One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.


Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

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Crockpot Lentil Chili

There was a brief period of time where it felt like spring might kinda, sorta, maybe be on its way, but there’s snow on the ground yet again and I’ve bumped up the heat and am snuggled under a blanket and still can’t manage to get warm. So I figured now was a good time for me to share another wonderfully warm and simple recipe.

We made this lentil chili all the way back on Super Bowl Sunday (yes, I know, I am insanely behind on posting recipes). It was not what I was expecting, as it ends up feeling more like a stew than a variation on chili, but it was seriously good. It has really nice spice and great flavor and I really liked the thicker, stewy texture that the lentils provide. There are a good number of ingredients, but nothing strange that you’ll buy this once and never use again. The recipe calls for chicken broth, but you could easily substitute with vegetable stock to make it an entirely vegetarian alternative to what is usually a meat-focused dish.

The recipe comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, which I definitely recommend if you are looking for a good source of crockpot recipes. It offers a really good and interesting variety of slow cooker recipes and it has tendency to draw on a lot of the same ingredients from recipe to recipe, which is definitely helpful if you’re trying to cut back on grocery expenses.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups dried brown lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups broth
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste

For Serving:

  • sour cream
  • chopped fresh tomatoes
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped fresh cilantro

What You’ll Do:

  • Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, except olive and salt.
  • Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, if possible, until lentils are soft, about 6-8 hours.
  • During last hour, add olive oil and season with salt.
  • Serve in bowls with toppings, spooned over rice if desired.

 

Enjoy and stay warm!

~C.

Crockpot Creations

‘Tis the season for crockpot cooking. The days are short, the night comes early, and there are few things better than arriving home after to work to discover that, oh yeah, the soup you started at 8 in the morning is done and ready to be devoured. Dinner is served. It’s the greatest.

The potato-leek soup I made a while back was so easy and successful that I have made a couple more crockpot soups since then, and plan to do more in the near future. All you need is a simple salad and nice hunk of bread and you have a full meal that basically makes itself while you’re out living your life. Of the two soups listed below, I would say that the broccoli soup required a little less extra labor, but both were delicious and the butternut squash is definitely still worth the bit of extra effort. What’s nice about this butternut squash is that while unlike most butternut squash soups it doesn’t use any cream, it is still a nice, thick soup, and it is so flavorful.

Enjoy!

~C.

{Both recipes courtesy of Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook}

Slow Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil

What you’ll need:

  • Two bunches of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsps chopped fresh thyme or marjoram, or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Toasted slices of french bread for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

What you’ll do:

  • Prepare broccoli by cutting off florets and chopping them. Trim bottom 2 inches off each stem, then peel remaining stem and thinly slice.
  • Combine broccoli, oil, garlic, thyme, broth, wine and lemon juice in slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  • After cooking, use the back of a large spoon to mash the broccoli against the sides of the cooker. Soup should be chunky.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with bread and Parmesan.

 

Butternut Squash Soup

What you’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash that will fit in your slow cooker (with the lid on)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil or unsalted butter
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt for serving
  • Pinch of cumin seeds, toasted in dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant (optional, we didn’t use this)

What you’ll do:

  • Wash and dry squash and place in slow cooker. Add the 2 tbsp of water and cover and cook on low until squash is tender, 7-9 hours. When squash is done, allow it to cool before moving on to the next step. NOTE: Do not discard the liquid in the slow cooker.
  • While squash is cooking, peel and chop the onion. Heat in skillet in oil over medium heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  • Slice squash in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and strings. Scoop out the cooked flesh and discard the shell (this can be tough if your squash is super tender).
  • In a blender, puree half the squash with half the onion and about 2 cups of broth.
  • Pour puree back into slow cooker and stir to dissolve any caramelized squash juices that have stuck to the bottom.
  • Puree remaining squash and onion with remaining 2 cups of broth and add that to the slow cooker.
  • Add brown sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on high until the soup is hot, about an hour.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  • Serve hot with a scoop of sour cream or yogurt.

 

 

Autumn Tacos

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If I were asked to provide a maxim that represents my overall cooking style, it would be that almost anything can be turned into tacos. We eat a lot of tacos in this house.

If you’ve followed my ramblings in other Internet spaces in the past, you may recognize this recipe. On a cool fall night a few years back, I had a butternut squash that needed to be used. But lacking the appetite for baked squash, and the time for a hearty soup, I said to myself, “C, make thee a delicious taco, for tacos are happiness wrapped in a shell.” And thus, the Autumn Taco was born (or, Fallaco, as D prefers to call it).

