kim chi cabbage soup

After my trip to the farmers’ market, I found myself with a head of cabbage to use up. I made homemade kim chi with half of it and decided to make an easy kim chi soup with the other half!

In a soup pot, saute chopped onion, garlic, and shaved ginger in olive oil over medium. Add dried red chili peppers and cayenne to taste. Add a cup or two of vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add chopped cabbage and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until cabbage is soft {about 15 minutes}. Garnish with sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil. 

Granted, this is a bastardized version of any authentic soup but it’s healthy, easy, and pretty filling! You could add chopped green onions, fish sauce, sriracha, and even meat if desired.

P.S. My friend Shelly is Korean so I’m going to make her teach me how to make authentic kim chi!


a pho-nomenal competition

I have a confession. I currently have 70 {yes, 70!} half-written blog post sitting in my draft folder. Yikes. One that I’ve been meaning to write since last July was where to find the best hole-in-the-wall ethnic food in Raleigh.

My buddy and I made plans to get take-out Pho {Vietnamese soup} the other night. As we were driving up Capital Blvd and deciding which Pho restaurant to go to, we decided to get a dish from each place and pit them against each other in a super-intense food competition. Yes, this is what I do with my time. Haha! I knew it was a blog post in the making.

The competitors {drum roll, please}:

Pho Cali: 3310 Capital Blvd 
Pho Far East: 4011 Capital Blvd

We carefully devised a system to rank the restaurants.

  • Atmosphere: Pho Cali was perfectly nice but very simple; Pho Far East felt much more cozy because of the decor and lights.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
  • Popularity {extra points were awarded if the customers were Vietnamese because we all know that matters}: Pho Cali gained two customers while we were there, but Pho Far East had about eight people eating dinner there. It was a tie for percentage of Vietnamese diners. 
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Price: $8.99 for a big portion of pho at both places.
    • Tie
  • Quantity: The presentation made it slightly hard to judge, but I think the servings were comparable.
    • Tie
  • Hours: Pho Cali is open for an extra hour at the morning, but I am realistically going to drive up Capital for pho at 9am? Gonna call it a:
    •  Tie
  • Presentation: The overall presentation of Pho Far East’s was more elegant and appetizing.
    • Winner: Pho Far East
  • Service: The service at both places was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and even let us practice our Vietnamese pronunciation. But the winner by a slight margin was Pho Cali.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Location: Pho Cali is closer to downtown; Pho Far East is further up Capital {which is one of the worst streets in Raleigh}.
    • Winner: Pho Cali
  • Quality: Arguably the most important of the categories! Alone, each bowl of pho was delicious. But side-by-side, Pho Far East was the clear winner. The broth was much more flavorful, the meat looked more fresh, and they included sriracha, which is critical to the enjoyment of a bowl of Pho.
    • Winner: Pho Far East 
Pho Far East was a pretty clear winner in the pho-off {reviews on Yelp say the same thing}. I look forward to patronizing the restaurant again in the near future 🙂 

P.S. Cheesy joke time: what country has the best food? Viet-nom nom nom 🙂

on the menu for the week

Tofu masala with quinoa

Potato leek soup {this stuff is like crack}

Cucumber tomato dill salad {made with my home-grown dill!}

Cinnamon crunch chickpeas

Leftover fajitas + all sorts of Cinco de Mayo food!

Lemon Chobani + sliced vegetables with dill dip + Larabars + navel oranges + apples & peanut butter

Source: via Carita on Pinterest

tomato basil meatball soup

Now that I live in a nicer, more cozy apartment, my sister lives to come hang out…and make me feed her {and I’m the younger one! Shouldn’t she be feeding me?}.

Photo credit

I decided to whip up a quick tomato soup with the rest of my Al Fresco Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs, leftover from my split pizza.

In a pot, combine a can of diced or chopped whole tomatoes, a chopped clove of garlic, and chopped caramelized onions. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover all ingredients. Sprinkle with a dash each of sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce to low. Use an immersion blender to blend coarsely. Add fully-cooked chopped tomato basil chicken meatballs and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

P.S. For an even easier version of this, simply chop the meatballs into small pieces, throw into a bowl of Trader Joe’s Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup; and microwave. I should get a commission off sales of their soup, since I blog about it all the time!

lentil chicken bacon soup

lentil soup Photo credit

I had cooked lentils left over from a failed Indian dish, rotisserie chicken from making Anne’s White Bean Chicken Chili Soup, and turkey bacon left over from breakfast sandwiches. Voila- a simple “cleaning out the fridge” soup was born!

In a pot, combine about a cup of cooked lentils {make your own or try Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils}, a handful of shredded rotisserie chicken pieces, and two pieces of prepared turkey bacon, ripped into pieces. Add half a bay leaf and enough chicken broth to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf before enjoying!

a week of “cupboard meals”

As you know, I was determined to not go grocery shopping this week and instead make meals from the ingredients my cupboards, fridge, and freezer. Mission accomplished (minus the $5 taco buffet at the Dos Taquitos Margarita Run!).

Among the less interesting things I consumed: rice cakes with cream cheese {which are surprisingly filling}, apple sauce, veggies {like cherry tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers} with homemade sour cream veggie dip, honey sesame cashews, trail mix, and almonds.

But I also put together some interesting food combos:

Not half bad for a week of eating at home. And I still got plenty of vegetables in 🙂

recipe: south african smoked tomato leek soup

Cleaning out my fridge is always an interesting catalyst for creating unique, random recipes, like my latest soup.

The first word that pops into my head to describe this recipe is “rustic.” I feel like it should be “ethnic,” given the South African Smoke, but you can’t argue with instinct!

Photo credit

In a pot, caramelize chopped onions and leeks {I used about half an onion and a full trimmed leek}. Roast half a red pepper and one clove of garlic. Meanwhile, coarsely chop a large can of whole tomatoes; reserve liquid. When the onions and leeks are fully caramelized and the pepper and garlic are fully roasted, combine all ingredients, including the tomato liquid, in the pot {peel the garlic first}. Sprinkle with a dash of red pepper flakes and a dash of South African Smoke. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the flavors have blended well. 

I didn’t blend the soup using my immersion blender, but I bet it would be tasty as a smooth soup too! Add the smoke seasoning a little bit at a time- if you add too much, it ends up much too smokey, at least for my dainty palate 🙂

end of the week lunchbox meal

What do you get when you’re trying to clean out your fridge for Friday’s lunch because you know you’ll be eating out all weekend? A very random assortment of thrown-together sampler-sized dishes!

My friend is coming to Raleigh for his spring break…and St. Patty’s Day! I know we’re going to be grabbing dinner out {I need to introduce him to Raleigh Times pork nachos!}, as well as probably brunch and late night snacks 🙂

Sooo I was determined to clear out my fridge. Several things went into the freezer, several stayed put for next week, and most went into my motley lunch.

Cherry tomatoes and carrots with ranch dipping sauce

A mini marinated caprese salad

An Italian sausage sauteed with onions and peppers, drenched in Buffalo sauce, and served with potato wedges

A small cup of South African Smoke tomato leek soup {recipe to come!}


Wondering what this South African Smoke thing I keep referring to is? Another Trader Joe’s gem, just like 21 Seasoning Salute! It’s a very well-priced seasoning grinder that, according to the link, “begins with African-grown paprika that is slow-smoked for 48 hours over a sustainable African hardwood called Acacia Saligna, commonly used as barbecue coals. This process enriches the paprika with a smoky, roasted flavor that evokes the South African braai, or barbecue.” It also contains sea salt, garlic and basil.

Image credit

Photo credits 1, 2, 3, 4

on the menu for the week

After five days of being waited on hand and foot- including having multiple lobster tails delivered by my favorite waiter, Bling Bling- cooking doesn’t feel very appealing. But since I’m cheap and have to go back to my frugal ways, it’s a necessity. And I did just say how it always makes me happy!

So below is what’s on my menu for the week!

Rainbow Veggie Chili

Chicken and Ricotta Meatballs in Broth {via Martha Stewart}

Cabbage and Cilantro Soup

Cauliflower Pizza Crust with Toppings

Baked Cauliflower Poppers

P.S. Just a few hours after I got out of the car, I started feeling really sick. At least my body had the good sense to wait until vacation was over! The cabbage cilantro soup is a good sick food- it’s light on the stomach and the hot sauce clears out the sinuses!

recipe variations

Rumor has it that variety is the spice of life…and it certainly is the spice of cooking! So what easier way to infuse variety (both literally and figuratively) into your cooking than to make slight alterations to your go to recipes?

Here are a few easy swaps that I often make:

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Chicken: Prepared as outlined but served on a “bed” of mashed potatoes!

Mashed Potato Vegetable Pie: Swapped out feta, added grilled chicken and Garlic & Herbs Alouette Spreadable Cheese; added yellow squash in addition to zucchini

Creative Salad Mixes: Swapped out feta and Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinaigrette for Parmesan cheese and homemade Italian dressing

Spiced Tomato Chickpea Soup: Swapped out chickpeas for potatoes

Pizza Alternatives: Swapped out zucchini boats for green bell peppers or a gluten-free cauliflower crust {that I gotta try}

For more inspiration on versatile ingredients, check out my posts on quinoa bowls and tofu.

What are your recipe staples that you feel comfortable adjusting? 

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4 Continue reading