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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