Monthly Archives: November 2011

Roasted Vegetable, Kale, and White Bean Soup

Hi guys! I’m back from a wonderful, albeit non-cooking vacation. (Actually, for Thanksgiving I baked a double batch of homemade chocolate brownies with Ghirardelli cocoa as well as a salad with spinach, roasted beets, red onions, toasted walnuts, and homemade vinaigrette…but nothing especially blog-worthy.)

As bummed as I was to return to reality, one of the things I was looking forward to most about coming home was getting back into my kitchen and making this insanely delicious-looking recipe I picked out while I was away: Roasted vegetable, kale, and white bean soup. In other words, all of my favorite foods together in a single pot. Yes, please!

There’s nothing I love more than when worlds collide—whether that’s bringing together different groups of friends or wearing Lululemon yoga leggings with a chunky sweater and riding boots. In this case, I was combining roasted veggies (obsessed) with soup (addicted). Take a quick breeze through this blog and you’ll notice that those two things constitute about 85 percent of the dishes I make…and yet they’ve never met. The thought of putting roasted vegetables in soup completely blew me away. What genius came up with that? I know it sounds silly to add an entirely separate step to the soup-making process (two if you count the blending action), but it is so, so worth it. Trust me. I ate this soup for lunch and dinner yesterday and it’s looking quite possible that there will be a repeat performance today.

In case the first crappy iPhone photo wasn’t enough…

I realized afterward that when making ordinary soup the veggies don’t do much except get a little softer and look kind of pretty. But when you roast them…oh when you roast them they release their natural flavors plus gain that certain woodsy/earthiness that magically appears while browning in the oven. Also genius: Blending the tomatoes, onions, and squash before adding them to the broth to help thicken the soup. So. Freaking. Good. You know I’m a texture girl and that totally did it for me. If you’re someone who’s not so much a fan of brothy soups, this should be your go-to move. My newest goal in life is figuring out how to add blended roasted veggies to every soup recipe I make. Shoot for the moon, right?

Roasted Vegetable, Kale, and White Bean Soup

Ingredients:
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 small parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 leek, dark leaves removed, cut into large chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 yellow squash, cut into large chunks
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400. On one foil-lined baking sheet, place carrots, parsnip, and leek. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. On another foil-lined baking sheet, place onion, tomatoes, squash, and garlic. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place both sheets in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes until veggies brown, tossing occasionally.

Place carrots, parsnip, and leek on a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Peel garlic cloves and place in a food processor or blender with tomatoes, onion, and yellow squash. Puree until almost smooth. Place puree in a large pot with broth, kale, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until kale is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add carrots, parsnip, leek, and beans to soup. Simmer about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Adapted from Epicurious.com

Chicken Tikka Masala

Let’s be honest. I tend to play it pretty safe when it comes to the flavors in my foods. In many ways, this can be considered a good and healthy thing. I like to let the natural flavors in foods take center stage with maybe just a little help from a spritz of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or a sprinkle of Kosher salt. After all, that’s the kind of food I was raised with. There wasn’t a lot of sauce happening in the Greenfield household.

However, this blog and this life are about balance. It’s okay to get a little fancy with your food from time to time, which means there’s a heck of a lot of flavor out there that I’ve only begun to explore. This weekend, I took one small step toward advancing my culinary skills while simultaneously exposing my kitchen and my tastebuds to a slew of new spices in my very first attempt at cooking Indian food.

Before meeting Robert I may have had Indian food once in my life. Maybe. But his spice-loving palate and penchant for sauces means he’d be more than happy eating it for every meal. When we order takeout, it’s almost always Indian. I’ve come to adore the complexity of flavors and even enjoy the slow burn it leaves vs. the HOLY-CRAP-THAT’S-HOT sensation I always associated with spiciness.

Naturally, I’ve wanted to make an Indian dish for a while, but the thought completely freaked me out. I have absolutely no experience or point of reference for this kind of thing. I had no idea what was in a vindaloo or what made it different from, say, a curry. Where would I start? What would I make? Then, earlier this month I came across a recipe for chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker. If there’s one thing I know it’s that it’s really tough to screw up a slow cooker recipe–the appliance basically does the cooking for you. This I could handle. What’s more, most of the ingredients were those I’ve used before, had on hand, or knew I could find at WF. There was just one I was clueless about: Garam masala. Turns out, it’s a blend of spices that smells so incredible you’re going to want to stick your nose in it every time you walk through the kitchen and inhale deeply. If this sounds familiar, rest assured you’re not the only one who has done this before.

