Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chow down on this chowder!

Good evening everyone! As October continues to roll along, the days are growing cooler and the weather is getting gloomier (well, in the midwest anyway). Rain, cold wins, overcast skies - all mark the onset of fall. It's days like these that lend themselves perfectly to homemade soups and stews. We're back this week with a cousin of the traditional stew (chowder) that works in some great fall flavors guaranteed to warm you on even the coldest days.

The Recipe: Corn & Sausage Chowder
Original Recipe Found In: Hy-Vee Seasons Magazine (October 2013 issue)

What You'll Need:

1 Pound Ground Pork Sausage (Mild)
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Cups Chopped White Onion (1 Large onion)
2 Clove Garlic (Minced)
1/3 Cup All Purpose Flour
32 Ounces Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes (Diced in 3/4 inch cubes)
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
1 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1 1/2 Cups Half and Half
3 Cups Frozen Corn (Thawed prior to use)
1 Large Red Bell Pepper (Diced fine)

Place a large stockpot over medium high heat and bring it to temperature. Once the pot is nice and hot, add the sausage and cook until completely browned and cooked through. Transfer the sausage to a bowl for storage, but reserve the drippings in the stock pot.

Next, add the butter to the pot and swirl until it melts completely. Once melted, add the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to low and allow the onion to soften (3 to 5 minutes) before stirring in the flour. Work in small sections when adding the flour as the mixture can (and will) clump if too much flour is added at once.

Slowly add the broth the pot, making sure to gently stir as your pour in the broth. Increase the heat to medium before stirring in the potatoes, basil, sage and parsley along with a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to boil before covering and reducing the heat to medium low. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes before moving on to the next stage.

Next, slowly add the half and half, corn, bell pepper and the sausage to the pot. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and allow it to cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

The Results:

This nice little chowder recipe packs a whole lot of flavor into every bite. The sausage and bell pepper add a bit of heat, while the potatoes and broth tone it all down with some nice neutral undertones. The end result is a balanced spoonful of flavor in every bite. This chowder recipe is easy (and fast) to put together and is sure to feed the whole family for multiple nights. That's a win-win in our book!

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie will take to the kitchen on Wednesday night with a brand new recipe and I'll follow her on Thursday with a unique twist on a classic fall favorite. Until then,


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Week Recipe Four: Pumpkin Dip

While most of the recipes I have presented this week can be shared within the home, I highly recommend you double this recipe and take it to your workplace or next potluck.  It encapsulates the fall flavor perfectly, without missing a beat.

What You'll Need:
1 (15 Ounce) Can of 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 Boxes of Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1 (8 Ounce) Tub of Whipped Topping
1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

If the whipped topping you purchased was originally frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for at least four hours.  Once thawed, scoop out into a large mixing bowl.  Add the pumpkin, dry vanilla pudding, and pumpkin pie spice.  Mix together until thoroughly combined.  Transfer to a serving bowl and keep chilled.  Serve with graham crackers and enjoy!

The End Result:

While the picture doesn't present itself well, the flavor is quite tasty.  Hints of pumpkin and vanilla make each other known, without overpowering the other.  The whipped topping gives both an equal playing field to showcase their flavors.  The only thing I would change is that the pumpkin pie spice is a little much.  I would use 1/2 teaspoon, or even 1/4 teaspoon, just so your tongue doesn't go numb.  It's best to be shared with others, but I don't blame you if you want it all to yourself!

That's all for this evening.  Tyler will join us for one last recipe this week for a killer chowder.  Until then,


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Week Recipe Three: Pumpkin French Toast

I suppose it was inevitable - pumpkin has made its way to breakfast food.  While doughnuts are pretty standard fare for this, this french toast recipe will definitely make you want more.

What You'll Need:
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Milk (skim, almond, whatever you have on hand)
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
6-8 slices of Texas Toast Bread*

*This style of bread was made for french toast!  While thicker than its regular sandwich bread counterpart, it soaks all the ingredients of the french toast mixture.  Plus it makes it extra fluffy and delicious!

To start, heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  While the skillet is heating up, you can make your french toast batter.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together until well combined.  Add the pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Thoroughly mix until all the ingredients have formed a consistent batter.  The pumpkin will be a little bit more tricky to mix in, but it will be essential to batter.

Next, dip two pieces of the bread, front and back in the batter.  You can hang the bread over the bowl to drip any remaining excess.  Once the skillet is heated, spray with cooking spray and lay the two pieces of bread flat on the skillet.  After one side has cooked for two to three minutes, flip the pieces over and cook for another two minutes.  Repeat with the other pieces of bread.

Serve the french toast with syrup and enjoy!

The End Result:

If you are a huge fan of pumpkin, like we are, this is probably one of the best recipes to showcase the flavor of pumpkin.  The batter doesn't soak too deeply in the bread, so it doesn't have a gut-busting after feeling.  We had three to four pieces each and we didn't feel weighed down by it.  Instead, the toast is very light and fluffy, not to mention the great, non-overwhelming flavor of pumpkin.  I will probably make this recipe again, because it's simplicity matches it's great taste.

Thanks for joining us tonight.  Check back tomorrow as we present our final Pumpkin Week recipe.  Until then,


Monday, October 6, 2014

Pumpkin Week Recipe Two: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Good evening everyone!  Tonight's cookie recipe will blow your socks off.  Well, that might be an overstatement.  But not everyone thinks of pairing pumpkin and chocolate together.  It's a flavor combination that was meant to be together.

What You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 Cup White Sugar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Milk
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips

To start, in a large mixing bowl, add the vegetable oil, pumpkin, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.  Whisk until all the ingredients have combined.  In another large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  In a small dish, combine the baking soda and milk until it becomes a sticky goo.  Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until all ingredients are well combined.  Fold the chocolate chips and let the batter sit for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat an oven to 350 degrees and cover a large baking sheet with baking spray.  Once the batter has sat and the oven is up to temperature, scoop out the batter using a cookie scoop.  Place the balls of batter two inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-13 minutes.  Let cool for five minutes, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

While one doesn't normally think of pumpkin and chocolate going together, it's a great combination for this cookie recipe.  The pumpkin flavor isn't too heavy in the batter and holds the chocolate chips in perfectly.  It's actually a delicate cookie, without getting too heavy on the pallet.  I was quite surprised at how delicious this cookie actually was and it's a great way to have pumpkin, without an explicit pumpkin taste.

Check back later this week for two more pumpkin recipes, one to take to your next fall outing, and one for home use only.  Until then,


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pumpkin Week Recipe One: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Greetings everyone!  As Tyler previously mentioned, this week, I will be highlighting Autumn's favorite gourd: the pumpkin.  While some people celebrate its annual return by buying any (and all) pumpkin flavored drink, the pumpkin actually serves itself to be made in numerous ways.  I have found four recipes to infuse the delicious flavor of pumpkin into every day recipes.  Of course, you could make these recipes any time of the year, but there's something about fall that makes us crave this particular flavor.  First up, Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes!

What You'll Need:
1 (15 Ounce) Can Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3/4 Cup Evaporated Milk
2/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda

To start, preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Prep a muffin tin by lightly spraying 12 to 15 silicone muffin liners with cooking spray and set aside.  Silicone muffin liners will help pop the cupcakes out better than paper muffin liners.  If you haven't invested in silicone liners, I would highly recommend it!

In a large bowl, add the pumpkin, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and evaporated milk.  Whisk until everything is combined.  Next, add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into the pumpkin mixture.  Slowly combine until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  

Next, fill each muffin liner with a 1/3 cup of the pumpkin mixture.  Place the muffin tins in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Once baked, take the tins out of the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.  After this, remove the cupcakes from the tins and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Serve with a dollop of whipped topping and enjoy!

The End Result:

If you are wanting pumpkin pie, but aren't willing to go through the effort of the entire process, these cupcakes are for you!  They are just like little pumpkin pies, with the same consistency as pie, but without the crust and a third of less effort.  Plus, it's easier to serve.  While the notion of cold cupcakes might throw you for a loop, trust me, you won't think a thing about it.

Join us again tomorrow as I present a pumpkin cookie, with a unique twist.  Until then,


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Country Beef Stew

Good evening everyone! With the cold winds of fall fully taking hold of the Midwest, we thought this week would be a great one to continue exploring stew recipes. I discovered a recipe for “Irish Penicillin” this week (AKA Lamb stew) that looked like it would be a fun one to try – so we set out to the grocery store to acquire all of the provisions…where we ran into a problem.

Apparently, unless it’s Easter or Christmas, lamb is tough to come by in your local grocery store. The friendly butcher at the Hy-Vee counter told us, “we just throw it out, unfortunately”.  It seems that lamb just doesn’t sell unless it’s a major holiday, so the grocers just don’t stock it. Of course, they can special order it – but we politely declined.

If you’ve learned anything from this blog, I’d hope it’s this: adaptation and flexibility are the biggest tools in your kitchen arsenal. No lamb? No big deal. We’ll adapt. Now we’re making beef stew!

The Recipe: Country Beef Stew

What You’ll Need:

2 Pounds Stew Meat / Beef Tips*
1 Pound Baby Carrots
1 Pound Russet Potatoes (Peeled, diced into 1 – ½ inch cubes)
1 Large Leek (Diced, rinsed)
3 Celery Ribs (Diced)
15-18 Ounces Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley

* Most grocery stores will carry some form of stew meat in their meat department. The key is looking for the proper kind. Most stew meats are made from diced roast or steak tips, but some grocery stores can cut corners and serve ubiquitous “stew meat” from a unnamed source (I.E. leftover cow parts). Ideally you’re looking for a roast cut, that’s been cubed into 1 inch pieces for you – most of the time the price will be similar if not identical – even if there’s a slight premium, the time saved is typically worth the slight markup, in my opinion.

Some stew recipes call for all of the ingredients to be cooked in the pot – simply throw everything in and let it go. Depending on the recipe, this works just fine, but I’ve found that taking a few minutes of additional prep can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of a stew. As such, we’re browning our stew meat before adding it to the slow cooker.

Place a large (12 inch) skillet over medium high heat until it becomes roaring hot. Add the beef to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until all edges are browned. We’re not cooking the beef through here, so don’t be concerned if there are still some pink spots on the beef – the high heat of the skillet will make a nice sear, however, and the browning of the beef enhances the flavor in a way that simply boiling the beef could not.

Once the beef is browned, add it to a large (5 to 6 quart) slow cooker (make sure to scrape all browned on bits from the skillet into the slow cooker as well – that’s flavor you don’t want to leave behind!). Add in the baby carrots, potatoes, celery and enough chicken broth to cover the entire mixture. Give it a good stir before covering and setting the slow cooker to “low”.  Allow the stew to simmer for a good 8 hours before serving.
You may be asking, “If this is beef stew, why are we using chicken broth?” Good question! Beef broth carries a very strong and distinct flavor. For some soups and stews, it works well as a flavor enhancer or main component of the dish’s flavor. In this dish, however, the browned stew meat is the star of the show and brings a lot of flavor to the dish. Using beef broth would overwhelm our stew meat’s natural flavors and may make things a bit too…stout. Chicken broth, however, is relatively neutral. It brings flavors that enhance carrots and potatoes (thus why it’s so good in vegetable soup) but it won’t really disrupt the natural flavors of the dish. In this case, that’s a good thing.

After 8 hours, your stew should smell fantastic and the veggies should be delightfully tender and flavorful. Before serving, stir in the thyme and parsley and a salt and pepper as needed (to taste). Serve and enjoy!

The Results:

For a dish that’s designed to feature lamb, this beef “audible” worked quite nicely! The beef’s flavor was fantastic and after a full 8 hours in a slow cooker, it moved into the carrots, potatoes and broth evenly, creating a big warm bowl of beef goodness. This recipe makes for a fantastic weekend meal. Simply throw it together in the morning and reap the rewards that night. As a bonus – you’ll have leftovers for the next few days, and the stew seems to get better and better with each reheat!

That’s all we have for you this week. It was a short week (recipe wise) because we’ve been holding back a few recipes in order to present you with a theme week next week. Maggie has been busy over the past week and half, and she’s created stockpile of recipes featuring fall’s best flavor – PUMPKIN. We’ll have a week chocked full of pumpkin dishes coming your way, so be sure to stop back for that! Until then,

Friday, September 26, 2014

Giving Other Pork Chops a Run for Their Money

Good evening everyone!  If I've said it once, I'll say it again:  sometimes the best recipes are the most simplest.  Simple ingredients and/or simple preparation often lead to the most delicious results.  Tonight, I have another great example of this great cooking concept and will yield one great recipe!

The Recipe:  Tuscan-Style Garlic-Herb Pork Chops
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, October 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
4 Teaspoons Olive Oil, divided
1/4 Cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced Sage Leaves
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon finely chopped Rosemary
3 Garlic cloves, minced and divided
4 (6 Ounce) bone-in, center-cut loin Pork Chops
1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

To start, preheat a grill pan to high heat.  While the grill pan heats, combine two teaspoons oil, two tablespoons parsley, sage, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and half the garlic on a clean plate.  Stir until the oil and vinegar have just started to combine.  Set the plate aside, combine the mixture only if the oil and vinegar start to separate.

Next, sprinkle the pork chops on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the salt.  By this time, the the grill pan should be good and hot.  Coat the grill rack with cooking spray and place the chops on the grill pan.  Grill for five minutes on one side, then turn the chops over and continue to grill for three to five minutes, or until done or a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees.

Transfer the chops to the plate with the oil, vinegar, and herbs and turn to coat in the herb mixture.  If you want more of the herb mixture, you can spoon more of it on top of the chops.  Serve the chops with your favorite side dish or vegetable and enjoy!

The End Result:

This is one flavorful chop!  What normally is a "blah" pork chop is really enhanced by the fresh garlic and herb "marinade", although I can't call it a true marinade, since the chops didn't sit in it for any particular time.  Obviously, the oil and vinegar help bind the herbs and garlic to the chops, and that always a good thing!  While this might not be the most complicated recipe, the flavors certainly outdo the work and makes for one incredibly delicious dish!

Thanks for joining us tonight, check back frequently for brand new recipes heading your way!  Until then,