Monday, July 25, 2016

Zucchini, Tomato and Potato Soup

One of my crazy jobs this summer is dog-sitting. I started in November and got a dog every couple months.  Now that it's summer and I have quite a few good reviews under my belt, I have requests every single week!  One of my favorite clients are an older couple here in town who just have me run over to let the dogs out and feed them dinner.  It's easy. And the best part is, besides the part that she always overpays me, is that the woman always leaves me goods from her garden.  Sometimes it's fresh raspberries and blueberries, sometimes lettuce, one time asparagus (that I turned into cream of asparagus on toast), and once it was a giant summer squash and an even more giant zucchini.  I actually was feeling fairly sick last week with a summer cold, and I decided that soup was the way to use up all these fresh veggies.

I tweaked the recipe a bit to include more fresh vegetables than the original: fresh corn instead of frozen, fresh tomatoes instead of canned - I only wish I had had some fresh thyme!  My tweaks made it fresher, a little bit thicker and heartier, and definitely delicious.  Soup might not be at the front of anyone's mind in the midst of a heat wave in late July, but when you have a cold and central air, it's totally doable.  Pair it with some bread from Birchwood Bread and you've got lunch. And dinner. And lunch again... repeat, etc..


zucchini, tomato and potato soup
from the Little Kitchen

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
3 medium sized Russet potatoes, diced (about 2 1/2 - 3 cups)
1 medium zucchini, quartered and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 medium summer squash, quartered and chopped (about 2 cups)
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained (or 4 fresh tomatoes, diced)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
30 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels


1) In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat.  Add onions and zucchini, cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Then add potatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes (lower heat if needed).

2) Add tomatoes, parsley and thyme.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer.  Add corn and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to simmer for 15-25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Oatmeal Flax Blueberry Muffins

My mom has a new diet after her bout with diverticulitis.  She is supposed to eat lots of flax to avoid having another episode. She has been good about sprinkling some over her cereal in the morning, but when she requested blueberry muffins, I went looking for a recipe that has flax in it.  Voila: Pinch of Yum to the rescue.

These guys are pretty interesting because the first step is to soak oatmeal in buttermilk for 15-20 minutes.  That softens them and makes them nearly invisible in the muffins later on.  You can taste that they're there, but they kind of dissolve. Then of course there are fun things like brown sugar, vanilla, and blueberries, and don't forget a heaping tablespoon of ground flax.

These muffins called for a crumb topping and glaze, but knowing that my mom hates both, I left them off.  They were entirely wonderful without them, but I will keep the recipe intact in case you want to give them a try.  They are sweet enough without it, though.  Plus you can do the whole thing in 1 bowl!

One thing I really wish I had noticed before I started: this makes 6 muffins.  So double it if you're looking to make 12, which obviously I was, but oh well!


oatmeal flax blueberry muffins
from Pinch of Yum
makes 6 muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon flour
1 heaping tablespoon ground flaxmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup blueberries
for topping and glaze:
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon milk


1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees  If you're not using paper liners, grease a muffin tin with butter and dust with flour.

2) Combine oats and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl.  Let oats soak 15-20 minutes.  Add the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Stir by hand until just combined.

3) Add flour, flaxmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir again until just moistened.

4) Scoop a spoonful of batter into each muffin tin to prevent berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins while baking.  Gently fold blueberries into remaining batter and divide evenly between muffin tins.  Place a few blueberries at the very top center of each muffin.

5)  For the crumb topping, press butter, flour and brown sugar together withy our fingers until fine crumbs form.  Sprinkle one spoonful of crumbs over each muffin before baking.

6) Bake muffins for 13 - 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  While the muffins are cooling, stir the powdered sugar and milk together to make a glaze.  Drizzle a little glaze over each muffin before serving.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One Pan Crack Bean Burritos

It's time for one pan crack bean burritos!  This is the recipe I hinted at in my last post (the Spanish rice that I served with these burritos) and it is the easiest, best, most amazing recipe ever.  Or at least in the past few months!

First of all, 5 ingredients. That's all you need to make these burritos, and most of them are probably in your refrigerator and pantry already.  You will need two types of beans (although one could work in a pinch), taco seasoning (I mixed up my own), cream cheese, and Rotel tomatoes (you can decide if you want to buy mild or spicy).

Second, the instructions are literally to combine all the ingredients, and heat it up.  Done.  You can see I doubled the recipe in this shot.

I made these burritos the night of my LuLaRoe unboxing party; I knew I would have a crowd and needed something quick and easy.  This could not have been more perfect, and my mom even admitted to not missing meat.  But, carnivores, feel free to add shredded chicken if you really have to.

I served them with tortillas (obviously), the rice I shared earlier, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, diced onion, and red pepper.  I would have liked some cilantro and tomato but didn't have any at the time.  It became a make-your-own burrito bar where people could add whatever toppings they wanted.  It worked great and everyone was well fed before it was time to open all my boxes!  I will definitely make these burritos again.  They are creamy, delicious, filling, and easily can feed a crowd!


one pan crack bean burritos
from Heather Likes Food
serves 4 - 6

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 packet taco seasoning (or 1/4 cup if you make your own like I do)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes


1) Combine all ingredients in a large skillet.  Heat over medium heat, stirring until cream cheese is melted and mixture is bubbling.

2) Remove from heat and spoon into tortillas with desired toppings.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Spanish Rice with Salsa

Do you have rice? Do you have salsa?  Perfect: that's all you need to make the world's easiest Spanish/Mexican side dish!  It goes with tacos, burritos, enchiladas - anything Mexican that you're making for dinner.  I am pretty excited to share the main dish that I paired this rice with, but that will have to wait for the next post.  This post is all about Spanish rice!

My family loves Spanish/Mexican rice, and they usually buy boxes of it with flavor packets.  Not to be a food snob, but... flavor packets?  Not my cup of tea.  So I decided to try to make my own.  I had made a recipe before that was very similar, Spanish rice, but it was a bit more in depth with 8 ingredients.  This literally has 2: rice, and salsa.

What makes that so cool is that, besides being super easy and fast, you can change things up based on the type of salsa you use.  Like things mild? Stick with mild salsa.  If you're down for spicier, go with spicy salsa! Try salsa verde, try peach salsa (my secret love)!  Every time it will be a little bit different.

Literally all you do is cook rice with salsa.  Done. Spanish rice.  You're welcome :)


Spanish rice with salsa
from Fox Valley Foodie
serves 4

1 cup white rice
1 16-ounce jar salsa
1 3/4 cup water
cilantro for garnish, optional
salt and pepper


1) Rinse rice in water to remove excess starch.  Add to saucepan with water and salsa, then cover with a  lid.

2) Heat the a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until the water is absorbed by rice (15-20 minutes).  Rice is done when the rice is soft and water has soaked fully into the rice.  Salt and pepper as needed and top with cilantro.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fresh Strawberry Bread

Market Basket has been having a great sale on strawberries lately.  I keep buying the most gigantic containers and then struggling for what to do with them. I can only eat so many! When my aunt and uncle were visiting, I remembered that my aunt lives strawberry anything, so I found this recipe that I had pinned a while ago for fresh strawberry bread.  It was quick and say and sounded like it would have great texture and moisture - both cream cheese and buttermilk are in there, along with butter, to keep this bread decadent.

And of course there are the strawberries.  I chopped them into pretty large chunks to let them be the stars of the bread!  They add great flavor and color to the bread.

It was extra glorious right out of the oven (I caught my mom and uncle picking pieces off far before it was ready to be cut!), but I bet it it would be just as good toasted and spread with some butter or cream cheese. You could totally serve this for dessert, or cal it breakfast.  I love things like that.


fresh strawberry bread
from My Baking Addiction 

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed, dried and chopped


1) Grease and flour a 9x5-inch pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) With electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and cream cheese until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.

3) In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Blend flour mixture with butter mixture just until blended.  Add buttermilk and only stir until just combined.  Do not overmix.

4) Carefully fold in strawberries. Dough mixture will be thick.  Bake for 50 - 60 minutes.  Let cool for a bit before slicing if you can wait :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Taco Torte

Christy yelled at me for being a bad blogger so here you go: the taco torte! :)  Isn't this a thing of beauty?

I made a similar recipe, a tortilla pie,  years ago, and it was okay. In fact I remember panicking because I was still such a new cook, and in reading the comments on the recipe, people claimed it was bland. Who wants to go through all the work to make a bland dinner? Even though I added a few things, it didn't stick in my mind and I never made it again.

But then I saw this recipe and I knew it was different.  Yes, there are still stacks of tortillas with beans and cheese in between, but the filling here can stand on its own.  It would never be called bland.  There are beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn and spinach, and lots of flavor from cumin, chili powder, tomato paste and a chile pepper, if you're so inclined.  Then the torte itself is made up of layers of tortillas, with the filling and monterey jack cheese in between.  Mmmm. Then the whole thing gets baked into a beautiful cake-like dinner. Cake for dinner? Yup.  Technically a torte but still. Torte for dinner?!

The even better news is that this makes for great leftovers.  It fed me through my last week of work at lunchtime!  Still not excited? Go ahead and add some ground beef or shredded chicken, you carnivores!  Just try this out. It's so much fancier than your standard tacos. Spice up taco night this week; you won't regret it.


taco torte
from Smitten Kitchen
serves 6-8

nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh chile pepper, chopped small (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 15-ounce can or 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, drained, with 1/3 cup juice reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 15-ounce cans black, red or kidney beans (or a combination), drained and rinsed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, from 1-2 ears, 1 15-ounce can, or frozen and thawed (I used a can)
3 cups rough chopped spinach leaves
6 medium sized (8-inch) flour tortillas (can use corn too if you want to be gluten-free)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese or cheddar (or a mix)
chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, and/or salsa for serving


1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 9-inch cake pan or cast-iron skillet tightly with foil and spray it with a nonstick spray.  You can also use a 9-inch springform; spray and skip the foil.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chile pepper, cumin, and chili powder, and cook until you can smell the spies and the onion is softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes with the 1/3 cup reserved juice and the tomato paste; then stir in the beans.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let bean mixture summer until everything is hot, about 3 minutes.  Add the corn and spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted and everything is well blended and hot, about 3 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

3) Place 1 tortilla in the prepared cake pan.  Spread 1/6 of the bean and vegetable evenly over the tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 - 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese evenly over the top.  Repeat with 5 more layers, ending with the last of the bean mixture and shredded cheese.

4) Bake the tortilla stack until it is hot throughout and the top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  You can run it under the broiler for extra color on top if you wish.  Let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan, either by carefully lifting the foil that lines the pan or by opening the springform sides.  Cit into wedges using a sharp knife and serve using a pie server or spatula.  Serve with cilantro, sour cream and salsa.

Optional do ahead instructions: Make torte up to step 4; cover in the fridge overnight and leave it at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Basic Banana Muffins

I've been a bit MIA due to family emergencies, the craziness of the end of the school year, and just life in general.  My mother is feeling a bit better after a nasty bout with diverticulitis, but until yesterday, she was on a special low fiber diet to give her stomach a chance to recover.  Low fiber is pretty boring and cut out lots of her favorite things, like my maple pecan banana muffins, which she was craving after terrible hospital banana muffins.  Since pecans were off the menu for her for 10 days, I decided to find a new banana muffin recipe that wouldn't feel like it was missing something if the nuts were cut out.  I have made lots of banana recipes before, but they all seemed to have something extra, whether it be pecans or even bourbon.  I wanted these muffins to be calming to her stomach but still tasty, and I came across this recipe.  Nothing wild or fancy, but they promised to be moist and nutritious, so I gave them a try and brought them over to Mom in the morning before work.  They were simple and easy to make; truly no frills baking!

They were just what we expected: sweet, soft, moist muffins bursting with banana flavor, without anything crazy.  They are, as the recipe suggests, basic banana muffins.  If you're not baking for someone on a low fiver diet, feel free to toss in pecans or walnuts or chocolate chips, but for my mother, they were just what they needed to be!  She thought in the humidity they got a little wet as the days went on, but we discovered that they were delicious toasted and buttered... in fact, that is how I preferred them! How have I never toasted and buttered a muffin before? What else have I been missing out on in this life?


basic banana muffins
from Taste of Home
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups.

2) In a  large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In another bowl, mash the bananas.  Add egg, oil and vanilla; mix well.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fill muffin cups half full.

2) Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted neat the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.