Thursday, January 27, 2011

Creamy Tomato Soup

The creamless creamy tomato soup recipe from Cook's Illustrated (obtained from their recipe app) is wonderful.  This soup is on a totally different level than canned tomato soup.  It has a creamy texture and a light, fresh taste.  The short ingredient list and ease with which it is made are added bonuses. 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice
1 Tab brown sugar
3 large slices good quality sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1" pieces
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Heat 2 Tab oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat until simmering.  Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice.  Mash with a potato masher until no pieces bigger than 2" remain.  Stir in sugar and bread.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes.  Remove and discard bay leaf. 
Transfer half of soup to a blender and add 1 Tab oil.  Blend until smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil.  (Or, use an immersion blender in the Dutch oven and blend it all up at once.)  Return soup to Dutch oven.  Stir in chicken broth.  Return soup to a boil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Homemade Oreo Cookies

The kids and I are spending the week at my parents' house while we have some work done on our house. Today, my sister-in-law, Jenny, came over and made some amazing cookies. These were soft yet crisp chocolate wafers with creamy filling. As with most things homemade, these were much better than Oreos from the store. And, they were easy to make.

makes 25-30 sandwich cookies

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar [see recipe note]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used clear vanilla extract)
Optional- Gel dye

1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. (Optional: Blend in a tiny bit of gel dye until you reach the desired color.)

6. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pho Tofu Soup

We love going out for Vietnamese pho noodle soup.  Even Jacob gobbles up the long noodles and slurps the flavorful broth.  The soup is uncomplicated but full of complex flavors. 

I decided to try making some at home.  Mine was just as delicious as the restaurant's.  I could never recreate the full flavored broth on my own, so I based mine on a recipe I found online at  Start with the broth and add whatever meat, vegetables, sauce, and toppings you like. 

1 yellow onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic, halved
1" piece of ginger, quartered
2 pods star anise
4 cloves
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
dash of cinnamon
3 Tab soy sauce
1lb noodles (use whatever you prefer)
3 cups cubed, fried tofu
3 cups diced mushrooms
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 lemon, cut into wedges
sauces (satay, sriracha, chili garlic, etc)

In a large pot, heat onion, garlic, ginger, star anise, and cloves over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is charred and tender, about 7 minutes.
Stir in broth, water, cinnamon, and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.  Drain broth and discard solids.  (For more flavor, let broth cool to room temp with solids and refigerate overnight.  Drain and continue with recipe.)
Return broth to boil in large pot.  Stir in noodles and cook according to package directions.  Stir in mushrooms and tofu and heat through.  Serve soup with green onions, cilantro, lemon, and sauces.  

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fudge Pops in the Zoku

I received a Zoku ice pop maker for Christmas.  So far, I have only used it one time, but I already love it!  It freezes pops in about 7 minutes and they are very easy to remove from the molds.  I know cold winter weather does not inspire many to eat ice pops, but my family loves frozen treats year round!

I made a Gourmet magazine recipe I found for frozen fudge pops.  They tasted just like fudge pops should taste- creamy and chocolatey.  These can be made in any pop mold, but the total time increases from about 20 minutes to 24 hours. 

Here is how I made them:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tab dark corn syrup
6 Tab unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, heat milk, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder over medium heat.  Stir until sugar and cocoa powder have dissolved.  Cool to room temperature and pour into pop molds and freeze until firm. 
If using traditional molds:  Freeze 30 minutes.  Insert sticks and freeze until firm, about 24 hours.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Honey Mustard Chicken Kabobs

Jacob loves eating things on a stick, so kabobs are a great way to get him to eat his meat and vegetables.  Last night, I made kabobs in the broiler.  The chicken, onion, mushroom, and bell pepper went great with rice and honey mustard.  We decided this would go well with just about any sauce.  I plan to make it again and experiment.

Here is how I made it last night:

1/4 cup honey mustard, plus more for serving (not dressing, just "honey mustard")
3 Tab lemon juice
3 Tab olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 lb button mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, cut into eight large chunks and broken apart
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
cooked brown rice

If using bamboo skewers, soak in water 20-30 minutes to prevent burning. 
Preheat broiler.  Prepare two large baking sheets by covering them with foil and spraying with non-stick spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together honey mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Thread chicken, mushrooms, onion, and peppers onto skewers.  Brush with honey mustard mixture.  Place under broiler and broil until chicken is cooked and veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. 
Serve with rice and honey mustard on the side.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Tonight, we all enjoyed some surprisingly good stuffed peppers.  Roasting the peppers made them tender and sweet.   They were stuffed with a cheesy veggie and rice mixture. 

The recipe calls for cooking the peppers in a slow cooker for about 4 hours, but, according to a review on the Taste of Home website,  they may also be cooked in a 425 degree oven for about half an hour.  (When trying a recipe, always read the reviews- they are usually very helpful and informative.)

Here is how I made the recipe:

6 large sweet peppers (red, yellow, and orange)
2 cups cooked brown rice
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup cubed Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 tsp basil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup tomato sauce, seasoned with pepper, basil, and oregano
1/2 cup water
2 Tab grated Parmesan cheese

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine rice, tomatoes, corn, onion, beans, Monterey Jack cheese, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Spoon into peppers. 
Combine tomato sauce and water.  Pour half into slow cooker.  Add the stuffed pepper.  Top with remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with 2 Tab Parmesan. 
Cover and cook on high about 3 hours, or until peppers are tender. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Curried Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

I refused to go to the grocery store for a third time in three days, so I turned to the ingredients search on  I entered in "chicken", "brown rice", and "tomatoes" and found a recipe for curried chicken and brown rice casserole.   It tasted really good.  I liked the spicy curry flavor on the chicken and brown rice, and I loved that it cooks all together in the oven.  Easy!  I was a bit skeptical of the raisins, but they blended beautifully with the spice.

Here is how I made it:

1/2 of the tomatoes from a 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes and all the juice
3/4 cup brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tab lemon juice
3 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients.  Transfer to a casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked.