Chicken Tortilla Soup and Turkey Lasagna

When you pass your 40 week gestation date and you feel comfortable with baby happily hanging out you realize it’s time to cook. We hit single digits for the first time all winter and we didn’t have plans (as we could have been at the hospital) so Ryan and I took our stab at getting ahead for dinners. Yesterday he made our favorite turkey lasagna recipe and today we made chicken tortilla soup to freeze and enjoy post baby T3. Unlike a lot of chicken tortilla soups this one has noodles in it which I thought the kids would love. Two recipes down, one Asian Noodle dish prepped and ready for dinner tonight.

Looking for an easy, tasty meal for these cold days? Try one of these recipes. The lasagna is my favorite as it’s easy but still has homemade sauce and great flavor. As for the soup, one spoon in to taste test and it’s yummy!

Turkey Lasagna-  (Ina Garten) Barefoot Contessa

Chicken Tortilla Soup (with noodles) from damndelicious.net

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Every September I get anxious to start making soup and fall foods. I love the change of season and all the warm delicious meals. All it takes is the humidity to leave and my kitchen is in soup mode. It’s currently 5:45pm and still 70 degrees out but the nice lake breeze and windows open made it perfect for soup.

My amazing girlfriend and past roomie Claire gave me this recipe years ago and it never gets old. I think I’ve shared it 20 times which means it’s time for it to get on my blog. It’s easy, quick and delicious. Somewhat like a pasta fagioli soup but even better. The kids, Ryan and I all love it! Without further ado- here is the recipe!

Note: you can easily substitute gluten free noodles to make it gluten free OR use meat substitutes or skip the sausage for a vegetarian fair. Either would easily work.

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bulk Italian Sausage (I use links- 3 turkey Italian sausage, 3 mild Italian and took casings off)
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 chicken broth (or 3 cups of water + 2 tsp chicken bouillion)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 sliced carrots
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 27 oz can Tomato soup
  • 1 can Cannellini beans (white beans) (with liquid)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
  • 9 oz cheese tortellini
  • ¼ c red wine
  • Few tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

 Directions

  1. Add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil to pan and cook sausage and onion over medium heat, drain thoroughly.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients, except parmesan cheese.
  3. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  4. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Watermelon Salad

It’s finally summer which means the season of fresh juicy fruit has arrived. I love having fresh berries, pineapple and melons around for snacking but recently I was introduced to a new salad that I can’t get enough of. After doing the MS 150 bike ride (where the weather kept us from the second half) my friends Claire & Erin hosted a BBQ for the riders. Of course the spread of food was delicious: orzo pasta salad, veggies with homemade dip, guacamole and chips, brats/burgers and best of all a watermelon salad.  YUMMY!

The crunch and chilly texture from the watermelon paired perfectly with the dryness of the feta cheese.  Topped off with a hint of flavor from the sliced red onions and cilantro. It was oh so refreshing!!! I’ve had it twice since the BBQ and had to share. It’s easy, healthy and perfect for a summer barbecue, family dinner or party. The best part is you can make it without following much of a recipe. When I did it I used ~ 1/2 a watermelon and sprinkled the feta, cilantro and red onion on until it looked like it was coated well. I then squeezed the lemon juice on top, mixed and served. I would recommend making it soon before serving as watermelon can drain overnight.

Ingredients:

  • ~1/2 a Watermelon- diced
  • Feta Cheese- crumbled
  • Red Onion- thinly sliced (I used ~1/4 of one so it wasn’t overpowering)
  • Cilantro- chopped/minced
  • Juice from one lime

Caribbean Carrot Soup

I don’t know how to put in words the deliciousness that is this soup! YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT!! My mom found the recipe in her Madison magazine and it sounded perfect from the start since I love soup and it has some of my favorite ingredients: coconut milk, ginger and sriracha (well it called for hot sauce but my mom used sriracha). My mom, Ryan and I have almost eaten the whole batch in three days and we can’t wait to make it again. We made it with a big kick of spice which went perfect with the caribbean flavors. I HIGHLY recommend you make it. It’s light, flavorful and filled with healthy beta-carotene. I’m speechless it was so good…Delish!!

