Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Black Bean Soup

Now that it's not 100 degrees (it's about 98), time for soup, right? This one really is a soup. I promised this a while back. Here's Don's rendition of the Black Bean Soup on the back of the Ranch Style® Black Beans can.

2 T. cooking oil
½ C chopped carrots
½ C chopped celery
½ C chopped onion
2 cans Rotel (used mild)
3 cans Ranch Style Black Beans, undrained
1 can corn (used ½, and reserved the other half for fritters)
¼ C fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Scallions, chopped

In a large Dutch oven, sauté carrots, celery and onions in the oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender. Add remaining ingredients except the cilantro. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the cilantro, turn off the heat and use the immersion blender (we call it the “Boat Motor”) to blend till almost smooth. Taste and add salt if needed.

Ladle into bowls, place a dollop of sour cream in the middle of each and garnish with chopped green scallions.

Makes 4-6 servings (we ended up with about 5 decent sized bowls)

This has a little kick to it, but not unreasonable. Warm enough for those guys who need some heat, but calm enough for folks like me who can't handle anything too hot.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Startover Stew

Or maybe it's a soup. Is there a certain size the "chunks" of food have to be in order to make it a stew? Or is it the consistency--but if it's thick, isn't it a chowder or a bisque? I'll have to investigate this and get back to you. In the meantime, today at lunch we had the perfect example of a "startover" moment. Maw and I agreed that we needed to eat up everything "leftover" in the fridge. So I pulled it all out and set it on the counter. Unfortunately, I was the only one who made a plate from the "spread" and there was still a lot left. Counter contents: white rice, mashed potatoes, pork sausage, chicken fajita meat, pizza, cranberry sauce, sausage gravy, chicken breasts in a mushroom gravy, cherry tomatoes that were baked last night in olive oil with garlic and fresh mint (it was awesome, served warm, smashed onto crostini...), canned seasoned green beans, refried beans and Chinese orange chicken. (There's cubed watermelon, but that was just to wash it all down with.) Oh yeah, and a little chopped BBQ beef. We decided it looked like the makings of a soup. Out comes the "Big Red Pot." I used the oil that the tomatoes were floating in to start sautéing some onions and celery. Once that was all translucent we added some chicken broth Maw made and added everything else (minus a few things), once we'd chopped some of the larger items into bite sized pieces. And, I forgot to mention, I found a container of salad (lettuce and tomatoes) in the fridge I hadn't pulled out so I added that.
Items that did not make it in were the pizza, the BBQ, the orange chicken, the refried beans and surprisingly, the mashed potatoes. The two gravies made it thick enough so we decided we didn't need the potatoes. And yes, the cranberry sauce did go in.
Just heated it all through--didn't need salt because a lot of things had already been salted in their previous life, and added a little fresh ground pepper.
Tastes great, and served with that leftover crostini from the night before makes it "rustic." The chicken and the sausage complemented one another and the tomatoes gave it a fresh kick.
And now if we can't stand to eat it all up this time, it can go in the freezer for another day. A day that's not over 100 degrees, like today. I love leftovers and take them all the time in my lunch, but sometimes that gets old. Startovers make me feel better about not wasting food.
And if you're not into chunky, throw all that stuff in the blender and make a bisque, or a chowder, or whatever.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Old Cheddar Shortbread

Last week Maw decided to make Aunt Louise's "Old Cheddar Shortbread." Yummy, short little crackery discs. Lovely with wine, even white, Auntie! Add some grapes and a good sharp cheddar and it compliments it even more. Hints from both: Louise says the older the cheddar, the better. Maw says to be sure to shred the cheese very fine. Recipe is in the Strand Family Cookbook.

Old Cheddar Shortbread

Louise Strand Russell

"These are great with a glass of red wine."

