Monday, July 23, 2012

Alive, just not cooking much

For anyone who may have noticed, there hasn't been a whole lot of action around here. Sorry if you've missed things. There's been a serious illness in the family, my kids have been a wreck, computer troubles, I've been feeling the need to stay on the same wavelength with my husband and we're expecting a baby girl any day now. I've not had a whole lot of motivation in the cooking department and recording anything that has been turned out is a feat I just haven't managed over the last several months. :( I wish I was one of those bloggers who can just keep things going and work ahead on posts for when the baby comes but I guess I just require too much sleep. On the bright side, we just had a brand new grocery store open just a mile down the street (after a wait of almost seven years!) and it's really fun and fancy. They have an olive bar and a specialty cheese station. Hooray! Hopefully, I'll get back in the saddle here after things calm down a bit more but I'm going to aim at checking in more frequently than I have been and maybe sharing some of the things we do eat when life gets so crazy. A quick idea I'll share with you from picking up easy things at the new grocery store was Fake-out Pasta Puttanesca and Quick Chicken Parmesan For the Pasta: 1 jar favorite pasta sauce (I just used a marinara) 1/2 cup assorted olives pitted and sliced (I just grabbed some from the olive bar) 2 tablespoons capers, drained 1-2 anchovy fillets (or about 1 tablespoon anchovy paste) optional Red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon or a packet that comes with take out pizza : ) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 pound favorite pasta, cooked (I used angel hair because is cooks fast) Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese to taste Directions: in a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Add olives, capers, anchovy fillets or paste (if using)and red pepper flakes and stir frequently until fragrant and anchovies have melted into the oil. Add pasta sauce and heat through, stirring occasionally. Serve over hot cooked pasta and top with shredded Parmesan cheese. Quick Chicken Parmesan 1 pound breaded chicken tenders from the deli 1/2-1 cup pasta sauce (can use some of sauce above or plain jarred sauce) 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 2 tablespoons shredded or grated Parmesan cheese Directions: heat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken tenders on baking sheet (for faster clean up, line baking sheet with tin foil first). If chicken is cold, heat in oven until warmed through turning over half way through. Once chicken is hot, top each tender with a spoonful of sauce and sprinkle shredded cheeses over top. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with hot cooked pasta and remaining sauce (warmed first, of course). Thanks for bearing with me. Xoxo, Lauren

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mini Corn Dog Muffins

 All the goodness of the State Fair, wrapped up in a neat little package.  Nowhere near the mess of making actual corn dogs at home and kid (and mommy)-pleasing to boot!  These would make a great party food (or game food--Final Four games this weekend, how many brackets are totally busted?), but are equally appropriate at lunchtime.  Since the leftovers reheat quite nicely, they may even work for both purposes.  

Mini Corn Dog Muffins
1 recipe My Favorite Cornbread batter (see below)
1 package favorite hot dogs (I used Hebrew National Brand reduced fat hot dogs)
cooking spray
ketchup and mustard for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.  Prepare corn bread batter according to directions below.  Cut hot dogs into 1"-2" pieces (I cut each Hebrew National hot dog into 4-5 pieces).  Spoon about 1 tablespoon cornbread batter into each muffin cup.  Press hot dog piece into each muffin cup until completely covered by the batter.  Repeat until all muffin cups are full.  Bake at 400 for 15-17 minutes or until mini corn dog muffins are golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.  Dip in ketchup and mustard.

Variation: You can also make full size corn dog muffins, just place 3 hot dog pieces into each regular muffin cup and bake for 18-20 minutes or until corn dog muffins are golden brown.
My Favorite Cornbread Recipe (adapted from Betty Crocker)
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat milk and egg in a large bowl with a beater.  Stir in melted butter and stir into wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Use batter for corn dog muffins as above (or for regular cornbread, bake in a cast iron skillet or baking dish with extra melted butter in the bottom at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean). 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

In the past couple of weeks, I think I've learned a valuable lesson.  I come to realize it's best to avoid saying such phrases as "I feel like things are finally settling down" or "As soon as we get through this, I'll really be more on top of things."  Silly me, this week has been one big reminder that we are not in control.  And so the craziness continues.

