Minestrone

The hubby and I are both soup lovers and whenever I have a day off from Fall until early Spring, you can usually find a pot of soup on the stove.

I ended up being off on Sunday, because the event that was SUPPOSED to take place was postponed so that the attendees could all stay home and watch the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  Gotta love a town that puts football before all else! Anyway, the weather was yucky, snow, followed by sleet, and I decided we needed a warm, comforting bowl of soup.

One of the things I love about soup is that you can add a ton more veggies than the recipe calls for and no one (OK, in this house, my husband) is none the wiser!  I will get that man to eat more veggies if it is the last thing I do….

minestrone

Since we just came off a month of vegetarian meals, I decided not to torture him with a vegetarian soup, so I added a pound of ground hot italian sausage to the soup pot.

sausage

I started by sauteing my mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery) in the stock pot.  I added a bit of salt, pepper, and oregano and let that cook for about 10 minutes while I finished prepping the rest of the vegetables.   I diced up two zucchini and a pound of green beans.  I minced four cloves of garlic.  One the onions, carrots, celery were tender, I added the garlic and four cups of chicken broth.  I brought the broth to boil, turned it down to a simmer and let it cook for twenty minutes.  I added in a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, the zucchini and green beans, along with a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans and a can of drained and rinsed white beans.  In went the browned sausage and another four cups of broth.

After simmering on the stove for an hour, I added four cups of fresh spinach.  While the spinach cooked down, I cooked a box of orecchiette pasta.  I added pasta to the bottom of our bowls and added a ladle of soup.  Perfect mid winter meal, if I do say so myself!  AND it will give me lunch for a few days this week.

It wasn’t as hard as I expected

To get through the month of January without meat, sweets, or alcohol.  Honestly, I expected to miss having a glass of wine at the end of a long week, but it was meat that I missed the most.  I have always wondered if I could ever be a full time vegetarian, since I eat vegetarian meals quite a bit when the hubby travels.  This month proved to me, that yes, it is possible, but it wouldn’t make me happy.

This was a great experiment, it gave me a bunch of new recipes that we can use during Lent.  It was reinforced for me that I DO HAVE incredible will power.  I feel healthier, the scale certainly agrees that this has been a  worthwhile endeavor.  Will I try this again next year, probably.  Although the hubby is lobbying for February….well…until I mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to have a beer during the Super Bowl.  He is rethinking that plan as we speak.

Will we still eat vegetarian meals, you bet!  Will I have an easier time convincing the husband that it is OK to eat vegetarian once a week, maybe.  It was nice to step outside our normal, to stretch my creative muscle to find dinners that would satisfy us both AND still be vegetarian.  Sometimes you need to try something new to truly appreciate the everyday.

To finish out the month, I made a batch of broccoli cheddar soup to have for lunch – it was AWESOME. Thankfully, the hubby has never objected to a vegetarian soup…of course, he prefers to have a meat sandwich alongside!

broc cheddar soup

Lentil Soup

A dear friend and her wife recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their family.  The new parents are sleep deprived, terrified, and blissfully happy….all at the same time.  Both Laura and her wife are vegetarians.  I wanted to make them something to nourish their bodies while they are navigating the wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming world of parenting.   The Daily Soup cookbook has an amazing Lentil soup recipe.  I have made it many, many times, and it never disappoints.

lentil soup

I will freely admit, it isn’t much to look at but my oh my is the flavor amazing!  You start by sweating onions, leeks, and celery in butter with a little salt and pepper until they begin to soften.   You add fresh rosemary, a little cayenne pepper, and a can of diced tomatoes.  Pour in a pound of lentils and eight cups of vegetable stock.  Turn it up to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes until the vegetables and lentils are cooked.

While that is happening, you take 7 cloves of garlic, yes, I said 7 cloves of garlic and cook them in three cups of heavy cream.  Just a gentle simmer.  After about twenty minutes, you puree the garlic mixture in a blender.  When the soup is done, you pour in the cream and let it cook for an additional minute.  The cream and garlic become so mellow and sweet, it really takes a simple lentil soup to the next level.  It is one of my favorite soups.

I plan on making a loaf of bread to go along with the soup and possibly a dessert (they aren’t big sweet eaters), and dropping it off to Laura.  I figure it gives me a chance to sneak in a little baby time while the parents enjoy a nice, warm, comforting bowl of soup. I think we both win in this situation, and I am totally on board with that!

Happy New Year!

