Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rainy Day Woman

By: Teri

This past Sunday was rainy and cold, and I decided that nothing could go better with a day spent reading and watching old movies than a bowl of hot, steamy soup. I've never been a huge fan of creamy soups, however, and I'd been wanting to perfect the art of perfect french onion soup sans beef broth. I've been told it can't be done. Previous attempts I've made in the past haven't always been delicious.

But I surged forward, and waht I came up with was actually pretty good. Awesome, in fact. And it has so few ingredients, that you can whip up a huge batch without breaking the bank. This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled, and is versatile enough that you can play around with it, adding or omitting things as you wish. And all without the use of those MSG filled onion soup mixes you find at the grocery store.

French Onion Soup with Muenster and Herbed Croutons

1 large vidalia onion, sliced
1 large red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3-4 baby bella mushrooms, chopped finely
2 cups fake beef or chicken broth (if you can't find this at your local store, vegetable broth will be fine, just double up on the Worcestershire to add that earthy flavor)
1/2 cup water
1 cup dry white wine
Worcestershire sauce to taste
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp honey
Muenster cheese, sliced
Herbed croutons (you can make these yourself, as I did, or buy a bag)

In a large soup pot, melt butter. Add all of the sliced vidalia onion and half of the sliced red onion. Reduce heat to medium. Add honey, and stir. Saute onions, stirring frequently, for ab out 20 minutes or until completely browned and caramelized. If they start to get too brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium low. Once onions are caramelized, add garlic and mushrooms. Saute until both are soft, reducing heat to medium low if you haven't already. Add white wine, stirring to deglaze the pan, then add cup of water and 2 cups of stock. Cover, and allow to simmer for about an hour, so all the flavors can combine. When you return the soup should have thickened to a perfect consistency. If it hasn't, you can add a small amount of flour combined with water. Add slowly, stirring, and increase the heat until the soup bubbles. This will thicken the soup. At this point add the salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce (just enough to add a little earthiness, don't go overboard or you'll ruin the soup).

Slice muenster cheese and prepare croutons, if you're making them from scratch. Simply cut up some old bread into chunks (focaccia, sourdough, french bread - crusty breads make the best croutons). Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and wahtever combination of herbs and spices you wish to use. I used crushed red pepper, italian herbs, and parmesan cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees or until crunchy and browned.

Once the cheese is sliced and croutons prepared, ladle your soup into large bowls. Generously spread croutons over the top and immediately top with the cheese. Put into the oven under broiler and allow the cheese to get bubbly and brown. Serve immediately. I'd suggest drinking the rest of that white wine with your meal!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

lil pot pies, oh my!

By: Dayna

I was itching to use our new mini casserole dishes so this next post had to include them. I'm not sure what the allure of tiny, individual sized things are to me. I just think they are cute!

It's Fall and the hard winter squash are a' flowin'. We took a trip to the pumpkin farm recently where I picked up a butternut squash. I brainstormed forever on how I would use it. This recipe came to me while looking through the fridge at all the leftovers..sigh* While I cannot guarantee it to be healthy, it sure was tasty and easy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Potpie

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tbs. light brown sugar
1 tbs. nutmeg
2 cups cooked white rice
3 tbs. butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup mild white cheese, I used italian blend
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 tbs. cold butter
1 cup milk

Start by roasting your squash. Assemble cubed squash on a greased baking sheet. Pour melted butter over cubes. Sprinkle with brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until tender and caramelized.

While squash is roasting you can prepare the filling. In a nonstick skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Slowly whisk in flour to make a paste. After paste has browned slowly whisk in milk. Continue to whisk until paste and milk are incorporated. lower heat and add cheese. Stir until melted. If consistency is too thick add a little more milk. Stir in rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. After squash is ready, add to cheesy rice mixture.

In a separate mixing bowl, add flour and baking powder. Using a pastry blender or two knives, blend cold butter into flour. It is essential that the butter is cold and cuts into chunks. After the two are mixed stir in milk. Mix just enough to blend.

Using either a mini casserole, ramekin, or other oven safe dish, spoon in filling. I used an icing piper to apply the dough to the top of the casserole. You can use a Ziploc bag with the corner nipped off, or you can just slap it on there any ol' way. After it's on,throw those babies in the oven on a baking sheet at 375 for 30 minutes or until top is browned.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hip Hip! Hooray.

By: Teri

I am firm believer that cooking is an ongoing experiment. When I watch cooking shows, or read cookbooks, and am told, 'Now, make SURE you follow this exactly, because it won't turn out right if you don't', I laugh. Maybe that's true of baking; after all, nobody wants flat, hard-as-a-rock cookies, or under-done biscuits. But when it comes to recipes for MEALS? I say experiment constantly. Tweak the recipe. Add what you like, subtract what you don't. Double it. Triple it. Throw in some wine, some stray herbs, some honey - the sky is the limit. Half the fun of cooking is throwing a bunch of crazy things into the mix and watching it with fingers crossed hoping its edible, or if you 're lucky, frickin' amazing.

