Black Bean Soup with Crispy Tortillas

vegetable oil, for frying tortillas
4 (6 inch) corn tortillas
dash or two of salt
1 onion, chopped about 1/4 inch
1 tsp ground cumin
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans (NOT drained!)
2-4 tbsp (to taste) fresh cilantro, chopped
black pepper (to taste)
lime juice (to taste)
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 medium tomato, chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil over moderately high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Add the tortillas and fry, stirring occasionally, until crisp and lightly golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. (Or you could do the easy thing, like me, and pull out your deep fryer!) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tortillas to paper towels to drain; season with salt.
In a medium soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil used to fry the tortillas. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and their liquid and 1 1/2 cups of water. **Optional Step: You can blend one can of the soup, with its liquid, for a creamier, thicker soup. I like it this way, but you can just dump in both cans if you'd like.** Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice over the soup and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Calories 421
Fat 19g
Sodium 179mg
Carbs 43g
Fiber 14g
Protein 21g

Spicy Orange Chicken

The whole family really loves this dish! It's a great alternative to take out orange chicken and WAY better for you!! Serve it up with some broccoli or other veggie to round out the meal.

juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
zest of one orange
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp splenda
1 tsp ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bit sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
4 servings brown rice, cooked according to package directions

Combine orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce, honey, splenda, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste and cook until lightly browned. Pour juice mixture over chicken and add oranges. Stir until sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Serve over rice.

**I think this recipe has the perfect amount of kick to it. However, my daughter is a wimp when it comes to heat. If you have a child like mine, or maybe you or someone else you're feeding doesn't like the heat, make the recipe according to the directions, leaving out the flakes. You can dish up their serving and then mix in the flakes or sprinkle them on your own plate later if you wish!**

Makes 4 servings.

Calories 330
Fat 5.6g
Sodium 223mg
Carbs 39.5g
Fiber 2g
Protein 28.6g

Tomato Cream Chicken

(You've probably noticed but I use small plates a lot. Then I can fill up my whole plate without feeling guilty about how much food I'm eating.)

This is one of my favorite recipes, but because I don't like to eat a lot of meat I don't have it often. When I do, I like it with a cup of steamed broccoli sprinkled with 1 or 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese. Such a yummy, filling, healthy dinner!

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
dash or two salt
dash or two pepper
dash or two garlic powder
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional: I generally love balsamic vinegar, but I don't like it in this)
2 tbsp heavy cream

Salt and pepper chicken breast halves to taste. Heat olive oil in skillet and brown chicken breasts on both sides, until cooked through. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Add tomato paste and tarragon to skillet. Cook briefly, stirring constantly. Whisk in chicken broth and balsamic vinegar (if using) and cook until thickened. Stir in cream and reheat to simmering. Slice chicken breasts and fan out slices on dinner plates. Drizzle sliced chicken with sauce.

Makes 2 servings

Calories 259
Fat 13.0g
Sodium 330mg
Carbs 6g
Fiber 0.3g
Protein 29g

Spicy Mexican Style Zucchini Casserole

(The first picture is how we ate this as a main dish the other night. The second picture is just the casserole which would also be really yummy as a side dish by itself.)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium summer squash, quartered and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup white/yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions (or leftovers!)
1/2 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1 Roma or plum tomato, diced
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini, squash, and onion. Cook about 10 minutes. Stir in seasonings and spices and cook about 1 minute. Mix in the rice, beans, tomato, and green chiles. Heat through. Transfer to an 8x8 baking dish and sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake about 15 minutes. (If you'd like you can broil for the last minute to get the cheese nice and light brown and bubbly). While casserole is baking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Warm tortillas, one at a time, until they begin to bubble. Then flip and do the same to the other side. When everything is finished, scoop casserole into tortillas and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

Calories 632
Fat 15g
Sodium 720mg
Carbs 44g
Fiber 5g
Protein 16g

Easy Homemade Vegetable Stir Fry

I used to buy the bags of prepackaged stir fry veggies and the bottled stir fry sauce. It never turned out great. This is just about as simple and SO much yummier!! I made this with the veggies I had on hand, but you can work around what you have in your house or what you like. Try it with peas, green beans, zucchini, water chestnuts, or cabbage!

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced
2 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup stir fry sauce
4 servings brown rice, cooked according to package directions (I always use instant!!)

Heat oil in a wok over medium0high heat. Toss in all veggies and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Add stir fry sauce and continue to stir fry until sauce thickens. Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings (about 1 cup vegetables, 2/3 cup rice).

Calories 318
Fat 6g
Sodium 609.5mg
Carbs 59g
Fiber 4.6g
Protein 7.5g

Stir Fry Sauce

(I know this doesn't look super appetizing, but it's so yummy on stir fry!! And this is actually half the recipe. I forgot to take the picture before I used half for dinner.)

Believe it or not, even with that nutritional information, this stuff is WAY more healthy than the store bought stuff. And tastier too!

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 cup unpacked brown sugar
1/2 tbsp ginger root, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
dash cayenne pepper
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water

Whisk all ingredients together. Can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Makes 2 (about 1 cup) servings.

**I know the sodium seems like it could kill a person, but 1 cup of this stuff is actually enough to flavor 4 servings of stir fry, so you're really only consuming about 571 mg, which is still a lot, but not over 2000!**

Calories 121.7
Fat 0.3g
Sodium 2,282.8mg
Carbs 27.8g
Fiber 0.4g
Protein 2.6g

Mexican Bean Stew

I had partial cans of assorted beans in my fridge and needed to find a way to use them. I found this recipe and just adjusted it to what I had on hand.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until onion becomes translucent. Stir in cumin. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, corn, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Calories 209
Fat 3.5g
Sodium 497mg
Carbs 37g
Fiber 9.5g
Protein 9.8g