Caribbean Carrot Soup

Source: Madison Magainze March 2013

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds large carrots
2 tbsp plus 3 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plus 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 cans coconut milk
Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste – my mom used sriracha
Chopped cilantro (for garnish) – we skipped this since we didn’t have any cilantro in the fridge

RECIPE

Peel and chop carrots into large pieces. Coat in about 2 tbsp oil and 1/4 cup stock. Place on parchment and roast at 400 degrees for about 45–60 minutes until carrots are fork-tender.

While carrots are in the oven, chop onion and garlic and grate ginger. In the bottom of a large enameled pot, add 3 tbsp oil and saute garlic, onion and ginger until onions are translucent. Add curry powder and bay leaf and sauté about 1 minute. Add roasted carrots and 1 quart broth and let come to a simmer. Pour in remaining stock and bring to a simmer again. Add coconut milk and remove bay leaf.

Use immersion blender to puree soup, adding stock to thin to desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve hot with chopped cilantro.

 

Three Bean Salad

You may be wondering if I stopped cooking now that I’m working and a mom. The answer is no, I still cook. The problem is I don’t have time to post all the things I make. Tonight though our daughter had a great evening eating dinner with us followed by a 7pm bath which meant I had time to prep a salad for a work pot luck tomorrow and post about it.

I decided to try a new three bean salad. My first impression is that I like it but I want to see how it infuses over night. It has a mustard flavor to it with the dijon and the fresh parsley and shallots are a great touch.

Three Bean Salad

Source: Cooking Light August 2012

Healthy Carb Dishes

Since I seem to be craving carbohydrates a lot during this pregnancy I decided to feature healthy ways to satisfy those cravings today on Twin Cities Live. Not only will you fill up on carbs, they will be the healthy kind and you will also get some servings of fruits and vegetables in with these three dishes. So, indulge away with this edamame garden salad, couscous salad with dried fruit or delicious whole wheat raspberry bar.  I make the edamame salad a lot and can tell you it’s delicious. The couscous salad was a new recipe for me but I taste tested it last night. I really liked the spices they added to the couscous, it has a middle eastern taste with a sweet finish from the dried fruit. I am yet to try to raspberry bars but the smell has been taking over my house and I can’t wait to try one. I can only imagine how tasty they are! To find out what other pregnant woment think of the foods watch Twin Cities Live today on Channel 5 at 3pm.

Here are the original recipes with my modifications in red.

Edamame Garden Salad

Source: MrFood.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup natural flavor rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (I usually do 1/2 to 1 whole lemons juice)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups edamame, cooked according to package directions (see Note)
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (I only use 1/4 of a red onion so the onion flavor won’t take over)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and black pepper; mix well and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 12. Nutritional Information (I calculated the calories/fat from sparkpeople.com) :

Nutrition per Serving (yields 12) = 154 calories, 10g Fat

Couscous Salad with Dried Fruit

Source: Cooking Light 2003

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green olives
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add paprika and next 7 ingredients (paprika through allspice); cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Place couscous in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients; toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving size: 1 cup, serves 6

Nutrition Information: 258 calories, 7.5g Fat, 6.7g Protein, 4.6g Fiber

Raspberry Bars

Source: Eating Well

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I was a little shy of 1/2 cup so I filled the 1/2 cup with pecans and topped with oatmeal to get to 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Raspberry Filling

  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons nonfat cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese instead)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place flour, pecans, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt in a food processor; process until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until incorporated. Add ice water and vanilla and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Transfer to the prepared pan. Press evenly and firmly into the pan to form a bottom crust.
  3. Bake the crust until it looks set, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  4. To prepare raspberry filling: Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; let stand, stirring once or twice, while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  5. Reserve 16 raspberries. Puree the remaining raspberries in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until bubbling. Stir in the gelatin mixture and cook, stirring, until the gelatin is melted, about 1 minute.
  6. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the raspberry mixture into a medium bowl and set it in the bowl of ice water. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of loose jam and is beginning to set around the edges, about 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, milk and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
  8. Spread the thickened raspberry filling evenly over the crust. Dollop the cream cheese mixture over the filling. Draw the tip of a sharp knife or skewer through the two fillings to create a swirled effect. Nestle the reserved berries into the filling, evenly spacing them so each bar will be topped with a berry when cut. Refrigerate until the bars are completely set, about 3 hours. Cut into 16 bars, one raspberry per bar.

Nutrition Per bar (serves 16): 101 calories; 5 g fat ( 2 g sat , 2 g mono ); 6 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 94 mg sodium; 64 mg potassium.

