spicy black bean soup

2014, holidays are over, back to the grind. So we thought it appropriate to toast with black bean soup. This recipe represents most of what I want in the New Year: a year filled with fullness, health, and ease. I want to do things quicker without lacking substance. I want to make the most of the time and resources I have been given, while still keeping the quality high, and not compromising values. Is that too deep for soup? Maybe. But aren't we all suppose to be overly analytical at the start of each new year? Anyways, for a soup that mostly consists of black beans and broth, this baby was amazing. Definitely a new staple for the cold, bitter winter months. Happy New Year!

it's getting so very cold !!!

So soup it is, for supper.

Smokey and spicy yet tangy and fresh; just too many flavors to choose from! A few notes: this recipe did not make a plethora of meal, like most soups make-- 3-4 servings at most. We skipped the hominy because we couldn't find it at Whole Foods (and if Whole Foods doesn't have it, ain't nobody gone' have it). And one last note: do not leave olive oil soaked tortilla strips broiling in a hot oven, unattended, any longer than necessary. Your oven will catch on fire, your smoke alarm will go off, and your dog will be terrified. Maybe that happened tonight. Maybe we threw baking soda all over the kitchen to get out the flames. And maybe we went to Chick-fil-A instead of eating these lovely leftovers.

Hello Monday, you have had your way with us.

mushroom burgers with asian slaw

We are loving this whisper into fall where the air is perfect, the sky looks like heaven, and spending as much time outdoors as humanly possible is the ultimate goal. We made these portobello mushroom burgers one night after work this week and while it was certainly a good amount of work, they were so.very.good! We did not home-make the sweet potato fries because ya gotta choose your battles sometimes, ya know? Good things take time, but for mediocre things, take the short cut.

chopped kale salad with edamame, carrot and avocado

Oh, kale! What a love/hate relationship I have with you! I'm going to go out on a whim here and say that most people probably feel the same way. You love the nutrients, hate just about everything else. Heck, I only learned about kale two years ago because it got trendy all of a sudden. But alas, now I make kale often and just try to hide the bitterness with a little gem I like to call olive oil. This week however, the kale wasn't even close to being hidden- it was raw and honest and in full force. The first night, this recipe was actually pretty good, but by day two, I just couldn't do it anymore. But look at those colors, so very pretty!

baked herb and pistachio falafel

Ever heard of falafel? Ever think of making it? Nope, me either, it looked scary and, oh by the way, what exactly is it anyways? Well, never say never around here because I happened upon this recipe today and realized that falafel is basically just a bunch of goodness baked all together, so we gave it a go. It was SO good. Instead of tahini sauce, we combined cashews, lemon, salt and water as a substitute. This recipe is really easy but does take some time. Sunday night might be the best bet.

weeknight meals for the working girl

Now that I have a big girl job, I no longer have all the-live-long day to cook delicious things for dinner. But I refuse to let that be an excuse. SO-- I am attempting to find new, fresh, quick and still healthy things to whip up for 'ole dindin. This was the kind of week where you get home at six, still need to walk the dog, cook/eat dinner, and be out the door again by seven. So we made this lovely little combination that was just the trick to get through it all: Spinach and black bean quesadillas and tomato soup. The hot sauce is key, so be sure to make note. The third recipe (not pictured) was toasted quinoa and pear salad. Easy, quick, good. Voilà!

juice detox

So I had been reading on and on and on about juice detoxing in the new year from the 'ole blogosphere, so Al and I decided to give it a try. We have been juicing for a solid year now and have since, not gotten sick once (when the year previously, we were sick all the time). Maybe it's all in our heads, but I'll take it if it means zero colds for a year. So we did a three day juice detox last week as a way to cleanse and get back to neutral, and let me tell you, IT WAS HARD. Three full days of "eating" nothing but raw fruits and veggies day and night ... not something we will do again for a whilllllle. Here is the plan we followed. Apparently you don't feel the good effects of a juice cleanse until about day six, so we just hung out with the negative effects for a while: headaches, hunger, irritability, etc ... BUT we did sleep a ton better, and in the end, felt accomplished. We broke the fast with Chick-fil-A, so I guess it was worth it.

family planning (part i)

Last weekend we slipped away from the city to the mountains for an inaugural family planning weekend. A lot of Al's friends from work have been doing this sort of thing for years and years and we thought it was such a good idea, that we decided to start the tradition as well. It's just a time to unplug a bit and think about what you want the year to look like, what goals you want to set, what character traits you want to develop, that sort of thing. But aside from all of the serious stuff, we  knew food was high on the list of priorities of things to accomplish for the weekend.

