Whole Wheat pasta
1 lb uncooked shrimp (I like to get mine from the seafood dept the day of)
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you're me!)
1 large shallot, chopped (they're by the onions, if you can't find 'em, you can use a small red onion)
1/4c. dry white wine (I like using Sauv. Blanc for this recipe)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
Bag of asparagus (in the fresh food isle, steam-in-the bag kind!!!)
1/2 pint Grape or Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Zest of 1 lemon (I normally just use a cheese grater lightly)
dash salt & pepper to taste

1. Chop everything first! Everything goes really fast after that...
2. Start your pasta water. (Add pasta when water boils, of course)
Meanwhile:
3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat.
4. Heat bag o' asparagus in the microwave for 2 minutes (the bag will say 3 min.)
5. Once butter is melted, add lemon zest, chopped shallot and garlic and heat through. (a couple minutes)
6. Add shrimp and white wine. Sprinkle salt and cracked pepper to taste.
7. Get asparagus out, cut into 1" pieces. Throw away woody ends, if necessary.
8. Shrimp are ready when they turn pink. (*Don't overcook! If shrimp start looking more like an "O" than a "C" they are starting to overcook).
9. Add tomatoes and asparagus. Heat through.
10. Your pasta should be done, or close to done!
11. Add everything together.
12. Serve & Enjoy! :)
(Let me know if you have any questions!) I tend to actually not write down the recipes.

Really, the real trick here is using ingredients that YOU like to eat. Cooking is like an experiment! A yummy, yummy experiment.