Friday, February 27, 2009

Hot Pockets

This week has been wonky. So I apologize for not getting everything up that I've promised. Here's another. Last night I made what can best be described as a Middle Eastern Hot Pocket--I need to come up with a name. They were tasty, filling and not all that bad for you.

What was supposed to be an Irish inspired treat ended up being ground beef, garbanzo beans/chickpeas, pine nuts, golden raisins, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and lots of redolent spices and wrapped and baked in a store bought pie crust. I'm very pleased and I think this will be a very versatile dinner. I'll work on the recipe and get that to you later...I promise.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

No Bake Goodies

Here are the treats I made the other night! Very tasty, especially the next day...

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
from Martha Stewart Living

Makes 2 dozen.

Vegetable oil cooking spray
9 ounces chocolate wafers (about 40 wafers), finely ground (2 cups)
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
5 ounces (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chunky peanut butter
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
1 ½ ounces milk chocolate, melted

1. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 long sides.

2. Combine wafers, oats, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add chunky peanut butter and ¾ cup smooth peanut butter, whisking until well combined. Add peanut butter mixture to wafer mixture, stirring until combined. Transfer to baking dish, and use the bottom of a measuring cup or an offset spatula to firmly press mixture into an even layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Pour melted semisweet chocolate over chilled mixture and, using an offset spatula, spread into a thin layer that covers the entire surface. Refrigerate until hardened, at least 15 minutes.

4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter in a small saucepan until runny. Drizzle peanut butter over chilled chocolate. Drizzle melted milk chocolate over peanut butter. Refrigerate until hardened, about 15 minutes.

5. Use parchment to lift out chilled block of bars. Run a sharp knife under hot water, dry well, and cut into 24 squares, wiping knife between cuts. Let bars stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. (Sliced bars can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.)

Some notes on the recipe:

I didn't use any cooking spray in my baking dish, only parchment paper. I didn't see the need and had no need for it, when all was said and done!

Chocolate wafers? The best option I could find were chocolate graham crackers and they were wonderful! Whiz them in a food processor until finely ground.

Butter. I might add another tablespoon or two to the recipe. The oatmeal/sugar/graham mixture was very dry and sticky. I was thinking the little extra butter might make the batter a little easier to work with and might make for a bar that is a touch more moist. Just a thought.

I was tired and wanted to get these done, I kept putting the pan in the freezer until the bars were set, then the chocolate, etc. Don't serve them from the freezer. They will be dry and fall apart.

Overall, very tasty and they received high praises at the office.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Did you blink? Did you miss it??? After the Oscars on Sunday, we were treated to a TINY clip of the new movie; Julie & Julia!!!!


And Stanley Tucci is playing Paul Child...what fun!

Thanks to Serious Eats for posting the You Tube clip.

Photo Updates

I wanted to share some photos with you...I'll be updating the recipes later when I have some more time to sit the meantime...Click photos to embiggen, for full mouth-watering effect.

I have a dinner recipe coming up this week that calls for sun-dried tomatoes. I'm not a fan, so I decided I'd substitute some roasted tomatoes. Cut and seed the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and herbs. Roast!

After the tomatoes are done, I put in a small bowl and covered with olive oil and plastic wrap. They are chilling the fridge until cooking time. They look really lovely! I'm looking forward to drying them in the recipe, I hope the substitution works.

Last night I whipped up a batch of balsamic vinaigrette to use as a marinade. It seemed overly sweet, but was still very pleasant and well rounded in flavors.

Oh snap. I made treats!!!

They are a no-bake bar. Very tasty. You'll like the recipe. Very easy!

And for giggles, here's another close-up after the chocolate and peanut butter firmed up. I love chocolate squiggles, they make me smile.

Stick around for the recipes over the coming days.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday Night Fish Fry

I was accidentally a good Catholic on Friday night with a good old fashion fish fry! It was tasty, fast and easy; if it was a little messy. This is another good recipe from Everyday Food.

First you need to make the coating for the fish. Cornmeal, flour, salt & pepper. I added some cayenne for a little extra impact.

The fish pieces are dipped in whipped egg whites, then into the cornmeal mixture. It's messy, but no more so than fried chicken. I covered my cutting board with a piece of plastic wrap to make clean up a touch easier.

The fish cooks in about 6-8 minutes. If you work in batches, the finished fish can sit in a warm over until you're ready to serve dinner.

This amount of fish sticks came from two tilapia fillets. It filled the two of us up. With a little more of our side dish, we could have shared the fish with a third person.

