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Archive for December, 2010

Minestrone…

…has been on my list of must-tries for awhile, particularly since it is Winter and my mother and sister-in-law are vegetarians.  Minestrone, I am told, is an absolute must-have for the cold of Winter and is actually a great idea for a regular staple in the vegetarian diet, as it is warm, comforting, and hearty.

For Rachael Ray’s Must-Have Minestrone you need:

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, 3/4 chopped, 1/4 finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
  • 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped/chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • Parmigiano-reggiano, for topping
  • Toasted bread, for serving

Heat a large pot over medium heat with the oil.  Add 3/4 chopped onion, the garlic, carrots, celery, and bay leaf to the oil.  Season the veggies with the oregano, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Saute the mixture for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the beans, rosemary, and a bit more salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture smells a bit sweet.  Pour in the wine, cook it down for a minute, then mix in the stock and 2 cups water.  Wilt in the kale and bring the mixture to a bubble.  Toss in the pasta and cook to al dente, about 8 minutes.

Serve a bowlful of soup topped with a bit of oil, the raw onion,  and some cheese.  Make sure to serve some bread alongside to mop up the delicious broth!

I can’t wait to make this for Schatzi’s family–it is delicious!  And, while it is quite hearty, it was a nice break from all the heavy holiday eating we did last week.  Whip up a big bowl of minestrone for your family this week to ward off the cold.

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…are a new Christmas morning tradition for my family, a tradition that we decided to start this year.  Mom had found a recipe for cinnamon-pecan rolls and we whipped up a batch for a delicious holiday treat.

For homemade cinnamon rolls you need:

  • 1 cup chopped/toasted pecans
  • 1 16-oz. package of hot roll mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Begin by making the hot roll mix according to the package directions.  But, instead of letting the dough rise for 20 minutes, let it stand for 5.  Then, roll it out into a 15×10″ rectangle.  Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar.  Spread the butter over your dough, followed by the cinnamon-sugar and pecans.  Roll the dough up tightly, starting at one long end.  Cut the roll into 12 slices and place, fat side down, in a greased 9×13.  Then, cover the dish and let the rolls rise for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375.  Uncover the rolls and bake them for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine the milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla for a quick glaze.  When the rolls are done, drizzle the glaze on top and enjoy!

This is a Christmas tradition that I am sure everyone is quite glad began this year!  The thought of homemade cinnamon rolls sounds a bit daunting, but trust me.  These are quite easy and are well worth the effort.  And, I highly doubt Christmas will roll around again before we make another batch…

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Chicken curry…

…has been on our list of dinners to make for awhile, and we finally got around to it last weekend!  We made spicy red curry and rice by Robert Irvine, and it was wonderful!

For this spicy curry you need:

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Steamed rice and lime wedges, for serving

Whisk together the coconut milk, curry paste, and fish sauce.

Heat a large skillet over high heat until it is very hot.  Add 2 tbsp. oil and heat until it barely smokes.  Meanwhile, season the diced chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet, arranging the meat in a single layer.  Cook the meat, turning once, until it is browned on both sides, but not completely cooked through (4-5 minutes).  Remove the chicken to a skillet and drain off any fat.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook the mushrooms until lightly browned.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for just a minute.  Then, return the chicken to the skillet along with the red curry sauce and bring the mixture to a bubble.  Knock the heat back and let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes to finish cooking the chicken.

Serve a bowl of rice and curry garnished with lime and chopped cilantro.

This curry is so easy and is quite tasty.  However, next time, I would probably add a little less than the half cup of water and might add another teaspoon of curry paste.  Who needs to go out when you can make Indian cuisine this delicious at home?!

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Gingerbread…

…is super-fun to make, especially for the holidays!  Food Network Magazine featured a recipe for perfect gingerbread men, and I couldn’t wait to make them!

For perfect gingerbread you need:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice (we just added extra cinnamon)
  • 6 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. melted shortening
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg

Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and molasses.  Beat the egg in with a mixer.

Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in two additions.  The dough will become crumbly and seems like it will never incorporate, but keep working with it!

Divide the dough in half,  wrap each portion in Saran wrap and pat/roll it to 1/2 inch thick.  Pop the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly flour the counter.  Roll each each of dough to 1/4 inch thick, dusting with more flour if you need it.  Cut the dough into gingerbread men or whatever shapes you desire.  If you can believe it, we actually don’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter, so we used our Star Wars set with other random shapes.  And, as you can see, Schatzi attempted his own gingerbread man.

And, the Star Wars gang was all there!  We added chocolate chips  and sprinkles to some of the cookies, and it made them taste all the better!  When cookies have been cut, place them on parchment-lined cookie sheets and place back in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Then, bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes and let them cool on a rack.

 

I highly recommend mixing chocolate chips and sprinkles to your batter-it is delicious!  The Food Network chefs weren’t kidding when they deemed this perfect gingerbread–it’s soft, sweet, spicy, and just plain wonderful.  Whip up a batch for the office in the last couple of weeks before Christmas!

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…are perfect days to spend playing in the kitchen!  The weather was pretty terrible last Thursday, and our roads remained untouched most of the day, so Schatzi and I stayed curled up inside and decided to be productive by making a soup to help clean some clearance out of the fridge.  Our end product, which turned out to be delicious, was the result of throwing a bunch of Thanksgiving leftovers in a pot with some orzo.  We had the intention of making turkey soup, but ended up with delicious risotto instead!

For Thanksgiving clearance risotto you need:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 package of orzo
  • 2 cups leftover turkey, chopped
  • leftover gravy (our recipe is a few posts back; I’d say use about 3/4-1 cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • salt and pepper

Start by melting the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.  Add the orzo and toast for a couple of minutes, until slightly golden.  Then, add the shallot and celery and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes, until a bit tender.

Next, add about a cup of stock, the turkey, gravy, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then pour in the beer.  Cook this mixture until the new liquid is also gone, then slowly continue adding stock while constantly stirring.  We realized about halfway through our cooking process that we didn’t actually have enough liquid for a soup, so by continuing to add what liquids we did have slowly and in small amounts, we ended up with a perfect risotto!  True risotto is made by toasting the rice in butter, then slowly adding ladlefuls of liquid, stirring until it is all absorbed.  What a pleasant surprise for us!  When the liquid stops being quickly absorbed as you add it and the rice is not crunchy when you test it, your Thanksgiving risotto is ready to eat.

Serve up a bowl of risotto seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper to taste.

It never ceases to amaze me what delicious things you can make by clearing out the fridge!  This is a delicious meal that I know we will enjoy each year in the aftermath of Thanksgiving!

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…are always featured on a menu that gets faxed to my office on a daily basis, and I have been wanting to attempt to make them for quite awhile.  I finally got around to it for lunch this week and, as anticipated, black bean hummus is amazing.

For this pretty nutritious hummus you need:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • About 3 cups olive oil
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • About 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • About 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • Pinch ground coriander
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • About 3/4 teaspoon tahini

If you have a food processor, this couldn’t be easier–just toss everything in and puree until it reaches the desired texture; add the oil slowly to judge how much you need.  Schatzi and I did our Christmas early this year, and my gift was an awesome full-size processor.  Ah, he knows me too well, and I have a new best friend in the kitchen!

Enjoy the hummus with some pita chips or wrap it up with some lettuce in a tortilla.

This is a delicious version of hummus and because it is full of protein, it makes a very satisfying lunch.

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…are so quick and easy and are absolutely perfect to make for the holidays!  We made a batch last weekend, and have been enjoying these little indulgences all week.

For chocolate-covered marshmallows you need:

  • 1 lb. dark chocolate
  • A bag of marshmallows
  • Sprinkles
  • Skewers

Simply melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then roll the tips of your skewered marshmallows in it.  Then, roll the freshly coated marshmallow in your favorite holiday sprinkles.  Set on some wax paper to harden, and you are done!

My mom gave us the great idea of enjoying these marshmallows in a cup of hot chocolate…delicious!!!!

When you dip the marshmallows in your cocoa, the chocolate and marshmallow begin to melt and just become heavenly!  And, the sprinkles make your plain old hot chocolate look quite festive.  What a way to start (or end!) the day!

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…was a return to waffles.  Chocolate chip waffles, to be exact,  and oh, what a glorious return it was!

For these delicious chocolate chip waffles you need:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips

Heat your waffle iron to medium-high.  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Separate your eggs, keeping 2 of the yolks.  Whisk them together with the milk, vanilla, and melted butter.  Whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients, just until combined.

Use a mixer to beat the three egg whites just until they hold soft peaks.  Then, sprinkle in the sugar and continue beating until the whites have soft peaks again.

Gently fold the egg whites and chocolate chips into the batter.  If your waffle iron is not nonstick, brush it with a bit more melted unsalted butter.  Pour just enough batter into the iron to cover the holes and cook until steam no longer escapes from the iron, about 5 minutes.

Serve a waffle with some maple syrup and dig in!

The waffles are delicious–it’s like eating a giant cookie for breakfast!  Nothing hits the spot like a good waffle, and these are truly excellent.  Make a batch over Christmas break for the family, or on one of the snow days that is sure to come!

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…can be a real challenge, at least in this house!  Schatzi and I both love to cook, but it is hard to come home from a long day at work and put a fresh meal on the table.  Enter the wonder that is the fish supper!  Meals cooked with fish can literally be thrown together in a matter of minutes, like this dinner from Food Network Magazine.  It is delicious, nutritious, and comes together in “the flashest of flashes.”

For fish and mushrooms you need:

  • 4 6-oz. arctic char fillets (we subbed in whitefish)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp. chives
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • 2 bunches arugula, trimmed

Heat the oven to 350.  Season the fillets with salt and pepper and heat a tbsp. of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  If you use the salmon, add it to the skillet and sear until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes.  If you use a thinner fish, cook it for just a minute.  Flip the fish onto a lightly greased baking sheet and continue cooking them in the oven for another 4 minutes, 2-3 if you use a thinner fish.

Wipe out the skillet, place it back on the stove and add the rest of the oil.  Add the mushrooms and cook without moving them for a minute, just until browned.  Stir them a bit and continue cooking until browned all over. Stir in the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes, until they are soft.  Whisk in the mustard and vinegar, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Take the veggies off the heat and add the parsley and chives.

Meanwhile, drizzle the arugula with some oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Serve a plate of salad with a fillet topped with the mushrooms.

This dinner really is super-easy to throw together, and it has under 400 calories!  I’m sure it is probably even better with salmon, but really, the sauce goes great with any plain old fish.  The next time you are in a time crunch, give this fish dinner a try.

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…is one of the recipes that made Julia Child quite famous, and for good reason!!  My obsession with food and cooking developed around the same time the movie Julie & Julia premiered, and of course I wanted to see it–a movie about cooking?  Yes, please!  Of course, it is a delightful movie and I instantly wanted Julia’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  My mother-in-law was so kind as to surprise me with a copy for my birthday, and I finally got around to reading a bit of it and made a dish featured in the book.  I decided my first attempt would be the beef stew with red wine, onions, bacon, and mushrooms, and wow.  It is divine!

For Julia’s famous boeuf bourguignon you need:

  • A 6-oz. chunk of bacon (still on the rind)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. stewing meat, cut into cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or mashed
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • The bacon rind
  • 18-24 small (pearl) onions, peeled & braised (recipe follows)
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, quartered & sauteed (recipe follows)
  • Parsley

This is definitely not a weeknight recipe, so make sure to plan for it on the weekend!  You need several hours to cook it well and correctly.  Begin by removing the rind from the bacon and cutting it into lardons/sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long.  Simmer the rind and lardons in 1 1/2 quarts of water for 10 minutes.  Drain the meat, dry it, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450.  Cook the bacon in an oven-safe Dutch oven (or large casserole) and the oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes, just until lightly browned.  Remove and set aside.

Reheat the oil in the pot until it is almost smoking.  Meanwhile, pat the beef dry.  Julia was huge on drying meat, as it browns much better when dry.  Saute the beef  in the bacon drippings, working in batches, until it is nicely browned on all sides.  Place it with the bacon.

Add the sliced veggies to the pot and saute them until browned.  Pour out any excess fat.

Put the meats back in the pot with the veggies and add the salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in the flour to coat the meat.  Place the pot in the oven for 4 minutes, then toss the meat and let it continue roasting for another 4 minutes.  When a nice, light crust has formed on the meat, take it out of the oven and reduce the heat to 325.  Then, add the wine and just enough stock to barely cover the meat and veggies.  Stir in the tomato paste, spices, and bacon rind.  Bring the stew to a simmer, then cover the pot and place it back in the oven, on the lower third rack.  Let the meat simmer gently for 2 1/2-3 hours (it is ready when the meat pierces easily with a fork).

Meanwhile, make the mushrooms and onions.  Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. oil over high heat.  When the butter foam dies down, add the mushrooms, spreading them out as much as possible.  Occasionally stir the mushrooms until they are nice and brown, about 5 minutes.

For the onions, melt 1 1/2 tbsp. butter and 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in a skillet.  When the liquids bubble, toss in the onions and roll them around a bit for 10 minutes, until browned.  Then, pour in 1/2 cup red wine or stock, season with salt and pepper, and add a bay leaf, some parsley, and thyme.  Cover the skillet and simmer the onions for 40-50 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated.

When the meat has finished, pour everything into a sieve over a saucepan to strain.  Return the meats and veggies to the pot.  Simmer the sauce for a few minutes to thicken, skimming fat off the surface as it arises.  If the sauce is too thin, bring it to a rapid boil; if it is too thick, add some stock.

Mix the mushroom/onion mixture with the meats and pour the sauce over everything.  Serve a plate or bowl of stew with some boiled potatoes and garnish with a bit of parsley.

While it takes a bit of effort, this is a fun meal to cook and the payoff is tremendous.  And, Julia wasn’t kidding when she said the beef is even better the next day–it just gets more tender and flavorful!  The next time you are feeling adventurous and want to put a super meal on the table, look no further than the genius of Julia Child.

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