Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Melissa's Heart and Home

I just found this lovely blog by a Marine pilot's wife. She has a passion and a flare for decorating. Go check out her beautiful blog and enter her grand giveaway!

Squash Harvest Soup

Right up front I am going to let you know that I am not a fan of winter squash. It doesn't cause my gag reflex to kick in or anything like that. It's just if given a choice I choose no thank you. But I was reading through my favorite foodie blogs and ran across this recipe. [In Praise of Leftovers (you will find the link on the right side of this blog) is a really lovely blog, so go check it out.] When I started reading through the recipe, it actually sounded appetizing. So, I thought, what the heck. I'll give it a whirl. Even if I didn't care for it, I knew my hubby would like it. He loves squash and it's always been a big disappointment to him that I rarely prepared it.

This is not exactly the same version as hers. As we all do with recipes, we tweak them to fit our needs, tastes and personality. This has been tweaked to fit me. You can check out both recipes, and add your own tweaks. So, here we go.

Ingredients

olive oil
1 kabocha squash
2 small butternut squash
2 small delicata squash
1 large apple cut into wedges
1 onion coarsely chopped
2 large whole carrots cut into sticks
6 large cloves garlic peeled
2 tsp. curry
1 tsp. garam masala
1 TBS. sugar
salt
5 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cream

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Halve squashes, remove seeds, brush with oil, place cut side down on old cookie sheets. Place the apple, onion, carrots, and garlic in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, the spices, sugar and salt. Place this mixture around the squash.

This is a kabocha, and I will explain how I handle it in a sec.

Place baking sheets in oven and roast until veggies are tender and slightly charred, about 1 1/2 hours.

OK, I couldn't halve the kabocha...too tough and big. after I did the first roasting, I threw the whole kabocha in the oven and roasted it until it was extremely soft.

Note. put something under it to catch the juice. I didn't and now have to clean the oven. Silly me.

Once everything has cooled, scrape the meat from the squash, and place it and all of the other roasted fruit and veggies in a large bowl. The kabocha will still have the seeds, so you will have to work around that. You won't need all of the meat from it, about 3-4 cups, so it's pretty easy to scoop around.

In batches puree the mixture in a blender adding part of the 5 cups of water as you go. As I finished pureeing each batch, I pushed it through a sieve to make it even smoother. If you have a chinois, you certainly want to use that.

Once everything is pureed and sieved (is that even a word?) and in a large pot, add the oj and cream, more salt to taste and water to thin to the desired consistency. Heat through, stirring occasionally so it doesn't scorch.

When you serve it you could lightly stir in some more cream.

Notes: This turned out better than I expected. It's a rich hearty soup that just smacks of fall. Be warned, though, this is a fairly labor intensive soup. But is makes a lovely starter for a dinner party, or just a nice supper soup served with biscuits. This made about 10 cups so I was able to share with my daughter's family. Nice way to say I love you. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Treat for My Family

It's 3 in the morning (before the clocks were set back) and the neighbor dog has been going non-stop. The people next door just got home and have finally taken him in...but, of course, now I am wide awake. Argh!

So, I thought I would take the time and post pictures from Ronan's (our grandson) first Halloween.



video

Ronan started copying us laughing and it was such great fun I had to capture it. This is the first video I have posted, so bare with the placement. I'll get it figured out eventually.

And I think we get to have him Sunday, overnight, and Monday. So that is really a sweet treat for us. We love that little monkey...and are spoiling him rotten. So...much...fun! The reward for parenthood!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Caldo Verde (Porteguese Soup)

Last Tuesday I had planned on making this wonderful soup. It was a drizzly, dreary day...perfect for soup. But the fates conspired against me. First, as I reviewed the recipes and began to check my ingredients, I found that I was out of chicken stock. OK, fine, I'll make some and blog how to cut up a chicken and make the stock. I prep the chicken, grab my camera, and...dead battery. At that point I decided to just make the stock Tuesday and the soup on Wednesday and call it good. And that's what I did. And I am just now getting around to posting the recipe. If you don't like it, reduce my pay. But first make the soup.

