Hearty Lentil Minestrone

I’m not sure if any of you have the same problem that I do, but seem to always wind up with bits and pieces of vegetables, pasta, grains, etc, lying around my refrigerator and pantry after I’ve used up a portion for a recipe. One of my ongoing goals is the fight against food waste… I’m better than I used to be, but I still tend to wind up with veggies that go bad, or jars with small amounts of grains in my pantry that sit there for months. Not only wasteful, but bad for my budget as well.  This soup is the perfect solution. Not only is it delicious, but it is perfect to use up some of those odds and ends! This recipe comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks Love Real Food. Written by the author of the fabulous vegetarian food blog “Cookie and Kate”, it’s one of those cookbooks that I flipped through and wanted to make all the recipes immediately. I’ve tried several so far, and have been impressed with all of them. Not only are they delicious, they are healthy as well!

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I really try hard to always make a healthy lunch to bring to work during the week, and especially in the colder months, soups are the perfect thing. They last all week, are on the healthier side, are cozy and comforting, and are one of those meals that seem to improve as the days go by. Also, seeing as Ron doesn’t like soups or stews, making them for myself for lunch during the week is the perfect way to satisfy my pretty much daily soup craving.

Hearty Lentil Minestrone

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup butternut squash, chopped (or other seasonal veggies)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
3/4 cup lentils (green or brown)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pasta (orecchiette, elbow or shell), whole wheat or regular
1 15-oz can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped Kale, curly or lacinato (aka Tuscan or Dinosaur), ribs removed
2 teaspoons lemon juice, more to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan (omit if Vegan)

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or soup pot), over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt, and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the veggies are softened.
  2. Add the butternut squash, garlic, oregano and thyme, and cook for a couple of minutes until you can smell the garlic and herbs, stirring often. Then add the water, vegetable broth, tomatoes with their juices, lentils, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil over medium high, and once boiling, lower to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While simmering, cover partially with a lid.
  3. Uncover pot, and add the kale, pasta, and beans. Simmer for another 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, and the pasta is al dente.
  4. Turn off heat, and remove the bay leaves. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if desired. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan if you’d like!

Source: Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor

Notes:

This soup can be varied in so many ways to make use of what you have in your fridge/pantry. Don’t have great northern beans, use cannellini or chickpeas! Don’t have butternut squash? Use potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, etc. You could throw in some fresh tomatoes along with the canned, or corn, or peas if you want. If you don’t have kale, I bet Swiss chard or spinach would be a good substitute. Don’t have lemons? I bet a couple teaspoons of red wine vinegar would work instead. Seriously, this soup is so versatile!

 

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Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Months and month ago now, I went out to dinner with some former co-workers at a restaurant/slash bar here in CT (Eli’s on Whitney for those who are local/interested). One of my friends got a seriously amazing looking steak salad, which totally gave me entree envy. My dinner was good, but hers looked so delicious that I just could not get it out of my head. This salad was composed of greens, candied walnuts, craisins, gorgonzola cheese, Granny Smith apples, and was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and she had it topped with a perfectly cooked steak. I still have yet to have this specific salad, but I knew then and there that I would be putting steak salad on my dinner planning menu in the near future. Now, I knew Ron would not be thrilled about the craisins or apples in the salad (he’s not generally a fan of fruit, and especially not a fruit+meat person), but I knew he’d love the idea of steak in any form, so when I saw this salad in Rachel Ray’s magazine I immediately put it on our menu. She uses spinach and watercress in her version of this salad, but I decided to go with a more general baby greens mix, and I also changed out the Petit Filets for a more budget-friendly cut of beef. This salad turned out so well, that we immediately put in on the menu for the following week, and now looking at the pictures I wish I had the ingredients to make it again tonight.

Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Steak Salad with Bacon Bits and Blue Cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 slices bacon
2 lbs steak (Petit Filets are suggested, but use your favorite tender cut- I used sirloin tip steak and cut it very thinly against the grain)
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar (you could use Sherry, champagne or red wine vinegar as well)
8 cups salad greens (I like using a mix that contains baby spinach)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a grill, or heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (for easy clean up), place bacon on sheet, and cook for 15-18 minutes. When cooked, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of excess fat. Crumble when slightly cooled.

3. Season steak with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Cook on grill or skillet until cooked through to your liking. The timing will depend on the type of steak used, but for a petit filet, about 4-5 minutes per side will cook it to about medium-rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes once cooked, and then slice against the grain very thinly.