Fish with potatoes; the potato recipe will come later...super duper, OMG easy.

Good flavor, very light and super flaky. Amen.

Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sticks
from Everyday Food

4 large egg whites
Coarse salt & ground pepper
1 pound skinless tilapia fillets, cut into 1 by 3 inch pieces
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with paper towel.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites with salt & pepper. Add the fish and toss to coat. In another large bowl, combine cornmeal and flour, season with salt & pepper.

Working in batches, lift fish from the egg whites; letting excess drip off, and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, patting to adhere. Transfer to a plate, sheet pan or cutting board.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Working in batches, cook fish until golden brown and opaque throughout, 4-6 minutes, turning once. If fish is browning too quickly, reduce heat. Transfer to the paper towel lined sheet. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Serve with ketchup, lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

**I used a cup of oil for my cooking, it wasn't very deep, so I had to rotate the fish a few extra times, so my cooking time was a touch longer than the 4-6 minutes recommended by the recipe. Otherwise this is it...

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Girl!!!!

I'm so frakkin' happy that Ms. Carla is in the Top 3 on Top Chef!!!!!! Goo Girl.

I don't remember cheering when watching Top Chef in the past, but I did when I watched part 1 of the Finale!

OMG I'm So Excited!

You want us to do WHAT?

I feel like dancin' dancing!!! did this photo get here?

Gurl, you don't nuttin' 'bout my peas!

Go Carla Go!

BTW: Thank Gawd Gail was back!

Turkey Version

Last night's dinner was another from the new issue of Everyday Food. A year ago, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, inc. purchased the Emeril Lagasse brand from the man himself. An interesting idea...BTW, if anyone wants to buy my brand...for the right price, we can talk.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up, last night's dinner was an Emeril recipe that was in MSLO's Everyday Food. A lighter version of the classic Bolognese Sauce using turkey instead of beef & pork. It was good and I ate a giant plate. But I didn't love it! I'd make it again. It's certainly a great alternative for folks who don't eat red meat or the other white meat, but I felt there was something, I don't know what, but something lacking in the depth of flavor, which I find odd considering the effort we put in to create those flavor layers and depth. This sauce builds on itself, layer after layer, you'll see when you read the recipe. So I find this odd and that something was missing...

Well, let's get started.

The dish starts by using turkey bacon and once crispy and rendered, carrots, onions and celery are added. They chill out for awhile, then you add the ground turkey. Let that cook, then add white wine and garlic. More chilling out.

About half way through the cooking, you add tomato paste and ultimately some chicken broth and some half & half.

Serve with some hearty pasta. But still, something was missing...

Awww, fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.

As I said, it's good, but I think I prefer a more classic Bolognese sauce. (Here is a really great recipe and a fairly good recipe).

Emeril's Turkey Bolognese
(serves 8)

10 slices turkey bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
salt & pepper
2 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup dry white wine, Sauvignon Blanc
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1) In a large, heavy pot cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery and carrots; season with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes.

2) Add the turkey; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8-9 minutes. Add the wine and garlic; cook until wine has almost evaporated, 10-15 minutes. Add tomato paste; cooking, stirring occasionlly, until lightly browned, 7-10 minutes.

3) Add broth and half-and-half; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until sauce is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes more.

I cut the recipe in half and intended to have 4 meals/2 evenings of dinner, out of it. I served a little too much last night and then I wanted some for lunch (I've eaten the same thing for lunch all week and need something new!), which left just a wee bit for another meal. So, not quite four full meals, but almost. So this full recipe could serve 6-8 for a big dinner.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicken w/Capers and Red Peppers

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I made dinner from a recipe in Everyday Food. What was listed as Chicken with Artichokes and Capers became Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers and Capers. It was very delicious, simple, filling and easy!

Let's get started.

I purchased the pre-sliced chicken cutlets from the store this time around because I knew that I wasn't going to have as much time to prep the chicken for this dinner. This is fine, but normally I like to save money and just buy a large pack of chicken breasts and slice them myself. But in a pinch this works.

You cover the cutlets in a light coating of flour and seasoning. This is done for two reasons. One, the flour provides a slight bit of protection to the chicken, from the heat of the pan. Two, and perhaps more important, the flour helps to create more fond in the bottom of the pan. If you look at the picture above, you will see where the previous cutlet was in the pan. It left some bits and pieces in the pan. When you add liquid to the pan, that fond will dissolve and help to create a lovely sauce. The bit of flour in the fond will provide a little bit of help in creating a sauce with a little more body.

