Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lentil-Vegetable Soup

This soup is sort of like half vegetable soup (carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale), and half lentil soup (with both red lentils and brown or green lentils).  The brown lentils keep their shape better when cooked, while the red lentils almost dissolve in the soup and give it a creamier texture.  Overall, the soup is warm and comforting - perfect for a chilly evening.  I used a really tasty spice blend from Penzey's that has both lemon and orange peel, and smells amazing.  But, you can use any favorite spice/herb blend -- I think curry would be pretty fantastic too.  The original recipe calls for pureeing part of the soup for a creamier texture -- I skipped this, and still thought the soup was excellent, but you can add this step if you prefer a smoother soup.  Definitely don't skip the lemon juice at the end -- it brightens things up and really brings the flavors together.

Lentil-Vegetable Soup (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsp Mural of Flavor spice mix (or any other favorite spice blend)
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups chopped kale leaves
Juice of 1 lemon

To serve: grated Parmesan and crusty bread

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, celery, and garlic, and stir to combine.  Cook for 6-8 minutes, until softened.  Add the spice mix, Aleppo pepper, and salt, and stir to combine.
2. Stir in the chicken broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about half an hour, or until everything is tender.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the kale and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Serve topped with grated cheese and crusty bread.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Buffalo Mac and Cheese

The Kitchen is probably my favorite Food Network show, and a while back they made Buffalo chicken mac and cheese.  It looked amazing, so I adapted my usual mac and cheese recipe to include all the flavors -- blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, rotisserie chicken, and panko on top for crunch.  The sauce is super creamy and just a little spicy.  Totally addictive!

Buffalo Mac and Cheese (inspired by Food Network's The Kitchen)
Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
1/4 cup Buffalo sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
2 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put on a big pot of water to boil. When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done. (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time)
3. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, using a silicone-coated whisk to protect the coating on the pan.  When the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, cook for another 30 seconds or so.  The sauce should be thick and just bubbling.  Remove from the heat.
5. Stir in the grated Monterey Jack cheese, half the blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, and mustard.  Taste, and add a little salt if necessary.  Stir over low heat until everything is melted.
6. Add the pasta, shredded chicken, and reserved blue cheese to the sauce, and stir until combined.
7. Scrape the pasta into a 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the panko.  Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the panko is lightly browned.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

Carbonara is one of my husband's favorite pasta dishes, and since we had extra prosciutto and Parmesan after our recent Italian breakfast, it made for a perfect easy dinner.  Although prosciutto isn't the most common pork product you see in carbonara recipes, it ended up working really well -- the flavor is amazing and it got nicely crisp in a little hot oil on the stove top.  The key to a creamy sauce (instead of scrambled eggs) is just to work quickly as you toss the hot noodles into the raw egg-and-cheese sauce.  Make sure to save some of the cooking water from the pasta -- you can add it a little at a time if the pasta looks too dry. 

Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

12 ounces spaghetti or another long, thin pasta
1-2 T olive oil
3 ounces or so thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons
A handful of frozen peas, thawed
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup (or so) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a little salt.  When it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.

While the pasta water boils, heat the olive oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until it starts to get a little crispy.  Add the peas, stir to combine, and keep warm on very low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, Parmigiano Reggiano, and pepper.  

Drain the pasta, and immediately transfer it to the bowl with the egg-cheese mixture.  Working quickly, toss everything together with tongs.  Add some of the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce.  Stir in the prosciutto-pea mixture, taste, and adjust for seasoning.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Italian Breakfast and Pizza

Last year this time we were in Italy, so we decided to recreate the wonderful breakfasts we enjoyed there: chocolate and almond croissants from Trader Joe's (surprisingly good!), Prosciutto di Parma, soppressata, Parmigiano Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, bread, jam, fruit, and espresso.  Glorious!  Definitely a splurge, but so worth it.

Because I bought far too much meat and cheese, we had plenty of leftovers.  We used some of them on the pizza below, which has homemade basil-pecan pesto, buffalo mozzarella, and soppressata as toppings -- so good!

Basil-Pecan Pesto

1/2 cup pecans
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of salt (more to taste)

1. Place the nuts and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper, and process until they just start to break down.  Add the cheese and pulse another few times.
2. Add the basil and pulse a few times.  Then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt, and pulse until the pesto is as chunky/smooth as you like it.  Taste and add more of anything to make things taste perfect!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mix-In Muffins

This is a really fun recipe because you get a bunch of flavors of muffin out of one recipe.  The muffins are also made for freezing, so you can stash a big bag in your freezer and thaw just a few at a time when you're ready for them.  Alternately, they'd be fun to make for a potluck or brunch party since everyone can have their favorite flavor.  I made chocolate chunk, cranberry + lemon zest, blueberry, and jam + coconut flakes, but really the sky is the limit!

Mix-In Muffins (adapted from Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook)
Makes 1-1/2 to 2 dozen muffins (depending on size)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Your choice of mix-ins such as blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips, jam, dried fruit, coconut flakes, cinnamon chips, raspberries, etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined -- be careful not to overmix.
4. If you'd like to make just one kind of muffin, add about 1-1/2 cups total of your chosen mix-ins.  Otherwise, divide the batter in half.  Fill the muffin tins about halfway full, and then add in a few berries, chocolate chips, or other mix-ins, or a small spoonful of jam.  Then top with the remaining batter, and add a few more of your mix-ins on top, either keeping the muffins consistent or topping them with something different...your choice! I made blueberry muffins, chocolate chip muffins, cranberry muffins, and jam-filled muffins topped with coconut flakes.
5. Enjoy warm! Or, when the muffins are fully cooled, stash them in the freezer for quick and easy breakfasts.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze until just hard.  Then pack in gallon-sized freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing the bag.  Thaw at room temperature overnight when ready to eat.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pisco Sour

This cocktail takes me right back to San Francisco, where pisco is much easier to find.  The frothy egg white foam on top really makes it unique, along with pisco, a type of Peruvian brandy.  The drink is tasty with either lemon or lime juice to add tartness.

Pisco Sour (adapted from Serious Eats)
Makes 1 cocktail

1/4 cup pisco (add up to 2 T more if you like a stronger cocktail)
2 T lemon or lime juice
1-1/2 T simple syrup
1 fresh egg white
Dash of Amaro bitters

Combine the pisco, lemon or lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker -- do not add ice.  Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds, until the egg white is foamy.  Add ice, and shake again until well chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a dash of the bitters.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kale-Brussels Sprout Salad

Raw Brussels sprouts make for a surprisingly delicious, hearty salad along with massaged kale.  The most common way I've made Brussels sprouts is roasted, usually with bacon (yum!), and while of course that's fantastic, this lighter, fresher version of sprouts is very tasty too.  Don't skip the grated Parmesan -- and lot of it -- because all these veggies need some richness to really make them sing.

Kale-Brussels Sprout Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit, via the Balanced Life)
Serves two hungry people or 4-6 smaller side servings 

1 small bunch kale, trimmed and very thinly sliced
Olive oil
1/3 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the dressing:
2 T olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper

Add the kale to your salad bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sauce. Massage with your hands for a few minutes, until the kale starts to break down.  Add the Brussels sprouts and lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, screw on the lid, and shake well. Add about half the dressing to the salad, toss, and add more as needed.  Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving to let the flavor a combine.