French Onion Soup (with Italian Style Breadcrumbs)

French-Onion-Soup-FFK
My ultimate comfort food is French Onion soup. Nutritionally speaking, there isn’t much there aside from a lot of sodium and a whole bunch of cheese. I like to feel better about eating it by telling myself that my comfort food of choice could be a lot less healthy.

Ingredients for French Onion Soup (Fearless Flying Kitchen)It has been a dreary May (at least for this past week), so the first thing I wanted was French Onion Soup. I have not attempted to make this within the last, I don’t know, 10+ years? This usually only enters my diet at restaurants, when I purchase sub-par frozen versions, or get the BEST CUP OF F.O. SOUP EVER MADE at the House of France at Christmas on the Prado (or December NIghts for those of you new to San Diego). Seriously, best ever. I have decided this is mostly because it is not very heavy, the onions aren’t completely caramelized (they are still a light caramel color instead of a dark brown), and they have a few interesting flavors that seem a little more authentic (Herbs de Provence? No clue). I tried to emulate that in this recipe. It is getting pretty close! I am not sure what else I could add, aside from maybe a few more spices, let it cook for a longer period of time, or…I am not sure. But regardless if it tasted exactly like the soup from the House of France, it was good, and completely satisfied my “Dreary Weather Blues.”

French Onion Soup (With Italian Style Breadcrumbs)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup (half stick) of butter
  • 3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 (Quart) Containers of Beef Broth
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Thyme, dried
  • 1 bag Italian Style Breadsticks
  • 1 Bag Shredded Swiss & Gruyere

Directions:

On medium-high heat, add butter to a large pan, and once melted, add the thinly sliced onions. Cook until they are a nice caramel color (about 15-20 minutes). Add minced garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and beef broth. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes (or longer if you have the time, the longer it simmers, the more robust flavor).
In the meantime, while the onions are caramelizing and/or the soup simmers, make your croutons. Put your oven on to pre-heat at 375. Slice breadsticks into 1 inch thick pieces and put onto a baking sheet. Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are just starting to get crunchy.
Once soup and croutons are done, remove bay leaves (if you can find them!), fill a bowl with soup, top with croutons and then shredded gruyere/swiss mix, and put in the broiler for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and gets the signature “french onion” bubbly look.

Rosemary Polenta, Tomato Confit, Carmelized Bacon and Eggs

Polenta Caramelized Bacon Eggs

In order to become a dietitian, you have to go through a minimum of a bachelor’s program in nutrition (and not just any program, one that is officially a “Didactic Program in Dietetics”). Then after that, you have to complete a 1-2 year (approx.) internship program, and then you can sit for your national exam.

My internship was at the VA Medical Center, and there were six of us interns who grew to be like sisters over that year (or, 10 months, to be exact). We would carpool, share food, spend holidays together, fight, complain, some even lived together. I really adored all of my intern-mates, and will have a special spot in my heart for them for the rest of my life.

One time, my intern-mate, Hai Van, invited the girls over to her place for brunch. It was probably the best breakfast I had ever had in someone’s home. I kept asking her what she did, and have tried to re-create the meal, but every time, it just isn’t the same. I shouldn’t be surprised, because this girl would come up with THE MOST creative menus, and was also a professionally trained chef. I mean, how can you live up to that??

I remember being very intimidated by this meal, not only because Hai Van was an incredible chef that made magic in the kitchen…but it called for Polenta. I had never made that before, and my only experience was seeing the log at the store. But my friend walked me through the entire process, and it ended up being a success.

Rosemary Polenta

This was adapted from The Barefoot Contessa. Believe it or not, I actually reduced the amount of butter, half and half and milk by quite a but. It still turned out creamy and delicious. If you are short on time, you can always use the pre-made Organic Polenta from Trader Joe’s. (Side note, I don’t think Trader Joe’s carries cornmeal, at least I have never purchased it from there. Does any one know?)
 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • Flour, olive oil, and butter, for frying

Directions

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, milk, and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold.

