Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Zuppa Bianca (Itlian White Soup)

From what I've read, traditionally a zuppa bianca is creamy from the white beans in it, often part of them being blended to thicken the soup.  I didn't want to use that many beans in mine, so I thought I'd try my own spin on the soup and it came out fantastic!
I started with homemade stock that Justin had made the day before.

I'll remind you again - SAVE ALL YOUR VEGGIE ENDS AND BONES!  Every time we cut off broccoli stems, carrot ends, onion ends, herb stems, and leftover bones we throw them into a Ziplock bag and stick 'em in the freezer.  Sooner or later you've got a full bag and you can put it all in a stock pot, add water, and make your own stock!  It's so easy, you're using every bit of the vegetable, and it's worth it to make homemade stock!

I also wanted to add anchovy, pepper, fennel and mushrooms to my zuppa bianca... also not traditional as far as I can tell, but man, they were a killer, tasty addition!  Served it up with some crusty bread and that was all you needed!  It might have been good with a little fresh Parmesan grated onto it, but we didn't have any.

This recipe makes a huge batch... you could probably half the recipe and it'd be fine, but being that I made it in a huge batch, that's the quantities I'm throwing at you.  I say make a huge batch and you can freeze the leftovers to pull out later when you don't feel like cooking.  That's what we do.

I love punk rock.  But there's a lot of old music that I really love too - I think I can sing more songs from the 60s than most people who lived through the 60s... though drugs might have something to do with that for a lot of folks.  So when punk bands cover songs from the 60s, it's no surprise that I usually love them.  (I never even stood a chance with the Gimmes.)  So let's listen to the Adolescents covering Eric Burdon and The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun"... the only song I was ever able to play on the organ, but probably can't now.  Plus... how many punk songs can you name with a harmonica solo?  -jen


ZUPPA BIANCA
Time:  about 1 hour
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes: 
  • 1 pound ground spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 anchovies packed in oil
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium
  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb (about 1 medium), reserve 1/4 cup of the fronds, chopped
  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper (about 1 large)
  • 2.5 cups diced onions (about 1 large)
  • 3 cups diced crimini mushrooms
  • 1.5 tablespoons minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus extra
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups 1/2" cubed potatoes (about 1 large potato), skin on
  • 1 can (14oz) white beans, reserve liquid
  • 3 cups chopped kale (remember to remove stems)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges
In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, brown the Italian sausage.  Remove sausage and set aside.  Leave 2 tablespoons of the sausage fat in the pot, discard the rest.  (That was all I actually got out of my sausage, but some sausage is fattier than others.)  Add olive oil and the anchovies to the sausage fat in the pot and cook 1 minute.  Add celery, carrots, fennel bulb, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, white pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring intermittently, until vegetables begin to soften and onions are just turning translucent.  Add white wine and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken stock, potatoes and the liquid from the beans (don't add the beans yet).  Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes (fish one out and test it).  Once potatoes are tender, add cooked sausage, beans, kale, heavy cream, basil, parley and the reserved chopped fennel fronds.  Taste the soup and add salt or pepper if necessary.  Serve each bowl with a wedge of lemon to squeeze onto the soup.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bruschetta


I had a craving for bruschetta, so we grabbed the ingredients to make it today.  Really... basil, garlic and tomatoes are one of my most favourite flavour combos!  They're so perfect together.  I didn't realize we didn't have a recipe for bruschetta posted!  You don't really need a recipe for bruschetta, you can make it any way you please.  But if you need a base recipe, this is a great one.  It's how I make it!

Fast and easy and a great way to use up tomatoes if you're one of those lucky people with a garden!  Or if you've been gifted with a bagful from a friend that's lucky enough to have a garden.

