Monday, December 29, 2008

Overnight Spiced Cranberry Oatmeal

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Atlanta...I'm here to cheer on the Tigers to victory! We left Covington this morning at 7 am (my dad likes to get on the road early...I'm not opposed as long as it helps the trip go smoothly...he gets a little grumpy when we travel!). Once we got to the hotel (the Ritz in downtown Atlanta) I started checking my email and came across this recipe for oatmeal that can be made in the slow that idea!

So I haven't tried it yet*, but I will as soon as I get home...I'll let you know how it goes. If anyone tries it before me, leave a comment and let me know what you think. I've posted a similar recipe before, but haven't tried it either.

The recipe comes from Coconut & Lime, one of the first blogs that I started reading and still read regularly today. It suggests that the recipe makes 6 servings (3 cups dried oats = 6 cups cooked), but I think because of the fruit you could get 7 servings and cut back a little on the serving size.

Overnight Spiced Cranberry Oatmeal

makes 7 servings (about 1 cup each)

4 ½ cups water
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on low overnight (6-8 hours). Stir and serve.

Per serving - 206 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 43 g carbohydrate, 17 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 5 g protein (exchanges: 2 ½ starches, ½ fruit)

Notes - I left the sugar alone even though it is a lot (¾ cup = 12 tablespoons) Rachel, the blogger, says, cranberries are very tart so the extra sugar is needed; changes/additions I plan on when I make it: (1) substitute part of the water for milk to boost the protein content (read the comment section before doing this), (2) add some toasted walnuts or pecans for a healthy fat, and (3) cut back on the ginger...I'm not crazy about ginger

* Now that I've tried it, here's what I think:
  • I successfully replaced 1 cup of water with 1 cup of skim milk (no curdling)
  • I started it at 10 pm and ate it at 8:30 am...10 ½ hours...the sides where a little burnt and it was pretty mushy (I guess I'm used to oatmeal with a little more texture and a little less mush) - although I don't mind the consistency, next time I will try using steel cut oats...I'll probably have to modify the amount of oats and water
  • The flavors are really good! I used a 10 ounce bag of frozen cranberries and only ¼ tsp of ginger...I also added a pinch of cloves and omitted the allspice (I didn't have any)
  • I transferred the left over oatmeal to an air-tight container and refrigerated it for later in the week; each morning I microwave my serving and add some walnuts


Here is a new review of oatmeal and other hot cereals. My favorite instant oatmeal? In a pinch I use Quaker Simple Harvest Instant Multigrain Hot Cereal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Crab and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

I know I've said it before, but I love mushrooms...I mean, I can't get enough. Growing up I had them sauteed on top of steak, grilled on kabobs, baked in brown rice casserole (my all time fave), and stewed with chicken.

These days I still cook all of these things my mom did, but I've added new recipes to my repertoire such as roasted mushroom soup and these incredible stuffed mushrooms. You should give them a try!

Crab and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
adapted from

24 medium mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped (chop the stems...not the caps)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, very finely chopped (about ¼ could use another kind of onion too)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and black pepper

¼ cup dry bread crumbs (I made my own using whole wheat bread)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, and/or chives (I used parsley...adds color but not much flavor)
½ cup lump crab meat, picked through to remove any shell
½ cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten

In a skillet, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushroom stems, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, using a small spoon (I used my ½ teaspoon to do this) scrape out some of the insides/gills of the mushrooms (be careful not to tear the mushrooms). Arrange the caps, gill side up, in a single layer on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Spray mushrooms with cooking spray* and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

In a bowl thoroughly combine the sauteed mushrooms, bread crumbs, herbs, crab meat, half of the cheese, and egg. Divide the stuffing mixture among the mushroom caps, mounding it slightly. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese. At this point the mushrooms can be covered with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerated until ready to cook.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.

* I don't buy PAM or other cooking spray from the store very's such a waste (throwing away the empty cans) and expensive! I bought my own oil spray bottle, fill it myself with the kind of olive oil I like, and refill it when it runs out...and guess what the only ingredient is? Olive oil!

