Friday, February 29, 2008

Cheddar Cheese & Beer Soup

When Matt & I visited Yosemite in 2006 one thing we both really wanted to do was visit the Ahwahnee Hotel. In the middle of all this amazing natural beauty is this beautiful old hotel. ahwahnee hotel
We had lunch while we were there & Matt had their Fiscalini Farms Cheddar Cheese & Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Soup. It was fabulous. The waiter asked if he liked it & offered us the recipe. It has become a staple in our house ever since. It goes together pretty quickly & the worcestershire, horseradish & dijon give it an amazing flavor.

Fiscalini Farms & Sierra Nevada Brewery are both local to California so when we made it here we decided to go with things local to this area. We used a very good aged Wisconsin Cheddar that was recommended to us at Lund's & Schell's Pale Ale from New Alm, MN.

Cheddar Cheese & Beer Soup

½ C. onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
6 slices bacon, diced
1 Tbsp. butter
¼ C. all-purpose flour
6 C. vegetable broth
4-6 oz. Pale Ale
2 C. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Worcesstershire Sauce
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
½ lb. shredded cheddar cheese

Heat a 6 qt. stockpot over a medium heat and add the diced bacon. Cook until bacon is ⅔ done. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking an additional three minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add butter and flour and mix thoroughly to make roux. Add vegetable stock and cook until desired thickness. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with a crusty bread or homemade croutons like they do at the Ahwahnee.

This soup does not thicken very much so if you prefer a thicker cheese soup make a little more roux.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Last time I lived in Minneapolis I spent a lot of time at Bob's Java Hut, partly for the great people but mainly for the amazing Mexican Chocolate Mocha. That great flavor of chocolate & cinnamon together with a little extra vanilla is one of my favorites. This cupcake really seems to capture that flavor & it is one of the moistest cupcakes I've every had. Maybe just a little too moist as they didn't rise very much. (*see below for our fix for that)
#55 - Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

2 sticks (1 C) unsalted butter
1/2 C Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 C water
2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C well-shaken buttermilk
2 T vanilla
2 C all purpose flour
1 t baking soda (*see below for suggested change to this)
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Put cupcake papers in your muffin tins. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Then sift again into the cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (it will be a little bit lumpy). Fill cupcake papers to about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. It's a moist cake, so don't worry if a few crumbs stick to your tester.
Allow cupcakes to cool.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Adapted from Rebecca Rather's recipe from on Four Obsessions.

Most Mexican cupcake recipes I found just suggested dusting the cupcakes with powdered sugar but I really wanted a frosting & used this basic chocolate sour cream version.

Fudgy Sour Cream Frosting
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

In a double boiler, or in a saucepan set over a pan of hot (not boiling) water, melt the chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the sour cream and the vanilla and beat, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth and creamy. Let cool just slightly - until the frosting begins to thicken. But don’t wait too long because it will quickly thicken beyond spreadability.

It did thicken really quickly, almost faster than I could decorate the cupcakes. The tang of the sour cream really went well with these cupcakes.

Putting raspberries in the cupcakes
* I had a little helper over yesterday & we decided to make some chocolate raspberry cupcakes using this same cupcake recipe. This time we left out the cinnamon. We added 1/2 t baking soda & 1 t baking powder instead of the 1 t baking soda. The cupcake rose more this time. They were still quite moist but a little less pudding like.
Luke's Cupcakes
We used the Perfectly Chocolate Frosting on these.
This will probably be the chocolate cupcake recipe I continue to use because the flavor is so good but with those changes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Green Curry Chicken

I'm trying to be more experimental with food, especially curries, these days. I know Matt is missing some of these things that he would have for lunch back in California. (We really need to try some of the ethnic restaurants here in Minneapolis.) I saw this Green Curry Shrimp recipe on Posie Gets Cozy & thought I'd give it a try. I know that green curry is pretty mild which is good for wimpy me. I decided to use chicken instead of shrimp so I had to change when the protein is added since chicken takes longer to cook than shrimp. Also her recipe had red pepper in the ingredients but never had them added to the curry so I just took a guess when to add them. Finally, we felt 1 tablespoon of curry was no where near enough flavor. We ended up adding 3 which is actually what the curry jar said was the right amount for two cans of coconut milk. I'm betting every curry paste is different though. So here is my adaptation for Green Curry Chicken.
Green Chicken Curry Parts

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper
1 red pepper, diced (no ribbing please! — red parts only)
1 head broccoli florets
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced then cut into quarters
2 14-oz cans light coconut milk
3 T. green curry paste
1 c. frozen peas
1 small can bamboo shoots (julienned)

Heat butter & olive oil over med-low heat in a large soup pot. Sauté shallot and onion until translucent. Add garlic and chicken and cook until chicken is almost done, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Add broccoli florets & red pepper, sauté until almost tender. Add eggplant and sauté a few minutes more, chicken should be fully cooked at this point. Add curry paste and stir until everything is coated, then add coconut milk and stir until combined. Don't boil, just simmer until hot. Add peas and bamboo shoots and heat through. Serve over hot jasmine rice.
Green Chicken Curry

Even with the addition of more curry paste I still found this a little bland. Matt said it tastes exactly like green curry should so maybe I had a different expectation. If we made this again we would leave out the eggplant as neither of us really cared for the texture in this. Perhaps next time I'll try yellow curry & see if that has a little more of the zing I'm looking for.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lavender Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

The smell & flavor of lavender will always remind me of Maui. When Matt & I went there two years ago we spent a day in the Upcountry visiting the Surfing Goat Dairy, the Tedeschi Vineyards and Winery & the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm. It was a rather cold, foggy day on this part of the island & the lavender farm offered the perfect treat.
Lavender Farm
They sold lavender scones which were then heated up & served with different lavender butters & honey. They were so good & ever since I've been planning on doing some of my own baking with lavender.

I bought some lavender sugar one day at a deli in Bolinas & recently I bought some culinary lavender at the local market.
Lavender for cooking
Since I'm currently on a cupcake kick it seemed lavender cupcakes were in order.
Lavender cupcake with chocolate frosting
Ah, a little bit of Maui in Minneapolis in February.


1/2 c room temp unsalted butter
7 T lavender sugar
1 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 - 3 T milk

Preheat oven to 400. Cream butter & sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, beat in well. Mix in flour, baking powder & salt. Slowly add milk until desired consistency (I needed almost the whole 3).
Evenly fill 12 muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Makes 12
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup dutch processes cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

About 2 cups frosting.

This is the Hersey's Perfectly Chocolate frosting recipe but I used dutch processed cocoa instead. This is a really good chocolate frosting!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Risotto with Chicken, Prosciutto & Tomato

Many years ago I often spent weekends in Wisconsin helping some friends renovate an old farm house into a weekend retreat. The weather was hot, the work was dirty & many times a shower was a bucket of water over the head outside. But once evening rolled around there was plenty of red wine & lots of great food. It was in this environment I had risotto for the first time. It was my job to stir the broth slowly into the rice, letting each addition be absorbed until you could part the rice like the red sea, as my friend told me. Risotto still seems to me the perfect dish for a laid back evening with friends. A simple, warm creamy dish that welcomes any additions you want to throw in form the fridge or pantry.
I know many people think it is too much work & that you have to constantly stir it, I've discovered it is a bit more forgiving than that & you can walk away to do other things & just stir from time to time as you add the broth. Usually I make very simple vegetable risottos with either peas on asparagus & a little cream added at the end. Last night I made a heartier version with chicken, prosciutto & tomato. You cook the tomato down quite a bit before adding it to the rice with adds a nice tomato taste to the creaminess.
risotto with chicken, procuitto & tomato

2 T olive oil
2 T finely minced onion
1 boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
3 oz prosciutto, diced
2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded & diced or 1/2 can Italian tomatoes, well drained & diced
5 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 c white wine (I often skip this & just use a little more broth)
2 T unsalted butter
1T olive oil
1/3 c finely minced onion
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/4 c grated Parmesan

cooking risotto
Heat the 2 T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; add the onion & sauté for about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the chicken, prosciutto & tomato & cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through & tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a saucepan, bring the broth to a steady simmer.
Heat the butter & remaining olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion & sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice & stir until well coated. Add the wine & stir until completely absorbed. Beginning adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time. Stir from time to time & add more broth as each addition is absorbed. Reserve about 1/4 cup at the end. After about 18 minutes the rice should be tender but still firm to the bite. Add the remaining broth & the chicken mixture. Turn off the heat and add in the Parmesan, stir to combine. Serve right away.

4 large servings.
From Risotto by Judith Barrett & Norma Wasserman

I find sometimes it takes a little more broth & a little more time to get the rice to the right texture but usually this recipe is pretty close, it never takes less.
You can really take the basic technique here & add anything you like the flavor of, mushrooms, herbs, etc, instead to the chicken, prosciutto & tomato.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Winter really has us craving these hearty soups & we seem to particularly like white bean. This version was quick to put together & cook thanks to canned beans. The flavor was wonderful with the garlic & lots of fresh rosemary. The addition of lemon juice at the end just brighten everything so nicely. Matt thinks this one is good enough to add to the 5 star meal list he is making in his head, this would be a list of our favorite recipes to go to when we are blanking on dinner ideas.
Rosemary White Bean Soup

1 T olive oil
3 leeks, white & light green parts sliced & washed
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T chopped fresh rosemary (about 2 springs worth of leaves)
2 14.5 oz cans of white navy beans, drained & rinsed
3 cups chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
salt & pepper
2 t lemon juice
Grated Parmesan

In a soup pot heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the leeks & sauté until starting to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrot & garlic & cook for 5 minutes more. Add rosemary, beans & chicken broth. Season with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Scoop out about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of the beans (yes, you'll get some vegetables mixed in, thats ok,) & a little broth & put in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth & creamy, then return to soup pot. Add in the lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper if needed. Grate Parmesan cheese over each serving.

Serves 4

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Adventures in homemade sausage

I bought Matt the grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid two Christmases ago & we are really just starting to use it. We use bulk Italian Sausage quite often for our Orecchiette with Sausage & Broccoli as well as in lasagna so we decided to try making our own. Most recipes we've seen call for pork butt or shoulder. Lund's had a two for one special on center cut pork loins so we decided to try that. We went with the Alton Brown seasoning mixture, fennel seeds, kosher salt, black pepper & parsley. He called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of toasted fennel seeds per 2 lbs of pork but we really like the flavor of fennel so we upped it to 1 Tablespoon.
making homemade sausage
The fennel gets ground & then we added 2 t kosher salt, 1 1/2 T black pepper* & 1 T parsley. (I'm betting this was supposed to be fresh parsley but we used dried as we had it on hand). We mixed this with the chopped up pork.
making homemade sausage
Then the whole thing went through the small blade on the grinder. We used 1/2 lb in last nights dinner.
making homemade sausage
This cut of pork maybe a little leaner than the shoulder or butt so a little olive oil helps while browning it. The rest went into 1/2 lb portions in the freezer for later use.
making homemade sausage
And how was it? *Well it was good but Matt made a little mistake when writing down the seasoning & it should have been 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper not tablespoons, so we had some peppery sausage. Matt actually really liked the way the pepper worked with the fennel but next time we'll definitely cut back & we'll always double check that big & little "t."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Shrimp Curry

You know how they say sometimes you can't go home again? Well this recipe is sort of like that. Sometimes the food you remember from childhood just isn't as good now. I remember this Shrimp Curry being sort of a fancier dinner in our house & really our only experience with "curry." Now after eating more Indian food this recipe tastes quite bland & I realize how far from real curry it is. Matt added a little hot sauce & declared it really good. I think actually with a bit of tweaking it could be very good so I'll have to work on this basic recipe.
Shrimp Curry
(it did look exactly as I remembered)

4 T butter
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 apple, peeled & finely chopped
1/2 C celery, diced
1 T chopped green pepper
1 1/2 C tomatoes, seeded & chopped
2 C cream
1 T curry powder
2 lbs shrimp, peeled
salt & pepper
pinch of sugar

In a large skillet with high sides melt 2 T butter over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic, apple, celery & green pepper & sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes & cook another 5 minutes. Add cream & curry powder & simmer until reduced slightly.

