Lentil & Kielbasa Soup

I know I complained about the weather in my last post, and my ploy seems to have worked.  It’s now gloriously sunshine-y, and creeping up into the 70s.  Hello, DC that I love – all glorious three weeks before it becomes so hot and muggy you start walking around with a scarf and a fleece again – to protect yourself when you enter the arctic tundra that is DC office buildings in the summer. #firstworldproblems

Of course, the one downside to the beautiful change in seasons is the slow creep away from those hearty, soul-filling foods.  When my sister visited a few weeks ago (how surreal is this: the LAST time I will see her before I become a MOM), we spent almost a full day planning out a menu (clearly, we’re sisters, and daughters of our mom), and took full advantage of one of the last cold blasts of the winter season.  OK, now I’m really ready for summer.

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Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)

  • 1/2 pound green lentils
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper, red hot chili flakes
  • 8 stalks fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4-6 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • a big squeeze tomato paste
  • 1/2 – 1 pound kielbasa
  • big splash red wine
  • to serve:
    • parmesan cheese
    • parsley
    • green onions
  1. Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water.  Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes.  Drain.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and then saute onions.  After a minute or two, add the leeks, the garlic, salt, pepper, red hots, thyme and cumin, and cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Add celery and carrots; saute another 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils.  Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about an hour – until the lentils are completely cooked through.  Add kielbasa, red wine, and simmer until the kielbasa is hot.  Adjust seasonings – and serve with your choice of topping.

 

The Verdict:

As you can imagine, this soup gets even better when it sits overnight, soaking up all the goodness.  If it’s not spring/summer yet where you live – make this.  It will NOT disappoint.

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries

Lately, most of the dinners chez nous are a fairly consistent staple of Dairy meets Starch, they have Love Child.  This is because it’s easy, because it’s filling, and because I’d like my pre-ice cream meal to be complementary to the main event.  Obvi.

Even when the husband might be thinking we could incorporate some more meat or veggies, he’s smart enough to know not to comment.  Ever.  There are some definite perks to pregnancy.

However.  Every once in a while, you do crave the green stuff.  Ina here, to the rescue.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries 

(adapted from Ina Garten)

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  • 2 ripe pears
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • crumbled blue cheese
  • big handful dried cranberries
  • big handful nuts – walnuts, pecans, or almonds
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • if using apple cider and not apple cider vinegar, splash balsamic
  • big dollop of honey or 3 big tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • arugula (we used Bibb lettuce, but this would definitely be better with the bite from arugula)
  • salt, pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Peel the pears and slice in half lengthwise; remove the core.  Cut just a small slice off the back – this will keep it steady on the baking pan.  Toss with about half the lemon juice and place in a small baking dish, core side up.
  3. Mix together the blue cheese, nuts, and cranberries in a small bowl and top the pears with the mixture.  Mix together the cider, balsamic, honey/sugar and pour over the pears, reserving a bit of the liquid.
  4. Bake pears for 25-30 minutes & pull from the oven.  Make a dressing by whisking together the rest of the lemon juice, the olive oil, and the reserved basting liquid.  Serve the pears on top of the arugula with the dressing.

The Verdict:

This is delicious.  Eat it.  Feel healthy.  And then, to the ice cream.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Steaks…& Chicken…& Meatballs…&…

Valentine’s Day: a great excuse to eat too much, write mushy cards, have chocolate for breakfast, and slow dance in your living room.  I’m ALL on board.

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We started early, on Saturday night.  The Husband made not one but TWO Italian feasts: spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan.  (His mother’s recipe, coming soon.)  YUM.  Cupcakes for dessert.  Yesterday morning began with cinnamon rolls, and ended with filet mignon with Stilton cream sauce and creamy mashed potatoes.  (Turns out he made me the same meal for Vday last year, all details listed here.) Chocolate mousse heart for dessert, pictured above.  Obviously, we had a side heaping of ice cream.

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I challenge someone out there to tell me they ate more decadently than we did.  Hope you all had a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup

Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style.  (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.)  In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia.  I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go.  Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.

Then:

  1. Zika virus.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund.  Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women.  And then causes massive birth defects in babies.  Remember: St. Lucia.  Babymoon.
  2. Winter Storm Jonas.  If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow.  My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows.  Seriously.

So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert.  (Take that, mosquitoes.)  Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.

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Then, we came home.  One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring.  Only Ina could fix this mess.

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Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
  • 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
  • large handful parsley
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them,  to reconstitute them.  Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes.  Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
  3. If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them.  Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot.   Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
  5. At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously.  Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.

The Verdict:

Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance.  Not only good, but good for you.  Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.

 

 

Back. (& a Kale and Sesame “Sushi” Bowl)

It’s been almost exactly two months since I last posted.  I’ve read lots of blogs where people talk about taking a break or needing some fresh ideas, or going on some crazy, awesome trip, but the truth is, I just ran out of time.  And if I want to be even more honest, I ran out of energy.

The last two months have been among the two craziest & change-filled months of my life.  There have been some incredible highs – my best friend getting married, for one – and some low lows.  Suffice to say, you want to put your best foot out on the interwebs, and I’ve been missing my fancy footwear.

And clearly, a LOT has happened.  The weather has changed, for one, and I’m back to taking pictures of food in the dark.  A favorite blogger is now vegetarian.  Eater published the best-ever interview of Ina Garten and it made me love her even more, if that’s possible.  Tom Brady (continued to) earn my eternal love and respect through sheer domination on my fantasy squad, and then left me hopelessly baffled and saddened through his “non-endorsement” endorsement of Donald Trump.  No words.

AND – it’s been over a year since I started this blog.  Going forward, I’m hoping to start posting regularly again, if not a little less frequently, due to a job change and less time to experiment in the kitchen.

So now, in honor of my vegetarian friend who sent me nice little notes during my period of absentia (thank you!!), I bring you the following, from A Modern Way to Eat.

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Kale & Sesame “Sushi” Bowl

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • salt
  • 1-2 cups frozen endamame (sans pods)
  • 1 pomegranate (you’re really just after the seeds, so feel free to buy pre-seeded)
  • dash sesame oil
  • 2 big handfuls shredded kale or other crunchy, leafy green, stalks removed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • optional: 1 egg (poached)
  • for the dressing:
    • zest and juice from 1 lemon
    • tablespoon honey
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • dash rice vinegar
    • salt, pepper
  1. Cook your rice according to package directions (ain’t no shame in the minute style).
  2. Heat the endamame through, either in the microwave or by putting them in a bowl and covering with boiling water.
  3. De-seed your pomegranate, as needed – instructions here.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a splash of sesame oil and saute the greens until a bit wilted, above 3-4 minutes.  Keep warm.
  5. Make your dressing by whisking all ingredients together.  Add a bit of the pomegranate juice, if you have any from the de-seeding process.
  6. Pour the dressing over the warm rice, add the sesame seeds and give the mixture a toss.  Add the rest of your salad ingredients and top with avocado and cilantro…and if you’re feeling good about it, a poached egg.  Add dressing as needed.

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The Verdict:

Not really a recipe?  I understand your point.  Still, it feels good to be back, and it feels good to eat this.  So that’s a win, in my book.