Tag Archives: spring

Homemade Italian Style Vegetable Soup

9 May

The sudden arrival of Spring means two things. One, the weather gets warmer so that frolicking outdoors starts to seem more appealing than slaving away in the kitchen.  Two, the farmer’s markets are full of the freshest, cheapest delicious produce. To take full advantage of the best of both situation, I highly suggest that you make this soup!

Now I know that making soup just as it’s finally starting to get warmer out may seem counterintuitive, but I promise, this really is a good idea… This soup is chock full of delicious vegetables to provide you with energy without weighing you down. By making this soup now, you can have it stored away in your freezer for easy, nutritious meals all summer long. My logic is, stock up now so that you don’t have to think about it later!

Homemade broth

This soup makes a veggie-filled accompaniment to any lunch or dinner. Store it in individually-portioned glass jars in your freezer, so that you can take it out the night before and have a delicious, preservative-free soup ready when you want in.

Mishmash of delicious veggies

This is an incredibly flexible soup to which you can add any vegetables, herbs, or spices that you have on hand. Feel free to add beans and pasta to make it more of a traditional Minestrone. Or top the soup with a bit of pesto to give it a French provincial flavor. You can even substitute the basil, oregano, and thyme for some miso paste and siracha sauce to give it a slightly Asian taste.

Delicious and nutritious and ready to go!

Homemade Italian Style Vegetable Soup

Servings: 8

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of assorted vegetables in less than pristine condition (onions, carrots, celery, bell peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, leeks, ect)
  •  2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 3 cloves of garlic, lightly chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemarry or other herbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 leeks, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen green beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspooon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach or kale, defrosted

Directions

  1. Dump your assorted vegetables, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and herbs into a large stock pot and fill the pot with enough water to just barely cover the vegetables. With the stove on high, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. In the mean time chop up and prepare all of your vegetables for the soup itself. Use a strainer to remove the vegetables, and then set the remaining vegetable broth aside. Alternatively, if you don’t have the time, you could skip this step altogether and use boxed or frozen vegetable broth.
  2. Using the same stock pot as before, lightly saute your celery, onion, leeks, and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add your carrots and zucchini and continue to lightly saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and broth (from step one).
  4. Allow soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes, then add in the spinach or kale, and allow it to cool for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve (or freeze). Enjoy!
Advertisements

Santa Barbara Re-Cap

12 Apr

Over the weekend my family, my boyfriend, and I spend a lovely few days in Santa Barbara. We lucked out with the unseasonably warm weather. Santa Barbara is just a 90 minute drive from home, and the relaxed, beachy atmosphere makes it such a perfect escape from reality.

On our way there we took a brief detour to grab lunch and walk around Ojai, a town just twenty minutes away from Santa Barbara. Lunch at Suzanne’s is always a treat because beautiful sculpture and gardens fill the property of the bistro-inspired restaurant. Ojai also had great shops and a lovely park to walk around before getting back on the road.

In Santa Barbara we stayed at the wonderful Four Season’s Hotel, which is laid out in a breathtaking ranch style. Unlike Los Angeles where most hotels are about ten stories high, nowhere did this hotel exceed two stories. The expansive property of the hotel is full of winding rows of spacious hotel rooms and beautiful landscaping. We enjoyed the tastiest Easter Brunch here with a seafood bar, 10 types of pickles, omelet station, dessert display, and traditional breakfast fare. After Brunch the hotel had an adorable egg hunt, gardening station, candy bar, and array of games.

A few blocks outside of our hotel, we were able to walk to the quaint little street of Montecito, where there was a lovely nursery, delicious gelateria, a few nice restaurants, and a number of cute stores. It is the perfect place to go when we want something to do without the hassle of getting in the car and driving somewhere.

In Santa Barbara we walked along Sate Street, their main downtown shopping area with stores including Free People, Urban Outfitters, a record store, Nordstoms, Lush, the Gap, and many more. We also went into WhoDelicious, a whimsical cupcake store that is any child’s dream come true. The architecture around State Street was breathtaking with intricate old school ornamentation that combined the classic buildings of Downtown LA with Spanish flair.

