Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 Minute Pantry Pasta

As stereotypes go, one would think working from home would mean an individual would be tempted to work the same or less hours than in an office. Sadly in my case, I seem inclined to work non-stop. It's hard to 'leave' work when you're always home! Anyways, after a particularly long day, I decided to take a dinner break before going 'back to work' (aka sitting at my desk) to finish up what needed to get done. I ate some delicious Creamy Broccoli Soup leftovers for lunch and wanted something different for dinner. At this point, I have next to no fresh groceries in my fridge after being in Romania for the past week. But luckily I did have some left over spinach from the soup I made yesterday! So I paired it with some pantry staples for this tasty and FAST meal.

10 Minute Pantry Pasta

  • Angel hair pasta (again, being scrappy, I had about 1/3 of a box left)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil 
  • 4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 3-4 Cups fresh spinach (a couple big handfuls)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese (being in a rush I didn't even grate it fresh! Straight from the plastic container)
Put a pot of water on to boil, salt it generously. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (it will seem like a lot but is part of the sauce). Add the sliced garlic cloves and let them brown, careful not to burn them. Add the can of stewed tomatoes. Use whatever variation you have (diced, whole, sliced etc)- mine came in thick slices so I chopped them up a bit more with my spoon. Let simmer for a couple minutes. 

By now your water should be boiling so throw in the pasta, it should cook in 4 minutes. 

Add the spinach, salt, red pepper and pepper to the stewed tomatoes and let the spinach wilt. Stir, then scoop out the pasta to add to the sauce once it's done cooking. No need to strain it carefully, the pasta water will add to the sauce nicely. Mix it up then add some grated parmesan on top once you've plated it. Fast, easy, enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Creamy" Broccoli Soup with Crunchy Garlic Croutons

This soup tastes very rich and creamy, which is wonderful considering how healthy it is- just some parmigiano reggiano rind and greek yogurt and boom! You have a healthy creamy soup with a great depth of rich cheesy flavor. I also snuck in some spinach and carrot for some added nutrients.

In case you're interested, two things inspired this dish: 

1. My recent trip to Romania to visit Trent. Soup with croutons is a pretty common menu item, and we ordered it several times. Let me tell you, croutons aren't just for salads! It was so tasty, and the quirky part was that they always served the croutons on the side in a bowl which I really liked because it kept the croutons from getting soggy. Add a few, take some bites, add a few, take some get the idea.

2. The weather! It's chilly and breezy and starting to feel like Fall. That is all I needed to indulge in my passion (perhaps that is too strong of a description?) for soup. I believe I've stated this before, but I love, love, love cooking soup. You just throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, it turns out so tasty and flavorful, warms you up, stores well in the freezer and it's easy to make it healthy. So my apologies in advance for the massive increase in soup recipes I will begin posting until next summer. 

"Creamy" Broccoli Soup 

  • 1 Large onion (you may need two small or medium ones)
  • 5 Cloves of garlic (sounds like a lot, but cooked garlic is very mild)
  • 4 Crowns of broccoli florets (4 full stems)
  • 8 Baby Carrots or 1 large carrot (I had baby carrots in the fridge, wanted some extra flavor, so I threw them in there!)
  • 3 Cups fresh baby spinach (you can always put more)
  • Parmigiano reggiano rind (if you grate your own cheese, no need to throw out the rind any more! Have a gruyere or asiago rind instead? Don't be wasteful- use what you have, especially if it's a strong flavored cheese)
  • 5.5 Cups water (more or less, depending on the quantity you use for other ingredients)
  • 1.5 Veggie bouillon cubes (alternatively, sub this and water for chicken stock)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground pepper
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 Cup (6 oz) plain greek yogurt

Crunch Garlic Croutons

  • 1 Loaf crust bread (cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes, I ended up having about 5 cups cubed. day old bread works well for this, great way to use up leftovers!)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder

Chop the onion and garlic- rough chop is fine since you will be blending this soup at the end. Chop the baby carrots. 

Sauté the onion for several minutes, until beginning to turn translucent. Add the garlic and carrots and sauté for several more minutes. 

