A Lemony Transition to Spring Soup

18 Mar

As much as we are craving Spring, it’s just not here yet; there is snow on the ground and it’s cold. Now today was beautiful and sunny, it did get up to 42 degrees, but that’s not exactly Spring. During the winter months we eat a lot of soups and stews which I love but I’m ready for lighter and brighter foods, so I went on the hunt for soup that was just that, and I found it! Thanks to the blog Cup of Jo I found the perfect recipe for a soup that warms the body but is light and bright; a Lemony Soup with White Beans and Kale.

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This soup is delicious, especially since I changed it up a bit to make it mine. I used spinach since I’m not a fan of kale and I used orzo instead of Ditilini pasta (not a big deal but that’s what I had in the house). I also used canned beans instead of dry, the last time I tried to use dried beans I ended up with cement not soup…something I need to work on.

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I think that other than the fact that this soup tastes so good, is that it is souper easy to make; the flavors of the lemon and garlic are just so good together and it comes together in less than hour.

Ingredients

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs olive oil

1 small potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes

6 to 8 cups vegetable stock

1 lemon, juiced

1 cup orzo pasta, cooked

2 cups fresh spinach

Salt and pepper

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Directions

In a large dutch oven or pot add olive oil and heat over medium heat, add onions and potato. Stir and cook until onions are translucent then add garlic. Cook for another minute or two until garlic is fragrant. Add 6 cups of the vegetable stock, lemon juice and beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat till boiling then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

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While the soup is simmering cook the pasta. I like to cook the pasta and add it to each bowl as I serve it, otherwise I feel like it gets to mushy and soaks up the liquid. So cook it and put it aside to add as you serve.

Once you feel the potatoes are done, add the spinach. At this point add more stock if you think it needs it, it’s up to you how “brothy” you like it. I did use all 8 cups.

When it’s ready serve with grated parmesan cheese, drizzle of olive oil and some freshly grated black pepper. Mangia!

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Now if you want to, which I may do the next time I make it, is to leave out the potato and add a second can of beans. And of course if you want to keep it vegan, no cheese. One more suggestion for the gluten-free folks, keep the potato and omit the pasta. Once again one of the reasons I love cooking is that you can always make it your own, there are no rules. So keep on cooking and keep on enjoying!

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The Anatomy of a Dinner Party

4 Mar

If you read my last post then you know that my husband and I love to throw dinner parties, now I will tell you how it’s done. When you say the words “dinner party” people automatically think it means it has to be formal but not in my world. I do think that dinner parties should take place in the dining room with a beautifully set table. In my world there are 3 kinds of dinner parties:

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Mexican Fiesta tabletop.

Take Out Dinner Party – This is when you haven’t seen particular friends in a while and want to squeeze some time to see them but time is limited so you order take out.

Casual Dinner Party – A casual meal such as salads, tacos or flatbread pizzas for a fun night with friends.

Formal Dinner Party – This a planned event from beginning to end, complete attention to detail and a gourmet meal.

To start with, chose a theme. Pick a country or a region, a movie or even a song. I’ve done A Night in Greece, Italian Countryside, Mexican Fiesta, A Parisian Valentine and I even threw a Breakfast at Tiffany’s dinner party for my girlfriends. When you start with a theme everything flows from that, which makes things easier and fun.

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Parisian Valentine tabletop.

Once you’ve decided on a theme you can make your list; invitations, music, menu, decor and guest gifts.  From the menu you can create your shopping list. I like to have each recipe in front of me while I make my list so I don’t miss anything; no one wants to run the grocery store last minute when you’ve already began to cook.

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Menu, I don’t always type it but sometimes it’s nice.

Now I know that gifts for the guests are not customary but I like to have a little something for our guests to take home and I use them as place cards.

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Mini Champagne bottles as place card guest gifts.

Invitations of course can be done via an on-line site but I prefer a paper invite sent through good ol’ fashioned snail mail. Who doesn’t like to get something in mail that is not a bill or advertisement? I know I do. Be creative and do something fun by making them yourself or go visit your local card shop for something pre-printed that fits your theme. No matter what you do for the invite your guests will love getting it in the mail.

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Love a good spread!