That said, I felt like I couldn't delay any longer in sharing this recipe.  I ate so many of these onion rings that I had no room for any of the other items on my plate and kept eating even after I got stomach ache from being so full.  They were perfect crispy-crunchy thick-cut onion rings that my husband, a self-proclaimed onion ring-lover, declared some of the very best he'd ever had.  And, he pointed out, they don't have that distinctly fried aftertaste that a lot of onion rings have.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
30 saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips (I used reduced fat Ruffles brand and they worked great)
2 large yellow onions, cut into large rings
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Adjust the oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450 degrees. 

Place 1/4 cup of the flour and corn starch in a shallow baking dish or pie plate.  Beat the egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl.  Whisk the remaining flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper into the buttermilk mixture.  Pulse the saltines and chips together in a food processor until finely ground (or just place in a gallon-sized freezer zipper bag and pound the heck out of them).  Place crumb mixture in a separate baking dish.

Working one at a time, dredge each onion ring in the flour-cornstarch mixture, shaking off the excess.  Dip in the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, then drop in the crumb coating, turning the ring over to coat evenly.  Transfer to a large place. (At this point, the onion rings can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour.  If you refrigerate them, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking).

Pour 3 tablespoons of the oil on each of two rimmed baking sheets.  Place in the oven and heat until just smoking, about 8 minutes.  Carefully tilt the heated sheets to coat evenly with the oil, then arrange the onion rings on the sheets.  Bake, flipping the onion rings over and watching and rotating the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes.  Briefly drain the onion rings on paper towels.  Serve immediately. 

*If you do not have buttermilk, an easy substitute can be made.  Just mix together slightly less than 1/2 cup milk with 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar.  Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes and stir before using. 
Recipe slightly adapted from: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2011

Monday, March 5, 2012

Baked Kale Chips

Some people may try to tell you that these are a great substitute for potato chips.  Much like the baked doughnuts recipe I found on Pinterest is no substitute for Krispy Kreme, these are should not be compared to potato chips in my book.  That said, unlike the baked doughnuts (really, how can you beat a Krispy Kreme doughnut when they hand you one hot off the conveyor belt?), I might actually like Kale Chips better than their potato counterparts.  You heard me right.  Kale chips are tasty and crazily addictive. 

We all need to find more opportunities to get more produce in our diet and I've been especially aware of that lately.  Even though in "real life" (read: not pregnant) I eat more (and enjoy!) broccoli and spinach than most everyone I know, "Pregnant Me" has a hard time stomaching the thought of green things.  I know a lot of people who feel that way all the time, so I can feel their pain in the struggle to "eat our veggies."

Thankfully, these kale chips have been a really great way to get some of those vegetable servings in.  I actually even have to fight my two munchkins for them.  It's a good thing they're so fast and easy to make.

A quick word to the wise, though.  Make sure to check your teeth before leaving the house after eating.  I'm just saying...

Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove kale leaves from stems and tear into bite sized pieces.  Wash and dry thoroughly (this is a place where a salad spinner really comes in handy).  Drizzle kale pieces with olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly.  Spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet (using two if necessary).  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake until the edges begin to brown and kale becomes crisp but not burnt (10-15 minutes). 

Approved by these two Yahoos.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New England Style Clam Chowder

Although I have always harbored a secret appreciation for Clam Chowder (and only the creamy New England style where the funny-looking clam pieces are hidden in a wonderfully rich and comforting broth filled with tender chunks of potatoes), I had never attempted to make such an intimidating sounding soup.

I've never gotten to enjoy it on Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco nor actually tasted it in authentic New England.  That said, I actually really liked the canned version and I have had it in a bread bowl at Disneyland and California Adventure theme park, so that's a pretty authentic experience right there. totally kidding. 

I was inspired to try my hand at making my own when the Superbowl came around.  I had really clever ideas of making New England (Patriots) Clam Chowder and then something New York-esque (pizza? bagels? coneys?  I didn't get that far).  Although I wasn't so on top of things then, I felt this recipe was still share-worthy.  It's still pretty wintery outside and now, being in the beginning of Lent and seafood specials abounding, perhaps there is an interest in some meat-free recipes? 

In making this soup, I also discovered something extremely interesting (strange).  Both of my boys could not get enough of the chopped clams.  Right from the can.  They were going to town on them and practically downed a whole can before I could stop them.  Who knew?  I'm not sure I recommend their favorite way to enjoy clams, but I whole-heartedly endorse this recipe. 

Serve with the accompanying recipe for sourdough croutons or be really authentic and pick up some bread bowls (you can definitely find them available at Panera Bread Company). 

New England Style Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 (6 oz) cans chopped clams in juice (I ended up with less because of my two little clam-addicts)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly indulgent)
2 bay leaves
1 pound potatoes (Russet for a softer texture, red potatoes for a firmer texture)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch, if needed
2-3 additional tablespoons half and half, if needed

Sourdough Croutons
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 cups 1" cubes of sourdough bread
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until softened, stirring often.  Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the stock and clam juice (reserve clams for later), bay leaves and potatoes.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly (the mixture will thicken), then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).  Stir in the clams and half and half and gently reheat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If soup is not thick enough, whisk together cornstarch and remaining half and half and stir into soup.  Stir until thickened.  Serve immediately, garnished with sourdough croutons or in a bread bowl! : )

For Croutons:
Melt butter in a large skillet.  Toss bread cubes in butter until brown and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. 

Recipe slightly adapted from: Food Network's Dave Lieberman

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chili's Copycat Salsa

I am sure I have previously mentioned the fact that my husband is a salsa addict.  The man cannot get enough of the stuff and gets a little um, concerned when we happen to be out of it.  I, personally, am a salsa snob, but when it's good, I prefer more salsa than chip.  One salsa we can both agree on is the salsa from Chili's restaurant (which we especially enjoy on "Kids Eat Free Night" where we sit in the bar area during Happy Hour specifically because of the free chips and salsa...we're such cheapskates...). 

Since we don't eat out that often, and salsa is a staple in our house as well, I was pretty excited when I saw how easy the salsa could be to recreate at home.  I was even more excited/surprised to see how great of a salsa can come from canned tomatoes.  Knowing how much salsa we can go through, I have a feeling this will be in our regular rotation.

Chili's Copycat Salsa
2 cans whole or diced tomatoes, well-drained
1/4 cup white onion, cut into small chunks
1/2-1 small (4oz) can diced jalapenos (I went closer to half and it had a nice kick)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon coarse salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional, Chili's doesn't actually put cilantro in but I love the green color and fresh taste it adds)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend or pulse until mixture is almost smooth.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.  Serve with tortilla chips. 
Recipe slightly adapted from: Six Sisters' Stuff

Thursday, February 9, 2012

P.F. Chang's Style Lettuce Wraps--Healthy Style

Confession: as I think of it, I'm trying to remember if I've even had P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps.  After trying this recipe and now knowing I can make a healthier version so quickly and easily, I'm not sure I ever will feel the need.  I am so excited about these, my mouth is watering and I am thinking about how quickly I can make them again. 

I have even bought a new can of water chestnuts (which happen to be one of the grand total of two foods my husband rejects--along with bamboo shoots of all things--and even he loved them!) in anticipation of my next batch.  Please don't omit the water chestnuts either, they just add the perfect crunch to this light, crispy, crunchy, savory dish.  

Seriously, I think these might be my new favorite food.   

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2-3

1lb ground chicken breast (or 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks and finely chopped in a food processor)
1/2 medium onion, minced
salt & pepper, a dash of each
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (or more if you like it hotter)
dash of fresh pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2-8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10-12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high. Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

2. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. Add into the skillet and stir to combine.

3 Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1-2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.

4. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and serve with cold lettuce leaves.  Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap lettuce around chicken

Recipe Source: Iowa Girl Eats

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

If you check things out on this blog with any regularity, you may have notice that there has not been as much frequency in the posting these last couple months.  I am sorry.  I do have a good reason, though.  We are expecting Baby #3 in early August and I had been feeling so yucky there hadn't been a whole lotta cooking round these parts.  It's pretty hard to share recipes when I've been mostly subsisting off of things like envelops of Instant Noodle Soup (and then freaking out about how much MSG I might be putting into my unborn baby) and Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.  Also, the thought of revisiting anything I had cooked long enough to blog about it made me so nauseous that I couldn't bear the thought.

