Baked Onion Thyme Soup

It’s an early autumn type of day here in Virginia. We’ve been lucky to have several days like this in a row. Cooler days and cooler nights usually bring on the color changes in the leaves on the trees. And I will pull out my favorite list of hearty soups. My Baked Onion Thyme Soup is one of my all time favorites.

Baked Onion Thyme Soup crowned with a Toasted Crouton with Melted Swiss Cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Baked Onion Thyme Soup crowned with a Toasted Crouton with Melted Swiss Cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

I’d mentioned in my recent Eating Healthier posting that eating soup can help you lose weight. Soup fills you up and goes great with a salad or half sandwich. Check out my other favorite soups in my recipes file.

I have enjoyed some very favorite tasty onion soups at Petit Pois Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bistro Vivant in McLean, Virginia, and even Morton’s the Steakhouse in Reston, Virginia. The Morton’s Five Onion Soup is very rich, thick, and potent. French bistros Petit Pois‘ and Bistro Vivant‘s onion soups are lighter and more elegant. I like both styles.

Morton's Five Onion Soup (Photo Credit: FoodSpotting.com)

Morton’s Five Onion Soup (Photo Credit: FoodSpotting.com)

French Onion Soup at Petit Pois Restaurant in Charlottesville, VA (Photo Credit: c-ville.com)

French Onion Soup at Petit Pois Restaurant in Charlottesville, VA (Photo Credit: c-ville.com)

When I was in college, during my last semester before graduation, I remember a professor readying us for interviews for jobs in the real world. He said that the worst dish that a candidate could order during a job interview meal is onion soup! It’s all the gooey cheese and stringy onions, and it’s drippy. Eating onion soup could make for a messy interview. And of course, on my first job interview, the hiring manager took me to lunch at Joe Theismann’s Restaurant at the (now closed) Falls Church, Virginia location and suggested the baked onion soup! Luckily, I declined in favor of another dish.

The baked onion soup at Joe Theismann's restaurant (Photo Courtesy TripAdvisor.com)

The baked onion soup at Joe Theismann’s restaurant (Photo Courtesy TripAdvisor.com)

Interesting, and a sidebar to this article, I did end up meeting Joe Theismann himself on an evening flight to Pittsburgh from Washington, DC in the late 1990s. He was working for ESPN at the time having retired from Washington’s Super Bowl winning football team. Back before 9/11, it was a bit simpler to fly. I thought I recognized him while sitting in the waiting area at the gate. Soon, we boarded the flight. He was sitting in my same row, but across the aisle by the window. After we ascended to cruising altitude, I motioned to the young flight attendant and asked her who is the passenger sitting over there. She said, “Joe Theismann?” but she incorrectly pronounced his name as “thees-man.” I asked if she knew who he was. She shook her head and said no. I told her he was a Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Washington Redskins! She and the other young flight attendants took turns walking by and looking at Mr. Theismann. It was comical.

When the flight landed, and his seat mate had moved out into the aisle ahead of us, I reached out my hand, and said, “Wonderful to meet you, Mr. Theismann!” He smiled and shook my hand. He had a heck of a strong handshake. As we departed from the plane, I told him about this same onion soup story and he laughed. We made small talk until someone met him at the seating area, and we parted ways. I did frequent his restaurant pretty often in Falls Church, VA with coworkers after I got my first job!

Joe Theismann during his NFL days (Photo Credit: National Football League)

Joe Theismann during his NFL days (Photo Credit: National Football League)

Now where were we? Oh yes, onion soup! This soup is simple to make. And what’s better than a slowly simmering soup on a chilly day? Your house will smell magnificent.

One of the most important ingredients in a soup is the broth or stock that is used as the base. You can use beef, chicken, veal, or vegetable broth/stock in this soup.

Vegetable Stock (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Vegetable Stock (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Veal Stock (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Veal Stock (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The next important ingredient for onion soup: Onions! Use a combination of your favorite onions.

Use a selection of onions in this soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Use a selection of onions in this soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The star herb in this onion thyme soup is thyme. You can use either dried thyme of a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Just remember to remove the sprigs of thyme from the soup before serving!

Thyme from my garden (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Thyme from my garden (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

To make this onion thyme soup, start out with some thinly sliced onions. You can use red, white or yellow onions, sweet onions, shallots, or a combination of whatever you have on hand. I used a yellow onion and a sweet onion for this recipe. You can chop the onions if you plan to puree the soup. You can use thicker sliced onions and then halve the rings.

Thinly slice the onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Thinly slice the onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Melt some butter in some olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions.

Put the sliced onions in a soup pot with some melted butter and olive oil (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Put the sliced onions in a soup pot with some melted butter and olive oil (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Over low heat, sweat the onions until they are soft and slightly browned.

Sweat the onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Sweat the onions (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add some flour and mix it around. Sprinkle in some dried or fresh thyme leaves. Pour in some chicken, veal, beef, or vegetable broth/stock. I like to use either veal or vegetable broth/stock. Sometimes, I make my own beef stock when I have leftover beef bones. You can also add some white or red wine for a rich flavor.

Add some broth or stock and some wine to the soup and let simmer (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add some broth or stock and some wine to the soup and let simmer (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Stir and let the soup simmer over low heat for about an hour.

Simmer the onion thyme soup  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Simmer the onion thyme soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

When the soup is ready, you could pour the soup into a large container and refrigerate overnight so the flavors can become more intense. Or if ready to eat, ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls.

Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls (Photo Credit:  Adroit Ideals)

Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Toast a few slices of baguette to make large croutons. Float a toasted crouton on top of the soup in each bowl.

Float a toasted crouton in the soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Float a toasted crouton in the soup (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Top each crouton with a slice of Swiss cheese.

Top each toasted crouton with a slice of Swiss cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Top each toasted crouton with a slice of Swiss cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. You may wish to turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese slightly.

Bake the soup and then broil if the cheese hasn't melted (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Bake the soup and then broil if the cheese hasn’t melted (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Remove the bowls from the oven.

Baked Onion Thyme Soup, ready for a spoon! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Baked Onion Thyme Soup, ready for a spoon! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Let cool for a few minutes, and serve!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Baked Onion Thyme Soup

Ingredients:

3 onions
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T flour
8 c stock/broth (can use vegetable, chicken, beef, veal)
1 t dried thyme leaves or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 c dry red or white wine, optional
1 t sugar, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices crusty baguette
4 slices Swiss cheese

Method:

1. Toast the baguette slices under your oven broiler to make toasted croutons. Set aside.
2. After toasting the croutons, set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Thinly slice the onions and separate the onion slices into rings.
4. Warm some olive oil in a soup pot over medium low heat. Melt the butter in the olive oil.
5. Add the onion rings and sweat them until they are soft and slightly caramelized.
6. Add the flour to the onions and stir. Let cook for a minute.
7. Add the broth/stock, thyme and optional wine and sugar.
8. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for an hour over low heat, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. When the soup is ready, ladle into it ovenproof bowls.
10. Float a toasted crouton on each bowl of soup.
11. Top each crouton with a slice of Swiss cheese.
12. Bake the soup in the oven proof bowls for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
13. If the cheese hasn’t browned, place under the broiler for a few minutes.
14. Remove the soup bowls from the oven, let cool a bit, and serve!

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a soup course.

Variations: Select a combination of onions for use in this soup. You can add fresh or roasted garlic cloves for a different flavor. Use whichever broth/stock is your favorite. Beef broth will make the soup richer than chicken or vegetable stock. Omit the toasted crouton and the Swiss cheese if you are watching your caloric and fat intake. You can omit the wine. This soup is better when the flavors get a chance to intensify in the refrigerator overnight. If you want to serve the soup plain, just ladle in to the bowls and don’t top with the crouton and the cheese. It’s aromatic and satisfying by itself!

Get your own oven proof soup bowls:

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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Eating Healthier

Over the past two years, my husband and I have lost, collectively, about 45 pounds. After gaining weight due to eating out a lot and not preparing meals from scratch at home, we knew it was time to start Eating Healthier.