4. In a small bowl, or salad dressing mixer (pretty sure that’s not the real name of that haha), whisk together the lemon juice, garlic clove, mustard and vinegar. Slowly stream and whisk in the olive oil if doing this in a bowl, otherwise just add the olive oil and shake to combine, or use the salad dressing plunger.

5. Place about 2 cups of greens on each plate, split sliced steak, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, and sliced red onion evenly among the plates, and top with dressing.

Source: EveryDay with Rachel Ray, May 2014

Sticky Sesame Wings

I always know a recipe is good when Ron requests that I make it again as soon as we’re done eating… and I know it’s especially awesome when he requests I make it for his birthday dinner! This recipe from Smitten Kitchen is one of those awesome recipes. In my book Deb over at Smitten Kitchen can do no wrong… I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that she’s writing a new cookbook! This dish is so simple, pretty much foolproof, and perfect for a weeknight dinner, or birthday feast!

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Sticky Sesame Wings

Serves 4 (in theory……)

Ingredients:

3 lbs chicken wings (I used the small party wings from Whole Foods- in my opinion they are the perfect size)
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp honey (more or less to taste)
1 tsp sesame oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of sriracha
1 1/2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 scallion, finely chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with baking foil, and spray with nonstick cooking spray or oil.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, salt, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil, and cayenne or sriracha. Add the wings, and mix until well covered with sauce. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet, and pour any sauce that remains in the bowl on top.

3. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning once.

4. When cooked through, toss with the toasted sesame seeds and scallions.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Braised Chicken Tacos

I’m in a taco phase right now… Anything I can stuff into a tortilla, I want to devour. Lately I’ve made a multitude of breakfast tacos, fish tacos, and then these braised chicken tacos. If I could eat tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner I would… well, I guess nothing is stopping me from doing that, other than the fact that I want to make every recipe known to man, and that includes recipes that aren’t tacos… but seriously, tacos are the best. Maybe I’ve told you this story, but when I was a kid, my brother Jeremy was not a taco fan. Whereas I would be ecstatic when I heard it was taco night, he would moan and groan and complain about tacos being boring and not filling. He said they were the Mexican equivalent of sandwiches… which I guess he also found boring. Weirdo! Luckily he has now changed his tune, otherwise I might have to disown him.

Onto the tacos… these are so simple, spicy and flavorful. They are a perfect and quick weeknight meal, which as you know are my favorite! Served alongside some rice and beans, you’ll have a complete (and filling) meal that no one should consider boring.

Braised chicken tacos

Braised Chicken Tacos

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

1 large bone-on, skin-on chicken breast (about 1 lb)

1 cup chicken broth

1 12-15 oz can tomato sauce (mine was 15 oz)

2 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp chipotle chile powder

Kosher salt, to taste

12 corn tortillas

For topping:

Cilantro

Scallions, thinly sliced

Radishes, thinly sliced

Avocado slices

Cojita cheese (optional)

Lime wedges

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a heavy pot, preferably a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add onions, jalapenos, and a sprinkle of salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions and jalapenos are browned and have started to soften.  Add chicken broth, and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium.

2. Add the chicken breast to the pot, skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes, so that the fat has a chance to render.

3. Add the tomato sauce, cumin and chili powders and stir to combine. Flip the chicken over, and place the lid on to cover. Reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, flip chicken over and cook another 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

4. Remove the chicken breast, and shred the meat. Add the shredded meat back to the pot, and throw away the bone and skin. Season with salt to taste.

5. Heat up the tortillas- to heat mine, I place a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. When heated, add as many tortillas as can fit (my 12-inch skillet can hold 3). When the first side is starting to brown and puff up, I flip and brown the other side.

6. To serve, top the warm tortillas with the braised chicken and sauce, cilantro, radish slices, scallions, avocado, cojita cheese (if using) and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve alongside rice and beans.

Source: heatherchristo.com

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Helllllloooooooo…..

What’s up guys? It’s been forever, I know. This holiday season was a crazy one! I believe I mentioned it, but my boyfriend and I moved over the holiday… so much hard work, packing, moving boxes and furniture, and then cleaning. I am so thankful all that is over! The last time I moved, it was out of my parent’s house and so this is the first real move I’ve ever done. I just can’t believe how much stuff one can accumulate in 6.5 years.  Anyway, that is over now so hopefully, fingers crossed, I can now commence regular blogging. I miss it so much!

