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Chicken Noodle Soup

27 Oct

Fall is the season for lots and lots of soup.  There’s just something about a steamy bowl of soup combined with chilly temps and colorful leaves that just warms the soul!  Yesterday was one of those days that was perfect for soup.  I was not in the mood for anything tomato-y so I opted for chicken noodle instead. I have to tell you that after making my own, I will never go back to canned chicken noodle ever again.  When you open a can you get a bunch of mushiness with a chicken flavor.  When you make your own you can actually taste the chicken, noodles, carrots, celery, and onions.  It is amazing!  I made a small pot (only used 1/2lb chicken), and somehow by the end of the evening we had eaten at all!

I actually didn’t take any pictures of my soup yesterday – we were both hungry and more worried about actually eating!  I did things a little differently the first time, like cutting the chicken into cubes rather than shredding it.  Also, when I made it last night I added a can of corn which is a little non-traditional but was delicious!  The first time I made this we had little french rolls on the side, but last night, since we didn’t have anything else, I whipped up some quick Bisquick biscuits to go with it.  I hope you give this hearty meal a try sometime this fall!

Click here for the recipe.

First you will want to cook your chicken.  I have cooked it in a pan before, but I actually really like poaching it (cooking it in a pan of boiling water).

While the chicken is cooking chop your onions and garlic.  Begin sauteing them in your soup pot over medium heat.

Next chop your carrots and celery and add them to the pot.  Saute all of this until it begins to soften a bit.

Add 1 box of chicken stock and about an extra cup of water.  Season with salt and pepper as you like. Bring to a simmer.

For the pasta:  I have done this two different ways.  The first time I cooked the pasta on its own, but last night I cooked it in the chicken stock.  I think I prefer the chicken stock method.

When your chicken is cooked all the way through, either dice it or shred it and add it to the pot.

Finally, add corn (optional), and let simmer until the pasta is cooked all the way through.

Serve with a roll or biscuit and wine of your choice!  Enjoy!

Black Bean Tacos

23 Oct

As you’ve probably already gathered, Karl and I like to eat a lot of beans!  They are delicious, filling, and a great substitute for meat in your dishes!  One such bean dish we tried a few months ago and loved is black bean tacos.  We love making black bean tacos for many reasons.  1 – they are delicious.  2 – they are cheap; a can of beans costs only $0.75 while a pound of ground beef is around $3.80.  3 – they are quick and easy; I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.  They are so, so simple, and I promise if you try them you won’t miss the meat!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 bell pepper (whatever color you choose – I like to use half of 2 different colored peppers)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour tortillas
  • shredded lettuce
  • Mexican cheese
  • salsa

How to make it:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan.
  2. Dice onion and begin sauteing.
  3. Dice peppers and add them to the pan; cook until onions and peppers begin to soften.
  4. Add beans, green chiles, and cilantro. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Slice tomatoes in half and add just before serving.  Cook until all ingredients are warmed through.
  6. Fill tortillas and top with cheese, lettuce, and salsa.
  7. Enjoy!  We usually eat these by themselves but they would also be great with some Mexican rice.

Soup – no salad, no breadsticks

3 Sep

One of our favorite things places to go and eat for lunch is Olive Garden.  We always get the SSB – Soup, Salad, and Bread sticks.  But did you know that what seems to be a nice light meal can actually be loaded with calories,fat, sodium, and probably cholesterol?  Take the bread sticks – they have to be loaded with butter to taste that good and are at least 100 calories a piece!  And don’t let the salad fool you – they load that baby with cheese, and I think only super high fat and calorie dressing tastes THAT good.  The one good thing about the meal is that the soups are really hearty and not too bad for you.  I wanted to make one of them, the Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans – our favorite) even better though!

I utilized a couple recipes as very broad guides.  The first was Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meal recipe.  I also had a recipe that my mother-in-law had created in an attempt to recreate the OG dish a couple years ago.  Like I said, I wanted to make this dish a little healthier than it’s OG counterpart, so I started with ground chicken.  I honestly just discovered ground chicken in the grocery store last week, and I am in love.  From what I have tried, the ground chicken can be substituted for ground beef in almost any recipe, and it will taste just as good, if not better! So I browned the ground chicken with onion and garlic, then combined it with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, shredded carrots, a few frozen peas, red and white beans, and pasta and seasonings.

Before adding pasta, beans, or peas

With everything combined in the pot

The beauty of this dish is that it tastes like its been simmering on the stove all day (and you can let it simmer all day if you want to!) but it can be made as a 30-minute meal if that’s all you have time for.

With September comes that awesome fall weather that always has me craving a big warm bowl of soup.  Hopefully wherever you are, when the heat subsides and that bowl of soup is calling you, you will try my Pollo, Pasta e Fagioli!  I promise you won’t know its healthier, and you may even think it beats its sister from OG!  Enjoy!

Pollo, Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice drained
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 2-3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2-3/4 box small whole grain pasta (if you can find it in whole grain I think ditallini works well, but we really liked elbows too)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

  1. Dice onion and garlic and begin cooking in pot with about 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Add chicken and season with salt and pepper.   Break into small pieces and cook until browned.  Drain off any fat or water from onions.
  2. Add in cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and shredded carrots.  Season with red pepper, Italian seasoning, and bay leaves.  Let this simmer as long or as little as you want.  I let mine simmer for 10-15 minutes and it was delicious.
  3. Begin cooking pasta.  Since it will be going into a bunch of liquid in your soup, only cook it until it’s “al dente” so it will not get too soggy.
  4. About 5 minutes before serving add in peas, both cans of beans, and pasta.  Let this simmer until everything is heated all the way through.
  5. Top with freshly grated parmesan, or if you are on a tight budget, Grana Padano, cheese.
  6. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Confetti Chicken Pasta

23 Jul

Karl and I work at the same company, but we happen to be on opposite schedules.  Our company runs on a 9/80 schedule which means that we work 80 hours in 9 days instead of the usual 10 (40 hours per week).  The big benefit of this schedule is that you are off every other Friday.  The downside for us is that we have opposite schedules so if it is my Friday off, Karl is working and vice versa.

