Wednesday, February 27, 2008

March, March, March Challenge - ONE DISH MEALS

Welcome to March - almost. There's that one extra pesky day in February this year, but March starts on Saturday which is a perfect time to start cooking....


Yes, ladies and ladies, the challenge this month is to make a uni-dish. Everyone's schedule is tight, so having a handy list of one-dish-meals is always helpful. These can include casseroles, pot-pies, pizzas, pasta dishes, deluxe salads, etc. Your imagination is the limit, and you can dirty up as many dishes as you want to clean!

Happy cooking :)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Not a pretty picture

I made pasta e fagiolli from Everyday Italian and although the soup was tasty, it doesn't look all that great. I will be adding my picture at the end. This was a very simple soup to put together. Because the ingredient list was so short, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I followed the recipe as written, but instead of using canned kidney beans, I used dried borlotti beans ordered from Rancho Gordo. I cooked them all day in my crock pot. They are a tasty bean, but it took a lot longer than I thought they should. I have never been good at the dried bean thing. They may have not been quite done when I blended the soup using an immersion blender. Instead of thickening the soup, I just got tiny bean pieces. Oh well.

I topped the soup with cheese and olive oil as directed and that gave it a lot of flavor. Even Mark said he liked it. Although, he also said he was surprised that he liked it. I guess I will take what I can get!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

West African Peanut Soup


HA! I bet you thought I'd never come back! Life gets in the way sometimes and even my own blog has been a bit neglected.

This has been a longtime favorite and I'm even entering it in a cook-off at work Tuesday. I think anyway. I made it today to see how it would hold up in a crock-pot as I get to work at 6am and people won't be digging in till 11.

The modifications I made are as follows:

I added the sweet potatoes with the carrots. That was an accident as they're the same color and I grabbed the wrong bowl. No harm done.

I used an immersion blender to puree the veggies with the tomato juice because I have a nice immersion blender precisely for this task. Saves pouring hot liquid and potential splatter too.

I added very little sugar.

I like thick soup so I didn't add any additional liquid.

(from "Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant")

2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cayenne or other ground chiles
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp sugar
chopped scallions
chopped roasted peanuts

Sauté onion in oil until it is translucent.
Stir in cayenne and ginger. Add carrots and
sauté a couple minutes more. Mix in potatoes
and stock, bring to a boil, simmer 15 minutes
(until the vegetables are tender). Puree the
vegetables with tomato juice (and some of the
cooking liquid if necessary) in a blender or
food processor. Return the puree to the pot.
Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Check
sweetness and add sugar if necessary. Reheat
gently, using a heat diffuser if necessary to
prevent scorching. Add more water, stock, or
tomato juice to make a thinner soup if
desired. Serve topped with plenty of chopped
scallions and chopped roasted peanuts.

Serves 6-8

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gulasch Suppe (Goulasch Soup)

There are a few German recipes I was hoping to master before leaving Berlin in a few months. Goulasch soup was one of them and I have made it so many times with so many different recipes and each time it is missing something. Here in Berlin, it is served everywhere at this time of year and I can't seem to master the balance between paprika and caraway to mimic it. I'm missing some ingredient but can't seem to find a recipe that tells me what it is. Here is my latest attempt ... a subpar Goulasch soup, in my opinion. I didn't have marjoram so I left it out but that just may be the missing ingredient. I have cooked with marjoram before and remember it being surprisingly fragrant and having a distinct taste.

300 g./ 10oz. stew beef, cut into chunks
3 T. cooking oil
1 liter/ 4.5c. beef stock or water
200 g. / 7 oz. onions
1 clove garlic
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 regular can diced tomatoes (I think they are 14.5 oz cans in the US)
2 T. tomato paste
strong paprika powder, to taste
1/2 t. ground caraway
dried marjoram, to taste

Brown the meat on all sides in the cooking oil. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over med-low heat for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prep veggies. Peel onions and cut into slices. Peel garlic and dice. Clean peppers and chop roughly. After the beef has cooked slowly for an hour, add the prepped veggies, tomatoes, and tomato puree. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, caraway and marjoram. Bring back to a low boil. Cover and cook slowly for another 20-30 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning with salt, pepper and paprika.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pad Thai #2

I tried another pad thai...Easy Vegetarian Pad Thai. The one wasn't quiet right either. There was ALOT of lime juice so you really tasted the sour first, then the sugar brought on the sweet. I didn't have a chili, so I used 1/2 tsp of the garlic chili sauce stuff and it made it pretty spicy, but they flavors didn't blend well together or something. Brian liked it because it had the peanut butter in it. I guess I will keep trying :)

Mark's favorite soup


To make up for all the soup that he hasn't like, I made Mark his favorite, the Italian sausage soup from Cooking Light. This is such an easy one to put together it really works that Mark likes it so much. I have used turkey or pork sausage with good results, but recommend using sweet or mild flavors. The hot just really doesn't go, but works if that is all you have. With the pasta, meat, tomatoes, and spinach, it has everything you need in one bowl - YUM!

