Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related


Soups and Stews

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.


ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.



a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.



Healthy Hippie Stew


SWEET MAGNOLIA  it has been almost two years since i have blogged.  this makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. cry because i love love love writing and blogging and collecting thoughts in print… and smile because this just shows that my life, this beautiful life, is consuming me and filling me right the hell up so that blogging has slipped my mind entirely!  that being said, my new years resolution was to blog more, so giddy up on that.  also, i plan to buy a go pro with some of our income tax money- so i will likely be sneaking in a few cooking videos on here. i know for a fact i have said such things in the past and never followed through, but i think i’m feeling it this time.   i have shut down both of my ETSY shops, just not feeling it anymore, and the fees- albeit small, do add up when you have lots of listings.  the nice thing is, they leave the shop intact, so that when you want to come back- all is as you left it.  sooooo, yeah- recent events:  March in Pittsburgh means more snow just when you become sick of snow.  it also means 60’s one day and 25 degrees the next.  it’s bananas.  i looked out the window this morning and the roads were clear.  i heard my dog barking like a loon an hour later, and the roads were covered and a car had wrecked and flipped over across the street!  i’m telling you, Pittsburgh weather is bananas.  we just got back from an amazing ten day tropical vacation on a small island forty minutes off the coast of Belize.  it was called Caye Caulker… and it was amazing.  i booked our little cottage on Airbnb and then secured some flights.  the exchange rate was fantastic, 2 to 1!  i highly recommend visiting that island if you are looking for something off the beaten path and free of huge resorts, huge hotels and large shopping malls- etc.  this place is tiny.  you can bike one end to the other in under fifteen mins, but it lacks nothing.  there are bars, restaurants, little markets, a bank, two cemeteries- but no hospitals- lol.   it is super authentic Caribbean, with a hippie vibe and lots of smiling happy faces.  which brings me to my dish i created.  HIPPIE STEW.  when in caye caulker, we ate a lot of what they called- “stew chicken” which was traditionally served with red beans and rice as well as coleslaw.  it was beyond delicious, yet so simple.  it inspired me to create a dish that i could enjoy eating for many days, and even freeze portions for quick lunches.  i wanted to be able to make it in under an hour- and have this large return for my time.  i succeeded!  this is also quite inexpensive to make- and actually gives you a whole extra chicken breast to create another meal with!  i made my husband a tomato based sauce with capers and sauteed onions and spices and added the chicken and served it to him in a bowl over linguine! (he loves pasta!)  i was happy with my healthy hippie stew and he was happy with his pasta!  win-win.


one package of bone in, skin on split chicken breasts (two breasts in pack- usually around five bucks total- maybe less)

1 cup of lentils (green or red- whatever)

1/2 cup white rice (not minute rice people… real rice)

1/3 cup orzo pasta (or pastini if that’s all you have)

1 tsp of curry powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of pepper

1 large onion diced

1 large carrot diced (2 if smaller)

2 celery stalks diced

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 small zucchini diced

large handful of fresh bagged spinach (chopped)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

few squirts of hot sauce


fill a large dutch oven halfway full with water. mine is a 6 quart pot.  adjust accordingly.



bring water to a boil and add your TWO skin on/bone in chicken breasts.  turn heat to medium and let these go for about a half hour uncovered.  prep all of your vegetables at this time.  slice/ dice your heart out.  put them into nice little organized cereal bowls so you’re ready to add to stew at given time.

this recipe is crazy versatile.  if you don’t like zucchini, don’t add it.  wanna use kale in place of spinach? DO IT!  hate chick peas?  Add black beans! celery turn your stomach? double up on carrots! you feelin’ me?

