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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turkey tacos

tap, tap, tap…is this thing on?

sorry that it’s been a while. the long and short of it is that i’m reaching a key deadline at work and have had no time for personal pursuits of late. things are good. we are still doing p90x (though that is drawing to a close) and still eating super healthy. we are loving the abundant produce of summer, and fritz is growing like a weed. all is well at chez fritz, i just have no free time.

i could not pass up the opportunity to share this recipe with you, however. we’ve had it one night a week for the last month, so i think that makes it “blog worthy”. make this over the ground-beef-with-seasoning-packet version of tacos and you will not be disappointed.

turkey tacos

Turkey tacos

  • 1# ground turkey
  • one small onion, minced
  • one red, and one green pepper, minced
  • one pint cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
  • three cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 scant tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • cayenne to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt

heat olive oil a large skillet over medium high heat. add minced onions and peppers and the tomatoes—salting to taste—and stir until they soften a bit. add garlic and cook about a minute. make a well in the center and add in the turkey. break it up with the back of a wooden spoon and stir through with the vegetables, being sure to brown it well. sprinkle on the paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne, and stir through to combine. taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

notes: these really don’t need much in the way of toppings. the filling is super flavorful and is packed with vegetables. serve in a crunchy taco shell (or soft if you are so inclined) with fresh shredded lettuce and some sliced avocado or cheese. we occasionally put some greek yogurt on in place of sour cream.

crunchies

so, this “recipe” is beyond easy, and it is a showstopper around our house. fritz gobbles these crunchies up and then points and the bowl and grunts for more (we’re still working on his vocabulary…)

crunchies is what i call my non-mayonnaise-based cole slaw, cause i (personally) think that stuff is gross. we usually eat it on tacos (these in particular, try them, they rock) and also on pulled bbq chicken or pork. really though, i would eat this with a fork, it’s that good.

crunchies

crunchies

  • 1 bag broccoli slaw (this is just matchsticks of broccoli stalks, carrots, and red cabbage if you want to do it at home)
  • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • sea salt, to taste

mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. you can heat it slightly if you need to, but patience is really key here. once it’s ready, toss in the slaw mixture and combine (with your hands people, it’s the only way to really get it done) and set aside to “come together”. let this sit for about 15 minutes, occasionally diving in with your hands to mix it all about. that’s it, enjoy!

notes: the general guideline here is two parts vinegar, one part sugar and a pinch of salt to even out the flavors (you really need the salt). so use that guideline when going up or down in batch size.

a new eggplant parm

i’ve always made eggplant parm in the same way. and it was always very good. i would grill the slices of eggplant and would make a delicious tomato sauce from scratch, then carefully layer the concoction and bake until bubbling.

recently, however, i attempted a new method and the results were amazing. the first alteration i made was to salt the eggplant to draw out the bitter liquids. i usually skipped this step because grilling was so time consuming. i have to say though, it was totally worth it! the eggplant was sweeter for the extra 10 minutes of patience. the second change was to par boil the eggplant instead of grilling it. not only does this result in a much healthier version of the dish, but the eggplant was softer in its final form and easier to manage during assembly. i really thought i’d miss the char-grilled flavor from before, but i honestly didn’t even notice it was gone. finally, i added a mixture of pork, veal, and beef to the tomato sauce. this really makes the dish sing, and was necessary for me due to the protein i need to intake every day for the p90x nutrition plan.

this is a more labor intensive dish than i usually make, but it’s well worth it and something that would be perfectly suited to a sunday dinner with the family.

a new eggplant parm

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  • 3 medium/large eggplants
  • 1 pound blend of beef/veal/pork (or any ground meat)
  • two 16 oz. jars store bought/homemade tomato sauce
  • 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt
  • olive oil

heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. in the meantime, peel and slice the eggplants (about 1/4″ thick). lay all of the slices out and then heavily salt them. let them sit for about 10 minutes. you will notice little droplets of liquid form on the eggplant during this time. rinse them off and then add them to the boiling water. you will likely have to work in batches. you want to cook the eggplant for about 6 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned. drain and set aside.

heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. add the meat and brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. you don’t want any large chunks of meat here, so be sure to break it up really well. drain off some of the fat (i just tilt the pan and use a large spoon here) or not, it’s up to you. add the tomato sauce and let it come to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and allow the flavors to come together for about 30 minutes.

preheat the oven to 375.

when all of the ingredients are ready smear a small amount of tomato sauce into a 9×13″ baking pan (there is no need to add oil here, the tomato sauce will do the trick). layer eggplant, then sauce, then cheese, and repeat until all of the ingredients are gone or the pan is completely full. be sure to top with a nice layer of cheese (it goes all brown and bubbly).

pop into the oven for 1 hour, and then remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes. enjoy!

notes: this is so delicious. fritz loves it, he gobbled up an entire piece for dinner last night! oh, and speaking of p90x, it’s been going great! papa fritz is down almost 30 pounds and i’m down 10. we both look and feel great. we are on our second cycle right now, in our 4th week of it…just in case you were interested.

fish tacos

this dish is beyond easy. it’s actually kind of comical that i’m going to tag it as a recipe, but i am. mainly because i’m lazy and insist upon taking credit for the silliest things.

anyway, fish tacos are awesome, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years and/or are scared of seafood. this recipe (hahahaha) makes use of tilapia, a readily available north american fish. however, if you are my one british reader (hi frugal!) you can replace the tilapia with just about any white flaky fish. i’d avoid anything too delicate because it would be harder to work with, but really flavor should be your guide here. fritz likes the fish part of these, as well as the tortillas, but the sauce is a bit too spicy for him right now.

fish tacos

fish tacos

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound tilapia
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons goya adobo seasoning (you may want to sprinkle a little more on the fish once it’s cooked)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or half and half mixture of sour cream and greek yogurt)
  • 1 chipotle in adobo
  • napa cabbage

heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

chop your tilapia into 2-3″ chunks. it’s not important that they be uniform in shape,you are only cutting them up so that they cook faster. place the flour and 3 tablespoons of the adobo seasoning into a plastic zipper bag and then add the fish and shake well to coat. remove the fish from the bag being sure to knock off any extra flour. add the fish to the skillet and work in batches until the fish is all cooked. ( it will only need about 5 minutes total to cook.) set the cooked fish aside. (you may want to sprinkle a little more of the adobo seasoning on the fish at this point, it’s to taste, but i usually do.)

meanwhile finely shred your napa cabbage and set aside. finely mince your chipotle pepper and place in a small bowl. add the sour cream and mix well to combine.

to assemble the tacos spread some of the chipotle sour cream on the inside of a tortilla and then top with fish and shredded cabbage. roll up, serve, and enjoy the chorus of “mmmm!”

notes: tonight i’m making these but i’m modifying them to be even simpler. i am just going to broil the fish (which i will sprinkle with the adobo and place on a piece of parchment) and then flake it into the tortilla.

an open letter to fritz | vol. 6

dear fritz,

my darling boy, you are a study in contrast these days. one moment you are all exuberance and joy, and the very next, stubborn grumpiness. i think they call it “toddlerhood,” but i’m not sure.

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last night you said “love  you” for the first time. after an exhaustive wrestling and tickling match, we were laying on the floor in your room—on our tummies with our hands tucked up under us—and i said “love you baby”. you looked me right in the eye and said “love you”. it was the single best moment of my life to date.

you’ve been growing so fast lately. every day it seems like something new is happening with you. just this week you beat me to “three” when i was counting with you. you said “k” and “o” when we were talking about your letters in the bath tub. you are learning (a little too slowly for me) that if you don’t throw your cup on the floor you get a round of applause from mama and dada. i now trust you to walk around the main floor of the house without seriously injuring yourself, all because your balance and judgement have improved vastly. you are currently obsessed with soccer balls and kicking/throwing balls in general. we can’t leave the house without one and you obsessively scream “ball!” wherever we go until we give it to you. you are obsessed with my hair, specifically my pre/post workout ponytail. you plant both of your chubby hands on my cheeks and violently turn my head so that you can get at it and then you bury your face in it and giggle. sometimes you “hug” it. you just started spinning, which is really funny to watch. unfortunately you chose to do this on the one square foot of marble flooring that we have and i live in fear that you will shatter your skull (though you seem completely unconcerned and appear to enjoy being dizzy).

