Italian Lentil Soup

I think everyone must have their own set of things that make them ridiculously happy. As in, ridiculous to be so happy about things so small and insignificant. My own set of things include clean sheets, a new toothbrush, and leftover soup for lunch. I ladle the soup into the pot, turn the stove on, put Charlie down for his mid-day nap, and then revel in what feels like pure luxury: hot soup for lunch.

This soup in particular has become a staple meal at our table. It barely requires effort, tastes comforting, and begs a second helping. Oh, and it's pretty inexpensive. 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small yellow Onion, diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Red pepper flakes
  • 1 jar or can of Diced Tomatoes (this is the kind I use and love)
  • 3 cans of Lentils (this is the kind I use and love) 
  • 1/2 tsp of Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Recipe Notes
 

Ideally this soup would be served with bread and maybe even with orzo pasta mixed in at the end of the cooking time. I'm eating gluten-free right now, so feel free to compensate by eating extra bread for me. I think that a little Italian sausage would be wonderful in this soup but I've yet to try it.

Directions
 

Heat the olive oil over medium in a large soup pot. Sauté the onion until soft, then add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Stir around for a couple of minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, stir and let simmer while you open and rinse your cans of lentils. Add lentils, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, and vegetable broth to pot. Bring to a low boil while uncovered, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours. Towards the end of the cooking time, stir in salt. Serve with parmesan on top of each bowl, and hopefully with a side of bread. Maybe even a glass of wine. And enjoy! 

Italian Minestrone Soup

This recipe for minestrone soup has a somewhat funny origin. Years ago, my oldest sister had a school assignment to study a country and then cook a meal from that country's cuisine. She picked Italy and made this Italian Minestrone Soup. The soup recipe has evolved a little bit since then but I always smile and think of her when I make it.

minestrone soup

As most soups go, this recipe is pretty versatile. I often make it without noodles, especially when serving it with bread, just to lighten things up a bit. You can put in just about any bean you'd like (I've used chickpeas before) but I've decided that I like it best with cannellini beans. 

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced into one-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced small
  • 1 can of cannellini beans (also known as white kidney beans), drained
    (in the picture above, you can see that I also used red kidney beans, but I've since then decided that I prefer this soup without them)
  • 1 jar of diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons of butter (omit to make this soup vegan)
  • 1 teaspoons of salt
  • to serve: black pepper, parmesan cheese, bread, and wine

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft, then add the garlic, being careful not to let it burn. Add the zucchini, carrot, and celery. Then add the rest of the ingredients. I always find that I like this soup with more broth, so I lean towards adding 8 cups. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and let simmer for at least one hour. Serve with the best bread you can find and a generous grating of parmesan.  

Chopped Broccoli Salad

You may be thinking "really? broccoli salad? does anyone even eat that?" Those were my thoughts, too, before giving this recipe a chance. A couple things prompted me to make this salad; Firstly, I realized that I was hardly eating during the day because I wasn't planning lunches for myself. I'd eat a light breakfast, eat an apple with peanut butter, drink 2-3 cups of coffee, then was cranky and ravenous come dinner time. Secondly, my research on a few minor health problems I've been experiencing in the last couple of years has led me to see that I need to add a few more light + fresh foods to my diet, particularly greens, including, well, broccoli. 

broccoli salad recipe

It surprised me how much I like this! The sweet crunchy apples and tart cranberries add just the right something to make this not only bearable, but enjoyable. If you are looking for an easy lunch you can prepare in advance or are wanting to eat more vegetables, give this recipe a try! 

                                                adapted slightly from Camille Styles

p.s. I really enjoy photographing food, however I find it pretty difficult! I need more practice. Also, I may look for & purchase a few props. Or, you know, just basic kitchen necessities like salad servers. And perhaps more than one table cloth, because this one has made an appearance in enough photographs. Oh, and also....just kidding!

Favorite Jacksonville Places | Community Loaves

Over this past year, there are some places I've discovered in Jacksonville that have really become favorites. A favorite coffee shop, a favorite place for brunch, a favorite lunch spot, and so on. This post will be the first in an ongoing series on Jacksonville favorites, so if you ever visit, you'll know where to stop!

Today I'm sharing with you my favorite little bakery & bread shop, Community Loaves. I first heard of Community Loaves by seeing their bread for sale at the local health food store. They make organic sourdough bread, in varieties such as Olive Thyme and Rosemary Garlic. Their bread is the reason I still make soup in the summer!


If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen me post several pictures from my visits there. The Community Loaves shop and food is always so photogenic, I usually take a picture or two with my phone. 

When we go for brunch on the weekends, I get their bagel, egg, and cheese sandwich, and Michael usually gets avocado sea salt toast. 

I don't know what magic they do to their coffee but it's my favorite cup in Jacksonville. Sure, there are other places I love to get a fancy schmancy latte, but when it comes to just a plain cup of coffee, Community Loaves has it right. Plus they serve it in cute, locally made pottery.

In the above photo, that was a piece of peach pie. I wanted to take a picture of it, but my appetite was obviously calling the shots. Community Loaves makes some really delicious sweets, such as sea salt chocolate rye cookies, vanilla candied ginger cookies, seasonal pies, and brownies. Yes, the chocolate cookies are my favorite. 

The girls who own the shop are so very kind and their sweet conversation adds a pleasantness to our visits. Lately their oven has been on the fritz, so they began a Kickstarter project. It was fully funded and now they are able to purchase a new one!

I recently signed up to spend a day with them in the kitchen sometime this year, baking bread with an apron on and everything! I'm really excited.

                       My Grammy visited us last week and we had lunch at Community Loaves. Such a fun time.

The Best Granola

I follow quite a few food blogs and whenever one of them boasts a recipe of "THE BEST!" something, I half roll my eyes...and then proceed to pin the recipe to my Pinterest board. I mean, how could they have found the best (fill in the blank) when there are so many recipes out there? It just seems a bit bold to claim. So, even if I don't fully believe them, I still feel I have to try it, if only to prove to myself they were wrong. This time, though, I only wound up proving Erica of Buttered Side Up right. This is the best granola!

The Best Granola Recipe 2.jpg

Not only is this granola so very good, it also comes together in a matter of minutes. Lately, I've hardly been able to get anything done in the kitchen because I am currently my son's favorite thing to climb, but! I was able to bake this. I've made it twice in the last week and it has been a great snack to have around. Also, on Mother's Day/my birthday, Michael made acai bowls and topped them with this granola. It was delightful.  

THE BEST GRANOLA

Recipe ingredients/wording barely adapted from Buttered Side Up

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flakes (you could use shredded coconut, but the flaked coconut gets all toasty and pretty)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite nut, coarsely chopped (I used sliced almonds)
  • A couples dashes of salt
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
     

DIRECTIONS
 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or don't if you are out of parchment paper, like me, and you'll probably be just fine)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, coconut, nuts, and salt.

In a small pan set over low-medium heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the honey, maple syrup, and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well, making sure all of the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Spread onto the baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir the granola every 10 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through baking.

Remove granola from oven and allow to cool in the pan. Once the granola is completely cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator or freezer for longer storage.