Rinse the broccoli and chop the florets from the stems. Add the broccoli, veggie cubes and pepper to the sautéing onions, garlic and carrot.

 Add about 5.5 cups of water to the pot of sautéing vegetables, add the parmigiano reggiano rind, and add the spinach and a dash of cayenne pepper. Bring to boil and let it continue to boil for at least 20 minutes. 

Now it's time to make some croutons! Cut the bread into about 3/4 or 1 inch cubes, place in bowl (I had about 5 cups from 3/4th of a round loaf) and toss well with the olive oil, garlic powder and salt. Place on an aluminum foil-lined pan and spread out evenly. 

Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 3-5 minutes (keep an eye on it, may need to flip it earlier, take it out earlier or bake it longer).

Now back to the soup. If you've let it boil for a while, remove the cheese rind. It should be gooey looking if you've let it boil together long enough! Use an emersion blender to blend the soup. Add the greek yogurt and continue blending until it has a smooth consistency. 

Check for taste- it should have enough flavor where you don't have to add extra salt (on top of veggie cube or chicken broth).

You can serve it Romanian style (croutons on the side)...

...or for a prettier look, just top the bowl with some croutons!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna with Herbed Garlic Loaf

This lasagna is AMAZING! And I would have never come up with the idea if it wasn't for my lovely Mom who was in town for work again so TJ and I had her over for dinner. Her diet is not only vegetarian but also gluten free, so cooking dinner for her always forces me to think creatively! So instead of making a traditional lasagna I decided to buy a big eggplant that I could slice thinly to replace the lasagna noodles.

And let me tell you, this was a huge hit. I'm not even a big fan of eggplant but I loved this because it not only had so much flavor but also tasted really hearty, the thin slices of eggplant added an almost meaty taste to the dish. It doesn't matter if you're a meat eater, vegetarian, gluten free or carb lover, this is guaranteed to please!

Eggplant Lasagna

  • 1 Jar tomato pasta sauce (you'll probably only end up needing around 1-1.5 cups
  • 1 Large eggplant (9 thin slices)
  • 1 Large zucchini
  • 1 Large onion
  • 3-4 Garlic cloves
  • 6 Cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups fat free ricotta
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (Or a container of 2-3 balls packed in water)
  • 1/4 Cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 Teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cracked pepper
  • Pince of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

Herbed Garlic Loaf
  • 1 Baguette 
  • 3 Tablespoons + 1 Teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1-2 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

You can start by preparing the ricotta/vegetable mixture that will be in the filling of the lasagna. Dice one large onion and sauté until they start to turn golden, mince and add the garlic as well. Just don't burn them! 

Add the spinach leaves until they are all wilted. 

Grate the zucchini and add it to the sauté pan for just a couple minutes then take it off the heat. Try to drain as much of the water out of this mixture as possible; there will be a lot because of the veggies. You can even press the mixture in a strainer to get out the excess liquid; you don't the lasagna to be soupy! 

Put this vegetable mixture into a large bowl and add the ricotta cheese. 

Stir together this mixture along with the egg and the oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, and nutmeg. Set this mixture aside for the layers in the lasagna.

Slice the eggplant as thinly as possible; you'll need 9 very thin slices (remember, this is replacing pasta!). This is tricky! For my last three I ended up having to use multiple pieces since I wasn't able to cut straight down. 

You can also shred the mozzarella cheese and set it aside. The mozzarella cheese was really soft so I didn't grate the entire thing, I ended thinly slicing the end of it which looked really nice on the top layer of the lasagna. 

Take out a large 9x13" glass pan and pour a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan so the eggplant won't stick. Then layer the bottom with three strips of eggplant (alternate the direction they face so that they fit well). 

Pour half of the ricotta/vegetable mixture in the pan and spread as evenly as possible over the eggplant. 

Cover with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with 1/3 of the chopped basil and drizzle with some of the tomato sauce. You can add a pinch of the shredded parmigiano reggiano to each layer but save at least half of it for the top layer. 