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last night i made our “go to” easy and healthy dinner (sweet chili glazed salmon, brown rice, and broccoli) and when you saw it coming toward the table you said “oooooo” and then started licking your lips. you’ve turned into quite the little eater my friend. you destroy your bento boxes each day, often requiring more before you get home, and you’ll eat just about everything i put in front of you. i can not put into words how much i love this about you.

you recently had all four of your first molars come in, and are now getting two of your second molars. the rivers of drool have been epic. men will write tales of your sodden tee shirts and wild mood swings. we should take out stock in infant ibuprofen.

sadly, you also recently had another bout of yeast diaper rash, but this time it was coupled with the dreaded thrush. lucky us! you got over it pretty quickly, but have been in disposable diapers for weeks now. we need to strip and disinfect your beautiful cloth diapers and get you back on the cloth train asap. however, you have this residual rash. i have no idea what it is, and neither does your doctor. she recommended putting neosporin and hydrocortisone on it…so that’s what we are doing. i swear a million little bugs are biting you in your sleep. if i catch them, i’ll kill them. promise.

this weekend we are turning your carseat around, and you will officially be a big boy at 18 months. one and a half years. how did it happen so fast?

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until next time…

love you baby,

mamafritz

spring salad for a spring day

the east coast has been experiencing some beautiful weather for the last several months. for some reason, we’ve been missed by every major system that has hit every other part of the country. i’m thrilled. today, for instance, it is almost 90 degrees. in april. fritz went to the doctor this morning in shorts and a tee shirt. i (stubbornly) packed a jacket for him because i refused to believe he wouldn’t “catch a chill” in april. needless to say he was all gross and sweaty in the car seat by the time we completed the 25 minute drive.

his 18 month checkup went great, he is 34″ tall (!?) and 27 pounds, 8 ounces. he’s 75th percentile across the board. he had his shots and had all his bits checked, and we are now clear until the two year mark. yay!

this salad is perfect for a spring day. it’s light and fresh and i served it alongside some shrimp i’d quickly sauteed in padma lakshmi’s delicious chili honey butter (mix cayenne, honey, and butter. proceed to schmear on everything). my salad used some leftover roasted potatoes (i’ll tell ya how) but you could sub with steamed or boiled if you’d prefer something easier.

simple spring salad

fresh spring salad

  • one bag “steam in the bag” green beans (not in sauce)
  • 1/2 pound baby white potatoes (cooked)
  • one bag pre-washed butter lettuce
  • 2 ounces romano cheese, grated
  • the juice of two lemons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • one garlic clove, crushed and chopped very fine
  • one teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

to make the dressing add the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper to taste to a bowl and whisk together. slowly add the olive oil while whisking, to incorporate and emulsify. once it’s fully blended, set it aside. you can compulsively stir it while you do everything else (like i do) or just leave it be.

i’m sure you sensed a theme in the ingredient list and that is simplicity. i used bagged butter lettuce (cause i’m lazy) and frozen green beans (also, pure laziness). you could certainly buy a head of lettuce and fresh beans and lovingly rinse, dry, chop, steam them…but i’m not gonna. and you can’t make me.

for the potatoes i used some that i had leftover from a dinner earlier in the week. for those i just quartered them and then tossed them with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and thinly sliced garlic then popped them onto a baking sheet for about 30 minutes at 375. easy peasy. when i used them for the salad they were cold, but warm would be ok too.

toss the lettuce, potatoes, and green beans into a bowl. drizzle on the dressing and toss well (don’t use all the dressing at first, you may not even need it all and it will keep in the fridge for a few days). once it’s all combined shave on some romano cheese and then serve. mine was a side dish, but this could be a main dish if you put some sliced chicken (or fish or tofu) on top. enjoy!

