Roasted Carrot & Tomato Soup | National Soup Month

Hey there, Chicago! I hope you’re staying as warm as you can. Today is one of those days where I feel extremely fortunate that I work from home. The “feel like” temperature this morning was -51 degrees and letting the pups out I felt like I had turned into a human icicle. This is dangerous cold so I genuinely hope you all are staying warm and avoiding the cold as much as possible if you’re experiencing this polar vortex. On the bright side, this is perfect soup weather! Nothing warms you up more than a screaming hot bowl of soup, something I’m going to miss in the gorgeous 60 and 70 degree Texas weather in a few days. Fingers crossed my flight gets out tomorrow night!

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Sweet Potato Soup | Farmers Market Series

Happy Monday! I hope your week is getting off to a productive start. It’s been awfully cold around these parts lately. Dinners have been all about soup in my house. Not only is soup easy to make and a one-pot-dish, it’s comforting and warming which is all you need on a cold night. The sun starts setting around 3:30 and is down completely by 5 which is crazy but I love it. I’m still adjusting to the early nights and trying not to go to bed by 8PM but I’m all for the arrival of winter. It’s the season of bundling up, fires in the fireplace, hot cocoa, Christmas music, and comfort food. You can add this recipe for Sweet Potato Soup to your collection of cozy cold weather soups too! It’s a good for you but still stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup…

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Farmers Market Soup | Fall Recipes

Another Monday, another to-do list, another day of non-stop coffee drinking. I don't know about you guys but last week was insane. Honestly, the last two weeks have been insane. I’m sure this week will be no different considering work is a little bit out of control right now but the difference is I leave for a trip on Thursday night! I’ll be driving to Syracuse, New York overnight Thursday for a long weekend before heading to Boston on Monday and then Washington, DC on Thursday. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a trip and I honestly can’t wait to leave. The hardest part about going on trips is leaving the pups but they’re always here to come back to which is a lovely homecoming every time. In the meantime, this week is all about easy, low maintenance dinners...kind of like this Farmers Market Soup.

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Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad | Farmers Market Series

Happy 1st day of fall!! The non-official first day is always September 1st in my book but it’s nice to finally be on the same page with mother nature, sort of. We have had a wicked hot week but the weather cooled beautifully last night and today is simply gorgeous. The breeze and the air is nice and cool but the sun is still warm in a non-suffocating way. As I write this, I’m sitting outside on my back patio with my feet up and my computer on my lap soaking up these last rays for what will hopefully become a late season tan. My main focus the last two weeks has been planning my fall trip next month to the northeast and writing has taken a backseat unfortunately. However, I’m very excited to get back to it starting with a two-part recipe! I’ve never done one of these before but it happened naturally as I was writing recipes for the next few weeks. The Roasted Beet & Fried Goat Cheese Salad featured today using farmers market ingredients needed a main entree to go alongside it and nothing sounded more delightful than a Maple Roasted Pork Tenderloin. Instead of bundling these two recipes together, especially because the salad has a few steps to it, I decided to split them and use the pork in Monday’s Sunday Supper Series to close it out.

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Grilled Portobello Burgers with Simple Green Salad | Farmers Market Series

Earlier this summer as the produce was slowly growing in, picking up ingredients to challenge myself for this series was limited. We had a late start to spring and once it came, it was more like dog days of summer weather. If I’m being honest, those dog days never left. It’s been one 80-100 degree day to the next with small breaks here and there. With that said, our produce season went from bare to bountiful what seemed like overnight. I took trip after trip and stopped going because we were tiring of asparagus. After taking a month or so off from my Sunday morning market adventures, I returned to see that there was produce but still not a ton. Most of the vendors who would typically sell produce were selling plants and flowers for early planting. Before turning around feeling once again defeated, I decided to head to this one vendor all the way in the far corner of the market.

