Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Can a Sandwich Influence a Stew?

Good evening everyone!  It's becoming apparent to me that I have a problem...a soup/stew problem.  Every recipe I find, I tend to gravitate towards the warm, brothy-ness of a soup.  In fact, I have three (including today's) recipes lined up that are some variation of a soup or stew.  When the temperatures are only the 20's-30's, can you blame me?  Tonight, I'm creating a very unique stew, that has influences from a very famous sandwich from Philadelphia.

The Recipe:  Philly Cheesesteak Stew
Adapted from a Recipe Found On:  www.pinterest.com

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 Pounds Beef Sirloin, very thinly sliced
1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour, divided
2 Onions, quartered and thinly sliced
10 Ounces White Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Teaspoon dried Thyme
2 Cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
4 Cups Beef Stock
2-4 Slices Provolone Cheese

Before you begin anything, pour the beef broth in a large pot and set over medium-low heat, so that it's hot when you are ready to use it.  Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the beef sirloin, onion powder, and a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper and toss to coat evenly.  Sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over the meat and toss to coat again.  Set this mixture aside.

Next, place a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add three to four tablespoons of olive oil in.  Once heated, add half of the sirloin in and cook for a minute or two and flip the pieces over to cook on the other side, continuing to cook for a minute or two.  Remove the pieces of meat to a clean plate and add the repeat with the remaining sirloin. 

After the beef has cooked and been removed from the skillet, add a tablespoon of oil into the pan and add the sliced onions, along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for six minutes, until the onions have started to caramelize, but not burn.  Once the onions have cooked and started to soften, add the mushrooms and allow them to saute with the onions, cooking for six minutes, stirring frequently.

Next, add the dried thyme and garlic into the skillet and stir to incorporate.  Once the garlic becomes fragrant, sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons of flour over the onion/mushroom mixture and stir to combine and blend well.  Once thoroughly mixed, slowly add the hot beef stock to the skillet and stir as to not have any flour clumps forming.

Turn the heat down on the skillet to medium-low, add the cooked sirloin pieces, and let the stew simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, so all the flavors can infused and it can begin to tighten up.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Preheat an oven to broil on high.  Prepare a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and place some crocks on top.  Ladle the stew evenly in the crocks and top with a slice of provolone cheese.  Place the baking sheet under the broiler and cook for a minute or two, just so the cheese has just began to melt.  Serve and enjoy!

The End Result:

The incorporation of the onions, mushrooms, and beef in the recipe almost reminds me of a french onion soup, but obviously with a little more meat.  It's full of flavor and letting the stew the simmer with all the ingredients makes that happen.  The original recipe had the soup in sourdough bowls and letting the cheese melt on top of that.  While that is a very delicious idea, I had been itching for months to use the crocks Tyler got me for my birthday, and they were a great vessel to use the soup in.  If you want to try a new hearty stew, this is the recipe for you!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Root Vegetable Pot Pie

Good evening everyone! As fall changes to winter, there's lots of things not to love. It's dark by 5pm (thanks, daylight savings time). It's a whole lot colder and then there's...snow. There is one positive from the switching seasons; root vegetables have moved into their prime season! From potatoes to turnips, if it's a root veggie, now is the time you want to get in the kitchen. While the globalization of the food industry means you can have root vegetables all year round, you'll likely never find them any better than they will be over the next few months.

If you decide to cook up some root vegetables, the next decision you'll need to make is which veggie to choose? Potatoes are a solid staple, as are carrots. You can change things up a bit by using rutabagas, turnips or parsnips as well - but we say, why limit yourself to one? The great perk about root vegetables is that they all compliment each other beautifully in any dish - so why keep them separate?

Enter tonight's recipe. Inspired by the standard chicken pot pie, this dish switches chicken for root vegetables and the result is one tasty late fall treat.

The Recipe: Root Vegetable Pot Pie

What You'll Need:

4 Large Russet Potatoes (Peeled, diced)
3 Large Carrots  (Peeled, diced)
4 Large Parsnips (Peeled, diced)
4 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Sheet Puff Pastry

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray and add the vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until well combined. Place the baking dish into the center of the oven and allow the vegetables to roast for 40 minutes.

While the veggies roast, you can prepare the sauce. In a large stock pot, add the vegetable broth and set over medium high heat. Bring the broth to  a light simmer before slowly whisking the heavy cream into the mixture. Once well blended, bring the mixture to a simmer once more before whisking in the flour. Stir until well blended and bring the mixture to a simmer one final time before removing from heat and setting the pot aside.

Shortly before your veggies are done with the initial roast, place your puff pasty on a lightly floured countertop and work it flat until it is approximately the same size as your baking dish.

After 40 minutes, remove the vegetables from the oven and slowly pour the sauce mixture over the vegetables. Carefully top the dish with the puff pastry and press around the edges to create a seal. Return the dish to the oven and let it bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let the dish rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

The Results:

There's few things that can compete with slow roasted root vegetables. Topped with the savory sauce (which simulates traditional pot pie sauce quite nicely) and the flaky crust, you'll hardly notice this isn't a standard chicken pot pie. It's a bit time intensive, but the end result makes for one great weekend meal the whole family is sure to enjoy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Corn Soufflé? Corn Soufflé!

Good evening everyone! Some combinations just sound great – burgers & fries, ice cream sandwich, chicken noodle soup. These are things that, paired together, generally bring positive thoughts to the mind and palette. 

Corn soufflé is…well…not one of those things. In fact, I’m not sure what first came to my mind when I read “corn soufflé” (I know what comes to mind NOW, but that’s clouded by the results of this recipe) all I remember is that the concept was intriguing and I wanted to give it a try. Corn and soufflé are things you very rarely read together, and yet the concept of tonight’s dish was interesting enough to make me wonder if that notion should change.

After you try this dish for yourself, I think you’ll agree with me.

The Recipe: Corn soufflé
Original Recipe Found In: Hy-Vee Seasons Magazine (October 2014 Issue)

What You’ll Need: 
6 Cups Frozen Corn (Thawed)*
2 Cups Half and Half
6 Large Eggs (Yolks and whites separated)
6 Tablespoons Butter (Softened, divided)
2 Tablespoons Honey
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
3 Green Onions (Diced)

* The preferred method would obviously be fresh corn kernels here, but it’s October and the best Iowa sweet corn has long been consumed. If you saved some (via freezing) from this summer, this would be a great place to use a bit of it – for the rest of us, frozen is the only option.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and coat the inside of a 3 quart baking or casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large food processor (and we do mean large…a lot is going to go into this baby) add 4 cups of the corn and the half and half. Pulse until the mixture is perfectly smooth and well blended. Next, add the egg yolks, honey, butter (divided into tablespoon sized chunks for easier processing) as well as the salt and pepper and pulse again until the mixture is smooth and all of the ingredients have worked in.

Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and stir in the remaining 2 cups of corn kernels as well as the green onions and parmesan cheese. Set this bowl aside.

Add the egg whites to a medium mixing bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until they become soft and slight peaks begin to form on the tips. You can use a standard handheld beater for this, but an electric mixer makes much faster (and easier) work. Once the egg whites are nice and foamy and have formed little peaks, carefully fold them into the bowl with the corn mixture. Once everything is combined, transfer this mixture into your baking dish and set it in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. 

Cook the soufflé until the top is golden brown and the dish is cooked through. You can check the doneness by inserting a knife into the center of the soufflé. If the blade comes out clean, you’re done – if there’s a bit of liquid on the knife, it needs more time. (For what it’s worth, we ended up cooking for an additional 30 minutes to reach the “done” point – and we have a fairly reliable oven.)

All that’s left is to serve and enjoy. You’re free to top with additional salt, pepper or butter if you so choose.

The Results: 

The phrase “corn soufflé” should absolutely be in your culinary vocabulary. This dish was full of sweet corn flavor, balanced nicely from the browning in the oven (and the green onions). The highlight was the light and fluffy nature of the dish – it was almost like you were eating whipped corn…and odd concept, but when you try it, you’ll get it. In short, despite sharing two words that don’t typically associate – this recipe is one side dish you’ll definitely want to become familiar with.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ain't Nothing Wrong with Mixing Chili and Pasta

Good evening everyone!  Sorry I haven't been around for a while - I've been adjusting to a new job and I've finally gotten some time to jot down the recipes I've been making.  The weather is getting colder and it's time for some warm, fill-you-up, kind of meals.  This recipe is no exception:  when you combine a hearty chili with pasta, the end result is quite delicious.

The Recipe:  Chili Pasta Bake
An Adaptation from a Recipe Found On: www.pinterest.com

What You'll Need:
1/2 Tablespoon Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 Whole Onion, chopped
1 Pound Ground Beef
1/2 Pound small shell Pasta
1 (15 Ounce) Can of Tomato Sauce
1 (14.5 Ounce) Can of Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 (15 Ounce) Can of Kidney or Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
2 Teaspoons Cumin
3 Shakes of Cayenne Powder
1/4 Cup Water
2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, in a large, nonstick skillet, drizzle the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onions and saute for three minutes, or until they have become softened and semi-transulcent.  Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the beef is no longer pink, about 10 or so minutes.

While the beef is cooking, bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil, over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according package directions are al dente.  Once cooked, drain in a colander and set the pasta aside.

After the ground beef is cooked, add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and green chiles, beans, chili powder, cumin, cayenne powder, and water.  Mix all the ingredients until well combined and let the combination simmer for about five minutes.  Then add the cooked pasta and stir to combine.  Let the new combination simmer for five more minutes.

Carefully, pour the chili pasta mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.  Flatten out the mixture with a spatula and cover with cheese.  Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the cheese has fully melted.  Spoon into serving dishes, top with sour cream and green onions (if desired,) serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

This is one hearty meal!  First off, the chili portion, with the beef, beans, and tomatoes - while it didn't simmer in a stewpot all day, the flavor elements are there and that part works.  Plus, all those ingredients filling the pasta shells, made for little morsels of chili goodness.  While I am a fan of cheese, I'm not sure that a thick layer of cheese on top would have been the best course.  Incorporating the cheese into the chili pasta mixture might have been the better option.  Plus, the spices made the chili have a little bit of heat, so that helped, in what might have been a bland dish.  Overall, if you're looking to feed a crowd with a great, robust meal, this chili is for you!

Thanks for joining us tonight, check back frequently for more fall meals brought to you by myself and Tyler.  Until then,


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Out of this world Au Gratin

Good evening everyone! We’ve been blogging in our little corner of the internet for quite a while now (4 years and counting). During that time, we’ve cooked up hundreds of unique recipes. Some have been instant hits; others have had room for improvement.

My point is, we’ve had some great dishes cross our table in four years. So, when I start tonight’s blog by saying this recipe is probably in my top 5 all time recipes, I think it should carry some weight.

I discovered tonight’s recipe in the Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (a publication issued by the Midwestern grocery store chain) and was intrigued at the unique combination of ingredients and decided to give it a shot. Boy, am I glad I did!

The Recipe: Potatoes Au Gratin
Original Recipe Found In: Hy-Vee Seasons Magazine – October 2014 Issue

What You’ll Need:
1 Large White Onion (Diced fine)
2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
6 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
3 ½ Cups Milk (Low fat preferred)
4 Cups Thinly Sliced Sweet Potatoes (Roughly 1.5 Pounds)
4 Cups Thinly Sliced Yukon Gold Potatoes (Roughly 1.5 Pounds)
8 Ounces Asiago Cheese (Shredded – better if you shred it yourself)
½ Cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese
6 Slices Thick Cut Bacon (Cooked, crumbled)

You’ll want to use a mandolin to slice the potatoes as a consistent cut will help with both building the recipe and keeping even cooking. Set the mandolin to the medium setting (typically ½ inch) and slice all of the potatoes at the same setting.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prep a 3 quart baking dish (with lid) with a generous coating of non-stick cooking spray. (It’s a great idea to spray the underside of the lid too).

To make the sauce, melt the butter in stock pot over medium high heat and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion turns translucent and is cooked through, this should take about 5 minutes. Next, whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Continue to whisk as you add the milk (all 3 ½ cups worth). Reduce the heat to medium and allow the mixture to simmer (stirring occasionally) until the mixture begins to thicken. It’s tough to gauge at first, as the mixture doesn’t really change for the first 5 minutes of cooking, but very shortly after the first five minutes, you should really see the sauce start to thicken and cling to the spoon. Once you’ve reached that point, you’re ready to move to the next stage.

Use a ladle to transfer enough of the sauce to cover the bottom of your baking dish. Next, layer the potatoes evenly across the bottom (on top of the sauce). I alternated Yukon gold with sweet potato and gently overlapped each edge to form a solid layer. Top this potato layer with 1/3 of the asiago cheese, then top that with another ladle full of the sauce.

Repeat this process three times (Sauce, potatoes, cheese – repeat) until you’ve used all of potatoes and sauce. If done correctly, you should be topping the last bit of asiago with the last ladle full of sauce. Finally, top THIS layer with the parmesan cheese, making sure to evenly cover the entire dish. Place the lid atop the baking dish and transfer it to your oven to cook for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and take off the lid. Return the dish to oven (uncovered) for 40 to 50 minutes or until the cheese becomes deep golden brown in color. At that point, remove the dish from the oven and let the dish stand for 10 minutes before topping with bacon. Serve and enjoy!

The Results:

As I mentioned in the open, this is a top five recipe in terms of our blog. The flavor of this dish is simply incredible. The Yukon gold and sweet potatoes blend beautifully with the asiago cheese while the sauce binds the entire dish together. There simply are not enough adequate words within the English language to describe my love for the final product…it’s brilliant and well worth the time and effort to try it for yourself.

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,