Anyway, I do believe I have turned the Morning Sickness corner and I am starting to be excited about food again.  I am also starting to indulge in those wonderful Pregnancy Cravings (which really is pretty fun because it's one of the few times in my life my husband is willing to detour just about anywhere to pick me something up--and I actually feel okay about it).  So far, this baby really, really likes Blue Cheese (yes, I'm making sure it's the pasteurized kind), especially on old school-style wedges of iceberg lettuce with bacon bits and diced tomatoes.

One of blue cheese's natural pairings is of course, Buffalo Wings, and once I saw the recipe for this dip, I knew we had to try it out for our Super Bowl viewing (don't worry, ranch dressing lovers, there is a non-blue cheese variation too).  I am sorry I didn't have my act together enough to share this in time for the Big Game, however, even though football season has come and gone, this dip was such a fan favorite, it will surely be sticking around.  Everyone in our house (even my two young boys who thought it was a little bit spicy but not so much that they didn't eat tons of it) is very excited that we still have all the ingredients to make another batch very, very soon.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced-fat)
1/2 cup bottled ranch dressing
1/2 cup Franks Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 cans (12.5 oz each) chicken breast chunks, drained (and I pick through for any "icky bits")
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles or shredded mozzarella cheese
thinly sliced green onions for garnish, optional
crackers and or cut vegetables for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together softened cream cheese, ranch dressing and Wing Sauce until smooth.  Stir in chicken and cheese.  Spoon into a baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.  Garnish as desired.  Serve warm with crackers and vegetables.

Note: The recipe can easily be halved, but why would you want to?  I was also thinking if there were leftovers, the dip would make a great filling for a wrap or Buffalo Chicken taquitos.

Recipe Source: Kraft Foods

Monday, January 30, 2012

Perfect Lemon Bars

I have heard it said when it comes to desserts, "People are either chocolate or lemon lovers."  Personally, as someone who is generally hard pressed to turn down either, I can't authenticate these claims, but might have to venture that even those who fall into the chocolate camp might be won over to lemon (if even just temporarily) with these lemon bars.

I hesitate to use "Perfect" when it comes to describing most things, but seeing as that's the original name and the result was pretty impressive, I'll keep the name.  And, having tried (and failed on) multiple versions of lemon bars, I am excited to say that these are by far the most luxurious and lovely I've ever come across.

I will note that the source, Cook's Illustrated, stresses that the lemon filling should be added to the crust when it's still warm and seeing as they test their recipes like, 989 times before publishing them, I would certainly listen to that advice!

Perfect Lemon Bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar (plus more for decorating tops)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1" pieces, plus more for greasing the pan

Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest, from 2 large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice from 3-4 large lemons, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 salt


  1. 1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
  2. 2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, following illustration 2, press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  3. 3. For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.
  4. 4. To finish the bars: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Following illustrations 3 and 4, below, transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. Sieve confectioners’ sugar over bars, if desired.
    Bars can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days.

    Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Garden Vegetable Soup

Due to a very welcome distraction from real life (our most dear friends were in town visiting), I am extending "Soup Week" just a bit.  Soup or no soup, I felt like this had to be included in the month of January.  I don't know how many of us have already fallen off of our New Years' Resolutions already, but knowing that common ones are to eat healthier and add more vegetables to our diet, this soup might be the perfect remedy.

It's actually a spin on the Weight Watchers Zero Point Vegetable Soup recipe, which although I've not done Weight Watchers, I know that Zero Points means you can eat as much as you want and not feel guilty.

Make up a big pot (the recipe is huge!) of this soup and enjoy healthy lunches all week long or freeze in individual portions for a quick reheat.  Resolution or no resolution, this one will have you feeling good.  

