Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

I have a handful of recipes that I am confident they will wow. The recipe that I have a solid grasp on how to make and what to modify to cater to whoever is joining us for dinner. This is one of those meals. When you make it, this is what will happen. Your guest will devour the meal. But after a first couple of spoonfuls, they will look at you and remark, “what is that spice? This is so good, but I cannot place these flavors.”

At this point, you have a couple options. Make them guess (they will probably say curry and you will laugh and shake your head). Say you’ll never tell. Or reveal it is cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. And that this combination smells and tastes heavenly.

But the point is, this is a great soup. It’s easy to make. It’ll impress whoever is at your dinner table. But most importantly, it’s gosh dang delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, coined
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 dashes cinnamon
  • 2 dashes ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 6-7 cups of vegetable broth (can sub out for water)
  • 1 cup white wine (but can sub with more broth or water)
  • 1 cup kale, long shredded (can sub in spinach)
  • lime juice (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to large pot and heat on medium heat. Toss in onions. Once the onions start to get soft, add in carrots and celery. Add in sweet potatoes and continue to stir periodically.
  2. As vegetables get soft, add in garlic. Once garlic starts to get fragrant, mix in cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and bay leaves. Add in lentils, dates, and liquid (broth/wine/water).
  3. Bring to boil. Then reduce heat to slow, bring to a simmer, and cover.
  4. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Once the lentils are cooked, add in kale. Stir until cooked.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into bowls. In each bowl, top with cilantro. Squeeze a bit of lime juice into your bowl. Top with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes if desired.
  6. Enjoy!

Source: Daphne Oz

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Cheesy Broccoli Toast

Like so many other Americans, I spent the day before 4th of July going to the grocery store to stock up on must-haves for grilling out tomorrow. Because there certainly isn’t going to be a holiday where I plan ahead and buy everything we need earlier than the day before 😉

Somehow I came home with a loaf of bread, English muffins, a French baguette, a ciabatta loaf, and a huge, round crusty sourdough. Apparently, carbs will be making a big appearance in our meals the next following weeks.

With that in mind, I tried out this new broccoli toast because I am determined to make sure none of this bread gets moldy before we get a chance to eat it. It was the biggest hit with everyone! Added bonus is it is such a straight forward recipe so it can easily be a weekday dinner. And we typically we have all the ingredients in our fridge. This will be going in our “make again” list.

Before the blanket of cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 glug of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • sliced white bread
  • butter
  • provolone cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cut broccoli into medium size pieces. Peel the steams so the harder skin is removed.
  2. Place 1 inch of water into a deeper pan with a dash of salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add broccoli into the pan and place lid on. Let broccoli steam for 2 minutes.
  3. Drain broccoli and remove from the pan. Take paper towels to dry out the water from the broccoli as much as possible. Then cut the broccoli into smaller pieces.
  4. Ensure that the pan is dried. Then add the olive oil and heat. Toss in garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Add in the broccoli and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 minutes to well mix.
  5. Place broccoli mixture into a bowl. Combine in Parmesan cheese. Put aside.
  6. Line the bread on a greased baking pan. Butter one side of the bread. Place the oven onto boil. Then place bread into the oven to toast. Once lightly toasted, flip so the other side begins to toast. Once both sides are lightly toasted, remove from over.
  7. Add the broccoli mixture on each piece of toast. Layer a piece of provolone cheese on top. Put back into the oven on boil and cook until the cheese is melted-about 4 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!!

Very slightly modified from Smitten Kitchen

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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boat

It was one of those nights where we had a half pound of ground beef and spaghetti squash that needed to be used. And I was in a mood. I didn’t want to follow a recipe too closely or make anything complicated. But I also wanted our meal to taste good. And I don’t typically cook spaghetti squash so I didn’t have an index of past meals to work off of. So I made this. By pretending I was going to make lasagna. Only with spaghetti squash instead of noodles. And soft goat cheese instead of ricotta. And not really layered. So very loosely based on lasagna. But it was so so good.

