My favorite part of the the day is still lunch

It’s so easy to get out of the groove of blogging… I haven’t been posting any recipes lately, but I’ve sure been cooking a ton. We meal plan and prep pretty much as often as humanly possible. It makes us feel better both physically and financially, and I honestly just love being in the kitchen.

One thing I’ve realized in the past year is that I’m 27 years old and my favorite part of the day is still lunch. My favorite go-to lately had been making Asian inspired rice bowls. The best part about these bowls is that you can really throw in whatever you have on hand and they can be completely customized. If your favorite fast casual restaurant style is Chipotle, or really anything bowl-related, then keep going for this recipe, which is really more of a guideline.

My staple veggies are almost always some combination of: zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, bok choy, snap peas, cabbage, and thinly sliced radishes that are soaked in vinegar and fresh ginger. 

For the meat, I’ve done meatballs (more ambitious) or just ground pork with a sauce (less ambitious). I like making mini meatballs with either chicken or turkey. Just be sure to use egg, bread crumbs, and some sort of sauce to keep them flavorful and moist.I usually form the meatballs and cook on 350 for about 20ish minutes.

We almost always have Hoisin in the fridge, so I’ll throw that into the meatball mixture, or just cook it into the ground meat mixture and it’s super flavorful. I’ve also been experimenting with Gochujang sauce lately and am loving it because it adds the best kind of heat.

For prep, I usually just cook everything separately and then construct the bowls as they would at Chipotle. Brown rice, white rice, choose your veg + protein, and then throw on a garnish if I have them (sesame seeds, scallions, sriracha for the fiancé, etc.).

Pro tip: I like making white rice, but adding some fresh ginger and a sprinkle of turmeric. The colors once the entire bowl is together are incredible and all of the flavors just pop.

These bowls are great for meal prep because they are pretty inexpensive, they’re easy to make, and they freeze really well. Plus, it reminds me of the day after Thanksgiving when you just open the fridge, pile everything onto a base of mashed potatoes, and revel in the greatness of cooking. Is that just me? Oh, well.

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“Moroccan” Coconut & Chickpea Soup

I’m really into chickpeas lately. I found a recipe similar to this one while looking through a friend’s recipe book, but, as always, I’ve made some changes. I love this soup! It is hearty, smells delicious and was very easy to throw into a pot.

3 cups chicken stock
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced FullSizeRender(1)
1 large sweet potato, peeled & chopped
2 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted green chiles
15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
14oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
14oz can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai Kitchen red curry paste
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper — to taste — optional (I try to make a habit of not adding additional salt to soup dishes, especially since the sodium levels in canned products are generally high. After it’s had a chance to simmer you can always add salt if needed!)

This makes a large batch of soup, so be prepared to freeze some or host a dinner party. In a large stew pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Add the onion and the cinnamon and cumin and cook on medium for 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then let simmer. I left mine on the stove for close to two hours. My apartment smelled amazing! Once the soup was ready I decided to give it a little mix with the immersion blender because I wanted the texture to be more soup-like, rather than so chunky. I didn’t puree it, but I did mix until somewhat smooth. This part is totally optional and all about personal preference!

Serve with naan, over rice or simply as is. Right before serving you could also consider adding any of the following: a squeeze of lime, siracha, fresh mint, fresh cilantro, greens (like spinach). I even added some pork/chicken meatballs one day for a little extra protein– yum!

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken + Veggies

I was searching for a recipe over the weekend that required little-to-no grocery shopping (based on what I had in the pantry) and came across this one for Thai Peanut Chicken that I had pinned a few weeks ago. The recipe looked great, but I wanted to add more veggies and I didn’t have crunchy peanut butter, so I made some changes and it turned out absolutely delicious.

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken + Veggies

1 1/2 lbs of chicken breasts IMG_5551

1 large green bell pepper

1 packet of fresh snow peas

1-2 large carrots

1 white onion

Rice (brown or white)

For the sauce:

1/4 cup of House of Tsang Bangkok Peanut Sauce

1 tbs lime juice

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbs honey

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)

Place the chicken breasts in the crock pot and cover completely with the sauce. Set to low and cook for 5-6 hours. When the chicken has about an hour to go, shred the chicken and then let it keep cooking. Meanwhile, chop your vegetables to be sauteed on the stove. Finely chop the carrots and add to a saucepan on medium-high with some salt, ground ginger and sesame oil. As you chop the onion, pepper and snow peas, add to pan, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables have started, cook your rice as normal (2-1 water ratio), but substitute one cup of water for broth from the crockpot.

