Thursday, February 28, 2013

Curried Lentils and Tomatoes Stew

My sister was complimenting me on my food blog recently and she said, “Uh it’s pretty clear from your blog that you love bacon and soup.”  That I do, that I do.  I swear I decided to make this mainly because of the curry and lentils. The bacon just happened to be there.  I don’t even search out for bacon recipes anymore, bacon finds me!  

While I love my regular lentil soup recipe, this is a great change with all the healthy deliciousness of lentils but with a completely different flavor.  I added half and half at the end since I had the nonfat kind from Trader Joe’s handy but I think it would’ve been fine without it.  We’re nearing the end of soup/stew weather, and that makes me very sad because I have so many yummy ones like this that I’ll miss over the hot spring and summer months!

Servings: 6 (but I can totally make this a 2-3 mealer for me)

4 bacon slices (I use turkey)
1 vidalia onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dried lentils
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
5 ounces mushrooms, chopped (I like baby bella)
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 (14.5 ounce) cans of no salt, diced tomatoes (undrained)
½ cup half and half
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or 2 tablespoons of dry sherry)
Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.
  • Add 1 chopped onion, 5 oz chopped mushrooms, 4 minced garlic cloves, and 4 chopped bacon slices.  Cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups chicken broth, 1 cup lentils, ½ cup chopped carrots, ½ cup chopped celery, 5 oz chopped mushrooms, 2 tsps curry powder, ½ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, and 2 cans of diced tomatoes.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  
  • Stir in ½ cup half and half and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (or 2 tbsps of dry sherry).

The girls are always lurking. But they weren't as intrigued by the curry aromas.
I always top of my bowls of soup and stew with extra black pepper.  Hey what are you girls doing down there?? 
Enjoy! But don't feed any sad pugs curry.  I opted instead to feed them baby carrots.  Everyone was pleased.
Adapted from My Recipes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chicken Sausage, Mushroom, and Potato Gratin

This is a very hearty and savory dish that is perfect for the colder months.  When it gets cold I crave soups and hearty, savory meals. Something about this reminds me of Thanksgiving - I think it's the chicken broth and onion flavors. There’s nothing more satisfying than a good meat and potatoes dish and with the use of chicken (or turkey) sausage, it’s much healthier than most comfort foods.
Servings: 4 (although for me I can easily eat 2 servings a meal, making this a 2-night meal)

10-12 oz spicy chicken/turkey sausage (sliced)  (I like the Trader Joe’s jalapeno chicken sausage)
3 cups chopped onion
4 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1½  pounds red or baby yellow potatoes (chopped in coarse chunks)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons thyme
½ teaspoon rosemary
Cooking spray


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.
  • Add 10-12 oz sliced chicken/turkey sausage to pan and saute for 5 minutes or until browned.  
  • Remove cooked sausage from pan and add 3 cups chopped onion.  Saute onions for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 4 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms and saute for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 1½  lbs chopped potatoes and ½ tsp kosher salt and saute for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the sausage, ½ cup of chicken broth, 2 tbsps thyme, and ½ tsp of rosemary, and remove the skillet from heat.
  • Spoon the mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  
  • Uncover and sprinkle ¾ cup shredded cheese on top and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Add salt and cracked pepper to taste. I also like to add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce!

And beware of any lurkers who might be plotting to steal your food.
Inspired by My Recipes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chicken Soba Soup with Poached Egg

I love soba and usually eat it cold during the hot summer months (such a perfect summer dish) but whenever I crave it during the cold winter months, I like to cook it up with a nice hot savory broth.  This dish is essentially various things I love thrown together - soba, broth, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, ginger!  And what the hell, I'll throw in a poached egg!  I added the poached egg because I love them, but let me tell you this totally made the dish! I wish I had cooked up more because when I went back for seconds (and maybe thirds), I was really wishing I had a poached egg for each bowl.  

If you're making this for multiple meals, then I'd advise dividing the ingredients per day and cook fresh as soba is best cooked fresh and it doesn't take that much time.  The pictures below are for me making half of the recipe and I also kinda wing it when it comes to the ingredients at times, depending on what I have available or am craving (this includes the amount of mushrooms, chicken, and spices).  This is definitely a recipe you can tweak according to your preferences.

Servings: 4 (but really for me, it's more like 2)

12 ounces mushrooms (I used baby bella and shiitake), sliced
4 scallions, chopped and with white/light green and dark green parts separated
5 oz shredded chicken
4 eggs, poached (one per serving - so it depends on how much you're eating per serving)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 cups baby leaf spinach
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 bundles of soba
Salt, pepper, red pepper (gochugaru), and shichimi (Japanese spice blend) to taste

  • Cook two bundles of soba according to packet instructions.  Rinse cooked soba in cold water, drain, and set aside.
  • In a large pot, spray with a cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  
  • Add 12 oz sliced mushrooms, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, white/light green chopped parts of 4 green onions.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups chicken broth, 2 cups water, and 5 oz shredded chicken.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 7-10 minutes.  
  • While broth is simmering, poach 4 eggs (or more!).  To poach each egg, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil and then reduce heat.  Crack an egg in a small bowl/ramekin and splash some vinegar into the water (the vinegar helps the egg white hold together).  Once bubbles have stopped rising to the top, use a large spoon to gently circle the water a few times and then slip in the egg.  Cover and then after 3 minutes spoon out the egg and lay on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the water. 
  • Stir in 3 cups fresh spinach until leaves are soft, about 1 minute.  
  • Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar.
  • You can either add the soba to the pot, or you can do what I like to do and prepare the bowls for serving with a handful of soba, a poached egg on top, and a handful of dark green chopped parts of 4 green onions.
  • I also like to add a sprinkling of gochugaru and shichimi.  You can get these at an Asian market, or you can do what I do, which is mooch some off of my mom.
  • Pour the broth mixture over the noodles and egg, and enjoy!

Ignore any pleading looks you get from begging pugs.
I LOVE the poached egg in this soup.  The runny yolk makes the broth so savory and delicious!

Chicken Waldorf Salad Sandwiches

I never knew the joys of chicken salad sandwiches as a kid.  I was familiar with egg salad and tuna salad, but never chicken salad.  Then when I finally had it for the first time as an adult, I was obsessed and that’s all I would eat anytime I’d go to a sandwich place.  My sister has made these chicken waldorf salad sandwiches for a while now and will serve it in a croissant which is so delicious.  But usually I try to make my meals a little bit healthier (if I’m going to splurge, I’m going to really splurge and eat something crazy!) so I often just use sandwich thins.  I have also been known to just spoon this out of the bowl just by itself.  Sometimes putting together a sandwich is just too much work and I get too hungry.  

Servings: Depending on the kind of bread you use and how big you like your sandwiches this can make about 5 sandwiches.

½ cup mayonnaise (I use low-fat)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon curry powder
1 (12.5 ounce) can chicken
1 shallot, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced (you need a good crisp apple)
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
5 sandwich thins (or 10 slices of bread or 5 croissants)
Optional sandwich toppings (e.g., lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and cheese)


  • In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, ¼ tsp curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add 1 can of chicken, 1 chopped shallot, 1 diced apple, ¼ cup chopped walnuts, ½ cup diced celery, and 1 tsp pickle relish.  Toss until all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Serve on whatever sandwich bread you prefer and add whatever toppings you’d prefer.  Personally, I like to eat mine on sandwich thins when I’m trying to be good (and croissants when I just want something buttery and delicious), and top it with sliced tomatoes, sliced Persian cucumbers and a slice of light havarti cheese.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bacon, Onion, and Cheese Biscuits

I love savory breakfast foods.  There’s nothing better than a satisfying, salty, delicious meal that involves bacon.  Don’t get me wrong, I love pancakes and waffles, but if I have to choose between sweet and savory, then I go with savory.  One of the best meals I had was with a friend who felt the same and so we each ordered our own savory course and then shared an order of pancakes for dessert.  These biscuits are not healthy but they are very yummy and easy to make.  I usually try to decrease the damage by using turkey bacon instead of pig bacon, but I can only imagine how delicious it would be with real bacon because pigs are delicious.