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This particular vendor is my favorite during summer and fall seasons. They have the most produce out of anyone and it’s always fantastic. From farther away, it still looked like they were only selling plants, flowers and herbs for planing. But as I got closer I could see the far table full of produce. Finally! What I had been waiting for since March was finally here! All kinds of leafy greens, radishes, spring onions, root veggies and more. There were barely two long folding tables full of veggies but it was more than I had seen since the previous fall and I was ready to dive in. It was these veggies that inspired a simple green salad. Fresh green leaf lettuce gets tossed together with bright cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, spicy radishes, and scallions. To keep the dressing from overpowering the veggies, mix together a simple vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I wanted to pair the salad with something hearty but still light enough for those hot summer days. Another vendor close to this one sells all kinds of great mushrooms. The portobello caps were a fantastic deal and looked amazing so I decided to grab a few for Grilled Portobello Burgers. They marinate with balsamic vinegar before grilling up pretty quick on the stove or outdoor grill. We never actually filled our propane tank this summer so I’ve been going crazy using my grill pan. It works just as well, the only difference is you don’t get a smoky, charred flavor like on the grill. The cook time varies depending on the size of the portobello caps. The result you’re looking for is grill marks on both sides of the mushroom and for it to be slightly softened. It needs to be sturdy to act as the main meat of the burger and mushy mushrooms aren’t appetizing anyway. For the condiment, whip up the simple garlicky mayo. A clove of garlic minced or grated mixes into about a quarter cup of mayo. You can also use Veganaise to keep things 100% veggie-based.

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Grilled Portobello Burgers with Simple Green Salad
Burger Ingredients:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Portobello Caps
1 Garlic Clove, minced
¼ cup Mayonnaise or Veganaise
2 Hamburger Buns
2 Lettuce Leaves
2 Tomato Slices

Salad Ingredients:
1 head Green Leaf Lettuce, roughly torn or chopped
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
½ Cucumber, halved and sliced
1 bunch Radishes, sliced (or appx. 10 radishes)
3 Scallions, chopped
4 tbsp. Olive Oil
4 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for garnish

Directions:
1 - Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pour into a plastic sealable bag or a bowl with the portobello caps. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the mayonnaise or veganaise and the garlic in a small bowl to create a garlic mayo.

2 - Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Take the portobello caps out of the bag or bowl and place cap down. There’s no need to pat dry. The balsamic vinegar will caramelize slightly for a nice, rich flavor. Let the mushrooms cook about 6-10 minutes per side* until softened and grill marks have formed. Once the mushrooms have finished cooking, spread a little garlic mayo on the bottom half of each bun. Place the Portobello over the mayo and top with lettuce and tomato. Serve!

3 - While the portobello burgers are cooking. Prep the salad. In a medium to large bowl, toss together the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and scallions. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the salad. Top with Parmesan Cheese for garnish and serve alongside the burgers.

*NOTE: For the mushroom’s cook time, it varies depending on the size of the portobello cap. Larger caps will take longer time to soften. Smaller ones will cook quickly so be vigilant and don’t be afraid to peek and see if grill marks have formed occasionally.

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Parmesan Roasted Asparagus | Farmers Market Series

The farmers market season is arguably the best time of year (other than Christmas, of course). Everything is fresh and in perfect cooking condition. All the flavors of the season are at their best. You’ll never get asparagus in the winter that’s as good as in the summer. Sames goes for berries, summer squash and watermelon. It’s the perfect time to indulge in all the colorful options because the season never seems to last long enough. Too bad because I wouldn’t mind having summer fresh berries year round! One of my personal favorites that’s available all the way at the beginning of spring into summer and fall is asparagus.

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Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you never would have touched as a kid and then wonder what your problem was when you become an adult. It’s one of the quintessential spring and summer veggies. It adds a bright green color to the plate and it cooks up SUPER quick. Blanch it in water for a minute or so or pop it on the grill for as much time. It’s the perfect hot weather veggie because you really don’t want to cook it long, just enough to remove the rawness and soften the bite. What makes asparagus even better? Butter and cheese! That makes everything better though so no surprise there.

