Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Okay. So I’m going to forget for a few moments that it’s been in the 80s here in Indiana this week and last, and transport myself back to a time a couple weeks ago where the temperatures were barely in the low 60s and the rain was steadily pouring nearly every day. This requires a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, if you will.

Now that I’m back in those chilly early days of fall if only in my memories, I can recall a delicious soup that popped its way into my oven, onto my stove, and into my heart. A soup that requires little to no effort, sans some chopping, scooping, and measuring that yields a slightly spicy, thick, and comforting bowl of Roasted Vegetable Soup.

Now, despite my love of vegetables, I am by no means a Vegetable Soup kind of girl. Brothy soups are not for me. So when I saw this recipe pop up on my Google Reader, I was a bit skeptical. A soup just made out of vegetables? How much flavor can that really have? Sure, there are some herbs but what can they really do?

Oh, silly me. Clearly I forgot the lessons I learned with Roasted Tomato Sauce or any of the other roasted vegetable dishes I’ve shared on this ‘lil blog. Roasting vegetables makes all the difference. While cooking vegetable stovetop leaves them mushy and a little blah, roasting them brings out tons of flavor and that smooth, creamy texture that I love. This soup’s perfect for cozying up to on a cold, rainy evening, and is the best vehicle for endless bites of warm, crusty bread. Mmm, good!

I’m so glad I decided to give vegetable soup a try. What’s one food that you’re glad that you decided to try?

Roasted Vegetable Soup [from Good Cheap Eats]
printable version

Ingredients:

  • 7 baby eggplants, halved lengthwise [about 3 1/2 cups; original used 1 large eggplant]
  • 2 medium yellow squashes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 small sweet peppers [or 2 bell peppers], seeded and halved
  • 2 large carrots, chunked
  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small hot pepper [optional]
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper and salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the vegetables–eggplant, squash, zucchini, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, and hot pepper–on a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet [or two, in my case]. Brush with a thin layer of oil and season with a generous amount of pepper and a little salt. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until tender and spotted with brown.

Add vegetables to a large stockpot, scooping pulp from eggplant, squash, and zucchini first. Add oregano, basil, and bay leaf, then pour in 4 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until smooth. Alternatively, use a blender or food processor with caution since the liquid is hot. Add up to 2 more cups of broth if desired to thin. [I didn’t do this.] Serve warm with crusty bread.
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes [10 minutes active].
Yield: 5-6 servings.
Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Pacific Natural Foods.
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Quinoa, Recipes, Sides

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

So, after a week spent snuggling up in sweatshirts and blankets, drinking tea as I got back into the spirit of the school year [do I hear a sarcastic *yay* for reading journal articles?], the temperature is back in the 80s and the skies are sunny. Guess summer wants to hang on a bit longer here.

After a visit to our local Farmer’s Market last weekend, I whipped up this quick, refreshing, and healthy lunch salad to enjoy all week long.

Every bite of Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad provides a thorough mix of a variety of the season’s most abundant vegetables with a mix of yellow summer squash, tomatoes, sweet pepper, and corn–all made sweeter [if that is even possible?!?!] by my latest favorite way to prepare vegetables: oven roasting. Roasting vegetables just adds another depth of flavor and texture that I’ve fallen in love with this summer. Mix in my favorite vegetarian protein, black beans, and a chewy, filling grain like quinoa and you have yourself a tasty and satisfying salad–perfect to eat at home or on the go. Any grain [rice, barley, couscous, etc.] would work in a pinch so just use whatever you have handy. I also think some cilantro thrown in would be just lovely, but I didn’t have any around so that was a no-go for me.

As much as I cannot wait to wear boots, eat my weight in apples, and take long walks with Ben while sipping a Pumpkin Spice latte, I’m content to enjoy summer’s bounty for a little while longer if it means more lunches like this Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad. I just can’t get enough!

Reader Question ~ What part of summer do you want to hang onto just a little while longer?

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
printable version

Ingredients:

  • 2 small yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 6 small roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small sweet pepper, chopped [I used Carmen]
  • 1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • small handful fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squash, tomatoes, corn, and peppers in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables become slightly blackened, flipping every 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare quinoa. First, rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer [to remove bitter hull]. Next, place in a 4 quart saucepan with 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes or until grains have turned transparent and spiral-like germ has separated.

