Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Soup to Shake a (Soup) Spoon At!

Good evening everyone!  Continuing on my soup conquest, I bring you a fall/winter time favorite ingredient, that might not be used as often as anticipated.  Granted, there's a whole menagerie of squashes out there, but to use one in a soup like this is quite tasty.  Plus, it's paired with a cheesy crouton that evens out all the flavors. 

The Recipe:  Butternut Squash Soup
Original Recipe From:  My Fitness Pal app

What You'll Need:
Two Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large White Onion, chopped
2 Medium Carrots, chopped
1/2 Medium Butternut Squash, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Sprigs of fresh Rosemary
1/2 Small Baguette, sliced
4 Ounces of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
2 Scallions, thinly sliced

To start, head the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and season with salt and pepper.  Stir all the ingredients together and cover, cooking for six minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the onions have cooked, add the carrots and the squash, stir and cover.  Cook this mixture for five more minutes, stirring occasionally also.  Add the chicken broth and the rosemary and bring the mixture to a boil.  Once at a boil, drop the heat and let simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, heat the oven broiler.  Place the sliced baguette pieces on a foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and broil under the cheese has melted, about one to two minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Once the vegetables have cooked, remove and discard the rosemary.  If you are using a stainless steel saucepan, use a corded immersion blender and blend until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  If you used a nonstick saucepan, carefully pour the ingredients in a blender and pulse to puree the ingredients.  Pour into serving bowl, top with scallions and the cheese croutons, and enjoy!

The End Result:


The soup will be surprisingly sweet, as the butternut squash is naturally that way.  The carrots help to enhance that flavor and no onion can be found.  But the cheese croutons, as I have so lovingly named them, will add a depth to the soup that can't be found elsewhere.  While they might look pretty on top the of the soup, submerge them in the liquid and add with your slurps of soup.  The bread will give the soup something to cling to and the sharp cheddar cheese is a nice contrast with the squash flavor.  Overall, a great, fresh soup recipe to add to your soup arsenal!

That's all we have for you this week.  Check back frequently for more tasty additions to your recipe book.  Until then,

~Cheers!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mighty Fine Meat

Good evening everyone!  There are often times where becoming a vegetarian wouldn't be so bad of an idea.  Promote a more healthful status while giving new fruits and veggies I've never heard of before a shot.  While I romanticize the idea, it's recipes, like this one tonight, that make me think otherwise and remember that I like being an omnivore.

The Recipe:  Roast Beef Tenderloin with Cognac Butter
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, November 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:

For the Tenderloin:
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Teaspoons Honey
1 Teaspoon Lower-Sodium Soy Sauce
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 (2 Pound) Beef Tenderloin, trimmed
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Thyme

For the Cognac Butter:
1 1/2 Teaspoons Butter
3 Tablespoons minced Shallots
3 Tablespoons Cognac
6 1/2 Tablespoons Butter, softened
1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Start by preheating an oven to 425 degrees and prepare the cognac butter:  melt 1 1/2 teaspoons butter in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Next, add the shallots and cook for two minutes or until tender, stirring shallots occasionally.  Carefully stir in the cognac and cook for one minute or until the liquid has reduced by about one-third.  Remove the skillet from the heat and cool.

Next, place the 6 1/2 tablespoons butter in a small bowl and stir in the cooled cognac mixture, one tablespoon thyme leaves and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for ten minutes.  Bring the mixture from the fridge and divide it in half.  Scrape each half of the butter mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Shape each portion into a four-inch long log.  Wrap each butter log in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze one log for another use.

To prepare the tenderloin, combine the mustard, honey, soy sauce, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a medium mixing bowl and stir with a whisk.  Spread the mustard mixture over all the sides of the tenderloin and sprinkle with two tablespoons of thyme.  Place the tenderloin in a shallow roasting pan.  Place the pan in a 425 degree oven and cook for 38 minutes or until a thermometer inserted reads 135 degrees.  Cover the tenderloin with foil and let stand for ten minutes.

