Monday, January 31, 2011

white bean and kale soup

A hearty, healthy, soul-warming soup- white beans and kale together create a perfect combination of taste and comfort. This recipe is tweaked from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen. Do you own that one? I highly recommend it – everything in it is outstanding. Very soon I plan to make the name sake of this book – the enchanted broccoli forest…. it’s a lovely rice pilaf in which you stand up spears of broccoli. Can you picture it? Just like an enchanted broccoli forest!  It’s so great!

My other favorite veggie dish comes from the same cookbook, Swiss Green Beans. I’ll wait till the green beans are fresh in the summer to introduce that one to you.

This was the first time I have used kale in my cooking. The recipe calls for escarole, which I could not find, so I substituted kale. I think spinach would be nice here as well.

I often cook at night in preparation for lunches for the work week – I love hot lunch. This made about 4-6 servings; enough for dinner and some for lunch tomorrow. My other standard dinner/lunch meal is spinach quiche. I often bake that at night to have as a hearty and healthy lunch during the week.

Here’s what you need:
1 T olive oil
2 C chopped onions (don’t skimp)
1 bay leaf (adds so much flavor – don’t skip this)
2 stalks celery, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
6 C liquid (I used 4 C chicken stock and 2 C water, which was a great balance. Vegetable stock would be appropriate here also. I highly recommend chicken stock over chicken broth)
2 cans cannellini beans – rinsed thoroughly
4 large cloves garlic – minced or squeezed through garlic press (don’t skimp here either)
1 bunch kale – rinsed and minced
Fresh black pepper
Parmesan cheese for the top when serving

Here’s what you do:
Sautee the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add the liquid (broth and/or water), cover, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are nice and tender.

You need all this time to prepare the kale! With great patience, remove and discard every stem and large vein and then mince each leaf. I actually used two bunches, which was too much. It did not really shrink down much when I cooked it. I also recommend mincing it very small. I thought it would kinda shrink, but it didn’t.

Add the beans, garlic and kale. Use only the leaves and not the stems of the kale.  Stir in all the garlic thoroughly!  Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the kale is cooked. Your kitchen will smell wonderful!

Serve with lots of fresh pepper and parmesan cheese. I think the regular ‘dry’ kind of parmesan cheese from the shaker container would be just fine in this soup.

Please try this! You’ll like it!

(printable recipe)

I’d love to hear your comments about my current ‘soup craze.’ I think it might continue for a while.  My next soup might be either Galician Garbanzo Soup or Tuscan Tomato Soup. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

meatball soup

(Latvian Frikadelu Zupa)
Adapted from The Stocked Kitchen

Plain and simple: this is my new favorite soup. I usually lean toward chicken stock based soups, but I am now a beef stock fan. I usually add garlic and onion to just about everything I cook, but now I will refrain (once in a while!) Please try this soup and you will agree: it’s great. It is truly ‘comfort in a bowl.’

This recipe was passed along to me from a friend who ate this soup throughout her childhood. Her grandmother was Latvian and made this soup for her when she was sick. Another gift from her grandmother was the Latvian language – she grew up speaking it because her grandmother could not speak English. What remarkable memories she must have of her grandmother.

One recipe I’ve shared here on the blog from my maternal grandma is Streusel Coffee Cake.  It is good, but to me it is great because of the memories I associate with it.

I love food and family stories like this. Food somehow tastes better when it comes with a story filled with love, like this one. I’m sure you will enjoy this recipe.

Here’s what you need:
1 lb ground sirloin
1 C plain bread crumbs
2 eggs
Generous amount of pepper
3-4 medium potatoes
5 medium carrots
½ C chopped green onions
10 C beef stock (do yourself a favor and go straight to the stock and pass by the beef broth – this is an important step when making soup – use stock and not broth…..)
Dollop of sour cream when serving (optional)

Shred the potatoes and carrots and add them to the beef stock. No need to peel anything. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Make small meatballs from the beef, bread crumbs, eggs and pepper. Chop the green onions, using all the white and all the green parts.

Carefully add the raw meatballs and onions to the soup and simmer for about 30 minutes.

The final product is so comforting – the meatballs are extremely tender and the veggies create a perfect texture for this soup.

(printable recipe)

Please share any food and family memories you have! Do you use any recipes from your grandmother?

Friday, January 21, 2011

streusel coffee cake

This is the easiest and quickest coffee cake on earth…. it’s perfect for a morning when you have just the smallest amount of extra time and it’s best warm right from the oven. This is an old recipe from my maternal grandmother. I remember being at her house when I was very young and eating this. It’s one of the first things I learned to bake and I’ve been making it ever since. Your house will smell very warm and friendly with all the almond fragrance.  It’s the perfect ‘Good Morning!'

 Here’s what you need:

Wet ingredients-
1 beaten egg
½ C sugar
½ C milk
2 t salad oil
½ t almond extract

Dry ingredients-
1 C flour
½ t salt
2 t baking powder

Streusel ingredients-
another ½ C flour
¼ C butter – cold and cut in small cubes
another ¼ C sugar
another ½ t almond extract

Here’s what you do:
Mix the egg, ½ C sugar, milk and ½ t almond extract in a bowl and set aside.

Add the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix until just absorbed. Pour into greased 8 inch square pan or a round cake pan. It’s a very thin batter.

For the streusel topping place the ½ C flour, the ¼ sugar , the ¼ C butter and the ½ t almond extract in a small bowl and using your fingers, crumble until it is the consistency of wet sand. Make sure the butter is cold and has been cut in small cubes.

Sprinkle topping over the top of the cake mixture and bake in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

One of my family favorites and soon to be one of yours too.

(printable recipe)

Monday, January 17, 2011

hungarian mushroom soup

Does everyone already have this recipe? It comes from the New Revised Edition of the Moosewood Cookbook. Many years ago, this cookbook really changed the way I think about food and also how I prepare food. When I was a beginning cook, I used to borrow the book from the library over and over, again and again. I can now happily say I use my very own, well loved and dog-eared copy! I have made a few revisions to this outstanding recipe.

Here’s what you need:
1 T butter
2 C chopped onions
2 lbs sliced mushrooms (I use two large containers from the grocery. I suppose you could experiment with different types of mushrooms for added flavor, but the regular mushrooms are sufficient)
1 t salt
2-3 t dried dill
1 T paprika
2 t fresh lemon juice ( a secret ingredient to so many things)
1 t grated lemon zest
3 T flour
2 C high quality chicken stock (be careful what you use here. Often, chicken broth is very salty and has an artificial taste)
1 C milk (lo-fat or skim is fine)
½ C sour cream (lo-fat or fat free is fine)
Black pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
Melt butter in soup pot; add onions, mushrooms, salt, dill, and paprika. Stir well, incorporating all the spices. Cover and let cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and the flour. Stir well. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes on medium-low heat.

Add the chicken stock and stir well. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes.

At this point, you may let the soup sit for a while and ‘soak.’ (my term J) The mushrooms will become more and more delicious and that broth! It’s delicious.

When you are ready to serve the soup, remove it from the heat, add the milk and sour cream, using a whisk to incorporate it all. Check for seasonings, being generous with the pepper. Because of the dairy products, do not boil this soup. Heat and re-heat very gently.

An outstanding recipe and one I turn to often.

What are your standard soup recipes? Share them here!

Friday, January 14, 2011

creamy southwest chicken soup

(adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2010)

I’m the type of person who goes in and out of ‘phases.’ Just ask anyone who knows me and they’ll remember my ‘I’m going to read all the classics’ phase, or the ‘history of the whaling industry’ phase (no kidding….that phase began after I read Moby Dick). I have also become obsessed for a season with Mt. Everest and thoroughbred horses…..  Can’t say why this happens!

