Friday, September 30, 2011

Potato Parsley Soup

You can't beat a hearty soup in the cool weather months! Enjoy this one with some freshly baked bread or rolls, and you've got yourself a meal. I wrote the recipe including higher fat ingredients like butter, cheese, and whole milk. These obviously aren't so great for your cholesterol, but sometimes you've got to cook with them if you want to make a meal that's over-the-top delicious. This one is, so enjoy!

- 8 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and diced small (Skins on! They'll add a little color to your soup pot.)
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium-large onion, diced
- 6 ribs celery, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2-3 TBSP fresh parsley, minced or torn

How To Cook It
1) Melt butter in a pan and sauté celery, onions, and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add salt.
2) Meanwhile, heat your diced potatoes and vegetable broth to boiling in a stock pot.
3) Add your sautéed veggies to the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15-30 minutes, until potatoes are soft and give easily to a fork.
4) Add cheese and milk. Simmer for a few minutes longer and stir in the parsley.
5) Serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Slice 'N Dice

Knife skills aren't just for professional chefs! They're helpful in home kitchens too. As different cuts are learned and mastered, our food gets better too. If you've ever went to make a batch of mashed potatoes and found that some potato chunks were cooked and others weren't, then this tip is for you. Knife cuts can truly mean the difference between food that looks appealing and is cooked evenly and, well... calling out for pizza.

First things first. Make sure you're holding your knife correctly, and you'll save yourself frustration and trips to the ER for stitches. Ideally, hospitals are not the place "where everybody knows your name." Yes, my inner 80s child is showing.

Onto a few of the basic cuts! You'll see a lot of references to chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing in my recipes. I've been known to julienne from time to time, but with a toddler exploring during meal prep I usually don't have the extra bandwidth if I'm not using my mandoline slicer.You can definitely find more varieties of knife cuts online, but I'll be sticking with the ones I typically use in my everyday household cooking.

Here are the basics:
Chop/Large Dice: 3/4-inch cube
Medium Dice: 1/2-inch cube
Small Dice: 1/4-inch cube
Julienne: 1/8-inch square by 2 inches long. This cut looks so pretty in a salad or stir fry!
Mince: Smaller than a dice, and more irregular in shape. Using a rocking motion, take the heel of your knife and move it along an ingredient that you've already cut into thin strips. Or, when in doubt, use a food processor.

If you're more of a visual learner, check out the videos on knife skills over at Epicurious.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chili Pie

The start of football season coincides with the beginning of chili season in our home. It doesn't get better than crusty, homemade bread or freshly baked cornbread on the side. This recipe combines the two for a quick and easy dinner that makes a great meal whether you're having guests over, a casual game day, or a combination of the two. It's based on the recipe found in the 2002 edition of Practical Vegetarian Cookery. If you're lacking fresh tomatoes, corn, and dried beans, simply substitute one drained and rinsed can of each for the filling ingredients listed below.


For The Filling You'll Need...
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bell peppers (one red, one green), seeded and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 cups corn
- 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
- 2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped + plus a little extra to garnish
- salt and pepper, to taste

For The Cornbread Topping You'll Need...
- 2/3 cup cornmeal
- 1 TBSP all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 TBSP whole milk
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 cup of your favorite sharp cheese, shredded

How To Cook It
1) Heat 1 TBSP of oil in a large skillet and gently fry the garlic, peppers, and celery for about five minutes until they're just softened.
2) Stir in the spices (salt, pepper, and chili pepper), tomatoes, corn, and beans. Bring all to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for ten minutes. Add the cilantro.
3) Spoon all into an ovenproof dish and set aside.
4) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
5) Mix the dry topping ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt). Once well combined, add the egg, milk, and oil. Stir until just moistened.
6) Use a spatula to evenly cover your chili filling with the cornbread batter.
7) Bake the Chili Pie for about 30 minutes, or until golden and firm.
8) Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I found this great recipe in The New Moosewood Cookbook. If you're baking it for a child, you might consider sitting a toy person with a little toothpick or mini flag "paddle" on top. Hope you enjoy baking (and eating) up this tasty zucchini dish as much as I did!

- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
- 4 medium-sized zucchini (about 2 pounds)
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups onion, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, minced
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups almonds or pecans, minced and lightly toasted
- 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
- black pepper, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- a few pinches of freshly minced or dried herbs: any combination of parsley, basil, dill, thyme, or marjoram
- 1 cup packed and grated swiss or cheddar cheese

How To Cook It
1) Cut the zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Use a smallish spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving a canoe with a 1/4 inch shell. Mince the insides, and set everything aside.
2) Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onions and salt and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft (5 to 8 minutes).
3) Add the minced zucchini innards and the mushrooms. Turn up the heat and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring, letting the liquid evaporate. Stir in the garlic and remove from heat.
4) Stir in the rice and nuts, along with the lemon juice, and season to taste with black pepper, cayenne, and the herbs of your choice.
5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the zucchini shells, top with cheese, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until heated through. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms have long been one of my favorite appetizers. Depending on how much stuffing you like, you find that either the mushroom either shines on it's own or serves as more of a tasty carb delivery system. Strike the balance of both and you might very well achieve hors d'oeuvres nirvana.

- 20-40 ounces mushrooms, washed with stems removed. Use less mushrooms if you want a "Would you like some mushrooms with your stuffing?" dish, and more if you prefer to highlight your mushrooms.
- 4 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs. Put your favorite bread through a food processor or to a cheese grater to achieve this.
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 TBSP dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 TBSP butter
- 2 eggs, whipped
- Splash of red wine
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

How To Make Them
1) Splash a little wine into a pan and warm.
2) Add onion and garlic, sauté until translucent.
3) Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion/garlic mixture and the egg.
4) Melt the butter and stir into all. You should be able to pick up a bit of the stuffing and press it together to form a little ball. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more wine.
5) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
6) Lay out your mushrooms on a baking sheet and fill with the stuffing.
7) Bake for 30-45 minutes. When the mushrooms are done they'll be golden brown, and you'll have to fight the urge to pop one in your mouth fresh out of the oven.
8) Make sure you eat a mushroom or two yourself before putting them out for friends and family. These little beauties disappear quickly!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Creative Deserts

Yes, you read that correctly: Creative deserts, not creative desserts. And you can consider this one over. Don't worry though, if I ever decide to wrap up this blog, I promise to be upfront with ya'll and not breakup on the sly.

After a few weeks pause, I'm reclaiming my cooking mojo, and I'm looking forward to writing again. In fact, I already have a freshly created and tested recipe to share! Here's to the process, and to the the breaths that make it possible.