Sunday Morning

foggy sunday morning

When your day starts out this cold, rainy, and dreary,  you need a really awesome breakfast to get you motivated.   This morning I decided to throw caution to the wind, skip our standard breakfast of of over easy eggs with toast and potatoes and make some French Toast.

The hubs leaves for a business trip today so it will be our only meal together today.  I picked up a loaf of brioche bread yesterday, one that was sliced slightly thicker than standard bread.  It made for a delicious French toast.

french toast

I’m pretty sure the hubby ate his weight in French Toast, but since he will probably not get lunch today, all is good.

My plan for the rest of the afternoon involves a nice cup of hot tea, a really good book, and my fireplace.   Happy Sunday!

Baked Ziti with Spinach

So the hubby is still hanging in there with me, at least on the vegetarian front.   One of his favorite dinners is baked ziti.  I decided to substitute the meat for spinach.  He would have preferred plain baked ziti, but I prefer to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can when I cook at home.  I KNOW he makes bad food choices when he travels and since he travels approximately 40 weeks a year, I have to make every home cooked meal count!

ziti

I used frozen chopped spinach, which I defrosted in the fridge overnight then drained.   Once the pasta was cooked, I tossed it with the spinach tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, sauce, and garlic.  I baked it for 40 minutes, added some more mozzarella cheese to the top of the dish and baked it another 10 minutes.  I loved it and I will be taking it for lunch at least two days this week.  The hubby was OK with it, this time he didn’t complain about the lack of meat, just the addition of spinach!  Progress folks, progress.

Focaccia Bread

When I worked in restaurant, I was always the one they turned to when it came to making pizza dough or bread dough.  I love making bread and I seem to have an affinity for dough.  I love the feel of dough when I am kneading it and the smell of bread baking in the oven makes me incredibly happy.  I find I make bread more often in the fall and winter, there is something very comforting about turning on the oven, warming up the house and pulling hot, yeasty golden brown bread from the oven.  I barely wait for it to cool down before slathering it with butter and eating more than my fair share.

I was making baked ziti for dinner this weekend and I wanted something a little different that the traditional garlic bread I usually serve.  I pulled out my cookbooks and came across the recipe for focaccia bread.  Super simple, ready to bake in 2 hours, PERFECT choice for an Italian meal.  I was sold.

foccacia

I brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled it with himalayan pink finishing salt before baking it in the oven.  It came out with a super crispy crust, a nice chewy interior, and just enough salt to make it awesome.  I served it with some olive oil that I mixed with a small spoon of pesto and a bit of grated parmesan cheese.  It was divine.  I think I could have eaten the entire thing for dinner and skipped the pasta….I didn’t mind you, but I was sorely tempted!

Dinner for One

Last week, I got a text from one of my neighbors.  It seems she and her daughter took a cooking class and made homemade pasta.  They wanted to recreate the pasta for the rest of the family, but didn’t have a pasta roller – would I possibly have one and if so, could they borrow it? Absolutely, I have a pasta attachment for my kitchen aid mixer, I lent them both the mixer and the attachment.

Imagine my surprise last Sunday morning when they returned the equipment and presented me with a container of homemade pasta in alfredo sauce.  I was thrilled!  The hubby was leaving for a business trip that afternoon which meant I was going to be alone for dinner.   I got to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch, reading a book, AND I didn’t have to worry about fixing myself dinner.

Homemade Pasta

When I got hungry, I transferred the pasta and sauce into a pan and added a splash of heavy cream.  I turned the pan on low and gently heated up my dinner.  It was really delicious.  I will take this kind of thank you any day of the week!

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!