Hunger Action Month: Bean and Pasta Soup

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Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you are having a great week.

We are now halfway through Hunger Action Month (!), which means that I want to share my absolute favorite recipe that I developed for my local food pantry – Bean and Pasta Soup. This soup was my lunchtime staple during my study abroad in Italy because it was delicious and nutritious (and cheap!). Re-creating it for the food pantry brought me back to those simpler times and the Italians’ food philosophy that everyone should have access to good, healthy food (no matter what their socio-economic status was).

This soup is chock full of beans, pasta, and tomato, which makes it a perfect, hearty meal for a chilly fall day. Plus, it utilizes pantry staples that are cheap, easy to purchase, and available all year round.

And it starts with adding some vegetable oil to a medium-to-large soup pot set over medium heat…

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… when the oil heats up, I tossed in some diced onion and let it cook until it became soft and translucent.

When the onion was all cooked, I added in a can of whole tomatoes (juice and all!) that I broke into pieces with my wooden spoon.

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You can totally cut the tomatoes in the can with a pair of kitchen shears (like my mom) or crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands (like my grandma) if you want an easier tomato “chopping” method. But the side of a wooden spoon works too (if you’re lazy like me!).

Then I chucked in a couple cans of drained (and rinsed) beans – cannellini and garbanzo (chickpeas).

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My soup in Italy only had garbanzo beans, but I like the texture differences between the soft, creamy cannellini beans and the more hearty, firm garbanzo beans. If you like one bean more than the other, feel free to use just one type (the soup will be just as delicious).

Now for the liquid. I poured in some low sodium chicken broth and water, cranked up the heat, and brought everything to a boil.

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When the liquid was at a boil, I tossed in half a box (what was remaining from the Vegetable Soup with Pasta) of ditalini pasta. Any small pasta shape works here, but I just love these little tubes!

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Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta is done cooking, the soup is finished – how easy was that? All that’s left is to serve up…

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And chow down!

I hope you enjoy this food pantry-friendly recipe and share it with your family, friends, and community! If you try this recipe or donate its ingredients to your local food pantry, let me know using the hashtag #GSFfightshunger.

Because together, we can end hunger.

oxox,

C

Bean and Pasta Soup

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped small

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1-15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can no-salt added whole tomatoes

2-14oz cans fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

8oz small tube pasta (ditalini)

Additional water

 

Instructions:

  1. In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add in the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft.
  3. Add in the beans and the canned whole tomatoes (juice and all!). Stir to combine and to break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks.
  4. Add in the chicken broth, plus an additional 2 cans full of water. Bring the broth to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in the pasta. Cook according to the package directions.

Serve immediately or let cool completely and refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for 1-2 months.

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

Calories: 274 kcal Carbohydrates: 55gm Protein: 14gm Fat: 4gm Dietary Fiber: 10gm Sodium: 829mg

Cost per recipe: $6.42

Cost per serving: $1.07

Recipe from Confessions of A Grad School Foodie – confessionsofagradschoolfoodie.com for Hunger Action Month 2015.

Caprese Pizza

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One of my fondest food memories as a child is homemade-pizza-for-dinner night. My dad would whip up homemade pizza dough, slather it with sauce and cheese, and bake it until the house smelled like a pizzeria. In my opinion, homemade pizza is a million times better than pizza from a pizzeria… you can control what kind of crust you make, what cheese you use, what type of sauce you use, and what toppings make it onto the finished product… which means that you can cater to your family’s likes, dislikes, and preferences (half vegetarian, quarter caramelized onion, quarter sausage please!).

So for my parents’ welcome-home-from-vacation dinner, I decided to combine my two food loves – homemade pizza and pesto sauce – into the ultimate throwback comfort food dinner… Caprese Pizza.

If you have been following along on my food blogging journey, you have come to realize that pesto is pretty much one of my favorite things. It’s delicious, the perfect shade of green, and it can be used in a bunch of different ways (on sandwiches, on quesadillas, on pasta, etc.). So I decided to do a play on a traditional caprese sandwich and make a pesto pizza with a fresh tomato topping. And I think it turned out pretty well!