While in Santa Barbara we also went to the Botanical Gardens, where we wandered around the crystal-clear lake, fields of fresh flowers, and forests of massive trees. Wandering through the massive open space made me forget about being so close to the city. It really was a wonderful escape!

Spring Recipe Round Up

2 Apr

With Spring Break less than a week aways, it suddenly dawned on me that most of my friends are going to be out of town on college visits, and since I was fortunate enough to get into my dream school that is just a short 30 minutes away, my schedule is pretty free. So what’s a girl to do? Well in addition to going on some wonderful dates with Goose, I’m going to hopefully cross off some of the recipes from my ever-growing pinterest list. Here’s are some of the foods that I’m hoping to whip up in the near future:

Sweet and Sour Cucumbers with Fresh Dill from Epicurious as a delicious snack for whenever my tummy starts grumbling between meals

Basic Tomato Sauce from The Curvy Carrot as a cheaper way to fulfill my obsession with Dave’s Organic Tomato Sauce

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins from Dashing Dish to take full advantage of fresh spring strawberries

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins from Dashing Dish

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Fresh Oregano from Good Cheap Eats to use some of the delicious herbs from our garden

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Mouse from Chocolate Covered Katie as a delicious, protein-packed sweet treat

Spinach Burgers from the Village Cook as a great freezer option to eat on a whole wheat bun with avocado or humus

Grapefruit Vanilla Pudding from Stetted as a delicious way to take advantage of the end of citrus season

Miso Roasted Asparagus from Big Girls Small Kitchen to enjoy asparagus while it’s at its prime

Whole Wheat Almond Crumble Bars from the Realistic Nutritionist as a tasty breakfast, afternoon snack, or dessert

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup from Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops as a great go-to lunch or dinnerMeyer Lemon Clouds with Lemon Whipped Cream and Fresh Blueberries from Steamy Kitchen as a delicious Passover treat

What is on your cooking to do list?

25 Festive and Cheap Springtime Dates

31 Mar

For the past 6 weeks Goose has been in almost non-stop rehearsals for our high school production of Grease, so our usual Friday and Saturday date nights have fallen by the wayside. After seeing the musical two nights in a row, I can honestly say the entire cast is full of immensely talented singers, dancers, and actors. It has been such a treat to watch them, and to see Goose make his big musical debut as Johnny Casino.

With tonight being the closing night of the musical, and spring break only one week away, I decided to come up with a collection of romantic springtime dates so that we can really make the most of our down time. During winter, it’s so easy to fall into a near hibernation of movie watching and cuddling on the couch, but now that spring has finally returned, it’s time to add a little more pizzaz to your usual date night.

