Beef Minestrone

It should not be a surprise to any of you that I like soup.  It’s probably the most common dish that I post on here.  I love soup because there’s so much you can do with it.  You can have a really healthy soup with kale, some beans, and squeeze of lemon.  Or you can be a little bad and have a cream of chicken with heavy cream and a fistful of cheddar.

This soup is somewhere in the middle.  I typically try to stay away from beef because of its effect on heart health, but it works so perfectly in this soup.  I like the beef being ground as opposed to chunks.  You end up getting a bit in every spoonful, which is how I like it!

IMG_0654

Like most soups this one gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator.  So, make up a big pot on the weekend and enjoy delicious lunches and dinners for the rest of the week!

Beef Minestrone

IMG_0655

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces lean ground beef

1 cans of diced tomatoes, with juices

1 quart beef broth

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

salt/pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the ground beef, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the meat is browned and the onion translucent, 8-10 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with juices, broth, and chickpeas.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Source:  Giada’s Family Dinners

Parmesan-Rosemary Breadsticks

Ladies, this post is for you.  Any men reading, well, things are about to get moderately awkward.  You’ve been warned.

There is nothing I hate more than my time of the month.  Really.  I would take a lifetime of finals, a world without coffee, and television that only played Cake Boss every hour of the day if it meant that I would never have to lay in bed at night, clutching at my stomach because it feels like something is trying to claw its way out of my uterus.

I always get testy when men make light of the situation.  My dad does it sometimes when I’m home and I just want to yell – YOU DON’T KNOW MY WOMANLY PAIN.  I actually do worse than that.  My dad is a doctor so I consider it completely acceptable to respond with overly medically graphic responses.  It’s especially fun when my brother is there and has the sort of traumatized look on his face that I can only imagine my kids will wear when they get their first birds and bees talk.

Anyhoo, the only good thing about all of this is that in my four to five days of pain I feel completely justified in eating whatever the hell I want. I follow my cravings like they are commandments from the big man upstairs.  Popcorn and wine for dinner?  Well, certainly.  An entire cake at 3:00 in the afternoon?  You do you.

Whatever it is – it’s usually a carb.  Because when it’s my time I’m like Buddy The Elf with my food groups.

3rwe3v

Except mine are:  carbs with cheese, carbs with frosting, carbs with chocolate, and carbs with carbs.  ALL THE CARBS.  Like these parmesan bread sticks.  They’re so easy that you can even make them while clutching your stomach, swearing loudly at a number of deities because there should be more than just one to blame for what is happening to your body.  I think they clock in at about fifteen minutes.  Score!

Parmesan-Rosemary Breadsticks

IMG_0650

Ingredients:

1 tube of breadstick dough

1 sprig of rosemary, chopped finely

1/4 parmesan

salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or whatever your breadstick dough tube says).

Rip the breadsticks apart and twist them.  Lay them on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  In a small bowl, mix together the chopped rosemary, parmesan, and salt.  Sprinkle over the breadstick dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the specifics for your breadstick dough.

Enjoy!

Source:  Slightly adapted from Everyday Italian

Winter Minestrone

Yesterday was one of those days where it felt like everything was going wrong, and – hey, guess what – everything totally was.  Really.  It started out with me waking up ridiculously early with a nosebleed, which apparently is what happens when you don’t use that humidifier you bought at Target a month back, and then I couldn’t fall back asleep.  I swear my body was in some sort of crazy survival mode from seeing all the blood.

anigif_enhanced-20598-1415811492-1

That survival mode actually kept me pretty wired until around three o’clock when I had a serious crash moment in the clinic office.  Thankfully, I had a box of instant hot chocolate with me – for emergencies and mid-day munchies, of course – and the sugar perked me right up.

It seemed like the day was getting better.  Class went by quickly.  I had an in depth chat with a class friend dissecting the previous week’s The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Freak Show.  Even the walk to my car in the frigid-suddenly-under-thirty-degree-weather that rudely hit Champaign this week didn’t seem that bad.

anigif_enhanced-12217-1415828987-33

And then I started making this soup and the terrible, awful, not good day showed me who was in charge.  In the span of thirty seconds I knocked my blender into a full glass of wine – shattering the glass and getting Three Wishes cabernet everywhere – and sliced my thumb open.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-20292-1415857587-4

There were a lot of swear words.  A lot of used paper towels.  And a whole lot of me wishing I hadn’t decided to get into my wine while cooking.  Miraculously, even with the wine and glass everywhere, I did manage to still successfully make this soup.  Granted, I accidentally left half of it out in a tupperware on my counter all night (SEE, THE WORST DAY EVERRRR) but I can still eat the other half!  So, minor success!