Bflo is one of those types of guys that never cooks. Not because he's lazy, but because I seldom let him in the kitchen. He learned early on to decipher my heavy sigh as a 'Get the hell out of my kitchen'. So when he does have to fend for himself, he gets rather uh...creative. Scary is the word. This man has been known to make a breading for cube steak out of crushed up Doritos. He once tossed a handful of honey roasted peanuts into a pot of dirty rice and called it dinner. He has a habit of melting chocolate bars over Little Debbie honeybuns in the toaster oven and eating two or three at a time (why he doesn't weigh 5,000 lbs is another story for another day).

So one night I'm out, and he has to cook his own dinner. I get home and he's eating what he called a 'Bflo Pizza' - a tortilla covered in cheddar cheese and topped with salsa, pepperoni, black olives, green olives and jalapenos. I was terrified to learn that he'd kindly made me one too, with fake sausage. I took that first bite with much trepidation...and it was delicious. From there I devised the following recipe. I made it a little more glamorous, but not much. Instead of a soft, boring, banal tortilla, I made it into nachos, and added a few grown up things like pesto, caramelized onions (you'll see me use them a lot) and a creamy white sauce.

Who doesn't love Italian food? And who doesn't love Mexican food? Mexican is my favorite ethnic cuisine and always has been. Not to mention that I'm Italian...so to me, the fusing of these two can only result in deliciousness. Yes, it is so.

Italian Nachos aren't a new concept. But I've noticed that a lot of recipes call for won ton sheets, torn and fried in oil as the 'chips'. While I'm sure that's delicious, it sounded pretty unhealthy, greasy, and like a lot of work. I knew that Tostitos used to make a flour chip, but after a fruitless search, figured that apparently they've been discontinued. As a substitute, I used multigrain spelt tortilla chips, from the organic brand Garden of Eatin' - they worked perfectly.

Italian Nachos ala Teeray!

1/2 red onion, cut into strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
4 button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4-5 small black olives, chopped (you can also use a can of black olives, if you wish)
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes
Handful assorted lettuce (I like arugula and romaine), washed and torn
1 stalk scallion, sliced
1/2 package Morningstar sausage grounds
1/2 cup vegetable or fake chicken stock
1/2 cup 2% milk
Italian cheese blend
1/2 tsp honey
dash lemon juice
dash white wine
olive oil
2 tsp butter
basil pesto
crushed red pepper
1 package multigrain tortilla chips

1. In a medium sized skillet set on medium high, heat 1 tsp butter until melted, add onions and pepper strips. Saute for about a minute, add honey, then reduce heat to medium low. Saute until onions are light brown and softened.

2. In a medium sized saucepan, heat olive oil on medium high, then add fake sausage, mushrooms, and olives. Cook together until well heated and for the flavors to incorporate. Add a dash of red pepper; remove from heat.

3. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tsp butter and add garlic. Saute on medium heat until browned, then add a couple of pinches of flour. Stir to incoporate (mixture will form a doughy liquid that Paula would call a 'roux'), then add dash of white wine to deglaze. Add stock and milk, stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium low. When the mixture reaches a simmer, add a dash of lemon juice and a dash of nutmeg, then reduce heat to low. If you want your white sauce to have a cheese flavor, add a small handful of cheese and stir to melt at this time. Keep on low heat so sauce doesn't congeal.

4. In another saucepan, add 1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes and heat until hot enough to serve.

5. Now its time to assemble your nachos. On a plate, place the chips in an even layer. Add the sausage and vegetable mixture first, then top with the white sauce. Don't be shy with it - the more you add, the yummier it is. Then add the caramelized onions and peppers, followed by the fire roasted tomatoes (a little of these goes a long way). Next drizzle pesto over; as much as you prefer according to your tastes. Top with a good handful of cheese. Pop nachos under a broiler until cheese is melted and chips are toasty.

6. Top nachos with chives and torn lettuce. Serve while hot.

You'll want to eat these with a fork nearby! Spillage is mandatory, and you won't want any to go to waste. These are seriously the best nachos I have ever had. Bflo said the same thing when he tried them. Would we lie to you?

I had a lot of cheese sauce and sausage mixture left over, so I used them the next day to make breakfast burritos. Just goes to show you, being innovative pays off! That's one idea turned into three different meals. Wooooot!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


By: Dayna

Mexican night will never be the same. Trust this. After making this dish for my husband when we were first dating he realized I was the one. Right, honey? .....Honey? Right?