It starts with my foolproof pizza dough… I shared this recipe a while back but I’m re-posting some updated photos and the original recipe here (so you don’t have to scroll to find it!).

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It starts with dumping some flour, some yeast, olive oil, and salt into the bowl of a standmixer.

Using the dough hook attachment, mix the flour mixture and add in enough warm water (it should be warm, not hot, or else it will kill the yeast) until a slightly sticky dough forms.

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Form the dough into a ball, coat in some vegetable oil, and place in the bottom of a bowl. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and then set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for a couple of hours to rise.

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A perfect pizza dough ball ready to rise!

After the dough has risen, it’s time to make the pizza.

Spread the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan and set aside to let it rest until the oven has come to temperature.

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In place of the traditional sauce (and to mimic the caprese sandwich), dot the crust with the some pesto sauce. This is homemade, but any really, really good jarred pesto can be used.

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And spread it out into a thin layer.

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Then layer on some grated mozzarella cheese (the second component of a caprese sandwich).

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And bake the pizza at 500 degrees for about 10-11 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the pizza is golden brown. Let the pizza rest of a couple of minutes (because it’s very hot!).

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(note – you can eat the pizza just like this if you want, but the next step really does send it over the top!)

Now all that’s left is to whip up the final (and most important) component of the caprese pizza – the fresh tomato topping.

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I chopped up a bunch of Roma (or plum) tomatoes (because they don’t have a lot of liquid seed-ness inside) and dressed them up with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

Now that we have all the components, it’s time to eat!!

My dad cut up big wedges of pizza (just like when we were little!) and then I topped it with the fresh tomato salad.

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Yum!

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Just like a caprese sandwich… in a homemade pizza form!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the two foods that I love the most (and to relive some good childhood memories). Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pesto lovin’, homemade pizza makin’ friend,

C

Caprese Pizza

  • Servings: 8 people
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 packets active dry yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Warm water

Vegetable oil

For the pizza:

¼ cup pesto

1-lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated – can use less if desired

For the fresh tomato salad:

5-6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, dump in the flour, yeast, olive oil, and salt and mix until combined. With the mixer on, slowly pour in warm water (not hot, or else you will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise) until a slightly sticky dough ball forms.
  2. Form the dough into a ball, lightly coat in vegetable oil and place it into a bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a clean tea towel. Set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for 2-3 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, turn out the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan (or a cookie sheet with high sides) and stretch it out/spread it out using your fingers. Set the dough aside to rest until the oven reaches temperature.
  4. When the oven is pre-heated, spread the pizza dough with the pesto, leaving a 1-inch border on the edges. Cover the pizza with the grated cheese. Bake the pizza for 10-11 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Set aside for 1-2 minutes to cool slightly.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Toss to combine.
  6. To serve – cut the pizza into wedges and top with some of the tomato mixture. Enjoy!

 

Nutritional Information (1 serving):

478 calories Ÿ• 53gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 3gm fiber Ÿ• 23gm protein Ÿ• 19gm fat Ÿ• 7gm saturated fat Ÿ• 802mg sodium Ÿ• 32mg cholesterol Ÿ• 3mg iron Ÿ• 449mg calcium

Basil Pesto

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced (you can add more or less garlic depending on your preference)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts

5 cups of fresh, washed basil

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup of good olive oil

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, throw in the garlic, parmesan cheese, and walnuts. Pulse to combine. Add in the basil and pulse until everything is combined.
  2. With the food processor on, slowly pour in the olive oil until a thick sauce forms. Taste and add in salt and pepper to taste. Pesto sauce can be stored in the fridge for about a week or frozen for 2-3 months.

