Eating with the Armstrongs

20140409-225134.jpg

(perks of hosting a wedding shower: leftover flowers to brighten our home)

In true fashion, spring has been feeling quite full! Wedding showers, friends visiting, parties, and yard work have overflowed into our lives. We had a wonderful get away last weekend to a personal retreat center and we are excited to celebrate our third anniversary next week with a night spent in New Orleans!

The retreat last weekend was truly a gift. We spent two days at an amazing little bed and breakfast/counseling center about thirty minutes away from us with an incredible husband and wife who ministered to us, counseled us, and served us the best homemade Mexican food(thank you, Lord!) Coming up on three years of marriage, my teeny piece of marriage advice is this: get counseling even when you don’t feel like you “need it”. Honestly, Matthew & I are in a really sweet and peaceful season in our marriage, so we didn’t have a long list of issues to bring to our time of counseling. We went into the weekend asking the question: how can we grow in our marriage? I’m not sure why, but for some reason I expected to spend our time there weeping and hashing things out. Instead, our time was peaceful and refreshing, and our eyes were opened to some important things to work on and some revolutionary ways to communicate and grow closer as husband and wife. Even if you can’t get professional counseling, find a couple who is older and wiser than you and get time with them for advice and wisdom. However, if you can, find a professional marriage and family therapist to meet with! It is worth it!

In the midst of a full spring, here are some recipes we’re enjoying:

Smitten Kitchen’s Three Bean Chili. I love to try new chili recipes. Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs and I always know the recipes will be delicious. My change is adding some ground beef to up the protein factor for my husband. If you do add ground beef, add about 1.5 pounds, sautéed with the onions. Also, when adding the water, you’ll need to double it so that it doesn’t dry up & burn during the simmering process. I may or may not know this from experience.

The Pioneer Woman’s Heavenly Hummus Wrap: really anything with hummus is a favorite for me. Homemade is best, but I also absolutely love Whole Food’s Original Hummus. Randomly, last night I dreamed that I read the ingredient list for their hummus and it included ground up pancakes. Don’t worry, this is not true.

Spicy Sriracha White Bean Dip from White on Rice Couple; My go to for appetizers and snacks is usually a good ole classic hummus. But I really enjoyed this switch up with white beans and an Asian flare.

My Roasted Vegetable & Brown Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce: I will never get tired of that peanut sauce! Such an easy and delicious meal, use whatever seasonal veggies are available!

Rachel Ray’s Pasta Carbonara: This is quite a creamy meal but a little less heavy because she doesn’t use cream in the sauce.  A few changes: I used brown rice fettuccine, I did not use lemony breadcrumbs as a topping, although that sounds delicious! Instead of asparagus, I used spinach and instead of pancetta, I used bacon. Overall, this is a great restaurant-style meal that’s easy to make at home.

Raw Brownies from A Couple Cooks: wowowowoweeee. These brownies have gotten rave reviews from friends and from my husband. Topped with some simmered down berries or served over coffee ice cream, this is the perfect dessert. These are totally easy to make and much healthier than your average brownie.

I’d love to hear what recipes you are enjoying lately! I hope you try and enjoy some of these.

These are some photos from our retreat. Isn’t Louisiana beautiful?!

20140409-224915.jpg

20140409-224940.jpg

20140409-224514.jpg

Advertisements

Pasta é Fagoli {Kale, Pasta & Red Bean Stew}

stew

One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!

stew2

Pasta é Fagoli

adapted from My Favorite Things

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping
Freshly ground pepper

To Make:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

stew3

20131219-083253.jpg


Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

20131028-095543.jpg

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!

20131028-095656.jpg


Easy Tomato Burst Pasta + Summer Reads

Easy summer pasta and good books to read, really, what’s better?

We’ve been on the road quite a bit the last couple of weeks with only a day or so in between trips, making it difficult to grocery shop. But with an abundance of cherry tomatoes & basil in my garden, I’ve been making this easy, flavor packed pasta on the days we’re home. Even if you don’t have a garden, tomatoes & basil are in season so you can pick them up at your farmer’s market or grocery.
As you cook the whole cherry tomatoes over low heat in a covered pan, they burst open creating a spectacular sauce. The real star of the show here is actually the cloves of garlic which sweeten up as they’re sautéed whole in olive oil before being chopped and added to the sauce.
Great as a side, light lunch, or dinner entree with the addition of grilled chicken, I hope you try this recipe and love it!

