Mid-week Recipe: Potato Leek Beet Soup

Hello from Montreal! I just arrived here last night and am visiting my cousin before heading out on the rest of a 12-day long east coast adventure! It’s 25 degrees out right now, which is fun for this Southern California girl. I can actually think of winter as soup season again instead of craving summer food. But I hear it’s really cooling off in SoCal this week, so for those of you there, this soup will work just fine! Also, as you can see below, it’s absolutely bright pink, so I’m thinking you might want to practice making it for Valentine’s day? Just an idea…

 

Enjoy!

 

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Ingredients:

extra virgin olive oil

unsalted butter

1 small yellow onion, chopped

3 medium leeks, sliced

5 small golden potatoes, chopped

2 medium red beets, chopped

sea salt and black pepper

vegetable or chicken stock

dried oregano and thyme

fresh cream or crème fraîche

In a large soup pot, saute the onion and leek in 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. butter until they begin to soften (about 3-4 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped potatoes and beets, stir well. Season with 1 tsp. oregano and 1/2 tsp. thyme. Fill pot with veggie or chicken stock just to cover veggies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook 30-40 minutes until veggies are very tender. Let the soup sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover and let cool 15 minutes. Blend in a food processor, blender, or with an immersion blender. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with a splash of cream or dollop of crème-fraîche.

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Weekend Frittata

Here’s a very simple, almost fool-proof recipe for a lazy weekend morning brunch. I think this frittata alone is reason enough to purchase a cast iron pan. You can sauté your veggies and then stick it right in the oven to bake the eggs. It’s the perfect way to use whatever veggies happen to be in season. Here’s a winter version, though it doesn’t feel anything like winter around here.

1 small yellow onion

2 medium leeks, sliced thin

2 cloves market fresh garlic, minced

3 small golden potatoes, sliced thin (you can also use 1 medium yam)

1/2 cup chopped broccoli

2 cups mix of chopped kale and chard

sea salt and black pepper

a dash of milk

6 farm fresh eggs (Seriously, splurge at the market. It’s worth it.)

shredded cheese of your choice (parmesan, cheddar, swiss etc..)

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A more summer-y version with tomatoes and zucchini

 

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Begin by heating the cast iron over medium high and adding a good amount of oil to the pan. Add in the onions and partially caramelize, stirring every few minutes, for about ten minutes. Add the leeks, and sauté another 3 minutes. Mince and add the garlic along with the potatoes, thinly sliced. Cook for about 6 minutes, until the potatoes start to tenderize. Add salt and pepper. Add in the broccoli and continue to cook until veggies are tender, but not fully cooked. Add in the greens and wilt for 2 minutes. Season again if necessary.

Beat the eggs and add the milk along with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies in the pan, top with the shredded cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until the egg is set and the cheese is all melty.

Enjoy!

Mid-week Recipe: Creamy Polenta and Wilted Greens

This week I want to share one of my favorite simple, one-dish meals. I used to make this recipe often in college because it’s inexpensive to put together and takes less than 20 minutes. You can also make as much, or as little as you want, depending on whether or not you want leftovers. This recipe makes enough for two people to eat once, or one person to eat twice.

Here’s the link to the article, but I’ll write it out here as well!

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Creamy Polenta and Wilted Greens with Garlic Toasted Walnuts and Golden Raisins

Polenta:

2 cups polenta or cornmeal (you can use whichever you have on hand)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup cheese of your choice (I recommend either an asiago blend or goat cheese-two different flavors, but equally good)

Greens:

1 large bunch kale or chard (or a combination of both)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup roughly chopped raw walnuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
olive oil to coat pan
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp honey

Polenta:

Pour water into a small saucepan and add the two cloves of garlic and the salt. If using polenta, which will yield a coarser (but no less delicious) mixture, add the polenta along with the water. If using cornmeal, which will be a thicker, smoother consistency, bring the water almost to a boil before adding the cornmeal. Once you have your polenta or cornmeal in almost boiling water, turn the heat down to low and stir in the milk. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture no longer has any crunch to it. This will take less time with a fine cornmeal, so just keep stirring and checking until it is done to your liking. If the mixture seems undercooked but dry, stir in a bit more milk. Once the polenta is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the butter and cheese until melted. Finally, pick out the chunks of garlic.

