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!

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

black bean soup endorsement

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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.

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!

spinach eggs en cocotte with asparagus bundles

simple and delicious, this classic french dish has everything…protein in the form of eggs, vegetables in the form of spinach and asparagus, and then there is the cheese and bacon. mmmmm, cheese and bacon. the prep work for this one is easy, and the only special equipment required is ramekins. this dish would be great for dinner or for brunch. it spends the last few minutes in the oven and then should be eaten immediately…so it’s great for entertaining.

spinach eggs en cocotte with asparagus bundles

  • 5 ounces baby spinach, washed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-6 eggs
  • gruyere cheese, approximately 2 ounces, but it depends on how liberally you like to sprinkle
  • 6 tablespoons half and half (or cream, but not milk)
  • butter (about 3 tablespoons)
  • one bunch asparagus
  • 1/2 pound of bacon

preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

in a small pan, heat three tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat and wilt the spinach, working in batches if necessary. remove from heat and set aside.

remove the woody ends from the asparagus (tip: i just snap mine because i don’t care about perfect ends, it will break where the tough meets the soft) and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. cut a slice of bacon in half and place it on your cutting board. then, run your knife along it to flatten it out. wrap two to three (depending on their thickness) pieces of asparagus with a piece of bacon and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. continue in this manner until all of the asparagus is bundled in bacon and then pop it into the oven for 7 minutes.

determine if you want 4, 5, or 6 eggs and then oil the ramekins (either spritz with olive oil, non stick spray, or smear with butter). to assemble the eggs: evenly distribute the spinach in the bottoms of the ramekins, gently crack an egg into each ramekin—being careful not to break the yolks. top each eggs with one tablespoon half and half, grated gruyere cheese, and top each with half a tablespoon of butter.

at this point the timer should be going off for the asparagus, pull that out and add the ramekins to the baking dish and pop back in for 10 minutes. the eggs will appear very jiggly when you remove them, but they will continue to cook because the ramekins are hot, so this is ok. if you don’t like your egg yolks to be runny, you can add a few minutes to the cooking time.

we dunk our asparagus into the eggs but i also serve this with toasted bread for dunking. a delicious meal all around.

notes: you can add any flavors to this, and can start with any base. you could also just make the eggs and not the asparagus if you prefer to dip with just toast. if you omit the toast, it’s gluten free!