Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pumpkin Soup

I laughed so hard when I saw a post on Facebook with a near naked fellow covered in pumpkins and asked myself - has our pumpkin craze gone too far?  What started with the pumpkin spice latte has lead to pumpkin EVERYTHING - I even saw limited edition pumpkin spice english muffins at Kroger, barbara's pumpkin puffins, and pumpkin clif bars. It looks like pumpkins yakked all over Kroger and made it into every product! 
Not wanting to be the pumpkin grinch, I am jumping in and sharing my favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The recipe is from my mom's German friend, Christa Jent, who also shared the Hungarian Mushroom soup recipe with us a few years back that has been a GREAT hit with my Roanoke friends. Thank you, Christa, for another hit! 

Pumpkin Soup
*I always double this recipe*

16 ounce can of pumpkin
1 shallot, diced
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth 
1/2 cup of half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon curry powder

Saute the shallot in butter until soft, then add remaining ingredients and cook until hot. Serve with a nice baguette and fresh garden salad. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Stuffed Butternut Squash

The best part of going on a vacation for a week is the fresh perspective that you gain while you are away.  I came back last week feeling energetic and rested, and ready to tackle life and squeeze the most goodness out of every day. Oh, how I have missed reading and cooking! I devoured three novels in my beach chair, my favorite being Lucia, Lucia. The delicious meals we shared inspired me to get back in the kitchen. I've been cooking the same-old-same-old for months, and food is not meant to be boring! I make the excuse of being "too busy" to cook, but really it's something that I love and need to make time for. Thank you VACATION for putting things back in perspective. 
In Siesta Key we shared a few special meals, and I was just so excited to come home and reproduce them. My first go is this recipe - which is DIVINE. I love butternut squash, but this is my first time using the squash shells as the bowl, which makes the meal feel so fancy! We even broke out the champagne flutes on a Tuesday night to celebrate my welcome back to Carmens Kitch. Oh friends, I have missed you. 

I read on a healthy blog that you can eat the skin of the butternut squash, so we tried it tonight and then ate the whole squash, try it! 

Stuffed Butternut Squash
serves 2

- 1 small butternut squash
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ground nutmet

- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 garlic clove, minced
-1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp curry powder (a heaping 1/2 teaspoon if you love curry)
- salt and pepper to taste
- nutmeg to taste (I use 1/8 tsp)

Wash the butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bake at 475 degrees for 40-45 minutes with the halves facing up. 

While squash is baking, prepare filling. In a pan, saute garlic and red pepper in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add ground beef, seasonings (cumin, tumeric, curry, salt, pepper, nutmeg) and saute until beef is cooked through. Taste and add more salt if desired.

Remove squash from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4 inch around the edges to keep the squash intact for a serving bowl. Combine the squash with the ground beef and 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese. Stuff the squash shells with this filling. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese. 

Bake the stuffed butternut squash at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Antipasto Skewers

This week I made the most beautiful appetizer. These antipasto skewers were such a party hit and truly "blog worthy" despite being so easy to assemble. There is really no cooking involved. I believe that we eat with our eyes first, and that's it's absolutely worth an extra minute to make your food look pretty. If you take the time to cook, take the time to garnish and plate your food! 
This appetizer is perfect at a party when your guests are trying to carry a conversation, sip a glass of wine, and munch on h'orderves without making a mess or feeling awkward. If you're going to serve finger foods, keep them simple and easy to eat. Your guests will very much appreciate your consideration in not choosing saucy, messy appetizers!  Did I mention these are still delicious the next day for happy hour? 

