Easy chicken vegetable soup

Here is an easy soup I made twice this past week, and one that is real easy–chicken vegetable soup. Here is a general list of what you’ll need:

Olive oil or vegetable oil
1-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 carton chicken broth
assorted vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery, cabbage, green beans (whatever you have on hand)
assorted frozen vegetables such as corn, optional
noodles or pasta
Salt, pepper, and dried herbs

Grab a large soup pot and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat on medium heat for a minute or two, and meanwhile cut the chicken into small pieces. Put chicken in pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stir very few minutes. Meanwhile, chop your vegetables (maybe 2 cups total), and add to the pot. Sprinkle more salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, then add frozen corn and other frozen vegetables if using (1/2 to 1 more cup total), and chicken broth. Add another 1-2 cups water, noodles or pasta (about 3/4 cup dry), a bit more salt and pepper, and herbs such as Italian seasoning, oregano or basil (just a teaspoon or so). Stir and cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serves 3-4.

Pizza omelet

Yeah, you read that right. But I’m not talking about cracking eggs in a pan with tomatoes and mozzarella. I’m talking about the way I did it this past weekend–with bits of leftover pizza folded into an omelet. Something about it is very primitive, very college, very hangover. But mostly, it was delicious. Just ask my wife.

It started with some leftover pizza we had in the fridge. I used homemade pizza, like the one I posted here last month. But you can use any pizza you have left over from the night before.

Take out 2-3 large eggs. Heat the pizza (1 large or two small slices) for 30 seconds in the microwave or 5 minutes in the toaster oven at 350 degrees, just to warm it a bit. Cut the crusts off, then cut the pizza into bite size cubes. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Crack the eggs into a bowl with a splash of milk or water, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan, and swish the pan a bit to let the eggs cook and set evenly. When the egg is almost set, sprinkle with the pizza bits.

When the egg is almost entirely set, fold over half and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the omelet and cook for another 30 seconds. Slide onto a plate and cut in half. Serves two hungry and/or hung over people.

Bonus–try it with a Bloody Mary, like the one I posted here.

A Can a week: Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli

Chef JimThere is something innately comforting to me about Chef Boyardee products. I grew up eating them on cold winter days when I was a kid, and in particular was thrilled when my mom taught me how to open a can and heat it on the stove. I mean, it wasn’t like I was learning to cook, but it’s liberating to a kid knowing that he can heat up his own lunch (I’m dating myself here, but we didn’t own a microwave until the mid-’80s.

Anyway, Beef-a-roni is still awesome, and so are the raviolis and standard spaghetti and meatballs. But the one small drawback to some of these items is the lack of meat. Enter the Overstuffed Beef Ravioli. I mean, it’s not exactly premium beef here–I’m guessing it’s akin to ground chuck and/or the kind of ground meat used at Taco Bell. And it has fillers in it, but so do standard meatballs or the filling in your typical ravioli.

But I digress. The Overstuffed Beef Ravioli is delicious, and it really does have 25% more meat as promised, and it seems like even more than that. It’s also nice that it is doused in a rich meat sauce as well. Yum. And Chef Boyardee’s tomato sauce is really tasty, and always has been. For you guys who need some quick meals to have on hand and do not have time to make something from scratch or even from a box, you should keep a few cans of this meaty pasta in your pantry.

One word of advice though–one can equals two servings, and that equals 500 calories. If you are not watching your waistline (and I’m guessing most of you that are reading this are not), and you like meat, this is some good stuff right here. You done well, Chef!

Product review: Blue Bunny Birthday Party ice cream sandwiches

Yeah, I know. This is a kid’s product. And I bought these for our 4-year old. But being a sucker for new products, especially any kind of snack food, I had to try them. I mean, I want to make sure my kid isn’t eating something that doesn’t taste good, right?

Anyway, I had no intention of reviewing this product, but these ice cream sandwiches are so good that I couldn’t help but pimp them. We’re talking birthday cake flavored ice cream (what a great invention that is!) with confetti sprinkles and blue icing swirl, between two vanilla cookies (rather than the standard chocolate). Being that I don’t want to be 400 pounds and also that I need to save some for the kid, I think I will cease eating any more of these. But trust me, I could eat the whole box in one sitting. Okay, maybe half the box, but still….

So if you see these Blue Bunny gems in your freezer, go for it…..just beware of how much you will love them.

A can a week: Swanson Chicken & Dumplings

Chef JimA can a week is back! We hope to bring this feature each week, since grocery store shelves are lined with the stuff…canned food, that is. Anyway, this week we tried Swanson Chicken & Dumplings. It’s not soup, but rather chunks of chicken and small dumplings in a rich chicken gravy.

The pros–very tasty and satisfying, especially on a cold day like today; quality chicken meat and nicely made dumplings; perfectly seasoned
The cons–a bit thin, and if I would have known, I could have tried it over noodles or rice; the chicken chunks were small; and I would have liked some carrots, peas or celery in addition to the chicken and the dumplings.

But overall this is a winning can of food, and as I said a very satisfying cold weather lunch.

Planning a healthy Super Bowl party

The Super Bowl is right around the corner, and we might even get a rematch of the classic New York Giants-New England Patriots Super Bowl (we like the Giants!).

Super Bowl parties have become an American tradition, almost as important as picnics on the Fourth of July. We all love these parties, and we love gorging on the food. Many also love throwing these parties and coming up with cool dishes for everyone to feast on.

That said, for some people, healthy food needs to be an option for the big party. In many families, there are people battling obesity or conditions like diabetes, so this is no laughing matter. At the very least, every party should have some healthy options. But if you’re planning on making most dishes healthier, here’s a handy checklist of ideas.

Many are obvious, but small things can go a long way. Diet pop is a must, but think about juices or maybe iced green tea as an option. Pretzels over chips is another simple change that won’t offend anyone. Also, it’s easy to go with multigrain bread for the sandwiches.

Try to go with fruits and vegetables. There are so many cool appetizers you can make that are delicious and creative that are also low in fat and calories.

Many people love meat, but you don’t have to eliminate it go go healthier. Avoid sodium heavy lunch meats and high fat cuts, and instead pick some lean meats. Grilled chicken is always a popular option. Think of spices like hot sauce that aren’t high in salt as well.

With very little effort, you can make your party spread healthier and more delicious. With everyone trying to lose weight and trying to check the pharmacy in Canada for the latest diet pills, your guests will definitely appreciate a delicious yet healthy set of dishes for your party.

Product review: Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito

Memo to Taco Bell–your commercials work. I was watching football on Sunday and a commercial came on for the limited time only “Beefy Crunch Burrito.” It’s a burrito with (are you ready for this?) Flamin’ Hot Fritos right in the burrito. Are you kidding me? I knew I wouldn’t want to be plucked from my comfy blue recliner while watching my Giants crush the Falcons, but dammit, I will get to Taco Bell this week. That’s what I said to myself. Monday came and went and I forgot. Tuesday morning came and a light bulb went off in my head around the time I had lunch hunger pangs. Oh yeah, it’s time, I thought.

I had to pick up our son from preschool which meant I had a short window of time to get to the Bell and then pick him up, and get home before my food got cold. The line was literally out the door, and I stood there for a few minutes, and then noticed the drive thru lane was near empty. I got in my car, cruised up and ordered, “Two Beefy Crunch Burritos, please, no sides, no drink”…..and amazingly, it was only $2.09. And I would still be in line if I didn’t do the drive-thru.

Anyway, I got some hot sauce to go with the burritos, but these babies needed no sauce–there was some saucy taco meat, rice, some oozing cheese, sour cream, and of course, the spicy corn chips, wrapped in those pillows of flour tortilla. Damn. This is as close to dude food nirvana as it gets–of course, it’s not like it’s a juicy steak, but there is certainly a place for nicely crafted and delicious fast food in any guy’s diet. (speaking of which, don’t tell my doctor I ate these).

Oh, and they did get cold by the time I got through my second one, because I was working while eating, and because I was savoring every bite. For real, yo. Go try these now…..seriously, go try these now!

Rachael vs. Guy

Have you guys seen the new Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off show on Food Network? Well if you haven’t, let me fill you in and I guarantee you will watch–especially if you love watching celebs duke it out on reality shows. The show airs on Sunday nights, and last Sunday was the series premiere. And the premise is that Rachael and Guy, two of the Network’s more prominent stars of the past decade, head up teams of four celebrities in a cooking competition. As is the case with many of these type shows, we’re talking (my apologies to those competing) celebs that are kind of washed up, B-listers or C-listers (or at most high A-minus).

We’re talking Taylor Dayne, Aaron Carter, Summer Sanders, Coolio, Cheech Marin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Alyssa Campanella, and Joey Fatone. Yikes. The first episode had them break into two teams, each coached by Rachael or Guy, and they had to cook for 300 guests at an outdoor BBQ party in New York City. The best cooks seem to be Phillips, Marin, Sanders, and Coolio. Dayne and Carter were the two worst cooks on the losing team, and had to face off in a 30 minute shrimp challenge to see who went home. The loser was Carter, who wound up in the bottom because of a horribly bland macaroni salad. Dayne was able to stick around, much to my chagrin, because while she was quite the star in the late ’80′s with gorgeous, flowing hair, she had some serious plastic surgery done and looks frighteningly like Michael Jackson.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and check this show out….it’s funny and quite entertaining.

Why diets are a downer

I have excellent intentions every new year. I start every January on a diet and sometimes they last a few months, sometimes a few hours. I started this one on Monday and have made it thus far to the end of Wednesday doing the South Beach Diet, and if you have done this particular diet you know that the first two weeks (Phase 1) are extremely restrictive–no carbs of any kind. That means only meat, dairy, vegetables, eggs, beans and nuts. And it’s freaking HARD. Especially if you’ve been just eating whatever for whenever. And I think the reason so many of us fail at dieting is that we go from eating so bad to so good so fast, as I just did.

I’m not saying I can’t keep it up, but let me tell you a few reasons why all I want tonight is a huge plate of fries, a pizza and a whole coconut cream pie. One, I haven’t had time to adequately plan, which has left me scrounging for jerky and nuts mostly. Oh and sugar free candy. You get sick of these items real fast, believe me. Secondly, the broccoli cheese soup I made yesterday was great, but for whatever reason my belly was not happy yesterday. And today it really wasn’t happy after I ate it again for lunch. Finally, my breath smells like a large metropolitan market’s sewage plant. I know this because my wife keeps reminding me of it. And I can just feel how bad my breath smells.

Mrs. Mike is on Weight Watchers, so it’s pretty easy for us to synch these diets. But I have a feeling we’re about to binge, and try to start this diet again (or skip to Phase 2) tomorrow or the next day, or Monday!

Do you have diet horror stories, or anything else you’d like to share this January?

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