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Friday, October 31, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I've got 4 more weeks in the trying to get caught up on these post I started and never finished.

This broccoli soup is so wonderful. I added the shredded cheese after putting the soup in the bowl, then broiled it until it was melty, browned and somewhat crispy! You can skip this, and just add the cheese directly to the soup- but then do take it off the heat and serve soon after. If you leave this cooking on the stove then the cheese will burn on the bottom. I've done many versions of broccoli soup- sometimes starting with a more flour cream base; but I do really like this one- as does Dave. He at veggies and he was fat and happy!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

sautee in butter and olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped

Add 3 cloves of garlic
3 cups of chopped broccoli
2 tbls dried thyme
black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

add 4 cups broth (I happened to use both chicken and some leftover pork broth)

boil till everything is soft
add butter/flour mix
3 tbls of butter to 4 tbls of flour mixed to a paste.

In the meantime, roast another 2 cups of broccoli (drizzle with a little olive oil) under the broiler.

Puree with immersion blender (or drop in the blender - just be careful with the heat). Return to the pot.

Add 1 cup cream, simmer (don't boil)
add the broiled bite-sized pieces of broccoli to the soup.

Top each bowl of soup with a handful of shredded cheddar and a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese; then broil.
Top with a little fresh parsley and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stuffed Squash

Two weeks ago I broke my arm, my right arm. It's taken until now to actually be able to move my fingers- and of course it's super hard not to use them now. So cooking is a bitch. I've attempted some basic stuff, but for the most part it's not really worth the pain it causes. My plan was to catch up on all the past recipes I haven't gotten around to posting.

Keep in mind that left handed typing is a real pain; but be glad you don't have to read my handwriting! So, over the next few weeks expect some real short blogs... and maybe that's a good thing!

If you want a slightly heartier stuffing, add sautee crumbled sausage with the onion/celery mixture!

Stuffed Squash

1 acorn or butternut squash
cut in half, scoop out seeds, rub with olive oil
place in 400 degree oven to roast until soft

Sautee in Walnut oil (or olive oil)
2 slices of white onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped

add 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 small apple, chopped
1 small handful of chopped cherries
sautee until spinach is wilted

When the squash is soft, stuff the cavities with the spinach mixture
Turn your oven on broil.
sprinkle the squash halves with pomegranic balsamic
top with goat cheese
broil until cheese is melty and bubbly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mahi Mahi with Pea Risotto

Another Friday night and I’ve got another fish dish! Tonight is a fun night because it’s one of the last thunder storms of the year. I love to see lightning and rain; there is just something so clean and exciting about it. I recently read that kids like sun and snow, but not rain; rain gets a bad wrap. The key is just knowing how to dress for it, if you can stay dry you’re going to be a lot more comfortable. I’ve been having a craving for pea risotto lately and with the rain I felt like making something slightly comforting to go with the healthy fish. Risotto can sound daunting to many people, but I think the key here is keeping the risotto moist, but not drowning it. Just like knowing how to handle the rain, risotto is just knowing how to work with it.

Keep the liquid you’re adding to the risotto warm. Let the risotto slowly soak up the liquid. Stir often and have patience. You will have a beautifully creamy risotto that is worth it.

Start by warming about 4 cups of water or broth (using broth will give just a little more flavor.) To the broth, add black pepper and garlic powder.

Sautee in olive oil and butter until softened:

½ onion, I used red onion but you can use yellow. Chop these pretty small.

½ cup chopped (small) celery.

Add 1 cup risotto; let that simmer in the pan with the butter and olive oil for a few minutes.

Now you’re going to add the broth, just a scoopful at a time. So start with one cup and stir (you should on a medium low heat, you don’t want to force this to cook fast). Let that liquid cook into the risotto before adding another scoop of broth, about ½ cup or so at a time, but only when the first liquid is gone- stir often.