Cut the chilled polenta into 12 squares, as you would with brownies. Lift each one out with a spatula and cut diagonally into triangles. Dust each triangle lightly in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and cook the triangles in batches over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on the outside and heated inside. Add more butter and oil, as needed. Serve immediately.

The rest of the meal was fairly easy. You can make the polenta the night before and in the morning, just slice some of it up and pan fry it in a little butter and oil. To make the Tomato Confit, combine a container of little grape tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a glass dish at 325 for 40 minutes.

The bacon is partially cooked on the stove then finished off in the oven @ 425 (until done, it all depends on how much you cook it on the stove). Before putting in the oven, sprinkle with pepper and brown sugar.

The eggs were just simply fried over medium. Then the dish was assembled with the polenta cake on the bottom, tomato confit and then topped with the egg. Bacon was served on the side.

When Hai Van made this, she sprinkled some fresh basil on top and served a side salad of field greens with balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese, which was perfect for a brunch. It also added some more color to the plate. She also had a bloody mary bar, which is always a fan favorite (Side note – Trader Joe’s has a great bloody mary mix!)

Black And White Chili with Cornbread Waffles

black-and-white-chili

Original Blog Entry Dated July 10, 2013:

If you have ever trolled my Pinterest boards, you might be wondering what the deal is with the waffles. Obsession, right? I have been looking up all the different things that could be waffled, and have been a little bit amazed with everything I have found. Cookies, cakes, apple pies, grilled cheese, grilled peanut butter and jelly, hash browns, tater tots, brownies and cornbread (just to name a few). And I wanna try them all! This past weekend, the hubs gotme a waffle iron for my birthday. The next day, we broke in the iron with a meal I have always wanted to try: chicken n’ waffles. It was delicious, and just made me want to waffle everything in my kitchen even more.

chicken and waffles

So, on to dinner.

I am a big fan of making chili and cornbread. Not only is it a super easy meal to make, it is actually pretty good for you! I double the amount of beans, which is an excellent source of fiber. It also is the perfect dish to make if you are trying to get more iron in your diet. The ground beef and beans are high in iron, and the tomato sauce is high in vitamin c, which will help you absorb the iron. Even better, is this recipe translates really well into a crock pot meal, which is how I prepared it below.

 

Black and White Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

ground beef

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 cup frozen bell peppers, chopped or half of a red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, undrained
  • 1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

chili doneBrown one pound of lean ground beef in a pan with chopped garlic. Add onion. Cook until onions are tender. Transfer to a crock pot (using a slotted spoon, trying to not bring any drippings).  Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot and stir well. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Tastes delicious as left overs. Freezes really well too!

Note- I have also made this where I don’t cook the onion and garlic with the beef, and there was more of a crunch, which was delicious. Both ways work.

Now, on to the fun part!

cornbreadTo make things easy, I use the cornbread mix from trader joes. It is sweet and has whole corn kernels, which make a delicious combination.

Mix according to directions (you will also need 1 egg, 3/4 cup milk, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil in addition to the box). Preheat waffle iron, and cook a half cup of batter at a time.

They turned out beautiful! Simply delicious. Would go well with some honey butter too! Mmmm… Honey butter…

If you are a fan of “end pieces” then you’ll die over these cornbread waffles!

Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Agave-Maple Butter Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini

I have a friend. Let’s just call her Kellie. She has celiac disease, which means she cannot eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley). She consequently also has a hard time with dairy, so many of the meals we prepare together have to be both gluten-free and dairy-free. There always seems to be magic in the kitchen when we cook together. I am forced to come up with creative ways to prepare meals I normally make. We always end up with a delicious meal that is simple, lots of vegetables, interesting grains, and lean protein. It also ends up being fairly healthy too (except for that time we added bacon to our cauliflower and leek mashed potatoes…although that was pretty amazing)

photo 1 (8)

