sausage-kale-and-sweet-potato-soup

Today is kind of a lame day. It’s Wednesday, for one (right smack dab in the middle of the week with no real purpose, IMO). It’s the day after Halloween and I ate too much candy, have too much candy left, so will continue to eat too much candy in the coming days. And my parents just left! So sad. My mom was in town helping/visiting for a few days (I say helping because that’s really what she does – she is so so so helpful and really so remarkably gifted with kids), and my dad surprised me by flying in on Monday in one of the cutest and most touching moves I’ve experienced in a long time. I came home from a facial (where – side note – a “light/natural” peel removed about 70% of the skin on my cheek) – and my dad was playing with the boys in the back yard. It was so sweet and so appreciated – and much needed. I got a break from diapers, baths, and twins for 5 wholes days. But now it’s over and now I’m sad about it. Anyway.

I honestly never thought my life would come down to putting kale in my soup. I resisted the crunchy/somewhat bitter vegetable for years, slowly welcoming it into my salads with the perfectly sweet dressing combination. But here we are, in 2017, and I’m putting it in my soup. Have I become a complete caricature of myself?

I mulled this over, and decided the answer is no. I’ve always liked eating healthy, and I 157% promise you that the kale in this soup ADDS to the flavor and is not just thrown in there for all the good stuff that it offers and so that I can say “I put kale in my soup”. It’s cooked down but still offers a nice texture combination with the sausage and sweet potato, and the kale-flavor is a perfect contrast with the sweet sausage and sweet potato. Plus, it’s pretty! Honestly this soup is so flavorful, hearty, healthy, delicious, comforting…all the good things. You can trust me on this one…at least until I start putting kale in my smoothies. Then I would take me with a grain of salt.

Recipe (4)

  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, or 1 teaspoon minced from jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 5-6 cup full sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 to 1 bunch kale, chopped

Start by browning the sausage over medium heat. Drain a little fat if you want (mine was pretty lean so I didn’t have to). Add in the onion, celery, garlic, and S&P to cook, about 5 minutes. If sausage is super lean, add a little olive oil.  Deglaze the pan with white wine and let cook down a minute or two. Stir in the chopped sweet potato, then add the chicken broth. I use full sodium when making soups, because soup should be salty and I don’t like salting it on my own because then I always over salt. But obviously if you have an aversion to salty food, you can use reduced sodium broth. Bring the soup to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add in the chopped kale (I didn’t use quite the whole bunch), cover and simmer until wilted – about 10-15 minutes. Voila! Easy, healthy, flavorful Fall soup.

Sweet Potato Nachos

sweet-potato-nachos

As one of my kids is still screaming his lungs out from a VERY adverse reaction to the chicken pox vaccine (he’s been a sad sack for about 24 hours now and no one has slept) – I was thinking about how amazing vaccines are. I mean, chicken pox sucked. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt more miserable? And the consequences are everlasting. I still have a huge scar right smack dab in the middle of my forehead and I’m sure I have a few others too. The fact that our kids won’t get that – is amazing. The medical world is a fascinating one, and how cool and fulfilling it must be for the people that are a part of it.  As a current stay at home mom, sometimes I struggle with leaving my former career-self behind, and wonder if I should be out curing cancer instead. Really making an impact. Of course given that I majored in aerospace engineering and worked in defense for 12 years I’m not sure how qualified I would be to cure cancer, but it sure sounds awesome. If I re-entered the world as a medical professional I would work hard at curing cancer and developing a genetic modification so that people can eat only donuts, pizza and wine and never change jeans sizes.

So this recipe was alllllllll my sister Ingri. Speaking of meaningful, she’s an FBI agent that fights crimes against children.  Definitely meaningful and a job that most of us couldn’t do! But she was over for football a couple weekends ago and threw these sweet potato nachos down out of nowhere. OH MAN. These are soooo good. And while I’m still a sucker for the mile-high version with tons of crap on them, these are a healthier, more interesting, yet definitely indulgent variation.  Make them for your favorite friends this weekend. And don’t worry about measurements, us as much or as little toppings as you want.

Recipe

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • S&P
  • butter or olive oil
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1-3 heaping spoonfuls light sour cream
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced and seeded
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 diced jalapeno, sauteed
  • Cheddar Jack shredded cheese blend

Slice potatoes into thin rounds. Lay on greased baking sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with butter or olive oil and season with S&P.  Bake at 400 for about 24 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through, after about 12 min. Bake until slightly crispy.  Take potatoes out of the oven.  Mix the salsa with the sour cream (to taste), then drizzle a little over each of the potato slices (I think we used a little over half – the rest you’ll reserve for serving).  Top with some cheese, black beans and sauteed jalapenos. Return to oven for another 8-10 minutes or so, when cheese is melted. Top with avocado, tomatoes, and a little bit more cheese. Return to oven to melt the cheese, then remove.  Serve immediately, cutting apart if necessary and serving with tortilla chips (optional, but gives an awesome crunch!)

Slow Cooked Green Beans

slow-cooked-green-beans

I can’t be alone here. There has got to be others out there that were sadly disappointed when the ‘fresh’ green bean trend hit the waves. The crunch, the bitter flavor, the waxy skin – none of it even closely resembles the delicious canned version. Anyone with me? And by the way, ‘fresh’ green beans could have always been a thing, but they weren’t in Wausau, WI.  We ate a lot of canned green beans and we loved them. But maybe it was the small town, maybe it was the long cold winter, or maybe it was because my mom had 4 kids all 2 years apart.  We didn’t get fresh green beans until much later in life (my mom was an AWESOME cook, PS).

But one day she came home with fresh green beans, and after faking it for nearly 20 years, I am coming out now. I don’t like them. I like the salty, soft, forest green canned version. I don’t care if ‘some of the nutrients’ are lost in the canning process or if I’m going to die from the amount of sodium they put in there – I LOVE THEM.

But, because I’ve been faking liking the canned version for a very long time – some habits are hard to shake. I was at Trader Joe’s last week, and I bought them. They were pre-washed, pre-cut, pre-everything. Ready to cook. Seemed easy and healthy. And by the way – my husband has told me for years that he doesn’t really like green beans. So basically I was forcing all of society’s green bean ideals on us for dinner that night.

But, (third paragraph starting with but)…but, something happened by accident that day and I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out. If you SLOW COOK the green beans, in something salty like chicken broth….for like 1.5 hours….they taste JUST LIKE the canned version, but BETTER. They are salty, soft, melt-in-your-mouth, and that dark green color that we all know and love. And yet you can taste an element of freshness that elevates the flavor. My husband loved. I loved. The twins loved. They’re the easiest side dish of all time. You guys, I’m making these weekly.  And definitely using them in the green bean casserole for Thanksgiving.

Recipe

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used a mid-sodium broth, like 550mg/cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons light butter spread
  • Fresh lemon and parmesan to top (optional)

In a large pot combine beans, broth, water, S&P (you will need more salt if you use a very low sodium broth).  Cover and cook over medium/low on a low simmer for about 1.5 hours.  Drain. Toss with butter, fresh lemon, and parmesan if using. But definitely don’t skip the butter.

Candy Corn Layered Brownies

candy-corn-layered-brownies

I would like to know why Fall weather is being so elusive this year. I know it’s not just picking on Texas, because my dad just went for a swim in our lake in Northern Wisconsin. Like really northern. And I just went for a walk around the block and I’m sweating. I HATE sweating after I’ve already worked out and showered. Anyone else? Showering twice a day is just not something I have the time or patience for. I don’t even need for it to be cool; I just want it to be NOT HOT. Please, Mother Nature. I’m asking you, mother to mother.

So despite the hot weather, Halloween is coming whether we like it or not. And I really like Halloween, in it’s kind of tacky/creepy way. Plus, it’s the only time of year that we get to eat candy corn (why, by the way?). And when I was brainstorming all the ways I could eat candy corn, I decided to melt them and create a very special layer in my very fudgy brownie. AWESOME. And, pretty! Perfect dessert for a Hallow’s Eve party.

Recipe

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups candy corn

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8×10 (or something similar) pan.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter- about 30-60 seconds.  Pour into a standing mixer bowl, and beat in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and soda.  Slowly mix in the cocoa powder and flour.  Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan (you’ll want to do this before melting the candy corn, because otherwise it gets hard to deal with as it hardens).  Melt the candy corn in a bowl for about 45 seconds, stirring to smooth. Using a rubber spatula, spread the candy corn over the brownie batter. Top with remaining brownie batter. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Crunchy Green Salad