Weight Scale   (Photo Courtesy of coachcalorie.com)

Weight Scale (Photo Courtesy of coachcalorie.com)

Now, I would like to credit all of the weight loss to just the healthier changes in my cooking techniques. My husband goes to the gym almost daily. I don’t. You do need to have some activity during the day. My physical activity includes walking and gardening. Now that we have a dog again, I have a definite reason to walk him and myself. Also, anyone who tells you that gardening is not great physical activity isn’t a real gardener. See some of my gardening projects at A Gardener’s Delight. I think you’ll agree that building ponds and walkways can burn some calories. Pick a physical activity that you enjoy and you will do it more often.

One of my garden pond projects. Moving boulders definitely helps burn calories! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

One of my garden pond projects. Moving boulders definitely helps burn calories! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Speaking of calories, we don’t count them. We eat in moderation. I know, I know, everyone says that, but we really do. Sure, I will eat fattening foods, I just don’t eat them often, and I don’t eat a large portion. Can’t remember the last time I tasted a donut. Anyway, that said, we do enjoy homemade baked macaroni and cheese with bits of ham which contains plenty of fat and calories. We just eat about a cup of it, rather than the usual 3 cup serving that you’d get at a restaurant. And we have a substantial salad with lettuces and other fresh vegetables prior to eating the pasta. Or we add a huge portion of my husband’s favorite vegetable: steamed broccoli.

The Food Lover's Favorite Mac and Cheese with a side of Steamed Broccoli (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Food Lover’s Favorite Mac and Cheese with a side of Steamed Broccoli (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

We rarely eat dessert unless we are at someone else’s home or if we have dinner guests. In fact, I have two gallons of ice cream in my freezer that are still half full, and were purchased over two months ago for a dinner party. I doubt that they will get eaten before they are freezer-burned and then discarded. Instead, I offer cut fresh fruit with a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg for dessert. You are not going to lose pounds by eating a huge slice of coconut cream pie or chocolate cake.

Many recipes out there include taking “manufactured” (my term for “not homemade”) or processed ingredients and mixing them together. While many easy recipes were created in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to help busy moms put food on the table quickly, a lot of them are not healthy or appetizing at all. Recently, I viewed a popular dessert recipe that combines store-bought cherry pie filling, condensed milk, and Cool Whip into a very unhealthy mess. You could certainly have a far better, healthier, and tastier dessert with fresh pitted cherries, some almond milk, and a dollop of real whipped cream. To view some really scary foods that were popular years ago (and not particularly healthy either), check out The Bad and Ugly of Retro Food website. You won’t look the same way at Jell-O again.

A Jell-O porcupine filled with canned fruit cocktail?    Not my idea of a healthy dessert.  (Photo Courtesy badanduglyofretrofood.com)

A Jell-O porcupine filled with canned fruit cocktail? Not my idea of a healthy dessert. (Photo Courtesy badanduglyofretrofood.com)

I started to follow the recent GMO stories in the press. Robyn O’Brien is a well-known author who wants the food industry to be truthful as to what’s in the products we’re buying. She’s right. Check out my page on Serious Stuff about the food industry. When I was growing up in the 1970s in California, I rarely knew anyone with a nut or other food allergy. Kids didn’t have autism, and obesity was not as prevalent. When I was a kid, McDonald’s was a once-in-a-while treat rather than a daily meal. The burgers were cooked on a griddle rather than being microwaved as they are now. And they tasted like burgers. Now, they taste like plastic and apparently won’t ever spoil.

And I do blame the addition of artificial sweeteners to foods for creating a lackadaisical attitude to eating healthier. After all, you can drink several sodas at one calorie each, and that allows you to eat more food calories, correct? No, that is not correct at all. I am pretty sure that diet beverages have caused a lot of medical problems for many people over the years.

No Diet Coke!  (Photo Courtesy Uni-Watch.com)

No Diet Coke! (Photo Courtesy Uni-Watch.com)

Looking at the mouth-watering photos of the dishes in my recipe collection on this site, you might just say that I don’t practice what I preach in healthier eating! Remember that portion size is important. Sure, we eat a lot of the same foods that we ate when we were gaining weight. It’s just that now I use better ingredients, fewer processed ingredients, and take the time to make it myself. Sure, I suggest using Hellmann’s mayonnaise (or I make my own) in some dishes yet I also swap in Greek yogurt where it works well. Potato and pasta salads benefit from the tanginess of Greek yogurt.

