Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Start to Comfort Food Season: Broccoli Cheese Soup

It certainly has felt like fall for the last week or so, which means it is time to start making soups and crockpotting!!! I know everyone has their own version of Broccoli Cheese Soup, but I wanted to share this one. The soup's base is so thick and creamy from the potato.... it's a much more "filling" soup. I enjoy the thinner consistency Broccoli Cheese Soups as well, but I keep going back to this way of making it.

I've adapted this recipe from a cookbook called "The Big Book of Soups and Stews" by Maryana Vollstedt. I added carrot, shallot, and paprika, and blended the soup differently (she has you cook the broccoli with the rest of the soup, and then blend 3/4 of it... I like a smooth soup with chunks of broccoli). Either way this has become my favorite Broccoli Cheese Soup... and I make it frequently!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
-serves 4-6-

1 large Russet Potato, sliced thin
1 small Onion, chopped
1 Shallot, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, sliced or minced
2 stalks Celery, chopped
1 1/4 cups Chicken Stock
4 cups Broccoli Florets (or 1 head)
1 cup Baby Carrots, cut in thirds
1 1/2 cups Milk
2 cups Cheddar Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

I used a pot with a steaming basket on top. In the bottom, place the onion, potato, garlic, shallot, celery, chicken stock, salt, pepper, thyme, and paprika to a boil. Turn down to medium low heat. Place the carrots and broccoli in the steamer basket on top so they can steam while the bottom gently boils for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes and the bottom veggies are tender, place in a blender and blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return them to the pot, add the broccoli and carrots. Add the milk and cheese, and gently heat through, until the soup is hot and cheese is melted. Top with extra cheese if desired.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Orzo with Shrimp, Feta Cheese, and White Wine

I've had a big container of Orzo in my cupboard for quite awhile, so I started searching for recipes to start using it up. This one from epicurious sounded tasty, quick, and simple. I didn't have fresh basil or medium shrimp so I substituted dried basil, and a can of baby shrimp.

I loved this!!! It was very simple, but very delicious!! I think it would be even better using the fresh basil so I will do that next time. I did not measure out my feta cheese, as 1 cup seemed like a lot (I used approximately 1/4 cup sprinkled in with the orzo, then topped each plate with another sprinkling). Use as much, or as little as you want.

Orzo with Shrimp, Feta Cheese, and White Wine
-serves 4-

1 Cup Whole Wheat Orzo
1 14 oz can diced Tomatoes, with juice
6 ounce can Baby Shrimp
1/2 Cup White Wine
1 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 Tablespoons dried Basil
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Prepare a 7 by 11 glass baking dish with spray or oil. Cook your orzo pasta until al dente, as per directions. Place the orzo back in the pan and add 1/4 cup of the feta, the parmesan, and the baby shrimp. Mix to combine, and pour into the baking dish.

In a large pan, saute the garlic and shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil for approximately a minute, add the tomatoes with juices, white wine, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, and cook for approximately 2 minutes. Pour over the orzo mixture.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until heated through. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup feta cheese on top, and serve hot.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hearty Lentils with Sausage

This is one of my favorite fall/winter dishes. I love lentils and they pair wonderfully with sausage! The idea for this recipe came from a cookbook called Easy Meals on a Budget. Yet again, I've changed and added a few things to make it a little more exciting!

No one complains when I say we are having lentils for dinner! I used canned lentils in this dish to make it go together quicker. You could substitute dried, but the dish will take a bit longer to prepare, and with two young kids in my house- the quicker the better!! I have also used red lentils in this dish in place of the brown, which also was delicious, but had a much more "mushy" consistency.

Hearty Lentils with Sausage
-serves 4 as a main dish-

1/2 Lb. Sausage, can be bulk, or links cut into rounds
(I used 3 Brat-sized links cut into rounds)
4 Slices thick cut Bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 15 oz. cans of lentils, drained
1/2 cup chopped Onion
1 minced Shallot
1/2 cup- 3/4 cup chopped Carrots
1 1/2 Cups Beef Broth
2 cloves of Garlic minced
1/2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
3/4 tsp. dried Thyme

In a large pot, cook your sausage and bacon. (Sometimes I'll crisp the bacon in the microwave and add it when I'm adding the lentils, it gives it a bit of a crunch that way.) Remove to a plate to drain on a paper towel.

In the same pot, melt a tablespoon of butter and a swirl of olive oil over medium low heat. Add your onions and carrots and seat until your onions are translucent. Add your garlic and shallot and saute for about a minute longer. Add your tomato paste and beef stock. Stir until well combined. Start adding the rest of your ingredients, drained lentils, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, and thyme. Mix in your bacon and sausage. Move the heat up to medium and heat until lentils are heated through, and the sauce has thickened to your liking. Salt and Pepper to taste. If needed, you can always add a tad more tomato paste to thicken, or more beef stock to loosen!

