Mediterranean Fennel Barley Soup

One of my all-time favorite ingredients are lemons. It’s such a versatile citrus packed with vitamin C and adds a distinct tartness to any roasted vegetable. It’s also become my go-to for soup broths that are laden with heavy grains or beans. The lemon juice complements the soft creamy fennel, earthy fire roasted tomatoes and hearty barley in this stew so nicely along with a sprinkle of salty Parmesan on top!

This original recipe came from Eating Well but I switched the white beans to chickpeas and added the lemon juice which really brightened it up. This ones in my fridge for the entire week and only cost about $20 (I doubled the recipe).

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach (6 cups)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, and basil; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice then add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

A little summer stroll…

Enjoying a rare date night dance at friend Tom and Haeley’s wedding… whiskey in hand

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BBQ Pulled Jackfruit

Jackfruit as a substitute for BBQ pulled pork?! Sounds crazy … but the simple prep, sweet and tart chewy texture, and uncanny affinity to meat made this unexpectedly delightful dish an enticing weekend lunch! Top it off with some vegan mayo on a Hawaiian roll for a pretty satisfying meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 20-ounce cans young green jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • BBQ sauce (any kind, I used a store-bought generic brand)

Drain and rinse your jackfruit, then chop into smaller pieces from the inner core to the outer edges. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F while cooking jackfruit and garlic on medium high in a large pan with vegetable broth for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a potato masher, smash the jackfruit lightly just enough to pull apart the fibers. Spread jackfruit on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and add 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and bake for another 10 minutes until it is sticky and sweet. This literally could not be easier! Try it with avocado, cole slaw or a side of corn on the cob.

Totally Awesome Asian Swiss Chard Salad

I love any salad that can be tossed with a cold cup of pasta for a hearty, fresh and easy meal either on-the-go or at home with kids. This Asian Swiss Chard salad recipe relies only on your basic knife skills and a quick assembly time, making it a versatile and vitamin-packed addition to your typical work lunch repertoire. The Brianna’s Home Style Ginger Mandarin dressing was on sale for $2.99 this week and is going to a fridge staple in our house as it packs a punch with its zingy creamy gingery flavor. This dish has potential for a great vegan Buddha bowl and can be combined with other key ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, or nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli cole slaw
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch rainbow Chard, stemmed and roughly diced
  • 2 cups edamame
  • Chilled cooked pasta

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

I love anything as a rice bowl. So I recently invested in a Breville rice cooker. It’s not something I ever thought I needed, but we prepare grains like quinoa, rice or farro so I often I felt it was worth a try. Well this baby steams grains to a perfectly soft, stickily tender consistency. My mind has been opened to vegetarian rice bowl possibilities! It really makes my meal preparation so much easier and this appliance has become a staple on my countertop now. 

Today I was in the mood for a Hungarian inspired Tofurkey Polish sausage with cabbage and peppers heaped on top of a steaming bed of rice. The cabbage chunks marinate nicely in a simmering pot of paprika and garlic infused vegetable broth giving it a nice a silky texture, while the peppers and sliced sausages fry up on a medium high setting for a slightly charred, roasted taste in a separate pan. Add a dollop of brown mustard and sauerkraut on top of this dish and you will not be disappointed in this rice bowl version of a polish dog. 

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

  • 1 package of Tofurkey Kielbasa, chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 3 bell peppers (assorted red, yellow and orange) julienned in thick strips 
  • 1 head of cabbage, sliced into large chunks
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • Rice (your choice)

Add chunks of cabbage to a large sauté pan along with 1 cup vegetable broth and spices. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. I large frying pan add olive oil, peppers and sausages. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes turning frequently. Once oil seems to dry out, let the peppers char very slightly in pan. Cook your choice of rice separately, then scoop cabbage and pepper/sausage mixture on top in a serving bowl. Top with spicy brown mustard or stone ground mustard and a small scoop sauerkraut.

Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

For our 8th wedding anniversary this week my wonderful in-laws took our two rowdy boys for the night (THANK YOU Mark and Debra!!) and my darling hubby fretted about cooking me the perfect meal. Well guys. Lemme tell you. I have been wanting to make a healthy vegetarian Korean bibimbap for months now, and this. was. amazing.

 Traditionally bibimbap ingredients are served in a heated stone pot with plenty of oil, but we opted for a basic nonstick pan and just a tad of sesame oil where necessary to keep it light. The richness comes from the egg yolk that just melts like liquid gold over the dish after you cut it open. (My husband is the egg cooker in our house so he’ll need to write a guest blog post soon!) We roasted the tofu in the broiler instead of frying it in oil. The sweet jasmine rice also gets a light crispy golden bottom in the pan over low heat like a paella, and the veggies themselves only took a total of 10 minutes to prepare. All in all, from getting home at 6:00pm to sitting down to eat was about an hour. Not too bad… it probably helped that there were no children around to pull us in a million directions!


Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably one day old – we cooked the night before)
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces firm tofu
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 5 cups spinach leaves
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 sheet roasted seaweed (Korean-style kim or Japanese nori), cut into small strips with scissors

Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water. Rinse and drain tofu. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and drain well. Place on a nonstick baking pan under broiler for about 15 minutes, turning very frequently. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir fry until cooked through. Remove from pan. Blanch spinach in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted and bright green. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds. In a large iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to coat. Add the rice and pack it down evenly. Arrange the cucumber, tofu, carrot, and spinach on top. Place the fried egg on top and garnish with sesame seeds and seaweed. Once divided into individual bowls, cut open egg to allow yolk to cover rice. Mix and enjoy!

Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

Three Bean Squash Chili

I’ve been making winter bean chili for years with the same tired ingredients. It was SO refreshing to enjoy a summer chili with white beans and butternut squash! The cornmeal added some mild thickness and texture to the broth. Surprisingly this was not a sweet dish,  and it paired perfectly with some white wine while sitting on the porch. Bam! Summer. 


Ingredients 

  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Add oil to pan and swirl to coat, with pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook 5 minutes. Stir in dry spices and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornmeal and beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with green onions.