Garden Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced (optional)
2 stalks celery, diced
6 cups vegetable juice (V-8 reduced sodium recommended brand)
6 cups beef (or vegetable) broth
1 large red potato, scrubbed and diced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/2 cup pearled barley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small head of cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds) roughly chopped
1/2 pound frozen cut green beans
1 head kale, leaves washed stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces (optional)
1 large zucchini, cut into half moons (optional)

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Saute garlic, onion, carrots and parsnip (if using) until vegetables begin to soften.  Add in celery, vegetable juice, broth, potato, mushrooms, barley and thyme.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer until potato and barley are tender.  Stir in cabbage, green beans, kale and zucchini (if using) and cook an additional five minutes or until cabbage and zucchini are tender.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed.

Adapted from: A Veggie Venture

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Garlic-Potato Soup

I am officially declaring this "Soup Week."  The Discovery Channel has "Shark Week," think of it like that--only more delicious.  

January feels like the right time for such a thing as "Soup Week" since right about now we long for cozy foods.  And speaking of cozy, I think this soup might just be the big comfy sweater of soups.  It is thick and comforting, hearty but not overwhelming.  The garlic is not at all overpowering but instead lends a complex and deeply layered flavor to this potato soup.  

 I made the vegetarian version of this recipe but I can't wait to try it again with the chicken broth variation as the recipe's source (Cook's Illustrated, one of my most favorite recipe resources!) says that it is even more delicious made with chicken broth (hard to imagine for as much as we liked the vegetarian version).  I might also be tempted to top a non-vegetarian version of this soup with some cheese and bacon bits and turn it into a baked potato soup but the garlic chips and chives are a lovely garnish as well!
Garlic-Potato Soup (with make ahead variation)

Soup Base
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 medium leek , white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and chopped small (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 heads garlic , rinsed, papery skins removed and top third of heads cut off and discarded
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 pound Red Bliss potatoes (unpeeled), cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups

For Reheating Soup
1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh chives

Garlic Chips
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic , sliced thin lengthwise
table salt

1. TO MAKE SOUP BASE: Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add leeks and cook until soft (do not brown), 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic heads, 6 cups broth, bay leaves, and 3/4 teaspoon salt; partially cover pot and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is very tender when pierced with tip of knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Add potatoes, partially cover pot, and bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat. Take pot off heat and let rest 10 minutes. Separate soup into 2 storage containers and freeze up to 1 month.

  1. 2. TO REHEAT AND SERVE: Run hot water over surface of storage containers to help release frozen blocks of soup. Add soup and 1 cup broth to large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup is hot and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Remove garlic heads; using tongs or paper towels, squeeze garlic heads at root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using fork, mash garlic to smooth paste in bowl.
  2. 3. Stir cream, thyme, and half of mashed garlic into soup; heat soup until hot, about 2 minutes. Taste soup; add remaining garlic paste if desired. Using immersion blender, process soup until creamy, with some potato chunks remaining. Alternatively, transfer 1 1/2 cups potatoes and 1 cup broth to blender or food processor and process until smooth. (Process more potatoes for thicker consistency.) Return puree to pot and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling each portion with chives and garlic chips.
  3. For Garlic Chips
    Heat oil and garlic in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels; discard oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

    Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Wild Rice Soup: reprised

This is not the first time this recipe has been posted.  Back in October of 2010, this Chicken Wild Rice Soup made an appearance on The Open Fridge.  It's being re-featured for a few reasons:

The recipe was requested quite a bit when I served it at my book club this past weekend.  When I host, I really like to tie the food to the themes of the book and the book we read, These Granite Islands by Sarah Stonich, takes place in Northern Minnesota during the 1930's and what is more Minnesotan than wild rice soup?  Nothing, I tell you, nothing.  Well, except maybe hot dish with three different kinds of canned "Cream of ... Soups" or bars for dessert--which I also served, so there). 

In this updated version, I've included a Gluten-free variation (see below). 

It is one of my all-time favorites and deserves another day in the sun.  

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
2 cups cooked wild rice (cook according to package directions or can substitute a boxed rice mix)
3 tablespoons butter 
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 tablespoons all purpose flour 
1 cup finely chopped ham
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
 salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream or canned evaporated milk)

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots and celery, season with pepper and garlic powder and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and vegetables are becoming tender (3-5 minutes).  

Add ham and flour.  It will "seize up" into a mass.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly for another couple of minutes to remove the raw taste from the flour.  