I guess all cooks go through food phases also; at least I do. For me, there’s nothing better than a pasta phase or a Thai phase. Well, I announced to the family yesterday that I think I’m entering a soup phase. Must be the cold snowy weather. Here is the first recipe to share.

Here’s what you need:
2 T butter
1 red bell pepper
1 poblano pepper
½ C diced onion
1 T minced garlic
1 t chili powder
1 t cumin
½ t ground coriander
6 T flour, divided
3 C whole milk (you need whole milk here because the fat content keeps the cheese from separating)
12 oz beer
1 C chicken stock
½ C dry rice
3 C shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 C shredded chicken
Garnishes: sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges, tortilla chips

Here’s what you do:
Remove all the seeds and veins from the peppers and dice them, but not too small. The poblano has a little heat, so determine how much you want to use. The real heat is in the seeds and veins, so be sure to remove them if you want less heat.

Saute peppers, onions, garlic and spices in butter for about 5 minutes or until veggies are soft. The kitchen smelled so good!

Whisk in half of the flour. Allow the veggies to continue to cook for about 2 minutes longer while stirring in all the flour well.

Slowly add the liquids to the pan. I suggest adding only 1 C at a time and scraping up the bottom of the pan, stirring and whisking well between each addition. At any rate, do not add it all at once – that’s how you get lumps!

Bring to a gentle simmer and add the rice. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. Don’t rush this step.

Mix the remaining flour with the shredded cheese – this handy trick keeps the cheese from separating in the hot liquid. Another trick – add the cheese in small handfuls and stir well between each addition. I added the cheese off the heat.

Add the chicken and allow the warm soup to heat the chicken. It's ready to serve. Wonderful, spicy, cheesy, comforting, rich and definitely a keeper!

(printable recipe)

I would love if you would post a link to a favorite soup recipe. I tend to make the same ones over and over. What's your favorite soup to make? 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

easy cheesy chicken casserole

(I served this with fresh green beans, roasted tomatoes and roasted bittersweet onions.)

This easy chicken casserole is an oldie from one of my favorite cookbooks called “Clockwise Cuisine” published by the Junior League of Detroit way back in 1984. Those were the days when casseroles were loaded with lots of cream soup and lots of cheese. This casserole is no exception. I have made this many, many times. I have served this at parties, baby showers and even this year on Christmas Eve to my family. It’s that good……

Here’s what you need:
12 oz. noodles, cooked and drained – the original recipe calls for only 8 ounces, but I always stretch it to 12.
8 oz. cream cheese- room temperature
1 ½ C cottage cheese
2 cans cream mushroom soup
1 C whole milk
½ green pepper, diced or sliced very thin
¼ C onion, sliced very thin
Fresh parsely
Cooked chicken –recipe calls for 4 cups, but I like to load in more
Optional: buttered bread crumbs for the top of the casserole

Here's a great way to cook chicken breasts:
use breasts with the bone in and the skin on
drizzle with olive oil and liberally season with salt and pepper
place them skin side up on a baking sheet - be sure to use one that has sides, not the flat kind
roast in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the juices run clear and a knife inserted into the thickest part of the meat slides out easily
cool for 1/2 hour
peel off the skin, tear the meat away from the bone and slice

Here’s what you do:
Mix it all together and bake. Brace yourself for the compliments.

(printable recipe)

I'm curious to know what some of your favorite old-time casseroles are? Do you make anything similar to this, old fashioned, but too good to set aside?

Friday, January 7, 2011

ginger pecan chews

As I look out my kitchen window, all I see is snow, snow, snow and more snow. The temperature is dropping, the fireplace is ablaze (thanks to the flip of a switch....) and I'm in the mood for comfort food. It's the perfect time of year to hibernate indoors with a cup of tea and a home made cookie.

I got very brave a few weeks ago and made crystallized ginger at home. It was very easy and pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. The bonus now is that I have all the crystallized ginger I need for baking and snacking. 
Click here to see how I made it.

These are the perfect cookies for a blustery winter day – very warm tasting and filled with flavor.  My kitchen smelled warm and spicy while these were baking.

