kitchen sink soup

source: jen hatmaker

this is my new favorite soup. by itself, the soup is good, but as with many others, what makes it are the toppings. one thing i love about this recipe is how you can use whatever you have on-hand. it's great for using up wilting, almost-gone-bad veggies and pantry items, which is why i call it kitchen sink soup. i always have enough ingredients to make this soup, so it's become a fall/winter staple. it's also quick to make, so it's good for those weekday nights when you're out of energy, out of ideas, & nearly out of food.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cups coarsely chopped vegetables
{my favorite combo is 3 stalks celery, 3 large carrots, & 1 red pepper. i've also used turnip & mushrooms.}
1/2 cup diced onions 
{time-saving tip: buy already diced onions from the freezer section & use them directly from the freezer.}
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
{time-saving tip: buy already minced garlic packed in oil.}
3-4 cans beans, any variety, undrained
{i prefer to use all black beans & recommend using at least 1 can black beans with whatever else you may like.}
2-4 cups unsalted vegetable stock

- shaved parmesan
{do not skimp on this! trust me! buy a good block of parmesan from the nice cheese section & use a vegetable peeler to shave pieces for topping.}
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- coarse salt

1. in a soup pot {i use an enameled cast iron dutch oven}, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. add chopped veggies & onions. let cook 2-3 minutes until onions start to tender. add garlic & cook additional 30 seconds, stirring.

2. add beans. add enough stock to just cover veggies & beans. reduce heat to medium-low. cover & let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until veggies are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

3. remove pot from heat. blend soup until smooth. {you can use an immersion blender, making this a one-pot wonder, or you can transfer it in batches to a blender or food processor.}

serve in bowls topped with shaved parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic vinegar, & a good sprinkle of coarse salt. {a slice of nice rustic bread is a great addition, too.} and viola! the ordinary is raised to extraordinary!


buttermilk cornbread

source: jackie sherry | soups & breads cookbook {modified}

i found this recipe in a cookbook given to shaun & i by his aunt. there are tons of delicious sounding recipes, so you can bet you'll see names of people i don't know & "soups & breads cookbook" again!

when we were in college, we had a friend {who shall remain nameless} who thought he could cook. he did make some scrumptious dishes, but many times we stared at his creations with raised eyebrows & turned noses {like at the chocolate cake made with only whole wheat flour...}. we once had a conversation about southern cooking, & cornbread came up. he stated that real cornbread had to be made in a cast iron skillet. being a southern girl who does not do southern cooking, i informed him that i make cornbread all the time, & i don't even own a cast iron skillet. he replied with, "well, what kind of woman are you?!" it's been a running joke ever since.

this is my first attempt to make anything in a cast iron skillet, & i had to borrow it from my best friend, rachel! in truth, she actually made it, so technically i guess i still haven't made anything in a cast iron skillet... oh well! it was some of the best cornbread we've ever had, so it still deserves a post!

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup masa harina {you can substitute more cornmeal}
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. preheat the oven to 400 degrees. measure shortening into cast iron skillet {or other baking pan}, & let melt in the oven while making the batter.

2. blend the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.

3. remove the pan from the oven. swirl the melted shortening around the sides of the pan to coat. add the shortening to batter.

4. pour batter into skillet/pan, & bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden & toothpick comes out clean.

12 servings

bean & bacon soup

source: the tasty kitchen {modified}

this is a hearty & rustic soup, & it's super easy to make. we paired it with buttermilk cornbread -- yum-O!

1/2 pound bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3 cans {15 ounces} navy beans, drained & rinsed
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
salt & pepper
4 cups chicken stock
green onions, chopped {optional}

1. cook the bacon until crispy, & crumble. reserve 2 tablespoons bacon grease.

2. add bacon grease & butter to a soup pot over medium-high heat. once the butter is melted, add the onion, carrots, celery, & garlic. cook until onion & celery are soft & the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.

3. add the white wine, & let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

4. add the beans, italian seasoning, salt, & pepper. use the back of your spoon or a potato masher to mash some of the beans up. {this helps the soup thicken.}

5. add chicken stock, & bring to a boil. reduce heat, & let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until thickened.

6. add the bacon at the end. garnish with green onions, if desired.

5-6 servings


shrimp greek salad

source: rachael ray | 365: no repeats

this is one of our summer favorites! it's very light & very fresh, especially if you can get garden-fresh veggies.

1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 pita pockets, split open
1 clove garlic, minced & mashed into paste with coarse salt
1 lemon, juice & zest
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cucumber, sliced into half-moons
1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1/2 pound kalamata olives
1/2 pound feta cheese {brick or crumbled}

1. toss shrimp with a drizzle of olive oil, dried oregano, & grill seasoning.

2. heat a grill or indoor grill pan, & char the pita pieces until crisp. tear or break into large bite-size pieces.

3. in a large mixing bowl, combine garlic, lemon zest, & lemon juice {reserve 1 tablespoon}. add the chopped vegetables, fresh herbs, & pita pieces. drizzle with remaining olive oil {just shy of 1/4 cup} & season with salt & pepper. toss to coat evenly.

4. grill shrimp 2-3 minutes on each side until firm & pink. remove from grill & top with remaining lemon juice.

serve salad topped with shrimp & feta. yum-o!

4 servings | 13 points+ each

caesar salad spaghetti

source: rachael ray | look + cook

everyone loves caesar salad! but i'm not a big salad person. when i was in high school, i ate salad for lunch & dinner nearly everyday for two years. needless to say, i got sick of it. but salad is such a healthy meal with vitamins, fiber, & low fat. so, i liked this recipe because i could enjoy some leafy greens in a unique way! combined with whole wheat pasta, there's a good punch of protein, too.

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 fillets anchovies, drained {optional}
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2 medium heads escarole, washed & dried
salt & pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
1 lemon
2 large egg yolks
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1. bring a large pot of water to boil. add salt & pasta, cooking until al dente. {reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining.}

2. heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the anchovies & cook until they've melted in the oil. reduce heat & add garlic, cooking for 1 minute. add worcestershire sauce.

3. tear escarole into bite size pieces, & add a few handfuls at a time to the skillet. stir the wilting greens to coat in the oil.

4. season the greens with salt & pepper & nutmeg. squeeze the juice of the lemon over the greens. turn off the heat.

5. in a large bowl, add the reserved cooking water. add the egg yolks & beat until tempered. add the pasta & greens & half of the cheese. toss to coat thoroughly.

serve with the remaining cheese on top.

6 servings | 11 points+ each


kale chips

source: unknown

this is a delicious & healthy snack, & even your kids will love it! i literally ate an entire bunch of kale chips last night by myself in front of a movie instead of popcorn or other salty snacks. just think of all the vitamins! i also made these for a pirate party for our teens & called it seaweed. they were hesitant to try them, but by the end of the night, there were no leftovers!

1 bunch kale {4 cups or so}
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. tear the kale into bite size pieces, discarding the thick stems.

2. place in a single layer onto a baking sheet, & drizzle with olive oil. toss to coat evenly. sprinkle with salt.

3. bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until crispy but not burnt.

4 servings | 2 points+ each


baba ghanoush - hummus pasta

source: rachael ray | big orange book

we just picked a beautiful eggplant from the garden, & i wanted to make something special with it. this recipe combines so many of my favorite things!

1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can chickpeas {15 oz.}
1 medium eggplant, peeled & chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
salt & pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tahini {sesame paste}
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons pine nuts

1. bring a large pot of water to boil & cook pasta to al dente.  {save one ladleful of starchy pasta water before you drain it!}

2. heat olive oil in deep skillet over medium heat. add garlic & red pepper flakes, & cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. add chickpeas & eggplant, & coat with olive oil. season with cumin, coriander, salt, & pepper.

4. add the stock, & cover & cook for 10 minutes until eggplant is tender.

5. stir in tahini & lemon juice. transfer to food processor, & process until almost smooth.

6. transfer sauce to a large bowl. add pasta water & then the pasta. toss together, & top with parsley, scallions, & pine nuts.

6 servings | 12 points+ each