Saturday, March 24, 2012

slow cooker soups

Here's some good looking soups from  Will you be making soup?

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
Cheesy Chorizo Chili
Two Bean Minestrone
Cheesy Potato Soup

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lentil Chili

Well, another 'Meatless Monday' has come and gone successfully.  I'm really starting to get the hang of this thing- and I'm happy to report that the boys are adjusting well!

Breakfast: Fruit smoothies
One part fruit, one part orange juice, one part vanilla yogurt (about a quarter cup each) and one banana blended until smooth.

Lunch:  Macaroni and Cheese
Cheap and easy- from the box.  Hey, sometimes you just need simple!

Dinner: Lentil Chili served over baked potatoes
This chili is vegan, unless you add cheese and sour cream as a garnish.  I adapted it from this recipe and served it over baked potatoes, although it would be a filling meal on its own.
Now, I am a big fan of beans.  My favorite by far though, is the lentil.  They are relatively simple to make.  They require little prep- you don't need to soak them like you have to with other dry beans which makes the cook time way faster (they cook in less than an hour).  And they provide a rich meaty texture and taste.  They'll fill you up because they are the second highest source of protein found in veggies, legumes, or nuts (behind only soy)!  They are also rich in fiber, vitamin B1, iron, and folate (source).  You can find them in the grocery store with other dried beans and often times in bulk sections. 

Lentil Chili
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T chili powder
1t dry oregano
1/8t cayenne (more or less depending on your spice level)
1 cup brown lentils, washed
1/4c red lentils, washed
56 ounces vegetable broth
8 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup sliced green onion (more or less depending on your taste)
6 ounces sliced black olives, drained
12 ounces roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
Optional garnishes: lime slices, shredded cheese, sour cream, more olives and sliced green onion

In a large Dutch oven or stew pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sautee until they start to soften.  Add garlic and sautee another minute.  Add chili powder, oregano, and cayenne stirring constantly for another minute or until the spices are fragrant.  Add broth, tomato sauce, and lentils.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until lentils are soft (over an hour).  When lentils are soft add green onion, chopped red pepper, and olives and simmer for another 20 minutes.   

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

True Friends

A friend is someone 
who knows the song in your heart,
and can sing it back to you 
when you have forgotten the words.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pesto Stuffed Shells

Here's to another week of Meatless Mondays!  I'm sorry I missed last week.  Time has a way of slipping away from me.  So, I'll just pick up where I left off rather than back tracking~

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
Just like it sounds- whole wheat bread, a dollop of peanut butter topped with sliced banana. My favorite!

Black bean nachos
Pour one can of black beans (drained and rinsed) into a small sauce pan with 1/4 cup salsa and two tablespoons of water.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until beans are heated through.  If desired, you can mash the beans with a fork or a potato masher to get a creamier texture (they'll start to resemble re-fried beans).  Top tortilla chips with shredded cheddar cheese and warm in the microwave for 20-30 seconds or until cheese starts to melt.  Top with bean mixture, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce, and a dollop of sour cream.
Pesto Stuffed Shells, Green salad , and Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread
Pesto Stuffed Shells by Budget Bytes!

I have to admit, this meal was a lot of work, but it did come together rather quickly.  The pesto really flavored the filling well and the meal was well liked by all.  I think that the filling itself would be really fantastic in lasagna (thinking that's going to have to happen), and I'm starting to think that pesto makes everything better.  I doubled the recipe to feed 6 and ended up with two lunch portions left over and a ton of empty shells (which I chopped up and will make into a pasta bake). 

Hope you give these recipes a try~ enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Pesto Crostini

Three weeks of Meatless Monday's down! 

Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Squares
While these were tasty, they did not hold up like in the picture.  After cutting them and basically spooning them onto the dish, we topped the oatmeal with some (more) peanut butter and jelly (softened in the microwave for a few seconds so we could drizzle both).  Overall, I was impressed with the simplicity of this dish and with the fact that there wasn't a lot of sugar- making them relatively healthy.

Lunch: left over Tomato soup 
This soup lived up to every expectation I had.  It had a well balanced tomato-y (is that even a word?) flavor that blended seamlessly with the salty Parmesan.  It warmed us up from head to toe and filled our tummys.  I am also pleased to report that the young man (he with hatred of veg) gobbled it all up.  The trick is to make sure you cook it long enough for everything to get soft and then puree it until it's smooth. 
It even re-heated well in the microwave (although I would lean toward re-heating it on the stove if I had the time).

Dinner: Minnestrone soup, green salad, and Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Pesto Crostini

Crostini means ''little toasts'' in Italian.  Typically they are served as appetizers, the most common being bruschetta.  You can top crostini with a large variety of meats, cheeses, or veggies.  This is an easy rustic version.  This made an excellent side to minestrone soup and salad.
PS- it's great the next day too (warmed up in the toaster oven OR cold)!

Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil Pesto Crostini

1 Loaf crusty bread (I used an Artisnal Roasted Garlic loaf)
Mozzarella cheese (can sub monterey jack), shredded
Sliced tomato
1 teaspoon dry Basil or Italian seasoning
Prepared pizza sauce
Prepared Basil pesto
Grated Parmesan cheese


Slice Crusty bread into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Dollop a spoonful of pizza sauce and spread thin.  You don't want a lot of sauce, it'll just make the bread soggy.
Sprinkle dry seasonings. 
Top bread with shredded mozzarella cheese and a thin slice of tomato.
Top with a dollop of prepared Basil Pesto
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Place in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly and starts to brown.  
Enjoy as an appetizer or along-side a big bowl of soup!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


All this time
The sun never says
To the earth
"You owe me."
What happens
With love like that.
It lights the

-Hafiz (fourteenth century poet)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meatless Monday

Well, last Monday went well.  So well in fact, the guys didn't miss the meat at all very much.  We were able to follow the menu.  I think that the breakfasts and dinners are kinda easy to work around, it's the lunches that are going to be more difficult.  It's so easy to have a sandwich or a hot dog or even chicken nuggets.  We'll need to do some brainstorming to figure out some quick and easy options the kiddo likes.  For now though, we'll make it easy.

