Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homemade Wheat Thins

I've begun to make more and more of our food at home.  I still prepare almost all of our meals but now, I've started to make some of the foods we used to just buy from the store - baguettes, granola bars, English muffins, bagels, cereal (a new venture for me), and crackers.  These latest crackers are not difficult at all - the recipe only has a few ingredients and since there's no yeast, you don't have to wait around for the dough to rise.   We really liked these mock wheat thins - not only are they tasty and pretty easy but they just look good, too. Using a pizza cutter to cut these crackers is a great tip because it gives them beautiful straight lines so they actually look similar to store-bought crackers.  Just without the suspicious additives and high price.  Served with some Tillamook cheddar cheese or hummus (or plain), it has been the perfect evening snack for us!

Homemade Wheat Thins
Taken from: Two Peas and Their Pod
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water (you might need to add a little more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender, mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly (I used two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture instead).  Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup or bowl.  Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is still dry, add a little more water.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with a towel so they don’t dry out.  Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle.  Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it’s not sticking.  You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it’s 1/16-inch thick at most.  If you want all of your crackers to be perfect, trim the edges of the dough so you have a rectangle with even sides.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.
  4. Transfer the dough squares to the prepared baking sheets. You can place them close together because they will not spread.  Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough.  Save all of your scraps under the towel to keep the dough from drying out; reroll them all at once to create a final batch of crackers.
  5. Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes.  Check the crackers at 5 minutes, and if some of the thinner ones are browning too quickly, remove them from the oven.  The crackers can burn quickly so you want to keep a close eye on them.  Remove crackers from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Store the crackers in an airtight container.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lentils and Mushrooms (with Quinoa)

I should be posting about delicious spring foods.  Asparagus (one of my favorite vegetables), strawberries, salads.  Instead, it's been one week-long rain storm in our area.  Of course, my husband is happy, the farmers are happy and the frog that has taken residence outside our home is happy.  And while I wait for the sun, the rainy weather makes me want warm soup and stews.  Like this lentils with mushrooms dish.

I'm trying to teach myself to like mushrooms more and this is the perfect meal to do it! The mushrooms ended up being the exact same color as the cooked brown lentils so I could happily eat the mushrooms without really noticing them.  Also, who can turn down anything with bacon? Just a bit of crumbled bacon on top really makes this dish. 

For lunch the next day, I happened to mix the leftover lentil and mushrooms dish with some leftover quinoa and I have to say, I liked the combination even more than just the lentils and mushrooms dish alone! The nuttiness of the quinoa is pretty perfect for the lentils and mushrooms.

If you happen to have spring in your area, you may not want this recipe now.  But save it for a rainy day!

Lentils with Mushrooms and Quinoa
Taken from: Leite's Culinaria
Serves 6
  • 1 1/4 cups small brown or green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 quart (4 cups) cold water or chicken stock or a combination
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6-8 ounces mushrooms, cut in pieces (original recipe suggested 4 oz. small cremini mushrooms and 4 ounces oyster mushrooms)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 3 to 6 slices bacon, preferably thick-cut (I used 4)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with 4 cups of water or stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until tender, at least 35 minutes or so. (The exact timing will depend on the type and age of the lentils.) Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse quinoa.  Add quinoa and 1 cup water to a pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and keep warm.
  3. Heat a pan to medium-high.  Add bacon and fry until crisp. Place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Lower heat to medium.  If you choose, keep the bacon fat (which is so good...otherwise, use 2 tablespoons of olive oil) and add the onion and carrots and sauté just until onion is softened and pale golden, 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lentils, the 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and heat, stirring, just until warmed through. Taste and season the lentils accordingly with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  5. Top quinoa with lentil dish.  Sprinkle dish with extra parsley and crumbled bacon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Herb Crusted Fish

Since we have seafood at least once a week, I'm always on the lookout for good recipes.  Of course, I prefer to find recipes that are fast, delicious and healthy, but you can't always get the trifecta.  But this recipe hits the nail on the head.  We made this herb-crusted fish -- the original recipe called for salmon but I only had tilapia in the freezer -- and it was so good!  It only calls for 6 ingredients (5 for me because I cheated by using panko instead of making my own breadcrumbs) and it is pretty versatile because it got great reviews for salmon but we loved it with white fish. Simple but I love that each ingredient can shine (serving it with lemon is a must for me because I think it just brightens up the dish).

