White Bean Stracciatella Soup

After this past weekend’s indulgences, I’m in need of a little detox. This white bean stracciatella soup is the perfect remedy. Stracciatella is a simple vegetarian soup that begins with a broth. With the addition of white beans and kale, this soup is nutritiously hearty and contains a lot of fiber to help detox your system and get back to your normal self.

Stracciatella comes from an Italian word meaning rag or ribbons which is exactly what the eggs look like once they are poured into the broth. For non-vegetarian eaters, I like to add a little gelatin to this soup if I’m not using a homemade broth. Gelatin has amazing benefits for the digestive system as well as giving structure and shine to your nails, skin and hair. Who doesn’t love that?! This tasty soup comes together very quickly so you’ll be slurping up the goodness and reaping its benefits within minutes!

White Bean Stracciatella Soup
 
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Author:
Recipe type: soups
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • ½-3/4 cups fresh chopped kale, leaves only
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin (optional - omit for vegetarian)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a stockpot, sauté the garlic slices in olive oil just until fragrant.
  2. Add broth, basil, beans, kale and gelatin (if using) and bring to a boil.
  3. Gently pour beaten eggs into the hot soup. They will form ribbons as they cook.
  4. Stir in salt and cayenne to taste.
  5. Serve hot!
Notes
Can use spinach in place of the kale if desired.
Also delicious topped with a small amount of parmesan or manchego!

 

Jerk Chicken Plantain Bites

Holy cow! I never knew plantains could be so darn good. I’ve used plantains in crepes before but never as a chip. I ended up making these twice, once with plantain chips that I found at the market which only contained plantains and salt and once with homemade baked plantain chips. I must say, flavor-wise, the homemade chips won out as they caramelized a bit and turned darker in the oven. I liked that I could slice them diagonally and therefore get more of that shredded jerk chicken goodness onto each of these jerk chicken plantain bites. The purchased ones were thinner and therefore a little more crispy which I also liked. Plus, I didn’t have to spend time making the chips first. What I’m saying is, they both worked deliciously well so do what you prefer!

The idea for these jerk chicken plantain bites comes from traditional Jamaican fare. A common combination of spices for jerk chicken has just a hint of spice and the plantain is a commonly used fruit in Jamaican cuisine. Having discovered plantain chips at the supermarket, I thought this would be a fantastic fusion to put shredded jerk chicken onto a plantain chip for an easy game day appetizer. I was not disappointed. Even my kids gobbled them up like candy!

Jerk Chicken Plantain Bites
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizers
Cuisine: Jamaican
Serves: 25
Ingredients
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (warmed slightly)
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • ⅛-1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or more if needed for it to hold together
  • Plantain chips (homemade or purchased, lightly salted)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cilantro or green onion (green part only), chopped
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except the plantain chips and cilantro garnish.
  2. Mix until well combined and sticks slightly together.
  3. Scoop about a tablespoon onto a plantain chip and top with a small amount of cilantro or green onion for garnish.
  4. Arrange on a plate and serve.
Notes
To make homemade plantain chips, peel and thinly slice two plantains on the diagonal. Place on a greased baking sheet in a single layer and brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes until the edges start to brown, flipping over once halfway.

 

Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup

One of my favorite soups from when I was a kid was a vegetable beef and barley soup… from a can of condensed soup, of course, as that was the trend.   Packed full of wholesome ingredients, and none of the bad, it’s a hearty healthy meal.

Vegetable beef and barley soup is easy on the budget as you can use the less ideal cuts of beef (like round steak) diced into bite size morsels or stew meat. Since these cuts of meat tend to be more tough, I put them in a slow cooker with the vegetables for a few hours to soften into tender melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Then, I add the remaining ingredients and continue to slow cook another few hours until all the ingredients have melded together and the barley and vegetables are tender. The resulting taste is a perfect blend of earthy and nutty goodness in a comforting bowl of bliss. Barley is a gluten containing grain (less so than wheat) so if you need to stay gluten-free, you can substitute Asian barley (also called Job’s tears) or arborio rice for a similar taste and texture.

Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup
 
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Recipe type: soups
Ingredients
  • 1-2 pounds stew meat or other beef cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup turnips, parsnips or potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 cups celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste if needed)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green beans, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½-1 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup barley, Asian barley or Arborio rice
  • 4 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • water if needed to achieve desired consistency
Instructions
  1. Place beef, turnips, celery, carrots, onion, garlic and salt in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Cook on low about 4-5 hours until meat is fully cooked and begins to become tender.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and continue cooking 2-4 hours until barley is tender.
  4. The barley will make the soup much thicker as it cooks so if you need to add water, do so as it's cooking until you reach your desired consistency.
Notes
Any extra soup can easily be frozen for future meals!

