Friday, October 29, 2010

Creamy Carrot Soup

I have had pretty decent luck with recipe/cooking magazines. I usually get suckered into buying one while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store.

This has been a great recipe collection for my recent soup obsession.

I tried making the Creamy Carrot Soup. These recipes were submitted from readers. This instantly made me nervous, but I recently heard that recipe magazines test all of the recipes in test kitchens, even with multiple ovens/stoves!

Here were the ingredients:
3 cups of sliced carrots
1 cup of chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups of diced peeled potatoes
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 cups of chicken broth
Dash of nutmeg
As I have mentioned before, you can freeze chicken broth. So, I used some that I had in the freezer.

This recipe was extremely easy and delicious.

Start by sauteing the carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, garlic, and sugar over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the nutmeg, broth, and season with salt/pepper.

Boil.

After boiling, reduce the heat, cover and simmer. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. Make sure the veggies are tender.

Cool before putting it in the food processor. Since I have a small food processor, I had to do several batches in the food processor. After all of it is "processed," return to the Dutch oven and heat.

Serve with a grilled cheese. Yummmmm...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Pie

I partook this year in the quintessential fall activity:

Apple Picking!  And while the place of choice this year lost 90% of their crop in May, there were still lots of apples to be had.  

You just had to work for it:

Having fun with my apple picker.

Successful Apple Picker
I was saddened to hear that this small gorgeous little farm in Vermont had lost so much of their crop due to the rains in May.  Can you imagine?  It's 90% of their revenue!  I love supporting these local businesses - so I was more than happy to pick apples, eat a cider donut and obviously, visit the corn maze*.  

I wish I had paid closer attention to the actual types of apples I picked, but alas, I was having too much fun to be bothered.  I picked two different types - one which had a softer texture and one that was nice and crisp and firm.  I love my apple crisps and tart.  In fact, my favorite apples are Honeycrisp and they singlehandedly make me love fall.

My apples didn't look like they were going to last more than two weeks, so I decided to chef up a little pie, using this very simple recipe from Epicurious:

Apple Pie
Pre made pie crust
1 firmed packed cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 1/2 pounds apple, cored, peeled and sliced

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces.


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.


The most time consuming part is getting the apples ready.  This recipe suggests Granny Smith apples, but I think any crisp firm baking apple will do quite well.  Really just depends on what you prefer.




Once your apples are all set, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together and then add in the sliced apples.  Give a good toss until the apples are fully coated. 

Go ahead and sample a few...
Pour the apples onto your pre-made pie crust (or if you're an overachiever, a homemade pie crust).  I err-ed on the side of overfilling, which I think was a good call in the end.  These are tightly arranged, and I did have some extras, so just fill it until it's full and eat the rest.  


I am trying to get artsy with my camera shots.... what do you think?


Now it's time to get to work on what will become a delicious crumbly crust.  Chop up your sticks of butter into pieces.  Slightly chilled will work best.  


Combine flour, sugar and butter pieces in a bowl.  Now it's time to drop the dainty act, get down to business and make some delicious crumbly crust.  Get your hands in there and get to mixing.  You want to combine until the mixture is crumbly.  It takes a bit, you really needs to dig down and make sure you got the flour and sugar mixed up completely.

Keep going until it looks like this.  VOILA!
At this point, it's time to top the pie with the crumbly mixture.  

Aren't you excited!!?!?!?
Put this baby in the oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender.  


By the time this baby had baked and cooled to appropriate temperature (at least 20 minutes), it was time to have a piece.  Just one.  Just a sliver.  Just a little something tasty before heading on into bed.  

Aren't you proud of my apple pie in "moderation"?

Yum.  The crumbly crust has molded into one crispy, tasty topping.  The apples were soften than I would have liked, but the flavor was awesome.  The pre-made pie crust tasted exactly like you might expect a pre-made pie crust to taste (you can also skip the bottom crust if you want, just spray the pan appropriately).  Last time I made an apple pie, the pie filling spread out all over the place when I cut into it, but this one was perfection.  

mmmm.... happy fall to me.

calories:  bad news bears.  it's apple pie - just eat it and love it in moderation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grocery Store Treatment

I think that most of us have the ability to knock it out of the ballpark. You know the days when you can barely resist from saying "girllllll, you be looking good" to yourself in the mirror. We also have the days where the hair is not cooperating, blemishes decide to make a group appearance, and your clothes aren't exactly something that Heidi Klum would be caught dead wearing.

For those of you with natural beauty 365 days a year, you make me sick.

What does this have to do with cooking?

I have noticed that if I am fancified when grocery shopping, I get preferential treatment. Male grocery store employees stutter when asking "are you finding everything you need?" They are a little quicker to try to find my random, unique ingredients.

When I look frumpy and/or coming from the gym, all of this preferential treatment disappears.

In college, I pierced my nose, and in most of my daily encounters, I didn't notice a change in how people reacted to me.

Want to know where I noticed a sharp change in nonverbal communication?

Grocery stores.

The older women at the cash registers would glare and stare at my nose, and it wasn't in a "Cool, I'm glad that this girl has found a way to express herself!" It was in a "What a punk! What is this world coming to?" way.

These are some of my grocery store observations. What are yours?

Here is a fun poll on grocery store behavior.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shrimp fra Diavolo

I have a new love in my life and it's called Shrimp fra Diavolo.

Seriously.  I love it.  I'm drooling a bit over my keyboard just thinking about it.  Below is an incredibly easy recipe that takes zero time - perfect for a weeknight after a long day of working.

Shrimp fra Diavolo
Pasta (of your choosing)
Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic - minced
16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 to 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 to 1 pound of shrimp
1/8 cup parsley, chopped
Shaved Parmesan

Step 1: Heat Olive Oil and sauté onions until translucent and soft.  Add garlic and sauté for a two more minutes.

Step 2: Add in herbs and red pepper flakes.  I used about 2.5 teaspoons of red pepper flakes and my sauce was pretty fiery.  Had some kick.  Made ya sweat.  So if that's not your thing, I would suggest using less.  I will probably do just over 1.5 tsps next time.  Allow the herbs and peppers to sauté into the onions - about a minute.

Step 3:  Add canned tomatoes and parsley to the sauce pan and reduce heat.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently.

Step 4: Add a little evoo to a pan and lightly sear your shrimp, heating until pink, but not overcooking. 

Step 5: Chef pasta according to package instructions.  I choose a wheat angel hair.  Strain, set aside.

Step 6: Add shrimp to the sauce and allow to heat together for a minute or two.

Step 7:   Serve over pasta and top with shaved Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Step 8: Pour yourself a glass of red wine and enjoy!


Calories:  This is a low cal dish.  Keep it light by not over using the EVOO and not overdoing it on the pasta.  I like to eat pasta out of a bowl instead of a plate - it keeps your portions down.  One pasta serving size is 220 calories - which is about the size of one hand cupped.  

Shrimp fra Diavolo- so healthy and so tasty!



Friday, October 22, 2010

Chinese Dumpling Soup

Lots of ingredients, but a very simple soup to prepare.
Amy has been on a soup kick lately and I couldn't help but want to chef up some soup for my own kitchen and freezer.  It's so fabulous to make up a giant batch of wholesome soup and freeze it for a later date. 










Chinese Dumpling Soup (from Food Network):
8 cups low-sodium chicken or mushroom broth
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned or cut into match sticks
1 tablespoon soy sauce, preferably dark
1/4 cup Shaohsing rice cooking wine or pale dry sherry
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar/or 2 tablespoons black vinegar
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
2 carrots, thinly sliced on the bias- about 1 cup
24 frozen Chinese dumplings, pork, shrimp, or 1 pound package
3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
4 cups bag baby spinach
chopped cilantro (optional)
Asian chili paste (optional)


Put the broth, ginger, soy, wine, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and salt in a soup pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so the broth simmers and cooks to lightly flavor with ginger, about 10-15-minutes.

Add the carrots, and simmer until tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the dumplings, cook for 3 minutes, stir in the scallions and spinach and cook until the greens wilt, about 1 minute. 
 


 
I added a teaspoon of sriracha to my soup and I thought it added wonderful taste and a touch of spice.  It was so hearty and warm and filling... what a fabulous easy soup.  And behold, leftovers! The big guy is an upcoming lunch and the two medium pals went straight into the freezer.
 
 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just in case you're wondering..

Cupcakes won.

Apartment cooking

Last week I wrote about my BF's kitchen.

My apartment kitchen is small, but I love it. I am the first person to live in my unit. Everything is NEW. A smaller kitchen just means less of an area to sweep and mop!

Here come the negatives.

I love grocery shopping, but I hate bringing my groceries into my apartment. I hate the balancing act of using my apartment keys (twice).

I usually try to carry too many bags because I hate making multiple trips out to my car, which is parked in a big apartment lot.