Music is key. Actually, good music is key. I really like Pandora for music; they have just about any kind of music you could need. We recently got The Dot and play it on that, but before we had her I would use our television widget. Pandora has everything from Paris Cafe to martini music on the Frank Sinatra station. And if you end up having a dance party in the living room you can always change the station to dance music!

Ah yes the menu…the most important part. Chose wisely so that you can enjoy your guests and aren’t stuck in the kitchen the whole time. Hors d’oeuvres and a theme cocktail are a great way to start the evening. Once the cocktail “hour” is over I like to serve either a salad or soup before the main dish and then of course dessert.

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Jalapeno margaritas as the cocktail for our Mexican fiesta!

As much as I love to cook, decorating for a dinner party is always my favorite part. The flowers, candles, props; so much fun to be creative and change up dinner table. I also like to dress the part, for example for my Parisian Valentine dinner party I wore a black jumper with a white blouse, a scarf tied around my neck, a beret and red lipstick.

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Mini loaves of French bread for each guest at our Parisian Valentine party.

The guest gifts, they don’t have to complicated or expensive. One of my favorite things to use are the mini booze bottles with name tags tied to them. A small bag of homemade cookies or brownies, a tiny plant or cactus, a pretty soap, the ideas are endless.

Yes, throwing a dinner party can be a lot of work but it is also lots of fun. Creating memories around the dinner table, eating great food…doesn’t get better than that.

 

Dinner Parties, A Lost Art

25 Feb

Here in the Northeast it is not patio season and hasn’t been for a while. So what do we do to entertain, we throw a dinner party.  As you’ve heard me say before, my husband and I love to entertain and we love to throw a good dinner party. From what I hear it is not so common anymore. When I tell people they usually say something like “really, how fun, no one does that anymore” but recently when I told the woman at the shop where I was buying a gift for our guests she said “oh wow, now that’s a lost art!” I guess it is. But not in our house.

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What’s better than good friends, good food and lots of laughs? Nothing in my book. The first thing I do when I decide to throw a dinner party is to come up with a theme. I am big on themes. It can be anything; pick a favorite city or country, type of food, a movie or even a song. Everything springs from the theme, the food, the music, the decor and even the dress code can.

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We always start off in the kitchen. Now I know these days everyone is all about the “open concept”. I am not. I like a kitchen, a living room and a dining room. People say “oh but then you can’t socialize and cook at the same time” and I say “oh yes I can”. We have a very small kitchen but that’s ok, it works. We start out there with hors d’oeuvres while I finish up cooking then head to the dining room for the meal. Many times we end staying at the dining room table until way after we finished dessert; talking and laughing. Other times we will head into the living room to continue conversation and sometimes even having a dance party.

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Wherever it ends up, I would like to say we always have a great time and I would like to think our friends leave with full bellies and great memories. Stay tuned for my next post on the Anatomy of a Dinner Party…

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Shroom’n Good Mushroom Stew

21 Jan

Now that I don’t eat beef or pork I needed to find a substitute for a hearty beef stew and this, my friends, is it. If you don’t like mushrooms then this will not work for you, but if you do, you will love it. It is easy and quick to make, as it doesn’t have to cook for hours like a meat stew and completely fills that need of a hot stew on a cold day.

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The original recipe calls for potatoes. I know this sounds crazy but I don’t like potatoes in my stew. I prefer to serve it with potatoes and I added peas, we love peas in this house. You can use frozen peas or canned but I prefer fresh. Our grocery store now carries organic fresh peas that are delicious, I use them in everything. As for the mushrooms, I like them chopped but not small, nice big pieces make a nice stew, especially since mushrooms shrink so much when cooked.

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Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive oil

1 10 oz Container button mushrooms, stemmed and chopped

1 10 oz Container baby portobello mushrooms, stemmed and chopped

1 Large Vidalia  or yellow onion, chopped

2 Celery stalks, chopped

2 Carrots, chopped

3 or 4 Garlic cloves, minced

1 Cup dry red wine

1/4 All purpose flour

3 to 4 Cups vegetable broth

2 Tbs Tomato paste

1 Cup peas

3 Tbs Fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dry

2 Tbs Fresh chopped rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1 Tbs Bragg Liquid Aminos

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pour the olive oil into a large pot or Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery; cook until they begin to soften about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add mushrooms, cook until tender, stirring as they cook.

Add red wine and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer until wine is reduced by about half. Stir in flour a little bit at a time until fully incorporated.

