Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Bacon Explosion - a recipe I won't be trying soon

My buddy Will sent me a link to this article in the New York Times. Although I love bacon and I do love sausage, I somehow doubt that I will attempt this feat anytime soon.

Sorry I've been amiss with my blogging - I've been a busy bastard lately and the most I've made in the culinary world has been some roasted vegetables in my latest attempt to be healthy. I have brunch guests coming to my home on Saturday though, so I'll try to have something delicious for y'all to sample after that day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lindsey's Mama's Potato Soup


One of my defining memories of college were the KWLC/Cantine parties that my beloved mentor Jen would host for the holidays and at the end of the year. These parties managed to turn my tastebuds from Boone's Farm to Merlot and acquainted me with this particular soup recipe that my friend Lindsey provided and Jen tweaked over the years.

Potato Soup
by Lindsey's mom, the other Mama Sharon

10 med. potatoes cooked - leave on skins - chop up
2-3 medium onions chopped
1/2 lb bacon (saute onion in this & crumble into soup)
3 C. chicken broth
2 T basil (dry)
1 can evaporated milk
(Jen's addition)
3 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped

Boil potatoes and cook bacon until crisp. Go ahead and saute the onions in the leftover bacon grease because that's surely good for the soul. Add chicken broth, basil, potatoes (and other veggies if you're so inclined to add them.) Simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add milk at end or 2C half & half.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shepherd's Pie


Two words: Comfort food.

Ryan is in love with the Shepherd's Pie from Whistle Binkies, a pub we like to go to in Rochester. This is not like their pie, which is more like a beef stew with whipped potatoes on top. But damn this is good.

This recipe was adapted from AllRecipes.com.

Shepherd's Pie

1 lb. ground beef (I used pork)
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. frozen corn
3 lg. potatoes
1/3 c. milk or half and half
4 T. butter
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). While the potatoes are cooking, melt 2 T butter in large frying pan. Saute onions and carrots in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). Add ground beef and saute until no longer pink. Add corn and peas, as well as salt and pepper. Add Worcestershire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist. Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter and milk, season to taste. Place beef and vegetables in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown. Serves four.

A couple of variations - cheddar cheese in the potatoes or Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top after cooking would be a divine addition. You can also use whatever vegetables you really want with the ground beef. I used peas, carrots and corn because I had them on hand.

Another variation ... this recipe is damn good, but if I was planning to cut carbs, the potatoes would shoot me out of the water right there. In the future, I might try to whip cauliflower in lieu of the mashed potatoes and substitute ground turkey for the ground beef or pork.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chicken and Orzo Soup


I should have known that this was going to happen - my boss was sick, Ryan was battling a cold, I went home for Christmas and hung out with my germ-monger nephews and sure enough ... I found myself battling a cold and a sore throat over the new year.

I was supposed to pull a 5-hour shift at the cab company on the 1st, but when people started making fun of my squeaky voice, I decided to hang up the phone and head to the grocery store to pick up the fixins for some homemade chicken soup. (And yes, there's nothing wrong with soup from the can, but I was having a hankering for something homemade with lots of carrots.)

So I threw this together and I'm kind of proud of it ... I mean, chicken soup isn't no big trick - get some chicken broth (I'm still trying to perfect a homemade stock recipe), get some noodles, fix some chicken, add veggies and POOF! Chicken noodle soup. But I was happy how this turned out. And when Ryan went back to the stove for seconds, I knew it was something of a winner.

Chicken and Orzo Soup

2 1/2 T. butter
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence **
4 large carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces and cooked
6 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
1 c. orzo (or any type of small noodle)
1 bay leaf

Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onion, garlic and herbs de Provence in the melted butter for about 2 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Add carrots and celery - cook for another couple minutes. Add chicken broth, water and bay leaf. Bring vegetables to a simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the carrots are beginning to get tender). In the meantime, if you don't happen to have chicken on hand - this is the perfect opportunity to brown it in a skillet. When that's done (or darn near done), go ahead and throw it into the soup pan. Dump in the orzo and cook until tender. This seemed to take forever (15 minutes). Turn off your stove, discard bay leaf and serve. This would be fabulous with a little shaved Parmesan on top, but it's just as fine without.

**Herbs de Provence - found these bad boys at World Market and feel pretty pleased with myself. Herbs de Provence are good with seafood or ratatouille, according to the package. It is a mix of marjoram, savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage and lavender. It was a perfect compliment to this soup.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup

I found this recipe on AllRecipes and the fact that it's Russian in origin (I've been obsessed with that particular country ever since Ryan took me to Eastern Promises. Viggo, I'll make you borscht any old day of the week.) I'm also on a quest to try some different potato soup recipes because it's cold in Minnesota and I really like soup.

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup
adapted from AllRecipes.com

· 4 tablespoons butter, divided
· 2 leeks, chopped
· 2 large carrots, sliced
· 6 cups chicken broth
· 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
· 1 bay leaf
· 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
· 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
· 1 cup half-and-half
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· fresh dill weed, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Melt 3 T butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Mix in leeks and carrots, and cook 5 minutes. Pour in broth. Season with dill, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Mix in potatoes, cover, and cook 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but firm. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir into the soup. In a small bowl, mix the half-and-half and flour until smooth. Stir into the soup to thicken. Garnish each bowl of soup with fresh dill to serve.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Food Review: Mac and Cheese Pizza

Lunchtime found me hungry today and pondering my various options for good eating. I thought about sushi, but decided I didn't want to spend that much money. Then I remembered I would be working at the cab company tonight and since that cuts into time spent with my beloved Ryan, I decided to call him and ask if he wanted to go to Mr. Pizza North for their slice special. The lunch special used to be $5 for two slices and a soda, but according to today's bill, they raised their prices a bit. But that's OK - the pizza is still good, the service is still friendly and it's Mr. Pizza - home of Sharon's Favorite.

On today's menu, MPN featured their pepperoni pizza, the bacon cheeseburger and their new mac 'n cheese pizza. Of course, Ryan and I had to try it.

Verdict: Very interesting - they had some sort of garlic butter on the crust (which was hand-tossed), had cooked elbow macaroni sprinkled on top and then topped with cheddar cheese, butter and bread crumbs ... I think.

I couldn't eat a whole pizza and I found myself wishing for ketchup or tomato sauce to dip it in - the carb on carb action was a wee bit too much, even for me. Ryan liked it, but then he thought he was feeling nauseous. I blamed it on the pepperoni.

One of the things I appreciate about Mr. Pizza is their willingness to try new things - their mashed potato pizza is a particular favorite. This one isn't as good as the potato, but kudos for trying.

No Mo!

I forgot to post a picture of Mo for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Product Review: Mo's Bacon Bar

In all of my years of online shopping, the arrival of this particular package was only overshadowed by one other purchase: The down comforter I scored from Overstock.com five years ago for $40, free shipping.

Mo's Bacon Bar isn't a down comforter, but at $7.50 for a full-size bar, it's definitely a luxury item. And man - it was worth the order and worth the wait.

Mo's Bacon Bar was dreamed up by Katrina Markoff at Chicago's Voseges Haut Chocolat. Markoff, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, drew from her childhood to combine Mo's Bacon Bar - a sweet and savory concoction featuring milk chocolate, smoked salt and smoked applewood bacon.

I actually purchased two Mo's bars - one was a miniature sized one and the other a full-size bar. Exercising no restraint whatsoever, I tore into the mini one as soon as my package arrived at work on Friday. There would be no sharing with co-workers, only that one singular moment when that first bite of chocolate melted on my tongue, melting away so I could taste the bacon and salt concealed underneath. I immediately regretted not being somewhere cooler when I took my first bite of Mo.

Luckily, my second Mo experience was in a much cooler environment. I broke open the big bar at my friend Paul's house after he noticed the box sticking out of my pocket (Mo was too precious to leave in my car.) I broke off squares for Paul and Erin. Paul had the same reaction I did - absolute bliss. Erin? "Pfllf, pfllf, pflff" and washed his mouth out with some skim milk. Undeterred, I took the rest of the square he had bitten off and polished off his unfinished chocolate. No - Mo is too precious to be wasted by someone else's boy germs. :)

Ryan's email to me upon my announcement of the arrival of Mo? "That sounds nawsty." I brought a piece of Mo to my dispatcher Bill today, a wee precious square of chocolately-bacon goodness wrapped in a piece of foil (it looked like a drug transaction, to be honest) and I await his judgment on Mo.

In the meantime, I highly recommend a trip to Voseges Haut Chocolat. If you can't get there via car, go via Internet: http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Diet Commentary

I'm reading a book about the Sonoma diet. I'm not seeing how some of these recipes are fitting into my "easy recipes for lazy people" theorem, but I'm tempted to try some new schtuff.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I *heart* cooking newsletters

This is going to be a half-arsed post, but I was going through my email inbox this morning and basking in the wealth of cooking newsletters that I've subscribed to over the past year. Along with the cookbooks that I have, the cooking magazines that I subscribe to and my beloved friends who share recipes with me - these newsletters are a main source of recipe ideas. And the best part? They are free.

Here are some of my favorites:

Taste of Home - This Greendale, Wisconsin-based company is responsible for publishing the Taste of Home, Simple & Delicious, Light & Tasty magazines along with others. What's interesting about the newsletter is that they'll take the best of all of their magazines and send them in one mailing. No separate newsletters for one magazine, etc. And whereas, I usually like structure - I find recipes that I wouldn't normally receive because of this type of mailing. If you have picky family members and your food taste are more basic than gourmet, this is a great newsletter to subscribe to.

Rachael Ray is the queen of self-promotion and her accessibility makes her the queen of my email inbox. This e-letter comes from her magazine and has the whole week's worth of meals, entertaining ideas, etc.

Kraft Kitchens - another goodie if you can get over the blatant advertising (which is probably why they offer a free newsletter.) You can also score coupons if you're bent and determined on using the real Kraft products.

And finally - I'm in love with the Food Network. As you can imagine, everything that comes out of these newsletters are winners.

Easy-schmeasy Cherry Cheese Pie


This is another creation of my mother's, although she always gives me credit for it. Maybe it's because this recipe is so simple that even I cannot screw it up (that happened a lot when I was younger, trust me). It's a good pie for darn near any occasion.

Cherry Cheese Pie

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust
1 can cherry pie filling (you could use whatever kind trips your fancy)

Mix the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until smooth, pour into crust. Chill until set (that's usually 3 or 4 hours). Prior to serving, top with pie filling. Let people think you slaved over this dessert.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fat Mama


Remember this one, Lindsey? I was first introduced to Fat Mama during my sophomore year at Luther. No, Fat Mama wasn't some benevolent figure on campus, it was what would occur if we ate too much of this decandent snack mix. Lindsey gave me the recipe from Kelly, who would make it in the (forbidden!) microwave hidden in her dorm room and I, in turn, gave this recipe to my mom who made it for Christmas this year. But Fat Mama (usually referred to as Snack Mix or Crispix Snack Mix in polite company) is good any time of the year. Your cardiologist will thank me.

Fat Mama
recipe adapted from Recipezaar.com

6 c. Crispix cereal
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Karo syrup, white
1/3 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Spread the cereal over a greased cookie sheet (my mom throws hers in a paper grocery bag). Bring the other ingredients to a boil and pour over the cereal. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Shake apart.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fear Conquered! Leeks!

For some odd reason, leeks are one vegetable that has always intimidated me and no, I don't really have a good reason why. But when I made Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup, there it was - thinly sliced leeks. So I decided to conquer my fear of this vegetable and find out what all of the hooey was all about.