We indulged in the grill a bit (a little luxury we have since forgotten in apartment life) ... and grilled everything. We underestimated said grill Friday night when our poor little pizza stone literally burned to death. A seemingly heavenly pizza; fresh mozzarella, basil, grape tomatoes, olive oil and sea salt ... with a bottom as black as night. Looks can be deceiving; there is a lesson in this dear pizza. Also pictured: Pan seared scallops atop bacon, with cilantro and tomatoes (!!) and grilled shrimp fajitas. FOOD. So good.

lentil and butternut squash soup

Soup is the best thing to happen to winter. Throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot and feast for a week. To be honest, I don't really remember this soup because we made it a few weeks ago but I had nothing to put on this little 'ole bloggie today, so this memory resurfaced. But it was good, I imagine, because you really can't go wrong with butternut squash ... except for the fact that touching said squash raw may or may not give your hands a chemical peel. Google it, it's the weirdest thing. So the only thing I advise with this recipe is plastic gloves or peeling the squash while holding a dish towel or something. And the peeling doesn't stop for a few days no matter how much lotion you lather, at least for me, but my skin can be rather high maintenance at times. Original recipe here. And oh my goodness, it's almost CHRISTMAS!
Ingredients:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 large leeks
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ cups brown lentils
  • One bunch rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • White wine (optional)
Directions:
  1. Prep the vegetables: Mince 4 garlic cloves. Peel and chop 3 carrots into small pieces. For the leeks, chop off the dark green stems of 3 leeks and the bottom root, then slice them in half length-wise. Place each leek half cut-side down on the cutting board, then chop it into thin slices (resulting in half-moon shapes). There will be dirt in between each layer of the leeks, so when you’ve finished chopping them, rinse them thoroughly in a colander. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the halves with a vegetable peeler, then chop them into small pieces. Wash the rainbow chard, remove the stems, and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a medium soup pot over medium heat, drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of the pan; add the leeks and saute until they soften, about 4 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened.
  3. Add the squash, vegetable broth, lentils, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon oregano, and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes; until the lentils are soft. In the last 2 minutes, add the chopped chard and simmer until tender. Taste, then add additional kosher salt (about ½ teaspoon or so) and fresh ground pepper to taste. If desired, add a tablespoon or so of white wine to finish.

shitake mushroom + lentil asian tacos

This was my first year ever in life cooking. Before this year there were a lot of pastas, sure, but as far as real cooking ... like from a recipe with ingredients ... nope, not even close. So needless to say, this has been a big year in food. Someone recently asked me what my favorite recipe we have made this year has been, and I have to say, the shitake mushroom and lentil asian tacos were pretty high on the list. Mainly because the SAUCE! Al and I would put this sauce on just about everything the entire next week after these tacos were long gone. SO good. So here is the little recipe. More for my archives than yours, dear internet, because you can find the same thing here with better photos. YUM.

Ingredients:

Miso herb sauce--

3 garlic cloves

2 T white or yellow miso (we left this out)

1 T honey

1 T soy sauce

pinch of red pepper flakes

3 T orange juice

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 packed cups basil leaves

1 packed cup cilantro

3 T toasted sesame oil

 Filling--

1 1/2 T extra virgin coconut oil, divided

half of a yellow onion, diced

6 oz. shitake mushrooms (or bellas, they are cheaper)

3/4 cup cooked lentils

2 t. apple cider vinegar

sea salt + pepper

 Plus--

small tortillas (corn, preferably)

1-2 super ripe avocados

3/4 cup fresh grated carrots

micro greens, for garnish

Instructions:

For the sauce, pulse the garlic cloves through the rice vinegar in a food processor to blend. Once mixed, add in the herbs and give a few more pulses to chop. You want it slightly textured. With the motor going, drizzle in the oil. Taste and adjust as you prefer. Cover and set aside.

Heat 1/2 Tbsp. of the coconut oil in a large saute pan. Add the diced onion and saute until just translucent. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and just leave them to heat up and start to release moisture. Once they have reduced in size, about 4 minutes, add the remaining coconut oil and saute to mix. Add the lentils and another pinch of salt and pepper and saute to warm through. Lastly, add the vinegar and stir to scrape up any brown bits in the pan.