This is a fairly simple recipe, though it does require the obnoxious step of peeling a butternut squash. The worst.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Butternut Squash (you can substitute sweet potatoes), peeled and cubed. (You want pretty small cubes so that the squash cooks through more quickly.)
  • 1/2 Red onion, chopped. (You can use a non-sweet onion, but if you do, use a little less.)
  • Chickpeas, 1-2 cans, drained.
  • Fresh cranberries, a generous handful, finely chopped. (Substitute with dried cranberries if needed, but it won’t be quite as good.)
  • Ground ginger
  • Dried thyme
  • Sea salt
  • Tortillas
  • Crumbled feta cheese

What You’ll Do:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Saute the squash and onions in a bit of oil until onions are soft and the squash is warm.
  • Combine the squash and onions in a bowl with the chickpeas and cranberries.
  • Season with ginger, thyme and salt, to your taste.
  • Dump the mixture into a glass baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake 10-20 minutes, until the squash is soft and the chickpeas are hot.
  • Remove the aluminum foil, but keep the baking dish in the oven while you warm the tortillas.
  • Once the tortillas are warm, remove everything and spoon the squash mixture into the tortillas.
  • Top with crumbled feta cheese. (Optional if you’re cooking vegan, but otherwise definitely don’t skip this step! The feta provides a contrasting flavor that is incredibly delicious.)

 

Obviously this isn’t a recipe with exact measurements, because my style is more one of dump a bunch of things together and adjust as needed. If the squash needs more seasoning, just add a bit of extra ginger and thyme after it comes out of the oven. I recommend using flour tortillas because they hold together better. I served these last night with a simple mixed green salad dressed with garlic and lemon. Perfect.

~C.

 

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

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It started to get dark around 4:30 last night and I pretty much wanted to cry. I am not ready for the shortened days and the sharp, painful wind during my runs along the harbor. But such is the progress of fall in places not named San Diego. At least there are mugs of hot apple cider, and warm, gooey foods like these Sweet Potato Quesadillas.

As you can see in my photo, our quesadillas were overflowing with tastiness. We only had small, taco-sized tortillas. I would definitely recommend that you use a larger tortilla when making these. Sure, I could have just put a little less filling in each tortilla, but I’m no dummy. You want these full and thick and almost overflowing.

I also recommend adding a good amount of salt. These are incredibly flavorful and well spiced, but I like things pretty salty and I particular enjoy the sweet and salty combo that you can achieve here.

We served these with sour cream and a side of black beans. They’re really easy to make and take very little time. I definitely recommend them for a night when you’re looking for something quick and easy.

~C.

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp dried basil

1 1/2 tsp marjoram

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

pinch of ground red pepper to taste

4 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

8 tortillas

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation

Sauté onions and garlic in 1 tbsp oil until translucent

Add spices and cook with onions for another minute

Add potatoes and heat through, stirring to prevent sticking.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread filling and shredded cheese on half of each tortilla and fold the tortilla in half.

Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the tortillas with oil.

Bake at 400 until brown, 15-20 minutes.

Serve with salsa or sour cream.

{via Simply In Season}

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

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Fall is my favorite season for cooking. I love warm, hearty meals with lots of spice and full flavors. So no surprise that this Pumpkin Black Bean Chili is right up my alley. We used a pumpkin ale to meet the “hearty fall or winter beer” requirement. We served it over some leftover polenta (more on that in a future post), and garnished it with sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped green onions and shredded cheese.

This is one of the best chili dishes I’ve ever had. Vegetarian chili is often very bean heavy to add substance in the absence of meat. This Pumpkin Black Bean Chili is nice and thick without being overloaded with beans. If you can’t find the fire-roasted tomatoes the recipe calls for, you can probably use regular diced tomatoes, but I would definitely experiment with adding more spices and maybe even some crushed red pepper. The fire-roasted tomato flavor plays a big part in the overall taste, so you’ll want to try to make up for that in your seasoning.

To make this vegan, just leave out the cheese and sour cream!

~C.

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce

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D has a rule that the gooier, mushier and, in many cases, more disgusting a dish looks, the better it tastes. I don’t always subscribe to his theory, but in the case of these Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce, I have to agree. This dish was a gooey, creamy plate of deliciousness.

The original recipe calls for 5 large zucchinis, but I only had 2 medium-to-small sized zucchinis on hand from our CSA and that made more than enough noodles for two people. I didn’t cut down on the sauce despite having fewer noodles than the recipe calls for, because I love avocado and wanted to be sure there was enough sauce to coat the tofu that we added to the dish.

The recipe also calls for coconut oil for when you saute the zucchini noodles, but I just used olive oil because that’s what I cook with and I’m not about to go out and buy a whole other kind of oil just to saute 2 medium-to-small sized zucchinis.

Most recipes for zucchini noodles suggest using a mandoline or small julienne blade to make the noodles, but we just tossed them in the food processor with the grating mechanism attached (the piece that attaches to shred vegetables) and that worked fine.

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This dish was really easy to throw together and is a healthy alternative to the Creamy Avocado Pasta I posted a while back. I am a huge pasta fan, so anything that can be turned into noodles gets a thumbs up from me.

Enjoy!

~C.