Saturday, September 27, 2008

French Lentil Soup

We've had another "fall" like day (but tomorrow should be 81). I made this soup up last night with the plan of eating left overs today and tomorrow. When I first had a bowl, it was OK, but after sitting overnight all of the flavors came out, and it was quiet good! I also made some frocacia bread, from my Cafe Paradiso cook book (thanks Rebecca!) to go along with.

I found the recipie on epicurious. Many of the reviews stated that the soup was bland, until they added lots of seasoning. That's my cue to play with the recipe as much as possible! Okay, well I really didn't change too much. I doubled the amount of onion to be cooked down, and added thyme, rosemary, oregano, a bay leaf and basil. Herbs de Provence would make a very nice substitute as well.

For our next day meal, we noticed that all of the liquid had been absorbed by the lentils, making this more of a mush. It still had a nice texture, and would go over rice or in a pita really well. We also thought that this tasted very much like a beef stew that my paternal Grandmother makes, adoringly called "Grandma's Stew". Her stew also contains parsnips, which I plan on putting in the next time I make this. Also, I think that cubed beef, venison, or bison would make a great addition for all of the omnivores out there.

All in all, we are pleased with this soup/stew/mush. Like the Pumpkin Pasta, it might not look that great, but it tastes wonderful and is very satisfying.


1 1/4 C. dry lentils
4 C. chicken broth
1 C. chopped carrots
2 C. chopped celery
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
15 oz can diced tomatoes, plain
4-5 gloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

-Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat with garlic and seasonings
-Add chopped veggies, stir to coat. Cover and let cook until the onions are transparent, about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
-Add tomato, lentils and chicken broth, bring to a boil
-Cover and bring down to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are cooked, 35-45 minutes
-Remove bay leaf
-Blend part of the soup with a stick blender or a traditional blender/food processor. If using a traditional method, return blended soup to the stock pot and stir to combine.
-Serve warm, plain or over rice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pumpkin Pasta

Even if it might be 80 degrees outside, it is fall! This is one of my favorite comfort foods. It sounds interesting, and looks interesting, but let me assure you that it is wonderful. We saw this recipe in a Rachel Ray cook book, titled Pumpkin Cauliflower Pasta. I like pasta, squash, and cauliflower, so I thought "why not". There are a decent number of flavors going on here, and it tastes like it would be more difficult to make than it really is.

Over time, we've changed the herbs/spices we use and the portions of ingredients. The recipe calls for chicken broth. We've tried both vegetable broth and water, but they just don't add near as much flavor, so chicken broth it is. I've used both parmesan and feta cheeses, and a combo of both (depending on what is in the fridge). The original recipe calls for heavy cream. We started by using skim milk instead, and lately we've just been leaving that out all together. The pumpkin puree really makes a nice texture for the sauce.

I know we've served this to guests before, and I'm sure we'll serve it to more people for years to come.

8 oz whole wheat pasta
1/2 C. pumpkin puree
1/4 C. parmesan cheese
1 C. Chicken broth or liquid of choice
1 head of cauliflower cut into florets, or 1 16 oz bag of frozen cauliflower, thawed (but the florets in the bags tend to be a bit too big)
2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

-Bring water a to a boil. Cook pasta as directed

-While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes.

-Add cauliflower. Stir to coat with oil. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

-Once pasta is cooked, drain & return to stock pot. The cauliflower should be done soon. Once the cauliflower is done, pour into the pasta. Add pumpkin puree, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground pepper, salt and parmesan. Stir to combine. Serve warm.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creamy Polenta with Veggies and Red Kidney Beans

Over a week with no posts, goodness! This past week has been crazy, with addition of the latest niece to expand our family. Greg and I have been busy spending time with her, her parents, and the rest of the family which came down to visit. So I must confess, we made this meal about a week and a half ago, and we have been pleasantly distracted since then =).