This recipe for Parmesan Roasted Asparagus is affordable, it’s quick and it’s super tasty. Serve it alongside a frittata for brunch or with a nice steak for dinner. That’s actually how I served it. The weekend I wrote this recipe was my first weekend at the farmers market. It was still spring, and for us the beginning of spring because winter stuck around through April. There were very few options, literally two: asparagus and rhubarb. Never having cooked with rhubarb before and not wanting to botch my first farmer’s market challenge, I went with asparagus. But how do you make asparagus interesting? You slather it in butter and melt a bunch of cheese on top, that’s how! Pair it with a simple grilled steak finished with a small tab of butter at the end and you’re good to go. It’s a hearty yet lighter dinner perfect for the warmer months.

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So now that I’ve gone on about asparagus and lightly mentioned this farmer’s market challenge, let me refresh your memory. Earlier in spring, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to cook seasonally and support local businesses while I was at it. We have a great farmers market in my town and I always felt that markets had the best the season has to offer. Since I love giving myself challenges when my to-do list is already a thousand miles long, I decided that every week (or almost every week), I would go to the market and write a recipe inspired by the ingredients I bought. Because most of May only had asparagus and rhubarb, those plans were derailed a bit and I haven’t written as many recipes as I would have liked. That’s why this series started so late in the season. Well, that and the few curveballs life has thrown my way lately. Better late than never though, right? So until the farmer’s market closes later this fall, I’ll continue to stop by the local market whenever I can and write recipes completely inspired by the ingredients I pick up. The next one I share is a double doozy to make up for the lack of market recipes. There are two recipes involved because I was able to grab a lot more ingredients since it was from a visit in June.

Do you visit your local farmer’s market every week or are you a strict grocery store shopper? I completely understand both so there’s no judgement for your answer, tell me in the comments below. Also, let me know if you have any ingredient requests! I love a good challenge so if you’d like to see me use a specific ingredient that can be found at the farmers market, tell me in the comments and if I can find it, I’ll grab it and give it a shot.

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Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Ingredients:
1 bunch Asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Butter, cut into four pieces
½ cup Shaved Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with tin foil.

2 - Place the asparagus on the baking sheet in one even layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper. Place the four tabs of butter randomly over the asparagus. I did a zig zag pattern so that the butter didn’t pool on one side.

3 - Bake the asparagus for 5-6 minutes until the butter is melted. Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus. Bake another 2-3 minutes  until melted. Serve!

Pasta Primavera | Spring Recipes

Holy Summer! I don’t know what it’s like where you guys live but here in Chicago, we seemed to enter the hellmouth. I was waiting for warmer weather when it was 10 degrees in April but by warmer I meant, 60 degrees and sunny. Not nearly 100! Guys, I’m melting. With the hot temps, my appetite isn’t what it normally is which seems to be the case for a lot of people. Hot weather and heavy food were not meant to be paired together. That’s why it’s called comfort food and we gain ten pounds eating it in the winter. These hot days require, lighter meals like Pasta Primavera.

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Pasta Primavera is simply pasta with fresh vegetables. It’s really easy to cook and is made in the amount of time it takes to boil a pot of pasta. It’s light, it’s fresh and it’s packed with flavor because of all those delicious seasonal vegetables. It’s also a blank canvas. There are no rules for Pasta Primavera other than there must be vegetables. You can use whatever combination is available to you or that you prefer. For this recipe, I included zucchini, asparagus, peas and cherry tomatoes. Garlic, as always, adds lots of great flavor and an anti-inflammatory touch to the dish. Scallions add a brightness and act as a substitute for onions which are generally found in most pasta dishes. Scallions have a lighter flavor than a traditional onion and they can pick up a dish instantly, not that this one needs it.

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Pasta Primavera doesn’t typically have a sauce. It’s just the veggies and some olive oil. Even so, adding a little bit of parmesan cheese with the help of the starchy water from cooking the pasta, creates a light, creamy sauce. It’s delightful and gives it an almost alfredo-like texture without the heaviness of an alfredo sauce. The parmesan is slightly rich and adds a nice tang to the rest of the dish finishing out that balance of flavors. This has honestly become one of my favorite pasta recipes because it’s so simple and so flavorful. It’s also an easy weeknight dinner that whips up quick without heating the house up. Perfect for those hot summer days.

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Pasta Primavera
Ingredients:
1 lb. Fettuccine
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small Zucchini, halved and sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup Peas
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
¼ cup Scallions
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, preferably grated but shredded can work too

Directions:
1 - Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, drop the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain.