Sigh, I don't know why that picture is so big. It shouldn't be.

Also, I am editing my last post with the recipes...stay tuned!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two "in a bowl" recipes...


Last week I continued with my grand quest to find the perfect meat sauce recipe (ps-I am on a quest for the perfect meat sauce). I used the simple italian style meat sauce from the recent cooks illustrated. (I can't find the recipe online anywhere and don't want to type it in...maybe later). This meat sauce different from other ones because it uses a "panade—a paste of bread and milk blended into the meat before cooking". I have to say, the consistancy of this sauce was perfect and the flavor was very meaty. I just felt like I was missing some other flavors like red wine and more herbs. I am definately going to play around with this one. The sauce made enough for 2 pounds so I got to freeze half for another time.

ETA recipe: Simple Italian Style Meat Sauce (6 cups)
4 oz white mushrooms
1 large slice high quality white bread
2 T whole milk
salt and pepper
1 lb round beef, pref chuck
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 red pepper flakes
1 T tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes drained, 1/4 liquid reserved (in my can, I think there was only 1/4 liquid in there)
1 T minced fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup grated parm cheese

1. Process mushrooms in food processor unti finely chopped, about 8 1 second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl. Add bread, milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper to empty food processor and process until paste forms, 8 1 second pulses. Add beef and pulse until mixture is well combined, 6 1-second pulses.
2. Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium high heat until just smoking. Add onion and mushrooms, cook, stirring frequenly until browned and dark bits form on pan bottom. Sitr in garlic, pepper flakes and tomato paste; cook until fragrant and tomato paste starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup reserved tomato liquid and 2 tsp fresh oregano or all if using dried, scraping brown bits off bottom of pan. Add meat mixture and cook, breaking meat into small piece with wooden spoon, until beef loses raw color, 2 to 4 min, making sure meat does not brown.
3. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and gently simmer until sauce has thickened and flavors have blended, about 30 minutes. Stir in cheese and remained of fresh oregano; season with salt and pepper.


Pictured above is my version of my dad's champion chili. It is called champion chili not because the recipe he uses is called champion chili, but because he has won with this one. I like to call it "there is no chili powder in this chili" chili. If you ever have my dad's chili, you will understand why. That, and there is no chili powder in it. If you think about it, it is called CHILI not chili powder. Instead we use a mix of hot and mild peppers.

I have had some of my most successful dinner partys on "chili day" which is usually Jan 1st. To me, chili is all about the condiments and my favorites are green onions, sour cream, and fritos. Yes, fritos. I serve the chili with cut up apple or oranges to cut the heat.

I haven't decided on posting the recipe. If I do ever enter my chili in a contest, I don't want any of you SOB's up against me, know what I'm saying?

Ok, I can't find what I used this year, but this is what I wrote down for last year

1 bottle dark beer
1.5 T fresh oregano, should probably use more
1 tsp dried oregano, amount depends on how much fresh
2-3 T cumin, good quality either toast and grind yourself or penzey's
1.15 grd sirloin, I bet chuck would be better
1 lb mild sausage, or hot
1 lb turkey
1 lb jimmy dean, hot
3 anaheim peppers, or other mild pepper
1 can chiles, chopped
3 chipotle,
2 cayenne, or whatever from your garden
1 jalepeno, same as above
1 large can crush tomatoes, my addition, my dad likes his chili soupy
3 T chili sauce
1 can extra hot rotel, or mild, or just diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 white onions
6 cloves garlic
1 can pinto beans
1 can beef broth
1T corn meal, 2 T Flour (or 3 T masa flour)
1 T mole if you got it, handful chocolate chips if you don't

