Sunday, January 31, 2010


Okay everyone... I need some ideas. I have 20+ people coming over for a Super Bowl party next Sunday (anyone else feel like coming?), and I don't have any real cooking ideas. (Well, maybe a couple, but that's not enough.)

Right now, I'm definitely doing a sandwich bar...

Meats -- Fresh roasted turkey (like Thanksgiving), meatballs (which I actually am going to cheat and buy from Costco... their chicken teriyaki fresh meatballs are amazing and go really well with a vodka sauce), and Italian beef,

Toppings -- Different shredded and sliced cheeses, and a bunch of toppings like peppers, spinach, shredded carrots, cucumbers, sliced olives, etc.

Different Breads

But, from there, I'm stuck. I'm used to being stuck in the kitchen for the entire life of these parties, but I need something to do (cook) while I'm in there. Any recipe suggestions from any of you?

Oh, I should mention... I have at least one guest who is a vegetarian and one who is gluten-free (and then I don't eat pork or shellfish, either... I won't cook it unless it's for Joel's birthday -- using the pan I save just for his birthday bacon, but if I can buy pork or shellfish ready to serve, I'd be willing to.)


Monday, January 25, 2010

Fancy marinara

I'm still cooking through our cupboard, so I thought I'd go vegetarian tonight. (We're trying to go more low-cholesterol in our diets.) Now, I'm not Italian and don't claim to be. (I leave that title to my cousin who is lucky enough to have a mother who learned how to cook Italian from her mother-in-law.) But, tonight's meal was capellini and marinara.

The marinara is super easy and can be tweaked based on what you have in your cupboard. (For example, if I had carrots or zuchinni in our cupboard, or if my husband let me bring eggplant into the house, I would have diced those up and added them to the sauce.)

Again, I don't have a real recipe for this... I do it by sight, feel, and taste. (Make sure to taste a lot so you balance the spices.) And it's the winter, so I only have canned tomatoes... if it was summer, I'd use fresh.

1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tblsp. oil
1 tsp. sugar (this cuts the bitterness of the tomatoes)
2 bay leaves (make sure to take these out before serving)
oregano (1 Tblsp.-ish)
basil (1 Tblsp.-ish)
parsley (1 Tblsp.-ish)
red wine
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onions get clear. Add the tomato ingredients and mix together. Add the bay leaves and sugar. Add the other spices to taste. Pour in a little bit of red wine. (Today I used a wine I really like to drink, so I poured less of it into the sauce.) Stir in the amount of parmesan you prefer (I probably used about 1/4 cup.) Season to taste. Cook until hot and slightly thickened.

Very easy. It's the kind of recipe you can cook less and serve chunkier and thinner or cook longer and have a little thicker. I like to serve over angel hair pasta with a side of garlic bread.

And for dessert? The peaches I canned this summer when I taught myself how to can. Yummy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cooking my way through our cupboards

Since I'm currently out of work and hopefully going back to school in the fall, we're trying to save money. A great way to do that (especially with how much food we have in this house) is to cook my way through what we have in our cupboards before going back to the store for more.

So, last night, I made my first Chicken Curry, and I really wish I had started making this a long time ago. Last year, my sister bought me this great set of Indian spices from The Spice Store over on Wells St. in Chicago. In that set was a hot curry powder, which really made this whole dish. The best part was that while it had some great spice and flavorful it wasn't all that hot spicy, which means that you could even load it up with more vegetables and get kids to eat it. (Of course, I take kids to Ethiopian restaurants, so what do I know.)

Anyway, here is the recipe as I made it, but you could add some other vegetables depending on what you like (green beans, peas, garbanzo beans) or replace the chicken with another kind of meat depending on what you have in the house (pork, leftover turkey, lamb).

Remember, I cook for 2 people with leftovers, so you can add or subtract the amount of meat and veggies depending on your numbers. This recipe does make plenty of sauce to go along wtih even more meat and veggies than this calls for.)

