Whatsa’ kid know!— Carrot & Parsnip Soup

I know I frequently post soup recipes, more than any other type of recipe in fact, but you see I really like soup. And my daughter; who orders Won-Ton soup if we get Chinese and Pasta Fagioli if we get pizza; really likes soup. So I make soup, a lot of soup!

Last weekend my little love and I were discussing soup and she suggested I make carrot soup (she loves carrots almost as much as she loves soup). Hmmmm, I think my girl was on to something. How about carrot and parsnip soup? (A natural pairing after all.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger? (A recipe was slowly beginning to take shape in my mind.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger and some coconut milk to round things out? (Oh yeah baby, I think we had the makings of something terrific here!)

So my girl and I headed to the store for ingredients and jumped right into our slicing, dicing and measuring. “This is going to be soooo good!” she told me. I had to agree. We sautéed, simmered and pureed and soon sat down to steaming bowls of Carrot & Parsnip Soup. “Um… I don’t like it,” she said. “But it’s delicious,” I say. Try it again!” [Grimace. Gag. Frantically motions for her glass of milk to wash the offending soup down.] “I don’t like it,” she says again. “Maybe next time you could just make Pasta Fagioli…”

Curried Carrot & Parsnip Soup
Even if my lovey didn’t like it, I still maintain that this soup is delicious. I like to have it for lunch with a couple of slices of buttered toast; it’s the perfect soup for dunking.

carrot soup

1 1/2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. carrots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
3 tsp. Madras curry powder
4 cups (32 oz.) chicken broth
1/2 tsp. pink salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk

  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook 7-10 minutes or until the onion is translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the chopped parsnips, carrots and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 45-50 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Use an immersion blender to process the soup to a smooth consistency. Add the coconut milk, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Stop the Insanity Meatloaf

“I’m talkin’ ’bout meatloaf, I’m a meatloaf lover
I’ll tell you brother, yeah, don’t need no other
Talkin’ ’bout meatloaf, meatloaf lover
Warms you from the inside like it’s made by your mother.”
~Phineas and Ferb (the Meatloaf Festival episode)

We all lead busy lives, there’s no denying that. If your life is like mine then there’s no doubt one day out of the week that’s your non-stop crazy day. For me that day is Wednesday.

Here’s how my Wednesday’s go: Up and out the door to get my son to school for 8:30; drive across town to get my daughter to nursery school by 9:00; run to the grocery store and then home to clean up from breakfast, do laundry, deal with the dog, straighten up the house and eat bonbons on the couch while catching up on my shows (yeah, imagine!). Head back across town to pick up my daughter and take her to dance class (try to talk her into using the ladies room before changing into her leotard, lose that battle and instead take her during the middle of class— it happens every week!); change her back into her clothes and tell her that next week she has to pee before class (to which she heartily agrees). Drive back home for an hour before heading out the door to pick my son up from school at 3:30. Deep breath… Come home from school (after having the weekly “No you can’t stay to skateboard or play wall ball today because you have basketball” conversation); give the boy a quick snack and have him change his clothes before heading back to school for basketball practice (which also entails dragging a crying little girl who wants to stay and play basketball too, back to the car); only to turn around an hour later to pick him back up from practice. But hold on, we’re not done yet… Yes we’re finally home for the night but dinner still needs to be made and consumed, homework needs to be completed, lunch needs to be packed, baths/showers need to be taken and tv/ipod/ipad/relaxation time needs to be had before the bedtime bell rings. (You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I go to bed when the kids do.) So what do I serve for dinner after a crazy day like this? Something I can make ahead, something that can be cooking while I’m still busy running around and something that everyone will eat without complaint. Something like… meatloaf.

We all have a meatloaf recipe, some great and some not so hot. My go-to recipe calls for ground turkey, chunky corn & bean salsa, oatmeal, fresh onion and some spices— and it’s a plate cleaner every time! It may not be pretty (but then most meatloaf isn’t) but it is delicious right out of the oven or between a couple of slices of bread a few days later.

Turkey Meatloaf with Salsa
I use a mild chunky corn and bean salsa for this recipe, but you should feel free to use whatever type you prefer.

