Tag Archives: Recipe

Throwback Thursday: One of the best things about autumn is the soup

Nothing like recycling a good recipe for Throwback Thursday, so today we’re praising soup. And kale.

I’m obsessed with kale lately. It’s so good for you! And sneaking some into your soup is a painless way to consume lots of it.

Which brings me to this recipe I first published Aug. 9, 2014. That was a tough month in Minnesota Wonderer’s life (I’m still not ready to tell the story of the Very Bad Thing), but the soup is a keeper, especially as fall approaches. Enjoy.

Lentil barley soup as comfort food

For some people, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. For others, spaghetti. My Beloved leans toward macaroni-and-cheese.

Honestly, forget food — what beats a glass (or two) of wine?

A Very Bad Thing happened a week ago. The story of the Very Bad Thing isn’t ready to be told yet. Or maybe I’m just not ready to tell it. But I finally had (took) a few minutes to myself today, and I decided to make something to comfort me.

It was a big pot of lentil barley soup.

Probably not the first choice of comfort food for, well, anyone else. When I told my Beloved about it, he was less than impressed.

Soup in general might be considered a comfort food, though probably not in August. Chicken noodle soup, though, ranks on the Food Network’s list of Top 10 comfort foods.

I, however, am not a big fan of noodles. And I don’t care if it’s August.

I ran across a big pot of lentil barley soup at Au Bon Pain the other day, and I thought, ahh, I could make that. And I could make it even better with a few mushrooms and some kale. Because mushrooms are comforting. And kale is good for you.

So I cleaned out the crisper drawer of my fridge, and I made a big pot of soup today. And it was delicious. And only 180 calories per serving, which is pretty darn good for comfort food. And it made me feel better.

lentil barley soup

Lentil Barley Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  •  4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (I added a half of a leftover fresh tomato, too, chopped)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base (I used Better Than Boullion brand)
  • 1 cup red lentils (they really must be the red ones, which break down better than green ones)
  • 1/2 cup barley (not the quick-cooking kind; the kind that take 50 minutes to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup kale, ribs removed and chopped

Directions:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a big pot; add chopped vegetables and cook a few minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except kale. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an hour until lentils are essentially mush, thickening the sauce, and barley is tender.
  3. Fifteen minutes before the hour is up, add the kale.
  4. Remove bay leaves. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Makes 6 servings.
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Heaven-sent dinner tonight: Pork chops with roasted tomatoes and polenta

I have waxed poetic in this space before about my Beloved’s fabulous pork chops. I feel compelled to share his secrets because they are truly divine (if pork can be divine).

His trick is the cut. He specifically requests the butcher cut inch-and-half pork chops. When the butcher holds up his “thick cut” chops from the case and says, “will these do?” my Beloved always rejects them. Even an inch-and-a-quarter cut is not enough.

The pork chops must be cut thick enough to stand up on the grill by themselves (and if they don’t, then he spears them with a kabob stick, thusly):

roasted-cherries-on-grill.jpg

This cooking method is crucial for maintaining moisture in the chop; the fat on the edges drips through the meat, and the thickness maintains the moisture. You’ve probably eaten potato-chip pork chops — those thin, dried out, overdone things you have to chew forever, even when doused with Heinz 57? That’s the cheap way to feed a lot of hungry mouths, but it’s not the indulgent way–cook ’em sideways.

To make them even more delicious, use your favorite barbecue seasoning. Dry rub that delicious mix on every surface of the pork chop–especially the sides–before grilling. If you’re doing it right, it adds a salty, sweet BBQ flavor with a little kick.

These pork chops are almost better than steak (I mean, it would be heresy to say they’re better than steak, wouldn’t it?).

You see those cherry tomatoes roasting next door? There’s a secret to those, too, that I just discovered: They’re not only tomatoes.

I had a few leftover Ranier cherries that I pitted, halved and added to the mix. I know, right? Red and yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes and Ranier cherries. A match made in, well, heaven. Just add a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and you’re set. Roast in a 400-degree oven or on the grill with the chops for about 30 minutes.

roasted cherries closeup

Dinner tonight?