For the assembly line of the tacos, heat the tortillas over a stove flame until a bit charred. Smash about a quarter of an avocado down the center. Top it with a few pinches of grated carrots, a portion of the mushroom mixture, a generous dose of the sauce (don't be shy) and top with the micro greens. Enjoy warm.

caramelized onion fettuccini with roasted acorn squash

I thought this meal was going to be really hard to make at first; when I see two 40 minute instructions, I tend to want to throw in the towel immediately. But I'm glad I trucked through because the recipe was actually simple and the meal was incredible. From: A Couple Cooks.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 3 large chard leaves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ½ T balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ t dried thyme
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat fettuccine noodles
  • Walnuts (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Cut the onions into very thin slices. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook and caramelize onions for 40-50 minutes. Your house will smell like a dream. When that is done, chop the stems off the chard, cut up the leaves and throw them into the pot with the onions to warm.
  • In the mean time, cut the squash in half and microwave for about a minute to soften. Then cut in wedges and place in a large bowl. Coat with 1 T olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Put on a lined or sprayed baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes (or until tender).
  • About 20 minutes into your onions and squash, cook up some pasta and toss with a little olive oil. We used Trader Joes spinach and chives linguine, but really any pasta will work.
  • Serve the pasta topped with the onion and chard, with the squash on the side. Garnish with parm and you have yourself a delicious fall meal. Serves 3 well-fed.

 

sweet potato and cashew soup with an avocado cream dollop

This is my absolute favorite soup: it is easy to make and super healthy. Plus it tastes good, which is always a plus. I could honestly have this soup everyday for lunch, and this week, I probably will. The recipe is from a book called Clean Start by Terry Walters. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

Avocado Cream:

  • 1 garlic clove, pealed
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 c plain soy yogurt (or plaid yogurt of choice, we used Greek)
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 t sea salt

Soup:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 T grapeseed oil
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 c cashews
  • 5 c vegetable stock
  • sea salt

Instructions:

Preparing avocado cream:

With food processor running, drop in garlic and process until minced. Halve avocados, and remove and save pits. Scoop out avocado flesh, add to process and whip until smooth. Add yogurt, lime juice, cilantro and sea salt and process until evenly combined. Place in airtight container with pits to prevent browning and set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preparing soup:

In soup pot over medium heat, saute onion and celery in oil until soft. Add sweet potatoes, cashews and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with blender until smooth. Serve soup with a dollop of avocado cream.

hot soup, cold night.

Today was the first day of feeling fall. So we celebrated with soup.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup from Cookie and Kate:

Ingredients:

  • 8 or 9 tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 3 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
  • 2 small yellow onions, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease two (preferably rimmed) baking sheets. Place tomatoes, skin side down, on one of them.
  3. Toss the onions and red peppers lightly with olive oil. Place on the other baking sheet, with the red peppers skin side down. Place the garlic on the sheet, too.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Heat your vegetable broth on medium-high heat. Toss in all veggies.
  6. Purée the soup in a blender and voila! Hot and spicy soup for a chilly fall night.

stacked tomato, summer vegetable and grilled bread salad

I have recently gotten into bread making. I never thought I would become this kind of person, but now I have officially crossed over. So a few weeks ago, friends from our small group had the most delicious bread that they "made" from a "starter" -- which is this strange chemically charged magical liquid that you have to "feed" every 3-7 days ... it hisses and grows and does all sorts of weird things. But I was intrigued, so they gave me half of theirs and I gave it a shot. AND NOW I AM OBSESSED. Making bread is my new favorite thing to do; it's so personal and thought-out and requires time and love. Not to mention it tastes like heaven and makes your house smell like a bakery. Win, win.

So tonight, I made this delicious sandwich that we tried out earlier this summer from Cookie and Kate. Directions below (simplified a little), but obviously the original here ... I don't make this stuff up, friends.

Ingredients
Double tomato dressing
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 Ts finely chopped and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 T plus 1 t red wine vinegar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh mint and basil
  • 1 t honey
  • 1/2 t finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 t minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 t ground sea salt
  • 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
Stacked salad
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 large zucchinis
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 4 1/2-inch thick slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 2 small tomatoes, sliced into fat rounds
  • 1/4 cup very roughly chopped basil and mint leaves
  • 4 ounces goat cheese (I used feta)
Instructions
  1. Make the dressing first. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except for the tomatoes. Gently fold in the tomatoes and let it sit at room temperature while preparing the salad. Stir before serving.
  2. Roast the red bell peppers either on a grill or simply over the stovetop until the peppers are blackened. Cut into strips and keep in the oven to stay warm.
  3. Reduce the grill heat to medium. Cut down through the zucchini at 1/4-inch intervals to yield four or five slices per zucchini half. Brush them generously on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Keep in warm oven.
  4. Generously brush the slices of bread with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Grill the bread until golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  5. Divide the arugula or lettuce leaves among the plates, scattering them loosely. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the herbs over the lettuce. Top the lettuce with a bread slice in the center of each plate. Top each bread slice with two or three slices of zucchini, placing them at a slight diagonal. Sprinkle half the goat (or feta) cheese over the zucchini. Cover with a piece of roasted red pepper at a slight diagonal (use the larger strips of pepper, if you have any). Top with another sprinkle of herbs and the remaining goat cheese. Top with the last pieces of zucchini, then the last pieces of roasted pepper, then tomato slices. Spoon an equal amount of dressing around and over each of the “sandwiches” and top with any remaining herbs. Serve immediately. SO good-- just cut up everything and eat like a salad.

butternut squash chipotle chili

Lately we have been really into cooking from Cookie and Kate ... we pretty much go straight to her blog every weekend to pick out meals to make. Last week we made this delicious vegetarian butternut squash chili with avocado that was so good, so easy, and lasted nearly all week ... a perfect combination in my book. Recipe below!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • ground sea salt
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/2+ 1 t chopped chipotle in adobo
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 14-ounces canned diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 4 cups cooked black beans or 2 cans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups OR one 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • cilantro
  • 3 corn tortillas for crispy tortilla strips
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven, sautée the chopped vegetables (onion, bell pepper, butternut squash, garlic) in one to two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.
  2. Once the onions start turning translucent, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add all of the spices and canned ingredients, and stir. Cover for about one hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Make the crispy tortilla strips: stack the corn tortillas and slice them into thin little strips, about 2 inches long. Heat a small pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and toss in the tortilla slices. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook until the strips are crispy and turning golden, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 7 minutes. Remove tortilla strips from skillet and drain on a plate covered with a piece of paper towel.
  4. Serve up the chili and top with crispy tortilla strips and plenty of diced avocado, cilantro and red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on your flavor!) ... SOOO good!

 

eggplant and bok choy stirfry

Yesterday's farmers market trip left us with a few, seemingly challenging, items to formulate into a meal. We did a nice little google search and came upon this, fairly basic, stir-fry recipe.  The key players: eggplant and bok choy ... but don't be scared, these guyes are harmless. As a side note, these items will be rather costly to purchase at first, but once you take the plunge, they last (what seems like) forever.

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 2 inch nub of ginger, peeled & minced
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 head baby bok choy, sliced & separated into stems and leaves
  • 2 T miso paste (we left this one out; it wasn't at the grocery)
  • 4 T boiling water
  • 1 T tamari
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 2 t honey (or maple syrup to keep it vegan)
  • 1 t sesame oil (optional)
  • 1-3 t chili garlic sauce (we used thai red chili paste)
  • 2 T sesame seeds

Directions:

Start by cooking up some rice, this typically takes about 40 minutes, so start right away since everything else takes no time at all. Next you will make the sause so mix the tamari, rice vinegar, honey, and sesame oil, and stir well to combine (also add the miso paste if you have it). Set aside.

In a large wok, heat the coconut oil and stirfry the garlic paste over medium-high heat until it just begins to brown, about 1-2 minutes. Coconut oil smells like heaven. Next, add the eggplant and the miso sauce, and stirfry until it has softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add your baby bok choy stems and cook about 2 minutes more. Add the bok choy leaves and continue to stirfry until the greens have just softened, about 2 minutes more. Feel free to throw in anything else you want at the last minute, we added red pepper flakes.

In a separate small pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds for 3-5 minutes, until they turn golden brown. Serve the stirfry over the brown rice and top it off with the toasted sesame seeds, and voila, you are done! We added Trader Joe's Island Soyaki at the end because it is divine and makes everything taste better. Enjoy!

*Disclaimer: my nails are always chipped.