This photo made me think that this recipe would work swimmingly with fillets of fish as well!

After the chicken has cooked, you add some chicken broth and simmer to reduce by half. The reduced sauce is then brought to life by the addition of capers and in my substitute version, roasted red peppers. The minute I got home from my grocery store, I started roasting my red pepper. If you aren't comfortable with roasting your own peppers, I suppose you can used jarred peppers. When you turn off the heat, you add some butter to enrich the sauce and a small handful of chopped parsley for more green flavor and garnish.

Serve chicken and sauce with angel hair pasta. Buttery and acidic with strong, bright flavors from the capers and sweetness from the peppers. Yum. I think I like this a little better than the standard Chicken Piccata. I'm not sure that's an argument that will win in our house, but it's is certainly a great dish that I will make again!

Chicken with Capers and Roasted Red Peppers
inspired by Everyday Foods Chicken with Artichoke Hearts and Capers

2-4 Chicken Cutlets
1/2 cup of flour
Salt & Pepper
1-2 TB olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 roasted red pepper (or 1/2 to 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers)
2 TB small capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Angel hair pasta

This recipe can move fast, so have all your ingredients prepped before you begin.

On a plate or in a small bowl, mix the flour with salt & pepper. You can use additional seasoning if you like (a pinch or two or dried thyme and/or cayenne pepper). Coat the cutlets in the flour and shake off excess.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil. Carefully place the cutlets in the pan. Work in batches if necessary. Leave the cutlets in the pan until they nicely browned on one side, then flip to the other. Remove to a warm plate and continue with the next batch if you need to.

At this point, I added the dried pasta to boiling water to cook. The pasta took five minutes to cook and the sauce cooked in about 6 minutes. Near perfect timing.

To the frying pan, pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil in the pan. Scrape up any browned bits (fond) in the bottom of the pan. Allow to reduce by half. Add the roasted red peppers and capers. Turn off the heat and add the butter and parsley. Stir until the butter is melted. Return the cutlets to the pan and coat in the sauce.

Plate your cooked pasta and serve the chicken and sauce. Enjoy, I certainly did!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Way to Shop

Hello all,

A few weeks ago I was talking about the fact that I make a shopping list using Microsoft Excel and have it organized the way my grocery store is set up. I was asked to share a sample. So here goes.

The sample below was created two weeks ago. A new list is created every 8-10 days. I sit down and look at our schedules. Are there work events we need to be aware of? Happy hours? Or a night we plan to see a movie and might get dinner out. From that point, I start to look at various recipes and get a meal plan together. This shopping list, for the two of us, is pretty full and detailed. This past Saturday we were planning a birthday party for Jason, complete with plenty of sangria and a full Taco Bar. But I have to say, a party for 16 people and a weeks worth of meals (10), the planning was very helpful and our spending was very controlled ($6/meal/person). That doesn't include the cost of alcohol for the sangria though!!!!

I kind of feel like I'm sharing my deep, dark secrets by sharing this list...
Click to embiggen.

My grocery store is laid out with veggies first, then dairy, deli & bakery, then the middle aisles, then the meat counter, then the snacks and frozen stuff. With a list like this, I can get in and out in record time! The list I went with last night got me $100 in groceries in 20 minutes. Done and Done.

Speaking of this weeks meal plan; I recently received my new issue of Everyday Food. We both sat down and flipped through and I decided that each meal I make this week will be based off the recipes in the issue.

Here is the "Meal Notes" of my current shopping list:

Tues: Chicken w/angel hair and capers (pg 14)
Wed: On Our Own
Thurs: Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops (pg 111) & Caramelized Green Beans w Pine Nuts (pg 103)
Fri: Turkey Bolognese (pg 28)
Sat: Cornmeal Crusted Fishsticks (pg 49) & Rosemary Garlic Potatoes (pg 58)
Sun: Leftover Bolognese
Mon: Irish Hand Pies (pg 57) (freeze half) (Thaw frozen ground beef)
Tues: Baked Penne w Chicken (pg 77) w Roasted tomatoes

Page numbers are included for ease of looking the recipes up later.

I include the meal notes on my shopping list in case I forget what I'm making, which happens often. It also provides me opportunities to make smart changes while shopping. I may see green beans on the list, but can't find them in the store. If I can look at where they fit in the menu I can decide how best to substitute them. After the grocery shopping is complete and the food is put away, the meal notes are posted on the fridge as a reminder of what we're having and when. Sure, sometimes I'll flip some things around, but we'll know that for the next several we'll have that meal at some point.

If you have the current issue of Everyday Food, you might already start to notice some substitutions I've made to their recipes. I don't like artichokes, which were supposed to be in last night's Chicken Cutlets with Artichokes and Capers. I substituted one roasted red pepper. Stick around for those photos and that recipe!

So there you have it. The way I grocery shop. During the summer when we have the farmer's market, I'm off the list and make decisions based on what's available fresh. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood to cook and I'll fill the list with grubby stuff like tater tots and cans of soup. This technique works for us and really helps to keep us on budget. This technique also helps me try to plan some of my "Two from One" meal plans.

How do you shop?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ultra Beefy Chili

On Wednesday night we had the second half of our most recent "Two from One" meal. Previously I had a large hunk of braised beef that was to serve as two unique meals. The first was the braised beef with vegetables. I thought I would take the leftovers and turn it into a pot of chili. It worked pretty well.

If you have chili powder, you can use it. I thought I did, but oops...I didn't, so I mixed up something that worked pretty well.

For one hour, I simmered the leftover beef in a can of diced tomatoes and the juice, plus half of a 8oz can of tomato sauce. I seasoned the whole pot with 5 teaspoons of my spice mixture. If the chili is too thick, you can thin it out with some broth (chicken or beef).

I served the chili over rice. It was really tasty, extra beefy and full of lots of fun flavors.

Here's my blend of chili seasoning. Like I mentioned above, use a chili powder you have, if not, this works really well. I recommend playing around to find a blend you like.

Scott's Chili Seasoning:
1 tsp each: cumin, paprika, oregano, parsley, salt
1/2 tsp each: chimayo chile powder, coriander
1/4 tsp each: ancho chile powder, onion powder, cinnamon, black pepper
1/8 tsp each: chipotle chile powder, garlic powder, cocoa

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A President for the Ages

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Throughout the Union he saved, from the California he dreamed of seeing to the capital, where he gave his greatest speech, his life and triumphs will be remembered. But on 10th Street in Washington, the scene of Walt Whitman's "moody, tearful night," Ford's Theatre stands as a silent witness to our terrible loss.
--Michael F. Bishop in today's Washington Post.

Happy Birthday Dear Mr. President.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Braised Beef-Italian Style

Here's another "Two from One" meal. This was accidental, and I haven't made part two yet, so I'm hoping it will be delicious.

Monday night's dinner was a braised beef roast. I was looking for a brisket, but the store did not have it. So I went with a London Broil. I don't know the cuts of beef...that's one of those areas of cooking I'm just not that knowledgeable about. I braised the beef with "Italian" flavors. It was tasty. The second part of the meal will be tonight, so stay tuned.

Start by seasoning the beef with salt & pepper, then searing it. After browning, add some broth (beef and/or chicken), add a can of diced tomatoes,with their juices. Season all with oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Next time I think I'll add some red wine as well.

Cover and braise in the oven for 2-3 hours. Half way through your time, add frozen pearl onions and in this case I added some carrots for the veg.

Slice the beef and serve with the veg. Spoon some of the sauce over the beef.

I will admit, the beef was quite dry. I'm sure it was the temperature I cooked it at. As I was making this on a school night, I didn't want to eat dinner at 10 pm, so I cooked the roast at 350 degrees for just two hours. The meat was tender and had a nice flavor, but it was dry. If I had more time, say a Sunday afternoon, I would braise it at 300 for three hours or so. The heat causes the meat to tighten up and release it's moisture. With the lower heat, the meat won't tighten up as much and won't force out as much moisture.

Braised Beef-Italian Style
Beef Roast-Brisket or London Broil about 3lbs
1 TB olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
4 carrots, cut to 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
1 cup broth (beef or chicken or combo of both)
1 tsp, dried oregano, basil, parsley
1/2 tsp, thyme, rosemary
1 TB butter (optional)

Liberally season the beef with salt & pepper.

Add olive oil to a large oven proof pan over high heat. Sear the beef on both sides. About 5 minutes per side.

Add the broth and spices. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the onions and carrots. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for two hours (or 300 for three hours). Half way through the cooking, check the veggies--if they are tender, spoon them out to a bowl and cover with foil. You don't want mushy carrots and onions. For the last 30 minutes of cooking, remove the cover to allow the sauce to start to reduce.