Greens:

Rinse and de-stem kale (no need to de-stem chard–the stems are the tastiest part!). Stack leaves on top of each other and cut through them all at once to make thin strips. Set aside. Finely chop garlic. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and coat with just a bit of olive oil (just about a teaspoon–it’s just to keep the garlic from burning). Add the garlic and the chopped walnuts and toast, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until garlic starts to brown and you can smell the walnuts. Add the raisins and sauté one minute. Add the greens and immediately begin to move them around the pan to distribute the heat and the flavor from the garlic. Once the greens have wilted a bit (after about 2 minutes), add the balsamic, soy sauce and honey and stir. The addition of liquid will quickly finish wilting the greens. Just another 45 seconds to a minute and the greens will be done!

Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and top with a generous helping of the greens, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh black pepper. Enjoy as a quick weeknight dinner alongside chicken or fish and have leftovers for lunch the next day!

Services, Pricing and How it All Works

I want to explain a bit more about how I’ve arrange my pricing and services to appeal to a variety of budgets and cooking goals. Pricing is now listed at the bottom of my “About” section, but here are a few more details about what that cost includes for you as the client.

How it works:

As the instructor, it is my goal to work within the means of your kitchen, you dietary preferences, and your budget. To help cut the extra cost of food tacked on to the hourly rate, I provide the basics for each lesson, including flour, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sugar, baking powder, and most spices we’ll be using. From my box of basic ingredients, I bring whatever we need in terms of those basics to each lesson, which means that in addition to the hourly fee, you, as the client are only paying for the specific ingredients (meats, fresh veggies, specialty items) that we need for any given lesson.

The cost of these ingredients will vary depending on your dietary preferences and whether or not you prefer to stick to only organics. I do the shopping for the ingredients each week and I shop for what you want. If you have specified that you are vegetarian, and only eat organic veggies, I will go to farmers markets and stores to find the best quality and price. If you are a meat eater and care that your chicken is free range, but not necessarily organic, that’s what I’ll get. And if your main goal is budget, I will find the best quality ingredients I can that fit within your comfort zone. In any given lesson, we will be making 3-5 dishes, and the price of groceries to provide for all of this will range between 25-50 dollars, depending on those factors mentioned above.

So, to break it down: you pay for the groceries we’ll need that I don’t have in my box of basic goodies, but I do all the shopping and show up at your door ready to go. Also, we’ll always make enough food for you (and your family) to eat for at least 3 meals, which makes the investment even more worth while.

About the Series Prices and Discounted rates:

I’ve designed my series to appeal to individuals who want to learn a broader range of cooking knowledge and new recipes while receiving a discount off the hourly rate. I also like working with clients over an extended period of time so I can get to know you and your kitchen. Having the option of a flat rate also means that lessons don’t have to fit within specific time constraints and we will have more time to discuss recipes and experiment with variations! The 3, 6 and 9-week series plans have pre-set menus that showcase the foods that exemplify my cooking philosophy and experience, but can of course be tweaked and tailored to your needs. Series can also be personalized to the client in terms of preferred length of lesson. For example, if a parent wants to sign their 13-year-old up for the 3-week series, but that child doesn’t have time for or perhaps doesn’t want 4-hour lessons, the series can be re-arranged into 4 weeks, 3 hours each lesson, or even 6 weeks, 2 hours each lesson. As long as the lesson hours add up to the total hours of instruction for the series, the price is the same. Savings increase exponentially for the longer series.

Hourly prices work well for those who may want, for example, to schedule just one lesson for 3 friends. I work with up to 3 clients at once and the second two clients can be added for a small fee. These discounts are listed along with the pricing.

Menu Planning Service:

If the private cooking lessons aren’t something you are wanting to invest in at the time, but you still love the idea of learning new recipes, eating more seasonally, and cooking on a budget, I also offer a menu planning service. This doesn’t involve a lesson and can be done either over the phone are in person. I’ll meet with you or just talk with you about your dietary preferences, budget, family size and cooking goals, and create a customized menu with recipes and a shopping list so that you can get cooking without the stress of meal planning.

