Monday, December 10, 2012

Walnut, Caramelized Onion, and Kale Pizza

I'm not even sure how long it's been since I've posted a recipe.  Not that we haven't been cooking and trying out new stuff, but things do get crazy around here in both our houses.  This morning I was inspired by needing to use up several things before they spoiled. Store-bought pizza dough, big bag of kale, some onions that I caramelized a few days ago, and some walnuts that my kids and I shelled earlier this week. I ended up making a pizza at 10:00 in the morning. The sweetness of the onions counter the slight bitterness of the kale, and the combination of everything together made me think I was eating sausage.  Vegetarians, leave out the bacon.  For those who are trying to cut back on their bacon intake over the holidays, it's 1-2 slices for an entire pizza (20 x 13 inch)- more for flavoring than anything else.  Also consider using a third cheese, like blue cheese crumbles, smoked gouda, or gruyere. 

Caramelized Onion and Kale Pizza with Walnuts and Bacon

1 package premade pizza dough (Trader Joe's) or use your favorite recipe
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1-2 slices of precooked bacon, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 cups kale, chopped
1 c spinach, chopped
2/3 c shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 c coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the dough according to directions.  I used a little bit of olive oil to press it out to fill the entire 20 x 13 inch pan that I used. (You could also use a dusting of flour) Poke some holes in the crust so you don't get a bunch of air bubbles. Prebake at 400 degrees for about 7-8 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a pan for a minute on medium heat, and add the sliced onions. Patiently wait for them to brown, stirring occasionally.  You may want to turn the heat down to medium low if they are browning too quickly. Add the bacon and saute for about 30 more seconds, then set aside.

Once the crust is done, sprinkle the spinach and kale as a base layer, followed by the cheese, and the caramelized onions and bacon. Add a few turns of freshly ground pepper and sprinkle on the chopped walnuts. Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese is golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
If chopping onions makes you cry, you can always try a snorkel mask. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Black Bean Burgers

My friend Robin shared her version of this recipe, and it was universally applauded. Husbands declared that they did not miss the meat. Children asked for seconds. The burgers freeze well, and are filling.  I served them on whole wheat buns with a side of sweet potato fries, salad, and roasted peppers.  It's a great Meatless Monday option.

Black Bean Burgers
You can add additional veggies to these quite easily.  I added some microplaned carrots- they melt right in. Did I mention these freeze and reheat easily?  They are also baked, not fried.   I served them with a greek yogurt based dip, see recipe below. 

2 cans cooked black beans (should be about 2 1/4 c)
2 1/4 c cooked brown rice (1:1 ratio with beans)
1/3 c sauteed chopped mushrooms
1/2 microplaned or very finely grated carrot
2 T chopped basil
3 T tomato paste
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2- 1  tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process all ingredients briefly in the food processor.  Form into patties.  You may want to spray hands with cooking spray or rub a little olive oil to prevent the mixture from sticking.  Place on a coated cooking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Greek Yogurt Dip/Sauce
You can use this for your dip for sweet potato fries, too.  Sometimes I add a handful of spinach and blend it just for color, and because I like to add spinach to things.

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 clove garlic
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 grated cucumber (optional)

Blend all ingredients with a fork.

Sweet Potato Fries
I'm bringing this back from our original post. Here's what I said then:
I've been making these for years.  I clipped the original recipe out of some magazine, long since lost.  My husband is not a huge fan, but my kids love it.  They get to dip their fries in ketchup.  If they are not browning or crisping well, put them on the broiler on high and watch closely.  They're not going to be quite as crispy as fast food fries, but they're so much better for you....

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/4- 1/2 inch wedges. (about 3-4)
Tossing sweet potatoes.
1 T olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1-2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked paprika if you have it)

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then turn. Bake for 10 more minutes and broil if necessary to desired crispness, but they are generally done after about 20 minutes. 

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Lemongrass chicken

Our dinner plans were waylaid for 2 nights in a row after I planned this meal, resulting in a 36 hour marinating time by the time we finally got around to eating this chicken. It probably doesn't need 36 hours, but holy cow, er, holy chicken, was it tender and flavorful!  The fresh lemongrass is amazing.  The caramel was a little tricky in that you need to watch it. I over did it the first time and had to start over- but it was a fun lesson in the properties of sugar. Adapted slightly from a recipe in Food & Wine's Chef Recipes Made Easy from Eric and Sophie Banh, who own Monsoon in Seattle.
Can't. Stop. Adding. Kale. To. Things.

Lemongrass Chicken
Smirking delicious chicken.

4-6 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T Asian fish sauce
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
6 T sugar
3 T canola oil
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, tender inner white part, minced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced (may substitute a small red onion)
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded (may decrease or increase depending on taste)
1/3 c cilantro, chopped

Combine the fish sauce, garlic, curry powder, salt, and 2 T of sugar in a small bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.  Let it marinate for up to 36 hours if you have time, although you can also cook it immediately.
In a small skillet, mix the remaining sugar or honey with 3 T water and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Cook without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 T water.  Transfer the caramel to a small heatproof bowl.  Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. Add the oil, and let it heat up. Add the lemongrass, shallot and jalapeno and stir-fry for a minute. Add the chicken and caramel and stir-fry over moderate heat until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is slightly thickened- about 6-8 minutes depending on your chicken. Toss with cilantro and serve over rice.

Steamed Jasmine Rice with Kale and Scallions
A quickie side dish that I threw together just so I could add kale to our meal.  

4 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 cup finely chopped kale with tough ribs removed
2 scallions
dash white pepper
1 tsp canola oil

Heat the canola oil in a large pan. Add the scallions and stir-fry for a minute. Add the kale and stir-fry for an additional minute, until it is a rich, dark green.  Toss the rice in and add a dash of white pepper. Toss until everything is mixed together. Serve.

Stir-fried Asparagus
My standard stir-fry that I make with just about any vegetable. Today it was asparagus.  Snap the tough ends off.  The asparagus will tell you where to snap it- it should be as close to the tough purple end as possible, but it should snap off easily. You really don't need to peel your asparagus. I have never understood why this is necessary- plus you lose all that fiber. Having grown up on an asparagus farm, I could think of about 50 more things to share about my absolute favorite vegetable.  For the haters who say it's too mushy, my response is that you are cooking it too long. Mushy asparagus is gross.  If you stir-fry it, it can still have a little texture. If you like it softer, just cook it a little longer.  And don't leave out the garlic. 

1 bunch of asparagus, about 1 lbs, with the ends snapped off, and cut on the diagonal
2-4 T water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 T canola oil

Heat the canola oil in a pan until it sizzles when you add a drop of water. Add the garlic and stir, but don't let it burn.  Add the asparagus and stir-fry until it is tender, about 3-5 minutes. Midway through, when the pan is  starting to get dry, add the chicken stock or water.  Add salt to taste.  If you like your asparagus on the tender side, turn the heat off and cover the pan for a minute or two.  (If you let this step last too long, your vegetable can get overdone. Don't say I didn't warn you.) Serve.

Please leave us a comment. Even if it's a complaint that I haven't posted in a couple of months! Hey, we've been busy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Puff Pastry Pizza and Arugula Salad with Artichoke, Tomato and Basil Marinade

This is seriously so easy and delicious that it's not fair. Did I mention delicious? It makes a great appetizer and will impress your dinner guests. If you are making it for actual dinner, I would make at least 2 (depending on the size of your family and your stomachs), and I would also serve it with a big salad. My only slight difficulty was finding the puff pastry sheets. Once this got on the table, it was essentially gone in 60 seconds.   The salad is a wonderful accompaniment to just about anything, and is a nice change from boring old plain salad. The arugula and the artichokes are a perfect combination.

Puff Pastry Pizza
Try to limit the ingredients to no more than 4-5.  More than that and it becomes difficult to appreciate the crispy softness of the puff pastry.  Adapted from RealSimple July 2011.

1 package puff pastry
Toppings (your choice):
  • pesto
  • halved grape tomatoes
  • mozzarella cheese, plain or smoked
  • fresh, slivered basil leaves
  • crisped prosciutto, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  On a parchment-lined baking sheet, roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a 9x13 inch baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until firm. Prick with a fork, and layer toppings, not too generously or the puff pastry will get soggy. Top with freshly grated black pepper and back until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Cut and serve.

Arugula Salad with Artichoke, Tomato, and Basil Marinade

Arugula, approx 2 cups (enough to make a bed) 
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 c grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 c fresh basil leaves, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T balsamic vinegar 
2 T olive oil
1 tsp capers, optional
black pepper
shaved parmesan

Arrange a layer of arugula in a large, flat bowl. Drain marinated artichokes, reserve juice. Top salad with artichoke hearts. In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 leftover artichoke marinade, halved grape tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, olive oil, and black pepper. Let it sit for 15 min-2 hours. Just before serving, toss salad with marinade mixture and top with shaved parmesan.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Circassian, Cardassian, Kardashian, or Cesarean Chicken?

It's actually Circassian Chicken, modified slightly from Hank Shaw's recipe on  Traditional Circassian Chicken is a Turkish dish, served cold, that calls for walnuts, not pecans. Which is maybe why the kids didn't quite get the name of the dish, and dinner conversation mainly revolved around whether or not the members of the Obsidian order or the reality TV Kardashian family ate this for dinner.  And finally, "So Mom, what did you say it was? Cesarean chicken? So did you have to cut this dish out of some chicken's belly?" JUST EAT YOUR DINNER!
The red pepper strips add a delightful sweet crunch.
Circassian Chicken
This meal is actually a sleeper hit, and quick to prepare. We substituted pecans for walnuts, and cilantro for parsley.  The cayenne spices things up a bit, so use a little less if you want it milder, or use a dollop or two of Greek yogurt to cut the (very mild) heat. You can serve this plain, but we loved it with toast triangles and a side of crispy Cesarean, er Cesar Salad.  Also good the next day as a chicken sandwich filling, or in a pita roll with some fresh, crisp lettuce and juicy tomato. 

2 skinless chicken breasts
4 T olive oil
4 tsp paprika
1 1/2 c chopped pecans
3 cloves garlic
2 T green onions, chopped
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 T chopped cilantro or parsley
1 1/2 c chopped spinach
2 slices of wheat bread, preferably stale
1 quart of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced

Bring the chicken stock to a low boil and add the chicken breasts, letting them simmer for about 10 minutes before removing from the heat.  Heat the olive oil in a small pot, and add paprika. When you can smell the paprika strongly, turn off the heat.

Cut the bread into chunks and place in bowl.  Pour 1-2 cups of chicken broth into the bowl and let it soak. In the meantime, reserve 1/2 cup pecans and set aside with green onions and 2 tablespoons of cilantro and the chopped spinach. Put the remainder of the pecans and cilantro into a food processor along with the garlic, cayenne, and the soaked bread and pulse repeatedly until it makes a thick, chunky paste.  Add more chicken stock 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to loosen it up.  Pour in the paprika in oil and pulse again until combines.  Add salt if needed.

Shred the cooked chicken by hand or with a fork, and add the pecan-paprika paste, as well as the reserved pecans, green onions, and cilantro.  Stir gently to combine.  Add pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coconut Chicken Curry with Lemon-ginger Tea-infused Rice

Several things about this meal. First, there are a lot of veggies in it, making it a quick, one pot meal.  Well, two pots if you include the rice pot. Second, Claire was skeptical about the curry, having had some recent experiences with tumeric overload.  She admitted to being won over by the coconut milk, and the fresh coriander. Third.  I don't know what made me decide to add a tea bag to the rice as it was cooking, but o.m.g.  What a wonderful, subtle flavor. I'm definitely doing it again.

Coconut Curry Chicken
Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have in your drawer. This would be excellent with broccoli, red peppers, and eggplant. I finely crushed my coriander and cumin seeds in my mortar and pestle- you could also use a spice grinder if you have one. The fresh grind makes a huge difference.

Adapted from "Chicken in Spice-Laden Coconut Sauce,"
from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.
1 T vegetable or canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, minced
1 T coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp tumeric
3-4 dried red peppers, or red pepper flakes to taste
salt to taste
2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 can tomatoes (or 1 large fresh tomato, cut into chunks)
1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 chopped scallions (always include the green part!)

Heat oil in a large pan and cook onions until soft.  Add garlic and ginger, and stir.  Add crushed coriander and cumin seeds, then salt and tumeric and stir. Add chicken pieces and stir until they are coated with the onion-spice mixture. Add the carrots and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and zucchini.  Let simmer for another 5 minutes, then add coconut milk. Add water if necessary, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender. Stir in fresh cilantro and scallions before serving with Tea-infused Rice, below.

Tea-infused Rice
I had wanted to make jasmine rice, but had run out, which made me start contemplating jasmine tea infusion, but I was a little worried that it might be too floral. Turns out I was out of jasmine tea anyway, but had some lemon-ginger tea. Hmm.  Throw in half a handful of chopped scallions and cilantro, and we're off to the culinary races... Keep in mind that I did this, as always, in my rice cooker, so you may want to adjust the water to your method of cooking and taste.

2 cups of uncooked rice
3 cups of water
1 lemon-ginger tea bag
2 T chopped scallions
2 T chopped cilantro (optional)

Put water and rice together in a small saucepan with a lid.  Hang the teabag over the side of the pan so that it is submerged in the water. Be careful if you have a gas stove so that the tag doesn't burn. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then leave it covered for about 5 more minutes.  Remove the teabag.  Fluff the rice so that the tea-stained grains of rice are mixed in well. Fold in the scallions and cilantro.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Miso-glazed Tilapia with Ginger-Scallion Noodles

I get tilapia at Costco in bulk, because my kids eat fish so quickly that often the adults only end up getting a tiny piece.  The noodles are a perfect accompaniment. This meal is deceptively fast to make.  We looked at the clock and realized we only had about 40 minutes, which was plenty of time.  Granted there were two of us, but we also had a bunch of kids running around asking for more grapes and milk, etc.  Plenty of time to plate and enjoy!

Miso-glazed Tilapia
If you've ever gotten a container of miso, or fermented soybean paste, you might find that you use a few tablespoons and then it sits in your fridge for a long time.  Although it has a pretty long shelf life, in the fridge, eventually I get sick of seeing it in there.  I use it sometimes as a flavoring for stir-fried noodles- but you have to be careful, because it can be salty.  The original recipe has the fish cooking in the oven, but it's so much faster just to pan-fry it.  Heavily adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave.

3-4 tilapia filets
1/2 c white miso paste
2 T honey
2 T water (maybe more if your miso is really old)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 T rice wine

Mix the miso, honey, water, sesame oil, and rice wine together with a fork. Coat the tilapia filets, and pan-fry in 1-2 T cooking oil for 3-4 minutes on each side or until they are done.  You can let this marinade overnight if you wish.

Ginger-Scallion Noodles
I easily tire of pasta with red sauce.  This is actually a faster go-to, since the Chinese noodles cook a lot faster.  Get everything chopped and ready while the water is boiling, and toss together at the end.  You can substitute all kinds of leftover veggies, like carrots sliced thinly on the diagonal.  Fancy.

1 T ginger root, peeled and minced
1 package of Chinese noodles, cooked (may susbstitute spaghetti, just please don't tell me)
3-4 scallions, chopped (yes, green part too!)
2 c spinach, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
2 T water
1/4 c chopped cilantro

In a large saute pan, heat 1-2 T cooking oil and add ginger root. Add noodles, and stir to coat.  Add sesame oil, soy sauce, water if needed.  Follow this with the spinach and scallions, and cilantro last. Take off heat once the spinach is wilted, about 2-3 minutes at most.

I had half a green pepper, so I stir-fried it with 1/4 onion, a tsp rice wine, and a pinch of minced ginger that I stole from my noodle prep. This is the garnish you see in the picture- entirely optional.

No one likes noodles and "Nemo" here...

More Nemo please!
(Yes, they call their fish Nemo.  The fish that they eat.
Anyone else find that a little disturbing?)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pasta Rosa

This is a dish that both children and adults will love. It is hearty and creamy and yummy, and the prosciutto complements the dish perfectly.  This has been a family favorite in Claire's house for many years.  Serve with a big salad and a side of stir-fried broccoli.

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 cans tomato sauce, 15 oz each
1 tsp chicken soup base or 1 boullion cube
2 T dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 chicken breasts, sliced
4-8 mushrooms, finely diced
1 carrot, microplaned (leave out if you don't have a microplane)
10 oz. cooking cream cheese
1/2 c half and half
1 x 16 oz. box cavatappi pasta (large and twisty)
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
8-12 small broccoli florets, chopped
prosciutto, diced (the more the better!)

Saute garlic in olive oil in a large stockpot, 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn.  Add tomatoes, chicken soup base, basil, oregano, and pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and add finely diced chicken. Add mushrooms and carrots and simmer for 15 minutes.  Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, turn off the heat and add cooking cream cheese, half and half, and fresh basil.

In the meantime, boil water for pasta and cook pasta according to instructions.  When there are about 3 minutes left, add the broccoli florets to the boiling water. Cook until pasta is al dente, and strain.  Toast or broil prosciutto in a single layer on a cookie sheet until crispy. In a large mixing bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce.  Once mixed well, pour into a serving dish and sprinkle prosciutto and parmesan cheese over the top.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

I'm bringing this back up to the top, with a few changes (nothing major).  It was one of our soups from my original post, when there were about 12 recipes per post. We made it again for lunch after both having had some extremely stressful days and nights at work. It hit the spot in a nourishing, comforting, and palate-entertaining way. If you're feeling sick, consider this instead of the usual homemade chicken soup.  So easy to make, and it makes the kitchen wonderfully fragrant.  My husband declared it restaurant quality. 
This is adapted from Arthur Schwartz' Soup Suppers.   
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 can straw mushrooms (or one cup fresh mushrooms cut into chunks)
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced thinly
2 stalks lemongrass, cut on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces
1/2 inch piece of ginger root, sliced
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
2-3 squirts of Sriracha (rooster) sauce or red pepper flakes to taste
3 T Thai fish sauce
3 T lime juice
1 14 oz. can light unsweetened coconut milk
2 green onions, chopped
4-5 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

Put about 2 1/2 quarts of water in a soup pan.  (This is an estimate.) Add the chicken, lemongrass, ginger root, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms. Let it simmer until the chicken is tender. Add the sweet red peppers and basil leaves. Stir in the coconut milk, and let it simmer about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in the green onions and cilantro just before serving.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tuna Scallion Cakes

This recipe is super quick but slightly fancy at the same time- think of them as poor man's crab cakes.  My son loves them, and took some to school for a snack. They would be great warm, on top of a salad with a little extra dressing over the top, or on half of an English muffin with a sliced of melted havarti cheese as a snack. Or, just plain! They take less than 10 minutes to prep, and just a few minutes to cook, and they go down even faster than that.

Tuna Scallion Cakes

2 cans tuna, drained
1/4 onion, chopped
1T flour
2 eggs
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c chopped spinach
1 scallion, chopped (use the whole thing)
salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and form into small 2-3 inch diameter patties.  Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a frying pan and brown on both sides.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Salad with Spinach and Scallions

This recipe makes a huge amount- enough to share or take to a potluck. It is easy to toss together and the flavors just pop. I also like it heated after a couple of days. It's great with chicken, or as a side for soup, or even by itself for a light lunch. If you have trouble finding quinoa, you can substitute couscous.  I cook my grains in my rice cooker, and while it's cooking, I have plenty of time to get everything else ready.  Toss it all together once the quinoa is done!
This is a wonderful dish to bring to a potluck. 
Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Salad with Spinach and Scallions

1/2 c chopped pecans (toast if you like)
5-6 cups quinoa, cooked (2 cups uncooked)
2 apples, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 c dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
2/3 c feta cheese, crumbled
6 green onions, diced- use the whole thing!
2 c fresh spinach, chopped
1/3 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice (preferably fresh)
(1 tsp diced lemon zest if you used fresh lemon)
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, except olive oil and lemon juice, together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk olive oil and lemon juice together, and pour over top of salad. Toss again, season with salt and pepper to taste. 
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fresh Split Pea and Ham Soup

This soup is so delicious.  When my older son was under the weather, this is what he requested...from Claire. She adds a new twist to the old split pea by using spinach and fresh peas at the very end.  The soup is greener, sweeter, and more vibrant, and so much more appetizing than the pea soup from that scene in the Exorcist.  If you have a ham bone, it adds additional richness to the soup. All you need now is a rainy day, a warm fire, and a good movie...

You can see the bright flecks of green!
Fresh Split Pea and Ham Soup
2 c dried split peas
2 T butter or olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
6 c chicken stock or water
1/2 lb spinach, chopped
2 c fresh peas (or thawed frozen peas)

1 ham bone (optional)
1 c chopped ham or turkey ham (optional)
3 slices pancetta, diced (optional)

If using pancetta, saute in your soup pot until crisp.  Take out and set aside.  Saute onions, carrots, and celery in butter or olive oil.  Add split peas, bay leaf, ham bone, and water or chicken stock, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer for 45 minutes.  If soup is too thick, add additional water.  Discard bay leaf (and ham bone if using), and puree soup with immersion blender (or in a regular blender).  Add spinach and peas and let cook for additional 2-3 minutes.  Puree again until smooth, and stir in diced ham.  Serve with garnish of pancetta.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No-Fail Minestrone Soup from Scratch

This soup is hearty and heart-healthy.  It does not skimp on flavor.  Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients- it basically all just gets thrown into the soup pot, and 30 minutes later, your meal is served!  It's even better the second day, and is a great meal to take to a friend. 