Antipasto Skewers
*I buy the ingredients depending on how many skewers I'm making, but I always buy 2 mozzarella cheese balls, 1 lb of both meats, and 2 packs of cherry tomatoes. A jar of the olives is plenty*

- cherry tomatoes
- large mozzarella cheese ball, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- packaged fresh tortellini, cooked according to package instruction
- boars head pepperoni (best if sliced fresh from the deli)
- boars head hard salami (fresh from deli)
- basil leaves
- kalamata olives
- black olives
- mozzarella cheese, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to finish

Cook tortellini according to package instructions, then drain, place in a bowl, and toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Create an assembly line with all your toppings and assemble each skewer. Prior to serving, drizzle with balsamic, salt and pepper. I like to use tomatoes on both ends, and then I mix up the middle. I usually use one of everything, with the exception of 2 tortellini and 2 pieces of mozzarella cheese. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup

Friends, I am sharing one of my mom's famous recipe's with you today. Before she shared this recipe with me, she would visit in the summer time and bring a giant mason jar of this soup for our lunch. Only 95 calories per serving and it has no cream. We would end up drinking it out of a coffee mug for lunch, snacks, or dinner until it was gone. It's just that good.

My sweet husband helped me bring my favorite white table to our front porch where I have the best light. I dusted off my 50mm 1.4 lens and took the best pictures I've taken in months. Sometimes when you walk away from something for a bit, you realize whether it's right for you. I realized on this beautiful overcast day that this blog is a great joy to me, and I hope to bring you a couple more special recipes this summer. 

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup
recipe yields 8 cups and serves 6. Only 95 calories per serving! 

4 Tbsp oil
2 cups (about 2 yellow onions), coarsely chopped
2 pounds zucchini, washed with ends removed, coarsely chopped
4 cups (2 cucumbers) washed, seeds removed, skin on, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 cups chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish - finely chopped cucumber, tomato, and a few sprigs of dill
  1. Cook onions in oil until soft. Add zucchini and cucumbers and cook for about 15 minutes until soft. Use medium heat and stir a few times, do not let them brown.
  2. Add broth and cook for 15 minutes more. Let it cool, then add the dill and process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour in a bowl and refrigerate.
  3. Prior to serving, may add a dollop of sour cream if desired and garnish with cucumber, tomato, and dill sprigs.

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad

Summer has arrived, and with the heat comes simple fresh meals served with tart lemonade and buckets of beer. I adore summer evenings, sitting outside and watching the fireflies light up the yard, and nibbling on my favorite tomato basil mozzarella salad with a glass of crisp white wine and a chunk of fresh baguette. Summer is a season of simplicity, with days at the pool followed by evenings on the patio. Charlie checks out for bedtime at 730, and Josh and I move out to the deck to enjoy the evening hours. It's divine.
I've been fixing us my go-to summer salads, and tossing them with bright acidic dressings and freshly chopped herbs. This avocado shrimp salad is new to my summer repertoire, and pairs perfectly with a corona light and a few tortilla chips. 

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad
from Skinnytaste

1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium hass avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced fine
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let the onion marinate for 5 minutes to mellow the flavor. 

In a large bowl, combine chopped shrimp, avocado, tomato, and jalapeno. Add the red onion mixture and cilantro and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

 Somewhere along the way I embraced the mindset that dinner is supposed to be a sit down affair: one meat and two sides. Tilapia over quinoa with roasted veggies. Steak with roasted potatoes and asparagus. Pasta with a salad. I love to light tea candles, use real napkins, open a bottle of wine, and play a nice pandora station like Steely Dan or Dizzy Gillespie. This was the time in our lives we casually refer to as BC (Before Charlie). 

When you have a little baby that demands much attention, you can throw all dinner rules out the window! It's quite fun actually. A few of our new dinner favorites are gourmet popcorn, fresh market rotisserie chicken salad, chips and salsa, or Barbara's peanut butter puffins. Annie's shells and white cheddar mac & cheese pairs perfectly with a nice Cab. I know all the mom's out there are laughing because they can totally relate.
I can now thank one of my besties, Amy, for the inspiration for dip night. Tell me you would not love to have buffalo chicken dip for dinner with tons of celery and tortilla chips.  I'm pretty sure Josh was in dude heaven when I told him what I had in the crock pot. I'm not even going to feel guilty about it since this lightened up version is heavy on chicken and greek yogurt. It's thicker than most other chicken dips I've tried, so you can really get a good amount of dip on all your celery bites. I modified the original recipe and used more chicken (3 cups) and half the cream cheese - still delicious. 

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (room temp) - original recipe called for 1 package 
1 cup (0% fat) greek yogurt
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp dry ranch seasoning
2/3 cup Franks red hot sauce
2 to 3 cups cooked shredded chicken OR 1 large can of chicken

Put all ingredients in crockpot, set on low for 3-4 hours and stir every hour.

You can also set oven to 350 degrees, combine ingredients in glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spicy Shrimp

Ree Drummond has never let me down. She's cool like that. She can be trusted. And this recipe, my friends, is MAGNIFICENT and requires zero chopping or effort whatsoever.
                                        beautiful Shauna Niequist print from Lindsay Letters

Last Monday was a long day. I was flipping off night shifts, we had a very sad family funeral, and yet I wanted to actually fix us dinner and sit outside since it was a pretty night. I needed to take comfort in good food and my people. I get why happy people love to eat, and why grieving people love to eat. My amazing friend Cindy came over, Charlie went to sleep early after his nighttime bottle, and we sat outside, drank wine, and devoured these shrimp. We put the baking sheet right on the table, tore off chunks of baguette and soaked up the rich sauce. Josh kept our wine glasses full as we sipped on a cold Viognier. It was so simple and so good. Just what we needed after a long day. This meal was really a great big hug, and sitting under the stars with my people reminded me that everything was going to be OK.

Since it was dark, I didn't even take a picture, but I'm telling you, these shrimp are GOOD.

Spicy Shrimp
from the Pioneer Woman

3 pounds unpeeled shrimp (more or less)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 whole lemons (juice of)
1/4 cup (to 1/2 cup worcestershire) sauce
1 stick butter

Rinse raw shrimp with shells still on (21-26 count) and place on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle shrimp with olive oil. Generously sprinkle black pepper over the top of the shrimp and follow with kosher salt. Lots of pepper!

Squeeze the juice of 3 lemons over top of all the shrimp. Generously drizzle Worcestershire over the shrimp and then Tabasco. Cut stick of butter into pats, and place the pats on top of the shrimp as evenly spaced as possible. 

Place the pan under the broiler for 10 minutes until the shrimp are no longer translucent. Serve with a crusty French baguette to dip in the glorious butter lemon sauce!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad is my new obsession because it's easy, healthy, and delicious. My friend Lexi made it for me on one of our fun baby play dates, and I've made it twice the last few weeks. We both decided that the recipe needed to be on the blog because it's AMAZING and ready in 30 minutes. 

The sweet potatoes, black beans and quinoa are a great combination with the cilantro and lime juice. It tastes like summer, and I like to eat it hot or cold. I brought it for lunch at work today and snapped this picture before the contained disappeared. 

One of my favorite Gretchen quotes that is ringing true in my life every single day is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". This photo was snapped my iPhone in a Tupperware container that I packed the salad in. Maybe, hopefully, one day I will get back to snapping Saveur worthy pictures of my recipes, but for now I am just cooking, figuring out how to make the perfect pizza dough in my mixer, and muddling mint for mojitos. Let me just tell you - add a little cucumber to a mojito and muddle it with the limes and mint - so fresh and delicious! Right now, I am embracing the good, the wabi sabi. If you haven't heard of WABI SABI, look it up, right now! 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth (I love Better than Bouillon paste)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes (use 1 lime for more subtle flavor)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado - for topping

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Toss sweet potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. 
- Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups chicken broth.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rotel tomatoes, black beans, lime juice, coriander, cumin, and cilantro. Add quinoa and stir well.

To serve, top quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and avocado.

Friday, May 1, 2015

+ a gratitude journal +

I believe in the power of little choices. I believe that the little choices we make matter the most.  The choice to spend time outside every day, to look for the silver lining when a wrench is thrown in your plan, to light a candle and sit at the table for dinner. I recently made the choice to keep a journal, and it's the best decision I've made in a very long time. 