Repeat these layers so that the first two have the ricotta mixture and the top layer will just be tomato sauce, mozzarella/parmigiano reggiano and basil (so it will be tomato sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta mixture, shredded cheese, basil and tomato sauce; then eggplant slices, ricotta, shredded cheese, basil and tomato sauce; then eggplant slices and then just tomato sauce with mozzarella basil and parmigiano reggiano). 

Pop this baby in the oven for 20-30 minutes until it is bubbly and perfect and your whole house will smell like italian heaven. 

Because I thought TJ and I would be in desperate need of some carbs with a carb-less lasagna I decided to make a side of crusty herbed garlic bread. Just mix together the olive oil, minced garlic and basil and salt and pepper. 

Spread this on both sides of the baguette and pop them in the oven. In fact, once the lasagna is done cooking you can take it out of the oven, raise the heat to 400 degrees and bake the bread for at least 5 minutes.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spicy Black Bean and Spinach Burritos with Cilantro Lime Brown Rice

August was a busy month! After traveling most of the month for work I figured it was time to post this recipe that I made way back in July because it was super tasty. TJ and I had been going on a lot of long walks after work to help him prepare for Go Ruck (which he completed with his two brothers in August, very proud of them!), and we would come home late and very hungry. I was craving something that was vegetarian, healthy, filling and packed with protein- this fit the bill. Added bonus, I already had most of the ingredients in my pantry. I've made many variations of a bean burrito over the years but this one is by far the best!

Cilantro Lime Rice
  • 1/2 Cup brown rice
  • 1 Cup water
  • 2 Large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon cilantro
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt 
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 lime, gently squeezed

Black Bean Burritos 
  • 1/2 White onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Cans black beans
  • 1 Small can green chilies 
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon pepper 
  • 1 Tablespoon Cilantro
  • Cayenne pepper (at least a couple dashes for warmth, more if you like it spicy like me)
  • 1/2 Large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 lime, gently squeezed
  • Splash of water
  • Whole wheat tortillas 
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, I used Dubliner
  • Fresh spinach
  • Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro to top the burritos
To make the rice, smash the garlic cloves (remove peel) and sauté with a little olive oil. After they cook a little add the dry brown rice and toast it a little in the pan along with the olive oil and garlic. Add the water and cook according to instructions. Afterwards add the salt, pepper and cilantro. Add more cilantro based on your preference!

Slice the onion (slice not dice!) and sauté them in another pot with a little olive oil. Let them brown a bit and add the garlic. 

Open the cans of beans and rinse them in a strainer. Add the beans to the onions and garlic and add one can of green chilies.  Add the seasonings, lime juice, diced tomatoes, cilantro and tweak the seasonings to taste. Add a little splash of water and let it cook for flavors to blend.

To make the burrito put a little fresh spinach on the center of the tortilla and put a little rice and some of the bean mixture on top (this will wilt the spinach). 

Add a little sprinkle of cheese on top and roll up with a dollop of greek yogurt on top if you'd like. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Garlic Parmesan Baked Potato Fries with 'Aioli'

I love roasting vegetables. In fact, I don't think I've roasted a vegetable that I haven't loved so far- potatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, squash, tomatoes (OK, I guess technically this is a fruit), leeks...I've even roasted arugula for a few minutes before tossing it in a soup! Roasting just brings out incredible flavor. And in this case it gives you french fries, which is why I've probably roasted more potatoes than anything else in my cooking years. Put anything you want on these, the below is just a suggestion. If you just have olive oil, salt and pepper your'e still in for a treat. Fresh herbs are always a nice touch. If you have cajun seasoning this is a great option too!

Now, I served these with a delicious garlic "aioli." Quotation marks are necessary because it's mostly greek yogurt, not mayonnaise and sour cream or other delicious things usually used to make aioli, so it's a really healthy option! I am a major french fry and ketchup girl but trust me, this is a really refreshing, tasty and healthy option. I liked it so much that I put a good smear of it on the burgers too (guilt free more flavorful alternative to mayonnaise!). I also added some arugula, tomato, dubliner cheddar cheese, onion, avocado and a little spicy mustard to the burgers* (*morning star veggie burgers). They were exceptionally tasty. 

