Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup

The other day I bought a huge bunch of kale to use either for a side, in a stew, or in a soup (I haven't been great with the meal planning lately...). After looking at the weather forecast for the week I knew I had to make soup, so I reached out to my Facebook followers for their favorite soup recipes using kale. I got some great suggestions! The next day I looked through the recipes and it turned out that I didn't have all of the ingredients for any one recipe (and that was a huge bummer because I really wanted to try the copycat Zuppa Toscana recipe my cousin suggested!).

I ended up winging it and used the ingredients I did have on hand - kale, white beans, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and broth. This soup, for being a pretty simple vegetarian soup, has a very rich and deep flavor, and I achieved that by developing the soup slowly, adding one ingredient at a time and letting it simmer for a short while. This is why I much prefer cooking soups stovetop instead of in a crockpot where you put all of the ingredients in at once.

I loved this soup and it made the perfect lunch when it was 33 degrees, raw, and pouring rain. My 4 year old ate it and kept saying how good it was! And best of all, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around so you can feel really good about eating this soup.

Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sm carrot, diced
  • 1/2 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 14.5 oz can of white beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch of kale; washed, stems removed and chopped (note: my bunch was huge so I used half. I recommend prepping your kale and adding it a bit at a time so you don't end up with a kale stew)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 c vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat
  • Add the onions and sauté them 3-4 minutes until soft
  • Add the carrots and sauté 2 minutes
  • Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute
  • Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes; sauté 1 minute
  • Add the white beans and stir, and then add the kale and stir
  • Season with salt and pepper and add the broth. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Stress-Free and Fabulous Thanksgiving! Recipes, tips, and the perfect timeline.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - the parade on TV in the morning (the local Philly parade), food in the oven and on the stove all day (house smells great), friends and family, comfortable clothes (no fancy holiday dresses here), football in the afternoon, and of course, way too much food (and wine). Since we had our daughter Christmas is has become my new favorite holiday for different reasons, but Thanksgiving will always be my favorite food holiday.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to host my parents, aunt, uncle, 2 cousins, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their 2 boys. There were 13 of us in total and I had SO much fun setting up, planning, decorating, cooking, and hosting. My house felt so warm and happy and was full of laughter and the sound of children playing and running all day. . I loved every minute of it.

But I can't lie, the thought of hosting did stress me out a bit. So what do I do? Make lists, of course. I LIVE by lists and always have one on my phone and update it daily. For last year's Thanksgiving I had lists for my guest list, menu, food shopping, "stuff" shopping (new tablecloth, décor, etc), prep sorted by the type and day, and a day-of timeline. Having these things all written out in front of me gets them out of my head and on paper so I no longer need to obsess over every little thing but instead can just look at my lists.

Our day and the days leading up to the big day went so smoothly that I thought I'd share my timeline and some other things that worked for me. I know hosting, especially for the first time, can be stressful so I hope I can help!

Being prepared and organized will mean you can enjoy your day with your guests, and isn't that what it's all about?

My Timeline
I'm listing the times I used, but to make your own timeline, start backwards. First put down the time you want to eat and go back from there. And it may seem silly to list every little thing like I did, but when you have a menu of 12 things while a bunch of people are hanging out in your kitchen it's easy to get frazzled and forget the little things.

     3:00 PM 

     2:55 PM 
          Rolls out of oven and into a serving dish or basket
          Gravy into serving dishes

     By 2:45 
          Carve turkey and turkey breast; put on platters
          Put "in-the-bird" stuffing in a serving dish
          Take green bean casserole and "out-of-the-bird" stuffing out of the oven
          Put rolls in the oven
          Pull cranberry sauce, cucumber salad and coleslaw out of fridge (already in serving dishes)
          Light candles in dining room
          Put all hot items in serving dishes (refer to your menu to make sure you don't miss anything)

     2:40 PM
          Open wine
          Put rolls on baking sheet

     2:35 PM
          Make gravy; keep warm on stove.

     2:30 PM
          Make corn and peas
          Put green bean casserole in upper/main oven

          Turkey out of oven
          Mash the potatoes
     1:45 PM  
          Boil potatoes
          Put the "out-of-the-bird" stuffing in the lower/second oven
          Take butter out of the fridge

     1:20 PM
          Heat lower/second oven
          Start to prep green bean casserole

     1:00 PM
          Prep and put out appetizers
          Fill ice bucket
     12:00 PM
          Put turkey breast in oven

     10:30 AM - 11:00 AM
          Stuff bird, prep/season bird, tie legs, put turkey in oven* (See my note below about brining)

     10:20 AM
           Pre-heat main oven

     9:00 AM
          Make stuffing

About the Turkey - to brine or not to brine? I never did until this year - I brined a whole chicken and I will never, ever make another roast chicken or turkey without brining so my answer is YES, BRINE!!! Why? The meat is juicier and so tender, the brine adds flavor, and the skin gets crispier.

Click here to read more about brining and for a recipe.

Just look at this brined chicken!

Here is my brining timeline:

 - Tuesday morning: make your brine and put it in the fridge to chill completely.
 - Tuesday night: place your bird in the cold brine and return to the fridge (or a cooler stocked with ice - keep that bird cold!!)
 - Wednesday night: take the bird out of the brine and pat it dry. Place it on a large tray and return it to the fridge, uncovered, to dry.
 - Thursday morning: continue with your turkey prep as noted in the timeline above. You'll still want to stuff and season it even after being in the brine.