For this soup, I combined a couple of recipes from the two new soup cookbooks that I recently acquired, and added a few touches of my own. This is a spicy hearty soup that is guaranteed to stick to your ribs. And be sure to have a good crusty bread to soup up the broth with.

Ingredients

1 lb. chorizo
2-3 TBS. oil, butter or mix of the two
1 onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 large carrot chopped
3-4 cloves garlic minced or grated
6 cups chicken stock
4 medium red potatoes peeled and diced
1 14 1/2 oz. canned diced tomatoes with juice
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 TBS. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground sage
1/2 half small head cabbage shredded
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley chopped

If you purchase already cooked chorizo, sliced it and brown it. If you have uncooked, cook according to package directions and slice. I found Johnsonville chorizo, and it worked great. Remove from pan and set aside.


In a large pot heat the oil and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes and add the celery, carrots and garlic. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes. Add the sausage and heat for about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the next 5 ingredients. Heat to boiling, cover, and reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour. Add cabbage and salt and pepper. Simmer another 1/2 hour. Add the parsley just before serving. Yum, yum, and yum. Remember what I said about crusty bread.

Notes: This really is a perfect soup for a cold nasty day. It will certainly warm you up. I know this is a soup I am going to make frequently. I hope you will, too. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best-Ever Lemon Meringue Pie

This weekend we celebrated my eldest's son's 35 birthday. Whew! That makes me old. And, yes, Maureen, you and Matt are considered family. We really had a wonderful time with a burrito bar that my second son and his finance put together, a pub type trivia game (that was so fun!), and my hubby's famous pies. He is such a talented piemaker that he really puts me to shame. He made a traditional pumpkin pie and a lemon meringue. I offered to make the pumpkin. I mean, how hard is it to mix the ingredients in a bowl? But, no, he wanted to do both. Do you think he might have a trust issue there? So Saturday morning he was up at the crack of dawn making pies. Do you have any idea how soothing it is to wake up to those aromas? It was as if I had died and gone to heaven.

The recipe that we have used for lemon meringue pie for over 25 years comes from my favorite of the Farm Journal cookbooks, Farm Journal's Best-Ever Recipes. This is the cookbook that started the whole obsession with this series. It was given to us when we were living in a little hamlet in Colorado by my hubby's boss. And it has been one of my go to cookbooks ever since. I have found very few recipes that haven't been absolutely wonderful. So, ta-da, the pie.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 TBS. butter
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 baked 9-inch pie shell

Combine 1 1/2 cup, sugar, 1 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tsp. salt in saucepan; heat to boiling. Mix cornstarch and 1/3 cup water to make smooth paste. Gradually add to boiling mixture, stirring constantly. Cook until thick and clear. Remove from heat.

Beat together egg yolks and lemon juice; stir into mixture. Return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles again. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and lemon rind. Cover; cool to lukewarm.

Combine egg white and 1/4 tsp. salt in bowl; beat until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until glossy peaks form. Stir 2 rounded tablespoons of meringue into lukewarm filling. Pour into pie shell. Top with remaining meringue, spreading evenly.

Bake in 325 degree oven 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Notes: What makes my hubby's pies so scrumptious are his crusts. The secret is not to overwork the dough (which I always do). Hubby works at turbo speed in everything he does, and though this can be a bit irritating at times, it serves him well when making pie crust. And something we stumbled on to by accident, is using whole wheat flour for 1/4 of the flour required for the crust. We really like the results. Enjoy!



This is kind of a P.S. After he had finished the pies a recipe showed up on one of the blogs that I follow for Pumpkin Oat Scones. So I made a batch last night. They are yummy and healthy.
Go check out the recipe! Pumpkin Oat Scones.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Creamy Tomato Soup

Yesterday was long day at the hospital as my hubby underwent the last of the procedures required for a clinical trial of a new cancer drug. Let's just say it was not a fun-filled day. We had to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. and finally arrived back home at 2 p.m. That's when the good part of the day occurred! On my doorstep were the two new (slightly used) cookbooks I had ordered from Amazon's used booksellers. Considering I had just placed the order Sunday and they were already here was amazing! But, anyway, it sure cheered up our day.

