Andouille Sausage and Vegetable Soup (Whole 30-Friendly)

So…I started the Whole 30. And I have to say, I give a lot of credit to those of you out there who have done this diet.

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And I wasn’t even a terrible eater to begin with. I already consume loads of veggies and fruits and generally stay away from takeout and junk food. But RICE? CRACKERS? HUMMUS? CHEESE? Those foods are my friends. And now I’m standing on the other side of a fence staring longingly as they all throw a party I’m not invited to.

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The Whole 30 website is quick to remind us (repeatedly) that it’s “only 30 days”. I’m on Day 7 and so far a total of 30 still seems a bit insane. But my husband has been as level-headed in his advice to me as you would expect from someone who still gets to drink a beer and have cake. He reminds me that I’ll be unhappy with myself if I cheat or quit early, and the long-term benefit will be worth it.

Well, damn.

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Of course he’s totally right. And I am super glad to have an extra push to make me think about new types of meals and actually do some serious cooking. Our oven may be the size of a shoebox and we may only have two working burners on our stove, but I’m not a quitter.

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Here’s one absolutely to-die-for Whole 30-friendly dish inspired by @briewilly (Instagram) who is my hero for healthy food porn. Mind you, he was able to add beans, which would be SO GOOD in this dish. But I don’t want to talk about it.

What You Need:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 4 Andouille sausages, sliced into thin rounds (mine came fully cooked but it doesn’t matter either way)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 5-6 celery stalks, chopped (should be about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 5 cups vegetable broth (I can’t stress it enough that making your own broth is SUPER easy. My fool-proof recipe is here)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tsp garlic and herb spice (or a similar table spice of your choosing)

What You Do:

In a large skillet, warm 1 tsp of the coconut oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cover. Let cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the carrots can be pierce easily with a fork and the celery and onions are translucent.

While the veggies cook, warm the second tsp coconut oil in another pan and cook the sausage slices, covered.

Once everything is done, add the sausage to the veggie pan (drain any grease first), and mix well. Add your spices (these can be a combo of any you like. I recommend any herbs and spices that you like in a soup or stew.

Add the vegetable broth and stir will.

Finally, add the spinach and mix in thoroughly. It should take less than a minute for the spinach to wilt down to soup-quality leaves.

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Squash Stuffed with Sausage and Wine-Soaked Onions

Mike and I installed a doggie door this summer for Madison.

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I think she has finally achieved her ultimate goal in life – to come and go as she pleases.

All I’m saying is that it was a little TOO easy to train her to use this door.

She’ll always come back in for food, though.

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What You Need:

  • One large summer squash (about 10′ long and fairly thick)
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 chopped jalapeno
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 lb. hot Italian (or your favorite) sausage, sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 3 cups tomato sauce, either your favorite jar sauce, or homemade this way

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What You Do:

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Preheat oven to 325F

Halve the squash lengthwise from stem to end and scoop out the inside seeds so you’re left with a hollow “bowl”.

Place face-down on parchment paper and bake for about 40 minutes.

While the squash is baking, take a large skillet and partially caramelize the onions by cooking them with the water on medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes or until they soften and become fragrant.

Add the green pepper, jalapeno, cherry tomatoes, garlic scape and wine, and continue to cook, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and cooked through, the cherry tomatoes are puckered and split, and the wine has cooked off.

Remove from heat, drain and set aside in a large bowl.

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In a separate skillet, heat the coconut oil on low-medium heat, and add the sausage. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning the sausage periodically to prevent burning and to cook through each piece.

When the sausage is done, drain on a paper towel to absorb the grease, and add to the vegetable mixture, stirring thoroughly to combine.

Remove the squash from the oven and flip over so the scooped-out side is facing up.

Scoop the sausage filling into each squash liberally.

Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Cover each piece with tomato sauce and serve.

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Maple Acorn Squash and Spinach Pizza

My best friend and I just took a weekend trip to New York City. Honestly, the food options in that place are more overwhelming than the crowds of people.

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I could spend 5 days there just trying different restaurants. Of course I would walk from one to the other to burn off some of the calories.

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We packed a lot into a day and a half. Empire State Building, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, riding Citi Bikes (aka flirting with certain death), a run through Central Park, meandering through Highline Park and dinner/drinks with friends and family. It was perfect.

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Probably the best thing I ate was the Crepe Suzette we ordered for dessert at Les Halles, the restaurant owned by Anthony Bordain. The chef made it right in front of us and it was delicious.

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This trip also taught me that I can’t afford to eat fancy NYC food all the time. So instead I made this pizza at home and pretended it was fancy city food.

Inspired by Smitten Kichen’s Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza.

What You Need:

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  • 1 small acorn squash, halved, seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or melted coconut oil, divided
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Pizza dough (I used a gluten-free pre-made dough)
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 cup raw spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 375F

In a large mixing bowl, toss the half moon slices of acorn squash with the half the oil, the red pepper flakes, maple syrup, salt and pepper until thoroughly and evenly coated.

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Lay the squash out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 20 minutes or until soft and golden.

Roll out your dough using the other half of the oil to keep it from becoming sticky.

Sprinkle the cornmeal over a pizza stone or your baking sheet, and lay the dough out over the cornmeal.

Once the squash is cooked, gently peel off the skins.

Lay each half moon over the pizza.

Top with gorgonzola cheese, spinach and Parmesan, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust edges are golden brown, cheese is melted and spinach is wilted (but not dry!)

Slice up and chow down!

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Acorn Squash and Brussels Sprouts Casserole

I’m a sucker for advertising.

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It’s funny to me because I work in marketing, so I’m not a stranger to the ways in which brands sell to consumers. But I’m still a sucker. Banana Republic, in particular, has really tapped into the best way to get me into their store. Just send me an email that says, “Hey, you haven’t been here in awhile and we miss you! Come back!”

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Well, ok! I’d love to! And suddenly I’m scrapping my plans for an afternoon run (wholesome, healthy, FREE) and driving to the store. They miss me! I have to go!

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Everyone wins though, because I’ll stop off at the grocery store too, and get food for our dinner. Along with something I saw a commercial for that I now most definitely need to have.

What You Need:

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  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts, stems chopped off and sliced into quarters
  • 1 acorn squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 1 cup dry wild rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 375F

Place the acorn squash halves face down on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until the skins begin to brown and pucker.

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Simultaneously, cook the wild rice according to package directions. It usually takes about 45 minutes so it’s good to start it early so it can cook while you prepare the rest of the meal.

While the squash and rice cook, place the Brussels sprouts, walnuts and cranberries in a large dutch oven or casserole dish, mixing well.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (mustard through crushed red pepper) and set aside.

When the squash is done, gently remove the skins by peeling them off (you may find it easier to flip the squash right side up and scoop out the flesh).

Fold the squash into the Brussels sprouts mixture.

Pour the mustard sauce over the entire dish and bake, covered, for 20-30 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are soft. Some may have leaves that dry out or slightly blacken – this just means they’re done.

Serve over the rice and enjoy!

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Five Days of Thanksgiving Meals: Options for Everyone at Your Table

For someone who likes to cook, Thanksgiving is just a wonderful holiday all-around. For anyone who doesn’t like to cook, I have to assume the Internet is your best friend for at least 24 hours.

Once I got my own place, with my own kitchen with a stove and oven that I could commandeer at will, I became weirdly obsessed with cooking for Thanksgiving, despite the fact that Mike and I have not once celebrated this holiday at our home. And we don’t leave for just one night – we’re gone for days visiting relatives in Connecticut and New York.

So I became that person who shows up to other people’s homes with unsolicited food items. “I accidentally made this squash ravioli so, I thought maybe it would make a good side dish?”

I’m not entirely sure why I feel this compulsion, but I do it every year. I think I just really love Thanksgiving-type foods and can’t keep from cooking them. It’s not even the desserts I’m after – it’s the roasted and seasoned vegetables, the sauces and toppings, the bready and flavorful stuffings…Can. Not. Resist.

Because I’m actively food blogging this year, I decided to spread my Thanksgiving food-love and cook one new dish each day for five days before Turkey Day that could easily occupy a spot on your holiday table.

The fun starts Thursday – exactly one week before the big day. Oh – and at some point I will also be documenting Mike’s attempt at frying a turkey for the first time ever.

Happy cooking!

Ratatouille with Coconut Curry Sauce

I feel bad calling myself a cooking enthusiast since I had not even heard of ratatouille until I saw the Disney movie. After seeing a rat prepare it, I thought, “I could do that.”

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But then, a lot of time went by. (A LOT of time. I just checked, and that movie was released in 2007 – yikes!)

So seven years later, I got my act together and made a decision to prepare this undoubtedly delicious meal for my in-laws, who were visiting from New York. I learned the basic gist of the recipe, and I was only feeling a little apprehensive about being able to pull it off.

But then, I was totally sidelined. The power of suggestion is absurdly effective. One second, I am happily going about my day thinking about trees and flowers (not really, just trying to make a point here), and the next, I see a commercial for pizza and suddenly, that is ALL I WANT.

As I was preparing for ratatouille-making, a friend happened to mention having had a delicious coconut curry dish at lunch.

Well. I’ll be damned. I LOVE coconut curry.

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So, since I was already feeling overwhelmed by the recipe, I made an effortless decision to swap out the sauce for a coconut curry tomato sauce.

I’ll tell you – it was an amazing decision. This dish does not disappoint, and was a hit with my in-laws (at least that’s what they told me) 🙂

Quick Disclaimer: If you don’t own a mandolin, this recipe is still possible to make – it just might drive you crazy. Make sure you have a sharp knife, at the very least!

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What You Need for the Ratatouille:

  • 1 medium zucchini squash, ends cut off
  • 1 medium summer squash, ends cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper and yellow bell pepper, tops cut off and de-seeded but still bell-shaped
  • 2 cups dry Jasmine or white rice

What You Need for the Coconut Curry Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (powdered ginger will also work fine)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juices (this is equal to 3 1/2 cups diced tomatoes if you wish to stay away from canned foods)
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large wok or skillet, pour in the olive oil and lightly simmer the onion, garlic, jalepeno and fresh ginger until soft. (If you only have powdered ginger, add it later).

Add the tomatoes and curry powder (also add ginger powder if using).  Turn heat up to bring to a slight boil and stir well.

Add the coconut milk and sugar, stirring well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Set aside, but keep warm on low heat.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice all of your vegetables. As I said, if you don’t have a mandolin, you can get away with cutting everything by hand. Try to make very thinly-sliced pieces. Thicker pieces really only impact how long the dish will take to cook.

Layer the vegetables in alternating order along the bottom of a large baking dish or dutch oven. Each time you complete a layer, spoon about 1 cup of the still-hot coconut curry tomato sauce over the veggies.

Continue layering and alternately pouring with sauce until the veggies have been used up. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may find you have vegetables left over. This is ok! They make great snacks, after all!

Pour remaining sauce over the top, gently poking apart the vegetables to let it seep through.

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Cover, and place the whole concoction into the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and are easily pierced with a fork. You may find it takes slightly longer depending, again, on the size of your baking dish and thickness of your layers.

While the dish is baking, cook your rice according to package directions.

When everything is ready, serve the ratatouille over the rice and enjoy! It’s where French cuisine meets Indian cuisine, right? Bon’ appetite!

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Pro Tip: If you have leftovers and want to re-purpose the meal to try and pull a fast one on your family, simply pulse the ratatouille (without the rice) in a food processor with a small amount of vegetable broth to turn it into soup! Make it as chunky or pureed as you desire, and add the rice after for some additional texture.

Vegetable Saute with Kale and Corn Pesto

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Everyone likes to talk about how pretty fall is and how awesome the leaves are, yada yada yada. Can we chat for a second about how EVERYONE IS SICK?

I can count the number of days I’ve felt healthy since the end of summer on one hand at this point. I feel as though every time I turn around, someone is sneezing or coughing, and two days later, so am I. It obviously doesn’t help that one day it’ll be 85 degrees out and the next day it’ll be 40.

As someone who is first to brag about how infrequently I get sick, I’ve certainly had to check myself this time around. Is anyone else experiencing this? If you are, please do not come near me.

Potato and Pesto Pics (11)To cater to my tissue-cough-drop-Robitussin dependency, I embarked on this meal with full intentions of completely mailing it in. I should know better though, that the way to truly mail it in is to either do nothing so Mike ends up taking care of dinner, or to just make pasta.

Well I didn’t. This is the result of more time in the kitchen than I intended.

What You Need for the Vegetable Dish:

  • 1 cup dry Jasmine or rice of choice, cooked according to package directions
  • 5 plum tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes.
  • 1/4 lb green beans, sliced in half
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 each: red bell pepper, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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What You Need for the Pesto:

  • 2 cups kale leaves, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • The corn from one cob (cooked and cut off) – or about 3/4 cup of cooked corn
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tsp)
  • A pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

What You Do: Potato and Pesto Pics (12)

Cook the rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, pile your veggies EXCEPT the chives, into a large skillet, cover and slowly heat on low-medium until they are cooked through and the tomatoes have burst and appear pinched.

While the vegetables are cooking, pile your pesto ingredients EXCEPT the oil, into a food processor or blender. Slowly add the oil as the ingredients are mixing together until everything is combined and has formed a loose mixture similar to the consistency of dip.

Scoop out a desired amount of rice, and cover it with the cooked vegetables, adding some of the liquids for flavor.

Top with a dollop of pesto and sprinkle the chives over the pesto. Viola!

Pro Tip: Don’t make this dish if you’re too sick to stand up for more than 5 minutes.

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