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 slice uncooked bacon, diced
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 glug of white/red wine (either works)
  • 1 glug of olive oil
  • 2 leaves fresh basil, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon parsley
  • 2 tablespoons soft goat cheese (like this)
  • 1/4 shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Handful of Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Spoon out the seeds. Cover the entire squash (both sides) with olive oil. Sprinkle inside with salt and pepper to taste. Place in oven, inside down, for 30-35 minutes. It should be done when you stab the skin and the knife goes in easily. But don’t get too stab happy because we need the shell intact to use as a bowl later.
  2. While squash is cooking, make the sauce. Brown ground beef until it is almost done but not completely done. Drain the excess fat. Then cut the uncooked bacon into the pan with the ground beef. I use a kitchen knife and cut the bacon into the pan.
  3. While bacon is cooking, add in diced red pepper, onions, and garlic. Add in tomato sauce, a glug of olive oil, a glug of wine, rosemary, and parsley. Toss in salt and pepper to taste. Simmer.
  4. Remove spaghetti squash from oven once cooked. Take a fork and pull the squash from the shell without destroying the shell, as you will be putting everything back into it.
  5. Place squash into a medium size bowl. Mix in goat cheese and shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Spoon squash back into each shell. Top with sauce and sprinkle cheese.
  7. Place back into the oven and cook for 10 additional minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

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White Bean Soup

Simple ingredients always seem to make the best meal. Just let the natural flavors of the real food stand out on its own. That is why I love this soup. The list of ingredients is minimal. There is not much to do it. But the soup has so much flavor and texture. And you are not stuck to the same taste palate. You can top the soup with so many different options to mix it up, all while staying true to the base flavor. This is my new favorite soup.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Optional Toppings

  • Pesto, a spoonful per bowl (very much recommend!)
  • Croutons
  • French’s fried onions
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil to medium size pot. Add in onions and garlic and cook until soft.
  2. Add in beans and broth. Take an immersion blender to blend until beans are chopped up. Add in red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover and let cook for at least 30 minutes, stirring periodically.
  3. Ladle into bowl. Top with optional toppings and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

Source: Cup of Jo

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Balsamic Roasted Veggie, White Bean, Pesto Pasta

This is my favorite way to use up all those veggies in the fridge that need to be eaten before its too late. Because stir fry gets old. And just like stir fry, this recipe is so flexible. Add whatever veggies you have. Use whatever beans you have. Use whatever kind of pasta you have.

I have been trying to increase our family’s rotation of meat-free meals, as JR is still a vegetarian (on most days–he cannot say no to bacon). So I have been making more an effort to buy more variety of vegetables. And I really want the kids to have more than just one veggie a week. So I find myself leaving the store with about 5 different kinds of veggies, if not more. But, the boys and Eloise only eat so much. When you have a head of broccoli and cauliflower, it can be tough to eat everything before it starts to turn.

This is a great recipe to get all those vegetables into the mix. The pesto balsamic mix really elevates the dish and is a unique way to change up spaghetti and sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli, cut
  • 1 cup cauliflower, cut
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cut into coins
  • 1yellow squash,  cut into coins
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, large slices
  • 1 package pasta, rotini is my fave for this
  • 1/2-1/3 cup pesto
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, drained (15 oz can)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 425 degrees
  2. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, salt, and olive oil into a small bowl.
  • Place all veggies into a large bowl and mix sauce over veggies until it is well-mixed. Spread veggies over baking pan and roast for 30 minutes (or until soft).
  • While veggies roast, cook pasta.
  • Once veggies are cooled, combine pasta, veggies, beans, and cheese. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top.
  • Enjoy!

Source: Skinny Taste

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Buffalo Chicken Soup

This soup is the absolute best. It is so easy to make. Most people have the ingredients they need on hand in the fridge or pantry already (or you can sub out fairly easily). And it is a fresh take on soups because that Frank’s Red Hot brings the soup to an entirely different level. I love it.

I modified this recipe from an Instagramer that Matt and I met in Italy. We were eating at the same restaurant and had some small talk about posting on Instagram. She was very kind and expressed how she was on her way to being an influencer. And I was a jerk. There is no way to reframe this encounter to make me look good. I was dismissive about her being an influencer for literally no good reason. Which is additionally shitty given my husband is a freaking influencer. And ever since, I look back on that encounter and feel so shameful about how I acted. I was a jerk.

But jokes on me. The next day I realized I was so insensitive and followed her and saw that her posts were legit. I felt so stupid, and I sincerely think about it at least once a month. I am sure my terrible self rolled off her back and she probably has no memory of it. And she has blown up as an influencer. She has some seriously awesome content. Her photos are creative. Her podcast is genuinely helpful for people wanting to get into content creating. She is killing it. What a good, freaking example of not letting the haters get to you!