Servings: 12 biscuits

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
10 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
10 slices thick-cut bacon
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


  • Preheat oven to 375°F and spray your muffin pan.
  • Now there are two ways to do the next step, one healthier way, and one less healthy but more delicious way:
    • Delicious: Fry the 10 slices of bacon in a skillet until crisp, remove the bacon and then use 1 tbsp of the leftover bacon grease to cook the 1 cup onion for about 5 minutes until onions are soft and browned.
    • Healthier: Fry the 10 slices of bacon in a skillet or microwave it on a plate in between two paper towels according to package instructions. Wipe the pan clean, coat with cooking spray and then cook the 1 cup onion for about 5 minutes until onions are soft and browned.Remove onion from pan and chop the cooled bacon.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and ¾ tsp salt.
  • Mix in the 4 tbsps of butter until combined and the mixture is crumbly.  I usually just use my fingers to mash the butter in.
  • In a small bowl whisk together 10 tbsps milk, 4 tbsps vegetable oil, and 1 egg.
  • Gradually add the milk mixture to the dry mixture and mix until just combined.  
  • Add the bacon, onions, and 1 cup cheese and mix until just combined.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown.  
Remove from pan and let cool slightly before serving or eating.  Or you can be like me and just dig right in, burning your fingers and tongue in the process.
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cheese Straws

I made my first batch of cheese straws when I was just beginning to cook and bake myself.  I can still recall the impatience and urgency I felt when I became obsessed with the idea of making them one cold winter day.  I didn’t even have any baking sheets and so right after work I sped over to Target and bought a couple.  These cheese straws are so yummy and you can use all sorts of different cheese depending on your preference.  My sister and brother-in-law referred to them as fancy and delicious cheeze-its.

Servings: Makes about 24 sticks, but can vary depending on length and width of the straws you make.

1 ½ cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (can use any cheese you like)
1 cup flour
¾ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like spicy, but this makes it really good!)
1 ½ tablespoons milk


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Mix together 1 ½ cups grated cheese, 1 cup flour, ¾ stick chopped cold butter, ½ tsp salt, and ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper well.  Either work the dough together with your hands until the butter and cheese is worked into the dough or use a food processor.
  • Add 1 ½ tbsps milk and mix in until dough starts to come together and you can form a ball.
  • Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Now there are a number of ways you can prepare the dough before baking, depending on your preference.  Here are a few suggestions:
    • Roll out the dough into about a 12- by 10-inch rectangle and cut about ⅓-inch wide strips.  You can either leave them as strips or try twisting them (the strips are delicate though so this can be difficult).
    • Pull out chunks of the dough and roll it with your fingertips to round it out into long round sticks. (This is my usual method).
    • Roll out the dough and use small cookie cutters
  • Transfer sticks/strips/whatever onto ungreased baking sheets, arranging them about ¼ inch apart. (In the photos the sticks are all close together but that's only because I moved them all to one sheet after they were baked.)
  • Bake until the sticks are golden, 15-18 minutes.  
  • Transfer to racks to cool.  Then try to restrain yourself from eating all of them at once!  These can be made a day in advance, but I don’t like to put them in an airtight container because I find they lose their crunch a bit.  
I’ve tried these with extra sharp cheddar and asiago and both times were delicious!  I’ve also heard that gruyere is pretty good and you can even try adding other flavors like dry mustard, cumin, or paprika.  When I know my niece and nephew will be eating these with us I omit the cayenne pepper since they are sensitive to spices.  
Adapted from Epicurious.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Butternut Squash and Red Bell Pepper Soup

This is a recent recipe I tried out as part of my butternut squash obsession (see Butternut, Ginger, and Shallots SoupBacon, Butternut, and Kale Penne; and Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash).  I have a bunch of old recipes to post, so I try to intermix them with the new but I wanted to post all the butternut squash ones now since it fits with the season.  

