Party's over. Time for healthy eating. But wait! This is good...

Prime rib, Kansas City BBQ, twice-bake potatoes, pasta, wine, wine and more wine. This pretty much sums up my holiday eating this year. And I’m payin’ the price. So, I’m getting on the healthy eating bandwagon. Yep. I’m gonna do it.

Normally, I dread healthy cooking. Mostly because it never seems as creative or challenging as my normal cooking routine.

Over the past few days – since we’ve been housebound with sub-zero temps – I’ve gotten pretty creative in the kitchen. I’ve used some healhty, simple, not stringent guidelines for cooking:

  • No meat
  • Minimal carbs
  • Lots of leafy greens
  • Less dairy

And since it’s been consistently freezing outside, soup was a no-brainer starting point. Soups are always comforting, easy to keep low-cal and still satisfying.

Two popular soups in our house are my Pasta e’ Fagioli and my sausage, pasta and kale soup. So this week, I challenged myself to make healthier versions of these soups, sticking to my four guidelines. The result? A hearty and healthy white bean and swiss chard soup, and a meatless, low-carb minestrone.

Here's how I did it...

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

I took out the sausage in this one, adding lots of hearty cannellini beans for protein, and my new favorite green – swiss chard. Both are super filling and hold up over time, so you don’t end up with goopy, leftover soup.

Another great way I infused more flavor into my broth was is to add a parmesan rind. You get some of that salty, nutty goodness without having to pile a ton of cheese into or on your soup.

This was a winner. My husband loved it. My neighbor love it. And I had it again for lunch today. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Large shallots, diced
  • 3 Cups, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15.5 oz) cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Large bunch of swiss chard, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • Crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Heat olive oil in large soup pot, add carrots, shallots and garlic and sauté on medium high heat until tender (4-5 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper (or more if you like a little kick).

Add broth and your parmesan rind, then let broth simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn down to medium low, add beans and swiss chard. Let simmer until chard gets tender.

Serve with a small sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Meatless, Low-Carb Minestrone

For this, I used my Pasta e’ Fagioli soup recipe as a guide. There's no meat, no pasta but it's loaded with veggies. The result was an equally flavorful soup that’s packed with vitamins. Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 Tbls Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 Celery rib, chopped fine
  • 1 Carrot, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Heaping tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 3 Anchovies fillets, minced to paste
  • 1 (28 oz) Can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 Piece parmesan cheese rind
  • 3 and 1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Cup red wine
  • 1 Zucchini roughly chopped
  • 2 Cups swiss chard (I told you I love it!), stems removed and chopped
  • 2 Cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 Cup parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Saute’ onion, celery, carrots and garlic until tender, season with salt and pepper. Add oregano, anchovies (do not skip the anchovies!!!) and a few pinches of crushed red pepper. Stir. Add red wine, tomatoes, parmesan rind, zucchini, swiss chard and mushrooms. Bring to simmer. Next, add cannellini beans and chicken broth. Bring soup to hard simmer, then turn down to low. Let soup cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. (You may want a little more crushed red pepper.) 

Serve with chopped parsley and a small sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. Okay, as you can see in the picture, I cheated with this one and made a few pieces of garlic toast. Baby steps, people!!! 

Here’s to healthy AND delicious eating in 2018!