1/2 C. soft butter
1 1/2 C. grated cheddar (old)
1 C. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper (or cayenne)
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 large egg white

Combine ingredients and roll into 2 rolls about 1" in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds and bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes. Cookies come out well baked on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Thanks gals!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"A Room With a View"

I should elaborate on Heather's place. It's called "A Room With a View" and we really have been going there for ages. It's a quaint place--not fancy--but really nice and very private. Two rooms. Two big rooms. That's all. You have to book in advance. The wrap-around porch is the most pleasant place to be. Unless you go down at Christmas and it's cold, then eat in your room. Otherwise, eat breakfast on the porch, talk to Heather about where to go on Saturday on the porch, take your afternoon nap on the porch. After dinner, watch the cars and motorcycles on their way to the state park, on the porch. Even at Christmas, just wrap up in a blanket, on the porch. What can we say? I hate to even tell you of our "secret" place. But it's good for her business. Some day, she'll sell it to us. I hope. While her "techies" aren't keeping up with her online experience, we are. Here's a link to some old pics on an old page: http://www.hillcountryaroomwithaview.com/interior.htm

Love her!

Sunday Brunch

I love Sundays, if not for anything but the meal possibilities. Sundays are usually a little laid back and I'm not on a schedule to "make a meal." I was expecting some family today, but alas, regular weekend stuff got in the way--but I still followed through with my Sunday Brunch menu. I usually like to come up with something different than Saturday's menu--so it ends up being sweet. Today, I pay homage to one of mine and Don's favorite characters, Heather Anderson. She owns the Bed & Breakfast we frequent while in the Hill Country of Texas, near the Pedernales Falls State Park entrance, Anderson's "A Room with a View." We've been going to Heather's since our children were little, like for 20 some odd years, and she's never let us down on anything--especially breakfast. The thing is, you can forgive a lot, but when it comes to a "stay over" kind of place, breakfast is key. And Heather knows what she's doing, in the most subtle of ways. She doesn't even ask us anymore what we want. She knows--savory on Saturday, sweet on Sunday. It's a given when I call her and reserve the weekend. And Sundays are this: her "Stuffed French Toast." It's just awesome. I have recipes of hers. Scones, all manner of stuff. But this is a mystery I like to try to solve, and don't care if I ever can. So here's my rendition of her beautiful "Stuffed French Toast."
The night before (or even a day before that), get a loaf of day old french bread. Don't slice it yet. The morning of --slice it--thick. Get at least eight slices out of it. Leave it sitting out for a while to make it "stale." It's a beautiful thing.
Okay, choose your meat. Bacon or sausage. Whatever. Just pick something fresh and good. Get it cooked and in the oven on a warm platter while you're making your toast. 230ºF oven. Put another platter in the oven to put the toast on for when you get it ready.
Make one breading station of just eggs, milk or buttermilk, salt, a little pepper, cinnamon sugar and nutmeg. Mix with a fork in one dish--it's an easy french toast, after all. Heat a 10-inch skillet on medium heat with a pat of butter (like, 2 tablespoons) in it and immediately get as many of the bread slices in there as is can handle--don't overcrowd. Get the toast browned without burning on the bottom, turn and cook till almost the same color--then move to the platter in the oven. Keep going till you're done.
In a bowl, mix a couple of spoonfuls (heaping tablespoons) of whipped cream cheese and a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar, heat in the microwave till creamy--maybe 30 seconds to a minute. Keep handy.
Set out a jar of apricot preserves, and heat some good maple syrup.
place 2 or 3 pieces of french toast on the plate, spread cream cheese mixture on each piece, then a layer of apricot preserves. Layer the pieces and then drizzle warm syrup over all, including over the protein (bacon or sausage) you chose. (Who doesn't like syrupy sausage?) Shake a little powdered sugar on top and serve immediately. It' so sweet, but it's so good. Really.

All Manner of Frittata

As I mentioned, I like to use my leftovers. For instance, this morning (and yes, inspired by a cooking show I viewed before getting out of bed), I made a frittata. When you look up frittata recipes--it's basically anything that can be held together with scrambled eggs. Usually, savory fare. So once you get the basic frittata down, you're possibilities are endless.
And I should mention right away, my husband will eat a frittata, and he won't touch a quiche. Fine--don't have to go through the trials of making a crust, and it cooks in a lot less time.
So I found myself in my pj's, rummaging through the refrigerator for what to put in it. Yes, pj's and still with sleep in my eyes. Hey, I was RAVENOUS! I told my husband so when I vaulted out of bed. He reminded me later.
I found last night's roasted chicken that I had already de-boned (yay for me for thinking ahead!), a third of a pound of uncooked bacon (I'll post about what I did to the previous 2/3 of the pound later) and of course, yummy sweet onions.

