A Little Claire-ification

bright ideas for the busy & budget minded…

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 17 – Creamy Lentil Soup with Sausage

Today I am thankful for a lazy Saturday at home.  Life has been a little hectic for the last few weeks, and it’s just going to get more nuts over the next 6 weeks so it’s nice to have a quiet, calm day before the full-on crazy kicks in.

And…. Brrr.  I don’t know about you guys but the last two days have been chilly and gray hovering around 59* degrees!!

(I’ll pause here for a moment while those up North laugh out loud (justified) and say “Ohhh, bless her sweet little heart” (or whatever the Northern equivalent is to that little saying).

Ok, alright.  I know it’s not really THAT cold but for Central FL it’s a little chilly for this time of year!  And don’t get me wrong.  I L-O-V-E when it starts to cool off.  Makes us feel like we actually have a Fall season here in Florida and it also makes it easier to get into the Christmas spirit! (not to mention, 90* in October + children’s Halloween costumes = not pretty, y’all).

Anyway, cooler weather always puts me in the mood for good soup.   Oh who am I kidding?  Grrrrl, I eat soup all year ’round – even when it’s 100*  out.  I just pat the cute little beads of sweat off my forehead and upper lip, as any proper lady would do, and dig in.  Tomato Basil Bisque with a melty grilled cheese dipped in??  Come on now.  These are things that we can’t  just save and chalk up as “Winter only” foods.  That’s right up there with the “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” rule.  Pfffft.   I defy these silly rules and eat them for breakfast.  Dipped in soup.

So on this blustery slightly cool Fall day I was inspired to make one of my favorite soups (for the record, you should know that I was also inspired to make about 268 other gorgeous recipes and at least 96 beautiful crafts that I saw on various sites and blog posts today so, lest anyone feel inadequate, you can rest assured I am probably more behind than you are).

Ahhh creamy lentil soup.  This is a super easy recipe.

{Some quick fun facts about Lentils:   Archeological evidence shows lentils were eaten as early as 9,500 to 13,000 years ago.  With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp.}

Good to know, right?  Here’s a shot of me in my recent 5K / obstacle race.  Protein is good and makes ya’ strong!  But really only showing this to try and justify why I don’t feel so bad about inviting the sausage to this party (by the way – I thought I might die at several points during this race!).

I have three children. Why am I doing this again??

Let’s get started on the soup, shall we?  The main ingredients:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock (substitute water for vegetarian diets)
  • 2 carrots,  roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced sausage (there are plenty of vegetarian sausage options out there too!)
  • 1 baguette or some other crusty bread cut into thin slices (at least 3 per person)

The lentils should soak for at least two hours prior to cooking.  If you are “Miss Plan Ahead” (I humbly salute you) soaking overnight is fine as well.

Another fun fact – French chefs have a term for having all of your ingredients prepped and at the ready:   Mise-en-place (pronounced [miz on plas], literally “putting in place”) means “everything in place”, as in set up.  It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meatrelishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare during his/her shift.

I love that there Wikipedia.  😉  My “Mees-On-Plas”, y’all:

On Medium-High heat, add the chicken stock, lentils, carrots, celery, onion, thyme sprigs and bay leaf to your Dutch oven or desired cooking pot.

Once the stock begins to boil, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

In the meanwhile chop your sausage into thin discs. In this case we used Kielbasa because that is what we had on hand.  Chorizo or any other link sausage will work.  Make it your own.

Place a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Once the pan is really hot, add the sausage rounds.  These need to be watched and loved on (sounds like me on a Target shopping trip).  You want them to get a wee bit crispy so when they really get cooking , flip them over.

Repeat several times until the edges are crisped.  Once you have those crispy little discs of goodness beaten into submission, remove them from the pan onto a paper towel lined plate.  Do NOT discard the pan juices.  Set the pan aside for now.

Once the lentil mixture is done, remove and discard the bay leaf and set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.  {**Make ahead tip –  you can always refrigerate  – or even freeze in containers – at this point.  Just make sure the soup is at room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer containers.}

When slightly cooled, pour the lentil mixture into your blender (do not fill more than 2/3 – blend in two batches).  Let cool some more – at least 10 minutes.

Place the top on your blender and release the little section on top so that you don’t have a “big hot mess”. If the top to your blender does not have that feature then do NOT seal the top tightly.  Leave a little room for the hot steam to escape but in EITHER case, keep your hand firmly on the top.  If you have cooled your soup completely you will not have to worry about this, of course.

Blend the soup until smooth (at least one minute).

and then pour the blended soup back into the Dutch oven (or whatever pot you used).  Set the burner to the lowest setting to keep warm.

To serve immediately, ladle the soup into bowls.  Place a few sausage rounds on top and then drizzle a little bit of the sausage drippings over the top.   Serve with a couple of slices of french bread  – great for dipping!  Just yummy, hearty comfort food that is good for the soul!  Enjoy!

I love to read your comments so let me know – what is your favorite soup?   Make sure to pop over and like me on FaceBook too!

Have a great weekend!

xoxo,

Claire

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Linking Up To Some Fabulous Parties!