2 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup chunky salsa
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tsp. olive oil, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl mix together 2 tsp. of olive oil, the ground turkey and all the remaining ingredients.
  2. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the remaining 2 tsp. of oil. Add the turkey mixture and mold into a loaf shape. Bake for an hour 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

my cruciferous conundrum

I’ve already told you how much I like soup and that I make it fairly often. And you also know that my kids are pretty good vegetable eaters, but that broccoli happens to be one of their favorites. So then you must have already guessed where this blog entry is heading…

After hurricane Sandy my parents came for a visit and since our grocery store shelves were still alarmingly bare, they brought with them an abundance of supplies to replenish us. They thought of everything those two; milk, bread, cold cuts, asparagus, homemade quiche, wine and of course fresh broccoli. But here’s the thing (and please don’t misinterpret this as a lack of appreciation), they brought enough broccoli to feed my entire neighborhood. Seriously, if broccoli could have been traded for gas I would have had quite the black market enterprise going! We ate a considerable amount of broccoli over the next few days and still seemed to have plenty left to spare. So faced with this cruciferous vegetable conundrum I did what I do best, made soup.

In my mind soup should be something that warms and nurtures you, but it shouldn’t be so laden with calories that you feel guilty enjoying it. I won’t deny that a creamy broccoli and cheddar soup is delicious, but it’s not exactly the kind of healthy food I try to serve my family. I wanted to make a broccoli soup that was light and lovely. Perhaps the kind of soup more suited as an accompaniment to a sandwich rather than a meal in itself. And to really knock my broccoli soups nutritional profile out of the park I decided to add to it the ultimate super food— kale! It didn’t change the flavor but it did change the health benefits. In fact my son, who thought the soup was delicious, didn’t even realize it contained kale until he read this post over my shoulder. “Kale?!?” he screeched, “It had kale in it?!?” “Hummm,” he said shrugging and walking away, “who knew…”

Who knew indeed that a little kale could change my simple broccoli soup from “soup” to “SOUPPPPPPPP!”

Creamy Broccoli & Kale Soup
Adding the kale to this soup really kicked its nutritional value up. So much in fact that I didn’t think twice about using a little half and half to thicken it.

8 cups broccoli florets
4 cups kale leaves, removed from stems and torn
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion (about 2 1/2 cups), diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. garlic powder
8 cups (64 ounces) chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

  1. Heat a olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add broccoli, kale, thyme, garlic powder, salt and chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or food processor) to puree the soup until it’s smooth.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and slowly whisk into soup, allow to cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the half and half and serve topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

*adapted from cooking light done right

Hurricane Stew

Sandy. Seems like a rather innocuous name doesn’t it? I’ve known several in my time; a Sandra, a Sandy and even a Sandeee (she was a lovely kooky character). The name Sandy never caused me a moment of pause, fear or worry, that was until last weekend. Call her a hurricane or call her a tropical storm, Sandy devastated my Garden State and left many of us in the cold and dark with empty grocery stores and even emptier gas tanks.

My family prepared for the storm just as most everyone did. We bought extra batteries and flashlights, made sure the pumps and generator were ready to go and stocked up on water, milk and unhealthy snacks (we were in crisis mode after all!). And for my part, I planned dinners that could easily be cooked or reheated on the gas stove top or even in the fireplace. I was fully prepared to roast chicken sausages in the fireplace on our telescoping marshmallow forks and to the use the same forks to make fireplace marshmallow and nutella s’mores. Thankfully we never lost power, but I had a hearty beef stew and cheddar-thyme biscuits to keep our bellies full just in case we did.

Hurricane Beef Stew
This recipe makes enough stew to have for dinner while the power is out as well as share with your hungry neighbors. But if you’d rather not share (or don’t really like your neighbors) feel free to half the recipe.

4 lbs. stew beef
1 cup flour
4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. pepper
4-8 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, diced large
3 parsnips, diced large
1 1/4 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced thin
3 potatoes, diced large
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
1 bottle of dark beer
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh of thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp. cornstarch

  1. Mix flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper together. Dredge beef in flour mixture.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy saucepan and working in batches brown the beef. Transfer to a slow cooker and continue with remainder of beef. (If your meat is very lean you may need to add more olive oil to the pot as you continue browning.) Top the browned beef with the diced potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and celery.
  3. When all the beef is browned, add 1 tbsp. more oil and add the carrots, parsnips and onion to the pot. Allow to cook for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Transfer to the crock pot.
  4. In a medium bowl stir together the stock, tomato paste, beer, bay leaves, herbs, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over everything in crock pot, but do not stir.
  5. Cook for 5 1/2 hrs. on medium heat until the meat is tender and cooked through.
  6. Stir together the water and cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture to stew to thicken and cook for another 15 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and serve with warm drop biscuits to mop up the gravy. Enjoy!

adapted from bon appétit

pulled turkey tacos

Sometimes I grocery shop with a clear menu in mind and sometimes I buy whatever strikes my fancy and figure out how to use it later. That’s exactly what happened the other day when I came home from the store with two packages of turkey cutlets. I knew I could grill them or bake them just like I would chicken, but I felt like taking a more untraditional approach. Francese? Stir fry? Parmigiana? No… Tacos!