2 - While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, asparagus, peas, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes burst and the zucchini is tender. Add the scallions and cook a minute or two longer.

3 - Mix together the pasta and vegetables. Sprinkle in the cheese and add in enough of the leftover liquid, a little bit add a time, until the pasta is wet enough*. Keep the pasta moving until you get a lightly creamy sauce. Serve!

* I used the full cup of reserved pasta water. It’s important to keep the pasta moving until you get that perfect texture otherwise the parmesan will start to clump together as it melts and cools. You want it to create a lightly creamy sauce. I used tongs to mix up the pasta as it was the easiest to maintain control of pasta.

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Grilled Beet & Arugula Salad | Spring Recipes

Fall might be my favorite season for weather and cooking but spring is a very close second contender when it comes to food. After months of the same veggies and types of dishes, spring comes rushing in with all it’s bright flavors and colorful produce. It’s a welcome reprieve from the common duo of carrots and potatoes. Sure, current technology and preservation allows us to have almost any fruit or vegetable we want year round but if you try to cook seasonally, winter gets old after a while.

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There are a lot of reasons to cook with the seasons. Produce is at its best when it's in season. I’ve bought out of season peaches and asparagus. The peaches were bland and the asparagus was limp. Strawberries aren’t as sweet, watermelon isn’t as juicy, tomatoes aren’t as flavorful. Cooking with the seasons also gives you the opportunity to support local farmers and small businesses. Nothing makes me happier than to wake up early on Sundays and head to the farmers market to buy produce for the week. I also love that our local grocery stores are beginning to include “Farmer Stands” to support local farms.

With all this in mind and different produce slowly making its way into stores, I’ve been able to start playing with spring recipes including today’s salad! I had the chance to watch Rick Bayless perform a cooking demonstration recently at a food expo and it inspired this recipe. He used an indoor grill pan to grill some beets for a minimal side salad alongside a tasty meatball dish. It got me inspired to break out my new square grill pan from Ayesha Curry’s Home Collection at Target. This has actually become one of my favorite pans to cook with and makes grilling year-round easy. This salad is a little bit different from what I saw Rick whip up but it is minimalist like his.

Beets are sliced before getting a veggie oil rub down and seasoned with salt and pepper. Grill them on each side, just long enough so you can see grill marks. They will be soft enough at this point and ready to eat. One of the things Rick said during his demo that stayed with me was that the main difference between home cooks and professional cooks is their use of fire. Home cooks are afraid of heat. I took that as a personal challenge and have been firing up my cast-iron skillet and grill pans without apprehension! However, with a higher heat you need an oil with a higher smoke point. Vegetable oil is good but I love using Grapeseed Oil. I find it lighter both in consistency and flavor. Sometimes you get an odd aftertaste with vegetable oil.

So while the beets are cooking, I’ll rinse some arugula and dry it with paper towels. You can prepare this salad in a large dish for everyone to serve themselves or prep all the individual salads on plates. Make a bed of the arugula, arrange the grilled beets on top and then garnish with a few goat cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette. The combination of tang from the cheese, tartness and acidity from the balsamic and sweetness of the beets is a match made in heaven. This is meant as more of a side dish rather than a main dish. I paired it along with a simple, grilled steak but it would be equally delicious with grilled chicken or pork chops, even fish!

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Grilled Beet Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese
Ingredients:
3 small Beets, peeled and slice to about ¼ inch thickness
1 tbsp. Grapeseed Oil
4 ounces Arugula
Goat Cheese Crumbles (for garnish)
Balsamic Vinaigrette (for garnish)
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil. Brush the beets on either side with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Grapeseed oil goes a long way so you don't need more than a tablespoon or two. To help control oil usage, pour it into a small bowl and dip a pastry brush to apply instead of directly pouring it.

2 - Place the beets on the grill and let cook about 6-8 minutes per side or until you can see the grill marks.

2 - On a platter or large plate (or on individual plates), create a bed of arugula for the beets. Once they’re finished cooking, arrange over the arugula. Sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve.