Sunday, December 19, 2010

Joe's Favorite* Soup

Joe is a soup connoisseur.  If he could eat soup for every meal, he would.  This is a good thing, because quick and easy soups can be thrown together from whatever is in the produce drawer and fridge.

Out of the myriad soups that I've made, Joe and I have a clear favorite*.  (*Favorite soup that I make.  I'm not going to try to compete with his grandmothers and mother.)

Kale, Chorizo, Potato Soup
          1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped in bite size pieces
          1 medium sized leek, washed, cut in half length-wise and sliced into
               1/4 inch pieces
          1 package Chorizo (usually they're about 1 lb, buy the "good" Chorizo if there
               are several varieties, I've made this with several types and the quality really
               does make a difference - the Chorizo is the major flavor in the broth)
          1.5 lbs of potatoes (I prefer red skin), with blemishes removed (but not skin),
               cut up like you are making mashed potatoes
          8 cups chicken stock (I use the Swanson's low sodium)
          extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
          black pepper
          cayenne pepper

     Prick the sausages and simmer them in a pan for 15 min. with enough water to
     cover them.  Drain the sausages and cut into thin slices.

     Cook the potatoes until they are tender.  Drain and put in bowl.  Use a masher to
     smoosh some of the potatoes, but leave some as larger chunks.

     In a soup pot, sautee the leeks in about a tablespoon of EVOO until tender.  Add
     the chicken stock and bring it to a simmer.  Add the kale and Chorizo.  Simmer
     for 5 minutes.  Add the potato chunks/mush and simmer 20 minutes.  Add black
     pepper and cayenne to taste.

     Serve steaming hot with some good crusty bread and a salad.

To me, this is the perfect winter soup.  The spicy chorizo plus chicken stock plus kale tastes and feels like it can fight off any cold.  Last time I made this, Joe suggested adding some cut up cooked turnips to the soup.  I think the slightly peppery flavor of turnips would make an EXCELLENT addition!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One-Pan Dinner

Last year for Christmas, my brothers and sister on Joe's side got me a subscription to Martha Stewart's everyday Food magazine.  Not to sound like a commercial, but I love that this magazine focuses on foods that are in season and also have a seasonal feel to them.  My favorite part of the magazine is the "5 Great Meals, 1 Short List" section where it gives you a grocery list and then 5 one-pot weeknight meals to make.  While I haven't done a whole week of the meals yet, I bought the ingredients for 2 of them from the most recent issue.  To give you an idea of what a "week" is like, this set has Mon: Roast Beef with Cabbage, Squash and Carrots, Tues: Black Beans and Sausage, Wed: Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables, Thurs: Butternut Squash Baked Risotto, Fri: One-Pot Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Bacon.  Each recipe also gives suggested alterations.  (The Chicken and Kale Handpies also came from the November issue of everyday Food.)

Mid-week, I made this Black Beans and Kielbasa one-pot (actually one large frying pan) dish.  It was good the first day we ate it, but it was better after sitting in the fridge for a few nights because the smoky flavor of the kielbasa soaked into the beans even more (yes, I'm admitting that I enjoyed this as a leftover).

 It was really quick to make.  I think for once in my life I may have come within 20% of the time advertised on the recipe (they said 40 min total).  Basic steps were:  slice 1 lb kielabasa and sear it in EVOO.  Remove it from the pan.  Add 3 chopped carrots and 2 diced shallots, cook until carrots are starting to tenderize.  Add 2 cloves minced garlic and pepper to taste.  Add 2 cans rinsed black beans and 1 can chicken broth.  Simmer 12 minutes, or until carrots are tender.  They suggested serving it with a dollop of plain greek yogurt on top.  I bought the yogurt, but we forgot to use it as a topping...

The second set of ingredients I bought was for Roast Beef with Cabbage, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots.  Often, I use recipes as suggestions rather than defined rules.  Today is one of those days.  I'm cooking it in my crock pot rather than the oven, and I added a mustard, horseradish, parsley, thyme rub to the meat.  Its currently cooking, so we'll see tonight how it turns out!  :-)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicken and Kale Handpies... Yes, Handpies.