If you are wondering if those veggies are yet more frozen veggies, then you would be correct. I really enjoy this particular bag. On top of the obvious broccoli and cut carrots, it contains black eyed peas, garbanzo/chick peas, snap peas & cauliflower. Two years ago on a trip home to Ann Arbor, my family ate at at the Quarter Bistro. I ordered a wonderfully spicy vegetable minestrone. We joked that I just have gotten the last of the pot, because it seemed like there were at least 4 cups of minestrone in my "bowl". We took the left overs home, and my Mom made grilled polenta, and then spooned the re-heated soup on top. It was so delicious. This is my quick attempt at mimicking the dish.

To add flavor to the veggies and beans, I started by cooking the beans in water with bay leafs, oregano, basil, rosemary, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Once they were mostly cooked, I added the veggies until they were warm. We put cheddar cheese on the polenta once it was done, and that helped keep the texture creamy. I think a stronger flavored cheese would work much better. A little asiago would have really gone along way!The whole process took about 10 minutes. I'm sure if the veggies had simmered longer they flavors would have been more full. But, for a done in 10 minutes meal, this was pretty hard to beat. If anything, the next day left overs were better than the first day. The polenta's texture had changed since it was allowed to sit, but the flavor was still good.


Veggie Mixture:
1 15oz can red kidney beans
8oz frozen veggies
shredded cheddar
1 C. water
1 1/2 tsp each of: rosemary, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves

1 C. water
1 C. corn meal or polenta
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

-Bring 1 C. water to a boil. Add drained and rinsed kidney beans. reduce to a high simmer. Cook until just about tender and warmed through. Add the veggies. Continue cooking until the veggies have heated through. Drain and set aside.

- While the beans and veggies are cooking, bring the 1 C. water to a boil. Slowly pour in the corn meal or polenta while whisking. Whisk until any large clumps have dissolved. Serve warm and creamy or pour into a 9x13 and cover with plastic wrap to set.

-Serve the polenta while warm and creamy, top with a bit of cheese. Place veggies and beans on top of cheese.

- Enjoy!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chicken with Spinach and Barley

Part two of thrifty tasty eating! For this dish we only had to buy chopped frozen spinach. Pretty thrifty! There was not really a recipe that inspired us to make this, just a hunch that everything would work well together once it was all cooked. I stir fried the chicken in my Tuscan Sunset mix from Penzey's, and added a lot of rosemary and garlic. I saw a tip on a health blog, that smashing your garlic and letting it sit for 15 minutes before cooking helps to release healthy compounds that are good for your heart. We did that this time, too. Well, even if that's bogus, the wonderfully mellow flavor that resulted is worth the 15 minute wait! Once everything was cooked and combined, I added a small handful of mozzarella cheese to help bind it all together. The end result was very flavorful dish with an excellent creamy texture, much like risotto, much healthier, and much less time consuming!

We ate this as a main, though I think it would probably be better as a side. For leftovers, I put this in a whole wheat pita and ate it cold. That was also spectacular! If I make this as a side, I'll probably leave the chicken out and just cook the spinach down in the same seasonings. Either way, we'll definitely be making this one again!


3 chicken tenders, thawed out & cut into bite size pieces
1/2 block of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 C. uncooked barley of choice
2 or 3 cloves of garlic (I used 3 but they were on the small side)
1 tsp tuscan seasoning (italian would be fine too, but I would add some red pepper flakes)
1 tsp rosemary
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small handful (not even 1/4 C.) shredded mozzarella cheese

-Set water to boil for barley. Start cooking.
-Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add oil to a large pan and heat to medium high. Add the tuscan seasoning, rosemary, and garlic. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Stir frequently for even cooking.
-While the chicken is cooking, thaw out the spinach.
-When the chicken is mostly cooked through, add the spinach. Cover and turn down the heat. Let the spinach cook and wilt while the chicken cooks all of the way through.
-When the barley is cooked, add that to the chicken mixture along with the mozzarella
-Stir to combine.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Orzo and Veggies

This month Greg and I are trying to eat "thrifty", yet good. We found that if we plan out meals we end up spending less, and so we planned out as many meals as we could from ingredients that we have on hand. We almost always have everything needed for this recipe, and we put it at the top of our list!