Dill Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Dill Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Never say you don’t have time to make your own food. Make the time, and get your family to help out. You deserve to eat healthier! Spend Saturday or Sunday afternoons with your family in the kitchen. Cook up batches of Black Bean Chili and Roasted Tomato Sauce to freeze in family-sized portions for future meals.

The Food Lover's Award-Winning Black Bean Chili (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Food Lover’s Award-Winning Black Bean Chili (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

And once in a while, I will order a burger from a restaurant chain that was started locally here in Virginia. Five Guys burgers taste pretty good, yet we rarely order the fries. Although I love Five Guys’ burgers, I prefer to make my own Grilled Burgers, my Spicy Black Bean Burgers, or my Sockeye Salmon Burgers.

A tasty burger from my all time favorite burger chain started locally in Virginia -- Five Guys! This burger is topped with mustard, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickles!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

A tasty burger from my all time favorite burger chain started locally in Virginia — Five Guys! This burger is topped with mustard, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickles! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Have a homemade pizza-making party with family and friends. Try some of my pizzas such as my Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Pizza, my Tex-Mex Tortilla Pizza, or my Roasted Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pizza. Load up your pizzas with veggies and use low or no fat cheeses. Kids love to top their own individual pizzas. Eating healthier can be fun!

Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Pizza Fresh From the Oven (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Pizza Fresh From the Oven (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Tex Mex Tortilla Pizza smothered with Arugula Salad with my Lime-Cilantro Dressing!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Tex Mex Tortilla Pizza smothered with Arugula Salad with my Lime-Cilantro Dressing! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Ready to eat slices of Roasted Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pizza! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Ready to eat slices of Roasted Tomato Ricotta Pesto Pizza! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Stay off Facebook for an hour and make a nice salad such as my Strawberry, Mango, and Avocado Salad over Arugula. That’s far healthier than ordering take out food.

Strawberry, Mango and Avocado Salad over Arugula. Simple, tropical, and tasty. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Strawberry, Mango and Avocado Salad over Arugula. Simple, tropical, and tasty. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

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Here are a few of my thoughts on how to lighten up your meals and eat healthier — and these are things that I practice daily:

Instead of drowning your salad with my favorite Bleu Cheese Dressing, how about just sprinkling a tablespoon of bleu cheese crumbles onto your salad? You’ll get that same bleu cheese taste, and maybe even savor the salty savory flavors in the bleu cheese itself. Once in a while, I want to eat the decadent dressing, yet I’m just as happy with the crumbles.

Serve Bleu Cheese Dressing as a dip along with a plate of garden vegetables (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Serve decadent Bleu Cheese Dressing as a dip along with a plate of garden vegetables (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Drink coffee and tea without added milk, cream, or sugar. When I was in college, the best beverage the morning after an evening of parties was a mug of hot coffee with a lot of milk and sugar. Mostly, I drink unsweetened tea. I prefer tea to coffee, and have for years. Sometimes, I will drink a cappuccino that my husband makes “from scratch” with his fancy Italian coffee machine. Starbucks is a great place for fancy beverages, and I do own Starbucks stock, yet I haven’t visited a Starbucks more than twice this year.

Use healthier oils such as olive oil and coconut oil in your cooking. Use real butter sparingly and never use margarine or other chemically manufactured oils.

Make your own salad dressings. Too many preservatives are added to commercially manufactured goods. My easy salad dressing recipes allow you to control what’s going into them. Used sparingly, you’ll enjoy a nice herby taste along with your salad. Sure, I grew up on Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing, but I don’t buy it anymore due to sugar content — sugar is the first ingredient on the label! I’m in favor of knowing what goes into my own dressings. I prefer to use a bit of honey or agave syrup as a sweetener.

Grow your own foods when possible. A fenced vegetable garden is a future project for my yard. My neighbor has inspired me to grow my own lettuces, tomatoes, and cucumbers next year. I grew tomatoes last year in pots in an area that receives about 4 hours of direct sunlight — needless to say, my tomato harvest was not prolific until October. Then it was time for frost. I ended up with about 50 green tomatoes that I had to pick before they froze. They were tasty as roasted tomatoes. I froze some roasted green tomatoes for summery goodness in winter. Cucumbers are also a favorite in my healthy Simple Cucumber Salad.

