Tuscan Kale & Bean Soup

This hearty, winter bean soup is the perfect Italian comfort food on a cold February night. You can make it vegetarian or with some Italian sausage. Either get ground sausage and cook it up in a skillet with some oil and add to the soup for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Or you can slice sausage (remove the casings first) and cook it in a pan with a bit of oil and add to the soup for the last 10 minutes it’s simmering.  Mmmm….enjoy a little slice of easy, satisfying and warming comfort food.

Tuscan Kale & Bean Soup

Tuscan Kale & Bean Soup

Yields: 8 cups of soup

Serves: 4 heartily

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or sunflower oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch curly leaf or lacinato kale
  • 2 cups cooked cannellini or white navy beans (canned or cooked from dry beans)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1  (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes or 3-4 large fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano and/or dried basil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ¾ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • ⅓ cup parmesan cheese (optional for serving)

 

Directions:

Slice the onions thinly. Heat a large saucepan or stockpot (with lid) over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onion for 5 minutes, or until translucent. You can saute longer if you want the onion to be sweeter. Mince the garlic and add to the onion.

Cook for 30 seconds and then add cooked (drained) beans, vegetable or chicken broth, tomatoes (crush them in bowl first if using fresh tomatoes), dried herbs, salt and red pepper flakes if using. Season with black pepper. Start with 1 teaspoon of salt and you can always add more later if needed.

Bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce to medium low. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove the stems from the kale and then tear the kale into 2 inch pieces. Add kale pieces to the soup for the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings as needed. Remove from heat and add heavy cream. Juice the lemon and add ½ the juice of the lemon to the soup. Taste and add more lemon if needed. Serve hot. It’s great with crusty bread for dipping! You can even drizzle the soup with a little olive oil and top with parmesan or more red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

The Empowered Kitchen Tips:

To make this a meat dish, you can add cooked Italian sausage to this dish near the end, about 5-10 minutes before the end of the simmering time. You can also substitute 1 inch cubes of potato for the beans if you prefer to make it a potato soup. This soup doesn’t freeze well, so you can enjoy it for the next 5 days when kept in your refrigerator.

Spicy Arugula & Lemon Pesto

Ready to spice up your pesto routine? This is a great pesto sauce to make when you have that bumper crop of arugula in your garden, like I did 2 weeks ago. This way you can use it all before it bolts.

Plus you can freeze the extra to preserve the taste of summer well into fall and early winter. 🙂

Arugula Pesto Ingredients

Spicy Arugula & Lemon Pesto

Yields 1 cup

Ingredients

 

  • 3 cups arugula leaves
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Peel garlic cloves and juice the lemon into a blender or food processor. Start with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add all ingredients to the blender or food processor and combine until smooth. Adjust salt, pepper and other ingredients to taste. 

You can always add more lemon or olive oil if you would like it to be more lemony or thinner. 

This pesto goes great on pasta, pizza, paninis, with eggs or in a wrap with turkey and vegetables. 

Alternatives:

This is a spicy pesto that is stronger than a classic basil pesto. You can tone down the spiciness by using 1 garlic clove instead of 2. You can also substitute 1 cup of basil leaves for 1 of the cups of arugula leaves. 

Pine nuts or cashews can be substituted for the walnuts. 

The Empowered Kitchen Tips

Pesto freezes really well. If you want to save some of this for fall or early winter cooking you can freeze it in ice cube trays and put those frozen cubes of pesto in a well-sealed container with the label of the pesto and date in the freezer. They keep well for about 5-6 months, so make another batch near the end of summer if you want some for fall or early winter to have a taste of your summer garden again.  

When you want pesto pasta or pesto on a meat or veggie dish, just pop out a frozen cube and let it thaw or melt in the pan and you have a ready made sauce. 🙂 Now that’s meal prep months in advance! 

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

This was my first try at a vegan caesar dressing, and it was delish! Loved it. Great option for the vegans in your life, or if you just want to mix up your dressing routine. The cashews have healthy fats, so this salad has lots of great nutritional value with the protein and fats from the garbanzo beans, avocado and cashews.

Yum! A hearty lunch to get you through the afternoon feeling great!

For meal prep you can get your boxes ready for 3 days with torn salad greens, roasted garbanzo beans and nuts in the containers. Make the dressing for the week and store in the fridge. Then take half an avocado and your dressing with you to work. Slice the avocado with a butter knife at work and toss on your dressing. 🙂 Great with a piece of bread or a side of soup.

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

Yields: 6 salads

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 bunch curly leaf kale (about 8 cups kale leaves)
  • 4 cups romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup Chili Powder Roasted Garbanzo Beans* (see recipe below)
  • 2 avocados
  • ½ cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup Cashew Caesar Dressing* (see recipe below)

 

Directions:

Separate the kale stems from the leaves and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Place in a serving bowl and pour a tablespoon or two into the bowl and massage the leaves with the oil. This makes them taste better and easier to chew.

Tear the romaine lettuce leaves and add to the kale. You can alternatively use buttercrunch lettuce or arugula.

Slice the avocado. Coat the salad with the amount of caesar salad dressing that you like. Top with walnuts and optionally the toasted garbanzo beans. Enjoy!

Chili Powder Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Yields: About 3 cups roasted garbanzo beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste) 

 

Optional

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans. Pat them dry with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.

Combine the oil, spices and salt in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and zest if using. Mix well.

Add garbanzo beans and toss to coat well. Spread them out evenly on a well-greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown and crispy. This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want them to be. You can shake the tray to toss after about 15 minutes, or stir with a heat-proof spatula.

Remove the garbanzo beans. from the oven and when cooled transfer them to a serving bowl or storage container.  

The Empowered Kitchen Tips:

These are a great snack to keep on hand and go well with tahini sauce, baba ganoush or on a salad. They’ll keep well in the fridge for a week. Label and date before putting in fridge.

Cashew Caesar Dressing (Vegan)

Yields: 2 cups

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil or olive oil 
  • 5-6 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or other brown mustard 
  • ½ teaspoon honey (optional)
  • Salt & black pepper to taste 
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes 

 

Directions:

Boil water in a kettle. Place the cashews in a glass or metal bowl. Pour enough water over the cashews to cover them with about ¼ inch of water. Let soak for 10-20 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients (including the water used to soak the cashews) in a blender until smooth.

Adjust salt, pepper, lemon, garlic powder and other ingredients to your taste. More cracked pepper is always great on a caesar salad. If you aren’t vegan, you can also add 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese when you blend the ingredients together.

This dressing will keep for about 1 week in the fridge.

Cauliflower Crust Pesto Pizza with Tuna, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Arugula

Oh baby. Summer is almost here! I’m so ready. Celebrate the arrival of warmer weather with this pizza and enjoy it outside if you can. It will taste much better that way. 😉 

This cauliflower crust is best eaten with a fork. It’s still delicious, but if you want a cauliflower crust you can pick up, you’ll have to wait for that one coming soon.  

Test out this recipe to get ready for summer parties! 

Cauliflower Crust Pesto Pizza With Tuna, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Arugula

Serves: 4 people 2-3 slices each

Yields: 1 pizza (12-18 inches)

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal 

 

Optional for Crust

 

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings or oregano

 

Toppings

 

  • 1/2 – 1 cup mozzarella or parmesan (to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 can tuna in olive oil (sustainably caught)
  • 1/4 cup Honey Lemon Vinaigrette* (Recipe below)

 

Directions

Place a saucepan filled with 3 inches of water and fitted with a steamer basket over medium heat. Slice cauliflower (florets and stems) into quarters and place in basket. Steam the cauliflower for 6-10 minutes, or until softened and cooked through.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Carefully remove cooled cauliflower from steamer and place in large bowl or food processor.

Mash cauliflower with a potato masher or blend in food processor. Beat egg in small bowl.

Add the beaten egg, flour, salt, pepper and optional spices. Mix together well with your hands. 

Sprinkle baking sheet or baking stone with thin layer of cornmeal. 

Place the crust mixture in middle of pan and press outwards with your hands until you have an even layer covering the pan.

Place in heated oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with pesto and toppings, except the arugula and vinaigrette.

Bake for 5-10 more minutes. Meanwhile toss arugula with a light coating of the vinaigrette of your choice. I like using this Honey Lemon Vinaigrette recipe. * (See below)

When pizza is finished cooking remove from oven and top with arugula salad. You have your pizza and salad in one! Enjoy! Lovely with someone special and a cold summer wheat beer or Belgian tripel. 

Bon app!

First day of the season eating outdoors! 🙂 Such a delight to enjoy these first worm days of the season, especially with someone I love.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Yields: 1 cup vinaigrette

Serves: Covers about 10-12 salads.

Ingredients:

 

  • 2 large lemons
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ½ small shallot
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic (adjust to taste)
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

 

Directions:

Mince garlic cloves and shallot. Remove the parsley stems and save for stock. Rough chop the parsley.

Roll lemons under your forearm to release juices before slicing in half. [Tip: Zest them first if you need zest for another recipe. Can keep in a small amount of oil in the fridge for a week or so until use.]

Juice lemons and add to small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to emulsify. Taste with a lettuce leaf and adjust ingredients to your taste.

Label and date before refrigeration. Keeps well for about 2 weeks in fridge.

 

Super Nutty Pesto

Super Nutty Pesto ingredients. You can add grated parmesan cheese too.

Get ready for summer with this twist on a traditional Italian pesto with 3 different nuts. Add some more healthy fats to your diet with a couple kinds of nuts in the creamy pesto. So great to have this on hand to use in a variety of dishes over a few days. I put it on a cauliflower crust pizza, used as a salad dressing on arugula and as a dip for veggies! Kept it interesting and none of it went to waste. You can be sure of that. 🙂  Try it on eggs, pasta, smeared on salmon, or on a panini. Ideal for meal prep for about 2-3 days.

Pesto is a great use for that bumper crop of basil from your garden this summer. If you have more than you can use at once, then put finished pesto in ice cube trays. Once they’re frozen place the cubes of frozen pesto in plastic bags or a sealed container to keep in the fridge.

You’ll have pesto for a couple of months and you can just take out and thaw what you need when you want a little taste of summer!

Let me know what other creative uses you come up for it in the comments below.

It turned out really green with such fresh basil. I added the parmesan after this picture was taken.

Super Nutty Pesto

Yields 2 Cups

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 6 cups basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

  • Crush and peel the garlic. Juice the lemon into a blender and grate the cheese if needed. 
  • Measure all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Adjust ingredients according to your taste. You can add more oil if you would like a thinner, more pourable pesto. This recipe is fairly thick and good for spreading.

 

Keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Otherwise freeze in ice cube trays and then store in sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Tuna & Sun Dried Tomato Pizza on a Cauliflower Crust.

I used it as a salad dressing on arugula with cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta. Simple & delicious!

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