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Thursday, October 29, 2009

My new toy and a new soup

I've always wanted an immersion blender. I always knew it would be something I wouldn't use a ton, but when I'd need it, I'd be so thankful for it. Why keep putting it off? Turns out they're only like $30, and with a coupon I got mine for $25. Let me tell you, I'm already pleased with the purchase. It's amazing how well that baby works! No more transferring soup in batches to the blender, spilling it all over the counter. I've avoided making so many things for that reason alone!

And so what did I use my new purchase on? This soup I finally decided to make: Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup.

The immersion blender came in SO handy on this one. You could still make it without one, but you do have to do the whole transfer in batches thing. Either way, it's definitely worth it. Similar to the curried butternut squash soup I've made before, just without curry, so if curry scares you, try this one. Oh, and if you hate carrots, don't worry, it's not too "carrot-y." Really.
We had it for lunch today, along with a sandwich inspired by Jen (who makes wonderful sandwiches).
Turkey on whole wheat with horseradish cheddar, cranberry chutney, mayo, and sliced apples. Fry it up in a pan with a little butter. Yum! And we like to dip our sandwiches in our soup!
I'm thinking it would be fun to make a new soup once a week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

I saw a recipe very similar to this online tonight and decided to try it out. The results were amazing! Who knew brussel sprouts could be SO good?

Balsamic Brussel Sprouts:

Rinse brussel sprouts. Remove the ends, quarter them, and place in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with enough good quality olive oil to coat, sprinkle with a good balsamic vinegar to coat, toss in a couple of minced garlic cloves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

Bolognese Sauce

I realized I have never posted my Bolognese sauce. I guess that's because I made it different every time. Sometimes I add more sauce, sometimes more milk. Either way, I wanted to post it as a guide for future reference. We had a yummy dinner tonight. We had penne with bologonaise and balsamic roasted brussel sprouts with sourdough garlic bread. I'll post the brussel sprouts recipe in another post...they were seriously that good. This recipe is totally doable ahead of time.

Bolognese Sauce

Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery (optional)
2 carrots, run through the food processor to make them very finely chopped (almost like a paste)
4 cloves of garlic
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
Large can of marinara sauce or 1 jar of good quality pasta sauce
a couple shakes of red pepper
Italian seasonings to taste
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
parmesan cheese

In dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute the onions until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the beef and cook until browned. Add the wine and remaining ingredients, adjusting as desired. Simmer for 45 min. Serve over pasta topped with parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Italian Chicken

I've been losing my mojo in the kitchen these days. It's been awhile since I've made a really good dinner, in my opinion. David's always very gracious, but frankly, my dinners lately have been flops. It's pretty frustrating when I'm trying so hard to make family meals happen even if there is soccer practice at night. That will soon be over and I'm SO glad. We're just not up for being one of those families that have an activity every single day of the week. We all love our time at home, and it is, after all, the simple moments at home that stick in a child's mind.
Tonight was a rare Sunday evening that David was home. I'm been used to my Sunday evenings with just me and the boys, and admittedly, if he had been gone, I would not have gone to the trouble of really cooking. But he was home, so I did cook, and finally I made a decent meal. It's worth making again so I wanted to make sure I got it down. I have no name for this, although Italian Chicken might be a good one:

Italian Chicken

Needed: chicken breasts, mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, an egg, Italian Seasonings, whole wheat flour (may use white all purpose), good quality marinara sauce, butter, salt, pepper, and toothpicks.

Preheat oven to 400

Take a few chicken breasts and pound them down until they are pretty thin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sprinkle a good amount of shredded mozzarella cheese on top. Roll the breast up and secure with toothpicks. Dip the whole thing in whole wheat flour, then an egg mixture (egg w/ just a splash of water or milk) all mixed up, and finally , dredge the whole thing in breadcrumbs. I use my homemade ones that are healthier. I also mix in some Italian Seasonings and grated parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs, but that's just me. Place the breasts seam side down into a baking dish, pour a mixture of melted butter and oregano over the top and bake at 400 until done (maybe 40 minutes, depending on the thickness). While it's baking, simmer a jar of marinara sauce on the stove. Once the chicken is done, remove from oven and slice so they resemble medallions. Pour just enough marinara sauce over the top to lightly cover, sprinkle with more mozzarella and pop back into the oven until the cheese is melted. Really good all on it's own and even better served over a top of pasta.

It really wasn't all that hard to prepare. While the oven was preheating I was able to get the chicken assembled from start to finish. I'll be glad to add this to the list of "definitely make again."
My mother in law said the sweetest thing today. She said "I was excited about eating lunch here. I always love your lunches!" That was so sweet to me because lunch is not my favorite meal of the day, although it is growing on me. Sometimes I just eat bits and pieces of things...hummus, vegetables, salad, crackers, cheese, etc. I'm not a big fan of sandwiches, mainly because I'm not very creative in that department. Lunch today was pretty simple, but I have to admit it was pretty good. Too bad I can't take much credit for it. I heated up some of Jen's Pepper Cheese Chowder from our soup swap, topped it with bacon, cheese, green onions and hot sauce. I also threw togehter a nice salad of mixed greens, CSA box radishes, broccoli, tomatoes, heart of palm, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, green onions, carrots and gorgonzola cheese. I also made some sweet tea (sweetened with agave) and threw in a little chai. For dessert, a Trader Joe's cherry pie. As long as there's a Trader Joe's around, I don't think I'll need to make a cherry pie ever again. This was a lunch worth repeating.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall CSA time again!

It's Fall CSA time again. I almost didn't sign up, but changed my mind at the last minute remembering how much I love Fall produce. I enjoyed the Summer CSA box, but I did tire of the weekly commitment of having to pick it up on Thursdays between 10:30-11:30. Plus, with the abundance of Summer produce on roadside stands, I felt that I could easily get fresh and organic produce just from the local gardens. But Fall produce is a little harder to come by.
I loved getting the box last Fall, so here I go again!

Today my box contained broccoli, tomato, radishes, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, purple bell pepper and hot peppers. I'm all about planning these days so I need to commit to a plan to utilize these things and stick with it. I think this will help me out with what to eat on the 4 nights a week David is gone. I'm really excited about the spaghetti squash and I'm thinking I'll have that for dinner a couple of nights, along with a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli. I also have some cubed butternut squash. I'm going to caramelize that and toss that into a spinach salad, along with the tomato and radishes, walnuts and feta cheese.

Right now I'm enjoying a tasty tomato soup made by Kara. The garlic and fresh tomatoes make for a very bright and clean tasting tomato soup! I added some sour cream, cheese, and a crumbled bacon. Thanks Kara!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvest Salad

And speaking of Harvest Salad in my last post, I had to share the recipe. My friend Kelle made this for me after I had Wyatt and it's seriously delicious and so right for this season. Like most of my recipes, you can change out some of the dried fruits for others, but I'd advise you to keep the figs in (unless you're totally opposed to figs).

Harvest Salad

1 pkg. fresh spinach

Mix together in a bowl:
2 red pears, chopped - toss in lemon juice
1/2 cup dried apricots and figs (or other fruit mixture. I like apples, blueberries, figs, and cranberries)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 small purple onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Jicama, finely chopped

gorgonzola cheese for topping
toasted nuts, for topping

Dressing: I like to double this to have extra
3 TBSP Cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 c. olive oil

Whisk together and pour half (if you've doubled the dressing, all if you haven't) over the fruits. Toss together and refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
Top the spinach with the fruits, gorgonzola cheese and toasted nuts. Top with more dressing if desired.