29 November 2009

Split Pea Soup

Watching Food Network with Andrew's stepmom Ann is always fun - we get ideas, chat about recipes we've made lately, and plan meals for the following week.  Recently we saw an episode of Sunny Anderson's show, Cooking For Real.  I had never seen it, but in this episode, Sunny made an "Easy Peasy Split Pea Soup" that looked absolutely delicious.

I went home and immediately bookmarked the recipe, but it's taken me several weeks to make the soup.  I'm so glad I got this soup onto my menu plan, because it was a rich, velvety, comforting dinner that was easy to put together on a cold weeknight.

You can click the link above for the full recipe, but I wanted to point out the differences in my version.  Instead of slab bacon, I used six slices of peppered bacon that I had leftover in the fridge.  I skipped the celery (we don't like it) and the cumin (I couldn't find it), and didn't garnish with tomato or lime as Sunny suggested (it sounded gross).  I also used my own homemade chicken stock rather than the boxed or canned variety.

This split pea soup truly was "easy peasy" - Andrew and I both enjoyed it's thick consistency and the nutritional value of the soup is sky high, a major plus for the healthy lifestyle we're trying to maintain through the holiday season.  The best part?  I had everything I needed on hand except the dried peas.  Now that I bought them for the soup, I'll have them on hand, and next time, this will truly be a meal straight out of my pantry.

Speaking of Food Network, Ann attended the Cleveland Fabulous Food Show and she got to meet our FN crush, Tyler Florence!!!  Aren't they so cute?!?

28 November 2009

Raspberry Lime Sorbet

After the success of my lemon sorbet, I decided to try another kind.  Andrew and I have made sorbet one of our nightly rituals, having anywhere from a spoonful to a half cup each night as a sweet treat. 

I had planned to do the raspberry sorbet in my Kitchen Aid booklet, but got such a great deal on limes at the farmer's market ($1.50 for 13!) that I decided to make a raspberry lime sorbet.  I doubled the recipe, since I had already bought four pints of raspberries when I picked up the limes.

To see the steps to making simple syrup and sorbet, click here.

Raspberry Lime Sorbet

2 c. raspberry juice*
2 c. lime juice
2-1/2 c. simple syrup

*To make the raspberry juice, combine 6 cups fresh raspberries and 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. water in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until very smooth.  Press berry mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.  I opted to strain it twice to ensure all the seeds were removed.

You will have to make this in two batches, re-freezing the bowl of the ice cream maker for 12 hours in between.  Obviously, you can cut it in half for one batch, the measurements here are what I used.

Raspberry Lime may seem an odd combination, but the combination of sweet and sour is a winner, and the hot pink color is pretty fun too!

25 November 2009

Pecan Tartlettes

My mom always makes pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and it's one of my favorite desserts.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that I eat pecan pie, so I look forward to it in the weeks leading up to the holiday.  This year, Andrew and I will be celebrating here in Ohio with his family.  We're looking forward to a quiet holiday with great food and some of our favorite people.

I am in charge of the desserts, and in order to capture my love for pecan pie, I decided one of my offerings would be Pecan Tartlettes.  (More to come on the other desserts!)  I know Andrew's family likes pecan pie, but it's not their favorite, so they'd be unlikely to take a large slice of pie.  These mini tarts let people have a bite or two of pecan pie flavor without committing to a whole slice.  The best part is, if there are any leftovers, I can easily freeze them for future desserts.

I used a recipe I found on Cooks.com for Pecan Tartlettes.  I followed the recipe exactly, adding about 1/2 cup of pecans, but ended up having about a cup of filling leftover.  Not sure how that worked out, but I saved the extra pecan filling to add to vanilla ice cream next time I make it.

Once I made the dough, I split it into 24 pieces per the recipe.  Press the balls of dough into a mini muffin tin.

In order to make these blobs of dough into pretty little tart shells, I had to get resourceful.

I used my plastic ice cream scoop to form the tarts.  Pressing the scoop against the sides helped even out the sides of the shells.

I filled the shells with the pecan mixture, being careful not to get any of the sticky syrup on the muffin tin.

These pecan tartlettes are adorable AND delicious.  The shells are flaky and not too sweet, a nice contrast to the sugary pecan filling.  What a great addition to our Thanksgiving dessert table!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a fun vegetable to cook.  It's different in texture and taste from other squashes, and the spaghetti "noodles" are easy to dress up in different ways.

This roasted spaghetti squash would be a great last minute side dish for your Thanksgiving feast.  It's easy enough to put together for a weeknight meal yet special enough for company.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt & pepper

To start, you'll need to slice the squash in half the long way.  I find this difficult to do with such a hard, large squash, so I microwave it for 5-7 minutes to make it easier to cut.  Poke the skin of the squash with the tip of your knife before you put it in the microwave so the steam can escape.

Once you've cut your squash in half, use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.  

Pile the onions and garlic in the hollowed out squash.  Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper.  

Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until squash is tender.  Use a large fork to scrape out the "spaghetti".  Toss with the roasted onions and garlic and serve.

18 November 2009

Fabulous Fruit & Cheese Plate

After a morning at the farmer's market, an afternoon of yardwork, and my mother-in-law in town, dinner was a long way off.  To bridge the gap between light lunch and big dinner, something delicious, simple, and easy to put together was a must.  Combining fresh fruits from the market with items in my pantry, I was able to create a fantastic appetizer that filled us up long enough to get dinner made!

Fruit & Cheese Plate

1 persimmon, sliced
1 pear, sliced
1/2 c. raspberries
water crackers (or whatever you have)
8 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced
1/2 c. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled into large chunks

Arrange all your beautiful fresh fruits, crackers, and cheeses on a plate and enjoy.

Cheater's Strawberry Angel Food Cake

You know how I love a shortcut, especially when I'm strapped for time (or cash!), so this easy recipe is something I fall back on time and again.  I love that I can prepare the berries ahead of time, but if I forget, I can also throw it together at the last minute.  Even though it requires none, I'm filing this under "baking" as a the most appropriate label I can think of!

I'm still getting nice looking berries at great prices at West Side Market in Cleveland, so as long as they are decent, I will continue to buy them. Balsamic may seem like an odd accompaniment, but just trust me on this - the syrupy tang of the vinegar contrasts perfectly with the sugar and the natural sweetness of the strawberries.

Strawberry Angel Food Cake

1 store-bought angel food cake
1 pint strawberries, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Prepare the strawberries first.  If using fresh strawberries, wash them, remove the stems and cut into quarters or sixths (depending on the size of the berries).  Place berries into a plastic container that has a lid.  Add sugar and vinegar, stir to coat all the fruit. 

Store the mixture covered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to six hours.  This process is called "macerating" and basically, we are using the sugar and vinegar to break down the fruit and get it to release its juices.  See all the lovely juice at the bottom of the container?

The angel food cake I bought was loaf-shaped, so I sliced it into 1" thick pieces. 

Arrange on a plate and top with the balsamic strawberries.  Drizzle the juice over and around the cake.

Serve to hungry people who will surely love you all the more after they eat this simple, delicious dessert.

17 November 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup with Garlic Rolls

Recently I talked about comfort foods - how they make us feel warm and happy, safe and loved.  Pretty much all soups fall under comfort food for me.  The king of the comfort soups though, has got to be Chicken Noodle.

When I roast a chicken, I almost always use the leftovers to make a big pot of chicken stock.  I freeze the stock in ice cube trays, then store the cubes in a zip-top bag, so that anytime I need a little chicken stock, I have it at hand.  Each ice cube is equivalent to two tablespoons of stock when thawed.  I also freeze it in gallon size zip-top bags.  I write the item's name and the date on a bag, ladle about 8 cups of stock in the bag, then compress to remove all excess air.  I lay the bag flat in my freezer so it will freeze into a thin "brick".  Then I "file" the bricks in the chest freezer in our garage.  Everything from butternut squash bisque to tomato sauce gets frozen this way.

Since the weather has been colder for a while now, I've roasted several chickens and made stock a few times.  I had plenty of frozen stock, so instead of freezing the latest batch, I stored it in the fridge in an old milk carton.

I don't really use a recipe when I make Chicken Noodle Soup, so each batch is a bit different from the last.  The recipe below is my best approximation of my most recent creation, which was extremely flavorful and packed with delicious herbs and vegetables.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 c. carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 c. cooked chicken, shredded
8 c. chicken stock
egg noodles

Start by cooking the bacon in a large soup pot.  If it is extremely fatty, pour out some of the grease - you just want one or two tablespoons to remain.

Add onion and carrots to the pot.  Feel free to add the traditional celery as well - Andrew and I don't care for celery, so I usually skip it.  Allow them to caramelize in the bacon fat for a few minutes, then add the dried herbs.  Salt and pepper generously. Add the garlic to the pan and stir to incorporate it.


Add the chicken and the stock to the pot.  Use a long handled wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits up off the bottom of the pot (this is called "deglazing" the pan).

Cover and simmer at least an hour, longer if you like.  About fifteen minutes prior to serving, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the egg noodles.  Drain and set aside.
DO NOT add them to the soup pot.  If you do, your leftover soup will be full of bloated, soggy noodle bits.  Store soup and noodles separately until you are ready to eat them.

When you're ready to serve, have each person put the cooked egg noodles in their bowl.


You may prefer to use rice, dumplings, cheese tortellini, or, you may wish to copy Andrew's brilliant idea - stuffing!


Ladle hot soup over the starch of choice and serve with warm garlic toast.

Chicken Soup with Stuffing

Chicken Soup with Noodles

What goes better with soup than a delicious piece of bread?  I found these beautiful crusty rolls at the store, and imagine my surprise when I read the package - these are "Calabria Breads".  How fantastic!  My Nonnie's family is Calabrese, and I have never seen a bread named for that region, so I was a little geeked to see that.

Warm Garlic Toasts

2 crusty rolls
olive oil
one clove garlic, peeled

Slice the rolls in half and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil the rolls until they are toasted to your liking.  Remove from the oven and immediately rub with your raw garlic clove.

