Some Big News…

You may recall that last year my cookbook was included in a fabulous book bundle on healthy living. Well, this year (coming up very soon in fact—stay tuned!) my brand spankin’ new ebook on gardening will be released in an all-new book bundle full of healthy living resources! I’m really excited to release my new book, and I’m really excited about this upcoming bundle of awesome resources for living a more natural life.

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But before I share more about my new book with you, I want to share a wonderful FREEBIE with you! When you’re on a budget, free is always good, right? I know so many of you are interested in not just healthy eating but living a healthy lifestyle that includes natural remedies and more. There is a 4-part audio course that I’m promoting and am an affiliate for that’s available for downloading for FREE until September 6. It’s called The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families. With content from 4 top bloggers, it covers self-care (which moms seem to especially need reminders of, myself included!), keeping your whole family fit, healthy whole food/from scratch cooking, and natural remedies.


This is a great download to grab while it’s available. I like to listen to audio like this when I’m folding laundry or picking up in the evenings. I hope you take advantage of this mini e-course and snag it while it’s here. I think you’ll benefit from the content. Let’s all continue to study, learn and grow and be lifelong learners! It’s easy to download your own copy right here.

Now back to my book! I’m really excited to share this new book with you! It’s been formulating in my head for a long time, and this spring it finally came to fruition.  As I’ve interacted with you readers and others in my life, I’ve noticed a common theme. Many of you love the idea of gardening but don’t know how to garden. Many of you long to garden but don’t think you have the space (namely, because you don’t have a big backyard). Many of you want to try your hand at gardening, but you’re overwhelmed with all the information or work involved and don’t know where to begin.

Well, The Simplest of Gardens is my attempt to help you. You don’t have to have a big yard. You don’t have to know a lot. In fact, you don’t have to know anything! While gardening can be very complex, it can also be very simple. And that’s where my book comes in. I walk you, step by step, through building your own small container garden of herbs and lettuce. The simplest of gardens.

Why herbs and lettuce?

  • Because they are some of the easiest garden plants to grow!
  • They grow quickly, which is always encouraging for any gardener.
  • They are healthy for you—more good for you greens!
  • Growing your own herbs and lettuce is also great a money-saver. Did you know that in just 3 pots you can easily grow $100-150 worth of lettuce and herbs over the summer?

And for you plant-killers out there who can’t keep anything alive, this book is for you too. Yes, it really is! Believe it or not, I was once a bonafide plant-killer. In fact, in the book I share with you the story of my transformation from plant-killer to plant-lover and grower. Trust me when I say this: if I can learn to garden, so can you!

One special feature of this book is that I included a section containing ten of my favorite recipes featuring lettuce and herbs, complete with photos. I always want to leave you inspired, so I hope these photographs and recipes do just that. We accomplish so much more when we are inspired!

So, stay tuned for more information about the upcoming healthy living bundle which will include the release of my new book! I’ll be giving you all the scoop in the days ahead. Oh, and if you download the free audio course I mentioned above, you will get the chance to be the first to snag this new bundle (and my book) in a private sale before it’s shared with the public. Pretty cool!


 

Gourmet Food and Home Again

My husband and I were able to sneak away on a last-minute road trip to Charleston. It was short but sweet. We didn’t have much time there, but we knew we wanted to hit up some really good food.

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While we intended to go elsewhere, we ended up wandering into McCrady’s in downtown Charleston for dinner. We did not know the gem into which we had just stumbled (one of Sean Brock’s restaurants) and ironically almost walked out! But our waiter began to tell us why we should stay—and props to him for the convincing. The menu ever changes since it is a farm to table restaurant; the food there is cutting edge in its uniqueness, top notch in its quality and deliciously gourmet. We had one of our best meals ever! For us McCrady’s tied with L’Auberge Chez Francois in VA, edged out Restaurant Nora in DC and beat 1789 in Georgetown.

The next day we went to their sister restaurant Minero to get some casual Mexican fair, and we about fell out of our chairs. The best ever! I was fascinated by the fact that the staff there tasted over 40 varieties of single strain corn, chose their top 3 varieties and from those make their own nixtamalized tortillas and chips in-house. It’s so exciting to see top chefs passionate about the quality of food, reviving heirloom varieties and saying “no” to GMOs. There is such a wealth of flavor, texture and beauty to be found in heirloom produce!