 

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30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 12 – Best of The Weekend #1

Today, I am very thankful to have “met” so many amazingly talented and sweet bloggers (albeit virtually) over the last 5 weeks.  And of course, thankful to continue being inspired by some that I have followed for almost two years!

 

 

Today is my first ever “Best Of The Weekend” post – a list of 10 blog posts that I read this weekend that inspired me the most-est, even if some were posted prior to the weekend.  DIY projects, fantastic food or recipes, crafts and everything else in between that just tickled my fancy or touched my heart and made me want to bookmark it.   I’ll start by saying that I will probably always have more food posts than anything else because I love to cook and I love to eat good food but I do try to highlight a great variety of things!!

Oh and you should also know – there were WAY (way, way, wayyyy) more than 10 posts that I bookmarked and so enjoyed reading this weekend.  Like, a LOT more, but I have to narrow this down somehow!  Here goes, in no particular order:


Simple Living & Eating: Ground Beef Stroganoff

Not only does this look delish, I was also  touched by Diane’s story about her family being without power for 7 days after “SuperStorm Sandy”.  Her pictures of her family cooking up the contents of their fridge and freezer reminded me of what we went through in FL after Hurricane Charlie with no power for 6 days.  But we weren’t freezing cold!

Fairhope Supply Co. : A Veteran’s Day Story

So glad to have read this today…

Lizy B: Fall Leaf Cookie Tutorial

I am definitely trying these (gorgeous) cookies out ASAP!

Life In Grace: 12 Days of {Handmade} Christmas

All I can say is that I am SO making some of these felt scarves for me AND for gifts.  Talk about adorable AND thrifty!  LOVE!

Country Cleaver: Breakfast Reuben Sandwiches on Pumpernickel English Muffins

Kill me now.  I cannot wait to try these.  I am thinking about Christmas morning with my Dad’s hash browns.  You might see this one again before Christmas!

Living Well Spending Less: Operation Christmas Child

I posted this on Facebook and I will say it again – this is a FANTASTIC way to teach your family about the importance of giving back to those in need!  Ruth gives all of the details out in her great post – check it out and start a new tradition with your kids!

Today’s Creative Blog: Washer Lined Tray

I love this and I know it’s something I could make too!  Pretty darn cute!

Home Is Where The Boat Is:  Mini Pumpkin Pies

I make all kinds of “pumpkin-y” goodness between now and Christmas so these are right up my alley!

Fox Hollow Cottage: Decorating With Thrift Store Finds

Fantastic – I love finding something at a thrift store and turning it into something new!  Great for holidays on a budget!

Life As Mom: Busy Holiday Cooking Plan (Freezer Cooking)

I know – food again!  But, as a working Mom of three boys I have an extra fridge/ freezer AND a chest freezer in my garage – I don’t mess around!   I love to cook and we love to portion things out and freeze them for meals throughout the next few months.  I coupon shop the sales and freeze items for later.  I’ll be posting about this within the week as it pertains to our holiday prep!

I hope you all have a fantastic and blessed week!

xoxo,

Claire

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30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 10 – Green Onion, Goat Cheese & Thyme Tart (YUM!)

Time to make another one of my favorites – my Green Onion, Goat Cheese & Thyme tart!  This is a also a great idea for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day breakfast if you have guests staying.   Hey, you’ll be up getting that turkey ready for dinner anyway!  Might as well have a little something in the bellies to stave off the crowd until Turkey time!  Tips below on what you can prep the night before.

At the time of this writing, there was less than 1/4 of the tart left so I am glad I got pictures!!  Today I am SO thankful for food in our bellies.

I love working with pastry dough, both sweet and savory.  This savory tart is super simple and one that everyone raves about and, once you master a tart like this, you can add so many variations to it and just make it your own.

I started with a basic tart dough (AKA “Pâte Brisée”).  Easiest recipe ever  so don’t for a second think you can’t make it.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 sticks cold butter, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 tsp. each of salt and sugar
  • 1/4 cup of ice water

Once you start working with dough, you will know when to add a few more drops of water if it’s needed until it just comes together. The chunks of butter make it extra flaky.  Combine your dry ingredients in the food processor (you can also use your stand mixer); Add the butter and process until it forms pea sized crumbs (do NOT over process) and slowly add the water in a stream while processing until the dough just comes together.  So important not to over mix so that the butter is still in little chunks.

Once the dough was made I divided it in half, creating two rounds, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and I put them back in the fridge to get them good and chilled again.  Always work with cold dough.  Can’t say that enough!

Then, it was ready to roll out on a floured board…

and be laid into the tart pan:

This recipe makes two tart shells:

But for today I was only making one tart, so I wrapped the second tightly and placed it in the fridge, and will make it in the next day or so.  If you have a hungry crowd, however, you can go ahead and double this filling and make both!

 Once in the tart pan, I again covered it tightly with plastic wrap and once again set to chill in the fridge for about 15 more minutes while I started to prepare the filling. (**Make Ahead Tip:  At this point, the tart dough can chill overnight to bake in the morning.   Just make sure it’s wrapped tightly).

