October 18, 2017

Spicy Chicken, White Bean and Kale Soup


I cannot express enough how utterly excited I am that hearty fall and winter soups can now be added into rotation in my kitchen.  Soup weather...stew weather... my favorite! I am all for a delicious and flavorful soup recipe and this is one of the easiest, yet tastiest I have ever made.  You simply dump, stir, sprinkle, stir and simmer... before long, you have an amazing pot of bubbly hot soup to be gobbled up with a big chunk of hearty bread.  Please be advised that my entire family licked our bowls CLEAN after having this soup over the weekend so I am pretty sure that you will have some cleanly licked bowls if you decide to make this recipe. And you totally should - it's just SO GOOD!

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Pound Ground Chicken
1 Medium Onions, Chopped
2 Medium Carrots, Chopped
2 Stalks Celery, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
4 Cups Kale, Finley Chopped
2 Heaping Tablespoons Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoons Italian Season
1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic {or garlic powder}
1 Tablespoon Granulated Onion {or onion powder}
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper {or more if you like it extra hot!}
1 19 Ounce Can Cannellini Beans
1 14 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
3 14 Ounce Cans Chicken Broth
1/2 Box Acini Di Pepe {or any other micro sized pasta}
Fresh Grated Parmesan to Garnish
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper to Taste













{In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and ground chicken. Season with salt and pepper and begin to brown.}

{Stir in the chopped onion, celery and carrots and sauté for a few minutes until they begin to soften.}

{After a few minutes, add in the chopped garlic and mix well.  Season generously with salt and pepper.}

{Add in your chopped kale and mix well, sauté for a minute more.}


{Season the ground chicken and veggie mixture with the cumin, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and cayenne pepper.}


{Add in the beans, with the liquid in the can and diced tomatoes.}


{Add in the chicken broth.}

{Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes so that flavors develop and get good and delicious! Taste, taste and taste; season with salt and pepper if it needs it. Mine needed a hefty pinch of salt.}


{After about 15 minutes, add in half box of pasta and let it simmer for about 10 minutes more so that the pasta cooks. If you prefer a thicker soup, add in the entire box of pasta.  I wanted a more "soupy" or brothy soup so I only used half the box.}




{Once the pasta is cooked, it is ready to be served up.}


{I garnished each bowl with parmesan cheese and served the piping hot soup with pieces if crusty bread.  It was unbelievably delicious! Now that I think about it, could you imagine how insanely good this soup would be on a chilly evening with a golden brown, buttery grilled cheese sandwich? I HAVE to make that happen. }





Flavorful, hearty ...it's like a giant hug in a bowl. And I think I need another hug RIGHT NOW!

xoxo, thanks for reading! 



October 12, 2017

Simple Shrimp Salad with Sesame Soy Vinaigrette



Continuing with the salad discussion from my last blog post, I'd like to introduce you to one of the most flavorful salads I make at home.  The magic is in the "kitchen sink" of an Asian salad dressing, wherein I just combine a bunch of different condiments and create a flavor explosion to be drizzled over grilled shrimp and fresh veggies. I like to double the recipe make a larger batch of this dressing and keep it in the refrigerator where it will keep for a couple days.

Ingredients:

Salad Dressing
2 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Shallots
1/2 Teaspoon Minced Ginger
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Ponzu, Japanese Dipping Sauce
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
1 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/2 Cup Avocado Oil {Or Canola Oil}

Salad
Your Choice of Greens {I used butter lettuce and spinach}
Chopped Cucumber
Chopped Red Onion
Chopped Red Pepper
Chopped Carrots
Sliced Avocado
Grilled Shrimp







{In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except for the avocado or canola oil, and mix well to combine.}



{Slowly whisk in your avocado oil or canola oil until it comes together.}






{Chop veggies of your choice to add to a base of mixed greens.  I used cucumber, carrots, red onion, red pepper and  avocado}






On a pretty platter, arrange your lettuce, veggies, grilled shrimp and drizzle with the amazingly flavorful sesame soy vinaigrette.  ENJOY!

xoxo. thanks for reading!




October 2, 2017

Making a Perfect Salad!





I was on a HUGE salad kick this summer and I enjoyed every minute of it; I think it is safe to say that I am 100% obsessed with salads. I usually eat a salad a day, mostly during lunchtime, and I very rarely get tired of eating them.  I consider myself a salad enthusiast and a bit of a salad connoisseur so I wanted to come and share a few of my tips for making the most flavorful salads, especially since I get so many rave reviews when I make them and share with my family.  If you remember this blog post, you will know how much of a flavorful salad fan I am...and nothing much has changed. :) I am looking forward to incorporating more hearty fall ingredients into my salad in the coming months, shredded Brussels, roasted squash, etc.

A Good Green Base
A good base of greens is probably the most important element of making a good salad.  If you add a ton of delicious toppings but the base isn't right, I think the salad will fall short.  My favorite green base to use lately {as you can tell from the recent photos above} is baby spinach. I love the crisp texture of baby spinach. I also love that it is a DRY green.  Other lettuces can tend to add too much moisture to a salad, especially romaine, but I think spinach holds up well.  BUT when I am in the mood for a good classic Caesar salad, nothing else will do BUT romaine. 

Green salad bases that I am a fan of – spinach | romaine | kale | butter lettuce | shredded cabbage

Delicious Protein
An important ingredient in a good salad is a delicious portion of protein.  Whether it be a poultry, beef, fish, tofu or beans, it's nice to have a hearty meaty component in a salad.  I have been loving blackening a piece of salmon and adding it to my salad.  I simply season a nice fresh piece of salmon with lemon pepper seasoning and a bit of salt, then pan-sear it over medium heat in a non-stick skillet until it is golden brown. It is perfection.  Another easy go-to for my salads is using store-bought rotisserie chicken.  I pull the chicken meat from the bone, chop it and toss it in. Way too easy! Leftover steak was sliced and added to my beef fajita salad last week and was complete perfection!

The possibilities are endless for protein salad accompaniments –  grilled, seared, baked or fried chicken breast | chicken thighs | shrimp | salmon | tuna | steak | ground beef | turkey lunch meat

Fresh Vegetable Toppings
I have been known to do a "refrigerator clean out" and grab every leftover vegetable in my crisper drawer and make a huge salad for lunch or dinner.  I probably cannot name a vegetable that I do not enjoy in my salads.  They can either be tossed in raw, or roasted / grilled to bring out additional flavor.


Some of my favorites are – cucumber | shredded or sliced carrots | red, green or white onion | red, white or green pepper | avocado | green beans | asparagus | tomatoes | olives | squash | zucchini | broccoli | beets | cauliflower.


Seasonal Fresh or Dried Fruit
More often than not, I add a pop of sweetness to my salads using season fruit. There is something completely satisfying when taking a bite of flavorful salad and encountering a delicious pop of sweetness. Fruit lends interest to boring salads; even the simplest plate of greens and a good dressing will be kicked up a notch when fruit is added. 


Here are some of favorite fruity salad toppings: blueberries {favorite!}| strawberries | sliced apples or pears | grapes | cubed watermelon | blackberries | raspberries | raisins | dried cherries | dried cranberries.


Cheese Please!
Cheese is almost always present in my salads. I mean, cheese makes everything better, am I right?


Some of my favorites to use are: aged sharp cheddar | feta | blue cheese | gouda | parmesan.


Crunch
Just like with any good meal or recipe, texture in a salad is very important.  Salty + sweet // crunchy + creamy, those combinations are what make a salad go from ok to AMAZING.  I cannot and will not eat a salad without some sort of crunchy topping. LOL!


My favorite crunch factors are: croutons, of course! {I love making my own, recipe to come}| sesame sticks | nuts of any and all kind - roasted, candied and raw! | crispy onions | wonton strips | tortilla chips | potato chips {yup!!} | plantain chips.


Getting Dressed

There are few things that are more disappointing than compiling a huge bowl of the perfect combination of ingredients that will make the most amazing salad, only to have the dressing fall short. I have made my own dressing many times, and I always love the way they turn out, but I will be honest and admit that my absolute favorite dressing is store bought. It's this one here: Ken's Steak House Chef's Reserve Tableside Caesar Dressing. This salad dressing is phenomenal and pairs perfectly with every single kind of salad there is. It is perfection! My favorite dressing to make is a sweet and spicy sesame vinaigrette that I will be sharing here on the blog soon, so stay tuned!
 

There are other miscellaneous items that I love to enjoy on my salads like, deviled eggs, fresh herbs, salsa, sour cream, pickles... and let's not forget the grains like, pasta, quinoa, wild rice, ... and I can really go on and on...I am a salad fanatic!


I will be back soon with more fun salad topics but for now I am dying to know – what is in your absolute favorite salad?

xoxo, thanks for reading!





September 20, 2017

How to Make Perfect Oven-Roasted Vegetables


Autumn will soon be upon us and one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen when the temperatures start to drop {and it is safe to turn the oven on without combusting in the already scorching heat} is make a large batch of roasted veggies. I chop the veggies, fill up two large roasting pans, and roast away! 

Before you do anything though, the oven should be preheated to 425 degrees. It should be piping hot and ready for your vegetables.  

 
... now let's talk veggies shall we? I am pretty sure that any vegetable {and fruit!} can be roasted and would taste absolutely delicious. Some of my favorite vegetables to roast are: 
  • White and Sweet Potatoes {of course!}
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Beets


 

 
One of the keys to making a good batch of roasted vegetables is to make sure the veggies are cut similarly in size. If you have super large chunks of potatoes but small pieces of onion, the onions are going to get too dark too soon while the potatoes won't be soft enough to enjoy. With potatoes specifically, it will depend on the type that will determine the size of which to cut them.  I usually cut large Russet potatoes {used in this recipe} into thin slices or sticks {fries!!}. Fingerling and small red potatoes are usually cut in half, lengthwise.

 


 
Another key is to use a GOOD oil to coat the veggies while they roast.  The oil aids in the crispness and texture and is very important.  I like using a very light olive or avocado oil when roasting veggies. It is also very important to season the veggies BEFORE roasting.  The sky is the limit when deciding what spices or seasonings to use. I typically keep it simple and stick with good 'ole sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, but cumin, paprika, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc. would be very good additions!

 


Ok – this is probably the most important key to making perfect roasted veggies.  Put your chopped veggies in a really large bowl and add your oil and seasonings. Toss, mix, stir and coat really really well with the oil. I have seen instances where the veggies are placed on a baking sheet and then "drizzled" with oil and roasted.  That never works for me.  I end up dropping large puddles of oil in some spots and leaving other spots dry.  Coating the veggies in a bowl ensures that they will be evenly coated and roasted all around. Also, do not skimp on the oil.  Every piece should have a nice glossy coating.

 


Be sure to use a large enough baking sheet and try and get the vegetables in a single even layer as best as you can.

 


The pan should be placed in the oven and left in to roast for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the type and size of the veggies and how crispy you want them to be.  I tend to let roasted potatoes, broccoli or cauliflower go a bit longer so they are crispy and charred a bit.  SO GOOD!


 

Roasted vegetables are a meal in themselves but they are also the PERFECT side-dish. I love this particular combination of potatoes, asparagus, onion and garlic – the onions and asparagus spears get nice a toasted crispness and the garlic cloves and potatoes become velvety, sweet and crispy at the same time.  

What are some of your favorite vegetables to roast?



April 7, 2017

Pastels for Spring!











{Black Leggings: H&M / Black Tunic: Zara / Mint Bomber Jacket: Zara {old but similar  here and  here} / White Leather Clutch: Asos / Nude Choker: Forever 21 /  Rose Gold Apple Watch / Sneakers:  Mint PUMA - Basket Platform Patent Leather

My love for soft pastel tones knows no bounds this spring. Soft rose pink and mint green are my favorites to wear lately so when I saw these gorgeous mint sneakers, I knew I had to have them.  They are adorable, extremely comfortable and the patent leather lends a sophistication to any look that I pair them with.  I can't wait to rock these with a pair of ankle trousers, a button-up shirt and blazer. Sneakers have been in heavy rotation for me and I love it! The "athleisure" trend is still very much relevant so I am happy to partake. :)

xoxo, thanks for reading!


April 6, 2017

Tequila Fruit Spritzer

Fun little fact about me: I have tequila cravings more often than I am willing to admit. I can't really explain it, besides possibly being a lush, haha, but I just enjoy the taste of good tequila, especially when mixed with fruit juice. Even though I enjoy a good tequila mixed drink (namely margaritas!) all year, when the weather gets warmer, it's time to start whipping up my tequila spritzers! 

These are so simple and so yummy and most important to me right now, low in {added} sugar and calories. They require very little effort and it is almost surprising how these very few ingredients mixed together creates the most delicious cocktail!

Here's how I hook them up:







{In a pretty glass, add in the fruit of your choice and begin to mash it so that it releases all of the yummy {and natural!} fruit juice.  Pineapple may be my favorite to use but watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, orange segments, OR all of the above together - all work perfectly in this spritzer.}



{Next add in some ice.}


{Then pour in your favorite tequila! One shot is perfectly fine but I prefer a shot and a half or two, depending on the day or occasion. :) It's too difficult to try and pick a favorite tequila, but I am loving this Camerena brand at the moment. It's very inexpensive and tastes really good; it's so incredibly smooth too. Definitely a must-try.}


{Add in the fruit juice of your choice. I enjoy pomegranate juice. It's perfectly tart and not too sweet.}


{Top the mashed fruit, ice, tequila and pomegranate juice off with about 4 ounces of your favorite sparkling water.  I am a huge fan of the La Croix brand - I love every single flavor that they offer and every single flavor tastes really yummy in these spritzers.}


{Mix with a pretty straw and ENJOY responsibly!}


This tequila fruit spritzer will definitely be my go-to spirit this spring and summer.  Fruity, sparkly, pretty and it packs a tequila punch? ...what more can you ask for?}

Let me know if you give this a try!




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