Tomatoes from my garden!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Tomatoes from my garden! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Use fresh herbs instead of salt to flavor your meals. I grow basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, and parsley in my kitchen herb garden. I grow my herbs in pots because they are movable. The rosemary pot comes inside to my sunny warm kitchen window during the cold months. Sometimes the rosemary is joined by a pot of basil. There’s nothing tastier than a plate of sliced ripe garden tomatoes with fresh basil from the herb garden. See my Insalata Caprese recipe for a tasty summery salad.

Grow a kitchen herb garden in pots!

Grow a kitchen herb garden in pots!

Limit your refined sugar intake. Sugar is hidden everywhere. It’s not just in sodas, candy, cookies, ice cream, or cake. Check out the first ingredient on a label to tell you what is the greatest ingredient in that processed food. You can try substituting agave syrup for sugar in some recipes. Agave syrup is not one-for-one with sugar. Agave syrup is a bit sweeter so you can use less with the same result.

Limit your salt intake. Like sugar, salt is hidden in a lot of foods. Diet beverages contain a lot of salt which isn’t great for your body.

Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise in some dishes. I’ve done it with success. My Dill Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing is one of the most popular recipes on this site.

Dill Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Dill Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Use leaner cuts of meat. I prefer to use ground venison and ground buffalo in sauces and chilis. Ground turkey works well, too. Venison and buffalo roasts satisfy that red meat craving. Leaner cuts of meat will help cut down on your fat consumption. Try my hearty Venison Stew this winter.

The venison stew is ready to plate!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The venison stew is ready to plate! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Limit your meat intake. This includes beef, chicken, pork, and all other meats. Use meat to flavor dishes rather than making it the star. My Couscous with Grilled Chicken, Apricots, Chickpeas and Toasted Almonds recipe uses grilled chicken as a flavoring rather than having each person consume an entire chicken breast.

Grilled Chicken Couscous with Chickpeas, Apricots, Toasted Almonds and Cilantro (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Grilled Chicken Couscous with Chickpeas, Apricots, Toasted Almonds and Cilantro (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Eat half of your dinner, and then enjoy the remaining half for the next day’s lunch. A lot of our leftovers go to work with my husband. This works well for most foods. Dressed green salads don’t do well the second day though. If you think you won’t eat all of your green salad, don’t add the dressing, remove half of it to a container, put some dressing in a small container to take along, and then you can add the dressing to the remaining greens at work the next day. Eating less food in the evening allows your stomach to digest easier.

Stay away from “fast food.” Again, sure this is easy for me to say. However, you don’t know what really goes into that fast food you are eating. Lots of salt and other preservatives, chemicals you can’t pronounce, and just general junk. A number of years ago, my weight started creeping up slightly. It was mostly because of those convenient Wendy’s burgers and fries that I was eating every day for lunch. Instead, I began to frequent a mom and pop sandwich shop which served homemade sandwiches with fresh healthy ingredients and store-baked bread…and some outstanding soups. Eating soup for lunch or dinner is a simple way to help keep your weight down. Check out my Tomato Basil Soup and my Hearty Vegetable Soup as two options.

Sippable Tomato Basil Soup for a Party!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Sippable Tomato Basil Soup for a Party! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Ignore the bread or crackers basket. I have seen people devour a bread basket before they even order their meal at a restaurant — and then ask for more! Recently, a business dinner companion ate an entire basket of saltine crackers at a seafood restaurant, two to a package, probably at least 25 packages, because they were “free.” And that’s before our entrees arrived. He requested a second basket of crackers to go with his seafood chowder entree. With that mindset, it’s easy to gain weight. “Free” is not really free when it comes to health.

It’s the same with buffet food. Avoid it. Read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and you won’t likely want to eat at a buffet again. “All you can eat” restaurants are just not a good way to keep your weight down and eat healthier. I have yet to find an “all you can eat for one price” restaurant that is actually healthy!