I left Charleston inspired to try some new cooking techniques, sauces and food combinations. I want to make my own tortillas, grinding my own corn of course, sourced from the same companies as Minero (here, here and here). Sounds amazing! Sigh.

But we came home to real life—four kids, jobs, food budgets, the scurry of school getting ready to start, a crazy garden, the last remaining unpacked boxes from our move…and freezer meals. Yes, freezer meals.

We are definitely not at Minero or McCrady’s! We are at home. Real life. Real, every day food. A previously prepped freezer meal cooked in the slowcooker is definitely not my preferred method of cooking. When I do something I like to do it right. I like to start with my garlic or my mirepoix, add the spices at the beginning, the herbs at the end. I love to cook with just-picked, fresh ingredients. I like to deglaze my pans. I love to experiment and perfect recipes. I like to make everything from scratch.

But real life sometimes calls for real, practical solutions. Like my own self-prepped freezer meals to help us get the school year off to a peaceful start. Gourmet meals will have to wait. And while they’re not an amazing taste explosion, as we eat our humble freezer meals, I’ll still give thanks for them. Each is simple but tasty. Each is made with healthy, whole ingredients. Each is nourishing our bodies and filling our bellies. They’re everyday meals. And everyday meals are, after all, simply whole foods…on a budget.

Summer Garden Lasagna

Summer veggies—tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant. I love them all, don’t you?! The other day I picked fresh basil, yellow squash and eggplant from my garden, and I had just purchased fresh zucchini from the farmer’s market. Originally, I had a completely different meal planned for dinner that night, but when I was in my garden picking the eggplant, inspiration hit—I had to make this lasagna for dinner!

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This post contains affiliate links. 

I first made this garden lasagna years ago because I thought it was a fabulous way to sneak a whole lotta veggies into my young children. It was. But my husband and I fell in love with the rich vegetable flavors. That first time I made Summer Garden Lasagna for dinner was well before the zucchini noodle craze. So if you’re not a zucchini noodle fan, you’re in luck here, because this it not a “zucchini noodle” recipe. This is simply a creative, vegetable take on lasagna.

Please don’t expect this to taste and be just like classic lasagna. This is a recipe all to its own. It’s definitely reminiscent of lasagna, but it’s rich in summer flavors and a bit less filling. The vegetables blend together to give this dish amazing flavor, and every bite bursts with summery, garden goodness. While it’s not classic lasagna, it’s really, really good in its own right. And, believe it or not, it’s delicious cold the next day. Do you eat cold pizza? Yep, me too. So, the day after you make this, remove the leftover lasagna from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes just to take the chill off. Then try it cold. I bet you’ll love it.

The basic idea for this lasagna is to slice zucchini, eggplant and yellow squash into long, flat, thin slices and use them like lasagna noodles. A mandolin is super handy for this. But if you don’t have a mandolin, you just need a good sharp knife and a steady hand…or you can take the easy (safer?) road and just slice the veggies into thin rounds. You really won’t notice a huge difference—I’ve made it both ways.

One note about the vegetables: you can use any combination of the vegetables—all zucchini, lots of eggplant, no eggplant, a variety of summer squashes. Personally, I prefer the depth of flavor that comes from using equal amounts of zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant, but to each his own. And in a pinch, it’s good to know anything works!

Summer Garden Lasagna

Serves 8-10

  • 2 small-medium yellow squash
  • 2 small-medium zucchini
  • 2 small eggplants
  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp dried oregano (or 2 T fresh oregano)
  • 1 (16 oz.) container of ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil (the more, the merrier! I love to use a huge pile of it.)
  • Coarse salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Slice the vegetables into long strips using a mandolin set to 1/8″ (or slice as explained above). Lay the vegetable slices out on cookie sheets and sprinkle with coarse salt. Leave for 10-15 minutes and allow the salt to draw out moisture.

While the vegetables are resting, mince the garlic and add to a skillet with the ground beef. Cook over medium heat until the beef is nicely browned and crumbled. Part way through cooking, add the oregano. When the meat is browned, set aside.

Mix the ricotta with the eggs and stir until combined. Set aside.

Slice or tear the fresh basil. Set aside.

Return to the vegetables and blot the excess moisture off with a paper towel or clean cloth. Wipe away the salt, as well, to keep the lasagna from being too salty.

In the bottom of a large glass (or ceramic) baking dish (10×15″ or 11×17″), spoon 1/3 of the jar of tomato sauce and spread evenly. Lay 1/3 of the vegetable slices over the entire bottom of the pan, overlapping slightly. (Be sure to intersperse the different vegetables. You want every slice of lasagna to have all three delicious vegetables!) Next, sprinkle 1/2 of the meat over the veggies. Gently spoon and spread 1/2 of the ricotta-egg mixture over the meat. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over top. Sprinkle 1/2 of the basil over top. Add a little pepper if desired.

Repeat this once more: 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the vegetable slices, 1/2 of the meat, 1/2 of the ricotta-egg mixture, 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/2 of the basil, a sprinkle of pepper.

Top the lasagna with the remaining 1/3 of the vegetable slices, and pour the remaining 1/3 of the tomato sauce over top. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the mozzarella.

Bake in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and tender and the sauce is bubbling. At this point, remove the lasagna from the oven, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the mozzarella over the lasagna and return it to the oven to bake 15 minutes more. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. This helps the lasagna remain more solid when served.

Never Give Up…An Eggplant Saga

Earlier this growing season I planted 24 eggplant seedlings. When they were about a foot high they experienced a massive aphid-ant attack, which left them destroyed.

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Though I sprayed with soapy water (which, by the way, I found works even better with a teaspoon of oil mixed into it) and used diatomaeous earth, my eggplants were left completely decimated.

I got rid of the aphids, finally, but every last plant was literally down to a half-eaten center stalk with just a few yellowed leaves laying limply down to the ground. Most plants were down to just two or three leaves. One plant had only a solitary yellow leaf remaining. I thought they were a lost cause for sure. I almost tore all the plants out.

But since they were still alive and the pests were gone, something in me just didn’t want to let go. I thought, I will just feed them some extra bloodmeal, continue to water them and see what happens. I thought perhaps a few of the least damaged ones just might spring back…maybe…hopefully…fingers crossed.

After about a week, I was surprised to see the plants starting to perk up, the leaves growing larger and a few plants were even beginning to send out new leaves. I gave them more bloodmeal and some fish emulsion for nourishment and kept watering them, a bit more hopeful. Slowly they started to leaf out again and grow.

Would you know, every last one of those plants is now vibrant, strong and growing?! The plants are a beautiful, dark purple-tinged green, pushing 3 feet tall, covered in flowers and are producing eggplants as I write. They made an incredible comeback! Every plant is covered in beautiful lavender blooms, and nearly every plant now has eggplants growing larger by the day. I’ve harvested two eggplants so far, with several more ready to be picked any day, and lots of little guys busy growing.

Now, not all my gardening disasters have happy endings. This summer I tore out 30 tomato plants because they got blight. That was pretty disheartening. But I share this eggplant story to remind you—and myself—to not give up on our plants or our gardens. Gardening is hard work. You win some, you lose some. But even at those most disheartening moments, don’t give up. Show your plants extra love and wait to see what happens. Had I torn out those eggplants—like I almost did three days in a row!—I would have missed out on the beautiful eggplant harvest I’m now experiencing.

Join The Conversation

How is your garden this year? Have you had great success, awful failure, or somewhere in between? Do you have a “never give up” story like mine? Share with us all so we can hear your story, be encouraged and learn from each others’ experience!

From My Kitchen This Week

Do you ever wonder what I’m cooking on a day-to-day basis? Well, today I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been making in my kitchen over the past week and a half.

Lentils & Veggies. A good way to get lots of vegetables in you! Add garlic and fresh herbs for delicious flavor. I made this as a hot dish, but cold lentil salads are equally delicious—especially when you use lemons and garlic.

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Bread Pudding for breakfast. This one is getting ready to go into the oven! There are two reasons I love bread pudding. One is that you can use up bread ends, old bread, dry bread, multiple varieties of bread, and even a bum homemade loaf if it doesn’t turn out as good as you anticipated. The second reason I love bread pudding is that I can throw it together quickly in the evening, put it in the fridge overnight, and first thing in the morning just pop the dish in the oven…voila! breakfast is hot, fresh and served 40 minutes later. Bread Pudding is well-loved in our house along with these equally delicious breakfast recipes.

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Lots of Rainbow Lunches. My littles just LOVE a colorful plate! In fact they try to make sure we’ve got every color on there. I’m always amazed at what my kids will happily eat when it’s presented attractively. It really does make a difference. (Mom Tip: Rainbow Lunches are great opportunities to sneak in small bits of leftovers. The chicken was left over, as were the cooked carrots.)

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Korean Beef BBQ Bowl. This one was a hit with my family! I made it non-spicy for the kids, but my husband and I added some spice for a kick. We served it over rice. The flavors are very similar to beef bulgogi.

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Summer Tomato-Cucumber Salad. Home grown cucumbers with celery, tomatoes, basil and a light vinaigrette. Crunchy cucumber salads are one of my favorite summer salads, along with any salad that includes fresh tomatoes and basil.

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Cod Provencal style. This cod was slow cooked in my Schlemmertopf clay cooker with tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, purple beans and cream. We ate it over quinoa so the quinoa could soak up the yummy sauce. 

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In addition to all those tasty dishes, I’ve been making plenty of the everyday simpler fare: Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal, Pasta Bolognese, scrambled eggs & toast.

So what about you? What is one recipe you made this week in your kitchen? I’d love to hear what food you love and make in the comments below! Leave me a quick note, or if you’ve got a food blog (or it’s a recipe from another blog), share the link so we can all be inspired. Do you love Instagram or Pinterest? Leave your username so I can follow you.

25 Ways to Save Money on Your Food

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  1. Learn to cook dried beans. They are normally at least 1/2 the cost of canned beans. Here’s the super easy, fool-proof way to cook beans.
  2. Since cooked beans freeze well, stock your freezer with 1 quart bags of cooked beans. Pull them out to use just like you would use canned beans. 1 quart = 2 (14 oz.) cans.
  3. Double one meal you cook each week (or every other week), and freeze it. Now you will always have at least one freezer meal which can be thawed on quick notice for a no-prep dinner on crazy days. It’s much cheaper than ordering pizza.
  4. Stop eating boxed cereal and start making your own breakfast. Cereal, along with the amounts of milk you consume with it, are money-hogs. $$$ How about starting with super easy overnight crockpot oatmeal which costs just over 2 bucks for a breakfast for a family of five? Here are more breakfast ideas.
  5. After you make the crockpot oatmeal, you’ll probably have leftover oatmeal. Here’s a few ways to use up leftover oatmeal—don’t let it go to waste!
  6. Pick vegetables and fruit from local pick-your-own farms. (Use sites like Local Harvest and Eat Local Grown to find farms near you.)
  7. Pick extra and freeze for future use. (Here’s a tip on easy freezing for ya!)
  8. Buy a chest freezer to store that extra produce. (Tip: Look around on sites like Craigslist and Freecycle for used freezers.) The freezer will pay itself back quite quickly, because now you’ll also have room to…
  9. Buy a quarter or half cow (depending on the size of your family). How does $4.00 per pound for grass-fed ground beef, steaks and roasts sound?
  10. Learn a new skill…like how to bake bread. It’s the difference of $.80 a loaf or $3.50 a loaf.
  11. Visit farmers markets in season. They often have competitive prices on the very freshest of produce. The fresher the produce, the more nutrients remain and the better it tastes!
  12. And while you’re there, don’t forget to ask the farmers for seconds. They’re always a super deal!
  13. Oh, and don’t forget to ask them about a bulk discount either. If they don’t have a bulk amount with them, they’ll often bring it to the next market for you to pick up. (If it’s too much quantity for you, divide the amount with a friend or two—you’ll all get to save!)
  14. Join a co-op. (More info here.)
  15. Start a small garden…even if you’re not a gardener. Anyone can learn. Trust me on this one! I went from being unable to keep a house plant alive to growing $600 worth of produce in a teensy suburban garden.
  16. Don’t throw away dried or old bread. Try one of these uses instead.
  17. Stop buying chicken broth. Make your own. It’s super, super easy and cheap!
  18. Utilize everything…like the stalks from broccoli crowns.
  19. Grow your own herbs. You don’t even have to have a garden—you can grow them in pots. For the price of one small packet of a fresh herb at the store, you can buy a whole plant, which will produce for you all season (or year-round if you grow it indoors).
  20. Make your own vanilla extract. When you see how EASY this is, you just might laugh!
  21. Stop throwing away food and eat your leftovers. When you throw away leftovers, you’re throwing away money.
  22. Buy grains in bulk. They have a very long shelf-life.
  23. When you buy pumpkins in the fall for decoration, use them afterward to make pumpkin puree.
  24. Make your own salad dressings. It’s so easy!!! It’s also cheaper and healthier.
  25. Eat more cheap foods, like carrots.

Roasted Balsamic-Glazed Carrots

Sometimes it’s all in the details. 

I think I may speak for many when I say that we all done with boring steamed carrots—bland and a bit dry (or mushy). And I think I can safely add that we are also done with steamed baby carrots tossed with cinnamon, sugar and butter. Carrots have so much more to offer!

Carrots are typically a pretty inexpensive vegetable to purchase. (I’m currently buying 25 lb. bags for $17.99 at my local grocery store—that’s $.72 per pound.) When you’re on a budget, taking advantage of what’s inexpensive is one way to stretch your money and stay within your budget. And, really, we’d all do well to eat more carrots. They’re a good-for-you vegetable, and we all know we all need to regularly eat more  vegetables!

But being cheap and common—like the carrot is—does not have to mean plain and boring—like the carrot unfortunately too often is.

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I’ve shared a few interesting and delicious recipes in the past using the nutritious and frugal carrot:

And today I want to share another fantastic carrot recipe with you: Roasted Balsamic-Glazed Carrots. This recipe takes the carrot from boring to extraordinary in just a few quick steps! It’s really as easy as 1-2-3, literally: 1 T of balsamic vinegar, 2 T of honey, 3 T of fat.

As far which kind of fat, you’ve got some choice and flexibility here:

  • Coconut oil complements the flavors in this recipe, but the balsamic vinegar definitely still drives the flavor profile. (It really will not taste “coconutty” if that’s a concern for you.)
  • Butter is always a good choice! Yum! You can’t go wrong there. Butter will add richness.
  • Olive oil lends itself nicely to this recipe and adds a hint more savory flavor to the carrots.

I always appreciate a flexible recipe because—though I try to avoid them—there are those times when I reach for something like butter only to realize I’m out. (How did that slip by me?!) I hope you appreciate a flexible recipe too!

Take note of how the carrots are cut. Like I wrote at the beginning, sometimes it’s all in the details. Cutting the carrots on the high diagonal adds a little sophistication to what could be a very ordinary looking dish. It’s really no harder, and it’s no more time consuming. But doesn’t it look a bit more fancy? These large, thick slices also hold up well in the oven during the roasting. Just cut at a very high diagonal so that you achieve carrot slices that are about 1/4-inch think and 3–4 inches long. I find it easiest to start at the bottom of the carrot and work my way up. When I get to an end, I flip it so it lays down flat on the diagonal I just cut. That stabilizes it, and I then cut straight down to finish it off. (Saves the fingers!)

Roasted Balsamic-Glazed Carrots

Serves 6-8

  • 2 dozen large carrots
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 T fat (melted coconut oil, melted butter or olive oil)
  • 2 generous sprinkles of thyme
  • 2 small pinches of salt

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and peel the carrots; cut off the ends. Slice the carrots on the very high diagonal, making 1/4-inch slices that are 3-4 inches long. Divide the carrots and place in two glass or ceramic baking dishes (both about 9×13″ size).

Melt the butter or coconut oil and stir the honey into it. (If using olive oil, whisk the honey into it.) Stir (or whisk) the balsamic vinegar into this mixture. (It will separate and that’s okay.) Spoon this mixture evenly over the carrots. Sprinkle the carrots with thyme and salt. Toss the carrots in each dish with your hands until evenly coated.

Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, or until carrots are tender and a few are just beginning to brown on the edges. Serve immediately or keep covered and warm until serving.

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also enjoy:

Bridge the Gap – The easy way to get all your servings of fruits and veggies every day

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Chips

Coconut Ginger Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Papaya + Tomato

Lemony Late-Summer Zucchini Galette

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Bacon

March is here! Spring is on its way—hurray!! An awful lot of the country (including my neck of the woods) has been bombarded with freezing temps, snow and ice. I hope you all are surviving the unusually cold temps. Take heart—it can’t last forever! Spring WILL come. 

But in the meantime, as you barrel through the last of the cold weather, here’s a showstopper of a soup to keep you cozy until the air is warm and the breezes are flowing once again.

It’s got BACON in it, folks! Lots of yummy, yummy bacon. 

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A lot of people are afraid of bacon because it’s got fat in it. We need to stop being afraid of fat. Fat is actually something our bodies need. And really, if you read a bacon label, it doesn’t have that much fat in it anyway. It does have saturated fat, but our bodies do need some saturated fat in order to thrive. Babies and children especially need saturated fat in their diet. Would I say eat bacon every day? Well, no, I wouldn’t. But there are many foods that in moderation can support a healthy diet.

Everything in moderation. That’s what I regularly return to.

So, yes, bacon in moderation too—hurray! It really helps if you can find a good quality bacon. Most grocery store bacon will have a lot of preservatives in it, so look for preservative-free brands. Since bacon contains fat and a lot of toxins (like pesticide residues) reside heavily in fat, it’s a good idea to look around your area and see if you can find a local farm that raises pigs in a quality, sustainable way. Fresh, high quality bacon can’t be beat! And like purchasing a quarter cow, you can often purchase a half or whole hog direct from a local farmer and get a good deal. Some grocery stores will offer pastured pork or pork fed without antibiotics or GMOs. Better choices for sure, if you have those options available to you.

You’ll notice in this recipe I note “large” a lot—a large onion, large celery ribs, large garlic cloves and a large carrot. I’m not trying to be ornery. It’s just that beans are pretty bland on their own and receive their flavor from what is added to them. In this recipe it’s really the veggies and bacon that give the soup its delicious flavor. So if you’re unsure, or you’ve got small carrots for instance, err on the side of more rather than less—go for two small carrots. Better to have more flavor than an under-flavored, bland bean soup!

Just one more note: The recipe calls for minced parsley as a garnish. In the photo I used pea shoots, which also work well. But really, you could opt for another herb like thyme or a few baby spinach leaves. The important thing is to add a bit of green to freshen the soup. The green provides a nice contrast of flavor and color.

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Bacon

Serves 6

  • 1 lb. dry white beans, pre-cooked (cannellini or Great Northern are best, though navy beans will work)
  • 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large ribs of celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 2–4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • optional: 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • minced parsley

Cook beans in advance and drain. (You can even cook them 1–2 days in advance and store them in the fridge.)

Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery and carrot. Set veggies aside.

Dice the bacon and add to a heavy bottomed soup pot and render the fat over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon well, stirring occasionally until the bacon is crispy and dark and the fat is rendered. The bottom of your pot should be good and brown. If desired, remove a small portion of the cooked bacon to use as a garnish. Add all the veggies and stir occasionally as they cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

The juices from the veggies may be enough to deglaze your pot (remove the browned bits on the bottom of your pot), but if not, now is the time to add the white wine if you’re going to. Give it all a little stir as the wine deglazes the rest of the pot. Allow the wine to reduce and sizzle out, stirring occasionally. (Shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.)

Now add 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot. (If you didn’t add the wine and your pot still needs to be deglazed, just stir gently with a wooden spoon after adding the broth to loosen the browned bits and finish deglazing. Once the broth has heated up, reduce the heat to low and simmer the broth and veggies for about 10 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.

Remove pot from heat. Add 1/2 of the beans to the soup pot. Use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup. The goal is to have a thick, creamy soup base filled with chunks of bacon, veggies and beans. Puree a bit, give a good stir, puree a bit more, give a good stir. Err on the side of less pureed so you don’t overdo it and puree too much. Once about half of the soup is pureed, in a small bowl or immersion blender cup add 1 cup of beans to 1 cup of chicken broth and puree. Add this puree to the soup and stir in well. If the consistency is to your liking, stop here. If it’s not creamy enough, puree another 1/2 cup of beans with 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir into the soup. I ended up using nearly all of the beans for this soup. Reserve any remaining beans for another use. Salt and pepper the soup to taste.

Serve soup immediately, topped with reserved bacon and minced parsley (or other green like baby spinach leaves, pea shoots, minced fresh thyme or chives).

Roasted Potato Fries

Who doesn’t love a good french fry?!

Are you a ketchup-dipper or a malt-vinegar-sprinkler? For me, it’s all about the fry. When my husband and I were in Dublin, late one very cold night we wandered out for something to eat and hit upon a hole in the wall that dished us up some awesome, hot British chips in a brown paper bag doused heavily with malt vinegar. Hit the spot! Ever since then, if the fries are thick, it’s malt vinegar I want. If they’re skinny, I reach for the ketchup.

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Well, the recipe I’m sharing with you today doesn’t quite make french fries, but it doesn’t really make potato wedges either. These babies fall somewhere in the beautiful in-between…though I am calling them a fry because they lean heavily in that direction.

