Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mine Strone and Onion Rings

First, this post is dedicated to Cryptozoologist Zachary Bass Caby who recently revealed to me that he thought minestrone was prounounced phonetically. I laughed loudly, called him an idiot, then corrected him.

This soup is currently in my crock pot, an appliance I use seldomly apart from a massive batch of cheese dip or some barbecued pulled pork. It's been on high for about 45 minutes and already smells fabulous. Here is the recipe from Robin Miller of Food Network, and my alterations are in italics.

Minestrone Soup
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth - I used 32 oz. organic chicken broth
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes - I added another 15 oz. since I added extra broth & like soupy soup :)
1 (15-oz) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained - and rinsed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 c. onion, chopped
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried sage - I didn't have these two alone, so I used some poultry seasoning that had both
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper
2 c. cooked ditalini pasta - I used whole wheat elbows
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2. c. coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, defrosted
4 T. grated parmesan or Romano cheese
Basil sprigs, garnish, optional -  I opted out

In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves and 1/2 t. each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. 30 minutes before soup is done, add pasta, spinach and zucchini. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves, season to tase with salt and black pepper. Serve soup in bowls garnished with parmesan cheese and basil leaves.

And that's not the end of my cooking for today! I'm making homemade onion rings to have with burgers for dinner. That's right...HOMEMADE. Nothing frozen or from a fast-food joint. I'm using this recipe from Rachael Ray, and after reading some user comments, I'm going to set up a battering station that has 4 dishes instead of 2 to prevent ickiness. Hopefully, they turn out looking like this and tasting delicious.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Proved Something to Myself

I may actually possess some cooking talent. Sans recipe, I threw together a surprisingly tasty concoction tonight for a dinner for one. The only way I could think to describe it was an accidental chimichurri risotto. But South American and Italian cuisines are NOT two that I would ever thing would go together, which is where the accident comes in.

Here's what I did, but there's no way anyone will be able to replicate it because I don't even know if I could replicate it. Anyway...

I had some long grain brown rice in the cabinet, an onion, some frozen tomato paste, fresh garlic, cilantro and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. So I sauteed the rice and onion in a pan until just toasted, then added in the amount of water called for on the bag of rice, plus some garlic powder, salt, and a blob of tomato paste. Yes, a blob.

I cooked it according to the directions, meanwhile chopping the cilantro and fresh garlic cloves together. When the timer went off, the rice was far from cooked. So I just threw in the mock-chimichurri ingredients (cilantro & garlic), stirred, and re-covered. Once it had soaked up most of the liquid (but not all; it was definitely not dry), I sprinkled some cheese over it and stirred, which created the risotto-like texture.

And it was a shockingly tasty meal! I squeezed some lemon juice on top of the rice in my bowl just to add a little extra something, then adjusted seasonings with S&P. Truly tasty...I just wish I knew what to call it. For now, Chimichurri Risotto (as unappetizing as that sounds) will have to do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food Think

I am willing to admit vulnerability to the Oprah Effect. Who isn't? However, I must say that I watched (or at least tried to watch) this movie before she blew it up this afternoon on her show.

I'm talking about Food, Inc. If you haven't seen it, I'm willing to wager a guess that you're not alone. The only reason we rented it was because Matt thought (not knowing exactly what it was about) that it might have been a good movie to show his health classes. So we rented the DVD, popped it in, and sat down to relax and watch.

Far from it.

I made him stop about the time they were showing the chicken houses. The scene with the chicken laying upside down on the ground, barely able to crow (or whatever you call what they do). Put me over the edge. I was crying over chickens.

So after that, I just tried to put it out of my mind. Frankly, it was far too disturbing to me to think of how inhumanely the food I eat and LOVE is treated before it lands on my plate. But now I'm thinking about it again. Thanks alot, Oprah. I'm not saying I'm going to go all organic or (God forbid) vegan. No offense to anyone who does either one of those things, of course. All I'm saying is this...Michael Pollan, the author behind Food, Inc. and Oprah (and anyone else who is a proponent of the clean, whole, organic food and eating thing) have a valid point. We should be more conscious of the things we put into our bodies. And the consequences we are paying as a result of diets that are far too high in sugar and unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives.

So that's it...I'm thinking. Thinking about food in a different way and contemplating small things I can do for myself and my husband on my own that move towards more conscious and kind (to our bodies and other animals) eating.

I'm thinking...right after I finish eating this rotisserie chicken I picked up at Wal-Mart.

But seriously, I'm thinking.

View the Food, Inc. trailer here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Interesting tidbit of the week and what's on tap for this weekend/next week

I came across this seemingly amazing recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. I'm making it Sunday to have for lunches next week. AND... on the same blog I found a link to this other blog all about food in a different way. This is about turmeric, a spice I have in my cabinet but use very seldomly. After reading this post, I've put it in my morning egg whites AND my evening salad. I figure, what can it hurt? As far as the "cureall" powers it supposedly possesses...I'll keep ya posted.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Broccoli Chowder

Ok, so I made this tonight to take for lunches for both me and Matt. It is supposed to be healthy, hence the small amount of oil and low-fat cheese. But as far as cheesy soups go, I made up my own recipe that turns out way better than this. I'm sure it's because of the full-fat cheese and regular butter, but dang it I can't handle seeing the cheese shreds in my soup!

