Mexican pho

When one of your very best friends comes home from Maryland, you drop everything to make her whatever sounds good. And when she comes home in the fall, what sounds good is soup. And Mexican.
I wanted something simple to pair with this, and came across my pho recipe from last winter – clean flavors, fun toppings. And thinking Mexican made me think tortilla soup. Ta done – Mexican pho was born! This would be equally good with a quesadilla side, or even just queso and chips.
Mexican Pho
Simple and satisfying, it’s like the LBD of Mexican food – dress it up any way you want!
You’ll need:
  • 8 c chicken broth – low sodium
  • 2 c chicken (rotisserie leftover roasted chicken works – you can also add 2-3 raw chicken breasts and shred before serving)
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional lime wedges, minced cilantro, avocado, queso fresco, tortilla strips and jalapeño slices – to serve
Get cooking: 
  1. Place all ingredients (chicken broth through pepper) in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Heat on low for 4 hours, or high for 8 (you can cut the time down if your chicken is already cooked.)
  3. Serve with lime wedges and garnish with plenty of minced cilantro and jalapeño slices.

Baked potato soup

This time of year is fickle. The skies promise sunshine, it peeks through the clouds with a shy anticipation – but snatches back and sends us cold winds on the turn of a dime. Everything is brown. And wet. And not growing yet. Oh, and my migraines are terrible. It makes me crabby.

When I am crabby, I crave comfort food – enter baked potato soup. You need something to cheer your weary bones? This is hearty, and comforting. You need some fun in your life? If a bacon-topped bowl of goodness isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. You need something easy for dinner? My friends, dive into this delicious bowl.

There are a million different recipes for baked potato soup – mine balances the line between decadent and decidedly not terrible for you. It’s filling, relatively fast and fairly hard to ruin. Also, cheese. And bacon. Who can be crabby in the face of that?

Baked potato soup
Potatoes. Bacon. Cheese. I rest my case.

You’ll need:

  • 6 potatoes (I like yukon golds or klondike rose), baked* and diced
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T butter
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 lb. of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ bunch green onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

*Fast method for baking potatoes:

Prick potatoes on each side with a fork. Microwave for 8 minutes, flip, and microwave 7-8 minutes more.

Get cooking:

  1. Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Add garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Deglaze pan with chicken broth, adding potatoes, cream cheese and half of cheddar cheese. Stir, breaking up potatoes into smaller chunks with the spoon, and allow cheese to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Garnish with bacon, cheese and scallions.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa bake

I’ve managed to make the hubs love of a lot of things he thought he hated. Steak. Bell peppers. Broccoli. Spicy food. (Well, not spicy to me, but I can actually use sriracha now.) But nothing has shocked me as much as his absolute obsession with Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts seem to be the “hot new trend” in food – mostly, I think, because everyone thought they hated them. Including David. Until someone got the genius idea to roast them. Now, he loves them with everything.

He also is not a huge fan of me suggesting ‘meatless’ night. But this gem, via Cookie and Kate, may have changed his mind. I did serve this with a pork tenderloin, but it would have been plenty on its own. Warm, filling and actually good for you, this is a beautiful dish for entertaining, yet easy enough for any night of the week.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa Bake
Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa Bake – aka, David’s new favorite meal.

You’ll need:

  • 1.5 – 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or stock
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 6-8 oz. assorted cheese (I used buttermilk blue and swiss – the sharper you go, the less you need)
  • 3/4 cup hard cheese, grated (for the top – I used piave vecchio, but whatever you like works fine.)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook quinoa in water/broth for 12-15 minutes, until liquid is gone (check your package, you may need to rinse your quinoa first.)
  3. Slice your sprouts in half (or quarters if they’re huge), toss with oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 10-12 minutes. (Just until they get some color, they’ll finish cooking later.)
  4. Once quinoa is done, mix in milk, cheese and spices. Add in sprouts, pour into a baking dish (mine was 1.5 quarts, but an 8×8 works), top with shredded cheese and bake 12-15 minutes, until top is just browning.
  5. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6 as a main, 6-8 as a side.

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat cheese

Getting married is an interesting exercise in merging tastes. What you each grew up with plays a huge part in how much you love/hate things like lima beans/Brussels Sprouts/broccoli, or even steak/pork chops/pasta. The hubs and I both came from a lot of casseroles – except he hated most vegetables not in casserole form. I developed a love for cooking in college – and with that came a love of crunchy vegetables, al dente pasta and medium rare meat. David, unfortunately, did not share that love. Luckily, they say your tastes change every seven years. I think I may have David on an accelerated rate, but five years ago, the only part of this dish he would have eaten was the butter. Now, he loves Brussels Sprouts so much I actually think I could have served them on cardboard.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. This dish is a great nod to Fall – the cranberries, pecans and brown butter made you feel like the holidays are right around the corner. The roasted Brussels Sprouts give a great crunch and earthy flavor next to the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the pasta just…well, it’s pasta, it makes everything better. David loved this so much he didn’t even ask about meat – which hardly ever happens.

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat Cheese
All the best flavors of Fall: brown butter, cranberries and pecans – with yummy caramelized sprouts and pasta.

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb. pasta – short cut is preferable, but really your favorite is fine
  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, sliced in half (or quarters for really large sprouts)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Handful of roasted pecans
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss Brussels Sprouts and onions in oil, season with salt and pepper and roast until crispy, 25-30 minutes. (I like mine with some bite still on them, so this may take up to 45 minutes depending on how you prefer your sprouts.)
  2. Cook pasta to your liking, drain and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, keep the heat high, cooking the butter until just golden (it will keep cooking even after you turn off the heat.) Turn off heat and add garlic.
  4. Toss pasta in with butter mixture, then add sprouts and onions. Toss to mix, then pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cranberries, pecan and goat cheese.
  5. Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a side.

Comfort meal made easy: Roast chicken and mashed potatoes with broccoli

So here’s the deal: yes, making super fancy food can be a super-hella-blast. I like it more than most. But sometimes, I’ve had a long day. I want to come home, put on my jammies and eat something that warms me from the inside out. I want it to be real, wholesome, homemade – and good for me. And cheap-ish is always stellar. (I’m kinda needy, even on jammie night.) So here it is, the warm-you-up, fill-your-heart-without-busting-your-pants-or-budget ultimate meal: roasted chicken. Mashed potatoes. Broccoli.

Roast chicken
This roast chicken is so amazing we had to show it some love. Seriously, we couldn’t stop sneaking bites – we had to make a whole new chicken!

Roast chicken, you say? Well that’s some boring dinner, Amanda. I submit to you, it is not. It may not photograph perfectly (see lack of finished dish photo) but you perfectly roast a chicken with nothing but salt and pepper – I am telling you , your life will change. And mashed potatoes? Do not have to be laden with fat and cheese. (I mean, they’re super good when they ARE, don’t misunderstand, but they don’t HAVE to be.) And broccoli gets a bad rap, but I’m here to tell you, if you make it like I instruct below, you will turn the staunchest of green-things hater into a believer. (And I should know – I’ve done it). So bust out your yoga pants and hoodie, pour a glass of wine and put on the jazz. Or blues. Or teeny-bopper pop, I’m not here to judge.

You’ll need:

  • 1 roaster chicken (4-5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup + 3 – 4T olive oil, divided
  • 2-3 citrus fruits, quartered (Lemons, limes, oranges – whatevs)
  • 12 cloves of garlic, minced (Yes, you read that 12 right. Garlic’s good for you.)
  • 3 T basil
  • 2 T thyme
  • 1 T rosemary
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 lb of your favorite potatoes, cubed (I like the Klondike rose, which is a redskin … skin… and a yukon gold center.)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use skim because that’s what I drink – sometimes I use buttermilk. Use what you have.)
  • 4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I said they weren’t laden with fat and cheese, I didn’t say they had no flavor.)
  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets and stems discarded (Unless you’re into that sort of thing, but me and the stems are a no-go item.)
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

Chicken

  1. Check inside – if there is a bag of innards, remove and pitch. (And be grateful it’s already in a bag for you.) Pat chicken dry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place chicken in a roaster pan (I like to keep it up off the bottom of the pan by putting it on a roasting rack or even a cooling rack, so if you have one, cool. If not, no worries.)
  3. Combine green spices, salt and pepper and half of garlic with 1/4 cup oil and rub chicken down. No for real, give it a good massage.
  4. Stuff the inside with your citrus fruits, just until it’s full. Some people like to truss the bird (which means tying its legs together so the fruit stays inside). But it’s PJ night and I’m lazy. So I don’t.
  5. Now go and wash your hands, or my sister will have a fit.
  6. Tent chicken with aluminum foil and bake 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the chicken comes to 165 or 170. (It ‘should’ be 180, but it will keep cooking after you pull it out of the oven.)
  7. Remove tent in last 15 minutes or so of cooking, so the skin gets all nice and brown.
  8. Once you hit the magic number, pull out of oven and cover with aluminum foil tent, resting for 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the counter – your chicken’s in the oven. Broccoli and mashed potatoes won’t take you more than 30 minutes or so. Take a break! Put your feet up, make some tea, read a book. Ok now come back,  we still have work to do.