When your risotto starts to expand slightly and take shape (if you taste it, it will be half crunchy still), then you can add your peas. You don’t really need to cook the peas, they just need to warm.

Add 1 cup of peas. If you’re using frozen peas, just thaw them first.

You’re going to start the fish when your risotto is about five minutes out from being ready. Until you make the risotto a few times, it’s easiest to test this by tasting. You want your risotto to be firm, not mushy, when complete.

Place a little olive oil in a pan and add fish, season fish with lemon pepper and salt, cover and cook over a low to medium heat. I also like to add a couple of slices of lime to the pan for the extra citrusy flavor. These should only take about 5 minutes – cook just till the fish is opaque and flaky.

Turn off your risotto and add ½ cup of shredded parmesan cheese, this will give it just a little more creaminess. Let that sit and melt in for minute. Then plate your risotto and top with the Mahi Mahi.

Turn off the lights and light some candles, sit back and watch the lightning show. Enjoy your creamy risotto an quietly be fat and happ.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mustard and Beer Sausage and Pepper

Once again I arrived home after work only to realize that I had not taken anything out of the freezer for supper. Dang it.

But a quick defrost of some Italian sausages and two peppers in the veggie drawer offer up a good, quick option. As the slicing of the peppers started, my initial thought was to do a basic Italian version of sausage and peppers; but when I opened the fridge to get a beer (for drinking purposes)- my hand passed by a big jar of Dijon mustard. My mind started to whirl with visions of German steins of beer, plates of Oktoberfest bratwurst and lederhose! Beer and mustard - two of my favorite things!

So away go the tomatoes and in goes the mustard. I had already committed to the basil, and it worked fine; although if making this again I would probably substitute thyme instead. And the same goes with the sausage - I just happened to have the Italian sausage, but anything would work here. This is simply sensational, a great change from the classic Italian sausage and peppers, which is good in its own right. The sausages stay nice and moist and the sauce cooks down to a thick, creamy, yummy mess. I served this with a couple of big hunks of homemade pickles - soo good! It's important to get a good beer; throw in a pretzel for an appetizer and you'll be seriously fat and happy! Prost!

Sausage and Peppers with Mustard and Beer

Saute in 2 tbls olive oil and 1 tbls of butter, until beginning to soften:
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 white onion, sliced
1 small to medium yellow pepper, sliced
1 small to medium red pepper, sliced

add 4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon dried basil (or use thyme)
3 Sausages (Italian, German, whatever you have)

Continue to saute on medium to medium low heat, toss peppers often

add 3-4 big spoons of dijon mustard
handful of chopped parsley
1 tbls chili oil ( or use any hot sauce)
1/2 bottle of beer- I used New Belgium 1554 Enlighted Black Ale- it's a fabulous dark beer, choose any micro beer, just don't go with some sort of silly light.

Simmer until sausage are done.

Serve with big crusty dog buns or just a hunk of bread on the side to sop up the sauce with; don't forget the pickles and serve with a glass of the beer you used too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zucchini and Squash Chips

Have you had the chips that are made out of veggies? I quite like them. The other day I decided to try to make some of these 'veggie chips' at home. Now, I know those chips you buy in the store and to just veggies, there lots of chemicals and other odd ingredients. But to make a basic potato chip you just need a thinly sliced potato and hot oil or a good oven. Why not be able to do the same with a zucchini or a beet?

You can, but it's not exactly what you want it to be. Of course, I refuse to deep fry anything so I'm left with only baking these chips, so they could turn out more chip like if you actually fried them, but that would defeat the purpose to using vegetables in the first place. My attempt was to slice a zucchini and a squash (acorn) real thin, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then simple bake them. First I tried to bake them on high; which resulted in a batch of nearly burnt yet also soggy chips. Second batch I turned the oven down to 200 degrees and let them dry out. This took about 2 hours. While I found the chips much more uniformly cooked I just felt it too so long for a little batch of chips. Not to mention how tiny the chips got; the size of a quarter and penny most of the time.

