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.

The end is here!

Well folks, we made it, the end of January, without alcohol, meat, or sweets!   Of course the hubby couldn’t stick with the whole dry January thing, but he did forgo meat and sweets.  I don’t think it would have been possible for him without the option of seafood, but hey, whatever works, right!?

mexican style stuffed peppers

Our “last” vegetarian meal of January 2018 was Mexican style stuffed peppers.  I cooked up a batch of rice and added a can of black beans, a jar of salsa, a bag of corn, shredded cheddar cheese, sauteed zucchini and onions, and some minced jalapeno’s.   I steamed the peppers, then filled them with the rice mixture.

I whisked together 6 oz of white wine and a large can of enchilada sauce and poured it around the peppers.  I covered the dish with foil and baked it at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  I took off the foil, and let it cook another 15 minutes.  Originally, I was going to add some more shredded cheese to the top of the peppers, but I decided against it.  We certainly didn’t need the added fat or calories in this dish.

They were really good, in fact, the hubby is interested in having them again…..if I add some ground beef to the mix, of course!

Risotto with Asparagus

Back in the beginning of January, I made a big batch of parmesan broth.  I portioned it out into four cup servings and froze it.   It was the perfect base for risotto!   I knew risotto for dinner was not an option for the hubby, he needs (or THINKS he needs) more sustenance than that so for him, I baked a piece of Salmon to accompany the risotto.

salmon risotto

I rounded out dinner with a store bought kale salad mix.   The plate looked so pretty, almost to pretty to eat!

I find making risotto to be relaxing, I know that isn’t the case for everyone.   It truly is easy to make and doesn’t take that long to prepare.  Truly, about thirty minutes, start to finish and you can add some many different vegetables to change the flavor profile.

For this batch, I roasted the asparagus, then cut it into bit sized piece.  While it was roasting, I minced a bit of onion and sauteed it in some olive oil.  Once the onion was soft, I added the rice, stirring to coat it with the oil.  I let that cook for a few minutes before deglazing the pan with white wine.  Once the wine was reduced, I started ladeling in the parmesan broth.   Risotto is usually a 5 to 1 ratio of liquid to rice.   For this batch, I wanted it extra creamy and luscious, so I used a total of 8 cups of liquid.  Four parmesan broth and four vegetable broth.  Once the rice was tender, I added in some grated parmesan cheese and the asparagus.  It was DELICIOUS! If I do say so myself.

Vegetarian Taco Soup in the Crock Pot

I really needed an easy recipe that I could throw in the crock pot before I left for work.  I searched google and found this one on the The Spruce.  Of course, I didn’t follow it EXACTLY, but then again, when do I ever!  It was definitely more stew than soup, which is perfect for us, we LOVE our soups to be very hearty.

I used what I had on hand rather than following the recipe exactly.  Instead of canned corn, I used a full bag of frozen.  I had an open can of white beans, a very large can of red kidney beans, and a 14oz can of black beans.  I put all of that in a bowl, and tossed it with a packet of taco seasoning.  I added more cumin and garlic and two 14oz cans of Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies.

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I was able to do all of this the night before so right before I left for work, I was able to transfer the items from the bowl to the crock pot, set it and leave for work.  It didn’t look like there was enough liquid so I added an 8 ounce container of vegetable stock to the mix.

When I got home, the house smelled amazing!  I steamed a bit of rice, honestly because I wasn’t sure the hubby would be satisfied with a bean soup without meat.  I thought he might ladle the beans over the rice and not even notice the lack of meat – and guess what, I was RIGHT!

taco soup

A little shredded cheese added to the top and dinner was served.  It was super easy, delicious and very, very filling.  I will certainly make this again, although the hubby has asked if next time I can add some ground beef to the pot, so we once again gained a new recipe for February!

Butternut Squash Gratin

I found a recipe for a butternut squash with caramelized onion gratin that sounded so delicious.  I knew I had to try it!  It was super simple to make. You caramelize onions with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and fresh sage.  Once the onions are done, you spread them in the bottom of a buttered oven safe dish.

caramelized onions

Using the same pan you cooked the onions, you toss cubed butternut squash in flour and brown it in the pan.

The squash goes on top of the onions.  Next you add shredded gruyere cheese and parsley before adding a half cup of whole milk.  The dish gets covered and cooks at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes you remove the cover, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

I knew the hubby wasn’t going to be satisfied with this as his main dish so I picked him up a piece of tuna, which I seared in a cast iron skillet.  I rounded the meal out with some fresh green beans.  The plate looked really pretty and colorful.  We were both thrilled with our dinners!

tuna

One of my favorite and unexpected outcomes of this experiment has been that I am gaining a whole bunch of new side dishes for once we start eating meat again.  This gratin would be AMAZING as a side dish for pork.

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!

Veggie Burgers

The hubby is not a fan of mushrooms, which, tends to limit my options when it comes to vegetarian meals….sigh…anyway, I promised no mushrooms for at least five days.  He loves burgers so I thought, hey, I am sure I can find a vegetarian burger made WITHOUT mushrooms, how hard could it possibly be?    Thankfully, I found a recipe on the Epicurious site for White Bean Burgers with Corn and Zucchini. 

My work schedule can be a bit crazy and I have a very long commute so dinners during the week need to be something I can throw together quickly, make ahead, or put in the crock pot.   In this recipe, the burgers are frozen for 20 minutes before cooking.  There was a note at the bottom of the recipe that you could make them ahead and freeze them until you were ready to make.  BINGO!  I made the burgers on the weekend when I had a bit more time and froze them for a dinner to be named later.   You have to cook the burgers a big longer, twenty minutes total instead of twelve to eighteen.  No big deal, as far as I was concerned.

veggie burgers

I used white quinoa, because I had it in the pantry.   The burgers came together in under 30 minutes.  I formed them into patties, put them in a container and slide them into the freezer.

The night I went to cook them, all I had to do was grab some rolls and prep a side dish.  It has been a crazy week at work so I took some help from the store and our side dish was a bag of frozen french fries that I cooked in the oven.

I used my cast iron skillet to cook the burgers.  After twenty minutes, they were done, completely cooked through and piping HOT.  I added a slice of cheddar cheese to each burger and let it melt.  We used a jalapeno mayo on our buns with a bit of lettuce and red onion.

veg burger

The burgers were  a bit blah…not bad, just uninteresting.  Next time I am going to dice up a jalapeno to liven up the flavors.  They were incredibly moist, to the point where they were difficult to eat on a bun.  If I make them again, I will serve them over a salad and serve it with a nice vinegary dressing.  Live and learn, oh and next time – DOCTOR THE HECK OUTTA THEM!