 

Feel Better Soup

After 6 days of being sick at home this past week I was craving some hot homemade soup. So, between naps, chugging water, coughing and blowing my nose I woke up from a nap with enough energy to do a little chopping for some comfort soup before another nap. I already needed to run to Byerlys in my pajamas to get baby Vick’s Vapor Rub so I picked up a rotisserie chicken. I got home and browsed the 101 healthy soups on Cooking Light and found a base recipe to use: Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Spinach Soup. I say base as I made a ton of modifications to fit what was in my cupboard.

Here was my version of what I call the
Feel Better Soup

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 cups peeled and diced squash
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low sodium broth
4 cups water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley, rosemary and cilantro each
3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
6 ounce bag of spinach
salt and pepper (I added more than usual since I used less broth and more water)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Heat dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil and butter. Let butter melt then add onion, carrots, celery, squash, mushrooms and garlic.
2. Sautee for ~ 5 minutes or until squash is soft
3. Add beans, broth, water and herbs; bring to a boil
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
5. Add chicken, salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes
6. Add spinach, let wilt (~3 minutes).
7. Serve in a bowl with sprinkled parmesan cheese on top.

Potato Leek Soup

You may be wondering if our crop share ended since I haven’t posted in awhile. The answer is no and the reason I hadn’t posted in awhile is the recent shares have been for foods that we often eat raw (carrots, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers) or things like onions and garlic that I add to everything.

This past weeks share I did receive a few special treats: potatoes and leeks. It was like someone was saying to me “Make potato leek soup.” I have had leeks at restaurants but I’ve never cooked with them before so I was so happy to get them in my crop share to prep on my own. I was also excited when I found a potato leek recipe that called for all ingredients I had at home: Potatoes (check), leeks (check), butter (check), broth (check even though I used chicken), salt, pepper and thyme (check- I used dried) and cream (As you can imagine I didn’t have this but also didn’t plan to use it; skim milk was my substitute). I also didn’t make the cheddar toasts but they do sound amazing and I would recommend trying them if you have time.

Golden Potato Leek Soup with Cheddar Toasts

Source: Cooking Light, October 2005
Notice the burned in “S” on my favorite wooden spoon. My friend Claire’s mom did that by hand!

My first time with cooking with leeks was a success. Perfect for a cold fall evening or light meal. Probably good I made it a night my husband wasn’t home for dinner as I don’t think he would have enjoyed it as much. He prefers bold flavors and this was subtle and simple.  I’m not sure I would go out of my way to buy the ingredients to make it again unless I was sick and craving a light soup but I would recommend trying it you typically like potato soup or potato leek soup.

Healthy Soups

I am presenting my first cooking segment on Twin Cities Live tomorrow, Wednesday October 12th. I’m going to make two of the soups I’ve blogged about before: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and Spicy Tuscan Soup.

People often think of soup and picture cream based options. While these may taste good they are high in fat and calories. I’m going to show broth based soups that are healthy but still flavorful.

Tips for Making Healthy Soup

  • Use water or low sodium broths as your base
  • Try adding a small amount of skim milk or 1% milk to soup to add creaminess without much fat
  • Start with onions, garlic, carrots and/or celery to get lots of flavor without calories
  • Think fresh herbs and spices for added taste instead of loads of salt
  • Choose lean meats. Try making chicken chili or choose a lean ground beef or ground turkey breast (make sure it says turkey breast otherwise the turkey may contain some of the skin and not all breast meat)
  • Load up on vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, corn, peppers, kale and beans are great additives to soup
  • When adding beans, look for low sodium varieties. If these aren’t available drain your beans in a strainer and run cold water over them for a minute to wash off some of the sodium

HEALTHY SOUP RECIPES FROM TWIN CITIES LIVE SEGMENT 10/12/2011

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Barefoot Contessa

-To make this recipe healthier I use olive oil to sautee the onions instead of butter and I use a low sodium chicken broth (I’ve also made it with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
-Don’t have a food mill, don’t worry. I used a food processor to blend the tomatoes and basil in the end. An immersion blender would also work. 