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Add 3 cups of broth, tomato paste, peas, Bragg Liquid Aminos, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and make sure tomato paste gets incorporated. Bring to a low boil, then turn down heat to allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. If it thickens too much add some more vegetable broth.

Serve over egg noodles, mashed potatoes, rice or with a nice crusty loaf of bread!

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* Recipe adapted from Connoisseurusveg

 

Chicken Tagine or Tagine Chicken?

22 Dec

Either way, it is delicious! I wanted to do something different, so as usual I go to Pinterest. Scrolling through all those chicken recipes, I came across several recipes for chicken tagine, I like Middle Eastern flavors so they really appealed to me. The only thing was, there was at least one thing that I didn’t like in each recipe, so I took from the ones I liked and made my own version.

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I hope you enjoy  this as much as my husband and I did. I served it with couscous but you could also serve it with potatoes. If you choose to serve it with potatoes you can add some cubed potatoes to the pot for the last 20 minutes and voila!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Olive oil

2 Chicken breasts with bone-in and skin on

4 Chicken legs with bone-in, skin on

1 Yellow or Spanish onion, finely chopped

3 Garlic cloves, minced

4 Cups Chicken stock

1/2 Cup Cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 Cup Parsley, roughly chopped

2 tsp Ginger, minced or 1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/4 tsp Saffron, crushed

1 Cup Green, pitted olives, reserve the juice

2 Lemons, juiced

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Dry chicken pieces and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place skin side down in a single layer in pan.

Brown in batches until skin is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes then turn over and brown other side for about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add onion to pan and cook until soft, stirring to mix it well with the olive oil. Once the onion is soft, add garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add chicken back to pan. Add stock, cilantro, parsley, ginger, cumin and saffron. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Add olives, reserved olive juice (I used about 1/2 cup) and juice from the 2 lemons. I also added one of the lemons that I juiced. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 minutes, chicken should fall off the bones.

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I like to serve it with the couscous and also roasted carrots to round out the meal. And whether you like to call it Chicken Tagine or Tagine Chicken…Enjoy!

Cold Nights, Hot Toddies!

26 Nov

The holiday season is upon us. I have to say it is my favorite time of year.  The decorations, the music, gift giving and of course all the yummy food and drink.

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I am always looking for a new, tasty and interesting cocktail; this year I came across my dear friend and fellow bloggers recipe for the Ginger Citrus Hot Toddy. I love ginger and I love citrus,  so it must be good…it is not just good but really good! Kimbrough Daniels, cocktail maker and product photographer extraordinaire teamed up with Powell & Mahoney to make this age old libation that is a classic winter warm-up cocktail.

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You’ll need:

4 oz Powell & Mahoney’s Old Ballycastle Ginger Mixer

3 oz Freshly squeezed orange juice

1 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbs Honey

2 oz Water

2 oz Golden Rum

2 oz Brandy

Fresh lime for squeezing and garnish

  1. Pour hot water into mugs to keep them nice and hot while you make the cocktail
  2. In a small saucepan add Powell & Mahoney’s Old Ballycastle Ginger Mixer,orange juice, lemon juice, honey and water, bring to a simmer.
  3. Add rum and brandy, stir to mix.
  4. Divide mixture of goodness into two mugs, squeeze a bit of lime into each mug.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and cheers to a hot drink on a cold night!

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This recipe makes two generous hot toddies. For other great cocktail recipes check out Kimbroughs blog.

Photos by Kimbrough Daniels

Fall Nights on the Patio

5 Nov

Fall has finally arrived here in the Northeast and it is beautiful. The chilly nights and the colorful leaves always make me happy. And just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean you can’t use your patio.

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Having our friends and family over for dinner and then going out to the patio to a nice warm fire to roast marshmallows or have an after dinner cocktail is absolutely the best. And there is no better fire kettle than the ones from our friends at Sea Island Forge.

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Sea Island Forge is a collection of handcrafted entertaining and cooking tools which celebrate the laid-back lifestyle enjoyed by generations along the Georgia coastline and now everyone, everywhere can enjoy that same lifestyle. They have an array of handcrafted kettles and all the essential tools to go with them.

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Grab some blankets, invite your friends and enjoy a beautiful night on your patio by the fire creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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