On January the 20th I made my first entry in a 5-year journal that I call my Gratitude Journal. Earlier that day I was meandering around Barnes and Noble, found myself in the cookbook section, and turned around to see the journal section. I picked up a blue striped 5-year journal and purchased it then and there, even though it was a few bucks cheaper on Amazon. I believe in serendipity, that people and things come into our lives when we need them most. 

It started out as a gratitude journal, documenting a little thing I am thankful for at the end of a day. Recently, I've started to include Charlie's milestones and major events in the journal, as I was grateful for my girlfriends and wine more often than I will confess! Oh, and my husbands perfect vodka martinis. 

If you're looking for a daily boost, a reminder to keep an open and grateful heart, I highly recommend buying yourself one of these. They are on my personal list of all time favorite things! Here is the link to the one I love on Amazon. (gratitude journal)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

As new moms, my friend Lexi and I often laugh about our pre-baby lives. We are just in awe of what we did with our tremendous amount of free time! I was recently reading my blog looking for a recipe, and realized that I used to make new recipes every week, take pretty foodie photos, and watch Ina Garten's cooking show. Now, I change diapers, make baby food, snap photos with my iPhone, drink way too much coffee, and fall more in love with Charlie every day. Can you believe he's almost 6 months old! 
Every life has different chapters, and I'm soaking up the baby chapter. Soaking it up like pancakes drowning in maple syrup. Babies are just the most fascinating little creatures. Last weekend my mom came to visit, and we sat on the floor and watched Charlie for hours. I think our guys thought we were a little bonkers, but they knew better than to say anything. Women love babies. 

This weekend I did pull out my slow cooker and made a new recipe, this really easy and DELICIOUS thai coconut chicken soup that I had to share. It's on my top five list of slow cooker favorites. I also love that my crock pot has a keep warm setting, so dinner can be at 630, or 7, or 730, which allows us a little spontaneity for an evening walk or happy hour. Also, can I tell you how much I love blue japanese bowls? I found these on sale at TJ's and snatched them up! 

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
from Foodie Crush (one of my favorite bloggers)

2 Tablespoons red curry paste
2 (12 ounce) cans coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tablespoons lime juice
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked white rice (I used thai noodles)

Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in a slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion, and ginger in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours.

Add in the peas and cook for 1/2 hour longer. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice. Top with peanuts and lime wedges before serving. 

*If you are planning to freeze this recipe, I would not add the peas to the frozen batch. They get soft and taste better if you add them when reheating the soup. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Curried Chicken Salad

I could eat chicken salad every single day, and most of my girlfriends feel the same way.  My go to easy appetizer when I am in a hurry is Fresh Market rotisserie chicken salad on miniature croissants. YUM. But, as always, if you have the time it's often cheaper, healthier, and more fun to make it yourself. Here is my favorite variation on chicken salad, a curried version that's sure to please! 

As always, take this recipe and make it your own. Add celery, substitute a crunchy apple for the grapes and mango, or use almond slivers instead of cashews. Add green onions or diced red pepper, whatever suits your fancy. 

I like mine on a bed of greens or wrapped up in a lettuce wrap, and I like to add celery and a fuji apple for extra crunch. 

Curried Chicken Salad
adapted from Epicurious

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 firm mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Bring 4 cups water to a simmer with chicken broth in a 3 quart saucepan. Add chicken and simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cover, then let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate to cook 10 minutes, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces. 

While chicken is cooling, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, curry powder, lime juice, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken, onion, mango, grapes, and cashews and stir gently to combine. 