The Big Belly Buffet will definitely leave you with a big belly (Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com)

The Big Belly Buffet will definitely leave you with a big belly (Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com)

Stop thinking you have to “get your money’s worth” at restaurants. Cooking for your family at home is far healthier than eating out. You know what goes into the food. And for that $12 per person processed and overly salty pasta entree at that chain restaurant, you can make something tastier for far less money per person at home. And far healthier, too. I’m not arguing that you should never eat out. Just don’t overeat when you do.

Limit snacking. I have found that snacking drops to a minimum when I am eating healthier foods. My body isn’t really hungry. Many times when I think I’m hungry, I drink a glass of water instead of eating. It usually works and then I can get back to whatever I was doing.

I keep a container of water in the refrigerator at all times (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

I keep a container of water in the refrigerator at all times (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Stay away from desserts with whipped cream or processed puddings or dessert sauces. Sugar-free items tend to have added salt. Fat free foods tend to have added sugars. Use real ingredients and you’re far better off. And that way you can control what you are eating.

Don’t eat things you like if they make you feel weird or sick. I read a book a while back that really helped me figure out what foods might be bothering my digestive system: Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger. For years, I loved to eat hot oatmeal for breakfast. Then in a few hours, my stomach would tangle up and I’d feel ill. I just chalked it up to the roughage in the oatmeal. For whatever it was, and no, I don’t have gluten issues, I have cut hot oatmeal out of my diet. No more stomach cramps whatsoever. Same was true for bran cereal and sliced bananas. I loved to eat bran and bananas for breakfasts. But the bran and banana didn’t love me. Most carbonated sodas cause the same reaction for me. I cut them out and I’m just fine.

While still living on my own in the mid-1990s, and prior to getting married, and realizing that snacking all day along with my coworkers was not working well for me, I cut out all white flour products, all refined sugars, fast food, and partially hydrogenated oils from my diet. Within 6 months, I was back to a “normal” weight. No more afternoon cookies or sodas just to keep me going. I was drinking more water and that was far better. When I had cut out refined sugar, anything sugary just didn’t taste good to me anymore. Of course, eventually I reverted back to eating junk again, and the pounds crept back. I love my chile con queso dip with tortilla chips as much as the next person. Yet I don’t really need to eat it very often! I do make it a couple of times a year now when we are having casual gatherings.

Cooking meals at home has helped my husband and me lose that additional weight. And we also feel better. Try some of my recipes and let me know what you think. Start cooking your meals at home with fresh and minimally processed ingredients. If I can do it, you can do it! Set aside the time. Your health is definitely worth it.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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Pork Carnitas

Mexican food has always been a favorite with my family. Tacos made from crispy, tender pork filling in double soft corn tortillas topped with pico de gallo and sour cream are just heaven in my book. My Pork Carnitas are a succulent filling that also works in enchiladas and burritos.

Succulent Pork Carnitas Tacos (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Succulent Pork Carnitas Tacos (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The traditional way of braising pork in oil and/or lard isn’t the healthiest for those who are watching their weight. My version of pork carnitas, made with thick marbled boneless pork end pieces, fat free chicken broth/stock, orange juice, onions, and seasonings, is a bit healthier. You can also use a whole boneless pork shoulder which will increase the cooking time, but will be just as tasty! Other pork cuts will work if they are well-marbled. The fat will break down and soften the pork while it cooks.

Start by seasoning your pork with salt and pepper. Sear the pork over medium heat in canola oil until browned on both sides.

Season the pork and sear it until brown on both sides (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Season the pork and sear it until brown on both sides (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Remove the browned pork from the pan. Slice some onion.

Slice some onion for the carnitas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Slice some onion for the carnitas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add the sliced onion to the pan. Place the browned pork on top of the onions.

Add onions to the pan then add the pork on top (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add onions to the pan then add the pork on top (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Let the onions and pork cook for about 5 minutes. Season the pork with some cumin and ancho chile powder.

Add some powdered cumin and ancho chile powder to the pork (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add some powdered cumin and ancho chile powder to the pork (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Then add the chicken broth/stock and orange juice.