The two cookbooks I purchased were The Big Book of Soups & Stews by Maryana Vollstedt and The Best Recipe Soups & Stews by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I have a method to my madness. I love eating and making good soups and stews. My hubby also loves them...maybe even more than I. My goal is to become accomplished enough in cooking them that I can offer soup and stew cooking classes, basics through advanced, through the community ed and parks and rec programs around here. Good idea, don't ya think? Anyway, both of these books have most of the basics for soup making in them as well as a multitude of recipes. This was also my thinking in registering for a soup cooking class at Sur La Table. Look out soups, here I come.

So, after a rough day of medical yuck, and the weather was rainy and blustery to add to the ickiness, what could be more comforting than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? I mean, really, isn't that what your mom made you when you had had a rough day? Only it was soup out of a can, right? And cheese from either the box or unwrapped slices. Well! Not for my honey. He needed excellent grilled cheese and tomato soup.

So I started pawing my way through the two books, combined a bit from both and created, sort of, this yumminess. Now, be forwarned, this much more work than opening a can or, nowadays, a box. But it was so worth the work!

Ingredients

5-6 medium tomatoes
1 26 oz. canned whole tomatoes
1 1/2 TBS. brown sugar
4 TBS. butter
1/4-1/2 finely chopped onion
1 TBS. tomato paste
pinch ground cloves or allspice
2 TBS flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. sugar
2 TBS. brandy or dry sherry
Salt to taste

Remove the skin of the fresh tomatoes by immersing in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then into cold water for a minute or so. Skins should easily slip off. Then slice in half, and remove seeds and core. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Drain canned tomatoes, saving the juice. Slice these tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in 450 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. When they are done, let them cool slightly and remove to a bowl.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions, tomato paste and cloves, and cook 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the flour stirring constantly to make a smooth paste. Let cook a few minutes to rid the paste of the flour taste. Slowly stir in the chicken broth, the juice from the tomatoes and the roasted tomatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. I just have a large round strainer with a fine mesh. I aspire to a chinois, but have to wait until my ship comes in.

Pour the tomatoes into a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to add some of the strained liquid to help this process out. I then mashed the puree through the stainer to increase the smooth texture. Pour back into the rinsed out saucepan and add the cream and sugar and heat through. Remove from heat and stir in the sherry and salt to taste. This can be saved for a couple of days in the fridge.

Notes: As I stated, this is a bit of work, but the rewards make it worth it. This is not the overly sweet soup that comes already made. It has a bit more of a tang which my hubby and I decided we liked. A bit more sugar could be added if you like yours sweeter. We also bumped up the traditional grilled cheese sandwiches a bit by making them with muenster and bacon on English muffin bread. After a tough day we were now thoroughly comforted. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cherry Tomato Saute

OK, here's the thing...I don't really care much for vegetables. I mean they are fine in soups, stew, casseroles, anything that has other cool ingredients for the veggies to rub elbows with. But as a stand alone side dish, not so much. Then on my quest for FJ cookbooks, I acquired one with the title Farm Journal's Best-Ever Vegetable Recipes. After perusing the recipes, the thought occurred to me that maybe I just needed more variety in my veggie cooking. What a revelation! So, my first post from that particular FJ cookbook is what my hubby calls a keeper. He told me I couldn't make it too often because he almost couldn't stop himself from devouring the entire bowl.

As I read over the original recipe I felt there were some changes that needed to be made to increase flavor. I exchanged grape tomatoes for the cherry. I also added zucchini and fennel. The original called for fennel seed, but I thought, "What the heck. Let's shoot the moon and use fennel bulb." Pretty brave of me since I have never worked with fennel at all. But ya gotta start somewhere.

Ingredients

2 TBS. butter
2 TBS. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 large cloves garlic grated
1/3 cup chopped fennel bulb
1 medium zucchini thick sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup parsley chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

In a saute pan melt butter with the oil. Add onion and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and fennel and cook another 5 minutes.

