Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Here in Kentucky we are used to mild winters.  By mild I mean we usually get one or two good snowfalls each winter and if we're lucky it's just enough snow for the kiddos to play in.  We have some cold days, but we hardly ever experience subzero temps.  This winter is a different animal altogether and wow....we are not prepared for it here.  At all!

The kids have been out of school for twelve days since they started back in January.  Last week they had a snow day every single day! Yes, no school all week long!  After you spend ten or twelve days trapped in the house things begin to go downhill.  At a rapid pace. Expect to find your children barking at the wall and talking back to you like it's their job.  Seriously.  At one point my preteen daughter answered back "No, I will not comb my hair because I'm Miley Cyrus and I do what I want." This is real life.  

Now I don't know about you, but being snowed in calls for comfort food and lots of it. I had so much fun planning belly-warming-feel-good meals. I roasted a chicken, made a pot roast, tried my hand at chicken and dumplings from scratch, and also made this Beef and Cannellini Bean soup.  Let me tell you...dinner time was great!  Everyone was so busy eating and cleaning their bowls that things became rather peaceful.  Those few minutes in the middle of a hectic day were a real saving grace.   

We really enjoyed this hearty beefed up version of minestrone.  My family requested I add some pasta to the recipe and I think it was a great addition. However, I'm sure this would be really tasty as written, even without the pasta. This is a simple recipe but the flavor is really terrific. I loved topping mine with lots of Parmesan cheese. 

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone
Recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis
Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 rib celery, trimmed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
About 1-1/2 cups pasta*
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

*Note: I added about 1-1/2 cups pasta shells to the recipe because adding pasta is always a good idea (you may wish to add a little extra beef broth or water to the soup if adding pasta as it tends to thicken up a little more)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the ground beef and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 30 minutes (if you're adding pasta go ahead and add it about 20 minutes into the cooking.  The pasta only needs about ten minutes to cook in the soup). Remove the bay leaf and discard. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Salmon and Chive Parcels

These little parcels are so much fun to make and eat.  I love that they come together with five simple ingredients: salmon, chives, rice paper, canola oil, and soy sauce.  On top of being so much fun to make and eat, they come together quickly and easily, and are extremely delicious.  

The rice paper turns all golden resulting in a crispy crunchy crust and the flavor from the chives marries perfectly with the salmon and soy sauce.  We pretty much inhaled these.  I would encourage all salmon lovers to try this recipe.  I know I will be making these again and again.

Salmon & Chive Parcels
Adapted from
Makes 6
2 average sized filets of salmon, skin off and pin-boned
6 rice paper rounds
1 bunch chives, chopped
vegetable oil, for shallow frying
½ cup soy sauce, to serve 
sprinkle of red pepper flakes, to serve
addition chives, for garnish

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Banana and Peanut Butter Bread

I love trying different versions of banana bread.  As proof I've tried this one, Tessa Kiros' Banana Bread which is heavy on brown sugar and easily my favorite recipe for banana bread.  I've made the old standby banana bread from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and topped it with a delicious cream cheese glaze, which is a really tasty variation.  I've also tried a Jacked-Up Banana Bread with bourbon added to batter and that was equally tasty. 

The constant debate when it comes to banana bread is whether or not to add nuts.  I prefer my banana bread without nuts (just because I like a smooth texture with no interference), but my husband prefers his banana bread with nuts.  When I came across this recipe for Banana and Peanut Butter Bread I thought it might be a good compromise.  A banana bread with a nutty flavor but still smooth in consistency without the interference of biting into a nut. 

The final result was a tasty banana bread with the subtle hint of peanut butter.  My husband absolutely loved it and declared it one of the best banana breads I've ever made.  I guess this makes sense since he is a fan of nuts in his baked goods.  I enjoyed this bread and I liked the peanut butter flavor, but I didn't love it and have come to the conclusion that I'm not really a fan of adding nuts or nut butters to my banana bread. Could it be that I'm a banana bread purist?

How do you like your banana bread?

Banana and Peanut Butter Bread
Adapted from
Serves 6-8

9 Tablespoons (125g) butter, softened
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups mashed banana
½ cup (140g) crunchy peanut butter
1¾ cups (255g) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional*
⅓ cup (80ml) maple syrup
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Roasted Bircher Muesli

I love trying new recipes for homemade granola/muesli so when I saw this recipe for Roasted Bircher Muesli over at my friend Deb's site I knew I had to try it right away.  Sometimes granola and museli can be packed with lots of calories, fat, and sugar making it not so healthy at all.  What I like about this recipe is that there is no oil or added fat.  Plus the museli mix is sweetened only with honey and dried fruit so it is actually quite healthy.  You can use any variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit that you like.  Almonds and walnuts tend to be my favorite so I chose to use those in this recipe.  I love dried cherries, but any dried fruit or mix of dried fruit will do in this recipe.  I like to serve this muesli mix with a big dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some fresh fruit.  It's a great way to start the day!

 Roasted Bircher Muesli (Granola)
Adapted from Seasons by Donna Hay and
Deb at Kahakai Kitchen
Serves 6

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dried cherries

To serve: Greek yogurt, additional fresh fruit, honey, sprinkle of cinnamon
Options: Use any combination of nuts and seeds and/or dried fruit that you like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl combine the oats, nuts, and honey.  Place the mixture into a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes (mine took about 25 minutes stirring twice while baking) or until golden.  Mix in the dried fruit(in this case dried cherries) while muesli mix is warm.  Serve with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey and/or a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

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