Let’s talk soup.  I love this one.  It takes your average minestrone and spins it on its head.  Make sure you use the rosemary in this.  I’m the first one to nix fresh herbs in recipes because I’m cheap and often choose the new issue of In Style over a package of fresh anything, but the rosemary completely changes this soup.  The warm flavor permeates the entire thing.  I mean, if you really didn’t want to use it you don’t have to but…just don’t tell me.

Winter Minestrone

IMG_0657

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 lb kale, de-stemmed and chopped

1 russet potato, peeled and diced

1 can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 quart beef broth

2 sprigs rosemary

salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onion has softened, 10 minutes.  Add the kale and potato, cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the diced tomatoes and cook until the potato has softened and kale cooks down, around 10 minutes.

In a blender, mix together 3/4 cup of beans and 1/4 cup of broth.  Add the bean mixture, remaining beans, remaining broth, and rosemary in the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cooking for roughly fifteen minutes.

Serve with some crusty bread and parmesan!

Source:  Slightly adapted from Giada’s Weeknight Meals

Gilmore Girls Weekend

My favorite type of friends are the ones that you can just sit on the couch for hours and watch TV with and you’re both perfectly content.  I had this friend growing up who constantly wanted to be doing things and it was exhausting!  I remember thinking – can we just sit and watch some Rugrats for a little?  I am very fortunate to have several close friends who share my affinity for the couch and good television.  One of them – the delightful Chrissy – visited me this weekend and we embarked on an absolutely epic Gilmore Girls weekend.

Admittedly, we didn’t spend the ENTIRE weekend on the couch.  Although, I sort of think we both would have been cool with that.  We started off at a local bar called Firehaus that has possibly my favorite food ever.  Let me introduce you all to the wonder known as Firehaus fries.

IMG_0280

You start with some perfectly cooked fries.  Then, you add melted cheese, scallions, bacon, and the perfect amount of ranch drizzled on top.  If you aren’t thinking HOLY YUM you probably should just leave my blog right now.

IMG_0278

 

For the sake of our friendship, it’s a good thing Chrissy liked them.

The next day I was determined to show her that my town is not absolutely boring – which, admittedly, it sort of is.  So, I pulled out all the stops, beginning with perhaps my favorite place in Champaign-Urbana: Curtis Orchard.  Chrissy and I both agreed that this was the sort of place there would be in Stars Hollow (the Gilmore Girls town) and we ALSO agreed it made it about a hundred times better.  Curtis Orchard is Wizard of Oz themed, and just about the cutest place on this planet.

IMG_0284

 

Follow the yellow brick road!

IMG_0285

Thank goodness it’s a COOL bus.  That was a close call.

IMG_0288

Bye bye, Lil Sebastian.  Miss you in the saddest fashion.

IMG_0283

After Curtis Orchard, we did some outlet mall shopping.  I wish I took a picture of the outlet mall because it’s set up to look like the cutest little shopping town.  It was my first time there – despite living in the C-U for two years – and I am pretty much horrified.  I will be going back many, many times in my last few months here.

IMG_0290

 

This happened at American Eagle and I could not have been happier.

It was a successful outing for both of us.  I bought some JCrew stuff and then two overpriced candles from Bath & Body Works because I’m actually an 80 year old woman.  They were buy one get one free, though!  You’d be crazy to pass that up!  Now my apartment smells like Christmas and I’m only half certain it’s the reason my allergies are going bananas.

To complete the Gilmore Girls weekend, it was only proper that there was an actual Gilmore Girls viewing party.  Saturday night was filled with copious episodes of GG, too much pizza, chips, and a bag of candy that I might have accidentally melted under my laptop the next day.

IMG_0294

All in all, I have to say that the weekend was perfect.  In the ramping up before finals it was nice to see an old friend and to be reminded that there is a world outside of law school.  Yes, it did result in what feels like a two day sugar-hangover, but it was worth it.  So worth it.

Cocoa-Coconut Chili

Have you ever had someone in your life that you just irrationally disliked?  There’s no true reason or you-are-damned-forever-moment that made you look at the person one day and think, “We are never, ever, ever going to be friends.”  Yet the sentiment is there all the same.  I used to think it was okay to have one of each gender.  I rationalized it as, hey, everyone’s entitled to dislike two people in the entire world for whatever reasons – or no reasons – they want.  It’s not like the person knows you don’t like them.  I’m never outwardly rude to anyone, even if they’re not on my buddy list.  What’s the real harm?

Of course, all of this is incredibly stupid.  And incredibly wrong.  In law school, I had these people I wrote off for ridiculous reasons.  Sometimes it was my own hangups, other times it was the people around me.  I decided one day that I didn’t like them and that was it.  Story over.  Start the next one so I can find someone else to needlessly dislike.