All in all, I won't rush to make these again. When I do, I'll change it up a bit; try some beets and maybe a different process. But this is what it's all about. If you find something you like, try to recreate it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't; you just don't know what might happen! Plus, eating your mistakes is not all that bad!!

Zucchini and Squash Chips

1 zucchini (leave skin on)
1 yellow squash (or use 1/2 of a butternut or acorn squash) If your using the yellow squash, leave the skin on, but do peel the butternut and acorn squash)
olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Slice the zucchini and squash extremely thin. If you have a mandolin - use it; if not, just take your time, use a sharp knife and slice slowly. Toss the slices in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Lay the slices in single layer on a baking sheet (or two) and place in the oven. Bake until crispy- this could take up to 2 hours - have patience!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Garlic Soup

It's only October and a balmy 60 degrees outside, but I have a whopper of a cold. Been a week and I can't seem to shake it! There is only one thing to do - make garlic soup!

Garlic what?...what about chicken soup? Garlic is a cure all. In fact, I know many people who swallow a clove of garlic a day to keep healthy. Apparently it works - but there is also a draw back - garlic farts. I'm just telling you what I was told by those who have done it.

We used to make a version of this soup weekly at the restaurant during the winter months. It's a super warm and hearty soup- almost seems creamy without the cream. Traditionally eggs are added to this and poached in the soup- but not needed, especially if your nose is stuffed up and you can't really taste anything anyway.

Make this soup at the very first signs of a cold rather than suffering for a week; I clearly wasn't thinking clearly! The cayenne pepper can really add some heat - so vary the amount based on your need (I think I added like 2 full tsp's when I made it - I heard it was crazy spicy - but I really couldn't even taste it!) This soup is good on a cold winter day even if you aren't sick; but if you are - it will have you back feeling fat and happy in no time!

Cold-Curing Garlic Soup
(2 servings)

1/2 head of garlic (roughly 8 cloves)
2 large pieces of bread (day old works better than fresh)
Olive oil for sauteeing
Chicken or beef broth
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Drizzle olive oil in soup pan over medium heat. Cut the bread into chunks, add to pan. Sautee until bread begins to brown; you will want to stir often. Now add the garlic, continue to sautee until garlic is roasted. Avoid burning the garlic. Add 2 cups of broth and the cayenne pepper. Simmer until garlic is soft. Use an immersion blender or place in upright blender to puree the soup (if it's too thick, simply add more broth or water). Add grated cheese. Enjoy!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Leek, Barley and Rosemary Stew

Football used to mean tailgating to me. When we lived in Denver, we went to a lot of Broncos games- not necessarily because we liked the Broncos, but rather because we loved to tailgate! Okay, there was a time when I liked and cheered for the Broncos - but I found the fans and the media insufferable. When they lost it was never there fault; the ref was against us, it was cold, the wind was blowing against us....blah, blah, blah.

But, tailgating! There is just something about hanging out in a parking lot with thousands of fans, the smell of barbecue lofting about, the anticipation of the game and throwing the football around with strangers.

So now football means good old crock pot time- hey, it's cold in Chicago. You gotta stay in and make something warm and hearty. To kick off the season I created this simple leek and barley stew. I still had rosemary growing on the deck, so that came into play, and I found a small package of stew meat in the freezer. (You could leave out the meat and have a vegetarian stew!).

The leek, barley and rosemary are a real nice mixture - a tasty departure from a typical dark, meaty stew. And its a crockpot recipe - just add it all in and let it cook! You could even take this with you to the tailgate party, it's keeps you warm and filled for hours....hmmm, sounds like fat and happy to me!!

