winter maybe-maybe-not-minestrone soup

Contrary to what you might have (not) seen on this blog or in my kitchen lately, I do love to cook. I love combining flavors and nutrition, and, most importantly, eating. And while I haven’t been super inspired lately, I finally went running back at the beckoning of being cold, hungry, and needing more vegetables in my life. This soup gives me that.

It’s a win-win: Soup is delicious (especially the day after you make it), and having a pot of soup in the fridge is one of the best ways to get your veggies in. Just heat and serve! If you’re in a rush, you can even blend it all together to make one weird-ass, but healthy, smoothie to drink on the go.

At first I was calling this a winter minestrone, but now I’m not so sure. Wikipedia says minestrone is “a thick soup of Italian origin made with vegetables, often with the addition of pasta or rice… usually made out of whatever vegetables are in season.” I can’t confirm if the Italians have jumped on the all things pumpkin/butternut/turmeric/quinoa trend train, so let’s just leave it at this: Soup is good.

soupWinter Maybe-Maybe-Not-Minestrone Soup

1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1/2 can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 butternut squash, chopped
2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 can)
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 cartons chicken stock
salt & pepper
turmeric
2 cans great northern beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups quinoa, cooked
fresh grated parmesan (for garnish)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute onion, celery, and carrots until onion is translucent. Add garlic, saute until fragrant. Add pumpkin puree, butternut squash, diced tomatoes, kale, chicken stock, and flavorings (salt, pepper, turmeric) to taste. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until veggies are tender. Add beans and quinoa, simmer a few minutes until warmed through. Enjoy with freshly grated parmesan on top.

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pasta primavera

Why, hello there. My birthday was last week, and I have a gift for you! A recipe (method) for easy, peasy, delicious Pasta Primavera.

Spring vegetables are so fresh, beautiful, and bursting with flavor right now. I filled two half-sheet baking pans with a bag of baby squashes that I picked up at Costco (cutest things ever!), chopped asparagus and carrots, and a thinly sliced onion and roasted them, then added jarred roasted red peppers and fresh grape tomatoes. Use any combination you like. More color means more nutrition and yumminess!

pasta primavera

Pasta Primavera

spring vegetables for roasting
olive oil
salt, pepper, dried herbes de provence
1/2 box whole wheat pasta
roasted red peppers
grape tomatoes
chopped flat leaf parsley
shredded fresh parmesan (optional)

Trim and chop vegetables and place on baking sheets. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbes de provence. Roast at 450F unti tender. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain. Toss pasta, roasted vegetables, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, and parsley with pasta water until desired consistency. Season as desired, topping with parmesan if using. Enjoy!

hot salad

I know, I know. It’s summer and “hot salad” doesn’t quite make you want to jump out of your seat and make dinner. But I’m a crazy Floridian who still practices hot yoga in the summer. I like it hot. And believe you me, this dish is worth the heat.

It’s a delectable blend of healthy yummy greens (cabbage and kale), steamed/braised until they almost melt in your mouth. And the sweet/savory addition of apples, honey, cranberries, and lavender? Well, you just need to try it to believe it.

This dish is great served alongside your favorite protein. Or you could just eat a bowl of it because it’s just that amazing. I couldn’t get spoonfuls of this into my mouth fast enough for second breakfast today.

Not too long ago, I wrote about neglecting my beloved vegetables. This dish has cured me of that problem. So go fire up your stove, and get ready to fall back in love with greens.

Hot Salad

1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 bunch of kale, destemmed and chopped
2 apples, chopped (I used golden delicious)
handful of dried cranberries
spoonful of honey
dried lavender
dried herbes de provence

Wash and chop your greens, then saute in a little olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a bit of water, then cover and let steam/braise. Stir and add water as needed (you don’t want to make soup, but you also don’t want it to dry up in there). When the greens are softened, add a tablespoon of honey, a handful of dried cranberries, 2 chopped apples, a sprinkle of dried lavender, and a sprinkle of dried herbes de provence. Add a little water if needed, and cook covered for a 5-10 minutes more, until the apples are soft. Serve and enjoy <3

barley, beans & greens soup

This soup is seemingly all wrong for today. It isn’t a looker. It also isn’t really seasonally appropriate, given that tomorrow is the summer solstice and this soup has fall/winter comfort food written all over it. But it is nutritious and delicious, and sometimes you need a warm bowl of comfort in your life.

This soup is a “pantry meal” for me. Meaning, it’s a meal I can make when I don’t know what to make. I usually have all the ingredients I need in the pantry and fridge, so I can whip up this quick dinner with minimum effort and save myself a trip to the market. It does take about 2 hours to cook, but the hands-on prep time is just a few minutes.

Now, the thing you have to remember with my “recipes” is that they are not so much recipes as they are “methods.” I am more inclined to cook by feeling and flavor. Winging it is fun, and it allows you to learn to trust your instincts (always a good thing to do in the kitchen… and in life).

So if you’re wondering how much salt it needs, taste it. If it needs more, add more. If it doesn’t, don’t. Just make sure to add little by little! Remember, you can always add more, but you cannot take excess away.

Barley, Beans & Greens Soup

olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 parsnip, sliced (optional)

1 lb. barley & beans blend *

3 bay leaves

red pepper flakes

dried marjoram

salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 carton (32 oz.) chicken stock

1 bunch greens (collards or kale), de-stemmed and chopped

1 tblsp. apple cider vinegar

Start with olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsnip and saute until softened. Add dried beans and barley mix, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, marjoram, salt, pepper, chicken stock, and enough water to cover everything by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, about 1-1.5 hours, or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed (not too much, you want it to have a thick, stew-like consistency). Remove bay leaves, add greens and apple cider vinegar, and simmer about 15 minutes more, until greens are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve and enjoy! :)

* I find this mix in bulk bins or in a bag in the dry beans aisle. You can also play with creating your mix, as it is just various dried beans and pearled barley. Also, I recommend not pre-soaking, just throw them dry into the pot! No need to plan ahead for the win!

chicken fried rice

Fried rice is total comfort food for me. I have no idea why. I’m Polish and rarely ate any kind of fried rice growing up. And yet it warms my soul to curl up with a bowl of the stuff… It is my kryptonite.

But while the take-out variety can taste good, it hardly makes me feel good. I finish the meal feeling heavy, greasy, bloated… You know what I’m talking about, and it’s not pretty.

So I did what I do best and I healthy-ed it up to result in this delicious, MSG-free, guilt-free recipe!

In my variation, I use brown rice, which is much better for you! It’s a great source of manganese, a mineral that produces energy. It is also rich in fiber and selenium, and whole grains like brown rice can help lower cholesterol, reduce disease risk, and contribute to weight loss. Plus, it tastes better!

I also replace soy sauce with Bragg liquid aminos. They’re lower in sodium, higher in protein, and non-GMO. Win!

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes and a few bucks to whip up, making it an easy weeknight dinner you can feel good about.

Better Than Takeout Chicken Fried Rice

peanut oil

4 eggs

2 carrots, shredded

1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted

3/4 cup frozen corn, defrosted

4 servings cooked brown rice

Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce

freshly ground black pepper

5 green onions, sliced

Start with peanut oil in a large frying pan (or a wok, if you’re cool… I am not) over medium heat. Add your eggs and scramble until they’re pretty set but still wet. Set eggs aside in a bowl. Add peanut oil to your pan, and saute carrots and chicken for a couple minutes. Add peas and corn, and saute a couple minutes. Add brown rice and eggs, and saute until warmed through. Season with liquid aminos and freshly ground black pepper. Mix in green onions. Serve and enjoy!