Per serving (2 medium mushrooms) - 61 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 4 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 5 g protein (exchanges: 1 protein, ½ fat)

Notes - I brought these to both of my parties last weekend, so I made a double batch of the sauteed mushroom stems and saved half for the second party...cook once, serve twice!; the original recipe suggests other meats (prosciutto or crumbled cooked bacon) and cheeses (Asiago or crumbled Feta)...the bacon and prosciutto will add more fat and calories though; if you are serving these as hors' dourves, buy smaller 1-bite mushrooms - if they will be served on a plate (with a knife and fork) go for the bigger "stuffers"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chicken Roll-Ups with Goat Cheese and Spinach

I love this recipe and have made it so many times. It's been in my recipe binder since 2005 (I only know this because it's printed in the bottom corner). The recipe is from EveryDay Food, the Martha Stewart mag that I rave about.

The original recipe fills the chicken with goat cheese and arugula (a type of lettuce that's "peppery"). I've made it substituting spinach for the arugula and I imagine basil would be nice too (for the party this past weekend I used basil pesto and sun dried tomatoes and it was delish). I've also swapped the goat cheese for feta.

Chicken cutlets are hard for me to find, so I usually buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound them thin. To do this, I put 1 breast in a heavy duty zip-loc bag (I don't seal the bag) and pound it with my rolling pin (I don't have a meat mallet).

Even with the cheese, the recipe is relatively low in fat. Goat cheese and other soft cheeses (like feta) are lower in fat than most (80 cals and 6g fat per 1 oz serving).

Chicken Roll-Ups with Goat Cheese and Spinach
adapted from

Makes 4 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 ½ pounds or less)
Salt and pepper
4 ounces baby spinach (or regular spinach with stems trimmed)
3 ounces soft goat cheese, broken into small pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pound each chicken breast to about a ¼-inch thickness and pat dry. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

On a clean work surface, lay chicken flat (smooth sides down). Fill and roll: Layer each breast with spinach and then crumble goat cheese in the center. Starting with the narrow end, roll up chicken tightly and seal with a toothpick (or 2) or tie with kitchen twine.

In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet*, heat oil over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook, seam side down, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn chicken and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer skillet to oven. Cook until chicken is opaque throughout, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the chicken to rest 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks, and slice chicken crosswise before serving, if desired.

* If you don't have a skillet that can go from the stove-top to the oven (it really depends on whether or not the handle is heat-proof), just transfer the browned chicken to a baking sheet/dish and continue as normal.

Per serving - 268 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated), 1 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 44 g protein (exchanges: 2 fat, 6 protein)

Notes - This recipe is so easy to adjust for more will probably have left-over cheese and spinach so just buy extra chicken; for the party, I browned the roll-ups ahead of time, cooled them to room temperature, and refrigerated them until party time - when guests started arriving I took them out of the fridge to bring them back to room temp and 20 minutes before I was ready to serve, I popped them in the oven (10 to 12 minutes...mine actually took 15 to cook); for the party, I sliced each roll-up in half...there were 9 of us at the party and I cooked 6 breasts - we each had ½ of a roll-up and with all of the other food I served, it was enough (we were all girls too, so that helped)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wild Rice Cranberry Pecan Salad

(This post has been updated here)

I served this salad as a trial run at my party Sunday night...the real event is Hilary's graduation/Christmas party this coming Sunday for over 100 people. Needless to say, I will have to make a very large batch!

I bought a wild rice and brown basmati rice blend in the bulk section of Whole Foods. Both are whole grains. If you can't find a blend, just substitute brown rice and wild rice in a 3:1 ratio (¾ cup brown and ¼ cup wild).

This is meant to be a side dish and therefore it makes 10 small could add some lean protein to it (chopped chicken or turkey) and serve it as a main course. In that case, I would figure 5 or 6 servings.

Wild Rice Cranberry Pecan Salad
adapted from

Makes 10 ½-cup servings

1 cup brown rice wild rice mix
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Cook rice according to package instructions, omitting fat and adding 1/2 tsp salt. Here is the method I used:

Rinse rice. Put all ingredients (1 cup rice, 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt) in pot with tight-fitting lid. Stir, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Do not remove lid. Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for 10 minutes. Then uncover, fluff with a fork, and let cool to almost room temperature.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the cooled rice, cranberries, pecans, and green onions.

In a separate jar, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste.