So back to the recipe. The verdict: A really solid attempt at homemade Indian food. (I can’t exactly vouch for the authenticity of it, but I’ll get back to you on that once I get a chance to visit India.) From my experience, however, it was everything Indian food should be: Bold, saucy, and even passed the slow-burn test (I’m pretty sure that pricking the jalapeno with a fork is what nailed it.) I served the chicken tikka masala over basmati rice and topped it with a generous sprinkle of cilantro. This dish definitely gave me the boost in confidence to experiment with even more flavors in the future. Where should we travel (in the kitchen) next?

Chicken Tikka Masala in the slow cooker
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 to 1.5 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 oz container Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
Butter (just get out a whole stick and forget about your silly diet)
1 jalapeno
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp garam masala
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cups crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half because it was all I could find and it worked well)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Preparation
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with coriander, salt, and cumin. Add yogurt and stir to evenly coat. While that sits, heat 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet. Once melted, add chicken to pan just long enough to brown on each side (remember — the slow cooker will do the cooking). Add chicken in batches, if needed. Once browned, add chicken to slow cooker. Using a fork, poke holes in the jalapeno. Add to the slow cooker.

Melt 1-2 Tbsp of butter in skillet. Add onion and garlic and sautee until onion softens. Add garam masala and ginger. Mix so everything is evenly coated. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, cook about 2 minutes more. Add sauce to the slow cooker. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for 5 hours. Once finished, add cream/half and half and mix until the color lightens slightly. Replace lid and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve over basmati rice and chopped cilantro.

Adapated from Tasty Kitchen via Smells Like Home

Apple-Brussels Sprout Salad

Can we all agree that Brussels sprouts rule? Okay, good. Now that we’re all on the same page, I have a confession to make: I’ve only ever eaten them two ways—roasted or boiled. While roasting is certainly my preferred method, I wanted to see what else these sprouts could do. (Plus, I had a bag of them in my Trader Joe’s bounty that was begging to be eaten.)

Recently, my sister sent me a link to this incredible-looking Brussels Sprout Salad. Then, while browsing the Cooking Light app on my iPad, I saw this recipe for Apple-Brussels Sprouts Slaw. Drool worthy.

Both involved using the sprouts raw. I had to try it. Both recipes also involved using a food processor, but since I don’t own one yet I used a good old-fashioned knife and think it worked just as well. (I considered putting the sprouts into my Vitamix blender, but was afraid it would turn into a Brussels sprouts smoothie instead. I’d probably drink that, though.)

I ended up combining the recipes based on what I had on hand. I’m convinced there are endless ways you can make this salad—perhaps using pear instead of apple, maybe even adding slices of grapefruit, and next time I may even chop up a red onion or shallot and squeeze the juice of one lemon for an extra kick. (Not that it needs any help.)

The complete meal: Roasted salmon, roasted butternut squash, and apple-brussels sprout salad

Apple-Brussels Sprout Salad
Serves 4

For the salad:
1 package of raw Brussels sprouts (about 20 Brussels sprouts)
1 gala apple
Heaping handful of raw, unsalted walnuts
kosher salt and black pepper

 For the dressing:
½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Preparation
Rinse the Brussels sprouts under water and drain in a colander. Using a knife, cut off the woody ends and then very thinly slice the sprouts, one at a time. Place in a large bowl. Thinly slice the apple and add to the bowl. Chop the walnuts, and add to bowl. Top with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Make the dressing: Add all ingredients to a small container and shake until combined.

Pour the dressing on top of the salad and use tongs to combine. You may not need all of the dressing, so only use as much as you like. Allow the salad to sit for a few minutes before serving–the dressing helps soften the sprouts just a little bit without making them soggy.

Chicken Stir-Fry

I have two words for you: Shopping spree. That seemed to be last weekend’s theme—Saturday it was clothes and Sunday it was food. Guess which one was my favorite?

As you probably know (and may be tired of hearing by now) I have a slight major obsession with Whole Foods. While I may succumb to every marketing tactic they employ (rustic wood crates piled with squash!) I always leave happy. Never once have I regretted a dollar I spent there. My motto: If they don’t sell it I don’t need it.

Still, since moving to Chicago a year and a half ago, I’ve been trying to love Trader Joe’s. Really, I have. Unfortunately, our relationship hasn’t always gone as smoothly as I had hoped. Yes, my life is tragic.

My biggest gripe is that I almost always need to supplement my purchases with an additional trip to…guess where?!…in order to complete a meal since TJ’s never seems to have all of the ingredients I need. Why shop at two places when I can go to one? But I continue fighting for this relationship, struggling to uncover the secret to a successful TJ’s experience and find out why so many devoted folks swear by it. There must be more to it than their insanely addictive chocolate covered raisins.

Finally, this Sunday I think I found my answer: Shop with absolutely no idea what you need to buy and buy everything you want. Sounds logical, right? This strategy completely erases the possibility of disappointment because you don’t know what you need anyway. Plus, buying whatever the heck tickles your food-loving fancy means you’ll end up trying lots of new things that you wouldn’t otherwise buy. In fact, for lunch yesterday I ate a bowl of gluten-free, vegan minestrone soup I found stashed in the produce aisle that was absolutely delightful and proved you really can throw whatever you want into a pot of soup and call it minestrone—this one had barley, cabbage, broccoli, white beans, and other tasty food items.

Allowing myself to pile my cart with anything and everything I wanted also meant that I probably spent way more than a family of four would drop in a month of shopping there, but I also got tons of food (mostly chicken, fish, and pork) to stock in my freezer. I also tried to engage the same healthy-eating tactics I use when shopping at WF: Primarily buying whole, unprocessed foods and very few products that come in packages. This meant that about 90 percent of the items I bought came from the periphery of the store: Vegetables, fruits, meats, yogurt, and wine. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t a whole food, but it’s still located along the periphery. And it’s so cheap.

In all honesty, while I didn’t have any idea what would become of all of my purchases (and still, for the most part, don’t) I figured I’d at least find the ingredients to make this stir-fry recipe I’ve been eyeing for weeks. I believe that on some level this recipe ignited my desire to give TJ’s one last chance because if nothing else, I knew I could find pre-cut veggies there. Because they seem to have pre-cut everything.

This stir-fry is easily the best I’ve ever made and even helped fill a serious craving I’ve been having for Chinese takeout. While I could make my own stir-fry sauce (and plan to do so the next time around) I wanted to follow the recipe as is simply because it looked so delicious and using the bottled kind definitely gave it that certain restaurant flavor while cutting down prep time. (I used Annie Chun’s.) Being the dork that I am, I prepped this meal in a very Food Network way: Cutting everything—the chicken, veggies, onion, garlic, and ginger—before even heating a pan. Although it dirties lots of dishes, I suggest using this style since once you get cooking it’s a pretty fast process and you may not have time to finish chopping in between steps. It’s worth it, I promise.

If you have any suggestions for a more reasonable way to shop at TJ’s please let me know. This probably isn’t a habit I should maintain week after week.

Check out the incredible chicken stir-fry recipe over at

 The Little Kitchen

Fall Salad: Spinach, Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Chicken and Shallot with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Last Saturday, while on a date, Robert and I got to talking about totally normal things. Like: If you could create your perfect salad what would it contain? Yeah. Totally normal. (As you can imagine, food comes up a lot in our conversations. I once tried to bribe him with baked sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts. Not my finest moment.)

I can’t remember what would be in my ideal salad (I think it would depend on the time of year), but his had spinach, red onion, jalapeno, some kind of bean, and roasted beets. Roasted beets! I love roasted beets! And yet I’ve never made a salad with them before. I’ve put just about every other ingredient you can imagine in a salad (apples, pistachios, grapes, salmon, potatoes, quinoa….) but never roasted beets. This had to change. Immediately. So we ran out of the Italian restaurant…

Kidding.

But this week I made sure to put an end to my beet-less salads and it was just as incredible as I had hoped. To be honest, I feel like I’m cheating, posting a salad recipe here because I never really considered salad making to be cooking. In fact, before the cooking bug bit me about a year and a half ago, I practically lived off of salads with endless permutations of ingredients. Since I’ve been cooking, however, I’ve made a fraction of the number of salads I used to and tend to avoid them entirely during the fall and winter in lieu of heartier foods. But this salad totally bridges the gap. There’s a fair amount of cooking involved (baking the chicken breast, roasting the beets, and toasting the walnuts) while balancing cool, raw foods (the spinach and shallot…although maybe next time I’ll caramelize the shallot…) with warmer ones.

If you’ve been eating salads sans beets for way too long like I have, stop the madness right now with what has become my idea of a perfect fall salad.

Spinach, Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Chicken and Shallot with Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Ingredients
(I didn’t really measure anything, so just go with how much you think you need for the number of people you’re serving.)

For the salad:
½ bag baby spinach
½ shallot, diced
1 beet
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Heaping handful of raw, unsalted walnuts

For the dressing:
About 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp agave (or other sweetener such as honey or maple syrup)
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Marinate the chicken in your favorite marinade (I like to use bottled dressing; my favorite is Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette) for 10-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare the beet: Peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half and cut each half into bite-sized pieces. Place in the center of a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Fold the foil into a little packet with the beet in the center. Place it on a baking sheet.

For the chicken: Take the chicken out of the marinade and place it on a piece of foil on the other half of the baking sheet.

Cook the chicken and beet for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Set chicken aside and allow it to cool slightly. Test the beet—it’s done if you can easily pierce it with a fork. Otherwise, return to oven and cook for 10 more minutes.

Toast the walnuts: Heat a dry pan on medium-heat. Add walnuts, tossing occasionally, until fragrant (3-5 minutes). Be sure not to burn them. Remove from heat, place on cutting board, and roughly chop.