All amounts are estimates. In one pan, saute onions, garlic, and all peppers. In another pan, brown all meat. Put together is large pot with rest of ingredients except last 2. Simmer away until dinner time - lid on or off depending on how thick you like your chili(I do some of both). 1 hour before serving, add corn meal, flour, and mole. A good trick is to NOT pour fat off during browning, wait until chili is finished. The capsaisin is lipid soluable and will disolve into the fat layer. After you skim off fat, you will be left with the flavor of the peppers, but not as much heat. 8-12 servings

Mushroom Risotto

This was my first attempt at risotto and I think it turned out pretty well. Brian kept saying how delicious it was. I could not find "poccini" mushrooms, so I used dried shitake. I am not sure why you have to use any dried mushrooms. I could see someone with childhood texture issues not liking them after they have been soaked in the warm water. At any rate, this Mushroom Risotta was very good and I will make it again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sausage and Lentil Soup

Evidently Paula Dean has some kinda deal with Smithfield Meats and this is the main recipe I used. Sausage and Lentil Soup Recipe I also consulted a recipe on I didn't have any green peppers or spinach, but it was still pretty delicious. We had some jalapeno cheese deer sausage which made the soup REALLY spicy...which was fun. I also did the thing where you blend some soup up in the food processor to make it a little thicker. I topped it with some shaved parm and searved with some wheat toast. YEAH!!

Pad Thai

I tried a Pad Thai recipe I found on the It was okay. I did not add the shrimp and maybe that is what it needed. I used to make this fabulous recipe in college with a friend of mine, but I can't remember what all was in it. I am going to keep searching for a delicious and simple Pad Thai recipe :) This one was definitely simple.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Back by Popular Demand .....

Home-Style Pork Soup with Vegetables (page 51) in the Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet cookbook. Very tasty and works perfectly as a meal if served with a little steamed Jasmine Rice. I used 2 dried chilies as the recipe called for but I would cut back or leave out altogether if you have little ones ... it had a pleasant kick using 2 but maybe a bit much for kids. I liked this one a lot ... very easy and didn't make tons of soup that you have to eat all week long ... a really nice 3-4 portions is all it made.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Best French Onion Soup?


I made french onion soup for dinner tonight from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated. You should really check out this magazine. For this article, they go through all the trial and error with making this soup and it is very interesting. I followed this article exactly as written and the soup turned out "very good". Problem is that "very good" isn't always the best. Yes, it was good, but I am not sure if it was worth all the time it took to put it together. Most of it was "hands off" and I loved the oven method of carmelizing the onions. (I really should have taken pictures of how the onions browned. It was sooo amazing!) This one is worth a try if you are still looking for a french onion soup.

Here's the adapted recipe (reworded to avoid copyright issues):

3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Table salt
2 cups water , plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (see note)
2 cups beef broth (see note)
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)


Preheat oven to 400, with rack in lower-middle position. Spray the inside of a dutch oven with nonstick spray, and add butter, onions and 1tsp salt. Cook for an hour, covered, and then remove and stir, scraping the pot. Put it back in the oven with the lid off just a bit and cook for another 90-105 minutes, scraping at the hour mark, until the onions are brown and very soft.

Remove the pot, put it over medium-high heat, and keep cooking for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the onions brown and the liquid evaporates. Keep cooking for another 6-8 minutes until you have a dark crust on the bottom, and then add 1/4 cup water and deglaze. Repeat this deglazing/evaporating process two or three times, and then stir in the sherry and let it cook until it evaporates again.

Add the broth, two cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt and deglaze again. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce the heat back down and let it simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Toss the herbs and season with s+p.

To make the croutons, bake the baguette slices on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until dry and golden.

Service: Fill broiler-safe crocks with soup, top with baguette slices, sprinkle with gruyere, and broil (6" or so from the element) for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted bubbly, and then let it cool for another 5.

Carrot Salad

I saw this recipe on the food network yesterday and decided to make it today with our sandwiches. Very yummy, and I highly recommend. DH liked it too. I don't think it will keep well, considering the water content of carrots, but at least we enjoyed it once.

Carrot Salad

1/3 cup golden raisins (I used regular raisins)
1 pound carrots
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sugar (I used splenda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup diced fresh pineapple (I used drained canned chunks)
Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then drain. Fit a food processor with the grating blade. Cut the carrots in half and place in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches. Place the grated carrots in a medium bowl, add the lemon juice and toss.

For the dressing, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar and salt. Pour the dressing over the carrots and add the pineapple and raisins. Toss together and serve.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shrimp Orzo Salad with Feta

I promise, I served this in a bowl for Superbowl Sunday! This is a fantastic recipe my sister-in-law discovered and I am smitten over its yummy blend of flavors. It's also great at room temperature and perfect for parties, showers, etc.

Shrimp Orzo Salad with Feta


2lbs of jumbo shrimp – deveined and tail removed
2 tspn salt – divided
2 tspn of pepper – divided
1/2 cup of olive oil – divided
12 oz of orzo pasta - cooked
½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup chopped scallions/green onions
1 cup minced fresh parsley
¾ cup minced fresh dill
1 seedless/English cucumber – chopped into cubes
½ red onion-diced
8oz of feta – chopped into cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a single later, place the shrimp on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil until sufficiently coated. Also add salt/pepper until shrimp is sufficiently seasoned – about a tspn of each. Bake for 6 mins.

Cook Orzo according to package instructions. In a large bowl, add ½ cup of lemon juice, ½ cup of good olive oil, tspn of salt, tspn of pepper. Mix them together. Add cooked orzo – it is best to add the pasta to this oil/lemon mix when the pasta is warm – it will soak it up great.

After the pasta has cooled down, then add the dill, parsley, cucumber, scallions, and red onion. After the shrimp has cooled, add that to the pasta mix. Then top it off with the feta.

It is best if you make the day before. The longer it sits, the yummier it gets.

Chilean Sea Bass Moho and More

Am I reaching? I served the fish in a pasta bowl over rice:) I added the tomatoes for a little color. Chilean Sea Bass Moho and More was alright, but I probably wouldn't make it again. I don't know if I got a bad lime or something, but I didn't love it. Bri thought it as okay though, which is good.

Red Lentil Soup from Gourmet Magazine

I'm telling you guys, I have a million soup recipes cut out already that have been waiting for me to try and I just needed an excuse to get me cooking. This one I quickly whipped up this week for easy, light lunches for me and my toddler. It's from Gourmet magazine ... a reader wrote in with the recipe and described it as "classic Armenian comfort food". Both of us really liked this one. It's light so I don't know if I would serve this as a main dish soup but it would be a great complement to a middle eastern meal or a light first course.

Serves (4-6)
1 large onion, chopped ( subbed a leek, finely chopped)
1 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 t. ground cumin
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme ( subbed a good pinch of dried)
1 c. red lentils, picked over and rinsed (subbed yellow lentils which are very similar to red lentils)
3 1/2 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
3 c. water
2 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the onion in oil with 1/2 t. salt in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, bay leaf, and thyme, lentils, broth, water, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very soft and falling apart, about 30-45 minutes. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig, then puree 2 cups of mixture in a blender and return to pan. Stir in parsley and season with salt, if needed.

I had the thought to stir in a drizzle of coconut milk next time I make this ... but, that is my addiction to hearty, creamy soups coming out. It's perfectly fine on it's own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tomato Soup

I made this tomato soup this summer with tomatoes from my garden and it was awesome. It's not tomato basil, but it would be a great base to add basil and cream to. Definitely wouldn't need any rescuing!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I shouldn't have ... but I did

I knew I shouldn't have done this, but I did it anyway. Even when I started on this recipe this afternoon, I knew I shouldn't and still I went ahead and did it. What did I do? I consulted Cooking Light for a new soup recipe that I had high expectations for. This recipe is exactly what turns me off of Cooking Light and how I get so annoyed when they slap a few mismatched ingredients together along with a pretty picture and call it a recipe. I knew balsamic, beef broth and soy sauce sounded iffy but still I got lured by the pretty bowl of soup with the pumpkin focaccia sitting so perfectly next to it. I absolutely love Tomato-Basil Soup especially the kind with way too much cream in it so I set out this afternoon to attempt one and failed miserably. What I attempted was Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup from the Oct. '05 issue. If you read the reviews you would think this was heaven in a bowl. I don't get it because it tatsted like a spoonful of vinegar with every bite not tomato soup! I tried a billion things to save the soup a couple handfuls of chopped basil ... did this save my soup? Nope. More cream? Nope. Can I turn it into pasta sauce? Nope. Can this soup be saved? I don't think so, but we choked some of it down along with a big salad and a lot of garlic bread! It's possible my balsamic was too high a quality for what they were going for and the flavor was maybe a bit overpowering. I'm posting because this one was on my list to try this month and even though it was a failure maybe it will inspire another tomato-basil soup lover to experiment.