While the sauce is reducing, melt 2 T butter in a skillet over med-low heat. Add shrimp & cook until pink.

Add shrimp to sauce & season with salt, pepper & a pinch of sugar.

Serve over rice.

Serves 4

My mom gave me this recipe & I don't know where she got it from.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beef, beer & lentil stew

We are busily remodeling Matt's office over the long weekend. With all the time spent prepping & painting all we want for dinner is something hearty & satisfying that didn't take much work. This stew fit the bill, brown some meat, chop up a few vegetables & let the whole thing simmer for an hour. The beer & fire roasted tomatoes gave the broth a wonderful slightly sweet flavor.
Beef, beer & lentil stew

1 T olive oil
3/4 - 1 lb stew beef, cut into bite size pieces
salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 carrot, peeled & sliced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 T fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
3/4 c dried lentils
12 oz beer (we used a Summit Winter Ale, something darker than a lager is best)
1 14.5 can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
1+ c chicken broth

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over med-high heat. Add beef , season with salt & pepper & cook until browned. Add vegetables & cook for about 5 minutes. Add rosemary, bay leaf, lentils, beer, tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer covered for 1 hour or until lentils & vegetables are tender. Add more chicken broth while simmering if the stew gets too dry or you like a little more broth. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve with a good crusty bread for dipping.

Serves 4

Weekly Menu 2/17 - 2/22/08

Beef, Beer & Lentil Stew - Making this up a we go along with some leftover beef & vegetables in the fridge - RESULT: The beer & roasted tomatoes made a great broth for this hearty satisfying stew.

Shrimp Curry - My mom made this recipe when I was growing up & we called it Green Shrimp. I don't know where she got the recipe. - RESULT: Much blander than I remembered though Matt says hot sauce gave it the kick it needed. A recipe that I think could easily be improved on.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli
- We are going to make our own homemade Italian sausage this week & try it in this recipe.
The finished goods

Rosemary White Bean Soup - Going to use leeks, rosemary & whatever else sounds good in the fridge & pantry. - RESULT: A perfectly yummy & fast winter soup that's full of flavor.

Homemade Pizza - We'll see which crust recipe Matt decides to try this time.

Chicken, Prosciutto & Tomato Risotto - from Risotto by Judith Barrett & Norma Wasserman - RESULT: A really wonderful, hearty version of risotto. The prosciutto & tomato add a lot to the flavor.

This week I'll be using the lavender & lavender sugar in the cupboard to make lavender cupcakes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

Another Rachael Ray recipe & another winner. Once again her portion size is crazy! We made half of this recipe which should be two servings. We each had a big portion last night & there are two portions left. Also I had the same problem I've had with her recipes in the past in that the sauce did not thicken. We ended up adding another tablespoon of flour & letting it simmer another 10 minutes until it seemed the right thickness to us. We both really loved this but think next time we'll add more sweet potato.
Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

2 T vegetable oil
1 (or 2) med sweet potato, peeled, cut in half lengthwise , then thinly sliced into half moons
salt & pepper
1 rounded T mild curry paste or 2 T curry powder (we used red curry powder)
2 lbs chicken cut into bit size pieces
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced (we left this out, as I'm not a big red pepper fan)
1 T (or more) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c chicken stock or broth
1/2 c heavy cream or half & half
1/4 c mango chutney (we used one with a little bite to it)
1 10-oz box of frozen peas
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves (we also left this out)

Cooked Basmati rice

Preheat a large, deep skillet over med-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet, season with salt, pepper & curry paste or powder, & cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Move the potatoes to the edge of the pan & add the chicken. Season with salt & pepper & cook, browning slightly for 3 minutes. Add the onions & peppers & toss to combine. Add the flour & continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, cream, and mango chutney, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken & potatoes are cooked & the sauce has thickened.
Add the peas & cilantro & simmer for 1 minute to heat the peas through. Serve over rice.

From Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners (A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love Potion Cupcake

Love Potion Cupcake
This week's cupcake is, of course, in honor of Valentine's Day. I based the flavors on & got the name from an ice cream Baskin Robbins has had for Valentine's Day in the past, vanilla ice cream with a raspberry swirl, chunks of chocolate & heart shaped raspberry filled chocolates. The cupcakes are a basic vanilla cake with chunks of dark chocolate mixed in. In the center of each cake I placed a frozen raspberry before cooking. The frosting is dark chocolate & flavored with Bouteille Call (pronounce that booty call) a syrah port from Boony Doon Vineyard with a strong raspberry flavor.
Love Potion Cupcake


1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 c granulated white sugar
1 1/2 large eggs
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1/8 c milk
2 T chopped dark chocolate (I used 60% cocoa)
6 frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or put paper cups in 6 muffin cups.

Cream the butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well. Beat in the vanilla.

In another bowl whisk the flour, baking powder & salt together. Add to the wet mixture, along with the milk. Beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Even fill the muffin cups. Press a raspberry into the center of each cupcake making sure it is covered by the batter. Bake for 20 minutes & cool on a wire rack.


1/2 stick softened butter
1/2 c dutch processed cocoa
3 c powdered sugar
1/4+ c milk
1 T Bouteille Call (or other dessert wine or flavoring of your choice.)
1/8 t salt

Mix butter, coca powder, salt & sugar together in a bowl. Mix in wine or flavoring. Add milk a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I got a very soft frosting.

Makes 6 cupcakes (this can easily be doubled to make 12)

The best part of this cupcake for me was definitely how wonderful the raspberry turned out in the middle. It was really flavorful & a nice surprise.

Basic Vanilla Cupcake recipe by Stephanie Jaworski at Joy of Baking. Frosting recipe basics came from Kahala's Fluffy Chocolate Frosting on

Cinnamon-Infused Maple Syrup

Good syrup
Matt picked this up at Target (our Super Targets have full grocery stores that actually aren't too bad) a few weeks ago & was raving about it over his pancakes Sunday. If you look closely you can actually see a cinnamon stick in it. Matt says the flavor of the cinnamon really comes through & unlike a lot of other syrups this one is not too sweet, just a nice subtle maple flavor. We have surprisingly liked a lot of the Archer Farms Brand (the Target food brand) items that we have tried.

Foodie BlogRoll

Have you noticed the new addition to the side of this blog? Its the Foodie BlogRoll...900 food related blogs for you to check out. If you're looking for some cooking inspiration this should do it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sautéed Strawberries in Red Wine & Black Pepper Sauce

Lund's, one of our local grocery chains, was giving away free strawberries this week with a $25 purchase. I thought about just freezing them for smoothies but decided such a bounty in the middle of winter really deserved something a little more special. I'd made something like this years ago, I think from a Bon Appétit recipe but couldn't find it on their site. So after lots of Google time this was the final result.
#42 - A little treat

1 1/4 c good red wine (I used a Cotes du Rhone because that is what I enjoy drinking but a Cab, Zin, Pinot all would work)
6 T sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
1 1/2 t cornstarch
Fresh ground pepper
1 T unsalted butter
4 c fresh strawberries, halved or quartered according to size (this is a good use for some of those not perfect strawberries that might have a few soft spots)
Vanilla ice cream

In a small sauce pan bring 1 c wine, sugar & vanilla bean to a boil. Mix the remaining 1/4 c of wine with the cornstarch. Whisk this mixture into the saucepan & return to a boil. Stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean from sauce. (This part can be made earlier in the day & leaving only the strawberries to sauté before serving.)
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the strawberries & sauté until warm through & slightly softened, about a minute. Add the sauce & a grind or two of pepper to taste (I use a blend of black & white pepper which is milder than straight black). Bring just to a boil. Serve over ice cream.

Serves 6

When I've made this in the past for a party I served it in martini glasses for a nice presentation but it tastes just as amazing in a bowl.

Inspired by the recipe from Terra Restaurant in Napa Valley. I prefer more vanilla & pepper flavor than they use.

Potato Soup with Kale & Chorizo

Make this soup! It was so amazingly good. Its not heavy like normal potato soups & has a wonderful smoky flavor. It's worth making the croutons to go with it as they add
a nice texture & are really no work at all.
Potato soup with kale & chorizo

5 T olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
8-oz fully cooked smoked Spanish chorizo, chopped
2 t smoked paprika
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1/4 inch slices
8 c chicken broth
1 1/2 lb kale, stemmed, torn into small pieces
3 c 1/2 inch cubes rustic bread (I used my homemade multi-grain bread)

Heat 3 T oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion: cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add chorizo & paprika; stir 1 minute. Add potatoes & broth. Increase heat & bring to a boil. Add kale; stir until wilted & soup returns to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover & simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
homemade croutons
Meanwhile, hat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes & sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle croutons with salt & pepper. Sprinkle croutons into each bowl of soup.

Serves 4 (I think this actually serves 8, we made a half batch & still have two servings left.)

From Bon Appétit March 2008.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Corned Beef with Vegetables

Sometimes on Sunday we like to make a little bigger meal, something that takes a little longer to cook like a roast. This Sunday, inspired by the March issue of Bon Appétit, we made Corned Beef with Vegetables. I was surprised to hear Matt had never had this meal though he does enjoy a good ruben sandwich. Bon Appétit has you brine your own beef, an eight day process, we decided just to buy it that way from the store.
corned beef with vegetables

3 - 4 lb corned beef
12 oz bottle of Guinness Stout
4 carrots, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
2 parsnips, peels & cut into 2 inch pieces
8 red skinned potatoes
2 med turnips, peeled & quartered
2 med onions, peeled & quartered
1/2 head of cabbage, cut in half

Place corned beef into a large pot. Pour in Guinness & enough water to cover by one inch. Add seasoning packet that comes with the meat or make your own bouquet garni with whole allspice, coriander seeds, black pepper & bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover & let simmer 2 1/2 hours. The internal temperature of the meat should be at least 160 & the meat should be very tender. Remove meat from the pot to a tray. Add vegetables to the pot & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to & allow to gently boil for 25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to tray. Return meat to the pot & allow to reheat for 5 minutes. Remove meat. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Serve with horseradish or mustard.

Serves 4 with meat leftover for sandwiches.

We both really loved the meat though weren't as crazy about some of the boiled vegetables (turnips weren't our favorite). We'll have the meat again this week, once with just some potatoes mashed on the side & again in a gilled sandwich with Fontina cheese & sweet onions.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Menu 2/10 - 2/16

Corned Beef with Vegetables: Bon Appétit March 2008 (this will be two dinners) RESULT- not something we are going to make very often but it was fun to try making & the meat will make great leftovers.

Potato Soup with Kale & Chorizo: Bon Appétit March 2008 - RESULT - OMG so good! We'll make this one again & again. Easy to make too.

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry
: Rachael Ray 365 - RESULT: Really good & pretty easy to put together. We'll add more sweet potato next time.

Sausage & Spinach Lasagna: from the freezer

Grilled Corn Beef & Fontina Sandwiches: Bon Appétit March 2008

Can you tell the new Bon Appétit arrived?

This week's cupcake I call Love Potion - a vanilla cupcake with raspberries & dark chocolate topped with chocolate frosting infused with Bouteille Call, a fortified wine from Boony Doon vineyard that tastes of raspberries.

Valentine's Day we'll be going out to dinner at The Grand Cafe.

