Saturday, August 19, 2017

Copycat Panera Creamy Tomato Basil Soup - #soupswappers

This was a hard month for me when it came to selecting a recipe for Soup Saturday Swappers.  The week I set about doing it, the temperatures ranged from 108° to 111°.  That is not exactly soup weather.  But, I was fondly remembering a recent trip to Seattle when I got adventurous and went shopping in a nearby city.  I had a lovely bowl of creamy Tomato Basil Soup at Panera.  It was delicious.  It was really thick but it had not pureed to a silky smooth soup.  It had some consistency to it which I really liked....so I decided to give it a try.


Copycat Panera Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, rough chop
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes 
1-28 oz. can peeled tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup half and half
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
10-12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp salt, plus additional to taste
a few twists of fresh ground pepper

Garnish with any of the following:
Basil chiffonade, croutons, dollop of sour cream or dollop of pesto.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.  

Add the can of tomatoes with juice, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and sugar. Bring to a simmer.   Cook uncovered for 10-15.  Stir in the butter and half and half.  Add the chopped basil and stir.

Use an immersion blender or carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and puree the soup until there are no large chunks and at desired consistency.

Adjust the seasoning.  Serve with desired garnishes.



Copycat soup recipe is the theme for this month's Saturday Soup Swappers!  The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. This Saturday is hosted by Heather at All Roads Lead to the KitchenIf you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Spicy Glazed Shrimp - #soupswappers

What started off looking like this.....


due to a blender that broke at the bottom and wasn't discovered until I poured....  turned out like this and was an absolutely wonderful soup!


Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Spicy Glazed Shrimp...Chilled
adapted from Food and Wine

1 large European cucumber, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 Haas avocados, peeled, pitted and quartered
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice, divided
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 shallot thinly sliced
3/4 pound large shrimp, shelled (keep the shells)
1 small carrot, thinly sliced in coins
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp tomato paste
2 cups water
1 Tbsp honey
Fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 mint leaves, chopped

Combine the cucumber, avocados, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, 1/2 Tablespoon of lime juice and a pinch of salt in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Strain the soup through a fine sieve and refrigerate until chilled, about 40 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the shrimp shells, garlic, shallot and carrot and cook over moderate heat and stir until the shells are lightly browned and the vegetables are softened, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the peppercorns, coriander seeds, crushed red pepper and cumin seeds ad cook for a minutes, stirring.  Add the tomato paste and cook stirring for another minute.  Add the water, honey and remaining tablespoon of lime juice and bring to a boil.  Simmer the mixture over moderate heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Strain the shrimp sauce into a heatproof bowl.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet and until shimmering.  Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper.  Cook over high heat 1 minute.  Turn the shrimp add the shrimp sauce and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the butter.

Place three shrimp in each soup bowl.  Spoon the cucumber soup around the shrimp and drizzle with the shrimp sauce.  Sprinkle mint leaves and serve.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This was the most amazing soup!  I love the way the buttermilk gave a light tang to the mixture and then the accompanying shrimp made it a "make again" recipe!

It was an adventure getting this post ready for Saturday Soup Swappers.  Chilled soup is the theme for this month's Saturday Soup Swappers!  The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. This Saturday is hosted by Paula at The Saucy Southerner.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beef Stew #soupswappers

Let's enjoy beef stew one last time before the heat sets in!  Putting together a post that featured English Stew was a challenge.  Not because it was English Stew but because I am traveling back and forth between my home in California and my daughter in Washington.

Yes, English Stew is the theme for this month's Saturday Soup Swappers!  The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. This Saturday is hosted by Sneha at Sneha's Recipe.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!

I guess I had a hard time dealing with stew, weather and traveling.  My first idea was a Pumpkin and Lentil Stew that really intrigued me but I kept thinking fall so I switched to Beef Stew and Dumplings and still had issues thinking about the weather...but hey, I'm in Seattle, nothing stays the same for long....a nice storm moved in...rain, fog, fog horns, winds just the kind of weather that goes with stew!  But, don't expect dumplings.  Somehow the four year old was focused on the mashed potatoes so dumplings never happened.

Of course there is more to the story than a four year old, there is always the story of ovens. I believe that I just had my last dance with this oven.  The kitchen remodel at my daughter's is set to begin.

I hope you enjoy the richness of this wonderful beef stew and if you can't make the dumplings, don't forget fluffy mashed potatoes!  I can hardly wait for leftovers!



Beef Stew
adapted from Nigel Slater

Yield:  4 servings

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds lean stew meat, cut into bite size pieces
2-3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, peeled, rough chop
2 leeks, white and light green only, cleaned and sliced into half moons.
3 celery ribs, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
3/4 cup peas
3/4 cup red wine
2 1/4 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce or to taste, if desired
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven:  350° F.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter.  Add the stew meat and brown on all sides.

Sprinkle the flour over the beef and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and the vegetables. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.  Note:  I added the peas after the stew was removed from the oven.

Stir in the wine, stock, and herbs.  Add the worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, adjust to taste. Add the salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and place in the oven for two hours.  (Check the liquid level occasionally.  Add additional stock if needed.)

To serve place a scoop of mashed potatoes in each bowl.  Add a ladle of stew and sprinkle with parsley.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


We really enjoyed this stew and the four year old did too!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Doll up that Lettuce Wedge!

The wedge salad of the 50's and 60's moves in and out of favor.  The salad, though, did not originate then.  The earliest mention of the lettuce wedge salad was found in a cookbook published in 1916. Marion Neil's cookbook, Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Recipes mentions the wedge salad with Roquefort cheese and hard boiled eggs.  It's popularity fluctuates with the times but it hasn't disappeared.

The wedge salad today has many guises.  There will always be the original but it can be dolled up to reflect most cuisines.  It can have a Mediterranean look with a vinaigrette and cucumbers, kalamata olives, tomatoes and feta sprinkled over the top.  Or it may have a more España appearance as this salad does.  Add a little corn and red pepper salsa made fresh from the garden, a few tomatoes, some manzanilla olives and a few crushed tortilla chips for a little crunch and you have a lovely wedge dolled up for the evening!


Salad Wedge with Corn and Red Pepper Salsa
adapted from The Good Stuff by Spike Mendelsohn

Serves 4

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 red onion, rough chop
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup vegetable oil

In a blender, combine all ingredients except the oil.  When combined, leave the motor running and slowly drizzle the oil in a slow, thin stream.  When the oil has been added and the mixture is smooth, turn off the blender and set aside.

Corn and Red Pepper Salsa
2 ears of fresh white corn, grilled, kernels removed or 1 can of corn (16 oz.)
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2  cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

If using canned corn, drain.  Cook kernels in a hot skillet with a tablespoon of oil.   Cook about 10 minutes until kernels are crisp.  Season with salt.  Set aside to cool.

When ready to serve, combine the all ingredients.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce
5 oz bag of baby mixed greens
8 manzanilla olives
1 pint mini heirloom tomatoes or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 green onion, sliced diagonally
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Corn and Red Pepper Salsa
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips

Remove the root end from the lettuce.  Cut the head in half.  From the half head, cut wedges to serving size.  (I cut the half head into four wedges.)  Spread out some of the mixed greens on the salad plates and place the wedge on top.  Dress the wedge with about 2 Tablespoons of dressing.  Top each wedge with two olives, tomatoes, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Add about 1/3 cup corn and red pepper salsa to the top and then garnish with slices of green onion and a Tablespoon of crushed tortilla chips.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This was a delicious salad and I am happy that I have enough ingredients left over to repeat the creation tonight!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Scandinavian Fruit Soup! - #soupswappers

It is Saturday.  Just the sound of the word brings a smile...of course, when one is retired, everyday is Saturday!  Three cheers for Saturday!  This is the third Saturday of the month which means that today is Soup Saturday Swappers.  The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!

Today I am sharing a fruit soup that is part of the Scandinavian cuisine.  They are usually made with stone fruits like peaches or cherries but in the winter, dried fruits are used.  Cream or some kind of dairy can also be added...so is a fruit soup like a smoothie only eaten with a spoon?  Yes, no, maybe!

Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla selected this month's theme.  She stretched my mind with this one, but in a good way!  Thank you, Camilla, for challenging me this month!




Scandinavian Fruit Soup

1 cup water
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (optional)
3 Tbsp Minute Tapioca
6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
2 1/2 cups water

1 small pkg frozen tropical mixed fruit
1 small pkg frozen raspberries
1 banana, sliced, for top
1-2 Tbsp toasted coconut for garnish

In a medium saucepan mix 1 cup water, sugar, tapioca over medium heat until the tapioca turns clear. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.  Chill.  The mixture will thicken slightly.  Whisk well.

Add the frozen fruits.  Chill thoroughly.

Serve cold topped with banana slices and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

Notes:  Soup may be served cold or warmed.  Any mixture of fruits will work.



I had to really think to wrap my head around fruit describing soup, two opposites in a sense..one describing the other.  Two totally different images battling it out in my head.  And, yes, Mr. T. shook his head when I blew across the spoon before taking a bite!  Well, soup, in my head, is hot!  Old habits die hard but, you know, I could eat fruit soup again!  It was perfect last night as we relaxed on the patio.  In fact, it was darn right refreshing!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives

I know, I have been neglecting the blog.  It isn't that I am not cooking.  We do have to eat.  It isn't because I don't have new recipes to share.  I have quite a few drafts that are collecting dust. Sometimes I feel as though I am writing to myself!

I am not trying to become a world famous cookbook author.  I am not trying to see who can get the most followers.  I am not interested in creating the most fattening dessert in the world.  (But there are days when I would like to taste it!) I am not interested in making movies.  I don't view everybody else as competition.  I am just a gal who likes to try new recipes, cook and share.

I must also admit that I have been sharing less as I have become intrigued with making quilt tops.  I have been participating in two weekly projects, one is Pat Sloan's Solstice Challenge.  (182 days to complete a quilt - winter solstice to summer solstice) Each week we are presented with a new block to add to the quilt top. This is the first time that I have worked on a quilt top that is asymmetrical and the first time I have worked blind.  By blind I mean I have had no idea how the layout would come together so I have struggled with color selections and spacing.  We are on week 21 and I have learned a lot!  I like to think that I am getting better as I go...and since I only have to please me, I have!  Here are a few of my favorite squares.


I did find some time to have guests for dinner.   These delicious Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives helped to start the evening.  The olives are marinated in a combination of citrus and herbs.  They are really habit forming.



Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives
adapted from The Yellow Table

1 cup mixed olives (with pits)  (I used a container of mixed olives from Trader Joe's, drained)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp thinly sliced lemon zest, rough chop
1 1/2 tsp thinly sliced orange zest, rough chop
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 sprig rosemary, (about 3 inches) leaves striped, quick rough chop
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Stir together all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Allow the olives to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.  Place the olives in a serving dish and enjoy!

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Celery Soup with Horseradish Cream and Ham Chips

I love it when a plan comes together!  It makes me smile.  It makes me happy.  That is how I felt when I was putting together the menu for our gourmet group and Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen selected root vegetables as the theme for this month's Saturday Soup Swappers. I was doing a happy dance as everything just came together...and there was a table of food critics to sample the dish!

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!

This soup was so smooth and had a lovely flavor. The horseradish cream and ham chips gave it an extra flavor boost.  I loved the little bit of heat from the cream and the crunch from the chips. The word around the table was delicious!


Celery Soup with Horseradish Cream 
and Ham Chips
Soupe De Céleri-Rave A La Crème De Raifort Et Chips De Jambon
adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Yield:  6 servings

Horseradish Cream
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
Generous pinch of sea or Kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish

Ham Chips
6 slices prosciutto

Soup
4 large leeks, cleaned
6 Tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt, plus additional if needed
1 1/2 pounds celery root
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs thyme
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Minced fresh chives, for garnish

Prepare the horseradish cream.  Whip the crème fraîche in a metal bowl with a whisk until it thickens. It should hold it's shape when you remove the whisk from the bowl. Whisk in the salt and lemon juice.  Stir in the horseradish.  Let the mixture chill for an hour to allow the flavors to meld.  (It is best make 3 to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the ham chips.  Preheat the oven:  350° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the slices of prosciutto on the paper, evenly spaced.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Turn the slices midway through.  Watch the ham carefully as the thickness determines how quickly they crisp up.  When they feel dry and firm, remove from the oven and let them cool until crisp.  Store the chips in an airtight container until ready to use.

Prepare the soup.  Slice the leeks into 1/4-inch slices, white and light green parts, only.  Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the sliced leeks and cook for 10 minutes until the leeks are completely soft.  Add salt midway through cooking.

As the leeks are cooking, peel the celery root.  To peel the celery root, cut off the top and bottom ends of the root and set it on a cutting board, flat side down.  Cut away the coarse skin, slicking it with a curved motion to match the curvature of the root.  Conserve as much flesh as possible.  Slice the root into 3/4-inch thick slices.  Cut the slices into cubes.  Add the cubes to the pot along with the water, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Decrease the heat so that the mixture is at a simmer.  Cover with the lid askew.  Cook the mixture for 30 to 40 minutes until the celery root is tender.  Pierce some cubes to check for tenderness.

Remove the bay leaf and the thyme.  Let the soup cool to tepid.  Add the white pepper.  Blend the soup until completely smooth.  A hand blender or processor may also be used.  If using a blender and the soup is still warm, only fill the container halfway.  At this point the soup may be stored covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

To serve the soup, reheat and ladle into serving bowls.  Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream and then crumble the ham chips over the top.  Sprinkle chives over the top and serve.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This plan was perfect!  I thought the soup was amazing and since the most time intensive part is peeling the celery root and even that didn't take too long, I would make this bowl of deliciousness again!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Corn and Jalapeño Muffins




Somebody at church made the most tasty cheese and jalapeño biscuits.  I wanted to sit down and eat the entire plate of them.  They were cheesy but not too much and they had a bit of a bite but not so much that it puckered my lips.  Sadly, I couldn't eat all that were on the platter but I sure wanted to do it.  That is what sent me on a quest to find a recipe for a cheesy jalapeño muffin!  It sounded like a good idea, right?

There are times when something sounds really good but it just doesn't come together.  I was disappointed.  This recipe sounded really good and they were but just not close to what I had tasted at church.  Basically, I selected a jalapeño that had absolutely no kick!  I had cheesy, I had the corn, they did pass....but there was no kick....I wanted the kick....

Since I was taking them to a friend's I had wanted them be a little more impressive!  As it goes, her son snatched up a couple as he was going out the door. The next day he sent a picture of the breakfast casserole he had made using the muffins.  Now that, sounded really good!

Corn and Jalapeño Muffins
adapted from New York Times Cooking

Yield: about 12 large muffins or 36 mini muffins

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven:  400° F.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the corn kernels and the jalapeño and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Place 4 Tablespoons of butter in a glass bowl.  Melt the butter in the microwave, about 30-45 seconds.  Watch it closely.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.  Beat in the eggs and buttermilk to make a thick batter.  Fold in the corn kernels, the jalapeño and melted butter.  Stir in the shredded cheese.

For large muffins, fill muffin papers 3/4 full with batter.  Bake about 12 minutes.  Test the muffins with a toothpick before removing from the oven.  (If you prefer, muffins may be baked in a well buttered muffin tin.)

For mini muffins, place about 1 1/2 Tablespoons batter in each section.  Bake about 10 minutes, until golden. Check for doneness using a toothpick.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


They may not have been the jalapeño muffin of my dreams, but,
they sure didn't last long!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Turkey Tortilla Soup - #soupswappers

Turkey Tortilla Soup...what a tasty and healthy soup!   This soup was so delicious, that there was no question about whether or not leftovers should be served.  Actually, seeing the bottom of the pan was disappointing!

Living in California, Mexican cuisine is just a regular part of our rotation.  I love the flavors, the spices, the spiciness...just about everything.  Now, can I make really authentic dishes?  Well, sometimes, it all depends.  Is this soup authentic?  Probably not. For authenticity I do refer to Rick Bayless, my favorite source for Mexican cooking.  Did I refer to Rick for this recipe, no.  But, I did use his technique for preparing the tortilla strips.

Today is Soup Swapper Saturday and our theme is Mexican Soups!  I am really looking forward to each participant's post today...I so love Mexican cuisine.  Our hostess today is Karen at Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Thank you, Karen, for selecting such a great theme!!

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!


Turkey Tortilla Soup
adapted from Food and Wine

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, small dice
1 jalapeño, seeded, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used the smaller amount and adjusted for our tastes.)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound ground turkey
1 28-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Toppings
Six 4-inch corn tortillas, cut into narrow strips
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 avocado diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Sour Cream (optional)
Shredded Monterey jack cheese or crumbled queso fresco

Preheat oven:  375° (for the tortilla strips)

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the onion and peppers.  Cook, over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the jalapeño and garlic. Cook 1 minute.  Add the spices:  chili powder, cumin, cocoa, oregano, paprika, cayenne, red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few twists of black pepper.  Stir.  Add the turkey and cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon, until it is browned and cooked through.  About 8-9 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and the chicken broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the tortilla stips while the soup is simmering.

Cut the tortillas into strips. Place the strips on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Mist both sides lightly with vegetable oil. Bake, stirring them around once or twice, until they are crisp and lightly golden, 10-15 minutes.

When the soup is finished simmering, stir in the beans and the corn.  Allow the mixture to simmer until it reaches serving temperature.

Ladle into bowls and serve with the tortilla strips, a squeeze of lime and additional toppings as desired.

Note:  The soup keeps well and may be prepared the day before.  Add all of the garnishes just before serving.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I'll be making this soup again soon.  It was hearty, healthy and flavorful!




Thursday, March 16, 2017

Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes aka Always Have a Back-Up Plan

Always have a back-up plan.  

I was really excited about the recipe that I found for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.  The theme was potatoes and chives and it was March!  What could be more perfect?  I think it was the recipe that I was going to make....it didn't happen.

Things started out smoothly but quickly changed when my mom came down with a bit of pneumonia. That meant long days at the doctor, the lab, the radiologist and the pharmacy...repeated each week for three weeks.  I am happy to say that the CAT scan on Friday was clear.  That said.  I haven't gotten groceries not have I cooked much.

I did however, have a back-up plan that wasn't really I hadn't thought of as a back-up plan.  I just happened to have everything that I needed and was trying to use up some buttermilk.  Thus, we have today's post:  Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes.  Not the most difficult side dish and rather obvious for the ingredients, but I am so happy that I made them and photographed them for future!!

They were wonderful!  I remember my mom using buttermilk in mashed potatoes on occasion and how good they were.  These hit the mark especially with butter melting on them!  When I make mashed potatoes, I don't measure.  I use liquid sparingly and aim for consistency of the mashed potatoes.  We prefer potatoes that are on the thick side.  That said, below is the recipe that I used as a guide for ingredients.


Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes
adapted from The Irish Spirit by Margaret Johnson


Yield:  4-6 servings

3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled ad cut into small chunks
1/2 cup unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain.  Return the potatoes to the pot.  Mash over low heat until they are almost smooth or to your desired consistency.  Stir in the butter. Add the buttermilk and half and half in parts mixing after each part. Stop when they are at your desired consistency.  Mix in the thyme and chives.  Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Note:  Everybody has a preference when it comes to the consistency of their mashed potatoes.  I did not use all of the liquid in the recipe.  I added it in parts until I was happy with the consistency.  



Simple but delicious!



The Improv Cooking Challenge Facebook Group is a monthly challenge supported by Nicole Little at Cookaholic Wife.  Each month two ingredients are listed and the challenge is to create or find a recipe that you would like to prepare and share.  Everything you need to know can be found on Nicole's blog.  Join us!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Cheddar Walnut Bread

I love March.  I love the wind, the rain, the warm sunshine, the wildflowers, it stays daylight longer and there is a hint that spring is around the corner.  In March my cooking changes.  I don't prepare as much comfort food.  Our comfort comes from the warm sunshine and being able to use the barbecue more frequently.

In March I spend time perusing Irish cookbooks.  My daughter surprised me with my first Irish cookbook, The Irish Spirit by Margaret Johnson.  In that particular book, the recipes were inspired by the drinks of Ireland.  This led me to The Irish Pub Cookbook featuring recipes from various pubs in Ireland.  And, that is how I came across this delicious Cheddar Walnut Bread!  One can only make so many loaves of soda bread trying to find the "right" recipe before deciding to try something else!


Cheddar Walnut Bread
adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson

Yield:  1 loaf

1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups Kerrygold Vintage Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Prepare a 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan by lightly buttering.

In a food processor combine the flours, dry mustard, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Pulse to blend.  Add the butter pieces and process for 10-15 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside 1 Tablespoon cheese and 1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts for the topping. Add the remaining to the processor.  Pulse 8 to 10 times to blend.

Add the eggs and buttermilk to the mixture and process 10-20 seconds, or until a soft dough forms. Spoon the dough into the prepared loaf pan.  Smooth the top with a rubber spatula that has bee dipped in buttermilk.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and walnuts over the top.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Should you be searching for a great soda bread recipe, you might be interested in this Not Just Any Irish Soda Bread recipe...it is super!!

I am participating at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Cream of Cauliflower Soup



We recently decided to take a break from our weekly veggie box subscription.  We found that we were getting many things that we just don't eat in volume!  For example we received two types of kale, chard, greens, dandelion greens, lettuce, rutabaga, cauliflower, butternut squash, apples, and tangerines.  Yes, I know it's winter so naturally we received winter vegetables but that is too much leafy stuff week after week.

The head of cauliflower we received was beautiful and I just happened to be paging through an Irish cookbook and it just happened to be March....so when I turned the page and saw Cauliflower Soup, well, it just had to be!  Margaret mentions that you can find some version of Cauliflower Soup in most Irish pubs.

It was velvety and had a lovely flavor.  I served it with a Cheddar Walnut Bread and the two together were just right!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson

Yield:  4-6 servings

2 Tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced into half moons
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of curry powder
Minced fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, onions, celery, and thyme.  Cook until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook until slightly soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low.  Simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.

In batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half and half.  Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and curry.  Simmer the soup until heated.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with chives.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This was an easy soup to prepare and would be a great opener for a dinner.  On this night, we were eating light....just soup and delicious Cheddar Walnut Bread.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

When I first saw it, there was something about this recipe that called my name.  I am not certain if it is because I am a lover of carrots or that they were maple-roasted and in a salad.  Or maybe it was because, when I was little, my uncle told me if I ate my carrots my eyes would turn blue.  I have eaten an awful lot of carrots since then and I am still waiting for the color of my eyes to change... Whatever the attraction, this Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad worked.  I served it at a dinner with friends and everybody gave it a thumbs up.

I first saw the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa blog.  It came from Ina's new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffery:  A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  And yes, I had to add another cookbook to my collection! In the last month, I have made three or four of the recipes and found each one to be a keeper.  This cookbook would be a super addition to any cookbook library.


Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

Yield:  4 luncheon servings, 6 dinner servings

2 pounds carrots, with leafy tops 
Good extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure Maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice, about 2 large oranges
3 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces baby arugula
6 ounces Montrachet goat cheese, diced 
2 cups, roasted and salted Marcona almonds 

Preheat oven 425° F.

Prepare the carrots by trimming and scrubbing.  Large carrots, those over 1 inch in diameter, should be cut in half lengthwise.  On the diagonal, cut carrots into 2-inch chunks.  Place the carrots into a large bowl.  Toss the carrots to coat with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.   Spread the carrots between two baking sheets (Using two sheets avoids crowding and enables the carrots to roast as opposed to steam.)  Roast the carrots for 20 minutes toss/stir the carrots once during the roasting.  When the carrots are tender, transfer them all to one baking sheet.  Pour the maple syrup over the carrots and toss to coat.  Continue roasting until the edges of the carrots caramelize, about another 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they do not burn.  Remove from the oven, toss and set the carrots aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries and orange juice.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and set aside for 10 minutes.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the sherry wine vinegar, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and whisk to mix.

In a large salad bowl, place the arugula, carrots, the cranberries and liquid, goat cheese, almonds, and the vinaigrette.  Toss together.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve the salad at room temperature.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Everything about this salad works!
I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I used to think that I had a great meatball recipe, but I don't think that any longer.  After making these meatballs, I can honestly say that I won't be making any others.  These were so easy and flavorful. they held their form in the sauce and that also met the "kid" test.  My granddaughter has asked her mom to make spaghetti and meatballs like grandma's.  So now, when she and I are together we make spaghetti and meatballs.  She isn't too keen on forming the meatballs, though.  She likes the dump ingredients and stir part!  

This is another New York Times recipe.  I tell you, their collection of recipes rocks.  


Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 Servings

Salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces ground beef
6 ounces Parmesan, about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped, reserve 2 Tablespoons for garnish
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 cups canned crushed tomatoes (a little less than two 28-oz cans)
3 bay leaves

1 pound spaghetti

Brings a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it.  Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.