When quinoa and vegetables are ready, gently combine in a large bowl. Fold in black beans, red chili flakes, and basil. Serve immediately or chill for a cold lunch salad.

Yield: 4 cups.

Time: 40 minutes.

Main Dishes, Recipes, Sauces

Roasted Tomato Sauce

So, let’s talk about red pasta sauce. Ahh, that oft-neglected component of many Italian dishes [at least in my world]. Funny, red pasta sauce is a staple in my kitchen yet I don’t really think about it. I’m too busy thinking about the layers of cheesy, meaty goodness in lasagna or the fact that spaghetti is a speedy, brainless, and relatively healthy dinner to truly consider what the sauce is made out of and how it tastes. Most of the time, I purchase a decent store-bought jarred pasta sauce and that’s the end of the story.

Things are a-changing now. I’ve moved passed the typical “end of the story” and on into uncharted waters. A sequel, if you will.

This journey takes us into the land where pasta sauce is just veggies and herbs, with a tiny bit of seasonings and oil, but mainly just the good stuff from the ground [and the bush and the tree, I suppose]. But you get my gist, right? It’s all about the flavor and freshness of ripe August tomatoes, nutty yellow summer squash, sweet onions, crisp Carmen peppers, and mellow cloves of garlic.

Not only do the flavor and freshness of these veggies make this sauce stand out, but the cooking method does as well. Slow roasting the vegetables provides extra depth, richness, and sweetness that cooking down on the stove top cannot achieve. Plus, this relatively hands-off cooking method is a breeze! Feel free to add a pinch of sugar or extra seasonings to taste, but we found anything else to be unnecessary.

We love topping hot noodles with Roasted Tomato Sauce, but it’s equally great eaten cold with a spoon in front of an open refrigerator door… or, you know, as a bread dip. Delicious either way. I don’t think I’ll ever leave this wonderful land of veggielicious pasta sauce. Stay with me? And eat cold pasta sauce? You know you want to…

What do you eat cold in front of the refrigerator? Fess up below! ūüôā

Roasted Tomato Sauce
printable version

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups roughly chopped tomatoes [I used Roma]
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 Carmen pepper, halved [or substitute half of a bell pepper]
  • 4 cloves garlic, papery skin removed, and cloves smashed
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • dried rosemary
  • fresh basil [about 4-5 leaves]
  • fresh oregano [about 2-3 sprigs]

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using two baking sheets [preferably jelly roll-style pans with sides at least 1 inch deep], lay out all vegetables [tomatoes, squash, onion, pepper, and garlic] skin side down in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with pepper, salt, and rosemary. Bake for about 60 minutes or until vegetables start to blacken around the edges.

Remove to a deep bowl and add basil and oregano. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture until you reach your desired level of smoothness. Alternatively, a blender or food processor would work too but be careful with using hot food in those appliances. Serve on top of your favorite pasta.

Yield: 4 cups

Time: 70 minutes [10 minutes active]

Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

(Not So) Authentic Jambalaya?

I met my husband when we were both interns for Campus Crusade for Christ at Ohio University. We started dating in February 2008, and one of the first meals I found out that he loved was jambalaya. Problem was though that Ben liked a recipe made by a husband and wife who are really great cooks. So naturally, I was intimidated to make jambalaya for him. I didn’t want to fail, and I didn’t even really have a good recipe. The only other time I had had it was on a mission trip nine years ago in New Orleans, and that jambalaya was excellent! [In retrospect, I could have asked for the “good” recipe… but I make things complicated, so I didn’t. :)]

Fast forward to the present day. I finally got over my fear of not living up to his expectations, and made jambalaya. It may be authentic, it may be not-so-authentic. However, it was well received and tasty, so that’s all that counts, right?!?

Not So Authentic Jambalaya... but still delicious! thepajamachef.com
The finished product in all its glory!

 

Benny eating jambalaya.
Eating is serious business, apparently.
Benny waving
Taking a break to say hello!

Without further ado…

(Not So) Authentic Jambalaya?