Here’s what you need:
½ C sugar
½ C butter, softened
½ C molasses
½ C chopped crystallized ginger
1 egg
2 C flour
1 t ground ginger
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ C chopped pecans
Some pecan halves for decorating the top of each cookie

Here’s what you do:
Cream butter and sugar. Add the molasses, crystallized ginger and egg and mix well. 
Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Shape heaping tablespoonfuls into balls and gently press pecan half on top of each cookie.

Bake 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

I love this type of cookie at all time of the year, but especially on cold winter days with a cup of tea.

(printable recipe)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yucatan Meals

Instead of posting all the ‘touristy’ photos from our recent trip across the Yucatan Peninsula, I thought I'd share some more random things we saw and, more importantly, ate! :) My favorite things from the sweet stand were the lime-coconut treats from the top shelf and the pumpkin-papaya treats there in the middle.

I think this was my favorite meal on our entire vacation! We were sitting at an indoor diner right in the middle of the mercado. This is a typical Mayan meal: the one on the left is called 'Salbute.' It's basically, a corn tortilla, with shredded turkey, lettuce, tomato and avocado. The one on the right is called 'Panucho' and the only addition is a layer of black beans. Ironically, we eat this kind of food at home quite often; never knew it was authentic Mayan fare. Oh, and our salsa is not quit as hot! 
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Street food. Hot dogs, fries, corn dogs and other greasy stuff, served on a styrofoam tray and smothered in lime and salsa. 

A beautiful meal of turkey in pumpkin seed mole: ‘pipian de pavo.’ It was excellent. Poor Tim, at this meal,  ate a tortilla chip loaded with salsa. Unfortunately, it was habanero salsa: seeds, veins, pulp…. the works. It took a few minutes for him to cool down! We love our food nice and spicy, but we found the salsa in the Yucatan to be extremely hot! We were eating at the wildly popular  La Chaya Maya restaurant in Merida.

A most unusual drink made from the chaya leaf.  I could not pass this up - it was like drinking the lawn, but in a really, really refreshing and great way. Supposedly very healthy. Anyone out there ever tasted this one? 

I’ll give anyone three guesses what this is. We had it at happy hour.

Los Tres Amigos

The breads and pastries are very beautiful in Mexico. I think they all taste alike, but that never stops me from buying one of each type.

These women were making corn tortillas. There's not a flour tortilla in sight in the Yucatan. There was a live fire in the container on the bottom and also flames coming from the top. The masa dough was placed in the top and the machine cut  out the tortillas and they rolled down the conveyer belt, between the flames. She kindly handed us a few to snack on. Talk about fresh!

Anyone out there been to the Yucatan? I'd love to swap stories!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

huevos rancheros yucateca

Huevos Rancheros Yucateca

I have been away on a fabulous second honeymoon with the love of my life! After 25 years of marriage, Tim and I spent 5 wonderful and very adventurous days driving across the Yucatan Peninsula! We did it all: from pyramids to pink flamingos; from road side taco stands to 5 star restaurants; from tiny pueblos to the big city of Merida. I can’t say enough how much we loved it! The people were so warm and friendly, the food (of course) was outstanding and our accommodations could not have been better.

We stayed at Luz en Yucatan, right in the heart of the old colonial part of Merida. Our penthouse room had an outdoor kitchen in one of our two rooftop patios. Have kitchen- will cook:  so huevos rancheros it was for breakfast!

Here’s what you need:
Salsa roja y verde
Tostaditas o otro tipo de tortilla
Poco de aciete
One very romantic roof top outdoor patio kitchen in the heart of Merida Yucatan, Mexico

Here’s what you do:
Lay around in the hammock until you are plenty hungry
Venture to the supermercado to purchase necessary ingredients
Warm up frijoles y tostaditas
Fry the huevos

Smother it all in salsa and voila! Huevos Rancheros a la Yucataca

I am blessed beyond measure!