Put the ground beef in a medium bowl.  Grate the cheese, put 1 cup over the meat.  Reserve the rest of the cheese, about 1/2 cup.  Chop 1/2 cup of parsley and add all but 2 Tablespoons to the meat mixture.  Save the rest of the parsley for another use.  Add the bread crumbs and the egg to the mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently mix until everything is just combined.

Raise the meat to medium high.  Using a scoop or 2 teaspoons, drop rounds of the meatball mixture into the skillet without touching one another.  Adjust the heat so the meatballs sizzle but do not burn. Cook the meatballs undisturbed until they are lightly browned on the bottom, 5-6 minutes.

While the meatballs are browning, trim, peel and chop the onion.  Scatter the diced onion around the meatballs.  Peel and mince or crush the garlic.  Put it on top of the onions.

When the meatballs are browned on the bottom and the aromatics begin to soften, add the tomatoes and bay leaves to the skillet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Adjust the heat to medium low so that the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.  Cover the skillet and cook until the meat cooks through, about 8 minutes.  Remove the lid and let the sauce bubble vigorously to thicken, about another 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir carefully, but only as needed.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir.  After five minutes check the pasta.  When it is tender, not mushy, drain it.  Reserve some of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Move the meatballs to one side of the skillet and stir the sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Discard the bay leaves and spoon about half the sauce into the pasta pot.  Toss the pasta over low heat.  Add a splash of cooking water to the pasta to make it saucier, if you like.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates or bowls; top with meatballs and additional sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and parsley over the top.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This went on the rotation after the first time I made it.  I love, love the meatballs!!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup - #soupswappers

Welcome!  I am hosting the Saturday Soup Swappers and this month, we have gone International. We are preparing and posting soups that have an International flare!  Going International is actually pretty easy as far as soup goes.   There are so many soups in our world that all one has to do is decide what ingredients sound good and go from there.  As I think about it, most of the soups that I prepare have an International flavor to them.

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information.  All are welcome!


So, let's go International!  For me, selecting the ingredients was pretty easy.  It was to be sausage and pasta.  I selected sausage, as Miss Sabine's new favorite food is sausage and since pasta is another hit in her book, the ingredients were determined. (Sabine is my four year old granddaughter.)  After that, selecting the country was a no-brainer...On to Italy!

I settled on a Rustic Sausage and Tortellini Soup!  It is not a brothy soup.  It is a hearty soup and quite filling.  The broth, though, is so packed with flavor....(Hint:  Do not omit the Parmesan rind or small hunk of Parmesan cheese.) This is a keeper recipe and worthy of going on the rotation!



Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
adapted from the Kitchn

Yield:  2-4 servings

Neutral flavor cooking oil, such as Canola
1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1/2 cup dry red wine (Chicken stock may be substituted.)
1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, San Marzano if available
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Parmesan rind or a small hunk of Parmesan cheese
1 package fresh or frozen tortellini, 9 or 12 ounces (I used cheese filled.)
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Red pepper flakes

Shaved Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven.  Heat over medium-high until shimmery.  Add the Italian sausage but do not break it up.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once both sides are golden brown, break the sausage into smaller bite size pieces.  Cook allowing a nice layer of caramelization to form on the bottom of the pan.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage from the pan to a bowl.  Set aside.  Leave the fat in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the chopped onions and carrot coins, then sprinkle with salt.  Cook the onions and carrots until they have softened, about 8-9 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook until the aroma is releases, about 15 seconds.  Add the red wine and bring to a boil allowing the wine to cook out.  While the mixture boils, stir to release the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot.  Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces using your kitchen shears.  Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, parmesan rind, and cooked sausage.  Season with salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the tortellini.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the tortellini is heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Remove the Parmesan rind before serving.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few shavings of Parmesan.

Note:  Serve with some crusty garlic bread.
When reheating the leftover soup, add some additional chicken stock.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I enjoyed this month's theme which led to exploring so many different ideas.  It was really challenging for me to focus and settle in on a particular cuisine!  I forgot something...did Miss Sabine like the soup?  Well, she opted to have pizza.  So, I guess that answers the question.  Next time...maybe.

