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Sunday, February 27, 2011

French Onion Soup with Mustard Cheese Croutons

French onion soup- imagine for a moment you had never tasted it ..... would it really sound interesting based on name?  Does onion soup intrigue you? I'm convinced that even if I didn't know French onion soup is a heavenly mouthful of sweet caramelized onion and deep red wine soaked crouton all covered in melted mozzarella cheese that I would still like it. Yes, onion soup would intrigue me.

It's really a super simple soup to make as well as cost efficient considering onions and bread are quite cheap. The key is to have the patience to saute the onions until they are caramelized to a soft, sweet and succulent stage; if you rush this step, your soup will miss out on the biggest depth of flavor. Putting my own spin on this soup, I added a little extra flavor to the crouton with a mustard and parsley spread. I also use a bit more red wine than most recipes call for, but the mustard and the wine combine together for a lip-licking, fantastic soup.

Have no fear of the onion soup, it's nothing like a raw onion. Do it the Fat and Happy way - pour yourself a glass of red wine and then pour one for the soup. It's comforting, hearty, filling and superbly flavor.

Tips and Techniques: I enjoy using a variety of onions - Spanish, red and white - to give the soup the best flavor. But you can use just one type of onion if you prefer. With regard to the cheese, I prefer to go a little light handed but you are welcome to douse your soup with as much of the good stuff as desired.

French Onion Soup with Mustard Cheese Croutons

1/2 large red onion
1/2 large yellow onion
1/2 large white onion
2 tbls olive oil
1 tbls butter
1 tbls brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup shredded Jarlsberg or mozzarella cheese

In a large soup pan, cook the onions, olive oil and butter over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add in the brown sugar and continue to slowly caramelize the onions for another 20 minutes with cover on, stirring often.

Add in the garlic cloves and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the red wine, beef broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the mustard parsley spread below. Ladle the soup into the soup bowls, place a crouton in each bowl. Top the crouton with desired amount of cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese melts.

 Bowls will be hot, serve carefully with a hot pad or on a secure plate.

Mustard Parsley Croutons

1 tbls mayo
1 tbls mustard
2 tbls parsley, chopped
thick slices of day old bread, cut to fit in the soup bowl of your choice

Mix together the mayo, mustard and parsley. Toast the bread, slather each toast piece with the mustard mix and continue with the directions above.

Yield: 2 large bowls of soup or 4 small ones 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blue Cheese, Red Wine and Walnut Dip

I'm going to tell you something that happened the other night that is completely out of character for me.  Are you ready?  I did not finish the bottle of wine. I know, super crazy! I'm not quite yet willing to admit my age is catching up with me; instead, lets focus on the positive effects of that action.

There was about a 1/3 cup of wine left in the bottle, not really enough for even a small glass of wine yet too small to save for a sauce. A small hunk of blue cheese and cream cheese offered the perfect opportunity, the red wine completely complements the tangy blue cheese. But it also needs another texture besides just creamy, this is where the walnuts come into play. Their earthiness marries the tangy bold flavors and gives chewiness to the dip

Should you find yourself in a situation where there is little wine left over, turn it into a quick dip and then remind yourself there is no shame in not finishing the full bottle. Plus, if you put a Fat and Happy spin on that - once you finish the dip, you will have essentially finished the bottle.

Tips and techniques: If you like a creamier, runnier dip, add 1 tablespoon of milk or cream. The recipe below fits into about a 1 cup ramekin. Double or triple the recipe for a larger party.

Blue Cheese, Red Wine and Walnut Dip

2 oz blue cheese
2 oz cream cheese
3 tbls red wine
1/3 cup walnuts
 fresh black pepper

Using a fork, mash together the blue cheese, the cream cheese, the red wine and a few turns of black pepper leaving it a little chunky rather than completely smooth to give the dip a little texture. Place in a oven-proof ramekin or serving bowl and crush the walnuts on top.

Bake about 15 minutes or until the dip is hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve with crackers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tortilla Soup

 It's the middle of winter but I have a hankering for warm roasted tomatoes, yet something more than just salsa. It's not the best time of year to cook with fresh garden ingredients but if you have a produce store you can trust, go for it. Plus the roasting will help bring out deep, sweet flavors of the winter fruit.

