Vegetable Rice Soup

This recipe came from the Patient Guide for the Detox program I’m doing. I cut it in half, sort of. Originally it was supposed to make 8 servings. My version was 4 hearty servings because I used the original amount of rice but cut the broth and tomatoes in half.


1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh thyme and rosemary or herbs of your choice, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup brown rice
handful of fresh green beans, cut in thirds


In a large stockpot, saute onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh pepper as the veggies cook. Add stock, tomatoes, rice and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer, covered, for approximately 45 minutes. Add green beans and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove bay leaf before serving


The original recipe in the booklet was for minestrone. Use 2 cans of tomatoes (28oz total) and 6 cups of stock/water. With the green beans, add 1 16oz can of kidney beans. Since the second week of the program doesn’t allow kidney beans, they suggest omitting them and subbing other vegetables like spinach, cabbage, etc. I didn’t have any of that but I bet it would be good with bok choy.

I made this one night after dinner and portioned it out in to individual containers for easy lunches the rest of the week.

There is a lot of flexibility here and the prep work was really fast. I will definitely be making more of this soup, even when I’m not on a detox program. Any maybe next time I’ll remember to take a picture before I eat it all up!

I feel like Chicken tonight

Remember those annoying commercials from the 90s; people singing the song and flapping their arms like chickens?
You don’t remember?

How about now?

Well, the product was not a big hit in the US however its still quite popular in Australia and the UK. And apparently you can get Beef Tonight and Sausage Tonight over in England. I don’t really remember it that well, in terms of ingredients but I seem to recall that it was a lot like pasta sauce that you poured over chicken instead of well, pasta. For reasons that will become apparent, I thought of this stuff while making dinner on Moday night.


2 chicken breast halves, pounded thin
1 small onion, chopped
mushrooms, about 6 crimini sliced
dried morels, rehydrated in hot water for 10 minutes, save the water**
Prego pasta sauce, basil & tomato, about 1/3 of a jar
balsamic vinegar
Tuscan Seasoning Blend
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
pasta- rice spaghetti


I used the meat mallet to pound the chicken thin after removiing the tenders. I’ve decided to do this more often since it cooks a lot faster and evenly. Heavily season both sides of the chicken breasts with the Tuscan Seasoning. This stuff, from Spice Islands comes in an adjustable grinder. It has garlic, salt, red bell pepper, orange peel and some Italian-type spices so you could make your own or a reasonable approximation. I used it on medium grind and made sure I covered both sides completely.

Start a pot of water to boil for the spaghetti. I used rice spaghetti tonight due to my dietary restrictions. I had no idea what to expect but I didn’t tell Chris until he was eating it. We were both pleased with the pasta. You really could not tell the difference between it and regular wheat pasta. I have used low-carb pasta before and it was an awful sticky mess and tasted not good.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a pan (preferablly not a non-stick one). Place your chicken breasts in the pan and don’t touch them! After 3-5 minutes, when you try to flip the chicken, it will lift off the pan easily. If its still stuck, its not ready and leave it be for 30 more seconds. Cook on the other side for an additional 3-5 minutes (same test applies). Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm.

Add 1 chopped garlic clove to the pan and let cook about 30 seconds. Then pour in just enough of the reserved water from the dried mushrooms to deglaze the pan. Turn the heat up slightly and add your mushrooms and onions. Saute for 3-4 minutes until onions turn translucent. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the pan, about 2 teaspoons worth. Let the onions and mushrooms cook down until they are softened and golden brown. Optional: Make a spot in the middle and add another chopped clove of garlic at this point- let saute for 20 seconds. Pour the pasta sauce in to the pan and stir to combine. Strip the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and add them to the pan. Depending on how sauce-y you want it, you can add more of the mushroom water to thin it out. Turn the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Cook the pasta while you are sauteing the mushrooms and onions. Depending on the variety and size of the pasta, your cooking times will vary so adjust accordingly. Plan to drain the pasta while the sauce is simmering in the other pan. Just before serving, add the pasta to the sauce so it can absorb some of the tomato flavor.

To serve, top the pasta & sauce with the chicken and garnish with cheese and fresh basil if you’ve got it.

My Chicken Tonight
My Chicken Tonight


You can use any mushrooms or mushroom combination of course. I used what was on hand. Ideally, you want equal amounts of uncooked mushrooms and onions, if not more mushrooms.

Of course, use whatever pasta sauce you prefer also. Chris likes this Prego variety because it makes a good base for all kinds of things including pizza sauce (just add some tomato paste). I like it because its organic and not full of a bunch of junk like high-fructose corn syrup. It does have sugar but even homemade pasta sauce has sugar quite often. And again, you can easily enhance it depending on the requirements of the dish.

Chicken Perfection plus some Wild Rice Mushroom “risotto”

On the one hand, its easy to cook for Chris because he likes certain things, a lot, and is always happy to have more.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the same thing over and over again. Besides, he likes to eat stuff the first day, leftovers- not so much.

I was lying on the bed after work today with a bit of headache, when he came in to ask me how I made “that dish”. You know, the one with the mushrooms and onions and cream.  Since that covers a number of dishes I’ve made lately and over the period of our relationship, I couldn’t figure out which one he meant.

Eventually, I realized he meant the Morel Risotto. Which I can’t make exactly the same as morels are no longer in season. In any event, I had also used up the short grain brown rice. And we didn’t have any cream. Nor did we have any meat besides some ground turkey and sausage for a later version of HotDish.

One semi-brief trip to Kroger later and I ended up with “the perfect chicken” that Chris wants “all the time, from now on.”


1 package, boneless skinless chicken breasts, Miller Amish is my preferred brand (at Kroger & Horrocks)
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese or more
fresh rosemary and oregano, 2-3 sprigs of each, removed leaves from stems and roughly chop
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper


Remove the tenderloins from the chicken (that little piece that nearly hangs off anyway). I usually remove the tenders, throw them in a bag in the freezer then cook up a bunch for stuff like chicken soup or stir-fry.

Trim any excess fat if necessary.  Place a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the chicken and pound away.  You can use a meat pounder/tenderizer or a heavy spatula or spoon.  Pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness.

On a shallow dish or plate, crack the two eggs and mix with a fork to break the yolk and combine.  In a ssecond shallow dish or plate, combine 1 cup bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a nice wide skillet.

Take each chicken breast and dip it in the egg. Allow the excess to drip off then dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side.

When its done right, it will look like this:

Chicken Perfection
Chicken Perfection

Keeping the chicken thin allows it cook quickly so the inside stays moist while the outside develops a nice crunchy crust.

Served tonight with a wild rice version and baby portabellas version of the Morel Risotto and green beans.  I added a little Creole Mustard to the green beans. This is not the perfect accompaniment to our chicken and rice but it was not bad.

Chris really liked this chicken as mentioned above.  There are two other critics in this house who expressed a great deal of interest in trying out my recipe.

And were mightily PO’d that nothing fell on the floor and efforts to get on the table were met with the squirt bottle defense.


Caribbean Grill Stir Fry

In a perfect example of fusion cooking, I made a Caribbean Grill- Stir Fry dinner tonight.

First, we had some turkey marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce.  It had been marinating since Sunday so it was definitely time to use it.

Second, I needed to use some of my bok choy and water spinach from the Farmer’s Market last week.

I convinced myself that this would work perfectly.  And it almost did.

To refresh, the turkey had been marinating in Caribbean Jerk sauce since Sunday. As it turns out, this is just a little too long. We’ve used this marinade before and its pretty good on grilled meats. However, like many marinades, it has acids in it to tenderize the meat. Know what happens when the acid works overtime? You end up with ceviche of a sorts.

the citric acid causes the proteins in to become denatured, which pickles or “cooks” the meat/fish without heat.

Ceviche made with shrimp is quite good- I’ve made it before. Chicken “acid-cooked” then under the broiler for 10 minutes is a little tougher to swallow- literally. Fortunately, the red bell pepper and onion slices I also put under the broiler came out quite tasty.  Isn’t this beautiful?

Perfect Grilled Onion
Perfect Grilled Onion


Now for the stir-fry part of the meal! I researched recipes using water spinach but didn’t find much beyond “stir fry with garlic.” So, that is what I did.


1 bunch water spinach, bottom of stalks removed (the thicker parts
1 head of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped, your choice
garlic & ginger, mashed together
cooking oil (peanut, canola, vegetable, olive- whatever’s handy)
sesame oil
tamari soy sauce


Heat 1-2 teaspoons of the cooking oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the garlic-ginger mash and saute about 30 seconds then add the onoin.  Continue to cook 2-3 minutes more before adding the bok choy.  Sprinkle some sesame oil over the vegetables, add more garlic and ginger if you want.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the water spinach to the pan.  Keep the leaves moving in the pan, tossing with the bok choy and onions.  When the spinach is wilted but still a nice bright green, toss with a teaspoon of soy sauce and garnish with Gomasio.


Notice no salt? Gomasio is a Japanese condiment made with salt.  I use the garlic version but you can get it plain, with seaweed added and other varietes from Eden Foods.  A quick and simple lunch I like is 1/2 an avocado, mashed and mixed with canned tuna, chopped tomatoes and Gomasio then served on crackers or rice cakes.


Caribbean Grill Stir Fry
Caribbean Grill Stir Fry


Sitting around eating some amazingly good cinnamon raisin bread from Great Harvest (the one on W. Saginaw) this morning, Chris starting ranting about how he’s wanted some Hot Dish all week and he’s going to make it right now. Hot dish? What on earth on you talking about?

He was (and probably still is) stunned that I’d never heard of this apparently ubiquitous Midwestern dish. As it turns out, he doesn’t actually know how to make it either so a short phone call to the family yielded not one but two recipes that qualify as Hot Dish.

One uses wild rice and mushrooms which I would have preferred to make but he really wanted the other, a tomato sauce and ground meat one.

