Minestrone Soup

My body begs for soup in the winter. This veggie packed hearty Italian soup is one of my go to healthy comfort foods. I love chopping the veggies, it’s great therapy! And, the smells that fill my house and kitchen as the soup simmers on the stove or in the crockpot. Aaaah, now that’s a lil bit of heaven. Serve this yummilicious soup with a green salad and a garlic bread for dipping. 

If you’re cooking for just one or two, go ahead and make the full batch of soup. The soup freezes well, for those days when you’re pressed for time. Make this soup your own by adding your fav veggies or beans. Don’t like cannelloni beans, use kidney beans. As you can tell from the recipe, I LOVE garlic! If you don’t, ease up on the garlic madness! 

Peace & Java
Prep Time: 20 min          Cook Time: 60 min            Total Time: 1 hour 20 min              Serving Size: a heaping 1 1/3 cups

Servings: 12                       Difficulty: easy pease        Yield: about 4 quarts, 16 cups       SP: 2


1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 bulb fennel, chopped

1 medium potato, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 cups kale, washed and roughly chopped

1 small yellow squash, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup cut green beans, fresh or frozen, 

1 cup, whole wheat pasta shells, or elbow macaroni

4 cups fat free vegetable both

1 8 oz.  can spicy low sodium vegetable juice

2 14oz. cans diced tomatoes, with basil and oregano with juice

1 can reduced salt cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped

1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

6 roasted garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsps Italians seasoning

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground oregano

2 bay leaves

2-3 Parmesan rinds

Freshly grated Parmesan, optional


1. In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté, uncovered until a lil browned, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and fennel to the pan and sauté, 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper, the veggies and add the garlic and Parmesan rinds to the party, stirring to mix the seasoning with the veggies.

2. Add the bell peppers, potato, red pepper flakes, oregano and bay leaves to the pot and cook 5 minutes.  – At this point, you may transfer the cooked veggies to a crockpot set on low and continue with the recipe. 

3. Add the canned tomatoes with juice, the tomato juice and the broth. Stir to lift any browned bits from the pot. That color is flavor! Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the soup covered for 20-30 minutes, until the vegges are soft, but still have some bite. No mushy veggie soup here! We are not making baby food. 

4. Stir the green beans, zucchini and squash into the soup. Stir in the beans. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add additional broth if needed for desired consistency. Add the basil, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. 

4. Serve the soup garnished with 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan for 1 additional SP if you’re counting. 

The pasta will swell as the soup sits and it soaks up the broth. If you don’t like that look or taste, cook the pasta separately and add the pasta portions to the soup as you reheat it.  

I like to vary the types of canned diced tomatoes for this soup. There are brands with onions and garlic. I think I’ve seen red peppers too. I also like to use ones with reduced salt or no salt added if I can find them. 

If fresh herbs aren’t available, or don’t look great at the grocery store, buy frozen herb cubes and use them instead.  

When you buy Parmesan cheese wedges, save the rinds. Toss the rinds in a freezer bag and freeze. Use the rinds to flavor soups and sauces. 


Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice

Like Shrimp? Like Fried Rice? Wish there was a healthier version? Well, thank me anytime, because I’ve got you covered. This mock fried rice features califlower rice. It’s tasty, healthy and soooooo soooo good. And, the bonus is, you can have a second helping without any guilt!! Get your “fried rice” on friends!!

Substiute any of your favorite veggies to suit your stir-fry tastes. 

Peace & Java

Prep Time: 30 min            Cook Time: 30 min         Total Time: 1 hour          Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups        Servings:

Difficulty: easy peasy       Yield: about 8 cups          SP: 2 without oil; 3 with oil


3 teaspoons canola oil divided, optional 

Non-stick cooking spray

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 scallions, chopped

1 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 carrots, chopped

4 cups cauliflower, riced (use 1 package or prepare your own with 1 small-medium head of cauliflower)

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 tableshpoon garlic chili paste, or to taste

1 tsp sesame oil

1. Spray a wok or large skillet with non-stick cooking spray over medium heat. Or, if using oil, add 1 teaspoon canola oil to the pan. Add the shrimp. Stir-fry in batches, until pink and just opaque in the center, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. 

2.If using oil, add 1 teaspoon to the wok or skillet. If not, add more cooking spray. Add the lightly beaten eggs or medium to low heat. Softly scramble the eggs, about 2 minutes. Add the scrambled eggs to the plate with the shrimp.

3. If using oil, add the last teaspoon to the work or skillet. If not, add more cooking spray. Add the carrots and stir fry until a little browned, but still a lil crunchy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the scallions, ginge and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes to incorporate. Add the peas, shrimp and scrambled eggs. Cook until heated through, 3-4 minutes.

4. Stir in the soy sauce, hoisin, garlic chili paste and sesame. Stir-fry to combine veggies with shrimp and seasonings. Add the cauliflower rice. Mix well, 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed. 

5. Chow down!!

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: Speed up cooking by preparing the cauliflower rice and chopping the veggies the day before. Or, use pre-chopped veggies from the salad bar.