Ham & White Bean Soup

This is based on the Ham & White Bean Stew in The Big Book of Soups & Stews. Our version came out more like a soup than a stew but the flavor was very good. This was the perfect dinner for a night in front of the fire watching a movie while really cold winter winds whistled outside.
Ham & White Bean Soup

1 14.5-oz can Great Northern Beans, rinsed & drained
2 c chicken stock
2 c water
1 c chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 t celery salt or Old Bay Seasoning
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T tomato paste
2 or 3 drops Tabasco sauce
2 c cubed cooked ham (about 12 oz)
pepper & salt to taste

In a large soup pot over high heat, mixed beans, stock, water, onion, celery salt or Old Bay, & bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium & simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Add Worcestershire, tomato paste & Tabasco. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf. Remove 1 cup of beans & 1/4 cup of stock to a food processor & purée. Return to pot. Add ham & heat another 15 minutes.

serves 4

I decided to see how the bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day would work for dinner rolls. I cut off 1/4 pound pieces from the dough always standing ready in my fridge. I shaped them into little rounds & let them rest on a cornmeal dusted pizza paddle for about an hour.
Rolls Rising
I slashed a crossed into the top & baked them for 25 minutes...a perfect accompaniment for soup.
Multigrain Dinner Rolls

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chicken with Sweet Raisins & Apricots over Toasted Almond Couscous

Without a doubt this is probably the best Rachael Ray recipe I have made to date. The sauce was wonderful with a little sweetness from the dried fruit & just a touch of vinegar for a bite. Once again there were serving size issues, this time with the couscous. We halved the recipe which means we made 3/4 cup of couscous which is a mountain of time we'll cut it to 2/3 cup. Rachael's idea of a serving is huge!
chicken with sweet raisins & apricots

3 T olive oil
4 6-oz boneless skinless chicken breast halves
salt & pepper
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 c sliced almonds
3 1/2 c chicken stock or broth
1 1/2 c plain couscous
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (we left this out)
2 T unsalted butter
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 T all-purpose flour
12 dried, pitted apricots, halved
1 c golden raisins
2 T cider or white wine vinegar

Preheat large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add 2 T of the olive oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper & thyme. Add the chicken to the hot skillet & cook on each side for 5 to 6 minutes.

Toast the almonds in the bottom of a medium saucepan over medium heat until golden. Transfer the toasted nuts to a dish & reserve. Return the pot to the stove top. Add 1 1/2 c of the chicken stock & the remaining T of the olive oil, bring to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the couscous & parsley to the stock & stir. Cover & let the couscous stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the cooked couscous with a fork & toss with the toasted almonds. Cover to keep it warm.

Remove the chicken from the skillet to a place & cover with foil. Return the skillet to the heat & add the butter & shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes. Dust with the flour & continue to cook for a minute. Add the apricots, golden raisins & vinegar. Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock & turn the heat up to high. Simmer the mixture until think. Add the chicken back to the skillet, coat in the sauce, & heat the chicken, about a minute. Serve the chicken & some sauce over the couscous.

Makes 4 servings.

From Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners (A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook).

Friday, February 8, 2008

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Have I mentioned I love this book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
Such a great concept. Mix up enough dough for four loaves or so of bread (we make the larger sandwich loaves so we get maybe three from a batch), let it rise for a couple hours, throw it in the fridge & then whenever you want a fresh loaf of bread cut of what you need, shape it, let it rise a bit & bake it. Seriously easy & seriously fast. My sister mentioned she'd love to have some homemade bread so Saturday morning when we got up at 8 I cut off the dough for it & before we left for her house at noon I had a loaf cooling ready to go to her. I was a big fan of the No Knead Bread but this I feel is even easier. I know some reviews on Amazon say this isn't real European bread & you have to knead bread for it to be "real" but homemade bread that's quick, easy & tastes great, I guess I like this "fake" stuff.

So far I mainly done the master recipe which they suggest you should, well, master before trying the variations. We've been baking it in a loaf pan as I said for what they call the Crusty White Sandwich Bread.
crusty sandwich loaf
You get a really nice crust, thanks to cooking it with a little steam & a soft lovely crumb. So good we've stopped buying sandwich bread at the store & I just make a loaf whenever we need it. Since the store bread we like costs over $3.00 a loaf & this costs something like 10 - 15 cents to make the saving are great too.