Remove the tenderloin from the roasting pan and onto a cutting board.  Cut the tenderloin crosswise into 16 slices.  Arrange the slices on a serving plate and cut one butter log into eight slices and top each serving with one butter slice.  Serve and enjoy!

The End Result:


I've been raised to like my meat at just under well done to well done, but lately I have been enjoying my cooked meat to still have some pink in the middle.  But for this recipe, it's well worth it.  I've never cooked with a beef tenderloin, but it is, by far, the best meat you can purchase and cook yourself.  Served with a wee bit of a boozy butter, it's quite fantastic.  If you don't like your meat that undercooked, you are welcome to cook it for longer, but just remember to let it rest once it is done cooking - your pallet will thank you!

Thanks for joining us and we continue to share our culinary adventures.  Until next time,

~Cheers!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

In The Morning, We're Making Waffles!

Hello again everyone! For most folks, the process of making waffles involves adapting pancake batter to the "waffle" instructions on the side of the box. We're not excluded from that generalization - for the longest time our waffle making process was simply adjusting the quantity of liquid to the pre-packaged mix.

The results aren't bad - we're not here to rag on the boxed pancake mix - but they're not all that waffles could be. You see, waffles from pancake mix are typically thicker which makes for a dense little waffle that is heavy in the stomach and that doesn't take well to a lot of toppings or other culinary uses. True waffle batter should yield a flavorful waffle (that can shine on it's own accord, without toppings if necessary) that is also light and fluffy.

Enter, Alton Brown. Who has crafted a basic waffle recipe that achieves all of these goals - best of all it contains only things you'll typically find in your pantry and it doesn't take any longer than the pre-package pancake batter does. Given that, why would you make waffles any other way? (You wouldn't...or shouldn't!)

The Recipe: Waffles...REALLY Good Waffles
Original Recipe By: Alton Brown

What You'll Need:

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Whole Eggs (Beaten)
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter (Melted)
16 Ounces Milk (Buttermilk is the original requirement, we used almond milk)

Coat your waffle iron with non-stick spray and heat according to its instructions.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to incorporate. In a separate bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, butter) and whisk until combined. Finally, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until a majority of the lumps have been removed. DO NOT stir until all the lumps are gone - this will over toughen the batter and make things a bit too thick. After a few stirs to makes sure all of the dry and wet ingredients have melded nicely, simply walk away. You'll want to keep stirring. Don't! Just put the whisk down, and walk away.

Allow the batter to rest for 5 minutes before adding it to the waffle iron and cooking until you reach the desired doneness.

Top with syrup for a traditional flare, or use them for any variety of uses such as bread pudding, ice cream sandwiches, or whatever you can craft up (Seriously, the realm of uses for waffles is vast - start checking your recipe books, they're used EVERYWHERE).

The Results:



These simple little waffles truly outshine their boxed counterparts in every way. They're light, fluffy, flavorful and much more versatile than the thicker, heavier product that comes from pancake batter. In short, when it comes to waffles, if you want to do it right, you'll want to follow this recipe!

(By the way, this recipe will likely cook up more waffles than you can handle in one sitting. The great part is, they freeze beautifully. Simple slide them into a zip top bag and store in the freezer. To reheat, simply pop them in the toaster, just like their big box frozen cousins, they work nicely as a quick and easy breakfast meal right out of the freezer).

That's all we have for you today - but we're back next week with another brand new recipe, followed by a tasty treat utilizing the versatile little blueberry - look out for that next Sunday. Until then,

~Cheers

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Prepare Yourself with a Whole Lot of Garlic!

Good evening everyone!  I absolutely love the combination of cheese and pasta!  To me, there is no greater combination of foods that can be put together.  Sure there are quite a few that can compare, but for comfort food, when cheese wraps itself around pasta, it's sure to be a hit.  When I found this recipe to enhance the traditional mac and cheese with garlic, it was worth whipping up a batch and see what would happen!

The Recipe:  Roasted Garlic Mac & Cheese
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, October 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
2 Whole Garlic Heads
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Water
10 Ounces Whole-Grain Penne
2 3/4 Cup 1% Low-Fat Milk
3 1/2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
4 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 cup)
2 Ounces Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

To start, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Once cooked, drain in a colander and set aside.

Next, remove the white, papery skin from the garlic heads, but do not peel or separate the cloves.  If you've ever worked with garlic, this is a hard concept to follow through since in most recipes it calls to separate the garlic cloves.  Tempting as it may seem, keep the cloves intact, but try to remove as much skin as possible.  Place the garlic heads in a microwave-safe bowl and rub the garlic heads with oil.  Pour the water in the bottle of the bowl and cover the entire thing with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 4.5 minutes or until the garlic is very tender.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and let it cool slightly.

Next, combine the milk and flour in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Cook the milk mixture for three minutes or until thickened.  Once cooked, remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper, 1 ounce of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.  Stir until smooth and the cheeses have melted.  Set this aside.

Begin to preheat an oven broiler.  Meanwhile, from the microwaved bowl, separate the garlic cloves and squeeze to extract the garlic pulp.  Some of the garlic cloves will still be pretty warm, but if you work quickly, it should be a light task.  Place the garlic pulp and two cups of the milk mixture in a blender.  Process until the sauce is smooth.  Stir the garlic mixture into the remaining milk mixture and stir until well incorporated.  Add the pasta and stir to coat.  

Spoon the pasta mixture into a broiler-safe 11x7 glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Alternatively, you could use 6 (10 ounce) ramekins or gratin dishes.  Once in the desired baking vessel, sprinkle with the remaining three ounces of cheddar cheese.  Broil for two minutes or until the cheese has melted and begin to turn brown.  Let the cooking vessel stand for five minutes, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:



If you are not a fan of particularly strong garlic flavor, this mac and cheese will not be for you.  If you love garlic infused in every single bite, along with some potent cheese flavor, then be careful not to eat the entire batch in one sitting!  I didn't quite process the garlic to a smooth consistency, as instructed, but the flavor made itself known and was quite delightful.  While there was only two cheeses in this recipe, you could fool anyone with the outstanding cheese flavor.  If you want to kick up your mac and cheese game, this recipe is for you!

Join us next week as we continue our quest for awesome recipes to present to you.  Until then,

~Cheers!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Express Sheperd's Pie


Good evening everyone! When it comes to traditional winter dishes, it’s hard to beat shepherd's pie. Built like a pot pie, a shepherd's pie is typically a bit thicker (think “gravy” to a standard pot pie’s “stew” filling) and topped with mashed potatoes. The distinctions between shepherd's pie and pot pie aren’t too grand, but they are significant enough to make them two distinct dishes.

 The largest difference is in time. Where a traditional pot pie can be covered and baked in a few hours, a shepherd's pie (and its thick mashed potato topping) can take double the amount of time both in the oven and in prep work.

 Of course, there’s also the matter of calories – while traditional shepherd’s pie is a nice “on occasion” comfort food, I don’t think you could really classify it as “good for you”. Plus, we’re entering the new year and most folks are looking to cut calories after all of the holiday indulging – on their way to their new healthier 2015.

So, therein lies the challenge – can we take traditional shepherd’s pie, cut down the prep time and make it a healthy weekend meal option? We found a recipe that gives it a good shot, and with our adaptations the results are worth duplicating.


The Recipe: Quick Shepherd's Pie
Original recipe adapted from: Eatingwell.com


What You’ll Need:
1 Pound Ground Turkey (Lean)
1 Medium Onion
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1 Cup Frozen Green Beans
¾ Cup Frozen Peas
14.5 Ounces (1 Can) Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3-4 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
All Purpose Flour (amount will vary)

Begin by dicing (if necessary) your potatoes and boiling them in a medium pot for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Once tender, mash them by hand with potato masher (you want the potatoes to still have a few lumps – we’re not looking for perfectly smooth, so by hand is the best way to get there). Add in a splash of low fat milk and 1 tablespoon of butter while you’re mashing to make the texture of the potatoes a bit smoother. Set aside.

 While your potatoes are boiling, turn your attention to the main dish. In a large dutch oven or other nonstick pan, brown the ground turnkey alongside the onion – keep stirring regularly until the onion is translucent and the turkey is cooked through. Next, add the green beans and peas, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans have softened and the peas are nearly cooked through.
Next, add in a pinch of dried oregano or Italian seasoning (we opted for Italian, to add a bit more variety to the dish, but if you’re looking to keep it as authentic as possible, straight oregano is the way to go). Slowly stir in the broth and the frozen corn. Cover and bring the dish to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer until the all of the vegetables have cooked through (5 to 7 minutes).

 Finally, stir in two tablespoons of all purpose flour. Allow the mixture to return to a simmer and evaluate the dish – if it has thickened up to your liking, move on to serving, if not, add another tablespoon of flour and repeat the process. Be sure to only add one tablespoon at a time – you CAN over thicken the base, so keep an eye on things.
To serve, scoop the desired amount of the turkey base into a bowl and top with a spoonful of the mashed potatoes you prepared earlier. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

The Results:



Traditional shepherd’s pie is a lamb based dish that is slow roasted all day and topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes, then baked to the point of turning those spuds crispy.

That’s the long way of saying: you’re not going to duplicate true shepherd’s pie flavor in a quick (or healthy) fashion. You can, however, create something close – and that’s what this dish does well. You still have rich flavors – you still have a savory potato topping – but you only have to invest 35 minutes into the dish and it’s caloric content finishes in the 300-400 range, rather than 700 to 800 of the original. All in all, not a bad trade off to make.

 That's all we have for you today, but be sure to stop in during the week to see another new recipe courtesy of Maggie. I'll follow up next weekend with two recipes that are perfectly suited for those cozy weekend mornings. Until then, 

~Cheers

Sunday, December 21, 2014

World's Greatest Chili

Hello again everyone! For years, I've had a love / hate relationship with chili. When done correctly, traditional chili is a beautiful blend of rich meaty flavors that simply cannot be matched by any other stew. However, it's been difficult for me to find a chili recipe that does "it" correctly. My stomach tends to be overly sensitive to tomato sauce - it's too acidic and sends me on a one way trip to massive heartburn town. The compromise - it seems - is to laden the chili with other additives and when it comes to chili that means beans. Now, I'm not opposed to the occasional beans in my chili, but too many turns the batch into a fibrous chewy...disaster.

So, the trick was finding a recipe that didn't go overboard on the tomato base, that ALSO didn't compromise the structural integrity of the dish (I.E. let's keep the beans to a limited number...or out all together).

As with most kitchen conundrums, Alton Brown came to the rescue. His recipe is based on the traditional old west style of chili - the stuff the cowboys made out on the range. While his original recipe uses a pressure cooker (to replicate the days in a dutch oven in half the time) you can also use a slow cooker to reach the same result (which is what we did). So, how does Alton Brown solve my chili challenge? Let's get cooking and find out!

Original Recipe From: Alton Brown (Good Eats: The Big Chili)
The Recipe: Pressure Cooker Chili

What You'll Need:

2 Pounds Beef Stew Meat
1 Pound Ground Pork
16 Ounces Salsa (Medium or spicy)
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Adobo Chile (Diced fine - from the canned variety)
1 Teaspoon Adobo Chile Sauce (From the can)
30 Tortilla Chips (Crushed)
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Bottle Beer (Preferably an Ale)


First and foremost - yes, this is not your traditional ingredient list for chili - and that's not a bad thing. Secondly, YES, this done turn into amazing chili. Stick with me, it's worth it.

Begin by browning all of the meat in a large dutch oven (work in batches to avoid overcrowding) use peanut oil in the dutch oven to aid in the browning process. Transfer the browned meat into a large slow cooker. If you have any browned on or stuck bits in the bottom of your dutch oven, use a bit of the beer to deglaze the pan (pour a bit of beer into the dutch oven over medium heat and give it a gentle stir - that should work everything right up).

Add this bit of beer (and the rest of the bottle) over the meat in the slow cooker along with the chili powder, salsa adobo chile (and sauce) and finally about half of the crushed tortilla chips. Give the mixture a good stir and then cover the slow cooker and set it on low for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, evaluate your chili. Odds are, it'll need a bit more "thickening" - that's where the rest of the tortilla chips come in. Stir them in and then serve immediately.

The Results:

Doesn't matter how you position it - there's no way to make chili photogenic 


This is the most wonderful, flavorful and meaty chili dishes I've ever had. The tomato sauce problem is eased by using a salsa base - it doesn't really change the flavor, but the versatility of salsa means it can take long slow heat without falling apart and since good salsa is typically made with fresh tomatoes - not the canned "metal like" tomatoes that so many tomato sauces or tomato juices are made with the flavor is cleaner and much better overall. The tortilla chips serve a wonderful purpose as well - they act as a thickening agent without overwhelming the dish with other flavors or making it overly chewy (looking at you - beans) and since most of them cook away and break during the 8 hour slow cook - you won't even know they're there.

That's all we have for you this week. We're "closed" for Christmas - but we'll be back next Sunday with a brand new weekend dish. Until then, Happy Holidays and as always,

~Cheers

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Broccoli Pesto Pasta: Better for your Pallet!

Good evening everyone!  As Tyler mentioned previously, we are transitioning to a new way of posting recipes.  We are still focusing on delicious and healthy recipes, and we also want to showcase weeknight dishes that are a snap to make, without too much hassle.  Tonight's recipe is a great example of that.  While most pasta recipes focus too much on the sauce it's doused in, this dish showcases a brilliant, yet healthy alternative to the norm.  And it's speedy recipe to whip up in a flash.

The Recipe:  Broccoli and Pecorino Pesto Pasta
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, September 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
8 Ounces uncooked Whole-Wheat Angel Hair Pasta
1 (12 Ounce) package microwave-in-bag fresh Broccoli Florets
1/4 Cup fresh Basil Leaves
3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon grated fresh Lemon Rind
3 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Ounce Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)

To start, prepare a medium saucepan, filled with water, over medium-high heat.  Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta.  Cook according to package directions, omitting any salt or oil.  In a sink, place a heatproof bowl over a colander.  Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving one cup of cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, cook the broccoli according to package directions.  Once cooked, allow five minutes to cool the broccoli.  Prepare a food processor and add the broccoli, basil leaves, olive oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic cloves, and Pecorino Romano cheese into the processor.  Pulse all the ingredients together until the broccoli and basil leaves are finely chopped.

Keeping the processor on, slowly add the reserved one cup of cooking liquid through the chute, until the sauce has reached desired consistency.  In a large bowl, add the pasta, along with the broccoli mixture and toss to combine.  Place onto a serving dish, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:



Like it's basic pesto predecessor, it keeps all the same flavors like before.  Adding the broccoli not only thickens the sauce, but makes it boosts its nutritional quantity.  If you didn't know you were eating broccoli, you'd be incredibly surprised to find it in this dish.  I'm all for dressing down overly complicated recipes.  If you are big fan of pesto (like myself,) you will not be disappointed with this dish!

That all we have for you this evening.  Check back frequently for brand new recipes to share with you and yours!  Until then,

~Cheers!