* if making in advance, add the nuts just before serving to keep the salad crunchy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

White Turkey Chili

This has been a tough week in our house, as we said goodbye to our oldest boxer Heidi after almost 11 years of life. She was the sweetest, most endearing old soul and we all loved her dearly. To us she represented love. She loved strongly and completely, and asked for just a little in return. She saw us through our best and worst times, and always looked at us with kind eyes.
So what do you do when you lose someone you love? I have realized that you have two choices: you can sit and cry, or you can stay busy and try to remember the good times. You still cry, but you also continue to live. Life is full of joy and pain. You can't have one without the other.  I realized that #2 was the better option, so I washed the dog beds, the sheets, the floors, and I made big pots of comfort food. I chopped and filled the house with the smell of onions cooking in olive oil. I made my first Marcella Hazan recipe and we filled our empty hearts with pasta and red wine. I also made this chili. 
I am remembering all my memories with Heidi, and one of my favorites was sitting in our yard in Catawba on a towel with my camera and photographing the two of them sprinting, rolling in the grass, and lounging. They loved that great big yard, and they taught me how to use shutter speed priority to get shots like this one. 
This recipe is from my mom's friend Pat, and we are all crazy for it. She always makes a double batch because it freezes so well. She filled our freezer with this chili when I was home on maternity leave so we could have a real meal at night with no effort. This has become my favorite chili, and so I've decided to share the recipe today. We all need comfort food sometimes, to celebrate the joy and survive the pain of life. Please remember Heidi today, and remember that to love is to live. 

White Turkey Chili
from my mom's friend Pat Burton

1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 pound boneless turkey or chicken breast, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 pound ground turkey
6 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 Tbsp chopped jalapeno peppers
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried summer savory
2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in half cup of water
Chopped green onions
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cubed turkey breast and ground turkey. Saute until no longer pink, 4 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, pearl barley, chickpeas, jalapeno, marjoram, and summer savory to turkey mixture Cover and simmer until barley is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cheese and scallions. 

*this is the original recipe from my mom's friend. I used olive oil, increased the barley to 1 cup and skipped adding the cornstarch to thicken. I also used pepper jack cheese and added several dashes of Tabasco to the pot for a little heat. 

*when my mom makes this recipe to freeze, she adds the cheese at the final step so it melts into the chili. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chinese Night!

Who doesn't love a fun theme night? We've always been fans of Mexican night (with katie-ritas), breakfast for dinner, and homemade pizza night. I decided to start a new theme night, and I wish you could have see Josh's smile when I told him my plan! 

Who doesn't love Chinese take out? My only complaint - the grease, the sodium, and the swollen fingers - YUCK! I feel terrible the day after, what I've dubbed the "chinese hangover". Why not make good Chinese food at home? I started out by making Alton Browns baked brown rice (here is the link) - it's easy and the rice is perfect every time. 
Here are a few other tips I found to make great fried rice:
  1. A hot wok - flick drops of water on your wok, beads of water should evaporate in 1 to 2 seconds when the wok is heated. Add the peanut oil to the wok initially OFF the heat and swirl the oil around on the wok. If the wok smokes like crazy then it's too hot - start over. Otherwise, add aromatics first (ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, red chiles) off the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Return the wok to heat and add veggies. 
  2. Leftover cold rice - at least a day old
  3. Preparation/Organization - cut all your ingredients to a uniform size before your wok is hot and have them organized around your wok. 
  4. Ground white pepper 
  5. In China fried rice is peasant food and a way to use up leftovers, so there are no rules. Have fun, be adventurous, and use what's in your fridge or garden. 
  6. HOT wok! 

Chinese Chicken Fried Rice
3 large eggs
peanut oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
2 tsp sesame oil
kosher salt 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup peas and carrots, thawed (I used a frozen bag)
4 cups cold, cooked rice (I use brown rice and followed this cooking method)
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce

Beat 3 eggs with a whisk and add salt and pepper. Heat a splash of peanut oil in hot wok and make an omelette using half the beaten eggs. Turn onto a plate and repeat with remaining eggs. Place one omelette on top of the other and coarsely chop. Set aside. 

Toss chicken strips with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in hot wok and stir-fry the chicken strips until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, peas and carrots and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until onion has softened. Pull mixture into bowl with chopped egg and keep beside wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to hot wok, and then add the cooked rice and green onions, tossing and mixing until very hot. Sprinkle with soy sauce and mix together. Return chicken, vegetable and egg mixture and mix well. 