I made this once before when Greg had an evening off, and it turned out really well. This version of Parmesan Chicken is also the light version. There is no dredging the chicken in egg or melted butter, no pan frying, and light on the breading. Since all of those removed steps/ingredients add so much flavor, I added the zest of one whole lemon along with sea salt to compensate. And, instead of serving over spaghetti, we chose whole wheat orzo with a nice vegetable medley. We've been using frozen veggies more lately. I know that everything is in season right now, but the frozen mixes are just so affordable while allowing a great variety of veggies with absolute minimal prep time. Next year, we will have to have some sort of garden so we won't have to buy veggies, and then drive home to prep; we'll just walk out onto our patio!

But anyway, this is pretty tasty. The lemon makes it feel like a summer dish, but for the fall I might want to skip on the zest, and then serve it over roasted sweet potato or a winter squash. Yum. It's also a very fast recipe, since the chicken tenders only take about 20 minutes to cook.


3-4 Chicken tenders, thawed
3 TBS each of flour, corn meal, and parmesan cheese
1 C. frozen veggies
1/2 box whole wheat orzo
marinara sauce to taste
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Mix the flour, corn meal, parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper together
-Rub flour mixture onto chicken tenders
-Bake the chicken tenders on a greased baking sheet or pan for about 20 minutes or until cooked
-While the chicken is cooking, boil orzo as directed. In the last 2 minutes of cooking time, add the frozen veggies. Drain and toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and marinara sauce to taste.
-Serve chicken on top of pasta and veggies, top with a bit of mozzarella.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Honey BBQ Chicken

This past Labor Day Greg and I went to Dan and Rebecca's to grill. We provided the meat, they provided the grill! We had a nice day. Rebecca and I relaxed while Dan and Greg washed and waxed Dan's car. If you thought it looked fast before, watch out! This was the first car Greg washed since we moved last summer. Well, other than hang out, we also ate some awesome food. Rebecca made sweet potato fries (which we believe that recipe is courtesy of Sister-in-law Beth), corn bread muffins, bbq chicken, grilled pineapple, and lemon dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! We tried to take some pictures of our feast, but unfortunately our camera batteries were low, and absolutely nothing was in focus. It's really too bad, because everything together just looked amazing.

Labor Day was also a day of many firsts! My first time butterflying a chicken, grilling, making my own bbq sauce, and everyone's first time seeing a whole chicken on the grill. It was very fun. The chicken recipe came from my most recent Fine Cooking magazine. I stayed in line with the recipe for the most part. I changed a few things based on ingredients that I already had, and then again for preference. For example, I really like my bbq sauce on the sweet side, so I added more honey that originally called for, and knowing that Rebecca dislikes vinegar, I left that out. Next time I would like to put an oven themometer in the grill, so we can better judge how long it will take to cook. And, though our meat thermometer read that the meat was cooked, the meat around the bones was not cooked. Nothing that a little microwaving coudln't take care of, but next time I'd really like for it to be cooked through the whole way. I don't really have that problem when I oven roast chickens.

Chicken Recipe:

1 whole chicken, butterflied
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 clove garlic, crushed/minced

BBQ sauce Recipe:

1/3 C. honey
1 TBS soy sayce
2 TBS ketchup
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp WOrcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder

-Prepare the chicken: Mix olive oil, sat, chili powder, paprika, brown sugar, thype, black pepper, chiotle powder and garlic in a small bowl. Massage onto chicken, inbetween skin and muscle, and on top of the skin. Let sit either overnight in the fridge or 30 minutes on the counter.

-Prepare the sauce: Add all sauce ingredients

-Sear the chicken skin side on the grill at high heat (450 degrees).

-Once seared, turn down heat to about 350, or move to a cool place on the grill. Start brushing on the bbq sauce every 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Let stand for a few minutes once cooked all of the way through.

Sweet Potato Fry Recipe:

(Please correct me if this is wrong, Beth or Rebecca!)

1 large sweet potato
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

-Juline cut the sweet potato, leaving the skin on.
-Toss with olive oil and place on a jelly roll pan
-Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes
-Sprinkle with kosher salt once done cooking