We’ve all had those uninspired and dull as dishwater tacos made with a lump of ground beef and a packet of “taco seasoning.” Yeah, no thanks. I had far greater aspirations for my turkey tacos. First of all I planned to slow cook the turkey with sweet onion, garlic and traditional Mexican spices so that it was crazy flavorful and falling apart tender. Then I would shred it and serve it in warm soft taco shells with some aged cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, pickled red onion and jalapeños piled on top.

Oh baby— These were some of the tastiest tacos the Greco family has ever eaten (and frankly we’re eaten more than out fair share.) So long boring hand-held meal and hello delicious Wednesday night dinner!

Pulled Turkey Tacos
This shredded turkey is fabulous in tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas or as a pulled sandwich. The recipe is just as fantastic if you decide to swap a boneless pork lion for the turkey. 

pickled onions

2 1/4 cups homemade (or jarred) marinara sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2.5 lbs. turkey breast cutlets (or boneless pork loin)
1 tbsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. cold water
1 tbsp. butter*
soft taco shells, optional
shredded cheddar cheese, optional
shredded lettuce or cilantro, optional
Greek yogurt (or sour cream), optional
pickled red onion, optional
diced jalapeño pepper, optional

  1. Stir together the first 8 ingredients and pour into the crock pot. Add the turkey cutlets and mix to coat well. Cover and cook on medium for 6 hours.
  2. When the turkey is done remove it from the pot and shred it using two forks.
  3. Mix together the corn starch and water and add it to the sauce. Stir in the butter until it melts, then add back the shredded turkey and mix so that the turkey is well coated with the sauce.
  4. Serve in warmed tortillas with fresh cilantro, cheddar cheese, and pickled red onions and an ice cold beer.

*Because the turkey breast is so lean I added a bit of butter to the sauce to add some richness and depth of flavor. However if you use pork loin instead of turkey I can’t imagine you would need to add it and therefore wouldn’t bother.

sweet summer sauce

As I mentioned last week my tomatoes and peppers are very happy with this record breaking hot weather. So happy in fact that I have an insane number of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been eating them everyday day; quickly sauteed with eggs, in a green salad or as a snack, but I’m not even close to making a dent in my overwhelming supply. So, what’s a girl to do but… make sauce!

Ordinarily I make red sauce during the cool months with canned tomatoes, a bit of lean meat (to round out the flavor) and a full day of simmering on the stove. But this was going to be a summer sauce; all garden fresh ingredients with a short cooking time and instead of meat I’d use a bit of butter to knock down the acidic bite.

This resulting sauce was some of the best I’ve ever made. Seriously, the best! It was so good that after we enjoyed it for dinner the remainder went directly into the freezer; how lovely it will be to pull out a container of that wonderful sauce on a cold winter night. And with the way my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes, I just might be able to squeak out another batch or two of sauce before the end of the season. Hooray for happy heat loving tomatoes!

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This sauce was the perfect way to use the freshest of summer ingredients from my garden. It was only a matter of hours from harvesting to serving.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
5 springs fresh thyme
6 large leaves fresh basil, julienned
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the whole cherry tomatoes, give a good stir and let cook (covered) until the tomatoes begin to pop.
  2. Add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, red pepper, salt and wine. Let cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spatula, until all the tomatoes are popped, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Once everything is soft and cooked through remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Use an immersion blender to break down the skins, seeds and onion and make the sauce smooth.
  4. Add 3 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. white sugar and let cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta or cool for use at a latter date.

Summer Salad Perfection

“What can I bring?” “I don’t know, what would you like to bring?…” goes the conversation of summer entertaining. We all want to be thoughtful guests and contribute to the party, but crowd worthy cold side dish recipes aren’t so easy to come by. Sure you can always bring a tried-and-true pasta or potato salad, tossed green salad or coleslaw, but those all seem so expected and that’s not really how I roll. I prefer to bring a dish that I’m pretty sure no one else will. I am after all a girl who enjoys a challenge!