My goodness, 2017 was one for the record books.  I had no intention of taking a break from writing this blog, work kinda consumed my life.  Well – NO MORE!  I truly enjoy writing this blog and I refuse to allow my work life to be my only priority.  Anyway, enough about work – we need to be talking about FOOD.

2017 ended with both the hubby and I feeling under the weather.  I decided we needed delicious and healthy food to get us back on track.  Since that didn’t work, I tried bacon and guess what – it WORKED!

NYE Breakfast

After that hearty breakfast, we had a light lunch of leftover soup (you know the thing that was supposed to cure what ails me….)

chicken barley soup

I took a picture while I was cooking.  I love the colors in this photo and man did it taste amazing.  I joke that it didn’t cure me, but it certainly made me feel better, what more can you ask for when your head feels like it is stuffed with cotton?

Anyway, I was originally going to cook veal chops on the grill for our New Year’s Eve dinner, but the temperature was hovering around 5 degrees and I was afraid the grill wouldn’t get hot enough.  I decided to stuff chicken breasts with spinach and cheese and bake them in the oven.  Good choice – if I do say so myself!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts

They turned out better than I expected.  I used a 10 oz box of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained.  To that I added a container of Boursin Garlic and Herb Cheese.  I cut a pocket in the chicken and stuffed them with the spinach mixture.   I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.  After browning them in a cast iron skillet, I slide them in the oven to finish cooking.   Dinner was a simple affair – French Onion Soup, Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and Baked Potatoes.  For dessert, I whipped up a Maple Pear Upside Down Cake – it was amazing!  I found the recipe in the New York Times https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1012862-maple-pear-upside-down-cake 

Maple Pear Upside Down Cake

I highly recommend making it if you have the time. Well, that was our New Year’s Eve – I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.  Happy 2018!

French Onion Soup and Steak

I LOVE slow cooked caramelized onions, add it beef stock and a whole lotta cheese and you have one fine bowl of soup!

french-onion-soup

I tend to skip the bread because I can’t STAND soggy bread.  There is nothing and I mean NOTHING in this world more disgusting to eat than soggy bread. *Shutter*, heck I can’t even type that without a full body shutter….ugggghhhh!

Anywho….I made the soup and we had that as our first course.  We followed it up with a lovely steak, baked potato, and salad for dinner.  Not a bad winter meal, if you ask me.  All the comfort foods in one place – cheese, potatoes, steak…..YUM!

steak-dinner

 

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

A while back, we had a pot luck lunch in our office.  I roasted off a few turkey breasts, sliced the meat and served them at room temperature with a cranberry flavored mayo and fresh bakery rolls.   I took the bones of the turkey and made a huge batch of stock, which I tucked away in my freezer for a rainy day.   Well folks, that day arrived.  I defrosted the stock and poached a bone in turkey breast in the stock.  While that was cooking, I started dicing up onions, mushrooms, carrots, and celery.

I stared by browning the mushrooms in a screaming hot pan until they were nice and golden brown.  I removed them from the pan, lowered the heat, added a bit more oil and the rest of the vegetables.  I seasoned them with salt and pepper and let them sweat.  I added the mushrooms back into the pan, strained the stock into the pot and brought it to a boil.

While the stock was coming to a boil, I diced up the turkey breast and added it to the pot.  When the liquid started boiling, I added two cups of a wild rice blend, stirred it around, popped on a lid and turned the heat to low.  I let it cook for 45 minutes before lifting the lid.  The house smelled amazing!

turkey-soup

Soup was done!  It tasted so, so good.  I knew the hubby wouldn’t be satisfied with just soup for dinner so I also breaded some chicken cutlets and made chicken sandwiches to go alongside.  I pulled out some buffalo wing sauce and tossed my chicken in that before putting it on my bun, the hubby just doused it with sauce and slathered the top of the roll with ranch dressing.  He was thrilled!

chx-cutlet-sandwich

Not a bad days work….If I do say so myself!

Potato Soup

I love, love, love, potatoes…..add cream and bacon and well…..let’s just say, it can totally make everything right with the world.

potato-soup

I am so very lucky that the hubby is content with soup for dinner.  Of course, he has to have a sandwich…AND chips on the side, but at least he considers it a meal!  I started by sauteing bacon in my stock pot.  Once it was done, I removed it from the pan, and sauteed the onions, carrots, and celery in the bacon fat.  I added in chicken stock and the potatoes.  Once the veggies were tender, I added in some heavy cream, a bit of frozen corn, and heated everything through.  When it was ready to serve, I topped it with a bit of the bacon and dug IN!  Soup is truly the only good thing about winter……