I have to use the stairs because I live on the 2nd floor. All of this commotion leads to broken eggs and ripped paper bags. I watch as items fall out of bags and tumble down the stairs.. Sigh.

I convinced the BF to let me borrow his blender. I don't have a blender, and I don't feel like I exactly need one. I wanted to borrow his for a recipe.

I tried to carry multiple grocery bags while also carrying his blender, and this happened:

CRASH!!!!
This photo was taken after most of the glass was picked up. The language used during this incident was rated R.

Blender: 1
Amy: 0

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lobster, Lobstah!

My mama came into town this past weekend and one of her demanding (wink, wink) requests were that we obviously chef up lobster for dinner one night.  Okay, mom... twist my arm why don't you?  You see, in the four years that I have lived here in Seafood Heaven, I have forgotten that it's not all that prevelant or easily accessible (or even affordable) in the Great Midwest.  I forget the Red Lobster is the norm.

Obviously no offense meant to Red Lobster lovers.... 

I have had a great many lobsters in four years out here.  In fact, I have taken them for granted.  I've brought back a dozen Maine lobsters at points in the past years.  I consider two lobsters per person to be standard fare.  I know how to cook 'em and crack 'em and which parts are the tastiest.  I have learned that some people eat the legs and the body - but I have got two theories on that - the legs are too much work and the bodies contain too much (in my opinon) unedible goop.  Believe it or not, some diehards disagree.

Fun Lobster Facts:
  • Chicken Lobsters are littler lobsters - between 1 pound and 1 1/4 pound. 
  • 1 1/4 Lobster have considerably more meat than their smaller friends.  that 1/4 pound makes a huge difference.
  • Lobsters do not in fact scream. It's morbid, I know.
  • Hard shell lobsters (vs soft shell) have more meat.
  • The white stuff around the meat (most noticably in the claws) is congealed blood.  It scraps off easy and is semi tasteless.
  • You might find orange-y colored stuff in the tail.  It's lobster eggs.  Some people eat it as lobster caviar.  (No thanks!)
  • Lobster meat is incredibly low in calories.

There are many ways to cook a lobster, but I prefer to steam them over boiling them. 

You'll need a giant pot filled with two inches of water.  Salt and bring to a boil.  I put my steamer in the bottom of mine, but this step is not necessary.  Once your pot is boiling, say a little prayer for your friends.  Or find a heartless boy to do the dirty work.  I'm not going to lie, I get real sad whenever I have to make a lobster meet his/her fate.



Put the lobsters in the pot and cover.  You'll want to steam them about 15 to 18 minutes depending on their size.  You know they are good and ready when they are a bright red and their little legs tear off with relative ease.    Again, I didn't say this was a PETA friendly dinner.  At this point, use a tongs to fetch them out of the pot.  They will be hot.



Gorgeous red color



T-shirt wearing for Lobster Eating.


  
The cooking part is relatively easy, it's the eating part that amateurs get stuck on.  Here's the way I was taught to eat lobsters - taught to me by someone who grew up in Maine and knows how to get to the business of lobster eating.

  • Prepare yourself with paper towels.  A whole roll could come in handy.
  • Also, get a bowl or recepticle of some sort for the lobster carcasses.
  • Melt butter to dip your delicious in - place in a ramekin or other small dish.
  • First, off come the claws.  Place your hand along the lobster body and twist until they pop off. 
  • Repeat for the tail. Sometimes a lot of steam/hot water comes out, so handle appropriately. 
  • Discard the shell of the body.  There's a lot of goop up in there. 
  • Now it's time to get to the eating part.  If you're eating soft shell, most likely you won't need crackers.
  • When it comes to the tail, I get the meat out by pressing down on the under side of the tail in a few places.  Press until the shell cracks and then pull back on the sides of the tail.  This will loosen the tail meat in one piece and it should slide out of the shell.
  • I go through a ridiculous amount of paper towels in cleaning off various parts of my lobster meat.
Mom loved cheffed up and eating the lobsters.  We got them in South Boston at a wholesaler for $6.25 a pound, so our (4) 1.5 pound lobsters came out to about $43.  Not bad for a really tasty dinner at home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PW's Meatloaf

I love PW. If you do not subscribe to her blog, you should. She's a blogging genius. Her photos are gorgeous, and her recipes are delicious. Just ignore all of the home-schooling posts. Those don't seem to fit with the vibe of her blog, but maybe it's just me!

I have made several of PW's recipes, and I am usually pleased.