So yeah, me being a shitty person is how I found this recipe. Be better than me and support someone’s dream from the outset. Not after you feel terrible the next day when you realize you were an absolute ass. But if you are like me, and you realize you were a jerk to someone, support the hell out of them. They deserve it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 1/4-1/2 cup French’s Red Hot
  • 1 can Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet Ranch dressing package
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
guys, i promise to take better photos next time. It tastes a bazillion times better than this photo. so so so much better.

Directions

  1. Toss ground chicken into large pot and cook until browned. Add dashes salt and pepper and garlic.
  2. Add in remaining ingredients, except for cream cheese. Bring to boil.
  3. Once boiling, add cream cheese. Cut cream cheese into 1 inch cubes, as they melt easier.
  4. Stir until cream cheese is melted.
  5. Cook on simmer/low heat for about hour.
  6. Enjoy!

Modified from: Josie Bullard

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Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs

Ok, how is the summer already coming to an end? With the pandemic still roaring through the states, it just doesn’t feel like summer has started yet. There has been no movies in the park. No summer concerts. Didn’t go see fireworks because the city didn’t have them. No block parties. None of the typical summer activities.

That is not to say we didn’t make a great summer out of what we did have. We were able to sneak away to a cabin in Wisconsin. We have had weekends exploring the woods and parks (just staying away from the playground equipment). Movie nights with popcorn were had. It was a good summer, considering.

We didn’t get to have many cookouts with friends and family, which was a bummer. But we had a couple socially distanced dinners outside on the patio–eating home cooked food, drinking good wine, and pretending just for the evening that our world isn’t completely upside down.

What hasn’t changed is what I serve when we have a cookout at our place. This summer, and all the others, whenever we have people over for a cookout, this is my go-to grilling recipe. So much so, that this is the recipe I made the day JR was born since we had a cookout to celebrate JR on his birthday (birth center births mean you go home same day you give birth).

And I have been meaning to put this recipe up on the blog, but every time I make it, before I can remember to take a photo of the finished product, it’s already in our bellies. It’s that good.

Ingredients

Teriyaki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 Tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Skewers

  • 1-2 pounds of chicken, cut into cubes
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 orange pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pineapple (fresh), cut into chunks

Directions

  1. To make the sauce, just toss all the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat so it is simmering. Stir until the sauce is thickened. Feel free to add a bit more cornstarch. Once to a thickened texture (not as thick as honey but not as thin as water), remove from heat. I recommend dividing out into two bowls–one for dipping later and one for basting.
  2. Make your skewers. If you have metal skewers, great. If not, use wood and soak the wood skewers for a bit before using (although if you don’t, I have never found it to be a deal breaker).
  3. For the skewers, we put all meat on some and then divide the rest throughout (because we have some vegetarians in our house). Baste with the sauce and then grill. Baste periodically as it cooks.
  4. Enjoy!

Modified from Lauren’s Latest

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Greek Meatballs

Greek Meatballs

There are some little things about raising our babies that I never want to forget. Like our bedtime routine. When we put the boys to bed, I will tell them a bedtime story that I make up. Every story starts the same: There once were two little boys. And they were so beautiful. And so kind. And so smart. And they were brave. And they were strong. And they went on an adventure…”

The boys typically ask that the story revolve around looking for pirates, that they find a pirate ship and eat ice cream, and that they go back home and tell me all about their adventure. I have told some version of this story hundreds of times. Some nights it is too late to tell the little boy story, and sometimes I am so tired from a day of crazy, wild boys refusing to listen for the majority of the day that I want to skip it. But I know someday that JR and Maxie will go to bed, and they won’t beg for me to tell the little boy story. And then someday I won’t even remember what the little boy story was even about. And I’m not sure which make me more sad. So most nights, I tell the little boy story.

Listening to Nom Nom read us the FireCat by FaceTime.

JR and Maxie’s obsession with pirates has extended to most areas of our life, including mealtime. Forks and spoons are now swords. Then one day they asked to eat the same food that pirates eat. I had already planned to make something with ground beef. I just didn’t know what. So I decided to find something new that I had never made. That way, the boys would get their pirate food and I could branch out with ground beef recipes. And that is how I ended up making Greek meatballs. Yes, I am aware that Greek food is not pirate food. But Greece is on the water so close enough for my toddlers.

These meatballs are an excellent twist to my typical Italian ones. I paired them with Greek-style rice (ie: white rice cooked with white onions doused with lemon juice and sprinkled with oregano and garlic) and the Mediterranean bean salad. And dipped everything with hummus and tzatziki sauce. It may not be an authentic pirate meal. But my two pirates cleaned their plates.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 yellow onion grated (yep, grated)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grab your cheese grater and grate the onion over a plate so you can collect the juices. Then mix the grated onion with its juices with the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl.
  2. Combine with egg, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss beef into the bowl and then form into golfball sized meatballs.
  3. Place each meatball into a baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle the melted butter over the meatballs (if you have any fresh herbs, toss with the butter. I didn’t so no herb butter for us).
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve with the butter from the pan.
  6. Enjoy!

