Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

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Baked Chorizo Chiles Rellenos

It’s the New Year and it’s time to try and reign in all the indulgent eating we did during the holidays. So now my focus is on making healthy meals that are still fun and delicious (otherwise I’d go crazy). I was craving some cheesy Mexican food so I found a way to satisfy my craving without too much fat and calories. You can do this without meat and add more beans and veggies but I love any excuse to use chorizo. I’m careful about where I buy meats like chorizo but Whole Foods makes one thats delicious and I feel better about the ingredients in there. And instead of breading and frying these peppers as is customary, we will bake them. Still delicious, still cheesy, just a little healthier for you.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano peppers, washed, top cut off and seeds removed
  • 2 links chorizo
  • 1/2 cup or so of black beans
  • Ancho chili powder
  • 1 small red onion
  • chopped scallions
  • Fresh cilantro and oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 bag of Mexican cheese blend (would also be good with manchego cheese or reduced fat cream cheese if you really want that creamy texture)
  • Olive oil for sautéing

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Instructions:

Pre heat the oven to 375.

Cut the chorizo out of the casing and put in a hot saute pan with olive oil and onions.

imageLet the meat brown a bit and using a spoon gently break apart the meat. Add salt, pepper, chili powder and incorporate well. When it’s cooked through and the onions are softened add your fresh chopped herbs and shut the heat off.

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Pour into a bowl and add the cheese. Mix well.

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Using a small spoon, stuff each pepper and place on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s bubbly and the peppers are cooked. I put my broiler on the end to give the pepper a nice char.

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Dig in! This is great leftover and you can bring it to work for lunch the next day.

Enchiladas Roja

Who doesn’t love some enchiladas? Shredded meat in a tortilla smothered with sauce and cheese? I’m in! I’ve previously posted a recipe for enchiladas verde and also a very healthy version of enchiladas. And this time I share with you my spicy roja sauce! And for the record, these aren’t terrible for you if you pay attention to the ingredients you buy.

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Ingredients:

-2 chicken breasts

-2 chicken thighs (optional to add, but the dark meat often adds more flavor)

-2 habanero peppers (only use 1 if you want it mild)

-3 garlic cloves

-3 or 4 small sweet peppers or 1 red bell pepper (If you like your sauce sweeter rather than spicy, consider using roasted red peppers)

-1 large can of tomato sauce

-Handful of cherry tomatoes (optional but I had them on hand so I threw them in)

-Tortillas (I bought a package of whole wheat and a package of spinach, they were only 110 calories which isn’t bad for a flour tortilla. In the end, Kyle and I felt the spinach was much tastier. Also, the whole wheat stands up better to the sauce and doesn’t get soggy as the white flour tortillas usually do- unless of course you fry them first which is customary)

-Manchego cheese, shredded

-Reduced fat Mexican cheese blend

-1/2 of spanish onion

-Fresh cilantro

-Ancho chili powder

-Salt & Pepper

-Olive oil

This recipe yielded two separate trays of 5 enchiladas. I made one for dinner and placed the other in the freezer for a weeknight when we have no food in the house!

Instructions:

In a hot saute pan add olive oil, garlic and peppers. Season with salt and let cook for 5 minutes or so.

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Add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan and puree using a hand mixer. Bring to a boil.

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Rinse your chicken and place them into the sauce with salt & pepper. Bring to a low boil then cover and simmer on low for roughly 20 minutes.

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Take the chicken out of the sauce and set aside to cool. Turn heat off the sauce as well.

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Using two forks (or your hands which is sometimes easier) shred the chicken apart. When your chicken is shredded, sprinkle salt, pepper and ancho chili powder on top and mix together.

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Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish.

To assemble your enchiladas, put your chicken, chopped onion, fresh cilantro and a mix of each cheese in the tortilla. Roll it very tightly and place in your baking dish.

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Pour a layer of sauce over the center of your enchiladas and top it with the manchego cheese. You can choose to drench them all in sauce but I like my tortillas to remain a little crispy so I do it this way.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for roughly 30 minutes until the sauce and cheese are bubbling. Top with fresh cilantro.

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Serve with a side of black beans which I cooked with onion, lime juice and salt! Cheesy-saucy-goodness.

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Texas Caviar

This is a recipe I cannot take credit for.  My friend Alexandra made it for me on my birthday two years ago and we fell in love with it.  Because it’s so healthy and versatile I started making it for family parties.  Turns out they love it too.  It is somewhat of a bizarre recipe. In fact, every time I make it, I turn my nose a little bit at the ingredients.  It doesn’t make sense, it’s not particularly appetizing and I always doubt it coming together.   But then, I dip my chip to taste it and all that goes away.  I hope I didn’t lose you… you just have to try it to love it.

NOTE: Tostitos scoop chips are the perfect accompaniment to this salsa.

Other ingredients you can add or substitute that I didn’t put this time around: chopped tomatoes, avocado, fresh cilantro (or parsley), jalapenos.  There are so many versions of Texas caviar out there so whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be great.  I also don’t let mine sit for 24 hours and it doesn’t suffer on taste or flavor.  Also, most recipes call for about 1 cup of sugar which I feel is completely unnecessary.

This salsa would be great in lettuce wraps, on fish tacos, as a side dish or as I always make it, a perfect party appetizer.

INGREDIENTS:

Sauce:

  • Cider vinegar (little less than a cup)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sprinkle of sugar in the raw (this is my replacement for the cup of sugar)
Salsa:
  • 4 or so stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small jar of pimento peppers
  • 1-2 cans shoepeg corn
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 can black eyed peas
  • 1-2 can black beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
INSTRUCTIONS:
In a small sauce pan heat the oil and vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar.  Bring it to a low boil and whisk well.  Add salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl add all your canned and diced ingredients for the salsa.  Pour the sauce on top and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.

Scarola e Fagioli

One of my favorite Italian sides is escarole and beans! It’s healthy, delicious and easy to make in just minutes! It can be used as a side or a main dish since it provides protein and nutrients from the vegetable. Add some chicken broth and top with parmesan cheese and you have yourself a hearty and flavorful soup for dinner!

I happen to pair it with lamb rib chops I saw at Whole Foods last weekend and couldn’t resist buying. Since they are quite pricey I bought just two ribs for each of us and paired it with this hearty side for a well balanced meal. If you’ve never had it, this meat is so tasty you will be licking the bone wishing for more! I seasoned them with salt, pepper, herbes de provence and put them on a hot grill for just a few minutes per side.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Escarole, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 can, cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cloves garlic (if you love it as much as I do!)
  • Olive oil
  • Crush red pepper flakes
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Kosher or sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

Put your pan on low heat and add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Let the flavors infuse into the oil while you wash and prepare your escarole. Keep it low enough so that it isn’t sizzling or burning.

When you are ready, turn your pan on medium to high heat and add the escarole. Season with salt and pepper and add the beans. Saute for a few minutes. I don’t like mine too mushy so I will cook it for just 3-5 minutes.

Plate and serve as a side, eat it on it’s own, or turn it into a soup and top with parmesan cheese- your choice!