Summer Minestrone Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Small town living at its best.

Small town living at its best.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve brought you a soup recipe! And while one doesn’t normally think of summer as soup season, but since this one has been cooler than normal with fits and starts of heat (I’m not complaining!), it’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the garden’s bounty and make a big pot of minestrone soup.

Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a good soup. They are easy to make on a Sunday morning and tote to work for the week. Add a small salad, a half sandwich, or a slice of bread with some in-season fruit, and you have a healthy and delicious lunch! And this soup is so good and flavorful! Lots of squashes, green beans, with the flavor of basily and garlicky pesto, it make a delectable lunch or dinner. Plus, it can be easily frozen, so you can have some later on in the month.

This is a free-wheeling recipe, so there are lots of substitutions that you can make based on your own palate. Water or vegetable broth for chicken, gluten-free pasta or none for the ditalini, spinach or chard (which I used) in place of kale, omit additional cheese, and you can even omit the pesto if you don’t have any on hand. I’ve done that and it’s just as good.

As I write this, it is a cloudy and rainy and I’m under a blanket next to the open window as it is windy and cool outside. Just a reminder that this glorious season isn’t forever and cooler days will be coming in the future–with more soup!

minestroneSummer Minestrone Soup
This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

A gentle simmer keeps the vegetables in the soup slightly firm, so they maintain their texture during freezing and reheating.

Yield: Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only (about 2 leeks)
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped yellow squash
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup homemade or refrigerated pesto (such as Buitoni)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add leek, carrot, celery, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not brown). Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Place 1 cup cannellini beans in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mashed beans, remaining cannellini beans, squashes, bell pepper, green beans, pasta, salt, and black pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium; cook 10 minutes. Stir in kale; cook 2 minutes. Place 2 cups soup in each of 8 bowls, or follow freezing instructions. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons pesto and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

How-To

FREEZE: Cool soup completely. Freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 2 months.

THAW: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) 5 minutes or until pliable.

REHEAT: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Veggies…
veggiesI came across this article, “10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious” a little while back and thought I wouldn’t find anything new. Well, blow me down, I realized I am actually doing several of these things on this list! I always add garlic and carrots to recipes right after chopping and I sometimes will deleaf the head of lettuce to easily make salads. I thought this had some great tips and information, I hope you find it helpful too!

 

Spice Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chili-Herb Sauce Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Which means the cooking is easy, too! This dish, with tender chicken and a fiery sauce, is perfect for one of those cooler summer evenings. While I made this on a weekend when I had more time, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight, too!

The flat-leaved parsley at the store was looking really sad, so I opted for curly parsley, but I wouldn’t advise that; I find curly more flavorful, sometimes a little bitter, so while the sauce was good, I think the sweeter flat-leaf is the definite choice. I don’t have a grill pan, so I pan-fried the chicken in a skillet and finished cooking in the oven. Although my original plan was to use the real grill, which would give great flavor! Also, if it’s a hot night, you can cook the chicken outdoors so the kitchen won’t get hot!

I love spicy foods, as you know, so if you wanted just a little heat, maybe a quarter of a jalapeno or a dash of crushed red pepper would do the trick. I served this with some sautéed fresh Swiss chard and garlic and a cucumber salad with dill. But a simple green salad or maybe a tomato salad with some basil and mozzarella would also be great. Something to celebrate summer and bountiful vegetables that are coming into your home kitchen!

spicychix
Spiced Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chile-Herb Sauce

This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon sugar, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal bag. Let stand 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat grill to medium.

3. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to grill rack; grill 8 minutes on each side or until done.

4. Place remaining 2 table­spoons oil, remaining 1 tablespoon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, parsley, half-and-half, and jalapeño in the bowl of a mini food processor; process until finely chopped. Serve sauce with chicken thighs.

eat-clean-2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Clean Eating!

For two weeks in June, the Eater of the House and myself went through a detox with two other friends. In a nutshell, I was a gluten-free vegan for 14 days. Plus, no sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. The first few days were difficult, but by week two I had hit my stride; I no longer had to think about what I could eat, plus I had a lot more energy. When that first Monday morning rolled around, I was so excited for a cup of decaf coffee and eggs, but I’ll admit the meal fell on a low note. I was expecting a taste thrill, but it was just ok. I didn’t even have a glass of wine with dinner that night!

