Sunday, January 26, 2014

Italian Soup with Pasta & Chickpeas

Oh merciful heavens we are cold!!! We are cold, cold, cold out here on the east coast! Unbelievably cold, chilled to the bone, just can't seem to get warm even in front of the get the idea, right? So, this is beyond "yay, it's cold, time for soup" weather. This is "soup is the only plausible thing I can imagine eating right now" weather. And so, here we go....another soup recipe on my blog. But, you know what, I'm okay with that because I'm a crazy soup lover - for so many reasons!!! Yes, it'll warm you up from head to toes on polar-vortex days like today......and yes, it was silly-easy to make....but, most importantly, it was crazy-good!!!! Like lick the bowl clean good. Really.

This recipe comes straight from the magazine Vegetarian Times. BUT!!!! I DID use Italian turkey sausage in it!!! Sorry, I can't lie (please don't mention this to the good people at Vegetarian Times or they might cancel my subscription). And if you happen to not be vegetarian, I strongly suggest you try adding those two links of sausage. It added an incredible depth of flavor to the soup!!!!  Enjoy this with a warm chunk of good, crusty bread.
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • <Wooden Spoon's own addition of 2 Italian sausages, I used turkey- you could also use chicken. I think it is important to use an Italian flavor, though>
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1½ cups)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 3 plum or Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped (2 cups) <I went the lazy route and used a 15oz can of diced tomatoes>
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ½ cup ditalini or tubetti
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
1. Heat oil in large soup pot or 
Dutch oven over medium heat. <If using turkey and add to oil. Using a spatula (or a handy-dandy mix & chop) chop ground sausage until it is cooked and in tiny pieces> Add 
onion and rosemary sprigs, and sauté 
5 to 7 minutes, or until onion has softened.
2. Add garlic, and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, and season with salt, 
if desired. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes. Remove rosemary sprigs.
3. Add chickpeas, and slightly 
mash with fork or potato masher to thicken soup.
4. Add broth, and bring to a boil. 
Add pasta, and cook 1 minute less than package directions suggest.
5. Season soup with salt, if desired, 
and pepper. Garnish each serving with 
1 Tbs. Parmesan and 1 tsp. basil.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Garden Burger Stuffed Pita with Hummus & Cucumbers

I have made this Cooking Light inspired meal twice in the past two weeks. My husband and I don't eat a lot of meat and we have always loved veggie burgers. This dinner involves very little prep, is healthful and tasty, too. You can use your favorite type of frozen veggie burger (we love Tomato Basil Bocca Burgers and Black Bean Garden Burgers) and your favorite flavor of hummus. I always have hummus in my fridge as well as cucumbers (my daughter eats them in mass quantities). I keep pitas in the freezer as well as Garden Burgers.....this meal is a tasty no-brainer. I serve it with either a spinach berry smoothie or a side salad. The whole dinner (or lunch) comes together in under 10 minutes. It's perfect for those crazy weekday nights when the kids have after school activities. Enjoy!

2 Garden or Bocca Burgers (your favorite flavor)
2 Pitas, 1/4 of the top cut off to make for a deep "pocket"
Cucumbers (you could also substitute lettuce or tomatoes)

Cook frozen Garden Burgers in a skillet for about 5 to 7 minutes until warmed through. Add hummus to pita pocket. Place burger in pita; add cucumber slices. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lemon Ricotta Muffins with Rosemary Glaze

I am on a serious muffin-making kick right now. Banana, apple, lemon, you name it! It was actually the ricotta in these that really grabbed my attention.  I always have good luck baking with ricotta -- makes for a very moist baked good. These were no exception. Yum yum yum!!!!

Thank you to the most amazing blog, A Cozy Kitchen, for this delicious recipe:

Dry Mix:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Mix:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest (from about 2 Meyer lemons), plus more for garnish
1 cup whole fat ricotta cheese 
1/2 cup whole milk 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg 
1 tablespoon fresh meyer lemon juice 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

1/4 cup whole milk
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line it with paper baking cups.  <I actually got 13 muffins out of my batch>

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

3. In a large bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and lemon zest. Using a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and zest together until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the ricotta, milk, olive oil, egg, lemon juice and vanilla; beat once more until thoroughly combined. 

4. In two batches, add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined, being sure not to over mix (this will result in tough muffins). 

5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins (filling them about 3/4 of the way full) and transfer to the oven to bake for 17-20 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden brown and when a skewer is inserted into the center it comes out clean. Transfer the muffins on a cooling rack. While the muffins are cooling, make the glaze. 

6. To make the glaze, warm the 1/4 cup of milk, along with the rosemary, in a small saucepan. When it reaches a light simmer, remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the sprig of rosemary and pour the milk into the powdered sugar; whisk until smooth. Spoon about a teaspoon or two over each muffin and garnish with a bit of fresh meyer lemon zest. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

No Bake Peanut Butter & Oat Protein Bars

I am SO incredibly in love with these homemade protein bars! I feel like I can't get enough of them!!!! Even though I am a self-proclaimed health nut, I still get shocked when I make something "healthy" and it tastes THIS non-healthy-good!!! I brought one to my friend, Keli, and she raved!! She said I must blog immediately so she can make them herself. So, Kel, here ya go.... :)

1/2 c. NATURAL peanut butter (I used extra crunchy)
3 Tbl honey
2 Tbl almond milk (you could use regular milk instead)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 Tbl chia seeds OR flax seeds (your choice)
4 graham cracker squares (so, 2 graham flats)
1 cup Cheerios (or Rice Krispies)
1/3 c good dark chocolate

Combine the peanut butter, honey and almond milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove and give it a good stir to combine all ingredients. Add vanilla to the peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. 

Put old-fashioned oats, chia seeds and graham crackers in a food processor. Blend until all ingredients are ground. Pour oat mixture into peanut butter mixture. Stir to combine. Pour in Cheerios, combine. PRESS bar mixture into an 8X8" pan (no need to grease).

I like to use a piece of wax paper (I believe you could use foil also) to press the mixture down until it is even and smooth.

Place chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir until melted and smooth. Spread chocolate over the bars. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm up. Slice into bars and enjoy!! These make a great breakfast or snack! I have even been eating them for dessert! Keep them wrapped and stored in the fridge. Delicious!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

French Onion Pasta

I found this quick and easy recipe on the blog Stephanie Cooks. It was packed full of flavor and we ate every last noodle! I loved how I could make the entire thing before my husband came home from work. When we were ready to eat, I just popped it into the oven for a couple of minutes to broil the cheese and it was done! Who doesn't love a simple meal that tastes like you've put way more effort into it than you actually have?

I did add an 8oz package of mushrooms to this meal to "beef" it up a bit. This pasta, paired with a simple green salad and a slice of crusty bread was enough to fill us up. If you are making this for more than two people, I think you should double the recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe from Stephanie Cooks:

2 cups of uncooked penne pasta (8 oz)
1 Tbl olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 8oz package of baby bello mushrooms, chopped <this is my own addition>
2 cloves of garlic, smashed <I just diced it>
1 to 1.5 cup of chicken stock <I used 1 1/4 cup>
1 packet of Lipton's Onion Soup mix
1/2 cup of marsala wine <I didn't have marsala wine, so I used red wine>
1 tablespoon of flour
4 tablespoons of cream
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese <must admit I didn't measure this....just lightly covered the pasta...oh, and I added a little sprinkling of good quality Parm, too>


Cook pasta according to directions, set aside and keep warm. <I HATE overcooked pasta and I find that pasta that is cooked fully in the pot and then also baked again in the oven really does get mushy. To counter this I always under-cook my pasta in the pot so it is very al dente. For this particular dish, I cut one minute off the cooking time on the penne pasta. It was perfect after broiled>

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil <I used my gorgeous new Le Cruset oven-proof skillet! An awesome Christmas gift from my parents>. Add the shallots <mushrooms, if using> and garlic, stir continually until soft and fragrant <about 5 to 7 minutes>.

Add the marsala wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck on pieces of onion. <I simmered for a few minutes until about 3/4 of the wine absorbed>.

Add the stock and soup mix packet, allow to cook on low for about 20 minutes <1/2 of the liquid will cook down>.

Stir in flour, whisking continually until well incorporated and thickened slightly.

Add the cream, mix well.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir well.

<If you are using an oven-proof skillet, top the pasta with cheese. If you are not using an oven-proof skillet>, pour pasta mixture into an oven safe dish. Top with the mozzarella cheese.

Set it under the broiler until the cheese melts and gets a little crispy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Easy Bagel Sandwich Bar

I love sandwiches!!! I know most red-blooded Americans do, but, I probably love them just a little bit more than that! I could honestly eat one for lunch and dinner five days a week and be perfectly content! They are satisfying, easy and the options are endless. I serve dinner-time sandwiches to my husband and kids about once a week (especially on nights my kids have sports and I'm pressed for time)......I try to sass them up by using fun ingredients, quality breads and a variety of spreads (think outside the mayo-box). This bagel bar was a big hit with my husband because he got to build his own. We both really piled the veggies on! I served this with a spinach smoothie and Doritos (it's hard to eat a sandwich without chips)....but, you could also do a little green or fruit salad and a side of potato chips. Enjoy this easy-peasy week-night dinner.

These are all just suggestions! Use what you like, omit what you don't! We did not use meat, but, turkey, ham or chicken would all taste good.

Your favorite bagels, toasted (use good bagels from your grocer's bakery department) *we used everything and sesame seed bagels
Cream cheese OR Hummus OR Pesto OR Guacamole (endless spread options!)
Cucumbers, sliced
Carrots, shredded
Red Bell Peppers, sliced
Mushrooms, sliced
Tomatoes, sliced
Black Olives, sliced
Zucchini, sliced
Sun-dried tomatoes
Ripe Avocado, sliced
Artichokes, sliced
Sliced Cheese like American, Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, etc...
Salt & Pepper to taste

Toast your bagel and add your favorite spread. Top with ingredients and enjoy!