  

Spicy Tuscan Soup 

Adapted from Zuppa Toscana, Olive Garden

Ingredients

  •  2 medium russet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of Spicy Italian Sausage (in bulk, not with casein) or for you can substitute ground turkey breast and add extra crushed red pepper or for a Vegetarian soup use meatless crumbles instead of sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup milk (I used skim but use whatever you have in your house)
  • 4 cups chopped Kale (ripped off the vein)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Poke holes in the baked potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes (until tender). Set aside to cool.
2. Heat dutch oven to medium high and add onion and sausage to the pan. Cook 5 minutes then add garlic and continue to cook until meat is brown
3. While the meat is cooking rinse and chop the Kale and peel and dice the potatoes
4. Add broth and milk to the onions and meat once the meat is brown
5. Add kale, garbanzo beans, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
6. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

Crop Share Box #8

What this Box Contained

Cucumbers, Italian Garlic, Summer Squash, Sweet Spanish Onions, Sweet Corn, Watermelon, Melons, Arugula, Edamame, Tomatoes, Red Grape Tomatoes, Orange or Red Ukraine Peppers, Roaster Peppers, Corn, Eggplant, Basil, Potatoes
Pictured Above
From Front Left to Right: Red Grape Tomatoes, Eggplant, Roaster Peppers, Potatoes, Basil
From Back Left to Right:  Edamame, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Arugula, Summer Squash, Orange Ukraine Pepper, Cantaloupe, Corn

New Recipes & Meals I Made

Crop Share Chopped Side Salad

Rating: Sina: 4
Chopped Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn off the cob, chick peas, cucumbers and homemade mustard vinaigrette

Omelets for dinner

Swiss cheese, tomato, pepper, spinach and zucchini omelettes with a side of tomatoes with basil and cooked zucchini.

Jicama Cole Slaw and Fish Tacos (see bottom of post for recipe)

These are my favorite fish tacos. I got the idea of making a jicama cole slaw for the top of fish tacos from a restaurant in town called Chino Latinos. The roasted red pepper sauce is also a great touch. You can also add shredded lettuce or cheese to the tacos but we ate them with just the fish, jicama slaw and sauce. I’m disappointed at how they look in this picture because they taste much better than that! Also, I added cherry tomatoes to the slaw this time since I wanted to use them up.
Ratings: Sina: 4, Ryan: 4

Breakfast sandwiches with arugula, tomato, pecorino cheese and an egg on an English muffin.

Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

The original recipe is from Smitten kitchen and posted on my holiday blog from last year when we made it the correct way (with sweet potatoes). Since I had swiss chard in the garden and extra garlic and scallions I figured I’d make it with my crop share potatoes from the last box and this box
Ratings: Sina: 4 (delicious but not as good as when you make it with sweet potatoes)

Sina’s Fish Tacos (a combination of three recipes)

Baja Fish Tacos

Recipe from Baja Fish Tacos on myrecipes.com
3-4 tbsp taco seasoning
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 pounds tilapia or mahi-mahi
Flour or corn tortillas
Avocado slices
1 lime: wedged
Directions
1. Combine first 2 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add fish; toss to coat.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; sautee 5 minutes or until fish is done
3. Warm tortillas according to package directions.
I then Served the fish tacos with the jicama slaw, avocados, sauce and have people add what they like.

Roasted Red Pepper and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Recipe from Mediterranean fish tacos courtesy Rachel ray, 2008
2 roasted red peppers, patted dry
1 cup fat free yogurt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cucumber, peeled and grated
Directions: Combine red peppers and yogurt in food processor. Add cumin, 1 clove garlic, zest and juice of ½ lemon, cucumber and process until smooth, transfer to a bowl.
Add to the top of the fish tacos

Jicama Cole Slaw

Recipe from Jicama Slaw courtesy Emeril Lagasse
1 cup fat free yogurt
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp ground cumin1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
3 cups shredded or julienned jicama
½ bunch green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Directions: (great side with the fish tacos or you can put it on your tacos)
1. Combine the yogurt, lime juice, cider vinegar, sugar, cilantro, cumin, salt and peppers and whisk to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop
2. When ready to serve, combine the jicama, green onions, and red bell peppers in a large bowl and add the dressing. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately

What do you do with 12 tomato plants?

Seeing bowls filled with fresh picked tomatoes from my garden makes me so excited to cook. My tomato supply is in peak season and I add about 6 more tomatoes to the bunch every 1-2 days, so what do I do with them all? For starters I eat 2-3 of them sliced up each day after work and was just telling my coworker I’m going to have withdrawals after my garden season is over. We also have enjoyed a few caprese salads thanks to my fresh supply of basil. I was hoping to try making homemade tomato juice this year to use for bloody mary’s during Badger games but I’m still debating this as I’d have to learn how to can (canning is still on my list of things to learn, for now I just make things I can freeze).