I hope all this gives a better picture of what my lessons are like and that you find something that appeals to you!

Easy Lemon Garlic Chicken

For a mid-week recipe: the easiest and most effective way to make chicken, in my opinion. Make it today. Have it tonight with a side of roast veggies, put it in pasta tomorrow and make soup on Friday!

 

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To make your life easy, buy a combination of chicken breasts, thighs and wings (or really whatever cut strikes your fancy) of the best quality you can find. Next, gather yourself 2 medium lemons (if you’re in SoCal, you might be able to just forage these from your neighbor’s yard) and a medium bulb of garlic along with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. That’s it.

Preheat oven to 375 and grab a 9×13 inch rectangular baking dish. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil (about 3-4 Tbs) over the bottom of the dish. You won’t end up consuming all of this oil, but it works miracles for juiciness and flavor. Finely chop up all of the cloves in the bulb of garlic and scatter around the bottom of the dish. Next, rinse the chicken and pat dry, then arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. Season one side of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then flip the pieces over so that the salt and pepper side gets garlicky and you can season the garlicky side. Once both sides of the pieces have the proper amount of exposure to garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, rinse your hands and chop each lemon into four wedges. Squeeze each wedge over the chicken and leave the wedges in the pan so they get nice and golden and crispy (see photo).

I’m not a big believer in setting a timer for my cooking. This might bother some people, but I tend to find that cooking time varies so much by oven that it’s more reliable to just keep an eye on things. For this chicken, it’s a good idea to check it after about 20 minutes if you’re using larger breasts, and 15 minutes if you’re using smaller pieces. If the lemons are starting to brown and the outside of the chicken is beginning to get golden, cover the pan with foil to keep in the moisture, and check after another 10-15 minutes. Chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees and/or when meat in the thickest part is no longer pink.

Enjoy!

*If you are using a convection oven, cooking times will be faster.

Sample Menus for Fall/ Winter

Welcome to Laura’s Mobile Kitchen!

As my first post here, I wanted to share some sample menus that you might see in your private lesson. Of course, each client will have different tastes and preferences, but these recipes showcase the kind of cooking I love most: comforting classics with twists of flavor that can be tweaked based on diet. Each weekly lesson is designed to run 3 hours and includes time at the end to sit down and enjoy a meal and to write down the instructions for recreating it.

I run my lessons in 3, 6, 9 and 12-week plans as to accommodate a variety of budgets and cooking goals. Here is a sample 6-week menu plan:

6-week plan

Week 1- Breakfast

– An intro to eggs, including fried, boiled, and scrambled
– Farmhouse Frittata
– Breakfast Potatoes
– Seasonal Fruit Salad

Week 2- Breakfast

– Cinnamon-Vanilla French Toast with Caramelize Apple-Pecan Compote
– Goat Cheese Omelets
– Cornmeal-Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes with Orange-Honey Sauce

Week 3- Brunch

– Corn Casserole
– Bacon, Potato and Caramelized Onion Savory Tarte
– Ginger Golden Raisin Scones
– Fresh OJ
– Citrus Salad

Week 4- Lunch

– Eggplant Walnut Dip with Whole Wheat Honey Flatbreads
– Butternut Squash, Apple and Curry Soup
– Quinoa Salad with Roasted Veggies
– Garlic Tarte

Week 5- Dinner

– Baby Green Salad with Persimmons, Pomegranate Seeds, Candied Nuts and Honey Dijon Dressing
– Apple Onion Pork Loin with Ginger, Apple, Raisin Pan Compote
– Wild Rice
– Roasted Seasonal Veggies
– Wilted Kale Salad
– Apple Pear Crostada with Fresh Whipped Cream

Week 6- Dinner

– Chicken Stew with Dumplings
– Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Garlic
– Chard and Kale Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
– Caramelized Maple Carrots
– Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cardamom Ice Cream

Hope your mouth is watering!

-Laura