A New Classic: Vegetarian Cassoulet
We all know the class French dish, cassoulet, with pork, chicken, and sausage. It is perfect on a winter’s evening for dinner. But what if you aren’t eating meat? A vegetarian cassoulet is a delicious non-meat alternative to this rich traditional version. While is without meat, it doesn’t lack flavor and fills you up. And what makes this dish even better than the original? It is simple to make and can be on the table in under an hour. The dish is respectable enough to serve on Sunday and to company. Even my meat loving guys enjoy this dish not missing the meat.
Simple Ingredient for Big Flavor
Simple ingredients you may have in your fridge and pantry. It is leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, ground clove, and canned cannelloni beans. I like to use fresh herbs even in winter, but you can substitute dried herbs. I bring my herbs inside keeping them in my mud room so I have fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano to use in my cooking. I was fortunate when I made this vegetarian cassoulet last I had fresh leeks from my garden. They were little ones, but so good. I took pride in using them in my dish. The cassoulet has a garlic breadcrumb topping. Depending if I have stale homemade bread, I will make my own or I use store bought bread crumbs.
This really is a meaty dish. You can serve it with a salad and a baguette.
- - 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- - 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- - 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- - 1/4 cup olive oil
- - 4 thyme sprigs
- - 2 parsley sprigs
- - 1 bay leaf
- -1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- - 3 cans cannellini rinsed and drained
- - 1 quart water
- For garlic crumbs
- - 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
- - 1/3 cup olive oil
- - 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- - 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
- 2. Wash well and pat dry. Salad spinner is helpful.
- 3. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes.
- 4. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
- 5. Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers.
- 6. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
- 7. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
- 8. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- 9. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
- 10. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.
- 11. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
- 12. Season with salt and pepper.
- 13. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.
Good for the Soul: Homemade Chicken Soup
Most of us growing up when we were sick, soup was what we ate. And the top choice was some form of chicken soup. Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup from a can was in our cupboard growing up. While my Mom was a good cook and did make soup, I don’t remember her ever making a chicken soup. I do make a couple of soups such as Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Rice Soup, but never the traditional chicken soup.
Not that this recipe is very traditional. I’ve made it with some healthy flu fighting ingredients such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, fresh herbs, and orzo pasta. It is a step-up from canned soups. This is a quick and simple recipe. There are the traditional ingredients of onion, celery, carrots, chicken, and chicken broth, but the addition of the garlic, ginger along with fresh rosemary and thyme kicks it up with a more complex flavor.
Now if you are sick with cold, flu, or stomach bug, a more complex flavor may not be what you are going for, but instead something warm and liquid to fill your belly. And that’s fine, but just because you are sick doesn’t mean your taste buds should suffer or the people you share meals with.
Make a big pot of this homemade chicken soup with orzo pasta, it will become a family favorite.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 2-3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric)
- 6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme, stems removed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup small pasta
- 2/3 cup frozen peas
- - Place a large dutch oven over medium high heat and add in oil. Once oil is hot, add in garlic, onion, carrots and celery; cook for a few minutes until onion becomes translucent.
- - Next add in grated ginger and turmeric. Sauté for to let the spices cook a bit for about 30 seconds, then add in chicken broth, chicken breast, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
- - Bring soup to a boil, then stir in pasta. Chicken should be covered with broth.
- - Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
- - Once chicken is cooked, remove then shred the chicken with two forks. Add chicken back to pot then stir in frozen peas. If the soup is too thick then add more broth.
Luxuriously Pasta Carbonara
Pasta Carbonara was something I always ordered out at an Italian restaurant. It seemed so complicated — a dish I couldn’t possibly make myself at home — silly me. Of course, I could make Pasta Carbonara! I make bread and pastries. Those are tricky to prepare well.
Confidence with Cream
I had nothing to fret about regarding this recipe. Anyone can do it. It is just cream, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, and pasta water.
Why was I so afraid? No clue. It does take practice to get the consistency right. It is simple. And quick.
Sausage or Bacon
You can make this recipe the more traditional way with bacon. Or you can make it with sausage. Depending on how I feel, I use spicy or mild sausage. That goes for how I prepare the sausage. Sometimes I take the sausage out of the casings frying it up that way or cook them whole then slicing them placing them on top of the pasta.
It is worth trying to find pappardelle. I prefer how the sauce takes to it.
So you can now skip the restaurant and make Pasta Carbonara at home.
Need more pasta recipes? Visit the pasta section of Well Worn Apron.
Pasta Carbonara with Italian Sausage
- 8 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine
- 1 cups frozen peas
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 4 Italian sausage links - spicy or mild (about 1 pound)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the peas during the last minute of cooking. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and peas, and return them to the pot.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausages, turning occasionally, until cooked through about 10-15 minutes.
- In a mid-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, half-and-half or cream, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Add the egg mixture and reserved cooking water to the pasta and peas in the pot.
- Cook over low heat, tossing gently, until the sauce is slightly thickened and coats the pasta. Serve with the sausage and additional cheese.
Simple Savory Spinach Bacon Ravioli
Quick and simple doesn’t necessarily mean calling for pizza delivery (though sometimes that is a nice treat). You can make a quick delicious meal that is good on the wallet and the waistline. Spinach Bacon Ravioli is one of those meals that can be made in a jiffy but tastes luxurious.
Spinach Bacon Ravioli is a 15-minute meal. Well, 30-minute if you count stopping at the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. Ok, I’m pretty quick in the grocery store so it may take you a little longer. The ingredient list is short: ravioli, bacon, whole garlic, spinach, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That’s it.
On The Go
I usually have bacon and ravioli in the freezer. Garlic and lemons are in the fridge. So spinach is what I’m stopping for in the grocery store if I haven’t thought ahead. That said I tried to stock my veggie bin with veg we like, and spinach is one of them. With my schedule going in different directions, I am trying to meal plan more and do a week’s shopping in one go. Am I successful? Not really, but I keep trying. For me, the key is to have essential ingredients that I can create different meals on the fly, depending on what I feel like or the time I have. And time is something I have a limited supply of these days.
Let’s get back to the dish. Super simple. With seven ingredients – five if you exclude the salt and pepper – you can make a fancy restaurant meal at home. I use refrigerated cheese ravioli, but frozen works just as well. Don’t limit yourself to cheese ravioli; get creative. When I’m preparing the bacon, instead of wiping out the pan to cook the garlic and spinach, I use the bacon fat. Why get rid of that super flavor? You can swap out the bacon fat for olive oil, but I say use the fat. Just gives everything a wonderful rich flavor. And it isn’t like there is an inch of fat in the pan, more like a coating. Just enjoy it. (Don’t do it with every meal, every day, OK?)
Looking for more pasta dishes? Visit the pasta section.
- 1 package ravioli
- 6-8 slices bacon
- 2 gloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 10 oz container baby spinach torn
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Boil then cook ravioli to package directions.
- While water is setting to boil, cut bacon into sections using a kitchen scissors then cook in pre-heated pan over medium-high heat.
- When bacon is almost crispy, add sliced garlic cooking until brown.
- Add spinach, salt, and pepper stirring until spinach is wilted.
- Add in lemon juice stirring.
- Drain ravioli arranging on plate topping with spinach bacon mixture.
Delicious Coconut Cilantro Curry Grilled Chicken
Can’t say we had the best spring this year. Rainy, windy, and cold made me look for food from warmer places as our neck of the woods starts to come to alive. Often I ask myself when I’m planning a meal: where do I want to go? With spices and sauces, I can travel around the world. Lots of good ways to do that with spices and cooking techniques. So we started the grilling season off with a flavorful coconut cilantro curry marinade for chicken.
It just makes sense to blend spices, lime juice, coconut milk, cilantro, and salt. A blender or food processor comes in handy to have. Today I used it 3 times for different recipes. While I love kitchen gadgets. There are a couple of appliances I must have in the kitchen: slow cooker, electric tea kettle, Kitchen Aid Mixer, and the food processor. During the summer the food processor is used more to make sauces, dressings, and marinade. Pour the Coconut Cilantro Curry marinade into a Ziploc bag with the chicken. Best to let sit in the fridge for 2 or more hours for the flavors t to blend. If you are short on time then 60 minutes will do.
The outcome is fresh, light flavorful Coconut Cilantro Curry Grilled Chicken. It was moist. Almost melted in the mouth.
You can pair it with anything really. I had a cabbage in the fridge and made fried Indian cabbage and peas. It was a perfect combination. Using the food processor, the cabbage was sliced thin and when cooked it gave the texture of fried rice.
Coconut Cilantro Curry Grilled Chicken
- 4 to 6 chicken breasts
- 1 can regular or light coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp curry powder
- 3 Tbsp lime juice (2-3 limes)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- pepper to taste
- Place chicken breast filets into a large Ziploc bag.
- Add all marinade ingredients into a blender or food processor blending until smooth, then pour over the chicken and seal the bag.
- Keep bag in the fridge at least 2 hours before serving so the chicken has a chance to soak in the flavors.
- Place chicken filets on grill and discard excess marinade.
- Grill chicken over medium high heat until each side has nice grill marks and chicken is thoroughly cooked which is about 12 minutes.
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi with Kale
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi is one of the only recipe where I can get my guys to eat kale without faces of pure disgust. The menfolk in my house are not fond of kale or any other bitter greens regardless of how it is prepared. You can simmer those greens with pork, butter, and salt for years and it still isn’t tasty enough. So this is a challenge since dark leafy greens are good for you.
While I like all sorts of greens, be it not often prepared in a healthy manner outside of spinach, I want to get more greens in my family’s diet outside of salads. In the summer, salads are wonderful, but in the winter something warm and hearty is needed.
Fits the Bill
This is where Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi fits the bill. It is a one-pot meal with simple ingredients. Outside of kale and maybe gnocchi – and I’ll come to that in a minute – are pantry items. All it is veg broth, minced garlic, milk, butter, white beans, and chunk Parmesan cheese. My pantry has an array of canned white beans such as Northern White, Cannellini, and butter beans. Use whatever you have in your cabinets. The final texture may change, but do what works best for you. Shock your pantry with bottled minced garlic and veg broth. I always have “real” butter on hand to cook and bake with in my kitchen. Don’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese. Buy a chunk and grate it yourself. One it is cheaper and two it is real cheese.
You can buy various types of gnocchi today. I admit there are three packages of potato gnocchi in my cabinets along with penne pasta. I decided last winter I was going to make homemade gnocchi. As I continue to evaluate my relationship with processed foods, I look to make my food from wholesome ingredients. I have to say that homemade gnocchi is amazing compared to the store-made. Just a level of fresh and taste. While it is simple, there is a process in making them well. If you want to make homemade gnocchi then go here.
This a family favorite even with the kale in it, but when kale isn’t available then I use spinach. It is a quick vegetarian meal for a busy weekday night.
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- - 2 cups veggie broth
- - 1 cup milk
- - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- - Salt and pepper, to taste
- - 16 ounces gnocchi
- - 3 cups chopped fresh kale
- - 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained
- - ? cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- - Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
- - Add garlic; stir constantly for 1 minute until fragrant.
- - Add broth, milk, butter and a few dashes of salt and pepper.
- - Add gnocchi; stir to combine.
- - Cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes until gnocchi is soft and cooked through.
- - Stir in kale, beans and Parmesan cheese.
- - Cook until kale is just wilted.
- - Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.