There are still plenty of options to use up a lot of tomatoes. I love tomato basil soup but often can’t enjoy it since it’s made with (I’m lactose intolerant). I found this great recipe that I made for dinner and froze in containers to eat this fall. I’m going to make another batch (this time with a small amount of milk) as well since it was so good. I love soup for lunch in the fall and this will be a great treat to remind me of summer.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Barefoot Contessa

 

We had the soup with an amazing side chopped salad of refrigerator leftovers (chick peas, corn off the cob, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette) and my favorite, Spotted Cow Beer.

I’ve also made 4 large batches of fresh salsa so far this summer.

I use a food processor when I make salsa since it’s much quicker than dicing. I don’t follow a recipe but I made sure to pay attention to what I added this time so I could share.

Sina’s Garden Salsa

First: Add the following ingredients to your food processor: 1/3 of a white or yellow onion, 1 green bell pepper, 2 jalapeno peppers (without seeds), 1 habenero pepper (optional for spice) and 1/2 bunch of cilantro

Next, slice tomatoes in half and add them to the food processor. Hit the pulse button 10-13 times until it’s a good consistency for you. I used smaller tomatoes (around a roma size) and added 14 to this batch.

Voila, you’re done and the outcome is a delicious homemade salsa to use with chips or tacos. This is my husbands favorite!

Next up, homemade marinara sauce to freeze for the fall!

The amazing cooks I know…

I’m blessed to have amazing friends and family in my life who love to cook. Ryan and I have been treated to so many delicious meals that I wanted to start featuring some of the other amazing cooks I know on my blog.

The first installment of my blogs guest cook is Chrissy Keene. Chrissy and I met our sophomore year of college in Park Spring Apartment complex in Madison. We both lived with 4 girls and met Ryan and Sean who lived with three other boys across the hall. She started dating Sean that year and Ryan and I followed the next year. Who would have known that we’d meet our husbands in that building and remain great friends. We are so lucky that they live 10 minutes from us. Chrissy and Sean are both amazing cooks and love to cook together. They throw great parties and always have plenty of fresh, delicious food. They amaze me with their ability to cook without recipes. Sean can marinate the best meat with a random concoction of seasonings and Chrissy always has great vegetable dishes. Below is one of my favorites of hers. I’m not sure where the recipe is from but it’s a melon, mozzarella salad. This is the perfect example of moderation. The picture shows the prosciutto the most since it’s on top but once the dish is mixed their are fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheese. While prosciutto is higher in salt and fat you don’t need to use much of it in a big dish. If you’re like me then you need a little salty cured Italian meat every once in awhile and having it in a salad is the perfect outlet!

Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad

Source: Giada-Food Network
Chunks of fresh mozzarella, cantaloupe, roasted pine nuts, crisply cooked asparagus and crispy prosciutto crumbles topped with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Food of the Month

I picked my first tomato from my garden last week and was so overtly excited that it’s officially tomato season. While farmers markets and other gardens have had tomatoes fresh for most of July mine are just coming into bloom. Since starting the food of the month I have anticipated using tomatoes and now the time has come! I am so obsessed with tomatoes I don’t even know how to start and can’t even imagine typing all the recipes I have using fresh tomatoes. For one most of the dishes don’t have recipes. Fresh salsa, marinara sauce and tomato soup are things I just whip up and taste as I go. I’m so excited that I have 12 tomato plants this year. I know I’ll have no issue using them and I may even get fancy and try canning some of my salsa and sauce or make homemade tomato juice!

First thing first I want to try to answer a common question that arises.

Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

This is an ongoing debate and depends on who you ask. Botanists would say they are a fruit because botanically they grow like fruits but the United States Department of Agriculture, horticulturists and most dietitians classify it as a vegetable. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I read this statement online today (also showing the debate has been going on for centuries): “On May 10, 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the tomato is a vegetable and, as such, is subject to import taxes under the United States Tariff Act of 1883.

What’s in a tomato?

One medium sized tomato (3” diameter) has ~ 30-35 calories and is a rich source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene which has been studied for it’s cancer fighting properties. Lycopene protects our cells from oxygen damage which can help white blood cells and may also help prevent heart disease.

