HEALTHY NEW YEAR

Another year has come and gone.  Now that I’m a grown-up, the years seem to go by so much faster than when I was a kid.  One day my kiddo is a newborn and the next she’s 11 and listening to Adele’s new album 21 on repeat. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that time continues to tick on even if we aren’t ready for it.

The New Year is a perfect time to remember to take stock of what’s important (staying mindful, feeling gratitude, eating healthy, spending time with family) and toss out those things that aren’t (saying yes to anything you don’t want to do, living your life in “shoulds”, SlimFast shakes, you get the idea).

This coming week I’ll have a new Gwyneth recipe to share.  But in the meantime, enjoy your New Year’s Eve however you wish to spend it.  I’ll be hanging with my family at home eating sushi because the thought of going to some crowded event downtown gives me hives.  See how I said “no” to something I didn’t want to do?  It gets easier the more you do it. Practice it a lot this year. Trust me, it’ll change your life.

Happy New Year 2016

 

Hearty Lentil Soup

lentil soup

As soon as the weather turns cooler here in the north, I start to crave hearty soups.  I love them when they are full of vegetables because it means I don’t have to serve anything on the side except some crusty bread.  I have a favorite soup that I make all winter and fall that also happens to be a favorite of my family.  Whenever I tell my 11 year old that it’s what we are having for dinner, she gets really excited.

I was late to the lentil game, and now I can’t imagine what I did before them.  Lentils are so full of protein and fiber and really make a soup an entire meal in a bowl.  They felt intimidating to me for some reason.  Now that I know I just have to rinse them and pick out any super weird looking ones, I’m good to go.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  Over the years I’ve made quite a few changes to it and I really do love my updated version. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons olive oil (or just do what I do which is to pour some in a pot till it looks like enough)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, washed & chopped (I seriously don’t even peel them, just scrub)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, cubed (again, don’t peel them)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
11 cups vegetable broth (I love Better Than Bouillon)
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
Fresh spinach

METHOD:
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. I love to use my prized Le Creuset Dutch oven that I received one year for Christmas.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and stir. Then, add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender (about 5-8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Do not let vegetables burn. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Now, add the broth and stir. Nestle the time sprigs in the mix and then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Taste the soup and add any additionally salt and pepper (or more bouillon if using) it needs.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a large handful of fresh spinach into the bowl and mix to wilt.  Serve with crusty warm bread.  We are partial to sourdough rolls or garlic bread.

Braised Chicken With Green Olives & Garlic

braised chicken done
Braised Chicken with Olives + Lemon

Oh me oh my.  Gwyneth has gone and done it again.  This time with a braised chicken recipe from her cookbook that I made for dinner last night.  It was supposed to be for the family, but I forgot that my husband had his holiday work party and rather than wait until Sunday when we would all be together at dinner time again, I decided to make it for just me and my girl.  I’m so glad I did.

I keep hoping that Gwyneth will feature a recipe that I can report back and tell you was terrible.  Not because I want to cook bad food, but because little by little she is turning me from a frenemy to a friend.  At least where food is concerned.  I’m uncomfortable with that.  She’s a bazillionaire with a tenuous grasp on reality.  She thinks we all have hot pimentón spice from Spain and are down with the usage of the term “conscious uncoupling”.  I dunno, she just seems a bit untethered.  BUT.  BUT.  Up until now, her recipes are the bomb.  

Last night’s Braised Chicken With Green Olives + Lemon didn’t disappoint.  I was a bit worried about the olives.  I love love love any kind of olive.  The rest of my family not so much.  For this recipe I just kept them whole, but if you have a whole gaggle of olive lovers, I would dice them up.  I followed the recipe almost exactly because it didn’t have any insanely unique ingredients or directions.  Without further ado, I present Braised Chicken With Green Olives + Lemon:

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 chicken, cut up, room temperature (I used about 2 lbs, SKIN ON OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN)

Coarse sea salt

Black pepper

2 T extra virgin olive oil

3 shallots, sliced into thin rings

1.5 cups chicken stock (I always use Better Than Bouillon)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half (next time I will, like, triple this)

10 large green olives, pitted

Leaves from one sprig of thyme (I just threw the whole sprig in there intact)

Juice of one lemon

METHOD:

Salt and pepper the chicken

Heat the olive oil in a large enameled cast iron pot (like a Dutch oven)

Cook the chicken until deeply browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn chicken over and do the same thing. They should look like this:

braised chicken 1
Browned Chicken 

Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they soften, about another 4 minutes.

Add a splash of the chicken broth and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add remaining chicken stock and scatter the garlic cloves, olives and thyme over the chicken.

Pour the lemon juice over everything and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover the pot, cooking for about an hour until the chicken is very tender. (If you have less time, be assured that I only cooked the chicken for about 35-40 minutes and it was well cooked and juicy and delicious).

Serve over rice, potatoes, or alongside a piece of bread.  I also served with roasted root vegetables.

This is the plated version which I hesitate to even show you because I put so little effort into it.  To be honest I was so excited to eat.

As always, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.  I always appreciate a share as well!

braised chicken plated

Weekend Cocktails! Brandy Old Fashioned

brandy old fashioned

Tonight is the night we trim the tree.  It’s been sitting bare in the living room waiting for us to have enough time to decorate it.  It’s been a really busy week with work travel and school work (mine and the kid’s) and all the normal stuff a family deals with.  Poor tree has been just sitting there since Sunday waiting patiently.  So tonight we are ordering in some Thai and Vietnamese food (my kitchen is always closed on Fridays.  I don’t think I’ve made dinner on a Friday night for years).  We’ll eat our pho and spring rolls and curry and pad ze-ew and then we’ll get down to business.

I love a good winter cocktail, something fun and festive.  So I think tonight calls for something more than just a glass of wine, at least to start.  This is where the apple brandy comes in.  I have a bottle that I bought for a yummy cider punch I made last year.  So this recipe seems like the perfect choice for tonight.

I love an old fashioned, and I love apple brandy and so what’s not to love about this cocktail?  Bonus, did you know bitters are really good for digestion?  If you’re having some issues after a meal, have a teaspoon of bitters and it should help.

CHEERS!

APPLE BRANDY OLD FASHIONED

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 oz simple syrup OR 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 1/2 oz apple brandy (such as Clear Creek)
  • lemon twist

Method:

  1. If using sugar, place the sugar cube in the bottom of the glass and add the 2 dashes of bitters. Muddle well to blend the sugar and bitters, then add a few drops of water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  2. If using simple syrup, add the syrup and bitters to the glass.
  3. Place a large chunk of ice into the glass filled with sugar and bitters and add the apple brandy. Stir well to incorporate the sugar and brandy.
  4. Twist the lemon peel over the top, drop it into the glass and serve.