Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vegetable Lentil Soup

Vegetable Lentil Soup

It's just starting to cool off, and I'm already getting excited about making soups and chilli's.  I love making a big pot of soup on the weekend and being able to freeze it or take it for lunches.  It's easy, nutrient rich, can help prevent bloating, and has been noted for aiding in weight loss (depending on what you're throwing in).  This year I'm looking for more vegetarian soup ideas outside of the usual vegetable soup.  This one seemed like a great addition to my limited list of soup recipes and it will definitely be a repeat.  Lentils are low in fat and a good a source of protein and fiber. The carrots, celery and other vegetables bring some great nutrients to the table as well.  This soup is super flavorful. It definitely has a kick to it (back off on the cayenne if that doesn't sound like a good time to you) but the oregano, paprika, and lentils bring out a somewhat sweet taste. This recipe is a perfect fall meal.

Vegetable Lentil Soup
Makes 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ cup chopped celery
1 ½ cup chopped carrots
1 cup dry green lentils
1 medium tomato, diced
1 ½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
a couple dashes black pepper and salt
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water

  1. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until tender. Stir often.
  2. Add celery, carrots, tomato, lentils and spices and continue to cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil for a couple minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Allow to simmer for 45 minutes until lentils are tender, stirring periodically. The soup will be done after 45 minutes (everything will be thoroughly cooked) but allowing it to simmer for a couple hours really brings out the flavors.
This could easily be frozen and saved for later. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Buffalo Hot Wing Pretzels

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I have now made these a few times in the past month, I love them that much.  This is not even remotely a healthy recipe, but I am already a sucker for hot wings and anything buffalo flavored.  A great bonus to this tasty little snack is that they pack that hot wing kick without the huge mess.  I made a batch of these for our beach trip from a recipe I originally found on Mom In Time Out.  They were good, but they turned out a little Worcestershirey for me. A little tweaking brought me to the recipe below, which has a little more of a buffalo kick without the aftertaste of Worcestershire. It is definitely my favorite.

Buffalo Hot Wing Pretzels
Super easy and a great game day snack

Makes: 1lb Pretzels

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 30-45 minutes

½ cup Frank’s buffalo wing sauce
½ cup butter
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp seasoned salt
16 oz bag of pretzels

    1. Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
    2. Melt butter, wing sauce, and Worcestershire sauce over medium heat until combined. Stir often; this should take less than 5 minutes.
    3. Add garlic powder and seasoned salt
    4. Empty the entire bag of pretzels into an over sized bowl
    5. Drizzle hot wing mixture over pretzels and gently toss until all pretzels are coated. 
    6. Spread pretzels across parchment paper somewhat evenly and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until dry.
If you have extra time, let the pretzels sit for 10-15 minutes after coating. If really gives it an extra pop of flavor. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burrito Bowls and Burrito Salad

I eat way too many burrito bowls.  Not only do these fix my weekly Chipotle cravings, they are quick go-to meals that I can easily pack up for lunch the next day.  I don’t really have too defined of a recipe I go by, but instead try to work with whatever produce I have in my kitchen.   This is definitely a fun flexible meal.

A friend and I happened upon Chipotle a few weeks ago and I decided to try the salad.  It was not only huge, but delicious.  It was like a burrito bowl on a bed of lettuce with this wonderful chipotle vinaigrette and I thought “I can do that.”  Well this week was the first I’ve made and while not the same as Chipotle’s, it was delicious (and I would like to think, a little healthier).  Instead of a recipe, I’m just going to list the components and let you handle the assembly.  I stick to a love of vegetables, but you can really however much you would like of each component.

1.       Cilantro Lime Rice
I know everyone has their own tricks for cooking rice but I generally cook mine in the oven.  It’s how my mom does it, and I have yet to burn it this way.  Combine ½ cup rice and 1 cup water in small casserole dish add a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro (or a little more if using dried cilantro).  Cover dish with foil and cook for 30 minutes at 350F (45 if doubling) then turn off oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

2.       Black Beans
I used organic canned black beans, but if you read the labels, a lot of products are sticking to more natural preservatives like salt.  Heat up and maybe throw in a little garlic ( ½ clove at the most) and dash of cayenne pepper

3.       Sautéed onions and peppers.  If I have any on hand, I’ll usually sauté in extra virgin olive oil for just a few minutes, until slightly soft.

4.       Tomatoes, sweet corn, avocado, anything else that may sound good.  Once again, if it’s on hand.  Corn and avocado are so good to top off your bowl/salad. 

5.       Dressing, salsa, guacamole.  I haven’t been able to find a chipotle vinaigrette and haven’t yet experimented with making my own.  I did find Marie’s chipotle ranch in the refrigerated section and while it may not be as healthy as the vinaigrette, man is it good.

My burrito salad, shown above, included romain lettuce, cilantro lime rice, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, and Marie's chipotle ranch. Like I said, assembly and the little extras you can include are totally up to you.  I can’t imagine it not being great! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mentone, Alabama

I think my first time going to Mentone, Alabama was during undergrad for a weekend retreat.  Between working at Riverview Camp for Girls for a following summer and returning for semesterly retreats, I have grown to love Mentone.  It is this tiny, adorable town sitting on top of Lookout Mountain.
 When Seth told me one of his friends was getting married up there, I eagerly agreed to be his wedding date (not that I would have done it any other way, but still…Mentone).  Friday night we stayed at Cragsmere Manor.  It was spacious and then some.  The best part were the views.
While Seth was busy with pre-wedding festivities, I got to meet up with a long lost friend at Riverview.

The wedding and reception were held at Camp Desoto and were absolutely beautiful.  We didn’t have time to visit Desoto falls or the wildflower café (I highly recomend both), or any of the little art galleries, but the weekend was still absolutely wonderful. Mentone is a great place to unplug and get away; you should go!

Foliage photo disclaimer: I know the leaves are just starting to change, but it felt like fall and I just couldn't help myself. Does anyone else get way too excited about fall?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin French Toast

I truly believe fresh is always better.  That being said, I would rather stump my toe on hot coals than try to puree a pumpkin again.  An old roommate and I had a go at making pumpkin pie from scratch several years ago. That pie remains on my top 10 list of the worst things I have ever eaten.  So, the following recipe is super easy and uses canned pumpkin.  French toast is one of my favorite breakfast foods and is so easy to make.  This made a small batch for two or three people (6-8 slices of toast)

Pumpkin French Toast

Makes 8 slices

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

  bread (I used white, but wheat works as well)
  ¼ cup pureed pumpkin
  ½ cup milk
  2 eggs
  ½ teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  Maple syrup

  1.  Grease a skillet with butter and bring to medium heat
  2.  Whisk together your eggs, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  3.  Dip a slice of bread in the egg mixture, make sure the bread is covered and move to skillet
  4.  Cook on medium heat until the egg is fully cooked, look for a light brown color before flipping (approximately 3-4 minutes on each side).
   French toast can  be easily saved for later by freezing it between sheets of parchment paper and reheated by toaster or microwave. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Santa Rosa Beach

For the second year in a row, we made the short drive down to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida to celebrate Brittany's birthday.  Located just a few minutes east of Destin, Santa Rosa is an adorable little beach town on 30A.  I think this is probably one of the prettiest spots on the gulf.  The water was so clear and felt amazing for late September.

The trip was very relaxing and much needed.  Living so far away from some of my favorite people just makes me appreciate the time I get to spend with them.  We rented bicycles (checking that off the list) and ate great food but spent the most time reading, relaxing and catching up.