Broccoli

  1. Lay broccoli on 9 x 13 cooking sheet (love my stoneware sheets for this, but anything works.)
  2. Drizzle with remaining oil, half of remaining garlic and salt/pepper.
  3. When you pull the chicken out of the oven, pop in the broccoli and roast for 10 minutes, or until it’s really, really green.

Potatoes:

  1. Boil a pot of water on high.
  2. Add potatoes, turn down to medium, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until a fork just pierces the potatoes (but they still have some give).
  3. Drain potatoes and return to hot pot.
  4. Add rest of garlic, cheese milk, butter and salt/pepper, and mash with a potato masher until potatoes are your desired consistency. (I like mine chunky. For super smooth, add more milk or cheese and use a hand mixer.)

Serve potatoes and broccoli with your chicken.

Pumpkin Breakfast Bake

I’m a big brunch fan. It’s all the best parts of breakfast – eggs, bread, something sweet – except you also get sleeping in, boozy coffee and mimosas. Also, friends. Often, I’m cooking for a crowd the morning after a party and want something to feed everyone that doesn’t use every pan in the kitchen. This is it – you mix it up the night before (even before the party), let it sit and just pop it in the oven the next day. Which is a perfect amount of time to get a half an hour more sleep and still pour mimosas.

Pumpkin breakfast bake
Pumpkin breakfast bake, topped with candied pecans.

Pumpkin breakfast bake may be hearty and filling, but it’s also cheap and pretty healthy. It tastes like pumpkin pie, but with whole wheat bread, skim milk and little added fat or sugar, it’s a lot better for everyone. Which is good, because then we can feel less bad about last night’s pizza binge.

Pumpkin breakfast bake 2
Pumpkin breakfast bake – the perfect brunch for any table.

You’ll need:

Bake:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 loaf crusty multigrain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • 2 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t cinnamon

Topping:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 T honey
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 T apple butter

Get cooking:

  1. Whisk eggs, milk, spices and pumpkin in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add bread and stir to coat.
  3. Place in greased 9 x 13 pan and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning, uncover pan and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the middle is heated through.
  5. For the topping, just mix all four ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth.

 

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

I love to entertain – except for those nights. Nights when you don’t want to clean. Nights after a wretched day. Those nights when you just want to cook something soul-warming, put on your PJs, open a bottle of wine – and call your best friends. Because you’re scared of them seeing your house. Even on those awful nights, Merrill will still come over – in her PJs, homework and Oscar (her dog) in tow. My house can be a mess, I usually am a mess – but we make some room on the couch to eat, laugh and relax. She requested this recipe during a ‘couch date’ – but, as always, we fiddled a bit. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but you’ll probably have most laying around already.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
The perfect classed-up comfort food – Brazilian shrimp soup.

 

Based on:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/brazilian-shrimp-soup

 

You’ll need:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1/2 t red-pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • 2 lbs medium shrimp, shelled and cut in half horizontally
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t cajun seasoning
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Salt, pepper, sriracha to taste

Get cooking:

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften (about 10 minutes.)
  2. Add the rice, red pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. erve in large bowls garnished with lemons, sriracha and parsley.

BBQ pork pizza

There is just something about barbecue. No matter what season, what occasion, it seems easy, fun and delicious. The same can be said for pizza. You can make a pizza fancy, fun, heavy, hearty – the combinations are endless.

Anyone who knows me knows how I cook – there should be a new term for leftovers coined just for me, to adequately express the level of leftover food I have after any given meal. The conception of this dish was one such occasion. I’m sure you’ve had chicken BBQ pizza (and in fact, my friend Matt makes the world’s best), but we happened to have a bunch of leftover pulled pork after an event, and I thought, “Well, I could make a pizza out of that!” So I did. And then David started requesting it weekly. So I suggest you don’t make this unless you’re ok with it becoming a permanent dinner rotation.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb pork loin or shoulder
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 lb feta
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 medium pizza crust
  • Cornmeal

Get cooking:

