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Roasted Tomato and Chicken Stew with White Beans

It’s no secret that I love soup. What’s not to like about it? Easy to make, you can use scraps from your kitchen, they’re usually healthy, and make great leftovers. Win, win, win, WIN in my opinion.

Two weekends ago it was cold here in SF, and I was craving an Italian-style soup, but one without any pasta (I’ve been continuing to lay off the refined carbs). This Minestrone inspired soup, thick with shredded chicken, lots of vegetables, and a light garnish of salty parmesan cheese did the trick. To amp up the flavors, I roasted some fresh tomatoes and garlic — each tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar — and beyond the extra richness it added to the soup, the smell alone made this step worth it. While they were roasting, Joe kept drifting in and out of the kitchen, until he finally came in and asked, “Why does it smell so GOOD in here?”

Need I say more?

Get the recipe (and more food pics!), after the jump! Continue reading

Recipe: Simple bean salad

This year, as part of a plan to save more money, I’m pushing myself to bring lunch to work at least 4 days per week. For me, it saves a TON of cash (I work in an area where eating lunch out will cost you anywhere from $10-$20 per day, unfortunately), but the other benefit is that there’s a huge opportunity to eat healthfully more often too.

The only difficulty is coming up with dishes that can last a few days, because the reality is, I can’t cook every night and guarantee leftovers for myself. It can also be tough because dishes that hold especially well — namely, pastas and casseroles — tend to be refined carb heavy, which is something I’m trying to get away from. Soups are great, but I can only deal with so many weeks of soup before I’m ready for something else.

This week, I decided to make a simple bean salad, dressed with lemon and olive oil, which will hold at least until Wednesday. My plan is to bring a side serving of it each day, and then have it accompany a small sandwich or whatever leftovers I end up scrounging together from the previous night’s dinner (this would be great with some roasted chicken, or even atop a green salad). It’s colorful, flavorful, and filled with items that I specifically selected so that they wouldn’t be mushy by day 2 (I’m looking at you, cucumber).

You could easily take this idea and substitute whatever beans and herbs you have on hand. And if you’re eating it straight away, feel free to add in items like cucumber, tomato, even a little bit of feta cheese.

Get the (very easy!) recipe, after the jump. Continue reading

Recipe: Chicken and Potato Leek Soup

Early last week, I felt a cold coming on, and even though the symptoms never got too bad, I took it as a sign that I needed to slow down and take it easy for a few days. The fatigue was the worst part — it felt like rolling out of bed would be the most laborious thing imaginable.

On the day I headed home from work early, I was craving a soup that was thick and chicken-y (always a sure sign that I’m sick). I stopped by the store and picked up a few ingredients to make myself a “get well soon” soup. Along with lots of rest, I’m convinced this is what got me back up on my feet!

This soup is extremely easy to make, even when you’re under the weather. After quickly browning some chicken and sweating vegetables, everything simmers together until soft, then is pureed to velvety smoothness. Try this on a cold, snowy night…or when you’re feeling the effects of the season. Either way, it’s guaranteed to satisfy.

Get the recipe: Continue reading

Little Luxuries

I’m a girl who, when I can swing it, has no qualms about indulging in little luxuries for herself. A good facial, a heavenly massage — these things are all so worth the expense, in my opinion.

For the last few years, I’ve had massages from a fantastic woman here in SF named Nell Waters, who runs a practice named Whole Body Tonic. It’s located in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood, and shares a space with an acupuncture practice, called Acupuncture Kitchen. So when Nell emailed me to let me know that the two practices had opened up a pop-up shop selling bath salts, soaps, various linens, and a homemade hot cocoa mix that was out of this world, I popped down to learn more.

The pop-up shop consists of a reclaimed antique cupboard filled with lots of fun goodies to peruse while you wait for your massage or acupuncture. Adorable. If you’re in SF, I highly recommend you check out Whole Body Tonic or Acupuncture Kitchen. While I haven’t experimented with acupuncture (have any of you? What was it like??), Nell gives the best massages in the city, I’m sure of it. She was kind enough to contact Apotherie Chocolates, the inventor of the famed hot cocoa recipe, so I could share it with all of you. How delicious does this sound?

{Image Credits: Note to Self; Parsec Traveller Flickr; Pinterest}

Recipe: Bucatini with meatballs and homemade tomato sauce

A couple weeks ago, Lara from Simply Irresistible posted two pasta recipes that looked SO good. Well, I mean, all of her recipes look really good, but I must’ve been craving pasta, because the minute I saw these, I wanted to make them right then and there. Which is weird, because at home, Joe and I typically stay away from pasta, mostly for dietary reasons. But the weather has been cooler, and the thought of a big, warm bowl of noodles just sounded really delicious!

Two Saturdays ago, we spent the day out and about, running errands and buying a coat for Joe, and it was drizzling all day. Inspired by Lara, I suggested pasta for dinner to make up for the miserable weather. I was blown away when Joe said, “Spaghetti and meatballs?” Done and done. And to make things extra special, I told him I’d even make the sauce from scratch.

This dish turned out really well! If you’re following exactly what I did, I’d recommend you save this one for a weekend, when you have a bit more time. However, you could easily make it a weeknight meal by using your favorite jarred marinara sauce.

