This month for the Improv Cooking Challenge, our ingredients were Carrots & Curry. I knew immediately that I wanted to make a soup, so I looked back through my archives and found three soup recipes that I'd previously made. I used these three recipes to help me come up with a new one: Spiced Carrot Soup with Chickpeas and Tahini, Spiced Carrot Soup with Crispy Prosciutto, and Thai Pumpkin Soup.
I started by cooking madras curry and grated ginger in olive oil (though it occurs to me now that I could have used coconut oil), then adding carrots, onion, and garlic. I seasoned with salt and cooked for 15 minutes, until the vegetables started to brown. Then I added chicken broth and coconut milk and simmered covered for 20 minutes. You can use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian/vegan.
If you've been anywhere near Instagram, you know that avocado roses are all the rage. Simple, elegant, beautiful. Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) and I decided to try our hands at making them, and I think they turned out pretty well!
Watch this video to learn how to do it. Melissa is much more coordinated than I am, so those are her hands you are seeing.
Or you can follow these directions: Oil a cutting board and knife with olive oil.
I have recently joined a group called Improv Cooking Challenge (see my first post here), where we are assigned 2 ingredients to incorporate into a dish each month. This month, the challenge was garlic and rosemary - perfection!
I chose to make a simple pasta with shredded rotisserie chicken, garlic, and rosemary; tossed together with starchy pasta water and Parmesan to make a light sauce. Five ingredients, 30 minutes, easy and delicious. You're welcome, world!
It's time for April's Secret Recipe Club reveal! I was assigned Morsels of Life. The author is an engineer, and brings her desire for efficiency to her blog. She doesn't like to use any crazy complex methods, and is loose with measurements. She writes, "Generally, if you like something, use more; if you dislike something, use less, substitute something else, or just eliminate it altogether. You’ll probably be fine." I love that. Often when I'm writing recipes, and have to try and figure out how much of something I used, I just want to write - use your best judgement. She also has pretty extensive privacy and disclosure information on her blog, which I think is admirable.
CJ's blog has a lot of Asian influence, and I really like the look of this Pork Meatball Ramen, as well as this Cha Shao Chinese BBQ Pork. For sweets, I was drawn to Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes, and Spiced Date Ice Cream (made with cashew milk!). But I ended up running out of time before leaving on a last-minute trip; so when I saw this Seared Salmon with Lemon Herb Butter and Pasta, and realized that I already had all the ingredients for it - I knew that's what I needed to make!
This was incredibly easy to make - just toss hot pasta with lemon herb compound butter, spinach, and Parmesan, then top with seared salmon and more compound butter. I used frozen Alaskan salmon, frozen spinach, and store-bought garlic butter spread (I added lemon juice and zest to it) - so this was really quick and easy. Plus (with the salmon, spinach, and protein-plus pasta), it was really healthy!
For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Oh! You Cook! (Which is such a cute name.) In addition to writing the blog, Dena has also authored The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook - how cool is that?! As you can imagine, her recipes are kosher, but that doesn't mean that you have to be in order to enjoy them!
I was, of course, very interested in the Challah Bread Pudding, and a couple of other desserts including Blueberry Pudding Pie, Raspberry Custard Pie, and Almond Rice Pudding. But I really wanted to make something savory. I loved that she had several recipes that used pomegranate molasses, and ingredient that I love and am always looking for uses for. And the Picadillo Meat Loaf and Honey Mustard Chicken looked very weeknight friendly.
But in the end, I chose the Orecchiette with Veal, Capers, and White Wine. It looked so good (and easy) that I couldn't pass it up.
Start by sauteing onion and garlic, browning the veal, then adding the white wine and allowing it to cook out.
I'm gonna be honest with you guys - I totally messed up this pie, in three different steps. Ugh. More on that later. But as it turns out, it didn't even matter - it still came out super delicious! So I definitely call that a win.
We are doing a special Holiday Treats edition of the Secret Recipe Club! My assigned blog was I am a Honey Bee written by Nicole. We both live on the East coast and share a love of Buffy, tattoos, Greece, eggs bene, and a fear of open water and having to open gifts in front of others. I like that her blog includes reviews in addition to recipes, just like mine!
Anyway, I went to look for desserts on her blog and noticed a page called The Year of Pies, where she posted a pie recipes every week for a year. A year! I didn't to look at any other category, ladies and gentlemen, I was home. But would it be caramel pie? One of four different kinds of chess pie? Maybe Reese's or Thin Mint pie? So many to choose from! It was around this time that I began to feel woefully inadequate for my own dessert selection, and sorry for whoever drew my blog... I hope you were able to find something!
I scrolled down to the end of the year to look for holiday dessert and saw this No Bake Eggnog Pudding Pie. I love eggnog! And easy recipes! I wanted to make this right away.
It's my first Secret Recipe Club post!!! I had been wanting to join the SRC for a while, but wasn't sure that I met the posting requirements, because I don't always post every week. I also didn't have a recipe index for a long time, so that is something that I have been working on. I finally felt like the time was right and asked to join, and here I am with my first post! Yay!
My assigned blog was Renee's Kitchen Adventures, and I had such a great time looking through it. Renee is a stay-at-home mom and former nurse (labor and delivery - what a special unit!), and her story reminded me a lot of my mother. She talks about trying to be healthy and lose weight, and posts healthy recipes based on Weight Watchers points. I, too, am trying to be healthy and lose weight, so I loved that about this blog. Even though our ideas of what constitute healthy food are a bit different (I think fat is healthy), I think this blog will be a great resource and inspiration for me. I also love how accessible and family friendly Renee's recipes are. I think I tend to only post about the really complicated stuff, which maybe isn't so great.
As I was reading through Renee's most recent recipes, I saw a lot that I wanted to try. I love that she has a lot of s'mores recipes, and especially that she made s'mores krispy treats - because I did the same thing! I also really liked the sound of this Almond Joy Poke Cake made with coconut oil, coconut oil is the best! She writes that she isn't ashamed to use boxed cake mix as a shortcut, and I feel the same way! I don't post about them much, but I love to make poke cakes or dress up cake mix in other ways (pro tip: use 1 extra egg, milk instead of water, melted butter instead of oil).
I've been baking way more than usual lately, though, and what jumped out at me the most was this Creamy Lemon and Fresh Basil Chicken Salad. It has been super hot and humid lately, so this is exactly the kind of thing I want to be eating right now.
I was making dinner for a vegan friend of mine and found this quick and easy recipe that sounded good. Using mostly canned products, I was not expecting it to turn out as well as it did (hence no preparation photos). We were both surprised at how much flavor this chili had. I added in some chopped leftover steak for Jasper, and he loved it too. This is definitely going into my records as cheap, easy, customizeable, and well-loved.
Vegan Three Bean Chili with Pesto
adapted from Real Simple
1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian spices, including liquid
kosher salt and black pepper
1 15.5oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 15.5oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15.5oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts (you can use a less expensive nut)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and their liquid, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.
Add the beans and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Either finely chop the garlic, pine nuts, and parsley and combine with remaining 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in a small bowl OR put everything into a mini food processor and pulse.
Divide the chili among individual bowls and top with the pesto.
Following on the heels of last week's post on whipped sweet potatoes with all the best things (bourbon, bacon, brown butter, sage), I am keeping my promise to share a complimentary chicken recipe. This sticky glazed chicken with bourbon, maple, and thyme is easy, delicious, and perfect with the sweet potatoes.
Simply sear bone-in chicken breasts in a large skillet (I used a dutch oven), then add a mixture of chicken stock, maple syrup, and bourbon along with some thyme sprigs. Allow to cook down until the mixture is syrupy and the chicken is fully cooked. That's it - done! It's really so easy. The sticky glaze is super yummy and the bones keep the chicken from drying out. You could easily substitute bone-in pork chops, as well.
Maple Bourbon Glazed Chicken
adapted from Food Network
1 tbsp olive oil
4 (6-oz) bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp bourbon
4 sprigs thyme
Place a large heavy-bottom or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan breast-side down and sear until deep golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
While the chicken in searing, in a small dish whisk together the stock, syrup, and bourbon. Add the bourbon mixture to the skillet along with the thyme sprigs and continue cooking, turning the chicken occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a thick syrupy consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. (If the sauce reduces to a syrupy consistency before the chicken has cooked through, add a few splashes of stock to the skillet and continue cooking.)
To serve, remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Spoon the sticky sauce over the chicken and enjoy warm.
If you've been wondering where I've been for the past 2 weeks, the answer is - vacation! I will be writing about that for sure, but before I get to it I want to talk about this pasta that I made before we left. My friend Melissa (you know her by now) was also going out of town, a little before we were, and gifted me several of her home-grown bell peppers and tomatoes. I wanted to use them to do a take on sausage and peppers in pasta form because I'm, well, me.
So I browned some sliced sausage, and then threw in an onion, the peppers, and the tomatoes to saute. Then I tossed in cooked whole wheat penne along with pasta water, a splash of cream, and some Parmesan to make a sauce. And finally, I topped it with some fresh basil and parsley. Fast, easy, and hearty. Thanks Melissa!