 

Nutritional Information (1 tablespoon):

119 calories Ÿ• 1gm carbohydrates •Ÿ 0.5gm fiber Ÿ• 4gm protein Ÿ• 11gm fat Ÿ• 2gm saturated fat Ÿ• 186mg sodium •Ÿ 6mg cholesterol Ÿ• 0.5mg iron •Ÿ 128mg calcium

Turkey Bolognese

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It’s E’s big birthday weekend, so I decided to take the train up and help celebrate with her work friends – they are a fun bunch and it was so nice to meet all of them in person! Yesterday, while E was at work, I decided to do a little studying for my RD exam (which I just scheduled… !!!).

It started out great – I had my study guide, blank note cards, my TWO different colored highlighters (because I’m fancy like that), and a boatload of motivation… until 5:00PM when I decided that my mind needed a break and that I really, really wanted to share this awesome turkey bolognese recipe with you.

Hooray for study breaks!

And hooray for easy, one-pot suppers that are on the table in no time and can feed a crowd.

It all starts with two medium-sized onions and five cloves of garlic.

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I believe that all good tomato-based sauce recipes should have a lot of garlic (and this amount isn’t too much), but if you are sensitive to garlic, you can definitely tone it down.

When the onions are soft and translucent, add in one pound of lean ground turkey.

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Break it up with a spoon and allow it to completely brown – be patient… this can take 5-10 minutes! Note: this is a great base for many dishes… if you want, you can let this mixture cool and then freeze it. Then you have endless possibilities for dinner waiting in the freezer (like this awesome chili!).

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Add some crushed red pepper!

And then the big secret ingredient…

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Good jarred marinara sauce! (yes, I’m cheating!)

I doctored up the sauce with some additional salt, pepper, and dried oregano.

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Let the sauce simmer as you prepare your favorite pasta! I decided to use whole wheat spaghetti, but any shape works here.

When the pasta is cooked, taste the sauce a final time and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

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And add in a bunch of freshly chopped basil – if you add it too soon, the basil becomes brown and limp… no one likes brown, limp basil.

Serve the sauce over the pasta and garnish with some grated cheese and more basil.

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Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pasta obsessed, study break needin’ friend,

C

Turkey Bolognese

  • Servings: 5 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1 pound lean ground turkey

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

¾ of a jar of good marinara sauce – if you like your bolognese with more liquid, add the whole jar!

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 pound dried pasta, prepared according to package instructions

Grated cheese and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

 

Steps:

1. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent.

2. Add ground turkey to skillet, breaking the meat apart with a spoon. Cook the turkey until browned and cooked through, approximately 5-10 minutes.

3. When the turkey is cooked, sprinkle over the crushed red pepper flakes. Pour in the sauce and add the salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Stir thoroughly to combine. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until the pasta is ready.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add salt and one pound dried pasta – cook according to the package instructions. When the pasta is al dente, drain pasta and set aside until sauce is finished.

5. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or hot pepper flake. Add in chopped basil and stir to combine.

To serve, you two options:

Option 1: Dish out pasta into bowls and ladle sauce on top. Garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Option 2: Add pasta into the skillet with the sauce and toss to combine. Dish out the pasta and garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

577 calories • 77gm carbohydrates • 7gm fiber • 30gm protein • 16gm fat • 4gm saturated fat • 933mg sodium • 67mg cholesterol • 5mg iron • 90mg calcium

Italian Vegetable Quesadillas

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Hi there! How are you?

Did you have a good long holiday weekend?

Oh good!

I had an amazing weekend too! With my parents visiting with friends at the beach, I had a big Tex-Mex BBQ at my house with my close friends. It was a great time filled with good food and even better conversation.

Coming from a long line of Greek cooks, I whipped up enough food to feed A LOT of people… which means one thing – leftovers. (yay!) I wanted to save the main stuff for a welcome home dinner with the parents, but there was just enough grilled veggies for me to whip up a delicious and easy lunch.

Italian Vegetable Quesadillas!

I know that quesadillas are a traditional Tex-Mex dish, but I hate all cheese (have I mentioned that before?) except for mozzarella (yes, I’m weird). So I decided to try an Italian spin on this old classic using the leftover veggies and the one cheese that doesn’t gross me out (definitely stepping out of my comfort zone).