Combine dressing with the rice mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve warm, chilled, or room temperature.

Per serving - 168 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated), 19 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3g protein (exchanges: 2 fat, 1 starch)

Notes - You could swap the lemon juice and zest for orange; omitting all or half of the pecans would save a few fat grams; this salad is more of a method than a could substitute any of the ingredients (a different grain, nut, fruit, vegetable...the sky's the limit); I like serving grain salads over lettuce - I would double the dressing for the rice, saving half to drizzle over the lettuce (or to use with another salad)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Healthy Holiday

"It's that time of year"...when you have a party to attend every other evening, someone brings a Christmas "treat" to work every day, food presents are arriving at your doorstep by the second, cocktails are flowing, life is crazy and hectic leaving little time for exercise and meal planning (and lots of opportunities for eating out or picking up take-out)...I'm already feeling it!

This past weekend I had a party on Friday and Sunday night. Next weekend is the same. Then another party on Tuesday, a lunch with friends on Tuesday too, Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family and Christmas day with my mom's side. Then I leave for Atlanta for New Years...and then it's Mardi Gras...

What am I going to do? Well, I might be busy and get a little stressed, but I'm not going to gain weight. What's my plan?
  • make time to exercise - I do it first thing in the morning, before my day gets going and I run out of time
  • eat extra healthy when I have control - when I am eating at home, it will be lots of salads, fruits, vegetables, chicken, yogurt
  • eat breakfast everyday - on a normal day I will have oatmeal or an English muffin; if it's the day after a party/big meal I will have a lighter breakfast like yogurt and fruit (maybe with some granola)
  • give away (or throw away) temptations - don't feel guilty about throwing out the left-over dessert from a party or those yummy cookies someone baked for you...what's a bigger waste? throwing away food or throwing away your waist line?
  • get back on track THE NEXT DAY - post-party day for me: I already have run and had pomegranate oatmeal with milk to drink; I have a salad planned for lunch, and vegetable soup with a turkey sandwich for dinner...and I'm sure I'll have an apple at some point

I try not to give away unhealthy food gifts (i.e. dessert) at Christmas, I figure everyone gets enough of them and no one really needs them. Last year I gave away homemade hummus and crackers and this year I'm doing homemade whole wheat English muffins with pumpkin butter (now you know Mel!). One of my friends, Danielle, is giving away homemade granola.

I also try to bring a healthy dish to the parties I attend. Friday night I made stuffed mushrooms. Last night the party was at my house and I served the following:

stuffed mushrooms
green salad with lemon vinaigrette and Parmesan
wild rice salad
roasted yellow squash
goat cheese & spinach stuffed chicken breasts
peppermint brownie bites

One of my friends made the punch and brownies, but I made the rest and will post each of these recipes over the course of this check back if you are interested!

When you have control of the menu, why not make it healthy? Dinner was so good last night and no one missed the calories! Who says you have to serve unhealthy food around the holidays?

What about at a party where I don't have control of the menu? I make sure I eat something before I go (maybe an apple) and then I don't eat things that I could have on any given chips and salsa for me! Or crackers and cheese, average desserts (brownies, sugar cookies, etc), store-bought items...this way I eliminate half of my choices and don't waste calories on things that aren't special. I fill-up my plate once and then only go back for vegetable seconds.

Here is an article from with more tips for having a healthy holiday without gaining any weight. One thing in the article that I don't agree with is their suggestion for low-calorie and low-fat appetizers/snacks at a party. It recommends that you

"Try some low-fat dips with vegetable crudités, or bowls of raw nuts and dried fruits."

Nuts are not low-fat or low-cal and I wouldn't snack on them at a party...its too easy to go overboard (1/4 cup of peanuts has about 200 calories and 18 g of fat). And although dried fruit is fat free, its still calories dense (1/4 cup of raisins has about 110 calories).

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Roasted Mushroom Soup

Whenever my house phone rings early in the morning (no one has the number but close family and friends), I immediately think something is wrong. So when I heard it ringing this morning, that is what I thought. But it was good news! It was one of Hilary's friends, Taylor, calling to tell us to look outside at the SNOW!!!!

It hasn't snowed in south Louisiana in years! I remember there being enough snow one year in the early 90's that we were able to make a snowman; the ditches froze and we could "ice skate" on them (remember that Mary??); and we turned on the sprinkler to make icicles on our bushes.

