Spiffed up boxed butternut squash soup

Hubs wasn’t feeling a hundred percent the other day. I offered butternut squash soup for his aching throat and, while it sounded good, he wanted something more like chicken noodle…without the noodles. I figured, why not jazz up the butternut squash soup with the leftover chicken tenders from a few nights previous and the giant leek I had bought at the farmers’ market the day before.

It was a HUGE win. For both of us.

Ingredients:

  • one box of butternut squash soup
  • chicken tenders cut into one inch cubes (or close to it)
  • one leek: green and ends removed, cut against the grain in half inch rounds
  • “pumpkin” spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika
  • salt/pepper/oil

Pour the box of soup into a sauce pan and heat on low, stirring occasionally. I use Pacific brand soups.

Image

Heat a dollup of oil in a saute pan and add the leeks. Make sure the rings of leeks are separated out so that they cook evenly. Meanwhile, rub the spices and salt/pepper into the chicken cubes. When the leeks are beginning to soften, move them to the outside edge of the pan and add in the chicken.

Image

The chicken cooks quickly so keep an eye on it. Turn it when the bottom side starts to brown and the edges begin to whiten up. 

Image

 

Et voila! Serve the soup and then add a hefty serving spoon full of chicken and leeks. It really adds something special to an already delicious soup. Perfect for a quick lunch.

Image

A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

Image

 

Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

Image

It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

Image

In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain. Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

Image

Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

Image

After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thyme and Lime Chicken with Crispy Leeks and Spaghetti Squash and Kale

I have more thyme than I could ever possibly use. The garden is absolutely being taken over. I use it here and there, normally, but have never cooked a meal that was heavy on the fresh thyme…now was the (wait for it) time (commence groaning now).

In my refrigerator I had chicken that needed to be cooked, a stalk of leek that was just holding on to life and a bunch of dinosaur kale. In my window I had a bag full of persian limes, a small spaghetti squash, a basil plant just screaming to be used and a gorgeous farmer’s market yellow onion.

Image

The chicken:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Thyme
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced leek
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

The spaghetti squash and kale:

  • Small to medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Half of yellow onion
  • The other half of the leek
  • 1/4 cup of red wine (leftover wine is fine)
  • Handful of basil
  • Thyme
  • Feta
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

Image

I knew we wanted to eat early last night (our au pair was going to a concert) so I prepped the chicken and the marinade just after lunch and roasted the spaghetti squash.

After collecting a VERY large handful of thyme and washing it, in a glass bowl I put probably a cup full of thyme and the juice of two limes (three if they are not very juicy).  I added a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

The next step was the slice the chicken into smaller pieces (the better to soak up the marinade in my opinion…and it spreads out the portion so that people can take what they want to eat) and then cut the leek. To thinly slice the leek, cut off the green top, leaving the bottom root intact. Using a very sharp knife and tucked away fingers, cut the leek, from the top into a checkerboard (see picture).

Image

And THEN cut off the bottom, “rooty” portion. It should fall apart into long, thinly sliced leek. Usually about 3 inches long. If there are any pieces that aren’t cut through, tear them apart with your hands or with a paring knife.

Put the half of the leeks into the bowl with the rest of the marinade, saving the other half for the other part of the meal, and then add the chicken, pushing the chicken into the juice and squishing it into the bottom of the bowl so that all of the chicken got the yummy marinade. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner.

Image

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the tail off of the spaghetti squash and then, with a very sharp knife and the squash standing on the cut end allowing for it to be flat, cut the squash lengthwise.

Then clean out the seeds and the wet pulp with a spoon. I sometimes save these seeds to roast and top the meal but today I wasn’t into separating it all out.

Spray or rub the inside of the cleaned out squash  with some olive oil. Get out a cookie sheet and either cover it with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a silpat. You will be putting the squash cut side down on here. But before you do that put a few sprigs of thyme on the inside. The spaghetti squash on its own can be pretty bland. A healthy dose of herbs really does a lot to add flavor…as well as the other ingredients that we will mix in later.

Image

Place them face down on the cookie sheet and into the over about halfway up. Depending on how soft you want your spaghetti squash, time it from there. I wanted this to be pretty soft…but actually cooked it just a bit too long (40 minutes instead of my usual 30). I got distracted by the kids and so the squash, when I forked it out later, wash more like a mass instead of individual threads. You can tell when it is done by sticking a knife into the skin. If it goes in easily, it is finished. After roasting it looks like this:

Image

Let the squash cool for about 20 minutes (or longer) before “forking” it. Then using a pot holder to hold the outside of the squash, run a fork through the inside, forming spaghetti like threads. Set this aside.

A few hours later I came back to finish up the meal before our au pair prepared the food for the kids.

I chopped the onions and prepared the kale. The easiest way to do this, I have found, is take the stalk of kale in your hand by the white end and then pull back the towards the green leaf and the kale will separate easily. I then tore the kale into bite size pieces.

Image

In a 12 inch saute pan, I put a pat of butter. Once hot and slightly browned (YUM!), I added the chopped yellow onion and let that soften. When the onion was close to translucent, I added the kale and the rest of the leeks.

I let this cook down for a bit, until the kale was beginning to wilt. I tore the basil into small pieces (no need to be precise here…it will blend in with the kale) and threw those into the mix. I then added in a splash of red wine (OKAY, okay, I’ll admit it…it was more like a 1/4 cup. No? Alright. 1/2 a cup) to help the kale cook down and offset some of the bitterness.

Image

I cooked it over low heat until the leaves were bright green and wilted, the onions soft and the wine absorbed.

This is a good time to turn off the greens until you are ready to cook the chicken. While the chicken cooks you will add in the rest of the ingredients.

Pull out another saute pan, big enough to fit all of your chicken with about an inch between the pieces. Heat up a pat of butter in the pan and swirl it around. The chicken has been marinating with grapeseed oil so you don’t need to add more oil to the pan.

Image

My husband likes his onions, especially leeks, incredibly crispy (and practically burned…much to my chagrin). So I add them in at the beginning with the chicken and cook them at a medium temp. If you want them less crispy, add them a bit later. Save the marinade to pour back over the chicken when you flip. I don’t flip until the first side is browned. As these pieces are smaller than a full chicken breast, they take less time. Keep an eye on them. Also, make sure that you push the cooking chicken and leeks around in the juices.

Image

While the chicken is cooking, turn the kale mix back on at a low temp and add to it the spaghetti squash and sprinkle on some feta cheese and a splash more of the red wine and a squeeze of lime juice, should you have any left over.

Break up the feta so that it is throughout the dish. Same goes for the spaghetti squash…try to break it up so it isn’t in big clumps. Also, if you see any random thyme stems, pull those out. Nooooot tasty those stems! Taste and see if it needs any more salt. It may. Spaghetti squash can be WAY undersalted.

Let the feta melt, the rest of the dish heat up and all of the yummy goodness to absorb that last splash of wine and lime. As I am completely dependent on my istaread thermometer, when both sides of the chicken are properly browned, pull them off the heat when they reach 160 degrees. I usually test the smallest pieces first and pull them off if they are done before the big guys.

We served in a shallow bowl with the kale and spaghetti squash under the chicken. It was incredibly fragrant and the chicken majorly juicy with the savoriness of the thyme and leeks and the citrus of the lime.  OH! I almost forgot. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so at the very end I also added a dash of Onion Crunch. Totally finished it right.

Image

Ginger lime chicken with leeks and broccolini

M was out with some buddies for dinner the other night and the girls were out with some friends so I was home cooking for myself. I didn’t feel like doing TOO much but felt like I wanted a little zing with a lot of veg. 

Chicken:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • the juice of 1 large lime
  • about a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of olive oil (you can add a bit of sesame oil, too, if you’d like)
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped

In a glass bowl I put the soy sauce, honey, lime juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil. I pulled my knob of ginger out of the freezer where I keep it in a zip lock and grate a knob over the marinade. I whisk it for a second, separate and reserve two tablespoons of the mixture and then let it sit while I prepare the leek. I chopped off the green ends and the bottom portion of the leek, left only with the whites, and cut them into thin, long strips. I then placed those strips and the tenders in the marinade while I prepared the broccolini.

Image

I rinsed the broccolini and then put it in a bamboo steamer to steam on low heat until bright green.

Image

When the broccolini was finished, I turned off the heat and let them sit, uncovered, on the stovetop while I cooked the chicken. It goes pretty quickly so do this maybe 10 minutes before you want to eat. This is best served quickly and warm because of the saucey, caramelized bits.

In a heavy bottomed saute pan over med-high heat, warm a teaspoon of olive oil. Once glistening, add the onions and cook for a minute until they are starting to become translucent. Push them to the side of the pan and, using tongs, add the chicken and leeks to the pan.  

Once the chicken is browning slightly, flip the chicken and pour on the reserved marinade. Make sure to mix the onions and leeks into the marinade as well. Using a insta-read thermometer, pull them off the heat at 160ish as they will continue to cook once you take them off the heat. Mix the pieces together on the bottom of the pan as the marinade will have caramelized and is DEVIIIINE.

Image

Squeeze a lemon over the broccolini and add a few thinly sliced pats of butter (more like a shave). I also shook a tiny bit of parm over the veg. Then put two tenders on a place with the leeks and onions on top. Et voila! The chicken was SPECTACULAR. Succulent, savory, a bit of zing from the ginger and a little smidge of sweet, too. The broccolini was hearty and yummy. Quite a good meal for a lady on her own 🙂

Image