So here's what I can call "the frittata recipe":
6 eggs
1/2 handful grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/3 lb. bacon, cut small with the scissors
Handful of cooked chicken, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
Fresh thyme, just pull the leaves off of about 8 sprigs

Preheat the broiler, leaving the rack in the middle of the oven.

Blend the eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a bowl with a fork. Set aside. Cook the bacon pieces in a 10 inch skillet till crisp, remove to a paper towel and set aside. Reserve a couple of table spoons of the bacon grease in the skillet and throw in the sliced onions. Just get them translucent, turn down the temp to low/medium and add the egg mixture. Work the eggs around a little until they start to thicken and add the bacon and chicken, stirring it in evenly and then leaving it all alone once bottom of the eggs set. Remove from heat and sprinkle the thyme on top. Put the skillet in the oven (remember, it's on broil) and keep watch for the eggs to start to lightly brown. Remove from the oven and run a spoonula around the edges so you can slide the whole thing onto a plate. Let it sit for just a minute and then cut it into 6 wedges. Serve immediately. You can add whatever veggies you have in the fridge, whatever meat or fish you've got--again, endless. Sorry that my measurements aren't precise, I eyeball a lot of savory stuff. I do love cheese, so I tend to put more than necessary in just about everything. You could use parsley in place of the thyme, and if you don't have fresh, just use a little less of the dried--you could even blend it into the eggs previously.
This was a pretty good combo--and again--husband ate it without blinking. (The picture includes fresh tomatoes and black bean soup--another recipe my husband made last week that I'll share soon!) LOVE savory in the morning!
So that's how the leftover/startover thing works for me.

Happy munching!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Oh boy, another Food Blog!

This is pretty daunting. I've already tried this blogging thing, and failed. I wasn't good about keeping up with it, and I never felt confident enough to invite anyone to my blog (except a couple of really close, understanding people). I think I posted five times. But--it wasn't about food. And as passionate as I am about food, this might work. Bear with me.
I've actually been posting foodie pics on my Facebook, but it seems silly to rant on and on about a new dish creation or a new eating place I've found on there. I'm hoping this venue will give me the satisfaction I want; a place to catalog and discuss.
I've looked at several other food blogs (OMG there's a million of them out there!) and I was a little intimidated. I mean, these people must spend hours on the computer! I do too, but that's my 9-5 (or 6 or 7) day, M-F, so I'm not crazy about being on it all night. I'll try to be concise and I'm sure I'll be successful at not posting every day (hence the failure of the first blog).
I watch a lot of cooking shows on every network that offers them, and of course, one of my favorite networks is Food Network, where I get a lot of inspiration. MY husband and I laugh about how when we first got married (over 27 years ago), the TV channel that was sort of just "left on" when doing other things around the house was MTV. There were actually music videos playing constantly on there! I know, everybody talks about that now. Point is, now our "left on" channel is the Food Network. And right now, we're into "The Next Food Network Star" show as this season is coming to an end.
I spend time (but not a lot) thinking about "What is my culinary point of view?" That's something the judges on the show try to get the contestants to bring to the table, so to speak. I'm not sure what mine would be. I love to eat. I love to look at food. I love to take pictures of food. I love outdoor cooking. I love cast iron/dutch oven cooking. I love leftovers. And there is a thing I like to do, and that's "startovers." My friends at work dubbed my dishes with that term, when we realized that it's not just leftovers that I'm toting up to the office, I've revamped them into an entirely different dish. Sometimes, not so good, but most of the time--pretty darn good! But is that really a point of view? I do hate to throw stuff out. And my mom taught me to cook way too much at meal time, so we always have leftovers.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
So, welcome to my blog. I hope you find it interesting and inspirational. I'm hoping to get some good feedback and wonderful ideas from the followers, too.