Schools are closed so I'm assuming that I won't have to teach tonight...what am I going to do with myself? I guess catch up on my to-do list. And blogging about my newest soup recipe is on that list.

I LOVE mushrooms, so when I received a recipe in my email for Roasted Mushroom Soup, I knew I had to make it that day. There were a few steps in the recipe that I didn't like, so I googled for another version. I ended up using a combination of the two. I made a few ingredient modifications too.

The soup is thick and creamy, but only because of pureed mushrooms and not because there is a lot of cream. The recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, but it is completely optional. I almost left it out, because the soup was already so creamy. I'm going to include the nutrition info for both versions...with and without the cream...and you can decide - nutritionally it doesn't make much of a difference.

Roasted Mushroom Soup
adapted from and

makes 8 1-cup servings

2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced into ½-inch pieces
about 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into ½-inch pieces
2 large garlic clove, unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely sliced (about ½ cup)
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth, divided
¾ cup white wine (I used chardonnay, but any white would work)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped (or ¾ teaspoon dried)

2 tablespoons heavy cream (or half & half, both optional)
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Divide mushrooms and whole garlic cloves between 2 large baking sheets (with rims). To each baking sheet add 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat and spread mushrooms and garlic into a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, switching pans from top and bottom shelves half way through.

As soon as you remove the mushrooms from the oven, add about a ¼ cup of broth (or more) to each pan and scrape up any brown bits...this is called deglazing. Set aside to cool slightly.

Once cooled, remove garlic cloves from pan then peel and mince (or press). Puree half of mushrooms with enough broth so that the blender can blend (about 2 cups for me). Set mushroom puree aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until shallot is tender, about 8 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all of liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly). Add remaining broth and thyme; stir working out any flour/onion clumps. Stir in remaining cooked mushroom pieces/juices and mushroom puree. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add cream (if using) and lemon juice; taste and reseason with salt and pepper if needed.

Per serving (with cream) - 148 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 13 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 7 g protein (exchanges: 1 fat, 2 vegetable, 1 protein)

Per serving (without cream) - 135 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 13 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 7 g protein (exchanges: 1 fat, 2 vegetable, 1 protein)

Notes - The soup can be made ahead of time - cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate, bring to simmer before serving, thinning with additional broth or water if necessary; you could use red onion instead of shallot; my soup was really thick, so I added water to each individual serving instead of thinning out the whole batch; you could use a mixture of creminis (baby portobellos) and button mushrooms instead...shiitakes are expensive and can be hard to find!


Having a low-calorie soup (like this one) as a first course may be able to help you lose about it here!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Strawberries Romanoff

(This post has been updated here.)

Have you ever had strawberries Romanoff at La Madeleine? I've never tried it, but I always think it looks pretty good...can you go wrong with strawberries and cream?

According to "The Food Lover's Companion" (the food encyclopedia Mel gave me a few years ago also available online)
"this deliciously decadent dessert is made by soaking strawberries in orange juice and curaçao or cointreau, then serving them topped with whipped cream. It's one of many dishes named after the Russian royal family by French chefs."

One of my clients asked that I modify a copycat version of the dish on to make it more healthful. Not a prob! I changed a few things and made it for myself, and guess what? It's so good! So I decided to share it with all of you. The original recipe serves 4 and the ingredients are as follows:
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons
brown sugar
1 tablespoon
brandy or vanilla
½ cup
heavy cream
3 tablespoons
4 cups
fresh strawberries

This version doesn't call for soaking the berries in orange juice and orange liqueur (although it's not a bad idea). The problem with this recipe isn't the strawberries (obviously), but the cream, sour cream, and sugar. Heavy cream has 50 calories and 5 g fat (3.5 saturated) per tablespoon. Sour cream has the same calories/fat per 2 tablespoons. And then there's the sugar...18 teaspoons total which adds 270 calories...and aren't strawberries already sweet??

So that's where I made the changes. I swapped plain nonfat yogurt for the sour cream, left the heavy cream alone, and reduced the sugar to 7 ½ teaspoons. I used a 6 ounce container of Dannon All Natural plain nonfat yogurt which is ¾ of a cup instead of ½ of a cup like the original recipe...this helps "dilute" the calories in the whipped cream even further. I also increased the fruit and made 6 servings instead of 4.