Creamy "Chik'n" Enchiladas with
Black Bean & White Corn Salad

1 package Quorn Naked Chik'n cutlets
1.5 packages fat free cream cheese, softened (use the other half on yer bagel in the marnin')
2 jars salsa
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
2 tbs. Cumin
Corn Tortillas
1 tomato, diced
1 small onion, minced
1 avacado, diced
1 can white corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tbs. olive oil
2 shots tequila (one for you, one for the salad, Ole!)
2 tbs. Lime juice

Preheat oven to 400. Spread Chik'n cutlets out on lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until done. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, heat heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat and add 1st jar of salsa. Add softened cream cheese and stir to incorporate. While the cheese is melting, chop chik'n cutlets into small chunks. Season with Cumin and add to salsa mixture. Next add 1 cup cheddar cheese. Stir until all ingredients are fused and cream cheese is no longer chunky.

Alright, the trick to using corn tortillas successfully (i.e. not ripping) is to warm the stack on a plate covered in a moist paper towel.I learned that the hard way years ago. After you do this you are ready to load them suckers up.

Spoon out a narrow line of filling onto your tortilla like so.


Wrap up and lay your lil enchilada babies in their glass baking dish bed. Right in a row. Then, pour the 2nd jar of salsa over the top of the enchiladas. Add a generous layer of remaining 1 cup cheddar, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

While these bad boys are abakin', prepare your salad. It's easy peasy.

Combine tomato, onion, avocado, corn, beans, cilantro, tequila, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir throughly to mix all ingredients well. Chill in fridge until ready to serve. Yep, dats it.

In keeping with the theme, this meal was enjoyed with a crisp glass of Monte Xanxic Sauvignon Blanc. Monte Xanxic is a winery in Ensenada, Mexico. While Mexico might not be known for it's wines just yet, it definitely on it's way to popularity. Their Sauvy Blanc is a medium bodied, semi dry beauty that went perfect with our mildly spiced dish.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Monkey Business

By: Teri

I've been toying around with the idea of carrot soup for a long time, but have always been afraid to give it a try. I've made pumpkin soup, potato soup, won ton soup, and everything in between. But something about carrots are just so daunting! Despite being one of my favorite vegetables, the thought of them pureed and in soup form just seems so bland, banal, and well...akin to baby food.

Carrots are a 'safe' vegetable. They're old reliable, dependable. But don't they deserve more than being the other half of frozen peas, or to suffer the fate of swimming in a pool of hydrogenated ranch dressing forevermore? I think they do.

I decided to jazz them up, roast 'em, puree them, and make a bomb diggity, creamy, savory soup that will go equally well on a cold winter's night, or on a nice, quaint, mild fall evening.

Savory Carrot and Russet Soup with Roasted Garlic

3 large carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large carrot, diced finely
1 medium sized russet potato, chopped into chunks
1/2 red onion, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely (optional)
3 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups seasoned vegetable stock
1 cup half and half or heavy cream
4 stalks spring onion, chopped down to the whites
olive oil
sea salt and course ground black pepper
sprig rosemary
crushed red pepper

Spread out carrot chunks and potato chunks (leave the skin on, if you dare) on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle on rosemary, red pepper, sea salt and course ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until nicely roasted and potatoes are golden brown.

In a large soup pot, saute red onions, celery and the remaining carrot until tender in olive oil, then reduce heat to low. Add 1/2 cup of wine to deglaze, stirring to incorporate, then add 2 cups vegetable stock. Reduce heat to low.

In a food processor or blender, add roasted carrots, potatoes, and 1 cup of vegetable stock. Add 3 cloves roasted garlic*. Pulse until liquefied. Add the puree to the soup pot, stirring to combine. Once the mixture is incorporated, add the half and half and stir until creamy. Bring heat back up to medium high. Once mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat again to medium low and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until reaches desired consistency. The soup will thicken as it simmers, so you may wish to add more stock or half and half to reach your desired consistency.

Salt and pepper to taste, and add chopped spring onions as a garnish. I served mine with toasted sour dough bread topped with asiago cheese. Amazing.

*A note about roasted garlic. For those of you who have never done it, it is amazingly easy. And tasty. Roasting it at a high heat takes out all the bitter, overly strong flavors and replaces it with this amazing, sweet, salty and savory taste that is simply out of this world on everything from bread to pasta, or in soups, such as this recipe. It is soooo good!

Simply take a bulb of garlic, and chop off the pointy top. Place on a plate or oven safe dish, and coat generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for at least an hour; more if you prefer the garlic softer and easier to spread. Once it is completely browned, and your house smells like an Italian Restaurant, it's probably done. Take it out of the oven, cool, and squeeze the bulb from the bottom. Most of the fragrant, roasted garlic will squeeze easily out of the skins. You may have to go in with your hands and pull out/scrape out the remaining to get all the delicious bits. Store in an airtight container in your fridge.

Just looking at the picture makes me hungry...

For the vino portion of this meal, I chose a wine from my very favorite winery: Monkey Bay. They are out of New Zealand, naturally, and make the yummiest, most delicious and affordable wines. They are smooth, crisp and all have a delicious citrusy hint, with notes of passionfruit, feijoa (that's pineapple guava to you), and lemon.

I chose their Rose for this particular meal (my favorite of their wines is actually the Sauvignon Blanc. I could drink nothing else for the rest of my life and be content).

This wine was perfect for this meal because, like the soup, it has a hint of sweetness without being cloying or overly biting. It is a dry wine, but has a perfect, clean finish and plays perfectly against the sweetness of the carrots and the savory depth of the roasted garlic. I could drink the whole bottle and be very happy indeed (though I'd probably have a massive headache tomorrow morning).

Until the next kitchen adventure, toodle-oo!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cooking with wine....And using it in the food too.

By: Dayna

I had a craving for Cajun. I also had a craving for Italian. What to do?

After looking through the cabinets for about 20 minutes it hit me. Cajun Pasta! What what! Basically, I adapted my usual recipe for Shrimp Creole with the incorporation of pasta instead of rice. Nice change of pace and very satisfying.

Garlic Lime Shrimp Creole Pasta with
Italian Green Bean Ragout

Shrimp*** Marinade:
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbs. garlic powder
1 tsp. cracked pepper
2 Lbs. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined ***

1/4 cup oil (I use Olive)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 bay leaf
Rotini Pasta
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil (I used Olive with this also)
1 1/2 cup onion, sliced
1 package frozen italian green beans
1 roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup red wine, I used Tawny Port for a sweet accent
1/8 cup fresh basil (a handful is fine)
cracked pepper to taste

Pour lime juice in bowl and add shrimp. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. Turn to coat and set aside to marinade.

Combine oil and flour in a large sauce pan. Cook on medium heat stirring frequently, until browned. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, lemon juice, worchestershire, and bay leaf. Next stir in salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream and allow to simmer 10 more minutes. While simmering, heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat with a little oil. Pat shrimp dry with paper towel and fry until opaque pink. Toss sauce with cooked rotini pasta and garnish with Shrimp.

Combine oil and sliced onion in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat until onions are bronze and carmelized. Add green beans and continue to saute on medium until beans are tender. Add chopped tomato and basil and cover. Cook until tomato is tender and basil is wilted. Add red wine and saute uncovered for 10 minutes til liquid has reduced. Serve.

***For a vegan or strict vegetarian version substitute shrimp with cubed tofu and heavy cream with Soyatoo Heavy Cream substitute

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One For The Road

By: Teri

My father is always experimenting with new ideas to cook for me when I come over. He isn't a vegetarian, but he makes a great effort at including me in the family meals. It's a clever ploy to get me to bring the Grandson over to see him. But hey, I don't mind being bribed with good food.

I thought I'd quickly share a recipe he's been tweaking for vegetarian lasagna. We had this last night and it was amazing. Perfect for the upcoming colder weather! He used all organic ingredients, and a variety of different Heirloom Tomatoes for the different flavors. The basil was fresh from his own plant. If you don't have a basil plant, you'll want to buy a few sprigs of the fresh stuff from the grocery. It isn't the same without it.

John's Vegetarian Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions
(how is that for a title!)

1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
16 oz (one container) whole milk organic ricotta cheese
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 small green bell or banana pepper, sliced
1 small red chile pepper, seeded and minced
1 large portobello mushroom cap, chopped
1 handful baby spinach leaves
1 small handful fresh basil leaves (NOT torn or chopped!)
2 medium sized Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced
marinara sauce
olive oil
organic cane sugar
cheese (we used a five cheese organic Italian blend that contained asiago, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone and romano)

Boil noodles to al dente in heavily salted water; once drained, coat lightly with olive oil and set aside. Add sliced onions and bell/banana pepper to olive oil in a small saucepan, set on medium high heat. Add a pinch of sugar and reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally so as not to burn. Once the onions are light brown and soft (about 10 minutes), remove from heat.

Set aside half the sliced tomatoes. Begin layering the lasagna, starting with noodles, then ricotta, then spinach and basil, then vegetables, then sauce, and repeat until all the noodles are used. On top of the last layer of noodles, lay out the remaining tomatoes and top with cheese, oregano, and if you wish, bread crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly. We set the lasagna under the broiler for the last 5 or so minutes to get the top layer very browned.

We didn't have any wine with this meal (shocking!), but I can't imagine any smooth red that wouldn't go with it amazingly. This lasagna has a lot of depth, being that it has elements of sweet (the caramelized onions and basil), spicy (the red chilies), and savory (the portobellos). You could subsitute and/or add just about any vegetable you desired, but we liked this particular combination. Its also reasonably healthy; all our ingredients were organic, and save for the cheeses, nothing was particularly fattening.

The best part: the leftovers are even better than the first time you eat it.