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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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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Pot Pies

I remember when my mom use to make pot pies. I would have a fit. I hated them. My brother and sister would happily eat their dinner, and I would sit at the table, nose up, like a snot, refusing to eat my pot pie. I decided they were the worst and I would not even try them. Nothing would change my mind. They had peas, they had gravy, they were not for me. Now that I am a mom myself, I realize my mom is a saint for not slapping me!

Since my teenager-anxy days, I have never had a pot pie (I am nothing but true to my word). But around Thanksgiving, I kept seeing posts about people making pot pie recipes with their leftover turkey. The cutest ramekins filled with bright orange carrots, firm peas, and shredded turkey. Guys, it looked good. And I couldn’t believe it. I hate pot pies.

But I had a bunch of leftover turkey and I didn’t feel like making soup. I decided that it was time to finally try pot pies.

Ok, now I feel like an adult. I like them. They were good. It was filling, warm, and the perfect level of salty savory. I would make this again. And I can’t believe it. Guys, you should try this. They are good. You’ll feel like an adult. It’s great.

It doesn’t have to look pretty. It just has to taste good.

Ingredients

  • Yellow onion, diced
  • 5 carrots, diced
  • 1 bag frozen Trader Joe’s Mushroom Medley (OR a bunch of diced mushrooms)
  • 1-2 cups turkey or chicken (or opt if desire veggie)
  • 2 tbsp Trader Joe’s Garlic Herb Butter (OR just butter)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Lemon, squeeze
  • Maple syrup, drizzle or two
  • 1/4 tsp Trader Joe’s Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend
  • 2 cups peas
  • 1 package frozen pie crusts, thawed
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Over medium heat on the stove, sauté onions, carrots, and mushrooms in butter, salt and pepper for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add in cooked turkey/chicken.
  3. Remove from heat and sprinkle with flour.
  4. Then, put back on heat. Add vegetable stock, lemon,maple syrup, and umami seasoning.
  5. Simmer to until a bit thick. Toss in peas.
  • Scoop into ramekins, and top with the pie crusts.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  • Enjoy!

Source: Cup of Jo

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Pesto White Beans with Grilled Zucchini

We spent Sunday afternoon decluttering our basement. We’ve lived in our house for over 8 years now and have accumulated   s o   m u c h   s t u f f.   My closet is full of buckets and buckets of clothes I’ve been keeping just in case they fit again, in case I need it for a costume, in case it comes into style.  I am certain Matt has every spare screw that ever came with any kit.  After a couple hours of tossing items in either the donate or garage piles, we called it quits and headed back upstairs to where the clutter is a bit more manageable.

The fall cleaning inspired me to clean out the pantry.  In the back as a lone can of white beans tucked away–likely bought for chili that I never ended up making.  There were two zucchinis on their last legs and a jar of unopened pesto from who knows when.  And that is how this pesto white beans with grilled zucchini came to life.

We ate it as a meal, but it would be a great appetizer or side dish.  It’s a fun interplay between heavy foods (beans and cheese) with lighter foods (pesto and zucchini).  Toast some crusty bread and layer the bean/zucch/cheese mixture on top.  It would be the perfect dish to bring to a late fall cookout or to eat in front of a fire.  It’s got just the right level of flare without feeling pretentious. Which is what I am always looking for in a meal 🙂

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Citrus Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Today was one of those days where I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I thought, “ugh, I am that chubby girl.”  And that’s because I am.  No, I am not fishing for compliments.  It’s true.  I am chubby.  Yes, I did recently have a baby, but this chubbiness cannot be blamed on Eloise.  It’s because I’ve been eating subpar and not working out as much I’d like.  See, before we went to Texas, I was kicking ass.  I was eating healthy. Working out.  Drinking all the water.  And then vacation happen.  And then I got back and I was busy. Work. Babies. House. Errands.  Yeah, I know.  You can make all the excuses you want.  Clearly I wasn’t making my health a priority.

But her rolls are just so delicious.

Ok, well that is the great thing about priorities.  They can change.  So healthy eating is back on the docket.  I spent the weekend digging into new recipes to try.  To revitalize my motivation to eat healthy, work out, get my spirit back into the better myself vibe. It was time to get out of my funk.

Because I have three little eyes watching me.  Taking notes.  Learning from my habits and internalizing them and possibly even making these habits their own.  So if not for myself, then for them.

sure, it’s hard to work out when you have these two adorable boys who always jump on you. guys, this is the life.

And that is how this beet salad came to life.  I am not about to just eat rabbit food.  That is not going to get me excited about eating healthy.  But of course, healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland.  I just had to remind myself of that. So I went outside the typical “green” salad and landed on beets. There is something about beets that make me feel like I am being healthy and trendy at the same time.  This recipe is unbelievably easy, with no dressing because the ingredients themselves have more than enough flavors.

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Spinach Applesauce

I swear, my toddlers either eat everything in sight or they live on air. There is no middle ground.  So on the days they eat, I try to load them up with as many vegetables as I can.  We’ve been lucky.  The boys generally like vegetables.  Broccoli is one of their favorite foods. They usually like trying new foods and don’t have fits about texture or taste.  Still, we have our days.  The boys only want to eat donuts and cereal (they are their mother’s sons).  No matter what healthy food we offer, they claim they aren’t hungry.  Sometimes we need to be a bit more clever with getting vegetables in the boys’ diet.

Earlier this week was one of those days.  Since we have a new baby, people have been stopping by to spend time with Eloise.  Along with the people come treats: donuts, cookies, birthday cake and pie. Thanks to the sugar snacks, the boys started to refuse to eat dinner. If the food wasn’t 90% sugar, the boys weren’t interested.