After about 2 minutes, slowly stir in chicken broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the flour-vegetable mixture is smoothly incorporated into the broth.  

Raise heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cooked rice and chicken.  Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender.  Shortly before serving, stir in half and half or cream and allow to gently heat through without boiling.  Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

The quantities are easily doubled to make soup for a crowd or you can divide it in half and freeze a portion to be available another time.  

This is definitely not the super-thick version that you may have come across at restaurants or hanging out in kettles at supermarkets.  If you want something closer to that, increase the flour and butter significantly--maybe 1/2 cup each?--and make sure to stir constantly when you are bringing the soup to a boil (almost like you're making a white sauce) and use the heavy cream in place of the half and half.  Whoa, it'll be rich! 

For a Gluten-Free variation: Omit the flour and just sauté the vegetables and ham mixture until vegetables start to become tender.  Stir in broth and continue as directed above until step of adding half and half.  In a small bowl, place 2-3 tablespoons corn starch.  Whisk in a small amount of half and half until you have a smooth mixture.  Stir into the soup to thicken slightly and add remaining half and half.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Creamy Edamame Dip

Last weekend, we got to go over to my in-laws' house for a big Sunday dinner to visit with some relatives that were visiting from out of town.  Another cousin who lives in the area and his girlfriend came over as well.  As they pulled up, we remembered that they were vegetarians coming into a menu of roast beef and scalloped potatoes.  Uh oh.  Luckily, they came prepared with some of their own food to round out the sides and one of the things they brought was edamame dip.

This might be one that could get some turned up noses at first glance--edamame?  Dip?  If you give it a chance, however, you will find a deliciously satisfying dip that everyone in my household (big and small) couldn't get enough of.  I liked it so much I ate it on crackers in lieu of dessert that day, went out and made my own version the next day and it was a happy part of both of my sons' lunches the following day.

Just to clarify, edamame are green soy beans that are often found in the shell in Japanese restaurants as an appetizer.  They're high in protein and are a great snack or addition to a salad in themselves but this dip takes them to a whole other level.  The texture is similar to hummus but the flavor is faintly Asian with hints of the teriyaki sauce that adds a savory punch.

Serve it with crackers, pita bread or cut veggies.

Creamy Edamame Dip
1 (10 oz) bag frozen, shelled edamame
2 tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or more as needed)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
1/2-1 whole jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed and chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 small fresh garlic clove, smashed
salt and black pepper to taste

Cook shelled edamame in the microwave according to package directions until tender.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients, including the edamame and blend on medium high speed until mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides and adjust for taste as needed.  If mixture is particularly thick and having trouble blending, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water (or additional olive oil) as needed

Recipe inspired by cousin Ryan V.  : )

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein

This blog has been a rather dormant place lately. Between the holidays and other recent craziness, I have not been doing much cooking.  With a new week starting, I am resolving to get back to cooking and hopefully, sharing what we've been eating.  May I also take this opportunity to wish you a belated New Year!

Tonight it was Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein.  I have to admit that Chinese food is not my favorite of the Asian cuisines.  That said, two of my favorite Chinese dishes would have to be Beef with Broccoli and Lo Mein.  I was pretty intrigued when looking for a use for some flank steak (a surprisingly delicious, relatively economical cut), I came across a Cooking Light recipe that combined the two into a super-power entree.  It did not disappoint and there were no leftovers.

Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein
serves about 4
4 cups hot cooked linguini (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or other neutral vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed and cut across the grain into about 2" long, thin strips
salt and pepper
1/4 cup beef or chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon chile paste with garlic

1.  Combine pasta and sesame oil, tossing well to coat; set aside.
2. Stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce and chile garlic paste together in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ginger and garlic, sauté about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add broccoli and onion, sauté 2 minutes.  Pour beef broth over broccoli mixture, turn heat to high and allow to cook until the broth is almost evaporated and broccoli is crisp-tender.
Remove from pan and set aside.  Heat remaining tablespoon of oil over high heat until shimmering.  Generously pepper steak slices and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Cook steak in a single layer about 3-5 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.  Return broccoli mixture to pan and top with cooked pasta.  Pour sauce mixture over top of pasta and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly.

Recipe adapted from The Best of Cooking Light