Quick & Easy Minestrone

I know! I haven’t updated in awhile. Talk to my sponsors.

Alright, fine. I’ve been having a tough time. Chronic illness/pain is NO JOKE, as much as I try to make it one since it’s ruined my entire life, sometimes it knocks the hell out of me. If anyone actually reads this and cares, I am doing a decent amount better. I don’t want to say I’m doing too well, because some days I wake up and sink back into bed, choosing not to acknowledge reality until it starts to play nice again. Since it’s playing nice even just a little, I’m going to try and get my junk together. So I made soup!

Fall is coming. It’s in the air. Nights are getting crisper, and pumpkin spice is haunting all of our dreams. I might not get to enjoy it much, seeing as I’ve missed out on Winter and Summer so far, but you better believe I’m still going to play along. Here’s my super quick and easy minestrone soup.

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INGREDIENTS

• 1 Box Chicken Stock      • 1 Box or Large Can Puréed Tomatoes    • Sun Dried Tomatoes

• 2 Cans Each Kidney, Chick & White Beans     • 1 Yellow Onion      • 2 Medium Zucchini

• Salt    • Pepper    • Dried Oregano    • Dried Dill    • Garlic Powder    • White Pepper(optional)

• Corn

*** If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, subbing water or veggie stock for the chicken stock won’t hurt this!

It looks like a lot of ingredients, but I promise, it’s quick.

First, chop up your onion as chunky or dicey as you like. As usual, throw that in the pot with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil or any other non-stick you like to use and sprinkle a little sea salt on top to let them sweat. (If you’re limiting salt, skip that.) Let them go until they’re a little soft, not too much, they’re going to be cooking in the soup the entire time.

While those are mellowing, chop up your Sun Dried Tomatoes. I used around seven in mine. Damn! They’re hard to chop up, if you’ve got a food processor, don’t make your life any harder than it has to be (unless you’re a jerk, make it harder and gain some perspective). However, if you’re stressed and have a bit of anger to get out, I found that digging into the little buggers and then slamming the large knife down onto the board while they pulverized was quite satisfying…I’M FINE.

 

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I like to add a little bit of chicken stock (or water if you’re veggie) at this point. It gets the tiny onion bits up off the pot, and I like to let a little sauce form to pre-release the Sun Dried Tomatoes. It probably doesn’t do anything.

While that melds, cut up your zucchini. Again, cut it up as big or small as you’d like. I like this soup hearty, so I cut the up pretty chunky as you can see below.

 

Let the zucchini soften for LITERALLY two minutes. You just want them tossed around.

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After they’ve married with the tomatoes and onions, you’re going to add in your six cans of beans. SIX CANS?! It sounds like a lot, but in all that liquid, one can of each won’t show up to the party – just believe me. Make sure you rinse the beans off and look for little pebbles that may be left in with them. Yuck.

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Look at that chicken stock stream action shot! Add in the whole box of stock, or almost cover the ingredients with your water. Leave about an inch because we’re going to add…

A box or large can of tomato purée!

That chicken stock line can be a measure of where you’ll want your liquid line.

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Now stir everything up and put the heat on medium, and play around with spices. This is where I like to add in a couple shakes of Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, and Dried Oregano and Dill. I add about a TBSP and a half of the dried herbs. I go light on the Salt (don’t forget there is salt in the chicken stock, unless you’re using water, your own stock, or low sodium stock, so be conscious of that or it’ll be too salty!), and heavy on the Pepper. I like this soup to be zesty, minestrone has that classic, deep herby flavor to it. I’m not sure what the exact science to achieve it is, so I just keep pouring in herbs and tasting until it feels right.

I also like to add a bit of White Pepper. Now, if you haven’t played with White Pepper before, it can get real hot, real fast. I literally added a sprinkling and this soup had a serious heat to it, not temperature-wise. If you don’t want your soup to have a hot pepper note to it, leave it out. If you’re one of those crazy people who can’t even taste heat DUMP IT!

After you’re done doing all of that, your pot should look something like this.

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Cover it and let it come to a slight boil. Once it does, immediately set it to a medium/low simmer. Now is when you should add in around two cups of frozen corn, or any frozen veggies you’d like to add! Let it simmer on that heat–the soup should just barely be rolling and releasing small, sporadic air bubbles–for about 20 to 30 minutes. 

When it’s done, everyone should be married and happy together. I’d take a taste and add a few more spices. Once it’s to your liking, put a big ol’ ladle of it into your favorite soup dish.

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Enjoy!

Don’t forget to follow my Twitter and Instagram accounts located in my menu bar if you want to see things I eat and rants I tweet!

Let’s Ketchup!

Today we’re going to make my homemade, sugar free ketchup recipe while we catch up! See my play on words there? Yeah. This is why I’m cool.

We’re gonna play with spices. These powdery, pulverized babies are our ride to Flavor-Town in this super healthy, crafty alternative to buying that store bought shit. Sorry, but it’s shit! There’s a ton of sugar and chemicals in it. Why do we need that? In my unbiased opinion, it’s stupid.

My views are a little skewed since eating clean. Similar to my skewed ideas of driving-ease to different states in the US after my cross-country road trip. With the knowledge of knowing I can drive to literally anywhere in the US with ease, I also know that I can make things normally bought pre-made all by myself, and much healthier. I know not everyone has the time or need to cook what they eat from scratch. But..you just should anyway because it’s better.  Also, I once read someone say that any good restaurant makes their own unique ketchup. That’s really cool, so, be like that.

INGREDIENTS:

• One Large Can or 26oz Box of Strained Tomatoes

• Distilled White Vinegar

• Cinnamon

• Onion Powder

• All Spice

• Garlic Powder

• Salt & Pepper

Get a sauce pan and your strained tomatoes, and a chair, because I’m gonna tell you a little story about my life. And when I say strained tomatoes, I mean puréed tomatoes. You want the consistency to be smooth, unless you want to try this with chopped tomatoes and make it a little chunky. I say go for it. Do what you feel.

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Put the strained tomatoes in your pot, adding 2 TSPs of the Distilled White Vinegar, and about a teaspoon to start of all your spices. 

Cover your pot because things are going to get a little crazy, you’ll see, and keep the heat at a medium to medium-low setting. This will cook for about 25-30 minutes to reach a thick, ketchup consistency.

Pictured below is around how much spice I add per spice. I do a blanketing of sorts with each, sometimes adding less or more. If I want it more savory, I’ll keep the spice measurements  fairly equal and maybe add more pepper and salt. If I want it to be a little sweeter, I’ll keep the salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder even while adding extra cinnamon and all spice. And I know. You’re thinking, how do cinnamon and all spice make any sense here? But they do! As soon as you add them and smell it cooking, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Suddenly, the room will start to smell like hot ketchup. And if you’re like me, it will nauseate you. Keep in mind that, though we’re loosey goosey with ingredients here, the vinegar seems crucial for this to work.unnamed-2

While that’s going, let’s chat.  We’ve never really spoken about me and why I made this blog, or even why I’ve decided to change my lifestyle to eat clean. It’s important because eating clean can feel really restrictive, and is a choice to work toward bettering yourself and your health. Sometimes it’s not a choice. Sometimes people have to restrict what they put into their body for allergy and health reasons.

Clean eating, for me, was a choice. I became so sick sometime at the end of 2014, and am still healing from it. I think it was a matter of my own error that was eventually worsened by doctor error, but in the midst of my health battle, I realized how truly unhealthy I was living. I decided to go on Whole30 in hopes of resetting my body. And no, this blog is not sponsored by Whole30. I have one follower and a few posts. I’m only here to promote good health and helpful food ideas – without preaching. Maybe.

**Remember to keep stirring the ketchup every 15 minutes or so. It’s thickening, and may stick to the bottom of the pan if you don’t keep an eye on it. And don’t panic. I know, it’s bubbling and spewing tomato sauce everywhere, and is somehow hotter than lava. This isn’t a chemistry experiment gone wrong, at least I don’t think. It’s normal. Let it keep going!

Anyway, back to me. Worried that I had an autoimmune disorder, restricting what I allowed into my body seemed like the path I should take. For an entire month, I had no gluten, dairy, soy, grains, sugar, cold cuts, anything processed. I had to eat pure, whole foods.

Autoimmune disorders are an overreaction of inflammation in the body while it’s attacking something it shouldn’t, or something invisible. Therefore, certain food irritants and allergens we’re not entirely aware of can begin to look like an autoimmune disorder. And because doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I thought I had horrible food allergies all of a sudden and was even instructed to eliminate many foods while trying to figure out the issue.

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After about 30 minutes, the pot will be a big huge mess, and the ketchup will have thickened. If you’re happy with it at this consistency, turn off the heat, switch to a cooler burner, and let it sit until it’s temperature appropriate to store. This is also a good time to carefully taste and add more spice if you need to.

