Recipes for Life Cookbook

Celebrate food and nutrition with these comfort foods. 

Spicy Mexican Chicken Soup

Meal Time: 45 minutes

Serves 8 


2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 tsp. Olive Oil

1 Sweet Onion, chopped

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 Jalapeno Pepper, finely chopped

1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped (or one 7 oz. Can Chipotle Peppers)

1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped

2 tsp. Chili Powder

1 tsp. Dried Oregano

1 (28 oz.) Can Crushed Tomatoes,  (to reduce the sodium content, use no salt added) 

2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (for thinner soup, use 24 - 32 ounces

2 cups Whole Corn Kernels, cooked (fresh or frozen)

1 (15 oz.) Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup Packed Chopped Fresh Cilantro Leaves

1 Avocado, cut into 8 slices

2 cups Shredded Low Fat Mexican Cheese Blend

4 Green Onions, chopped


In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add chicken breasts, and boil for approximately 30 – 40 minutes, until they are not pink in the center when cut.  Shred chicken with two forks.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add bell peppers, chili powder, and oregano, and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in tomatoes and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in corn, cilantro, beans, and chicken.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with cheese, avocado, and green onions.

Easy Additions:

Serve the soup with store bought or homemade tortilla chips.  They can be served whole or crushed onto the soup.

For even more flavor, top each serving of soup with a dollop of plain nonfat yogurt.

Hearty Minestrone Soup 

Serves 6

Meal Time:  1 hour 


1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

1 Small Sweet Onion, diced

2 Carrots, diced

2 Celery Stalks, strings removed, chopped

2 Medium Idaho Potatoes (skin on), diced into ½ inch cubes

2 (32 oz) Cartons Low Sodium Vegetable Broth

¼ Head Cabbage, chopped

1 ½ tsp. Italian Seasoning

½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

12 oz. Green Beans, ends trimmed

4 oz. Whole Wheat Penne or Shell Pasta (I used chiocciole)

1 (15.5 oz) Can Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5 oz) Can Diced Tomatoes Packed in Juice, No Salt Added, drained

¼ cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, loosely chopped

1 oz. Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese 

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery, and sauté for 5 – 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent.  Add potato, broth, cabbage, Italian seasoning, and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer for 20 minutes, or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally.  Cut green beans in half.  Boil water in a small saucepan, and add pasta.  Cook until al dente, strain, and set aside.  Transfer ½ of the kidney beans into a food processor or blender and puree into a paste.  Add green beans, bean paste, whole kidney beans, tomatoes, and parsley to soup mixture and stir.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  If all of the soup will be eaten, add the cooked pasta for the last 5 minutes.  If some of the soup will be refrigerated or frozen, add pasta only to the soup portions being served immediately.  Store the remaining pasta in an air tight container in the refrigerator, and add it when warming the soup to serve.  Top each portion with grated parmesan cheese before serving.

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Meal Time:  1 hour and 15 minutes   

Serves:  4 


1 Medium (2 – 3 lb.) Spaghetti Squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

2 tsp. Olive Oil

2 Links Bell & EvansÒ Basil and Parmesan Chicken Sausage, cut into ½ inch rounds

½ cup Sweet Onion, diced

½ Medium Fresh Fennel Bulb

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (reduce or eliminate for less heat)

¼ cup Red Wine

1 Green Bell Pepper, diced

1 (8 oz.) Package Mushrooms, sliced

2 cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes, No Salt Added

1 ½ tsp. Capers, drained

2 tsp. Italian Seasoning

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

1/3 cup Freshly Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place squash cut side down in a baking dish with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Bake squash for approximately 45 minutes or until the skin gives easily under pressure.  While the spaghetti squash is baking, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Brown the sausage pieces for 1 – 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Cut the fennel stalks away from the bulb and rinse the bulb with water.  Cut the bulb in half vertically, remove the base and hard center core, and dice.  Add onion and fennel to the skillet, and sauté for 3 - 5 minutes, until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, and sausage, and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add red wine, and reduce heat to medium until most of it cooks away.  Add green pepper and mushrooms, cover, increase heat to medium high, and sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, capers, and Italian seasoning, cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove cover, stir in the parsley, and simmer for an additional 3 - 5 minutes.  If you have a meat thermometer, make the sausages should reach a temperature of 160 degrees.  Once the squash has cooled for 10 minutes, scrape the flesh from the squash with a fork (it will separate into noodle-like strands).  Separate into 4 portions.  Spoon sauce over the spaghetti squash “noodles,” and sprinkle with Romano cheese.

Alternative Cooking Option:

The spaghetti squash can also be cooked in the microwave.  After halving the squash, pierce a few holes in the skin with a knife or fork.  Place squash halves cut side up in a microwave safe dish with ¼ cup water and cover with pierced plastic wrap.  Microwave on high for 15 – 20 minutes or until skin gives easily under pressure.

Pumpkin Chick Pea Stew

Serves 8

Prep. Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour


2 tsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped

1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1 Medium Onion, chopped

1 ½ tsp. – 1 Tbsp. Adobo Seasoning

(Frontier Organic and Goya Adobo Light are low in sodium)

½ tsp. Ground Cumin (or more to taste)

1 Large Tomato, chopped

1 (8 oz.) Can Tomato Sauce, no salt added

2 (15.5 oz.) Cans Low Sodium Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans), strained and rinsed

2.75 lb. Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, cut into small pieces with skin

¼ cup loosely chopped Fresh Cilantro Leaves (or more to taste)

Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat, and sauté the garlic, bell peppers, and onion until tender.  Stir in the adobo to taste, cumin, chopped tomato, tomato sauce, chick peas, and ½ cup water.  Bring to a boil and stir in the pumpkin and cilantro.  Simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the pumpkin is tender, stirring occasionally.  Add an additional ½ cup of water during cooking if stew is not the desired consistency.

Creamy Escarole with White Beans

Serves 4 as a side dish

Prep. and Cook Time: 20 minutes


1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

½ Medium Sweet Onion, diced

1 tsp. Capers, drained

¼ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

1 Large Head Escarole, leaves removed and washed

1 (15.5 oz) Can No Salt Added or Low Sodium Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tbsp. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

2 Tbsp. Low Fat Trans Fat Free Margarine (Suggested: Brummel and Brown Spread)

¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/8 tsp. Ground Sea Salt

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

¼ cup Feta Cheese, crumbled

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Add garlic, onion, capers, and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté until onion becomes translucent.  Tear escarole leaves into large pieces and add them to the pan with the cannellini beans, lemon juice, margarine, pepper, salt, and 1 tablespoon water.  Sauté until escarole is wilted to your liking, approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add feta cheese halfway through sautéing the escarole, and toss gently.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions: For even more flavor, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving. 

Warm Winter Vegetable Casserole

Prep. and Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Serves: 6


For the Casserole

12 oz. Brussels Sprouts, cut into quarters or halves depending on size

½ Large Fennel Bulb, cut into ½ inch thick pieces

1 Large Sweet Onion, cut into 1 inch thick pieces

4 Medium Carrots, cut into ½ - 1 inch long pieces depending on width

1 Head Cauliflower, cut into small stalks

4 Large Cloves Garlic, chopped

¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/8 tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

12 oz. Crimini Mushrooms, cut into quarters

1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Rosemary (or more to taste)

1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme Leaves (or more to taste)

2 Tbsp. Low Fat Trans Fat Free Margarine (Suggested: Brummel and Brown Spread)

2 Dried Bay Leaves

3 Fresh Sage Leaves (optional), chopped

½ cup Low Sodium or No Salt Added Vegetable Broth

½ cup Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place Brussels sprouts, ¼ fennel bulb, ½ sweet onion, carrots, ½ head cauliflower, and 2 cloves garlic in a large baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil.  Roast until vegetables start to brown, approximately 30 minutes.  While the vegetables are roasting, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large pot over medium heat.  Add 2 cloves garlic, ½ onion, and ¼ fennel bulb, and sauté until onion and fennel become translucent.  Add mushrooms, ½ head cauliflower, rosemary, thyme, and sage, cover, and sauté for 2 minutes.  Gently stir in margarine and bay leaves, and cover.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring once.  Add vegetable broth, cover, and simmer for another 5 – 7 minutes.  Remove cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaves.  Stir in Greek yogurt one spoonful at a time.  Gently stir in roasted vegetables and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes, gently stirring once.  Pour the entire mixture into a large oven safe casserole dish.       

For the “Crust”

1 ½ lbs. Sweet Potatoes

¼ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

2 Tbsp. Low Fat Trans Fat Free Margarine (Suggested: Brummel and Brown Spread)

1/8 tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Pierce sweet potato skin with a knife and microwave on high for 10 minutes, turning once.  Remove and discard potato skin.  In a bowl, mix sweet potato, flour, margarine, salt, and pepper.  Spread mixture over the vegetables carefully to form a “crust.”  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown.  Serve and enjoy.

Caramelized Onion and Roasted Red Pepper Portabella Pizza

Serves 4

Meal Time: 40 Minutes


4 Large Portabella Mushrooms (with a deep underside)

½ Medium Vidalia Onion, chopped into strips

1 Tbsp. Low Fat Trans Fat Free Margarine

1 tsp. Brown Sugar (optional)

8 oz. Can Tomato Sauce, no salt added

8 oz. Roasted Red Peppers, chopped into strips

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, finely chopped

4 oz. Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese

4 Tbsp. Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Carefully remove stems from underside of mushrooms and chop.  Place caps, hollow side down, in baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.  In medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon low fat margarine on medium-high heat until melted.  Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle brown sugar over onions, add mushroom stems, and sauté for approximately 8 minutes or until browned.  To each mushroom cap, add ¼ cup tomato sauce, caramelized onions with mushroom stems, and roasted red peppers.  Sprinkle on basil and parsley.  Top each mushroom with 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, and bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese and serve.

Salmon with Cannellini Bean Mash

Meal Time:  30 Minutes

Serves 4

4 Fresh Wild Salmon Filets (5 oz. each)

¼ tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper

8 oz. Nonfat Plain Yogurt

¼ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp. Fresh Dill

6 cups Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves

1 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. Low Fat Trans Fat Free Margarine

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

½  tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

2 tsp. Capers, Drained

½  Lemon

15.5 oz. Cannellini Beans, Low Sodium Canned

¾ cup Grape Tomatoes, finely chopped

¼ Large Vidalia Onion, diced

For the Salmon:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 10 x 10 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Wash salmon, sprinkle with pepper, and place in baking dish.  Coat each filet with 2 ounces of yogurt, ¼ tsp. fresh dill, and a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning.  Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily (cooking time varies depending on the thickness of salmon filets).

For the Spinach with Lemon Caper Sauce:

In a skillet over medium heat melt 2 Tbsp. margarine.  Add olive oil, ½ clove garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, capers, and the juice of ½ lemon.  Sauté for 1 minute.  Gently toss in spinach and sauté until tender.  Add 1 Tbsp. margarine and melt.

For the Cannellini Bean Mash:

Strain and rinse cannelini beans.  In a skillet over medium heat melt 1 Tbsp. margarine.  Add cannellini beans, cover, and sauté for 2 minutes.  Mash cannellini beans.  Add grape tomatoes, ½ clove garlic, and onion.  Sprinkle with black pepper and simmer for 5 – 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Roasted Beets with Sage and Goat Cheese

Serves: 6 as a side dish

Prep. and Cook Time:  50 minutes

6 Medium Sized Beets

1 Medium Sweet Onion, peeled

2 Cloves Garlic, cut into small pieces

6 Sage Leaves (more or less to taste), chopped

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/8 – ¼ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

¾ cup Crumbled Goat Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse and scrub dirt and debris from beets. Cut the tops and roots off of each beet and peel (with your hands or a vegetable peeler).  Cut beets and onion into small chunks, about 1 inch each in size.  Place the beets and onion pieces to a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray, toss with olive oil, sage, garlic, salt and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer.  Roast for approximately 30 - 35 minutes, turning once or twice, until the beets are tender.  Let the beet and onion mixture cool, and transfer to a serving bowl.  Sprinkle with goat cheese, and toss gently.  Serve and enjoy!                


"My favorite aspect of my job is that I help people improve their lives.  It is truly fulfilling to see a client succeed and lead a healthier lifestyle. Don't Diet! EAT HEALTHY, LIVE HAPPY!"

                                                                                 -Yours In Health,

                                                                                   Kristin Niessink MS, RD, LDN

                                                                                   Phone: (401) 368-7614