 

Creamy Broccoli Soup

With the temps dipping back into the single digits after three days of snow, a soft sumptuous soup like creamy broccoli soup is just what I need. There’s something uniquely wonderful about a soup that’s creamy, hearty and totally good for you. I can indulge and still keep my new year’s healthy eating resolutions. There’s so much great nutrition starting in the base of this soup thanks to the traditional mirepoix trifecta of celery, carrot, and onion plus a little garlic for good measure. This vegetable base creates a subtle variety of flavors without being heavy.

This creamy soup isn’t cream based or made with any dairy, however. Instead, I’ve added potatoes and then pureed the soup base so it gets a smooth creamy texture. You can also substitute white beans in place of the potatoes (pictured below). Using vegetable broth as the liquid makes it suitable for vegans as well. Another thing that I love about this dairy-free creamy broccoli soup is that it also uses the stem of the broccoli for a no-waste, budget friendly meal. The stems also add a more complex well-rounded wonderful flavor that even had my five-year old asking for seconds. If you do enjoy a bit of dairy, this soup is lovely topped with a bit of shredded cheddar too!

Creamy Broccoli Soup
 
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Author:
Recipe type: soups
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced (or use 2 cans of white beans)
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, stems finely diced, florets roughly chopped and set aside
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste (this will depend on how salty your broth it and your taste preference)
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery, broccoli stems and garlic in the olive oil until the onion begins to become translucent. About 10 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes, broth, water and spices to the pot and boil until broccoli stems are tender. About 20-30 minutes. Note: if using beans instead of potatoes, do not add them yet.
  3. Puree the soup base with an immersion blender or pour into a blender (carefully) to puree and then transfer back to the stockpot. Note: if using beans, puree 1 can of the beans and then add the other can whole.
  4. Add broccoli florets and simmer with the lid on (this gets thick and bubbly) for about 8-10 minutes until florets are tender.
  5. Serve hot, with cheese if desired.
Notes
Can be frozen or kept warm in a crockpot.

 

 

Chocolate Dessert Hummus

Happy New Year! I’m so excited… my awesome hubby gave me a new camera for Christmas to replace the one I’d been using that’s 10 years (or more??) old and starting to be a bit dated in functionality. My new camera has a neat food photo setting that makes everything just a bit more vibrant and saves me some editing time. I also got a fun macro lens to do close-ups on my food photos. YAY!!!  This chocolate dessert hummus is my first time using the new camera and I think the photos are turning out fantastic!

chcolate dessert hummus

chocolate dessert hummus

Chocolate dessert hummus tastes like a nutty brownie batter and is perfect for dipping apple slices, pretzels or other fruits. If you’ve ever had black bean brownies, you’ll know that the “bean” flavor disappears when combined with the other ingredients. Like traditional hummus, this dessert hummus is made with chickpeas but that’s where the similarities end. Chocolate, vanilla, and a little maple syrup provide the sweet deliciousness that my kiddos have been savoring all week. This dip has a creamy decadence and protein power thanks to the healthy fats and proteins found in chickpeas. So go ahead, indulge in this chocolate yumminess and I won’t tell if you lick the spoon. Your secret is safe with me!


Chocolate Dessert Hummus
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Sauces and Dips
Ingredients
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons water, to desired consistency
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth!
  2. Serve with any kind of fruit, banana chips, and pretzels.

 

 

Chocolate Mint Cookies

‘Twas the night before Christmas a long time ago, when I was a child and to church I would go. After church was complete, we’d perform the great feat. A holiday meal which would take hours to complete. I, a young girl, with my eyes in pure wonder, as my aunts and my grandma cooked with nary a blunder. The uncles and Grandpa were kicked out in a snap, to the living room, they retreated to relax and to nap. Among the kid’s playroom there was laughter, there was cheer, in anticipation of presents and Rudolf who was soon to appear. The meal was ended, bellies full and content, then Grandpa would tell stories while we listened, intent. Much needed was dish washing but we kids were playing hooky, excitedly leaving for dear Santa, these chocolate mint cookies…

chocolate mint cookies

Chocolate mint cookies, what a sight, a delight! Santa would surely enjoy a treat late that night.  The chocolately chewiness about which we raved was topped with the sweet peppermint combo we craved. Leaving a few spares set out on a plate we’d wait and we’d wait and we’d wait, wait, wait, wait… then by morning these chocolate mint cookies disappeared, leaving presents behind with hope and good cheer. The sunshine glows bright with snow fresh and so white, and I wish a merry Christmas to all, and for all, delicious delights!

chocolate mint cookies

Need another great cookie, to leave out on Christmas Eve night?  These coconut spritz cookies are also just right!

