I’ve been slipping in my meal planning. My mind has been on other things, like preparing for another cross-country move. Honestly, there isn’t much I really need to do another couple months, but it’s easy to get distracted looking at apartment listings and adding restaurants to an already unwieldy spreadsheet. And so, after spending who knows how long getting lost on Google street view, obsessively checking Walkscore, and reading Yelp reviews for grocery stores (yeah, I’m a very cool lady), I feel a rumbling in my stomach and realize oh yeah, what’s for lunch?
I long for spring, you know real spring. Not the kind of spring where it still snows, but the return of bountiful produce — fiddlehead ferns, fava beans, watercress, and fresh peas. Until then, I’ll continue stocking up on frozen vegetables. Which is still pretty okay, because this was orzo dish was really tasty. And it lasted us three lunches, which gave me time to go back to reading Yelp reviews… and playing 2048.
Orzo with Mixed Vegetables
1 pound orzo
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth, or water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (I used a mix of corn, carrots, peas, green beans, and edamame)
1 tablespoon mix of dried herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons pine nuts
In a large stockpot, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain, and set aside.
Melt butter in the stockpot over medium low heat. Once melted, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add the broth and mix in the tomato paste. Toss in the vegetables and cook until heated through. This should only take a few minutes. Once the vegetables are ready, add the herbs, spices, salt, pepper, and parmesan and mix. Now add the orzo to the pot and mix thoroughly. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the pine nuts. Keep on the stove a few minutes longer until heated through, stirring frequently. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
One of my favorite things about cooking is that it can seem like something of a superpower. Before I learned how to cook, I’d open the fridge and rummage through the cupboards and often end up frustrated, reaching for whatever was most convenient. I try to keep the pantry stocked with staples like canned goods, pasta, and frozen vegetables, so that when mealtime rolls around and I don’t have a plan, I can whip up a tasty dish with ease. We had some leftover spinach and arugula and inspired by an arugula pesto recipe from Kitchen Treaty, I set out to make pesto.
Since arugula has such a strong flavor, the lemon juice and cheese help balance out the flavors. If the arugula taste is still too strong for your liking, add some more dried herbs, lemon juice, and parmesan until you get a good balance. I didn’t have any on hand at the time, but sundried tomatoes would be an excellent addition to this dish.
Pasta with Arugula Pesto and Artichokes
2 cups arugula
1 cup spinach
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried herbs of your choice (I used basil and thyme)
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
salt & pepper, to taste
1/3 cup nuts, I used a mix of pine nuts and pecans
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 16 ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 pound farfalle or pasta of your choice
more pine nuts, for serving
more parmesan cheese, for serving
In a medium to large stock pot, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions.
Meanwhile, start the pesto. Pack spinach and arugula into a food processor, drop in the garlic, dried herbs, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper, add the lemon juice, parmesan, nuts. Pulse while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Give the pesto a taste and adjust to your liking. If you find the pesto is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water.
When the pasta is ready, drain it and return it to the pot. Mix in the artichokes and pesto, ladle into bowls and serve with extra nuts and cheese.
I received The Meat Free Monday cookbook from Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler. The cookbook was edited by Stella, Paul, and Mary McCartney. I knew that Paul McCartney was a vegetarian, which of course I learned from The Simpsons. Although I’ve seen mention of meat free Mondays/meatless Mondays on food blogs over the years, I had no idea that they were the ones who launched the campaign back in 2009. Even though I’ll chant “you don’t win friends with salad” until the end of my days, that’s really only because it’s catchy and doesn’t necessarily reflect the way I eat. I was excited to dive into the cookbook.