Date Night Ideas

  1. Wake up early on Sunday morning and stroll around your local farmer’s market, then either get breakfast from one of the vendors there, or pick up ingredients to make breakfast together when you get home.
  2.  Take your man shopping somewhere new, like a flea market or a hip street with rare boutiques.
  3. Make a bucket list of things to do by December 31, 2012
  4. Pick out a 500-1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and take it to the park to solve while relaxing on a blanket in the grass.
  5. If neither of you have a pool, sneak over to use one at a nearby hotel. Some hotels may even let you buy a guest pass for the day.
  6. Pick some lemons to make a homemade pitcher of lemonade to sip on while you look over each other’s childhood photo albums to gain a better understanding of  who your partner was before you came along.
  7. Go mini golfing.
  8. Tryout a fun new class together like a pottery class, ballroom dancing class, rock climbing class, free lululemon yoga class, or cooking class.
  9. Head to the beach. Even if it’s still to cold to go swimming, you can build sand castles and bury each other in the sand. Or you can stay away from the sand and surf altogether by walking along the boardwalk and get snacks, cheesy henna tattoos of each other’s names, or just great photo op.
  10. Melt six ounces of chocolate with 1/2 cup of whipping cream in a double boiler, then dip your favorite foods in for a quick and easy chocolate fondue.
  11. Checkout one of your local ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, or Little Italy to sample new food and different cultures.
  12. Go on a run through the neighborhood together, picking out what houses you would like to live in one day.
  13. Pack a picnic lunch and buy a kite or two, then head to a nearby park for hours of simple, childish fun.
  14. Go to an arcade and see who can win the most tickets, then buy each other cheesy prizes.
  15. Invite some of your friends over for pizza and have a board game night. The losing team has to clean up afterwards.
  16. Go see a play at a local high  school or college. Tickets are bound to be cheaper than what it would cost to see a professional production.
  17. Rent a book from the library on constellations, then head out with a blanket and thermos of hot cocoa to cuddle up and check out the stars.
  18. Get a pair of nosebleed tickets to see your baseball team, that way you can be as loud as you want in the deserted upper deck.
  19. Checkout what Groupon Now deals are available, and spontaneously pick one to go do.
  20. Volunteer to build houses with your regional chapter of Habitat for Humanity or make dinner at a local soup kitchen.
  21. Go see an outdoor art show.
  22. Chose recipes from your pinterest to cook a delicious dinner together.
  23. Babysit your nieces nephews, siblings, or neighbors and show the kids some of your favorite Disney movies that may be before their time.
  24. Find a hiking path with a wonderful lookout point, and pack a picnic to enjoy when you reach your destination.
  25. Head to the zoo and tryout your best animal imitations. This is bound to leave you with some hilarious photos and video clips.

Lighten Up with Spring Cleaning

20 Mar

Now that Spring has officially sprung, it’s time to beat those dust bunnies and reclaim the sense of satisfaction that comes from having a clean home. Instead of approaching this annual chore, look at it as a chance to regain balance and control over your own life. There are countless reasons to embrace the tradition of spring cleaning including:

  1. Satisfaction of seeing the clearly apparent toils of your labor. What other task that requires just a few hours of your time gives you benefits that you can see immediately and that you can appreciate everyday?
  2. Release of endorphins from dusting, vacuuming, and making trips back and forth from the dumpster. The physical work of moving is not only a great work out, but also a way to boost your happiness.
  3. Calming effect of walking into a clean house. If seeing toys strewn across the floor and piles of paper filling every surface of the house causes you stress, simply eliminate this unnecessary tension by taking a few minutes to put everything in its right place.
  4. Put your past behind you . Instead of getting stuck in a rut by perpetually reminiscing over memories of past relationships and previous times in your life, chose a few pictures or souvenirs worth displaying, and either donate, throw away, or put into storage the rest of your excess baggage. Instead of allowing these objects to make you dwell on whatever past happiness you’ve lost, focus on the present and creating new memories and experiences.
  5. Allow yourself the time for change. Use this opportunity to repaint your room, refinish your furniture, or finally do whatever home improvement project you’ve been putting off.
  6. Encourage yourself to adopt better habits. Prominently place the materials for whatever aspect of your lift you want to spend more time on, because by seeing them, you will start using them. By forcing yourself to see something daily, you will have many more opportunities to embrace whatever habit you are hoping to establish. This could mean putting your camera by your hand bag, leaving a bowl of fruits and vegetables out on the counter, leaving your journal on your nightstand, or leaving your crafting materials on the top of your desk.

 

Here’s an organizational idea that came to me while I was cleaning up my room. Instead of leaving my art supplies shoved in carious drawers throughout my room, I decided to store all of them in a suitcase near the entrance to my room. By having these materials neatly organized and highly visible, it makes it easier for me to set aside time to get in touch with my creativity.

Portable Art Station 

  1. Round up all of your pens, decorative papers, clay, tape, glue, scissors, and other art supplies from around the house.
  2. Store any materials that you plan to use immediately or on a daily basis in glass or plastic containers so that every time you see them you have to consciously choose whether or not to postpone your latest art idea.
  3. Store you other supplies in an old suitcase. This will not only keeps them neatly organized and compact, but also makes your supplies easily portable in case you feel like getting crafty outside or on the go.
  4. Finally, tie any ribbons you have around the outside of your suitcase, so that they will stay untangled and help to decorate your artsy suitcase. Voila!