Monday, January 26, 2009

Hearty Potato Leek Soup

I'm in love with this potato leek soup. There are beautiful step by step pictures if you follow the link, although I didn't realize that until I went back just now.

I made the soup Sunday night, without a food processor, using my amazing immersion blender. It took a little over an hour; I only had to pay attention half the time. I ended up cooking the potatoes for around 25 minutes to get them soft enough to mash/blend, but otherwise found the recipe very accurate.

More importantly, I could NOT stop eating the soup, even before I added the cup of cream. Next time I make this, and there will be a next time, I am going to try using regular milk or a lot less cream as I just didn't find it necessary (although the cream certainly makes it much more rich). It reminds me of New England Clam Chowder without the clams. ;)

It's divine, rich, creamy, comforting and warm in my stomach when it is so, so cold out. I hope you will try it and fall in love too.

Brown Rice Broccoli Cheddar Pie

This recipe for Brown Rice Broccoli Cheddar Pie was proposed as a way to use leftover brown rice, which I never have. It was so appealing that I purchased all the ingredients fresh to put it together.

The broiled cheese and broccoli on top was the best part, followed by the spicy spots from the chili garlic paste I used in place of hot sauce. I really need to buy S'ri cha. It would have been the perfect spicy sauce for this dish. This pie similar to a quiche or frittata with rice and reheats really well in the toaster oven. It is chunky and yet a little soggy at the bottom, which makes sense given the ingredients.

While tasty enough that I would make it again if I ever do have leftover rice, it didn't hit the spot for me. I think the texture is what throws me off, not the flavor.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

You wish Chicken and Dumplings with Leeks and Tarragon was your lunch. It hs been mine almost every day this week, even though I halved the recipe.

The dish has a thick stew-like consistency that is very warm and filling for the cold week we've been having. One problem with using this for lunch is that while I LOVE dumplings - savory, firm yet squishy and in general delightful - I have to admit they don't reheat well. They end up a bit soggy, basically returning to dough.

A few notes: This dish takes a while, so plan on spending a few hours cooking. There is lag time, but you can't really leave the house. In spite of following the halved ingredient list exactly, my dough was too firm to be dropped. I had roll and place the dumplings. I doubt this effects the flavor, but certainly changes the presentation. I also ended up adding a bit more chicken broth to every serving to juice it up enough for my taste.

Um, the picture is really small. I'll have to upload it again at home. I can't figure out how to do that with Picasa and deleted the thumbnail that I typically load up by accident. :(

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Curly Kale, conquered.

For a year now I've been trying to find a way to eat kale since it is so healthy. I've followed countless sets of instructions off the internet: I've cut it into ribbons, I've steamed it, I've sauteed it and I've even made cashew cream to top it, which was real feat without a food processor. Regardless of the preparation, kale just was too bitter and chewy. Nothing about kale made me happy. I gave up.

Then in early December I ended up taking a GIANT Whole Foods veggie platter home after an event. How could I let that go to waste? It was calling to me to take it home. I found easy uses for the asparagus, carrots, celery, etc., but the whole thing was lined with kale. I had to do something with it, so instead of throwing it away, I tossed it in some chicken vegetable soup I was making. It was in there about 25 minutes simmering. Turns out Kale can be good. It just needs to be cooked until it is very, very tender while retaining it's shape.

Ultimately kale is reminiscent of spinach with more texture, if cooked enough. This made it a perfect complement to another one of my healthy winter concoctions, which I'll definitely recreate at a later date. The flavors of this dish went well together and I liked the crunchy, earthy mouth feel. Plus, I knew everything I was eating was great for my health! It's a full bunch of curly kale cut into ribbons and cooked down, cubed sweet potatoes, skins on, tossed in olive oil, cinnamon and cumin and roasted in the oven, and quinoa.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winter Israeli Couscous

In a rare turn of events, I threw together a meal that I found creative, and enjoyable, enough to try posting about it. This couscous concoction was easy to put together, seasonally appropriate and fairly inexpensive.

Unfortunately, my description at the very end might not be entirely accurate as the dish was eaten weeks ago before Christmas. Then again my descriptions, perhaps, are never that accurate.

Winter Israeli Couscous
This prepared 4 to 5 servings, which I ate as individual meals.
  • 1 box of Israeli Couscous from Trader Joe's
  • 3 lbs of Butternut Squash
  • 1/3 c. Italian Parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 pieces (I think) of Trader Joe's Uncured Turkey Bacon
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
  • Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and cut in half. Scoop the seeds and stringy part out with a spoon. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until you can easily poke through it with a knife.

While the squash cooks prepare the couscous as directed on the box. Cut the red onion and place on top of the couscous to steam (in the future I may saute it before cooking the couscous for a sweeter flavor) while the couscous cooks. Take the bacon and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven until not quite crisp, which in my oven took around 20 minutes as expected from the package. Cut up the parsley and set it aside.

By now the squash should be done. Remove it from the oven and let cool until you can handle touching it. Cut it into cubes, whatever size you'll enjoy. Add the squash and parsley to the couscous once it finishes cooking. Cover pan again to keep everything warm.

Remove the bacon from the oven and cut into pieces; I used scissors as it was easier. Add to the other ingredients in the pan and toss. Enjoy.

I liked the texture of the larger couscous. It is denser and chewier than the smaller version, similar to the tapioca balls in Bubble Tea. The roasted butternut squash and turkey bacon provided a salty sweet contrast that spiced up a potentially plain grain. Onions are a safe bet and the parsley added a splash of color with a refreshing flavor. I will make this again.