Add zucchini and cook and stir until slightly tender. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes until tomatoes are tender, but don't let the skins burst. When serving top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Notes:This really did have a tremendous amount of flavor. I think the next time I make it I will try more fennel. Since it was a new ingredient I decided to go light, but think it could definitely use a little bumping up. But other than that, it was delish and so easy. So, Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh, Those Farm Wives

I think in some ways I am a farm girl in a city girl body...at least when it comes to cooking. To me there is nothing more satisfying than a delicious hearty meal that sticks to the ribs, and is made with love and care. It's the kind of food I grew up on. Although I was raised in the city, all housewives seemed to prepare the same type of meals. I am now going to date myself...moms during my childhood were "June Cleaver", usually sans the pearls. Dinners were roasts, fried chicken, pork chops, meat loaf, stews...you get the picture. Fast food was just emerging, and was a treat, not a staple. And I don't even remember take out. As a teen, burger places were saved for date night. Now, homecooked meals are saved for special occasions. I find that somewhat sad.

With the kids all grown and out of the house, I miss cooking for a large group. Every now and then, I command them all home so that I can love them with my cooking. My meals are more Paula Deen than Iron Chef, although occasionally I try my hand at something "fancy". I have made Beouf Bourguignon (and that's really just a French stew). But I love good old fashion farm cooking.


That being said, I am rededicating this blog to the farmwives who made the Farm Journal cookbooks possible. And are giving me a plethora of cooking opportunities. Early last summer I started adding to FJ cookbooks to my collection. At this writing I have seven of them. And the majority of my postings will be those recipes. Those recipes that are decidedly dated I will tweak to give them a more updated presence, although I have found some that still are great as written. To be on the safe side, last spring I received permission to use their books as long as I credited them, which I have done in the past and will continue to do so. So, it's all good.

And because I do like making soups and stews, I will be posting those recipes, also. Heck, I have two new soup and stew cookbooks coming, thanks to Amazon used booksellers, and I most definitely have to put them to use.

So stay tuned for some hearty American cuisine that's sure to satisfy your palate and your belly. Isn't that what we all want?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beefy Mushroom Barley Soup

We are just about into soup weather here in the Pacific Northwest. Soon it will be rain, rain, and more rain..or, as we PNWer's like to refer to it, liquid sunshine. When it's cold and dark and dank out there is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of goodness. My hubby and I love soup. I try to make it as often as possible. But with only two of us at home these days, it takes us awhile to get through a pot. If, on the days I make soup, you can get here you're welcome to some.

Beefy Mushroom Barley Soup is my hubby's favorite, so it gets made often. We prefer it thick with lots of veggies and barley. I am utterly amazed when I read the back of a package of barley, or read some of the barley soup recipes out there and the recommendation is for 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup. I mean, really? What is the point of putting in the barley if you can't even find it in the soup!? So, I am no slouch when it comes to adding the barley...as you will see.

Ingredients

1 lb. stew beef (I had some top round that needed to be used) cut into small cubes
2 TBS. canola or vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 TBS. butter
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 stalks celery chopped
1 cup sliced baby carrots
1-2 cloves garlic minced or grated
1/2 to 1 lb. cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup red wine
3 qts. beef stock
1 cup barley
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in the bottom of a 6 qt. Dutch oven or soup pot. Season the cubed beef with salt and pepper and c00k in small batches until nicely caramelized. As the beef browns remove to a paper towel and drain.

Add 1 TBS. butter to the drippings. Saute the onion for about 4 or 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute for another 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook until tender. Then add the wine and the beef and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the stock. OK, here's a confession. Although I make my own chicken stock, I have yet to attempt making beef stock. And I don't like to spend the money on the boxed stocks. Happily, one day in Walmart, I happened on this little gem.

It really makes a nice rich broth. It is a little more spendy than bouillon cubes but more economical than the boxed stocks. I've been very pleased with the results using this product. I added 3 quarts of hot water and once the soup was boiling I added 4 1/2 TBS. of the paste. I stirred for a couple of minutes to make sure it dissolved properly. I then turned to heat to low and let simmer for about an hour.