The garlic will melt into the breads, imparting deliciously subtle garlic flavor.  These rolls are the perfect accompaniment to soups, stews, and pasta dishes.

I have been making lots of soups this fall, and I will try to share more of them with you as soon as I can.  In the meantime, make yourself a big bowl of Chicken Noodle and cuddle up on the couch!

13 November 2009

The Best Pancakes

The book The Best Recipe was put together by the editors of Cooks Illustrated.  They basically tried a bunch of recipes for each dish they wanted to make and chose...the best one.  Tada!

Andrew and I recently spent a weekend with his grandparents at their beautiful home on the shore of Lake Erie.  On Sunday morning, Grandma and I made pancakes and sausage patties for breakfast.  The pancake recipe we used was, of course, from The Best Recipe.  These pancakes are light, fluffy, and delicious - the perfect breakfast food.

The Best Pancakes
from The Best Recipe

1 c. All Purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. milk
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp. butter, melted
oil for griddle

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a medium sized bowl.

Combine milks and egg white.  Mix the egg yolk with the melted butter.  Add the yolk mixture to the milk mixture.

Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  You want the ingredients to be just combined - do not overmix.

Heat oil on a griddle or in a large frying pan.  Cook pancakes 2-3 minutes on the first side, 1-2 minutes on the second side.

Serve with warm maple syrup.

Maybe also serve with sausage patties!

Goodbye Grandma & Grandpa!  See you soon!

11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

I just wanted to take a moment today to say thank you to all of our troops stationed overseas and around the world.  Thank you for giving everything you have to protect our freedoms.  Happy Veteran's Day.

Please consider adopting a US soldier today.

10 November 2009

Baba Ghanoush

A few weeks ago, Andrew and I threw a surprise party for his stepmom, Ann.  I had a great time planning the menu and preparing all the food, and I have several recipes and photos to share from the party.  I'll start with Baba Ghanoush (say it: babba gah-noosh).  This Middle Eastern dip is a lot like hummus, but instead of chickpeas, it gets its substance from roasted eggplant.

This recipe is flavorful, packed with good-for-you ingredients, and makes a great party dip, or even a light lunch when served with veggies, crackers, and toasted pita bread.

Baba Ghanoush
adapted from Recipe Zaar

1 medium to large eggplant
1/4 c. tahini paste**
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Prick eggplant in several places with a knife or fork.  Place on a baking sheet under the broiler.  Let it roast for at least 45 minutes, turning occasionally.  You want the skin to shrivel and the eggplant to be completely soft.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and allow it to cool.  As you can see, I used several small eggplants.

Peel back the skin, and use a spoon to scoop out the meat of the eggplant, including the seeds.

You can go ahead and throw the eggplant right into your food processor.

Add the tahini, garlic, and lemon juice to the bowl of the food processor.

**You can purchase tahini paste at some major grocery stores, or your local Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food store.  I found mine at West Side Market in Cleveland, where I do all my shopping for meats, bread, produce, and dairy products.

So, back to the recipe.  Add the lemon juice and garlic already!

Blend until all ingredients are broken down into a thick paste.  Add salt to taste.  You may want to add more lemon juice or tahini at this point.

The original recipe recommends an interesting way to serve the baba ghanoush.  Pile the dip into a serving bowl.  Create a well in the center with the back of a spoon.  Fill the well with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the parsley. Beautiful, delicious, and easy to make, baba ghanoush is equally welcome at an appetizer party and in my lunchbox.

09 November 2009

Autumn Sausage Casserole

I made this recipe about a month ago, but it has been languishing in my "to post" file.  I'm not sure why I let it hang out so long, since Andrew and I both really enjoyed it, and it's such a seasonal recipe.

The flavors and colors of this "autumn inspired" dish meld beautifully for a comforting one pot meal.  I got the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking - Stephanie had taken a recipe she found in A Taste of Home and adapted it for her crockpot.  Well I "unadapted" it back to a stove top recipe.  It's much simpler that way, and honestly, there's no reason to slow cook it.

I did still keep the recipe pulled up on my laptop while I cooked (and drank!)

Autumn Sausage Casserole
adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

1 lb. spicy Italian sausage
1 large (or 2 small) apples, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1/2 c. raisins
3 c. cooked rice (I used brown basmati)
1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. chicken broth

Brown sausage in a large skillet until cooked through.  Drain in a colander - leave a little bit of the fat in the pan, let sausage rest in colander for now.

Add apples, onions, raisins, and carrots to saucepan.  Once carrots soften and onions are translucent, add the brown sugar, parsley, and cinnamon.  Next, mix in the rice, sausage, and chicken broth, stirring to combine all ingredients.  Serve in bowls.

As the Crockpot Lady advises, this is more of a fried rice than a casserole.  Since there isn't really a binder, the dish has the consistency of a stir fry.  I loved the substitution I made of spicy sausage - it makes for a great contrast to the sweetness of the apples, carrots, and onions.  This is a fun, easy weeknight dinner that celebrates the colors and flavors of fall.