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BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 tablespoon Olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

3 cups water

1/2 cup prepared salsa

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

4 tablespoons sour cream (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook; stir until the onions begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute. Add beans, water, salsa, and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Next, transfer half the soup to a blender and puree. Stir the puree back into the saucepan and stir. To serve, ladle soup into 4 soup bowls and top with sour cream. Yield: 4 servings

PARMESAN FISH FILLETS

4 fresh or frozen fish fillets (1 pound total)

1 beaten egg white

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup finely crushed sodium-reduced wheat wafers

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons finely snipped parsley

nonstick spray coating

Thaw fish, if frozen; pat dry with paper towels. In a small mixing bowl stir together egg white with water. In another mixing bowl, stir together the crushed wafers, Parmesan cheese and snipped parsley. Dip fish into egg-white mixture, then into cracker mixture to coat. Spray a large skillet with nonstick coating. Preheat a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook crumb-coated fish in the hot skillet for 6 to 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, turning once. Yield: 4 servings.

HONEY-GINGER CHICKEN

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 teaspoons sodium-reduced soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

2 whole medium chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 pounds total), skinned, boned and halved lengthwise

Place 1 chicken breast half between 2 pieces of clear plastic wrap. Pound slightly with the flat side of a meat mallet to 1/2-inch thickness. Repeat with remaining chicken. In a small mixing bowl stir together honey, orange peel, orange juice, soy sauce, pepper and ginger. Place chicken on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat about 8 minutes, or until chicken is tender, turning once. Brush frequently with honey mixture during broiling. Yield: 4 servings.

STUFFED PEPPERS (Meatless)

6 medium green peppers

1/2 pound Velveeta cheese spread, remove 1/2 cup

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained

1 cup ripe tomato, chopped

3/4 cup cooked rice

1 small onion, finely chopped

Dash salt

1 cup bread cubes

1/2 stick butter, melted

Remove tops and seeds from green peppers; drop peppers into boiling water and cook 5 minutes; drain well. In large bowl mix Velveeta cheese spread, broccoli, tomato, rice, onion and salt; mix well. Stuff peppers with this mixture; place in lightly buttered casserole dish. Gently mix together bread cubes and melted margarine and place on top of stuffed peppers. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes. Top with remaining 1/2 cup Velveeta cheese spread and bake just until cheese is melted. Yield: 6 servings

FREEZER ZUCCHINI PICKLES

2 medium carrots, cut into julienne strips

6 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into julienne strips

2 small onions, sliced and separated into rings

6 cloves garlic, sliced

4 cups white vinegar

3 cups sugar

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon salt

In medium saucepan, cook carrots in small amount of boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. Loosely pack carrots, zucchini and onions into six 1-pint freezer containers. Add one of the sliced garlic cloves to each container. In the same saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, water, celery salt and salt; bring to boiling; boil for 1 minute. Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables in each container to cover. Cool and seal. Gently tip containers back and forth to coat ingredients. Label and freeze. Freeze for up to one year. Thaw to serve. Yield: 6 pints.

BARBECUED PORTABELLO MUSHROOM STEAKS

(Requested by one of our readers.)

4 large portabello mushroom caps (1-1/2 pounds)

barbecue sauce (recipe below)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Wipe mushroom caps with paper towel. Brush each cap with 1 tablespoon Favorite Barbecue Sauce (recipe below); sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange mushrooms; cap side down on grill; tent with aluminum foil. Grill 5 minutes over medium-low coals. Remove foil; brush each mushroom with 1 tablespoon sauce. Turn mushrooms and brush with another tablespoon sauce. Grill 5 minutes more, until tender, when pierced with a fork. Serve with remaining barbecue sauce, heated if desired. Yield: 4 servings

To prepare barbecue sauce:

(Tastes terrific on practically everything you grill: steaks, ribs, poultry, even vegetables. Recipe can be doubled easily, then refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month).

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup tomato puree

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno chile

1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and pepper; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes. Uncover; simmer 25 minutes more until vegetables soften. Puree in blender. Yield: about 1-3/4 cups.

LOW-FAT CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

nonstick cooking spray

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup safflower oil

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 large egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla

Grease an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350º.

Combine cocoa, flour and baking powder in mixing bowl; mix well. In medium bowl, combine oil, light brown and granulated sugars; with wooden spoon, mix well. In small bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Add egg whites and vanilla to batter; mix well. Add cocoa and flour mixture; mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 to 22 minutes or until edges just begin to brown and pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Yield: 16 servings.

OLD-FASHIONED PEACH CAKE

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter or margarine, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup milk

4 cups peeled, ripe peaches, cut into ¾-inch chunks, divided

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water

1 tablespoon dark rum

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

confectioners’ sugar

To prepare cake: Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Beat butter at medium-high speed in large mixer bowl; beat in brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. At low speed, add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients, just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350º for 18 minutes until cake springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; unmold and cool completely.

Combine 2 cups peaches with granulated sugar in saucepan; bring to boil. Dissolve cornstarch in cold water in bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into peaches and return to boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Toss cooked peach mixture with remaining 2 cups peaches and rum in bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Beat whipping cream with brown sugar in mixer bowl to stiff peaks. Place 1 cake layer on serving plate and spread half of peaches on top; then half of whipped cream. Stack with second layer, remaining peach mixture and remaining whipped cream. Top with third layer and sift confectioners’ sugar on top. Yield: 12 servings

Any comments, questions or favorite recipes? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to send your email to helenkitchen@msn.com, and please write “Helen’s Kitchen Request, ATTN: Lori” in the subject line to make sure that I receive your email. Thank you.