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Archive for February, 2010

Leeks…

…are truly delightful!  I had not cooked with them until, of course, I saw a recipe for them on RR.  Leeks are a type of onion that grow underground (of course) and push their way up.  Because they grow underground and have leaves, they are quite gritty and have to be washed very well before you cook with them.  In fact, let’s just have a little tutorial on how to deal with leeks. Trust me. You want to cook with them!

Ok. this is a leek:

Begin by chopping off each end:

Then, slice the leek straight down the middle:

Next, dice it up (I think this part is super fun because it is so easy to chop quickly!):

Finish the prep process by swirling the chopped leeks in a bowl of cold water. This is what actually gets them clean! Then, dump them in a colander to drain out a bit. Voila.  You are on your way to deliciousness.

So what can you cook with this tasty type of onion?  Well, we made bacon, leek, and tomato spaghetti, which is quite delicious.

Most recently, we made an oatmeal-crusted flounder with an awesome bacon-leek topping and balsamic drizzle.

So. Try something new! Go get some leeks!

*sc

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Breakfast…

…is one of our favorite meals each day.  It doesn’t matter if it is just a bowl of Special K on a weekday or pancakes on Saturday morning, we simply love starting our days with some sort of tasty food.  We recently started the tradition of Saturday Morning Breakfast (SMB) in which we cook something together on the weekends.  Thus far it has ranged from the simple old favorite of cinnamon rolls to the invention of a new pancake recipe.  It is a tradition we have both come to greatly look forward to throughout the week and hope to continue throughout our life together.

One of the first things we made was what I have deemed “random ingredient casserole.”  Sounds tasty and irresistible, I know…and we made it to help us clean out the fridge/freezer!  Geez…I am great at selling my recipe concoction ideas…anyway.  It actually is quite the tasty dish and it isn’t too bad for you–lots of protein and antioxidants in the spices.  It’s terribly simple to make, too.

For “random ingredient casserole” you need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, well drained
  • 1.5ish cups hash browns, cooked
  • oregano
  • basil

Simply brown up your hash browns, scramble the eggs, then mix everything together to heat it through. Done and done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We recently bought whole wheat flour and were excited to start subbing it into some familiar recipes, such as pancakes.  I would say that pancakes are probably our favorite breakfast to make.  I throw together the batter and Schatzi is an absolute pro at cooking them.  Pancakes are one of his specialties.  So, when we were deciding what we wanted to cook this morning, we decided upon whole wheat pancakes.  I found a starter recipe and we modified it just a tinge.  Heads up: cooks.com has a gazillion foolproof recipes.  I have tried several recipes from this site and they are all fantastic!

For some whole wheat pancakes you need:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. soda
  • dash salt

Simply mix your wet and dry ingredients separately.  Next, add the dry to the wet and mix.  Then, we added about a tsp. of fresh nutmeg and about a tbsp. of honey to the batter.  Don’t skip out on the nutmeg! Then, you are ready to cook them up.

Quite possibly the best part of this breakfast was the syrup.  I found this with another fantastic pancake recipe in Southern Living and we decided to use it again this morning.  Simply melt 1/3 cup butter and mix in 1/2 a cup of honey.  Don’t boil it, just heat it.  It is, hands down, the best topping you can put on a pancake, leaving our maple syrup crying in the pantry.  Sorry, syrup…

I daresay this recipe will be visited again, most likely sooner rather than later…

*sc

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Risotto…

…can be quite tricky to make correctly.  The first time I had risotto was in college, when my friend Maggie made it for me.  She simply threw together some white wine, chicken and stock, and rice.  I loved it, but the first several times I made it, the rice had a bit too much of a crunch to it.  It wasn’t until I saw the recipe for John’s Red Wine Risotto on RR that I learned I was making risotto incorrectly (3 years later!).

So, what exactly is the correct way to make risotto??? It is super-simple.  While your meat and vegetables are cooking, gently heat the chicken broth.  Saute the garlic and onions and add the arborio rice to toast it just a bit.  Then, add the wine and let it cook out until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add a ladle of  the warm stock and stir it frequently until the liquid is absorbed.  Repeat the process until the rice is creamy and tender.  Then, just toss in a little butter and your cheese.  Done!  Your risotto will cream right up with no crunch in sight.

This risotto is fantastic.  The rice itself is actually made with red wine for a change and is topped with a luscious combination of Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.  This was my first time cooking with the broccoli and it is delicious (it’s basically teeny tiny florets with a lot more spinach-like leaves)!  We actually couldn’t find it when we got groceries this week, but I stopped by fresh market and there it was.  I am quite glad we went for it instead of trying to replace it with plain broccoli.   The taste is a bit more mild and the texture blends better with the sausage and rice. And, when you cook it, it turns the most gorgeous shade of green.

Try it.  This is a fairly well-balanced meal and is incredibly delicious.  And besides, who doesn’t love risotto??

*sc

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…are hard to separate.  Think about it: when you’ve had a long day and it’s freezing outside, nothing beats coming home to a hot bowl of chicken and dumplings.  Or, after a fun day of sledding in the snow, fried chicken hits the spot like nothing else.

A few weeks ago, we were in the middle of said cold Winter weather.  I decided to surprise Schatzi with a dinner of fried chicken and biscuits.  It ended up being quite the delicious treat for both of us!

For my fried chicken you need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 cup flour, for dredging
  • a few tbsp. vegetable shortening

Start by soaking boneless, skinless chicken breasts in buttermilk for about 6 hours. Then,  season the chicken with some salt and pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, and paprika.  Finish prepping the chicken by dredging it in flour. Melted the shortening in a large skillet and, when it sizzles, drop the chicken in, cover it with a lid, and let each side cook for about 8 minutes.  The result is juicy chicken with a delicious crust.  And, with the addition of some sweet beer biscuits and spicy green beans, this makes for a perfect comfort food meal on a cold snowy weeknight!

Easy+super tasty=ultimate comfort food.

*sc

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Salmon…

…is definitely delicious.  We try to have fish at least once a week and salmon has definitely become our favorite.  In addition to the excellent taste, the fish is super nutritious and is actually really easy to cook with.  We even buy it frozen and it tastes great.  These two dishes are our absolute favorites (thus far) in salmon land: barbecued salmon with nectarine salsa and salmon with vodka cream sauce.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Barbecue and nectarines?  Fish and nectarines? Trust me.  It’s bliss:

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets
  • 3 tbsp. barbecue sauce
  • 2 nectarines, chopped
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • lemon wedges

Start by rinsing and drying the fish.  Season them up with a little salt and pepper, then brush them with the barbecue sauce on both sides.  Then, grill the salmon in a greased skillet until it flakes, turning it once.  What’s cool about salmon is that you can literally watch it cook!  As the fish progresses, it begins to turn opaque up the sides.  When the sides aren’t bright pink anymore, you’re good to go and the fillet is medium-rare.  While you’re letting the fish rest a few minutes, make the salsa by combining all the fruit with the pecans and 1 tbsp. of the barbecue sauce.  Throw that on top of the salmon, squeeze on a little lemon juice, and enjoy.  Bonus: this dish only has about 300 calories and is pretty filling. We served ours with some nice asparagus.

Literally, pretty as a picture.

We could almost eat this salmon with vodka cream sauce on a weekly basis. It is just that good.  You need:

  • 8 tbsp. butter
  • 1 thinly sliced onion
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach
  • 6 salmon fillets
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tbsp. crushed green peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives

Warning: green peppercorn, like any other spice these days, is an investment ingredient.  However, Schatzi and I ASSURE you that it is totally worth it!

Preheat your oven to 350.  Combine 4 tbsp. butter and the onion in an oven-safe pot and cover.  Bake until the onion is golden-brown, stirring occasionally (45ish minutes).  Keep a close eye on it! Then, stir in the spinach and continue baking until it is a bit wilted (about 3 minutes).  Take it out of the oven, but keep it warm.  Then, season your salmon fillets with a little salt and pepper and cook them in the oil in a skillet.  Put them on a plate and cover it with foil to keep warm and pour the oil out of the skillet.  This is where it gets oooooober tasty!  Add your cream and vodka to the skillet and boil until the mixture is slightly thickened (4ish minutes).  Then, add the rest of the butter and green peppercorns; heat this until the butter is melted. Mix in the lime. Then, just divide the spinach mixture into equal servings, top it with a fillet, and pour that luscious sauce over everything.  Sprinkle the chives on top of everything and make sure, as usual, to serve this with some crusty bread to mop up that sauce.  Trust me…you will practically want to drink the sauce!