Some of My Other Tips
Just a few tips for things to do early, some helpful advice, and some Type-A things I do to make the week less stressful!

  • The amount of shopping you will need to do may seem overwhelming, so when making your shopping list, make one master list with absolutely everything you will need. Then, break it up into things you can buy a few days or a week early (dry goods, frozen things, soda, beer, wine) vs things you will need to buy fresh (veggies, fresh flowers, bread, etc.). I also break my list up by store - supermarket, produce store, wine store, beer store (PA is weird like that) and miscellaneous stores. Even better - make your list in Excel so you can easily sort and move things around.
  • Get all of your serving dishes out the night before and figure out what will go in each one. Doing this early will save you from digging through cabinets at the last minute and will help you make sure you have enough dishes, bowls, and platters. 

  • While you are at it, get out all of your serving spoons and forks, too.

  • If you are making a buffet, lay out your dishes the night before (if possible and if it won't be in the way of your prep space). At one party I even put post it notes in the dishes on my buffet so if anyone offered to help they would know what went where, and so I would remember how I laid out my buffet.

  • Ask people to help, especially in that last hour as there is a lot happening. My husband loves to cook and he's in charge of the main things on Thanksgiving - the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. My dad makes the best mashed potatoes so he did the mashing. My nephew did a great job at stirring the mushroom sauce for the green beans and he was thrilled to help. My mom and dad bake the desserts. People will be happy to chip in and do things like lighting the candles, taking dishes to the table, or staying out of the way and in front of the TV if that is what you want them to do!

  • Set a self serve bar in an area away from where all the cooking and prep will take place - ice bucket and tongs, wine glasses, other glasses, corkscrew, mixers, cocktail napkins. If you need limes or other garnishes for your bar, cut them the day before and have them ready in a serving dish. Make sure your soda and beer are cold, either in a second fridge or cooler (and don't forget the ice for the cooler!).

  • Set your table a day or two in advance - move any furniture needed, iron your tablecloth, set the dishes, make the centerpiece, etc. This is one task you won't want hanging over you on the day of your gathering or while your guests are there.

  • Prep as much food as you can ahead of time. Wash your veggies, peel and quarter your potatoes and store them in water in the fridge for a day or two, blanch your beans, put butter on/in a serving dish, set out all of the dry goods you will need (flour, broth, salt, pepper, etc), get all of your pots and pans and cooking utensils out and ready.

  • Put your cold items in serving dishes so you can go from fridge to table (the cranberry sauce, salad, etc.)

  • Take people up on their offer to bring something. If you like having control over the menu, ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert, or drinks.

  • Make sure your salt and pepper shakers are full and on the table.

  • Buy a bunch of extra plastic/to-go containers or Ziploc bags so you are ready to send everyone home with leftovers.

  • If you are having a few or more kids (younger kids, especially), pick up some crafty turkey day things they can do. I picked up these paper cup turkeys from Michael's and the kids, and even a few adults, had so much fun putting them together and then decorating with them.

  • If it is cold where you live, turn down the heat an hour before people get there. It's going to get hot fast especially with the kitchen on overload.

And Finally, My Thanksgiving Day Menu
My menu is pretty simple and traditional -

     Appetizer: Endive with Pears, Gorgonzola and Crushed Pecans; Cheese/meat/fruit/cracker platter


     Turkey stuffed with my husband's stuffing (his mom and grandmom's recipe)

     Turkey breast because you can never have too much and leftovers are awesome


     Stuffing for those who like it out-of-the-bird

     Mashed potatoes

     Green bean casserole with fried onions



     Cole slaw

     Dinner rolls

     Spiked cranberry sauce


     Cranberry sauce - canned. Some of us like that kind :)

     Dessert: Dad's Apple Pie and Mom's pumpkin pie

I didn't have room for anything else on the menu, but here are some of my other favorites that sometimes make an appearance on a holiday menu -

     Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots and Bacon

     Autumn Salad

     Cauliflower-Broccoli Gratin with Mustard-Sage Cornbread Crumbs

     Creamed Onions

     And for those leftovers, here is something different - Bubble and Squeak or Mini Chicken (Turkey) Biscuit Dinner

I'd love to hear from all of you - what are some of your favorite entertaining or holiday hosting tips? What have you learned along the way?

Happy Thanksgiving!! Wishing all of you a warm day with those you love and most importantly, full bellies :)

Timeline, Tips and Recipes for hosting a stress-free and fabulous Thanksgiving. First time hosting? We can help!!!

Timeline, Tips and Recipes for hosting a stress-free and fabulous Thanksgiving. First time hosting? We can help!!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Green Bean Casserole

Confession: I never had the wildly popular cream-of-something-soup based green bean casserole traditionally made at Thanksgiving, and I never thought I was missing anything with all of the other amazing food on the table. But now after having a homemade version, I never want another Thanksgiving dinner without this dish.

Making the creamy sauce is SO easy that there is NO need for the canned soup. And even though I never had the canned version, I can guarantee that there is no comparison - this one will blow you away. Heck, the sauce was so good that I couldn't stop tasting it as I was making it. I considered forgetting the beans once the sauce was done and just eating it as a soup.