Chocolate Mint Cookies
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Ghiradelli)
  • ⅔ cup coconut sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened (or palm shortening for dairy-free)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups flour (gluten free blend, almond or all-purpose)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Ghiradelli)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 - 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate chips.
  2. Add coconut sugar, butter, and water until combined.
  3. Beat in egg.
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
  5. Chill in refrigerator 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Form dough into balls and flatten slightly while placing on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
  8. Bake 12-14 minutes until edges look dry.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool.
  10. FROSTING:
  11. Melt chocolate chips and stir in honey and peppermint extract.
  12. Spread frosting onto each cookie and let cool to set frosting.

 

Mulled Wine Poached Pears

mulled wine poached pears

I’ve been in the mood for festive desserts that are heavy on flavor but still leave me feeling light on my feet. Fruits are the perfect dessert in this case as you get a bit of sweet decadence but won’t get overly full like you would with a dense cake or pie. These mulled wine poached pears are the perfect answer for any holiday season dessert.

Poached pears are super easy and look elegant among your holiday spread. The light spices in the mulled wine make for a very homey and enticingly fragrant house while the pears are poaching. Sliced in half, these poached pears look adorable with a luscious ring of red on the outside from absorbing the wine. The pears can then be stuffed with a small amount of blue cheese and walnuts or pecans to up the “fancy” factor. As an added bonus, you can strain and drink the leftover mulled wine used to poach these bits of deliciousness!

Mulled Wine Poached Pears
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 pears
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese (or goat cheese works nicely too)
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, combine wine, honey and spices and heat over medium heat.
  2. Peel the pears and place into the mulled wine.
  3. Simmer uncovered about 40 minutes until pears are fork tender. Turn pears occasional so they cook and color evenly on all sides.
  4. Remove pears from wine and let cool. You can keep the wine to drink as mulled wine by straining the whole spices out first. Serve wine hot or at room temperature.
  5. Slice pears into halves and scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or tablespoon.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount of blue cheese and walnuts into each pear and serve with a little drizzle of the mulled wine.
  7. Garnish with mint leaves or thyme sprigs if desired.
  8. You can make a thicker "sauce" for the pears by continuing to simmer the wine until is has reduced enough to a syrup consistency.
Notes
If you wish to have extra mulled wine for drinking, just double all of the ingredients except the pears!

 

Marinated Venison Chops

marinated venison chops

Over the river and through the woods, a lovely deer made it’s way into my kitchen, complements of my hunter husband. Every fall my man goes on multi-day excursion to hunt with a group of five other fellas, all of which are my immediate family or my sister’s in-laws who are like family to us as well. We all love the rewards of a successful hunting trip and look forward to meals of marinated venison chops or steaks throughout the season.

Venison is quite lean which can make it tough so a nice overnight marinade makes these venison chops super flavorful and tender. This marinade is Asian inspired and is very similar to the marinade I use for Korean Flank Steak.  A true Minnesotan pairs their venison with a wild rice side dish so in true homage to my roots, these marinated venison chops are paired with a wild rice and mushroom dish.  I’ve kept with the woodsy theme by using a mix of northwoods mushrooms but updated it with some added kale and a light kick of Asian flavor to blend with the flavors in the venison marinade. For added tastiness, reserve some of the marinade sauce (before the meat goes in it) to use as a dipping sauce or drizzle at the table!

marinated venison chops

Love venison? Try a hearty venison chili or venison stroganoff too!

Marinated Venison Chops
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main Dishes
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1½ - 2 pounds venison chops or steaks, sliced 1 inch thick
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice or rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (leave seeds in for a little more heat)
  • WILD RICE:
  • 4 ounces mushrooms (cremini, oyster, baby bella, etc), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup wild rice blend (I used Lundberg's wild rice blend)
  • 1¾ cups chicken stock
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 stems kale, stem removed and leaves finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Combine green onions, tamari, lime juice, ginger, honey, garlic and jalapeño in a small bowl.
  2. Reserve 2 tablespoons to use as a dipping sauce or drizzle when serving.
  3. Place venison in a zip top bag and pour remaining marinade over top. Massage gently to evenly coat the meat.
  4. Let marinate in the fridge at least 4 hours but preferably overnight for best flavor.
  5. When ready to cook, drain marinade and discard. Arrange venison on a broiler pan and broil about 10-14 minutes until desired doneness, turning once halfway through. You can also grill them on medium heat if you prefer.
  6. While venison is cooking, prepare the rice.
  7. Sauté mushrooms in a saucepan with the butter until they've browned.
  8. Add all other ingredients and simmer, covered, about 40-45 minutes until all liquid has absorbed.

