Vegetable Soup (with beef!)

I started the new year off by cleaning out and organizing my pantry. I am moving in 5 months (!!!) and I am already stressed about using up all the food in my kitchen hoarder’s nest. I did some healthy freezer meal planning and tried to use up anything and everything. This vegetable soup is a great place to use up canned and/or frozen vegetables, broth, and meat. And it is slow cooker friendly! I will admit that I only started using my crock pot on the reg this winter. Before now I was kind of skeptical and did not think that throwing 20 things in one pot for 8 hours could turn out anything good. Now it’s 3 AM, I just got off a swing shift, and Daube Provencale is in the slow cooker. If you haven’t made a New Years resolution yet, it should be to experiment with your crock pot. And if your resolution is to eat healthy – this recipe comes in at 350 calories for each of 8 servings.

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My goal was to use up ingredients so I used some low-ish quality stew meat that was in my freezer for a few months to make this soup. It turned out perfectly tasty. So use meat that you have or whatever is on sale. My mom always makes homemade vegetable soup and this soup reminds me of hers. She makes the soup a little more tomato forward though. You can use really any vegetables you like that you have on hand. Do not try and use up 15 pantry items in one day or you will end up maxing out your Tupperware (see below). My other New Years cleaning project recipes were Chicken Pot Pie Soup and Stuffed Bell Peppers. I also could not tackle soup endeavors without a large pot of homemade chicken stock (see chicken soup a la David Chang for the recipe). And the Split Pea Soup is just too addictive and I had to make more.

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Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lb beef stew meat
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 lb potatoes, diced
8 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook the stew meat in batches, browning all sides, ~5 minutes. Remove steak with slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and mix together.

Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. The steak should be very tender and fall apart with a fork. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

Making brussels sprouts on a weekly basis in the winter has led to some innovation. My commitment to these tiny green cabbages has allowed me to perfect their preparation. The sprouts I served for Thanksgiving dinner were by far the best I have ever made! I was never a believer in roasting bacon in the oven but I have started doing it with this recipe. I don’t think it is any different from frying and it does save you some time caring for bacon on the stove. Roasting truly brings out the best flavor in these brussels and allows the most even cooking. This is another vegetable dish with simple ingredients where the fabulous flavor is in the choux de Bruxelles.

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During my recent visit to Asheville I went to a bunch of breweries. It was fantastic! I was honestly losing faith in craft beer for some time. It seems that everything is starting to taste the same – super hoppy. The breweries of Asheville have renewed my excitement! I brought home a growler of Catawba Brewing Hyper Monkey Java Stout and was sad to drink the last drop. I have always loved coffee inspired beers – since my first taste of Mccoy’s Broadway Porter in KC. I love getting some caffeine with my etoh; especially when it’s not in the form of the obligatory redbull vodka. I drank this Java Stout with my Thanksgiving dinner, where I ate mostly brussels sprouts, and it was insanely good.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

1/2 cup pecans
6 slices bacon
2 lb brussels sprouts – halved, stems and loose outer leaves discarded
3 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place pecans on foiled baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes until fragrant. (What them closely!) Chop coarsely.

Increase the oven to 400 degrees. Using the same foil lined baking sheet, lay out the strips of bacon, allowing space between the bacon strips. Roast for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until bacon is slightly crisp. Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Save the rendered bacon fat in a bowl. Throw away the used aluminum foil. Finely chop bacon after it has cooled slightly.

Increase the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the brussels sprouts with bacon fat, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out over the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring the sprouts and rotating the pan halfway through. The brussels sprouts should be fork tender and caramelized. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar – toss to coat. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Just prior to serving – top with the toasted pecans and bacon.

BLT Salad

I have been making so many good things lately that I have 10 blog posts / recipes in progress right now. My brain has been very overwhelmed with the incredible flavors of summer. We are also coming up on one year of blogging at the Bubbly Kitchen which is oh so exciting! I think you guys may be getting tired of complicated multiple step recipes, fancy wedding cakes and cookies, and bread recipes. So lets press the easy button and sooth our aching backs with a simple BLT salad. Remember when you doubled the bacon in your potato and onion volcanoes, the caramelized onion and gruyere pizza, and your french onion soup? Well here is a sort of healthy way to use that extra bacon! I love taking salads to work for lunch because of these amazing GladWare Food Storage Containers. There is a separate little tupperware for the dressing that plugs into the lid, no soggy salad and totally easy transport. This is also a really great salad for summer barbecues. It is an amazing way to include some of those fresh tomatoes from your garden. I like ranch dressing with this salad but you should use whatever sounds good to you. So this maybe should be called a BLT-M because of the cheese. You can definitely use whatever mozzarella cheese you find at the store, I like to buy fresh Belgioiso pre-sliced mozzarella. You can even add in some homemade croutons if you so desire.

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BLT Salad
Serves 2

2 cups romaine lettuce
1 fresh tomato (or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes), chopped
4 strips of crispy bacon, in pieces
3 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Ranch dressing

Start by chopping up the tomatoes, bacon, mozzarella, and eggs. Toss these with the lettuce. Toss with the ranch dressing. Yes it is that easy.

This is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.

Cucumber, Chickpea, and Avocado Quinoa

The Bubbly Kitchen has no excuse for infrequent posting right now. I actually have a number of days off and it is just beautiful outside. But the month has filled up quickly with weekend getaways and day trips. I don’t know where we might be headed this time next year so we are trying to make the most of North Carolina while we are here. I have learned that you could spend years visiting all the towns of coastal NC and you still would not have seen everything. Its summer here apparently and we are having 90 degree days almost every day. I have been experimenting with simple and refreshing recipes for the hot summer days. The fresh local produce is already pretty awesome and I even have some baby peppers growing on my plants! Below has to be one of the easiest recipes on the blog, you cannot go wrong. This is a versatile quinoa dish that I encourage you to make your own. You can use any number of fresh vegetables in this dish. You can add grilled chicken and sliced cheese (mozzarella) as I did or you can keep it vegan. Serve this with a crisp white wine, a dry sauvignon blanc perhaps.

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1 cup quinoa
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 english cucumber, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
Juice of 1 lime
Cooked chicken breast, chopped

Cook quinoa as directed on the package. Chop up all your vegetables except the avocado. In a large bowl mix together the chickpeas, cucumbers, tomato, corn, chicken, and lime juice. Slice the avocado and add to the mix.

This is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.

Mexican Quinoa

My family seems to be getting into gluten free and vegan recipes, and so just for them I have been working on this Mexican Quinoa. It is gluten free and vegan. I also just planted jalapenos and cannot wait to make this with my own patio grown jalapenos! This was my first adventure into the trendy grains people keep talking about. Quinoa is actually a seed though, but its still pretty popular right now. I was very happy with the texture and flavors of this dish. This is perfect for dinner and the summer and makes delicious leftovers. You can make a perfect lunch bowl with this and a mixed greens salad. This quinoa is great warm or cold. You can add salsa (my preference – salsa verde) to the finished product, kind of like a salad dressing. My absolute favorite way to have this salad is actually the next day. Step 1, make your Mexican quinoa in advance. Step 2, pack the quinoa in a cooler with chips and salsa, limes, and Coronas. Step 3, squeeze a lime over your quinoa and into your Corona. Step 4, have a fabulous picnic by the beach or the pool.

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Mexican Quinoa

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
3 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 medium tomato, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes drained)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp salt
Sour cream, avocado, salsa, shredded cheese for serving.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add in the tomato, garlic, and corn, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Mix in the quinoa, stock, black beans, and salt.

Bring this to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes. It is done when all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the quinoa and serve.

Recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Runner.