Use What You Have Lentil Soup

I believe recipes are made to be ignored. In fact, some of my tastiest meals have been created using the “dash and test” method. Throw in a dash of this, a dash of that and taste before adding in a dash of anything else. The recipe below was created thanks to a dreary Sunday afternoon, and a mix of the “dash and test” method and the “use what you have” method –another favorite recipe practice I utilize on a daily basis.  Using what I had in the refrigerator and Martha Stewart as a guide, I created a simple lentil soup creation. It’s all about what you like, so, if you want to add in a dash or two of another spice, go for it. Enjoy!


photo 3

 

Use What You Have Lentil Soup
Adapted From Martha Stewart
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Serves 8 – 10 (maybe more)

Ingredients
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 ½ cups chopped kale

½ cup of chopped broccoli

2-3 carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped (optional – I didn’t use celery in my version)

1 garlic clove, minced

Coarse salt and ground pepper – to taste

Crushed red pepper (just a dash)

Thyme (just a dash)

48 ounces low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1-2 cups cooked lentils (I recommend using Whole Foods 365 Every Day Value Green Lentils — They are about $2.99 and easy to cook)

2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

 

Lentil Soup

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, (celery), kale, broccoli and garlic; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add lentils and cook until soup thickens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper, thyme and crushed red pepper.

Don’t get discouraged if your recipe free for all is less than appetizing. Cooking without a recipe is an art. It takes imagination, creativity, practice, and you have to be willing to embrace the risk.

PS.  All of the ingredients used were purchased at Whole Foods Market. Organic is better!

 

The Best Mac and Cheese Ever

If you love Mac and Cheese you are going to love this recipe. I found it by way of Smitten Kitchen, a great food blog that provides kicked up comfort food recipes and decadent desserts. The recipe is originally from Martha Stewart, but a few things were adjusted to make it even more delicious.  I opted to forgo the breadcrumb topping and was not disappointed one bit.

Check out the recipe below, and a few teaser photos to tempt you into making it for dinner, or lunch. It’s so good you can probably even make it for breakfast! Enjoy!

MC

Martha Stewart’s Creamy Mac-and-Cheese
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics and Smitten Kitchen

Serves 12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces (optional)
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I didn’t have the exact measurements of cheese so I also added in about 1 1/2 cups of  Fontina and Gouda. Cheese makes everything better!)
1 pound elbow macaroni

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.

If you decide to go for the bread topping…

Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

Or just skip to this step…

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

MacandCheese
Just a note:
When I made this the first time it looked like soup, but it still turned out amazing.  The second time I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t run into the soup issue.  I made this ahead of time twice – prepared it without baking the day before, refrigerated it and then heated it up before the party. It’s a perfect make ahead dish and reheats awesome.

Easy Quinoa Salad

I have a new obsession with Quinoa [KEEN-wah]. Not only is it fun to say it is also really delicious and versatile.  This little grain-like super food is the perfect addition to any meal and an easy fix for a quick lunch or dinner.  My first attempt at quinoa was a simple veggie salad. I chopped up a cucumber, tomato, and yellow bell pepper and and sprinkled on some feta cheese, It was magical.  Check out the recipe below.

 

SimpleSalad

Super Simple Quinoa Salad

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of chicken broth to a boil.

Stir in 1 cup of quinoa.

Reduce heat to med low and cover.

Cook 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

Transfer to a large bowl and cool.

Stir in your favorite veggies – I used a cucumber, tomato and a bell pepper

Add cheese into cooled quinoa.

Drizzle with your favorite dressing

Mix and enjoy!

 

The Proper Way To Set A Table

Do dinner parties make you anxious? Have no fear, here is a simple cheat sheet to take the stress out of setting a table.  Keep it handy and consult this easy guide the next time you throw a party.

How to set a table{image source}

 

Just Add Water: Kodiak Cakes Review

PancakesKC{Kodiak Cakes: $4.99}

 

There was something intriguing about the brown box sitting on the shelve of aisle 7. Maybe it was the organic packaging or the big grisly bear staring me dead in the eyes. Whatever it was I grabbed the box and didn’t look back.

I found out about Kodiak Cakes from a blog called Livin with Landyn.  My sister-in-law knows the blogger from high school and I started reading her blog since she writes about two of my favorite things — fashion and food.  Thanks to a recent twitter post, Kodiak Cakes was on my radar.

I found the brand at Target and although there are a few other options to choose from that are a little less, Kodiak Cakes are worth the few extra dollars you will spend.  The pancakes tasted homemade and they were light and fluffy.

The directions were simple, just add water, and the results were amazing.  I added a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the mixture and cooked them until they were golden brown.  Topped with Kate’s Homemade butter and maple syrup, breakfast was complete in a little less than 15 minutes.

I highly recommend this brand if you are looking for an easy flapjacks fix.  You will not be disappointed!

Enjoy!

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Orange Ricotta Pancakes

I love breakfast! Especially pancakes. So whenever I have time to whip up a batch, I try to make them as delicious as possible.  From white chocolate chip, coconut, pecan, and pumpkin – You can pretty much throw whatever you want in the batter and create a mini flap-jack master piece. This weekend I tried something a little different.  Instead of the usual pancake batter, I used ricotta cheese.  I found the recipe on MarthaStewart.com and luckily I had all of the required ingredients on hand.  The result…Well, after getting a handle on the cooking process and tossing a few burned pancakes out, they were actually pretty good. With a total of seven ingredients, this is a must try if you have about 30 minutes to spend on breakfast.

OR Pancakes

Orange Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest (1 orange) – I used 1/4 teaspoon of orange flavoring
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • Confectioners’ sugar or maple syrup

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese, granulated sugar, eggs, and orange zest (or orange flavoring is you decided to go that route). Whisk in flour until just combined.

2. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Working in batches (and adding more oil to skillet as needed), add batter, using about 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until browned, 3-4 minutes or so per side. Transfer pancakes to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or drizzled with maple syrup. Enjoy!

Date Night at Dapar

Thanks to Groupon, my husband and I were introduced to a great new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Dapar is an Asian and Thai eatery that serves small plates in a trendy yet inviting atmosphere.  With a deal we just couldn’t pass up – three small plates and two drinks for $30, we headed to dinner with an open mind and empty stomachs.

DaparWe started our night with Strawberry Basil Lemonade (a must try) and proceeded with Chicken Satay, Kobe Beef Sliders, and Vegetarian Spring Rolls.  Out of the three, my favorite was the Kobe Beef Sliders.  The two sliders were served on a sticky rice bun and perfectly seasoned. At $14 without a coupon they are a must if you want to splurge.

The portions were great for sharing and enough food for two, but why stop with small plates when big plates are offered too.  We ordered an entrée, just because and we were glad we did.  With so many delicious things to choose from we opted for Mandarin Chicken, a savory dish of orange glazed chicken served with vegetables and rice.  Priced at $16, the main dish was really good and a great option if you are looking for something that is not too spicy and full of flavor.

Surprisingly, after all that food, we still had room for dessert. My husband is on a rice pudding craze so of course, he ordered the Jakarta Rice Pudding. An amazing concoction of Jasmine rice and creamy pudding topped with sliced bananas and sprinkled with cinnamon. Amazing!

Why you should go: Good food, great music, and delicious drinks!
What you should know: Complimentary valet parking, pricey without a coupon, and sharing is caring

Dapar
1620 N Federal Hwy
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305
(954) 306-2663

Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes, Oh My!

Remember when there was a shortage of canned pumpkin? It was a few years ago and the worst experience ever. Well, not ever.  But close to it.  Luckily this year, pumpkin is fully stocked at the grocery store and I happened to have a can on hand to whip up some delicious pumpkin pancakes. Paired perfectly with Santa’s White Christmas Coffee by Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company – Another commodity I thought was lost forever until I stumbled upon it while shopping at Wal-Mart. It’s delicious and I will bravely scour the aisles to score a bag.

The pancakes were easy to make and worth every second I spent following the recipe I found on marthastewart.com. 

So, without further ado….Here is the recipe, complete with tips and commentary.

 

Pumpkin Pancakes

whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – I used 1 cup white flour and 1/4 cup  whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar – No sugar, no problem! I added 2 tablespoons of agave nectar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
add a pinch of ground cloves

in a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk
6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg – make sure not to drop the egg….not a fun experience cleaning it off the tile floor

fold mixture into dry ingredients – for fluffy pancakes, avoid over stirring

feeling crazy? add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the mix

melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat
pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake
cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side
serve with butter and syrup
makes 8 to 10 pancakes

Enjoy! xoxo

Wedding Dress Code

I found this handy little etiquette guide while on Pinterest and thought you might like to take a look.   These simple rules will help you determine what is appropriate to wear and even help determine a dress code for your next event.  I see a “Creative Black Tie” affair in my future!

{image source}

Happy Planning! xoxo