Assemble the salad: Place spinach in a bowl and top with diced shallot. Add walnuts. Add beets. Thinly slice chicken and place on top.

For the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a small container with a lid and shake until combined. Pour the amount that you want (you’ll probably have extra) over the salad and use tongs to coat evenly.

Homemade Chicken Stock

How is it possible that, with the quantity of soup I make (about one big pot per week), I’ve never made homemade chicken stock before? I shudder to think about the amount of money I’ve spent on boxes of organic broth in the past year, averaging about two four-cup boxes per recipe. Not to the mention the annoyance of lugging them home on the half-mile trek from Whole Foods. Geez. And all along, I had no idea just how darn easy (and tasty, healthy, and cheap) it was to make it on your own especially if you use your slow cooker. It’s about 10 minutes of work total.

The thought of making my own stock first occurred because I happened to have a spare chicken carcass sitting in my fridge. Don’t you? It was leftover from the chicken noodle soup I made when I was fighting the plague…okay it was a cold and it sucked. But the soup—and the carcass it left behind—was awesome. After removing the meat from the rotisserie chicken, I decided to hold onto the remains because I vaguely remembered hearing about using it to make homemade stock and thought I’d give it a try. Maybe. Then, later in the week, Robert and I went out to dinner with friends and he ordered half a roast chicken. Believe it or not, I asked the server to wrap up the skin and bones to go. That was definitely a first for me.

I came across lots of recipes online that required slaving over a big pot of stuff on the stove, occasionally skimming away fat, for four or more hours. I wasn’t having any of that. Finally, I found a few that used the slow cooker. I combined a bunch of the recipes based on what I had on hand (an onion, some carrots, celery, scallions, black peppercorns…) not really sure if it would work at all. While it stewed in the slow cooker I decided that if it was a total fail at least it made my apartment smell incredible for an entire day. It seriously smelled like I was sitting in a giant pot of soup. Not a bad way to spend a Friday. Finally, around hour nine, I decided it had had enough time to brothify. I lifted the lid, scooped up some liquid with a spoon, and lifted the spoon to my lips. A.MAY.ZING!!! The best broth I ever tasted in my life! It was rich yet light, bursting with chickeny goodness. Unlike the boxed kind, which, let’s face it, can taste a bit like saltwater, this stuff was clearly made from chicken, onions, and veggies. You can just taste it. Needless to say, you’re going to end up seeing lots of versions of roast chicken on the blog from now on because I’m going to need a lot more chicken carcasses around here.

Here is the recipe (if you can call it that) I used, but I’m sure it will work with just about any similar items sitting in your fridge and spice cabinet.

Ingredients

1 chicken carcass (bones and skin—it’s okay if there’s still a little meat on there, you’ll strain it out later.)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, cut into large pieces (I didn’t peel them)
4-6 ribs of celery, cut into large pieces
1 bunch of scallions, cut into large pieces (this is probably optional, but I needed to get rid of them.)
1-2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp kosher salt
3 dried bay leaves
Water
*I’ve also seen recipes that include fresh parsley, but I didn’t have any on hand.

Preparation
In a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker, place chicken parts on the bottom. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add water until slow cooker is about ¾ full. Cover and set on low for 8 to 10 hours. When done, taste and add salt if needed. Turn slow cooker off and allow to cool for 30 to 60 minutes. Place a strainer over a big bowl and scoop slow cooker contents into the strainer so broth flows into the bowl. Discard bones, veggies, etc. Place a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and refrigerate until cold. (I left mine in until the next day.) Remove from fridge, skim fat off the top, then pour into a plastic freezer bag (the broth may be gel-like) and freeze.*

*I also learned a new way of freezing liquids that’s genius. Once you transfer the broth to the freezer bag place it flat on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the broth is frozen it will be completely flat and super easy to store in the freezer without taking up much space. Love it!

Adapted From The Kitchn

Peanut Butter Blondies with Peanut Butter M&Ms

I have a serious sweet tooth. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to indulge that sweet tooth as much as I would’ve liked this Halloween. But this dessert more than makes up for it: Peanut butter blondies with peanut butter M&Ms. Need I say more? No, no I don’t. So here it goes—a quick and easy treat that erases the age-old question: Cookie or candy? It’s an AND world, people, and this recipe is proof.

Ingredients
½ cups unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
½ cups creamy peanut butter
2-½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-½ cup Peanut Butter M&Ms

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring until smooth. When it is smooth, remove from heat and add the peanut butter. Allow to cool while combining the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the brown sugar and peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the mixed dry ingredients and stir until combined. It will be a thick, smooth batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with peanut butter M&Ms, pressing them down into the batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow them to cool in the pan before cutting into bars.

From Tasty Kitchen