Archive for November, 2009

Broccoli Cheddar Soup from 101 Cookbooks

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I made a broccoli cheddar soup recipe that I found on another blog, 101 Cookbooks. Though I, personally, am not very fond of broccoli, my husband is a fan. So is our roommate.

Plus, after Thanksgiving, I had another pound of fresh leftover broccoli, and I wanted to use it up.

The recipe looked so pretty. And I was excited about the croutons (which I may have made out of leftover dinner rolls…we are all about the leftovers this week). It also didn’t use velveeta or heavy cream, unlike most of the broccoli cheese soup recipes I came across. Plus, we had a bunch of leftover cheddar, too. This seemed like a place that all that cheese could shine.

The good news is, the cheese did shine in this soup, by the time I was done. If you like broccoli, the original recipe–found here–might very well be your new favorite soup. But me? I had to just about triple the amount of cheese in the soup to make it palatable. I guess that’s what I get for trying to stay on the healthy side of a broccoli cheese soup. The recipe below is what I ended up making. It’s full of delicious, cheesy goodness.

brocchedar

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks; serves 4-6

For the croutons:

  • 5-6 ounce chunk of bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (About 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt 

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 1 large head of broccoli (12 ounces or 3/4 lb.), cut into small florets
  • 2 cups freshly grated aged Cheddar, plus more for grating over the top
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place the bread chunks in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, and salt, and pour this mixture over the bread pieces.  Toss to coat, then spread the bread out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crunchy.

While the croutons are toasting heat the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Stir in the onion and sprinkle with salt. Saute for about two minutes minutes. Next, stir in the diced potatoes, cover, and cook for about four minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Uncover, add the minced garlic and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, check to make sure the potatoes are completely cooked. Once the potatoes are soft enough to eat, stir in the broccoli. Simmer just long enough for the broccoli to get tender throughout, 2 – 4 minutes. The broccoli will turn a lovely bright green color in the pot.

Immediately remove the soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add the two cups of cheddar cheese and the dijon mustard, if using. Stir in about 1/2 a cup of sour cream or creme fraiche. You can adjust the thickness off the soup by adding more water or broth.

Serve sprinkled with croutons and shredded cheese.

Quick and Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Our friend Cara comes over once a week for dinner. We never really planned it that way, but we’ve got a sort of standing date to watch Glee and hang out every Wednesday night, and she typically stays for dinner. We have a good time, but I’m always a little worried when I make something for the first time that she’s not going to like it. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with her, she’s not even that picky, but I usually try to clear it with her first.

All of that is the long way of leading up to this: When I told her I was making Chicken & Dumplings, for the first time, she struggled a little bit. “What’s a dumpling?” she asked. It’s a good question, if you’ve never had them before. I told her it was like a cross between a noodle and a biscuit, which is the best explanation I can come up with. Especially when made like this recipe.

I grew up eating Chicken and Dumplings, the way my grandma makes them (which is the same as the way my dad makes them, and now, the way I make them). They’re tasty, homey, and a great rainy-day or cold-weather food. A classic comfort food. I’m sure I’ll make them for the blog sometime. The only drawback is that they can be a little cumbersome to make. You have to make the pasta by hand, roll it out, and then cook them with the chicken and the sauce. They’re totally worth the work, but it’s not really a weeknight kind of dinner, which had me looking for something a little simpler.

I’d heard that you could make chicken and dumplings with Bisquick or the like, and this was my attempt at that kind of chicken & dumplings. The results were decent, but I’m not going to lie–this wasn’t anything like the real thing. The dumplings were good, but more doughy than I’m used to. And this particular recipe resulted in something closer to a soup or stew than the Chicken and Dumplings I’m used to. It reminded me a lot of my own Chicken Pot Pie filling.

It was okay, and quick and easy, but next time, I’ll put in the effort for the real thing.

Chicken & dumpling stew

Quick and Easy Chicken & Dumplings

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup frozen green peas and carrots
  • 1 cup cut-up cooked chicken
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix or other baking mix
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • paprika

1. Heat milk, peas and carrots, chicken, and soup to boiling in a 3 quart sauce pan, stirring frequently.

2. stir bisquick mix and 1/3 cup of milk until soft dough forms. Drop the dough by spoonful on top of chicken mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

3. Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup frozen green peas and carrots
1 cup cut-up cooked chicken
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed creamy chicken mushroom soup
1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/3 cup milk
Paprika, if desired

Serve with…
Sour Cream-Cranberry Bars Sour Cream-Cranberry Bars
Total Time: 1 hour 57 min

1. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk, the peas and carrots, chicken and soup to boiling in 3-quart saucepan, stirring frequently.
2. Stir Bisquick mix and 1/3 cup milk until soft dough forms. Drop dough by 8 spoonfuls onto chicken mixture (do not drop directly into liquid). Sprinkle with paprika.
3. Cook uncovered over low heat 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

Dinner Party at Stephanie Izard’s House

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

As you might remember, a couple of weeks ago, I entered a contest that the RedEye was running called Virtual Kitchen Stadium. The idea was that Stephanie Izard, winner of Top Chef Chicago, would pick three random-ish ingredients, each participant would create a dish, and then she would judge the dishes based on the pictures and recipes. You can read more about my entry here.

I didn’t win. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, Stephanie Izard is so sweet and awesome that she decided to invite everyone who participated in the contest over to her place for a pot-luck dinner party!

me

David and I went last week, and had an awesome time. There was a ton of great food, and lots of fun conversation. We met some very interesting people, in addition to Stephanie herself. We got to try a bunch of new dishes, including, for me, brussels sprouts. (They were good! What is the world coming to?!). After all of the food, and there was LOTS, we all crowded in around Stephanie’s new TV to watch that night’s Top Chef.

It was a little weird, watching Top Chef with an actual Top Chef, but a lot of fun. Stephanie was really nice, friendly, warm, and just plain normal. We had a great time.

If you want to see more pictures, you can check out the RedEye gallery here.

Stephanie also blogged a little bit about the night at her own website/blog, here.

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

This was a nice, quick recipe that we enjoyed quite a bit. I butterflied or normal extra-thick pork chops, which cut down quite a bit on the cooking time, and made these a nice weeknight dinner. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentis from the Food Network. This recipe was super-easy and will be a nice addition to our regular pork-chop rotation (There are only a handful of ways that we normally have pork chops, but I think this made the list). The lemon juice added a surprisingly delicious tang to the chops.

parmesan crusted pork chops

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis’ Everyday Italian

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. Place the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

The Baked Potato (Alton Brown Style)

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Oh look, another Alton Brown recipe.

This one is so simple, it hardly deserves a recipe. Except that this really is “The” Baked Potato recipe. It shouldn’t have been anything special, but the texture inside the potatoes was perfect, and they had a great crunchy skin that made you want to eat every bite–like a restaurant potato. If you’re looking for a basic baked potato recipe, I don’t think you’ll ever need a different one.

baked potato

Alton Brown’s Baked Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 large russet potato (If it looks like Mr. Potato Head, you’ve got the right one.)
  • Olive oil, to coat
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds. Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.

Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. But watch out, there will be some steam.

If you’re cooking more than 4 potatoes, you’ll need to extend the cooking time by up to 15 minutes.

Note: Next time, I think I’d use one of my more special salts–the Maldon crunchy sea salt, or the Himilayan Pink Sea Salt that I have. I think this is one of those things where you’d really have a chance to taste the difference in the salt. Sorry about the low quality picture, but you know what a baked potato looks like anyway. This one doesn’t look like anything special, it’s just an easy, serviceable method with solid results. My one disappointment is that this recipe didn’t show up in the new Good Eats: The Early Years cookbook, despite being featured in the second episode. Alton makes baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a potato gratin, and only the mashed potatoes (plus a potato pancake recipe that wasn’t on the episode) made it into the book. I thought they were all supposed to be there, so I’m going to have to do a bit more investigating.

Chocolat Mint Meltaway Cookies

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

My mom, sister, and my sister’s boyfriend David came over on Saturday to do some baking. They chose a number of tasty treats and then we spent all day making them. It was a long day, but a lot of fun. And I got to try a few different recipes, which is always fun!

This recipe came from my Bon Appetit Cookbook. The finished cookies taste a lot like Mint Milano cookies, which is a good thing. The cookie itself is light and airy, with a soft crunch. We piped the cookies, as the recipe suggests, though I’ve read in other places now that other people just roll them into balls and flatten them to get round cookies. Seems like that would probably work. The ganache we ended up with was a bit thin. Not sure if it’s because we didn’t use as high-quality chocolate as the recipe suggests, or if something else went wrong. We ended up with a thin layer of the ganache, and then because it was so sticky, we just drizzled chocolate over the bottoms, instead of trying to dip the cookies. The instructions below are for the correct method, which I think would turn out prettier than ours. The good news is the cookies tasted fantastic—we didn’t mess that part up!

meltaway cookies

Chocolate Mint Meltaway Cookies
Adapted from
The Bon Apetit Cookbook

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For Ganache Filling

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 9 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped (such as Lindt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

For Chocolate Coating

  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (we used chips)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

Directions

For Cookies:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F Butter 2 heavy large cookie sheets. Using electric mixer, cream butter and extracts in medium bowl until light. Beat in sugar. Beat in half of flour. Stir in remaining flour. Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe into two inch ovals onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown on edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and cool.

For Ganache:

2. Bring cream and butter to simmer in heavy small saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and stir until smooth. Mix in extract. Refrigerate just until firm enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

3. Line two cookie sheets with foil. Using a small metal icing spatula, spread 1 teaspoon ganache over the flat side of each cookie. Arrange ganache side up on foil-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.

For Coating:

4. For coating: Melt bittersweet chocolate and vegetable shortening in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from over water.

5. Grasp cookie on sides and dip ganache side into bittersweet chocolate; shake cookie to remove excess chocolate. Place cookie on same sheet, chocolate side down. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chill until chocolate sets, 30 minutes. Remove cookies from foil.

(Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Refrigerate in single layers in airtight containers. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.).