Recently she posted about her favorite meatloaf.

I decided to give it a try!

Simple ingredients:
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 6 slices White Bread
  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 cup (heaping) Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ teaspoons Seasoned Salt
  • ¾ teaspoons Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • ⅓ cups Minced Flat-leaf Parsley
  • 4 whole Eggs Beaten
  • 10 slices Thin/regular Bacon
Pour the milk over the bread.Let it soak.

Add the parsley, Parmesan, ground beef, and salt/pepper. Beat the eggs and toss them in.

Then, I mixed with my hands. It was a great stress reliever.

Shape it into a loaf and put it on the broiler pan. This was my first time using my new broiler pan.

After the shape is constructed, add the bacon layer. Tuck the ends under the loaf.






Next, mix the sauce.


Sauce ingredients
  • 1-½ cup Ketchup
  • ⅓ cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • Tabasco To Taste (I used Frank's Hot Sauce instead)
Layer the sauce onto the meatloaf in three separate steps. 1. Before cooking. 2. After baking for 45 minutes. 3. Right before serving (presumably after 60 minutes of baking).



The recipe instructs to bake for 60 minutes at 350, but I ended up baking it for approximately 90 minutes! I kept checking it, and the beef was pink. I am starting to wonder if my oven isn't accurate.

This was definitely one of those recipes that tasted even better as a leftover. The BF loved it. The bacon really blended with the meat when I reheated it. Does that happen often to you? Sometimes I think it's because the flavors need to rest. Sometimes I think that the food needed that extra heat intensity of reheating in a microwave or oven.

I froze pieces of this meatloaf with potatoes. I'm looking forward to eating it on a snowy December day.

What is your favorite meatloaf recipe?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Roasted Chicken

Remember the offending chicken that I carried 1.5 miles home?

After such an ordeal, I was determined to prepare this chicken to perfection.  Boy, was I rewarded!  Every aching step through the Back Bay was worth the treat of Roast Chicken on a random weekday night.

Roast Chicken
Whole Roasted Chicken, size of your choosing.
Bay Leaves
Lemon
Sage
Rosemary
Garlic Cloves
3 Carrots
1/2 Onion
Salt
Pepper



Step One:  Wash your chicken.  Remove the giblets from the neck cavity and set aside.  I personally set aside in my garbage, as these innards are just too advanced for me to make anything out of.  Give the inside and outside of the chicken a good rinsing and pat dry.




Step Two:  Chop up two carrots, 1/2 an onion, a few cloves of garlic*.  You'll need some herbs to chop as well - I chose some fresh sage, some dried bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.  Use what you have on hand and mix it up.  Mix all together in a bowl and transfer into the cavity of the chicken.  You can also half a lemon and stick the lemon halves in the cavity as well.**  These are going to provide flavor to the chicken meat during the roasting process and fill your kitchen with mouth watering smells. 

Seriously, the fragrance overwhelmed my 350 square feet home... it was amazing.


Step Three:  Simple, simple.  I covered the outside of the chicken with olive oil and salt and pepper.  I went heavy on the fresh black pepper, but light on the salt.  Too much salt will dehydrate the skin and dry it out during the roasting process.  Try your chicken legs together with kitchen twine - or, use what you got.  Which for me, just so happened to be two jerry rigged twistie ties. 

Note to self, buy kitchen twine.

Step Four: Roast according to instructions on the chicken packaging.  Each chicken is different due to weight, so in order to avoid blowing up your digestive system with food poisoning, cook as instructed.  Baste with the pan juices three to four times throughout the roasting process so keep the skin moist.

My chicken took about two impatient hours.  I thought I was going pass out from all the amazing smells, so I was definitely saved by the pop up timer on this one. 


Bing!  Done!

Step Five:  Serve with your favorite sides.  I chose steamed carrots/zucchini and Toasted Coconut Basmati Rice.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.


I carved this chicken straight clean of any meat.  There was nothing left on the bones.  I am typically a white meat kind of girl, but in my carving, I sampled some of the dark meat on the underside of the chicken and I couldn't believe how amazingly moist and flavorful this section of the chicken was.  Yum.  I also started cleaning up way too fast and didn't stop to realize that I could have used the carcass to create chicken stock for soups moving forward.  I would have loved to do this, but I got ahead of myself.  Next time.

I won't lie - the next day, the leftover meat was amazing.  I could really, really taste the herbs from the cavity of the chicken - they had cleared infused the meat.  Yum-O.