I don't think we've had any Ten Foot Pole with our recipes.  You might have known them in their previous incarnation of Scared Straight.  We're getting our rock on with their "Final Hours".  -jen


BRUSCHETTA
Time:  15 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 12
  • 1.5 pounds of tomatoes (about 4)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/4 onion)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 cranks of fresh ground blacked pepper
  • dash of balsamic vinegar
  • fresh mozzarella sliced thinly
  • 1 baguette loaf
Julienned basil
Cut tomatoes into quarters and using your thumb, scoop out the seeds and juice.  (You can save this for a different recipe later or discard.)  Small dice remaining tomato meat.  In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Toss and set aside.

Turn your oven onto broil.  Slice baguette on the bias to make large ovals.  Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Toast one side under the broiler until golden brown, watching closely (it only takes 1-2 minutes to brown).  Flip and toast the second side until browned and remove.  Top toast with a slice of mozzarella and the tomato salad and serve.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cranberry Cheese Squares

I've had a huge bag of cranberries in my freezer since Christmas (and it's April), so I decided it was about time I used them in something.  I'd considered doing cranberry cheesecake, but decided to cross cheesecake with bars instead.  (I like bars!)  They came out so good, that I made another batch with the remaining cranberries to send with Justin to work so he could share (and double-checking my recipe writing!)

The topping and crust is a little salty, the cream cheese filling is lemony and the cranberry sauce is tart with a cinnamon and vanilla warmth.  All three layers just seem to compliment each other so nicely, I was way pleased with this recipe!  It's a little time consuming but I've made them twice now and they're really not that hard - you just have to dedicate some time to them.

Justin was feeling like something early from The Offspring.  "Jennifer Lost The War" from their 1989 self titled album.  This was actually the first time I've heard this song, I think.  -jen



CRANBERRY CHEESE SQUARES
Prep Time:  45 minutes
Cook Time:  40 minutes
Cooling Time:  minimum 2 hours
Difficulty:  Medium
Makes:  20 bars

Cranberry Sauce:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
 Crust:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats (also known as old fashioned oats)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
 Cheese Filling:
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Make the cranberry sauce first by bringing water, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Add cranberries and bring back to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring intermittently - cranberries will pop and begin to break down.  (Careful not to let it boil over!)  Remove from heat and refrigerate to cool while you continue with the other steps.  

Grease a 13"x 9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, butter or coconut oil.  Set aside.

For the crust, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir in melted butter and coconut oil until combined and all flour is absorbed.  Mixture should be slightly clumpy but break up easily.  Set aside 1.5 cups for topping but spread the remaining mixture into your prepared baking dish, pressing it evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.  Set aside.

While crust is baking and sauce is cooling, make the cheese filling.  Using a hand mixer or the whipping attachment on your stand mixer, whip the softened cream cheese on high for 2-3 minutes until very smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly on high until smooth (remember to scrape the bottom).

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over your baked crust.  Stir in corn starch to cooled cranberry sauce, then gently dollop  over the top of the filling and gently spread it evenly with the back of a spoon, trying not to mix it into the cheese filling.  Sprinkle the remaining flour and oat mixture evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  I like to refrigerate them overnight.



Friday, April 8, 2016

Buttermilk Corn Bread Waffles

I'd been thinking about corn bread several times over the last few weeks, but hadn't really had anything lined up in the menu that sounded good with corn bread.  But when Justin took all of the Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits to work with him this morning, it didn't leave us with anything to eat with our leftover chicken pot pie filling.   My first instinct was to just bake some corn bread, but as I was whipping up a batter, I decided some crispy waffles sounded way better.

VERY COOL NOTE:  I actually learned something cool and healthy as I was making these - you can use ground up flax seeds mixed with water to substitute eggs!  My recipe requires 2 eggs and of course, midway through making the recipe with all my dry ingredients mixed, I realized I only had 1 egg in the fridge.  I figured I could use a little extra butter to kind of substitute it, and after Googling, that is an option, but another option I found sounded way cooler.  1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water substitutes 1 egg... thank you very much, vegans!  It's probably not a good substitute for most people because I imagine most people don't keep flax seeds on hand.  We, however, often have some in our freezer for making granola.
(This site I found has a list of 5 Egg Substitutes - great resource!)