I love using pork because it is fairly inexpensive and you can purchase two tenderloins at Trader Joe’s for under $10. It is a perfect option for entertaining because it can feed quite a few people (you can feed probably 6 people with those two tenderloins). For some reason, I always have to pair pork with sweet potatoes, it just makes sense in my head. Lastly, I consulted Kellie for what veggie she would like, and she suggested Romanesco (those little fractal, lime green veggies that seem to be somewhere in between cauliflower and broccoli). My local TJ’s was fresh out of Fresh Romanesco, so we went with zucchini, one of my old stand-bys. Overall, the meal was a success. I tried something new for the baked sweet potatoes (Maple and Cinnamon Butter instead of just butter and brown sugar), which was a really nice treat. The bag of sweet potatoes is another great buy from TJ’s. There were 6 potatoes in there for less than $2, pretty great deal if you ask me!

Now, on to the process:

Pork Tenderloin and Glaze

You can make the glaze ahead of time , which is what I usually do when I make this. Refrigerate until ready to use. When you are ready to cook up the Pork Tenderloins, just give them a rub down with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  You can either combine the sea salt and pepper and oil and then rub it all together, or rub down with oil and then top with salt and pep. Either way, you’ll be fine. I use a large 9X12 pyrex dish for this. Another reason I love this meal is that you don’t have to marinate the meat for a long time prior to cooking. You don’t even need to prepare the glaze ahead of time either. The pork cooks for 10 minutes, and then you pour the glaze on top, so technically, you could prepare the glaze as the pork begins to cook. You’ll be done, start to finish in less than 30 minutes.

roasted zucchini

The zucchini was going to go in the over with the pork, so I prepared it very simply, with drizzles of Olive Oil, and fresh ground sea salt (or kosher salt) and pepper. I just periodically checked on the zucchini and tossed it as needed.

photo 3 (8)

I use to never make baked sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes) before I learned how easy it was in the microwave. Now, it is my go-to side dish. So quick and easy. Just rinse the potatoes well, poke them all over with a fork or knife, and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave the sweet potatoes (6 minutes for the first one, then add an additional 2 minutes for each additional potato) and use caution when removing, because they will be ridiculously hot.

Cinnamon Maple Butter

The Cinnamon maple butter was an experiment, and it was so incredibly successful, I feel like I need to make this by the vat full and swim in it. Just used 2 Tbsp Butter, 1 Tbsp Maple Agave Syrup (my personal favorite for taste and consistency, not because it is any more healthy than other syrup. They all are equally sugar-y. I am sure any maple syrup would be fine) and a few sprinkles of Cinnamon. Probably about 1/4 tsp. If I was making this in a larger portion, I probably would have used the stand mixer, but since my butter was soft already, it was easy to mix by hand.

Now is the part of my blog post that gets a little bit sad…

I was way too excited to eat this meal to remember to take a picture of the finished product.

But I assure you it looked colorful and beautiful and would make you salivate just by looking at it!

So, there you go. A super easy dinner that is perfect for entertaining on a budget and will be a breeze to prepare, even for a novice chef.

Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

2 Pork Tenderloins
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 Cup Apricot Preserves or Jam
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp Chicken Broth
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme, Chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Coat/rub pork tenderloins with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place pork in the oven for 10 minutes.

In the mean time, prepare the glaze by combining apricot jam, dijon mustard, chicken broth, garlic and thyme. After the pork is in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and add glaze, then return pork to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145.  Remove, slice into 1/2 inch-1 inch thick slices, and drizzle additional glaze on top.

Microwave Sweet Potatoes with Agave-Maple Butter

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: (super) easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4 Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp Butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp Agave Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

Directions:

Rinse potatoes well and poke with a fork or knife, about 6 times all over. Cover with a damp paper towel and place on microwave-safe dish.  Microwave the sweet potatoes (6 minutes for the first one, then add an additional 2 minutes for each additional potato) and use caution when removing.

While potatoes are cooking, combine last three ingredients until well mixed. Once potatoes are done cooking and ready to be served, slice down the middle with a knife to expose flesh and top with butter.

Simply Roasted Zucchini

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

Three large zucchini or yellow squash
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch pieces. drizzle with olive oil and top with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for ~20 minutes, turning as needed.