Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rockin' Recipe ~ Homemade Ketchup!

Long before I had kids and knew how they could change your life, I visited the friend of a friend and saw, on her table, a bottle of homemade ketchup. I vowed if I ever made ketchup, that I would hang it up. I’d be hopelessly old and seriously not have enough to do with myself.

Then the Little Mouths came into my life.

And let me tell you what. Being wholly responsible for two of God’s own miracles changes a person. I know it changed me. My lovely Little Mouths have caused a carefree, convertible driving, red toenails kinda girl to morf into a minivan mama sorely in need of a pedicure. Who makes ketchup. For blender week.

And do you know the funniest thing? I’m okay with it. Really.

Worcestershire Tomato Ketchup (Inspired by Guy Fieri)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion

8 Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped up

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon dried mustard

Saute onions in the oil over medium heat. Cook until brown and caramelized. Add the tomatoes, and garlic and cook for a few minutes, just to soften the vegetables. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

I put the whole mess in the blender and let her whirl. I didn’t have high hopes. This looked like a hot mess (LITERALLY!)before I put in in the blender, but after a few seconds. Viola! Rich, beautiful, KETCHUP!

Thumbs up from Big Mama and a big Amen! From the littlest of mouths.

This posted linked to these GREAT blogs...Looky Here~!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ode to the Humble Smoothie

 Once upon a time, Big Mama was getting WAY to big.  Big Mama tried every diet in the world, but to no avail.  Big Mama lost and gained the same 50 pounds three times in the last three years.  Big Mama knew she should eat less, but she was HUNGRY!  Since eating less wasn't working she had to think of a new plan and she thought and she thought.  Then she realized, while she might never be a Little Mama, if she didn't want to stay an extra-large one something was going to have to give.

If I didn't want to eat less...then I had to eat better.

Both of my Little Mouths are slim and Big Mama had often joked if she just followed the Biggest Little Mouth around and ate what she did, she'd be perfectly proportioned like her.  But maybe that wasn't a joke.  BLM (Big Little Mouth) eats her weight in fruits and veggies nearly every week.  No joke!  The kid eats non-stop.  But she doesn't eat french fries or cheese burgers.  She eats pretty much every fruit or veggie and has a whole crisper drawer to herself. Thus our year of learning to eat our veggies...and our new challenge. 

But some challenges are easier said than done.  Changing from a carb addict to a veggie lover is easier said than done.  I haven't avoided eating veggies for 40 years because I didn't know where the produce section was, I didn't eat them because I didn't like them.  At least not the ways I'd been served them in the past, and goodness knows I didn't cook them myself.

Then one day while searching for an ice cream substitute, I got out my trusty blender.  It was GREAT!  I was so proud of myself I posted the recipe.  Ssmoooooottttthhiiiieeee anyone?  The someone posted a comment that totally showed me up.  Hers had spinach and kale!  Gack!

It took me a few weeks to work up to it, but I met her challenge (thank you Sara!) and before long I was sippy my leafy green veggies like a pro.  And do you know what else?  I started losing weight and gaining energy.  I wasn't starved at 10 AM and super-sizing at lunch.  I was jonesing for caffeine at 2:00 to avoid falling asleep at my desk.  Hmmmmm.  My nutrient filled breakfast seemed to be making a huge difference.

I am also down to only one cup of coffee a day...sometimes two. But from a solid 6-8 cup a day person, that's amazing in and of itself.  And I didn't even try to do that.  It just happened.

So thank you SARA for the inspiration and the challenge (even though you didn't know you were issuing one when you shared the recipe)  This Big Mama has definably changed for the better.

Good Morning Smoothie

Chuck anything good for you in the blender with some yogurt, a frozen banana, fruit or veggie juice and some green leafy veggie.  Warning!  Do not use arugula by accident.  Makes a very gross smoothie.  Do use up some of the produce that is just past it's prime.  It's a great way to keep less than fresh fruit and veggies from going to waste.  If you don't have time to use them, just put them in the freezer and use anytime.

My morning smoothie recipe changes daily, but usually looks something like this.

1 frozen banana

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

Fage Total Greek Yogurt, (500g) 17.6oz

1/2 cup carrot or green goddess raw juice

1 cup spinach or kale

1/2 cup orange juice (for the sweetness)

1/2-1 cup leftover or frozen fruit

This make a big 20 oz cup to go and is enough to fuel me through the morning.  I drink it on my way to work.

Check out my page "Looky Here" to visit all of the awesome places this recipe is shared!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Monday February 2011, Week Three

I thought we'd try a couple of theme weeks in the last remaining weeks until our CSA starts the week of March 8th.  This week is BLENDER week, one of the most often overlooked but useful of the kitchen appliances. 

For most of us, blenders have gone the way of the Edsal. 

But for me, while there are many of my kitchen gadgets that I love to pieces, my lemon zester alone makes my heart go pitter pat...but my blender holds a special place in my heart. It's not a fancy one, like this:
KitchenAid KSB465WH 4-Speed Countertop Blender with 48-Ounce Polycarbonate Jar, White
or this

Cuisinart SPB-600 SmartPower Deluxe Blender

My blender was a wedding gift for my parent in 1968.  It has seen my through margaritas and middle of the night milkshakes and now my newest fave, smoothies.  It has a few chips and you have to jiggle it just a little bit to get things to mix but I love it just the same.  It looks exactly like this:

Sunday         Shrimp Bisque and Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette (Blender Recipe to Follow)
Monday        Turkey Meatloaf and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes (Blender Recipe to Follow)
Tuesday        Orange Glazed Pork Chops Potatoes and Onions
Wednesday  Hamburgers w/Worcestershire Ketchup (Blender Recipe to Follow) and Garlic Fries
Thursday      Dreamy, Creamy Chicken , Rice and and Broccolini
Friday          EAT OUT!
Saturday      Fish Sandwiches with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise (Blender Recipe to Follow)

Link your meal plan this week to mine!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Soup-er Sunday Smokey Sweet Potato Bisque

Today was one of those days that didn't really go like I thought it would. It's BLENDER week, here at Big Mama, Little Mouths and I'd planned on making Shrimp Bisque to kick it off. In preparation, I peeled my sweet potatoes and had the onions on to caramelize.

Then the phone rang. The Girly Little Mouth was desperately needed at a friend's house...then it rang again and my aunt had some skillet steaks that needed to be used today and she was bogged down with school work, could I cook them for dinner.

Okay, this Big Mama can roll. No problem. Change of plans and two new opportunities to create recipes. We're not huge red meat eaters, so I didn't really know what to do with the steaks. The photo on the label showed the thin steaks bubbling in a pan with I did that. Added some wine and some stock and made a nice sauce. Good to go.

But I still had these sweet potatoes and onions...not enough from mashed sweet potatoes, I decided to whip up a soup as planned. But I decided not to add the shrimp, we were already getting plenty of protein with the steak. So, a new favorite recipe! Big and Little Mouths both gave it a thumbs up!

Smokey Sweet Potato Bisque

1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes
1 Teaspoon smoky paprika
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock

Roughly chop onion and saute in olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot.  Dice sweet potatoes and throw them in the pot with the garlic, paprika and chili powder.  Allow to caramelize slightly, then deglaze the pot with the white wine.  Stir to release all the yummy brown bits from the bottom on the pan and add the chicken stock.  Simmer until the sweet potatoes are mushy then blend in blender or with immersion blender.

Return to pot and bring back to a simmer.  Turn off heat, add fat free half and half and serve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sandwich Saturday!

I've been trying to clean out my pantry and freezer and came across a big packaged of sliced roast beef left over from goodness knows when.  I defrosted it and decided it wasn't too worse for wear and contemplated what to do with it.  I combined it with some onions, brie and arugula and made this FABO sandwich.  It was so good, I've made it twice in two weeks.  Everyone loved it, even the Littlest Little Mouth when I left off the onions and anything green.  

Metro Cast Iron Panini Press #1108Speaking of Paninis.  What kind of press do you use?  I have one like this, that doubles as a grill pan.  FYI, I figured out it you heat the top on a separate burner before smashing it down on the sandwiches, it works better.  The only drawback is that I can only make two sandwiches at a time, so those first two get a little...less fresh and hot while I'm making sandwich three.  Not too big of a deal, as the Little Mouths really don't like their stuff to be too hot.  But it would be nice to have something bigger when other adults are around. 

Like this:Calphalon HE600CG Removable-Plate Nonstick Countertop GrillDoes anyone have one?  Do you love it or does it just eat in to your counter space?  Please advise!

Roast Beef and Brie Panini

1 sliced sweet onion
1 small clove of garlic
6 slices of roast beef
2 oz. Brie
Small handful of arugula
Bread of your choice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil or butter for the outside of the bread

Slice the sweet onion and saute with a bit of olive oil or butter.  Cut the roast beef into slices and brown with the onions.  Spread Brie onto two of the slices of bread.  I used day old No Knead Bread.  Add the roast beef/onion mixture, top with arugula, spray the outside of the bread with oil or coat with butter and put into preheated press. 

Thumbs up from all!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Food Find Friday - Greek Yogurt

I have loved and enjoyed yogurt for years.  I have one pretty much every day for lunch.  I also have loved Greek food for years, since I was a child and we were close friends with a Greek family. 

I however did not know about GREEK yogurt until recently.  It's totally yummy!
Fage Total Authentic Greek Yogurt - 0% Fat

I am using it in my morning smoothie and it totally rocks as a substitute for sour cream, especially in recipes.  Here's the low down on the nutritional in formation from a random Internet site for 6oz.

           Greek Yogurt (Fat Free)   vs.   Regular Yogurt  (Fat Free) 
Fat            0g                                                    0g
Carbs        7g                                                   16g
Protein      18g                                                   6g
Fiber          0g                                                    1g
Calories    100                                                  86

There's a ton more protein and fewer carbs, and the calories increase just a little, tiny bit.  Most importantly for those of us who are trying to lighten up.  It really adds that creamy texture you're missing if you're trying to cut calories.  Thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths, alike.  

Do you have a Fabulous Food Find?  Link up here, just please return the favor and place a link on your blog to mine!  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bread Basket -- No-Knead Bread

I decided to try this bread, not because I don't like the kneading part.  That can be quite theruptic after a long day at the office.  But everywhere I looked, I saw this receipe or a variation of it so I thought I'd try it. 

I got to use my Dad's big brown crockery bread bowl, so that was an added bonus.  I have punched down more batches of bread that I can count and it was fun to watch the Little Mouths plunge their little fists into the soft warm dough and watch it colapse around their hands. 

There couldn't be an easier recipe and while it does take about 24 hours to make, it only takes minutes of actual work.  And the bread was JUST BEAUTIFUL!  A first for me.  Every recipe I've tried has tasted good, but has left quite a lot to be desired in the looks department.  This bread was lovely, though.  Don't you think?

No-Knead Bread (New York Times)

3 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup cool water

Mix everything together and cover with plastic wrap.  Put somewhere warm overnight.  I put it in the laundry, which is the warmest place in our house.  I mixed it together at about 7 PM and in the morning it looked like this:

It scared the Little Mouths, I think.  It looked a lot like spoiled eye of kneut or which's brew or something.

After about 18 hours or so, turn the bread out onto a well floured surface and fold over a few times.  Cover with the plastic again and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Now the recipe says to put flour on a towel, but the bread on it and cover with another towel.  This is recomended, because you have to get the bread into the preheated dutch oven and the towel acts like a little sling.  I did this the first time I made it and the bread stuck to the towel and made a big mess.  This time I oiled my original bowl, added a bit of parchment paper, and slipped the bread back in.

So either do the towel/sling thing or the parchment thing and let it raise for about 2 to 2.5 hours or until the loaf has doubled in size.

When it was time to transfer to the dutch oven preheated to 450 degrees in the oven, I just held the bowl over the pot resting on the oven rack, tilted the bowl and tugged on the corner of the parchment.  It slid east as can be into the pot and I removed the parchment.

Bake at 450 degrees for 30 mintues with the lid on and 15-30 minutes until the crust is brown and crunchy.  It tasted as good as it looks and got thumbs up from Big Mama and the Little Mouths devoured it. 