Serve with a big salad and crusty bread for dipping.
No-Fail Minestrone Soup
1 1/2 lbs Italian turkey sausage
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1- 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 15 oz can of chicken broth (or 2 cups)
1- 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1/2 head thinly sliced green cabbage
1-2 small zucchini, diced
6-8 mushrooms, diced
1 T dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp fennel seeds
2 cups kale, finely chopped with ribs removed

Saute sausage, drain, and set aside. Saute onions, garlic, celery, and carrots.  Add tomato sauce, 1 additional (28 oz) can of water, and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and add everything else, including sausage.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Butternut Squash Orecchietti Pasta with Sausage, Kale and Sage

Sometimes I want a quick pasta meal, but I have a tendency to get marinara'd out. And creamy alfredo or store-bought pesto alternatives are not exactly waistline friendly.  This sauce is quick and easy to find in the soup section, and using turkey sausage and kale keeps it healthy.  Substitute whole wheat penne if you want to be strict, but I like the shape of the orrechietti and the way it holds a little extra soup.  I mean, sauce.

Serve with a homemade caesar salad.
Butternut Squash Orecchietti Pasta with Sausage, Kale and Sage

2/3 carton (32 oz) creamy butternut squash soup*
1- 16 oz. box of orecchietti pasta
1 lb turkey or chicken sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c kale, trimmed and chopped
1 T dried sage

Cook pasta according to instructions and set aside. Brown the sausage in a large saute pan.  Add garlic and sage. Add kale and saute until tender. In a large pot, toss the sausage, kale, and pasta with about 2/3 carton of soup.  Stir gently over med-low heat until the butternut sauce is warmed up.  The pasta will absorb some of the sauce, so add a little more sauce as needed. (No one likes dry pasta.)  Garnish with feta or shredded parmesan cheese if desired.

*I used the Pacific Natural Foods brand of butternut squash soup.  I've also used the Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup.  TJ's has a Carrot Ginger Soup for a more exotic twist, but if you use that, I would leave out the sage. Not so confident about the sage-ginger combination.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Traditional Mexican Posole

A coworker, Kim, gave me this recipe years ago.  It is simple, colorful, fragrant, and delicious.  Posole is a Mexican stew made, in this case, with hominy and pork. Start this early in the day, as it does take some time. Adding a twist of lime and a splash of hot sauce brings all the flavors together, and kids love adding their own garnishes.  At our house, we add additional flavor with conversational gems such as, "Hominy? Probably two bowls of it. Maybe three." You may also want to try a homestyle tortilla or two on the side.


2-3 lbs of pork (shoulder or butt, with or without bone)
1 large can hominy (29 oz)
1 bag dry California chiles (dried Anaheim chiles)
3 large tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 T dried oregano
1 T garlic powder
salt to taste

1 c chopped cilantro
1 avocado, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
dried oregano
2 c cabbage, sliced thinly
hot sauce to taste

Cut the pork into large chunks and place it in a large stockpot of water, enough to cover the pork well. Boil until it is falling apart, about 4 hours depending on the size of the meat.  Add salt and garlic powder while cooking.  After about 3 1/2 hours, add the hominy.  (Hominy is done when it is soft.)

In the meantime, trim the stems and the seeds off the chiles and rinse.  Put them in a sauce pan on medium heat, and cook for about half hour or so using a couple of ladles of water from the pork. After the chiles have been simmering for about 10-15 minutes, add the garlic (peeled) and tomatoes.  Once the chiles are soft and easily pierced with a fork, blend the entire mixture in a blender or with a hand blender for 3-5 minutes until the chiles have no small pieces visible. Add more stock if necessary.  Add this mixture to the meat and hominy. Cook for another 30-45 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro, avocado, lime, oregano, and cabbage.  Serve with warmed tortillas.

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