Since yesterday was my day off I wanted to make a really special lunch for Karl instead of our usual salad.  Just like Thursday night I kind of went through the kitchen and looked at what we had to make a new dish.  I knew that I would not be going anywhere – the temperature outside was something like 99 with a heat index of 116!  So first I thawed out a pound of chicken.  We used to eat chicken every day for dinner, but since we’ve been doing this “semi-vegetarian” thing chicken has not been getting much love!  Once thawed I cut it into small cubes.  While cutting I let some garlic and crushed red pepper simmer in some olive oil.  Then I tossed the chicken in and let it cook on medium-high heat.  It got seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a little onion powder.  Those are pretty much my go-to spices.

I decided that I wanted to make a pasta and chicken dish so I went to the cabinet to see what kind of pasta we had.  Turns out we had about 1/4 box of everything, but there were two boxes of elbows.  Perfect!  I threw the remainder of both boxes into boiling water seasoned with a little salt.

While the chicken and pasta were cooking I chopped up some veggies.  My picks were carrots, cucumber, and red bell pepper.  When the chicken was cooked all the way through I poured into a bowl.  I put another tbsp. of olive oil in the chicken pan and tossed in a BUNCH of spinach.  I just used what we had left in our container – probably 3 full handfuls.  Once that had cooked down a little I added the carrots, cucumber, and pepper.  I let that cook for about 5 minutes and in the meantime drained the pasta then tossed it in the bowl on top of the chicken.  Next I added a few handfuls of frozen peas and corn to the veggie pan.  Once those were heated through I poured the veggies on top of the pasta.  Add some fresh grated parmesan cheese then toss everything together.

Karl was really happy to come home to a hot meal!  He asked what I was going to call it.  I said Confetti Chicken Pasta because it looked like a party in a bowl.  He said I should call it something like Garbage Pasta because it literally was a bunch of leftover stuff that would otherwise just be tossed.  I think that Confetti Chicken Pasta is a much better name.

Oh, and it reheats really well.  I was really glad to find that out because I made a HUGE bowl of it.  I am actually munching on a bowl of it for lunch as I type.  So good!

I’m actually getting packed up to head back to my hometown for a conference Sunday-Thursday.  I am going to try to schedule another post to show up tomorrow or Monday, and I think I have convinced Karl to write a guest post!  I hope you all have a great weekend and a great week!

Black Beans and Quinoa Remix

22 Jul

Last night we had no plans on what to make for dinner.  This whole week has been a very unorganized or us.  We didn’t make any kind of a meal plan this past weekend and only went to Sam’s to pick up veggies.  Lack of organization is bad for us.  If we don’t know what we are going to make then we just don’t make anything and go out to eat instead.  Tuesday night we ate Jimmy Johns and Wednesday night we had Pizza Hut.  Last night as we were pulling out of the parking lot at work, Karl asked where we were going for dinner, not what we were going to eat.  My answer was home because I couldn’t stand for us to spend money on another high-calorie meal.  When he asked what I was making I told him I would figure something out.

So, when we got home I walked into the kitchen and took an inventory.  In cabinet number 1 I found quinoa, taboule (which we have yet to try) and 3 different kinds of pasta.  Cabinet number 2 had a can of black beans, a can of red beans, and 3 cans of chickpeas. And our fridge is always stocked with vegetables – lettuce, spinach, carrots, assorted bell peppers, and cucumbers along with the onions, grape tomatoes, and avocado sitting on our countertop.  So I just decided to throw a few things together…

First I cooked up some quinoa.  I always make half of what the box suggests (1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup of water instead of 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water) because when paired with other foods half of the cooking suggestion is more than enough for the two of us.  I seasoned it with some salt, black pepper, about a tablespoon of cumin, and about a teaspoon of chili powder.  While the quinoa was cooking I chopped up an onion and sauteed that with a couple big handfuls of spinach.

Onions and spinach with quinoa simmering in the background.

While those sauteed I went to work chopping other vegetables… an orange bell pepper, a baby cucumber, and some grape tomatoes.  At this point Karl decided to come in the kitchen and help by turning our two almost overripe avocados into a quick guacamole (one of his favorite foods!).  After the onions began to soften I added the pepper and cucumber and let them cook for a few minutes.  I took this free time to open a can of black beans and rinse and drain them.  My next step was to thrown in the beans, then the quinoa.  I seasoned the whole thing with some more salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and a little garlic powder as well.  I let this heat up and then added the grape tomatoes.  It takes no time at all to heat up the tomatoes, so about a minute later I was plating this baby.  I served it with a dallop of gauc and a light squeeze of lime juice on top.  It was so quick, so easy, and so delicious.  Cooking a meal like that makes me realize how easy it is to make a healthy dinner every day.  I guess that means I have no excuse for going out to eat, even during the week?

This meal will definitely be a repeat item for us!  Karl loved every bite, but I guess what meal isn’t good with a little guac on top?  I’m sorry I don’t have a real “recipe” to share.  I really just eyeballed everything except for the beans (1 can) and quinoa.  But you should seriously give this a try.  Throwing a bunch of veggies together is very forgiving – they almost all taste good together!  I guess that’s why I do it so often!  Enjoy!!