Tuscan White Bean Soup

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuscan White Bean Soup
2 T olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried sage
1/2 t dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c white wine
1 bay leaf
3 c chicken broth
2 15-oz cans white beans, drained
4 slices pancetta, fried and crumbled (you can substitute bacon if needed)
1/4 c fontina cheese, shredded (you can substitute with just about any white Italian cheese)
4-6 fresh basil leaves, julienned
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and saute about 8-10 minutes, or until onions are translucent and vegetables are softened. Add dried basil, sage, thyme, garlic and white wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes. Add bay leaf, chicken broth and white beans. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 2-4 hours. (Really you can simmer it for as little as 30 minutes, but the flavors are more enhanced the longer it simmers.) About 15 minutes before serving, use an immersion blender to puree the soup(or puree in batches in a blender - but be careful not to burn yourself).
Garnish with crumbled pancetta, fontina and basil leaves.


French Countryside Bread

>> Monday, December 28, 2009

For Christmas I gave Andrew a bread maker since he's mentioned an interest in making his own bread. Having made bread from scratch before, I knew that he wouldn't enjoy the kneading part so I thought the bread maker could do the hard work for him. We tried out our first loaf tonight and it turned out beautifully! The crust was golden brown and deliciously crunchy. Hot out of the bread maker with a pat or two of butter and I was in heaven!
French Countryside Bread
1 3/8 cups water
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 1/2 t salt
4 c bread flour
1 T sugar
2 t active dry yeast
Measure and add liquid ingredients to the bread pan. Measure and add dry in gredients (except yeast) to the bread pan. Use your finger to make a well in the flour and pour yeast into the well, being careful not to allow yeast to touch the liquid ingredients. Snap the baking pan into the breadmaker and close the lid. Press the 'Select' button to choose the French setting. Press the 'Crust color' button to choose medium. Press the 'Start/Stop' button.
Source Oster Breadmaker User Manual and Bread Recipes


Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Dip

About a year ago, one of my friends had a birthday party that was catered and there was this addictive white bean dip and I've been wanting to recreate it ever since. I saw this healthy recipe on the Food Newtork website and I knew it would be similar. The only addition I made was about half of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes because I thought their sweetness would contrast nicely with the creamy white beans. (And because I needed to use them up before they expired.) Anyhoo, I took this dip to a Christmas party and it went over nicely - several people asked me for the recipe. It's one I'll definitely make again!



Andrew's Smokey Red Sauce

>> Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hi there, this is Andrew, Erin's husband. Let me start this recipe by saying that, to me, cooking is more art than science. Whereas baking, on the other hand, is more science than art. So with that being said, please feel free to "trust your gut" and modify the recipe as you see fit.

Half pound of hamburger
3 slices of bacon, diced
1 link of Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 shallot
1/2 red onion
1 14 oz. can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 roma tomato
tomato paste
parmesan cheese
italian seasoning
red pepper
Worchestshire Sauce
Red Wine
Olive oil

Mix the bacon, hamburger, and italian sausage together and then brown the meat in a pan. When the meat is brown, remove it from the pan and drain off the excess grease on a paper towel and set aside.

In a food processor, puree the can of whole, peeled tomatos and the roma tomato and then set aside.

Slice the shallot into 1/16-1/8 inch slices and dice the red onion. Saute in pan with 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Once shallots and onions start to brown, add the pureed tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium.

As soon as the sauce starts to begin simmering, stir in the meat and then the italian seasoning and red pepper to taste. A good ball park amount is from a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of italian seasonings and one decent shake of red pepper. Of course add as much or as little red pepper as you desire.

Add a quarter cup or so of red wine.

Let simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes.

Add a quarter to a third of a cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Cook at least five more minutes.

Add two tablespoons of tomato paste five to ten minutes before serving.

That's it. Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta. Top it off with parmesan cheese to taste and enjoy!


Meatloaf with Tomato Relish

>> Thursday, December 17, 2009

I like meatloaf but Andrew never seems to enjoy it as much as I do so I rarely make it. Earlier this week I saw an episode of Tyler's Ultimate on the Food Network and he did his dad's meatloaf recipe. Afterwards, I had a hankering for some meatloaf so I decided to give Tyler's a try. It turned out moist and flavorful and while baking the house smelled fabulous. Even Andrew loved it! I don't have a picture of it because I had a minor injury in the kitchen when a mandoline met my thumb (ouch!) and wasn't thinking about taking pictures - sorry!




I'm a big fan of rice crispy treats but every now and then I want something a little different. These are tasty little treats that combine the crunch of rice crispies and the peanut butter-chocolate combination of Reese's peanut butter cups. In other words, these are divine! You can whip them up, start to finish, in about 20 minutes too, which makes them even better in my book!


Poblano Cream Sauce

After Finley was born, my sweet friends brought us many, many meals so that Andrew and I didn't have to worry about grocery shopping and cooking while our daughter was in the NICU. One of the dishes was chicken with poblano cream sauce brought by Meagan. It was delicious and I've made it several times since then. Meagan gave me the recipe that she uses but I've misplaced it so I've started using a similar recipe I found in one of my cookbooks.
Poblano Cream Sauce
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 poblano chile, minced
3/4 c onion, diced
2 T garlic, chopped
3/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c whipping cream
1/2 c sour cream
salt & pepper
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the chile and onion and saute about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to blend and thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Use an immersion blender or pour into blender to puree.
Source Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen by Nicole Aloni
**I serve this with cilantro-lime rice (recipe in previous post) and sauteed chicken breasts topped with sauce, shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and avocado slices.


Cilantro-Lime Rice

I love serving this simple rice with Mexican-inspired dishes. Plain rice is pretty boring to me and the boxed Mexican rice has tons of sodium so I try not to use it. This side dish is so easy to make that you really should try it! Tonight I served it with grilled chicken and poblano cream sauce.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
2 c chicken broth
1 c rice
1-2 limes, juiced
cilantro, minced (I usually use about 1/4 c but you can use more or less according to preference)

Cook rice according to package directions but use chicken broth in place of water. When rice is finished cooking, add lime juice and minced cilntro. Stir to combine and serve!


'All the Good Stuff' Salad

This is a salad that Andrew introduced me to and we have it at least once every other week. It doesn't have any lettuce, hence the name 'all the good stuff' salad. You can easily alter this salad to fit different ethnic menues. For example, if I'm serving Mexican food, I'll add cilantro and lime juice to the dressing or if we're having Greek night, I'll add red onion, lemon juice and some crumbled feta cheese. Anyway, here's the basic recipe:

All the Good Stuff Salad
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 small Roma tomato, chopped (or a handful of grape tomatoes, halved)
1 avocado, chopped
1 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
a handful of parsley, minced

1 T red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
3 T olive oil
salt & pepper

In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together. In a large bowl, toss all other salad ingredients together. Add salad dressing and toss. If making the salad ahead of time, add the juice of half of a lemon or lime to keep the avocado from turning brown.


Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

Yum - gourmet comfort food at its best! This was really decadent and a nice little mid-week treat. As good as it was, I did have two cons about this dish - #1) the ingredients are expensive, and #2) the cream and butter separate upon reheating so the left-overs aren't very good. That being said, I'll make it again when we have others over for dinner so we won't have to worry about left-overs.


Ultimate Grilled Cheese

I saw this Tyler Florence recipe on the Food Network website and thought I'd give it a try for lunch today. I was drawn to it because, with its additions of sliced apple and bacon, it definitely was not your ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. It was great - I gobbled it right up! And it really didn't take very much longer to make than a regular grilled cheese. While the bacon was frying, I put together the rest of the sandwich and was ready to eat in about 15 minutes.


Christmas Recipes

>> Monday, December 14, 2009

I thought it made sense to post the recipes I'm going to make for Christmas dinnerahead of time in case anyone else wants to try them as well. My contributions are to be a salad and dessert and I've tentatively selected these recipes:

Warm Wilted Winter Greens

Pumpkin Cheesecake


Sweet Potato Biscuits

My infatuation with the sweet potato continues and led me to this recipe. I actually made these biscuits for Thanksgiving but I'm just now getting around to posting it. I first had sweet potato biscuits at Hoover's, and while I loved the flavor of them, they weren't moist enough for my tastes. I searched online for recipes and didn't find any that looked that great and then I stumbled across this recipe in a Junior League cookbook. It turned out to be a good, basic place to start as it had few ingredients and was an easy recipe to make - especially since I didn't cut the biscuits rather I just dropped them by the spoonful on the baking sheets. The cons for the recipe are that it didn't make very many biscuits (or I just made mine too big) and the biscuits didn't have as much flavor as I was expecting. They definitely have potential, but the next time I will add some more spices to enhance the flavor of the sweet potatoes - maybe a little cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, basically whatever floats my boat.

Laura Bush's Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
3 T butter, chilled
1 c cold mashed cooked sweet potato
milk, melted butter or cream

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Add the sweet potato and mix well. Pat the dough 3/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Arrange the biscuits on a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or just until the biscuits begin to brown.

Source: Austin Entertains - The Junior League of Austin



>> Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This was a recipe that I actually followed exactly. Okay, I did make one change - I garnished the tiramisu with cocoa powder and shaved bittersweet chocolate. It may not have photographed very well but it tasted just like what you'd get at a nice restaurant - the coffee-rum mixture is the key! The only downside is that the ingredients are slightly expensive, but when you want a little splurge, this recipe is worth it. Here's the link to the recipe I used: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tiramisu-II/Detail.aspx


Roasted Chicken and Caramelized Onion Risotto

This risotto was fantastic - a rich, creamy texture, and lots of great flavors. For the longest time, I never made risotto because I'd always heard it was difficult to do and that it took a long time to make. But I ran across this recipe and thought it sounded like it would be delicious and then I saw a Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meals episode during which she made a risotto. I figured if she could make it in 30 minutes, then I could too! One of the things I learned from watching her show was that you don't have to constantly stir the risotto, so while the risotto cooked, I was able to put together the caprese salad and clean up the kitchen. My kind of recipe! Here is the recipe that I used for the basis of my recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Roasted-Chicken-with-Risotto-and-Caramelized-Onions/Detail.aspx

And of course, I can never follow a recipe exactly, so here's what I did:

Erin's Roasted Chicken and Caramelized Onion Risotto
4 T butter, divided
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 1/4 c white wine, divided
2 T olive oil
2 c arborio rice
6 c chicken broth (I used 4 c chicken broth and 2 c beef broth because I had some to use up)
1/2 c parmesan, grated
1/2 c pecorino romano, grated
rotisserie chicken, white meat picked off and warmed
parsley, minced, for garnish

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 T butter and add onions. Stir occasionally and allow onions to cook for about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/4 c white wine. Continue to cook until mushrooms and onions are browned and tender and wine has evaporated, about 10-15 more minutes. Place mixture on a plate.

In the same skillet (no need to clean it), add olive oil. While the oil is heating, place a small saucepan over medium-high heat and add broth. Keep the broth simmering in the saucepan while the risotto is cooking. When oil is rippling, place mushrooms and onions back in the skillet and add the rice. Stir to combine the flavors and toast the rice for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 c white wine and stir well. When the wine has been completely absorbed, add two ladles of the simmering broth, stir and allow the rice to absorb the liquid. Continue doing this until all the broth has been added, about 20-22 minutes. After the last of the broth has been used, add 2 T butter and the cheeses. Stir well to combine.

Place risotto on the plates and top with the warmed chicken and minced parsley.


Caprese Salad

I love a good caprese salad but I wanted to do something a little different so here is my twist on the Italian classic! It tasted great and looked pretty fancy, if I do say so myself. I'll keep this recipe in mind the next time we have company over for dinner.

Caprese Salad - serves 2
1 large bunch of fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, plus more for garnish
a handful of parmesan, grated
olive oil
2 red ripe tomatoes
fresh mozzarella ball
To make the pesto: in a food processor, combine fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and process until it is finely chopped. With the blade running, add olive oil a tablespoon at a time until the pesto comes together to the consistency that you desire. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until needed. (Sorry my measurements aren't very specific, but I usually just eyeball things. Also, this will make more pesto than is needed for this salad but you can always keep it in the fridge for another use.)
Cut tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Season with salt and pepper and place tomato slices in a colander for 15 minutes to drain some of their liquid. Meanwhile, mozzarella into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices.
To plate the salad, alternate tomato and mozzarella slices. Drizzle pesto over their tops and sprinkle with reserved pine nuts. If desired, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar around the plate.


Crab Crepes

>> Monday, December 7, 2009

This is an old family recipe from my mom's cousin Anita and it has been served at many family gatherings. I had been wanting to cook something with crab and this recipe popped into my head because my mom made it for my birthday dinner last month. It's a little time-consuming because you have to make the crepes but it's well worth it, if you ask me! For the crepes, I just use a basic crepe recipe and then add about 3-4 sliced green onions (or 6-8 snipped chives) to the batter.

For the filling
1 T butter
2 T onion, minced
6 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 t rosemary
1/4 c white wine
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 c sour cream
1 lb crab
2 T parsley
1 c Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt butter and saute mushrooms and onions for a minute or two. Add wine and rosemary and cook an additional 3-5 minutes or until onions soften. Stir in flour. Slowly add chicken broth and stir until it is all incorporated. Cook 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add sour cream, crab and parsley. Stuff each crepe with about three heaping tablespoons of filling and roll up. Place crepes into a greased dish and top with Swiss cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.


Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Parsnips may be my new favorite vegetable! This dish was simply devine and so easy to make. I quartered the recipe since it was just for Andrew and me but I really wish I'd made more because it was that good. I will make this recipe again - and soon! Here's the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Honey-Glazed-Roasted-Carrots-and-Parsnips-233404


Peppermint Bark

>> Sunday, December 6, 2009

1 bag dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 bag white chocolate chips
8 candy canes, crushed

Line a cookie sheet with a silpat sheet or parchment paper. In a glass bowl, combine dark chocolate chips and peppermint extract. In the microwave, cook them in increments of 20 seconds, stirring after each time, until the chips are melted. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate onto the cookie sheet to create a large, thin sheet. Cool in the refrigerator so the chocolate will harden.

After the dark chocolate layer has set up, heat the white chocolate chips in the same manner as the dark. Spread it over the dark chocolate to create a double-layered peppermint bark. While the white chocolate is still melted, quickly sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the white chocolate layer and press them in slightly to make sure they adhere. Cool in the refrigerate. When it has hardened, break into pieces.


Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

This weekend I started tackling my holiday baking. The first recipe on my list is hardly even a recipe, it's so easy. Simply mix together your favorite peanut butter cookie dough (I usually use refrigerated dough or a dough mix because it's such a time saver), roll them into quarter-size balls and bake them in a mini-muffin pan for about 15 minutes. Immediately after removing them from the oven, press a miniature Reese's peanut butter cup into the cookie/muffin. And then quickly give them away because they are totally addicting!


Pumpkin Tortellini with Brown Butter Sauce

Okay so I totally cheated on this one - I used store bought tortellini. Gasp and shudder! In my defense, it was fresh tortellini from Central Market so I figured it was a high-quality shortcut. For the sauce I cooked 4 tablespoons butter and julienned fresh sage leaves over medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes until the butter had turned brown (hence the name of the sauce!). I tossed the tortellini with the butter and sage and topped it with shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts. Yummy and a wonderful weekend lunch!


Greek Pizza

>> Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Simple and fast dinner! I usually have most of the ingredients in my fridge so with just a little chopping, I can have dinner in the oven in about 15 minutes. It's also a nice change from the regular red sauce pizza that you usually get. And it tastes good to boot!
Greek Pizza
1 chicken breast, cooked and sliced or shredded
store-bought pesto
pizza shells
artichoke hearts, chopped
sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
kalamata and/or green olives, chopped
assorted cheeses - feta, fresh mozzarella, parmesan - I usually just clean out the fridge and use
whatever nubs of cheese I have left-over from other recipes
Brush pizza shells liberally with pesto. Top with chicken, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and cheeses. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Easy-peasy!


Stuffed Mushrooms

I love trying recipes that have a seemingly odd combinations of flavors and this one fits the bill with raisins, pine nuts, sausage and olives. It is a Tyler Florence recipe and I almost always like what he cooks and this one did not disappoint. I served it as an appetizer on Thanksgiving and there weren't any of them left. Overall, I thought they were really good, pretty hearty and I will definitely make them again. (I didn't get a good picture so I'm using the picture on Food Network's website.)


Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

Having a wee little one at home, I got off easy this Thanksgiving and didn't have to make very much. One of my additions to the menu was this very easy cranberry sauce. Seriously, if you've never made cranberry sauce before, you should try to - it's very simple and tastes so much better than canned.

Cranberry Sauce

16 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 c cranberry juice
juice and zest from 1 large orange
1 1/2 c sugar
1 jalapeno, minced (you could also use fresh minced ginger)

In a small pot, combine all ingredients and cook over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool and as it cools the sauce will thicken up. Refrigerate until serving.


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