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. 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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Recipe type: soups
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, stems finely diced, florets roughly chopped and set aside
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½-1 teaspoon salt (this will depend on how salty your broth it and your taste preference)
  • pinch of thyme
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the olive oil until the onion begins to become translucent. About 10 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes, broccoli stems, broth, water and spices to the pot and boil until broccoli stems are tender. About 20-30 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup base with an immersion blender or pour into a blender (carefully) to puree and then transfer back to the stockpot.
  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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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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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!

 

 

Chicken White Bean Enchiladas

chicken white bean enchiladas

If I had to survive on only one cuisine for the rest of ever, it would be Mexican. Or maybe Thai. It’s a tossup. They both have one thing in common. Mexican and Thai flavors are both very cohesive and flavorful through the entire dish and have a lot of heat. I don’t mean just the little bit of kick, kind of spicy. I’m talking about the hit ya in the backside kind of spice but not so much that it  knocks you over. THAT is what I like. I don’t even know HOW I’m a Minnesota girl, honestly.  My roots are all Scandinavian and German (you know the type: those who think ketchup is spicy… and we dance a mean polka). Yet, somehow, I can’t GET enough hot spicy goodness in my life. I’ll blame it on my travels to Mexico and Asia. I remember a trip to Seoul, Korea where the vendors I was working with were astonished that I was eating whole charred garlic cloves straight off the grill (in multitude). I then proceeded to douse my rice with their chili paste (not for the faint of heart). I had been forewarned that “this is SPICY!!” and that maybe, as an American, I wouldn’t like it. It was fantastic!!  I then proceeded to dare my coworker into a “you taste the spicy chili and I’ll taste the sushi” dare (I don’t do sushi… it’s the texture).  I won. These amazing enchiladas are a testament to my love affair with spice though they are less spicy than I would make for myself, given the choice ;)  These chicken white bean enchiladas are still kid and Midwestern husband friendly!

chicken white bean enchiladas

Chicken white bean enchiladas start with a slow cooked chicken. Hello, drool-worthy shreddable tenderness! To that, we add a touch of garlic and onion and a tish of that tomatillo salsa which also goes on top.  You can use any other enchilada sauce too if you prefer red or green. My go-to sauces when I don’t make it from scratch are the Frontera brand that you can get in a pouch since it doesn’t have preservatives. If you like a nice red (rojo) enchilada sauce from scratch, you can use the red sauce I created for this venison enchiladas recipe both in the sauce and as a “smother” for baking. Add to that a bit of white navy beans, more garlic, and a little lime and spinach and we have ourselves a respectable chicken white bean enchilada. You can make this as spicy as you want simply by altering the type of peppers you use when making the sauce. Less spicy peppers equal less spicy sauce. Or use less of them just be sure to use a variety for a well-rounded flavor. Simple simon… and SUPER delicious!

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 can white navy beans
  • ½ cup roasted salsa verde or enchilada red sauce (see links for recipes)
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 cup spinach chopped
  • 8 fajita size corn tortillas
  • garnishes: queso fresco, fresh tomato, lettuce, cilantro and pickled jalapeños
Instructions
  1. In a slow cooker, cook chicken breast with garlic, onion, broth, and salt for 6-7 hours on low until easily shreddable.
  2. Shred meat and stir in the beans, cilantro, spinach and lime juice plus ½-1 cup sauce (either salsa verde or red sauce).
  3. To assemble enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Lightly brush or spritz both sides of tortillas with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  5. Toast tortillas about 8 minutes. They should still be pliable.
  6. Let tortillas cool just enough that you can handle them.
  7. Place a scoop of filling along the center of each tortilla and roll it up.
  8. Place tortillas seam side down in a lightly greased baking dish. Repeat for remaining tortillas.
  9. Pour sauce over tortillas being sure to cover the tortillas completely.
  10. Top with cheese if desired.
  11. Bake 20 minutes.
  12. Serve hot with cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes and pickled jalapeños for garnish.

Pork Tenderloin with Tomatillo Sauce

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I can’t believe I’m constructing a rooster tail out of chicken wire and feather boas right now. The hubby has a work trip next week which includes attending a costume party so in true form, he wants to go as a giant, ahem, “rooster” except that’s not the word he used ;-) He’s got himself a rooster hat, a rooster themed tee shirt and I’m in charge of using my skills from my former years in the apparel industry by fashioning him a rooster tail that attaches to his belt. It’s a pretty comical sight. A sight that I nonetheless need a break from for a little slice of heaven.  Right now, nothing says “heaven” to me besides this perfectly spiced pork tenderloin with tomatillo sauce.

Pork tenderloin is the best cut of meat you can get from a hog if you ask me. Not only is it very tender, but the tenderloin is also lower in fat content while still providing tons of flavor. It’s easy to roast with any combination of spices.  In this case, I used a Cajun spice blend with a touch of smoked salt. I then sliced it and covered it with tomatillo salsa, corn kernels and pickled jalapeños, both compliments of my abundant garden.  Paired  with cilantro lime rice it’s a winning dinner combination!

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Pork Tenderloin with Tomatillo Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main Dishes
Ingredients
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
  • Cajun seasoning, to taste
  • Smoked salt (or other salt) to taste
  • ¼-1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (roasted salsa verde)
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn kernels and pickled jalepenos for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove any silverskin from the pork tenderloin and sprinkle with a generous amount of Cajun seasoning and salt.
  3. In a lightly greased oven proof sauté pan (like cast iron), sear all sides of the tenderloin on medium high heat.
  4. Place pan with tenderloin in oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through (145 degree internal temp).
  5. Let rest 5 minutes and then slice.
  6. Arrange on serving plate and top with tomatillo salsa, corn kernels and pickled jalapeños.

 

 

Cilantro Lime Rice

cilantro lime rice

Last weekend, we had a photographer come out to our acreage to do a little family photo shoot. I also had her take some updated pics of me so I can finally update my photos here on the blog (soon!). I was re-living the senior picture experience all over again… except that I was posing with produce, ha! Between photos and family time, I froze some corn in prep for Thanksgiving and had a few corn kernel escapees to toss into this quick and easy cilantro lime rice.

Cilantro lime rice has such a great flavor and is a perfect sidekick to tacos, enchiladas, or to toss into a salad for some extra carbolicious bite. When making rice (or quinoa), I often cook the grains in a chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Doing so significantly increases the flavor of the dish and adds complexity. In this case, the cilantro lime rice is cooked in chicken broth. Then, a quick addition of garlic, lime juice and cilantro completes the dish in seconds!

Cilantro Lime Rice
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Sides
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup long grain rice of any kind
  • 1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons corn kernels
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook rice in a saucepan using the broth instead of water.
  2. When rice has about 5 minutes left to cook, stir in the corn.
  3. Remove from heat when fully cooked and stir in garlic, cilantro and lime juice.
  4. Add salt to taste and serve!