Well Dined

23Feb/160

Slow Cooker Parmesan Tomato Soup

Well Dined | Slow Cooker Parmesan Tomato Soup

I have been really digging the slow cooker lately, I think it's the long dreariness of the middle of winter.  This soup is sure to brighten even the dreariest day, warm you up, and make you smile.  Plus it is easy and mostly hands off.

Tomatoes, onion, celery, and carrots soften for hours with chicken broth, oregano, basil, and bay.  Then you make, essentially, a bechamel and stir it in along with Parmesan to make it thick and creamy an luscious.  This simple but lovely soup was met with rave reviews from the friends I served it to.  I hope you enjoy!

Slow Cooker Parmesan Tomato Soup
adapted from Today's Mama

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
4 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup flour (use sweet rice flour to make it gluten free)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, chicken broth, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.

About 30 minutes before serving, melt butter over low heat in a saucepan and add flour.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the floury smell is gone.  Slowly stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the mixture is smooth.

Add to the vegetables along with the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  Taste for seasoning and add additional basil and oregano, if needed.

Cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

One Year Ago - Apple Galette with Salted Bourbon Caramel
Two Years Ago - Daube Provencal (French beef stew with red wine)
Three Years Ago - Spiced Carrot Soup with Crispy Chickpeas and Tahini
Four Years Ago - Roast Beef Sandwiches
Five Years Ago - Aji de Gallina; Kheer

11Dec/150

Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Well Dined | Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, a little bit herby and cheesy - this yummy dish looks gorgeous and tastes amazing, plus it is low carb!  Both the husband and I loved it, which is sometimes difficult to achieve.  So I call this one a winner!

Well Dined | Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Start by roasting some squash halves (keep in mind that the full recipe uses 2 whole squashes, even though I only show 1).

Well Dined | Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Meanwhile, make the filling by sauteing onion, celery, garlic, and herbs; browning crumbled sausage; and then adding apple.

12May/150

Green Goddess Egg Salad

Well Dined | Green Goddess Egg Salad

Now that I am settling into my new place, and Melissa has welcomed her baby daughter to the world, we are getting back into our lunch schedule.  We started with this gorgeous Spring inspired egg salad.  This is really customizeable, and you can add whatever you find fresh in your area.

Well Dined | Green Goddess Egg Salad

We started by finely dicing some celery, scallions, chives, parsley, and dill while we boiled some eggs.  You can use whatever combination of herbs you prefer.  We also separated the greens from a bunch of radishes.

Well Dined | Green Goddess Egg Salad

To that, we added chopped eggs and avocado, caper, garlic, lemon zest, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard.

30May/140

Week of Meals

A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother.  I thought that sounded like a great idea!  But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be.  It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes.  And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together.  It's a tall order, but I think I managed.  Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.

Well Dined | Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans

First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans.  This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes.  I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now.  There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index.  Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night.  This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.

The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious).  Gotta get those Omega-3's!  However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants.  Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian.  The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!).  If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).

Well Dined | Salmon Nicoise Salad

For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad.  The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like.  Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish.  Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats.  You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his.  So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day.  It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.

This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter.  I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious.  But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there.  A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar.  You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.

24Feb/144

Food ‘n Flix: Babette’s Feast

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The January pick for Food 'n Flix is the 1987 Danish film Babette's Feast (now included in The Criterion Collection), chosen by Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  This is the story of two deeply religious and puritanical sisters who live on the remote coastline of 19th Century Denmark.  They give up much in their lives in order to live the way that they were raised and to help the people of the village.  Late in their lives, a French refugee comes to stay with them for many years and cooks them a fabulous meal to thank them.  The sisters and villagers are afraid to give in to the decadence of the meal, but it ends up healing many of their wounds and rifts.  It is a story about the healing power of food and how it can show love and thanks.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

The food cooked in the movie is quite extravagant and I didn't think I could take on turtle soup or quail stuffed with foie gras and truffles, so instead I decided to just go French in general.  I must have been influenced by all the soup that the Danish villagers ate (and the stew meat in my freezer), because I made a French stew with beef and red wine - cooked low and slow in a crockpot.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

Beef is seasoned with salt and pepper and placed into a bowl with onion, garlic, shallot, celery, carrot, thyme, bay leaves, and lemon zest.

Well Dined | Daube Provencale (Beef Stew with Wine)

This is the fun part - a whole bottle of red wine is poured over the ingredients and then left to marinate (refrigerated) overnight.  The wine is the stock for this stew, and the flavor permeates everything.  So make sure that you use a good one!  I suggest a Cotes du Rhone for this.

10Feb/140

Salmon and Lentils with Mustard Butter

Well Dined | Salmon and Lentils with Mustard Butter

In the ever continuing quest to eat less grains, I decided that I wanted to see how lentils paired with salmon.  I found a couple recipes that I liked and combined them into one that worked for me.  The lentils are cooked up nice and tender with veggies, and then mixed with the same mustard and herb butter that tops the salmon.  This butter, you guys, it's outstanding.  I had a little bit left over and I spread it over toasted sourdough and savored every bite with eye-rolling pleasure.  I want to make more of the butter just to do that again.  This meal is so healthy and so yummy that I can't stand it.

Salmon and Lentils with Mustard Butter
adapted from Ina Garten and Gourmet
serves 4

1⁄2 pound French green lentils
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced into half moons and thoroughly washed
few sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
3⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic (2-3 cloves)
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 1⁄2 cups Chicken Stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
bay leaf
2 tbsp good red wine vinegar

4 (8-oz) center-cut salmon fillets, skin on
2 tbsp butter

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tsp grainy mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan, add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaf, add the vinegar, and season to taste.

Stir together the softened butter, chives, grainy mustard, and lemon juice with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add 3 tbsp of the butter mixture to the lentils and stir to combine.

Pat salmon dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté salmon, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Serve salmon, topped with remaining 2 tbsp mustard-herb butter, over lentils.

One Year Ago - Fall Pasta Dishes
Two Years Ago - Asian Glazed Ribs
Three Years Ago - Best Lasagna Ever

20Nov/130

Best Ever Lasagna Revisted

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

I've written about my favorite lasagna recipe before, but it was years ago and I think it needs to be revisited - especially now that my neighbors confirm it is the best lasagna they have ever had.

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

The cast of characters is pretty simple, but I think what makes this lasagna stand out is the use of veal and white wine.  It's a bit different from the standard, but that's what makes it special.

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

I really like for my veg to be finely diced for this ragu, so that there aren't any big chunks.  But I did not make those perfect cuts on my own - I use a veggie chopper.  It's fast and it makes everything uniform.

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

The other thing that makes this ragu great is that it is simmered for up to 5 hours.  That low and slow cooking brings out all the flavor.  I highly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes in this, they are just the best.

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

Americans might be used to the type of lasagna with ricotta and mozzarella, which is fine but not very authentic.  This version has a creamy bechamel (aka my favorite food) and tons of Parmesan, and it is just so dreamy.

Well Dined | Best Ever Lasagna

I really went all out for this batch and made my own lasagna noodles for the first time.  It is certainly not necessary to do that, but I do think it took it up one final step to perfection.  I did have several issues while doing this, though.  The learning curve is pretty steep.  Don't try to be clever when you roll out your own pasta and leave the sheets really long - trust me, it makes them almost impossible to cook.  Now I know why the store-bought ones are short.  I'm also going to edit the pasta dough recipe in the original post because it was awful and really soft and hard to work with.

Anyway, go make the best lasagna of your life.  You will thank me.  Recipe here.

25Jun/130

Peas and Carrots

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You know that Forrest Gump quote, "Jenny and me was like peas and carrots."?  I could not stop saying that while making and eating this dinner.  The classic duo of peas and carrots, back together again in the form of soup and risotto.

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This pea soup has a base of English peas, sugar snap peas, and leeks.  So much green!

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But more importantly, it has bacon.  You start by crisping the bacon and removing it.  Then, in the same pan, you cook celery, onion, and leek in the bacon fat before adding chicken stock and rosemary.  Meanwhile, blanch the peas.

17May/130

Juicing

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About a month ago I got really excited about juicing after watching a documentary called "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead."  The man in the film goes on a 2 month long juice fast, which I was definitely not prepared to do.  I wasn't even prepared to do the more standard 7-10 day juice fast.  But I did like the idea of using juices to consume large quantities of raw vegetables in a more palatable manner.  So I bought a ton of veggies and went to work.

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I started with a recipe from the doc's website and added a little to it, using carrots, bell pepper, apple, ginger, golden beet, fennel, and mango.

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Gorgeous color!  I used too much ginger, though, it had quite a kick.

8Mar/130

Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

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Okay - it is really hard to get an attractive picture of a shepherd's pie.  The blogger I got this recipe from did cute little individual dishes and I thought "Ain't nobody got time for that!" and just did one big casserole.  But after posting a very unattractive photo on facebook (that sparked a crazy battle between two friends, no joke) I know why she did it that way!

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Photography aside, this dish is great.  Lean but satisfying ground turkey mixed with a ton of veggies make a hearty filling.

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Topped with delicious super-food sweet potatoes, this version of shepherd's pie is super healthy and super delicious.

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Baking it in individual dishes is definitely cuter and neater, but if you don't care whether the topping gets mixed into the filling on the plate - you can totally do one big dish.