I did take one shortcut just because I had so much cooking going on that day. I used the canned fried onions instead of following the recipe to make my own. The next time I make this I will make my own, but if you need a shortcut this would be the one I recommend.

So if you are still trying to finalize your turkey day menu, try this one. I can't wait until next week so I can make it again!!

Green Bean Casserole
Adapted From: Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced or coarsely chopped
  • Few gratings fresh nutmeg (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Prepare the beans: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil greens for 5 minutes. Drain beans, then plunge them into ice water to full stop them from cooking. Drain again, and set aside. You can do this ahead of time, up to one day.
  • Make the mushroom sauce: Over medium-high heat, melt butter in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute them until they start releasing their liquid, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how they were chopped. Add the garlic and saute one minute more. Add the flour and stir it until it fully coats the mushrooms. Add the broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring the whole time. Simmer mixture for 1 minute, then add cream and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Assemble and bake: Add cooked greens beans to sauce and stir until they are coated. Sprinkle crispy onions over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and onions are a shade darker. Eat at once.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Potato and Corn Chowder with Bacon

Creamy potato corn chowder with bacon. Hearty and comforting, easy recipe. #cornchowder #soup #chowder

"Soup's not a meal!!"

Anyone remember that debate on a Seinfeld episode? Jerry is given a suit by his "friend" Bania and in  return owes him a meal. However when they go out Bania orders soup saying that he'll save his meal for another time. It goes on and on with Jerry insisting that this is the meal and there won't be another chance while Bania demands that soup is not a meal. Hysterical!!! Aah Seinfeld, the best show about nothing!!

Anyway, I have to agree with Jerry - soup IS a meal, especially when it is a hearty soup like this Potato Corn Chowder. I have made several chowders so I took my favorite things about them and created this chowder. Bacon is a must for me when starting a good chowder, and I love saving it to use as a topping for serving.

Potato and Corn Chowder (yes, it's a meal)
Original Recipe

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Russet potatoes, diced or cubed (equal sized pieces)
  • 8 oz creamed corn
  • 1/2 c frozen corn
  • 3-4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 c light cream
  • Cheddar cheese for topping (optional)

  • Heat your stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove from the pan (crumble and keep for topping) and leave 1 Tbsp bacon grease in the pan, discarding the rest.
  • Add the butter to the pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrot. Saute 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft
  • Add the garlic and potatoes; sauté 3 minutes
  • Add the creamed corn, frozen corn, touch of salt, pepper, thyme, and cayenne. Stir everything and then add the broth slowly - you may not use all of the broth. You want your veggies covered but not lost in the broth. You can always add more if you need it. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes have cooked through.
  • Lower the heat and add the cream; let simmer for several minutes.
  • Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar cheese.  

  • Creamy potato corn chowder with bacon. Hearty and comforting, easy recipe. #cornchowder #soup #chowder

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chinese Green Beans with Pork

I'm back with a new post - finally! I know it has been a full month since I last posted - and what a busy month it was! But now we are back in our routine and even though I haven't posted, I have been doing a lot of cooking so I will be sharing all of those recipes with you over the next few weeks.
The recipe I'm sharing today is another perfect quick and easy weeknight meal - don't we all need those? And with prep and total cooking time being less than 25 minutes, it's on your table faster than take-out. Another plus, and it's a big one - less sodium than take-out and you know exactly what is in it and how it was prepared.
The original recipe called for ground turkey, but I changed that to pork - just a personal preference. I also used regular rice vinegar instead of seasoned.

Chinese Green Beans with Pork
Adapted from: The Weary Chef

  • 1 c medium grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 small bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 pork chops cut into very small pieces (or 1 lb ground pork)
  • 2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 lb washed and trimmed green beans (or Chinese long beans if available)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (seasoned) rice vinegar
  • Directions
    • Cook rice according to directions (I boil the appropriate amount of water according to the directions, add the rice, stir, reduce to a simmer and cover. In 25 minutes it's always perfect
    • When rice is about 10 minutes from done, heat large skillet over high heat. Add the pork and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the meat is mostly cooked (if using ground pork, crumble the meat as you are cooking it).
    • Add sesame oil; add green onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute
    • Stir in chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, and ginger.
    • Add green beans and soy sauce, and stir to coat. Continue cooking over high heat for 7-9 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until beans are slightly tender.
    • Stir in rice vinegar, and cook one minute longer. Serve over cooked rice.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken

    When I'm browsing through recipes pinned to Pinterest, I always stop when I see bacon in the title. That's where I found this one, and it led me to the blog Host the Toast.

    I didn't fully read the recipe at first... I just drooled over the pictures and couldn't wait to taste this chicken. I finally put them on the menu a few weeks ago and that's when I read the recipe to make my shopping list.

    I've used bacon in cooking a lot and sometimes it's used more as a garnish, sometimes I render the fat to give that smoky-bacon flavor, or sometimes it's a big part of the dish. This recipe uses bacon in a way I haven't before. You actually grind the raw bacon into a paste and use it as a rub on your chicken. Interesting, right??

    I have to admit that while I was making this raw rub I was really not sure. I mean, it doesn't look that appetizing, but I kept on going. The rubbed chicken looked even less appetizing but trust me - just keep going. The bacon kind of melts in to the chicken on the grill and gives it the best flavor. Top that with the bourbon BBQ sauce and the chicken is perfectly sweet, salty and smoky.

    Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken

  • 16 oz barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces (I used thighs and breasts)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 6 slices raw bacon, cut into small pieces
  • Added: 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Directions
    (slightly modified)

    • In a food processor, combine the kosher salt, white pepper, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and bacon. Pulse until completely smooth. I had to add some oil slowly to get more of a paste consistency.
    • Put the chicken pieces on skewers (pre-soaked skewers if they are wooden) and then rub generously with the bacon mixture. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.
    • In a small bowl, combine the BBQ sauce and bourbon. Mix well.
    • Light the grill and heat to medium-high
    • Place the kebabs on the preheated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until nearly cooked through.
    • Brush the kebabs with the bourbon barbecue sauce and cook for an additional minute on each side.
    • Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce.

    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad

    When I was younger (let's just say back in the 80s) it seemed like someone always brought a Ramen Noodle Salad to parties. I tried it a few times but was never really wowed by it. I mean, it's raw, cheap, crunchy ramen noodles mixed with some veggies and a sweet dressing. I wonder who first created this recipe and thought it was a good idea to mix these noodles with salad? Hmm, I wonder if it was an accident and the noodles fell in to the bowl. Now I'm really interested in tracing this recipe back to its origins! Does anyone know?

    I made the original Ramen Noodle Salad once about 10 years ago and failed miserably...  I can't believe I'm even admitting that. I mixed the dressing the night before I planned on taking it to a party which  made everything wilt horribly. I didn't even discover my mistake until 25 minutes before we were leaving for the party so I ended up having to pick up a dessert at the last minute so I wouldn't show up empty handed. At least I can blame it on the fact that I had no interest in cooking at all 10 years ago and luckily I now know better.

    Fast forward to 10 years later when I'm talking to Jon about what to make for dinner and he said "how about that Ramen noodle salad?" I guess he forgot that we never actually ate it, but for some reason he was craving it.

    I didn't feel like running back to the supermarket so decided to wing it using ingredients I already had on hand. I think the traditional recipe calls for Napa cabbage. I already had romaine lettuce so used that. I also added some veggies not in the traditional recipe, and I pulled together a dressing based on some things I have made in the past.

    The end result - a light, fresh salad with great texture from the crunchy veggies and noodles. I'll definitely make this modernized version again! I served it with grilled chicken that had been marinated in a soy/sesame/garlic/sriracha mixture.

    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad
    • 1.5 heads romaine, chopped
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1/2 red pepper
    • 1/2 green pepper
    • 1/4 cucumber
    • 1/2 c soybeans, cooked and chilled
    • 1 package crunchy ramen noodles, crumbled (not cooked)
     For the dressing
    • 2/3 c vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp granulated sugar
    • Mix all ingredients for the dressing and chill. Shake well before serving.
    • Mix all of the veggies for the salad and chill.
    • Before serving mix in the noodles and toss with the dressing.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

    It's September but we still have great tomatoes and zucchini. My mom found this recipe, brought over the ingredients that my dad picked up from a local roadside stand, and I made the recipe. I love local summer tomatoes and then add cheese to them and bake until hot and bubbly? Heavenly.
    Not only was this a great side for dinner, I heated it up the next morning and served it alongside scrambled eggs and loved it.
    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
    Adapted from: Gluten Free Mama
    • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 2-3 large tomatoes (I love Jersey tomatoes!!), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 1 Tbsp Italian Herbs Seasoning blend
    • 1/4 c good olive oil
    • 3/4 c shredded cheese - Italian blend (Parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, etc)
    • Salt and pepper
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
    • Toss the tomatoes and zucchini (in separate bowls) with the oil, herbs, and a touch of salt and pepper
    • Layer zucchini in a single layer in a large baking dish; I used a 9 inch Corning Ware casserole dish (you want a deep dish). Sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Layer tomatoes over the zucchini in a single layer; sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Repeat with a layer of zucchini, cheese, tomatoes, and the rest of the cheese.
    • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until veggies are cooked through and the cheese is melted

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Wow, that's a mouthful of a recipe title!!

    So our summer has been fabulously cool. I know there are some haters out there, but I have adored this summer. I don't know how many nights we sat out on the patio and I needed a light hoodie or long pants. That is MY kind of weather and I'd gladly take it for 6 months a year.

    But then September approached and all of the heat and humidity came back. I don't even want to be outside (thank goodness the husband does 99% of the grilling!!). This weather is perfect for "it's too hot to cook" meals, like this grilled chicken and salad.

    The night before I made this dinner I trimmed the chicken, put it in a casserole dish and started to hunt for marinade ingredients. I didn't have any idea for sides yet, but decided to give my marinade some tex-mex flavors and spices. And then something made me grab the BBQ sauce and I decided to experiment. Guess what? It worked! Just like using hoisin in an Asian inspired marinade, the BBQ sauce added some sticky sweetness and held it all together.

    The salad and dressing were last minute creations as Jon was heating the grill and cooking the chicken. Sometimes meals like this are the best - spontaneous, creative, simple, easy, and most importantly, delicious.