The final year of law school is very strange.  You’ve been with the same crop of people for three years and you all sort of share this weird weathered feeling of, we made it, man.  Because no one else really understands what you’ve gone through or how much work, time, and spent highlighters you’ve put in.  This year I took a look at those people that I’d written off from the moment I met them and realized I’d never actually gotten to know them in the first place.  And when I did, they weren’t half bad.  Are we best friends?  Absolutely not.  But when you take the time to actually talk to people and hear their stories you realize that everyone has something you can like.  You just need to be willing to look.

As I move into November, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m thankful for.  Down here at school my friends top the list, and not only my close ones.  Sometimes when you’re having a crappy day all you need is a smile or hello from someone to start turning the day around.  When you don’t shut yourself off from people needlessly, there are a lot more of those smiles and hellos to go around.  And, who knows, your smile or hello could turn that person’s day around, too.

So, now that I got that little ramble off my chest it’s time for a recipe!  Because, as I remind you after every rambling post not even hinting at food, this is a food blog.  Which requires food to be somewhere on the page.  Today I bring you one of my absolute favorite things I’ve made as of late.  I’ve been trying to make a soup a week because they’re usually pretty healthy (I stay away from cream based soups) and inexpensive.  One of my favorites to make is chili.  I love how hearty and satisfying a bowl of chili is.  It truly is the ultimate comfort food.

This bowl of chili pretty much turns the definition of chili on its head.  There’s no meat.  A pretty meager chili spice blend.  And coconut.  A lot of coconut.

I was a bit leery to try this – as were my parents when I told them about it over the phone – but it’s a winner.  The unexpected flavors play off of each other beautifully, and just like all chills and soups, it gets EVEN BETTER the longer it sits in your refrigerator.

Cocoa-Coconut Chili

2014-10-29 23.00.00

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups onion, diced

1 1/2 cups celery, diced

1/2 cup red pepper, diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp sea salt

dash of pepper

2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

3 tbsp dutch-processed cocoa powder (or just Hershey’s if you’re cheap like me)

2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes

3 cans chick peas (or whatever bean you prefer)

1 can lite coconut milk

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tsp chipotle hot sauce

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1-2 fresh limes, cut in wedges

pepitas, for garnish

Directions

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon and all spice and stir to combine.  Cook and cover for 7-9 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.  Add the cocoa powder, stir, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the tomatoes, beans, coconut shreds, coconut milk, and stir to combine.  Increase heat to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, letting it cook for 25-30 minutes.  Stir in the frozen corn kernels and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the corn is cooked through.  Season with salt, pepper, and chipotle sauce if desired.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with the pepitas and a squeeze of lime.

Source:  Slightly adapted from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

This post should really be called “That Time I Tried To Peel a Butternut Squash and Nearly Chopped Several Fingers Off.”  Actually, that’s a bit wordy.  I like what I went with.

Really, though, I could not figure out a good way to peel the squash.  First I tried using an actual peeler, but I kept nearly peeling my finger.  Then I tried to cut it off and kept slicing off the nice squash flesh.  I did end up going the knife route, but really focused on slicing as thinly as I could.  I still lost some squash, but my fingers are intact and that seems like the more important of the two.

2014-10-29 23.03.15

Especially since I made this before Halloween and my costume required all ten fingers!  I love Halloween and went so far as to buy my costume all the way in the beginning of September.  Admittedly, it was part excitement and a LARGE part costumes-are-cheap-two-months-out.  I think I got mine for something like 25 or 30 percent off.  In case you didn’t already skip to the photo below I went as Mary Poppins.  I had a little medicine bottle, spoon, and her trademark umbrella.  Plus, the costume, of course!  I hated the Blossom hat it came with, but wore it anyway.  Looking at this photo, I think I made the right choice.

IMG_2236

I’m sad Halloween is over but now I get to enter my favorite season of the year!!  I’m even MORE EXCITED this year because I found out that my family is hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.  Usually we would go to both of my grandparents’ houses in one day and be more stuffed than the turkey.  I’m so excited we’re doing things differently this year.  I already told my mom that I will be making all the sides, because sides are obviously the best part of a meal and cooking a turkey scares the bejeezus out of me.  I probably will make this butternut squash for Thanksgiving because it’s delicious.  I already love butternut squash, but then when you add maple syrup and sea salt it is practically impossible to stop eating.  Added bonus, it’s a total cinch to make!

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

2014-10-29 23.02.55

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped

Olive oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare a baking dish with parchment paper.  Spread the squash out on the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt and toss.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Drizzle with the maple syrup, toss, and bake for another 2-3 minutes.  Serve warm.

2014-10-29 23.02.41