Add the chicken stock and  orange juice (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add the chicken stock and orange juice (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Let the pork simmer over low heat, covered, for 30 – 60 minutes or until the pork starts to fall apart.

The pork is simmering (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The pork is simmering (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The pork will begin to fall apart. Use a fork or tongs to shred the meat. Keep simmering until all of the liquid has evaporated.

Keep simmering until the liquid has evaporated (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Keep simmering until the liquid has evaporated (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Turn up the heat slightly and keep stirring to ensure the liquid is gone.

Pork carnitas are almost done (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Pork carnitas are almost done (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

At this point, you can refrigerate the carnitas overnight. Store in the refrigerator in a non-metallic container with a tight-fitting lid.

If you are ready to serve the carnitas, spread the shredded pork into a shallow baking dish.

Spread the carnitas in a shallow baking pan and bake until they are crispy (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Spread the carnitas in a shallow baking pan and bake until they are crispy (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Bake the carnitas in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 5 – 10 minutes keeping watch so they don’t burn.

Crisp the carnitas in the oven (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Crisp the carnitas in the oven (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

When the carnitas have browned on the edges and are crispy, remove them from the oven.

Crispy Pork Carnitas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Crispy Pork Carnitas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

And get ready to serve! Offer with double corn tortillas for wrapping. Top with sauteed onions and bell peppers and pico de gallo.

Top the Pork Carnitas with Pico de Gallo (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Top the Pork Carnitas with Pico de Gallo (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Sour cream or Mexican crema add an additional richness to the tacos!

Pork Carnitas Tacos topped with Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Pork Carnitas Tacos topped with Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Enjoy!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Pork Carnitas

Ingredients:

2 T canola oil
2 lbs pork end pieces or boneless pork shoulder, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 T powdered cumin
1 t ancho chile powder
2 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
4 c fat free chicken broth/stock
1/2 c orange juice

Method:

1. Warm the canola oil in a chef’s pan over medium heat.
2. Sear the pork on each side until browned but not cooked through.
3. Remove the pork and set aside.
4. Add the onions to the pan.
5. Put the pork back on top of the onions.
6. Season the pork with the cumin and ancho chile powder.
7. Let the onions sweat for 5 minutes with the pork pieces on top of them.
8. Add the chicken stock and orange juice.
9. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer the pork mixture for 30 – 60 minutes.
10. The pork will begin to fall apart into chunks.
11. When the liquid has evaporated, and the pork is very tender, pull it apart with some tongs or two forks.
12. Remove the pork from the pan, and place in a glass pyrex baking dish.
13. Bake the pork for 5 – 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the meat starts to crisp and brown on the edges.
14. Serve!

Makes about 2 cups of carnitas. Offer with corn tortillas, grilled onion and bell pepper strips, pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, onion, and cilantro), and a touch of sour cream or Mexican crema. Guacamole, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheese are also tasty toppers.

Variations: Substitute boneless chicken or turkey breasts for the pork. Omit the orange juice and add more chicken broth/stock. Use vegetable broth/stock instead of chicken. Add some tequila during the simmering phase for a different flavor.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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Seared Snapper over Summer Vegetable Stew

Summer always means an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs in the garden. Your local grocer and farmers’ markets are showcasing a fabulous bounty of garden treats. Take advantage of them with my satisfying and light Seared Snapper over Summer Vegetable Stew.

Seared Snapper over Summer Vegetables (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Seared Snapper over Summer Vegetables (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

My husband and I were away from home for a long weekend. We wanted to create a nice seafood-based dish for dinner that also took advantage of the care package of fresh vegetables and herbs offered by our neighbor the day before we left home.

Just a few of the garden vegetables shared by our neighbor (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Just a few of the garden vegetables shared by our neighbor (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The local seafood market at our weekend destination offered some nice fresh snapper fillets. My husband wanted to sear the snapper fillets and I came up with the idea of a summer vegetable stew as the base for the fish.

Red Snapper (Photo Courtesy Wikipedia.org)

Red Snapper (Photo Courtesy Wikipedia.org)

I selected roasted corn, red bell pepper, red onion, zucchini and chopped parsley for the summer vegetable stew. Saute the vegetables, then let them stew a bit in some white wine and seafood stock.