The way I create this soup follows similar principles of making a roasted salsa which starts by roasting the fruit/veggies and then blending them; the addition of chicken broth to the blended 'salsa' creates the soup. The result is a spicy, roasted flavor that is slightly cooled by the queso fresco (cheese) and the toasted corn tortillas.

Another super simple, warm soup that gives you a healthy option over heavy cream and calorie laden soups - that's something to be Fat and Happy about.

Tips and techniques:  Mix and match the peppers you put in this soup for more more or less heat.

Tortilla Soup

3 tomatoes
4 tomatillos
1 poblano pepper
1 medium sized yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, leave outer paper on
1 small dried pasilla chile (optional), could substitute a small jalapeno, or chipotle pepper
4 corn tortillas
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp salt

Soup toppings
1 avocado
juice of 1 lime
hot sauce
Queso Fresco

Turn the oven broiler to high and line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Place the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic on the cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Let each side become nearly blackened and then turn.  Take the garlic (and the dried pasilla chili if using) out first as it will only take a few minutes before it burns. Remove everything from the broiler and let cool slightly.

Peel the garlic, (remove seeds and veins from the pasilla/jalapeno if using) cut the stem off the peppers and add all the roasted items to the blender. Add one torn up tortilla.  Blend until smooth (if you want a chunkier soup, pulse the ingredients until desired thickness is reached.)  Pour the salsa into a soup pot over Medium heat.

Add the broth, salt and pepper to the pot. Simmer for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, place the remaining tortillas in a heated oven until crispy. Mash the avocado, lime juice and a few shakes of hot sauce together with a fork.

To serve, add soup to bowls and top with a scoop of avocado, crumbled queso fresco and a few strips of corn tortilla.  Makes 4 large bowls of soup.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sandwich Series: Shredded Pork in North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce with Carrot, Blue Cheese and Caraway Slaw

 I don't claim to know North Carolina BBQ sauce, but I like it. This vinegar sauce is fashioned after that, but stops short of a tomato (ketchup) base. The tartness of the vinegar is soothed by the creaminess of the blue cheese. On it's own, the vinegar sauce packs a serious wallop, don't judge the sauce until it's paired with the meat, though. And if you've haven't married caraway with blue cheese before - you are in for a treat!

Remember, I'm not in any way saying this is a true North Carolina sauce so remember that before you write in your comments lambasting me on this. The combination of the vinegar, blue cheese and caraway seeds creates a super playful fun mixture on your palette. It's simple Fat and Happy sandwiches that rocks.

Tips and techniques:  Recipe makes 2 -4 sandwiches depending on the size of the naan. For the pork, see my posting for a classic crock pot pork.   

Shredded Pork in North Carolina Vinegar Sauce with Carrot Blue Slaw

2 cups shredded pork
Vinegar sauce (recipe below)
Carrot Blue Slaw (recipe below)
Naan bread, 2

Putting it all together: Warm the naan bread by wrapping in tin foil and placing in a 300 degree oven. Place the pork in an oven-proof dish and cover with the vinegar sauce, place in the oven next to the bread for about 15 minutes.

Remove the warmed bread and pork from the oven. On the naan bread, layer on 1 cup of pork with a drizzle of the vinegar sauce and a few scoops of the carrot blue slaw. Fold the naan bread over, enjoy immediately.

Vinegar Sauce

1 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbls brown sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

In a small sauce pan, heat all the ingredients over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Use immediately or store in the fridge for later use.  Pour over the shredded pork, allow the pork to sit in the the vinegar sauce to pick up the flavor.

Carrot, Blue Cheese and Caraway Slaw

2 carrots
1 celery
3 radishes
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (can substitute mayo or sour cream)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 ounce blue cheese
salt and pepper

Using a box grater, shred the carrots, celery and radishes, place in a bowl.  Add the yogurt, caraway seeds and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir to combine. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the top.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oxtail and Chorizo Stew

Stews come in all forms from turkey to lentil to fish. This oxtail stew plays off the classic beef stew tradition of browning the meat and simmering veggies, beer and broth for hours until all is tender, but I substitute in oxtail and chorizo just for fun.

The oxtail has a slightly wild or game-y flavor compared to beef but it reacts the same when stewed for hours - fall off the bone deliciousness. Fat and Happy comes in many forms, in this case a hearty warm stew for the cold February days. Enjoy!

Tips and Techniques: I cooked this in a cast iron pot on the stove but you could easily drop all the ingredients into a crock pot and let it simmer all day.  The oxtail bone may look like it doesn't have enough meat on it, but you'll be surprised how much meat will come off it in the end.