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Marinade Ingredients
    • 3 trimmed chicken breasts
    • 1/4 c light olive oil
    • 1/4 c BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Original)
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • 2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more for more heat)
    • 2 Tbsp lime juice
    Salad Ingredients
    • 2 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
    • 1/2 each green and red bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp chopped red onion
    • 1/2 c corn - I used frozen (thawed and brought to room temp), but if I had more time grilled corn would have been great!
    • Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
    • Crushed tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips
    • Cheese  - shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar or crumbled queso fresco
    • Chopped green onions
    • Other ingredients you could add include black beans, cilantro, sliced jalapenos
    Dressing Ingredients
    • 1/4 c of your favorite Ranch dressing
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional for some heat)

    • Mix the marinade ingredients (except the lime juice) and pour over chicken in a shallow dish. Cover and marinate at least 8 hours. Add the lime juice about 30 minutes before you plan on grilling the chicken.
    • Mix all of the salad ingredients (except the chips and cheese) and chill at least 30 minutes.
    • Mix the dressing ingredients and chill.
    • Grill the chicken until done; slice
    • Serve the salad topped with some of the chips, cheese and green onions followed by the dressing and alongside the sliced chicken.


    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Shrimp in a White Wine, Garlic and Lemon Sauce

    I am thrilled that my 4 year-old LOVES shrimp. She tried one a few months ago and since then can't get enough of them. I'm a little jealous, actually. I wish I liked shrimp but I just don't, but at least my daughter gets to eat all of the yummy shrimp recipes my husband makes. All of the shrimp recipes on this blog are his.

    A few weeks ago he made shrimp a little differently than his usual spicy shrimp or Cajun grilled shrimp. He used wine, garlic, and lemon for a simple light and fresh dish. He loved it and our daughter loved it, and I loved watching him create it and then seeing her devour it.

    The shrimp only took about 10 minutes to make so this is a quick and easy meal that looks and tastes fancy.

    Shrimp in a White Wine, Garlic and Lemon Sauce
    Original Recipe by Jon

    • 1/2 lb 21-25 or 26-30 count shrimp (if frozen, defrosted), peeled
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1/2 Tbsp butter
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Black pepper
    • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
    • Parsley for garnish
    • Heat olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat
    • Add the shrimp and cook about 1 minute per side, (you don't want them cooked through yet)seasoning the shrimp with black pepper as you cook them
    • Add the lemon juice and simmer 2 minutes
    • Add the garlic and simmer 1 minute (reverse this step with the lemon juice step if you don't want the garlic to be too strong)
    • Add wine and simmer 2-3 minutes until shrimp is cooked through
    • Garnish with parsley and serve (over rice or pasta)

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    Jalapeno Popper Dip

    Jalapeno poppers without all of the work - that's exactly what this dip is! Creamy, cheesy, spicy with some crunch. Yum.

    I made real jalapeno poppers once before and they were great, but it took a lot of work to get them just right. Then I made Jalapeno Popper Bites and they were really easy and yummy so I thought they'd be my go-to recipe for a jalapeno popper inspired appetizer. But then I saw this dip and everything changed. Dips are my guilty pleasure and my weakness so this one didn't sit in my favorites tab long before I made it.

    We were having friends over for dinner several weeks ago so I immediately put this dip on the menu. It was easy to make and everyone loved it. I ate a lot of this dip. And just in case you are wondering, it does reheat well later if you happen to have any left over! Confession... I may always make extra when I'm making a hot and bubbly dip JUST so I'll have leftovers to heat up later. Or the next day.

    I made one major change to the recipe. Instead of using canned chilies and jalapenos, I used a mix of fresh jalapenos and freshly roasted jalapenos. I can get a bag of jalapenos at my local produce store for a lot less than 2 cans of chilies, and fresh is always better in my opinion.

    So the next time you are having people over or even if you are just craving poppers, try this dip. I don't see how you could be disappointed ;)

    Jalapeno Popper Dip
    Adapted from: Tablespoon

    • 2 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
    • 1/2 c mayonnaise
    • 1/2 c sour cream
    • 1 c shredded Mexican cheese
    • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese, separated
    • 4 jalapeno peppers
    • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs
    • 1/4 c butter

    • Finely chop 2 of the jalapenos (seeds removed). Put the other 2 jalapenos over an open flame - I use my gas stove but you can also use an outdoor grill. Roast them until the skin is completely charred, and then transfer to a paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag/bowl and peel off all of the charred skin. Finely chop the jalapenos, removing the seeds and being careful as the juices inside will be pretty hot.
    • Mix the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, Mexican cheese, half of the Parmesan and all of the chopped jalapenos. Spread in a baking dish.
    • Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the panko and toss until coated. Remove from the heat and add the remaining Parmesan cheese. Pour the panko mixture over the dip and spread evenly.
    • Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes until bubbly, turning on the broiler for the last few minutes to brown the top.
    • Serve with tortilla chips