So good!

This recipe is posted at all or some of the WONDERFUL blogs on my "Looky Here" page.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Monday

Just a few more weeks until our CSA begins. When that happens, we'll pick up our box of veggies on Monday nights and we'll have a run down of what the box contains on Tuesday. I'm going to try to keep Meal Plan day on Mondays. I do a lot of our cooking for the week on the weekends, and I do all of the grocery shopping then.

This week at Big Mama's House...

Sunday           Winter Borscht and Roast Beef, Onion and Brie Panini (Recipe to Follow)
Monday          Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto (Valentine Tradition)
Tuesday          Tender Pork Chops , Potatoes and Onions with Spring Greens
Wednesday    Chicken Marsala (Recipe to Follow) and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes
Thursday        Smart Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread
Friday            Eat OUT!
Saturday        Pasta with Shrimp and Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinegrette (Recipe to Follow)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soup-er Sunday -- Winter Borscht

The Little Mouths are Russian, and having traveled there 4 times, I am a great lover of all things Russian.  More so than the Little Mouths, actually. 

On my first trip to Russia I packed literally a suitcase full of food.  Granola bars, fruit by the foot, hand-i-snacks and peanut butter get the picture.  I was terrified I'd starve to death, which was so silly (they don't call me Big Mama, for nothing.)  But when I got there, I realized I LOVED the food, for the most part.  I never really warmed up to cabbage, but the pork cutlets coated in cheese with fried potatoes...the breads, the yogurts, cheeses and OMG, the ice cream.  With dark chocolate shavings.  They must have such happy cows in Russia to produce that creamy, rich...YUM.

New York Times Cookbook 1961 Edition
Anyway, the one thing I never, ever tried was Borscht.  Last night I was flipping through an old New York Times Cookbook  (my copy is from 1961 and was my mother's) and came across a recipe.  I mostly stuck with the ingredients, but changed up the method a bit in an effort to add richness to the soup and ,truth be told, cover up the taste of the cabbage.

It's kind of an all day, tedious affair.  I started working on it at 10 AM and I think it was done around 4PM.  There's a lot of chopping and peeling, but I often enjoy that.  It's basic and chopping and dicing slow down my internal tick-tock that by the end of the week has sped up to near lighting speed.   

This soup, almost a stew, is a good way to use up all those winter veggies as you can sub in turnips, parsnip or even celery root.  Here's what I used.

Winter Borscht

1-1.5 pounds beef (I used oxtail)
1 cup white wine
1.5 quarts water
2 onions (one quartered and one shredded)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded roasted beets
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded rutabaga
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
3 bay leaves
2 pounds of potatoes
Salt and Pepper
Sour cream and fresh chopped dill for garnish

I do love any recipe that allows me to use my favorite enameled cast iron pot from Calphalon.  The last time I was at the Chef's Outlet, there were still some to be had at a fraction of the price of their Le Creuset counter part.  Calphalon Enamel Cast Iron 8 Quart Dutch Oven, Cabernet Red
I heated up the pot on top of the stove, added a little olive oil and browned the oxtail.  I added two carrots and an onion, salt and pepper and put the lid on and simmered for about 2 hours.  I was busy making mac-n-cheese for the freezer and lost track of time.  It probably could have cooked for less time.

In the meantime, I washed and roasted 6 small beets, with the skin on, with salt and olive oil at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until tender.  I let them cool then shredded them in my food processor along with the seeded tomatoes, cabbage, remaining carrots, onion and ratbag. 

I removed the beef and set aside and strained the beef stock.  Discard the carrots and onions. Bring the beef stock back to a boil and add in all the veggies and any collected juice from the beets as they roasted.  Whisk a cup of broth with the tomato paste and add back into the simmering pan with the beef and bay leaves.

Simmer for an hour or two until all of the veggies are tender.  Remove the bay leaves. I removed the meat and scredded it and ran my "blender on a stick" around the pan a few times to puree the soup a bit. Little mouths always prefer a soup to be smooth, if possible. 

