Avocado and chickpea salad

Can you handle two chickpea recipes in a row? You see, I make up a whole pound of beans at once then freeze them. When I defrost them it is about two and half cans worth of beans. Thawed. Needing to be used. Hence the plethora of chickpea recipes.

Chickpea and avocado salad- YUM!

True, I could just put them in soup (I can’t believe I haven’t share my chorizo chickpea soup yet) or toss them on salad. But, they are so much tastier roasted or smashed up in to a yummy sandwich spread.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It seems to be the only place I find recipes these days. In fact, it looked so delicious, I had actually pinned it twice (does it bother anyone else that Pinterest doesn’t tell you when you have already pinned something?). I love that it is a vegetarian (actually vegan!) alternative to those mayo filled sandwich “salads.” No egg or chicken or mayo here. All wholesome good for you ingredients.

Chickpea and avocado salad- YUM!

I frequently buy too many avocados at once and have one or two threaten to go bad on me before I can get to them. Making up this salad is a quick way to use them up in something besides guacamole. Take two slices of  whole wheat bread, stuff it full of this salad and you will have the most satisfying lunch ever. Besides- look at that sandwich. It is gorgeous. Remember how I love pretty food? Well this is pretty food that doesn’t take any time at all to fix.

Chickpea and avocado salad- YUM!

Avocado and Chickpea Salad (makes enough for 3-4 sandwiches)
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (or about 2 cups cooked beans)
1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread of your choice (I use Dave’s Killer bread)

Rinse and drain the chickpeas. In a medium bowl, using a potato masher smash the chickpeas and avocado together. Add in cilantro, green onion, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste (I add at least 1 tsp of salt).  Spread salad on bread and top with your favorite sandwich toppings.

Chickpea and avocado salad- YUM!

Ps. This would also make a spectacular dip.

Pps. Little will eat this by the spoonful for dinner.

Beef Barley Stew

I’m have been in a bit of a cooking rut. I went a week without cooking anything interesting. Nathan is juice fasting again so I am cooking for just Little and me. We are eating a lot of sweet potatoes, zucchini and sausage. Well, I should say I am. Little will eat the sausage and zucchini.

Beef Barley Stew- easy, healthy and frugal.

There are two main reasons I have been stuck in this rut. First I have gone to all cash spending for our everyday expenses, including groceries. I am trying to cut my day to day spending and man has it worked. It was incredible how much money I was spending on food. I’m buying much more simply these days and cooking from my pantry and freezer as much as possible. I have not been reading as many recipes because I don’t want to be tempted to blow my budget. I’m starting to get the hang of minimal spending so have no fear, I am finding more and more room in my budget these days. Exciting cooking will continue I promise.

Secondly, Little is getting picky. I try my hardest to get fruits and veggies in him everyday but I hate spending an hour making dinner for us only to have him throw it on the floor. He is quite happy to just eat zucchini or avocado or pear or anything equally simple. I eat a lot of leftovers.

Beef Barley Stew- easy, healthy and frugal.

One way the monotony around here gets broken is when I have company over for dinner. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we always have people over. Sundays my brother in law and sister are over. Monday it is just my sister and Tuesdays it a “y’all come” for pizza. I was so sick of eating the same thing over and over again so I promised my sister, Tiffany, that I would make something interesting AND healthy this past Monday. Mercifully my Rachael Ray magazine had just arrived. It took me all of 30 seconds to spot this recipe. The best part? I had all the ingredients except for the beef stock and pearl barley on hand. Something interesting, healthy, and doesn’t ruin my budget?!? Win!

As if all that weren’t enough to make this recipe perfect it comes together in a flash. It is kind of a throw things in a pot sort of situation then wait an hour and then chow down. Oh, and it is even better the next day. I bet it would freeze beautifully.

Enjoy.

Beef Barley Stew- easy, healthy and frugal.

Beef Barley Stew (makes 6+ servings)
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2 ounce can  diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
4 cups beef broth
2-4 cups of water
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 can green beans drained
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it starts to brown. Stir in the onion and garlic, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and bring to a simmer over high heat. Stir in the broth, water, carrots, celery and barley and return to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook until the barley is very tender, about 1 hour. About 15 minutes before the soup is finished add the green beans. Stir in the parsley; season with salt and pepper.

Beef Barley Stew- easy, healthy and frugal.

Simple Caprese Appetizer

Merry Christmas Eve to you and yours! I pray you are spending time with your loved ones and treasuring the simple things in life.

Our sweet old man kitty Pumkin went to heaven yesterday. He has been a part of my family for 10 years and his passing was sudden and unexpected. It has given me pause and time to reflect on how important each moment is.

Simple caprese apetizer

The past year or so I have realized that is really the simple things that are the best things in life. Like this appetizer for example. Three ingredients yet so cheery and festive. It looks special and help you feel fancy yet is a snap to assemble and requires no cooking! I can’t take all the credit as I saw it on pinterest and copied it but I can take credit for these lovely pictures.

Do something special and simple with your loved ones today- homemade hot cocoa, a simple treat like these caprese bites, roll out and cut out some store bought cookie dough, anything really. It is about family and time together not about the presents and perfection.

Simple Caprese Appetizer
stolen from a pin I saw but forgot to pin

1 pint cherry tomatoes
basil leaves
1 tub small balls of fresh mozarella (marinated or not)
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt

Take on tomato and skewer it on a toothpick. Next add a basil leaf then a ball of mozzarella. Lay them out in a single layer on a serving dish. Sprinkle generously with salt then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil. Try to not eat them all before they leave the kitchen.

Simple caprese apetizer

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

My favorite part of cooking seasonally is the ability to enjoy foods that aren’t available year around. Peaches in August, strawberries in June, peak of the season citrus in December, and here in Oregon rainy Octobers mean chanterelles.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Have you had chanterelles before? They are a lovely orange mushroom that grows in the wet warmish fall months. I found a local picker who brought them right to my house. Talk about field to table. We had actually discussed about doing our own picking this year but we didn’t know where to go and heard pickers are possessive of their hunting grounds. Best not to tussle with them.

Chanterelles have a very rich, deep, meaty flavor. I have used them in risotto, stroganoff, and quiche so far this year. Oh and lets not forget just pan frying them for scrambled eggs. Seriously- go get your hands on some of these.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Last year my husbands favorite food cart created this gravy to serve to their clientele. Nathan begged for the recipe and, with a rough idea of what to do, he recreated it last year for Thanksgiving. Now it is a staple. I used to be a “my gravy must be smooth” girl but this tasty chunky gravy has won me over.

If you are lucky enough to score some of these tasties please whip up a batch of this gravy and smother the nearest batch of mashed potatoes in it. You wont regret it.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Chanterelle mushroom gravy (makes about 3 1/2 cups)

3/4-1 lb chanterelle mushrooms coarsely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary picked and chopped
2 finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are going vegan)
3 tbs cup olive oil
salt pepper

Place a large saute pan over medium high heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering saute the shallots for 2 min. Add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms till they release their liquid and it has all evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tbs olive oil and rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a separate container whisk the flour with 1/2 cup of chicken stock till smooth. Once you have seasoned the mushroom saute add the flour/stock mixture to the pan and stir well. Add the rest of the stock and cook till thick, about 10 minutes. Serve.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Succotash (my interpretation)

I would like to start by being honest. I made this at the beginning of October. Yes a month and a half ago. I have no idea why I never got around to sharing it with you. The reason I am sharing it with you today is less than glamorous- it gets dark to early.

I am becoming increasingly picky about the pictures I post. I prefer taking pictures in natural lighting and by the time dinner is made and ready to shoot it is pitch dark. My florescent kitchen lights are useless. It makes me cranky. Recently we have made chantrelle mushroom risotto, mushroom stroganoff, amazing quiche, and so many more delicious fall recipes. All of them were devoured before daylight and thus have escaped my camera lens. It is driving me mad. I so want to share these recipes with you! Suggestions? Other than building myself a studio of course….

Succotash- easy weekenight dinner that can be made from ingredients you have on hand!

Just to let you know if you run for president on a platform of abolishing the switch out of daylight savings every fall and a free pound of coffee for all you will have my vote.

Enough of my whining. I present you to you a quick weeknight dinner- succotash. Simply meaning a dish of corn and beans (traditionally lima beans) this meal was a depression staple as the ingredients were cheap. My version comes from my best friend’s mother whom we all call Lady. She made this in my home and we have made it her way ever since. It is lovely in the summer when the corn is fresh off the cob and the pepper still warm from the garden. However it is a wonderful throw together dinner if you have frozen corn and frozen chopped up pepper in the freezer (both available at Trader Joes!). Again we always have these ingredients on hand at my house. We are strange like that.

Enjoy.

Succotash- easy weekenight dinner that can be made from ingredients you have on hand!

Succotash

Feeds 3-4 depending on how many boys are over
Ingredients
  • 2 ears of fresh corn kernels cut off or 1 bag of frozen corn
  • 1-2 bell peppers (any color will do and you can use frozen) chopped
  • 1 can black beans (can sub white, kidney, etc) drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 large pinch red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Toppings of your choice- cheese, sour cream, chives
Instructions
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Once hot place oil in the pan followed by the peppers. Cook until peppers just start to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and saute till corn is cooked to your liking. I prefer my corn on the crunchy side so it takes about 7 minutes for me. Spoon in to bowl and top with cheese. Makes great leftovers.

Lentil Pumpkin Curry

I absolutely love curry. I don’t know why I don’t make it more often. It is one of those great foods that the recipe always seems to make alot and is always better leftover.

I wish I was better at making curries. Often I find myself with a curry spice mix hoping and praying it all turns out ok. I don’t know why I am so terribly intimidated by Indian cooking. Perhaps it is the laundry list of spices often needed for just one dish. I need to work on this irrational fear. This simple lentil curry seemed like a great place to start.

Lentil pumpkin curry

Lentils are very classic in Indian cuisine. Indian dishes cooked with lentils are called dahl. There is such a wide variety of recipes out there for dahl. While this particular dish wasn’t classified as such I feel it fits the bill. Dahls don’t always have curry in them but often do. I appreciate the addition of pumpkin and coconut milk in this particular dahl. The coconut milk adds a richness and the pumpkin gives it a great meaty/earthy texture. And the apples. It has apples. They add a hint of sweetness and texture.

To make this even better I love how hearty and healthy this recipe feels. In my mind all these ingredients are not only tasty but good for you. I was so hoping that Little would enjoy this too but he was having none of it. In his defense I don’t think he was feeling well but still… Could we please live in a world where toddlers eat what they are served? Particularly when it is tasty and healthy? Oh well.

Let me know how this turns out for you. It is a lovely well rounded, easy breezy dish that warms up your house and tummy on these post daylight savings time evenings.

Lentil pumpkin curry

Lentil Pumpkin Curry (serves 4-6)
(adapted from Yummy Mummy)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small apple, chopped
1 quart vegetable/chicken broth
1 can pure pumpkin
2 teaspoons mild curry powder (can add more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large pinch red pepper flakes (can add more to taste)
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
plain Greek yogurt or sour cream for garnish

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until beginning to soften. Add the apple, and continue to saute until both the apple and onion are tender. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Whisk in pumpkin, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Stir in lentils and coconut milk. Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes until thickened and lentils are soft. Adjust spices to taste. Serve in bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Lentil pumpkin curry

Saffron Chicken Veggie Soup

Can we talk about seasoning?

I am a firm believer that quality ingredients make or break a meal. If your recipe only has 3 or 4 ingredients they better be the very best you can afford/find. However many a dish made with wonderful ingredients will fall flat because it isn’t seasoned well. By seasoning I am talking about just salt and pepper. And really I am mostly talking about salt.

Supposedly restaurant food tastes so much better than food prepared at home because the chef is well versed in this art of seasoning. I think this is also why people think I am a good cook- I use A LOT of salt. Have you ever watched Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell? She uses fistfulls of salt. Particularly in her bolognese sauce. Look it up.

You can’t know if food is seasoned well with out tasting it. This is something that restaurant chefs do all the time- taste, taste, and taste again. It is also a habit I have developed. In making this soup I tasted the broth over 10 times (well I lost track at 10). Each time I tasted it I adjusted the seasonings a bit. Since this recipe has potatoes it needs quite a bit of salt. Use it liberally and taste often. You should never need to add salt to food on the table. Not at a restaurant and not at home.

Saffron chicken veggie soup

Now that we are clear about how much salt I believe we should use lets talk about spices. While most of my recipes have short spice lists I love a good curry with a 14 spice ingredient list as much as the next person. Spices are awesome but should never be used to mask low quality ingredients. Always use the very best (spices and ingredients) you can afford/find.  One way I cut back on how much we spend on food is I don’t really buy a lot of meat. The meat I do buy I use to its fullest extent. We BBQed two chickens on Sunday and I literally ate them all week and is the chicken I used in this recipe too. I split the roast chicken with my sister and total we have had somewhere on the order of 20+ servings over six different recipes. Booyah.

Back to spices though. Spices can elevate what is a very simple recipe (chicken soup with veggies) in to something quite special and decadent. Saffron and chicken are a classic combination. The tiny, albeit expensive, amount of saffron in this recipe shines through and elevates an ordinary dinner in to something I wouldn’t be ashamed to put on a restaurant menu. If I ever do have a restaurant. A girl has got dream right?

So are we on the same page? Use great ingredients. Taste, taste, taste. Salt liberally. Use spices to kick things up a notch.

Awesome.

Saffron chicken veggie soup

Saffron Chicken Veggie Soup (serves 8)
wildly adapted from Epicurious

3 tablespoons butter
1 chopped onion
3 diced peeled carrots
5  diced celery stalks
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 small package frozen corn kernels
4-5 medium waxy potatoes (such as red or yukon)
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (like from leftover BBQ chicken)
10 ish cups chicken stock

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme. Cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, shredded chicken and saffron and bring to boil. Taste for season and salt as needed. Reduce heat; simmer until vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add corn and cook till all veggies are fork tender.

Chili relleno casserole

I have an incredible weakness for Mexican food. I love good authentic Mexican food. In fact, when I traveled to Mexico for work a few years ago, I ate at the street carts two blocks from my hotel instead of at a real restaurant. The food was unbelievably good and so cheap. It was fresh and hot and perfectly seasoned. The food vendors got such a kick out of the gringa, who could speak Spanish, patronizing their little stand day after day. It was some of the best food I have ever had.

Mexican restaurants around here tend to fall into two categories- tex mex fast food ish or we-serve-tasteless-rice-and-beans-and greasy-food type restaurant. While I will gladly eat at Chipotle five days a week it does little to satisfy the craving for good non-greasy hearty Mexican food. There was a teeny tiny hole in the wall taco stand that used to be amazing but as they bettered their restaurant they let their food standards slip.

roasted aneheim chilies for a chili relleno casserole

So I have been eating lots of Chipotle these days and wishing I could transplant one of those tiny taco stands from Mexico City into my backyard. And then I ran across the recipe I am sharing today. It was the perfect storm- I either knew immediately where to get all the ingredients or I already had them all in my fridge, I had time to cook, and I NEEDED good hearty food. Peppers are still plentiful at the market stands around here so I was even able to score some local Anaheim chilies.

The only down side to this recipe was it didn’t make enough. It made a tiny 8×11 pan, which I could have eaten all by myself. But nooooo…. I had three boys in my house, in addition to my sister and me, and this was devoured in 3.2 seconds flat. Does this happen to anyone else? You make something you feel ok about and it lasts for weeks. You make something you want to keep all to yourself and devour while watching Downton Abbey under a blanket and everyone else eats it up. Sigh.

I’m glad it was shared and enjoyed though. At least when I reminisce about it I will have four other witness who will agree that this is quite possibly the best dish I have ever made.

chili relleno casserole

 Chili Relleno Casserole (barely feeds 5 if you include hungry boys)
6 Anaheim chilies
3 eggs
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp sour cream
1 3 oz can of sliced black olives
12 oz Mexican blend cheese< 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken (I used leftover bbq chicken)
1 can/packet green enchilada sauce (I used this sauce as it didn’t have artificial ingredients)

chili relleno casserole

Rinse chilies and place on a baking sheet covered in foil. Move oven rack to very top of oven and broil chilies for about 5 minutes on each side or until skin is blackened. Remove from oven and place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Remove chilies. Skin and remove veins and seeds. Cut into strips. Preheat oven to 350℉. Combine eggs, flour, sour cream, olives, salt and pepper to taste then mix thoroughly. Coat a baking dish with butter. Start layering the casserole using 1/2 of the ingredients- first chilies. then eggs mixture, then cheese, then beans, then meat. Repeat. Sprinkle the top with a bit more cheese then smother in the enchilada sauce. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes (pop under the broiler for a minute or two if the top isn’t crispy enough). Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

chili relleno casserole

Leek and Potato Soup

The rain started a few days ago. Fall was absolutely gorgeous this year in the PNW. Cool, crisp mornings. Afternoons getting so warm Little ran around the park in a short sleeve shirt just a few days ago.

This weekend I pulled out the first sweater of the season. I’m beyond thrilled to move into a different section of my wardrobe as I was getting tired of the warm weather clothes. Does this happen to anyone else? I am beyond excited for cozy clothes. Remind me of this when I am FED UP in March. It will happen.

Leek and potato soup

With cozy clothes comes cozy food. Soup is a huge comfort food for me. This soup reminds me of pure de verduras that I ate many times growing up. I grew up in Spain remember? Yeah you knew that. I miss it terribly. At least this is a small taste of home.

Can we talk ingredients for a quick second? I have a few food philosophies but this is me at my core- good food prepared simply. I am fairly confident I have share that with you before. This recipe is that philosophy at its purest seeing as there are only four ingredients. Well six, if you count salt and water. To make this taste good you need to get the very best ingredients you can. I cannot stress that enough. Particularly when it comes to things like stock. Buy the expensive box or better yet make your own. It isn’t hard to make stock and it freezes well so make big batches and keep it on hand. It is worth it.

So cozy up. Make some soup.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and Potato Soup (makes 6 generous servings)

2 large leeks
4 cups chicken stock
4 medium sized potatoes
2 tbs butter
salt and pepper

Slice leeks down the middle and rinse under running water to remove sand and dirt. Chop coarsely. Set a large soup pot over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add leaks and cook till soft, about 10 minutes. While leeks are cooking peel and chop potatoes into bite sized pieces. Add potatoes to the cooked leeks and cover wit the chicken stock. Add water is necessary to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook till potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Puree soup either with an immersion blender directly in the pot or with your stand blender (you might have to work in batches). Serve immediately with crusty bread.