By the way, the best tomato-basil soup I've ever had is at Main Street Bakery in Grapevine, TX. Yes, Texans ... it's even better than La Madeleine's.

Monday, February 4, 2008

"This is NOT minestrone!"


Just a word of warning, although I am not sure who I am warning except for me, Mark doesn't like soup. I think it is just too hot for my non-coffee drinking husband. He does like my Italian Sausage Soup, but he always calls it minestrone. For this challenge, I thought I would make him a minestrone so he could see what it was. I decided to make not just any minestrone, but Red Lentil Minestrone from Robin's recipe archive (Thanks Robin). I just have a bunch of red lentils so this seemed like a good one to try. Well, I was informed that we were eating vegtable soup and NOT minestrone, so I guess it didn't go over that well. However, I liked it just fine. The lentils kind of disappeared into the soup, but they gave it a richer texture than a normal vegtable soup. I would definately use this technique again. Oh, I added some onion and garlic, and my carrots and potato took a little longer to cook. Probably operator error.

The bread in the background is beer bread from a mix I got for Christmas. I will probably add some bread items to my soups in this challenge. This one turned out pretty good. I wasn't so sure when I was mixing it up. It ended up just a little sweet, but crunchy on the outside. Mark did like the bread.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Minestra di Latte

I can't remember if I submitted this one when we did our International month. I don't think I did so here it is. This is a stick to your ribs, perfect for a really cold night Italian soup. When I first had this in Italy, I was so fascinated by the simplicity of the ingredients and have since made this countless times for us. I'll post the recipe as I was told it and then put my measurements in parenthesis.

Minestra di Latte
1 liter milk (roughly 4 cups)
1/4 liter water (roughly 1 cup)
1 t. salt
6 handfuls of arborio rice (200 grams on a kitchen scale or 1 heaping cup)

Combine the milk and water in a medium saucepan and heat just until bubbles begin to form on the surface. Toss in salt and stir to combine. Add rice and stir. Now turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and slowly simmer (without boiling) for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked but not mushy.

I wish I could tell you that this is a hands off recipe but I must warn you that you must stay very close to the stove as your rice cooks because the minute you turn your back on heating milk it will boil over on you. This has happened to me more times than I care to admit. Also, you need to periodically stir the soup to prevent a milk skin from forming on the surface. If you get a skin on your soup, carefully fish it out and toss it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Kartoffelsuppe mit Garnelen (Potato Soup with Shrimps)

This is a recent recipe I discovered from a German food magazine called, Lecker. I served this for our New Year's Eve dinner and it was really impressive. I have also served this as a casual mid week meal and omitted the shrimps. Despite the small ingredient list, this soup is really tasty.

Serves 4:
8-12 big shrimps, shelled and deveined
2 shallots or 1 onion
1 medium sized carrot
1.5 lbs. potatoes (not floury potatoes ... try new potatoes)
2 T. butter
1 T. vegetable bouillon (or omit if you have fresh veggie broth on hand)
1 small container whipping cream
horseradish, for garnish (although I omitted this)

Prep the veggies:
1. Peel and chop the shallots or onion
2. Peel, wash and chop the carrots and potatoes into large pieces

Heat 1 T. butter in a large soup pot. Toss in the shallots, carrot, and potatoes and saute for a couple of minutes. Add 1 liter water and heat to a low boil. Add the bouillon, salt and pepper. Let it boil slowly with the top on for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and dry the shrimp. Saute the shrimp in a non-stick pan with the remaining 1 T butter for about 1-2 minutes per side. Season with salt.

After the soup has cooked for roughly 20 minutes, check the potatoes. If they are done ... here is my deviation from the recipe ... I take a couple of potato chunks out and finely dice and set aside. Next, puree the soup with a hand mixer or in a blender ... it's ok to leave it slightly chunky. Add half the cream and mix in. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and garnish with the diced potatoes you set aside, another swirl of cream, shrimps, and horseradish strips (if you like).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Anything in a bowl!

To make the most of these last (hopefully) winter days, let's celebrate the cornerstone of cold weather food - soups and stews! I threw in the "anything in a bowl" because I wasn't sure if chili was a soup or a stew and plus it might be interesting to see what people come up with to serve in a bowl. Alright, let's get cooking...or simmering...whatever!