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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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

 

 

Summer Vegetable Soup

Every week I try to make a healthy lunch that will last me for the week. I love not having to put something together every single night… and I feel much better about taking something homemade rather than store-bought (although sometimes in a pinch that stuff is awesome!). Soups make a great lunch. Usually they taste even better after sitting for a couple of days as it allows the flavors to meld together. This vegetable soup is a delicious, healthy, and very customizable recipe that made for an awesome lunch. You can use pretty much any vegetable you have on hand, mix and match depending on your own personal preferences, use up frozen vegetables from the freezer, and little bits of leftover pasta. This was a great recipe to use in my quest to clean out my fridge/freezer/pantry. I had an open bag of frozen peas that I threw into this, a bit of Israeli couscous, some red potatoes that were on their last hurrah, a can of cannellini beans that has been in my pantry forever, and all I had to buy was some zucchini, vegetable stock and green beans. You can throw in some diced sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes instead of canned, yellow squash, spinach, leeks instead of onions… the sky’s the limit.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, quartered and sliced thin

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or more, if desired to make the soup broth-ier)

1-2 small zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans (or Navy beans)

5 small red potatoes, diced

1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)- I omitted this because I didn’t have any

1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/8 tsp tumeric

2-4 ounces Israeli couscous (or other small pasta shape), optional

2 Tbsp tomato paste

Directions:

1. Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes, until softened.

2. Add the vegetable broth, zucchini, beans, potatoes, peas, corn, green beans, diced tomatoes and juice, salt, pepper, and tumeric. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. If you are using pasta, add when there is about 10-15 minutes left of cooking time.

3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the tomato paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: barely adapted from Prevention RD (originally adapted from food.com)

Sausage Cacciatore

So Ron’s birthday went wonderfully 🙂 We had these bacon, egg and grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast, which were really awesome!! For lunch I made chicken quesadillas, and then for dinner Ron requested the three cheese, rosemary and pepperoni pizza, and we ordered some buffalo wings as well. For dessert I made these chocolate chip cookie dough brownies in lieu of cake. He decided all he wanted to do all day was sit on the couch and watch Top Gear, so that’s what he did. I fully support people doing exactly what they want on their birthdays. Want a big party? Awesome! Want to be a super-lazy couch potato? Equally awesome!!

Anyways… this Sausage Cacciatore is a great Monday night meal (unless you are doing Meatless Monday- then it definitely doesn’t qualify). Its pretty easy- saute some sausage and vegetables, cook up some pasta, toss it together, and you’re done! The portion sizes are generous, and the flavors are great! I just love the combination of peppers and mushrooms!!

Sausage Cacciatore

Sausage Cacciatore

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 links sweet Italian sausage

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 (14-oz) cans diced tomatoes

1 cup beef or chicken stock

1/2 tsp marjoram or oregano

1/4 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp sugar

3/4 lb (12 oz) pasta (I used rotini, but you could use any kind of similar shape such as medium shells, or penne)

Parmesan cheese (for topping)

Directions:

1. Place a large skillet over medium heat, add sausage links and brown on all sides. Remove from pan to a cutting board.

2. Add the olive oil to the skillet, and add the onions, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften. Slice the Italian sausage into 1/4-inch slices, and add back to the skillet. Add the tomatoes (with their juices), stock, herbs, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and let simmer 20-30 minutes., until the sausage and vegetables are cooked though, and the flavors have had a chance to meld together.

3. While the sausage mixture is simmering, place a pot of water on the stove to boil, and cook pasta according to package instructions.

4. When the sausage mixture is done, season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix with pasta if desired, or serve over the top. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Source: Lauren’s Latest

Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet

Who is ready for the 4th of July? My plans include going to a cookout at my parent’s house, eating some ribs, celebrating my dad’s birthday (belatedly), and not much else… which is just the way I want it! I do think fireworks can be fun to see, and are really pretty, but I hate fighting the crowds that come with going to a fireworks show. I am just not that into being in large crowds of people. It can be so overwhelming, and then the traffic afterward can be such a nightmare. I’m sure I’ll be able to hear my fair share of fireworks being set off throughout the day, and maybe even be able to see some small displays from my yard. I think that’ll be enough for me this year!

This meal has nothing at all to do with the 4th of July, but you should still make it! I love meals that can be made in just one pot or skillet. Seriously… the less dishes I have to wash, the better. Washing dishes is probably my least favorite chore, and sometimes it seems like they are never ending. I get through one stack of dishes, only to then cook another meal, and have another stack to wash. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get a robot to help me around the kitchen, and clean up my messes. This pasta is worth washing a couple dishes for though. The smoked sausage and spicy tomatoes give it so much flavor, and I love the pop of freshness and color from the baby spinach. Even Ron will eat spinach when it’s mixed into a pasta dish like this 🙂

Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet

Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

12 oz smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced

2 large shallots, or 1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups chicken broth

10 oz Rotel (or canned tomatoes with green chiles)

1/2 cup half and half

8 oz pasta (rotini, penne, or other similar sized pasta)

4 cups baby spinach

Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions:

1. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add sausage and shallots (or onions), and saute for about 5 minutes, just until starting to curl and brown. Add garlic, and saute about 30 seconds.

2. Add chicken broth, Rotel, half and half and pepper. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and stir to combine. Place lid on skillet, and simmer for 10-12 minutes (or more depending on pasta), until pasta is cooked to your liking.  (The mixture may look curdled when you remove the lid, but stir it around a bit and it’ll come together, so don’t worry!!) Add baby spinach, stir to combine, and cook another minute until the spinach is wilted. Top with Parmesan cheese, when serving.

Source: Iowa Girl Eats

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Asparagus, Artichokes and Spinach

When I’m doing my weekly meal planning, I always try to plan a lunch that I can make on Sunday and bring to work for the whole week. It makes getting ready for work throughout the week so much easier, and I feel better because rather than grabbing at odds and ends, I have something healthy already made. Because I’m just making lunch for myself, and not Ron too, I get the opportunity to cook something without the constraints his tastes put onto our dinners- i.e. I get to use all those vegetables he doesn’t like, and I don’t have to worry about having meat in the meal. I usually try to make something vegetarian, and something that is fairly healthy, as I feel like breakfast and lunch are my best opportunities to sneak a lot of nutrition in.

This couscous salad fit the bill perfectly. It does have pasta in it (the couscous of course), but it is loaded with veggies, and has a very light dressing of just lemon juice and salt and pepper, which make this a very light and health-filled lunch. Artichokes are my favorite vegetable (I used to request them at my birthday dinner every year), and the artichoke hearts combined with the awesome roasted asparagus and baby spinach really satisfied my craving for vegetables. This salad is also extremely easy to put together… you just cook the couscous, roast the asparagus, chop up some artichoke hearts, and toss everything together. Very easy to put together on a Sunday night!

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Asparagus, Artichokes and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups dry Israeli Couscous

1 lb asparagus spears

1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons, divided

1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and chopped

1-2 cups baby spinach

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

1. Bring the water up to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a big pinch of salt, and the couscous. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook about 10-13 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the asparagus on the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top. Roast until the asparagus is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for a bit, and then cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Add the couscous, asparagus, artichokes, and baby spinach to a large bowl. Squeeze the remaining 1 1/2 lemons over the salad, and season with salt a pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod