Friday, August 31, 2012

Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup

The lentil soup was really new for me.  I'm sure I'd had lentils in soup before, but I have no immediate memory of it.  I know we didn't grow up eating lentils.  Believe it or not, we DO try to eat healthy at home most the time.  And in an effort to better our carb intake (which means cut out the bad carbs and add in the good ones that are low on the glycemic index - ooh, science!), we picked up some green lentils.  They sat in our pantry for a couple of months before I pulled them out and just decided to throw together a random soup... which was deliciously successful.  I'm not even sure it's fair to call this a "soup".  I wanted something a little thicker and hardier, so I suppose it's almost stew-like.  Whatever it is, it's good.  And that's what counts.

We rocked out with our friend Betsy's excellent Boston choice - The Unseen, singing "False Hope".  -jen

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (I used 1/2 mild, 1/2 hot)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 can (14.5oz) peeled tomatoes
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • dash of hot sauce
  • dash of Worcestershire
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a stock pot over medium-high heat, brown sausage.  When nearly cooked through, add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Then add onion, celery, carrots, bell pepper, Anaheim peppers, and jalapeño.  Cook until onions are just becoming translucent.  Add garlic basil, thyme and rosemary, cooking for another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over vegetable and sausage mixture, stirring to mix in and cook 5 more minutes.  Then add tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, sherry, hot sauce and Worcestershire.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes until lentils are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Served here with kale chips!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Giardiniera is a pickled, spiced vegetable mix, often used as a condiment for food in the Midwestern U.S.  Jennifer grew up in the Chicago area and was very familiar with this mix as a topping for Italian Beef sandwiches so we decided to try some here at home.  This is not an authentic Italian giardiniera as it has some jalapeños, olives, fennel, etc and the Italian variety, as I understand it, is more spartan with onion, zucchini, carrots, celery, and cauliflower in vinegar.

We just went to the farmer's market, decided what looked good, and went with that for veggies.  I suggest that if you like something specific, use it.  If you don't like something I used, leave it out or substitute something else.  This really is just a pickles veggie condiment so get creative.  Do green beans if you like.  Get nuts!

While giardiniera is usually pretty hot, I don't like to make mine burn-the-taste-buds-off hot.  Add Serrano peppers or more red pepper flake if you like the scorching, mouth-blistering heat.

I know I'll probably hear from 15 different people how this isn't authentic or whatever but you know what?  It's not the end of the world.  This is:  -justin

Time: overnight +20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: About 2 1/2 pints worth


  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb or stalks, diced
  • 3/4 cup banana pepper, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 cup sweet Hungarian pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 large jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • water to cover
  • 1/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives, diced
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
Place all the veggies in a bowl, add the salt, add enough water to submerge the veggies, cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge over night.

The next day, drain and rinse veggies under cold water.  Add the green olives and minced garlic to the drained veggies.  In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flake, black pepper and thyme.  Place the vegetables in your storage container of choice (I recommend glass jars), add the whisked liquid.  Store in fridge for 2 days before serving.

Note:  Storing it in the fridge, the oil will separate and congeal on top.  Either take the jar out of the fridge a half hour before you know you'll need to use it.  Or if you need it immediately, because it's so awesome you can't wait a half hour, just remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds and stir.

It's great on salads, sandwiches, soups, as a side dish for a heavy or greasy meal, mixed in rice dishes or casseroles, etc.

This batch was made with broccoli instead of cauliflower.  (We prefer cauliflower.)

We also sometimes cut the vegetables smaller for a small relish!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Refrigerated Dill Pickles

Jen and I love pickles.  Jen a little more than me, I think, but we both like the Claussen brand refrigerated dills.

We set about trying to find a good homemade substitute and came up with one that's pretty close to the same taste and equally as good.  It's simple to make, costs less than store bought and requires no cooking or canning at all.  All the ingredients are cheap and if you don't have them you can find them all at your grocery store for cheap and have enough left over to make tons of pickles.

We've tried this pickling liquid with carrots, onions, English (or hothouse) cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, garlic cloves and a variety of other stuff.  Get crazy and add fresh herbs or different spices or add some sweetener if you prefer sweet pickles (we do not happen to prefer sweet pickles).  You can also use this for any style of cut cucumber you like; spears, chips, whole, sandwich slices, etc.

The brine tends to last for 3-4 weeks in the fridge and can be reused several times if you happen to go through your pickles quickly, like we do.

I was in a rockin' mood when I made these and thought it was a little odd, and a tad remiss, that we hadn't had a Bad Brains song on here yet in the past 2 years so for your listening pleasure, Bad Brains and Hank Rollins covering "Kick Out the Jams", which happens to be on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack.  An awesome 80's movie, incidentally.  Anyway, here's Bad Brains:

Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Simple
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard seed
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorn
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp pickling spice
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar.
Add all ingredients to a 1qt mason jar.  Stuff full of cucumbers, or whatever you like, and fill the remaining space with water.  Seal tightly with a lid and shake to dissolve and infusilate all the spices and seasonings.  Place in fridge and let it pickle.  For cut veggies, it only takes a day or two to pickle.  For whole cucumbers and such, 3-4 days are required and the bigger the veggie, the longer the time.

I like to slice some ribbons of onion, some carrot sticks, and toss some whole garlic in with the cucumbers and then you've got all the fixins for a good salad or a relish.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Choner Bars

You might be wondering what the hell a Choner Bar is, besides an incredibly delicious, chewy dessert.  Well, it's my understanding that stoners get the munchies.  And I've been told that when stoners get the munchies, they don't want to drive anywhere, so they start digging through their cupboards, making outrageous concoctions with what they have on hand!   So a hypothetical stoner might hypothetically have all these ingredients in the pantry and make a hypothetical chewy stoner bar out of them.  But we wouldn't want to title our bars Chewy Stoner Bars!  That could come with some negative implications, and it's hypothetical, after all... so we shortened it to Choner Bars.  Who are we to pretend like we know the culinary cravings of stoners just because we live in Humboldt County?!  Please... as if!

I chose The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" simply because someone was talking about Adam Ant today, and I was explaining my first crushes... which included Joe Strummer, specifically from this video.  So it was just rollin' through my head today.  -jen

Prep Time: 10 minutes, Bake Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Makes: 12 huge ass bars 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon  
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts of choice (I used 1/2 Hazel nut, 1/2 roasted peanuts)
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar and softened butter in a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until creamed together.  Add vanilla, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; mix in.  While continuing to mix, add eggs, one at a time.  Then slowly beat in the 2 cups of flour.  Fold in coconut, oats, nuts, chocolate chips and raisins.

Press dough evenly into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool before cutting and serving. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bloody Mary Soup

First thing first - I feel it's important to note with this recipe that 3.5 pounds of heirloom  tomatoes cost us $12 at our Farmers' Market.  If you're on a budget, you can always use plum tomatoes in this recipe instead.  But the heirloom are so very, very awesome.  It makes a ton of soup, so I'd say it's well worth the cost!  And most likely, you're going to have some delicious leftovers.

We make a pretty solid Roasted Tomato & Basil soup, and that was my game plan when I started.  But like most things I cook, I decided to try a few different ingredients.  It really just depends on what we have on hand and what kind of mood I'm in!  As I added the carrots and celery, which don't go in my normal recipe, I started thinking about Bloody Marys and thought, "Why not?!"  We really liked how this soup came out!  I was so bummed we didn't have any vodka on hand!  And we were broke, so we couldn't even run to the corner store for a little bit.  The sherry was quite delicious with it, just the same.

As you may or may not have noticed... we've pretty much always posted punk rock music with our recipes.  But let's be real - our music preferences are way more diverse than just punk.  I suppose I could just choose a random punk song that I like to go with the recipe, but really, I was listening to Glasvegas the entire time I was making this soup, trying to sing along in my best Scottish accent (at least the words I understood, which is only about half of them), so it seems like the thing to post.  Here's "Geraldine", off their first album.  -jen

Prep Time: 20 minutes  
Cook Time: 2 hours 
Difficulty:  Medium
Serves:  10-12  

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3.5 pounds (7 medium) heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 head garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 large bunch basil, chopped (2-3 cups packed leaves)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon green Tabasco (or your favourite hot sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon Accent/MSG (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sherry (optional)*
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Chop the top off of the garlic head to expose the cloves.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  On a baking sheet, toss the quartered tomatoes with the remaining olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the garlic foil packet in the oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, add the baking sheet of tomatoes to the oven and roast for 45 minutes.  (The garlic will roast for 1 hour total.)  When cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic out of its paper right onto the roasted tomatoes and set aside until ready to use.

In a large stock pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil plus butter over a medium-high heat.  Add red onion, carrot, celery and red pepper flake.  Saute for about 10 minutes, until onion is translucent.  Stir in flour and cook an additional 5 minutes. 

Stir in the chicken stock and milk, using a whisk to break up any flour lumps.  Add the roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic, the canned tomatoes, basil, green onions, minced garlic, dried thyme, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Tabasco, horseradish and Accent.  Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 40 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in sherry right before serving.

*Note: I think this would probably be delicious and more true to a Bloody Mary is you used vodka instead of sherry... but we were out of vodka!