You can buy riced cauliflower in the cold pre-packed veggie section of your store. To rice it yourself, just pulse cleaned cauliflower florets in a food processor or chop finely with a knife. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

It’s the time of the year for fresh starts and cleansing. This zesty veggie filled soup is comfort food for the cold winter months. Though, I must admit, it’s equally tasty any time of the year. Plus, it’s Weight Watchers & figure friendly. Go soup! 

Peace & Java

Prep Time: 20 min         Cook Time: 30-45 min     Total Time: about 1 hour          Servings: 4          Serving Size: 2 cups                    Difficulty: Medium         Yield: about 8 cups.          SP:


1 large onion, chopped 

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 medium rib celery, chopped with leaves

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes & green chilies with juice 

1/2 cup canned low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup corn, frozen or fresh

1 cup chicken breast strips, cooked and roughly chopped

4 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce, minced

1/2 tableshoon canola oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Goya All Purpose Seasoning, Lemon & Pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Optional Garnishes: avocado, shredded reduced fat cheese, fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt, tortilla strips


1. Add canola oil to a medium Dutch oven obverse medium high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, celery and carrots. Sauté, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Strain in the garlic and chipotle. 

2. Add diced tomatoes with juice, corn and chicken stock, Goya seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring soup to a simmer. Stir in chicken.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

3.  Reduce heat to low and cook 30-45 minutes covered. 

4. Add lime juice and cilantro to soup. Adjust seasoning if needed. 

Serve with your choice of optional garnishes. 

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: Adjust the spice level of the soup by ramping up or omitting the jalapeño and the the chipotle in adobo sauce.  
For WW SPs: 1/2 oz avocado: 1 SP; 2 tbsp RF shredded cheese: 1 SP; 1 tbsp FF sour cream or Greek yogurt: 0 SP; 1.4 oz tortilla strips: 1SP

Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad

I’m currently working in Southern California and have discovered Xiao Long Bao, savory soup dumplings with a delicious yummy broth hidden inside various meat or veggie fillings. These dumplings are amazing! They are typically served with a side of fresh slivered ginger, vinegar, soy sauce and chile oil to customize your dim sum feast. 

In my dumpling quest, I have become addicted to a crisp cumcumber salad appetizer. This recipe is my version of this cool and crunchy simple veggie dish. As you may have gathered from my recipes, I like it spicy. If you don’t, just cut back on the chile paste. If you like it super hot, add more chile paste. Happy eating in 2017 my virtual friends. 🍴😊

Peace & Java 

Prep Time: 10 min       Marinating Time: 30 min

Total Time: 40 minutes    Serving Size: 1 cup

Servings: 4                           Difficulty:  Easy Peasy

Yield: about 4 cups            SP: 1 

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon red chile paste

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons lime zest

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

4 small Persian cucumbers, sliced into 1 inch rounds

sea salt, optional 


1. Whisk all ingredients, except cucumbers to make dressing in a medium bowl.

2. Add cucumbers rounds to dressing. Toss well to coat. Marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Serve with a sprinkle of sea salt if desired. 


I like to create a stripe effect using a vegetable peeler before slicing my cucumbers. 

Roasted Chicken Salad

Who doesn’t like chicken salad? It’s quick, tasty and filled with protein. I make a few varieties of chicken salad. This one is my basic go to recipe. It’s great as a sammy, a wrap, as an appetizer roll-up or served simply on a bed of mixed greens. I roast the chicken, let it cool and dice it a day or two ahead. That way, this salad comes together quick when you’re ready to eat. I don’t like a super wet chicken salad. If you do, add more mayo and or yogurt to your desired level of creamy. 

The pics of the roasted chicken are from a quadruple batch, I made for a wedding. The recipe below has been reduced to make a smaller quantity. But, you can always roast a bunch of chicken breasts when you have extra time and refrigerate or freeze them for meals later. 

Peace and Java

Prep Time: 20 min            Cook Time: 30 min             Total Time:  50 min            Serving Size: 1/2 cup

Servings: 6                          Difficulty: Medium              Yield: 3 cups


For the Roasted Chicken:

4 large chicken breasts, boneless

2 tablespoons light butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground 

For the Chicken Salad

Roasted Chicken, cubed

1/2 cup light mayo

1/2 cup reduced fat greek yogurt

1 large red onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped – about 2 stalks

1/4 cup roasted peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons cup capers, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard

dash hot sauce

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and brush with the melted butter. Salt and pepper both sides of the check breasts. roast for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is done and the juices run clear. Let the chicken cool, then cut into large chunks. 

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients with the chicken. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve and enjoy

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: Try adding walnuts or raisins to the mix if ya like your chicken salad with a little crunch and a hint of sweet. For appetizer size chicken sammy or roll-ups, dice the chicken. 

Sassy Barbeque Sauce

I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri – pronounced Miz-zoor-E, not Miz-zoor-uh! As many of you know, KC is not only home to the 2015 World Series champions, the Royals, but the birthplace some of the best barbeque and jazz around. I like my barbeque sauce, a little spicy with a hint of sweetness. Make a batch of this sassy sauce and drizzle it on all things Que. Try it on pork, chicken, ribs, turkey, shrimp and tofu. If ya like, grab a straw and take a sip. I’m tellin’ ya….it’s that good! 