OK so after about a half hour, remove cooked chicken to a large plate and set aside to let it cool down.  turn heat up to high again and add the ONIONS, LENTILS, RICE AND ORZO.  cook these over high heat,  stirring occasionally for about five or six minutes.   Then add the carrots, celery, spices/herbs/salt/pepper/hot sauce,  and chick peas.  return to boil.   once this comes back to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, cover and let cook for 15 mins.  stir it once during cooking.  water should be starting to be absorbed by the grains a bit.

while it is cooking, take and prepare your chicken.  you are only using ONE of the breasts here folks.  we used TWO in order to properly flavor the broth- but all of that chicken would be waaay too much in this, so do as i said and utilize it for another meal.  ((shred for chicken salad, use it for chicken and waffles, make the kids chicken quesadillas with cheese,  whatever you can dream up.))   OK- slice or chop or shred or however you choose to create bite sized pieces of chicken to add back into the stew.  set it aside and be ready.

uncover the pot after the 15 mins and add in your zucchini, chopped spinach and prepared chicken.  stir well and cover again.  let cook a few mins more over medium heat and then turn off heat, leaving lid intact.   at this point i like to tidy up the kitchen and get ready to enjoy some hippie stew!  ladle yourself a small portion, allow to cool a bit and then taste.  tweak accordingly with salt/pepper or maybe some hot sauce.  take a picture and attach this blog post!!  let me know how it turned out.  i love to hear from people who have cooked from my blog.  food is love.  enjoy!!


“life is either a daring adventure… or nothing at all.”  ~helen keller


Allow your soul to rest,  stop and be amazed by the sea.   

Don’t listen to what i say… go and SEE !!

embrace the pace yo.  spags.


spicy wheat berry chili… with or without sausage… you’re gonna like it!!


what berry??  wheat berry.  WHAT??  what the hell is a wheat berry?  this is how the conversation began when I started to tell my hubby about my dinner plans last weekend.  he immediately jumped on the laptop and proceeded to educate himself, and admittedly, me as well… on just what in the hell the wheat berry was.  I saw this recipe that made my eyes widen a bit while looking at Eating,  on there it was listed as ‘zesty wheat berry black bean chili’… and my recipe is an adapted version.   I tweaked it a bit, but not a ton-   it was a vegetarian recipe to start with… but the omnivore in me felt compelled to start it out with a bit of ground hot sausage, browned well, thus leaving a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pot, only to be ‘deglazed’ right the hell into the mix once the veggies began to sauté over it.  this created a ‘cooked all day’ taste, especially when the chicken broth was added.   so yeah… wheat berries.  this little guy is a superstar in the grain world.   easily put, the wheat berry is the whole grain form of the wheat, in its most natural state before any processing has occurred.  it’s full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  it brings copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium to the table.  most of which are hard to find in every day foods.  selenium is great for our immune systems and our thyroid gland, and manganese helps boost our metabolism.  all good, right??  if the pure healthy reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the taste will.  wheat berries have a chewy, almost nutty sweet texture that blend seamlessly with even the boldest of flavors.  they could have easily stood alone here, (they even have protein!)  and  I compel my veggie friends roll with this recipe sans sausage.  just jump right in at sauté the onions, peppers, etc.  (and sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth)  Golden!! have it both ways.


the day you’re gonna make this, go ahead and cook the wheat berries ahead of time, as they take one hour to cook.  the preparation?? EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY.   put the wheat berries in a heavy pot. cover with water two inches or so above the grains.  bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.   once cooked, drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. This recipe calls for two cups- cooked.  I bought two cups of dry berries for 1.99/pound at my local Whole Foods.  i’m guessing any health food store is gonna have these guys.  they were listed as “hard red winter wheat berries” .  when they cook up, they plump a bit- so you end up with more than you need. Add what you think looks right to your stew,  (at least two cups but I did more) and then put the rest in an airtight container to use over salads, etc. for the rest of the week.  heck, they’re so versatile you can even add them to your morning yogurt!  ok, moving forward.


olive oil

about a half a pound of bulk hot sausage (ground not links) -anything under one pound will do.

1 large yellow onion (diced)

1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and small diced)

1 yellow bell pepper (diced) – (red would work here too, but i’m a ninny and think about the visual of the end product)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)

5 cloves garlic (minced)

2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)

your wheat berries from above

2 tsp chili powder

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup water

2 tsp brown sugar

1 avocado (diced)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro- chopped


OK, like any recipe I tell you guys about, I say prep all of your ingredients first, and that way they are waiting on your ass when it’s go time.  trust me, it makes your life sooo much easier when you’re starting out doing these recipes.  it makes it hard to ‘mess up’ that way.   I still cook this way for the most part- and that is probably one of the reasons I keep loving it so much.  the old nursing adage applies here: work smarter, not harder. 

so hit up your pan with some olive oil- just a swirl will do…. and start to brown your hot sausage.  start out at medium high, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks.  you have to keep at this, flip it around, break it up continuously until it is small lovely browned pieces…. ready to add in later.  remove the meat to a plate, and set aside.  the bottom of your pot should look crusty and a mess at this point.  perfecto.  we are gonna work all of those lovely browned bits into the mix here in a sec.   reduce heat to medium and add your pile of chopped onions.  stir around for a few minutes while they warm up.  add a bit of the diced tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup- and continue to try to ‘clean’ the bottom with the ingredients.  add in the bell peppers and the jalapeno and turn the heat up to medium high.  stir for a few mins and then add in the garlic and all of the dry spices.  stir around a few more mins, at this point, your pot should be deglazed, if not, a bit more tomato and make it happen.  once you’ve achieved that, add in your chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar and add the sausage back in.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer like this for 25 minutes.


remove lid, stir well,  and go ahead and add in your wheat berries.  like I said, at LEAST two cups, but I just dumped in what I thought looked good as I gave it a stir. I wanted it to be thick.  it’s your rodeo people…. take charge.

cook it for like 5 minutes more,  and then remove from heat. give it a stir, and then you’re adding in the juice from one whole lime, and at least a half cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  (again, I did not measure, just take a big rip and chop it)  I reserved a smidge of the cilantro to sprinkle on top of the bowls, mostly because I love love love cilantro.   after you stir in your cilantro and lime juice, you’re ready to eat!!


serve up a bowl and top with a few pieces of diced avocado (if you dig it) –  and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth!!  I love this recipe, and can’t wait to cook it up again soon.  multiple co-workers liked it, my mom liked it, and hubba-lish liked it too!!  winning!!   Enjoy!

peace and love yo!  spags.

zesty chili pic



Italian Lentil Stew… Zuppa di Lenticchie!

all natural... guilt free... bursting with flavor
all natural… guilt free… bursting with flavor

Magnesium is Nature’s own calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax… Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat lentils.” –

about a month or so ago, I decided to cook with lentils for the first time ever.   i am heavy with regret that i waited so long.  why? because they are a nutritional powerhouse in a tiny adorable package… that’s why.  Health magazine touted them as one of the five healthiest foods we can eat.  they are one of the highest protein rich legumes out there… packing a whopping 26g of protein.   they are fiber rich, thus cholesterol reducing, and brilliant for weight loss, given their low fat and high fiber content.  they pack iron, B vitamins, zinc (cold season BFF) and an outstanding 120% of Folate!  so yeah, i fell for lentils.  it was a beautiful thing, and I believe I picked the absolute perfect dish in which to begin this life-long relationship… an Italian lentil soupy stew.   i decided what I wanted to be in the stew… thought about how I should bring it all together… and fast forward spoon to mouth, the bright – bold flavors blew me away!   this pot of yumminess will last you several days, and feed you (and a willing friend) lunch and dinner (and heck even breakfast one lazy Sunday if we’re being honest) for all of said days.  this recipe warms you in the fall and winter, and is bright and refreshing enough to eat in spring and summer as well while enjoying a book on the patio!  The flavors marry, and it truly keeps getting better.  it can even be served atop scrambled eggs with some crunchy baked pita wedges to help get every last bit to your mouth.  the fat content on this is next to nothing… only coming from the little bit of olive oil you  begin with.  so eating a bowl late at night while catching up on your favorite TV is definitely not out of the question.  that is, as long as you have a steel stomach and will not be up half of the night with heartburn!! you were warned.  ok lets get on with it…  this dish comes together in about 20 minutes with all of the chopping and can opening- and it cooks for 30 minutes.   it is a one pot meal- aka all cooking done in same pot.


large onion (diced)

3-4 carrots (small dice)

half of a red bell pepper (or orange or yellow- NOT green)

3 cloves of garlic- peeled and minced

2 T olive oil (maybe more- go with it)

2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. coriander (if this is the only thing stopping you from making this dish if you don’t have it- leave it out!! it will be fine!

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

large handful of baby spinach (maybe a cup packed) – roughly chop

2 cans chicken broth (sub vegetable broth for vegan version!!)

1 cup of water

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 cup of lentils (i used greenish brown regular lentils)- soak them in warm water while you prep and then rinse well prior to adding.

a splash of lemon juice and a small handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley stirred in at the end really brings this to life… but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have either. it is SPOT on without. 🙂


add some olive oil to a dutch oven.  prepare your vegetables as outlined above, and open your cans so you are ready to move forward. get your lentils soaking in a dish in warm water.  turn on your pot and heat the olive oil over high heat. add your onions, carrots and bell pepper. saute over med/high heat for five minutes or so- stirring often- add garlic near end and cook a minute longer. onions should begin to soften and turn a slightly brownish color.  add your dried spices and saute a minute longer.   at this point you can add your tomatoes, broth, water and bay leaf.  drain and rinse your lentils a bit, and add them into the mix.  bring mixture back up to a boil- and then cover- leaving a small gap in the lid. reduce heat to medium low- and set timer for 30 mins. stir  ONCE during cooking.  after 30 mins- remove lid and stir in your spinach.  (plus parsley and lemon squeeze if you are going that route.)  at this point it is done and can be served up in a nice shallow bowl.  i like to let it sit, uncovered on the stove for another 10 mins or so- off the heat – just to let it rest after all of that hard work.   sprinkle your serving with some parmesan cheese and serve with a nice piece of fresh garlic bread for over the top enjoyment.  also good with some simple crackers alongside- or straight up with nothing at all.  store in fridge (in the pot if you wish) for up to four days.  Enjoy!




stellar beef stew



melt in your mouth tender
melt in your mouth tender

There may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread…. There may be.”

i am always looking for a recipe for a fabulous Beef Stew…. one that has depth of flavor, melt in your mouth beef,  but doesn’t take half the day to prepare and cook.  After making this modified version of Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Beef stew, i’m fairly certain I won’t have to look any longer.  The preparation is very straight forward… not fussy at all.  once you cut your beef and prepare your veggies, it’s easy sailing to a cool weather dinner you won’t soon forget.  this recipe calls for a whole bottle of red wine. I have prepared it with both Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel in the past… but a nice Cab or a bottle of Merlot would work out equally as well.  To be perfectly honest with you, I usually pick something that I enjoy drinking, and I pour a glass to enjoy while I prep the ingredients! (this dish will not suffer without that one glass- trust me.)  I generally  make it with a regular onion, diced up and added fairly early on; but next time I plan to add the pearl onions like the original recipe calls for.  I think they will add an extra layer of rustic, yet fancy to the dish… if that makes any sense.  nonetheless, we are excited to try it that way.  I made it with fresh thyme this time around, but have also used dried thyme in the past.  today at work I just finished the last of this stew which I prepared three days ago.  it was truly just as good, if not better on days two and three. It reheats wonderfully, bowl by bowl for two minutes in the microwave.  if only all leftovers could taste this wonderful!  Granted, this is not something  you will make all of the time, given the expense of the beef and the bottle of red…  but instead will be chalked up as one of your ‘special‘ dinners in no time.


the ingredient list:

1/4 c olive oil

3 T of butter

1 cup of flour

2.5 or so pounds of chuck roast/ chuck shoulder roast/ pot roast/ or sirloin tip roast

salt and pepper

bottle of dry red wine

8 fresh thyme sprigs or a level teaspoon of dried thyme

6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 t ground cloves

2 bay leaves

1 can beef broth

14oz can of diced tomatoes

5 Yukon gold potatoes (small to md) washed and diced- skins on

four large carrots- peeled and diced

2 cups of frozen pearl onions (or half of a large Spanish onion- diced)

if  you like mushrooms, add some. I used four Crimini mushrooms- wiped clean and large diced.

flat leaf parsley for garnish


cut up your beef into 1.5 inch cubes- trimmed of most fat.