Leek, Barley and Rosemary Stew
1-2 lbs stew meat
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 leek, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 cup green beans, chopped in half
1 cup dried barley
salt and pepper
4 cups water
1 seasoning cube (either chicken, beef or veggie)
rosemary (if fresh- use 2 Tbls chopped, add at the end; if dried - use 3 Tbls and add with all other ingredients)
thyme (if fresh, use 2 Tbls chopped, add at the end; if dried - use 3 Tbls and add with all other ingredients)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to the crockpot on a medium high heat. Let cook for at least 4 hours. The longer it can cook, the more tender the meat will be. Check for taste, you may need to add more salt or pepper.

If you know you're going to be gone for more than say 7 hours, lower the heat to medium low. And get to know your crockpot - some cook hotter. Mine is old so it's getting a little 'tired'.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Corn Succotash

You could mix up pretty much any veggies with some corn and call it succotash. Traditionally it was made with lima beans but in some places they use kidney beans. So I had some corn and green beans in the fridge - guess what I made? Hell ya, succotash. It's just fun to say really. Succotash. I fattened this one up a little with the cream - but you could skip the liquids and it would be fine, not to mention just a little lower in fat!

I found this made a nice side dish to some grilled steak; but I think if you added some hunks of turkey, chicken or even spicy sausage - it could be a meal. Serve with a hunk of bread and you'd be set.

Moral of the story? Sautee some veggies in butter, maybe add a crust and you've got a fat and happy succotash.

Corn Succotash
1/4 of a red onion, diced
1 Tbls butter
1 Tbls Olive oil
2 cups of green beans, sliced into about 3" pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ear of corn, sliced off the cobb (precooked, grilled will offer better flavor. Save the corn water if you boil)

1/2 cup corn water
1/2 cup cream

1 small chopped tomato
2 oz Goat cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Salt & pepper to taste

Sautee the onion in the butter and oil until slightly soft. Add the garlic, the beans and the corn- sautee until the garlic is soft (about 3 minutes). Add the cream and the corn water (use plain water or broth if you don't have the corn water). Let that simmer until the liquid thickens.

Then sprinkle the corn mixture with the tomato, goat cheese and the bread crumbs (and salt and pepper). Place the pan under the broiler until the bread crumbs brown. Allow to rest for a minute, then serve.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Spicy Dill Pickles

Crunch, sweet, spicy, bread and butter, cornichons - doesn't matter what type of pickle it is - I love them all! Imagine and egg salad sandwich without pickles, or a cubano or a pregnant woman...!!?? Wouldn't happen.

This is my real first foray into pickle making. I asked around a little and came to the realization that anything goes. So I used what I had in the spice drawer.

The one thing I'll say is that many of the spices I used were ground, rather than whole. Typically you would use whole - like mustard seeds rather than ground mustard. And you can always buy a pickling spice packet, but I made up my own, again, using some ground versions. But in this economy - I think this is a viable option if you are trying to save money and you have these 'ground' spices in your possession already. The liquid will look more muddy when you shake it, but I assure you, it's fine, really, trust me! I didn't go through the canning process either, so I just boiled the liquids and then kept the jars in the fridge.

One last note- these pickles are pretty potent/spicy, which I really like. Just cut back on the garlic and cayenne (or red pepper, which ever you use) and yours will be more mild. I also added some green beans to my jars and they work great! Good for snacking, also a nice addition to an antipasto platter and also a great back to vodka shots (true Russian style - don't forget to sniff your sleeve!). That's bound to leave you fat and happy!!

Spicy Dill Pickles
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup sugar
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dill seed (add if you have it, I didn't have any on hand, so I added extra fresh dill to the jars)
1 tbls of pickling spice (here again, I didn't have this on hand, so I made my own with ground mustard, peppercorns, allspice, coriander)
1-2 tsp of cayenne pepper (if you have the red pepper flakes, use those)
4-5 small cucumbers
2-3 handful of fresh green beans

Add the water, vinegar and sugar in a pan, bring to a just boil to dissolve sugar and remove from heat. Add a, add the dill and place in your fridge for 2 weeks. Eat! You can add more 'pickles to the jars once they are empty; just allow them to soak for two more weeks.


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