Ingredients:

1 cup whole cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
8 fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups of spiral pasta

To Make:

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil into a sauté pan over medium low heat. Using a chopping knife, lightly smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife so as to remove the peel. Add whole cloves to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove garlic cloves and add whole tomatoes. Turn heat to low and cover. Allow to sauté for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes burst open.
Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the pan. Add fresh basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive, stirring to get it all covered. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put pasta into a bowl and pour sauce on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!!

20130803-170546.jpg

At the beach, on the plane, by the pool, and before bed at night, here are some great reads I’ve enjoyed this summer!

Love Does by Bob Goff

With hilarious stories of adventure and kindness, Bob Goff brings readers into the journey of learning how to love extravagantly.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Real talk on life. Through thoughtful essays sharing stories of life and God, Shauna Niequist reveals her experiences of celebrating each day.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Both through provoking and heart rending, this novel is a geniusly creative weaving together of stories that reveal human nature and the complexities of modern life.

Prophet by Frank Peretti

Probably my favorite novel of the summer. A fictional but truly apt critique of modern society. I wasn’t able to put this book down as the story is both mysterious and compelling!

Leading From the Second Chair by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson

This is an incredible book for anyone who is in a place of subordinate leadership. The authors share from their experience, providing wise and insightful understanding into the complexities of leadership.

What books are you enjoying this summer?


Italian Sausage & Mushroom Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

My three favorite things to share are clothes, books, and recipes.

In college I lived with six other girls, which meant my wardrobe was six times larger! Whenever any one of my roommates went shopping, she’d come home with a new shirt, jeans, or headband and say: “Look what I got for us!” And although I LOVE living with my wonderful husband, my wardrobe has suffered. Thankfully my sister lives with seven other girls and I frequently visit her house to steal borrow clothing.

And books, oh books. My dream is to have a weekly book club where each member arrives with some sort of delicacy to munch on while we discuss the book of the week and sip hot tea or coffee. Doesn’t that sound divine?

And of course, sharing recipes is my favorite. It is such a joy to be a young wife with some many other young wives in my circle of friends, all learning how to cook and take care of a house and be wifely.

I found a HILARIOUS list on my phone entitled “Things to buy/do for wifehood” from November 25, 2010, which was about a month after I got engaged. Here’s the list: “good tweezers, Listerine-zero, floss, wear retainer, Tae-B0 video, good razor, hair straightened, lotion, paint toenails regularly, run bear trail 2x a week, walk, do morning routine every day, collect recipes, Sally Hansen nail strengthener.” Well, I can pretty much say that the only thing I’ve done consistently in the eleven months I’ve been married is “collect recipes” and I certainly haven’t bought any Sally Hansen nail strengthener.

Anyways, my dear friend Lena, who is also a new wife, shared this pasta recipe with me and it’s great way to spice up your regular spaghetti! Hope you enjoy!

Italian Sausage & Mushroom Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce 

Serves 4 (or 2 with plenty of leftovers)

Ingredients:

Pasta of your choice-I used Whole Wheat Linguini-cooked according to package directions

1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 can of tomato paste

1 package  (six links) of Italian sausage, I used sweet Italian Sausage

1 small carton of mushrooms, rinsed and chopped

2 tablespoons of half and half OR 1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons dried basil OR handful of fresh basil roughly chopped

To make: 

Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add sausage links and begin to break them up with a metal spatula. Continue breaking up sausage and allow to cook for about 15 minutes until completely grey with no pink. While sausage is cooking, give mushrooms a rinse, getting all the dirt off then chop them to desired size. Add mushrooms after sausage is cooked through, and allow to cook for about 5 minutes until tender.

Add can of crushed tomatoes, can of tomato paste, minced garlic, and basil to the pan. Stir until sauce, meat, and mushrooms are well combined. Bring to a boil then quickly turn heat to low and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and add remaining olive oil to it’s pot, add pasta back in. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste to the sauce as well as half and half or cream. Stir together.

Put a heap of pasta on a plate and add sauce on top. I served this with a simple spinach salad on the side.

Enjoy!