Garlic Parmesan Baked Potato Fries

  • 2 Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Freshly chopped thyme
  • Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano 


  • 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon pepper
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 garlic clove or 1/4+ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4-1/2 Teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 Teaspoon champagne vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425. Scrub and rinse the potatoes well. 

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and lay on their flat side.

Cut each piece in half lengthwise again and then cut each quarter into three wedges. 

Pile the wedges on a foil lined pan and douse with olive oil, toss to evenly coat.

Lay the wedges flat on the pan and then sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, finely chopped thyme and garlic powder.

Bake for about 20 minutes then take the wedges out of the oven and carefully flip each piece over. This may be a slow process as some pieces will try to stick to the foil and it's important to try not to let that happen!

Add more salt and pepper then pop back into the oven for another 12 minutes or so.

Grate the cheese.

Sprinkle the cheese  lightly and evenly over each potato wedge, then pop it back in the oven for around 10 minutes. Just keep them in there till they're golden and perfect, keep an eye on it. 

Golden delicious perfection, nice and crisp.

Now for the aioli. I've made this several times and pretty much used different proportions each time, each result very tasty. So mix all the ingredients together, taste, and tweak to your likings. A great alternative to dip your fries in, especially fancy pants ones like these! 

Cauliflower Parsnip Soup with Garlic Parmesan Crostini

It's possible that my favorite thing to cook is soup. It's so easy, just throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot and boil.  And you're pretty much guaranteed to have lots of tasty leftovers for easy lunches or dinners later in the week. I always make extra large batches so that I can pop some single serve tupperware in the freezer and enjoy them a few weeks down the road- that way you don't get tired of eating the same thing every day in one week! This is a nice light soup recipe so it's still a great option to serve in the summer. 

As a side note, I've made this soup with different proportions (less onion, no parsnip, etc) and it still tastes great. So consider the recipe pretty forgiving. Also, if you don't feel like making the crostini then you can serve it with a half sandwich. I had a leftover bowl for lunch today with a half sandwich of a few slices of dubliner cheddar cheese, thin slice of tomato, fresh spinach leaves, salt and pepper. Yum!

Cauliflower Parsnip Soup

  • 2 Onions
  • 3 Parsnips (they look like ugly white carrots...ugly until you peel them at least!)
  • 3-4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Heads of Cauliflower
  • Water + 1 Vegetable Bouillon cube
  • Thyme (lots of it!)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Dried bay leaves 
  • Cayenne pepper - amount depends on how spicy you like it, I usually give it at least 4 good shakes, I like tasting a little heat in the soup
  • 1/4 Cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup milk 

Garlic Parmesan Crostini

  • Skinny french bread loaf
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Fresh grated parmigiano reggiano
Dice the onions, peel the parsnips and die them, peel and chop the cloves of garlic. You'll be blending the soup later so a rough chop is fine. 

Saute the onions and parsnips in a little bit of olive oil in a large pot until cooked well. 

Add the garlic and a large tablespoon of minced fresh thyme and cook for a few more minutes. 

Cut the florets off the cauliflower and rinse, then add to the onion/parsnip/garlic and mix. 

Add water so that it covers the top of the veggies in the pot and add 1 vegetable bouillon cube, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 2 dried bay leaves and cayenne pepper to taste. Tie a bunch of thyme together with twine and throw it in the pot. 

Boil until the cauliflower is tender. Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Use an immersion blender to mix until smooth. 

Add the greek yogurt and milk (optional, but makes it nice and creamy) and blend again. You want a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the baguette thinly and place on a foil-lined pan. 

Drizzle or brush with olive oil and add salt and fresh cracked pepper. 

Toast for 7-8 minutes then remove from heat when lightly golden brown. Cut a peeled clove of garlic in half and rub the garlic on the warm crostini. Grate some parmigiano reggiano and lightly sprinkle the cheese on the crostinis and put back in the oven for 4-6 minutes. Just keep an eye on it! Top the cauliflower soup with two crostini and enjoy!