Bonus Izzy shot
I grew up in a typical steak and potatoes American household, where a meal without meat is not a meal at all. To this day, my dad’s preferred dinner includes a giant slab of meat, with a side of potatoes or rice, and some vegetables. I was such a picky eater as a kid and hated most meat. My mom bought chicken nuggets for me over and over again until I learned to like them, since she was worried I didn’t eat enough meat. I’m still a picky meat eater, I only buy about 5-6 pounds of meat a month for the two of us, mostly ground beef and lamb. I prefer meat as an enhancement to a dish rather taking center stage, like slipping ground meat into sauces, sprinkling a little bit of sausage over a pizza, and adding chicken stock to a soup. If you serve me a giant slab of chicken breast, I’ll take a couple bites and dump it onto Cory’s plate when he’s not looking. Or when he’s looking. It just ain’t my thing, so many of the recipes in the Meat Free Monday cookbook are right up my alley. The cookbook is divided into 52 chapters, with meal plans for every Monday of the year — meatless breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts.
One recipe in particular that caught my eye was a pearl couscous and sweet potato dish. Surprise, I found a recipe with a Middle Eastern-inspired slant and had to make it. You start off by sauteing the pearl couscous until lightly browned. I hadn’t prepared couscous that way before and was delighted to discover that it gave the couscous a slightly nutty taste. Pistachios give this dish a nice crunch and raisins are added for a pleasant burst of sweetness. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix that consists of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Sumac can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery, but if you don’t want to run out and buy some just for one recipe, just add a little more lemon to this dish, since sumac is sour. Cory and I have been eating this for lunch and loving it. If you love leftovers as much as I do, double the recipe and lunch is covered for the week. Thanks for the sweet new cookbook, Cher!
- Happy birthday, mom! I can’t believe you’re 39 again!
- Big batch of new save the dates are available in the shop, with more coming this weekend. Since you read the blog, feel free to use the coupon code BLOGLOVE10 to receive 10% off your order.
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 tablespoons olive oil (2 for the sweet potatoes, 2 for sauteing the couscous, and 2 for just before serving)
1 1 3/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon za’atar (1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 400F.
Add the sweet potatoes to a roasting pan, coat them with olive oil, a little bit of salt and pepper, and maple syrup. Mix thoroughly. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, check on the sweet potatoes to see if they’re cooked through. Once the potatoes are tender and caramelized around the edges, they’re ready. If they need more time, put them back in the oven for another 7-10 minutes.
While the sweet potatoes are roasting, get the couscous ready. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan or stock pot over low-medium heat. When hot, add the couscous and stir frequently. Keep the couscous cooking until it begins to brown, or about 5-7 minutes. Add half of the stock or water and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding the liquid until absorbed, stirring frequently. Taste test the couscous for doneness. When cooked through, lower the heat to very low and stir in the raisins, chopped up pistachios, za’atar, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice, mix, and give a taste test. Add more lemon juice, if necessary. Mix in the parsley and cilantro.
By now, the sweet potatoes should be ready. Mix them into the pot. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Want to see more from the Food Blogger Cookbook swap? Here is the list of all the participants. Yay, food!
Every time I go to the renaissance festival, I always make sure to order broccoli and cheese soup in a bread bowl. It’s still too hot that time of year to enjoy almost boiling soup, finding a place to eat is almost impossible, my hands are covered in animal hair, and the soup isn’t that great — runny with the occasional speck of broccoli. But it’s tradition, so I keep ordering it anyway. A couple weeks ago, I set out to make the broccoli and cheese soup I wish they served at the renfest. It was so good I “forgot” to take photos of it, so I just had to make it again. It’s deliciously rich, creamy, and would be perfect for a bread bowl, but a hunk of crusty bread will do just fine.
I’ve been making lots of soups and stews not just because of the weather, but they also make for such easy leftovers. While you can use a blender or food processor for this recipe, an immersion blender makes this soup much less of a hassle. This recipe calls for an obscene amount of butter, cheese, and milk. Everyone you serve it to will love it, just don’t tell them how much butter is in the soup.
Broccoli and Cheese Soup
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1.5 cups water
3 russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon dried herbs (any or all of the following: thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, marjoram, parsley)
salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces cheddar cheese
1.5 cups milk (add more for a thinner soup)
For serving (optional):
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Bread, lightly toasted
Heat oil in a large stock pot. When hot, add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Remove onions from the pot and pour into a bowl. Set aside the onions.