So here it is, Aunt Harriet’s HotDish with some changes:


The recipe as given: My changes:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef/chuck 1.25 ground turkey, 92% lean
1/2 tub cream cheese, softened 1/2 tub cream cheese, softened
4-5 bunches scallions 2 bunches scallions
2 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup 1 18oz package Campbell’s select tomato soup with basil & garlic
1 package wide egg noodles about 1/3 package extra wide egg noodles (Yoders)
Corn Flakes Corn Flakes
Splash of Worcestershire A little more than a splash
1/2 yellow onion finely chopped, 2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
smoked parpika, oregano
parmesan cheese


The directions from Aunt Harriet were pretty easy: brown the meat, drain then season with salt and pepper plus a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix meat with the tomato soup, green onions (which should be microwaved 3 minutes first), noodles and cream cheese in a casserole dish. Microwave 6 minutes then top with corn flakes and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. There was something about mixing sliced almonds in too but I missed that part of the conversation and Chris didn’t want them anyway.

Okay, My Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook as directed. The Yoder noodles take 20 minutes so I did the rest of the work while they cooked.

Saute yellow onion and garlic over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After 5 minutes, add ground meat to the pan, cook until fully browned. Near the end of the cooking, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Next time I’ll double that. If necessary, drain the fat (not needed for 92% lean turkey).

While meat is cooking, slice green onions then microwave on high 2-3 minutes. Mix meat, green onions, tomato soup and softened cream cheese together with 1 teaspoon oregano and an 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Pour in to casserole pan, stir in drained noodles and sprinkle Worcestershire sauce over pan, maybe a tablespoon worth.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil and cover top with corn flakes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 10 more minutes. If you’d like to brown the corn flakes, you can turn the broil on briefly but watch carefully, they burn quick!

Notes & History:

Now that I’ve made this dish and Chris has been lapping it up (3 servings already), I figured I’d try to find out what a Hot Dish is or rather Hotdish.  Lo and behold, it has its own entry on Wikipedia!

Hotdish is any of a variety of casserole dishes popular in the Midwest of the United States and especially in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northern regions of Iowa.

It consists of a starch and a protein (meat and/or a vegetable) mixed together with a binding ingredient (most often canned soup or a sauce) and a topping.

Notice that Michigan is not on that list. And that Minnesota is, which is where Chris’s parents grew up. Interestingly, northern Iowa is also listed. My dad is from North Iowa so maybe he’s heard of Hotdish. We certainly had our share of casseroles while visiting grandma and all my aunts out in Iowa but I can’t recall ever hearing this term before.

Basically, its Hamburger Helper from scratch. Besides boosting the paprika a bit next time, I think I might try topping it with potato chips or sliced almonds next time. I’m not a big fan of corn flakes and their high fructose corn syrup.

Later this week, I’ll do the wild rice and mushroom one. We’ve already decided to modernize that one a bit by using fresh mushrooms instead of a can of ‘shrooms. It used to drive me crazy that my Iowa relatives relied so heavily on canned vegetables especially corn. No wonder people think the Midwest is boring: canned food, crazy jello/whipped cream “salads” and underseasoned foods cooked to death.

A couple of examples of Midwest cuisine I don’t really ‘get’:

  • Stuffing, at grandma’s house was usually called dressing. I guess because it didn’t actually get stuffed in the bird. This stuffing/dressing, made with bread cubes, had become a formless mush of soggy bread that reminded me of paste with about the same flavor profile. Where is the sage and rosemary? Or the pieces of walnut and celery? Maybe some cranberries or mushrooms thrown in?
  • Any dessert made from a jello mixed with a can of fruit and whipped cream. Or some combination of those three. Which is not to say that some of them aren’t tasty (a certain oreo cookie one comes to mind) but a funeral dinner I attended offered not one, not two but three versions of this salad dessert. Plus potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni salad- gotta love mayo!
  • Corn casserole, eaten at the height of sweet corn season. In Iowa! Land of corn and pigs! I do like corn casserole when its not overly sweet. But I still recall a July visit with the family that involved a barbecue. I suggested we get some fresh corn and boil it up to go with our burgers and chicken. And my aunts were at a loss as to why one would want fresh corn when there are 4 cans of creamed corn in the pantry. (I remember this trip so well because I made a Honey Mustard-Soy marinade for the chicken that everyone was greatly impressed by. I made it with packets of Honey Mustard from McDonald’s and Soy Sauce from a Chinese take-out. I was in 9th grade.)
  • Clam Soup made with milk, pepper and canned clams. I still give props to an ex-boyfriend of mine after he willingly and with beautifully acted gusto, shared a pot of this delicacy with my 80 year old grandmother. My mean dad sat there and watched the whole thing while graciously declining, after having been subjected to the stuff once too often I guess.

There is one foodstuff in my Iowa memory bank that may be Midwestern and may not be too healthy but really was delicious: Grandma’s biscuits. More like a roll than a biscuit, they were made for jam and honey or butter or Thanksgiving turkey leftovers or Sloppy Joes (more accurately referred to as Maid-Rites, while in Iowa). Or, probably best, fresh from the oven.