Serve the chops over cheesy polenta, topped with the tomato-cherry mix. You’ll be in heaven.

As for leftovers, well, I almost always finish my near-pound of pork (it’s that good). But if you’re not as much of a pig as I am and you have some leftover, just cube it and freeze it for chili later.

If it’s green, it belongs in this smoothie

In my mind, it began as a Green Elvis smoothie. The King of Rock and Roll enjoyed peanut butter-banana sandwiches, so goes the legend, and I figured I wouldn’t even taste the fresh spinach I picked up at the grocery yesterday in there.

But the only peanuts I had were salt-and-pepper peanuts, and that was more savory flavor than I could stomach in a smoothie. You like kale in your smoothie? You might like salt-and-pepper peanuts, too, I don’t know, but I’ve tried kale in my smoothies, and it’s disgusting. Smoothies should be like dessert, not like a meal for a toothless old coot.

(I’ve also heard Elvis liked bacon in those peanut butter-banana sandwiches, and for a brief moment, I considered putting bacon in the smoothie and calling it a Green Elvis & Ham Smoothie, but no. That’s just wrong.)

OK, so how about a little less Elvis and a little more green? How about pistachios, a green nut?

Perfect.

And what’s this in my fridge? Leftover avocado? Green apple? It’s destiny.

Thus, my breakfast yesterday morning was born. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs 400-calorie smoothie that’s a perfectly balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats (the good kind) and protein. The yogurt makes it creamy, and the chia seeds make it thick. I’m sure Elvis would have hated it (he probably slept through breakfast), but you might like it.

Green Smoothie

Green-Greener-Greenest Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/4 avocado, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 ounce pistachios (shelled of course, do I need to say that?)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I prefer fat-free)
  • 1 scoop vanilla-flavored whey protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon green tea leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 cup water (you need only enough water to help your blender work; too much, and your smoothie will be more drinkable than spoonable, and that’s no way to eat a smoothie)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender (I love the single-serving glasses for saving on washing dishes later). Blend until smooth. Consume with gusto.

The secret to perfectly buttery popcorn

Have I shared my Beloved’s secret popcorn recipe?

It’s in the bag.


Literally.

A paper bag.

He starts by heating a combination of butter and peanut oil in the bottom of a pot, a trick he learned long ago from his father. He adds a handful of popcorn kernels and a cover, and then shakes the pan until they finish popping.

Here’s where the bag comes in: He dumps the popped kernels into the paper grocery bag, adds a few pinches of salt and pours a few tablespoons of melted over the corn in the bag.

Fold over the top of the bag and shake vigorously. That’s how you get butter on salt on every kernel. None of the greasy-on-the-top-dry-on-the-bottom movie bucket popcorn. This popcorn is perfect from first crunch to last.

Now you know. It’s so good it’s addictive. Enjoy.

This vibrant comfort dish started with a fresh lemon and a couple of leftover sweet peppers

When I think Italian food, I think red.

Tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce. A nice glass of Chianti.

It’s a limited vision. But it doesn’t have to be so.

It could be yellow.

Or orange!

I conjured up the following recipe after a friend gave me some fresh lemons. I wanted to make some comfort food (and icy cold lemonade wasn’t gonna cut it), so I thought of linguine with lemon sauce. But I had some yellow peppers I wanted to use up, the inspiration for which brought me to a bunch of red pepper sauce recipes. Thus was born my Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce.

peppers before

I liked it so much, I made it again a couple of days later with some vibrant orange sweet peppers. And a couple of carrots. ‘Cause I’m just a wild and crazy gal (who likes to sneak veggies into everything).

