Tag Archives: Soup

{ Best Lunch Spots in Buck’s County }

Finding good food on-the-go is tough when you don’t live in a city studded with Pret a Manager, Chipotle, and five-star food trucks. In Buck’s County, the options are pretty limited to full-service, sit-down restaurants or drive-thru, fast-food establishments. If you don’t brown paper bag it to work, you’re looking at either an overpriced gourmet salad, a 40-minute sushi luncheon, or a greasy quarter-pounder in the McDonald’s parking lot. But thankfully, local restaurant owners are finally starting to fill this market gap by opening quick-service lunch spots with high-quality food.

Here is a list of my favorite lunch spots in Buck’s County:

1. { Sariano’s Country Cafe }

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Located right in the heart of Lahaska, is this adorable French cafe with homemade croissants, fresh soups, and delicious Croque Monsieur sandwiches. You can eat al fresco at any of the outdoor cafe tables, or take your order to-go (just be warned that there is only one indoor table, so might not be the best option for a cold/rainy day!). The menu is posted on a black board behind the counter, and although isn’t terribly long, neither is the wait for your food!

I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable & Mozzarella Sandwich, which is served warm on a Fresh Butter Croissant ($7.00). The vegetables are chopped up nice and small, and the croissant provides delicious and sturdy base for the sandwich, keeping it together as you eat.

Of course, this being a French cafe, I also recommend the Croque Monsieur sandwiches, which are served on homemade French bread. They have the classic Ham & Cheese ($5.50), but I suggest trying the Goat Cheese & Proscuitto ($6.50) combination, which isn’t something you see every day! Keep in mind that these sandwiches are served hot, so the cheese is warm and bubbly when they come out of the oven. Delicious.

And lastly, I really enjoy Sariano’s Shrimp & Corn Chowder Soup ($7.00), which is creamy and slightly spicy but not too heavy. The soup prices seems a little high, when compared those of the sandwiches, but the portions are really generous and it comes accompanied with your choice of crackers or homemade French bread.

If you’re really in a hurry, Sariano’s also offers an assortment of pre-made meals that you can choose from.

2. { Jule’s Thin Crust }

Photo taken from TheMainLineVine

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With new locations popping up all over Buck’s County, it is clear that Jule’s Thin Crust has found a recipe for success. This gourmet pizza shop, which relies heavily on locally and organically grown produce, offer 22+ varieties of pizza, innovative salads, and gluten-free, as well as whole-wheat, products. If you stop by for just a few slices, you can choose from anything available on the line and get back to work within 10 minutes. And if you’d rather place a full pie or custom order, you’re looking at a total wait time of about 15 minutes, but you’re more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine to help pass the time while you wait! Just keep in mind that you’re still at a pizza place, so to all my wine-snobs: NO, there will not be glassware!

I suggest trying the new Buffalo Chicken Pizza with hormone free chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese, mozzarella, arugala, and buffalo sauce ($2.90 per slice). Or the Kim’s Pie with hormone free chicken, portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, balsamic BBQ glaze, mozzarella, and chives ($2.90 per slice).

Another classic, loved by all, is the Brushetta Pizza with Chopped Organic Tomatoes, Fresh Cubed Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, and Arugala, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! It will revolutionize your idea of pizza.

3. { Marhaba }

Photo Taken from The New York Times

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Tucked away on a side street in Lambertville, is one of the best Middle Eastern Restaurants that I have ever been to! The interior is cozy, the prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic and a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The Gyro Sandwich, which is slow roasted lamb, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini drizzle on a warm homemade pita ($5.95) is a deal that can’t be beat and so it has become a regular weekly lunch for me and my mother.

Photo Taken from Jersey Foodies

I also recommend the Babaganough, which is a grilled eggplant spread mixed with tahini, garlic, and fresh lemon juice ($5.95) served alongside warm homemade pita bread. The spread has a zesty flavor and a creamy texture, that is beautiful when paired with the zatter spices on the pita bread.

Photo Taken from ThePalatePrincess

4. { Genivieves Panini & Salads To-Go }

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I found this place on Groupon a couple of weeks ago, and I have been hooked ever since! Located in the center of Doylestown, Genivieves serves up seasonally inspired food made with locally produced ingredients. The sandwiches are crafted like a work of art and the flavor combinations are a food-enthusiasts dream. My personal favorites are: the Vegetale with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, gooey taleggio cheese, and fresh pesto on multigrain bread ($7.50);  and the Tuscany with grilled chicken breast, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on rustic ciabatta bread ($7.50). 

In addition to their fabulous warm panini’s, Genivieves also offers gourmet salads, homemade soups, and assorted baked goods. And if you find yourself addicted, as I have, then you can also order their food for catered dinners with 24 hours advance notice. Unfortunately, Genivieves is take-out only, so you cannot dine-in.

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Filed under Baking, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, French Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ Faux Pho }

After my first Pho experience, I became a pho feign. I simply can’t get enough of the stuff–it’s the epitome of comfort food and even better its super healthy for you! Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have an awesome Vietnamese restaurant  (Pho & Beyond) close to my home in Philly so I can get my pho fix there, but finding Vietnamese food in Argentina has been quite a challenge. There is one good place called Green Bamboo, serving up tasty Asian inspired dishes including pho, but it is not authentic and it comes at a rather steep price (almost 90 Arg pesos per bowl….totally not in my budget these days!). As a result, I have decided to experiment with making my own Pho, which I will be the first to admit is really faux pho….the real stuff requires a lot more ingredients and whole lot more cooking time.

This being said, my imitation version still gives the unique flavors of the traditional pho broth and the hearty satisfaction of beef soup. Remember though, this soup is all about the garnishes so don’t skimp on those ingredients!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons star anise seeds (or 1 whole star anise)
  • 1 3″-4″ cinnamon stick
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 2-3 cups of mixed mushrooms, chopped (oyster, baby bella, crimini, shitaki)
  • 1 whole scallion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 package of thick rice noodles, cooked out
  • 1 pound of eye round steak, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • Bean sprouts, sliced chilis, fresh basil leaves, sliced scallion, and lime wedges for garnish

{ To Make Pho } Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onion (cut side down), crushed garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant–approx. 3-4 minutes.

Add the water, bouillon cubes, star anise, and cinnamon stick, bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Using a small handheld strainer, skim the seeds and cinnamon pieces out of the stock (you can also remove the garlic and ginger if they are not resting at the bottom of the pot).

Add the mushrooms and sliced chiles, and allow to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the scallion and season with kosher salt, according to taste. Remove from heat.

Add the sliced beef to the soup and stir to combine (the beef should cook through almost instantly, if it has been sliced thinly enough).

Divide rice noodles among bowls and ladle broth into each bowl. Garnish the soup with basil, bean sprouts, lime juice, scallion, and sliced chiles. If you like spicy, then add a dash of Sriracha sauce!

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Na Serapia ****

 
 
(+54) 11-4801-5307
Av. Las Heras 3357
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Palermo

If you choose not to embrace empanadas while living in South America, then you are severely limiting your convenience food options. They are the ultimate fast food and a perfect bite on the go–tiny, warm, cheap, and filling. There is a lot of debate amongst Argentine’s as to which region of the country prepares them best, but many purport that it is in fact the Northern region of Salta.

As a self-proclaimed empanada connoisseur, I deemed it necessary to sample this regional style of cooking and decide my own opinion on the matter. So I headed to a very old and authentic hole-in-the-wall place, located just 3 blocks from my apartment called Na Serapia. There is an antique charm about the tiny place that comes highly recommended by locals.

I started the meal with a couple of Chicken Empanadas, Spicy Beef Empanadas, and Saltena-style Empanadas ($5 pesos ea.).  Out of the three the chicken one was my favorite because of the flavor and moisture in the shredded meat. The spicy chile sauce (or oil, rather) that they serve to accompany the empanada is also very good…and rarely found in a country which loathes spicy food! Besides the fillings, the pastries themselves were delicious. They were light and flakey, almost like a puff pastry. They also had a nice buttery texture, as opposed to the thick doughy texture of some other place’s empanadas.

Next I ordered a Tamale to split with my friend Julie. For those of you unfamiliar with tamales, they are masa (a starchy corn dough) stuffed with ground beef, which is then steamed and served in corn leaf wrapper ($18 pesos ea.). I have to admit that although I came for the empanadas, I was much more impressed by the quality of the tamale. Actually, I thought it was the best that I have had to date. The sweet corn dough was a perfect contrast to the spicy chile oil that I spooned on top, and the meat was soft and tender. The whole thing crumbled beautifully when poked with the fork. You must try!!

As if this wasn’t already enough food, I then ordered a bowl Locro, which is a hearty stew of beans and pork with chorizo ($27 pesos) typical of the Northern region. I really enjoyed the soup, but still think that La Cocina serves the best in the city.

Overall, I was pleased with my meal and wowed by the tamale. I would definitely go back soon because I think it is a charming atmosphere with good service and a tasty food.

READ ANOTHER BLOGGER REVIEW - TheLostAsian

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Corner Shop Cafe ****

212.253.7467
643 Broadway (and Bleecker)
New York, NY

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I was preparing to photograph my lunch today (a couple of delicious chicken quesadillas), when my phone alerted me that I had “insufficient memory space” to store the images. Considering that I upload and delete my photos as I write reviews, this notification means that I am seriously behind on blogging (too much eatting, not enough writing!). I was forced to go through my collection of food photos and decide which images looked the most decadent, deleting the others that were not up to par. This sounds like an easy task, but choosing which images to part with was a painstaking process. Needless to say, my quesadillas were cold by the time I finally finished. In order to make space for future reviews, I will be backtracking a bit and intermittenly posting some articles on New York grub.

The first review is from one of my favorite lunch/brunch spots in NYC–The Corner Shop Cafe. Their menu is an eclectic mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and eggs but these often simple dishes are far from the ordinary here.  The Corner Shop Cafe has mastered the art of delivering the classics with a whole new twist, taking them to another level. For example, their PB & Banana Grilled Sandwich which comes on cranberry raisin bread dipped in french toast batter, served with honey and minted berries ($9). Clearly, this is not your mom’s PB & J!

Some how I fought the temptation of ordering this mastermind creation (along with the Creme Brûlée Dipped French Toast ($11)), and instead opted for a lighter lunch of Steamed Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce with parsley, peas, and tomatoes ($12). Let me tell you, these mussels were fan-freaking-tastic! The mussels themselves were plump and fresh, and the sauce was out of this world. The herb parmesan crostini soaking in the bowl was also a very nice touch and made the meal more satisfying.

My friend Sam ordered Brie & Basil Panini with aged tried cheese, oven roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto on a toasted ciabatta roll ($13). Again, a very common menu item, but executed perfectly. The ingredients were all very fresh, from the salty to prosciutto to the flakey bread, and the side salad was dressed perfectly with a nice light vinaigrette.

My other friend Ariana went all out and ordered the Truffled Poached Eggs on Toast Platter with two organic poached eggs atop grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with truffle oil served with grilled ciabatta bread ($10). A little bit of food jealous crept up on me when this plate was brought to the table. You know when you second guess your meal decision and get grumpy because another person’s food at the table looks better. Ariana was kind enough to fed me forkfuls every now and then though, so it lowered my post-order dissonance. Everything on the plate was fantastic and for the menial price of $10, it tastes even better!

We also all shared a bowl a Cream of Tomato Soup ($7), which paired great with my herb parmesan crostini. I highly recommend this soup because they only use enough cream to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. You can see by the color of the broth that the cream isn’t too overdone or heavy. It begs for grill cheese dipping!

Also, the prices on the drinks were very reasonable. We had a couple of Mimosas and a round of Chardonnay for about $10 each. I am looking forward to going back to the Corner Shop Cafe as soon as I return to the states!

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Cumana *****

Rodríguez Pena 1149
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Recoleta
001 4813 9207

As I mentioned in the previous post, Ariana and I have become ¨regulars¨ at La Cholita–frequenting the restuarant at least once a week to get our parrilla fix. But we aren´t the only one´s in BA that know about the deals to be had there, so there is often times a wait to get in (get there after 10 O´clock, and you´re not leaving until 1 or 1:30…no, I´m not joking). Luckily, right next door is a resturant called Cumana. It is the same price point as La Cholita, and the food is equally as delicious, but the menu offers a completely different selection of Argentine cuisine. Rather than parrilla, Cumana serves up food typical of the Northern region of the country, including homemade cazuelas, pizzas, calzones, empanadas, and potato dishes. Most people show up with the intentions of eating at either La Cholita or Cumana, but inevitably put down their name for both once they see the crowds waiting outside. Pretty much, which ever restaurant can accomodate the party first wins. Nobody goes home upset!

Inside Cumana, you will find an equally mixed crowd of locals and tourists. The locals come becasue the prices are unbeatably cheap, and the tourists come to sample a wide variety of the delicious cazuelas, which are thick and hearty stews served in lerge clay vessels. They come out steaming hot, and they never seem to cool off…you will still be blowing on the last spoonful (if you can even manage to eat that much of these filling casseroles, of course!) Some of the cazuelas are simply legumes, others include meats such as chorizo and beef, and then of course there are those that offer a mixture of vegetable and meat. My favorite cazuela at Cumana is the one with Lentejas y Chorizo (lentils and sausage). The menu simply reads Cazuela de Lentejas, but the Chorizo is a delcious surprise that adds a nice smoky flavor to the dish. The lentils are cooked to a tender perfection and the meal overall is like a hug in your belly.

I also hear that the Cazuela al Pastor is incredible, although I have never gone to Cumana hungry enough to tackle the dish myself. The waiter described it almost like a Sheppard´s Pie, layered with hearty ground beef, mashed potatoes, and cheese. Again, this is all baked and served in a large clay pot (it is on my list of things to eat in the very near future!). When I don´t order the Cazuelas de Lentejas, I go for the Locro–a thick soup made with beans, potatoes, squash, ham, and chorizo. It is like Pasta Fagiole on steriods, and without a doubt a ¨stick to your ribs¨ kind of meal. Although the locro is very delicious at Cumana, I must be honest an admit that there is one better at La Cocina on the corner of Puerrydon and Santa Fe (the review is coming soon!).

If your craving more than soup, I highly, highly, highly, recommend the pizza and calzones at Cumama. There is some special ingredient that they use, which makes the flavor of the pizza very unique. I can´t figure out if it is an herb, or if it is special cheese, or what. I am a pretty good food detetctive when it comes to identifying ingredients, but they have me absolutely stumped. Normally, I would ask the waiter for the secret, but given the language barrier, I am left to wonder. I like the Rucola Pizza with Fresh Sliced Tomato, Cured Ham, Mozarella, Tomato Sauce, and Oregano. It is salty, gooey, goodness. The calzones are also enourmous and look amazing (definitely enough for two people to share).

If you´re looking to eat soemthing I little lighter, as I was the other night, it´s not gonna happen here. I ordered the Ensalada de Cumana thinking that the vegetables would be healthy, but the salad came out in an enourmous baked bread bowl, topped with gobbs of mayonnaise. All of my biggest ordering errors in Argentina have involved salad and salad dessings. The menu will often read; ¨vinaigrette a la casa,¨ ¨ceasar dressing, and ¨dressing especialidad.¨ But do not be fooled….these are just synonyms for disguising the word mayonnaise. And not a drizzle of mayonnaise, an overwhelming heaping of it (see photo below). The moral of the story; order your salad plain and ask for a side of oil and vinegar. Otherwise, you might as well have just ordered the fattiest steak on the menu. Of course, once I removed the top layer of mayo covered lettuce, the salad was delicious. But I hate having to operate on my food before it becomes edible.

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{ Chicken and Lime Tortilla Soup }

As I walked downstairs to get breakfast this morning, my olfactory was assaulted by the pungent aroma of vinegar. I can’t say that I altogether hated it, because I love vinegar…but why did my home suddenly smell like a bag of Herr’s salt & vinegar chips? I headed towards the kitchen and as I rounded the corner, I was greeted by both of my parents who were standing at the center island, casually canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers… at 8 am in the morning! And let me tell you, this was no little home-ec “project”—this was a miniature factory. There were at least 75 ripened tomatoes on the windowsill, along with dozens of cucumbers and jalapenos peppers, not to mention the several cases of Mason jars that were being sterilized in cauldron-like pots on the stove. I felt like I had stepped into one of Professor Snape’s potion classes from Harry Potter.

By 10 O’Clock they had canned about 15 jars of tomatoes, pickled 9 jars of cucumbers, and made 10 or so jars of fresh salsa. Needless to say, if you’re coming to our house this month, you’re leaving with a Mason jar in hand…but don’t even think about keeping it and using it as a vase if you want salsa next summer! Anyways, when all was said and done, there were still a decent number of tomatoes and hot peppers left and I decided to look for a recipe that would put them to good use. I took out the Soup for Supper cookbook by William Sonoma and resolved to make this spicy chicken and lime tortilla soup, which turned out fabulous!

I like this recipe because the tortilla strips are used as a garnish rather than an ingredient cooked in with the broth, which keeps the soup a lot lighter and healthier. I absolutely hate when I get tortilla soup at a restaurant, and the consistency is so thickened that it resembles porridge more than broth. I also like that the chicken is cooked in advance and separate from the stock because it keeps the broth clear without all of the necessary straining (for those of you who make homemade chicken noodle soup and stock, you know what I am talking about!). Overall, there are very few ingredients required to make this soup and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to cook—so it’s cheap and fast!

It provides the comfort of traditional chicken noodle soup, but the jalapeno pepper adds a nice unique twist. If you don’t feel like making the homemade tortilla strips (which are a little messy with the frying oil), then serve this soup over rice…or do both, as I did! When serving, I like to garnish my soup with the tortilla crisps, cubed avocado, and chopped cilantro.

Ingredients }

  • 9 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large spanish onion., chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2-3 jalapenos, sliced (remove and discard the seeds to make soup less spicy)
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes (I use fresh, you can use canned)
  • 6 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 6 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (do according to taste though, because amount varies if you use low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 12 very thin slices of lime, cut into quarters
**If you are making the tortilla crisps then you will also need vegetable oil for frying and 3 corn tortillas cut into 2″ strips!

 

Directions for Soup } In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups of chicken broth and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a low simmer. Add the chicken breast and allow to cook through (about 8 minutes), doing so in batches if needed. Note: I like to add a little salt and pepper to my chicken for additional flavor (see photo), but the recipe does not call for this and you don’t have to.

Once the chicken has cooked through, transfer to a cutting board and once cool enough to handle, cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces (I cube my chicken, but you can also shred it!). Set aside and discard the stock.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes to soften. Add the chicken stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once the stock boils, reduce the heat and add the chicken, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve in warmed bowls with garnishes.

To Make the Tortilla Strips } Cut the flour tortillas into 2″ strips, using a pizza cutter. Heat vegetable oil (2″ deep) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until it reaches about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, then test the oil by throwing bread crumbs into the oil….if it doesn’t begin to fry immediately, then the oil isn’t yet hot enough!Once the oil is hot and ready, add the tortilla strips, working in small batches. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on paper towels to absorb the oil!

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Flip the tortilla strips with slotted spoon, if they begin to cook too much on one side

Let the paper towel absorb the grease, and sprinkle with Kosher salt

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{ Thai Lemongrass Vegetable Soup }

Thai Vegetable Lemongrass Soup

One of the most challenging aspects about cooking as a college student is that you’re typically only cooking for yourself and so there tends to be a lot of waste. You make a tray of lasagna on Monday and you have to eat it for every lunch and dinner all week to get rid of it. But since no one enjoys eating the same thing at every meal (unless you are a freakish creature of habit), it usually ends up getting left in the fridge until a roommate complains about the smell and makes you throw it away. I’ve found that the best solution to this wasteful dilemma is to cook soup! You can make a large pot of it and store a desired amount in the fridge for the week, and then freeze the rest in individual serving-sized plastic ware. This week I was craving something hearty and healthy, and I decided to experiment with Thai flavors. I always order Tom Kha Gai soup to start at Thai restruarants, which is a lemongrass chicken soup (sometimes made with coconut milk), and I wanted to create my own version at home. I don’t really know how to cook Thai, but since I love to eat it so much, I am familiar with the flavors and how to combine them. What I didn’t take into account was how hard the ingredients are to find, how expensive they become, and how difficult and unusual they are to work with!

I went to Whole Foods, and $80 later, I had a had 4 large bags filled with enough groceries to open a small Thai restaurant myself. Since I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked online, I decided to combine aspects of 4-5 different ones I saw, and create my own. I felt like a little kid, just throwing things into the pot as I went, but it turned out awesome! I used a lot of really great vegetables, and the broth has an awesome spicy lemongrass flavor.

To serve the soup, I took inspiration from Vietnamese Pho and garnished the bowl with bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, jalapenos, lime wedges, and Siracha hot sauce. I ate the vegetables with my chopsticks in my right hand and held a spoon for the broth in my left! None of this soup made it to the freezer, because I looked forward to eating it for every meal of the week (I also shed some pounds, because it is super lo-cal!). Hopefully, you will enjoy the recipe!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2-3 stalks fresh lemongrass, peeled and chopped into 2 inch lengths
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated or minced
  • 5 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (less if you don’t want it to be as spicy)
  • 2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Garnishes: bean sprouts, green onion, sliced jalapeno, cilantro, and Siracha

{ To Make Soup }

 In a large stock pot, combine the vegetable stock, chicken stock, and lemongrass pieces. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil and then sauté the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant but not burnt! Add the Thai red curry paste and combine mixture over heat for 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger, curry paste to the broth in the stockpot and stir well. Add the broccoli, red peppers, jalapenos, and zucchini. Allow to boil for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to low. Add the cabbage, green onion, and shitake mushrooms and allow to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in soy sauce, lime juice, and cilantro. Season to taste with these ingredients and serve in individual bowls with garnishes.

Lemongrass Vegetable Soup with Plate of Garnishes

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{ Beef and Black Bean Chili }

Beef and Black Bean Chili with Green Onion Garnish

Day one on any diet isn’t too bad. You’re excited about having started something new and you go to bed on that first night feeling satisfied that you spent the entire day eating healthy. Then day two rolls around and the reality sinks in—you’re not just eating healthy for one day, you’re eating healthy indefinitely. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel so good to be substituting your fries for a side salad. Instead, you feel left out as you watch the rest of the world guzzle Coca-Cola and munch on potato chips. Your water bottle and carrot sticks are downright depressing in comparison.

Today, I felt the first painful sting of the diet, and I highly doubt that it will be the last. I started off my morning with the 3-egg Garden Vegetable Omelet and then for lunch went to the Rathskeller (the on campus bar and restaurant) with a group of friends, only to finnd that there was not one thing on the menu that I could eat! Fried Ravioli, Mozzarella Sticks, Jalapeno Poppers, Buffalo Chicken Subs, and my personal favorite, the “No-Yes Fries” (fries smothered with cheddar cheese, bacon, and ranch) were all out of the question. Rather than be high maintenance and attempt to construct a meal that pulled various ingredients from all different menu items, I just decided that I would cook myself a delicious pot of chili at home later. So I jogged home from campus (as I have decided to start running to and from my classes…my apologies to those of you who sit directly to my left and right) and I started prepping up the vegetables for a pot of black bean and beef chili. I got the original recipe from Food Network online, however, I have made so many modifications that I think I can safely call it my own now! I like spicy chili so I make mine with a lot of cayenne pepper, but if you don’t want the heat, then feel free to leave it out. I also add Cholula Hot Sauce while the meat is cooking for some additional spice and flavor, but again, this is optional.

It is really important that you use the leanest ground beef that you can find. It is more expensive, but it makes a huge difference in the consistency of the recipe. I once tried to cut corners and save money by buying a fattier ground beef, and the meat let off so much oil and fat that the chili was almost inedible. This recipe also makes for a great taco meat recipe if you just don’t add all the beef broth, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Instead, add like ¼ cup beef broth and ½ (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, leaving out the tomato sauce altogether. Let the meat simmer until the sauce reduced slightly and then serve. Since this makes a pretty large amount, I freeze mine in individual serving containers and they hold in the freezer for a very long time. When you are ready to eat, just put in fridge and let defrost for a few hours or use the microwave to defrost and reheat. It tastes just as good, if not even better, than when it was first made! When I’m not dieting, I like to serve this on a bed of white rice or use it to make nacho platters, which are always a late night hit. Again, you can also use it for taco meat if you use less of the liquid ingredients.

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 pounds of lean ground sirloin (90% lean)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup beef broth, like ½ of a 15 oz can
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

{ To Make Beef and Black Bean Chili }

In a large skillet or stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high flame. Add the ground beef and season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir meat with spatula and cook until crumbled and brown, about 7-10 min. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, jalapeno, and season with cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper (if desired). Allow meat to cook with veggies for about 5 min. Add the beef stock and scrape up drippings from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20-25 min, stirring occasionally. Garnish with cilantro or minced green onion and serve!

Nutritional Information

The total number of calories in this dish are 2569, which leads to about 321 calories per serving (if you get 8 total servings). The nutritional breakdown is as follows: 106 g of fat, 197 g of carbohydrates, 59 g of fiber, 252 g of protein. This information is for the pot overall, so to find the information per serving just divide figures by 8.

Cost of Ingredients

The total cost of making this meal is $20.52, with the assumption that you have the olive oil and spices. Since I have left over red pepper and garlic from my Mexican Black Bean Salad, my total cost was only 17.62. I got about 8 bowls of chili out of this recipe, which leads to a total cost of $2.20 per serving. A similar portion of soup from Whole Foods would cost you $4.99, so there is a cost savings.

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{ Lentil Soup }

Lentil Soup

When you think of your favorite vegetable, I highly doubt that lentils come to mind. Maybe we forget about them because they are so small, or because they so rarely appear in the American diet, or because they have very little flavor when cooked improperly (which they often are).  Lentils are kind of like lima beans; people find reasons to dislike them…and not just dislike them, but passionately dislike them—with a vengeance! You never really meet someone who is on the fence about lima beans or lentils—either they love them or loathe them. End of story.

Well I just so happen to love both, and have finally found a lentil soup recipe so delicious that it can convert almost any lentil hater. But before I even get to the recipe, let me first give you some other reasons to love lentils (or at least give them a shot). Lentils, despite their tiny size, derive about 26% of their calories from protein, so they are pretty much a super food. They have the third highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp and Health Magazine ranks lentils as one of the five healthiest foods you can eat. Lentils are a staple in India and the Middle East, and its time for Americans to start appreciating their nutritional value as well.

This lentil soup recipe, which is adapted by one from one by Ina Garten, is healthy, filling, cheap to make, and delicious! It doesn’t look very pretty in a bowl (more like a pile of brown mush) but the flavor is strong and incredible. My roommates were a little skeptical when they first saw me eating it (I was hoping they would stay skeptical so I wouldn’t have to share…no such luck), but they too loved it once they tried it. It’s hearty and warm, and really low in fat. Anytime I’m looking to loose a little belly fat, I replace two meals with this soup and it most certainly does the trick!

Also, this soup freezes great since there is no dairy in it. Since I’m only cooking for myself, I like to buy individual plastic containers that I can freeze single servings in. Take it out the night before and heat it up when you’re ready to eat. Most of the time it tastes even better because the flavors have fully developed.

My only cooking suggestion is to make sure that you only use the white part of the leek, because the green part will make the soup taste bitter. It is okay to use some of the lighter green color but if you use too much the bitterness will come through in the broth. Also, if you decide to use dried thyme leaves instead of fresh ones (I do not recommend this), remember that dried herbs are more pungent and therefore require less so I would only use ½ teaspoon of the dried thyme. And as far as salt goes, I don’t add a whole lot because I prefer to top off my bowl with a heaping of freshly grated parmesan cheese, which has a natural saltiness that comes through and flavors the dish, but feel free to add more salt if you find it too bland.

Ohh, and I almost forgot…it is very important that the garlic does not burn when making this soup so when I sauté my veggies in the stockpot (see directions), I add the garlic about 5 minutes after the rest of the veggies.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 pound French green lentils
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ cups celery, diced
  • 1 ½ cups carrots, diced
  • 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving

{ To Make Lentil Soup }

In a large glass bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to soak for about 20 minutes, or until lentils soften. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic with the salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the carrots and celery and allow to sauté for about 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils and carrots are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Remove from heat, add the red wine vinegar, stirring to incorporate. Serve hot and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

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{ Roasted Butternut Squash Soup }

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Drizzle of Heavy Cream

The holidays are almost over, and it is time to start lightening up our diets. That means no more artichoke dips or mini hot dogs, or cookies in place of breakfast. No more substituting our required 8 glasses of water with egg nog and hot chocolate. And please, no more Costco frozen appetizers! It’s time to start eating lighter and healthier.

I know for a fact that almost everyone has made it their New Year’s resolution to loose weight, or at least start eating right (history tends to repeat itself)! But, we also all know that this is much easier said then done (again, history tends to repeat itself!). It is not surprising that so many people abandon their resolutions before the years end, considering just how challenging it is to find recipes that are healthy and yet still tasty. They do exist, but they are often tricky to find. Thankfully, this year you have my blog to help you locate them! This recipe for roasted butternut squash soup is hearty, full of flavor, and best of all, naturally low in calories!!  It will help you achieve your resolution without forcing you to sacrifice delicious food.

This soup tastes so hearty and feels so satisfying largely because of it’s creamy consistency. There isn’t a ton of milk or cream in it, but the pureed butternut squash is thick and gives the impression of a cream base. In fact, I oftentimes forgo even adding any milk or cream to the soup, and find that the texture is not compromised in the least bit (it also freezes better without the dairy). Flavor wise, the soup has a perfect balance of sweet and spicy with the heat coming from the ginger and cayenne pepper and the sweetness coming from the butternut squash. To add another dimension to the soup, I like to serve mine with croutons on top or a side of fontina cheese crostini; it adds some crunch and breaks up the monotony of the puree. Overall, this soup is fabulous, simple to make, and I highly recommend it!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 butternut squash
  • 1 spanish onion
  • 2-4 leeks, depending on size (3 medium is ideal)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, depending on size
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 (32 oz) containers of chicken stock (or veggie stock)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • (optional) 1/4 cup heavy cream for finishing

{ To Make Soup }

Preheat oven to 350. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and rub with oil. Roast in oven on lined baking sheet for about 40-45 minutes, or until fork goes through squash easily.

Once squash is cooked, heat butter and oil in a large stock pot over medium flame. Once hot, saute onion, leek, garlic, and ginger. Season with salt, pepper, and add cayenne pepper. Add chicken stock.

Scoop out seeds from butternut squash and add the pulp into broth. Simmer on low for another 20-30 minutes, covered. Then with immersion blender or regular blender, puree soup. Return to pot and add milk, stirring. Bring to a low simmer for a minute or two. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warm bowls with drizzle of cream, if desired.

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