So, go get some salmon.  If you buy it frozen, it is pretty affordable and, completely worth it!

*sc

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…really can be used to replace pasta!  A few weeks ago, we could not find pumpkin anywhere, but Schatzi found a mysterious spaghetti squash instead. Well, we finally used it and will be cooking with more!  They say spaghetti squash can be used instead of your traditional spaghetti pasta/noodle of choice.  We were a bit skeptical, but were quickly proved wrong.

I found a recipe by Emeril for spaghetti squash carbonara.  Our past experiences with carbonara were quite good, so I thought this would be a great way to go.  And, I was right!  Start by gathering the following ingredients together (always, always, always get your stuff together before you start cooking. It will make things so much easier!):

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. pepper (freshly cracked always works best!)
  • 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 pound bacon or pancetta (Italian bacon)
  • 1 tsp. minced shallot (we used one whole shallot)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic (we used 2-3 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. parsley

Ok. To start, cook the squash.  It’s simple!  After you cut it in half and scrape the seeds out (just like a pumpkin), place the squash flesh-side down in a huge baking dish that already has some salt and pepper in it.  Then, add enough water to come up about 1/4 inch on the squash.  Cover tightly and bake at 375 for 1-1 1/2 hours (until it is tender).  Then, just take a fork and shred the squash into a bowl and cover it to keep the squash warm.  When you scrape it out, it looks like this:

No, that is not angel hair pasta. It really is squash!

Next, brown up your bacon/pancetta.

When it is almost done/crispy, drain off the fat and toss in your shallot and garlic.  Saute until your kitchen smells like heaven and then add the wine.  Cook that until all the liquid has evaporated.

Then, take a bowl and whisk together the eggs,  cheese, parsley, and some salt and pepper.  Add this mixture to your bacon and let it warm, but not cook (scrambled eggs would not be a great addition to carbonara!).  Just keep the mixture moving over a lower heat and it will be great! Then, add in your squash and toss to get everything incorporated and warmed through.  Voila! Plate it up with some nice crusty bread.

I mean, really. Bacon, wine, garlic, onion…again, you can’t go wrong!

*sc

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Tastes like MEXICO…

…in a soup!  I made this salsa tortilla soup by Rachael Ray (Big Orange Book) for the Fab 4 when they came to visit in the blizzard.  The title of this post is actually inspired by their comments as they tasted dinner.  Heads up: if you don’t like spicy food, this is not the dish for you (poblanos can pack quite the punch). And, if you are cooking for a vegetarian, this soup is a great option.

For this spicy soup you need:

  • 3 poblano peppers
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 20 oz. frozen corn
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 15 oz. can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • sour cream, for topping
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Begin cooking by preheating your broiler and charring the poblanos until all sides have been blackened (10-12 minutes). Then, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When the peppers are cool enough to touch, go ahead and peel, seed, and chop them. To do this, slice off the top of the pepper (about 1/2 inch down) and make a vertical cut from top to bottom on the inside of the pepper and unfold it, like a book. This makes it super easy to peel the skin off and scrape the seeds out.

As the peppers are charring, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add your corn and cook until it begins to get some good color and a bit of char on it (10 minutes).

Next,  add the garlic and onion with some more salt and pepper. Cook the mixture until the onions are softened.  Then, mix in the tomatoes and cooked/chopped poblanos.  Let the mixture warm through for a few minutes.

Also, while the peppers are busy charring, dice up your tortillas and toss them in the olive oil; next, season them with the cumin. Then, spread them out on a baking sheet. When the poblanos are done in the broiler, switch  your oven to 400 degrees and bake the tortilla strips for about 10 minutes, then salt them. Divide the chips into four bowls along with the diced avocado.

Squeeze some lime over the avocado and chips. Then, pour on your soup and top it with some sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Mix up some margaritas and dive in!

*sc

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