Nevertheless, it tastes pretty good and will do for lunchs this week. In the future, I would make more of a roux before adding in the broth. And I would probably use regular cheese. Oh well. Live. Learn. Make my own recipe next time.

Broccoli Chowder
(Recipe and picture courtesy Food Network website)


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth (two 14-ounce cans)
8 ounces broccoli crowns (see Ingredient note), cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated (3 cups)
1 cup grated reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste


Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

Add broth and broccoli stems; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan.

Stir in Cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through. Season with salt.

Ingredient note: Most supermarkets sell broccoli crowns, which are the tops of the bunches, with the stalks cut off. Although crowns are more expensive than entire bunches, they are convenient and there is considerably less waste.

Spaghetti and Meatball Report

Y.U.M.  I literally could only write that and it would explain it all. This made me like spaghetti and meatballs. Now, will I make it once a week or even once a month? No, probably not. First of all, because it didn't make me like spaghetti and meatballs that much AND it did take quite awhile. But it was a perfect project for a day when I really had nothing else to do.

I'll start by explaining how I altered this recipe to fit either my personal tastes or the limitations of my kitchen.

In her recipe, Anne says to pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove any seeds or stems. I have no food mill, so here's my solution. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and mash them with a potato masher. I didn't worry about seeds, but if I saw stems, I pulled them out.

For the meatballs, Anne says to use 1/2 pound each of ground beef, pork and veal. I'm not so much into veal, so I just used 1 pound of beef and 1/2 pound of pork. And since I'm cheap, I bought shredded parmesean in the jar instead of buying a piece of parmigiano from the specialty cheese section at Dillons.

Onions and pancetta sauteeing in olive oil for the sauce- I had never cooked with pancetta before, so this was fun. It smelled fantastic.

This was the largest pot I had, and as you can see the sauce (pre-reduction) came almost to the top. It reduced down nicely, though. And I followed Anne's instructions about tasting and seasoning very carefully. In addition to salt, I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Meanwhile, during the 3 hour simmering time for the sauce, look what happened?!?! Yep, sugar cookies.

Something I had never done before: sautee the onion and garlic BEFORE putting them into the meatballs. As an afterthought, I didn't finely dice the onion enough. There were some pretty big chunks.

So here are the meatballs, waiting patiently to be browned before being finished in the oven. Anne's instructions say to "brown on all sides." Now, I don't know about you, but do spheres have sides? This was tricky. My meatballs were NOT browned on all sides, but were browned to some extent. See further below.

And the final product. Ta da!! Matt did the happy food dance after he ate. I asked, but he wouldn't let me photograph it. I think it would have been a perfect evaluation to share with everyone on how successful this dish was.

And here's what happened to the cookies!!! Once a season I make sugar cookies for Matt's basketball team. This year, I made basketballs! So cute! Recipe for cookies will be below. I just used the HyVee brand white icing and added red & yellow food coloring. The black is just Betty Crocker decorating frosting. And, technically, these sugar cookies are not meant to be frosted, but I do it anyway. Yummy.

Sugar Cookies (recipe from a friend's mother-in-law)
Bear with me...this is not the most detailed recipe, so I will try to add in the extra steps I take that are not specifically in the recipe.

2 c. sugar
5 c. flour
1 c. sour cream
2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
1 c. butter, melted
2 eggs, well beaten
2 T vanilla or lemon flavoring (I always use vanilla)
1/2 t. baking soda

Mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, sour cream, salt, flavoring, and baking soda until creamy. (I do this in steps: sugar & butter, then sour cream, then eggs and everything else). Add 5 c. flour and baking powder. (Again, I do this gradually since I'm gadget-challenged and mix by hand.) Roll out on floured surface until 1/4 in. thick. Cut out and sugar the tops. Bake at 375 F for 8 minutes.
(I skip the sugaring since I frost mine after they cool)

Seriously the BEST sugar cookie I have ever eaten.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just starting out...

I deleted my old blog. Why? Mainly because I didn't ever post!!! It had been dedicated to my 101 in 1001 goal project. Needless to say, that has been shoved aside because I just didn't care anymore. So I'm now going to write about what I DO care about - COOKING. And food. And family. And friends.

The title - so it's NOT the most creative thing ever, but it's the darn truth. I'm a foodie wanna-be. What would make me a true foodie? Not sure. If there were a program or class or list of steps to take to reach foodie status,  I would do it. For now, I'm content with being a wanna be.

In short, I love cooking. Trying to make things that are challenging or just different from anything else I've ever made. Not to say that I ALWAYS make things I've never tried before. That would be ridiculous, and I'm far too busy for that. But I love a good challenge, hence my project for today.

Today's goal: spaghetti & meatballs from scratch. (not the pasta, though)

I'm not even a huge spagetti & meatballs fan, but my husband is, so he's ecstatic. I watched Anne Burell make this recipe on her show yesterday and was inspired. Here's the recipe, and I'll be back to report on the results.