Peace and Java

Prep Time:   10 min            Cook Time:  1 hour 30 min            Total Time:   1 hour  40 min        

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons            Servings: about 56            Difficulty:  easy peasy      Yield: about 3.5 cups


2 cups ketchup 

1 cup cherry cola

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons Worchestire sauce

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground mustard

1 tablespoon liquid smoke


In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently for 1 and a half hours. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: Try using spicy ketchup for a little more kick

Olive Salad

I’m a planner. Next week, I’m helping my friend with her NOLA – that’s New Orleans – themed party. As a planner, I made the Olive Salad for the Muffuletta today, so that the flavors get a chance to marry and become absolutely fabulous. The Muffuletta is a famous NOLA Italian sammy packed with all kinds of yumminess! Stay tuned for that recipe coming soon. As you can see from this recipe, I am fond of garlic. As I always say, adjust any of the ingredients to your liking. Make it your own and enjoy!!

Though the olive salad is linked with the Muffuletta, I can testify that this condiment is excellent on almost any sammy, even grilled cheese. It’s great with eggs on in an omelette or frittata. It’s even tasty mixed with cream cheese and served as a dip for veggies, on toast or your fave bagel in the morning. Basically olive salad is the stuff salty dreams are made of. This recipe makes a bunch and keeps for months in the fridge. So, share with your friends and feel the love. 

Peace and Java

1 quart pimento stuffed olives, drained and chopped – see note below

1  1/2 cups Kalamata olives, drained, pitted and chopped 

1 1/2 cups olive oil

1 cup pickled cauliflower, drained and diced

4-6 stalked celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 cup pepperoncini, drained and diced

1/2 cup cocktail onions, diced

1/2 cup roasted yellow pepper, drained and roughly chopped

1/4 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped

12 sweet cherry peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

18 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons italian seasoning

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place in jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using. 

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: I like a pretty chunky olive salad, so I roughly chop some of the olives and mince some of them, so the oils are released, making the perfect mixture.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Guess what? I’m not really of fan of Ranch dressing. Well, at least I wasn’t. I’ve discovered that homemade and fresh herbs do indeed make a difference! This Ranch was delish! I’m a convert. I usually make my salad dressing so that I know what’s in them. Plus, I got tired of having so many partially open bottles in my fridge. I’m adding this dressing to my repertoire. It’s a creamy keeper.

The credit for this Homemade Ranch Dressing recipe goes to Ree Drummond, from Food Network. Thanks to Ree, I’ll be whipping up this dressing on the reg. 

PS: As always, I changes a few things in the recipe. Feel free to do the same friends! 

Peace & Java 

Prep Time: 15 min            Chill Time: 2 hours               Total Time: 2 hours 15 min            Serving Size: 2 tablespoons

Servings: 16                      Difficulty: easy peasy            Yield: about 2 cups


2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash hot sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (as needed for desired consistency)


Mince the garlic with a knife, then sprinkle on the salt and mash it into a paste with the wide part of your knife.

In a bowl, combine the garlic paste, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, vinegar, paprika, cayenne and hot sauce. Add the buttermilk to desired consistency and mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, thinning with more buttermilk if needed.

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: I’m thinking of adding diced jalapeño next time for a Spicy Homemade Ranch. Oh yeah!! Viva la Ranch. 

Charred Onion Dip 

I  was looking for an onion dip recipe to serve for a party and ran across this dip recipe on Epicurious.com. It has a richer deeper onion flavor than the dehydrated onion flakes tossed into a tub of sour cream that was popular back in the day. And it’s way tastier than the stuff in the dairy aisle at the grocery store. I made a few small changes to the original recipe, because that’s what I do!  I wanted a slightly lighter, lower-fat version so I used reduced fat dairy and upped the ante on the fresh herbs. Make a double batch, because there are never leftovers of this dip. 
Peace and Java


Prep Time: 30 min            Cook Time: 15 min            Serving Size: 2 tablespoons            Servings: 16

Difficulty: Medium            Yield: about 1 cup


1 leek cleaned and sliced

1 large shallot

1 tablespoon olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 green onions, sliced 

1/2 cup light mayonnaise 

1/2 cup light sour cream 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons chopped thyme, plus more for garnish

Salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Dash of hot sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Toss 1 thinly sliced shallot, 1 thinly sliced leek, and 2 thinly sliced scallions with 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil, tossing once, until charred, 10-12 minutes. Let the mixture cool. 

Toss with garlic,  mayo, sour cream, hot sauce, lemon juice, and thyme. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve topped with thyme.

NOTES, TIPS & TRICKS: To clean the leek, fills bowl with water and let the sliced leeks soak for a few minutes so the sand and grit falls to the bottom of the bowl. Drain the water, nd repeat. I usually soak and rinse my leeks twice to make sure they are totally clean.