Melt butter in the stockpot. Add garlic, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, mixing constantly until smooth. Start adding the stock, a few tablespoons at a time. Once you’ve gone through the stock, add the water and mix into the pot. Toss in the onions, potatoes, herbs, and nutmeg. Simmer the soup over low heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir frequently. Test with a fork to see if the potatoes are ready. When the potatoes are cooked, add the broccoli and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Whip out an immersion blender and blend until desired smoothness. I like leaving some chunks. Return the pot to the stove.
Add the cheddar cheese and milk to the pot. Heat until the cheese has melted through and the soup is hot enough to your liking. Ladle into bowls and serve with extra cheese, crumbled bacon, and with a side of lightly toasted bread.
If you have enough soup for leftovers, it will thicken overnight. Mix in about 1/2 cup of water at a time to achieve desired consistency.
Truth is, when I made kaddo bourani last week, what I really wanted was aushak, Afghan dumplings filled with scallions and leeks, served with a tomato-based meat sauce and garlic yogurt. I love both dishes and they’re both quite similar, but a hankering for dumplings just doesn’t go away. Living in a small college town without a car is its own kind of food desert, like why can’t I find any broccoli this week? Why is this small jar of tahini $10? And why oh why can’t I find wonton wrappers so I can make aushak? I was almost desperate enough to make the wrappers myself. It took some searching, but we did find an Asian market and stocked up on a variety of things, including wonton wrappers. To the kitchen we go!
They’re dumplings, so the assembly is time consuming. I used to buy tiny wonton wrappers and it’d take over an hour to assemble them all. Audiobooks and kitchen helpers are welcome companions when reaching this step, but I’ve taken to buying larger wonton wrappers (4″ by 4″) to reduce preparation time. Also, although it’s not traditional I like to slip in some spinach into the dumplings. Never hurts to add some greens, right?
Confession time: I took these photos about three years ago, just before starting a job that involved a four hour commute. Soon after, I stopped blogging for wayyy too long, but I’ve wanted to share this recipe ever since and I still like these photos!
Aushak (Afghan dumplings with meat sauce and yogurt) Adapted from Khyber Pass Cafe
For the meat:
- 1 pound ground beef or lamb (I like using a mixture of both)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
For the dumplings:
- wonton wrappers, the amount you need depends on the size of your wrappers. 18-24 wrappers are needed if you’re using 4″ by 4″ wrappers.
- 1 bunch scallions, diced
- 3 leeks, diced
- 12 ounces baby spinach
- salt & pepper, to taste
For the yogurt sauce:
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- salt & pepper, to taste
- garnish with fresh or dried mint or cilantro
- warm naan
Prepare the yogurt:
Add garlic to a large bowl, mix in garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside unrefrigerated until the aushak is ready to serve.
Prepare the meat:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for another 30 seconds or so. Add the ground meat, stirring frequently. When most traces of pink are gone, add coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato paste and water. Let simmer on low heat and stir occasionally until the dumplings are ready.
Prepare the dumplings:
Heat oil in another skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the scallions and leeks. Stir frequently and let them cook down for a few minutes. Add the spinach and let it cook down, about a minute or so. Add some salt and pepper, to taste.
Heat a pot of water over medium heat, and get ready to assemble your wrappers.
Set up your workstation. My set up is: cutting board directly in front of me, bowl of water next to the cutting board, skillet (containing the scallions and leeks) and wonton wrappers at my sides, and a floured baking sheet in front of the cutting board to place the assembled dumplings. Dollop a small amount of the fixins onto the center of the wrapper. Dip your fingers into the bowl of water (or use a pastry brush) and line the edges of your wrapper with water. If using round wrappers, fold them in half and seal them tightly with your fingers. If using square wrappers, fold them diagonally. Don’t fuss too much about folding them a certain way, just make sure they’re properly sealed.
By the time your dumplings are assembled, the water should be boiling. Working in batches (3-5, depending on the size of your pot), boil the dumplings for about 3 minutes. I usually put a colander into the pot, as this prevents the dumplings to getting stuck on the bottom of the pan. Drain, and add to a plate. Serve with yogurt, meat sauce, and a side of warm naan to clean every last morsel off your plate. Garnish with dried or fresh mint or cilantro.