– prep your veggies as above. – open your cans and uncork your bottle of wine.  OK let’s roll. Add your olive oil to a heavy sauce pan or dutch oven. Add some heat- medium high. Add a cup of flour to a plate, salt and pepper your beef generously, toss beef in flour to coat, working with small batches at a time.  Add said beef to your hot oil in the pot. brown it on all sides/ flipping it around with a fork. remove to a plate, and repeat until all of the beef is browned.  Add the wine to the pan carefully and scrape up all the lovely browned bits from the bottom. Add your garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, cloves, bay leaves, beef broth, can of diced tomatoes, and diced onion. (if you are using the frozen pearl onions- do not add yet). Bring just to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. cook uncovered for 15 mins. Stir lightly, and then apply lid, and cook for 2 hours longer.   At the 2 hour point, add your potatoes and carrots and pearl onions (if using) as well as your mushrooms.  Tyler suggests adding a large pinch of sugar at this point to balance out the acidity of the wine. He is smart AND cute.  continue to simmer for another 35 mins, stirring occasionally.  remove the thyme and bay leaves, and serve over egg noodles or campanelle noodles for a hearty meal that is sure to please.  sprinkle each bowl with some freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, and relish in the amazing meal you have just prepared.


beef stew


Zucchini Basil Soup

amazingly simple and delicious...
amazingly simple and delicious…

enter the time of year when we all have a large zucchini sitting on our counter.  the days roll by… you look at it… ‘tomorrow morning’ you think… then tomorrow morning you remember you need to be at the dentist for that cleaning you’ve put off.  you again exchange glances with said zucchini… ‘cut me up’ he says… ‘prepare me in some fabulous manner’… you promise to meet his requests… ok tomorrow for sure you mumble. finally, two days later, at  2pm, you got rained out at the pool, and the kids are playing nicely in a room across the house… the planets are lining up… ok Mr. zucchini… it’s show time.  this soup is the perfect way to turn Mr. Large and in charge into something different and wonderful.  think beyond two loaves of zucchini bread for a moment. think even beyond everyone’s new fave, Chocolate Chip zucchini bread…  think SOUP.  at this time of year, our other bountiful friend is the basil plant.  this soup combines the two in an almost effortless manner.  this soup manages to be rich and velvety without the addition of cream. even without the addition of chicken broth, amazingly.  there are seven ingredients… zucchini, basil, onion, garlic, olive oil,  salt and pepper.  it can’t get more basic than that.  this is kind of the poster child for simple cooking. whole ingredients each taking center stage in the taste.  I challenge you when you are eating this to try and taste each ingredient’s flavor one by one. you WILL. I promise. enjoy.

Ze ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

one LARGE zucchini (2 pounds or so)

3 garlic cloves

3/4 cup diced onion (I used a Vidalia)

1/2 cup packed Basil leaves (rinse and pat dry or spin)

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of black pepper

3.5 cups of water

In a large saucepan or dutch oven,  add 1/4 cup of olive oil.  do not begin heating yet… prep your ingred’s first. lob both ends off of the zuke. cut it in half, lengthwise, and then dice both halves.  doing it this way gives you a nice flat bottom on both pieces so it is not rolling around on you. large dice is ok, you will be cooking it and pureeing it at end.  set aside. dice your onion and your garlic. prepare your basil, washing and roughly chopping or ripping it up. set aside.  ok, turn on the heat, medium high.  once warm, add your onions and garlic. sauté for five minutes stirring occasionally. add your zucchini (all of it). sauté five more minutes, stirring occasionally and adding your salt and pepper during this sauté. add you water. bring just to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. simmer uncovered for 15-17 minutes.  lastly, add your basil, stir, and remove from heat.  it will look like the picture below at this point. seeds and all… it will all get blended into a lovely healthful lunch or dinner in a few moments.