I usually serve this with crusty bread for a great hearty meal.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer Veggie Saffron Pasta

I got the idea for this recipe from the new issue of Rachael Ray Magazine. I added a couple of things to it... because some of her recipes are rather boring. I like zucchini a lot, if its cooked correctly. Make sure you don't overcook your zucchini!!!

Saffron is one of my favorite spices. It brings vibrant yellow color and richness to any pasta dish. Growing up I loved it when my mom would serve saffron rice as a side dish. I've started experimenting with saffron over the past couple of years.

Summer Veggie Saffron Pasta
-serves 4-

8 oz. Spaghetti
2 cups Broccoli Florets
1 1/2 Small Zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
4 oz. Pancetta, crisped
3/4 cup Parmesan
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 cups Chicken Stock
2 pinches Saffron
2 Tbsp. Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, combine chicken stock and saffron. Bring to a boil, and gently boil until reduced to approximately 1 cup.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil for spaghetti. Add your spaghetti and boil, add the broccoli florets the last 5 minutes or so. When done, strain and return to the pot.

In a Saute pan, heat a tablespoon of butter and a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and saute for 1 minute. Add the zucchini rounds and saute until just tender.

Add your zucchini/garlic mixture to the pasta/broccoli. Mix the chicken stock/saffron mixture into the pasta, add the parmesan cheese and cream, stir until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the crisped pancetta, and extra parmesan on top.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Amazing Bison-Quinoa-Veggie Meatballs!!!

This is another recipe I adapted from the Whole Foods website. I'm always trying to sneak veggies and whole grains into my meals... and so I thought I'd give these a try. I had never made meatballs before... but I was pretty pleased with my first attempt!

These meatballs were so tender... and tasted so good. The zucchini really kept them moist. The whole wheat pasta I paired them with was excellent as well!

Bison-Quinoa-Veggie Meatballs
Serves 6-8 (depending on portion)

1 Lb Ground Bison, or Ground Beef
3/4 cup of cooked Quinoa
1 small zucchini, grated
1 small carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 500°F. Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined. Shape the mixture into approximately 16 balls and place on prepared baking sheet.

Roast until cooked through and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

I served these over this whole wheat flax fettucine, to add extra protein and fiber, with store bought spaghetti sauce.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and Parsley and serve hot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No Mayonnaise Here!!! Potato Salad

I wanted to make a warm potato salad to go with some homemade coleslaw and grilled brats. This is what I came up with... next time I may use fresh parsley, and some chopped fine red onion. This was also very good chilled!!!

Warm Potato Salad
-serves 4-6 side dish-

Approx. 15 small Potatoes, (I used baby Yukon's and Purple ones from the Farmer's Market)
3/4 tsp. Dry Mustard
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil your potatoes until fork tender- mine took about 12-15 minutes. The skin on these potatoes rubbed off while still warm... You could also peel with a veggie peeler. Then slice the potatoes thin.

Whisk remaining ingredients together in a bowl, and pour over warm potatoes, letting sit so the flavors can mingle and seep into the potatoes. Serve warm, room temp, or cold.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pepperoni Pizza Polenta Bake

I found this recipe on my Whole Foods recipe application on my iPhone... It seemed like a kid friendly meal and I love polenta so I thought I'd give it a try. It was really tasty!!! Even the baby who is the pickiest eater in my family ate some of the polenta (Pepperoni is a different story though!!) I threw this together in about 5 minutes, let it bake for 30 minutes... and voila!!! Easy dinner!!

I left out the roasted red peppers... and made it really simple, but try different veggies, olives, artichokes, anything you would top your pizza with. I think it would be great that way too!

Pepperoni Pizza Polenta Bake
-serves 4-6-

1 18 oz tube of pre-made polenta, cut into approximately 9 slices
Marinara, Pizza, or Spaghetti Sauce
Shredded Italian cheese
1/2 tsp Dried Parsley
1/2 tsp Dried Oregano

Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a baking dish, place the polenta in the dish. Cover the Polenta Rounds with Marinara Sauce, then cover with Pepperoni (approximately 2 per Round) Then generously sprinkle cheese over the top. Sprinkle oregano and parsley on top of the cheese. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lemon Feta Green Beans

This recipe is inspired by a dish my mother-in-law made for us while we were visiting them this summer. I used a pretty assortment of green beans I picked from my mother's garden yesterday. The fresh lemon juice and feta cheese compliment the green beans beautifully. Very simple to make as well. This is our favorite way to eat green beans at the moment!!

Lemon Feta Green Beans

Roughly 3/4-1 Lb of Green Beans
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, minced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Approximately 1 oz Feta Cheese, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Saute the garlic and shallot in olive oil, whisk together with the lemon juice, then set aside.

2. Steam the beans until just tender, then pour the garlic/shallot, lemon juice, olive oil mixture over them. Sprinkle Feta Cheese on top while still warm. Season with salt and pepper.