Once chilled, line one of the tarts with aluminum foil and place some pie weights in to keep it from rising up too much (you can also use dried beans, but then you can’t cook them later so if you use beans, just save them to recycle as future pie weights!).

Into a 400* oven it goes to pre-bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 375*, remove the pie weights and foil and bake until golden – about 15-20 minutes more.

In the meantime, I chopped about 20 scallions, an inch or so in length,  and two cloves of garlic

and grabbed a few sprigs of fresh thyme from our patio garden.

Store bought thyme is fine too but if you DO use dried thyme, just remember that dried herbs are a little stronger than fresh herbs, so use a little less.  Fresh herbs are always best if available, but there are just times (thymes?) when I know it’s not possible!

On medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan.  Once the butter is melted, toss in:

  • scallions
  • 2 cloves or roughly chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

After a few minutes cooking on high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover;  sauté until the onions are soft – about 15 minutes.

Scallions sautéing with two roughly chopped garlic cloves, thyme and chicken stock:

While those cook down, combine the following in a mixing bowl:

  • 1/4 lb Chevre (goat cheese) – I have also used Manchego, which is delicious so just use your favorite soft cheese.
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs

Uncover the green onions and raise the heat to high, stirring until all of the liquid is evaporated – about 3 minutes.

Add the green onion mixture to the goat cheese filling and stir to combine well.  (**Make Ahead Tip:  If baking the next day, cover the filling tightly  once cooled, and refrigerate overnight).

Pour the filling into the partially-baked tart shell and for about 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  One the tart has cooled for about 10 minutes, I removed the tart from the pan.  Hello, gorgeous!

Just yummy, flaky goodness that even the smaller boys enjoyed!   Tarts are perfect for breakfast, lunch OR dinner!

Guess I better go grab a slice before it’s all gone…

Happy Baking!  Be sure to let me know if you make it or tell me about your favorite tart recipe!  I’ll get this posted over on my “Recipes” page soon.

xoxo

Claire

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Linking up to some fabulous parties:

Wonderful Food Wednesday @ At Home Take 2

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30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 3 – A Gorgeous Day

Happy, happy Saturday!  I was thankful today for perfectly gorgeous weather for our garage sale.  77* and blue skies!

I generally dislike garage sales – well, I don’t mind stopping by one – that’s fun, but having them can sometimes be exhausting (like when people knock on your door at 6:30AM before a 7AM sale… “Got any antiques for sale?”  Maybe, but now you now pay double!! 😉 ).

But this sale was pretty low key and easy since our neighborhood was hosting and we didn’t even have to advertise in the paper or put out signs!   We were able to get rid of about half of our designated pile (although the train table didn’t sell 😦 ).  I swore that anything that did not sell would not be allowed back inside! Grrrr.  But… I can’t bear to set it by the street – it’s in perfectly good condition and the boys used to have so much fun with it when they were younger.  Memories!  So we decided that we are going to take it Harbor House, which is a women’s shelter for victims of domestic abuse.  Many times the women that show up there have their children with them, so we figured they could definitely use several of our items that didn’t sell.  Anyway, if you have some (gently) used items that you need to get rid of and aren’t up for a garage sale, a local shelter may be another option aside from the larger national charities that everyone thinks of first.

Once we get that last pile donated / delivered, I can finally post the garage reveal.  I know you are all waiting with baited breath.  haha!

And now…

I am just in a cooking AND baking mood after all of this organizing!  I don’t know if you have been online as much as I have over the last few days (bordering on unhealthy??) but there are soooo many yummy Fall recipes out there.  I feel consistently hungry staring at all of these beautiful sweet and savory treats!  Think it will be a foodie post on Monday!  Stay tuned!

Here are a few of my favorite savory food posts I’ve read in the last couple of days (I could probably list 100+ but I would NEVER get to Sunday’s post!) :

Tomato Pie

(photo courtesy of OceanBreezesandCountrySneezes.com)

Y’all, I am a cheese FREAK and this savory tart looks so yummy and is topped with a melty combination of cheesy goodness.  My mouth is watering…  check out my friend Mary over at “Ocean Breezes & Country Sneezes” (so sweet!) for this recipe.  I can’t wait to try it out!

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Gnocchi

(photo courtesy of marianhd.com)

My friend Marian over at “For The Love of Food” posted about this delish dish.  We LOVE gnocchi and my 100% Italian Husband is ready to try this right away (like yesterday)!  As an aside, Marian and her Husband also did an amazing week long experiment called the “SNAP challenge” where, for one whole week, they lived off the same benefits that those receiving SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) have to live on.  This Govt. program allows about $30 / week per person.  This is an extremely humbling post to read and I don’t want this to get lost so will most likely mention this again one more time before Thanksgiving.

Crock Pot Balsamic BBQ Pulled Pork over Cornbread

(photo courtesy of simplyscratch.com)

Now this just looks like MAJOR comfort food right here!!!  And over cornbread??  Oh my.  I found this on Pinterest and the original post is by Laurie at SimplyScratch.com.  One more that I must try soon!

Ok – off to do some of my own cooking! Hope you all have an AMAZING weekend (and enjoy that extra hour of sleep too, thanks to Daylight Savings ending!).

xoxo,

Claire

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