ready to puree'
ready to puree’

taste the broth and adjust with more salt or pepper to your liking.  working in two to three batches, carefully add some of this to your blender. ALWAYS USE CAUTION when blending hot liquids. only fill the blender 2/3 of the way full- and hold the lid on tightly with a large damp dishtowel as you blend.  (trust me it will blow the lid right off any blender and spray your kitchen in an almost comical manner… I’ve been there.)  transfer blended soup to a nice serving bowl or even a Tupperware container. complete until all soup is blended, and serve how you see fit.  i personally love it straight up… and love knowing exactly what is in it as I guiltlessly go for a second bowl.  enjoy!  the picture below is the aftermath… and yes… that is my tongue path licking the bowl. Hey, it was a shallow bowl… it was asking for it.

xo yo.

satisfaction at it's finest.
satisfaction at it’s finest.





Chickadilla Soup

"you can't eat this soup standing up... your knees buckle"  ~Jerry Seinfeld
“you can’t eat this soup standing up… your knees buckle” ~Jerry Seinfeld

when a recipe tells me to add many ingredients all at once to a crockpot and eight hours later you will have a pot of delicious yumminess… i look at that as a gift horse and think of all the other wonderfully productive things i can accomplish while i’m not fussing for two hours over dinner.   as to not confuse, cooking IS one of my favorite parts of the day.  it ranks right up there with morning tot kisses, post workout highs, afternoon coffee, and my evening cocktail over playlists. all beautiful things indeed… but every cook deserves an easy street now and again.  enter this stellar recipe. it is called chickadilla soup… and i have no idea why. i suppose it is kinda sorta like a chicken enchilada in a soup form.  this particular batch i made was adapted from a Kashi recipe. it’s quite healthy and mighty flavorful.  we decided to shred plenty of white cheddar cheese atop upon serving- and it is fabulous with a small serving of white corn tortilla chips for dipping- scooping- and just full on noshing.


OK here’s what you need to buy:

1 pound of chicken breast

28 oz can diced tomatoes

10 oz can mild enchilada sauce

4 oz can chopped mild green chiles

1 quart chicken broth

2 cans of beans – i used pinto and black bean (rinsed and drained)

bag of white frozen corn

1 cup of chopped onion

1 jalepeno pepper (seeded and minced)

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro

1 tsp salt; 1 tsp chili powder; 1 tsp cumin; half tsp of pepper

Add all of the above to the crockpot and set at four hours on High setting.  After four hours i shredded the chicken pieces  and returned it to the crockpot- then flipping it to low for four more hours.  if you will be gone all day- just set it for eight hours on low, and shred the chicken up before serving- no worries. i used a package of little tenderloins- they worked wonderfully.  serve with your favorite shredded cheese- and plenty of fresh cilantro. enjoy!

everyone in the tub!!
everyone in the tub!!
like a party in your mouth...
like a party in your mouth…


turkey keilbasa and kale soup ~ a winter warmer

winter warmer

the keilbasa and kale recipe i am about to share with you is a recipe i’ve been making for 6+ years ~ and it’s the ONLY thing i prepare that my husband won’t eat.  we joke about it and say he’s allowed one dislike.  he dislikes the kale – and in general tends to complain about soup as a meal.  as a soup lover, this is painful to deal with, especially once the weather turns cold in Pittsburgh.  i have been known to eat soup for breakfast, so no problems with me finishing the pot solo. this last batch i made lasted for three days. i gave a portion to my sister, of which my mom ate a bowl for lunch. it fed me for dinner 2 days and breakfast 2 days. it’s an absolutely delicious recipe – it was adapted from an Emeril recipe.  kale is very beneficial, especially when steamed.  it’s fiber combines with bile acids in our bodies- and when excreted, helps to lower cholesterol levels. it has many cancer lowering benefits, and special antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. it’s extremely high in vitamins K, A, and C… with the vitamin K level being off the charts, literally.  Plus, using turkey keilbasa instead of it’s full fat polish counterpart lowers the fat significantly. the last time i prepared it, i used a carton of organic chicken stock- which helped enhance the flavor even more. i hope you enjoy this soup as much as i do- and make it year round as the different ingredients become more plentiful.  it’s made to be toyed with… so add some shredded rotisserie chicken if you wish… or up the garlic to four cloves… you feelin’ me?