A few years ago a girlfriend of mine was slowly cooking her way through the latest Weight Watchers cookbook. As a side dish at one of her barbecues she served the most delicious corn and bean salad. It was full of fresh seasonal veggies, raw onion and black beans and was dressed with a spicy/zesty vinaigrette. I was in salad love! I talked about this corn and bean salad so much that the next time she came over not only did she bring the salad, but also a copy of the cookbook.

As you are aware by now I can not leave a perfectly good recipe alone, and this one was no exception. I swapped ingredients here, tweaked amounts there and created what I consider one of my all time favorite summer salads. It’s simple to prepare, colorful, flavorful, and loaded with lots of wonderful seasonal vegetables. Give it a try and it may become a favorite of yours too! And yes, I do realize that means that I’m upping the chances of someone else showing up at the next barbecue with my “special” side dish, but I guess that’s just one of the pitfalls of writing a food blog…

Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad
I truly love everything about this salad. The fresh corn, tender black beans, crisp red peppers, cilantro and sweet onion in a spicy lime dressing—yum!

1 tbsp. apple-cider vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2-1 tbsp. chipotle powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup sweet onion, diced

  1. Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, chipotle powder, salt and pepper, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stand each ear of corn on end and cut the kernels off the cob. Add the beans, red pepper, cilantro, and onion, stir to combine.
  3. Drizzle with dressing and gentle toss until all the ingredients are coated. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.
*adapted from weight watchers

(Transplanted) Yankee Baked Beans

“The pot of bak’d beans! With what pleasure I view it
Well season’, well pork’d by some rosy-faced dame,
And when from the glowing hot oven she drew it,
Well crisp’d and well brown’d to the table it came.
O give me my country, the land of my teens,
Of the plump Indian pudding and pot of baked Beans.”
~ A. Yankee, 1829

When one thinks of New England a few things come to mind; beautiful Fall foliage, scenic country roads, Mark Twain, lobster rolls and baked beans. And when it comes to baked beans there is one undeniable truth; they’re a classic. Baked beans are a definite comfort food, consumed at many the summertime barbecue, pot luck dinner and full English breakfast. In fact July is National Baked Bean Month, did you know that? Yeah me neither, but it is.

Not wanting to lose touch with my Yankee roots, I started experimenting with my own version of homemade baked beans a few summers ago. I’m happy to say they were an instant hit! It turns out that the U.S. Dry Bean Council (did you know there was such a thing? Yeah again, me neither.) was right, people really do love baked beans. My recipe calls for all the traditional ingredients; small white beans, brown sugar, molasses and some flavorful bits of pork, but it also gets a contemporary update from some fresh herbs, lots of onion and garlic and my oh so beloved smoked paprika.

I’ve found that these beans taste the best after they’ve sat and the flavors have had a chance to meld, so I usually make them a day or two before I plan to serve them. Then a simple reheat on the day of the party and beans are served! They’re fantastic as a side to burgers or chicken, go great with some eggs the next morning and would be the perfect accompaniment to some lovely barbecued ribs (wink, wink!). I won’t deny that these babies take a little time to pull together, they do it’s true, but they’re so totally worth the effort!

Smokey Yankee Baked Beans
Don’t be thrown by the amount of garlic the recipe calls for, after it all cooks down these beans are sweet and delicious, not overly garlicky at all. I promise!

1 pound dried Great Northern beans
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 11 oz. package raw Mexican chorizo, diced small
4 cups onion, chopped
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
2 tsp. smoked paprika
3 bay leaves
1 quart beef broth
2 1/2 cups water, divided
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. robust molasses

  1. Sort and rinse the beans; place in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Cover the pot and let stand unrefrigerated for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse beans, set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add the chorizo and cook 6-8 minutes or until fat begins to render. Add the onion and garlic and sauté 10 minutes or until onion is tender and translucent. Add the beans and stir to coat well with the rendered fat/onion/garlic mixture, cover and let cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Finely chop the herbs and add them and the next 5 ingredients (through broth) and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until beans are just tender.
  4. Stir in the brown sugar, remaining 1 1/2 cups water, tomato paste and molasses into the bean mixture. Cover and bake at 350°F for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until beans are very tender and sauce is thick. Remove from oven, discard bay leaves and serve or let cool and refrigerate.*

*I think these taste the best after they’ve sat for a day. However, when you reheat them you may need to add a half cup of water to thin out the sauce a bit.

*adapted from Cooking Light