When cooking is complete, remove the roast to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Add the veggies back to the sauce, bring sauce to a very low simmer, to warm the veggies and continue the reduction of the sauce. Add the butter to enrich the sauce.

Slice the beef for serving. Drizzle sauce over the beef and serve the veg on the side. Enjoy.

Save 1/2 the roast for part two of our "Two from One" meal plan. Coming tonight!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Wachau Region of Austria. Photo Source.

Another bit of information from wine guru, Karen MacNeil:
Among the most exciting wines that have burst upon the scene in the in the last decade are the wines of Austria—in particular, the white wines of the Wachau, Austria’s top wine region. Less than an hour’s drive west of, upstream along the Danube, the Wachau (pronounced va-COW) is best known for its elegant, rich, yet bracing rieslings. Wachau wines are organized into three quality levels, which are indicated on the label.

Wachau Grapes. Photo Source.

Steinfeder: The most basic level of Wachau wines, steinfeder wines are delicate and light and, by law, can have no more than 11% alcohol. The name comes from steinfedergras (literally, “stone feather grass”) that grows among the rocky terraced vines, giving the landscape a sense of feathery lightness.

Federspiel: The middle level of wine, this comes from riper fruit and therefore has slightly more alcohol and body. The name literally translates as “feather play” and refers to the feathery lures local falconers once made to tempt hawks.

Smaragd: The top level, these wines are the ripest and fullest in body, and must have at least 12.5% alcohol. The word smaragd means “emerald” and refers to a local emerald green lizard that basks on the warmest rocks in sun-drenched vineyards.

I look forward to trying some of the Wachau wines. Some of my favorite white wines are from an Austrian producer; Anton Bauer. Anton Bauer wines are produced in the Wagram region of Austria. Grüner Vetliner Gmörk and Riesling are both crisp, bright wines that are easy to drink and pair well with a variety of foods. I recently picked up another bottle from AB, I believe it is their Rosenberg wine, which by it’s description sounds like a softer, rounder, ripe wine, perhaps similar to a Chardonnay.

More Ask Karen tips, tricks and facts.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Pizza! Pizza!

Saturday night was game night. I decided to make pizza as an easy way to feed 5 people. I used the dough recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I did the pizza in a 1/2 sheet baking pan. Also, I used fresh mozzarella that I stuck in the freezer for about 30 minutes, so I could grate it.

I think the pizza was pretty darn tasty. The five of us had a few pieces each and then snacked on chips and pretzels later. Very nice! I tried to make the pizza a little lower in sodium for one guest. Couldn't find a way around it with the pepperoni. The cheese was easy. The fresh moz had at least 1/2 the amount of sodium as the drier, pre-shredded variety from the store. The sauce was also homemade so I was able to use less there, ditto with the dough.

I did burn one corner of the pizza though. Bummer. Still tasty!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Potato Soup

Each week I sit down and plan out a menu for home, day by day. I have a spreadsheet to help me! Yes, I know I'm a geek and I embrace it. I plan for when we're home, when we'll be out for a evening. Then I map out the grocery store and get the items categorized. On a good day I can get through the store, with a weeks worth of ingredients in 20-30 minutes. I also save a good deal of money this way. I know what I need and I dilly-dally around looking at stuff I don't need for the week. It's a good plan and works for me!

This week, I didn't do any shopping. I wanted to save us some additional money, so we stuck to the pantry and the freezer. We did pretty good. There was pasta, some leftover butter chicken and some other frozen junk...yes, we make a meal out of tater tots and fish sticks sometimes. What of it?

That got us to Wednesday. I still didn't have a plan for Thursday. More pasta? No!

Yesterday while sitting at work, it hit me. Potato Soup. I have everything I need. It came together easily, quickly and was pretty dang tasty. Even if I went a little overboard on the roasted garlic!

I started with some bacon, for the garnish at the end. In the bacon fat, I sauted some onions and added some fresh thyme, on the stem.

Once the onions were translucent, I added one carrot and five potatoes. Add four cups of broth and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Whiz the potatoes and vegetables with the broth until smooth. Work in batches and let the last batch be a little more lumpy, for a little texture. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese and some heavy cream for a silky soup.

Serve hot in a large bowl and garnish with some crumbled bacon. The soup was thick, creamy, filling and full of great flavor. The cheese was mellowing out in the background. The bacon brought a nice smoky chewiness to the party. And the potatoes did their job of filling and warming the belly.

Potato-Cheddar Soup

6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, finely diced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces (about five medium potatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

1) Fry the bacon in a large pot until crispy and the fat has rendered out. Reserve bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Pour out all but one tablespoon of bacon fat.

2) Add the onions to the pot with the one tablespoon of bacon fat. Saute until tender and translucent. Add the fresh thyme, carrot and potatoes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, until the potatoes are fork tender. Prior to the next step, remove the stems of thyme.

3) Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. Add the roasted garlic to the first batch of soup to be pureed. Process until smooth. If you would like some texture to the soup, other than silky smooth, don't process until fully smooth, leave some bits and pieces of potato.

4) Return the pureed soup to the pot and add the cheese and cream. Stir until the cheese is melted and the cream is incorporated. If you wish to thin the soup out, add some additional broth or cream. Season with salt and pepper.

5) Serve hot and garnish with the cooked bacon and if you have them, some fresh snipped chives.

NOTE: If you wish to make this soup vegetarian, skip the bacon. Just cook the onions in olive oil. And instead of chicken broth, use vegetable broth. For some additional flavor you could add about 1/2 a cup of beer. Also, if you don't have a food processor or blender, you can make this soup more rustic by mashing the tender potatoes and vegetables with a potato masher. You will have a hearty, textured soup that is a little less creamy and maybe a little more brothy.

As mentioned, this soup was really good. However there were some things I will do differently next time and those adjustments are reflected in the recipe. One, I used a full head of roasted garlic. It was too much and often overpowered the other mellow flavors. In addition, that much roasted garlic kept coming back for a visit later in the evening. Two, I used a bay leaf in the soup. I added it at the beginning and simmered it in the broth with the thyme. In the end, the bay leaf flavor didn't play well with the rest of the ingredients, so in the future I will skip it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Get Your Drink On...and learn something in the process

Last night I finished Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses. I recommend the book. It's very enjoyable and full of some great information and insights into human history and six of our favorites beverages.

Next week I'm discussing this with book club and will try to bring back some thoughts to share here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Something Stinks?

I'm not fond of bleu cheese. The few times I've had it, it's pungency overwhelmed me and the other foods I was eating. I generally avoid it if I can.

That's not to say the news article linked below doesn't lead to something greater. One of the last things that former President Bush did before he left office was to impose higher tariffs on certain imported luxury goods...including a 300% duty on Roquefort Cheese! The article mentions this is retaliation for the European Union's ban on imported US Beef containing growth hormones. What? Are we still fighting "Freedom Fries?"

This is crazy. These higher tariffs also affect French truffles, Irish oatmeal, Italian sparkling water and foie gras. All I can do is laugh at how ridiculous this is. What did oatmeal, water and fungi ever do to us? I get that these are luxury items and should require some additional tax, but this is just ridiculous.

Some items are just made better! I have yet to find a domestic parmesan cheese that holds up to the authentic Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. I don't eat lamb, but I understand that Australia has some of the best. What about herbs & spices from around the globe? Wine???? Anyone? Anyone? Come on. These items being imported into the U.S. are artisanal, natural, maybe even organic. The E.U. just doesn't want our chemically enhanced godzilla-style beef? I'm sure they are fine with Niman Ranch beef or similar products.

That's my soap box.

Read for yourself at The Washington Post: Bush War on Roquefort Raises A Stink in France.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Welcome to February

Welcome to February everyone. I hope the month started well for you all.

I was living the bachelor life for the weekend while J-lo was visiting family, so I didn't do much of anything. I roasted some garlic to make up a batch of hummus and the always killer "Over The Rainbow Mac & Cheese" for little Anna's 2nd birthday party. The hummus was tasty and the mac & was pretty redonk.

Outside of that I had take-out pizza and granola and oatmeal and apples and peanut butter and chips. NICE!

Last night was a freezer raid dinner. I thawed out a previous batch of sauce for Indian Butter Chicken and some chicken thighs. I seared the chicken for a quick bit in a large pot. I removed the chicken and removed the chicken skin. I poured in the thawed sauce and brought it to a very low simmer. The chicken went into the sauce. There wasn't enough sauce to cover the chicken so I added a little chicken broth to cover. I covered the pot and put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. If you've been following what I've been doing a lot of, this is a braise. Slow, gently cooking in a wet environment.

I love making the butter chicken sauce and freezing it for moments exactly like this. 5-10 minutes of work and a succulent and delicious dinner! So easy.

Not a great picture...but one hour after cooking, the chicken was tender, juicy and full of the great flavors of the sauce. Nice dinner.