Now how to use them. Well if you’re like me then you’ll pick ’em, slice ’em and top them with a dash of salt and pepper or olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I can eat a few tomatoes at a time when they’re in season).
And last but not least…a few great tomato recipes worth listing…

Summer Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup:

Cooking Light-August 2011
I made these sandwiches for my mom and I when she was in town. While I’ve made MANY caprese panini’s with basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella this one was by far the best. The determining factor was balsamic reduction.
Rating: Sina: 5, Becca (my mom): 5
          

Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

Writer’s Note: I don’t use a recipe when I make bruschetta but here is the gist, measurements may vary a little

  • French or Italian Bread
  • 2-4 tomatoes diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar  (reduced balsamic vinegar also works)
  • 12-20 basil leaves diced (I like a lot)
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Slice bread and toast in the oven on broil
Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and basil and layer on top of bread slices. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grate Parmesan on top and serve immediately. You can always prepare the topping ahead of time and assemble them on bread later if you are bringing it to a party.
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Caprese Salad

Slice tomato and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and layer every other. Sprinkle with cut up basil and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and serve
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Power Foods

I received a new cookbook for my birthday from my neighbor Greta. The book is from the editors of Whole Living Magazine foreword by Martha Stewart called Power Foods. She knows me well since I love cooking with nutrient dense foods which are the base of their recipes. To give it a test run I made three recipes from the cookbook to bring over for a lunch date with Greta, her mom and baby Matilda.
I have to give Greta credit for making this first dish. She’s the first person I’ve ever met who eats parsley raw. That being said I figured she would love this salad which uses parsley as the base. A big thank you to Greta for loving Parsley because I have now discovered a great recipe. The flavor was unique, fresh, flavorful and fulfilling. A mix of a sharp parsley with sweet tones from the citrus and intensified flavor from the salty olives and capers. I thought the flavors would be good but too strong for me but I was proven wrong and now appreciate this herb much more.

Parsley-Leaf Salad with Pine Nuts, Olives and Orange Dressing

Next up were the open faced tofu tomato sandwiches inspired by the cookbook cover. If you’re like me you stare at a cookbook and dream about the flavor of the food on the cover and finally get to the point where you have to find out what it tastes like. I was pleasantly happy with the results of this dish but would like to see a little more flavor added to the tofu spread. Maybe a fresh herb, more lemon or garlic? Still worth trying and experimenting with for a vegetarian protein spread.

Open-Faced Tomato sandwiches with herbs and creamy tofu spread

 
My last dish choice was for my love of green beans, corn on the cob and tomatoes. I think it will be better once I have heirloom tomatoes from the garden but it was very delicious and easy to make.

Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

My overall favorite dish was probably the parsley salad followed by the tomato sandwiches. I chose to use basil on the top which was great with the tomatoes. Now for the verdict of the cook book so far: two thumbs up. It’s creative and uses familiar foods in new ways and makes adding unique foods to your diet easy.  For anyone who likes to cook new recipes with very healthy foods I recommend trying this book. I’m sure it’s available at most bookstores and I saw it online at amazon.

Crop Share Box #2

I realize I have box #3 from our crop share and I haven’t posted about box #2 yet. I just finished up the supplies from box #2 so I can share all my recipes. Most of the vegetables I added to our normal dishes and a lot of it was used for salads. I found the ingredients in this box more difficult to use than the veggies we received in our first box. The Hon Tsai Tai I ended up throwing away since it wilted before I figured out what to make with it.

What this Box Contained

Spring salad mix, Garden herb pack for planting (basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, savory, parsley), spinach, red radishes, asparagus, rhubarb, Egyptian walking onions and green garlic.
Pictured Items from Left to Right: 
BACK: Spring mix, Garden Herb pack, Spinach
FRONT: Red Radishes, Asparagus, Hon Tsai Tai , Green Garlic, Egyptian Walking Onions, Rhubarb
This picture was taken before I split the items with our neighbor so you can see what the size of a full share would look like.

New Recipes I made from this Box

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Recipes Source: Whole Living Magazine
Ratings: Sina: 4.5, Ryan: 3.5 (he’s a hard critic)
Comments: This recipe was super easy to make. It took me about 5 minutes to prep it and the rest of cook time was for baking. It was delicious: very fresh and not too sweet.

