Cremini Mushroom & Leek Soup

The soup in question.

The soup in question.

I had a lovely lunch recently at a newish restaurant in San Carlos called Johnston’s Salt Box that consisted of a phenomenal Green Curry Steak Sandwich and a light yet hearty Mushroom Leek Soup.

After all the traveling I’ve done in the last few weeks, that soup was just what I needed. It was earthy yet fresh and felt comforting yet new. It’s rare to find mushroom soups that aren’t filled with cream. My husband and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dissect the soup, including its nuances.

I think we came pretty damn close. Served with some crusty fresh bread and sweet cream butter, this was the best post-travel supper to both make AND eat.

Cremini Mushroom & Leek Soup
12 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
2 leeks (light green and white parts only), cleaned and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
Zest of 1/2 a lemon, grated
1 Tbsp. butter
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven until it shimmers. Sauté carrots for about 3 mins. Add in mushrooms and a pinch of salt to draw out their moisture, and sauté another 7 mins. Until softened but not soggy. Empty the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter in the same Dutch oven over medium high heat and add the leeks, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until softened, about 5 mins. Add back the mushroom/carrot mixture along with any juices, the dried thyme, the chicken stock, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring up to a boil and simmer for 20 mins.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Season additionally to taste if necessary. Pour in a nice dash (about 1-2 Tbs.) of good extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately with some fresh bread. Serves 4-6.

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Stew

This Lentil Tomato Stew doesn't photograph so pretty, but it's damn tasty!

This Lentil Tomato Stew doesn’t photograph so pretty, but it’s damn tasty!

It’s been WAY too long since I last wrote on this blog. But my impetus for this entry is, of course, food. This time is a ridiculously simple but hearty stew that’s naturally vegetarian/vegan (if you use veggie stock or broth), gluten and dairy free, high in protein and fiber, and low in fat . And if it tasted too healthy and bland I wouldn’t be writing about it, so trust me on this.

I’ve been making lentil soup for years and frankly, the idea of making another pot of the stuff bored me. But I remembered a pot of lentil stew that one of my former roommates during my college years made without the usual mirepoix of carrots and celery. Could I throw a bag of lentils, some diced tomatoes, and some spices into a slow cooker, have it be done by the time I get home from work, AND actually taste like something I’d look forward to eating?

YES! This stew is awesome! It goes great with rice or with a nice crusty piece of bread. Easy, delish, good for you = the trifecta. Voila!

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Stew
16 oz. green lentils, uncooked
One 28 oz. can diced tomatoes & their juice
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3.5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

*Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. This should make a good amount of stew (around 6-8 servings). Serve alone, with rice, or with some nice crusty bread. 

Hottest Food Trends from the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show

The Winter Fancy Food Show is known as the food industry’s most happening trade show, where new food trends are introduced months before they clog supermarket shelves. At this year’s event, for example, there was no shortage of bacon-infused snacks, gluten-free products, and Sriracha-flavored everything—all trends from past years that have now gone mainstream.

Here are eight different food products from this year’s show that are sure to be coming to a supermarket near you—and soon!

Brussels sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Move over kale chips. Everyone is taking one of the most polarizing dinner table veggies and turning them into flavorful, crispy chips and snacks. I’ll admit, I’ve always hated Brussel sprouts. But after trying some of these snacks, I think I can be converted.

artisan popsicles

Artisan Popsicles

Combinations like hibiscus mint and watermelon agave are nothing like your childhood Otter Pops. Inspired by Latin American paletas, which are basically fresh fruit popsicles, the folks at GoodPops decided it was time to bring that concept to mainstream America, using high-quality ingredients and inventive flavor combinations. After tasting them myself, I think they’re making a good case for it.



If you’re like me and can’t drink alcohol for whatever reason (it’s a cruel fate, what can I say), you always feel like you’re s**t outta luck at cocktail parties and other gatherings. Not if the company Sociale has its way. Sociale makes virgin versions of the cosmopolitan, mojito, margarita, and martinis that taste like the real thing. These bottled mocktails are quality, all-natural drinks that taste like a great cocktail should.

almond water

Almond Water

Almond milk + coconut water = almond water! Almond water has the clean, refreshing finish of coconut water, with the subtle flavor of almonds. It’s not cloyingly sweet or overpoweringly filled with vanilla essence. The recipe from the brand Victoria’s Kitchen is from the owner’s French grandmother. It’s floral and light, and the branding looks like something out of an old-timey apothecary. I was ready to take a case home with me.


Hummus…Minus the Chickpeas

Fava beans, lentils, carrots, edamame, white beans, and black beans all took turns as the main ingredient in a variety of new hummus dips. Surprisingly, they were all quite good with subtle yet distinctive flavor differences compared with the original chickpea version. They also tout a bunch of different health benefits (the fava bean and edamame versions, in particular). The fava bean hummus from FavaLife and wasabi edamame version from Eat Well Enjoy Life were my personal favorites.

Cookie chips

Cookie Chips

Cinnamon sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and decadent brownies are some of America’s favorite sweet treats. But several companies have decided what’s really been missing is a certain amount of crunch. Enter cookie and brownie chips. With a variety of different names, depending on the maker, they all combine the light crispy crunch of a chip with the sweetness of a brownie or a cookie. Snackers with a major sweet tooth can now rejoice.

half-ppped popcorn

Half-Popped Popcorn

Hate the unpopped kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bag? Well, the folks who make Pop’d Kerns apparently decided to do something about it. It’s not fully popped popcorn, nor is it an inedible unpopped kernel. It’s basically a popcorn kernel that’s half-popped. It’s got more heft and crunch than regular popcorn, but still has that familiar flavor. Think of it as a cross between popcorn and Corn Nuts.

chocolate tea

Tea for Dessert

Now you can have your dessert, and drink it too. Apparently it’s not enough to enjoy a piece of chocolate with your afternoon tea anymore. Popular tea makers have now infused cupcake, Bundt cake, and even chocolate flavors into their teas. Thankfully, none of them are overly sweet or obnoxiously flavored, though tea purists are sure to turn their noses up at this trend.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

imageSometimes, I still manage to surprise myself. Take for instance this dinner I made recently. I’ve made this flank steak recipe before from Martha Stewart Living, but I did a couple of things differently this time.

I took the meat out of the fridge and placed the rub onto the meat. Then, I let it sit there both to marinade and to let the meat come up to room temperature. This will help the meat cook more evenly. I also made sure I let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes after I took it out of the oven, before slicing.

For the chimichurri sauce, I made it ahead of time and refrigerated it at least a few hours before using it. It needs it because those flavors need to meld and mellow out a bit before you use it. I was never into chimichurri sauce until I had it recently on a steak salad. The tang from the vinegar, the herby freshness of the parsley and oregano, and the punch of the garlic really made an impression on me. So much so that I was compelled to make this meal. And it blew me away at how well it turned out and how awesome it tasted. I’d pay good money for a meal like this at a restaurant. Fortunately with this recipe, I didn’t have to.

None of it is tough to make, so don’t be intimidated. Just make your sauce the day before and you’re good to go. You’ll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, flat. If you don’t have time to marinade the meat, it’s not a deal breaker. It’ll still be delicious. Serve it with rice, or tortillas to make into tacos. Leftovers are great for salads and sandwiches, too.

Chili Rubbed Flank Steak (from Martha Stewart Living)

1.5 – 2 lbs. flank steak or flap meat
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Combine the sugar, chili powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Remove the meat from the fridge and place on a foil lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

Coat 1 tablespoon oil on each side of the meat. Sprinkle generously the dry rub mixture onto each side of the meat. Make sure you rub it in well and coat all areas. Set the meat aside and let it marinade and come up to room temperature for about an hour.

Turn your oven’s broiler on and place the meat under the broiler, about 4 inches away from the broiler, for about 12 minutes for medium rare. Do not flip the meat.

Remove from the broiler and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve with the following sauce on the side.