After the soup has simmered add the barley and spices. Let cook on low for about 1/2 hour or until barley is tender. If it becomes thicker than you like just add a couple of cups of water. Serve with some yummy bread and you have a warm comforting meal on a cool fall day.

Notes:I have tinkered with this recipe for awhile, and this is the best I have come up with. It's filling and flavorful and reheats well...which is a good thing since we will be eating it for a few days! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Broccoli Souffle (And...I'm...Back!)

Yes, I know I have been gone for quite a while. I have reasons, I really do. First, I have an in-home tutoring business (I go to their homes), and summer is my busiest time. Second, when school started and the tutoring dropped off, I was scurrying to find some way to supplement my income. I spent hours running round trying to get paperwork together, fingerprints done, letters of reference from clients, so that I could (shudder) substitute teach. But with the unemployment situation the way it is, I have a suspicion that many other people had the same idea. As of this writing, I have yet to sub. Third, I have been working on a monkey quilt for my grandson. (It's coming along nicely, thank you.) So, I am now finding myself with a little time again, and since cooking and tutoring are my two passions, I turn back to the blog! My goal is to be more consistent in posting. Wish me luck.

This is another recipe from the Farm Journal cookbooks, and my hubby has been after me for months to try it. As I usually do I changed a couple of things. The original recipe called for American cheese. The only excuse I can come up with for that is until the last ten years or so, better cheeses were not readily available at the market. And I remember that when my mother would make a sauce for broccoli or cauliflower she would use Velveeta. At least Velveeta melts nicely...but American? I'm not sure what the thinking was on that one. So I substituted cheddar and Parmesan. Fontina and gueyre would also be delicious in this recipe. Frozen broccoli was also in the original recipe, but I used fresh and first cooked it in my steamer. Make sure it's undercooked.

Ingredients

3 TBS. butter
3 TBS. flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt (I use sea salt)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper (fresh ground)
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 small heads broccoli slightly cooked and chopped
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten (not meringue stiffness)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in saucepan; stir in flour. Cook this mixture for a few minutes to eliminate excess starchiness. Add milk, salt, garlic powder, and pepper: cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Add cheese; stir until melted. Fold in broccoli, onion and egg yolks. Gently fold in egg white. Pour into a buttered (I used a cooking spray) 2-qt. souffle dish. Set in shallow baking pan. Add hot water to pan to 1/2 inch depth. Bake 1 hour or until puffy or do what I did...insert a metal skewer and if it comes out clean it's done.



Notes: My souffle did not rise high and puffy over the top of the dish. I have two thoughts on that. 1. My dish was too big. When I make this again I am going to increase the ingredients. If I am not mistaken, I think the mixture should reach the top of the the dish and mine didn't even come close. But it was still yummy. 2. This had a lot of broccoli in it and that, too, may have inhibited it's rising. I welcome any suggestions as to how to make this more puffy. Hubby thought it was great as is, but I am going to continue to tweak it. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime...Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Easy Chicken Tetrazzini

Some time has past since I last posted, and for that I apologize. My life has gotten a bit in the way of my cooking and blogging. My job, where I actually make a living, picked up considerably and has really cut into my personal time, dang it! If I could cook and blog about it all day I would be one very happy old woman. But, alas, I have to make some money in order to cook the food. This may be one of those lessons in how to better organize my time. And I suppose sleep is highly overrated. So, I am going to try to do better...promise.

On to the food. I love the versatility of chicken. It probably adorns our plates at least 3 times a week. I mean, my gosh, it can be baked, fried, broiled, boiled, stir fried, used in soup, salads, casseroles, stews, and its bones used for stock. How good is that?! When whole chickens are on sale I always purchase at least 3. None of it ever goes to waste. I also keep packages of breasts and thighs on hand. I am positive there is more chicken in my freezer than any other type of meat. It even beats out ground beef! That being said, you will probably always see more chicken recipes on this blog than beef, pork or fish.