Served with roasted cauliflower and rosemary roasted potatoes, it was an ideal weeknight meal!

Herb Crusted Fish
Taken from: Martha Stewart
Serves 4
  • 3 slices white sandwich bread (or substitute 1/2 cup of panko and omit the olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 6-oz skinless salmon fillets or any kind of white fish (we used tilapia)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. If making breadcrumbs: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. In a food processor, combine bread, parsley, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Pulse until coarse crumbs form.
  2. If using panko, combine panko and chopped parsley in a small bowl.
  3. Place salmon on prepared sheet; season with salt and pepper. Spread top of fillets with Dijon; top with crumb mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Roast until salmon is opaque throughout, 11 to 13 minutes (for white fish, I checked at 8 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fennel and Orange Salad

I've always thought that we eat pretty adventurously (well, barring the first 18 very picky years of my life). I like trying recipes with new foods and different cuisines and Bryant eats just about anything I put in front of him (an excellent quality in a husband!).  However, the first week I signed up for CSA, I got a reality check - my box included collard greens (never cooked with them before) and fennel. I don't think I had ever even seen fennel before and even if I had, I already had a prejudice against it because I hate licorice.

I started browsing for recipes to use the fennel and found a blog post that had an America's Test Kitchen fennel salad recipe.  The recipe seemed unusual -- olives? with oranges and fennel? -- but a wise woman (my mom) once said something to the effect of, "If the ingredient list is so bizarre, it might actually taste good."  Plus, the total time to make was listed as 8 minutes and could be made ahead of time so the ease factor definitely played a role.

While I was hesitant to try this, it actually turned out really good! The licorice flavor is slight and the ingredients blend very well together. At first, I tried to put my finger on what was the exact ingredient that made such an unusual combination taste that good...but then I finally gave up and just helped myself to seconds.

Fennel and Orange Salad
Taken from: The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook via Cooking with My Kid
Serves 4-6
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, tops discarded, halved + sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
  • salt and pepper
  1. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the fennel out on a platter. Top with orange slices and then sprinkle with mint and olives. Drizzle dressing over entire salad. 
  2. Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to 1 day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Since breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I wanted something a little more special for our Sunday breakfast this week.  I keep a running list of recipes I'd like to try so as I perused through the breakfast options, I kept coming up with delicious options but they were filled with butter and sugar.  Since I was in the mood for something a little healthier, I decided on a baked oatmeal recipe that I had bookmarked.

We've been using a LOT of oatmeal lately - we've been making our own granola lately and I just haven't gotten tired of it.  This baked oatmeal recipe turned out to be excellent - actually, I think this made the list as one of my favorite breakfast recipes! I ate more than Bryant did, which rarely ever happens.

I originally halved this recipe by using a loaf pan, but after my first bite, I instantly regretted that decision.  After breakfast, I immediately went back to the kitchen and made MORE for future breakfasts this week.  It's a sweet dish with the brown sugar and the apples add extra sweetness and a great crunch.  If you can help it, try not to peel the apples - you don't notice the peel and not only does it save you time but it adds extra fiber and nutrients to the dish!

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Taken from: Two Peas and their Pod
Serves 4-6
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (the original recipe called for light but I used dark)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and diced (I substituted 2 Pink Lady apples instead)
Optional Toppings (although I thought it was so good, I didn't bother):
  • dried cranberries or raisins
  • sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
  • brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 by 8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, applesauce, melted butter, egg, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until combined. Gently stir in diced apples. Pour oatmeal mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until oatmeal is golden brown and set. Remove from oven and serve warm. Add additional toppings to baked oatmeal, if desired.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lighter Shepherd's Pie

Since I am cheap frugal, I often check out cookbooks from the local library.  And the latest has been one of the best: Light & Healthy 2010 by America's Test Kitchen (the same people in charge of Cook's Illustrated).  I've made several of the recipes from this cookbook so far and they have been hugely successful! I still have several more to try before it's due back at the end of the month (apparently, I've overstayed my welcome and have to give the cookbook up). The recipes in this cookbook are a combination of naturally healthier dishes and lightened-up recipes (and bless them, they try to cut down on the cooking and prep time on the recipes, too!).

We recently tried their shepherd's pie recipe.  Shepherd's pie isn't exactly known for its light fare but with ATK's changes, they nixed 300 calories and 26 grams of fat.  It was delicious and quite honestly, you couldn't even taste that it had been lightened. In this recipe, I decreased the chicken broth to provide a slightly thicker sauce as ours was a bit too soupy.  However, Bryant still said it was one of the best he's had.  And just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

Lighter Shepherd's Pie
Taken from: Light & Healthy 2010 by America's Test Kitchen
Serves 6
  •  3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef (I used 93% ground sirloin)
  • 5 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth (preferable homemade and low-sodium)
  • 3/4 cup beer (Sorry Guinness, ATK actually prefers amber beers for this recipe - O'Douls was their surprising number one choice!)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (3-4), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk*
    *A good substitute for buttermilk is pour 1 Tbsp of lemon or white vinegar in a 1-cup measuring cup and then fill the rest with milk
  1. Adjust the rack to upper-middle position and heat the oven to 375.
  2. Combine carrots, onions, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch skillet (I used my dutch oven instead). Cover and cook over medium-low until the carrots and onion have softened, 8-10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium, add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, 5-6 minutes. Stir in the flour, tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Gradually whisk in the broth, beer, Worcestershire, and thyme. (Start potatoes in step 4 at this point). Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened but still saucy, 20-25 min. Take off heat and stir in peas and corn, season with salt and pepper and transfer to broiler safe 2-quart casserole dish (my dutch oven was broiler safe so I didn't switch dishes).
  4. While filling simmers,bring 2 quarts water, potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a simmer in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 min. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Mash potatoes with buttermilk until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread the potatoes over the filling (they recommend starting at the outside of the dish and spreading to the middle with a rubber spatula) and smooth the top.  Make sure that the filling completely covers the top. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 min. Turn on broiler and broil until top is golden brown, 3-5 min. Transfer dish to wire rack and let cool 10 min.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Turkey Cannelloni with Roasted Red Peppers

Italian is serious comfort food to me...well, probably because I would devour anything with tomato base to it.  This meal was no exception.  I think it's similar to manicotti as well as to the shells that my mom used to make - pasta stuffed with cheese, ground turkey, spinach and spices and then topped with tomato sauce. How could you go wrong?

It was also an excuse to use up more of the greens that we received from our CSA box!  I have to admit, I couldn't bear the thought of having kale/collards/spinach every week all.winter.long.  So I chickened out and didn't start our weekly CSA box until beginning of March.  But we are loving it so far!

Turkey Cannelloni with Roasted Peppers & Spinach
Taken from: Cookin' Canuck
Serves 6-8
  • 8-12 "No-boil" lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2-1 lb. ground turkey, (I used about 2/3 lb of 93% lean turkey)
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach leaves (I used collard greens - since they are a little more coarse, I cooked them in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drained in a colander and chopped into smallish pieces)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, thinly sliced*
  • 1 cup. low-fat ricotta cheese (I used nonfat cottage cheese)
  • 1/2-1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a mix of Parmesan and mozzarella)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil (I omitted)
  • 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
 *To roast your own red peppers (so easy!), follow this post here

  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add no-boil lasagne noodles. Stir gently while cooking so that the noodle do not stick to each other. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Gently remove with a slotted spoon or tongs, and place the noodles directly into a bowl of cold water.
  2. Gently lay the noodles on a clean kitchen towel and dab off moisture with paper towel.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and saute until they are just turning brown, about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute for additional 30 seconds. Add ground turkey, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up with wooden spoon, until turkey is cooked through. Put a lid on top (slightly askew) and pour any accumulated juice out of the pan. Transfer turkey mixture to a large bowl.
  5. Stir in baby spinach leaves (or any greens you are using) and roasted red peppers. Mix well.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool, then stir in ricotta and 1/2 cup of cheese, dried chile flakes, nutmeg, basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. At one short end of each lasagne noodle, place 1/3 cup turkey mixture. Roll up noodles to form tubes.
  8. Prepare a 9- by 13-inch baking pan by spreading 3/4 cup tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange pasta tubes, seam-sides down, in the pan. Spread additional 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce on top, and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan cheese.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Salad with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

We had been out of poppy seeds for several weeks until I could get to our local bulk food store. When I finally did get a chance to go, I went a little overboard on stocking up on poppy seeds (probably why I used poppy seeds to top our homemade bagels this past weekend, too!). So when I found this salad with poppy seed dressing for a salad, I knew it would be a good use of our supply as well as an opportunity to serve the endive and green lettuce from our CSA box.  It was a great combination of flavors and a nice balance of tart and sweet.

Since it was mentioned that this dressing was pretty sweet and I like my dressings a bit more tart, I halved the sugar and substituted it with honey instead.   It ended up being just to my liking although you could add in a bit more sweet if you prefer.  We served the dressing over a bed of lettuce with chopped pecans, dried cranberries and grated smoked gouda.

Green Onion Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
  • 1 whole green onion, ends removed
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (add up to another Tbsp more)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon or dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp (3/8 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. poppy seeds
  1. In a blender or food processor, puree onion with sugar, mustard, salt, and red wine vinegar. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Add the poppy seeds and pulse to combine.
  2. Top lettuce with pecans, cranberries and gouda, if desired. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homemade Bagels

The entire way through the process of making these bagels, I was convinced they would fail.  The starter didn't seem wet enough, the dough appeared too stiff, it didn't rise as much as I thought it should and the bagels had odd crevices on the surface. I kept telling Bryant that it wouldn't be any good.  However, I felt compelled to continue, hoping they would turn out okay.  And they did...more than just okay, these bagels were great.  While I didn't get a perfect rise out of them (there seems to be a curse on our home of getting a proper rise in yeast products), these bagels ended up crusty on the outside with a chewy inside.  And knowing exactly what is in them (water, yeast, salt and flour) just seems to make them taste that much better and better for you.  Goodbye, grocery store bagels.

Making bagels, while not difficult, did quite a few steps.  You start the recipe the night before and have to check on the recipe several times the next day. However, if you happen to be hanging around at home for a day, these are easy and cheap to make.  I topped ours with poppy seeds which seem to have varying success in sticking to the bagel (I think our kitchen will be covered in a thin film of poppy by the time we finish this batch).

Homemade Bagels
Taken from: King Arthur Flour (For step-by-step pictures, see King Arthur's blog here)
Makes 12 bagels

  • 1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I used King Arthur all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cool water
  • pinch of yeast 
  • 4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I used King Arthur all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) cool water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
Water bath 
  • water to fill a 10"-diameter pan about 1" deep
  • 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or brown sugar

  1. Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
  2. Next day, combine the puffy starter with all of the dough ingredients and knead—by hand, electric mixer, or bread machine—to form a stiff but not dry dough (I had to add a little extra water to get the right consistency). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (at least 8-cup) measuring cup, cover, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour. Gently deflate the dough, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They'll puff up very slightly.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water and malt (or sugar) to a very gentle boil in a wide-diameter (about 10") pan. A 10" electric frying pan works well here. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  5. Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole till it's about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 3 ½" across). Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  6. Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, or the end of a wooden spoon, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.
  7. Bake the bagels for 20-25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. To top with seeds, remove them from the oven after about 15 minutes, spray with water and sprinkle with seeds. Return to the oven to finish baking. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tomato Artichoke Soup

