Category Archives: Diet

Easy Instant Pot Pesto Chicken Soup Recipe

I’ve been on a major soup kick lately. It’s been so cold these past few weeks and so the kids and I haven’t really got out of the house much. To be honest, we’ve barely gotten out of our pajamas, let alone made it to the grocery store.

That’s the great thing about soups.  It doesn’t really matter if you haven’t left the house.

You can really make them with nearly anything–or nearly nothing, if that’s what you have.

easy instant pot pesto chicken soup

I made this hearty Pesto Chicken Soup in less than 30 minutes using my Instant pot and random ingredients I found in my fridge, freezer and pantry.  The flavors were outstanding, even the baby loved the broth.

If you’d like to give this recipe a try, click below to get the recipe! I hope you like it!

chicken soup with pesto in the instant pot

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Instant Pot Cauliflower, Sausage and Kale Soup Recipe {Keto/Low-Carb/Gluten Free}

I have been really thankful for my Instant Pot lately.

Although Minnesota winters are always pretty cold, these past few days have been brutal. With windchills nearly reaching -40 degrees F –yes, MINUS 40 degrees–we haven’t got out of the house much.

Being stuck in the house with a “threenager” is no joke. Arjun has so much energy that after tending to him I barely have time to make myself a cup of coffee, let alone cook. It’s ridiculous.

We could go to the mall or the (very few!) indoor toddler/preschool activities around town, and we probably should.  It’s just so hard with two little kids, especially when it’s cold/flu season…

So instead of making the trek to the grocery store, I’ve resolved to using up some of the foods I have in our freezer or pantry. We’ve been enjoying a lot of soups lately, and this recipe has definitely been a favorite!

Piyush said that it reminded him of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup.  I suppose it is sort of a copy-cat recipe, but having never ordered the Zuppa Toscana I can’t be sure how close it is.

Give it a go, and let me know what you think! Get the recipe by clicking below:

soup click here (1)

 

Diets Don’t Have to Be Torture (but they usually are) & Mexican Spiced Shrimp

Mexican Spiced Shrimp with Black Beans topped with a dollop of Greek Yogurt

Mexican Spiced Shrimp with Black Beans topped with a dollop of Greek Yogurt

I’ve mentioned once or twice a million times that I’ve been on a diet.  How exciting?!  Actually, I’m trying to think of it more as a lifestyle change.  I’m not depriving myself, I’m just not over-doing it, either.

My new way of eating really focuses on portion sizes and eating more frequently.  Truthfully, it sucks.  That being said, it works.

Most of the food I’ve been cooking lately has been incredibly unexciting.  Because I’ve been busier than usual the past couple months, Continue reading

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza with Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto & Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed.  Random.org chose #2

So, Mona…you are the winner!  I hope you enjoy your chicken sausages!!! You should be receiving an email soon!



A couple weeks ago I received an email from Gold’n Plump asking me if I’d be interested in trying their new line of chicken sausages.  I don’t typically buy Gold’n Plump products, so I didn’t really know anything about the company.  I was surprised to learn that they are based out of St. Cloud, Minnesota–just a few hours drive from where we live.

In fact, these chickens are probably more “local” than what I can get at my neighborhood butcher shop (sad, huh?)–and a whole lot cheaper than buying them straight from the farmer’s market/farmer.  Now, if you read my blog regularly, you’re probably already aware that I’m pretty picky when purchasing my meat.

I try to buy organic as much as possible, but sometimes that’s not always the practical thing to do.  Do you know how much money 12lbs of organic, cage-free, vegetarian fed chicken breast for a potluck would cost me?  A small fortune, I’m sure.  It’s the sad reality.

I replied to the email and asked a few questions about the chicken–what they’re fed, how they’re raised, and if they were given any hormones/antibiotics.   I was satisfied with the responses I was given, so I agreed to give the chicken sausages a try.

I was sent 4 different varieties to try:  Lean Chicken Bratwurst, Lean Hot Italian Chicken Sausage, Lean Parmesan Italian Chicken Sausage and Lean Apple Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage.

I decided to try the Hot Italian Chicken Sausages first.

…And I had the perfect recipe in mind:  Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza with a Chipotle Pepper-Pepita Seed Pesto.

Piyush always tells me how much he loves the chicken sausage pizza at Zpizza–a place he eats lunch at occasionally.  He’s actually bought chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s, Hyvee, Walmart and Sam’s Club–trying to find one with the same taste as the one on that pizza.  They all ended up in the garbage, and we continued to buy pork when we got the craving for sausages or brats.

Sure, pork sausage is delicious; but it’s also incredibly fatty–definitely not good for my already over-expanded waistline.  The spicy chicken sausage from Gold’n Plump contained 8 g. of fat and less than 180 calories per link.  That is a whole lot healthier than pork!  …and the apple maple breakfast sausages were 100 calories for 3 links–I say that’s awesome!  I can’t wait to give those a try this weekend.

Now, before I go on telling you what I think about the sausages, let me just state that yes, Gold’n Plump provided the sausages to me at no cost…but I will be honest, and all opinions/statements are completely my own.  

So, the nutrition stats look pretty good–aside from the sodium levels, but even that was less than most pork sausages I’ve bought in the past; and sausage is usually high in salt in the first place.  But how was the taste?

I removed the sausage from the casings so that I could top the pizza with ground meat instead of sliced.

In my personal opinion–and Piyush’s too–the hot Italian sausage was definitely as good as any pork sausage we’ve tried.  It was very well spiced (it actually is hot) and wasn’t dry at all.  After I removed the sausage from the casings (I wanted ground meat instead of sliced rings–although Piyush would have preferred I kept the sausages in the casings), I cooked it in a little olive oil until it browned up nicely.

Because Piyush loved the chicken sausage pizza from Zpizza, I thought it would be fun to make my own version.  I’ve never tried a slice before…so I went to their website and checked out the toppings.  It had chipotle pesto, red onions, corn, chicken sausage, mozzerella, tomatoes, cilantro and serrano chilies–it sounded fantastic!

I wish I would have thought of it first and could take all the credit, but no…instead I’m offering my version of Zpizza’s Santa Fe (which Piyush told me is nothing like their version—it’s different, but good on the exact same level.  He really loves their pizza).

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza

Not only am I excited to share this crazy-good pizza recipe with you all, but I’m also excited because the nice people at Gold’n Plump have offered to send one of my readers the exact same chicken sausage sampler pack I received!

Gold’n Plump’s New Chicken Sausage Line: Parmesan Italian, Hot Italian, and Apple Maple Breakfast Sausages. There was also a package of Chicken Bratwurst.

So lets talk about this Giveaway!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me:

 What excites you about this new line of chicken sausages,  and what you would make with them if you won?

The giveaway ends Monday, June 4 at 7:00 p.m. Central Time.  The giveaway is only open to U.S. residents– (sorry!).  Be sure to include a valid email address with your comment…if you win, I’ve got to be able to contact you!

I’ll choose the winner randomly using Random.org’s random number generator.  If I don’t hear back from the winner by Wednesday, June 6 at 5:00 pm Central Time, a new winner will be chosen!

For an additional chances to win the Gold’n Plump Chicken Sausage Sampler Pack:

  • Like Gold’n Plump on Facebook (HERE)
  • Like My Fancy Pantry on Facebook (HERE)
  • Follow My Fancy Pantry on Twitter (HERE)
If you click LIKE on Facebook or FOLLOW on Twitter, be sure to leave a separate comment letting me know, and if you already LIKE or FOLLOW, leave a comment about that too!    

In the mean time, if you’d like to try these sausages, you can head over to Gold’n Plump’s website and grab a $1.00 off coupon!  They’re available at Super-Target (and some other stores too, I’m sure!).

Now, let’s get back to the pizza!

I used my basic whole wheat pizza crust recipe (using Indian Atta flour instead of regular whole wheat flour).

Printer Friendly Recipe: Pizza Crust

I topped the pizza with some Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto (recipe here) and finely chopped jalapeno peppers before topping with three kinds of cheeses: shredded mozzerella, shredded fontina and a locally made cheese similar to queso fresco.  I then added the chicken sausage (2 links), some thinly sliced green and yellow bell pepper, whole kernels of corn (I used canned–but rinsed it all well before using), roasted tomato slices and additional sliced jalapenos for my spice-loving husband.

I baked the pizza at a little higher temp than usual: 475 degrees F…and didn’t pay close attention, so you’ll notice I burned it a little.  I kind of liked it though, it reminded me a lot of a nice, wood-fired pizza–it even had that smokiness from the chipotles!

Once the pizza was finished baking, I topped it with some chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco style-cheese (the local stuff I used earlier) and an adobo-ranch sauce I made.  I don’t like ranch dressing, but I knew this pizza would be spicy so I thought some sort of sauce would help cool it a little and also add some additional flavor.

I mixed a few squirts of ranch dressing with a little bit of adobo sauce (which the chipotle peppers were packed in) until I thought it was well balanced.  I then tossed it in the fridge for a good 20 minutes, and drizzled it lightly over the pizza before I served it.

Piyush and I watched a netflix movie (some Hindi movie that I don’t remember the name of right now…) and enjoyed our pizza on the couch.

I’ve got to say, this might be the very best pizza flavor combination yet…

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chèvre

It’s no secret that I love chèvre (goat cheese).  I’m always looking for ways to sneak goat cheese into my recipes…whether it be in a salad, a sauce or a soup.  It’s even the “secret” ingredient to my mashed potatoes.  Yum!

The other night I was trying to decide what to make for supper.  I didn’t really want to cook a whole lot, but I didn’t want to eat out.  I looked in the fridge and saw the beautiful asparagus I purchased at the farmer’s market last Saturday.  I wanted something vegetarian…and I wanted to make it a main-course.

Soup was the perfect (delicious) solution!

I accompanied the soup with some black garlic toasts.

Baguette slices, smothered with a black garlic goat’s butter,ccccc and toasted

To make the toasts, I simply sliced a baguette.  I chopped some black garlic and mixed it with some goat’s butter.

black garlic cloves

Goat Butter (this butter has a lower melting point than regular cow’s milk butter–therefore it’s not really all that awesome for baking cookies or things like that)

I melted the mixture and brushed it over the slices and laid them on a baking sheet–lined with parchment paper.  Then I popped the baguette slices in my oven that was set to broil.  I let them bake until they became golden and crispy—and delicious!

The soup was equally simple to prepare, and only took about 15 minutes.

cooking the shallots and asparagus with some tarragon

I simply sauteed shallots, asparagus and tarragon in some butter.  Then I added some goat cheese and veggie stock and blended everything until it was smooth.  I added a little dairy…and it was done!

asparagus soup with tarragon and goat cheese –served with black garlic toasts

Easy…and so, so good!

printer-friendly recipe

**note: sorry, I forgot to link the recipe to the printer icon.  It’s all fixed now!**

This soup would be super easy to freeze as well.  Just be sure to leave out the milk and half&half before freezing.  Once you’re ready to use it, allow it to thaw and then add the dairy at that point.

Indian Inspired Pasta Salad

This pasta salad isn’t like most pasta salads I’ve eaten.  It’s different…in a good way.

I was trying to think of something easy, fresh and light to bring along to my family Easter pot-luck; but nothing sounded good.  I wanted something to counter-balance all the candy I knew I would be eating.  I mean…seriously, look at this awesome cake my cousin, Emily made:

Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting...covered with kit-kats and M&M's

I thought a pasta salad would be nice, but I didn’t want to smother it with mayonnaise;  nor did I want a traditional Italian vinaigrette.  I had cucumber, onion and tomato in my refrigerator–and upon seeing those ingredients, the idea for this salad was born.

There’s a Bengali vegetable “salad” that I’ve blogged about here.  It’s fresh, light and everything I wanted; but it needed a little something extra.  I dug through the pantry and found some chickpeas and some spiral pasta.  I also had a pomegranate on hand.

Beautiful, Red Pomegranate Seeds

I wanted to add some minced fresh garlic, but Piyush thought it might be too pungent.  Instead, I cut about 5 cloves in half and threw them in a baking dish with some olive oil and one slit chile.  I thought the chile would impart a nice hint of spice…without being in-your-face hot (lots of Scandinavian palates to tend to, you know?).

I dressed the salad with a mixture of chaat masala, lime juice and the garlic-infused oil.

I wasn’t really sure how this salad would go over with my family.  My immediate family is scared to death to try anything I make—they say it’s too weird (my mom finds everything spicy. UFFDAH!); so I figured Piyush and I would have plenty of left-overs for work the next day.

In fact, we were looking forward to the left-overs.  This salad suited both of our tastes, and it was healthy too!   Unfortunately for us, we had no left-overs.  The recipe seemed to go over pretty well, and I was glad people at least tried it.  This isn’t your typical, American pasta salad…after all!

I noticed a lot of my family members were avoiding the pomegranate seeds.  You could leave them out entirely, but I thought they added a nice sweetness and a beautiful color to the dish.

I think this salad would taste really refreshing and light during the hot summer days.  It’d be a great dish to bring to a picnic or a pot-luck—or even served as a main-dish meal. I will definitely be making this again, soon!

Indian Pasta Salad

  • 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)- rinsed well
  • 1 cucumber- seeded and diced
  • 3 roma tomatoes- seeded and diced
  • 1 medium red onion- diced
  • pomegranate seeds
  • 3/4 lb. spiral noodles- cooked according to pkg. directions
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 c. garlic-oil (recipe follows)
  • 2 tsp. chaat masala (or to taste)–available at Indian grocers
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • bunch of cilantro, chopped

Garlic-Oil

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 serrano chile- slit 2 or 3 times
  • 5 cloves of garlic (skins can stay on)-cut in half

To make the oil, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  Combine all the ingredients in a glass baking dish and toss in the oven.  Leave the oil in the heated oven for at least 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool.

Once the oil is cooled, strain.  You then have garlic infused oil!  You can store it in a cool dark place for about a month.  Make sure it’s stored in a sealed jar, though!

Salad

In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, chickpeas, onion, pomegranate and noodles.  Mix well so that everything is coated.

In a separate jar combine the lime juice, garlic-oil, and chaat masala.  Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.  Now your dressing is done!

Pour the dressing on the salad and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro.

*This salad is best served cold.  It is also better if you make it and then allow it to sit in the refrigerator overnight.  —lets the flavors mingle a little, you know?

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Shrimp Fajitas (without the funky chemical “spices”)

Have you ever went to the grocery store with the intention of making either fajitas or tacos that night for dinner?  Did you pick up some amazingly fresh produce, buy some lovely seafood (or equally expensive chicken breasts), and then throw one of those packaged fajita/taco seasoning pouches in your cart?  I have.  Many times.

I’d go home, cook everything up, add the spice mix (following the directions on the back), take a bite, and immediately wish I would’ve went to Chipotle instead.  There’s just always something so funky tasting about those little spice packets, and no wonder!  Look at the ingredients:

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I’m pretty sure Mexican’s don’t use soy sauce to make fajitas.  Or caramel coloring.  Or natural flavors.  What the heck are natural flavors anyway?  Shouldn’t the natural flavors come from the vegetables and the proteins? Where are the spices? After reading the back of that package, there was no way I was going to use that to make our dinner. A little salt, pepper, lime juice, cumin and chipotle would do the trick.  I decided to use chipotle chile powder because it has a nice smokey flavor to it, and it’s not an artificial smokey flavor either.  Chipotle chile powder is made from ground up smoked jalapenos.  It’s not super spicy, but gives the dish the flavor and the kick that would be expected if you ordered fajitas in a restaurant.

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I loved the texture on my lime…it looks like it has goosebumps!

I had bought a few green and red bell peppers last week, and they were starting to get a little wrinkly—the red peppers were 88 cents/each…which is a steal in our area.  Here, in Rochester, red bell peppers are usually nearly $3 a piece!  Isn’t that insane?  One red pepper costs more than a whole pineapple!  I’m glad summer is almost here so I can grow my own!!!

I didn’t have any shrimp at home, so unfortunately I had to make a trip to the grocery store.  I bought a little less than a pound of medium wild US caught shrimp, an onion, and a new head of garlic.  When I got home I threw the shrimp in a marinade, cut up all my veggies, and got to cookin’.

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Cooking the shrimp—marinade and all!

One thing I really love about fajitas is that you can make them ahead of time and just reheat when you’re ready to eat them.  Piyush decided that he had to go golfing today, so I had no idea what time he’d be back for dinner.  Once he got home (at 7:15pm), dinner could be on the table in 5 minutes.

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Two, Perfect Shrimp Fajitas

These fajitas were absolutely amazing, and ditching the pre-made spice mix made all the difference, I’m positive of it!  I would even go so far as to say that my version of the shrimp fajita could rival that of any restaurant!  Yes.  They were that good.

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Shrimp Fajita mixture

I served the fajita mixture on high fiber tortillas (50 calories/ea) that I had spread about a tablespoon of refried beans onto.  I topped them with some romaine and greek yogurt.  There were some beautiful tomatoes too, but I forgot all about them until after we finished eating.  Dohhh!

My shrimp fajitas recipe makes quite a lot.  This is a really light supper, and each fajita is only around 160 calories.  How exciting is that?!  I had two, Piyush had three, and there is more than enough left for dinner tomorrow.   I work really early tomorrow and the following day, so not having to worry about making dinner will be a good thing.  That means I can (hopefully) go to bed earlier!  I might even make it to the gym!

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Next time you make fajitas at home, I hope you are inspired to ditch the chemical packets and try your hand at making them “from scratch.”  I swear it’s easy…and it’s way more healthy for you than adding a package of powder created in some lab!

Shrimp Marinade:

  • 1 lb fresh medium sized, wild caught shrimps (not previously cooked)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • juice of half a lime
  • zest of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle chile powder
  • 2 tbsp. minced cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Rinse and dry shrimp.  Put them in a large ziploc bag along with the other marinade ingredients.  Toss everything together until the shrimp are all evenly coated.  Let the shrimp mingle with the marinade for around 30 minutes—while you are cooking the veggies.  

Veggies:

  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 large green bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 large white onion, cut into strips
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan.  Once it is hot add in the onions. Cook the onions over med-high heat until they are nice and browned.  This will take around 10 min or so.  Once the onions are browned, add in the garlic.  Cook for about two minutes and then add the peppers.  Stirring occasionally, cook the peppers until they are tender but still have a little bite to them.  Add the mushrooms and cover the pan, they’ll take about 5 minutes to cook.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper.  Remove the veggies from the pan and set them aside.

In the same pan you cooked the vegetables, add a little olive oil (I used my misto).  Dump the shrimp in the pan along with the marinade.  Stir everything together and then put the lid on the pan.  After a minute give everything another good stir and flip the shrimp.  Once the shrimp have cooked for around 4-5 minutes (once the shrimp are fully cooked), add the veggies back into the pan and stir everything together.  Let the mixture cook together for about 5 minutes, with the lid on.  Take the lid off, scoop the mixture into tortillas, and enjoy!!!

Your mouth will thank you!  Mine did.  🙂