Now, the recipe. This chicken tetrazzini recipe is probably the best I have run across. It's easy, flavorful and creamy. I found it in the Farm Journal's Great Home Cooking in America. This cookbook is devoted to tracing many of the recipes we use today to our immigrant forefathers. This particular recipe, of course, is attributed to Italian immigrants, although I read somewhere that this really isn't an Italian dish. Oh, well, tastes great anyway. And it is really a great family friendly recipe. Kids even like this!

Ingredients

6 TBS. butter
6TBS. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 8 oz. can mushrooms (stems and pieces) you can certainly use fresh
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
12 oz. spaghetti cooked and drained(reserve 1/4 cup cooking water)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in 3 qt. saucepan. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Add half and half and chicken broth; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in chicken, mushrooms, and peppers. Toss gently with drained spaghetti and reserved cooking water. Turn into greased 3 qt. casserole dish. Top with cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes.


Notes: This could not be any more simple. It's a great mid week dish for a family meal. Add salad, veggie and bread and you are set. My hubby has been making tetrazzini for ever, using a specific recipe. I actually had him make this one and he declared it much better than the one he had been making. So there's an official endorsement. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

I'm not big on surprises. I like things planned. Surprises make me feel out of control. People coming by with only a little notice drives me crazy. I want my house in order and food planned. Don't call me and tell me you're coming by at a meal time with only a couple of hours notice. I want to be able to plan a wonderful meal for you. Let me know the day before and you will get gastronomical delights. Let me know a couple of hours before and you're likely to get a PB&J sandwich.

But there are some surprises I do like. The other day I thought I was only going to have my grandbaby for a couple hours and, because of a miscommunication, I had 6 hours with him. Delightful surprise!

And this soup turned out to be another delightful surprise! I will reveal the surprise in my notes.

This soup is creamy without being thick. It would be a great starter dish, fairly light and yet has just a hint of richness. I may be late coming to the table, but I had never really thought of cauliflower as being a main ingredient for a soup. But it works very nicely. Try it for yourself.


Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower broken into flowerets (2 1/2 cups)
2 cups water
1 TBS. butter
1 TBS. olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped
2 TBS. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half and half
2 cups packed grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a 3 quart saucepan over high heat bring cauliflower and water to a boil. Cover and simmer 4 minutes or until cauliflower is tender-crisp. Drain cauliflower, reserving 1 cup liquid.

In same saucepan over medium high heat, melt butter and oil. Cook onion about 10 minutes until very tender. Add peppers and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce and stir until thickened. Reduce heat. Stir in cauliflower, cheese and salt and pepper. If it is too thick use reserved liquid to thin to desired thickness. Cook until heated through. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika.


Notes: Ok, for the surprise. I wasn't that enamored of this soup when I first made it. It sat in the fridge for a couple of days before I reminded my hubby to take some in his lunch. He loved it! He raved about how flavorful it was without being thick. So, I heated up some to give it a second try. Surprise! It's better the second and third days. Aging serves it well. So, if you want this soup when you come to my house, give me a day's notice...no surprises. Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chocolate Molasses Cookies

My hubby has had a life long love affair with sugar. I swear if he were given the choice of a beautifully grilled steak or pie a la mode, he would choice the pie every time. We come from diametrically opposed eating worlds. When we go out to dinner, we have to alternate...appetizers or dessert. (We try to not to be over indulgent and have both.) I am the stuffed mushrooms; he is the mud pie. I am the artichoke/spinach dip; he is the fudge brownie sundae. I am the jalapeno poppers; he is the fried ice cream. The one time I will make an exception and choose dessert over appetizer is if creme brulee is on the menu. And hubby bakes a killer cherry pie (my favorite!) that I will choose over everything.

And this all works out nicely for us since I don't really like to bake. Too much precision is required. Hubby prefers not to cook other than grill, but he loves to bake. Match made in heaven. So when he is craving something sweet (which seems to be daily), I just tell him he knows what to do about it. So this recipe is his doing. Lucky for him, in my quest for old Farm Journal cookbooks, I found the Farm Journal Cookies cookbook. Now he makes a little piece of his heaven whenever he chooses. This cookie is his maiden voyage into the cookbook. Happy travels, babe!