Dice the potatoes, cook separately and add to the Borscht just before serving otherwise they will be mushy

Garnish with a bit of sour cream and fresh dill if you have some.  We didn't.  The dill at the supermarket looked all limp and yellow, so I threw in a bit of freeze dried that I had in the cabinet. 
Then I removed the meat and bones and strained the broth. 

While the soup was simmering away in the pot, I had hoped we wouldn't really like it all that much.  It WAS a lot a work.  But it was really good and got thumbs up from Big Mama and Little Mouths.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Food Find Friday -- Naan

A few weeks ago, while parusing the aisles of my local GFS (Gordon's Food Service) I came accross these flatbread looking things.  I had homemade pizza on our Menu Plan that week so I threw them in the cart to try.  I must be one of the last remaining people in the world that never had naan, but there you go.  Now I have and boy of boy are they YUMMY!  (And only 4 Weight Watcher points if you're in to that)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Bread Basket -- Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

I took inspiration for these rolls from the instruction booklet of my bread machine, of all places.  I wanted a flaky roll to use for dinner last week and sliders, the next day.  This is what I came up with, and while I'm not getting much better at shaping the rolls, I had 13 instead of 12 and had to squeeze one in, they really were good.

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

1/2 cup warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F.)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/8 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups bread flour
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast

In bread machine pan, put all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer and select dough setting.
When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 (or 13) portions. Roll dough into balls and place in a greased 9X( or round pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.  When the rolls have risen to twice their size, bake at 350 degrees for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rockin' Recipe -- Chicken Enchiladas

Like I said yesterday, due to our excursion last week to the farmer's market, I had a lot of produce to use up this week that was slightly past its prime.  There's no need to throw away produce that isn't as fresh as it was. Yes, the nutrients start waning the moment it's picked, but there are plenty left to give soups, stews and sauces and extra punch. Leave a comment with your favorite way to save a veggie??

I remember watching a Barefoot Contessa show where Ina said to roast winter tomatoes that didn't have as much flavor, to concentrate the flavor and make them eatable.  Oven roasted tomatoes are REALLY shrivelly, so the ones I had that were slightly wrinkled did just fine.  I also had some onions that were beginning to sprout and some garlic that was a little less than plump.  We haven't had anything Mexican in a few weeks and while I was rooting through the freezer I came across two lonely chicken breasts that seemed to fit the bill for this recipe. 

Julie's Roasted Chicken Enchiladas

5 Roma tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
2 small onions
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts
6 flour or corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Mexican Chihuahua Cheese)

I cored the tomatoes and got rid of the seeds, peeled the onions and threw away the green sprout in the center and peeled the garlic.  I covered a sheet pan with foil, sprayed the pan and veggies with olive oil and added salt and pepper.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the garlic since it burns faster than tomatoes and onions, so I left some on the tray and wrapped some in foil with some oil and guess what.  They both burned!  I added some crushed garlic later...I also threw two left over raw chicken breasts in the oven at the same time to cook through.

Make sure you cover your baking sheet with foil, otherwise it will look like this when it's done!

Roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft and the tomatoes are soft and starting to brown.  Empty all into the blender with the wine and spices and give it a whirl. 

Shred chicken and add it, with 1/3 of the sauce into a saute pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and mix with 2/3 of the cheese.  I ended up with about 3 cups of the filling.  I wrapped a half cup into each tortilla and lined up in a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.  Refrigerate, freeze or bake immediately at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly!  Thumbs up from Big Mama and the Little Mouths both cleaned their plates.

Thank you to all my blogging friends for allowing me to link to their posts.  Looky Here!  for links to their grat blogs!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meal Plan Monday!

The goal of this week's meal plan is to use up produce and pantry items that are a little past their prime.  I roasted some less than plump tomatoes and onions that were starting to sprout to make the Chicken Enchiladas we're having this evening. Those same sprouting onions and some shiveled carrots joined some not-so-firm potatoes in a wonderful soup on Sunday.

There's no need to throw away produce that isn't as fresh as it was.  Yes, the nutrients start waning the moment it's picked, but there are plenty left to give soups, stews and sauces and extra punch.   Leave a comment with your favorite way to save a veggie!