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps

    Eating leftovers - yes or no? Do you like cooking enough to have leftovers? Or do you try to cook just enough for one night?
    The way I feel about leftovers depends on what's leftover... Thanksgiving dinner - I'm all over it. Soups, stews, and most comfort food - most of these things are better the next day so I love having leftovers. But if I make something like grilled chicken or pork, I can't just eat it the same way again the next day. Over the past few years I have gotten really good at re-purposing leftovers and that has come in handy for me since I always cook too much food :) 
    These amazing pork wraps were the result of leftovers. We grilled 2 pork tenderloins one night, and the next night I sliced the leftover tenderloin, added some ingredients and had a completely different dinner with not that much effort. So when you are planning your meals for the week and you write "leftovers" for one night, look around for some recipes that use your original ingredients while giving you a new dish. One of these days I plan on writing a blog post with lots of ideas for leftovers - stay tuned!
    Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps
    Slightly adapted from: Fine Cooking
    • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 small grilled or roasted pork tenderloin. The one I used had been marinated in teriyaki sauce and garlic before grilling it. Slice the tenderloin into 1 inch thick slices, and then slice into strips.
    • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
    • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
    • 1 bunch scallions chopped, green and white parts separated
    • 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 head Napa cabbage sliced into strips
    • 2 tsp fresh minced ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 to 8 medium tortillas, warmed
    • Additional hoisin sauce for serving
    • Mix the hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Set aside as you will use this at the end.
    • Heat half of the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the pork and cook (to reheat) until it starts to brown on the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
    • Add half of the remaining oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms and scallion whites and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until they brown and soften, 2-3 minutes.
    • Push the mushroom mixture to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Cook, scrambling and breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula, until just set, about 1 minute. Transfer everything to the plate with the pork.
    • Add the remaining oil to the pan. Once it's hot, add the scallion greens, cabbage, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
    • Add the hoisin mixture and the pork mixture to the pan and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute to mix the flavors.
    • To serve - spread some hoisin sauce in the center of the tortilla. Top with a generous amount of the pork mixture, and wrap burrito style.
    These wraps were so good that I may just make a pork tenderloin this weekend JUST so I can have these leftovers on Monday! I served them with this Napa Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw.
    Happy Weekend!

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    Summer Tortellini

    I really wish I had a green thumb. I dream of having a large vegetable garden in our yard where I could grown all of our produce and be totally self sufficient in the summer... I just can't see it happening. I don't really enjoy working in the garden (heck, I barely remember to water my potted flowers on the front step) but I want the benefits of having a garden at home. Like I have said for the past 10 years, maybe next year...

    Even though I don't have a big vegetable garden, I always grow tomatoes. This year I just have one pot of tomatoes and a pot of basil growing on my patio. The tomato plant doesn't look all that great but the tomatoes I have gotten from it have been so sweet and juicy. Two of those tomatoes inspired this summer tortellini dish.

    When I posted the picture of this dinner on Instagram I used the hashtag #tasteslikesummer. Sweet and juicy tomatoes paired with basil are a classic summer combination - don't you agree? It's one of my favorite things about summer so I hope my little potted tomato plant keeps on giving me perfect tomatoes!

    Summer Tortellini

    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1/2 c vegetable broth
    • 6 leaves of basil, roughly chopped
    • 8 oz cooked cheese tortellini
    • A few handfuls of fresh baby spinach
    • Salt and pepper
    • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • Optional: crumbled ricotta salata
    • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat
    • Add the garlic and tomatoes; sauté for about 4 minutes
    • Season lightly with salt and pepper, add a little more than half of the basil and add the broth. Let simmer for a few minutes (this is the perfect time to cook your tortellini)
    • Once the tortellini has cooked, remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to the sauté pan.
    • Add the spinach and toss everything to wilt the spinach.
    • Add the Parmesan cheese and adjust salt and pepper, if needed.
    • Serve garnished with some basil and ricotta salata, if desired.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    Chicken Tostadas

    Today is my baby girl's 4th birthday!!!

    I feel like I was just writing the post about the peach cobbler I HAD to bake just before she was born, and here we are 4 years later. Time is going way too fast! It is so hard to remember my life before she was in it. She has brought so much joy, love, and craziness to our life and home - I just wish time would slow down.

    Since today is going to be a fun day (actually, a fun day to kick off several days of fun birthday things!), I'm sharing a fun dinner - Chicken Tostadas.

    I've had these a few times in Mexican restaurants and when trying to think of what to do with shredded chicken, tostadas came to mind. We all loved them and I'm sure I will turn to these often when looking for something fun and easy. So much prep can be done beforehand and everyone can assemble their own tostadas and choose their own toppings.
    I read a recipe on the Food Network site and followed the basic instructions on how to fry the tortillas and spread on the beans. As far as toppings, I chose to make some of my Pico de Gallo - I knew my husband would like that a lot better than chopped tomatoes. What I liked best about making this dinner was that I cooked and shredded the chicken the night before so when it came time to make dinner, all I had to do was fry the tortillas and assemble them. Definitely an easy weeknight meal! 

    Chicken Tostadas
    Source: loosely adapted from The Food Network
    Ingredients (per tostada)
    • 1 flour tortilla
    • Vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp refried beans (want to make your own? Try these)
    • 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
    • Shredded chicken (you will need chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder for cooking the chicken)
    • 2 Tbsp fresh pico de gallo
    • 1 tsp chopped jalapeno (optional if you like heat!)
    • Shredded lettuce
    • 1 Tbsp sour cream
    • 1 Tbsp crumbled queso fresco
    • Other ideas for toppings: tomatoes, Monterrey Jack cheese, avocado slices, green onions, tomatillo salsa, chunky salsa
    • Cook the chicken: place chicken breasts in a pot and cover with water. Season the water generously with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder. Cook over medium heat until chicken is done. Transfer to a KitchenAid mixer and shred or shred using 2 forks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use; I warmed the chicken in a pan with just a small amount of broth.
    • Preheat broiler in your oven
    • Pour a layer of vegetable oil - about 1/3 inch deep) into a frying pan and heat over high heat. Add the tortilla and cook about 45 seconds per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a dish lined with paper towels and let excess oil drip off.
    • Transfer the tortilla to a baking sheet and spoon refried beans on, spreading them in an even layer. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted, about 30 seconds.
    • Add your toppings - chicken, pico, jalapenos, lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco, and anything else you like.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rice Vermicelli Salad


    Here is my first "it's too hot to cook" post of the summer! Over the summer I still do a lot of cooking in the house, but most of our proteins and even veggies are made on the grill. And then there are some nights when I don't even want to turn the stove on at all and I crave light and healthy meals. This Vietnamese pork and cold noodle salad is light and refreshing - perfect for a hot summer night.

    Besides not wanting to stand over a stove, I was inspired to make this dish because of my desire to use 2 specific ingredients - the pork chops I picked up as well as a package of rice vermicelli noodles my dad had recently brought me from a day trip to Philadelphia's Chinatown. I came across a recipe on the Food and Wine web site for Lemongrass Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli Salad

    I never used lemongrass in my own cooking before - I have only enjoyed it in restaurants. As soon as I cut of one end my entire kitchen was filled with the best lemony aroma ever - I knew this was going to be a good marinade! The pork marinated in this lemongrass mixture for several hours before grilling.

    The sauce/dressing starting by making a paste of jalapenos and garlic followed by some cilantro and lime juice. Bright yet spicy!

    The original recipe called for only noodles, carrots and cucumbers in the salad. I added a few ingredients to make this more of a salad that reminded me of these Vietnamese spring rolls.

    This really turned out to be the perfect summer meal. It was satisfying and filling yet healthy. Simple yet packed with so many flavors. Bright and refreshing yet spicy. I'll definitely make this one again - soon!

    Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rice Vermicelli Salad
    Source: Food and Wine

    I made several small changes to the recipe noted below in italics.

    • 1.5 lbs boneless pork loin  (I used a pork tenderloin and did not slice it until after it was grilled)
    • 3 large stalks of lemongrass
    • 4 large garlic cloves (for the marinade)
    • 2 large shallots, thickly sliced
    • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
    • 3 Tbsp Asian fish sauce (I haven't found a fish sauce I like so I used a mixture of approximately 2 Tbsp Worcestershire, 1 Tbsp vegetable broth and 1 tsp hoisin sauce in place of the fish sauce)
    • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1/2 lb rice vermicelli (this stuff goes far - I used 4 "nests" from the package and could have fed 6 people)
    • 4 medium garlic cloves
    • 3 Thai chiles or 1 jalapeno, thickly sliced
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 1/3 c Asian fish sauce (I used my substitution again, making sure it equaled 1/3 c total when mixed)
    • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 c finely chopped mint
    • 1/4 c fresh lime juice
    • 1/3 c water
    • Veggies: sliced cucumber, red pepper, carrots, green onions, some sort of crunchy green (lettuce or Napa cabbage), bean sprouts
    • In a food processor, finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and shallots. Add the sugar, fish sauce (or substitution), lime juice, vegetable oil and soy sauce and process to a paste. In a large shallow dish, coat the pork with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I marinated this for 5 hours).
    • About 30 minutes before you plan to eat: In a large bowl, cover the rice vermicelli with cold water and let soak until pliable, about 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil (the only time you will need your stove!) Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Drain the rice vermicelli and add it to the boiling water. Cook, stirring, until barely tender, about 1 minute. Drain the vermicelli. Rinse the vermicelli in cold water and drain thoroughly.
    • Make the dressing: In a mortar, using a pestle, pound the garlic cloves to a paste with the chiles and sugar. Stir in the fish sauce, cilantro, mint, lime juice and water.
    • Grill the pork: Light a grill (heat to medium high). Lift the pork from the marinade, leaving on some of the flavorings. Grill the pork over a hot fire until nicely charred, about 2 minutes per side. Because we grilled a tenderloin instead of slices, we used Jon's tried and true method for grilling pork - sear on all sides over high heat; place foil on the grill, put pork on the foil, and let it cook over medium heat until temp reaches 150 degrees max; remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
    • Plate everything: place noodles on your plate and add veggies; top with some of the dressing. Slice the pork into thin slices and place over the salad.  

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    French Onion Cheese Bread

    On Saturday morning I was sitting at my daughter's gymnastics class with my iPad so I could browse recipes to finalize my Father's Day Menu. I only had a small bowl of yogurt that morning, and my daughter claimed my Kind bar as her own before class, so I was starving. Looking at mouth-watering food pics while hungry is pure torture, especially when I was searching for some sort of bruschetta or crostini using Gruyere cheese. So many pictures of gooey melted cheese and crusty bread. Why was I doing this to myself??

    After pulling myself together and focusing, I decided on a recipe for French Onion Cheese Bread that I found on the web site foodiecrush. Upon reading it I figured that it would taste like French onion soup just without the broth, and I was right. The French bread base is the crouton, and then there is a layer of creamy and nutty melted Gruyere cheese followed by some sweet caramelized onions. I served these as an app but can also see them being a great side.

    Caramelizing the onions takes a while, but once that is done (and you can do it ahead of time), these are quick and easy.

