Monday, January 26, 2009

French Onion Soup


French onion soup is a comfort food for me. It's warm and filling and all gooey with the bread and cheese. I learned how to make it in a Viking cooking class I took once, but haven't made it again because a) it takes forever to slice all those onions and b) the recipe I had called for a good amount of butter.

To solve the first problem, I now have a food processor, which made very quick work of all that slicing. For the second, I found this recipe that calls for olive oil rather than butter when caramelizing the onions.

For the stock, I used Better Than Bouillon - it's a better flavor than canned/carton beef stock and a good substitute when you just don't have time to make your own stock. It is fairly salty, though, so taste what you're making - you may not need to add any extra salt. All that said, homemade stock is the best if you have it on hand or have time to make it.

This came out fantastic - I couldn't tell much difference between what I order in a restaurant and what came out of my kitchen. I also added a little bit of sage to the pot. Just cause I like it. This one's a keeper.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies


A few weeks ago, I was perusing the web for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I have no idea what brought on this craving, but I wanted something with a little more depth than a regular chocolate chip cookie, but not too heavy.

I stumbled upon this recipe at Allrecipes.com. Most of the time, if a recipe is rated highly by a large number of people on Allrecipes, it's pretty good. This one was rated highly by a large number, and I had all the ingredients I needed on hand, so I gave it a try.

The first batch I made tasted good, but didn't really wow me. I had read through the comments and done some of the things suggested, which included adding extra flour, and I think that ended up making that batch somewhat dry. I made them again today and followed the recipe exactly, and they came out moist, chewy, and delicious - there's just enough chocolate to get a chocolate fix, but it's not overpowering. They're also not insanely sweet - I like sweets, but I can't stand cookies that just have too much sugar in them.

One thing I did have to do was cook them 16-18 minutes, rather than the recommended 12. I have an oven thermometer, so I know it was at 325 degrees, but they were still gooey when I checked on them at 12 minutes.

I did all of this in the stand mixer (even the chocolate chips and walnuts) with no problem. Using a regular spoon to drop them onto the cookie sheets, I got 33 cookies out of the batter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Weekly Menu

I totally fell off the menu-planning bandwagon this week, and our budget shows it! I had to make several extra trips to the store for things I didn't have and it was a hectic, confused week. Back to structure. Back to a list. Back to controlling the spending. Back to pretending to eat healthy.

Saturday: Baked salmon, french onion soup, asparagus
Sunday: Stuffed Shells (subbing ground turkey), green beans, zucchini
Monday: Tacos
Tuesday: Mexican Pizza
Wednesday: Chicken Fried Rice
Thursday: Chicken and rice casserole, corn, lima beans
Friday: Chicken and rice casserole, peas, roasted carrots

Barefoot Bloggers: Easy Sticky Buns

This second of this month's BB recipes was Easy Sticky Buns chosen by Melissa of Made By Melissa. I had noticed these in my BC Back to Basics cookbook, so I was excited to finally try them!

These were super-easy to make (once my puff pastry FINALLY thawed enough to work with - it took forever). But, seriously, this doesn't require much more work than popping open a can, and it tastes so much better. They were light and flaky, sweet and buttery and cinnamony. Bliss on a Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, we had a slight emergency when the cinnamon rolls were coming out of the oven (let's just suffice it to say that hands should not touch oven doors when hot), and don't have a picture. We were in running to the doctor crazy mode, so pics didn't happen. But when we got home, those rolls were still waiting for us and helped us come down from the adrenaline high.

I'll definitely make them again. In fact, they're so easy that they might just become somewhat of a tradition around here!


Easy Sticky Buns
From Barefoot Contessa's Back To Basics

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

for the filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recipe Website

One of my friends introduced me to Key Ingredient. It's a website where you can store your recipes, and also search others' recipes as well. I've enjoyed using it as I find dishes that I want to try in various places online. There's also the option to have your own cookbook printed for you, if you want these in print. There is no charge to use the site to store your recipes, and you control the privacy level of any content (i.e. - no one can see it, friends can see it, or everyone can see it).

This has been a very helpful tool for me - I no longer have to bookmark every recipe I find online, or store recipes on various sites (allrecipes, Food Network, Epicurious, etc...). I just copy and paste, and it's all stored in one place.

There's also a fantastic feature called the "Grocery List." Many food websites have this, but if you've saved recipes all over the web, you have to do this in several places. With this site, you just pick the recipes you want, they populate your grocery list, and then you can categorize them further if you wish. It's very handy.

Give it a try!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beefy Bello Soup in Bread Bowls


We had a wonderfully comforting soup tonight - it actually tasted a lot like a Sunday roast beef, but in soup form. I made homemade bread bowls (soooooo easy) and it was fantastic.

Beefy Bello Soup

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef stew meat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C red wine*
32 oz carton of beef broth (use a good quality)
1 (10 oz) package sliced portobello mushrooms
1 Tbsp dried thyme (or 2 Tbsp if using fresh)
1 tsp salt (may need less depending on how salty the broth is)
1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, shredded, optional
Bread Bowl, optional (I used the Italian recipe)

Directions:

-Put meat and flour into a large zip-top bag, and shake to coat.
-Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over med-high heat, and add in half of the meat. Brown meat on all sides (about 4-6 minutes). When browned, remove to slow cooker. Heat another Tbsp of oil, and repeat with the other half of the meat.
-Heat remaining Tbsp oil and add in onions, celery, and garlic. Cook until almost tender, taking care not to burn garlic. When done, add onions, celery, and garlic to the meat in the slow cooker.
-Deglaze the pan with the wine and let it cook down a bit. Add to slow cooker.*
-Add the beef broth, mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook on low for approximately 8 hours (until beef is tender).
-Serve in bread bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

*I did not actually do this step, so I can't promise how well it will work out. This soup was good, but I felt it needed another layer for a little more depth, and I thought the wine might add that. Regardless, I didn't deglaze (wasn't in the instructions and I was in a hurry), and I think it would be been good to keep all that good flavor from the beef and veggies. If you didn't want to use wine, you could use a little of the beef broth to do this.

I think you can also play around with the seasoning. I'm not sure what I'll add next time - maybe more thyme, maybe some rosemary - but I think there's lots of room to change this up, which I enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekly Menu

The pork tenderloin is still in my freezer, after being on the menu for two weeks in a row... For some reason, something happens on the nights we're supposed to have that. So, it's on the menu again this week. Hopefully, it will actually be eaten!

I'm also making a lot of things that aren't too spicy this week. A lot of what I tend to cook has a kick of some sort (or wine), and I really want to start feeding the kiddo from the same things we're eating. So, this is also stuff I can (try to, anyway) feed him. I'll probably be sticking with things like this for a while - or things where I can add the spice in at the end, so that I can take his portion out early.

Saturday: Dinner out. Without kiddo. Yippee!
Sunday: Beefy Bello Soup in homemade bread bowls (if I have time) or French bread, salad
Monday: Pork Tenderloin, potatoes, zucchini
Tuesday: Leftover tenderloin
Wednesday: Shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, salad
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flour Tortillas


Oh. My. Goodness. These were amazing. One of the things I miss about living further west is the ability to get really good fresh tortillas. Few restaurants here make their own, and they're next to impossible to find anywhere else. I really don't like the ones in the grocery store (does anyone else notice an aftertaste with those??), so I was so glad to stumble across this recipe from the Homesick Texan.

You know if I've made it that it must be easy. And it is. Just mix, knead for a couple of minutes, let rest, shape, rest, and roll out. And, these cook quickly. I don't know that I'll ever be buying premade tortillas again. I could eat this entire batch with some queso. I did eat half the batch as I was making them.

Enjoy!

Barefoot Bloggers: Banana Sour Cream Pancakes


The first of this month's Barefoot Bloggers recipes was a hit at our house! We loved these banana sour cream pancakes, and will definitely be making them again. They were easy to make with ingredients mostly on hand. I served them up with cheese grits and scrambled eggs.
I've been reading other BB entries, and it looks like there are some good ways to lighten these up a bit. In the future, I'll try using yogurt instead of the sour cream and substitute at least some wheat flour for all-purpose.