Chimichurri Sauce

2 cups fresh flat leaf/Italian parsley, most of the stems cut off
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tsp. dried oregano
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Place the parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, and vinegar in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute until everything is well chopped and incorporated. You may have to scrape down the sides and blend again for a few seconds.

Then, add the oil in a steady stream while blending. Place the sauce in an airtight container And refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight, to let the flavors meld together. This sauce should keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.

Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)


Cranberry sauce is used/eaten like jam at our house. It’s cooked up in batches and used on everything from the Thanksgiving bird to toast every morning for the next several weeks. It’s also eaten with peanut butter and poured over ice cream. It’s pretty versatile. That’s why I hesitate just calling it “cranberry sauce.” It’s very limiting.

I decided to start this season’s batch early because I wanted one less thing to do for Turkey Day, and it keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks anyway. The second jar went straight into the freezer for later use.

This recipe is so easy to make, so reliably delicious, that my official taste tester (my 4 year old) grabs a bowl of it every time it’s fresh off the stove.

And remember, it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)

– 2 twelve ounce packages of fresh cranberries. If frozen, thaw before using.

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 1 cup water

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and let it come up to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom and sides of the pan. The cranberries will pop and hiss as they get hot.

20131117_201407Then, turn down the heat and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. Once the mixture is shiny and coats the back of your spoon, it should be done. It will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.

ImageLet it cool for 30 minutes or so before placing into a tupperware, bowl, or mason jars for freezing/storing. It should keep for 2 weeks.

Summer Dips

20130707-213318.jpgThe evening before you have to go back to school/work after a long weekend or vacation always sucks. At least it always has for me. Even as a kid I remember the dread I felt as I crawled into bed the night before the first day of school after summer vacay was over.

To soften the blow, I needed a snack. So, the hubs and I decided to whip out the new food processor and make some dips to go with our chips and crackers. They turned out so well that I indeed felt a little better after snacking.

Warning: Do not make homemade salsa with anything less than great tomatoes. Since summer IS tomato season, it’s worth making a bunch of the stuff this time of year to get your fill.


– 5 to 6 small to medium tomatoes (2-3 cups)
– 1 to 2 chopped jalapeños, seeds removed (depending on how spicy you like things)
– 1/4 cups packed cilantro leaves
– 1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. If you are without a food processor, you can chop your tomatoes and cilantro by hand and just mix to combine. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld together. Serve on just about everything!


2 sliced avocados
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (not nonfat)
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with pita or tortilla chips, or crackers.

Homemade Chinese Roasted BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

I’m so proud of myself.

All these years I’ve been hitting up Chinese delis for mediocre Chinese BBQ pork that’s been dyed a truly frightening shade of pink, or making due with tough and flavorless meat. All these years…and I could’ve been making it at home.

I was inspired by this recipe I found on the blog Appetite for China. The recipe seemed so easy. Too easy. But easy enough for me to try without fear of failure. At the very least it would be a nice slab of marinated pork belly to enjoy. I even made it gluten free by removing the hoisin sauce (which frankly I didn’t miss) and using gluten free soy sauce.

What I removed from the oven exceeded my wildest expectations. Roasted to perfection in such a short amount of time and with minimal effort. Heck, even with two little kids running around upstairs, I was able to pull out this juicy piece of meat and make it look like I slaved over it all day:

charsiuYou have to try this recipe. Period.

2 lbs. whole pork belly, skin removed
4 Tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
4 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. five-spice powder
2 Tbsp. honey

– In a large bowl, mix together the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, and five-spice powder. Rub the pork belly with the marinade mixture and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, or preferably overnight, in the fridge.

– Preheat the oven to 325°F.

– Remove excess marinade and place the pork in a roasting pan. Brush the top with the honey. Roast the pork for about 25 minutes. Flip over the pork belly slab and brush the other side with honey. Roast for another 25 minutes. The pork is done when the outsides begin to crisp up, the edges blacken a bit, and the center of the pork belly strip feels firm. (160F internal temp)

– Remove the pork from oven and let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into thin slices or thicker chunks. Arrange the slices on a plate and serve.

This stuff is also great diced in fried rice, or served alongside some sauteed Chinese greens like baby bok choi.

Sunday Dinner: Taco Bake

IMAG1014My husband used to wax nostalgic about something he’d have at school for lunch that had taco meat and crushed Frito corn chips in it. Don’t worry, that’s not what I made for dinner here.

So when I saw a version of this recipe somewhere, I decided to make it my own. The original recipe has refried beans and extra salsa, which I took out. I think the salsa is a bit unnecessary since there’s fresh tomatoes in it, and the beans I omitted because the beef adds enough protein. The refried beans can be full of fat. You can certainly add a can of black beans, though, if you miss that flavor.

It wasn’t my husband’s original elementary school lunch recipe, and thank goodness! We think it’s better :).

Taco Crunch Bake

1 lbs. ground beef
1 package low sodium taco seasoning
1 cup of corn kernels (canned is fine)
2 cups broken tortilla chips
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup sliced olives
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar
3 green onions, chopped
Plain Greek yogurt
1 sliced avocado
Shredded lettuce (optional)

Prepare ground beef with seasoning as directed. Drain well.

Line bottom of 9×11 pan with the chips. Layer the beef on top in on even layer. Follow with the corn, tomatoes, olives, then cheese. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Serve with the yogurt and fresh avocado slices. Add shredded lettuce to make into a taco salad, if desired.

It’s What’s For Dinner: Cheesy Chicken Noodles

I recently found an easy recipe for some cheesy egg noodles that couldn’t be simpler and satisfied my craving for a macaroni and cheese alternative. I was happy enough with the result, but I wanted to make some alterations to fit the family’s tastes (less dairy, just as creamy, more chicken flavor).

The result is this. It’s so creamy and good without being overly rich.

Cheesy Chicken Noodles
8 oz. package egg noodles
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chicken broth, warmed or at room temperature
1 10 oz. can of Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup leftover rotisserie or roasted chicken, chopped (or a can of chicken breast, drained)
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Cook the noodles as directed. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the peas to the boiling water with the noodles to warm. Drain, then return to the warm pot. Add the broth and turn the heat back on low. Add the soup and the cheese mix until the cheese is melted and everything is blended. Add the salt if desired. Mix in the cooked chicken.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.


Pork Chops with Apples and Onions


Sunday dinner usually involves roasted chicken at our house. It’s a meal that involves just a little more time than the usual weeknight meal, and it makes the house smell nice and cozy.

But chicken can get old week after week. I’ve also done roast beef, and the pork chops w/apples and onions recipe in my copy of “Mad Hungry” by Lucinda Scala Quinn, which I love.

It’s a great home cooked comfort meal that involves a little prep, but not a lot of effort or time. The pan sauce is absolutely fabulous when served with rice to sop it all up. I make some alterations to the original recipe by adding a little apple cider vinegar. It adds an extra bit of fruitiness while also giving it a little punch with some tang. It’s now become a family fave.

PORK CHOPS WITH APPLES AND ONIONS (adapted from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry)

  • 6 bone-in pork chops (loin or shoulder), cut 3/4 inch thick
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 to 3 apples, cored and sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  1. Trim the chops of excess fat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat, and then swirl in the olive oil. Lay in half the pork chops and don’t move them for a few minutes, to assure a good golden sear forms. Turn and brown well on the second side for a total of about 8 minutes. Transfer the chops to a warm plate. Repeat with your second batch of chops.
  2. Swirl the butter into the pan. Add the onion and apples. Saute until the onion slices are lightly caramelized and the apples have begun to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and vinegar. Return chops to the pan and nestle as many of them into the apple/onion mixture to immerse them in the cooking liquid.
  3. Cook until the pork is tender, about 15 more minutes (depending on the size of the chops), turning halfway through and covering the chops with the apple mixture. Serve the chops over rice with a large spoonful of the apple-onion mixture/pan sauce over the top.