Category Archives: Lunch/Dinner

How to make lunch without even trying

Dear reader,

Be thankful I deleted the first version of this post. It was long, rambling and bogged down with more with tangents then a trig exam. Even I was bored. In hindsight, it was indicative of how my brain’s been working lately but before I get on a tangent in my anti-tangent prequel here are the cliff notes to my original post. Which I did as a math equation because now all I can think about are tangents.

-Kristy

(Completely preoccupied with 5 year plan * 2 weeks)/eating to sustain energy levels = (Fridge full of uneaten produce – bananas – almonds)^recently drained Starbucks card = lethargic Kristy

Mentally focused Kristy = sleep + x

Solve for x

X = eat actual food =

I like Applegate products because they make convenience foods (like the Italian chicken sausage above or deli meat) that still resembles food. They typically have about 5 ingredients or less – all of which I can pronounce – and come from animals that were raised healthfully (which I could explain what I mean by that but I won’t for brevity). Combo this with a tomato basil salad I put together while waiting* for the sausage to cook and the end result is that I finally had a decent meal and it came together in under 10 minutes.

* I use the term waiting loosely here. Technically it should have taken the whole 10 minutes to cook the sausage in the skillet, but I was too inpatient so I sliced it in order to get it to cook faster. I bet you thought I did that to make it look pretty? Nope. I’m just really flippin’ inpatient.

My next goal is to not eat a banana with almond butter for dinner…again.

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Filed under Crazy Quick, Lunch/Dinner

Tomato Salad

This past spring I finally had the opportunity to join a CSA. For those of you not in the know yet, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It basically means at the beginning of the year (typically around March) you buy a share of a local farm and then each week you get to pick up your freshly grown produce. To be honest, the only downside I’ve found with being part of a CSA is that I don’t have a reason to visit the farmer’s market as often. I LOVE the farmer’s market. I actually remember the first time I visited the Saturday market here in CoMo. I was on the phone with my mom at the time and as I drove up and saw the market in all its glory I gave my mom the “I’ll call you back!” and hung up on her. I was that excited. Luckily, she doesn’t appear to have held it against me over the years.

Anyway, I have to plug the Root Cellar here. They were the only reason I was able to do it. I’ve wanted to join a CSA since about 2006 but could never fork up $400-$500 all at once to pay for a year’s worth of produce. Lucky for me, since the Root Cellar is a local grocer the put together their own CSAs from several local farms and are able to sell them on a weekly basis. This means that for $20 a week I get a TON of produce – all of which is local and most of which is organic. For example, this past week I got the largest eggplant I’ve ever seen, peaches, basil, greens, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, summer squash and onions. Which leads me to the recipe…

…in a second. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of tomatoes and basil. Tomatoes are one of my favorite, favorite, favorite parts of summer. It’s like summer doesn’t really happen for me until I cut into the first truly red tomato of the year. I’ve been known to eat a pint of cherry tomatoes for lunch. Mmmmm. I digress. But even with that the tomatoes can pile up on me if I don’t eat them consistently. To help with that I’ve been making tomato salad as a way to use both them and the basil up. It’s super easy and I can use up leftovers in a lot of different ways. I’ll eat this on top of a bunch of greens as a salad, put it on top of a piece of fish or eggs, add in shrimp to make a quick lunch or mix in some pine nuts for a snack (what I was doing in the picture below). Here’s my recipe – though if you know me you know I don’t actually measure anything, which is why I don’t include any here. Sorry. You’ll live. And it will probably still taste good.

INGREDIENTS

1-2 medium tomatoes, diced – I try to remove most of the seeds as well

1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced – or more considering your social situation

1-2 glugs olive oil – if you keep good olive oil in the house, now would be the time to use it

3-4 dashes (maybe 1 Tbsp) balsamic vinegar – fun fact:  it’s taken me at least 3 years to learn how to spell balsamic correctly

1-2 cloves garlic – or more considering your social situation

basil, chiffonade – lots! that stuff is GOOD!

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – I don’t have anything to write here, I just wanted to be consistent

DIRECTIONS

Put in bowl. Stir. Taste. Adjust. Eat. Repeat.

Other options:

  • jalapeño and cilantro instead of basil
  • add in mango
  • add in pine nuts
  • lime and avocado instead of balsamic and basil

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Filed under Appetizers, Crazy Quick, Lunch/Dinner, Salads

Fish Tacos and Dedications

I would like to dedicate this post to anyone who, like me, sometimes just wants to look at the pictures more than read the text.

If you’re actually interested in the fish tacos (which were great), go here.

P.S. Spring is awesome.

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Filed under Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish, Uncategorized

Spring Vegetable Salad with Couscous – with our without your hair on fire

There are a lot of things I love about this dish – its color, its simplicity, its ability to satisfy my craving for summer produce when spring is juuuuuust starting to bud. But most of all I love how quick you can (quite literally) throw it together.

I made this about a week ago when I had to go from work to grocery store to home to stove to table and back out the door again in about an hour. I am a huge advocate for cooking real, whole foods at home. Is it easier for me since I don’t have kids? Probably. Does that mean we’re all destined for a life of hamburger helper? No, absolutely not. It’s simply overcoming the learning curve of knowing what foods cook faster than others. For example, this would probably taste good with brown rice too, but that takes 50 minutes to cook. Israeli couscous takes all of 15. After that, proteins usually eat up the most time in the cooking process but you can eat this with a poached egg, broiled white fish or a can of black beans tossed in with the veggie salad – all of which take 15 minutes or less.

And the photography? Well, I was hungry and in a hurry so I fired off about 15 shots before I sat down and dug in – all with enough time to actually savor the dish. Mmmm.

Spring Veggie Salad

Makes enough for 2 as main dish

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
  • 3 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
  • ½ small bunch of asparagus with last 3″ chopped off
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 golden beet, peeled and cut into matchstick pieces
  • 1 small bunch green onions, chopped (minus the white ends unless you prefer a stronger onion taste)
  • 1 small cucumber, cut into ½” dice
  • 1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. As you run in the door, pull out small (2 quart) sauce pot and lid. Begin cooking couscous per package directions, except replace water with broth and when it tells you to get the water boiling first, ignore that – that’s for people with time. Instead, set stove timer to remind yourself to check the couscous for doneness about 1-2 minutes before the package recommendations since you’ll be distracted chopping vegetables.
  2. Get protein cooking if needed. Remember, leftovers from previous night could work well, too.
  3. Turn broiler on to start warming up the oven. Arrange (read:  throw, helter-skelter) asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil plus a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. Roll the asparagus between the cookie sheet and the palm of your hand to coat with olive oil. Put in oven and check once you hear it sizzling for about a minute (4-5 minutes total depending on the thickness of the asparagus stalks). Broil asparagus to your desired doneness (just tender to cooked through with crispy tips), giving the baking sheet a good shake if needed to turn the stalks.
  4. Pull out your cutting board and favorite knife and start chopping vegetables, tossing them into a large tupperware container as you get each completed. You didn’t forget about your couscous did you?
  5. In small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The basil and onion add a lot of flavor to this salad, but feel free to add other ingredients/seasonings like garlic, brown mustard or a bit of sugar.
  6. Add dressing to large container of chopped veggies, onion and basil. Cover and shake that puppy like nobody’s business – a.k.a. “until well coated”. Don’t forget to add in your drained and rinsed black beans if you’re using those. You can also add in the couscous if you want it mixed together all as one.
  7. Bring together asparagus + protein + salad onto plate/bowl/trough and enjoy.

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Filed under Great Grains, Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish

Sesame Soba Noodle Saturday

I’m always amazed at what I can get done with an open Saturday. Yesterday, after a brief stop-over at work, I came home and threw together a bowl of this:

After which I did some investigative work in this cute town:

Came home and had a nice siesta on the couch while watching an episode (or two) of this.

Then strolled over to the grocery store to pick up a few missing items to make this for dinner.

Poured myself a glass of this while unpacking the groceries.

And finally got around to watching this while baking a loaf of this, which I plan to work through for breakfast all week.

That’s seven “this’s” (or would it be “these”?) I got done yesterday. Go Saturday.

It was a great day overall, but I definitely want to share with you the recipe for my lunch yesterday, Sesame Soba Noodles. You can check out the unmodified recipe from one of my tried and true, go-to recipe sites. This recipe is actually going to be in her brand new, soon-to-be-released cookbook, Super Natural Every Day.  Yet another cookbook to add to my “if I had a million dollars” wish list. I have it on my imaginary cookbook bookshelf just between this and this. And because I imagine cookbooks as social books, I’d just have to buy this and this and this. To keep them company of course. Until that time comes though, I’ll just continue to be a good foster parent to all the library’s cookbooks. They need love too you know.

As for the noodles, I want to add a few notes. One, I agree with Heidi 100%, this makes excellent leftovers. Which is good considering it makes enough to be a main course for 4 people. And since it’s a cold dish I’m actually considering taking some on my long haul over to the EU in a couple of months. Two, you see that tofu? Totally not the golden brown deliciousness it could have been. Why? Because I’m lazy. Don’t be like me kids. Before cooking the tofu, slice it up and layer it between a few sheets of paper towels and a heavy plate to help drain the water. Wet tofu doesn’t crisp, it steams. Three, do be like me and add some veggies. Broccoli, asparagus, shredded beets or carrots would all be good with this. Steam ’em up and toss ’em in! Four, I really love Asian flavors – from Thai curries to Vietnamese pho, so I’ve slowly acquired a lot of those less-than-typical ingredients, but not all. So I’ve noted the substitutions I made. Hope you enjoy!

Sesame Soba Noodles

Serves 4 as a main course, 6+ as a side dish

Ingredients

  • ~1 1/2 Tbsp walnuts (instead of pine nuts)
  • ~1 1/2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • ~ 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (black or white)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp natural cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (because I think it tastes more like soy than salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey (instead of mirin)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (invest! There’s no substitute)
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar (white wine vinegar works in a pinch)
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper – or more to your preferences
  • salt
  • 12 oz soba noodles
  • 18 oz extra firm tofu (drained, drained, drained!) and cut into 2″ x 1/4″ chunks.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch green onion, sliced

Directions

  1. Start some water boiling on the back burner in a large pot for your soba noodles. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts and sunflower seeds in a large skillet over medium heat, tossing often. Once they are fragrant and toasted, toss in the sesame seeds and let toast for ~1 minute. If you’re using white sesame seeds you should see them change to a golden color, if you’re using black you’ll have to go by scent alone.
  2. Transfer the seeds and nuts to a mortar and grind until it’s the consistency of coarse sand. You’re mostly trying to break down the walnuts and sunflower seeds. Mix in the sugar, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, vinegar and cayenne pepper. Remember to test and adjust to your taste! Set aside.
  3. At this point your water should be boiling. Add in the soba noodles and cook per package directions. **I highly recommend testing a couple of noodles 3/4 of the way into their cooking time, regardless of what the directions say. As soon as they are tender, drain into a colander and douse with cold water until the noodles are cold to stop them from cooking any further. 1 minute too long can turn your noodles to mush.** Reserve ~ 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the noodle water.
  4. While your noodles are cooking, steam veggie of your choice (2-3 cups).
  5. Toss the tofu into your large skillet and drizzle with ~ 2 Tbsp olive oil and salt to taste. Cook on medium-high heat until golden brown on all sides.
  6. Reserve ~1 Tbsp of your sauce and to the rest add ~1/4 cup of your noodle water until it’s thinned to your liking. In a large bowl, gently toss the noodles with your sauce, tofu and ~ 2/3 of the onion. Alternatively you can add in the veggie too, or serve on the side.
  7. Dish into bowls and garnish with remaining onion and sesame paste.

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Hearty Tomato Soup with Sourdough Croutons

Would it be cliche to start out the first post in almost two weeks with:  “Work has been NUTS!”? Probably, but it’s true. I do love my job, but sometimes I envy those who get to cook and shoot pictures all day. The people that do this kind of stuff professionally. Sadly, I only moonlight as a domestic. And back in the 9-5 life January is the busiest month of the year. However, the recent snow storm that blew through the mid west has brought all that to a screeching halt. The city has, for all intensive purposes, shut down. I got a phone call yesterday morning telling me not to come in to work today…or tomorrow for that matter. Just stay home.

No problemo. Where’s my apron?

Not to say that I’ve been too busy to eat these last two weeks. I finally got the chance to try kale chips for the first time and can add to the consensus that they’re as good as everyone has hyped them to be. I made whole wheat baguettes – my first journey into yeast breads. And revisited a tried and true red lentil soup from Heidi Swanson’s site.

There were also a lot of granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches.

So if you’re stuck inside, reveling in your kitchen this week, like I am, you might have a hearty bowl of soup on your mind, like I did. If so, I offer up this tomato soup for your consideration. In the world of tomato soup there are silky, cream-laden varieties and then there’s this. Bowls where you can still see the flecks of carrots and onions. Other pluses of this recipe:  I learned this version back in college when I was teaching 3rd graders how to cook, meaning even if you’re inept in the kitchen you can pull this off, on a weeknight, with your hair on fire. It’s also what I consider a pantry-staples soup. Most folks have the ingredients for this in the fridge/pantry, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to be making any special grocery store trips to pull this together.

Oh, and if you have one, this recipe calls for an immersion blender. You don’t actually need one to make the soup, but if you have an immersion blender you probably have a need to use it. You know, like Tom Cruise has a need for speed…


I must go now. My presence is being requested in the cookie baking department.

Hearty Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small day-old loaf sourdough bread cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large vidalia onion (or other variety) diced
  • 2 large carrots coarsely diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 quart vegetable stock (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Romano/Gruyere/Mozzarella cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In large bowl toss bread and olive oil together with your hands. Spread in single layer on a baking sheet and let bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until bread is golden brown on all sides. They may need a toss half way through if you don’t have a convection oven or if they’re baking unevenly.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat and add in the carrot and onion. Let cook until the onion starts to become translucent, adding in the extra Tbsp of olive oil if necessary.
  3. Turn down the heat to medium and add in your garlic and let cook for about a minute before adding in the tomatoes, juice and all. Turn your heat back up to medium high and bring mixture up to a gentle boil. Add in your thyme and salt and pepper to taste. (Carefully, it’s hot!)
  4. Using an immersion blender (or by working in batches in a food processor or blender) puree the soup until the texture evens out. You still want to keep some of the texture, but this will keep the soup from being carrots and onion in a tomato broth.
  5. Slowly add in broth, blending as necessary, until the soup is at your desired consistency. You may not want to add any, you may add the whole quart.
  6. Dish into bowls and top with cheese and croutons.


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Filed under Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish

Acorn Squash and Apple Risotto

This weekend I feel in looove (that’s love with 3 o’s – a 200% increase in warm n’ fuzzy hugs) with this recipe for Apple and Squash Compote by Kim Boyce thanks to a feature on my friend Emily’s site. If you haven’t come across Kim’s book Good to the Grain in bloggy-land yet well then it’s time to join the party. I mean, it’s a solid cookbook on the wonders of baking. Everything from bread to tarts to soft pretzels. Solid. And if you buy it and disagree, well then you should punish me for my poor review of it by sending me your copy. Because I share my copy with the library and there are somethings in life that…frankly…I don’t want to share.

Back to the subject at hand, I made the compote Saturday and have been on a squash food jag ever since. I really liked how crispy and caramelized the squash got just by pan searing it and I wanted to find a way to reuse the technique.  So when the snow started to fall and fall and fall last night it put me in the mood for a homey version of risotto. This is good comfort food:  warm, creamy, cheesy an unpretentious. Now, when some people hear risotto they think starched linen tablecloths and expensive wine lists but let’s be honest; it’s rice for goodness’ sake. Rice cooked with onion, oil and broth. Misconceptions re-conceived? Unpretentious…right?

Originally I was going to just sear the cubed squash, but as I was standing over the stove taste-testing I missed the sweetness the apples added in last time.  So in a last minute decision I added in one Granny Smith apple, which I think ended up being a good move. The squash needed a little liquid to soften up and though I could of added broth I was already adding plenty of that to the risotto. The apple covered the sugar, the liquid and a new flavor combo all in one go.

So you’ll notice the first few steps of the recipe are very similar to the apple and squash compote by Kim Boyce but just diverted to a different ending. You can use whichever winter squash you like with the exception of spaghetti squash.  I picked up an Acorn Squash this time, but I used Carnival for the compote this weekend and Butternut works in just about any situation. I’ll give the same advice as I always do when talking about risotto – go with your gut. Get the gist of the recipe below but do what you think is best when you cook it yourself – meaning how much salt, broth, cheese to add. Taste as you go, often. And lastly, I couldn’t help but think when I was eating this that it would probably taste awesome with fried chicken…

Acorn Squash and Apple Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 6 cups low sodium broth
  • Olive oil (~2 Tbsp)
  • 1 medium red onion sliced into 1/4″ wedges (aka julienned)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup fresh romano cheese (parmesan would also work)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Warm broth on medium heat in medium-sized pot on back burner.
  2. While broth is heating, melt butter in large skillet on medium-high heat then add squash and toss to coat in butter.  Cook the squash for 3 minutes without turning.  If your butter starts to burn/brown turn the heat down. After 3 minutes, toss the squash and cook, untouched, for another 3 minutes.  The edges of the squash should start to turn golden brown and crispy. Add the apple and toss until coated with butter.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and let cook, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 minutes or until the apples start to give off their juices and are reabsorbed by the squash.  Salt to taste and remove from heat when squash is fork-tender but not mushy.
  3. While you have the squash and apples finishing off, heat ~2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. Add in onion, salt lightly and let saute, stirring occasionally until the onions start to caramelize and some of the ends become slightly crispy. Add in the mushroom, some more salt and let cook about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and let cook for 30 seconds then add in rice and let cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute then add in wine. Continue to stir occasionally and once majority of wine is absorbed turn heat down to medium and add in 2 ladles full off broth from your reserves. Stir the risotto every minute or so, allowing it to absorb the broth. Once about 80% of the broth is absorbed add in another 2 ladles full of broth and stir. Turn up heat if necessary to keep rice at a simmer. Continue this process until the rice begins to look creamy. At this point start tasting your rice for texture and drop down to adding broth in 1 ladle-full at a time. When rice is close to being cooked through add in cheese and squash/apple mix*.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side.  *You can also hold back the squash and serve the risotto platter style on top of the squash.

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Filed under Great Grains, Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish