sausage, kale and carrot soup

Yesterday I got this pang in my chest...a need to go to the ocean, which I think about more times than I care to admit. I don't know what it is that draws me to it. I suppose it's the thing that draws so many to the shoreline. For me, it's an obsession, which can't be silenced. Most like going to the beach in the summer. It's obvious. I do too but I like the beach in the winter, fall and spring. 

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My husband and I have taken several trips in the winter. Something we used to do more frequently pre-children. He reluctantly agrees to go even though he doesn't have the same fondness for the beach in the winter as I do. To me, perhaps one of loveliest things is waking up early, layering up with anything available in my suitcase and walking on the beach until my lips remind me that they're going to split if I don't immediately give them warmth. 

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The feeling of walking on an empty beach with nothing but the wind, sand and crashing waves feels a bit like: "shhhhh....relax". There isn't much room for thoughts because the experience itself is overwhelming. I don't know how to take it in more. I want to create extra space in my body, in my mind to preserve this feeling that can't be preserved. It's hard to put into words something visceral but the ocean does something to me. It transforms me. However, that feeling quickly fades once I'm frozen to the core. 

Such cold, blistery beach strolls call for warm food - mainly soup. One of the most delicious soups I've had after such a walk was at a local restaurant in the beach town we frequently visit. It was a sausage, bean and greens soup, which inspired me to make my own version of it. While I do eat legumes now and then, they're not a regular part of my diet anymore so I decided to skip them for this recipe. However, the soup does need some creaminess so I opted for potato instead. The combination of sausage, kale and potato is glorious. If you want a bit of a kick, feel free to use spicy sausage, which is my favorite, but in order for my kids to eat it, I try to stick to mild. Also, if you're strictly paleo, feel free to skip the potato all together. 

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  • prep time: 10 minutes
  • cooking time: 40-45 minutes
  • makes: 6 servings 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 medium carrots chopped into 1" pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian mild or spicy sausage, casings removed
  • 1 russet potato, cut into bite size pieces (skip if strictly paleo)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, torn into bite size pieces 

Equipment

  • large soup pot
  • wooden slotted spoon

Directions

Preheat soup pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent - about 8 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add sausage to pan, breaking it up with wooden spoon into bite size pieces. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until browned.

Next, add carrots and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add rest of ingredients aside from kale and cook for 25 minutes. Add kale in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. 

* Soup always tastes better the second day

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sausage, kale and carrot soup
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 medium carrots chopped into 1" pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian mild or spicy sausage, casings removed
  • 1 russet potato, cut into bite size pieces (skip if strictly paleo)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, torn into bite size pieces 
Instructions
1. Preheat soup pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent - about 8 minutes.2. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add sausage to pan, breaking it up with wooden spoon into bite size pieces. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until browned.3. Next, add carrots and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add rest of ingredients aside from kale and cook for 25 minutes. Add kale in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. * Soup always tastes better the second day
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6

3 ingredient paleo chocolate bark

My introduction to cooking started a long time ago. As I've mentioned in several blog posts that I grew up surrounded by cooks. My grandparents on both sides cooked, my mother cooked, my father mostly just hung out...but needless to say the influence was strong from both sides. 

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When I was 11, I volunteered to make my very first dish. Nothing complicated, just a vegetable soup but while requesting that I be left alone in the kitchen sans supervision. Miraculously this was granted and I churned out a soup that was edible. I do recall the liberating feeling of being able to make what I wanted and how I wanted it without instruction from anyone else. 

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But one person that influenced me in my adult life was a TV chef. It all started with Giada de Laurentiis. Her TV show, Every Day Italian had a feel to it that much reminded me of cooking in Romania. The concept was about using simple ingredients and creating beautiful meals without a lot of fuss. That instantly attracted me and I became a fan that followed her religiously through all her shows and most of her cookbooks and still do to this day.

In 2009, I decided I was going to take on a challenge. After having read Julie and Julia in 2005, I was set to put the experiement to the test myself - on a much smaller scale. I would cook my way through Giada's Kitchen. Two to three times a week, I would make a new recipe. It was by far one of the most expensive but rewarding challenges I've ever taken on. The experience demanded that I step out of my comfort zone and try ingredients I hadn't before used and cooking methods that were foreign to me.

