Saturday, October 31, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I can't believe I haven't made some version of this soup sooner! Why? Well simply because I just love butternut squash. It's not only a fabulous fall vegetable, but it packs so many vitamins and minerals into each sweet spoonful. It's like superfood! And these days, everyone can use a little of that.
My recipe below is kind of a hybrid of a couple of versions I've seen out there. But I can namely give inspirational credit to the butternut squash recipes on both the Jenn Cuisine blog and La Tartine Gourmande's blog .
And, at the risk of sounding trite, I can safely say that this recipe was taste-tested and approved by my husband, who is not a fan of sweet root vegetables, ie sweet potatoes, butternut squash etc. but he really liked this soup, which made me feel good. I think the salty crunch of pancetta on the top helped...meat is truly the way to my man's heart for sure! Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium-sized butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
1 large sweet potato
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 vidalia onion, diced
3 to 4 medium-sized carrots, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter (ok, I probably actually added more like 4, but I was trying to appear conservative here)
about 1/4 cup of chopped sage leaves (I didn't measure so I'm guesstimating here. I love the taste of sage, so I used a lot. You can certainly use less, like 1/8 cup if you think 1/4 cup will be too much for your taste. Or you can subsitute fresh thyme if you prefer.)
1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
pinch of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
5 cups water
salt and pepper
crispy pancetta for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your two squash halves, skin side down, alongside your whole sweet potato onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the exposed squash flesh with a tablespoon of your olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub oil on your sweet potato as well and then season it with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven for an hour or until soft and fully cooked. Once cooked remove from the oven and scrape the soft flesh away from the skins of the vegetables. Puree the squash and potato in a blender or food processor.
Meanwhile, while squash is roasting, you can heat up your remaining olive oil and butter. Once the butter and oil are melted together, add your onions, shredded carrots and garlic. Let cook until slightly softened. Add in your sage, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and bay leaf and saute a bit longer. Finally add in your water and season with salt and pepper. Allow the flavors to mingle and simmer together, then add in your root vegetable puree.
At this point, you can serve the soup as is or you can puree the entire thing in a food processor or blender in small batches and then return to the soup pot. I like a smooth soup, so I took the puree route. If you find your soup is too thick after pureeing it, simply add more water, but remember to reseason appropriately with salt and pepper after doing so or your soup may lack flavor. Serve hot topped with crispy bacon or pancetta bits. The salty/sweet combo will give your tastebuds another reason to love fall's cornucopia of flavors!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Blue Cheese Souffle

Do souffles remind anyone else of Superman the Movie?? Remember that scene where Lois tries to make a souffle and it falls the minute she takes it out of the oven? Then Superman saves it with a simple touch or look or something like that. Fortunately, I didn't have a need for Superman's souffle puffing touch - mine turned out pretty, puffy and tasty. However, souffle still confuses me a bit.
Or maybe I should say, savory souffles confuse me a bit. Sweet souffles I get - they are dessert and they fit neatly into the dessert category. Where do savory souffles go though? Breakfast, lunch, side dish, bread course, main course?? I wasn't really sure how to serve this. Considering I don't usually make elaborate lunches, lunch was out. I guess I could have made this for a weekend breakfast, but I don't think my husband would be too happy about giving up his traditional grand slam for a souffle.
So I served this Barefoot Bloggers recipe for dinner as a side dish with some homemade butternut squash soup (which I'll post tomorrow). This seemed to work out well although when my husband dug into the little ramekin his first question was, "What is this? Eggs?". He wasn't completely sold. I can't say I was either. I mean the souffles were tasty enough, but they just seemed kind of pointless and odd. The egginess was a little weird for both of us. And truth be told, I don't really like eggs except for breakfast and once in a while in the occassional quiche. I liked the cheese flavor, but I think in conclusion I'm just not a fan of souffles in general. Oh well, c'est la vie! They do photograph well however, n'est ce pas? Photobucket
Sorry for the intermittent French - I couldn't resist :) Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Souffle
Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mexican Quiche

I threw this recipe together one evening by basically cleaning out my fridge and pantry. I knew I wanted something with Mexican flavors, but I wasn't feeling the usual fajitas or quesadillas. I had some leftover homemade pie crusts in the freezer and it dawned on me - Mexican quiche! Why not? I combined sausage, black beans, spinach, cheese, salsa, onions, peppers and spices to come up with a pretty hearty pie. It's not a traditional quiche by any means - it uses far less eggs than a usual quiche, which uses twice or three times the amount of eggs that I did. But it still fit the bill to satisfy my Mexican craving and it provided perfect leftovers for lunch the next two days. Enjoy! Oh and sorry for the lame photo. I was too lazy to set up my light box and too hungry to shoot again. Oh well. You get the idea.