In the past few weeks, I’ve realized that my issue most likely wasn’t stemming from certain foods like gluten and dairy and soy, but I’ve done enough reading and research to know that these things are unnecessary and still irritate the body despite everything. I’ve chosen to stick with clean eating because of this, and because I truly believe that if I eliminate impurities my body would normally have to fight to get rid of,  it will give my body more fuel to heal an actual problem that I don’t have complete control over. In my opinion, processed food is a killer. There’s too much crap in it for the body to handle.

 This is what your sugar free, homemade ketchup should look like in the end! Use it how you would use your normal ketchup!

This will keep in the fridge for a week and a half to 2 weeks.

Please remember. That what I said here are purely my own beliefs and experience. If it inspires, I’m happy to help someone work toward wellness with me. If it’s not your thing – keep doing what you do! #Murica

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

#NationalFrenchFryDay Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Who knew that when we woke up this morning it would be National French Fry Day? Did you know? Whatever.

I’m so not in the mood to cook today. It’s gloomy out and I’m stunting myself and my career by lying in bed thinking about emotions and life instead of actually doing something constructive. What’s better added to a day of self-pity than a salty sweet treat like fries? Um. Nothing.

I’m sure you already know, but let me remind you how stupid simple making your own healthier baked fries at home is. Grab a sweet potato and your cutting board! Also, now’s a good time to preheat your oven. I use a toaster oven when baking small batches like this, but I put the temp at around 450º either way.

unnamed-1 INGREDIENTS:

• Sweet Potato

• EVOO

• Salt, Pepper & Garlic Power (Whatever Spices You Like)

 

Cut your sweet potato as thick or thin as you’d like, but PLEASE  be careful. Sweet potatoes, though softer when cooked, are pretty tough in their raw state and can be tricky to cut. Sometimes I like to make mine longer and thicker (lol), but today I was feeling lazy and like effort needed to take a backseat. Perhaps don’t be like me.

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Lay your uncooked fries on a baking sheet and sprinkle with your favorite spices. I like to use a decently hefty amount of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder on mine. Cayenne or crushed red pepper would also probably be delicious if you wanted to spice things up.

unnamed-3 Once you’ve spiced, pour on around 2 1/2 TBSPs of EVOO. You don’t want to add a lot or they’ll remain soft while cooking.

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You want them to be just glistening without much excess oil on your baking sheet. Once you’ve got the orange babies coated, slide them into the oven.

This is where it’s going to be a pain. For some reason, sweet potato fries take extra long to cook, so go do something to keep yourself busy. Like throw on another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – it’s going to take around 40 – 45 minutes for them to crisp up.

unnamed-5 When it’s halfway through and they’re browning like this, turn them over and let them continue to cook.

They’ll still be soft at this point, and you will definitely get frustrated because you just want to eat some damn fries. But it’s okay, you only made these because it’s #NationalFrenchFryDay

When they’re done, they should look something like this. You may want to try them and see if extra seasoning is needed. If so, piping hot is the time to throw on some more!

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. Pictured here is my own homemade ketchup recipe that I’ll share on here soon!

Happy National French Fry Day!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Rainbow Potato Hash

It’s Sunday where I am, and that only means one thing: I barely want to do anything besides lie in bed and Netflix all day – but a girl’s gotta eat! And what makes things more challenging is that this girl’s gotta eat non-processed, gluten/dairy/soy free foods (who needs to eat after that mouth full?).

What is a lazy person to do on a day they’re supposed to rest, but they also want to have something yummy and pretty (this will be a frequent word and idea here, get over it)? RAINBOW POTATO HASH!!

What makes it a rainbow?  I used different colored potatoes and transferred all of my emotional energy from this past week into it.

Heads up: This recipe is meant to have extras, there are no exact measurements because we’re not about that/have time for that stuff over here, and there will be more pictures. You win.

unnamed-1INGREDIENTS:

• Sweet, Russet & Red Potato

• Onion

• Red Bell Pepper

• Button Mushrooms                                 • Water

• Salt, Pepper & Garlic Powder               • EVOO

unnamed-2Put on your favorite podcast and/or music and chop the potatoes into the cub-sized pieces pictured. Let’s keep it nice and rustic and rough cut because it’s Sunday and we’re not trying to do anything extra stressful.

It’s best if you use a non-stick pan for this recipe. Put about two tables spoons of the EVOO in the pan on a medium heat. Once it warms up, add in the potatoes, sprinkle with some salt, and let them start lightly frying/browning. Keep them uncovered for this part.

Grab a smidgen of water to keep by your side, because it’s what we’re going to use to cook the rest. I’ve found that if you keep adding oil, you end up with a greasy, gross mess. Despite the extra frying and calories, I just don’t want to eat little potato cubes in puddles of oil, but if that’s your jam, go for it – DO YOU!

