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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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

My kitchen hasn’t been calling to me lately. It’s a weird feeling, and it’s a constant struggle to open the fridge and realize I’m going to be piecing together a lunch of crackers, cheese and tomato slices.

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Finally, I jumped on this cauliflower pizza crust bandwagon to end the home-cooked meal drought.

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It was tasty! And the gluten-free part is pretty awesome. It’s not every day you can shove multiple slices of pizza into your mouth and be eating mostly vegetables. Well, and cheese, but there’s nothing wrong with cheese.

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Needless to say, this pizza didn’t last long at all. I would highly recommend doubling this recipe if you’re feeding more humans than just yourself and/or if any of you have even an inkling of an appetite.

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What You Need:

  • One head cauliflower, florets chopped off
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. dried basil

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

In a food processor, lightly “pulse” the cauliflower florets to create cauliflower “rice”. It’s best to add the florests one batch at a time to ensure they all get chopped up.

Now it’s time to cook the “rice.” In a medium saucepot, boil about 3 cups water and add the rice. Cover the pot, and let cook about 5 minutes.

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Drain thoroughly using a fine mesh strainer.

Transfer the drained cauliflower rice to a clean dish towel or several paper towels and pat well to dry.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, egg, cheese and spices and mix thoroughly, kneeding with your hands until it forms a dough.

Now it’s ready to be made into a crust!

Sprinkle cornmeal onto the surface of a pizza stone and lay the dough ball on top. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, still use cornmeal and see below for alternate baking times).

Smooth the dough ball out with your hands, flattening to make a crust about 1/4 of an inch thick.

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Bake for about 20 minutes if using a pizza stone, 30-40 if using a baking sheet.

Remove from oven and cover with your favorite toppings. I used sliced zucchini, minced garlic, jalapeno slices, tomato slices and cheddar cheese.

Then, bake for another 5 minutes for a pizza stone, or 10 minutes for a baking sheet.

Slice it up, and serve!

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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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Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals: Sweet Pepper, Corn and Potato Stew

You know what’s really great? Frozen vegetables.

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Everything outside has been noticeably dead since mid-January when the temperatures plummeted and sucked the life out of everything. I’m skeptical about where my tomatoes are coming from at a time like this, because I’m pretty sure it’s not the farm upstate.

So frozen veggies! What an idea! For these slow cooker meals, it’s a great solution. Not least of all because I’m usually only making a slow cooker meal in the first place because I am trying to save time. So if I don’t have to slice up a vegetable, that’s a big win.

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One quick note about this dish – if you don’t eat dairy or you hate the idea of buttermilk, leave that ingredient out of the recipe. Another option is to top the dish with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

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What You Need:

  • 5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 10oz bag frozen sweet corn
  • 2 cups chopped bell peppers (I used red, yellow and orange for some summertime color)
  • 5 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeded if desired to reduce spiciness)
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded cheddar

What You Do:

Put everything except the buttermilk into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8 hours, or high heat for 4.

When it’s done, add the buttermilk and stir well. Top with cheddar cheese.

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Hot Italian Sausage and Roasted Pepper Risotto

So I’ve started watching this new TV show called The Last Man on Earth.

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At first the show really depressed me. I mean, it is kind of sad to think about a virus killing everyone off and then being the one person who’s left. All those lonely nights, right? But I guess having your choice of any car, any home, any ANYTHING would be pretty sweet. Who needs running water when you’ve got all the outfits?

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Of course, (spoiler alert), it turns out he’s not the last person on earth. He’s since met two women so, I think we know where this show is going. In the meantime, they’re giving us a real glimpse into how to survive in an abandoned world.

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In the second episode, they made meatballs out of raisins. I don’t know about all that, but I do know this dish is better than raisin meatballs.

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What You Need:

  • 1 pound red, yellow, orange and/or green bell peppers, seeded and sliced in half
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, divided
  • 3 large links hot Italian sausage, cut into slices (I always pull off the casings but that’s just me.)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded if desired to reduce spiciness, and diced
  • 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 oz. firmer goat cheese for serving

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350F

Lay the peppers out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes or until roasted (the skin will be pinched and they may have blackened or caramelized around the edges).

When the peppers are done, chop roughly and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the coconut oil and, when warm, add the sausage and cook, turning frequently to heat all sides.

While the sausage is cooking, heat the other tablespoon of coconut oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno, sauteing and stirring frequently until onion is soft and translucent.

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Add the risotto and mix well.

Add one cup vegetable broth and stir constantly, keeping the dish on a simmer, until the broth has evaporated. Continue adding the broth one cup at a time until it has all absorbed or evaporated.

Mix in the salt and pepper.

Drain excess liquid from the sausage pan and blot out the sausage on paper towels if you like it less greasy like me.

Add the sausage and roasted peppers to the risotto and stir well.

Top with goat cheese. Enjoy!

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Broccoli and Shrimp Stir Fry with Homemade Sweet n’ Sour Sauce

I read through my old journals from junior high and high school this weekend. And…wow. Just wow.

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Here is what I learned about myself in a nutshell: I was completely boy-crazy in junior high (honestly, was anything else going on in my life at that time?!?); I enjoyed writing with brightly-colored markers (but who doesn’t); and I over-analyzed EVERYTHING – although anyone who knows me today wouldn’t be surprised by that.

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My favorite journal discovery, however, was an entry from 1999 (I was 15), where I actually made a list of things I was currently unhappy about. On this list were such existential revelations as: material wealth, Geometry, worrying, rules, pimples, and getting up early. Yes, this list is real. How one makes the jump from material wealth to pimples in a list of biggest concerns, only 15-year-old me can understand.

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My life was beautifully uncomplicated for years, but I apparently just couldn’t handle the simplicity of it all. Hormones are a bitch, amiright? It’s a wonder I never really made it as an actor – I was very, very dramatic. At least now I can pour my latent angst into my cooking.

What You Need for the Stirfry:

  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati, Jasmine, White or Brown rice (I used Basmati but it’s your preference)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced white button mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 bag frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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What You Need for the Sweet & Sour Sauce:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup distilled white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup white cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp garlic chili paste
  • 1/2 cup red and green bell pepper, VERY finely chopped (I put mine in a food chopper)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch (see below for substitutes)

What You Do to Make the Stirfry:

Cook the rice according to package directions and set aside, keeping covered and warm.

Thaw out the frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water (the package will have these directions. I usually switch out the water one or two times until the shrimp are fully unfrozen.)

In a wok or large pan, heat olive oil and add all the vegetables (broccoli through bell pepper).

Cook vegetables until soft, stirring well. Add shrimp and continue cooking until shrimp are cooked through.

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What You Do to Make the Sauce:

Fill a medium sauce pot with all of the ingredients for the Sweet & Sour sauce and bring to a boil.

The sauce is basically easy to make but needs a lot of attention. Keep it at a boil and stir constantly. It’s similar to a balsamic reduction in that it will be a liquid consistency for about 10-15 minutes until all of a sudden it will very quickly thicken. This is the part you have to be aware of because you must remove it from the heat immediately or else it will burn. I learned this the hard way and might be buying a new pot this week.

After about 10 minutes, add the corn starch (you can also substitute corn starch for flour, or gluten free flour).

You’ll know when it’s done because it will be thick and syrupy.

Serve the veggies over the rice and top with the sauce. Eat with chopsticks for a complete experience.

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