Sunday           Sneaky Potato Soup
Monday         Chicken Enchaladas (Recipe to follow)
Tuesday         Chicken Noodle Casserole
Wednesday    Pork BBQ Sliders and Garlic Fries
Thursday        Roast Beef and Brie Panini (Recipe to Follow)
Friday            Eat OUT!
Saturday        Pasta with Shrimp

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Soup-er Sunday Sneaky Potato Soup

Once again, our little cul-de-sac is swathed in snow.  The little mouths and I are in our jammies, well, jammies and apron for me, and snug as bugs. 

One of the best ways to keep our bodies resilient and get much needed veggies into the little mouth's diet is soup.  With two sick kids in two weeks, we need to beef up our immune systems.  I'd love to be able to stuff them full of super-foods, like kale and turnip greens, but if they would eat that stuff, they would be no need for my blog.  So while I have one child who's idea of a smorgasbord is the produce section, the other one wouldn't touch a tomato with a ten foot pole.  I have to be sneaky.  

This is a soup I invented one day with what was in my pantry with a little inspiration from Jessica Seinfeld.  You can hide just about anything in this soup.  I have included cauliflower, summer squash, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips.  It is especially good with anything that is a little orange in color.  My family, even the adults, swear there is cheese in this soup.  But except for the occasional garnish, there's not a drop. 

This is also a great way to use up leftover bacon (as if), sausage or ham.  Today I threw in a cup of diced leftover holiday ham from the freezer.  Thumbs up from Big Mama and both little mouths.  Yummy in the tummy on a cold winter's day.

Sneaky Potato Soup

1 cup grated onion
2 cups grated carrot
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 pounds potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk

Cook onion and carrot in butter, salt and pepper.  Add herbs, spices and flour and stir until lightly browned.  Deglaze the pan with wine or chicken stock.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer or 45-60 minutes, until potatoes are creamy and falling apart.  Add ham etc. to taste.

The only difficult thing about this soup is finding a good pot to cook it in.  For most of my soups, I use my totally overpriced but beloved enamel covered cast iron dutch oven, similar to this:Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
 While it caramelizes the onion and carrots beautifully, this soup is half milk that needs to simmer for at least 45 minutes to cook the potatoes through.  I've tried adding the potatoes already boiled, but it definitely steals some of the flavor.  The last time I used this pot for the soup, I spent a day soaking and scrubbing the bottom of my pot and vowed, never again.

The next time I tried this stock pot that came with my set of Calphalon Cookware.Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 8-Quart Multipot 
It's non-stick surface made the cleanup a breeze, but the deep, rich flavor of the caramelized veggies was missing.  But better than the heart attack I had when I looked at the bottom of my Enameled Cast-Iron pot.

This time I used a new dutch oven I purchased recently at a chef's outlet I visited.  It's also Calphalon, but this is from their Unison line and promises "non-stick searing."  I was sceptical, but I gave it a go.  And guess what?  It worked beautifully.  This is the exact set I purchased, complete with free spoon and towel.   It gave the same flavor as my extremely expensive enameled pot, but the easy cleaning of the non-stick.  I LOVE IT!

Calphalon Unison Sear Nonstick 5-Quart Dutch Oven Set

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Salad Saturday -- Roasted Beet Salad

I decided I'm going to try to blog lots, lots more because the more I blog, the more I cook.  The more I cook, the better we eat and the better we eat, the better I do with my quest for eating more veggie and hopefully, the more veggies I eat, I might even lose a pound or two. 

A couple of months ago I went to Biaggi's with friends and had a few bites of Todd's salad...who knew I liked beets?  When we walked into the farmer's market on Saturday, I saw beets, remembered that salad and thought I'd give it a try.  Here's my version...

Roasted Beet Salad

1 bunch of beets
1 bunch of arugula
2 oz. goat cheese or other soft cheese
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries (I used cranberries)

1/2 shallot grated
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey

Peel and chop beets into small bite size pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap in aluminum foil.  Place on baking sheet pan and roast in oven at 425 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the beets are soft to the touch.

