Monday, March 23, 2015

Vegetable Chowder



I write our weekly menu on a chalkboard and had to laugh when I realized I wrote this dish down as vegetarian chowder, not vegetable chowder.  With 4 strips of bacon (which I think are essential for the flavor of the dish), I'd say this meal is most definitely not vegetarian. But it is loaded with vegetables, which I love.  And it also has great flavor. As I mentioned, the bacon adds so much to the dish - the soup made great leftovers the next day (sans bacon) but it's definitely the best with just a little bacon crumbled on top.  A little goes a long way! 

While soup season might be ending for some, I think this still is a fabulous option and still works for spring! It's a filling meal but not overly so.  I served this with a salad and I think some fresh bread on the side would be excellent, too.

Vegetable Chowder
Taken from: Pink Parsley
Serves 4-6 as a main course
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only; halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 large onion)
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2-3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme (I used about 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh chives, plus more for serving (I forgot to add)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, 5 to 9 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.  
  2. Stir in the leeks, onion, carrots, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt into the pot.  Cook until the leeks are translucent and the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add the broth and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  4. Discard the bay leaf.  If using an immersion/hand blender, blend about half of the soup, making sure there are still plenty of chunks of vegetables in the soup. (Alternatively, you can transfer 2 cups of the liquid to a blender, and use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the vegetables to the blender as well.  Puree until smooth, about 1 minute -- just be sure to open the vent on your blender and cover it with a towel, to prevent explosions! Stir the processed soup back into the pot.) 
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup half-and-half, chives, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add additional half and and half one tablespoon at a time, if desired.  Top each portion with a sprinkle of chives and the reserved bacon, and serve.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Salmon Cakes



Lately, I've been trying to add a little more salmon into our diet.  We usually eat fish once a week and I've just been focusing on salmon for those meals. I've also been buying the more expensive, wild-caught salmon at our local grocery story and it makes such a difference in taste (and nutrition)! I highly recommend it. 

I'm happy to have found some excellent salmon recipes to add to our repertoire! These salmon cakes were wonderful - while I made them back in February, they seem to be especially fitting for spring.  They're pretty easy to make and come together quickly.  Altogether, they probably can be made in about 30 minutes from start to finish.  I also love that I can mix it up ahead of time while my toddler naps in the afternoon and then refrigerate it until I'm ready to cook them at dinner.  It makes dinnertime go even smoother! I served this with roasted potatoes and sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts, although something like asparagus would be very fitting for a spring menu.

Salmon Cakes
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated
Serves 4 as a main course
  • 3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons mayo or plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin (I omitted)
  • 1 small shallot, minced (I used about 1/4 cup minced onion instead)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup canola oil (I haven't tried it yet but I think you could also use coconut oil here instead)
  1. Combine 3 tablespoons panko, parsley, mayonnaise/yogurt, lemon juice, scallion, shallot, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne in bowl. Working in 3 batches, pulse salmon in food processor until coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 pulses, transferring each batch to bowl with panko mixture (if you do not have a food processor, you could also try very finely chopping the salmon with a knife). Gently mix until uniformly combined.
  2. Place remaining 3/4 cup panko in pie plate. Using 1/3-cup measure, scoop level amount of salmon mixture and transfer to baking sheet; repeat to make 8 cakes. Carefully coat each cake in bread crumbs, gently patting into disk measuring 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Return coated cakes to baking sheet.
  3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place salmon cakes in skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip cakes (add up to 1/4 cup of more oil if necessary) and cook until second side is golden brown, 2-4 minutes. Transfer cakes to paper towel–lined plate to drain 1 minute. Serve.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Baguettes



Honestly, I'm still working on perfecting this recipe.  The flavor and texture of the bread has been wonderful each time but it's taken me several tries to get that crispy outside.  However, I actually think I prefer it without the crunchy crust - sacrilege, I know, but it's so much easier for my toddler to eat!  I think the difference is brushing or spraying the loaf with water before cooking it, just so you know.  But no matter which way this comes out, it's always devoured in less than 24 hours.

Baguettes have always intimidated me but when my dad talked about making it at home, I had to try it, too (even though he's a much better and more experienced bread baker than I am - I grew up on some delicious homemade bread!).  I love that I can make this dough and let it sit in the fridge until I'm ready to bake it. (It actually requires an overnight rest so definitely read the directions before making this!) Actually, the dough can sit in the fridge for up to 7 days so I usually make it twice during a week so we have fresh bread for two dinners! It was amazing served with the chicken parmesan meatballs and I'm pretty sure it would be just as good on the side of a soup or a salad (like the roasted vegetable chopped chicken salad).

Overnight Baguettes
Taken from: King Arthur Flour
Makes 1-2 loaves (could easily be doubled)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur brand)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons or 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  1. In a large mixing bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), add water.  Add the dry ingredients to the water, and stir to combine. Mix until there are no dry spots; the texture of the dough should be fairly soft.
  2. Knead the dough gently for a few minutes by hand (or knead for 1 or 2 minutes in a stand mixer). The dough will be very sticky . Cover the container (I used a clean kitchen towel), and let the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 7 days.
  4. To bake bread: Scoop out about half of the dough and place on a greased work surface (I use a silpat mat).  Shape the dough into a rough, slightly flattened oval.
  5. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten slightly, and fold lengthwise and seal again. With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the of dough into a 15" log.
  6. Place the log seam-side down onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (I use a silpat mat), or into the well of a baguette pan. Cover and allow the baguette to rise till it's very puffy, about 1 1/2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F.
  7. Slash the baguette three or four times on the diagonal.
  8. 13) Spritz the baguette heavily with warm water (I used a pastry brush to brush it with warm water), and bake until a very deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes (the internal temperature should be about 210 degrees). Remove baguette from the oven and cool on a rack.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs


I know I probably mention how much I love each dish in every blog post (or else I wouldn't post the recipe!) but this could be my new favorite dinner.  I love Italian but we're not huge fans of pasta which seems to make up a good chunk of Italian recipes.  But this recipe gives all the right Italian flavors, is easy to make ahead of time, and I love serving it with good bread and a salad (and if I were drinking wine at this point, I would definitely serve that, too).  The best of all worlds, in my opinion.

I love the meatballs although honestly, I omitted the parmesan from them (because I forgot to buy it) so I'm sure they are great with or without the cheese in them.   I also added some extra vegetables to the marinara sauce and just blended it to make a smooth sauce.  Of course, you top it all with mozzarella (and more parmesan, if you have it) which is just delicious.

My husband thinks this would be great as a chicken parmesan meatball sub and I agree!  It's just that when I make it, we enjoy the leftovers so much that I never remember to make subs.  However, I'm thinking I might try to make the meatballs and sauce (and freeze them separately) before baby comes so maybe chicken meatball subs will finally make an appearance in our home!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Taken from: Annie's Eats
Serves 4-6

For the sauce:
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes including liquid
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1½ tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (depending if you want it milder or hotter)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: sliced mushroom, chopped bell pepper, chopped spinach, etc
  • 1-5 tbsp. heavy cream or half-and-half (I've even omitted altogether as well)
For the meatballs: 
  • 1/3 cup dried panko
  • 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley (I used 1 tsp. dried oregano instead)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (I used 1/2 tsp. dried thyme instead)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I omitted)
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ lbs. ground chicken (I used just 1 lb ground chicken which worked out fine)
To finish: 
  • 2-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2-3 tbsp. minced fresh basil (optional)
  1. To make the sauce, add the can of tomatoes to a blender or food processor or use a hand blender.  Puree until smooth.  Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook about 1 minute, until it begins to soften.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, and any additional vegetables, and mix just until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook about 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Puree sauce (this is where a hand blender is very convenient).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream, if using (you can do one tablespoon at a time until it reaches a taste you like).  Set aside, cover and keep warm.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  
  3. To make the meatballs, combine the panko, grated onion, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg.  Stir together with a fork just until blended.  Mix in the ground chicken and knead together gently until evenly combined.  Form the mixture into meatballs about 1- to 1½-inch in diameter.
  4. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the meatballs in a single layer and cook for about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you could brown the meatballs by heating 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer and let cook for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned.)
  5. Place the meatballs in the pan with the hot tomato sauce.  Sprinkle the mozzarella and additional Parmesan over the top.  Bake until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the meatballs are fully cooked through (to 165 degrees), about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and garnish with the fresh basil, if using.  Serve warm.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Roasted Winter Vegetable Chopped Chicken Salad


I really like this salad.  I mean, really, really like it.  I was surprised, too because it was so much more flavorful than I expected.  While I like all the ingredients separately, together, they make a great meal.  I think it's the lemon zest dressing and feta (or cheese of your choice) that really made this salad stand out. 

We were going to a friend's house for appetizers so we needed a lighter dinner -- and preferably one heavy on vegetables. This was perfect! However, I was just as happy (and satiated) eating the leftovers for lunch the next day when I didn't need a lighter option.  I need to add this to our menu again soon!

Roasted Winter Vegetable Chopped Chicken Salad
Taken from: Pink Parsley
Serves about 4
  • 12-16 oz brussels sprouts, stem-end cut off, halved, and quartered if large (about 3-4 cups of chopped sprouts)
  • 1/2-1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tsp
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp juice)
  • 1 romaine heart, halved lengthwise and chopped into bite-sized piece
  • 3-4 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach (or more romaine)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated aged Gouda or crumbled feta (we used feta which I loved)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Toss the brussels sprouts and cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of this mixture, then arrange in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet set over medium high heat.  Pat the chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper, then cook 3 minutes per side, until golden-brown.  
  4. Place the chicken on one of the baking sheet with the vegetables, and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the chicken over, stir the vegetables, and return the pan to the oven.  Cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through (check after 5 minutes, and take it out if the chicken has reached 165 degrees in the center).  
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the lemon zest and juice into the olive oil-garlic mixture.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  6. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, then chop into large chunks.  
  7. Toss the romaine and spinach with the dressing, then gently mix in the vegetables, chicken, and cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beef & Barley Soup



So I know that in part of the country, there was a blizzard last week.  And while New York and Massachusetts were blanketed in snow, we were enjoying some 70 degree weather here! While that might not be normal soup weather, we enjoyed this beef and barley soup so much that it didn't really matter what the weather was like.

As I usually do (I can't help myself), I added some extra vegetables to this soup - extra carrots, sliced mushrooms, and chopped cauliflower.  They all worked very well in this dish - our 2 year old especially loved finding the cauliflower "trees" in her bowl.

We all loved this soup but the person who loved it the most was our toddler.  She had 4 bowls for dinner (small bowls but she still put away quite a bit of food!).  The next day she had almost as much for lunch so it was definitely a huge hit in our home.

I think this soup is hearty enough to have on its own for dinner but we added a salad to round it out - you could also include bread or a sandwich on the side, too. 

Beef & Barley Soup
Taken from: Pink Parsley
Serves about 8 (I halved this and got about 4 servings from it)
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste (I omitted)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3-5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup sliced or chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 2-3 cups of chopped cauliflower (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2-3 lbs beef blade roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4 chunks
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, for serving (I forgot to add this)
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the onions, tomato paste, oil, thyme, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Stir well to combine and microwave for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.  Transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, chicken broth, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, soy sauce, wine, and barley.  Generously season the beef with salt and pepper and nestle it into the slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 9 to 10 hours on low, or 6 to 7 hours on high.
  4. Carefully transfer the beef to a cutting board.  When it's cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces with 2 forks, discarding any fat.  
  5. Use a large spoon to skim any fat from the surface of the soup.  Stir in the shredded beef and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits



I've been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for several months now.  Not sure why I got such a random urge -- probably that it seemed like a fun, festive treat for the holidays.  However, the problem with the holidays is that there already seems to be enough sweet stuff that I never really found a good time to make them.  Also, as delicious as they are, they seemed like a lot of work (even the overnight ones we love that require yeast).

So finally last weekend, I looked up the idea of cinnamon roll biscuits.  I think I had seen a recipe several years ago and the idea stuck with me.  And what do you know, Cook's Illustrated had come up with a version! It has no yeast and is super easy and fast to make. I just got up one morning, found a recipe, and got to work. My guess is that it took about 20 minutes for everything to come together and then 20 minutes to bake the biscuits.  In 40 minutes, we had a wonderful cinnamon roll breakfast!

The texture of the dough isn't the same as yeast-based cinnamon rolls -- it creates more of a flaky biscuit than a smooth dough.  But the flaky biscuit texture was delicious and the flavor was exactly right.  Also, I love that it created the same soft, cinnamon-sugar center just like the traditional roll. (Isn't that the best part?) 

Actually, looking at these pictures makes me want them again. And with them being so easy to make, we could easily have them again sometime soon!

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated via Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 8-9 biscuits -- serves about 4

For the Biscuits:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (I think next time I will increase this to 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream (I ran out of heavy cream so I probably did 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup whole milk)
For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Icing (we don't like much icing so I drastically reduced this)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar (I used 1/8 cup instead)
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or cream
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough comes together. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. If the dough seems dry, add more cream 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Roll the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll the dough into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 8 equal pieces. Press down on one side of each piece to flatten slightly, then transfer to a pie plate. Repeat with all the pieces.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk (and vanilla and cinnamon, if using) and drizzle the icing over the biscuits. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.