I also recognize that most people don't keep buttermilk in their fridge like we do.  You could make this recipe with whole milk, but you have to do a little more adjusting than just that.  Do not use baking soda, but instead add 2 additional teaspoons of baking powder for a total of 3 teaspoons.  Buttermilk has a higher acid content and needs the baking soda in baking applications.  It's science... you heard?

I'm listening to Lagwagon's "Razor Burn" as I am typing this sentence, so that's the rock I'm going with.  -jen



BUTTERMILK CORN BREAD WAFFLES
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  25-30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  5-6 waffles
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (2 tbsp if you like your corn bread less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (or 2 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tbsp water)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (or melted coconut oil)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs and melted butter.  Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients all at once.  Mix just until all dry ingredients are combined.  Spoon into waffle maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.  (Mine cooked in 5 minutes.)

Note:  If you wanted to just bake corn bread using this recipe, just grease a square (9"x9") baking dish, pour in batter and bake in an oven preheated to 400 F for 15-20 minutes.

Served with chicken pot pie filling

Restaurant Style Salsa

I've been making this salsa over and over and over again the last few weeks.  We've just been plowing through it. 
Ridiculously fast to make if you need something for guests or a party or late night munchies, which is generally our case.  I'm having a hard time deciding if I like this salsa more?  Or pico de gallo more?  I think I must like them equally for different reasons.

I'm not sure why I didn't take better pictures of any of the batches I made.  All I did was take a quick pick in a plastic storage container.  We fancy.  Next batch (which won't be long) I'll try for some better pics.

Here's a band from my home state, Illinois - Blue Meanies with "The Infidelity Song".  -jen

 

RESTAURANT STYLE SALSA
Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  4 cups
Need:  Food processor or blender
  • 2 cans (14oz each) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 onion, rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, rough chopped*
  • 5 medium-sized garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1-1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
*For a medium spicy salsa, leave seeds in.  For a mild salsa, remove seeds.  For a hot salsa, add a second jalapeño.

No Cook Version:  Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until desired consistency.

Cooked Version:  I prefer to actually cook the canned tomatoes in a sauce pan over a medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes, then let them cool about 10 minutes before placing in a food processor or blender with all the other ingredients and pulsing until desired consistency.  Cooking them takes away some of the "tinny" taste from the can.  I've made it both ways and they're both good!  This is just my preference.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Buttermilk Biscuit Chicken Pot Pies

Crossing biscuits and gravy with chicken pot pies!  Our deconstructed pot pie?  Or our open-faced pot pie?  Whatever it is, it's freaking delicious.

Justin had been wanting to do pot pies recently; the traditional kind with a pie crust.  We even bought a perfect sized ramekin to make a family-size one in.  But... he's been on another Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuit kick and made such a perfect, huge batch.  We'd recently seen some traveling food show where a restaurant was known for their chicken pot pie biscuits and gravy and we both drooled on ourselves a little when we saw it.  We had the biscuits, we had the chicken, we had most of the vegetables... it was on!

I just roasted some seasoned chicken thighs at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.  I leave the skin on while cooking and it comes out ridiculously crispy, like cracklins or chicharrones.  Then I removed it before pulling the meat off the bone.  I'm not going to lie... I ate 2 of the skins straight up and felt guilt.  Massive, delicious guilt.  I just threw the remaining skins into our freezer bag of broth-makin' scraps, but I kind of wish I'd kept one of the super crispy ones to chop up and sprinkle on top of the plated biscuit pot pies.

The potatoes I cooked real quick while I was chopping up and sauteing the veggies, it doesn't take too long to cook them.  The instructions are below.