Garnish with scallions and serve with Sriracha. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup

I was bent on getting in my kitchen over the weekend and chopping. Discovering the action of cooking again - with a sharp knife and cutting board, my favorite pandora station, and a glass of cab, all the while shimmying around the kitchen in my Ugg slippers. I'd been looking forward to an afternoon off, a little "me time" in the sanctuary that is my kitchen. 

I've been on a Shauna Niequist kick lately, and just ordered two more of her other books from Amazon Prime (cold tangerines and bittersweet). My very favorite is Bread & Wine, and it holds a special place in my heart. When I'm in a funk, a couple of chapters will get me back on track, and remind me that we are all human and we all struggle. She tells us to open the front door, bring in friends, drink bubbly champagne, laugh, cry, and be our real selves. Be present over perfect. Such solid advice. 
one of my favorite quotes on canvas - for sale on Lindsay Letters

I decided that I wanted to chop mirepoix - a fancy word for a mixture of chopped onions, carrots, and celery, which is the base of every hearty lentil soup. Shauna just so happens to have a recipe for lentil soup in Bread & Wine, so I called it serendipity and made a loaf of homemade rye bread on the side. Remember to add the splash of balsamic at the end! 
Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup
from Bread & Wine (p. 137)

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; saute until vegetables begin to turn brown, about 15 minutes.

Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken

All of us get stuck in a rut from time to time, and I am emerging from a major cooking rut. I used to love cooking us dinner on my days off, but in my new life that includes a 4 month old, I am fizzling out on energy and enthusiasm come 6pm. By the time Josh walks in the door, I really just want a giant hug and a dirty vodka martini. We scrap together dinner - and some nights it's my favorite popcorn with truffle salt and parmesan cheese, or triscuits and dubliner. 

A few weeks ago, Blue Apron came to my rescue. My friends have raved about BA, and basically the complete recipe is delivered to your doorstep, with all ingredients on ice and step-by-step instructions and pictures to walk you through the recipe. We signed up for 2 weeks (3 meals per week), and made every meal together in the kitchen. Needless to say, it was a BLAST. We cooked together while Charlie napped in the evening, and the instructions were very easy to follow. It didn't feel like work, it was just fun. Our favorite recipe was center cut pork chops with beet, heirloom carrot and hazelnut salad. The beets made the recipe shine, and the pork chops were seared to perfection and continuously topped with herb-infused butter while sizzling in the skillet. Our least favorite was fried rice, because the rice was cooked right then and the ONLY way to get good fried rice is to use day old rice. But, in the end, it was just what I needed to get back in my kitchen. 
If there is one thing that I want to teach Charlie it's how to regroup, get back up,  and get back in the game. We all fall down from time to time. One of my favorite quotes is if you're not failing, you're not trying. It's the getting back up that matters, with a new plan and fresh outlook. I am now back on my feet, with a new approach for our life that I'm optimistic will work. On weekdays that I am on baby duty while Josh works, I am going to use my slow cooker and make recipes in the morning when I have the most energy. I have an entire "crockpot" pinterest page with tons of recipes that look amazing. Here is a link back to my very favorite slow cooker white chicken chili

Shredded chicken in the slow cooker is a no brainer. It takes just a few minutes to set up, and the chicken is so moist and easy to shred. We used this chicken in burritos topped with pico de gallo, black beans and avocado, and in salads and ramen soup. We love spicy food so I used a jalapeno and added Tapatio hot sauce at the end. It would also be perfect in enchiladas  or a Chipotle bowl with brown rice. 
If you have any favorite slow cooker recipes, please share them with me! 

4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
from Gimme Some Oven

6 boneless chicken, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa verde
1 (12 oz) bottle of beer (I used Miller Lite)
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper
1 jalapeno, diced (I left the seeds in for extra spice)

Add chicken to the slow cooker. Top with salsa verde and beer, and sprinkle with cumin and season with a few generous pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper. Use a pair of tongs or a spoon to turn the chicken so that both sides are coated. Cover. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat, or 7-8 hours on low heat.

The chicken is ready when easily shreds with a fork. Shred the chicken in the slow cooker, and toss with the juices. Then remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and serve warm. Or, store the stredded chicken in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.