This or That

 Creamy Double Potato SoupcreamDoublePotatoSoup

We had another spell of cold weather the other week, so another nice warm soup to go along with it.  I guess when it comes to names I could have called this a de-constructed Baked Potato Soup but I was afraid that might be a violation of Chef Law.  Obviously I need to cut back on my Top Chef watching, but even with all but one of my favorites gone I can’t stop watching to see what might happen last.  I have finally recovered from the loss of Tiffani but I’m still trying to figure out how Tiffany is still there.  However I don’t think there is some conspiracy going on with who has been eliminated, I’m not that cynical, or paranoid, yet.  There have been a number of interesting recipes this season and I plan on trying a few of those in the next month, see if I can bring some of that Top Chef magic home.  It should be noted that this potato soup is not based on Angelo’s, I made this the day before that episode aired and knew he was done when he added bacon AND salt in the final 30minutes.

1 lb butter potatoes, skinned and cubed
1/2 lb red potatoes, skinned and cubed
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 cup (soy) milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly grease a large roasting pan.
2. Lay the potatoes on the roasting pan and light cover in Olive Oil along with some salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, turning once to prevent sticking.  
3.  Meanwhile bring the stock and water to a slow boil.  Gently add the potatoes and cook for 30minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.  Blend the mixture using a hand immersion blender or using a blender, spooning the mixture in portions if needed.  Season to taste and turn heat down to medium. 
4.  Add the milk, along with some pepper, and simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Serve!

I served ours topped with some mixed cheese and some nice crusty French Bread.  A dollop of sour cream and chives would also be nice addition if you really want to go the de-constructed baked potato route. 


Make the World Taste Good

When I saw the theme for this month’s Internal Incident Party I was a little nervous since I’m not much of an ice cream maker.  Sure I could go out and get a fancy Ice Cream machine, but that’s just not in the budget right now.  So I tried thinking outside of the box, maybe do a Sundae themed cupcake or a cake decorated to resemble an ice cream sundae.  Then I thought back a few decades to when my family lived in southern VA and one of our favorite places to go as a family: Old Country Buffet.  For me, and my sisters, it wasn’t about the food but rather all about the make your own sundae station that came at the end.  Sprinkles, brownies, oreos, hot fudge, caramel sauce…if you could think of it they had it!  So for my Sundae Party I decided to throw a mini ice cream party for my sister and her friends, complete with all the things that make sundaes so amazing.  The other advantage of doing it with my sister and her friends: PEANUT BUTTER!  To me a sundae is not a Sundae without some type of peanut butter product.  So after confirming that peanuts were going to be okay I decided to just go peanut crazy.  For our sundaes we had:
Chocolate Ice Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream
Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Hot Fudge
Caramel Sauce
Reese’s Pieces
Whipped Cream

Each girl had their own style, ranging from the all they could get (my sister):

To the balanced (Jenn):

To the peanut butter heavy yet simply classic (Elli):

I also did a sundae but the picture disappeared along the way…which is fully possible since I was the one taking the pictures and not my normal camera man. It was a fun time, and after getting hyped up on sugar it was time for GLEE!  The sundaes might not be from scratch but we most certainly put the PARTY into the IPP.  



Hot Stuff

Caramel Apple Pie

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I’ll admit it, I am not a big V-Day person.  I don’t get the point behind what is essentially a Hallmark Chocolate Holiday.  If you love someone show them every day, don’t save it up for one random date in February.  However I’m in the minority and on occasion I will even be swept into the insanity of the holiday.
I have always believed that the best way to show someone you care is by making or cooking them something.   It takes only a few moments to buy a box of chocolate but it can take a few days/weeks to find the perfect recipe and potentially take a few hours to make it.  This delicious caramel apple pie is a great way to show someone you care, if that someone happens to be having an affair with caramel.
– 1 two layer pie crust (I used Joy of Cooking Sour Cream Tart Crust and scaled to 9in)
– 3 Sour apples, cored, seeded, and cubed
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 2 tbsp butter, softened
– 1/4 cup flour
– 2 tbsp caramel syrup (Monin) or 1/2 tbsp caramel sauce mixed with 1 tbsp HOT water
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Place the bottom crust in a 9in pie tin.  
2.  Mix the sugar and butter until creamy, mix in the flour then add the caramel syrup, cinnamon and cloves.  Blend well then fold in the apples. Pour the mixture into the pie tin and top with the second crust, sealing well.  Cut slits into the top of the crust for venting and bake for 45min.  

In order to keep the edges of my pie from burning I use a silicon pie crust cover.  This also helps to seal the edges of the pie.  I normally remove it about 5 minutes before the end of bake time, that way the crust is able to reach a nice golden color.  Nothing says I love you like caramel apple goodness!


Another Day

Mediterranean Eggplant 
So today is my big day, my last day with glasses or contacts.  I’ve taken my eye drops and now I’m just counting down until Joe gets home to take me to THE appointment.  The nerves have kicked in and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to keep myself occupied over the next few days while I’m stuck at home.  I have no doubts that things are going to go well but at the same time, I’m still nervous.I have been cooking lately, but I have mostly been testing some new recipes.  The hint of spring is in the air and I want to make sure I have tons of recipes ready to go once the markets open back up.  In the meantime I have my cookbooks open and I’m tweaking and reworking and trying to find what works best for me.  This recipe is one of those.  It started life as a dish for lamb, now the lamb is gone and the eggplant is front and center.  I also added some additional peppers and onions in order to give it a fuller taste.  Ingredients:- 2 tbsp olive oil- 4 cups eggplant, cubed- 4 cloves garlic, minced- 1/2 onion, chopped- 1/2 green pepper, chopped- 1/4 cup dry white wine- 4 cups plum tomatoes, chopped- 1 tsp oregano- 1 tsp parsley- 1/2 cup crumbled feta (or vegan sub)- salt and pepper to taste
Directions:1. In a large skillet heat the oil over med high.  Add the onion and garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Add the eggplant and cook an additional 2 minutes.  2.  Add the wine and turn heat to medium and simmer until the eggplant starts to soften.  Add the tomatoes and seasoning.  Cook an additional 10minutes, uncovered, then add the feta cheese (or vegan sub) and season to taste.  Serve with brown rice or a crusty bread.
This dish also cooks up very fast, which makes it perfect for a busy weekday night.  I served mine with oregano bread but brown rice would also work really well.  This dish also tastes great with a cup of chickpeas tossed in, nothing wrong with some extra protein! 

C is for Cookie

Apple Cinnamon Cookies
One of the advantages of the cold weather is I spend a lot more time indoors, which translates to more time in the kitchen.  I have found that I’m actually a rather decent baker, as long as I take my time and really think about what I’m doing.  Cooking is, for the most part, rather forgiving.  If you add too much of one spice you have the chance to adjust things before being served, and even in the worst scenario Chinese food is just a call away.  Baking on the other hand is not so forgiving.  If you are off in the sugar, salt, or baking powder then in many cases it’s game over.  When I first started baking I spent a good amount of time working out the right ratio of ingredients so that my cookies would come out the way a cooking should, round and golden, and not like my first attempts, flat and brown.  While I still have a long way to go before I’m ready to tackle Daring Bakers, I’m certain that I will eventually get there and that my house will still be standing.
These cookies are loosely based on the traditional ice box cookies, which I’ve worked with before in coming up with my coffee cookies, but have a slight twist.  These cookies are also an example of what can be thrown together when someone suddenly gets a dessert craving.

1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp apple juice
1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl blend the butter and sugar.  Add the egg, beat well, then add the vanilla, apple juice, and cinnamon and blend together being careful to not over mix.
4.  Spoon the cookies onto a sheet and bake for 10minutes.  Allow to cool on the sheet for 5minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  

This recipe makes just over three dozen cookies, which is just the right number for my house.  For the best results keep the dough in the fridge between batches, or in the very least make sure the dough isn’t on top of the oven.  One of my first lessons in cookie baking came from wondering why my dough went from nice and firm and fluffy to runny in one batch.  Needless to say I have corrected that problem and now keep my dough in the fridge where it’s nice and safe.  


I Eats Me Spinach

Creamy Spinach Pesto Sauce

There are songs about wanting it to snow, but what about songs wanting the snow to go away?  We had our first major winter storm last week and they are now calling for ice to go on top of the snow that still hasn’t melted.  Time to pull out all the recipes that are nice and warm and QUICK because you never know when the power is going to go out.  Hopefully our luck will hold out for this next round of storms but I am ready to go just in case.  This recipe is very simple and is a great way to sneak vegetables in for people that are slightly picky.  
Ingredients:- 1tbsp olive oil- 3 cloves garlic, minced- 1/4 onion, minced- 1 tbsp flour- 1 cup milk – 1 lb spinach (fresh or thawed)- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese- salt and pepper to taste
Directions:1. Heat the butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onions and cook until starting to turn golden.  Stir in the flour and cook for another minute.  2.  Slowly add the milk, while stirring, and simmer over low heat for five minutes.  Do not allow the mixture to boil! 3.  Add the spinach and cheese and cook for 5minutes.  Puree using immersion blender or regular blender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over fresh pasta.
For those using frozen spinach, once the spinach has thawed try to drain it as best as possible.  One trick is to  lay it out on a cookie sheet and broil it for a few minutes, long enough for it to dry out but not so long that the spinach starts to wilt.  In order to have more control, keep the oven door cracked if possible.  This sauce also freezes very well.