Wedge-cut with brown crispy edges and tender insides, they’re quick and easy to make, and everyone will love them! We like them with a little pizazz—thus the chili powder and thyme in the recipe. But if you’re looking for a more basic, french fry-taste, try them with just the salt (and maybe a dash of pepper too). Serve them with malt vinegar or ketchup, just as you would your favorite fries.

These “fries” are the perfect, healthier french fries to serve next to a hamburger, but they’re also sophisticated enough to go along with a classy steak dinner. I recently served them for my family with baked salmon filets, sauteed mushrooms & greens, and green beans. There was a lot of happy dipping and munching! They are potatoes—I think they’ll go with just about anything.

Roasted Potato Fries

  • 12 medium potatoes
  • 3–6 T olive oil (the choice is yours!)
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 large glass or ceramic baking dishes (at least 9×13″)

Preheat oven to 350. Slice each potato in half length-wise, then slice each half into wedges about 1/3-1/2″ thick. Divide the wedges evenly between all three baking dishes. Pour 1–2 T olive oil over each dish of potatoes. Sprinkle each dish with 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/2 tsp thyme. Then sprinkle each generously with salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes in each baking dish with your hands until they are evenly coated. Arrange the potatoes so they are spread evenly over the baking dishes—they can overlap and pile a little but should mostly be in one layer.

Bake for one solid hour, but start checking them after 45 minutes just to be on the safe side. The potatoes are done when they are all tender inside but some have browned nicely, especially on the tips and edges. Remove the baking dishes from the oven and use a spatula to loosen the potatoes from the pan. (Those that you loosen are my favorites—they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside but still tender inside!)

Here’s what’s cookin’…

Today I thought it would be fun to share from Instagram what I’ve been cooking over the past month. I truly think real, whole foods are beautiful and often snap pix when I’m cutting or chopping or throwing something in the oven. Sometimes I take a pic just to remind myself of something I made that I want to make again.

fanesca

Fanesca—An traditional soup of Ecuador. My Ecuadorian friend Martha gave me the recipe. I’ve had it before at her house and it’s so good! I love it because there are a ton of good veggies and beans in it. All my kids love it too, so it’s a win for Mom! This was the first time I’ve made it, but I know I’ll be making it again.

greens-shrooms

Sauteed Greens and Mushrooms—Look at all that lovely steam rising from my cast iron skillet! I make this dish as a sauce sometimes using only mushrooms. It’s got red wine and cream in it. Divine! We love the sauce over steak au poivre. When I add the greens, I serve it as a side like I did this night for dinner. This—either with the greens as a side or sans greens as a sauce—is one of my hubby’s favorites. (I like it best as a sauce.)

potatofries

Roasted Potato Fries—This is in the line-up to share with you. We LOVE these here at our house!!! Crispy on the outside, tender inside. Keep on the look-out for this upcoming post!

oatmealcookiepancakes

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes—My kids love these cute little pancakes. They have oats and raisins in them just like oatmeal cookies. I make them extra small, like little cookies, and then I serve them topped with whipped cream. The recipe is in my cookbook. It’s a winner with kids—who wouldn’t want to eat oatmeal cookies for breakfast? (Of course, they’re not really cookies and they are healthy!)

carrottops-wm

Carrot Top Stew—Just kidding! This is my little guy playing with all the carrot tops while I was chopping carrots and onions for an Irish stew. When it’s cold and rainy, I love me a good, hearty stew!

burritobowl

A Burrito in A Bowl—This was lunch the other day. Cute and colorful—a hit with my kids. Anything colorful always seems to win them over.

popcorn-wm

Popcorn—My life’s blood. Seriously. Just ask my husband. When I’m sick…it’s popcorn. Home alone…popcorn. Celebrating…popcorn. Relaxing…popcorn. We eat it for dinner every Sunday night. Some of our favorite popcorn fixings are:

  • an equal mixture of melted butter and coconut oil, salt
  • just a good quality olive oil and salt
  • melted butter, nutritional yeast, dill, parmesan and salt (Sounds gross but it’s really good! I should post about that some time.)
  • melted butter (or coconut oil & butter), a little honey, cinnamon and salt—kind of like quick-and-easy, not-quite-as-sweet kettle corn.

What about you? What have you been cooking lately? Did you make something really awesome last week? An old family favorite? Something your kids loved? I want to hear what you’ve been cooking. I’m always inspired by others!

Do you snap pix of your food? Share your blog or Instagram (Twitter…) with me below in the comments. I’d love to follow you and your cooking adventures!

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