Get the recipe after the jump! Continue reading

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

Even with boots, chilly weather, and blog posts about pumpkins, to me, it’s not officially fall until I make a batch of butternut squash soup. For one thing, it’s easy, filling, and oh-so healthy. But the soup’s gorgeous, saturated orange color? The way it warms you from the inside out? Fall. Totally fall.

Butternut squash soup is great in that it’s simple on its own, but you can zhush it up with garnishes and other add-ins to make it fancier. It’s also the perfect thing if you’re looking for a vegan/vegetarian friendly recipe — there’s definitely no rule that says you have to include chicken stock or cream in it!

Below is a version I made on Monday night to bring for lunches throughout the week. I like making my soup with something to add just a touch of sweetness. This time, instead of apples, I used two pears that were on their last leg. Along with a sweet potato and some regular potatoes to help thicken things up, this soup was SO satisfying. Feeling fancy? You could dress it up with a dollop of crème fraîche, or swirl some cream right into the soup once you’ve heated it. I’m guessing a garnish of chives and crumbled bacon would also not be horrible. I’ve tried butternut squash soup with toasted hulled pumpkin seeds on top, too — it’s really good!

Simple Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8 (at least)

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium sized butternut, peeled and diced
–kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp if you are using fresh
1 dried bay leaf
2 Bosc peers, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (could substitute apples, too)
1 large orange sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced (you could also substitute Yukon gold or russet — whatever you have)
2 quarts vegetable stock

In a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in the onion and the diced squash, then season well with salt and pepper. Stir and let sweat, until the onions are softened and beginning to turn translucent. Pour in the white wine and stir. Add in the thyme, the bay leaf, the pears, the potatoes and the stock. Gently stir, and season well with salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer and let cook for half an hour, or until the largest pieces of potato or squash are very tender. Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is velvety smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can add batches of the soup to a blender and process. Be careful not to add too much; work in small batches so as not to accidentally burn yourself. Taste the pureed soup and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot with the garnishes of your choice.

Also, here’s a quick tutorial on how to cut up a butternut squash. No need to be intimidated by their strange shape and hard skin!

1. Of all the winter squashes, I think butternuts have the thinnest skin. I used to cut away the skin with a knife, but I hated how much squash I’d lose (and I almost chopped off my finger a time or two). A few years ago when I was recipe testing for a local newspaper, a chef showed me how I could just peel it with a sturdy vegetable peeler (I like the Good Grips one from OXO), and I’ve never looked back. It’s much safer, and you get more squash that way. You can also cut the squash in half first (see below) if it’s easier for you to peel it this way.

2. Once you’ve peeled the butternut, cut it crosswise where the base of the squash starts to balloon or bell out. This is approximately where the seeds are.

3. Cut both pieces in half; this will make them more manageable to cut down further. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds out and discard any of the stringy pulp.

4. If you’re cubing the squash like I was for the soup, cut the longer part into planks, then into sticks, then into cubes. You can cut the round part of the squash into half circles, then dice from there.

Presto! Your squash is all cut up and ready to go, and you didn’t slice off your hand trying to deal with it.

Carnitas Tacos with Escabeche

If you’ve met Joe and I, it’s no huge secret that Mexican is pretty much our favorite genre of food. It was omnipresent for me growing up in Texas, and since Joe grew up in the Midwest… well, let’s just say that once he discovered good Mexican food in California, he’s never been able to get enough of it.

When eating at home, we’ll usually stick to simple things like tacos and basic enchiladas, so last week when I saw Sara share a recipe for carnitas, I thought it might be the perfect thing to try on a lazy Saturday. Since we were staying home and doing absolutely nothing, there’d be no problem in letting the meat cook away in the oven for hours.

This would be a GREAT recipe for entertaining — the meat can be braising while you hang out with your guests or do other things around the house. I topped our tacos with peppers and veggies pickled in escabeche, a must for a rich, fatty taco filling like carnitas. Ever been to a taco truck? Escabeche is that delicious, spicy, vinegary concoction of jalapenos, peppers, carrots, onions and sometimes cauliflower. So good. A little avocado and a few sprigs of cilantro, and we were ready to go.

Well, once the margaritas got made.

Recipe notes

For the carnitas, I basically followed Sara’s recipe with a few changes. I used 1.5 beers (specifically, Victoria lagers leftover from our party) instead of one. I did not drain off the fat before putting everything in the oven, instead, choosing to let the meat cook in it and then draining it off at the end. Carnitas, after all, is basically pork confit. I also quadrupled the garlic and used Mexican oregano instead of regular. When the meat was done (I let it go for about 3 hours), I shredded it with two forks, and after draining the fat off of the cooking liquid, had so little left that I put all the meat back in and mixed it up with the softened garlic and juices. Do I really need to say more? It was ridiculously good.

For the escabeche, I followed this basic recipe, but of course had to make a few changes to that too. I used the same amount of apple cider vinegar recommended, and sauteed the veggies as instructed. However, since I was using a large aluminum pan (which can be reactive with that much acid), I made the sure the veggies were good and soft before adding the vinegar. I then quickly warmed the mixture up (but did not simmer it) before transferring to a glass bowl and allowing to sit for several hours. Also, I quartered the jalapenos instead of leaving them whole. And I did NOT attempt to can anything.

Really, this was so good and something I’d make again and again. Tons of leftovers too. Give it a try!

[PS — Don’t forget to enter the I Am print giveaway! There’s also lots of other places you can go to try your luck and win. Go here to see where!}

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