It starts with a pan set over medium-low heat and coated lightly with cooking spray.

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Place in a small tortilla – this is a 6” whole wheat one (I think they call it “fajita-style”) – that is spread with some pesto (homemade or bottled… your choice!).

Sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese.

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Because what is a quesadilla without melty cheese?

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And then place on the grilled vegetables.

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Sprinkle on a little more cheese to help “glue” the quesadilla together.

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And then top with another tortilla coated with some more pesto!

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Grill the quesadilla until golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.

All that’s left is to place the quesadilla on to a cutting board.

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And cut into quarters!

Serve with a spoonful of your favorite marinara sauce and a garnish of basil.

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A simple, delicious, and interesting twist on the traditional Tex-Mex classic!

Enjoy, kiddos.

Your leftover lovin’, quesadilla grillin’ friend,

C

Italian Vegetable Quesadilla

  • Servings: 1 person
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 6” tortillas, preferably whole wheat

2 tablespoons pesto, divided

1 cup grilled vegetables, like zucchini, summer squash, bell pepper, onion

⅓ cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided

Cooking spray

Marinara sauce for dipping

Steps:

  1. Place a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Coat one side of both tortillas with pesto (one tablespoon per tortilla). Place one tortilla pesto-side up in the skillet. Sprinkle on half of the mozzarella cheese over the pesto and arrange the vegetables in one even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle on the second half of the cheese over the vegetables (to act as the “glue”) and top with the second tortilla, pesto-side down.
  3. Cook the quesadilla 1-2 minutes per side until it becomes golden brown and the cheese gets melty.
  4. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board, cut into wedges and serve with marinara sauce and some fresh basil.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (1 quesadilla):

454 calories • 34gm carbohydrates • 17gm fiber • 25gm protein • 32gm fat • 8gm saturated fat • 783mg sodium • 27mg cholesterol • 5mg iron • 515mg calcium

Chicken Faux-sala

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Hi there!

How are you?

Life has gotten insanely busy as I have passed the “Three Weeks Until Graduation” mark this weekend. And when life gets busy, all I want to eat is comfort food.

Nothing says comfort food like Chicken Marsala.

Or Chicken Faux-sala…

It’s faux-sala because this chicken dish actually doesn’t have any marsala wine in it! We had mushrooms and chicken but didn’t have any of the deliciously sweet fortified wine… so we decided to substitute it with some good red wine spiked with simple syrup. It’s not exactly like the original dish but it tastes pretty awesome.

This dish starts with a flour mixture.

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Flour, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but this really is the only seasoning this dish has.

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Dredge six boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (that have been pounded thin) in the flour mixture.

And pop them into a pan that has been heating over medium-high heat with some olive oil and butter in it.

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Cook the chicken for 3 minutes per side.

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Or until golden brown. Pull the chicken out of the pan and set aside.

NOTE: the chicken is just brown on the outside AKA IT IS NOT FULLY COOKED.

In the same skillet, add a little more olive oil and toss in the sliced mushrooms.

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Cook them until they are golden brown and delicious. We used cremini mushrooms here but the plain ole button mushrooms work too!

When the mushrooms are brown and yummy, pour in the red wine, simple syrup, and chicken broth.

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Let the mixture come to a boil and reduce to thicken slightly – about 3 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally too, making sure to scrape up the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

When the mushroom sauce has reduced, place the chicken breasts back into the pan.

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Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until it is completely cooked in the middle.

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Before serving, drizzle in some balsamic vinegar (for flavor) and a corn starch slurry (to thicken the sauce). Then taste everything and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Then serve it up!

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We served ours over some brown rice but you can go traditional and serve it up over noodles. Whatever you choose, it’ll be divine (and oh so comforting!).

Enjoy, kiddos!

Your insanely busy, Italian comfort food lovin’ friend,

C

Chicken Faux-sala

  • Servings: six people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 cups sliced mushrooms, button or cremini works great!