    French Onion Cheese Bread
    Source: foodiecrush

    My notes and small changes are noted in italics


    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (I used 1/2 tsp of dried thyme)
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
    • 4 French rolls, split in half (I used half of a baguette, split in half and then each piece halved = 4 total pieces)
    • 2 cups Gruyère or Fontina cheese, shredded (I used just over 1 c of Gruyere)
    • Caramelize the onions: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to medium low, add the sugar, salt, and pepper; stir and cover and cook for 1 hour (mine took 35 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
    • Preheat oven to 400°F.
    • Place bread halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese then spoon caramelized onions on top.
    • Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and bread turns golden brown.
    • Cut into pieces and serve immediately. Garnish with extra thyme leaves if desired

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    Roasted Garlic and Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter and Gruyere

    I wish I could take credit for this recipe. I love to create new dishes and experiment in the kitchen, but putting the ingredients from this recipe together in one dish is something I never would have thought of on my own.

    But even though I can't take credit for this recipe, I bumped it ahead of a few original recipes I have waiting to post because it is THAT good and needs to be shared.

    The other night I asked Jon to throw a bulb of garlic on the grill while he was making steaks. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but knew I wanted to use it the next night. I also had half of a block of Gruyere cheese left over that I wanted to use - roasted garlic and Gruyere are so perfect together. So I googled "roasted garlic and Gruyere recipes." At first I was finding a lot of ads for roasted garlic Gruyere cheese. Um, yum! I think I need to find some!!! After looking for a bit I came across a recipe for Roasted Garlic and Lemon Rigatoni with Brown Butter and Gruyere on the Blog Baker by Nature. I read the recipe and knew it would be fabulous.

    I can't say enough good things about this pasta dish. Every bite gives you so many flavors that all work perfectly together - sweet roasted garlic, light and bright lemon, nutty brown butter and creamy and nutty Gruyere. Our sides really complemented the dish too - roasted Brussels sprouts and some roasted cherry tomatoes. I may have eaten 2 servings and then had the small amount of leftovers for lunch the next day and I already want to eat it again.

    Roasted Garlic and Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter and Gruyere
    Source: Baker by Nature

    • 1 head of garlic, bottom cut off
    • 1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked 3 minutes short of al dente (you want them not raw, but not quite there yet; they will finish cooking in the butter/lemon sauce)  *reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water
    • 5 tablespoons butter, browned (THIS is a great tutorial on making perfect brown butter)
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
    • 1 lemon (original recipe calls for 2 but 1 was plenty)
    • 1 cup fresh grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for sprinkling
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Crushed red pepper
    My notes and changes are in italics
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Carefully slice the bottom off of head of garlic. Place in a small oven proof baking dish (or wrap in foil), drizzle with olive oil, and place in the oven to bake for 55 minutes. Remove garlic from baking dish to cool while you make your pasta. Or you can make this ahead of time. My husband roasted the garlic on the grill the night before I made this dish, and then I stored it in the fridge.
    • Fill a large pot with water and salt, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta for 5-6 minutes, or until just slightly under al dente. Drain and quickly run pasta under cold water to stop the cooking. Return pasta to pot. ** Make sure you reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water
    • Squeeze cooled garlic cloves out from the head and place them in a food processor or blender; set aside.
    • In a small pan cook butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it’s just browned and smells slightly nutty (see this link if you have never made brown butter before). Pour butter into the food processor, then add the reserved pasta water, parsley, lemon zest, and juice of one lemon; pulse until smooth.
    • Add mixture to pasta (as well as some red pepper flakes), stir, and heat on medium-low for 3-4 minutes, just until the pasta has warmed and is al dente. Remove from heat and stir in Gruyere. Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed.
    • Right before serving drizzle olive oil over pasta and toss lightly. Serve warm with grated cheese.

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    Tomato-Basil Quinoa with Spinach and White Beans

    Does anyone else agree that tomatoes and basil were just meant for each other? Combine them and the taste just screams summer.

    Over the winter I don't keep fresh basil around unless I need a lot for a recipe. Instead I use the basil paste that comes in a tube -

    Have you tried it? I love it! Each tube has the equivalent of 3 bunches of basil and is guaranteed fresh for 3 months when kept in the fridge.

    This tube of basil and a container of grape tomatoes in addition to my desire to eat a healthy lunch were my inspiration for this dish. I always turn to quinoa when I want something both healthy and filling.

    To really infuse the flavor of the basil through the dish, I cooked my quinoa in a tomato-basil broth.

     Tomato-Basil Quinoa with Spinach and White Beans

    • 1 c dry quinoa, rinsed
    • 3 c vegetable broth (note, this is more than you usually need to cook 1 c of quinoa, but we are also cooking the tomatoes and beans in the broth)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 4 oz canned white beans, rinsed
    • 1 Tbsp basil paste from the tube (or several leaves, chopped)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 oz fresh baby spinach
    • Optional: 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    Timing is important on this - you want to start your quinoa and step 2 simultaneously. Once step 2 is done it will be time to add your quinoa to the tomato mixture.
    • Combine quinoa and broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
    • At the same time, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, white beans and basil; sauté 3-4 minutes.
    • Pour the pot of quinoa and broth into the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer until the quinoa has cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. You may need to add a bit more broth to finish cooking the quinoa if the broth is absorbing too quickly.
    • Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add the spinach and stir to wilt.
    • Optional: stir in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or cheese of your choice.