 

 

Cajun Herb Roasted Cornish Hens

roasted cornish hens

The first snow of the season (happening now!) always makes me a bit giddy. This can only mean one thing…that the holidays are approaching and spending lots of meaningful time with family is just around the corner.  The hubby and I have been hosting his family for Thanksgiving for the past 8 years and we love it! It gives us a chance to create a wholesome meal with a heaping helping of nostalgia. Though each of us has our “must-have’s” as part of the main meal, there’s always room for a little improvisation in flavors like in these Cajun herb roasted Cornish hens.

Cajun herb roasted Cornish hens are much faster to prepare than roasting a turkey and look SO adorable on your table! After marinating overnight, these little fellas roast up in just over an hour which is a far cry from the multi-hour event that roasted turkey takes. If you prefer the big bird, this seasoning combination would also work great for turkey though you’ll have to double or triple it depending on the size of your bird. Our favorite side dishes are easily prepped either in advance or can be prepped while the Cornish hens are roasting.

roasted cornish hens

My daughter’s (and my) favorite side dish is mashed potatoes and gravy. I usually make these ahead of time so I can enjoy a more relaxed kitchen during the big day. I’ll also be preparing a seasoned sweet corn and a modified version of this tart and tangy cranberry sauce that I think will go wonderfully well with the Cajun flavor in these roasted Cornish hens. Other side dish options to try are a simple mushroom green beans, a holiday salad or a Brussels sprouts sauté. For dessert, this pretty pumpkin pie is clean eating comfort in every slice. Bring these beautiful roasted Cornish hens to your Thanksgiving dinner and it’s bound to be a winner!

Cajun Herb Roasted Cornish Hens
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main Dishes
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 4 Cornish game hens, neck and giblets removed
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup lime or lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • pinch of dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, garlic, oregano, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.
  2. Rub a little of the marinade into the body cavity and under the skin of each hen.
  3. Then, place two Cornish hens in a zip top bag and pour half of the marinade over them. Repeat with the other two. Set aside and marinate in the fridge 4 hours or overnight.
  4. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Take hens out of their marinade and place in a baking dish (9x13 or a rimmed baking sheet works well).
  6. Scoop marinade out of bag and spoon onto each of the hens.
  7. Roast for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes until a meat thermometer placed in thickest part reads 165 degrees.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

Spinach Feta Breakfast Casserole

spinach feta breakfast casserole

Election day, election day… yes, I did indeed go out and vote my conscience. I’m grateful to live in a nation that has a democracy where we can be free to express and embrace all of our opinions and individuality. I’d love a few more morally acceptable options on the table this year but that aside, I educated myself on all of the viable candidates (third parties included) and voted for the candidate I’d be proud to invite to my dinner table for this spinach feta breakfast casserole and trust to hang out with all of my littles – chickens included.

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Spinach feta breakfast casserole is the perfect dish to impress your morning brunch guests and it’s easy enough to make and refrigerate or freeze for easy weekday grab-and-go breakfasts. Many egg bakes or breakfast casseroles contain bread which I don’t really care for in a baked dish. Bread adds unnecessary empty carbs as well as creates an odd soft spoonable but not smooth texture. Mushy soft bread = not a fan. Instead, the base of this dish is browned hashbrowns topped with sausage (optional), a bunch of spinach, feta and eggs. It’s filling enough to get you to lunch but won’t weigh you down. For tomorrow’s breakfast, my vote is cast.  My vote goes to this awesomely easy spinach feta breakfast casserole!

spinach feta breakfast casserole

Spinach Feta Breakfast Casserole
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ½ pound ground breakfast sausage (optional)
  • 2-3 ounces cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan pink)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a sauté pan, brown the hash browns with butter or olive oil until warmed and lightly browned.
  3. Place hash browns on the bottom of a greased 1.5-2 quart casserole dish.
  4. In the same sauté pan, brown sausage with the onion and then layer on top of the hash browns.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped spinach and feta overtop of the sausage.
  6. In a bowl, whisk eggs, coconut milk and rest of the seasonings together.
  7. Pour eggs over spinach and feta.
  8. Bake about 45 minutes until center is set and no longer wiggly.
Notes
If you prefer not to bake it right away, this can be fully prepped, covered and refrigerated overnight and then baked in the morning. Note, it will take extra bake time if baking directly from the refrigerator - closer to 60 minutes.

Leftovers can easily be refrigerated or frozen for an easy heat and eat breakfast option!