  1. To caramelize the onions: slice, combine with oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Put your pizza stone in the oven with the onions, so it heats up while you assemble the rest of the pizza.
  3. Spread your crust on a pizza peel/parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. (This will help the pizza slide off onto the stone. So be liberal, unless you want a calzone. Which is what happens when your crust gets mangled. Still tasty, but different experience.)
  4. Mix half the BBQ sauce with the pizza sauce and spread on the crust.
  5. Mix other half of sauce with pork.
  6. Add cheese, pork and caramelized onions to the pizza.
  7. Slide (very, very carefully) onto hot pizza stone and bake 15-20 minutes. (You can also place the parchment paper directly on the pizza stone – much, much easier.)
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes (I know, I know, but for real, you’ll burn yourself.)
  9. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I dare you.

Amazing Gnocchi in Acorn Squash

I studied abroad in Rome during the summer of 2006, and while I was there, I had a very…European class schedule. I took Italian from 9-12 and history from 4-6, leaving me a very nice chunk in the middle of the day for wandering, eating and siesta-ing. True story – it took me the rest of the summer to break my afternoon nap habit. Those Europeans, they have the right idea.

Lunch was sometimes pizza from a local pizzeria with my classmates, but on days where I just needed to get in the kitchen, one of my staple dishes was gnocchi in a white wine sauce. Super simple – just sauteed onion and and garlic and white wine with a little butter, gnocchi and a bit of cheese, but filling and refreshing. And fast enough that I had plenty of time for a nap.

I make the gnocchi year round, but during the two weeks of squashness early in our marriage I found a way to add some fall to this summer meal. I kept the same recipe for the gnocchi, but placed the finished dish inside the hollow of a cooked acorn squash. It gets in a vegetable serving, creates a great presentation and is just a fun way to eat the dish.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb of gnocchi, any variety
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced (Yes, I use a whole head. No, you don’t have to.)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 T dried basil or 20 leave fresh, chopped basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 acorn squash, split and cleaned
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. Place your acorn squash on a baking sheet – drizzle with 1 T of oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Bake at 450 degree for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.
  2. When the squash is about 10 minutes from being done, put the water on for the gnocchi.
  3. While the water is coming up to a boil, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add remaining oil. Saute onion 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 – 2 minutes more, until softened. Add wine, scraping up bits on the bottom of the pan. Let reduce by half. Add basil and salt/pepper to taste.
  4. Once it boils, add gnocchi. At this point, the gnocchi will only need about 3 minutes to cook – once one floats to the top of the water, they’re done. Scoop them out and add to the sauce.
  5. Cook gnocchi in sauce for another minutes or so, then add butter and allow to melt into sauce.
  6. Scoop gnocchi into cooked squash, top with your favorite cheese (we love this with fresh parmesan, goat cheese and blue cheese) and enjoy!

Splendid Butternut Squash Soup

I’m sure this recipe was inspired by someone, somewhere, but I’ve honestly been making it for so long that I couldn’t tell you where. The first winter David and I were married, we lived right by a local place called Horrocks that sells incredible produce for a great price. Kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, it was right down the road from our first apartment, and I bought a LOT of our veggies there. The problem (that still continues to be a ‘problem’ for me, let’s be real) was discerning how to only cook/buy food for two people. Case in point – for a few weeks that winter, all squash varieties were on sale for 19 cents a pound. 19 cents!!! Are you joking???? I bought a ton. A TON. Of squash. We had squash, I kid you not, every night for two weeks, until David finally begged me to find a new vegetable. But this soup is one of the creations that came out of it, and I continue to get compliments. The key, I tell everyone, is in the apples – it adds the perfect amount of sweetness. This is great side dish or is hearty enough for a meal on its own.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed with seeds removed
  • 1-2 apples, cored and cubed (You can peel if you want, but you don’t have to – also, the number depends on how sweet your want your soup.)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1 T rosemary
  • 1 T herbes de provence or basil
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 t curry (Optional – I like it, but that’s me.)
  • 1 t brown sugar (Again, I prefer just the sweetness of the apple, but it’s up to taste.)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 box chicken stock

Get cooking:

You can do this two ways:

1. Combine everything but the stock on a baking sheet, mix well, and roast at 450 under squash is tender. Boil chicken stock, add roasted veggies and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Heat until bubbling and serve. (I like it topped with goat or blue cheese, but again, just me.)

2. Saute squash, apples, onion and garlic in oil for 5-10 minutes (you’ll want to make sure you chop them smaller for this), add spices and stock and then boil until everything is tender – blend and serve like above.