Eating with the Armstrongs

The coming of fall has been a dream! A few things I’ve enjoyed lately…

My birthday was really special this year. I felt so loved by friends and family and specifically enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Frankie Marcello’s with my husband (get the chicken piccata!), tea with my girl friends at the English Tea Room  (the Earl Grey Supreme is divine) in Covington, dinner and drinks with Matthew and my parents at Galatoire’s Bistro (you’ve got to try the banana bread pudding!), and gifts galore!

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The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?

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The grand opening of Trader Joe’s. I won’t mention how many times I’ve been so far. But some of my TJ faves so far include: 21 Seasoning Salute (a salt-free blend of yes, 21 different spices, perfect for chicken, fish, burgers, eggs, etc..), Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea, Tuscan White Bean Hummus, Gorgonzola Crackers, and Coconut Bonbons, and my husband’s fave Cookie Butter (dangerous).

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Rollerblading with my puppy, Boone. Maybe the most fun and scariest form of exercise ever. I’m bringing rollerblading back!

My fall herb garden. I transferred most of my herbs from my larger garden into pots so that in the unlikely chance that it freezes this winter I can bring them inside. I love having fresh herbs right outside of my house to use in my cooking. I’m growing: rosemary & thyme, arugula, cilantro, chives & dill, sage & parsley, and not pictured, basil, oregano, mint, lavender and patchouli.

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Besides all these delights, lately we’ve enjoyed:

California Chicken Rice Bowls: this is a flavorful and delicious meal. I made it for a friend who recently had a baby, and they loved it! Also great with quinoa instead of rice. I topped it with feta cheese rather than blue cheese and skipped the walnuts.

Butternut Squash Pasta: husband approved! The sauce has a unique sweetness that changes things up a bit from your normal pasta sauce. I added a whole can of tomato paste as well as a de-seeded roasted red pepper to the blender when blending the sauce. I enjoyed the added savory and tomato flavor to offset the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe makes a ton, so I’m going to use the leftover sauce for pizza sauce later this week.

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant: It may sound out of the box, but these stuffed eggplants are absolutely divine. The flavor profile is actually not as unusual as you might think. I used cous-cous instead of rice. Try it!

Balsamic Pot Roast: we enjoyed this out of the ordinary take on pot roast. Pot roast is a great dinner for a cold night after a busy day, as the slow cooker does all the work!

Homemade Granola: served as cereal with milk or a topping for Greek yogurt with maple syrup and fruit, this is one of our go to breakfasts. It is simple to make and much cheaper than buying from the grocery. Plus you can control the sugar content. I like to make a batch on Sunday afternoon and enjoy throughout the week.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake: an easy but impressive looking dessert. Perfect with vanilla bean ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

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Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

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My husband usually eats without saying much. When I ask him if what he’s eating is good, he says: “yes, that’s why I’m not speaking!” But I know something is truly above and beyond delicious when he makes comments while consuming his food. Hearing: “mmmmm, wow, this is amazing” coming from both my husband and our friend Daniel as they ate a bowl of this soup confirmed it as one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a while!

Paired with buttery toast and topped with nutty Parmesan cheese, it’s the ultimate cozy comfort meal, especially perfect as the evenings get colder.

I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make it just a tad lighter (half the amount of cream!) and a little easier with one of my favorite tricks: the rotisserie chicken. It’s a wonderful way to cut down on cooking time when you’re in a hurry but still want lots of flavor. On Mondays, Whole Foods has their rotisserie chicken on sale for $5.99 and it is fabulous!

I also added two cloves of garlic, because I put garlic in everything. Why not?

Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 4-6

ingredients:

1/2 box Ditalini Pasta (very Short Macaroni-type Pasta Noodles)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 chopped rotisserie chicken (pick up at local grocery or whole foods)
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Peppers, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 whole Fresh Jalapeño, Diced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 can (28-ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese Shavings, For Serving
Buttery Toast, For Serving

to make:

Cook pasta in a pot according to package directions, being sure not to overcook it. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

Remove chicken meat from skin and bones of the rotisserie chicken. Chop and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and oregano and turn off heat, stirring over the next minute to keep oregano from burning. Set this aside.

Sauté onion, red pepper, celery, and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic cloves and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine. Turn off heat.

Serve with lots of Parmesan sprinkled on the top and toast for dipping!

Enjoy all the compliments and “mmmmms” you get!

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