For the spice mixture:
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. hot curry powder (they also sell a sweeter curry powder, so if you really hate any hotness, you might be able to use that instead, but I haven't tried it, so let me know how it turns out)
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
For the rest of it:
1-2 chicken breasts, skinned and cut into chunks (or by a whole chicken and cut it up, or drumsticks, or chicken wings, or chicken thighs, or whatever you have in your freezer)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (I used really large cloves, so if you only have smaller ones, then increase this number)
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped (I used canned tomatoes and it worked perfectly)
A handful of red potatoes, peeled, diced, and precooked so still firm (cook in boiling water for about 7 minutes)
1/2 c. edamame (I like buying the precooked ones in the shell, and then I just take them out of the shell)
1 can of tomato paste
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 c. chicken broth/stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot. (I used my Creuset French Oven for this, and it worked really, really well.) Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft and it starts to brown a bit. Then, add the chicken and cook for a couple of minutes. (This will cook a lot longer, so it doesn't have to be cooked through in this step.)

Stir in the spice mixture to coat all the chicken. Quickly add the can of coconut milk and chicken broth. (If you wait too long on this step, you'll end up burning the spices instead of just releasing the flavors.) Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, and can of tomato paste.

Let the pot simmer for at least 30 minutes to let the sauce thicken, flavors combine, and chicken cook all the way through. (If you're using bigger pieces of meat -- like drumsticks, wings, or thighs still on the bone -- let it simmer for at least an hour to cook through and get tender.) Finally, add the potatoes, edamame, and any other vegetables that you're using, and let cook about 10-15 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over cooked rice and/or with naan (you can buy this at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods).

And, even better, it heats up really well the next day for leftovers. Enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Has it really been this long?

I'm horrible. I have been cooking, I swear... just not too much that is new. Except for my big holiday family meal... but I forgot to take photos, so next time I cook those recipes, I'll add them.

But, today I'm procrastinating, so of course I cooked. No pictures yet since we're not going to sit down to eat anything for another few hours. But, I just made (for the second time) the world's best and easiest Potato, Leek, and Cheddar Soup and had to share the recipe. It's one I found somewhere else for a vegetarian/vegan soup and I tweaked and added and subtracted and came up with this. Joel is addicted. I'm addicted. But, I've only made it twice because I think it's actually pretty bad for you or at least fattening.

Anyway, here's the recipe... I'm so sorry for the vague measurements, but this is a recipe that I tend to just do to taste all the way through...

Potato-Leek-Cheddar Soup
Ingredients --
3 Tblsp. butter (or margarine)
2-3 leeks
1 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I use huge cloves, so you might even get away with throwing in a few more if they're tiny)
yukon gold potatoes (the original recipe I had called for 5-6, but since I was using organic and they were small, I threw in about 10)
1 block of sharp cheddar cheese
4-6 c. of chicken stock or broth (or vegetable stock or broth)... low sodium is better
Milk or cream (any % is fine) -- I use between 1/4 and 1/2 c. depending on what I have in the house
Thyme (maybe 1/4 tsp)
Parsley (maybe 1/2 tsp)
Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)

For this recipe, it is easier to prep everything first before you start cooking.

So, into prep bowl # 1 goes the onions and leeks -- Wash the leeks and slice them thinly. (If you've never cooked with leeks before, it's important to pull each layer apart since dirt hides between each and every one usually.) Slice the onions thinly.

Into prep bowl #2 goes the garlic -- Peel and mince.

Into prep bowl #3 go the potatoes -- Scrub the potatoes to get all the dirt off. (The peels stay on in this recipe.) Slice the potatoes thinly (into circles; not matchsticks).

Now to cook:

In a pot (I love my Calphalon Dutch Oven), melt the butter. Add the leeks and onions and cook until they start to brown. Then, add the garlic to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes.

Then, add the potatoes, mix, and add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Let cook until the potatoes are soft. (It takes about 30 minutes.)

Blend the soup (immersion hand blender is the easiest way to do this) until smooth. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Add the milk. Then, add the spices. (Keep tasting to make sure you add the amount of spices you want to make it taste good.)

Finally, let it heat up and serve. Voila! That's all there is to it.

And, it's delicious. Kids and adults should both love it. And, it's thick and rich and just wonderful.