* cut the ends off the garlic cloves and smash with the flat side of your chopping knife.  This opens the garlic up.
** if you use lemons in the cavity, before you half it, apply firm pressure and roll around on the countertop.  This will loosen up the juice and release more flavor into the chicken.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Curry Chicken Pot Pie


If you've been reading this blog, you know that I love curry.

This recipe was really easy and gave me an opportunity to work with puff pastry for the first time.

Here are the ingredients:
  • 4 cups frozen vegetable mix, peas, carrots
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 package puff pastry
First of all, the food snob in me thinks that I'm above using frozen veggies. Now that I have made this recipe once, I feel comfortable modifying it and using fresh veggies in my next attempt at making this dish.

Start by cooking the frozen veggies in the oven with oil.
Then, combine 1 tablespoon of the butter, onion, and celery. Saute.

Add the other 2 tablespoons of butter to the celery and onion mix. Now add the curry and flour to this mixture.

Add the milk/broth mixture to the celery/onions. Whisk. Thicken it up!

Add the browned peas/carrots and cooked chicken to this mixture. Pour into a baking pan. I used a glass casserole dish.

Top with the puff pastry.
The ingredient list simply called for "1 package of puff pastry." I found puff pastry sheets with the other frozen pastry items at the grocery store. Then, as I made the recipe, I realized that I was supposed to have bought the puff pastry circles (Annoying!). That's why it looks a little goofy.

The cool thing is that the wrong sized puff pastry had no impact on the delicious flavor. The pastry was really tasty with the curry flavor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grocery Shopping Commuting in the City

Currently, I commute to the grocery store on foot.  Since the weather has been so nice out lately, I typically put on a pair of sneakers and head off to the grocery store where normal people shop.  It's a 1.5 mile walk and it's really not that bad on a gorgeous weekend day.  I like to peruse familiar items in a setting that is familiar with all the grocery shopping experiences of the past.  Things are organized.  I know the brands.  They have specials and good deals. Nothing is strangely organic.  I leave feeling happy and accomplished.

I leave Whole Paychex feeling claustrophobic, confused, poor as sin and filled with anxiety.  So you can see why the 1.5 miles is worth it compared to the convenience of 2 blocks.

Being the planner that I am, I like to plan out my grocery shopping experience based around a few recipes I want to try and also what happens to be on sale in the weekly shopper.  A little organization around grocery shopping goes a long way on a single gal's budget. It's the last minute impulse, "pick it up on the way home" purchases that can mean the difference between drinking Three Buck Chuck and Kim Crawford throughout the month.

A couple weeks ago, I saw that whole chickens were something like .79 cents a pound.  I got excited and then remembered that said chicken would need to be carried the entire 1.5 mile walk home.  I decided it would be a game time decision.

I don't know what came over me, but that day at the grocery store I filled that little cart up with a whole chicken, 1/2 gallon of milk, some buttermilk, a giant thing of chicken stock and a bunch of cans (among various other items).  All I know is that as I hoisted my Earth Friendly Shopping bags filled with $66 worth of (apparently) heavy items, I feared I had made a giant mistake.  The Chicken probably being the mighty one night stand of mistakes - it weighed in at 8 pounds alone.

I made it home with all my goodies, but I am not going to lie, I considered abandoning them along Marlborough Street several times.  I was hoping maybe Tom Brady would come out of his brownstone and offer me a ride back to the Hill, but alas, my dreams were never realized. I schlepped... I stopped about 50 times... I shifted and struggled, but I made it.  Out of sheer curiousity, I weighed myself with the groceries when I got home.

50 freaking pounds.

1.5 miles.

Here's what 50 pounds of groceries looks like:

50 pounds of offending items....

Alas, this is my life now.  :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kitchens

For the last few weeks, the BF's kitchen has been experiencing some changes.

These changes have made it impossible to eat a decent meal when I have stayed there. It drives me crazy. I need to have access to an oven at all times.

The current location of his oven: the hallway. Status: unplugged.


*Notice the layer of dust.

I can't deal.

To complicate matters, I have the attention span of a gnat. This means that I am horrible at things like painting and raking.

I painted for about 4 minutes before completely losing interest. Here is a the BF, hard at work, while I was "busy" with my pumpkin pie cream liqueur, which was DELICIOUS. You should purchase it for Thanksgiving.
When the kitchen is finished, it'll be beautiful. I'm looking forward to making memories in this kitchen. For now, I retreat back to my mini apartment kitchen which is dust free and full of working appliances...