Chop walnuts and toast in a dry saute pan.  Remove from heat and place on plate.  Use a mellon baller or other small scoop to make balls of the goat cheese.  Roll between your palms to soften slightly and roll in the chopped walnuts.  Set the balls of walnut covered cheese on a plate and gently flatten.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine all the ingredients for vinegrette in a large salad bowl and whisk together.  Toss the cooled beets, arugula and dried fruit with the vinegrette.  Serve cheese on the side.  Serves 2.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Food Find Friday -- Turnips!

Fabulous Food Find!

The only thing I LOVE LOVE LOVE more than bread and ice cream are potatoes. I like them baked and fried, boiled or broiled. I don’t think there is any way I don’t like a potato except raw. Especially mashed. I love me some mashed potatoes, and for all of you other mashed potato lovers out there…what’s the one thing that could make them better? What if you could make them creamier, sweeter and silkier? How about if you could substantially reduce the calories?

It’s easy to do, substitute half of the potatoes with Turnips! Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure, or I’d have been adding turnips to my potatoes for years! Here is the breakdown of nutritional information from a random internet site.

1 cup diced, raw

Fat 0
Carbs 24g
Fiber 2g
Protein 2g
Calories 106

1 cup diced, raw

Fat 0
Carbs 8g
Fiber 2g
Protein 1g
Calories 36

Now that I had my turnips, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I knew I had to cook them somehow, so I peeled them with my potatoes and chunked them in the pot. The potatoes cooked, but the turnips were still a bit, al dente to say the least. The weird part was that the potatoes sank and the turnips floated. I’m sure there is some scientific reason behind that, but it worked out pretty well because I could just skim those hard little turnips off the top. I put them into a smaller saucepan with fat free half and half and a little butter and cooked them until they were soft, but it took a long time. About 20 minutes or so. Then, since they were a different consistency than the potatoes and I couldn’t find my potato masher, to flatten them, I put the whole mess in my blender and make a turnip smoothie.

I added that to the cooked potatoes in my stand mixer and gave it a whirl. What was left in that bowl was a little piece of silky potato heaven. SO GOOD! Try it, you’ll be surprised. I was.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bread Basket -- Parmesan Cheese Bread

I made this bread to go with the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup on Sunday. Big thumbs up from both Big Mama and Little Mouths.

Parmesan Cheese Bread

3 ¾ cup bread flour
½ cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Yeast
½ tsp Salt
1 1/3 Cup Water
Olive Oil to coat

Reserve ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese and place the rest of the ingredients except olive oil in mixer bowl. Stir together until moistened then knead with bread hook for 10-15 minutes. Remove from bowl and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes. Allow to raise for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size. Divide into 12 rolls, brush with olive oil and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of grated cheese on top.

Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then decrease temperature for 350 for an additional 10-15 minutes, until browned and yummy.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Whiteout Wednesday! Smoothie Breakthrough!

Snow day!  Even for Big Mama.  It's a state of emergency in our town and I didn't have to go to work.  Of course, it practically is work, with all the things the HR person has to do to cancel work in a factory, but I get to do it in my jammies, so that's a plus.

Oh my goodness!  You'll never guess.  I ate spinach.  In my smoothie!  It was fantastic!

I had a comment on my last smoothie recipe that she put kale in her smoothie.  Kale?  Really?I thought to myself, "She's a better woman that me..." and went about my day.

Saturday at the farmers market I purchased some fresh spinach.  I thought I'd make some Sneaky Tomato Soup, but ended up not being in the mood for it.  I hated to see it go to waste, so I thought I'd just cook it up and freeze it to add to something later.  Then I remembered the kale. 

I am a brave woman.  I am!  So I took a deep breath, pulled the leaves off a couple of handfuls or spinach leaves and punched the puree button on my normally luscious orange-banana smoothie.  And guess what?

I was good.  The same.  YUMMY.  And I drank it and so did the little mouths. They even liked it until they saw is was a very bright green.  Howya like that?

Spinach Smoothie (Serves 3-4)

Bunch of spinach
2 Frozen Bananas
1 Cup Orange Juice
1 Cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Bend and serve!
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