Slightly modified from: Bowl of Delicious

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Mushroom and Leek Creamy Chicken

This weekend we walked 40 acres that is for sale. Matt had been eyeing this property for quite a while and finally convinced me to see it. Within the first couple of minutes, I got why Matt wanted us to see this. The land reminded me so much of the walking trails and bluffs in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Matt and I met. The property is a great mix of forest, ravines, and open spaces. Matt, the boys, Ellie, and I walked the land, and Matt showed me where the house would be built, where the shop and sawmill would go, where we would build a treehouse. It felt like the land was destined to be ours.

But then we started reading the township ordinances. And holy hell, there were so many. Ordinances mandating that you can’t build an accessory building before a primary residence. Ordinances about not allowing you to run a business from your property. We would need so many variances. Honestly, it makes me crabby. People should not be jerks and be considerate of their neighbors. People should also be able to do what they want with their land.

Based on what we heard from the township, it doesn’t look good that they would give us any variances. It feels like we may be back to the drawing board. After 3 long years of looking for a new house, it’s exhausting. So many people have accused us of having too high of expectations but honestly, our “must have” list consists of very little: 2 stories, at least 3 bedrooms on top level, on more than 5 acres, acres are not just an open field. That’s it. I don’t feel like we are asking for too much. It just feels like it isn’t out there. Which seems unreasonable. Sigh.

So sometimes you just need an easy win. Everyone likes chicken. And an excuse to open a bottle of wine on a Wednesday. This recipe checks both those boxes, tastes incredible, and can be made in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken, tenders or breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1-2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/6 cup white wine

Directions

  1. If you are using chicken breasts, slice them down the middle so they are thinner. If you are using tenders, those should be thin enough. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Grab a large skillet and toss 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet. Melt over medium heat. Once melted, add in chicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Do not clutter the skillet so you’ll want to probably divide the chicken, cook it, remove from skillet and place into a covered plate to stay warm. Then cook the second half. Remove second round of chicken from skillet and keep warm in the covered plate.
  3. In same skillet, add in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to melt. Add in leeks and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft and leeks are limp–around 5 minutes.
  4. Add in wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Mix in heavy cream and cook until sauce gets thicker. If you want extra thick, add in another tablespoon of butter. Place chicken back into the skillet and toss until chicken is warm and well-mixed with sauce and veggies.
  5. Serve chicken covered with the sauce, leeks, and mushroom. Enjoy!

Slightly modified from: Foodie Crush

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Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

Thanks to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I am working in the basement these days. So the commute has reduced from a 30-40 minute drive home to 30-40 second walk up the stairs. I could use the extra half hour to make a more labor intensive dinner. And sometimes I do. But honestly, I don’t always have it in me. Sometimes I need an easy win that still feels like a solid meal.

Enter: sheet plan meals. Single sheet pan meals are all over Pinterest and for good reason. They are so gosh dang easy to prep. Outside of cutting veggies, you can toss all the food on a pan, swoosh it around, and pop it in the oven–all while a baby is glued to your hip.

We tested out this shrimp fajita sheet pan meal and it was a huge hit. We will definitely making this again–especially once I go back to work in the office. This entire meal can be made under a half hour, which is a game changer when you walk in the front door around 7:00 p.m. each weeknight. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2- 2 pounds of shrimp, peeled (I just grabbed a bag from the frozen section and dumped the entire bag in)
  • 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (mix between red, yellow, and orange)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • squeeze of lime
  • tortillas
  • any and all taco/fajita toppings–for us–guacamole, salsa, and sour cream are musts
yeah, those bell peppers are not finely sliced at all. Guys, do as I say, not as I do 😉

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Grab a large bowl and toss together everything but the lime, tortillas and toppings (so the last three ingredients)
  3. Once well coated, distribute across a sprayed cookie sheet.
  4. Cook for 8 minutes. Then turn to broil and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until shrimp are done.
  5. Once out of oven, squeeze the lime juice over the cooked fajita insides.
  6. Toss insides into tortilla shells and top with all the delicious toppings you have.
  7. Enjoy!

Source: Number 2 Pencil

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