Typically, if the boys refuse to eat dinner, I don’t care.  If they are hungry, they will eat what we prepared.  We don’t offer alternative meals.  Either they eat what is on the plate or they don’t eat at all.  I never clear their plates from the dinner table until both boys are sleep in bed so it is easy to direct the boys back to the table if they ask for food.

But this time, the reason the boys weren’t eating wasn’t because they weren’t hungry.  They were full of sugar and no nutritional food.  I was determined to get something healthy in them.

I recalled seeing a post on Instagram that would be perfect solution.  If we put down a bowl of applesauce in front of them, there’s a good chance they’ll ask for seconds. So I used that to my advantage. I tossed a handful of spinach in the applesauce and blended until it was smooth(ish).  The plain applesauce immediately was way more fun.  It was green.  It was a little more chunky (because I didn’t pull out the nice food processor).  It was something new and different.  The boys devoured the applesauce and got a full serving of spinach.  An easy way to get more veggies in their diets without any fight.

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Eggplant Parmesan

Every Saturday morning, JR jumps into our bed and says, “How big is the baby?”  (Ok, he’s usually already in our bed since he has a new habit of sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night and laying at the end by Pancake so we don’t feel him in the bed right away and move him back).  After surcoming to the reality that I won’t be getting any more sleep, I pull up the two baby apps on my phone, and JR gets excited to see how the baby is now the size of some various fruit or vegetable.  He looks at the picture of the food, scrolls to see the baby in 3D, and talks about how the baby eats with the placenta.

Then one day I was at the grocery store, and I saw a pomegranate.  I was 17 weeks pregnant, and since we spent our morning gushing over the baby app, I remembered that the baby was the size of a pomegranate.  So I tossed it in my cart and brought it home to show the boys so they’d have a better idea of how big the baby currently was.  The boys carried it around for a while.  And then we ate it.

From then on, we started incorporating the “what size is the baby” food into our meal rotation.  We’ve had mangos, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, pomegranates, and bananas.

And at 28 weeks, the baby was the size of an eggplant.  So we decided to eat an eggplant.

I had made eggplant parmesan many times.  Each time, I find a new recipe.  Each time, the meal is ok.  Until this time.  This time I finally found the perfect eggplant recipe!  Instead of using breadcrumbs or Panko, I used Corn Flakes.  This was a game changer.  Each eggplant slice was just crispy enough.  And since we had a block of leftover Parmesan cheese from Christmas, I shredded it instead of using pre-shredded cheese from a bag.  This was a good idea.  The cheese didn’t weigh down the eggplant or make it too soggy.  Instead it added a dash of salty, sweet element that mixed well with the dollop of sauce.

The meal was a success.  JR ate everything on his plate plus some.   Matt and Max were into it.  Now next time I make eggplant parmesan, it won’t start by me googing a new recipe.  I’ll make this one.

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Panzanella Salad

Last weekend was my sister-in-law’s wedding.  I first met Matt’s sister Nicole when she was a high schooler.  She was this perky, outgoing girl who immediately made you feel at ease. It was as if you had known her your whole life.  Because that is quintessentially Nicole.  She lives her life with her heart on her sleeve. Sharing intimate stories.  Gushing love.  Always being completely honest.  So if something is on her mind, she’ll let you know.  She’s always all in or all out.  It’s something I’ve always admired about her.

and then the little frog turned into Ben 😉

She was the first sibling of Matt’s and mine to get married.  So the wedding weekend was a bit surreal.  How can she be getting married? She is the little sister.  But she looked beautiful.  The wedding was beautiful.  The family time was beautiful.  There’s nothing like a wedding to make you feel grateful for family.

Matt with his little sister.

Matt and I were in the wedding party so we got to walk down the aisle together, which was pretty fun.  The two of us hadn’t been in a wedding party together since our own wedding.  Not having to worry about anything except being where we are suppose to was a great change in pace.  Our little boys were in the wedding too.  They wore little dress pants with suspenders and bow ties. And they were too adorable. Despite complete breakdowns and tantrums at the rehearsal dinner, both boys walked perfectly down the aisle and were quiet the entire wedding ceremony (and we are Catholic so we are talking an hour and a half mass).  After the mass, the boys went off with my parents while Matt and I jumped on the party bus for photos.

Matt insisted on finding his own bouquet and snagged a lovely bundle of sticks.

Of course, the wedding was a full on traditional Italian wedding.  Guests were greeted at the reception by a table of shots.  Each guest is to take a shots to toast the new couple for good luck.  Traditionally, those shots are taken with the bridal party, but I have no idea how those Italians do that and don’t get completely bombed.  Here, there were bartenders that just handed them out so we didn’t have to worry about spending the entire reception slurring our words (because I swear, I smell liquor and suddenly I am completely incapable of articulating a clear sentence).  Our meal included antipasto, a pasta plate followed by a meat plate.  The late night snack was a nacho bar (oh man, for Matt’s and my second wedding, we are totally stealing this).  The dessert table was full of almond cookies, biscottis, and canolis. Yeah, in case it isn’t obvious, food is an important piece of the celebration.

And a panzanella salad is one of my favorite Italian salads.  It is one of the few salads that Matt loves because a good quarter of the salad is garlic, butter toasted bread.  He calls it “the bread salad” and its one of the few salads where Matt gets seconds.  The combination of the toasted bread with cucumbers and tomatoes tastes like summer.  It’s a quick and easy recipe with just simple, real ingredients.  Real Italian cooking at its finest. So for your next celebration, if you want to toss in a little Italian tradition, try adding this bread salad.

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