I think all college students go through a Hot Pockets phase.  Luckily, most of us leave that behind when we graduate.  But, that doesn't mean that we lose our hunger for pastry-wrapped goodness.  I found a recipe for chicken and kale handpies recently and was excited to make them.  Since I made my own dough (hooray for food processors!), it took WELL over the 1 hr 10 minutes approximated, but they turned out great.  I took pictures of the process along the way.

The filling was kale, chicken, and leeks sauteed together.  The sauce came from adding chicken stock and flour toward the end.

Then I divided the mixture among the 6 bottom crusts.

Then I topped them with a little sharp chedder.

And sealed them with the top crust, brushed with eggwash.

Done cooking.

And yum!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learning to Love Leftovers

I have never been a huge fan of leftovers, but with cooking for 2, we ALWAYS have something to put back in the fridge.  By "tweaking" the original meal, even by just a little, I can get excited about eating it again.

Original meal:  pasta with homemade tomato/bell pepper sauce.

Leftover 1:  I threw together some quick meatballs and simmered them in the sauce (not a huge change, but different enough that I didn't find it boring) = spaghetti and meatballs (Joe's favorite food).

Leftover 2:  Meatball subs (which also used up the deli rolls that we had left from a cookout).

Other recent leftover transformations:
roasted chicken --> chicken salad and chicken pot pies
gravy --> chicken pot pies
chili --> frozen in a muffin pan (then I removed the lumps and threw them in a ziplock in the freezer) so that we can heat up individual servings when we want them!
chopped up kale and leftover leek greens --> kale, chorizo, potato soup

Some leftovers DO get better after sitting in the fridge.  The chicken cacciatore with olive rice that I made recently was one of those, as is my chicken marsala, and most soups.  Thanksgiving leftovers are still pretty awesome the next day too, I'm excited for next week!

Now if only I could find something good to do with leftover mashed potatoes...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boulder Farmer's Market, Take 2

After eating our fresh radishes last week, we HAD to go back to the Farmer's Market on Saturday.  This time we remembered our camera!  The weather wasn't as nice (it was low-mid 40s) but the market was still incredible.  We loved seeing the piles of beautiful local produce and were treated to some samples (radishes, carrots, apples, cider, cheese, salmon, brownies, nuts...) along the way.

Winter radishes come in black, green, and "watermelon."

Garden fresh greens, turnips and sunchokes.

This weekend, we decided to enjoy lunch while at the market.  I got half a margarita pizza cooked in a mobile brick oven.  This was the BEST pizza I've had since Italy!!!

 Joe had a homemade chicken tamale with green chile.  Removed from the husks while he waited.

Our treasures from this week's market.  We wanted to buy a bunch more but restrained ourselves because there's nothing more sad then seeing produce spoil.  The pictures of the radishes cut up are much cooler, but its neat to see what they looked like whole.
Green radish, watermelon radishes, 1 lb beet, carrots
Radishes!!  YUM!!!

The weather has been so moderate that they're acutally extending the market one more week!  Perhaps we will have to go again to get more radishes (we're fairly obsessed right now, if you couldn't tell!).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boulder Farmer's Market

Saturday morning, we woke up to sunny skies and predictions for 70+ degree weather.  In November.  In Colorado.

Perfect weather led me to think of the Boulder Farmer's Market -- I have wanted to go since moving here, but our Saturday's kept getting booked.  With a promise of fresh baked breakfast, I convinced Joe to go with me (he got a homemade chocolate croissant, which rivaled the ones I've had in San Francisco).

I've been to farmer's markets before, but this was by far the best one that I've ever been to.  The selection of produce was beyond all expectations, there were dozens and dozens of booths, and we sampled some amazing products.  I am SO disappointed that I forgot the camera, but perhaps we'll go back next week for some photo ops (for the last market of the fall).

There were a million things we wanted to buy, but we restrained ourselves.  We ended up with some organic "Easter egg" radishes, a paper bag of mixed mushrooms, a locally-made truffled Camembert, and a local hard crumbly goat cheese.

Local mushrooms, radishes, and cheese

Crazy looking mushrooms -- the white "fluffy looking" ones turned out to be our favorite once sauteed

Sauteed mushrooms

Dinner time!  The 2 local cheeses plus a bleu, pâté, crackers, pears, and sauteed mushrooms.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Love Crock Pots!

Cooking gadgets are some of my favorite gifts.  When I was in college, I got my first crock pot for my 20th birthday.  I was VERY excited (and my roommate thought I was crazy -- love you A!).  Not only are crock pots great for bringing food somewhere and serving it hot (like to Fat Friday at my old work), they're also awesome for entirely stress-free meals.

Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff

This morning, before leaving for work, I put 2 lbs of thinly sliced beef (cut into strips), 1 lb of sliced crimini mushrooms, 2 medium sliced white onions, 1 can of beef broth, 3/4 C sherry, and some spices (approx 1/2 tsp thyme, 1-1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1/2 tsp garlic powder) in my crock pot (low heat, 8 hours).  I came home to a wonderful smelling apartment (which I could smell from the hallway) and a crock pot full of (almost) Beef Stroganoff!

Forty minutes later, after stirring in (whisked together) sour cream (1-1/2 cups) and flour (1/2 cup), and cooking some egg noodles and peas, Joe and I had a dinner that tasted like I had been home slaving over the stove all day.  I love crock pots!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Healthy Meals

Some days, the only thing that will satisfy me is a belly full of pasta and cheese.  But, its often nice to enjoy a meal that doesn't make you want to take a nap or go and run a mile.  Luckily, I have a non-picky husband who loves veggies almost as much (maybe even more?) than me!  He is often the one encouraging me to make something healthy rather than a creamy casserole.

We finished off the roast chicken by making a zesty Autumn Chicken Salad (chicken, matchstick carrots, apples, onions, and a lemon-dill-pepper dressing), on top of a bed of romaine.  We didn't entirely ignore the tummy-filling carbs; we had biscuits on the side.

Joe and I both LOVE fish!  Whole Foods had their frozen tuna on sale, so I gave it a try.  I used to be very suspicious of frozen fish, but since so many stores have started selling vacuum packed frozen selections, some of my favorites (tilapia, swordfish, tuna, salmon...) have become much more affordable and taste nearly as good as fresh.

Here is our Honey Mustard and Pepper Glazed Grilled Tuna on a bed of romaine hearts, served with quinoa, and topped with yellow bell peppers and tomatoes.  We were very happy with how it turned out! 

For our Sunday Supper this weekend, I wanted something hearty, yet still healthy.  Many recipe books later, I found a simple Chicken Cacciatore.  I've never made Cacciatore before, so I was excited -- I LOVE making things that are "entirely new" to me.  I changed up the recipe slightly, making it a bit healthier by using trimmed chicken tenders instead of skin-on chicken, and brown rice instead of white.  I also added some dry vermouth and capers to add a kick!
Chicken Cacciatore -- chicken, onions, tomatoes, garlic, capers, vermouth, oregano
Olive Rice
Chicken Cacciatore served over Olive Rice

As a side note:  I used to buy the pre-washed, pre-cut lettuce.  But, unless we ate it all in 2-3 days, it would start getting slimy and I'd have to throw it out!  Since moving, I have been buying the bags of "hearts of romaine" instead.  The 3 hearts can make a full week of side salads, I wash and cut what I need when I need it, AND it lasts so much longer!  I have yet to throw out a single leaf of lettuce and the overall cost per the amount of product is so much better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Artichokes... the Vegetable with a Heart

Often when I find artichoke recipes or see chefs cook them on Food Network, the chef will cut off all the leaves, throw them out, and just use the heart.  While the heart is delicious, its a crime to throw out all of those beautiful leaves!

A favorite meal at our house while I was growing up was steamed or boiled artichokes.  They're such a beautiful vegetable and make for a fun finger food meal.  I treated Joe and I to an enormous globe artichoke for dinner last night -- its great when they're in season because I got that giant for $2.50 (about half the price they are in the summer).

As an aside, artichokes are VERY healthy, you can check out a lot of the benefits here.