Oxtail and Chorizo Stew

1 lb oxtail (it will have a lot of bone)
4 oz chorizo, crumbled out of the casing
1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced large
1/2 medium sized red onion, diced large
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 medium sized potato, diced
 3-5 cups Beef broth
1 cup Modelo or other dark beer (for Gluten free dish, choose a GF beer or substitute in wine)
1/2 cup fresh green beans, sliced in half on the diagonal
fresh thyme
seasoning salt
black pepper

Start by heavily seasoning the meat on all sides with seasoning salt and pepper, then brown the oxtail on all sides; remove from the pan and set aside. Add the chorizo to the pan, cook through and set aside with the oxtail. Remove the grease from the pan. Add the onions, carrot and celery to the pot, cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic and potato, continue to cook (stirring often) to soften the garlic, about another 3-5 minutes. If the pan is getting too dry add in a tiny drizzle of olive oil.

Deglaze the pan by pouring in 1 cup of broth, use a wooden spoon to scrap up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the oxtail and the chorizo back into the pot, now add in the beer, then add enough broth to cover all the veggies and meat.

Cover the pan and let the stew simmer for 4-6 hours, you can also put this in the oven rather than on the stove top. Test the meat, does it fall off the bone? If so, it's ready.  Remove the bones and carefully peel off the meat into chucks, place the meat back in the stew.

Simmer the stew with the lid off for 20 minutes to thicken the stew; add in the green beans during the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking so they retain a little crunchy rather than turn mushy. Taste for seasoning, add in more salt and pepper as needed. Add fresh thyme to each bowl before serving.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Broken-Hearted Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies

Valentines Day, many people shudder just at reading the words, much less speaking them. To me, it's overrated and an unfortunate way to have to tell someone you love them ... because you should be doing this every day, right?

Buying someone a dozen roses is the lamest excuse for a Valentines gift. Seriously, why would you listen to money-motivated companies telling you to buy inflated roses as your means of expression? If you really loved this person, you would put some thought into it. Or how about giving them a dozen roses in say, September just because you love them, not because a commercially exploited holiday says you should. All that said, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't turn down a dozen roses, should they be offered!

Cookies are a simple solution.  If you are in a happy relationship- forego the 'broken' and just give chocolate love. For those of you who definitely are NOT expecting a rose bouquet this year- why not have fun with this holiday. Let these cute, delectable chocolate black pepper cookies show your expressions for you. Complete with broken hearts, they are a conversation starter and if nothing else, will keep your cube-mates Fat and Happy. Try them with a glass of red wine, it really brings the black pepper to life!

Tips and techniques:  If you do not want to roll and cut out the cookies, simply form the dough into a log and roll in the sugar topping before wrapping in plastic wrap and refrigerating. Then take the log out and just slice into little circles.

The original cookie recipe came to me via my parents some years ago; I've recently found out this was a Martha Stewart recipe. I made a few slight modifications  by adding more pepper and also additions to the sugar topping, but props to Martha for sharing with all of us. 

Broken-Hearted Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour (plus some for rolling out the dough)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 heaping Tbls finely ground coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Coffee Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp finely ground coffee beans
pinch of cinnamon

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, ground coffee and the cinnamon; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, add in the egg and vanilla.  Slowly add in the flour mixture, blend on medium until everything is combined. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Make the topping  by placing the sugar in a Cuisinart or blender, blend on high for a minute, this is to reduce the crystal size. Mix the sugar with the finely ground coffee beans and a pinch of cinnamon.

Remove from the fridge and cut into four sections. Working quickly with one section at a time, roll the dough out to desired thickness. Sprinkle flour under the dough as it is sticky and will get stuck to the surface. I like this cookie best thin and crispy so I roll the dough out to around 1/8". Try a couple and see what you like best.

Use a heart cookie cutter to cut out as many hearts as you can; place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Take a pairing knife and cut little rips in the heart. Or lightly hold the heart and just rip it. Sprinkle each cookie with a little of the sugar topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on a cookie rack.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ginger Soba Noodle Soup

I'm still toying with the idea of going gluten free, which means if I ever really do commit to this- I'm going to need an arsenal of recipes. Even the simplest of soups can seem daunting to create as gluten free. It seems to me that the real key to GF is reading and doing your research

Soba noodles are great 'pasta' option, but you need to read the label and be sure they are made 100% from buckwheat and are truly GF. You also need to double check your soy sauce, not all are GF...see where all the reading comes into play?