¾ cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 cup low sodium chicken stock

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn starch slurry – 1 teaspoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

 

Steps:

  1. In a plate, combine flour, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper – stir to combine. Lightly dredge the chicken halves in the flour mixture and shake to remove any excess flour.
  2. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until very hot. Place the chicken halves in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side – about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Add in the remaining olive oil and add in the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms become golden brown and release their liquid.
  4. Pour in the wine, simple syrup, and chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly.
  5. Place the chicken breasts back into the sauce and cook until they are cooked through, approximately 3-4 minutes per side.
  6. Add in the balsamic vinegar, any additional salt and pepper, and the cornstarch slurry. Cook until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately!

Enjoy!

 

Italian Sausage Meatballs, Peppers, and Onions

My introduction to Italian sausage, peppers, and onions was at the San Gennaro street festival in New York City during a high school field trip. Each stall claimed to have the best sausage, the freshest peppers, and the sweetest onion all piled onto huge barges of bakery bread. I was in food heaven.

These days, my mom makes a more sedate version of this famed sandwich as a pasta dish. It is a delicious one pot dinner and is perfect on a night that you don’t want to spend to long making dinner and want something impressive.

It all starts with good Italian sausage – you can use either hot or sweet Italian sausage. I personally use sweet sausage and then add heat to the sauce, but you can do whatever makes your heart sing!

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To make meatballs out of the sausage, cut the sausage down the middle, remove the casing, and cut them into 2-3-inch pieces.

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Then roll each piece into a meatball.

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Throw the meatballs into a deep-sided skillet with a tiny bit of canola oil.

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Stir the meatballs around so that they all get brown.

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When they are browned (CAUTION – they aren’t cooked through!), pull them out of the skillet and place them to drain on paper towelling. Then drain off the grease and put the skillet back on the heat with a little bit of olive oil.

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Then slice up some red bell pepper and onion.

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And throw them into the skillet.

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Add some salt, pepper, oregano, and hot pepper flake and cook them until they soft and golden.

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When the veggies are all cooked, the meatballs get placed into the skillet too.

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And then pour into some wine. Stop and savor the amazing smells coming from your kitchen (and maybe pour yourself a glass of wine while you’re at it?).

 

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This simple wine broth is a good sauce for this dish, but I like to crack open a jar of marinara sauce and add it to the skillet. The tomato sauce is reminiscent of the traditional sausage, pepper and onion sandwich.

 

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Toss in the pasta (and a little mozzarella cheese if you desire… which I did) and stir… and take a steamy, blurry picture that you have no shame putting on your food blog.

 

Then serve to your family and friends!

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Oh goodness.

It is a less messy version of the traditional sandwich, but just as delicious!

 

Enjoy, everyone!

C

Italian Sausage Meatballs, Peppers, and Onions

  • Servings: 6-8 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon of canola oil

8 Italian sausages, hot or sweet

2 teaspoons of olive oil

3 medium-large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

1 large onion, cut into thin strips

3 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flake

½ cup of dry white wine

½ a regular jar of good marinara sauce

1 pound of pasta, cooked to the package directions.

 

Steps:

  1. Heat a high-sided skillet over medium heat with the canola oil. Split the casings of the Italian sausage and remove completely. Cut the sausages into 2-3-inch pieces and roll each piece into a meatball.
  2. Brown the meatballs in the skillet, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the browned meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and drain off the excess grease from the skillet. Return skillet to the heat.
  3. Add the olive oil to the skillet, along with the peppers and onion. Cook the vegetables until the begin to soften and turn golden brown. Add the meatballs, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flake, and cook until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Pour in the wine and cook until the wine reduces slightly. Add in the marinara sauce, stir to combine, and reduce the heat to simmer. Place a lid on the skillet and let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 20 minutes to ensure the sausage meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Serve the meatballs and sauce over pasta, sprinkled with cheese if your heart desires.

Enjoy!