Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup with Stilton

This is one of our all-time favorite soup recipes...I first made it a few years ago as a starter for Thanksgiving but it’s been popping up a few times a year since.  The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it is so easy...chop up some veggies, roast them at a high heat, cool and puree.  Done!  And any soup that has a little cheese sprinkled on top has a fan in me...I love me some cheese, the stinkier and stronger the better! Makes ~ 4 entree sized servings, serve along with warm crusty bread
Braised Broccoli Rabe with Orecchiette

Orecchiette, Rapini and Sausage

This is another one of my old-standby favorite recipes which makes it into the rotation almost once a month during the cooler months.  It’s super easy and oh-so delicious...I consider it a slightly more upscale comfort food. Great for a cold or rainy night, the type of dish that warms the soul and makes the house smell delish.

Broccoli Rabe is also known as Rapini and what I love about it in particular is how the greens develop a slightly bitter, horseradish-like flavor, yum.  Orecchiette is an ear shaped pasta that stays nice and firm when cooked so that it has a nice bite to it.
Kicking off 2015 Right!
Yoga at Amansala Bikini Boot Camp, May 2014

Yoga at Amansala Bikini Boot Camp, May 2014

I love January.  As much as I love the holidays (and wow, do I LOVE the holidays!), January is never a let down for me. Why? Because there's nothing I love more than a fresh start. A chance to re-examine things, make some changes and believe that you can stick to them. Now, I'm not talking about resolutions per se...I've never really been into those...but I am talking about habits and lifestyles and changes for the better both big and small. I truly believe that every day I wake up is a new opportunity to be the best version of myself, and January is like the ultimate new day! Not surprisingly, a lot of the changes that I start thinking about each January have to do with food, health and fitness.

This year, however, my focus is a bit more on mental health than on food, physical health or fitness.  Why?  Because I feel like I inadvertently dabbled in this space a lot in 2014 as I went through my hardest year yet.  And every time I dabbled, it felt really, really good.  So good that I want to make this focus a more central part of my life and routine.  In 2014 I crossed an item off my bucket list and went to Amansala's Bikini Boot Camp, I took a 6-week meditation class, I got back into therapy after 10+ years off, I read a couple of really empowering and fantastic books (The 5 Things We Cannot Change and Nonviolent Communication for those interested) and I just genuinely focused on improving myself in areas where I was feeling a bit shaky.

So to start off 2015 I'm heading to a 3 day yoga and meditation retreat to try to lock in all of that cumulative goodness that I acquired in 2014 and really start this year off right. I'm super excited to take a solo and leisurely drive up the coast, have a few days with no cell service, practice lots of yoga and meditation, eat all organic, vegetarian meals, have time to hike in beautiful Salt Point State Park and then cozy down each night with a good book and a warm bubble bath all while surrounded by the beauty that is coastal Northern California. I mean really, doesn't that sound divine?

But before I head out, I thought I'd leave you with a few links to my blog posts, below, summarizing what I focused on in January 2013, two years ago. That year the focus was on food, so I did the 3-week Whole Living Detox which was amazing. A lot of prepping and cooking each Sunday, but so worth it as you'll see in my four summary posts below which are chock full of all of the amazing recipes and photos.  And the three habits that seemed to make such a difference for me back then, I'm proud to say are still 80% a part of my life 2 years later! When I return from my 3-day yoga and meditation retreat I'll be picking out a few of my favorites from that detox to include in my weekly menus throughout the rest of January to keep my healthy momentum going, so stay tuned.
Mom’s Vegetarian Lasagna

Mom's Vegetarian Lasagna

This is one of the first meals that Christian's mom made that I absolutely fell in love with...so after watching her make it a couple of times I've created the recipe below.  It's healthy in terms of being vegetarian, but it is heavy on the Alfredo sauce and cheese...so not that healthy.  Hence the yumminess!

The original recipe calls for topping the lasagna with herb  feta cheese, but over the years we've decided that we like it better the traditional way so we just put lots more mozzarella on top.  We also always make our own lasagna noodles vs. buying store bought...which means no pre-cooking of the lasagna noodles required!  That was always one of the biggest pains of lasgna to me...cooking the noodles, then keeping them moist enough while you layer so they don't all get stuck together but also waiting long enough so your not burning your hands.  Issues!  So homemade noodles are the way to go in my opinion...preferably wheat.
Roasted Rapini & Tomatoes

This is our absolutely favorite side veggie dish and if you've been following my menus at all you probably already know that!  You've seen roasted rapini and tomatoes  on my weekly menus a lot so I thought it was about time that I tell you how I make it. It's super simple and once you try it I bet it will end up as a part of your regular rotation as well. 1 large head of Rapini (also known as Broccoli Rabe) 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes (or large tomatoes cut into small chunks) 1-2 TBS olive oil 1 tsp garlic powder salt & pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 400°F
Candy-Stripe Beet & Carrot Slaw

 

This is a Bon Appétit recipe that we discovered last summer and totally forgot about until recently. It's so simple and delicious that now that we've rediscovered it it will become a regular part of our summer rotation so I thought I would share it here for others to enjoy.

The most labor intensive part of the recipe is julienning the beets and carrots, but if you're like me and you find chopping kind of soothing and relaxing you won't mind it. If you're not like me and even if you're not super handy with a knife it only takes 20 minutes max. Oh, and if that's the case, a quick definition -  julienne means to cut into small match-stick shaped pieces.
Disappearing Zucchini Orzo with Grilled Shrimp

This is an oldie but a goodie that I found years ago when I read one of my now favorite books Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a super simple, healthy and delicious dinner.  Perfect for a warm summer night…particularly late summer when you're just starting to get sick of zucchini.  If you eat seasonally like we do, in the early summer it's hard to imagine you'll ever get sick of zucchini since it's been so long since you've had it…but it can happen!

So if it happens to you whip up this dish,  because as the name of it suggests, the zucchini kind of disappears within the orzo and it helps you use up lots of zucchini if you're lucky enough to have one of those neighbors who keeps bringing you baskets- full!  It's also a great dish if you're trying to sneak some veggies into the kids as I know you parents often need to do.

The original recipe can be found here, but I've also copied it below with a few very minor adjustments (including the addition of grilled shrimp).
Roasting Red Peppers at Home

Roasted red peppers are one of those ingredients that immediately elevate a dish to gourmet. So sweet, so smoky and so amazingly delicious. The problem is, however, that we like to eat them quite often and the store bought roasted red peppers are quite expensive and usually soaking in oil. So a few years ago we tried our hand at making them at home and haven't turned back since. If you have a gas stove they're incredibly easy to make, much healthier, less expensive, and...bonus...make your house smell incredible.

So let's get started! Place a clean red pepper directly on the flame of a gas stove set to medium-high. Using heat-proof tongs, turn pepper as each side begins to burn and blister until entire pepper is blackened and crisp. Usually about 1-2 minutes per side or about 5-7 minutes in total.  Sometimes you need to use the tongs and hold the pepper over the flame at an angle to get in the crooks if it's a bit more more misshapen.

Once the majority of the pepper is blackened, take the blackened red pepper off the flame and immediately place into  a tightly covered dish (plastic wrap will do if the dish doesn't have a proper lid) or you can simply place the pepper back into your plastic produce bag and tie it closed. This latter option is good for less clean up if you're just doing one pepper.
Vegetarian Eats for the Big Game!

Ok...so I'm not super excited about the Superbowl this year. I mean my Pats were only one game away from making it in, and let's be honest, it wasn't a very respectable loss. So while I certainly go big for the Superbowl when the Pats are in it, this year I'm trying my best to keep it a bit simpler and healthier. My Pats are worth the calories and effort...the Niners and the Ravens, not so much. So I thought I'd include a few more veggies in our spread this year. Yes, some will be smothered with cheese, but hey, it's a start.

So first up...those delicious looking Spicy Broccoli Rabe & Provolone Grinders above. Yes, Grinders. I'm from MA, after all...no Subs or Hoagies here!. I made these for the first time this year and while they may slightly disappoint that guest who sees them and excitedly asks if they're Cheesesteaks, they are pretty fabulous.

The soft french rolls are slathered with a homemade spicy white bean spread (store-bought spicy hummus will do in a pinch), piled high with crispy oven roasted broccoli rabe, smothered in melty provolone and sprinkled with red jalapenos. Yum.  I know I certainly didn't miss the meat. The original recipe can be found here...but, like I said you can simplify buy using store-bought spicy hummus instead of making your own spread (although the homemade stuff is yummy). I also simplified by oven roasting the rapini rather than cooking it the way they suggested.  I think it works even better (adds some crisp!) and dirties way fewer dishes, which I always like. C'mon...you know you want to grab one!

Next up...some snack-y finger food without all the calories of nuts. Pan fried shishito peppers!  These little peppers are relatively easy to find these days since they've really grown in popularity.  They're not spicy peppers, but slightly sweet and so delicious when cooked up this way. So simple and easy...they're best warm, but they go fast so cook up a big batch!

My Favorite Shakshuka Recipe

Shakshuka. Not only is it fun to say, but it is delicious! What is it, you ask?  It's eggs poached in a chunky, spicy tomato sauce and it's so popular that many different countries claim it as their own. Tunisia, Morocco, Israel...wherever it originated, I'm pretty thankful! Since I've been making it for a while now I've made it my own, so I wouldn't necessarily say this is a traditional shakshuka recipe but I love it.

So what's not traditional about my recipe?  Mostly the addition of olives, substitution of goat cheese for feta cheese, and sprinkling Italian gremolata on top instead of parsley alone. I also make it a bit spicier than most so if you're not a huge fan of spice dial back the jalapeños some.  Shakshuka is traditionally served with pita bread, but I like it with grilled rustic whole grain bread. Sometimes I even push my Italian influence on the dish a little further and serve it over polenta, yum.

So whether you go the more traditional route or try this SavoryGirl twist to Shakshuka I promise it will become a favorite in your household as well.  Enjoy!