This soup is simple, easy and deceivingly filling thanks to the soba noodles. Use the ginger to flavor the broth without overpowering it. The sriracha sauce gives the soup a final kick, it's okay without it, but it's really better with it.

Tips and Techniques:  You can just cook the soba noodles in the broth right before serving, but I like to keep them separate so I have more control over the the noodles and they don't become overcooked and soggy.

Ginger Soba Noodle Soup

1 small bundle of soba noodles, making approximately 3-4 cups of cooked noodles
Fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb
1 large garlic clove
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 Tbls rice wine or red wine vinegar
1 Tbls soy sauce
1 large carrot
4 button or porcini mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 Tbls sriracha sauce
fresh chives

Bring about 6 cups of salted water to a boil, add the soba noodles and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water, set aside.

Peel the ginger and cut into large chunks, do the same with the garlic. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a soup pot and saute the ginger and garlic to release their flavors, about 3 minutes.

Add in the broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot and add to the stock along with the sliced mushrooms, the vinegar, the sesame oil and the pepper flakes. Continue to simmer just 5- 10 minutes, depending on how soft you want the carrots to be.

Place a scoop of the soba noodles in the bottom of each bowl, add a scoop of the the ginger carrot broth. Top with fresh snipped chives, radishes and a squeeze of the sriracha sauce.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blizzard Baileys, Kahlua and Chocolate Scones

Chicago has been hit by a blizzard.  A real bona fide blizzard. On Facebook this morning I counted 5 different nicknames for this Blizzard of 2011: 
Snowtorius 2011

Last night there was thundersleet and thundersnow- it was actually lightening and thundering during the snow storm. This clip from caught the action of both the thunder and lightening, check it out- it's cool!

So along with the snow was the horrendous wind that found it's way through our windows, under the doors and down the vents. It's been chilly in here. When I woke up this morning I put a little Baileys in my coffee to warm up. And then I thought how great a scone would be great with my coffee. Then I thought how great would it be if there was Baileys in my scone?  With Kahlua and chocolate too???

Before I knew what hit me the the oven was on and my hands were in a bowl of flour. I like to use applesauce in scones to keep the fat down, but do apples and Baileys really go together? And do calories count during a blizzard? After a few modifications to one of my classic scone recipes, the scones were nestled in a toasty oven doing there thing.

I'm just going to say it, sooo goood! Warm, moist, dense and fluffy all at the same time. The chocolate chips are needed to add depth to the Baileys and Kahlua so don't skip them. It's like a breakfast cookie, absolutely fabulous and a perfect start to a Fat and Happy snow day!

Tips and Techniques:  You can make these ahead of time, form them into shapes, lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, pile them into a freezer bag. When you are ready to bake, simply drop on a cookie sheet, brush with milk and bake. I added just a touch of protein to these scones by using cooked quinoa, you could easily substitute dry oatmeal instead but I would also add a few tablespoons of milk as well.

Secret Ingredient:  My friend Marianne brought me a secret ingredient a few weeks ago, as I thought about these scones this morning the first thing that came to mind was how that the crystallized honey would make a super topping in place of sugar. It gives a nice mild honey flavor that blends with the liquor. Thanks Marianne!

Baileys, Kahlua and Chocolate Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbls cooked quinoa
1/4 - 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 Tbls chilled butter
1/3 cup Baileys
1/3 scant cup Kahlua

3 Tbls olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
For topping (optional):  milk, crystallized honey or turbinado sugar, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and quinoa).  In a smaller bowl mix the wet ingredients (Baileys, Kahlua, olive oil, egg yolk and vanilla).  Cut the chilled butter into smaller pieces and add to the dry ingredients. 

Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the butter forms pea-sized pieces. Add in the wet ingredients and mix with a fork just to combine everything.  Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove from the frig, sprinkle a little powder sugar on the counter and pat out the dough to desired height (I go for roughly 1/2 inch).  Use a knife to cut the dough into triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush the tops with milk or egg, then top with desired toppings (crystallized honey, turbinado sugar or cocoa nibs.) 

Bake at 375 degrees for about 16 minutes (depending on the size of your scones.)  The scones will be nicely browned on the bottom and lightly browned on top. The are best enjoyed the same day.


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