Cooking Light has jumped on the “clean eating” bandwagon, with a guide for clean eating plus tips, recipes, and ideas for a month of clean eating. While I like to look at eating as everything in moderation, I do plan to do this detox on a regular basis, as well as incorporating some of these changes in my daily life. No one has been hurt by eating even more fruits and vegetables!

It’s Summer! Spoonbread’s Potato Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It's berry season in Vermont! Yummy!

It’s berry season in Vermont! Yummy!

It’s summer and the weather has finally caught up with the calendar! Tis the season for grilling, picnics, and lots and lots of salads. I love potato salad, but rarely do my salads turn out to be anything spectacular. Until now. I think I’ve found a new favorite!

In the past, my potato salad is the traditional potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise, and quite honestly is a bit on the boring and bland side. It needed something that gave it a little zing and oomph. I was lamenting this fact and wanted to make a potato salad that would be a sure hit with guests, so I turned to The Essential New York Times Cook Book, a cook book where I’ve yet to be disappointed with a recipe. Named after the Manhattan catering company that created it, it’s everything a potato salad should be: creamy, tangy, with just the right amount of onion and crunch of celery. The Eater of the House was especially pleased with it, going back for seconds, thirds . . . complimenting me by saying, “you used more mayonnaise than you usually do.” (I tend to scrimp for calories a lot!) I bypassed the celery salt since I don’t like the flavor and optional garnishes and just had a delicious potato salad, which I served on 4th of July eve to good friends. Make a batch of this for your next picnic, it’s perfect!

pot sal
Spoonbread’s Potato Salad

This recipe appears in The Essential New York Times Cook Book, by Amanda Hesser, 2010.

2 pounds white potatoes, scrubbed
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 small onion, minced
½ cut diced celery
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Colman’s prepared mustard (I used plain yellow mustard)
1 teaspoon celery salt or to taste
Optional garnish (olives, green pepper rings, and sliced grilled red peppers)

1. Cut the potatoes in half if large. Put them in a pot ad add enough lightly salted water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and boil gently for 15 to 25 minutes, until just tender. Drain.

2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into coarse chunks. Place in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and paprika in a small bowl. Mix with the still-warm potatoes. Cover and chill for several hours.

4. Right before serving, add the minced onion, celery, and chopped eggs to the potatoes. Mix together the mayonnaise and mustard, still into the salad, and season with celery salt. If desired, garnish with olives and red and green peppers.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Med Students Get Into the Kitchen

nps

Monica Eng/WBEZ

Is anyone else appalled that doctors receive a mere 25 hours of nutrition education in medical school? I’m of the firm belief of looking at your diet before taking supplements or taking medicine. This story, which you can listen or read, is about a group of medical students who are bridging that gap by learning about cooking and nutrition outside of the traditional classroom. Bravo! You can check it out here.

Happy 4th of July Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

forth mountainRabbit Rabbit! Can you believe it’s already July 1st?

I hope all of you are able to take a little time off this weekend to enjoy the local parades and fireworks. I spend an afternoon or so this time of year in the kitchen cooking so there are handy things in the fridge to grab for picnics at the lake: salads, dips, and a batch of cold chicken. This week’s recipe, a revisit from last July, isn’t particularly portable, but oh, is it good and worth eating at home!

Strawberry season in Vermont is a short one and I hear this year is a bumper crop. So for the next couple of weeks you’ll find me down the road at the farm stand grabbing a quart or two until they are gone. I can’t get enough of them. So with this plethora of riches, I always take the opportunity to make a strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Because if you’re going to have dessert for dinner, you should go all out, right?

This is the way I grew up eating strawberry shortcake, a biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, the middle filled with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then topped with more whipped cream and berries. A sort of layer cake, if you will. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

You can always make drop biscuits if you have a small family or want to tote this to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t last past a day once assembled. But then again, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe was published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. When cooled, carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

Quirks-1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: The 10 Most Annoying Food Packaging Quirks
Here’s a laugh for you this morning. I could identify with almost every single packaging on this list! Flour on the counter, foil seal tabs on the peanut butter jar, shrink-wrapped goat cheese, I didn’t realize how aggravated these made me until I read this article! Take a look here, it will make you feel better that you’re not alone!