I thought I’d come back with one of my favorite recipes to share. I first made this shrimp scampi years ago, and have made it probably a dozen or so times since, which is a lot for me since I am forever wanting to try new recipes, rather than repeat them. I have yet to try an Ina Garten recipe that I haven’t liked, and this is one of my favorites of hers. I really must try some more of her recipes- but first I need to locate my cookbooks!

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 lb linguine

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for salting pasta water

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 lemon, zest grated

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to directions.

2. While pasta is cooking, place a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and saute about 1 minute. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.

3. Remove from the heat, and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the shrimp mixture. Toss to coat.

Source: barely adapted from Ina Garten via foodnetwork.com

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Hello friends! One of these days my goal is to get back to regular posting. I swear just when I think things will get back to normal, something else comes up that keeps me incredibly busy. This time it’s a move!! My boyfriend and I have lived in the same apartment for over 6 years now, and while we love a lot of things about it, when we got word of another place opening up, we jumped on the chance to take it. This time we will be renting the 2nd floor of a two-family house which has a lot more character than the generic apartment we live in now, and I think has a lot more potential for customization… also, I’ll be getting my own office/study/craftroom space which I am super excited about, and there’s space for a decent sized garden!!!! Anywho, our move out/move in date is January 1st, and that is rapidly approaching. With work keeping me busy much of the week, I’m using most of my spare time packing and getting ready for the move. It’s amazing how much we’ve accumulated in the 6+ years we’ve lived together.

With all the craziness around here, I’m searching for quick and easy meals that require few pans, and minimal cleanup. Okay, that’s what I’m always searching for, but even more so these days. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Two dishes, few ingredients, and all around comfort, this dish is a winner. Goulash is such a comforting food to me (it’s one of the first I started making on my own when Ron and I moved into our apartment), and this take on it with the southwest flavors of chili powder and cumin is really yummy. Definitely recommended.

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Southwest Skillet Ragu

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 cup elbow macaroni

1-1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey

1 large onion, diced

1 red (orange, yellow or green) bell pepper, chopped

8-12 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Place a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and cook pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water when done. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil, and add the ground meat. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside, and drain off most of the grease. Leave a small amount just to coat the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the onions, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and cook about 5-6 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add peppers, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 tsp of salt and cook 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

4. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add back browned meat, and simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauce has thickened.

5. Add the pasta and cheese, and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta cooking water until the sauce is to your desired consistency. Serve, topping each serving with more cheese if desired.

Source: The Kitchn

 

 

Tex-Mex Chicken Pizza

Hello friends!! Long time no see! I’m sorry for my absence lately. Things have been so busy in my neck of the woods- my best friend got married this weekend, and me being the maid of honor I have been super busy with that! The wedding was beautiful and I was so excited to be a part of all the festivities.  In a couple of weeks I have another bachelorette party to attend as my brother is getting married in a couple of months… and the holidays are drawing closer and closer too! Luckily all this stuff is fun, but it’s been busy nonetheless. That is why I figured I’d bring you and nice and simple dinner tonight for those busy times in your own lives.

As you all know, I am a fan of easy dinners. These Tex-Mex “pizzas” fit that description to a tee! Toast some tortillas, top with deliciousness, and devour. If you buy a rotisserie chicken, this meal is even easier! I made this a few weeks ago on a super busy night, and had it for the next few days because it was so delicious. This is one of those meals that I wish I always had the ingredients on the ready because they are the perfect lazy person’s dinner.

Tex-Mex Chicken Pizza

Tex-Mex Chicken Pizza

Makes 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, divided

2 Tbsp lime juice, divided

Salt and pepper

1 (16-oz) can refried beans

1 tsp chili powder

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

8 tsp vegetable oil

2 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, or you can cook and shred a couple chicken breasts)

1 cup pepper jack, Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped (or sliced)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a small bowl, add the sour cream, 1/4 cup cilantro and 1 Tbsp lime juice, and whisk together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a seperate bowl, stir together the refried beans, remaining lime juice, and chili powder.

2. Line  two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Brush each tortilla with vegetable oil- use about 1 tsp per each side of a tortilla. Lay on the baking sheets, and bake about 5 minutes until golden, flipping halfway through. Check frequently, as the tortillas can go from golden to brown fairly quickly.

3. When the tortillas are done, spread each with about 1/4 cup of the refried bean mixture. Leave about 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top the refried beans with about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture per tortilla, then 1/4 cheese, and then 2 Tbsp jalapenos. Transfer to the oven, and bake about 6-8 minutes until the cheese is melted and the toppings are heated through. Serve with sour cream mixture, cilantro and salsa if desired.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen: 30 Minute Suppers