Winter Veggie Soup

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Like so many people, at the start of the new year, I made a commitment to get back to my love of cooking and eating real, whole foods.  The holidays always throw me off with the candy and sugar and hectic schedules that make grabbing a Tostinos pizza way too easy.  Did I just admit that?  Anyway, this vegetable soup has become a quick favorite in our house thanks to one special ingredient.  I made this up for the first time a week or so ago, and Jim asked me to make it again.  I figure that’s a concoction worth sharing!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Olive Oil

Half a large yellow onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large carrots, sliced

3 ribs celery, sliced

1 large potato, diced

1 -1/4 cup frozen (or fresh) sweet corn

A handful of fresh green beans, trimed and cut into 1″ pieces (it will be about 1 cup cut)

2-1/2 to 3 cups of low sodium chicken or veggie stock

1-28oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (the secret!)

Juice from half a lemon.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Sweat the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the carrot, celery, and potato, adding a pinch of salt to each layer, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil.  Boil for another 3-5 minutes until potatoes start to soften.  Add the can of tomatoes and return to a simmer.  Add corn and green beans and continue to simmer over low heat until potatoes are fork tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the juice from the lemon and simmer for a few more minutes until all the veggies are tender and the flavors have come together.

Great served with grilled cheese!

Easy Ratatouille

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This is a great recipe to try out different seasonal vegetables.  I was able to make this dish completely with vegetables we grow in our garden – including the garlic!  IT’s a healthy yet hearty meal that makes great leftovers because it’s not too heavy.  I’ve never tried to make “traditional” ratatouille and probably never will after making this baby.  Slice, season, and shove it in the oven.  It’s

Easy Ratatouille

2 small zucchini

2 small summer squash

3 large tomatoes

3 medium russet potatoes

3 medium onions

3-5 cloves garlic, depending on size, minced

3 T olive oil

1 T dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried Oregano

1/2 T dried Savory

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 to 1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Prep the vegetables by slicing about 1/8 inch thick.  For the potatoes, slice slightly thinner so they cook in the same time as the vegetables.  In a 13 x 9 pan, line the vegetables along the width of the pan, alternating as desired.  Once the vegetables are lined in the pan, drizzle with olive oil.   Sprinkle minced garlic, parsley, savory, and oregano over the top.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Finish with about 1 cup of Parmesan (or as desired).

Bake for 30 minutes at 375 and then turn the oven up to 400 for the final 30 minutes.  Ratatouille is done when the potatoes are fork tender.   Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.  Top with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Oven Baked Pork Tacos

As good as they look and even better the next day!

As good as they look and even better the next day!

You may find this post slightly interesting, and contradictory, since it uses several “package” products.  However, there is a difference – in my mind at least – between packaged and processed, and the ingredients below lean towards the former.  My recipes will typically be a little bit more “homemade”, but I wanted this to be my first post for a reason.  This recipe is adapted from a pin on Pinterest – the first pin-recipe that I tried.  It came out so wonderfully, and I loved the picture so much that it made me want to start food-blogging (again – bonus points to you if you dig up the old one ;).  Plus, this dish is just damn delicious!  And it’s a great value because of the number of servings you get out of it.  And the icing on the cake: they make even BETTER leftovers!

Oven Baked Pork Tacos

3/4 lb bulk pork chorizo

3/4 lb ground pork (85% lean)

one large onion, diced

1 – 14oz can refried beans

1 cup (8 oz) tomato sauce (plain tomato sauce, NOT pasta sauce)

half of a small can of green chiles

Season with the following (start with about half of this total mixture and season to taste; I used 3/4 of this which is the equivalent to a packet of taco seasoning if you feel like a shortcut)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1  teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

20 yellow and/or blue corn hard taco shells

2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese

In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and add onion.  Sweat for about 3 minutes.  Add pork and chorizo and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until meet is broken up into small bits and cooked through.  Drain completely.  Add the beans, tomato sauce, green chilies (add the whole can if you like more spice), and seasoning.  Simmer until all is combined and thick, almost paste-like.  Line a baking dish, or two, with the hard taco shells sitting upright.  Tip: if you’re having a hard time getting them to stand up, ball up some foil between a couple.  Fill shells about half full of mixture; it should fill about 20 shells.  Top with cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream and a diced up tomato (with a few of the extra chilis and a little cilantro if you’re feeling ambitious).

To reheat as leftovers:  preheat oven to 350 degrees and put tacos in while oven is preheating.  After about 5 minutes at full temp, crank the oven up to 400 and bake for another 5 minutes or until the filling is heated through.  Be sure to keep an eye on them so the cheese doesn’t get overly brown.