You may wonder why I left the heavy cream is very high in fat after all. For some, fat-free Cool Whip would be an option, but I don't use Cool Whip. I don't think it tastes very good and its not made from anything natural like cream or milk (have you seen the commercial for Reddi-wip..."cream or oil?"). Here is the ingredient list from Cool Whip (the fat-free kind):
You be the judge...

I'm sticking with whipped cream lightened with nonfat yogurt.

Strawberries Romanoff
adapted from

Makes 6 servings

6 oz container nonfat plain yogurt (I like Dannon All-Natural)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or brandy
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
6 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Mix yogurt, brown sugar, and vanilla or brandy in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, whip cream and sugar until thick and fluffy.

Gently fold half of cream into yogurt mixture. Add the remaining cream and fold to combine.

Serve over fresh strawberries.

Per serving
before – 296 calories, 18 g fat (11 g saturated), 33 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein (exchanges: 3 ½ fat, 1 starch, 1 fruit)

after –152 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated), 18 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein (exchanges: 1 ½ fat, ¼ starch, 1 fruit)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Black Bean (Pumpkin) Soup

I've had this recipe saved since June and have been waiting for the right time to make it. I had one can of pumpkin left in my pantry and I was either going to make yeasted chocolate-chip pumpkin bread or black bean pumpkin soup...but, considering all of the dessert I've had over the past week (lemon icebox pie and banana bread at Mel's, pumpkin cream cheese cupcake from Jess, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and rum cake on Thanksgiving, and M&M's at the LSU/Arkansas game...they weren't lucky this week!) I decided to go with the soup.

I put the pumpkin in parenthesis in the title because you won't even know its in the can't taste it (Hilary, who hates pumpkin, has eaten the soup twice and hasn't suspected a thing). It adds a thickness to the soup that makes it so rich and creamy...but there is no cream and the soup is very low-fat (4 g per 1 cup).

Things to know about beans:

1) they are a great source of fiber (15 g per cup...60 % of daily value), protein (15 g per cup), and folate...something women in child-bearing years need in order to prevent certain birth defects (64 % of daily value per cup)

2) they are high in carbohydrates, but don't be scared low-carb dieters...these are complex carbohydrates - the kind that are digested and released into your bloodstream more slowly which helps stabilize blood sugar levels (and may help with weight management)

3) the high levels of fiber help stabilize blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, prevent constipation and other digestive disorders (IBS and diverticulosis)

4) they are rich in antioxidants, and the darker the skin the black beans are extra rich!

So eat up...beans are so good for you!

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
adapted from

Makes 9 1-cup servings

2 tablespoons butter (preferably unsalted)
1 large onion, chopped
1 shallot minced (you could omit this)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
three 15 ½ ounce cans (or two 25 ounce cans) black beans (about 4 ½ cups), rinsed and drained
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
4 cups beef broth
one 15 ounce can pumpkin pureé (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup dry Sherry (or any dry white wine)
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (optional)

In a 6-quart dutch oven or other large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in a blender (or food processor), blend half of each of the following: beans, tomatoes, beef broth, and pumpkin. Once the onions have softened and the garlic and seasonings have been added, add the first batch of the bean mixture. Repeat with the remaining beans, tomatoes, beef broth, and pumpkin; add to the soup pot.

Add the sherry (if using), stir to combine, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, stir in the vinegar. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve soup as is or garnished with light sour cream or plain low-fat yogurt.

Per 1-cup serving - 300 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 49 g carbohydrates, 16 g fiber, 17 g protein (exchanges: 1 fat, 2 protein, 3 starch, ½ vegetable)

Notes - The recipe originally called for 4 tablespoons of butter, but I only used 2. It also called for ½ pound of diced ham, but I left it out...I figured I was getting enough protein from the beans. The dry sherry could be omitted or you could substitute any dry (i.e. not sweet) white wine. Serve ½ cup portions as a side dish or 1 to 1-½ cup portions as an entree. I froze half of the soup in 2 cup servings to reheat on a night when I don't have time to or feel like cooking.