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate pieces

Heat butter and molasses. Add brown sugar; sti
r over low heat until sugar is melted. Cool. Beat egg until light. Add to cooled molasses mixture. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Add with chocolate pieces to molasses mixture. Mix well. Spread in greased 13 X 9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. When cool dust with powdered sugar and cut into bars.


Notes: I am not big on overly sweet treats. These are perfect. The molasses/chocolate combination is lovely. And, I say, any time you can make cookies in one pan and and only have the oven on for 20 minutes, great! But you may want to make 2 pans of these yummies. Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pasta and Bean Soup

When I was first contemplating on what to title this blog, I didn't realize the economy was going to tank as it did. Luckily, I haven't noticed a mass opening of soup kitchens in the recent months as they did during the great depression...thank goodness. I really entitled this KB's Soup Kitchen because, guess what, I love soup. I love everything about it. I love creating it. I love the aromas wafting through the house on a chilly dismal day. I love making a meal in one pot. I love parking my body on the couch in front of the TV with a big hot mug of fresh made soup. And, let's face it, it's a great way to stretch a buck.

Wednesday was a dark and drizzly day...perfect for soup. So I pulled out one of my Farm Journal cookbooks and started looking for soup recipes. This particular one reminded me of a country version of Pasta Y Fagioli. I made a few tweaks and these are the results. Let's just say it was all gone by the end of the day.

Ingredients

6 slices of bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic minced, grated, or pressed
1 cup baby carrots sliced or chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 1 lb. cans white beans undrained
1 1 lb. can diced tomatoes undrained
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
more chicken broth as needed
1 cup small pasta

Cut the bacon into very small pieces. Fry it up in a large pot (I like to use my Dutch oven for this). Remove to paper towel.

Add the onion, celery, and garlic to the bacon renderings. Saute over medium low heat for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the carrots to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Deglaze the pot with the wine. You can also use chicken broth if you prefer. Add the 1 cup of chicken broth, beans, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Heat to boiling, cover, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove about 2 cups of the soup and puree. Add back to the soup.

Add as much chicken broth as is necessary to cook the pasta. Add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is tender. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Notes: My hubby said this was the best soup I had ever made. My daughter who was here that day hit the pot 3 times. Next time I will double this. And you can certainly use dry beans for this...1 cup for this recipe. If I do say so myself, this was pretty darn good. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lists! Lists! Lists!

My hubby is big on lists. He always has some sort of "to do" list going. And always, as he completes a task, crosses it off. And always, as he completes one list he begins another. It is ongoing, consistent, predictable, and endearing. And he completes almost everything he sets out to complete.

Then there's me. I am a huge disappointment in the list area. I've tried. I really have. But, alas, I am a dismal failure in the land of the lists...at least "to do" lists. I get things done, honest...just in my own time and when I think about it. And where my hubby does things in a linear fashion, I attack life from many directions. Some days I finish many things. Other days I finish none. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may be slightly ADD. But it's OK. I think it suits me.


In saying all that, there are lists I do make and do like. I make grocery lists, wish lists, lists of goals for my students, guest lists, and so on. So, on occasion I will blog lists. These kinds of lists are fun, and get my puny little brain just a little more organized.


My inaugural list is a list of the 10 ingredients I always have in my kitchen. Having these items in the pantry makes it possible to always be able to throw together a main dish. These are just basic things, nothing fancy or expensive. But to me, essential.


The order in which the items appear does not denote any level of importance. Essential means just that...and I don't think you can quantify how essential something is. It either is essential or it's not.

My 10 Essential Ingredients for Cooking





1. Stocks







2. Canned tomato products






3. Onion







4. Garlic











5. Parsley






6. Pastas








7. Rice







8. Beans







9. Red Bell Peppers









10. Cheeses



These are very simple, but with them on hand, I feel like I am ready for anything. What's on your list?