Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spicy Harvest Pumpkin Soup

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I first made this soup back in the fall when pumpkin-flavored food and drinks were popping up left and right. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin beer – you name it. I enjoy a pumpkin spice latte as much as the next person, but I was craving something a little more savory. Though pumpkin season is now over, this soup is still perfect for the remaining cold winter nights that lay ahead.

A few years ago, I was eating dinner at a friend’s house and his father served us homemade pumpkin soup. I was hesitant at first, thinking it would taste something like liquid pumpkin pie, but to my surprise it was savory, filling, and a bit spicy (so if you’re not crazy about sweet pumpkin-flavored things, this might actually be for you). I remembered how much I liked it and decided to make my own. It’s a nice change from your everyday chicken noodle or minestrone, and pumpkin is full of fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins – not to mention low calorie. (You get bonus points if you can guess how many times I say “pumpkin” in this post.)
I based my recipe off of one I found on through foodgawker (find it here), but changed a few things to my liking. If you cook a fair amount, most of these ingredients are pantry staples, which makes this soup easy and convenient to whip up. This recipe yields about 4-6 servings, with roughly 140 calories per serving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 (15-oz) can pure pumpkin purée
  • ¼ – ½ cup half-and-half
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

The thing I like best about making soup is that you can taste it as you go along and make sure it is to your liking. If you’re unsure about how much spice you like, it’s always better to start out with less and add more as you go along. The amounts above are just base guidelines; I added more spice as I went along. I definitely recommend test-tasting it every few minutes if you’re picky about quality like I am.

Directions:

  1. In a large, non-stick cooking pot, melt butter and add onions. Cook until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic, cumin, ginger, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about one minute.
  2. Stir in chicken broth, pumpkin purée, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove the soup from heat and allow to cool slightly. Once it’s cooled down, pour contents into a blender or large food processor.  Blend until smooth. Though waiting for it to cool down may be annoying, it’s a good idea – I was impatient and accidentally exploded burning hot soup onto my hands from our faulty blender.
  4. Return the blended soup to the pot and continue to cook on medium heat. Stir in cream, if desired. Cook until soup has warmed back up; serve with salt and pepper to taste.

The blog I found this recipe on suggests serving it with bleu cheese or pumpkin seeds. I served mine with cornbread, which I thought complimented the flavors nicely. A dollop of plain Greek yogurt would also be a nice addition. Since the recipe made extra, I refridgerated some. I warmed up some leftover soup and it tasted just as good as when it was fresh. I also froze some, but learned that freezing cream-based soup doesn’t heat up very well. The cream/pumpkin and water separated and it became lumpy and gag-worthy. Ew. Best to eat this dish when it’s fresh.

Enjoy!

Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

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Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This dish has become one of my favorites over the past few months. It’s easy, fairly quick, and always satisfying. As with most of my other recipes, it is ever-evolving. It started out with just Alfredo sauce and artichokes, then I threw in some pesto. Then some chicken. Sometimes even tomatoes when the mood strikes. In addition to that, I have created two versions of it: Healthy and Not-As-Healthy (but delicious – let’s call it the Indulgent version).

The Healthy version includes whole grain pasta and Greek yogurt, while the Indulgent version (pictured above) uses more traditional Alfredo-like sauce and whatever kind of pasta your little heart desires. I’m a lover of creamy, savory dishes but as it turns out… with cream comes fat. Boo. So I tried to make this pasta dish a bit healthier but still satisfying. Spring Break is coming up in two months and I’ll be spending it on the beach in Florida with my friends from school, so I’m trying to shed a few lbs and tone up before then.
That being said, here are the two versions:

Healthy

Like many others out there, I love my carbs. Though loading up on the carbohydrates is not beneficial to your weight, they are in fact needed by the body to use for energy and in moderation, will not harm your figure. It’s also important to know the difference between good carbs and bad carbs. Pasta is not the best type of carb you can eat, but if you’re going to, opt for whole grain. Whole grain pasta is less processed than whole wheat and white, and also contains complex carbohydrates that take longer to break down and therefore keep you feeling full for longer.
Greek yogurt has become very popular over the past few years, and for good reasons. It is generally fat free and is loaded with protein, while still containing a nice creamy consistency. It’s delicious as snack, or you can substitute plain Greek yogurt for cream in many dishes.

Ingredients:
serves 2

  • 6 oz. whole grain pasta (about half of one package)
  • 2 skinless boneless thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp basil pesto
  • 1/2-1 cup quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (optional)
  • reduced fat grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook your pasta according to directions on package.
  2. While pasta is cooking, prepare your chicken. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to each side and place on lightly greased grill. Cook until both sides are very lightly browned. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. After draining and rinsing pasta, serve in bowls. Add cut up chicken.
  4. In a separate small bowl, add pesto and Greek yogurt. Mix together and pop in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds. This step is optional, but I found that when I added cold yogurt directly to the pasta, it cooled off the entire dish and wasn’t as tasty.
  5. Pour pesto/yogurt mixture over pasta and chicken, and add artichokes and/or tomatoes. Add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. A few drops of olive oil may also be added if desired.

Indulgent

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz (half of one package) of your favorite pasta
  • 2 skinless boneless thin-sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Alfredo sauce – I’ve actually been using Philadelphia Cooking Creme in Savory Garlic, but feel free to use a different type, or make your own – I like this recipe
  • 2 Tbsp basil pesto
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2-1 cup quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Follow steps 1-3 above. If you’re good at multitasking in the kitchen, you can prepare the sauce at the same time as the pasta and chicken, but if not, you can finish cooking those two things before moving on.
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt butter over low heat. Add artichokes and tomatoes and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Pour Alfredo sauce and pesto over the artichokes and tomatoes. Cook only for a few minutes, just until it’s warm, because the Alfredo (or Cooking Creme) tends to dry up quickly and stick to the pan if you leave it on for too long.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pasta and chicken. Add Parmesan cheese.*

*This dish also is very tasty with a squirt of fresh lemon juice. I love the tanginess of the lemon and artichokes together. You can also use breaded chicken if you prefer.

Now that I’ve finished typing this up, I think I know what I’m having for dinner!

If you tried this recipe, which version did you try? I’d love to get any type of feedback – suggestions, critiques, general comments. Let me know what you think!

 

Holy Guacamole :)

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I decided it was appropriate that the first recipe I post here uses one of my all-time favorite foods: the avocado. I f-ing love avocados like no other. In guacamole, on sandwiches, burgers, salads, you name it. I even sometimes eat a few slices alone, with a sprinkle of salt or lemon pepper. They are creamy and have a divine flavor, plus it helps that they are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and can help lower cholesterol.

I first tried homemade guacamole at a friend’s house and tried making it on my own, simply mixing salsa from a jar with mashed avocados (which is an easy and still fairly healthy way to make it if you’re pressed for time). When I started to become more interested in cooking, I decided to make it from scratch. It’s so tasty and satisfying, and you don’t have too feel too guilty while you’re binging on it (watch out for those chips though).
Here’s the recipe I generally follow:

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 a medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 a medium red onion, diced (shallots work quite nicely too)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and stems removed, minced (you may want to use less if you don’t like too much heat)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped scallions
  • 1/4  tsp  red pepper flakes if you’re feeling frisky

After removing the pits and skin from  avocados, cut them into chunks and toss in a bowl. I use a fork to mash them against the sides of the bowl. Add the rest of your ingredients and mix thoroughly. Sometimes I add a cup of black beans to my guacamole to make it more filling. OR half a cup of diced mangoes or pineapple gives it a delicious sweet taste.

I usually just eat guacamole with tortilla chips, but it also compliments burgers nicely.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Welcome!

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Oh hi.

If you’ve made it here, it’s probably because you’re a friend of mine and I forced you to, or perhaps you found me through Tumblr or Flickr. However you found it, I’m glad you’re here. Here I will share with you the most delicious secret recipes in all of the world, ever. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but nonetheless I will try to keep any readers I may acquire satisfied.

I’ve been fumbling around with cooking for a few years now. I haven’t always been very interested in cooking. When I was younger, I was absolutely hopeless when it came to the kitchen. Like one of those people who repeatedly makes the mistake of adding a tablespoon instead of teaspoon of something, and felt proud if I fried an egg without burning it.

A few summers ago, however, I decided it was time to get serious about learning how to cook. I started out small, making simple things like guacamole (which I do still love to make, and will post my recipe for it soon). When I moved into my first apartment in fall 2010, complete with a full kitchen, I started experimenting with actual meals and cooking from recipes.
I must say I owe a fair amount of my interest in cooking to foodgawker , where I have found endless delicious recipes and inspiration; not to mention the wonderfully appealing photos depicting each recipe. I check this website almost everyday (sometimes more) and have learned a lot from cooking from it.

Anywho, I’ve found I really enjoy cooking and I think will continue to for a long time. Sometimes after a long day of school or work, I actually look forward to coming home and spending an hour or two cooking a meal. It’s an escape of sorts. Both of my parents are good cooks, so it looks like I was lucky enough to inherit some of their passion for food and creating new recipes. My dad loves to experiment in the kitchen and has been known to call myself or other family members just to excitedly describe the meal he’s cooking.

Along with my passion for cooking, I also love photography. I took a black and white film photography class in high school, and got a digital SLR camera for my birthday a few years ago. I got into the habit of taking photos of the food that I make, probably partially in hopes of getting published on foodgawker some day… I also began submitting recipes to my roommate’s blog promoting healthy lifestyles, and recently realized I had almost created enough recipes to put them on my own blog.

So here is my contribution to the cooking/recipe/food blog world out there. Who knows what will come of it, but it will at least be an interesting experience.

Yay!