Anyways, I got miserably sick recently and the thought of eating any solid food with my scratchy throat just didn't appeal to me.  I came across this recipe that was originally for a pumpkin soup, but I modified it for use with butternut squash.  Now having made it, I can see how this would be really yummy with pumpkin.  I'll definitely have to try it out next fall with pumpkin!  

Warning: the use of bacon in the toppings means that if you have any dogs they will be lurking in the kitchen looking as pathetic as possible.  
I couldn't even close my pantry door because any time I tried to, Sunny's fat butt got in the way and she'd make this sad lil grunt but refused to look up or move.

Servings: 6 (but if you're eating this as a meal, more like 3)

3 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 cups red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 French roll, toasted and crumbled
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
4 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine 3 cups butternut squash, 2 1/2 cups red bell pepper, 1 1/2 cups sweet potato, 1/4 cup green onions, 1 tsp five-spice powder, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsps olive oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, and 1/8 tsp salt.  Toss well until all ingredients are mixed.  Or you can be lazy like me and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, throw all the ingredients on there and then mix it around by hand.  This way you don't need to wash an extra bowl afterwards.
  • Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
  • Combine vegetables mixture, 5 cups chicken broth, and 1/4 tsp salt in a large pot. 
  • Bring pot to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While pot is simmering, toast 1 French roll (or a piece of French baguette) and 3 tbsps sliced almonds.
  • Crumble the toasted bread, almonds, 1/4 cup parsley, and 4 slices of cooked and crumbled turkey bacon.

  • Once pot of soup has finished simmering, blend the soup either by doing it in pieces in a blender or using a hand blender.  Blend until smooth.
  • When ready to serve, pour soup, top with bacon mixture and salt and season to taste.  Enjoy!
  • Oh and I forgot the last part - feed extra bacon pieces to your sad, begging dogs! 

This is a great creamy soup that doesn't use any dairy to get its creaminess.  You can vary the toppings depending on your preferences.  Like using rosemary, instead of parsley, or doing a cheesy topping instead.  Since I'm a bacon fiend, this was a natural choice for me.  If I had had yummier bread on hand I would've used that, but I always have French rolls in the kitchen (or in the freezer).  You can definitely taste all the components of the soup, so if you're not a sweet potato, red bell pepper, or butternut squash fan, then you may want to tweak it according to your tastes.
I think I have Sunny and Rosy well trained by now that they know if they stand in certain spots when I make weird noises and point they'll get treats eventually.  Sometimes they are stubborn but today they did a pretty good job of posing relatively close to the food!
 Inspired by My Recipes.

Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash

I was craving a hearty beef stew recently but didn't want a plain old one.  I wanted something with a kick of flavor and spice and so this beef tagine with butternut squash seemed like a perfect dish to try out.  I think this is when my butternut squash obsession started this winter.  I used a lot of spices in my dish and upped the pepper content because I like my food spicy, but if you don't handle spice as well then cut back on the crushed red pepper.

This is a good recipe to use stew meat but if you have better cuts of beef handy you can use that and just cut back on the cooking time.  Serve this with some brown rice or cous cous and it's an incredibly hearty and satisfying dish!  I'm definitely going to make this again soon!

Servings: 3-4 servings

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cumin
1 pound beef stew meat (1-inch cubes)
4 shallots, quartered
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and 1-inch cubed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries


  • Combine 2 tsps paprika, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp crushed red pepper, 1/4 tsp pepper and 2 tbsps cumin in a medium bowl.  
  • Add 1 lb beef stew meat and toss well to coat.
  • Spray cooking spray (or use some olive oil) in Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the seasoned beef and 4 quartered shallots.  Cook for 4 minutes, until beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add 4 chopped garlic cloves and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth and can of diced tomatoes. 
  • Bring mixture to a boil and then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 30 minutes
  • Add 3 cups butternut squash and 1/4 cup dried cranberries and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and enjoy!
It may not look pretty, but it's super yummy!
I'm so mean, taunting the girls with this super fragrant dish!
Adapted from My Recipes.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Coconut Madeleines

Last fall I went through a major madeleines phase which hit me suddenly one day while browsing Pinterest.  That same day I bought two madeleine pans and made an emergency trip to the grocery store to pick up some supplies.  This was the beginning of my annual holiday weight gain.  Thank you madeleines.

