navy bean soup

this gem of a recipe comes from my mother. probably from her father, to be honest. it’s been in my family for a long time. when i was a child we would always have this the week after christmas, because my mother would use the ham bone from christmas dinner (you know, the one with delicious bits of pink ham still clinging to it?) as the base for the stock. i’ve adapted it so that it can be made any time you’d like. this soup is comfort and happiness in a bowl. it’s thick and hearty, but the bulk of the heartiness is made up of beans—a lean protein upon which our bodies thrive. the ham is really just there for flavor…amazing, porky flavor.
navy bean soup

ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried navy beans, soaked at least 12 hours in water
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 chunk ham (you can use center cut ham slices, or even a boneless spiral cut ham portion like i did – amount of ham to taste)
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound celery
  • salt and pepper
  • water, about 8 cups
  • olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons

directions:

soak the beans overnight in water. the timing on this usually varies for me from about 12 hours to 18 hours, but rarely is it ever 24 hours. oh, and it should happen at room temperature.  drain your soaked beans and pick through them to remove any stones or twigs.

peel and cut your carrots into 1 inch chunks. dice your onion, and cut your celery into 1/2 moon chunks. the shape isn’t too important with the veggies, you just want to be sure that they are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium to medium high heat and add the aromatics. saute until they begin to soften and brighten in color, add the ham hock, the beans, salt and pepper, and water to cover. cut the ham into chunks and add in when ready, add more water if needed to be sure everything is covered.

bring the mixture to a boil and continue that for about 10 minutes.  then, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 2 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the ingredients covered. you will know the soup is ready when the beans are very soft and the water has thickened into a creamy rich broth.

like most soups, this is better the next day. enjoy!

notes:

this little family recipe is relatively inexpensive to make and will feed an army. it is the perfect p90x friendly meal because it’s low in calories and high in lean protein. i hope you enjoy!

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creamy corn pasta with bacon

this dish has been rolling around in my head for a while now. i really wanted to use canned creamed corn in a recipe (don’t ask me why, i can’t even begin to tell you) and once our dear friend jonny gave us some homemade bacon, i knew i had the perfect combination of flavors to pull it off. the prep time for this is minimal, but the “sauce” does have to simmer on the stove for a little while to thicken. plan accordingly.

creamy corn pasta with bacon

creamy corn pasta with bacon

  • 1/2 pound slab or thick cut bacon
  • one bunch (about 6-7) scallions, white and light green portion only
  • 2 cans creamed corn
  • salt
  • one pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape

cut the bacon into chunks or cubes. add this to a large pan over a medium flame. cook this slowly while stirring often, rendering the fat, until it’s crispy. remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and set it aside. remove all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat and discard or save for future use (coughfriedeggscough).

cut the scallions into small discs and then add them to the remaining bacon fat. saute for about two minutes until they begin to soften and then add the contents of both cans of corn. bump the heat up slightly and stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken and reduce—about 20-25 minutes. meanwhile, cook the pasta per the package instructions.

grab one cup of pasta cooking water and set aside. add the cooked pasta to the reduced sauce and toss gently adding about 1 cup of pasta water* to loosen the sauce and bring it together with the pasta. add the bacon back in, toss gently, and serve immediately.

notes: fritz really liked this pasta, and was licking the spoon (and his lips) while i was cooking the sauce.  the bacon imparts a really nice saltiness to this dish, and i found that it didn’t need the other flavor i was going to add: goat cheese.

*you are probably wondering why i had you reduce and thicken the sauce just to thin it again. a couple of reasons actually:

  1. reducing the sauce intensifies the flavors of the sweet corn and slightly caramelizes the sugars
  2. using the pasta water helps the sauce stick to the pasta because of the starches in the water

pasta with tuna tomato sauce

i first saw this recipe in a giada de laurentiis cookbook about 7 years ago, and was initially repulsed, which is funny to me now since this has become a mainstay of our diet. i have since found out that this is a common dish in italy. this sauce is so good, the tuna really sings here, and is paired perfectly with the tomato sauce. also, it is fast, easy, and is packed with lean protein. but mainly, it’s a nice change of pace from the standard pasta sauce…

pasta with tuna tomato sauce

  • 2 cans tuna packed in olive oil, lightly drained
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we used trader joe’s garlic lovers)
  • 1 pound pasta (any shape you like, really)

cook the pasta per the package instructions.

heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the slightly drained tuna. stir it around to heat it through, but try not to break up the big chunks of tuna. once it is heated, add the sauce and lower the heat to medium or medium low. you are really just looking to heat these and bring the flavors together. once the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the sauce and stir through. serve immediately. enjoy!

notes: fritz loves this. a lot. he loves all pasta, but the kid is partial to fish, so this is a hit. we eat it alongside a nice big green salad and some garlic bread.

panko crusted fish sticks

every kid loves fish sticks. and—though they may deny it— i don’t know a single adult that doesn’t love them as well. they are crispy and delicious and taste great dipped in ketchup. i grew up eating the fish sticks that came from the freezer section, and while there is nothing wrong with them, i knew i could make them the same (or better) myself. the beauty of doing it yourself is that you can add your own seasonings. however, i kept these minimal since fritz was going to be eating them.

panko crusted fish sticks

panko crusted fish sticks

  • 4 filets of tilapia
  • 1.5 – 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • non-stick spray

preheat the oven to 375.

begin by cutting your tilapia filets into fish stick-sized pieces (about the size/shape of an adult forefinger…i know, gross). anyway, once that’s done you will need to set up your breading station which just consists of three bowls in this order: flour (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste—use more than you think you need and add any other seasonings here if you want to use them), beaten eggs, and panko. i recommend using one hand to work with wet ingredients and one for dry, however, i always forget and dunk my flour hand into the egg, so do as i say and not as i do, etc. line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment and lightly spray it with some non-stick spray. then, commence breading by submerging the fish chunks first in flour (knocking off the excess), then egg, and finally panko. line them up neatly on the baking sheet and repeat until they are all done. pop into the oven for about 12-14 minutes (depends on the thickness of your filets, but don’t over cook them) and then sprinkle with a bit of salt.

notes: fritz loves these. he ate 8 of them in one sitting for dinner and then continued to put them away over the course of the next day. big hit. his favorite way to eat them is to dip them in ketchup, then lick off the ketchup, and then eat them once the breading is soggy. hey…we all have our “things”. you could probably freeze these while raw (on a baking sheet so that they freeze flat, then, once frozen put them into a storage bag) and then pop a few into the toaster oven whenever you need them. i haven’t tried this yet, but as i’m typing this i’m wondering why…maybe i will this weekend.

black bean soup

i was discussing the ingredient list with my cousin before i wrote this post and she said “that can’t be all that’s in it…right?” but it is. there are three ingredients. seriously. sure, you can garnish with a few others if you’d like, but the bulk of the soup is comprised of three ingredients. i got the idea for this about 8 years ago when someone handed me a photocopy (remember those?!) of a magazine recipe for something similar. i’ve altered it since then, but the true essence remains the same; delicious black bean soup with only three ingredients. oh, did i mention it only takes about 17 minutes to make? no? well, read on…

black bean soup

black bean soup

  • 2 cups of your favorite salsa (the spiciness of the soup will be determined by the salsa you select)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock

heat a pot over medium heat and add the salsa. stir it around and let it heat through to allow the flavors to “blossom”. this should only take about 1-2 minutes. add the drained and rinsed black beans and stir through until they are slightly heated and mixed well with the salsa. pour in the vegetable stock until it has just covered the beans (this will likely not take the full four cups, but you may need extra stock later to get the soup to the consistency you prefer).  allow the soup to cook for 12-15 minutes so that the flavors can meld. then, using an immersion blender, whiz it up until it’s your preferred consistency, adding stock as needed to thin it. if you don’t have an immersion blender you can put batches of it into the food processor or blender. i suggest keeping some whole beans in the soup as it adds a nice texture. garnish with cheese, sour cream, or (my favorite) avocado for a healthy and quick dinner! enjoy!

notes: this dish can be made in advance and warmed, and like most soups actually improves the next day. it is completely vegetarian, and provided you don’t garnish with sour cream and cheese, even vegan. as long as you use gluten-free salsa and stock, it is also gluten-free. you could serve this with toasted tortillas on the side (corn or flour). this is a nice p90x dinner when combined with a salad and some carbs, which is how we ate it.

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protein bombs

protein bombs is not a sexy name for a breakfast food—but that’s fitting because these little gems aren’t going to win a local beauty pageant. however, protein bomb is what they are called because that is exactly what they are. papa fritz and i recently started the p90x program and are really enjoying it. we’ve completed the first 30 days and have decided to incorporate the nutritional plan into the next 30 days to see if it has an impact on our results. they recommend a high protein (lean, of course) diet for the intensive exercise regimen, and so i developed these portable protein bombs for weekday breakfasts.

the adjustment to the program has been challenging. more than anything, time management has become our primary focus. we have chosen to work out in the evenings after fritz goes to bed, because that works best for our schedules. that means that we need to eat dinner with him at 6:30, which in turn means that it can’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare. add to that the requirements of this nutritional plan, and we are left with limited options. i’ve opted to do a lot of prep for our meals on sunday, which frees up time late at night when we should be getting into bed. it’s working so far, but i’ll keep you posted…

protein bombs

protein bombs

  • 10 egg whites + 3 whole eggs
  • 1/2 pound turkey bacon (or regular bacon)
  • 1 pint baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • non-stick spray

preheat your oven to 350 degrees and use nonstick spray to coat the insides of a muffin tin. set aside.

using a bowl or a large measuring cup with a spout, whisk the egg whites and eggs together and set aside.

heat a medium pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil. toss in the sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper (to taste) and stir for a few minutes until they begin to soften. once this happens add the garlic and continue stirring for a few more minutes. begin adding the spinach by handfuls until all wilts, then remove from the pan to a bowl.

return the pan to the heat and wipe out any liquid that remains from the vegetables. cook the turkey bacon in batches until browned and then cut into chunks.

evenly distribute the turkey bacon and vegetables into the muffin tins and then carefully pour the eggs into each cup. (you will need to use a fork or your finger to move the filling around so that the eggs penetrate all the way to the bottom of the muffin tin.)

pop into the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until the eggs are set. wrap individually and keep refrigerated. when ready to eat, pop in the microwave for 30-35 seconds. enjoy!

notes: there is no cheese in this because the dairy intake on the p90x nutritional plan is a little restrictive (not very, but enough that i was unable to put cheese in these). you could add cheese to this very easily, and i’d recommend either a nice feta or a sharp cheddar. i have not tried, but i suspect that these would freeze very nicely, just thaw in the fridge overnight for breakfast and then heat according to the recipe above.

chicken cacciatore

so, my mom makes this amazing chicken cacciatore…wait, let me back up. my mom is an amazing cook and i will never live up to her. there, i said it. i’m sure most people feel this way about their mother’s cooking, but in my case it’s really true. my mom can turn something most people would consider mundane into the most delicious dish. i’ve often used her exact recipe and had my dish fall flat. she always says it’s good because she loves me, but we both know her version is always better.

fast forward to my determination to recreate her chicken cacciatore. it was with trepidation and an expectation of failure that i even attempted it. in my head i went through the ingredients that i know she puts in her recipe, and created a list, and took a stab at the cooking. when it was done, i lifted a spoon to my mouth to taste it and was blown away. it was amazing. exactly like hers! i couldn’t believe it, so i wrote it down and am now sharing it with you. she serves hers over rice because she is gluten free, however, i serve mine over pasta because, well, because pasta is awesome.

chicken cacciatore

chicken cacciatore

  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 anchovies
  • 6 cups fresh quartered tomatoes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and minced
  • 1 sprig thyme, leaved removed and minced
  • 1 cup flour (my mom uses gluten free flour, but i use all purpose)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6-8 chicken thighs (bone in or deboned)
  • olive oil (about 6-8 tablespoons total)

in a large pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and dredge the first batch of chicken thighs. knock off the excess flour and place into the hot pan. brown the thighs on each side, remove, and set aside. you aren’t cooking them, you are just browning them. continue working in batches until all of the chicken is browned.

in the same pan heat another two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, red peppers, green peppers and a little bit of salt. stir through occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, then add the garlic and herbs. make a well in the center and toss in the anchovies* (i used italian anchovies packed in olive oil and suggest you do the same). smoosh these with the back of your wooden spoon until they begin to come apart and then mix them in with the rest of the vegetables. stir through for another two minutes and then add the tomatoes. stir all together and then add the chicken and any accumulated drippings into the pot. nestle the chicken in amongst the vegetables. cover this and reduce the heat to low. you want it to very slowly cook the chicken and slowly soften the vegetables (which will become a very thick and chunky sauce). leave it on the heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes to an hour. you will know it’s ready when the vegetables are all but disintegrated and the chicken is falling off the bone or easily pulling apart (if you used boneless).

serve this over rice or pasta and enjoy!

notes: you can use chicken breasts for this, but they don’t have as much flavor. if you choose to use them i suggest using bone in chicken breasts. alternately you could use a whole chicken that has been cut into pieces. if you don’t want to do this, your butcher almost certainly will.

*anchovies won’t make this dish taste “fishy”, but they impart a nice intense saltiness that really can’t be recreated with anything else. if you are very unsure about using them you can leave them out, but i encourage you to try them, i think you will be happily surprised with the flavor.

mango shrimp salad

papa fritz really likes salads, which i’ve mentioned before once or twice. this salad was born of necessity one evening when i’d bought all of the ingredients for a rather fussy bon appetit recipe, and we simply ran out of time. i altered this and that to make it through the night, and eventually over time the dish morphed into this. it’s got the perfect balance of ingredients, and comes together very quickly, which has made it a staple in our home.

mango shrimp salad

  • 1# cooked peeled shrimp (you can buy raw and cook them yourself – see the notes below)
  • 2 mangoes
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 heads boston lettuce
  • 3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

wash and spin dry your lettuce and then pull or cut it into chunks. place in a large bowl. cut the mango and the avocado into equal sized chunks (about 1/2″) and place over the lettuce. add the shrimp and the rice and then make the dressing.

in a small bowl (or a jar with a lid) add the sweet chili sauce, vinegar, and oil and mix well. drizzle over the salad and toss well, making sure everything is coated.

notes: if you want to make your own shrimp (and i don’t blame you, pre-fritz i did the same) just peel and devein the shrimp and add to a pan with a little olive oil. flip after about a minute and cook 30 seconds to a minute on the next side. you don’t really need to cook them for long. there is nothing worse than an overcooked shrimp!

glazed thyme carrots

my “true confession” is that we had these for thanksgiving dinner and i’m just now getting around to posting about them. these carrots are a delicious treat, very healthy, and equally yummy. everyone gobbled these up, even fritz! i’ve made these the same way my mother did when i was growing up, save one change: i’ve used vegetable stock in place of water for simmering. it really adds an additional depth of flavor to the carrots. however, if you didn’t have any stock on hand water will work fine, they’ll still be plenty good.

glazed thyme carrots

  • 1-3 pounds of carrots (i used three because i was entertaining)
  • vegetable stock (enough to cover the carrots, 4 cups should do)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-6 sprigs of thyme (use 3 if you are using 1# of carrots, and up to 6 if you are doing 3# of carrots)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

remove the leaves from the sprigs of thyme and finely chop them. peel the carrots and cut them into 1 inch lengths on the bias. place them in a deep pot and cover with vegetable stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. place over medium to medium high heat (you want them to simmer, but not boil) and let them be until they are fork tender (about 30 minutes, but this will vary based on how many carrots you have in the pot).

completely drain the carrots and then add the sugar and about 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan and put it back over medium high heat. let the sugar dissolve and then dump the carrots back in. cook this, stirring the carrots often to coat them in the glaze until the water has completely dissolved. serve immediately.

notes: if you wanted these to be really healthy you could omit the last step with the sugar and water, the carrots would still be delicious. the sugar just brings out their natural sweetness, and really one tablespoon isn’t that much sugar at all…if you are sure to use gluten free stock (which i did, pacific brand is great) these will be totally gluten free!

banana, blueberry, and beet

i know, it sounds weird. but i’m telling you, fritz loves it. this puree is very sweet (thanks to the bananas) and packed with nutrients. the beets and blueberries are from the farmers market, though the bananas are not (obviously). i would advise feeding this to your child while they are shirtless though, as it does stain. also, please do not be alarmed you find a diaper is full of bright red poop. it’s just the beets.

credit for this combination once again goes to happy baby foods. fritz tried this on vacation and really liked it a lot, so i recreated it for him at home (lucky little squirt).

banana, blueberry, and beet puree

  • 6 medium beets
  • 4 bananas, peeled and cut into 1/4 ” discs
  • 1 package fresh blueberries
  • olive oil
  • pinch of salt

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. remove the green stems from the beets, and wash them well (i used a little potato scrubber). quarter them and then cut each quarter into thirds. toss with just enough olive oil to very lightly coat them and place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. very lightly dust with a pinch of salt. roast for about 30 minutes, remove and toss around, return to the oven and roast for an additional 30 minutes. they should be soft when pierced with a fork.

add the beets, bananas, and blueberries to the food processor and whiz up until they are smooth. pour into freezer trays and freeze.

notes: this is good. like, really good. i don’t normally go for beets (i mean, i’ll eat them, but i don’t dream about them the way i do with mangoes) but this made me reconsider. a very nice combo!