Tex-Mex Salad

-Spring salad Mix topped with grilled seasoned chicken breasts, avocado, diced red peppers & tomatoes, canned no added salt black beans (drained and rinsed), canned no added salt corn (drained and rinsed) and topped with crumbled tortilla chips:
-Dressing: A mix of light sour cream, lime juice, avocado and taco seasoning (I didn’t measure the ingredients)
Ratings: Sina: 3.5 (Ryan wasn’t home for this meal. I had it with my friend Heather)
        

Fresh Egg Scrambles

Before I even write about this let me tell you about my egg scramble morning. My dear friend Brent came over for one of our routine brunch dates. We were really excited to do egg scrambles and diced red potatoes with herbs. We spent about an hour chopping everything before we turned on the oven to hear a constant DING, DING, DING noise. Even after hitting the off button multiple times it still kept coming back. So, we find the oven manual which tells us to turn the oven off. Not knowing how to turn a gas oven off we have to call my husband who’s at a bachelor party and get step-by-step instructions from his very handy friend on turning the gas line off and unplugging the appliance.  We thought about going out for brunch at this point but we were too determined to cook since all our food was chopped and ready to go. So, what comes to my mind but to use the grill.  Of course that didn’t go as planned either since  it wouldn’t heat over 275 (I found out later the gas connection was kinked). Check out the picture below. All I can say is thank you for the Cheez-it’s we bought on an impulse at the store since we had about 3 hours of waiting, cooking, stirring and more waiting before we had our slow cooked egg scrambles, which by the way were amazing. The slow cooking definitely paid off because these were the most fluffy tasting eggs I’ve ever had (although I can’t say I plan to make more eggs on the grill anytime soon).
So what were in the scrambles?
Egg scramble #1: Eggs whipped with skim milk and mixed with chopped green garlic & Egyptian walking onions then topped with sharp provolone cheese
Egg scramble #2: Eggs whipped with skim milk and chopped chives mixed in with leftover white cheese added at the end (not sure the type).
Breakfast Potatoes: Diced red potatoes, chives, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Rating: Sina: 5 (Ryan once again was gone for this meal)

Whole Grain Salads

Barley, quinoa and bulgar salads are my absolute favorite sides for dinner when it’s nice out. They are great sources of fiber and easy to prepare ahead of time. I like to make them on the weekends for dinner and use the leftovers for our lunches during the week. The nice thing about whole grain salads is you don’t need a recipe to make a delicious combination and it’s a great way to use up vegetables that have been sitting in the fridge for awhile. Start by preparing the grain of your choice per the box directions: barley, wheatberries, quinoa, bulgar, etc…(I usually cook mine in broth instead of water for added flavor). Next, dice up fresh vegetables and herbs (peppers, green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, olives, zucchini, arugula, basil, parsley, thyme, etc…) and add them to your cooled off grains. You can also add beans, nuts, cheese (feta works great) or seeds. Lastly, top this off with dressing. You can use a store bought dressing if you are crunched for time but homemade dressings are healthier and tastier and very easy to make. Start by using a general ratio of about 2:1 for oil to vinegar or a citrus juice like lime, lemon or orange. Then add some fresh or dried herbs or just a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Here’s the recipe I tried this weekend (minus the pistachios):

Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas and Arugula

Spicy Tuscan Soup

The thermometers in Minneapolis hit record below zero temperatures this week so homemade soup was a must. This soup recipe was given to me by a coworker and originally an Olive Garden soup but I adapted it to be healthier, heartier and in my opinion, more flavorful. I expected it to taste good but was shocked at how amazing it turned out. It’s simple yet spicy; hearty yet not too filling; creamy yet not fattening and yes…it contains Kale :). I made it with meat but you could easily make it vegetarian by substituting meatless crumbles.

Spicy Tuscan Soup

Adapted from Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana
Servings: 6-7 (depending on your bowl size)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium russet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of Spicy Italian Sauage (in bulk, not with casein). For a Vegetarian soup use meatless crumbles instead of sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup milk (I used skim but use whatever you have in your house)
  • 4 cups chopped Kale (ripped off the vein)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Poke holes in the baked potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes (until tender). Set aside to cool.
  2. Heat dutch oven to medium high and add onion and sausage to the pan. Cook 5 minutes then add garlic and continue to cook until meat is brown
  3. While the meat is cooking rinse and chop the Kale and peel and dice the potatoes
  4. Add broth and milk to the onions and meat once the meat is brown
  5. Add kale, garbanzo beans, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.