Follow the Linkz below to visit all of the bloggers who have prepared great soups with an International flare!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ghost Chili Honey Cake - #ImprovCooking


While this sounds like a crazy combination, chocolate and chiles actually work well together.  In fact, this duo has been around since about the 16th century and may have originated in Mexico when convent nuns were trying to prepare a meal for their guest, the archbishop.  They started mixing a little of this and that and created a mix or "mole" which is well known in Mexican cuisine. The chocolate and chili duo is the theme for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.  It is fun to be challenged to find or create a recipe following a designated theme.

I was originally going to make a chicken mole.  I have never made a mole and it sounded great but I got lost along the way....  As I was searching for the chiles that I needed to make mole, I came across a recipe for Ghost Chile Honey Cake that was really intriguing.  I was familiar with the ghost chili as I had eaten a burger with ghost pepper cheese.  It was super delicious and quite memorable!


The Bhut Jolokia, the ghost chili, is from India and holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world! While the pepper has a very nice smoky flavor, it is the heat that really gets ya!  A little of this pepper certainly does go a long way.  India's Bhut Jolokia is 10 times hotter than a habañero!

You may be asking how in the world this can work in a cake.  It works because the chili peppers are infused in honey.  The fire is mellowed and the flavor is what shines through.




The cake isn't as scary as it sounds.  I think I detected more of the chili heat when the frosting was warm.  The slice I ate had a very nice flavor but there wasn't any heat!



Ghost Chili Honey Cake
adapted from Silk Road Diary

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey (instructions below)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling
1 cup Seville orange marmalade

Frosting
10 oz chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey

Ghost Chili Infused Honey
Heat one cup of honey in a small pan over a low heat.  Make a small slit in three ghost chili pods. Submerge them in the honey.

Steep the chiles for 30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  Pour the honey and chiles into a container and set aside.

Cake
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by spraying or greasing.  Cut a piece of parchment to cover the bottom of the pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of your mixer, mix together the sugar, infused honey, eggs and vanilla, until blended.  Add the vegetable oil, then half of the flour mixture.  Mix until blended.  Add all of the buttermilk and mix until just blended.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake the cake about 55 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.  The cake will have a slight "dome".  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then, invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Remove the parchment.

Frosting
Fill a double boiler halfway up with water and heat on medium high.  (Or, use a saucepan and put a glass bowl on it to make a double boiler.)

Put the chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in the bowl.  Stir until almost melted.  Set the bowl aside.  Empty the bottom/saucepan.  Pour in the remaining half cup of infused honey and the cream. Bring to a boil, then pout over the melting chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let it cool.

Assembly
When the cake has cooled, carefully cut it in half horizontally.  Place the bottom of the cake onto a cake dish.  Spread the marmalade over the cake bottom, being careful not to spread it all the way to the edge.  Place the other half of the cake on top of the filling and gently press down.

Frost the cake using an offset spatula.  After putting the frosting on the cake, it may be smoothed out using a clean knife that has been dipped into hot water.  The warm knife will smooth out the frosting.

NOTE:  If you desire a spicier cake, 1/4 teaspoon of ghost chile flakes may be added to the batter or the frosting.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I would make this cake again but I would probably add the ghost chili flakes just because...I'm curious and want to know what it would be like.

If you are interested in taking part in the Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Nichole at Cookaholic Wife, please visit her post for all of the information.  It is great fun!

I am also sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seattle's Winter Wonderland

Last Saturday I arrived in Seattle to be Grandma.  When my daughter and son-in-law's schedules involve travel, an extra pair of hands and driver, are needed!  I was especially excited because the weather forecast was for snow!  I had not seen snow up close and personal for twenty years.  In the Central Valley of California snow is an unlikely occurrence.  In fact the last time it snowed was 1999!

And yes, I was weird and ran out front every hour on Sunday evening to take a selfie and mark the progress of the snow.  Never, did I believe that in the morning, I would see this:


It was like seeing a Christmas Card but in this case it is early Valentine's!

I was fascinated with everything about the snow:  the quiet beauty, the way it blanketed the area, how it layered on the tree branches, the echo of the children as they ventured out to play....  


Some of the trees couldn't handle the weight of the snow such as the bamboo tree below.


I especially liked the contrast between the tree branches and the snow.









Snow removal seemed to be Sabine's focus.


Kissing the snow was also a highly rated activity.


I am sharing today at Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.