Turkey Keilbasa and Kale soup : the goods

1 T olive oil

1 fennel bulb (fronds removed- bulb chopped)

1 large onion chopped

3 cans chicken broth (or 32oz. carton of chicken STOCK- for more flavor)

7 cups of water

2 sweet potatoes (peeled and small dice)

1 package of turkey keilbasa (small to medium dice)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta

2 handfuls of baby carrots (or four large carrots- peeled and diced)

1.5  tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of black pepper

1.5 tsp of dried parsley

few shakes of cayenne pepper

big pinch of dried thyme

large bunch of kale – trimmed from stem and chopped a bit into bite sized leaves

(you will end up with a huge pile of kale… don’t panic, this reduces down greatly once added to the soup)

~saute in a large dutch oven or soup pot: fennel and onion in olive oil for about 5 mins or until tender/translucent. Add broth through herbs, (not kale) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes covered.  Uncover and add big pile of kale leaves and press down into broth – cover again and simmer for 15 mins more.  ENJOY!!!

kale- the super food
adding the kale
ready to serve
your big pot of yum
curing colds across america

~this soup truly gets better as it sits there… and the day(s) to follow.  if you like kale… or if you are willing to try new things… please attempt this.  please do not leave out the fennel (anise) either… once you saute it, your nose will tell you why.  it’s what makes this soup special.

peace and love yo.

Beef Vegetable Soup

here is the full written recipe for the Beef Vegetable Soup that i have video blogged (see right) in a 12 minute format. there is a lot of chopping, and in retrospect, i should have made it a five minute video by using the fast motion setting upon editing. there’s always a next time. well, not always… but with most things there is. the key with this soup is to not speed through the cooking time, as it is a vital component in achieving a super tender bite of meat in each spoonful. you want something close to a high simmer, if there is such a term.  i literally ate the entire pot of this soup that i made recently… over the course of four days. my son helped a bit, and had two or three servings. daughter and husband would not eat any. daughter because she’s picky… husband because he does not care for soup as a rule. i was happy, frankly, to have it all to myself. i love knowing exactly what went into it, and knowing every single bite is going to be hearty and delicious.


fill a large soup pot (i use an 8 qt stockpot) a little over half full with warm water. Begin trimming your beef cubes (2 # pkg) to bite size pieces. Add to water once trimmed. Turn on high heat under the pot. Cut a small head of green cabbage into bite size pieces (ok to just use 3/4 of the head if you feel like too much cabbage for  your liking) and add to pot. Open and add entire 28 oz can of whole tomatoes to pot. Add four beef bouillon cubes to pot. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to this ‘high simmer’ i spoke of earlier. Cook for 2 hours, stirring a few times and skimming top of pot occasionally if film develops.  

After two hours, begin to add other vegetables:

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (just rip a bit off and chop- no need to measure); five peeled and diced carrots, celery + celery leaves, 1 large diced onion, 1 diced fennel bulb, one diced sweet potato, and whatever else you want to add. other options could be a quarter cup of barley, a can of corn, a half cup of frozen peas, etc.  Add salt, pepper, and dried thyme to taste throughout cooking time. start off with a teaspoon of salt, and a half tsp of pepper, and then go from there.

Bring to a boil after adding all of these items. Reduce heat immediately to medium, and cook for another half hour or until veggies just tender. Around last three minutes, add some chopped zucchini.  serve this soup over any kind of noodles you like, or just as is. i used little ‘italian hats’ pasta this time, and my son thought that was the bee’s knees.


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