Sunday, November 13, 2011

3 Fast, Healthy and Delicious Budget-Friendly Meals for November

For me, November is a bittersweet reminder that the holidays are just around the corner. As I anticipate all  the family gatherings and laughter that will arrive in the coming months, my palms grow sweaty. Why the grim thoughts, you may ask? Well, the response is quite simple, money and time are always scarce this season and obligations abound. If you can relate to my holiday woes, I hope you enjoy the menu I've planned for this week. Easy, fast, healthy menu options are the only thing that makes me feel somewhat in control of my budget and weight during this time of year. Therefore, here is my holiday gift to you...3 meals that will satiate your hunger and leave a little room in your wallet for all the superfluous nonsense your about to spend your hard-earned dollars on...bah, humbug and happy healthy eating!

1. Brown Rice Pasta with Red Clam Sauce
     original recipe found in Food & Wine April, 2011

                                                     Picture taken by Kris Callen, November, 2011

  1/4 cup olive oil
  4 large cloves garlic, chopped  
  2/3 cup dry white wine  
  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme  
  Pinch dried red-pepper flakes  
  3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)  
  1 cup bottled clam juice  
  1 1/4 teaspoons salt, more if needed  
  3/4 pound chopped clams, drained (about 1 1/2 cups)  
  1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley   
  1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper  
  3/4 pound linguine

  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, thyme, and red-pepper flakes; bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, clam juice, and salt. Raise the heat to moderate and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the clams and bring back to a simmer. Continue simmering until the clams are just done, about 1 minute longer. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Taste the sauce for salt, and add more if needed.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just done, about 12 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce.
Note: Top with Locatelli Romano. We buy ours straight off the block at Dorn's. The reason it should be straight off the block is that as soon as the air hits the cheese it begins to oxidize and the natural flavors become compromised. If you must go to the market for this cheese, buy a wedge and grate as you go. 

2. Marinated Vegetables with Romano Coated Chicken Breast

                                Marinated Italian Veggies 

                                                         Photo by Kris Callen October, 2011

1/2 lb mushroooms (stems trimmed)
1 large cauliflower(broken into florets)
2 large green bell peppers (cut into 1/2 inch strips)
2 large red onions
1 cup olive oil
2-3 tbs minced fresh garlic
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar or agave
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Steam veggies until tender but still firm and place in a large bowl. Combine the last five ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over the steamed veggies and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

                    Romano-Coated Chicken Breast 

1 tbsp butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup finely grated Locatelli Romano Cheese
Freshly ground pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 325F.
2. Heat butter in a heavy skillet over med-high heat and brown chicken breast on both sides. Cook each breast for 5 minutes on each side.
3. Spread Locatelli Romano out on a plate and season with pepper. Turn breasts in cheese to coat completely and arrange in a baking dish.
4. Place chicken in the oven and bake for 10-15minutes until completely cooked through. Serve warm and enjoy!

 3. Spicy Cajun Crab and Greens Soup

Our good friend Jim made us this soup last night. The soup was meaty and flavorful. The rich and bold tomatoes combine beautifully with the onion, crab and delicate baby spinach to create a harmonious masterpiece.  Jim is no slouch in the kitchen and has treated our family to some exquisit meals in the past, but last night's meal was as healthy and satisfying as it was delicious.  Having lived in New Orleans, I can attest to the fact that this Crab Soup is among the best I've tried. Jim made it right before my eyes in less than 20 minutes using high quality Boss Pasteurized Canned Lump Crab Meat available locally at NorthWest Seafood. His gracious wife Leeanne was kind enough to pack-up a handsome portion of this soup for my husband and I to enjoy a second time around. I count myself very lucky to have friends with such good taste! Cheers to you both and many thanks for your continued hospitality.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 to 5 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 2 1/2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes with caramelized onion, in juice
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
*Note: Jim uses the regular (not jumbo or claw) Hand Picked Boss Lump Crab Meat

Whisk oil and flour in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add enough Cajun seasoning to season to taste and stir 30 seconds. Add clam juice and stir until smooth. Add tomatoes with juices. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 3 minutes. Add spinach, thyme, and garlic and simmer until spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Add crabmeat and simmer until heated through, stirring gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Note: Jim found the recipe in the March 2003 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.
The recipe can also be found online at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Simplest Roasted Chicken with Tabouli Salad, Cream of Asparagus Soup, Onion and Almond Soup with Saffron and a Simple Light Butternut Squash Soup

I am a self-professed soup snob euphmistically referred to as a soup enthusiast. As a child, my Granny home-made us all of our baby food thus creating some pretty sophisticated soupies out of her grandchildren. I carried on the tradition with my children and therefore they too can distinguish "bad" soup from "good" soup. The soups on this week's menu are unique, flavorful and have been approved by yours truly. Here we go.....

1. Simplest Roast Chicken with Tabouli Salad

Yield 4 servings
Time 50 to 60 minutes
Mark Bittman
  • 1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put a cast-iron skillet on a low rack in the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Rub the chicken all over with the oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
2. When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the bird is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 to 165 degrees.
3. Tip the pan to let the juices flow from the chicken’s cavity into the pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Carve and serve.
recipe found on Heartland Bulgar Wheat box or 

(8 servings)

1 cup bulgur
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 English cucumber(optional)
1/2 green pepper(optional)
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 large bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper 
1/2 tbsp oregano 
dash of cayenne pepper 
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Put bulgur in a bowl and stir in 2 cups of boiling water. Cover with a plate and let sit for 30 minutes.
While the bulgur cooks you can prep the vegetables. Ideally the tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper are all chopped the same size. When dicing the tomatoes and cucumber first de-seed them. Then chop the green onions very thinly.
Place vegetables in a salad bowl and add parsley and mint. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder cayenne pepper, oregano, salt and pepper. Add dressing to vegetables and toss to combine. Add bulgur to vegetables and dressing and fold to combine all ingredients.Enjoy this simple, refreshing salad with a side of egg salad for lunch or roasted chicken with dinner. 

2. Cream of Asparagus Soup

2tbs butter
2tbsp olive oil

2lbs of green asparagus
1 large onion, chopped 
1/2 cup of diced leeks 
6 cups of chicken broth 
2 egg yolks 
1 cup of heavy cream 
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper 

1. Wash asparagus, snap the tough ends off and cut a dozen or so tips and set aside. Chop the rest of the asparagus. In a large pot, heat butter and oil at medium high heat. Once butter starts melting, add onions and leeks to the pot and cook down for 3-5 minutes stirring frequently.
2. Add asparagus, and chicken broth to the soup pot, bring the soup to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes on low heat. Meanwhile, boil 1/2 cup of salted water in a skillet and place spears to simmer for 3 minutes or until bright green and tender. 

3. While soup is cooking, whisk together egg yolks and heavy cream in a mixing bowl. Remove soup from heat and puree in batches using a blender. Return soup to the pot and slowly whisk in cream and yolk mixture. Reheat at low temperature until sufficiently hot enough to serve. Be careful raise the temperature too high when reheating the soup. Too much heat will cause the soup to separate.

3. Onion and Almond Soup with Saffron 

3tbsp butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 strands of saffron
2 oz of toasted ground almonds
3 cups of chicken broth
3 tbsp dry sherry
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped almonds
3 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Melt butter in a heavy soup pot over low heat. Add onions and garlic, stir to distribute butter evenly, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Onions should be soft and golden yellow in color. Add saffron strands and cook uncovered for 3 minutes. Add  ground almonds and stirring constantly cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Pour in stock and sherry and season with pepper and salt. Bring soup to a boil and lower to a simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Process soup in a blender in batches, return to pot and and reheat slowly.
4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped almonds, parley and a few saffron strings.

4. Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp butter
1 med onion
1 large celery stock
1 large carrot
2 med yukon gold potatoes
1 med butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
32 oz of MSG free chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1. Heat butter in a soup pot and add onion, celery and carrot. Cook down veggies for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes, squash and chicken stock, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover an cook for 40 minutes or until squash has softened.

2. Process soup in blender, return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into individual bowls, top with freshly ground nutmeg and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

3 Super Savory Meals: Easy Thai Pork Fried Rice, Turnip Soup, Portuguese Garlic Soup

When the weather starts getting chilly, we get a hankering for some solid savory foods to warm us up. Here are just a few of my recent favorites. Enjoy!

Easy Thai Pork Fried Rice: 

2‑1/2 cups water
1‑1/3 cups long-grain organic brown rice 
8 ounces ground pork or pork sausage
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric or paprika
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 cups chopped cooked vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, red bell peppers, carrots, bok choy spinach or sweet peas
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

  1. Bring water and rice to a boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 50 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  2. Fluff rice with fork. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. I like to make the rice the night before to cut down on dinner prep time.
  3. When rice is cold, cook pork in wok or medium skillet(preferably a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain off excess fat; transfer pork to bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat surface. Add onion, ginger, jalapeño, garlic and turmeric; stir-fry 4 to 6 minutes or until onion is tender.
  5. Stir in fish sauce; mix well. Stir in cold rice, vegetables and pork; cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through.
  6. Push rice mixture to side of wok and pour eggs into center. Cook eggs 2 to 3 minutes or just until set, lifting and stirring to scramble. Stir rice mixture into eggs.
  7. Stir in green onions. Transfer to serving bowl; sprinkle with cilantro.  

Simple Turnip Soup: 
4 to 6 medium turnips
3 small yukon gold potatoes
2 tbs butter
3 small onions or one large onion
1 clove garlic
11/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
6 c. chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground fresh nutmeg
½ c. cream

1. Peel and dice the turnips, potatoes. Chop the onions and garlic and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes being careful not to brown the garlic. Add turnips and potatoes and cook down for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add salt, pepper and broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Puree all or part of the soup depending on how you like it and stir in the cream and ground nutmeg. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve over top some baby spinach for a little splash of color and some extra nutrition.

Portuguese Garlic Soup: 

1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro(seperate stocks from leaves, then chop)
6 1/2 c chicken or vegetable stock 
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 eggs 
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 loaf stale crusty bread(make sure it's a good quality rustic loaf)
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 c Spanish cold pressed olive oil

1. Place cilantro stocks in a pot, add stock and bring to a boil.  
2. Lower heat, simmer for 10 minutes. Process soup in a blender in batches, pour through a strainer and pour stock back into the pot. Chop and crush garlic with salt using the flat side of a large kitchen knife. Add crushed garlic and salt mixture to the broth and heat back up until simmering.
3. Meanwhile, in cast iron skillet, warm canola oil over medium heat and fry up eggs two at a time. Set eggs on a large plate when medium done and crispy on the edges. 
4. Add chopped coriander leaves to garlic broth and turn off heat. 
5. To plate, place a slice of crusty bread drizzled with olive oil at the bottom of the soup bowl. Ladel garlic soup over top and finish with a fried egg. I always like to sprinkle a little fine sea salt over the yolk before I break it open in the soup bowl.