My friend Tara will be proud to know that when it came time to prepare said leeks, I turned to her favorite cookbook, "Joy of Cooking," which informed me that leeks are referred to in France as the "poor man's asparagus." Well - that's cool, I really like asparagus, but if this is the poor man's version of it, why do they smell like onions? Oh wait- thank you "Joy" - they are a member of the onion family!

OK - so if you're using leeks - one of the things you need to realize is that they are one dirty, gritty vegetable. You're gonna discard the green schtuff and use the white portion. Just make sure you rinse them thoroughly or you're going to get a bit more roughage than you bargained for. Another note - leeks are for cooking - they are pretty darn strong, you wouldn't want to just throw them in a salad for fun.

Leeks - you are a fear conquered.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sauerkraut Hotdish - Not for the faint-hearted


Somewhere my German and Bavarian ancestors are smiling down upon me and are marveling at the lengths I will go to digest sauerkraut (not just for pizza anymore!).

This recipe comes from my dear friend Bryan who sent this as soon as I informed him I was starting a cooking blog. And although that was a few months ago, I can explain the delay: Ryan hates sauerkraut and if I dared make this and present it as an entree in our household, I would probably find myself signing a prenup promising I would never make this glorious casserole again. So I waited until he was at his parents' home for the weekend and basked in the awesomeness of this greatness. (As you can tell - I really liked this casserole.)

Two disclaimers: Given the amount of cheese in this dish and the delicious carb madness, I can't say this dish is healthy. This casserole is also huge and could probably feed about eight. More than this one kraut lover can handle. If I make it in the future (when my Future Husband is away), I'll be halving it.

Sauerkraut Hotdish
by Bryan Rieck

2 16 oz. cans of sauerkraut (otherwise, just get the 32 oz. glass jar of Frank's), drained and rinsed
8 oz. dried elbow macaroni
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1/3 c. milk
1/2 onion, chopped
1 T. unprepared mustard (I just used some Dijon that I had on hand in the fridge)
1 lb. kielbasa sausage (I used a ring of turkey sausage because I'm healthy that way)
8 oz. shredded swiss cheese
2 T. butter, melted
3/4 c. rye bread crumbs (I just used regular)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. Rinse and drain the sauerkraut, spread evenly across the bottom of the pan. Spread the uncooked macaroni over the kraut.

In mixing bowl, mix soup, milk, onion and mustard. Pour mix over noodles. Slice the sausage into slices (you're going to want the sausage to cover the entire pan, so cut accordingly). Top with swiss cheese. Mix the butter with the bread crumbs and spread over the top of the cheese. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.


I'm blurry but you want me ...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New additions to my kitchen

I must have been a good girl this year because Santa, my parents, Ryan and his parents damn near spoiled me with awesome gifts - a lot of which had to do with the kitchen.
My old colander was a nasty piece of white plastic that has been with me since I first started living on my own and is melted in some places where it had a close encounter with a hot stove. This one - picked out by Ryan - is so freakin' AWESOME.

The undercounter radio/CD player was Ryan's idea and was gifted to us by his folks, Ron and Gloria. It's very awesome - I made chicken soup to the sounds of Simon & Garfunkel and Ryan listens to public radio while he's cleaning in the kitchen. It is the coolest thing EVER.


I also got a ton of cookbooks this year - "Giada's Kitchen" by Giada DeLaurentiis and a bunch of Taste of Home speciality cookbooks. People must think that I'm obsessed with cooking or something. :)

1/3/09 - Update ... Ryan corrected me - the colander was picked out by his mom. She has fabulous taste as you can tell. :)

Little Chef


Hands down, one of my favorite parts of Christmas was when my nephew Joe opened up his present from my folks and it was a little kitchen.

"A KITCHEN! A KITCHEN! MOMMY LOOK! I GOT A KITCHEN!"

I'm so proud of you, buddy. You come from a long line of good cooks and we look forward to passing the torch. Even if you are a boy.