crunchy-green-salad

 Today will forever be ingrained in my head as one of the most embarrassing ever for me. It will be a day I won’t forget until the end of time, a day that will stick with me for a number of reasons, but mostly because..today is the day the salad bar lady at Eatzi’s made me cry. Like uncontrollable, ugly crying where your head tells you to stop but your face just won’t do it. The tears were flowing and my face was pinched. And I need to put this out there- I’m really not a huge crier. I mean of course I cry, but generally my reaction to things that set me off is anger and retaliation (wonderful traits in a person, I know), not heaps of emotion and sadness. But today was different, I don’t know why, and it’s going to take me a while to recover. I wish I had some super dramatic story to tell you, but the short of it is: I waited for 15 minutes in the DELICIOUS MOST AMAZING salad bar line at Eatzi’s – a rarity these days because walking around there with a double stroller is awkward and taxing- made the most perfect salad that I was going to eat tonight for dinner, and just as the lady handed it to me, one of my twins knocked it out of my hand and onto the floor (name protected because he is a minor) . They’re screaming, they want to leave, I look at the line and it’s now 20 people deep, and I meagerly asked the lady if she wouldn’t mind just adding a little lettuce and chicken into my bowl. Nope, she said, “there’s a line behind you if you haven’t noticed”. Well, I did notice and I certainly wasn’t trying to cut in line, but I was a little overwhelmed and I wanted that damn salad. I had worked hard for it. Or at least something to eat with their lemon vinaigrette (it’s the best if you’ve never tried it). I was pretty sad but ok until I put my bowl in the trash and was walking out the door and another older mom- the kindest woman- came up to me, hugged me, and said that was so horrible and that I was doing a wonderful job (I mean, she doesn’t really know if I’m doing a wonderful job, she probably didn’t know I was an hour late feeding the twins’ lunch because I was at Eatzi’s getting a salad, but..). It was so nice! Nice people make me cry. (So does losing my lunch). Anyway, tears started flowing, then the manager Dave got involved, and now I’m home and Dave and Eli the other manager are bringing me my favorite Eatzi’s dinner tonight (the 3 of us really bonded). So unnecessary, but so generous, and a reminder to always be nice to people. It can make or break their day. 

Anyway, I’m not eating this crunchy green salad tonight because tonight I am eating the rotisserie chicken family meal with mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower. But I make it for lunch a lot, and probably even more going forward because I don’t think I’ll be showing my face in the Eatzi’s salad line anytime soon. 

Recipe

  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 ripe pear
  • feta cheese
  • sunflower seeds
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • S&P

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together- rice vinegar, oils, water, soy sauce, Dijon, honey, lime and S&P. Chop the kale (double the dressing recipe if using the whole bunch), and toss in the salad dressing. Let sit for at least 20-30 min (kale tastes better when marinated a bit, IMO).  Divide into two large bowls, and top with desired amount of chopped pear, avocado, feta, and sunflower seeds. 

Healthy Creamy Spinach Soup

healthy-creamy-spinach-soup

I really love my weekends. I’m sure you’re thinking duh, everyone does! But I reeeeeally indulge on my weekends. I eat great food, drink (lots of) great drinks, and there’s usually a few DQ blizzards or donut ice cream sandwiches sprinkled in there too. I love it. I love food. I love wine. But when Monday rolls around, I need to reverse some of the damage I’ve done over the past 72 hours. And actually, I like that too. I like eating healthy, fresh, and relatively light during the week.  And last year, right after we had the boys, my mother in law brought over a couple containers of spinach soup for me to freeze and eat when I had a free hand. I kept it in there for quite a while because I never thought I was ‘craving’ spinach soup…but when I finally tried it I was blown away by how delicious and satisfying it was. I asked her for the recipe, but because she didn’t have exact measurements this is only loosely based on hers. I wanted to keep mine relatively clean and light, But you could add more cream, more butter, more corn starch to thicken. Or you could add less milk and less butter if you wanted it even cleaner. I also did a high spinach to liquid ratio, because I wanted it to pack a strong spinach punch. But you could add up to 2 more cups of liquid to dilute a little more. Basically, this is a very easy soup to make and you can freeze the leftovers for a rainy day.

Recipe

  • 16 oz spinach, stems mostly removed
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups full sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/3 cup water (optional)
  • Topping ideas: parmesan, croutons, feta, sour cream, store bought stuffing

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup pot, and toss in the onions and celery.  Cook for several minutes, then add in the butter to melt.  When onions are cooked, throw in the spinach and 1/2 cup water. Stir, then cover and cook until wilted (only about 5 min). Side note- removing the stems from the spinach isn’t nearly as annoying or time consuming as I thought it would be. Just tear as many off as you get to, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. You could also use a package of frozen spinach instead. When spinach is wilted and tender, transfer everything to a food processor and puree. Pour it back into the soup pot, then add in the chicken broth, whole milk, kosher salt, pepper, and thyme (if using). Stir to combine and allow to heat.  For a thicker soup, whisk together 3 tablespoons of corn starch with about 1/3 cup water. Add it to the soup and bring to a low simmer to thicken. Serve plain, or top with cheese, croutons, or sour cream.

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