When the rice is finished, serve with the veggies and chicken and drizzle some of the leftover Peanut Sauce on top. Be sure not to overcook the vegetables– they should be a little bit crunchy so that they add some texture to the dish. For me, the dish made about 5 generous servings.

I really, really loved this dish and will definitely be making again!

Summer Corn “Chowder”

IMG_1545Summer soup, what could be better? I adapted this recipe from one I came across on Pinterest and was really happy with it. The changes I made were simply because I wanted a bit more protein to make a heartier soup.

Summer Corn “Chowder” 

2 tbsp butter  

1 white onion, diced

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1.5 lbs of yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced in 1/2-inch cubes 

3 ears of corn 

1 red bell pepper

2 chicken sausages (TJ’s smoked with apple) 

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed

2 cups of chicken broth + 3 cups of vegetable broth 

5 sprigs of thyme

Goat cheese with herbs (optional)

Melt the butter in a large dutch oven and then add the onion. Saute until the onion is tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil, then let simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the thyme sprigs before serving. This is a great broth-based soup, but the real kicker is to add a dollop of goat cheese. The recipe I saw called for ricotta, which I didn’t have on hand, so I tried goat cheese instead. I was a bit skeptical, but it actually gives a great flavor and once mixed in makes a nice, creamy “chowder!”

Thai-inspired turkey burgers

I’ve discovered that chopping vegetables is unbelievably therapeutic. Throw in a not-so-shameless Justin Bieber jam session and you’ve got yourself a great end to Monday Funday. I threw these together in approximately six songs from the Biebs, so they are super easy. I was REALLY happy with how they turned out and will definitely be making again.

Thai-inspired turkey burgers

1.3 lbs of ground turkeyIMG_0784
1/3 cup green onion (finely chopped)
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup cilantro (finely chopped)
1/4 cup carrots (finely chopped)
1 egg
2 tbs peanut sauce
salt & pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then mix with your hands. Dig right in, it’s fun. Shape into patties and then grill. I used the George Foreman (of course) and cooked them for about 6 minutes. Makes 5 burgers.

IMG_0785Served with some cucumber because a) it’s hot out, b) it was nearing the end of its life, and c) it perfectly balances the spiciness of the peanut sauce. PS. Don’t forget to drizzle on some peanut sauce before you eat!

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Baked Flautas/Taquitos

There seems to be some debate on the difference between a flauta and a taquito, so I’m not really sure what to call these, but they are good. Really good. I’m sitting here thinking that I really wish this were a Sunday Funday and I was eating them amongst friends and margs. But I digress. I got this recipe from a Pinterest post, but made a few small changes based on what I had in the house/what I forgot to buy at the grocery store.

Baked Flautas/Taquitos (Flaquitos?)

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1 pound chicken breasts

3-4 cups spinach

1 jalapeño                             

1 pack of burrito-sized flour tortillas

1 tsp cumin                            

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp Old Bay                        

1 tsp chili powder

1 pack of Mexican cheese

Poach the chicken by bringing to a boil and then letting simmer for about 10 minutes. I added some salt to the water. Meanwhile, mince the jalapeño and shred the spinach. Remove the chicken and shred it (it should be easy enough to do with two forks) and then mix with all of the seasonings. Throw the spinach and jalapeño on the stove with some olive oil for 2-3 minutes– just until the spinach is wilted. While this is cooking, cut your tortillas in half.

Line an edge of each tortilla half with some chicken, spinach, and cheese. Rolling the tortilla once full is the trickiest part. I found it to be easiest by lining everything up along the straight edge and then tucking it over to start a tight roll. Be sure to place the flauta/taquito with the edge down on the cooking sheet so they don’t unroll.

I sprayed the sheet with cooking spray and then gave a light spray over all the flaquitos once they were on the sheet. I baked them on one side for 10 minutes, then flipped them and baked for another 5. I made 8 flautas/taquitos + a burrito with all the remaining ingredients. They’re perfectly crispy and would be great to dip in sour cream / salsa / guac!

Things that could be added to make the flaquito even more delicious: some tomato (maybe a bit of pico de gallo??), corn, black beans.

“Gumbo” … ?

I think what I created today can be classified as gumbo, but whether or not it would garner approval from a gumbo afficionado I am not 100% positive. It tastes nothing like the kind my Louisianian aunt makes, but we’ll roll with it. There was a moment in making this that I was sure that it was going to be non-edible (hey! I made roux for the first time today! and I didn’t mess it up!), but it turned out just fine. Taste-tested by a friend, I’ll count this as a success. PS. is gumbo a soup? Let’s say no, for variety’s sake.

“Gumbo” 

1 lb andouille sausage              1 rotisserie chicken

6 hardboiled eggs                       2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped celery               1 large green bell pepper (chopped)          

28oz can of diced tomatoes    4 cups chicken broth                

2.5 cloves pressed garlic          7 tbs flour                                    

3 – 4 tbs vegetable oil                2.5 tsp Creole seasoning          

Hot cooked rice

Hard boil six eggs and then set aside. In a large bowl, combine celery, onion, pepper, and garlic. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes and Creole seasoning. Chop the chicken and toss it in another bowl. I used an entire rotisserie chicken, but it was small.

In a large Dutch oven, cook the sausage over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings behind; drain sausage on paper towels before adding to bowl with chicken. Add the oil and flour and whisk constantly for 5 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook on medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring often. Stir in the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce the heat, allowing it to simmer for another five minutes. Finally, add the chicken and sausage.

Cook the rice. I have a fancy rice cooker, so I just popped the rice in once everything was on the stove

Keep it simmering until ready to serve. At some point before eating, peel and add the hardboiled eggs (whole) to the gumbo. These are totally optional, but my aunt does it this way! You can make as many as you want, depending on how many people you are serving. When you’re ready to eat, serve over the rice.

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Bread bowl totally optional! I just ate mine over rice, but it makes for a pretty picture!

Perfecting sweet potato soup

A few weeks ago, pretty charged up about my new immersion blender, I tried a sweet potato chipotle soup recipe. The soup was good, but seriously spicy hot. I have been wanting to perfect it ever since and finally had the chance when I was gifted with two of the world’s largest sweet potatoes this week. I decided to make two batches: one without the chipotle chili and one with. The result made four lunches and I like both. The chipotle version has the perfect bit of spiciness and a hint of sweet smokiness. Bonus: (almost) zero fat… I’m a fan.

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Sweet Potato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil                   1 medium white onion
2 cloves of garlic                              4 carrots                                            
2 tsp ground cumin                        salt and pepper
2 extra large (or 3-4 medium) sweet potatoes
6 cups vegetable broth (I actually used 4 + 2 cups chicken broth)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Heat the oil in a dutch oven (or large soup pot) over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, seasoned with salt & pepper, and saute until lightly browned. Stir in the cumin and garlic (minced). Add the sweet potatoes and carrots– chopped in about one inch pieces– and broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Once the potatoes are soft, remove from heat and let cool. When the soup is still slightly warm, use your immersion blender until it is smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, scoop the soup into a blender and puree in batches.

At this point, the soup is good and ready to eat! I split it into two batches and added about a quarter of a chipotle chili to what was still remaining in the pot. I blended in the chile and eventually added about a teaspoon or two of the adobo sauce. This part is all about personal preference so just adjust until it fits to your taste!

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It’s time to start documenting my “culinary” adventures

Acknowledging the plethora of food bloggers out there, I’m doing this mainly for my own personal benefit. Pinterest has opened us up to a world of recipes and food porn, yet only occasionally does the recipe turn out the way it “should.” Pinterest Recipes always seem to require a bit of tweaking and they never look exactly like the picture that accompanies them. I’ve also decided that in my next life I want to be the next Top Chef and I figure soup is a good starting point. It’s pretty hard to mess up and pretty much always delicious. One day I will graduate to more involved dishes. Until then, I will be experimenting with easy, post-grad, budget-friendly recipes.

Taking advantage of a free morning (yay, President’s Day), I decided to make a big pot of soup to get me through the rest of the week. Side note: after all of the foodie posts I have done in the past, I am coming to the realization that soup is actually my favorite food. Sad? Maybe. At least there’s a lot of variety.

Italian Vegetable Soup (can anyone think of a more creative name?)

1 lb ground beef                                         1lb Italian sausage (I like it hot)
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes                1 can red kidney beans (drained)
1 can cannellini beans (drained)        3 carrots
3 stalks of celery                                      2 large russet potatoes
1 yellow onion                                          1 jar (almost) of Prego traditional
3 cups beef stock                                      1.5 cups water
2 tsp black pepper                                  2 tsp Italian medley seasoning blend
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage. Drain. In a large dutch oven, combine the ground beef/sausage with all of the other ingredients (chopped– doesn’t have to be perfect… you’re throwing them all in a pot together). Bring to a boil. Let simmer for another hour to hour and a half. Finito! It’s actually that easy. The soup can simmer for longer, but at this point all of the vegetables are perfectly tender and ready to eat. Even better with toasty bread and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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PS. This recipe makes A LOT of soup. I’m talking I have enough to eat it every day this week and also freeze some. Make sure your dutch oven is big enough (my 6 qt was nearly overflowing!) and that you are really in the mood for soup!

PPS. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE BUY ME A CAMERA THAT TAKES PICTURES OF FOOD