This recipe makes a large amount of gravy/pot pie filling.  If it's more than you want, you can always freeze it.  Or just cut the recipe in half.  Or make somebody's day by sharing it with them... that's what we did.  Justin took most of the batch to work to share with his coworkers since it's just the two of us at home.

Going back a little ways with some Stiff Little Fingers doing "Straw Dogs".


BUTTERMILK BISCUIT CHICKEN POT PIES
Time:  about 35 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 10 cups (10 servings - large batch!)
  • 12 tablespoons butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 2 cups carrots, diced 1/2" (about 3 medium)
  • 1.5 cup celery, diced 1/2" (about 2 stalks)
  • 1.5 cup onion, diced 1/2" (about 1 medium)
  • 1.5 cups crimini mushrooms, diced 
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional for colour)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups potatoes (about 1 medium), diced 1/2" and cooked (see How To below)
  • 1 cup peas, frozen
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed 1/2" (about 4 thighs or 3 breasts)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed basil, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits (see recipe here)
In a large skillet or stock pot (that holds at least 4 quarts), melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add carrots and celery, cook about 5 minutes.  Add onion and mushrooms, cook 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.  Add sage, black pepper and turmeric, cook 1 minute.  Add flour and stir until incorporated, cook 3-4 minutes.  Pour in chicken broth and whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to medium and stir in heavy cream, potatoes, peas, chicken, hot sauce and basil.  Add salt to taste and serve over Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits.

How To Boil Potatoes
Dice potato into 1/2" cubes.  Place potatoes in a large pot.  Add cold water to cover 1" above the potatoes.  Add a generous amount of salt.  Bring to a boil and cook about 6 minutes.  Potatoes should be cooked through but still firm.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chorizo and Jalapeño Deviled Eggs


These Chorizo and Jalapeño Deviled Eggs came out so freaking good!  Generally, I'm not even a hard boiled egg fan, but I really wanted to dye eggs during the Giant Purple Bunny holiday, and since I don't have kids I can use an excuse, I had to use cooking as my excuse.  We'd had a lot of Mexican food on the menu, so I was in that mindset and I really thought that chorizo and jalapeño deviled eggs was a completely original idea... but it wasn't.  I see there are other recipes out there.  However, I didn't even look at them because I didn't want my idea to be tainted by what they did!  (Mmm, tainted eggs.)  And in the end, these eggs were fantastic!!!  I just ate a leftover one this morning while typing up this recipe and they're one of those foods that's even better the next day.

I'd just like to note that I had to go to four different stores on Easter Sunday in order to find an egg dying kit.  Either the people were there at 7:00am to wipe out the store for candy, or the stores had already wiped out their own holiday displays to make way for summer barbecue crap!  We put some time, energy and gasoline into these eggs, man!

I heard the holiday was about dead people rising, so Strung Out's "Exhumation of Virginia Madison" seemed to fit the bill for tunes!  -jen


CHORIZO AND JALAPEÑO DEVILED EGGS
Time:  20-25 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  12 deviled eggs
  • 6 hard boiled eggs (see how-to below)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cooked Spanish-style (chunky) chorizo, minced
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Peel eggs and slice in half length-wise.  Gently scoop out the yolks and place into a small bowl.  Use a fork to break apart the cooked yolks and mash them.  Add mayonnaise, sour cream, yellow mustard and lime juice - mix until smooth and combined.  Stir in chorizo, green onion, jalapeño, and cilantro.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (Some chorizo is more salty than others, that's why you have to taste it before you add salt!)

Evenly distribute the filling back into the egg whites using a spoon or piping bag.  (I just used a quart-size zip bag like a piping bag, cutting off the corner.)  Serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

How to Hard Boil Eggs:
Place eggs in single layer in a sauce pan or stock pot.  Cover with 1" of cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Then cover and remove from heat and set aside for 8 minutes.  Drain and cool in very cold water/ice water.  Hard boiled eggs can last for a week refrigerated if their peel is left on.