Our dinner:

Steamed artichoke with lemon garlic dipping sauce

Tilapia poached with lemon, capers, dill, and tomatoes


Cooking an artichoke is actually really easy.  I trimmed the points off the outer leaves and cut the top off the artichoke.  Then I cut the stem off at the base of the artichoke so it would sit upright.  In this case, the stem was long and beautiful, so I trimmed of the end, peeled it, cut it into 4 pieces, and steamed it along with the artichoke.  Its a great treat -- it tastes very similar to the heart.  I steamed the artichoke in a steaming basket in a covered pot.  I squeezed half a lemon into the steaming liquid (to prevent browning), and also added 2 bay leaves.  Artichokes take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to steam, depending on their size (this one took nearly an hour).  You can tell they're done when the leaves pull off easily and the tender inside of the leaf can be scraped off with your teeth.

If you've never tried an artichoke like this, you should!  Its an entirely different experience and flavor than the marinated ones that are served on pizzas and antipasto platters.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Perhaps My Favorite Meal in Italy

Amid exploration of the hill towns of Umbria (2007), we happened upon a very small town called Orvieto.  We got there in the evening, and there wasn't much open, but we certainly had to pay respects to their INCREDIBLE Duomo, which is covered in mosaic tile on one side.

Next to the Duomo, there was a small restaurant that happened to be open.  We sat on their patio, in a corner of the Duomo's piazza.  None of the wineries in the town were open, so we asked the waiter to pick out a local wine for us to try.  He suggested that instead of a full bottle, he could create a tasting of his own.  Along with our wine tasting, we asked if he could also put together some kind of sampling of the local foods.  These are what he came up with:

Half of the meats on this platter, he called "particulare," because they were local specialties that don't have English names.  It was an assortment of local salamis, and other cured meats.  I'm not sure what they all were, but I would love to duplicate that platter again!

He also made a platter of local cheeses.  Two sheep's milk, one goat milk, and one cow milk.  Surrounding some luscious local pears.  Perfecto!

Of course, there was also freshly baked bread and local olive oil on the side.  While this was by no means our biggest meal of the trip, it was incredibly local, personalized, and fit the atmosphere.  Our waiter was also so proud to show off the local specialties!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Cooking

Since moving to Colorado, we've been eating most of our meals at home -- giving me many opportunities to experiment with new recipes.  (New recipes are always my favorite thing to cook -- there's just something exciting about it!!).

Probably one of the prettiest quiches I've ever made.  Mushroom, bacon, swiss, and green onion.

 Roasted chicken!  Roasted with lemon, onions, and TONS of garlic.

Served with pan seared asparagus, stuffing, and chicken gravy.  Also notice our beautiful pumpkin!  Picked at a local pumpkin farm (where we also got to find our way through a 1.5 acre corn maze).

Perfect use for leftover roasted chicken and gravy:  individual chicken pot pies!!!
 Filled with lots of veggies along with the chicken, of course!

I wish I took pictures of the roasted beet and potato borscht (a slightly chuncky beet soup -- such a gorgeous color!), French onion soup (Julia Child's recipe, which involved caramelizing my onions for 45 minutes prior to making the soup...), asparagus risotto, shepherd's pie, lamb meatloaf, etc...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eating with Famous People

(or at least taking our picture with them when they come to our table!)

Some of you may remember, that the family Christmas card from 2007 had a picture with the now UBER famous Michael Symon.

 Here we are at Lola, soon after Chef Michael Symon became Iron Chef Michael Symon.  I was SO excited to meet him!  As a perpetually disappointed Indians fan, I told him, "YOU are Cleveland's World Series!!"  That night, Mom and Carla had the duck and Dad and I had the rabbit.  Dinner at Lola does not disappoint, neither does dinner at Lolita, or lunch at B Spot (other Symon Cleveland establishments).

Food and Travel

Over the past few years, I have discovered that when I travel, my favorite pictures are usually the ones I took of food.  Yes, I am that strange person that takes out a camera, even in the middle of a fancy restaurant...  In 2007, my family and I went on a trip to Milan, Florence, and the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria.  Here are a few of my food photos from that trip:

Bruschetta with (clockwise from top left) pate, roasted garlic, tomatoes, arugula and parmesan reggiano
Fresh pasta with rabbit sauce

Possibly octopus?

Prosciutto and pineapple


Port with cantucci

If you haven't travelled to Italy yet, you need to!  The food there is incredibly fresh and cannot be replicated outside of the country.  And the wine, wow....!