Sear the snapper fillets in some olive oil. Plate the summer vegetable stew and top with the snapper fillets. Garnish with herbs.

Summer Vegetables create a savory bed for Seared Snapper (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Summer Vegetables create a savory bed for Seared Snapper (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Serve with some toasted baguette slices and a side salad and enjoy!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Seared Snapper over Summer Vegetable Stew

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, 1/2 inch dice
1 c roasted corn
1 c diced tomatoes
1/2 c seafood or chicken stock/broth
1/4 c white wine
2 T chopped fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary, or parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

1 T canola oil
salt and pepper
4 snapper fillets, skin-on

Herbs for garnish

Method:

1. Warm a chef’s pan over medium heat.
2. Add the olive oil and butter to the pan.
3. When the butter has melted, saute the onion in the oil and butter mixture until the onion is slightly soft but not browned.
4. Add the diced zucchini and cook until the zucchini has softened, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the roasted corn and the diced tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes more.
6. Add the seafood or chicken stock/broth and the white wine. Let simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes so the stew liquid reduces a bit.
7. While the summer vegetable stew is simmering, in a non-stick pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
8. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the flesh side of the snapper fillets.
9. Sear the fillets in the olive oil, flesh side down until they are browned and crispy. Turn them over and continue cooking until the fish feels firm to the touch, but not over cooked.
10. Season the summer vegetable stew with the chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
11. Ladle the stew onto serving plates.
12. Top each plate of stew with the snapper fillets, spooning some sauce over the fillets, and serve!

Serves 4 as a main course. Offer with a side salad such as my Simple Cucumber Salad or Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Peppered Goat Cheese and some crusty bread or toasted baguette.

Variations: Use your favorite fish. Salmon, rockfish, grouper, flounder, halibut, cod, and tilapia all work well in this dish. Add in-season vegetables from your garden such as green beans, bell peppers, sweet peas and even diced potatoes.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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Simple Cucumber Salad

Simple Cucumber Salad with Fresh Dill (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Simple Cucumber Salad with Fresh Dill (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

It’s that time of year when your garden may be overflowing with produce. My Simple Cucumber Salad is cool and refreshing, and a great way to use those extra cucumbers!

Fresh cucumbers from my neighbor's garden!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Fresh cucumbers from my neighbor’s garden! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

My usual cucumber salad is made with Greek yogurt and sour cream. This recipe is different: I use lemon juice and a bit of dill vinegar to make a clear simple dressing. Then, I add some chopped dill from my garden, some sugar or honey to balance out the tartness, a bit of salt and pepper, and thinly sliced peeled cucumbers for a cool fresh salad.

Fresh dill from my garden (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Fresh dill from my garden (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

There’s one added step to let the cucumbers soften. After peeling and slicing the cucumbers, just place the slices in a colander and sprinkle with some salt. They will lose some of their “juice.” Then you can pour off the juice and add the dressing.

Simple Cucumber Salad pairs well with my Grilled Lamb Meatballs (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Simple Cucumber Salad pairs well with my Grilled Lamb Meatballs (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Enjoy!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Simple Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

2 large cucumbers
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 t dill vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 T freshly chopped dill
1 t sugar or honey
salt and pepper

Method:

1. Peel and thinly slice the cucumbers.
2. Place the cucumber slices in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle the cucumbers with a little bit of salt, stir, and set aside for about 30 minutes. This step will remove some of the liquid from the cucumbers, making them soft and silky.
3. Remove the cucumber liquid and discard or set aside for another use.
4. In a non-metallic bowl, combine the cucumbers, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, and sugar or honey. Stir lightly until cucumbers are coated with the dressing.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a salad side dish. Offer with my Grilled Lamb Meatballs and some warm pita, or alongside The Best Burger instead of fries.

Variations: Peel and slice some zucchini and add to the cucumbers. Add some finely chopped shallots or minced garlic for a different flavor. Skip the colander step if you prefer crispier cucumbers. Try fresh chopped basil or chives instead of dill.

Lemony Dill Cucumber Salad is a cool and refreshing side dish (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Lemony Dill Cucumber Salad is a cool and refreshing side dish (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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