Ashley’s Dynamite Minestrone Soup

Sorry for our apathetic approach toward blogging recently – we’ve been too busy eating lots of good food and getting too full to write.  We promise to update more often – but tonight I have a wonderful recipe I’d like to share.  Our good friend Ashley showed us how to make this last Sunday, and we enjoyed it so much that we had to repeat it tonight.

This is a good one for when you’re craving just a light dinner.  In today’s case it was Mother’s Day and I went out to Joan’s on Third with my parents for lunch (I had a half roast beef sandwich, mac and cheese, salad, and a piece of crown cake).  When dinner time came around, I felt myself not wanting something decadent, but light and healthy.  Here is Ashley’s tasty recipe for minestrone soup:

  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 2 cans seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots (sliced)
  • 2 large celery stalks (sliced)
  • 1 russet potato (chopped)
  • About a box and a half of chicken broth
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • Fresh basil leaves (chopped finely in food processor)
  • 1 small can of corn
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings to taste
  • 2 bay leaves

Start by chopping the onion and mincing the garlic.  Put a large pot on the stove and coat the bottom with olive oil.  Sauté onions in the pot until they become translucent, then add the minced garlic.  Slice the carrots, celery, and chop the peeled potato.  Throw the veggies into the pot as well, and top with salt and pepper.  Stir for a minute or two, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  Add in the tomatoes, corn, and kidney beans, then add the chicken stock.  Put about two handfuls of fresh basil into the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the basil to the soup, along with two bay leaves and some dried Italian seasonings.  

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on med-low until vegetables are fully cooked (could be about 45 minutes, so keep an eye on it).  Serve with freshly grated parmesan, and if desired, a dollop of sour cream and balsamic vinegar.  Yummy!

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Salmon with Lemon and Dill

So quick, so tasty, so easy.  That’s how I’d describe this yummy and healthy recipe and I think you’ll agree once you give it a shot.  Cassie brought this dish to my attention and we’ve revisited it several times since then.  So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Get yourself about a pound of salmon (no skin), one lemon, fresh dill, rice pilaf, asparagus, and a bottle of white wine.  As you’re boiling a pot of water for the rice pilaf, prepare the salmon on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  It’s as simple as this: drizzle the salmon with olive oil and season with a salt, pepper, and Old Bay combination.  Cut the lemon into thin slices and chop up some dill.  Sprinkle the dill on the salmon and place the lemon slices on top of the fish.  Last but not least, add a splash of white wine for that extra touch of class!  Tear one more large sheet of aluminum foil and cover the salmon and create a pouch by folding all the sides together.  

Now you’re going to do a similar thing with the asparagus.  Only this time, season them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil.  Repeat the aluminum foil pouch process and, voila, you’re ready to grill!  Over High heat, you’re going to leave the salmon on for 10 to 12 minutes and the asparagus should take about 8 minutes.  Regarding the rice pilaf, just follow the instructions on the side of the box.

When the food is ready, carefully remove the salmon and asparagus from the aluminum foil pouches and serve with the rice pilaf. I’d also recommend sipping on some of that leftover white wine, it will compliment this dish very well!

 

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Guinness-Meat-Cheese-Puff Pastry-Pie! Oh My!

Here’s an extraordinary entry for you ravenous foodies in search of something a bit different, and by different, I mean different in a ridiculously tasty way.  This recipe comes from one of our favorite Brits, Jamie Oliver (from his show “Jamie at Home”).  Behold, the one, the only, THE GUINNESS-MEAT-CHEESE-PUFF PASTRY-PIE!!!  GET IT IN YOUR BELLY!!!

You know you want it.  I’m looking at you, vegetarians.  So here’s the deal: let’s start with all necessary supplies to make this thing work.  Your grocery list will include the following:

  • 1 to 2 pounds of good old fashioned beef  (beef brisket or stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks)
  • 1 block of cheddar cheese
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • rosemary
  • frozen peas
  • 1 pint of Guinness 

Now that we’ve got what we need, let’s figure out how we’re going to make it work.  A little advice, this dish requires a bit of prep and cooking time, so I suggest making this a weekend treat when you have less to deal with (like that meeting with your lame boss or cruel dentist appointment).  To begin, slice the onion and saute in large pan with a sizable chunk of butter.  Once browned, add the garlic, mushrooms, two sprigs rosemary (chopped), carrots and celery, beef, and plenty of salt and pepper.  Let the beef brown a bit and then pour the pint of Guinness into the mixture.  Lastly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour and stir to thicken.

So far, so good.  For part 2 of this process, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees while transferring the above ingredients into an oven-safe dish (add 1 cup of water or beef broth to mixture to just cover the meat).  Bake in oven for 2 hours. Before the 2 hours are up, prep the puff pastry by defrosting for 40 minutes and grate about 4 handfuls of cheddar cheese.  At 2 hours, remove dish from oven and line a deep oven-safe bowl or casserole dish with the puff pastry.  Brush edges of dish with egg wash (1 egg beaten), and score the other sheet of pastry in cross-hashes and brush with egg wash.  Add about two handfuls of grated cheese to the mixture and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into the pastry-lined dish, and top with the other two handfuls of cheese.

Cover dish with the scored sheet of pastry and press the edges together – you’re then ready to pop it in the oven.  Bake the pie for 40 minutes and until the top begins to brown.  Remove from oven and serve with the cooked peas tossed with butter.  Dig in, enjoy, and thank us later.

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Library Alehouse, Santa Monica

One of my favorite places to go within the LA area when it comes to good beer and good food in an energetic atmosphere is Library Alehouse on Main Street, Santa Monica.  We discovered this small yet stylish restaurant and pub about a year ago, and we have witnessed the crowds grow in numbers, flocking to the unique beers, quality food, and laid back (but active) environment.  The Library boasts 29 beers on draft, along with a wine list and a menu ripe with California-style pub food.

We were happy to stop in on Friday night before hitting the bowling lanes nearby, ordering a pitcher of North Coast’s PranQster golden ale for the table.  I got an order of the buffalo wings – the best in town in my opinion.  They serve them drums-only with ample amounts of celery and carrot sticks with a chunky bleu cheese dressing – delicious!  Fletch ordered the alehouse burger (medium rare), with sauteed onions and cheddar cheese.  You have multiple choices for building your burger (i.e. cheeses or meats), so you can be sure to quench your burger craving.  Dana got the Cajun chicken sandwich, which she also claimed was very good.  Honestly, I’ve never had anything here I didn’t like, but it’s tough to break away from either the wings or the burgers which are absolutely mouthwatering.

Go here to check out their website and get yourself excited to experience Library’s glory for yourself.

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Beyond Los Angeles: Santa Fe

 

Hello everyone, 

For those of you who have not treated themselves to a trip to the Southwest, I recommend making time and enjoying a three day weekend in this marvelous city. I travelled there with a friend of mine who is a similar food fanatic and we prepped ourselves for a weekend of overindulgence. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the great places to eat and drink in beautiful Santa Fe, NM! 

Friendly Neighborhood Donkey

RAMADA INN – ALBUQUERQUE (admittedly, not Santa Fe)

Nothing fancy about this place, but they had a continental breakfast that included a chafing dish full of hundreds of cocktail meatballs and a tub of picante sauce. Most bizarre breakfast? Perhaps. 

SANTA FE MOTEL & INN

Firstly, this is a very reasonable place to stay. For about $120 a night, this place includes colorful, fun rooms in addition to a giant menu binder in the lobby and a great continental breakfast. They have a spread that includes breakfast burritos, organic oatmeal with similarly organic maple syrup, bread fresh from the Sage Bakery across the street, and a variety of fruit. I don’t know about everyone else, but I can eat at least a $50 value…. 

KOHNAMI SUSHI RESTAURANT – Friday Dinner Stop #1

Having already planned to eat several times that evening, our first stop was for something lighter. Or at least lighter-ish. The fish here was very fresh, the prices reasonable, and we particularly enjoyed the Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll which consisted of spicy tuna, avocado and cream cheese. 

DEL CHARRO SALOON – Friday Dinner Stop #2 (…and Saturday)

Although the nachos are so good we went back two days in a row, the real draw for this place is the house margarita. For $6 you get an entire SHAKER of this delicious blend. 

COWGIRL – Friday Bar Stop 

After being in the bar for under 2 minutes, I met someone from my home county and got bought a shot by a local for “looking nice.” Made friends with another local, and then another – this city is ripe for socializing. 

ATOMIC CAFE – Friday Dinner Stop #3

One of our new local friends took us to this late night eatery where she enjoyed the fish tacos and we split a pizza. Decent after hours snacks. 

FIVE AND DIME – Daytime Snack Stop

Frito pie. Apparently a Santa Fe classic. Here’s the recipe: you cut open a bag of Fritos, fill with beef chili, throw on some cheese and eat it… out of the bag. It was good, I think, although that may take some heavy justification.

LA FONDA – Saturday Lunch

New. Mexican. Buffet. We practically injured ourselves sampling everything from this amazing spread, my personal favorite being the soups. This place also has the best margarita out of the ones I tasted.

Burro Alley in Santa Fe, NM

 

CAFE PARIS – Sunday “Brunch Dessert”

This cafe felt like something out of the movies. We enjoyed some white wine (they also offer champagne and a good sized wine list), creme brulée and a fruit tart. It has lovely murals on the wall as well as an outside patio. The proprietress was very very nice, and I would recommend this place to anyone. It is located on Burro Alley (above). 

So buy a cheap Southwest Airlines ticket and head over already! There’s eating to be done! 

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Seared Ahi Tuna

Sometimes I like my fish grilled, and other times I like my fish raw.  Well, this recipe gives me the best of both worlds while also keeping it very easy.  Let’s start at the store where we want to find a sushi-grade cut of Ahi Tuna, so avoid the packaged stuff and head straight for the seafood counter.  The ideal cut will be bright pink throughout and should not have dark spots.  With fresh fish in hand, grab your salad of choice, some white rice, and head on home to get this rockin’ dinner started.

Get your rice going (consult a dummies manual if you don’t know how) and season the Tuna with seasame oil, salt, pepper, and Old Bay (this stuff is a personal favorite when it comes to seafood).  Now that the rice is cooking and the grill is up to High, it’s searing time!  Toss it on and grill about 2-3 minutes per side.  I don’t close the lid – that way I can keep a close eye on things.  The center of the fish should still be rare and the sides should be brown when it’s ready.

Presentation of this dish is a breeze.  Just slice the tuna into small pieces and serve over a bed of rice and the salad you chose at the store.  I suggest using an Asian vinaigrette dressing for the salad because it will pair well with the fish.  I hope you’ll give this one a shot and feel free to drop us a comment when you get around to it.  We like comments!

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Italian Baked Chicken Pastina

chicken pastina

In true foodie form, I absolutely love the Food Network.  We first saw this recipe together while watching Giada’s show on demand late one night.  This baked pasta dish looked so amazing that we had to try it out the next day.  The pastina was such a success that we have made it a regular meal in our dinner rotation.  Click here to see its page on the Food Network website, but I will give the recipe below as well:

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

 

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

 

I love this recipe because it’s delicious, comforting, and a crowd pleaser.  If you’re only cooking for one, two, or three, you will definitely have leftovers, which heat up great for lunch the next day.  I encourage you to make this heavenly pasta and enjoy – you will not be disappointed.

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