also, here is what we’ve been up to lately (according to instagram):

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until next time…

banana zucchini muffins

about two months ago fritz stopped eating bananas. up to that point they comprised 25% of his entire diet, and maybe that was the issue…he was just over them. i’ve asked why, but he’s being very tight-lipped about his reasoning, so i’d given up trying to include them in his lunches or snack times.

the problem with that is that they are the perfect toddler food. easy to throw in a bag for a snack, cheap, sweet, nutritious…it left me in a bit of a lurch. so, when i found myself with a pile of bananas that were quickly going bad i decided to try and smash together two of the best sweet bread recipes in the world: banana bread and zucchini bread. i prayed he would eat these despite the addition of bananas (he did, and loved them) and that he wouldn’t notice the addition of vegetables (he didn’t). also, i am not renowned for my baking abilities (read: i kinda suck at it) and totally spaced on the addition of an egg…however, they came out great without it, so that’s how i’ve written the recipe. if you’d prefer to add one, i will tell you where below. recipe adapted from this claire robinson recipe.

banana zucchini muffins

(pictured in fritz’s bento box)

3.26.12 bento lunch

  • 5 ripe bananas (the riper the better)
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

preheat the oven to 375.

grate the zucchini on the small side of a box grater. you can leave the skin on for this as it’s so soft. if your kids notice and fleck of green and go running, feel free to peel it.

peel the bananas and place in a large bowl. add sugar to the bananas and mash together until they become a sweet-smelling liquid mess. set aside. heat a pot over medium heat and add the butter. melt and then continue cooking (stirring or swirling often) until it begins to brown and take on a nutty smell. add the banana/sugar mixture and cook for a few minutes until the kitchen smells so good that you want to stick your face in the pot and eat the bananas right then and there. return the banana mixture to the bowl (this is where you’d add the egg—tempering it— if you were so inclined). mix the zucchini and vanilla into the banana mixture.

mix the dry ingredients together and then slowly fold them into the banana mixture. line a muffin tin with paper cups and pour the mixture in until it reaches the top of the cups. bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when poked at with your finger. eat immediately and burn the roof of your mouth. enjoy!

notes: like i said, the egg isn’t necessary here. i totally freaked when i realized i’d forgotten it (while they were in the oven) but they don’t need it at all. they are dense and sweet and delicious. also, you can play with the amount of sugar, but i found that the 1/3 cup agave that the original recipe called for yielded a slightly dry and not very sweet muffin (apologies, claire).

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

butternut and apple soup

one day the family fritz visited ikea and found themselves in line waiting for delicious swedish meatballs. then, papa fritz said “i think i’m going to get some soup…”. well, this soup turned out to be a huge hit with both papa and sweet baby fritz. it was a blend of butternut and apple and was creamy and delicious with a sweet pop of flavor. mama fritz decided to recreate it at home, and here is the result…

butternut and apple soup

  • 1 butternut, peeled, halved, and seeded
  • 2 gala apples and one granny smith apple, peeled and cored
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 8 cups water (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

feed the peeled apple and butternut pieces into the shredder of your food processor. alternately you could shred these by hand, but only if you want to look like popeye when you are done. trim and cut the leek in half lengthwise, then run the cut side under water to remove any sand that has accumulated between the leaves. cut into little half moons (you only want the white and light green portions).

heat the butter and oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add the leeks (be sure to dry them or they will pop at you). add some salt to help the leeks release their juices and continue cooking until they soften and become glassy. add the shredded apples and squash  and then add enough water/stock to just cover the vegetables. reduce heat the medium and simmer until everything is very soft and beginning to fall apart.

use the immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is very smooth and add cream, salt, and pepper to taste. taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. enjoy!

notes: vegetable stock is nice in this, but it can be expensive, so i did a mixture of 1/2 stock and 1/2 water. serve this with crusty bread loaded up with butter. yum.