The result had all the atomic orange goodness of a bowl of Kraft macaroni cheese without any of the scary dyes or preservatives. The half-and-half (or cream, if you’re really needing it) speaks of comfort. There is a ton of natural, delicious flavor here, but don’t skip over the fresh lemon juice or the red pepper flakes.

peppers finished dish

Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 orange (or yellow or, if you must be conventional, red) sweet peppers, seeded and cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (skeptical? You won’t even taste these — but they’re orange! and good for you!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used red, but I really wished I had orange on hand — these are for garnish)
  • zest of 1 fresh lemon plus about a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 ounces of your favorite pasta (I like angel hair, but you have my permission to be unconventional)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. peppers cutArrange peppers, carrots and garlic on a cookie sheet. I tucked the garlic cloves into the pepper pieces so they wouldn’t get burnt (though a little browning just adds yumminess). Drizzle with oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast in a hot 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the cherry tomatoes and roast for 10 minutes more (35 minutes total).
  2. peppers roastedAllow roasted veggies to cool slightly. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for garnish later. Now’s the time to start your salted water a boilin’ for your pasta.
  3. peppers blendedCombine lemon zest, lemon juice, roasted veggies, half-and-half and dried spices in blender (I used a smoothie glass) and blend until smooth. It will be thick, like a smoothie. Taste it and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  4. When your noodles are done (al dente if you must, or a little mushier if you’re more like me), drain and add back to your hot pot. Dump your blended veggies into pot and mix well.
  5. To serve, divide between two bowls (or, if you’re really hungry, dump into a single big bowl). Garnish with parmesan, your roasted cherry tomatoes and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 1 or 2.

peppers after

Cream of Crisper Drawer Soup, heavy on the asparagus

It’s that time of year.

No, I’m not talking about the third week in January, the worst week of the year. (Stock brokers around the country can attest to this! But no, that’s not what I mean.)

OK, well, I am. A little.

I’m talking soup. And it’s soup time because, well, it’s cold outside and a nice hot soup warms the house and the soul. (Won’t help your stock portfolio, though. Sorry.)

I talked to my mom earlier this week, and she assured me she was staying indoors (away from the bone chilling temps in central Minnesota), keeping busy. Making soup. Chili. Minestrone. Something called Barley Burger Soup (you had me at “barley,” Mom).

So I made soup for supper, even though my Beloved proclaimed “yuck” (fine, enjoy your boxed macaroni and cheese).

I’ve posted a recipe for “Cream” of Asparagus Soup in the past, but that recipe was a faux cream version. This one actually calls for a half cup of half and half. Because, why not?

I also cleaned out my fridge. Because that’s what a good soup is for. Using stuff up. Plus it turns a greenish asparagus soup into a more golden hue. Like the sun.

I hope you enjoy.

cream of asparagus carrot sweet potato soup

Cream of Asparagus & Orange Leftovers Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 leftover red pepper, chopped (bonus if it’s roasted)
  • 20-25 spears asparagus
  • 1 cup leftover baked potato and baked sweet potato (I knew I’d find a use for this!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Shredded parmesan to garnish

Directions:

  1. Break tough ends off asparagus and separate tips to use later. Roughly chop remainder into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a largish sauce pan and add all vegetables except asparagus tips and leftover baked potatoes. Saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes 5 minutes from the end; they’re already cooked and you just need to warm them up. Add lemon zest at the very end, right before blending.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add asparagus tips and simmer for 6-8 minutes (until tips are tender). Stir in half-and-half and warm (don’t boil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2. Garnish with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Salading this new year? Mix it up with a little corn

When it comes to side salads, I make the same one. Every. Single. Time.

Romaine lettuce. Cherry tomatoes. Cucumbers. Green onions.

Sometimes I add parmesan cheese and croutons and top it with Caesar dressing, and sometimes I add blue cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts and top it with Vidalia onion dressing, but it’s pretty much the same thing every time.

Boring.

At the beginning of brand new year, I decided to try a fresh approach.

Steak was on the menu in order to take advantage of a Christmas gift of gourmet chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is a piquant sauce (or marinade) of Argentinian origin traditionally used on grilled meat, typically containing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and flakes of chili pepper. Way better than A1.

Corn seemed like an appropriate side dish, but corn is as boring as my boring side salad. How about a corn-salad mashup? So I created the following, and it was so good, I’m sharing it here:

Corny Salad Side Dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can of whole kernel corn
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of pepitos (roasted pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette (or another oil-based salad dressing)
  • A few dashes Chipotle Smoked Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fritos corn chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except Fritos. Toss and serve. Top with crunched up Fritos if desired. Serves 3 or 4.

Corny salad