Tis the Season

Cream of Mushroom Soup


Greetings to everyone this snowy evening.  Originally the weather man was calling for up to 3inches of snow however I think that we are probably going to see a foot before this winter storm ends.  The only good thing about this weather is that it presents the perfect reason for nice warm soups and stews.  There is nothing as warming as a nice soup on a cold evening, especially if some fresh bread is close by.  I tend to prefer thick and creamy soups, ones that you can almost stand a spoon up in.  Nothing against all those broth soups out there, there is just something about a creamy soup.  Tonight’s soup is one of the first creamy soups that I attempted back in college, and when I realized that just because “cream” is in the name of a soup it doesn’t mean that it requires large amounts of actual cream.  
Ingredients:- 2tbsp butter- 1/2 onion, chopped- 3 garlic cloves, minced- 2 cups bella mushrooms, diced- 2 cups white mushrooms, diced- 3 tbsp flour- 2 cups veg. broth- 1 cup water- 2 tbsp sherry- 1/2 cup half&half
Directions:1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, then add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.2. Pour in the broth and season to taste with parsley, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring, then turn heat down and simmer covered for 10minutes.  Pour soup into blender (or use hand immersion blender) and mix well.  Return the soup to the pan keeping over med-low heat and add the half&half.  Simmer for 10 minutes and SERVE!
I served mine topped with a dollop of sour cream with some French Bread on the side to help scoop up all the good stuff.  One of the best things about this soup is that it tastes like it was cooking all day but takes around half an hour until it’s on the table.   


Good for your Heart

Black Bean Hot Dogs


Welcome! Tis time for the January International Incident Party, which the lovely Jeroxie is allowing me to post late.  When I saw the theme for January was hot dogs, my heart dropped a little.  Suddenly the IIP went from Iron Chef to Kitchen Impossible which made me slightly nervous.  Even back in my meat eating days I wasn’t always a fan of hot dogs.  In fact I got myself in quite a bit of trouble once at a Friendly’s when I decided that the entire restaurant wanted to know my true feelings for the dinner in front of me.  When I got a little older I discovered a slight love for corndogs, but only if they were prepared to my specifications…luckily I had a very nice friend with a very nice deep fryer so this was possible.  Part of me thought of going in that direction, but then I felt like it would almost be cheating if I posted a recipe for something I haven’t eaten in a number of years.  So I started going thru all of my cookbooks, trying to see if I could find something that would work for making a vegetarian hot dog.  I thought about tofu dogs, or egg salad in panko dogs, or even some seitan dogs before finally settling on Black Bean dogs.  Black bean burgers were one of the first vegetarian meat substitutes I stumbled across and I was hooked from the beginning.    While these aren’t the prettiest dogs on the block. they are delicious and extremely filling!

– 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 1/4 cup pickle. chopped
– 1/2 tbsp pickle juice
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 tsp parsley
– 1/4 tsp celery salt
– dash of smoked parika
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1/4 cup corn meal
– 1 tbsp olive oil, for cooking

1. Pour the beans into a blender and puree until silky, adding water if needed.  Add the onion, pickle, and pickle juice and blend well.  Then add the seasoning before blending again.  Drain any access liquid from the blender then hand mix in the bread crumbs. 
2.  Form the hotdogs by placing a few tablespoons of the mixture on parchment paper and molding into a snake like shape.  If you have corn shaped cornbread molds they would also work for this.  Be careful using dough piping equipment to form the snakes as the mixture is very thick.  Once the snakes have been formed (I made 6) place in fridge and chill for 30minutes to an hour.
3.  Remove dogs from fridge.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully place the hot dogs onto the skillet leaving plenty of room between.  Cook for 3minutes and then use tongs to roll the dogs in order to cook the other sides. Serve warm!

As an added bonus I used homemade bread in order to form the buns, which worked out perfectly.  The hardest part of this recipe is turning the dogs so that they don’t break apart.  The best way to avoid this is by making sure the dogs have chilled long enough in the fridge, and then making sure they aren’t overcrowded in the pan.  If they do wind up breaking they just become Vienna Sausages…black bean style!



True 2

Maple Glazed Salmon 
Parmesan Roasted Red Potatoes


“The best laid plans of Mice and Men…you know how this ends.  This past weekend was the first International Incident blog party and needless to say life got in the way.  However just because I missed all the fun doesn’t mean you have to.  So please bounce on over to Jeroxie and see all the amazing hot dogs that are being offered this month. I was able to prepare my delicious Vegan Black Bean Dogs and chances are they will eventually find their way here…but until then how about salmon mousse?
Hopefully this delicious meal will make a suitable replacement for the missing dogs.  There is something about the smell of maple syrup that just says warm and home and comfortable, so perfect for the winter weather that keeps coming this way.

Ingredients for salmon:
– 2 6oz servings of salmon
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 5 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tbsp butter
– salt and pepper to taste 

1. Preheat oven the 350 and lightly grease a small roasting pan
2. Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the butter and partially melt before adding the olive oil and maple syrup.  Allow mixture to simmer and then turn to low heat, stirring to prevent sticking.
3. Use a pastry brush to lightly glaze the fish on both sides.  Place on the roasting pan scales down and cook 10minutes.  Reglaze the fish and then cook for an additional 10 minutes scales up.  Glaze one more time then cook salmon for a final 10minutes, scales down, until the fish is a nice medium.  

Ingredients for the Roasted Potatoes
– 1 lb red potatoes, halved
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
– salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350.  
2. Toss the red potatoes in the olive oil along with half of the cheese.  Place in a medium size casserole dish and cover.  Bake for 40minutes.
3.  Remove from oven, stir, and add the rest of the cheese.  If the potatoes are sticking add a little more olive oil and stir.  Do NOT cover and place back into oven and bake for a remaining 20minutes, until the cheese starts to brown. 

So far 2011 has been an interesting year, and for the most part I’m looking forward to seeing what else is in store.  Hopefully more delicious cooking adventures and some more baking treats!


Young and Loverly

Wild Rice w/Chickpeas


I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m lazy when it comes to cooking.  While I try to cook 100% from scratch as much as possible sometime I go the Sandra Lee route and use a prepared food as the base for my recipes.  Normally I do this because I am craving something outside of my skill level but occasionally it’s because I don’t have the time during the week to do all that I need to do during the day and still have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.  The challenge I find with these shortcuts is making sure I’m not sacrificing quality or adding more sodium/calories then I need.  This recipe is one of those where it is very important to check the label first.  When looking for a wild rice kit I found ones ranging from 20mg to 80mg to 220mg to over 300mg a serving.  I would up going with the Wild Grains brand which was right around 80mg per serving, after a second look showed that the 20mg variety had mini serving sizes compared to the others and would wind up being closer to 80mg once all was said and done.  In the past I have also used the Whole Foods brand Wild Rice with great results, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Wegmanns will eventually have a variety as well. 

– 1 box wild rice mix (look for one that will be around 3 1/2 cups when finished)
– 14oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 white onion, diced
– 3 Plum Tomatoes, diced
– 1/2 cup crumbled feta – divided (or crumbled soft tofu for vegan version)
– pepper to taste

1. Prepare the wild rice per instructions on box but subtract 5minutes from the cook time suggested.  Add the chickpeas, stir, and cook 3minutes over medium heat.  Add in the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the feta, mix well and cook an additional 5minutes.  
2. Season to taste then top with the remaining cheese.  Serve warm!

There is something about having dinner ready to go in under 30minutes, especially after a long day at work.  The ease of this dish also makes it a great Meatless Monday dish, no excuses that it takes too long to prepare or that it contains hard to find ingredients or too many “strange” vegetables.  It is also easily adapted for vegans, just switch the feta for either a vegan mock-feta or crumble up some soft tofu for all the texture and some added protein.


Coffee Cup

Coffee Cookies


Coffee.  Caffeine. Sugar!  These three components are pretty much staples in my diet, and I don’t really find anything wrong with that.  It has been suggested that I am a nicer person once there is caffeine in my system, yet it has also been suggested that too much caffeine can produce negative results.  After seeing one two many episodes of Iron Chef I decided to experiment with coffee, trying to find other ways for using it that didn’t involve a cup.  While I contemplated coffee ice cream my last experience making ice cream wasn’t very successful.  So I decided to start messing around with cookies, which are becoming my go-to-baked good when I feel the need to do some baking.  Ice box cookies are one of those standard recipes that are extremely versatile, and a great beginner recipe for experimenting with new combinations.  I got my recipe from one of the original Joy of Cooking books, but I’m sure it’s in the newer versions as well.  For the tweaking I dropped down on the amount of butter and sugar, took out the zest, and switched out some of the vanilla in order to make room for more coffee.  I also dropped them instead of cooking them, but there is no right or wrong way.
– 1 1/2 cups flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 stick butter, softened
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tbsp coffee or espresso or coffee liqueur
– 1 tbsp finely ground coffee beans

1. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
2. In a large bowl blend the butter and sugar.  Add the egg, vanilla, and both types of coffee.  Mix well and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 30minutes, and no more than 2hrs.
3. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Drop 1 tbsp of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving space between.  Cook 10 minutes.  Makes 4 dozen 2in cookies.

The cookies can easily be tweaked by adjusting the type of coffee being used, for example espresso for those looking for a real kick vs. decaf coffee for those looking for all of the taste and none of the jolt.  I tend to go for the full throttle version, heavy on the espresso and the ground espresso.  It should be noted that I spent the better part of 8yrs working in various coffee shops so I tend to prefer STRONG.
Also as a note applesauce didn’t work very well as an egg substitute, the cookies spread out but they didn’t want to rise.  I am probably going to try again using flax or maybe bananas and cream of tarter but that’s an adventure for another day!


Be Replaced

Butternut Squash Soup

Hello all of you out there in blog-land.  How is the New Year treating you so far?  Right now things are a little hectic over here but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will settle back down again shortly.  I’ve been relaxing in the kitchen, testing out all of my new kitchen toys and seeing how many I can use in one meal.  I must say that I am in love with my immersion blender, it just makes everything so much easier.  Part of me is wondering how I survived making soup without one, that’s how wonderful this handy little tool is.  I just combine that with my new dutch oven and I am one happy cook 🙂  Tonight’s recipe features both the dutch oven and the immersion blender, but it can still be made using a standard soup pot and a blender.  Just make sure the lid is  secure on the blender in order to avoid painting the walls an amazing shade of orange.  Not that I have any experience with doing that….
– 3lb squash
– 2tsp pepper
– 2tsp salt
– 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp butter
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 2 cups vegetable stock
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 cup half and half
– 2 tsp vanilla
– salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425.  Lightly grease a roasting pan or a large cookie sheet.
2. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds.  Dab with butter and top with the salt, pepper, and cinnamon.  Roast in oven for 45minutes.  Allow squash to cool slightly, then peel and cube.  

3.  Once the squash has been removed from the oven begin to heat the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the squash once the butter has fully melted.  Cook the squash for 5minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  Add the garlic and onion and cook an additional 5-7minutes, or until the onion has softened.
4.  Turn heat down to medium high and add the vegetable stock and water.  Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then turn heat to low and allow to simmer for 10minutes stirring occasionally.  
5. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the half and half with the vanilla.  Place in fridge and chill until ready to add to soup.
6.  Once the soup has simmered for 10minutes, either use immersion blender to puree the soup or remove the soup in parts to a blender.  After the soup has been pureed add the half&half vanilla mixture to the soup.  Season the soup to taste and allow to simmer for an additional 10-15minutes.  Serve!

I am a true sucker for winter soups but for the longest time I avoided butternut squash soup, something about it just turned me off.  Then I watched an episode of Top Chef that featured a Vanilla Love Butternut Squash Soup, or something like that, and after realizing there was no way I could do a vanilla foam I decided to start experimenting some more with the soup.  While this soup is not as creamier as some versions out there, I feel like it really allows the butternut squash to come out.  If I knew more about the science of cooking maybe I could tell you if that was because of the vanilla, or if it’s just the simple lack of heavy creams.  What I can tell you is that this soup is perfect for a chilly winter night, just add a nice piece of crusty bread to go with it.


In Days


Happy New Year!  2011 is now officially here and time for new adventures, new recipes, and some new resolutions.  Last year I resolved to go to the gym…and idea that worked well until I was transferred a good distance down the road.  I also resolved to try putting myself first a little bit more often, which has proven to be much harder than I ever thought possible.  So that resolution has come back, in a slightly different form.  This year I am going to relax more and spend more time with my family and friends….and also attempt to leave work at work.  I am also making a resolution to blog more, as part of my plan to relax more.  Cooking for me is a safety zone, a place where I can get away from everything and focus on creating new dishes and reworking old dishes.  Today’s dish is one from the old dish category, in fact this is a very old dish.  I don’t remember the first time I had challah, but I do remember making a very similar bread when I was younger around the holidays.  I remember my mom had to mess around with it every few hours, and I remember standing in kitchen while she braided it.  When it came time to braid my bread I tried to remember how she did, but for some reason the only thing that kept popping up in my mind were the multi  colored cherries she use to put on top of it.  While her breads might have been works of art suitable for passing out to the neighbors, mine is…well…edible.  I guess in the end that is all that really mater.   It should also be noted that I cheated on the first part of this bread and used my bread maker in order to form the dough.

– 1 cup water
– 2 eggs
– 2tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 3 cups flour
– 1 1/2 tsp yeast

1.  Add ingredients to bread machine based on instructions.  Set to dough mode.  For best results do not use the quick rise setting.
2. Divide dough into three sections.  Flour hands and then roll each section into a strand, then braid the strands together.  In order to make a circular braid bring the ends together and gently press to create a seal.  Place dough is a dry location and allow to rise for 45minutes.
3.  Preheat oven to 375
4. Bake bread for 40minutes, or until a light golden brown color.  

The amount of time needed to make this bread is well worth it because in the end you have a bread that is perfect for soaking up a nice warm soup or for making a sandwich.  If you wind up with some threatening to turn on you, Challah French Toast is the perfect quick fix breakfast/lunch/dinner.  There are also TONS of websites out there that will show you other techniques for braiding, and I have to so there are some very talented bakers out there.  I think I will stick to three strands for now, but maybe I should add making a 4 braid Challah to my list of things to do in 2011.