Monday, April 23, 2012

Herbed Quinoa Tomato Soup

It is a rainy Monday--the perfect day for a huge bowl of soup and a good book.

Lunchtime soups can be tricky--I need to turn around a midday meal fast--often in 10 minutes or less. I am not a fan of canned soup with one exception: canned tomato soup.

I've dabbled making homemade tomato soup and it is good--but never as good as a can of Campbell's tomato soup.

I love to dress up canned tomato soup with simple add-ins. A sprinkle of Tabasco and some cheddar cheese is amazing; as is leftover Mexican rice. My new favorite variation: fresh herbs and quinoa.

I have a plethora of perennial herbs going strong in my garden; plus some basil and parsley in my kitchen window. Quinoa is a new favorite staple around here--yummier and more nutritious than a side of rice. 

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes, provided you have leftover quinoa in the fridge. If you don't add about 15 minutes.

The ingredients: 
One 10 3/4 ounce can tomato soup
One cup Pre-cooked quinoa
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (your pick, I used a combo of oregano, basil, parsley and mint)
Tabasco sauce (a couple drops)
Good quality olive oil, just a little for a drizzle

To make:

Prepare tomato soup, according to package directions. Stir in pre-made quinoa, fresh herbs and Tabasco (or other hot sauce) to taste. Ladle into bowls and drizzle a little olive oil on top, to float.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Super Soup, Super Fast: Tortellini Soup

It has been a rainy Fall here in SNJ. And today, as the rain poured down and my sweet girls battled a cold, we had to have homemade soup.

This soup is so quick and easy. I usually keep the ingredients on hand to whip up whenever the skies pour and the coughing begins.

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Premade Tortellini (I used a bag of frozen tricolor stuffed with cheese; but you can use dried or fresh, filled with whatever you like!)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or frozen, if you use frozen, let it thaw for 20 minutes on the counter)

Make it:
  1. In a dutch oven or large soup pot, warm olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped onion, stir until softened about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn heat to low, put a lid on the pot. Let the onions cook further, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil
  4. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  5. Chop fresh baby spinach into chunky pieces. Add about  1/4-1/2 cup to the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup on top. Season with salt/pepper. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Favorite Things: Back to School Goodies

I love Back-to-School shopping. Even during the years when no one in our house was going to school, I've used this time of year as an excuse to shop (and buy!).

This year, Lily is starting Kindergarten--the big time. She has been in Pre-K for two years, but this year feels different.

Here are my favorite finds for back to school organization and of course, fabulous-ness (is this a word?!).  Please share your favorites in the comments section!

1. The Lunch Cube (by Klip It, available at Sur La Table)

The Lunch Cube, middle right

The Lunch Cube, retailing for just $6, is a great Bento-style lunch box solution. The top compartment is perfect for a sandwich and the bottom has two sections for sides. And the best part: it fits right inside of most lunch boxes--so your kids don't have to sacrifice their style (Lily would die if she could not carry her Tinkerbelle lunch box to school everyday). I also grabbed the 6.7 oz size for snack time ($3) and the 11.8 oz split size (one side for yogurt and the other for granola).  It is all eco-friendly and wallet friendly.

2. FooDoodler
This might be the last year that Lily is not embarrassed by love notes in her lunch box--so I am taking advantage. The FooDoodler markers are adorable and perfect for writing on sandwiches, crackers, bagels and cookies. Plus, my kids love them. The Food Doodlers actually write like regular markers--making them fun for an afternoon food craft. I grabbed my pack at Sur la Table, but they are also available from Prices vary $7-$10.
Edible love notes.
3. Cold Packs from Pottery Barn Kids
I grabbed a couple of these cold packs at the PBK store for $2 each during the Labor Day sale. They are just the right size to slip in Lily's lunch bag and well, they are cute to look at. Bonus: the cold packs work great on bumps and bruises too.

Available at PBK
4. Retro Barrette Craft--from Disney Family Fun
Love re-living my childhood in hair!

Remember these fabulous braided barrettes? Since Lily has to wear a uniform everyday--the hair is where we have fun. This craft is super easy (and cheap--a 6 pack of barrettes was $3 and ribbon was 50-cent a spool at JoAnn fabric). We've already made a bunch in a rainbow of colors.

5. Little Kids Sigg Water Bottle
We are Sigg fans in our house and love the Little Kids Water bottle (we have Paddington Bear on ours). These water bottles never leak, ever. And they last forever--without getting grimy. You can find Siggs at Whole Foods or online for about $17.99 (or less).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jersey No-Cook Pasta Sauce

All summer long, I've been covering the Blackwood Farmer's Market for the Gloucester Township Patch. It has been pretty much a dream, combining two of my favorite things: food and writing. 

One of my favorite things is finding out everyone's favorite recipes. One of the weekly vendors, Dave Monteleon Farms, is always bursting with tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, beets, corn, peppers, peaches, basil and everything under the Jersey Summer Sun.  Doris Monteleon shared her favorite summer pasta recipe.

The recipe uses Juliet tomatoes, which sort of look like mini-plum tomatoes. You can truly use any tomato you like--I used Juliets plus a few tomatoes from our own backyard garden. To my recipe, I tossed in a few cloves of fresh garlic (Doris did not include this ingredient in her original recipe).

This sauce is bursting with garden goodness--you can taste the sunshine and the rain in every bite. It sort of makes you believe that miracles do happen--after all those tomatoes just started with a tiny seed in a green house way back in the dark days of winter.

The leftovers (if you have any) are great cold. I am eating some right now. ( :

The goodies:
1 pint Juliet tomatoes, plus 2 or 3 medium tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
handful of fresh basil
3 T. olive oil
1 pound curly pasta noodle, such rigatoni or cellentani
1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced

 The work:
1. Quarter the smaller Juliet tomatoes and coarsely chop the larger tomatoes. Place in a large bowl.
2. Grate or mince garlic. Coarsely chop fresh basil. Combine garlic, basil, tomatoes, olive and salt/pepper.
3. While the tomatoes mixture is sitting, cook pasta according to package instructions.
4. Drain cooked pasta. Add mozzarella to tomato mixture.  Top the pasta with the cheese/tomato mixture. The cheese melts, the tomatoes release a little juice and the basil sings.

It is THAT good!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lily and Chloe's Fabulous Life: Glitter Play Dough

When I was a kid, my mom and I tried to make play dough with lackluster results. The end product just was not fun. Or particularly colorful.

Once (or more likely a dozen times), I attempted homemade play dough with my best girl Jessie Del Mar (we are the original, albeit overlooked, creators of the Hot Pocket, but I digress). I believe our recipe was baby powder and water. (we made it in the bathroom to avoid detection). As you can imagine, the results were just, well, a disaster.

Lily, Chloe and I have been experimenting with various concoctions for a while. Edible play dough, while intriguing, is just revolting (reminiscent of sweaty peanut butter). Some recipes required exotic ingredients that I had to Google. But the best ones required a little cooking to get that-bought-from-Target level of fabulousness.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, it was just scribbled on a scrap of paper in my to-do pile. Lily (with Chloe in agreement) insisted we use the "good" gel food coloring from Wilton and of course, glitter was required.

The dough keeps great in an airtight container and is truly a fab summer activity. We plan to add a couple colors to our stash each week.

The Dough-stuff:
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring gel

Mix all ingredients with the exception of the glitter in a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball (sounds cryptic, but you will know when it happens). Remove from heat, but dough ball in a large bowl. Add the glitter and knead until smooth and uniform. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cooking with the Kiddos: Kale-tastic Kale Chips

Kale-tastic Lily.

The first time I made kale chips the results were interesting. . .

And relatively disgusting. Some chips were crisp, others were mushy, some were burnt and then the rubbery kale, well, that is just gross.

But, I really wanted to like kale chips, so we experimented. And it really is easy, but took a little finessing.

Lily loves these chips (and she eats nothing). Chloe, not so much. But both girls had fun helping. And it was nice to have them by my side.

Kale before.
1 bunch kale
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt

1. Wash and dry kale (super critical, the kale should be totally dry before baking)

2. Preheat oven to 300F.

3. Cut the kale. Remove tough stems, cutting away the leafy parts. The tough stems get enou tougher and are completely yucky when baked. So, save the stems to make vegetable broth.

4. Cut all leafy parts into uniformly sized pieces. (ensures even cooking!)

5. Toss the leafy pieces in a large bowl with olive oil. I eyeballed it--every bunch of kale will vary in size, slightly. The idea is to coat each piece of kale with olive oil. Start with a tablespoon and add more as needed.
Perfect crispy kale.
6. Now add in balsamic vinegar. I used about 1 tablespoon and tossed it with the olive oil coated kale.

7. Line a baking sheet with either a sil-pat mat or parchment paper. Evenly distribute kale on cookie sheet.

8. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, until Kale changes from bright green to a deep olive color. Kale should be crisp to the point of breaking.

9. Remove from oven and salt to your liking.

10. Storage: if you have kale leftover, let it cool completely before storing in an air tight container. If it is stored warm, it will loose its crispness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup

This soup is heavenly.

My biggest complaint about tortilla soup: often the chicken on top is an after thought. It is either leftovers (I am not really a fan) or rotisserie chicken.

I have been been dreaming of sweet, juicy, pristine shreds of chicken on top of a spicy, veggie filled soup forever.

And finally, my South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup. As the name implies, there are no tortillas (although feel free to add). And I used lots of local fresh ingredients--local white onion, a prehistorically gigantic zucchini (courtesy of Miranda), fresh Jersey corn, backyard garden cilantro, a Duffield's jalapeno, local honey from High Trail Honey and Jersey Fresh canned crushed tomatoes (a pantry staple around here).

The poached chicken is juicy and tender. Use leftovers (i can dig these leftovers) the next day for chicken salad or a wrap.

It all comes together in under an hour (I swear, and in my hour, I had a dog and a 5 year old, helping).

And not to get too Next Food Network Star, but MGD Lemonade is the perfect beer pairing for this unconventional summer soup.

For the soup:

  • Honey and Lime Poached Chicken, shredded, broth reserved(recipe below)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeƱo, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups (approx) reserved stock from poached chicken
  • Salt/pepper
  • 2 ears of grilled corn, cut from cobs (if you don't have it grilled, just use cooked)
  • Handful of cilantro
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 green onion, sliced
1. Prepare poached chicken. Reserve stock.
2. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat.
3. Add veggies in layers. First carrots, for about 3 minutes, then onion, garlic and peppers. Last, add zucchini. Cook together until soft, about 7 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, stock and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in corn.
6. Serve it up: top with avocado, shredded chicken, cilantro, green onion and a little sprinkle of lime zest.

Honey and Lime Poached Chicken
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tsp. dried cilantro (or 3 T. fresh, chopped)
  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 lb thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Whisk all ingredients (except for the chicken breasts) together in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil; add chicken.
3. Reduce heat, poach until chicken is cooked through 4 minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove chicken. Reserve poaching liquid. Shred chicken.