Start chopping your veggies. Today, I had mushrooms, a red bell pepper and onion lying around, but any would probably be great in here. unnamed-5

When the potatoes take on a brown like this, add the veggies. I put them right on top, sprinkle them with my spice combo, and turn the heat up a little higher while adding 4 or so TBSPs of water. I eyeball it. Because I’m a gangster. And because it’s Sunday. We’re looking to steam the rest. To keep some of the crisp while continuing to soften the inside of the potatoes and cook the veggies. If you don’t need water, or need less than recommended, adjust. It has to do with your preference and keeping an eye on the situation. At some point, you may want to turn down the heat, unlike I did, so you won’t burn some of it.

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I like to let it sit like this for a little so things can soften more and marry together, but only for a few minutes, otherwise it can get too soft. Otherwise, enjoy this beautiful mosaic of colors from the earth. Was that too hippie?

unnamed-7Take the top off after five or so minutes, let the excess liquid cook off, or drain if appropriate.

Let it continue cooking with the top off, allowing it to get crispier if you wish (may want to add a little more oil in that case).

Continue tasting and adding spices to your liking. Once done, it should look beautiful, colorful, and taste like a Sunday should.

If you have it, add some purple potatoes, cut up some chives to sprinkle on top when done, and a dollop of sour cream (dairy or non-dairy). YUM!

Enjoy!

Comfort Food: Gluten Free Penne w/ White Beans in Olive Oil Sauce

Hello to potentially no one! Unless you’re here, then hello to you – and thanks for coming to my new food blog!

This isn’t serious cooking, just seriously decent cooking. I love food. It tastes good, and under the right circumstances, it can be really beautiful. But I am not a chef. Not a chef at all. I’m just some twenty-something chick on the East Coast, longing for another coast, (hopefully) getting over a chronic illness, and learning how to cook great food that tastes and looks delicious. There’s nothing fancy about this blog or the way I cook. This is about grabbing what’s around, which is sometimes not much, especially because I have a restricted diet which we’ll talk about another time, and turning lemons into steak. I’m not sure I’ll even have exact measurements. Think of me as an over sized Instagram with more space for unwanted text and larger font.

To kick us off, and a great way for you to get an idea of what will go on here, here’s a simple comfort dish on this (where I am) rainy, thundering day – which are my favorite days.

INGREDIENTS:

• Gluten Free Pasta

• Quarter of an Onion

• White (cannellini) Beans

• Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder (feel free to use fresh garlic) & Parsley

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I suggest getting things chopped and pans with water out beforehand, unless you’re me and like to have a panic attack over things being finished before other things.

Slice the onions thinly, or dice them if you don’t like to look at your onion. If you’re cool and using fresh herbs, chop those up now, too. Rinse your beans off and put them to the side.

Heat up a decent amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil of your choice, enough to be the coating for your pasta as a sauce – at the same time start to boil your water. Add a little salt to the water, because the box says so, and science says it makes water boil better. Or faster?

When the EVOO starts to heat up, throw in those onion with a pinch of salt and let them heat up until they’re a little soft and translucent. I like to add a pinch of pepper and garlic powder to the onions at this point. If you’re using fresh garlic, throw that in and stir until you feel like an Italian chef (only a few seconds). Now it’s time to drop those beans! Let them in, and mix until they’re fully coated in the EVOO and onions.

You may want to throw some pasta in at this point if your water is boiling. I used half a box. Follow their directions on time.

*an aside about garlic: I LOVE fresh garlic, but I’ve found that it may be an irritant for me, so I am avoiding it for now and using the powder. Not as good, but definitely not bad.

While the beans are heating, lower your flame to somewhere between medium and off, and add in your parsley. I happen to use dry in this recipe, so I let it sit for a few extra minutes to settle. Also I pretty much only add it because it’s some color and makes the dish prettier to look at. If you’re not into it, ditch that or add something else, like spring onions. Yum! Now is a good time to taste and add more salt, pepper, garlic powder, and/or dried parsley.

Lower your flame and let the bean sauce sit with itself so it can contemplate life and gain a deeper, more meaningful flavor while the pasta continues to cook.

Once your pasta is done, drain and mix into sauce until fully ::intertwines fingers::… you just want everything to be together. In the end, this is what it should look like:

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The beans add a lovely creaminess that I’d normally like to get from some Parmesan Cheese, and if you don’t have a problem with dairy, I suggest adding it to this! Feel free to sub your favorite veggies, too.

Enjoy!