Mexican Quiche
1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
3 links of sausage (your choice - turkey, pork or chicken), casings removed
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped (I think I really used more like 4 but I'm a garlic fiend)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can black beans, drained
1 10oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa (your choice, I used ChiChi's mild)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin (You can use less if cumin isn't your thing - I like it nicely spiced though)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional for heat)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half (you can use milk if you like)
sour cream (for garnish)
chopped chives or scallions (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
First, lay out your pie crust in a deep dish pie plate - and I mean deep dish, this is one thick quiche.
Next, brown your sausage and then drain and let cool on paper towels. In a skillet, saute your onions, peppers and garlic with the olive oil. Once softened, remove to a large bowl. Add your sausage and the rest of your ingredients, except your eggs and half and half.
Mix the sausage, bean, spinach, cheese and onion mixture well and disperse the salsa and spices evenly throughout the mixture. Dump the mixture into your pie plate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half. Pour the mixture over top of your quiche and distribute evenly.
Place your quiche in a preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until eggs are set. Keep an eye on out to prevent burning or over baking. Remove and serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling or chopped chives or scallions. Ole!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chicken Milanese Panino

Don't be intimidated! That's just a fancy way to say, "Fried Chicken Sandwich". It's also, a fancy way to make it as well, or at least it looks fancier than your typical fried chicken sandwich.
First, I breaded the chicken in flour, egg and then a parmesan/bread crumb mixture. Then I pan fried it olive oil until juicy and tender. I heated my beautiful Mario Batali Panini Press and went to work constructing my paninis.
I used some soft, pre-sliced sourdough bread from my store's bakery. Try to look for large slices of bread - they make the best paninis because the large surface area helps keep the sandwich together and avoids having to stack your ingredients too high between the bread.
I generously spread pesto sauce on both slices of bread. Then I layered on the fillings - roasted red peppers, provolone cheese and my breaded chicken.
I oiled my hot panini press by brushing the bottom and the heavy cast iron lid with olive oil. Then I put my sandwiches in, enjoyed the sizzle, and placed the lid on top. I kept an eye on them to prevent burning and flipped them once in the process, since the top lid never gets as hot as the bottom pan.
These were delicious - the sweet roasted peppers, nutty pesto, breaded chicken and rich provolone were a great combination. I served them with bowls of soup, but they could have easily made a meal in themselves.
So get creative! Heat up your panini press - or get a large brick from the hardware store - and throw together some good ingredients. You'll be saying "Panini's ready" in no time! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant

I really love eggplant. I've grilled it, fried it, baked it and sauteed it. It's one of those vegetables that to me could substitute easily for meat in a dish. But it also goes great with meat - like lamb and beef. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen's blog. She has a great round-up of recipes with short and sweet write-ups and beautiful pictures. She has one of those blogs that inspires me to cook more and try harder! When I saw this recipe, it reminded me of an eggplant dish I had at a local restaurant not too long ago. This was a bit different, as the restaurant dish was stuffed with a mixture of lentils and rice and then topped with a tzatiki sauce of sorts. This particular eggplant of Smitten Kitchen was stuffed with a meat and rice mixture - much more up my husband's alley - and sauced with a tomato-based sauce.
I had to change a few things for a few reasons. One - I couldn't find tiny eggplants. So I bought two larger eggplants thinking I'd just hollow out and stuff those. This plan was fine until I cut open one of my larger eggplants to reveal a little, well actually not so little, green worm. In fact, my cut into the eggplant chopped his little worm body directly in half. I screamed - I know, so girlie - and then moved on...with only one eggplant to my name of course. So I had to construct the recipe a bit differently. I cut the one eggplant in half, lengthwise, hollowed it out like a canoe and then stuffed it with way too much meat mixture, because I had made enough for two eggplants of course. Oh well. It still turned out super tasty if not super-sized. I added one bag of baby spinach to the sauce too just to get some greens in there. Overall a nice recipes. I think next time though, I'll try lentils and rice. And maybe a little tzatiki sauce...ENJOY!

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant
Gourmet Magazine
6 (5- to 6-inch long) bambino (also called Baby Bell) eggplants (about 6 ounces each)
1/2 cup long-grain or jasmine rice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (14 1/2-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
3/4 lb ground lamb or beef chuck (not lean)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Hollow out each eggplant with a melon-ball cutter, working from bottom end and leaving about 1/3 inch eggplant flesh along interior walls. Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water until water runs clear. Drain well.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry pine nuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup onion mixture to bowl with pine nuts. Add stock, tomatoes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to skillet and simmer, uncovered.

Add uncooked rice, ground beef (uncooked), allspice, one teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to bowl with onion mixture and mix well with your hands.

Stuff eggplant with meat mixture, being careful not to pack tightly (rice will expand during cooking). Transfer stuffed eggplants to skillet with tomato sauce and simmer, covered, carefully turning once, until rice is cooked through, 50 minutes to one hour (cut one in half to test). Check in on your dish periodically.

If sauce is watery, transfer eggplant to a plate and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes, then adjust seasoning if necessary. Return stuffed eggplant to sauce. Squeeze lemon over dish and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Cheddar Corn Chowder

I'm a little late with the first recipe of the month for Barefoot Bloggers, but better late than never! I didn't get to Barefoot last month - mainly because the challenge was to bake two different chocolate cakes. I'm not much of a cake fan for one and for two I'm not about to have two cakes sitting around my house to eat. I'll be gaining enough weight in the next few months on my own - I don't need two cakes to help me out. So sorry fellow BBers, but I just couldn't bring myself to bake two cakes for just my husband and myself.
This soup however, was a different story!
I was very excited about making this soup, as I love homemade soups on brisk fall days. We had a perfect Sunday for this soup and I served it up for my family with some Salmon BLT wraps. Yum! This recipe makes a ton of soup - and I halved it. So beware! I halved it and it fed five people, plus yielded two tupperware containers of leftovers, which I froze. I found this to be a foolproof, easy recipe though with tasty, comforting results. Definitely take some time to make this hearty soup this fall. Enjoy!

Cheddar Corn Chowder
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

This is so frustrating! Last Sunday morning I made these delicious whole wheat blueberry pancakes after a quick internet search. I found a recipe that encompassed wheat flour, white flour and oat bran. Perfect! I wanted a hearty pancake that would pack a healthy punch beneath the maple syrup and butter.
However, I didn't bookmark the page and now I can't find it on a Google search! Either it disappeared or I searched for it under some terms I can't remember. Anyway, I found a recipe that was similar and have posted it below. So I guess these pancakes were really a one time deal in my house since I can't find the recipe again! Oh well. Thankfully there are thousands of whole wheat blueberry pancake recipes to try on the interwebs so I'm sure I'll get by. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Source: Food and Fun Blog

Makes about 6 pancakes

3/4 cup white whole-grain (wheat) flour
1/4 cup oat flour (or Oat Bran)
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/4 tspn salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen and thawed)
1 cup buttermilk (or milk)
1 large egg - lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter - melted

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter to this.

Stir all the remaining ingredients until they are just combined. Don’t worry if the batter is a bit lumpy, you don't want to over mix. Finally fold in the blueberries.

Heat your skillet, pan, or griddle to medium-hot and brush it with a bit of butter. (If a drop of water dropped onto the pan starts to sizzle, the pan is hot enough). Now pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter into the skillet. Wait until the pancake bottom is deep golden in color (about 30 seconds), then flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grilled Ribeye with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce

Wow. This meal tastes as rich as it sounds. I saw it on The Pioneer Woman's blog and fell instantly in love. It encompassed some of my favorite things, steak (check), onions (check) and blue cheese (double check with a million plus signs!). This sauce is versatile and can easily be served with chicken, pork or even on top of hamburgers...yum. And it was simple to make too! I served this with a green salad and the hubs and I felt like we were back in Arizona eating at The Cowboy Saloon. Giddy up!

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce
The Pioneer Woman
2 ribeye steaks
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons butter
1 very large yellow onion
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper both sides of the steaks. Grill in 2 tablespoons butter until medium rare.
Saute onions in 4 tablespoons butter over high heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until dark and caramelized. Reduce heat to simmer and pour in cream. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Stir in blue cheese until melted. Serve steaks on generous portion of sauce.
Swoon - isn't that a thing of beauty??

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baking a Muffin of My Own :)

So....I may be a little bit pregnant. About 8 and half weeks to be exact! We're so very excited. But at the same time, I'm trying really hard not to fall into the trap of "eating for two." I figured I'd start with some healthy muffins, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
I found these at Good Things Catered and also saw another version of them on Proceed With Caution. I followed the original recipe on Good Things Catered and they are delicious. Moist, flavorful and actually good for you! Not only will they jumpstart my morning but they pack a nutritious punch of pumpkin, banana, bran and wheat flour. Who could ask for more??
Well, being pregnant my stomach is always asking for more but who's counting? So here's to a healthy, happy pregnancy! And our little muffin-to-be :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Homemade Apple Pie with Cinnamon Ice Cream

I don't think you get any closer to a "from scratch" pie than this. First of all - I picked the apples myself. That's right! Right from the tree. We have a local pick-your-own farm in my county and myself and a friend spent the afternoon picking Red Delicious and Jonagold apples.
I used the beautiful tart and sweet Jonagolds for this pie and I think it had to be one of the best apple pies I have ever made. These were the perfect apples for pie.
On top of picking my own apples, I made the crust from scratch as well. I know, ambitious right?? Are you impressed yet? Well, it doesn't stop there my friends. I went on to make some homemade cinnamon ice cream to dollop up on top of this apple laden monstrosity.
I know, I know. Please no applause :) And aren't you feeling lucky today? I'm going to share all three recipes with you! Unfortunately the pie was eaten so fast by my family that I only got a picture of my piece. And it was hard to take pictures of the crust making process when your hands are covered in flour. I really need to look into getting myself an assistant!
Anyway, on to the good stuff. I used three cookbooks to make this dessert, trekked through bee-laden apple orchards and kneaded mounds of pie crust and I'll tell you what. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat for another bite of this biblically sinful fruit-filled pie. The ice cream alone is worth the effort. It's super creamy and rich, so you barely need more than a small scoop to satisfy. The cinnamon flavor is not too intense either. Enjoy!

Easy As Pie Crust
Nordstrom Friends and Family Cookbook
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening (I used butter) cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives cut the shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles course meal. In a small bowl using a fork, mix together the water, egg, and lemon juice or vinegar until blended. Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a fork until it comes together and forms a mass.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface gathering all the loose bits and divide into 5 equal balls. Flatten to form disks, wrap each individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before rolling out. Double wrap, label and freeze any dough you won't use. Thaw in refrigerator. The dough can be frozen for up to one month.

Homemade Apple Crumb Pie
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
1 recipe for pastry crust
8 cups of thinly sliced, peeled apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 tb flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the crumb topping:
Stir together 1/2 cup flour and a 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Using a pastry blender cut in 3 tablespoons of butter till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on top of your filled pie before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble the pie, first roll out your pastry crust and line a 9-in deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice. In a large mixing bowl stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the apple slices. Gently toss until coated.

Transfer the apple mixture to the pie plate. Cover with your crumb topping. Bake for an hour or until the juice that begins to bubble in the pie is thick and syrupy. If you remove your pie too early, when the juice is thin and watery, then your apples won't be fully cooked. Serve hot or cold with your favorite ice cream.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop, David Leibowitz

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
10 3-in cinnamon sticks, broken up
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Warm the milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon sticks and 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Once warm, cover, remove from the heat and let steep at room temperature for an hour.
Rewarm the cinnamon infused milk mixture. Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
In a separate medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stire, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge then freeze in your ice cream maker.