Thanks to Karen of Something Sweet By Karen for choosing such a yummy recipe!

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
Cookbook: 2003’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Show: Barefoot Contessa Episode: Back to School

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp milk
2 extra-large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
Pure maple syrup

Directions

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.



Ignore the brown eggs. I'm freaky about not having any runniness in my scrambled eggs, so mine are always cooked to oblivion...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lemon Bites

On Christmas Eve, we had a menu of appetizers/finger foods. I wanted something sweet on the table, but didn't want anything too heavy. I made these little lemon bites, and they were fantastic. I forgot to take pictures that night, but will next time I make them.

These are easy as can be. They are quite sweet, so most people don't eat more than one or two at a time, despite the small size.

Lemon Bites

1 jar of lemon curd*
1 package of mini phyllo shells (or any other prepared mini shell - doesn't have to be phyllo)
Melted chocolate (I just used chocolate chips)
Berries for garnish

Directions

-Thaw phyllo shells if you've had them in the freezer.
-Melt chocolate (you could use pretty much any chocolate here) and brush a coating around each of the shells. Set in the freezer for 5 minutes, or fridge for about 10, for chocolate to harden.
-Once the chocolate has hardened, fill each shell with curd.
-Top with berries of choice.

*One full jar of curd will actually be enough for two boxes of shells (30 total).

Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

I totally forgot to take the pork tenderloin out of the freezer yesterday, so I moved some things around on our menu for this week. We ended up having the chicken with tomatoes and mushrooms tonight. This was a fairly easy meal to put together, and one that I could easily get on the table on a weeknight.

I did take notes from the comments on the original recipe and made some modifications. Even with these, I still felt it was a little on the bland side - next time I'll add onions and bell pepper. Maybe even some crushed red pepper for a little heat.

Chicken With Tomatoes and Mushrooms
adapted from Everyday Food

1 package chicken tenderloin strips (about 1 lb)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
10 oz bag of mushrooms
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
1/2 C red wine (I used a cabernet)
1/4-1/2 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

-Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large saucepan or small dutch oven (I used my Le Creuset) and make sure it covers the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken, and cook on each side until golden (about 4-6 minutes/side). Transfer to a plate, and cover with aluminum foil.
-Turn down heat to medium-low and add garlic to saute for a minute or two (don't burn!).
-Add wine and deglaze pan* (if using a gas burner, remember to turn off while adding alcohol)
-Add stewed tomatoes, mushrooms and oregano, cover, and let cook until tomatoes are cooked down, about 15 minutes.
-Return chicken to pot and let it all simmer together for 10-15 minutes, with the lid on.**

*You could probably also use chicken stock if you didn't want to use wine, but I like the depth of flavor from the wine.

**If the sauce is thinner than you would like, you could add a cornstarch/water mixture. I did this and it helped thicken it up nicely.




Ciabatta Bread

I love ciabatta bread. It's fantastic alone or as garlic bread or for a sandwich. I especially enjoy it for paninis. I've made the harvest grains ciabatta, and we love it - we frequently eat it with soups and chili. We eat it often enough that I just keep a couple of loaves in the freezer.

Today I decided to try regular ciabatta, and so I used a trusty King Arthur Flour recipe. It came out with a nice crust and light and holey on the inside. Tastes fantastic. And easy as can be. The electric mixer does all the work.

One thing I have learned about baking over the last couple of months - it really is best to weigh ingredients, rather than just measure them. If I go by my measuring cups, I generally need 1/4 C less flour, so I now weigh critical things like that. There's a fantastic conversion chart in the front of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion for measurement in volume to weight in ounces.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Menu Saturday

I still have lots and lots of things I want to post about from Christmas, but just haven't had time. Lots of yummy recipes! We're trying to eat healthier this year, so hopefully we'll be successful!

Saturday: Leftovers from Friday night's takeout
Sunday: Pork tenderloin, asparagus, roasted broccoli, rice
Monday: Leftover pork, rice, green beans, corn
Tuesday: Garlic-Lover's Shrimp, steamed veggies, brown rice
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Chicken With Tomatoes and Mushrooms, French bread, zucchini
Friday: Leftover chicken, French bread, whatever veggie I feel like