Here's our Round Two.
Breakfast: Peach Pancakes
 I've got some peaches hanging out in the freezer that will work really well for this.  I took them out the night before so they had a chance to thaw a bit before putting them into the batter.  I also left the eggs out overnight so they would get a chance to come to room temp.  As long as you don't leave them out too long (like a whole day or more), eggs won't go bad on the counter.  This is a really great tip if you've got some baking to do and need room temp ingredients.  Take them out before you go to bed and do your baking in the morning.  I also mixed up the dry ingredients, so everything would be super easy for me in the morning.

Lunch:  Bean and cheese burritos
Whole wheat tortillas, cheese and vegetarian re-fried beans.  Right now, beans are going to be my go-to protein.  I know everyone will eat them, and they are always in my pantry!  Maybe soon we'll try tofu... baby steps...

Dinner: Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup, bread and spinach salad
Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
I am really excited to try this soup out.  First off it sounds amazing.  Second, it's done in the crock pot.  If it tastes as good as I'm imagining it will, it will definitely be added to the rotation.  Added benefit: it is loaded with veggies (carrots, celery, fresh basil, and tomato) that I'll puree in the end, so no one (ie- the veggie phobes) will be able to pick out "the good stuff"!

I'll let you know how it all goes down, but I'm expecting to pass with flying colors!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lasagna Soup

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are in the mid of winter.  During January, Mother Nature pretty much bombarded us with every form of precipitation possible.  Snow? Yes. Ice? Of course. Rain? Freezing rain, freezing fog, slush, sleet, blah blah blah!  Basically layer after layer of mess.

Thankfully the last few weeks have been rather mild.  Bits of rain and fog here and there, but temps that aren't too cold and (thankfully) no snow or ice.  There is one good thing about winter though.  You can cook and bake to your heart's content and not worry about the house getting too hot or the soft fluff developing around your mid-section (That's what puffy coats and warm sweaters were made for.  Besides its cold out, you need the extra insulation)!
I couldn't be happier.  I have no where I need to go and nothing that has to be done (outside of the usual laundry and house cleaning).  The pantry and freezer are stocked, and the power is on.  What more could you need in the middle of winter?  Well, good food of course!

We had the most amazing dinner the other night.  It was called Lasagna Soup and I found it here.

Aaahh. Comfort and warmth in a bowl.  And not to mention wickedly delicious. 

I did make a few small changes to the recipe.  For instance I used 1/2 pound, each, of spicy Italian sausage and sweet Italian sausage.  I would also add more chicken stock or water during the cooking process, as the liquid tends to cook down, especially if you simmer it for a while, which I did.

Here's my method:
Lasagna Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 lb spicy Italian sausage
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
28 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6-8 cups chicken stock
8 oz pasta (I used campanelle)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

8 oz part skim ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add sausage and break apart, brown (about 5 minutes).  Add onions, cook until soft (about 5 more minutes).  Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, stir to combine.  Add paste, stirring until paste turns deep red (a couple of minutes).  Add canned diced tomatoes (juice included), 6 cups chicken stock, and bay leaf.   Stir until all is combined and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes (longer if you can stand it).  Add remaining chicken stock as needed.
Combine all 'cheese' ingredients except for the mozzarella.  Set aside until mealtime. 
When you're ready to eat, cook pasta according to package directions minus a minute.  You want the pasta to still be slightly firm to the bite (al dente).  Place a scoop of ricotta cheese mixture (about 1/4 cup) in the bottom of a bowl.  Top with the same amount of pasta.  Top with a ladle of soup.  Garnish with mozzarella cheese. 
If there are any leftovers (and that's a big if!), store each layer separately.  The pasta would absorb too much of the soup liquid otherwise.  

Enjoy.  Really, I don't know how you couldn't!   Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wisdom for your Wednesday

We must be willing to let go 
of the life we have planned, 
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

-Joseph Campbell-

Monday, February 6, 2012

Meatless Monday

It seems like everywhere I look this new year, someone's talking about "Meatless Mondays". 
So I figured this was a band wagon I should hop on.  It's really more of an experiment, as my family is definatly made up of carnivores. 

My favorite dino from Meet The Robinsons

I'm not sure how long this will last, but we'll see.  Things are definitely gonna get interesting around here as I anticipate significant whining.  However, I see this as being a good thing in the long run.  I figure this will give us a chance to try new things, get the creativity flowing in the kitchen, and help us get some healthier options on the table.   

Today is our first Monday, so I'm going to make it pretty easy. 

Fruit and yogurt Smoothies with whole wheat toast

Veggies (cucumber, broccoli, celery, carrots, beets) and dip, cheese, and pickles.  Grilled cheese and veg with dip for the young mister.

Dinner- 3 Cheese Quesadillas (cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella), beans and rice, and Mexican Grilled Corn

I'm already excited, and I bet my family would be none the wiser if I didn't tell them we were missing our favorite form of protein...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wisdom for Your Wednesday

The purpose of life is to live it, 
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without 
fear for newer and richer

Eleanor Roosevelt