While most madeleine recipes are the traditional lemon based ones, I decided to do a coconut version since I love all things coconut.  Since then I have made different kinds (e.g., pumpkin and cranberry) and the coconut ones are still my favorite.  So simple and delicious!  Madeleines are meant to be eaten pretty soon after baking and are best served same day.  They last for a few days after but they start to lose their freshness pretty quickly (thought I don't mind as they still taste delicious!). But if you want to save some time, the batter can be refrigerated for up to 12 hour so you can always make it in advance, refrigerate, and then bake them just before serving.  

Yes madeleines are pretty much just pretty decorated mini cakes, but there's just something so magical in having a little bite sized madeleine with that wonderful ratio of outer crispiness and inner sponginess.

Servings: Approximately 36 mini madeleines (24 regular sized)

3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup flour (plus sprinkling for the pans)
1 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum-free)
9 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus butter for greasing the pans)
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Butter the madeleine pans and then sprinkle with flour.  Tap off any excess flour and place the pans in the fridge or freezer.  You don't have to do this if you have nonstick pans, but I find that when I don't the madeleines brown unevenly.  And chilling the pan helps to create the signature hump.
  • Melt 9 tbsps butter, let cool, and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl whip 3 large eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt for 5 minutes until mixture is nice and foamy.
  • In a small bowl, mix together 1 1/4 cup flour and 1 tsp of baking powder.  It's important that the baking powder be aluminum free, otherwise your madeleines might have a slightly metallic taste.
  • Gradually fold in the flour mixture into the batter.  Don't mix or stir.  Folding is important as it makes the cake fluffy and airy.  So take your time and fold the dry ingredients in - rotate the bowl as you stick your spatula in the middle, cut it out edgewise and then fold batter towards the center.  Repeat and rotate until all ingredients are just mixed.
  • Gradually fold into the batter 9 tbsps melted and cooled butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/3 cup coconut.  Fold just until these ingredients are incorporated into the batter.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably longer.  Batter can be chilled for longer (I've read anywhere between 12-24 hours).  The cold dough helps make the coveted hump and the resting helps.  The resting is also required so that the gluten has time to relax and air bubbles can work their way out.
  • Remove pans from the fridge/freezer and spoon batter into the molds with just enough that it should fill out 3/4 of the mold.  Do not spread the batter.  It takes practice to get the amount right and I still mess up and do too much or too little.  Just try to estimate as best as you can and plop the dough in the middle of the molds.  It'll even out as it bakes.  If I have the time, then I'll often put the filled pans back in the fridge for a little bit to chill everything.  The hump in madeleines is created by the cold pan and cold batter getting hit quickly by the high heat in the oven.
  • Bake for 8-12 minutes or until cakes are lightly golden and browned around the edges, and when you lightly press the cake it springs back (I usually have a tester madeleine near the front that I poke and prod and becomes my first tasting victim).
  • Remove pans from oven and set madeleines on a cooling rack.  If you buttered and floured your pans well in the beginning, the madeleines should slide out pretty easily but if you need to you can use your fingers or a spoon/knife to gently pry them out.
  • If you are using the pans again for another batch, then chill, butter and flour the pans again before using.
  • Let madeleines cool to room temperature and then enjoy the deliciousness!
Sunny looks so sad here.  She hates it when I spend a lot of time cooking/baking, especially since she has to smell all these yummy foods and doesn't get a taste!
Love the humps in these lil cakes!
I arranged the madeleines nice and pretty on my plate for photos and then proceeded to eat half of them.
Poor Sunny didn't get any madeleines.
I love you buttery, coconut madeleine.
Nom, nom nom!
 Sorry Sunny, you can't eat any madeleines, but here's one as a hat!
Nothing's better than noshing on some yummy madeleines on the couch, with a lil pug on your lap.