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

à la Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
  • 3 Italian sausages [I used turkey sausage–2 sweet & 1 spicy], cooked & chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup brown jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 c yellow squash, chopped <– This added such a great summery flavor and crunch to the dish.
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon double concentrated tomato paste <—I love this stuff!!! It’s so worth the price, and sometimes Kroger has it on sale. Score!

Directions:

In a large, deep pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and then add flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Add the onions, squash, garlic, and parsley and toss to coat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until the onions are soft. Add water, tomatoes [diced and paste], rice, pepper, and chili powder and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for one hour or until rice is cooked. Add chicken and sausage and heat thoroughly.

Notes:

The original recipe called for andouille sausage, celery, cayenne pepper, and long grain brown rice; I substituted a chicken/Italian sausage mixture, squash, chili powder, and brown jasmine rice because its what I had on hand. I also had to cook it a lot longer than the recipe called for, likely because I added additional rice and meat to satisfy my husband’s palate. ūüôā All in all, I ended up adding approximately an extra 1/2 cup of water and 20-30 minutes of cook time for the rice to fully cook. But boy, was it worth it! ūüėČ Oh, and this makes a ton. So be ready to eat, serve a crowd, or freeze some leftovers.

Not So Authentic Jambalaya... but still delicious! thepajamachef.com
Sausage + Chicken + Rice + Tomatoes + Squash = Delicious
Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Creamy Baked Spaghetti

Tonight my plan for dinner was to make spaghetti. We had spaghetti last week, and I froze the leftover meat sauce, and wanted to use it up. But… on my way home today I decided that didn’t sound good, so I thought I’d get creative… and this is what happened!

Creamy Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com

An oh so delicious carb fest… tomato-y, creamy, cheesy, noodle-ly… filled with veggies and meat… which makes myself and my husband both happy! This recipe isn’t overly tomato heavy – though the tomato still makes its presence known – which is a bit of a refreshing change from many Italian dishes! This is a recipe I’m excited to experiment with, as it there’s a lot of potential to mix up the veggies, sauce, meat, and more. It is definitely a work in progress [and a delectable one at that!] and I will be sure to keep you updated!

Creamy Baked Spaghetti

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 2/3 cups meat sauce [I had previous made up one batch of meat sauce using 1 pound browned ground beef + 1 jar marinara sauce, then froze about 1/2-2/3 of the batch… which was about 2 2/3 cups.]
  • 7 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
  • 1 cup yellow squash, diced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • nutmeg
  • ground black pepper
  • cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using cooking spray, grease an 8 cup baking dish [or 3 – 2 cup baking dishes and 1 – 1 1/2 cup baking dish if you want to be like me and make everything possible in individual containers!! :)]. This dish is super quick to make if you get all three pots and pans going at once. After the initial prep work of dicing and measuring, out-of-oven cooking took 15 minutes, tops. Ready?

In a medium size pot, get some water boiling for the pasta. Meanwhile, get the oil sizzling in a small saucepan. Finally, begin melting butter over low heat in a small pot.

When the water is ready, add the noodles, breaking them in half before cooking to shorten their length [especially important if using individual dishes]. Cook until al dente. [My noodles cooked for about 4 minutes so watch ’em closely!] This will be cooking again in the oven, so do not overcook the noodles!

Check the oil in the saucepan by throwing on a little piece of garlic or a green pepper–if it sizzles, you are good to go. Saut√© the¬† garlic, squash, and peppers until almost tender or about 4-5 minutes on medium heat.

When the butter melts, whisk in the flour. Stir until smooth or about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Stir in the milk and sour cream, taking care to stir constantly to avoid lumps. Heat until sauce thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take an additional 5-6 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of sauce, or about half of the sauce.

In a large bowl [or a large pot if you had foresight unlike me], mix the cooked noodles, meat sauce, veggies, oregano, and half of the butter/flour/milk/sour cream divine-ness [aka the unreserved cup]. Add 1/2 cup Italian blend cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on a dash of ground pepper and nutmeg [trust me! It’s good!], and mix well. Spoon into baking dish[es], top with remaining shredded cheese, and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve and smile! ūüôā

Creamy Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com
Look at those sauces swirl!