This week I tried a slightly different variation. We had purchased some Red River cereal which is basically cracked wheat, rye & fax seed as an alternative to oatmeal.
Bread It was really bland as a hot cereal so Matt suggested trying it in bread. I put a half cup of the cereal into the master recipe & cut the flour down by about 1/4 of a cup.
It added a nice extra crunch to the bread & the rye & flax added some wonderful extra flavor.

I just sent my Dad a copy of the book as he has been making No Knead Bread like there is no tomorrow so I'm interested to hear how this method works for him

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cocoa & Marshmallow Cupcakes

After last weeks yummy red velvet cupcakes Matt & I were discussing other flavors it might be fun to try making up. We started talking about a cupcake inspired by a cup of cocoa with marshmallows in it topped with whipped cream. I did some searching online to see if anyone had tried baking marshmallows in their cupcakes. Nigella Lawson had a recipe where she put one large marshmallow into the center of each cupcake before baking. She said it created a soft almost molten center. So, I figured I could put a couple mini marshmallows in a cupcake & they would make little pockets of marshmallow. I used this chocolate cupcake recipe, though I changed out the milk for buttermilk since I had it. Filled each cup part way, placed two marshmallows then topped with more batter. This is what they looked like after baking.
cocoa & marshmallow cupcake You can see the indentations where the marshmallows were. I frosted them with this Whipped Cream Frosting. Then grated some chocolate on top.
cocoa & marshmallow cupcakes Now it was time to taste. I bit in eagerly hoping to find a little pocket of marshmallow but as I had feared they just cooked away into the the batter. So basically it was a sweet chocolate cupcake & really not the best chocolate cupcake I've had. The frosting wasn't exactly the flavor I wanted either perhaps just using whipped cream would be best. If I try this again I will look for a different recipe for the batter & try using one large marshmallow to see if we get better results.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Weekly Menu - 2/4 - 2/9/08

Looks like more snow finally on the way for us, good thing we have something warm & satisfying on the menu to have after coming in from shoveling.

Matt's Smoky Chili - A recipe Matt made up inspired by the chili's his dad made him as a kid.

Grown Up Mac & Cheese
- Our version of a childhood favorite but made with carmelized onions, gryere & grape tomatoes.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry - we are going to wing this one with a store bought teriyaki sauce.

Asiago & Wild Rice Brats w/ Roasted Fingerling - A simple & satisfying meal with gormet brats from Kowolskis Market

Chicken with Sweet Raisins & Apricots on Toasted Almond Couscous
- from Rachel Ray 365 - RESULT - So good! A nice dress-up for chicken breasts. Make less couscous next time though.

Ham & White Bean Stew
- from The Big Book of Soups & Stews: Maryana Vollstedt - RESULT - We changed the recipe around a bit & our's came out more of a soup. Very yummy & satisfying for winter.

This week's cupcake - cocoa with marshmallows.
#33 - Going in for a bite

Friday, February 1, 2008

If you really loved me you'd buy me cupcakes

When we lived in San Francisco we were lucky enough to have a fabulous cupcake bakery, Kara's Cupcakes, in our neighborhood. Their passion fruit cupcakes were to die for & I was really craving one the other day. Luckily Mpls/St. Paul Magazine recently spotlighted the top bakeries in the Twin Cities so we were able to find a local substitute, Cupcake on University Ave in Minneapolis. Cupcake is a cute little cafe that serves breakfast & lunch as well as 50 flavors of cupcakes. If you live in the area & have never been there I highly recommend it.
We tried four; Banana Pudding, Banana Fluffer Nutter, Red Velvet & Razz-ma-tazz. I had never had Red Velvet cake before & was blown away by how much I liked it, especially the cream cheese frosting. I've been thinking about them ever since to today I looked up Paula Dean's recipe on Food Network & made my own.
#32 - Red Velvet

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
So red
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Making them all pretty
I used a piping bag without a tip to create the peaks in the shape of a flower on top.

Makes 24 cupcakes.
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t = teaspoon
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