I'm a planner. Not surprisingly, I plan our meals a week in advance, However, there are the occasional meals that just seem to slip by me.  I had no plans for dinner tonight but after taking stock of what we had in our kitchen (and perhaps more importantly, what was not there), a delicious-sounding tomato artichoke soup recipe that I had saved fit the bill.  Pair that with the prosciutto, mozzarella and smoked gouda in our fridge as well as the homemade pesto in our freezer for a panini and a green salad to round it out, dinner was sounding better and better.

This soup didn't disappoint.  It had great flavor.  We loved it the way it was although Bryant suggested adding some steamed clams for more of a Manhattan-like clam chowder variation. Additionally, the original recipe calls for all the soup blended but we like our soup on the chunkier side so I only blend half of the soup.  Blending half gave the soup a great creamy consistency but with lots of chunks of tomatoes and artichokes.

It was as if I had planned dinner all along.

Tomato Artichoke Soup
Taken from: A Couple Cooks
Serves 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves  
  • 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained (I used Muir Glen's no-salt tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can artichokes, drained
  • 1 cup water (I used 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of chicken broth for a little extra flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • salt and pepper
  • grated parmesan
  • croutons (try homemade)
  1. In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Sauté the chopped onions, minced garlic and 3 bay leaves until the onions are translucent.
  2. Chop the artichokes into smaller pieces. In the soup pot, add the artichokes, tomatoes (including the juice), water (and chicken broth), oregano and basil. Simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaves.
  3. Using an immersion blender (or blender), blend the soup to a smooth consistency. Add 1 cup milk. Serve immediately, topping with croutons and a little parmesan, if desired.
    *When reheating, make sure to heat the soup thoroughly but do not bring to a boil.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Oven Fries

Two months into my Cook's Illustrated subscription and I am really enjoying page after page of all their hard work.  However, one of the real treasures they sent me for signing up was their 100 Best Recipes magazine.  Of course, I want to try just about every single recipe, but the one that particularly stood out was oven fries.

I'm slightly intimidated by homemade oven fries.  We hardly ever eat fast food but I know fries happen to be near and dear to Bryant because they can be so darn tasty.  So oven fries, although MUCH healthier, just seem like sad imitations of the real thing.  What kind of oven can compete with a deep fat fryer?

Answer: a Cook's Illustrated oven.  These ended up being delicious. And to add even more flavor to the fries (and to let Bryant reminisce about Safeco field's famous garlic fries), I tossed them with minced garlic, a bit of parmesan, chopped parsley and an extra sprinkle of salt before serving them piping hot.  

Better-for-you (Garlic) Oven Fries
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, 100 Best Recipes
Serves 4
  • 1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes (2 large or 3 medium)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp canola oil, separated
  • salt and pepper 
 Optional add-ins:
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (I went with 4 because we happen to like garlic a LOT) 
  • 2-4 Tbsp. fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • extra kosher or sea salt
  1. Cut each potato lengthwise into 12 evenly sized wedges (I then cut the wedges down the middle to make 24 bite-sized pieces).
  2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is heating, place potato wedges in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water; soak 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, coat 18 by 12 inch heavy duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons oil and sprinkle evenly with about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  4. After 10 minutes, drain potatoes. Spread potatoes out on a triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels.
  5. Rinse and wipe out now empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 teaspoon of oil. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake 5 minutes (wipe out the bowl and save for later).
  6. Remove foil and continue to bake until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes.
  7. Using metal spatula and tongs, scrape to loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each wedge, keeping potatoes in a single layer. Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.
  8. Transfer fries to a second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain.  Add potato wedges to the large bowl and add garlic, parmesan and parsley and toss to incorporate. Taste and season with additional salt, if necessary