Some things turned out beautifully and some not so much. What I took away from the experience, however, was what established my cooking philosophy. Keep it simple and focus on highlighting good ingredients. 

This is certainly the case for this paleo chocolate bark. I'm hesitant to even call it paleo but I will since I suppose by definition it does fall into the modern paleo template. It does not contain any dairy, soy, corn or gluten but it's definitely not diet food. While for the most part I eat well and don't overdo it on sweets, I do like to hop on board the indulgence train every once in a while. My thinking is - eat well most of the time but don't deprive yourself. If you do, you're never going to succeed in the long run and will look at food in a militant sort of way. Something to be controlled rather than something to be enjoyed. And when it comes to chocolate...well... 

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So paleo chocolate bark. Few ingredients...sheer deliciousness. 

  • prep time: 1 minute
  • cooking time: 10 minutes
  • refrigeration time: 1-2 hours
  • makes: 20 servings 

Ingredients

  • 1 bag dark chocolate chips (I use these)
  • 3 tbsp roasted sliced almonds 
  • pinch of himalayan sea salt

Equipment

  • small or medium glass bowl
  • sauce pan
  • 2 baking sheets
  • parchment paper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almond slices on a baking sheet and roast for 5-6 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place entire bag of chocolate chips in bowl. Add about an inch of water to sauce pan, turn on heat to medium and place bowl on top of pan to create a double boiler. With a spatula stir the chocolate chips continuously until chocolate has melted.

Add parchment paper to baking sheet and slowly pour the chocolate, spreading it out with spatula in a thin even layer.

Add seas salt, almonds and refrigerate for an hour or longer. Break up bark however you'd like and serve. 

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3 ingredient paleo chocolate bark
Ingredients
  • 12 oz bag chocolate chips
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3 tbsp toasted sliced almonds
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almond slices on a baking sheet and roast for 5-6 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside.2. Place entire bag of chocolate chips in bowl. Add about an inch of water to sauce pan, turn on heat to medium and place bowl on top of pan to create a double boiler. With a spatula stir the chocolate chips continuously until chocolate has melted.3. Add parchment paper to baking sheet and slowly pour the chocolate, spreading it out with spatula in a thin even layer.4. Add seas salt, almonds and refrigerate for an hour or longer. Break up bark however you'd like and serve.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 20

meal prep chicken

It's a rainy Tuesday. As I start my drive to work, rain gently tapping on the windshield, I catch a glimpse of the train on the near-by tracks. As my drive continues, traffic comes to a stop for what would be nearly an hour. It's generally during those times that a mix of frustration and desperation give way to daydreaming. 

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I think about the train I'd passed earlier...

When I was living in Romania we didn't have a car. No one in my family owned one as there was really no point. Living in a big city, you have everything you need at your finger tips and if you want to travel, you hop on a train. 

It was the day we were leaving for our beach vacation. I distinctly remember standing in the train station, holding my parents hands, squinting into the rising sun as train grew larger and larger in my field of vision. As it came to a halt with the usual train fanfare, I closed my eyes, taking in the sound and smell. Heart pounding with anticipation, I climb on. Large brown leather seats and a big window...our own private cabin! I always liked to face in the direction the train traveled and my parents never argued. 

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As the train starts moving, everything up close becomes a blur but out in the distance and the world is crystal clear, slowly gliding by. Life moves just a bit slower when you zoom out a little bit. 

It was a relatively long train ride - maybe 3.5-4 hours. My mom packed lunch since she didn't want a famished child on her hands. One of the things she most often made for our travels were chicken sandwiches on freshly baked bread with loads of vegetables on the side. The chicken was always moist and perfectly seasoned. 

In my adult years I've made her baked chicken a bazillion times. It's one that's a staple part of my meal prep. In the summer time, I generally throw it on the grill but in the colder months when I don't feel like going outside, I simply use the oven. While this recipe calls for herbs and spices, turmeric and ginger are new arrivals and were implemented when we moved to the US.

The key to moist chicken is to let the chicken marinate at least 2 hours. I promise it makes all the difference. 

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  • prep time: 5 minutes
  • marinating time: 2-12 hours
  • cooking time: 35-40 minutes
  • makes: 6 servings 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs small organic chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp water or chicken broth

Equipment

  • baking dish
  • either a ziplock bag or a container with a lid
  • aluminum foil

Directions

Combine all ingredients aside from chicken and broth in container or bag and mix well. Add chicken and let marinade for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add broth and chicken along with marinade to baking dish and cover with foil.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken breast. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Make sure you save the juices as they will keep the chicken from getting dry. Store chicken and juices in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  

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print recipe
meal prep chicken
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs small organic chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp water or chicken broth
Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients aside from chicken and broth in container or bag and mix well. Add chicken and let marinade for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. 2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add broth and chicken along with marinade in baking dish and cover with foil.3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken breast. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.4. To store, make sure you save the juices as they will keep the chicken from getting dry. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6

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chicken tagine with lemon, dates and apricots

Just writing the name of this recipe instantly transports me to a foreign land. Ever since I was young, I've had a fascination for different cultures. I've been fortunate to experience a few different ones but not in the way that would turn my every day upside down. I'm drawn to the mystery of people living life unlike my own. But most of what I'm drawn to is how different cultures prepare and cook their food. The traditional way of eating and the flavors that are particular to that region. 

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One place that holds such mystery for me is Morocco. Everything I've seen about Morocco has been in films and photos but its beauty and colors take my breath away. I imagine walking down the narrow street of a market, people buzzing about, colors exploding all around me, wind blowing the intoxicating scent of spices...I have an ideal of a country I know little about but I suppose to me that may be part of the charm. A kind of fantasy I've created around a place and culture. 

My first experience with Moroccan food was a Tagine or Tajine - that includes apricots, spices and chickpeas. It was love at first bite. I had never tasted anything like it. The combination of fruit and spices was mind-blowing. 

As I don't use legumes much these days, I decided to make my own version of Tagine using chicken, a blend of spices, apricots, dates, lemon rind and almonds. 

When it comes to chicken for this dish, in my opinion thighs and legs cook and taste infinitely better than breast. I suggest serving it over rice but you can use cauliflower rice as well, if you're strictly paleo. If you want a recipe for cauliflower rice, check out this simple guide

  • prep time: 5 minutes
  • cooking time: 45-50 minutes
  • makes: 6 servings 

Ingredients

  • 1 package chicken thighs - roughly 1.5 lbs
  • 1 package chicken legs - roughly 1.5 lbs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt divided
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • rind from one lemon 
  • 4 medjool dates chopped
  • 8 dry apricots chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds

Equipment

  • dutch oven or large soup pan

Directions

Preheat pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and chicken to pan. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes per side. You may have to cook chicken in 2 different batches. When chicken is cooked, set aside on a plate.

Meanwhile using a vegetable peeler, cut the rind off lemon. Then cut each peel into thin long strips and set aside. 

Next add the other tbsp olive oil, onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and spices and cook stirring continuously for 2 minutes. 

Return chicken to pan along with broth, dates, apricots and lemon peel. Cover, lower heat and cook for about 30-35 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. 

Add arrowroot starch, cilantro and sliced almonds and give a good stir.

Serve over rice or cauliflower rice with additional cilantro and sliced almonds. 

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chicken tagine with lemon, dates and apricots
Ingredients
  • 1 package chicken thighs - roughly 1.5 lbs
  • 1 package chicken legs - roughly 1.5 lbs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt divided
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • rind from one lemon
  • 4 medjool dates chopped
  • 8 dry apricots chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds
Instructions
1. Preheat pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and chicken to pan. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes per side. You may have to cook chicken in 2 different batches. When chicken is cooked, set aside on a plate.2. Meanwhile using a vegetable peeler, cut the rind off lemon. Then cut each peel into thin long strips and set aside. 3. Next add the other tbsp olive oil, onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and spices and cook stirring continuously for 2 minutes. 4. Return chicken to pan along with broth, dates, apricots and lemon peel. Cover, lower heat and cook for about 30-35 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. 5. Add arrowroot starch, cilantro and sliced almonds and give a good stir.6. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice with additional cilantro and sliced almonds.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6

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