Friday, October 30, 2009

Melanie W.'s Pasta E Fagioli Soup

This makes a ton of soup, and I'm glad because it is so good and with leftovers I get to enjoy it even longer! I loved the flavor of it. My little boy loved it and I was happy he willingly gobbled up beans and vegetables. I made mine with the Italian sausage, and this is definitely the way to go. With ground beef it would be a totally different soup. I also added more V-8 juice and could have even added more because I thought mine was a bit on the thick side. I didn't have all the seasonings so I just used Italian style diced tomatoes, and the soup had plenty of flavor. Thanks Jessica for a yummy recipe!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Future Recipes posted

Hi delish makers. I've just updated the future recipes page. So, check it out and get those ingredients on your grocery lists. Yummy stuff!

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

(This is not mine, mine looks better)

This is my favorite soup to make during the winter months.
It is basically a copy cat from the Olive Garden's Pasta E Fagioli but, after revisiting the restaurant, I have decided that this recipe is even better than theirs.
I got the original recipe from Top Secret Recipes online several years ago but have made some
minor adjustments.

1 pound mild italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, julienned (1 cup) ( you can find a package of julienned carrots in the produce section)
3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can great northern beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can V-8 juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/2 pound ditali pasta

1. Brown the sausage in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute for 5-7 minutes

3. Add all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT pasta, and let simmer for an hour

4. Cook pasta separately until al dente

5. Add individual portions of pasta to each bowl you intend to serve, if you dump it all into the pot of soup it will soak up all of your broth and left-overs become much less desirable.

Sprinkle a little Parmesan on top and serve with some crusty bread.
* The original recipe calls for ground beef instead of sausage. I like the sausage because it adds flavor.
**Sometimes I add an extra can of V-8 to get more liquid. Adjust spices accordingly.

Do you have any pet peeves?
People who work in the service industry but appear to hate their jobs.  I hate that.

Any other hobbies besides being an amazing cook?
I like to learn anything. Recently been doing a lot of graphic design. I like photography. I like to crochet and knit some. I love to play basket ball.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Anything in the sun.

Are you a morning or a night person?
I function either way.  I like my nights though.

Are you a go-go-go sight-seeing kind of vacationer or lie-on-the-beach-all-day kind of vacationer?
A good mix.  Some relaxing days, some go-go days.

What is your favorite store?
The Buckle

What is your favorite beverage?
Pineapple Soda from Uncle Joe's Jerk chicken

If you had to go back to school, what would your major be?
Graphic Design

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cami's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

I had high hopes for this loaf. It sounds like something I would go crazy for but in the end it was okay. Just okay. I also had problems with the outside being 'well done'. If I were to do it again I think I might drop the temperature a little so it cooked more evenly.

The taste did improve and deepen the next day. It also improved when I put some left over cream cheese frosting on it. That was tasty!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Melanie W.'s Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples

It's starting to really feel like fall here in Albuquerque and I can see snow on the mountains now, so I made these at the perfect time! This was my first time ever making caramel, and my first time cooking with both a candy thermometer and real vanilla bean, so it was fun to try new things.
Everything went well until the very end. I was careful to not stir it like the directions said, and I gradually turned the heat up so it wouldn't boil over. I kept waiting and waiting, but the temp never got over 215 degrees. Then it started to smell burnt, so I quickly took it off the heat because I didn't want the flavor to be ruined! Well, I don't think it cooked long enough. The caramel was pretty thin and, as you can see, just ran off the apples. And my attempt to dip them in peanuts pretty much failed.
I don't know if my candy thermometer just wasn't accurate (it's a cheap one, and my first time using it), or if I was just impatient. It was my son's bedtime, and his bedroom is currently the kitchen since we're living in a one bedroom apartment right now, so I may have turned the heat up too high too fast.
In the end, they were still edible and quite yummy! My caramel wasn't too chewy and had a very nice vanilla flavor. I really liked using the real vanilla bean. I might have to make caramel apples a yearly fall time tradition!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

This bread was a hit. When the autumn leaves start glistening with oranges, reds, and golds and the weather turns a bit chilly, something inside me just starts craving pumpkin. The beauty of this bread, however, was that the pumpkin flavor was not overwhelming, and even if you're not a pumpkin fan this sweet bread is worth a try. Simple, quick, easy and satisfying, all factors that make a winning recipe in my book.

Here's the scoop: I halved the recipe and made only one loaf since I was short on eggs, but it's a perfect-sized recipe to make and take one to a friend. I went a bit heavy on the chocolate chips, I guess I feel like each bite should include at least a few of those tasty morsels. My family seemed happy with the chocolate to pumpkin ratio, but if you don't love extra chocolate, stick with the recipe. The pumpkin flavor was lighter than I expected, which was still delightful but I might try adding a bit more pumpkin in next time to add a little pizzaz. And the blend of spices was just perfect for our tastes, not overly 'spicy' as my husband says; sometimes pumpkin recipes include a heavy dose of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, but this was just right for us. This is a very easy and versatile recipe - if you prefer more or less seasonings, pumpkin flavor, or chocolate chips, I think you can tweak the recipe to your taste and still end up with a tasty sweet bread.

The crumb of this bread is very moist, tender and soft. Unfortunately, even though I removed the bread from my oven 20 minutes early, my crust was still just a tad overcooked for my taste, but our oven runs hot and is quite finicky. The bread still turned out fine, but I prefer a very soft, smooth crust. Your ovens probably all behave normally, but I'd recommend keeping an eye on the bread in the last 10+ minutes of baking, just to check. If you slightly overcook it, as I did mine, the crumb was still very tasty and moist, so it's hard to ruin. Overall, I'm not sure this is the one and only pumpkin bread recipe I will ever use, but everyone was pleased and I'll definitely be making this again, perhaps even in muffin form. This pumpkin loaf is a great basic recipe to be adjusted as desired, very easy, and a perfect addition to the flavors of fall!

Cami's Winter Vegetable Potpie with Cheddar Biscuit Topping

Sorry, no picture. I didn't feel good yesterday when I made this and therefore couldn't muster the energy to take a decent picture. It looks very pretty though and would make a good meal for guests.

I really liked the homey flavor of this recipe. The vegetables were perfect and the cheddar biscuit topping made it a full meal in one dish (which I needed last night). I didn't add leeks or parsnips since I doubt Jason would eat them. I added an onion which I loved. I think next time I'll add celery and peas because I thought it could use a few more veggies to counterbalance the biscuit topping.

I will be making this again. I'm glad Suzy posted it now so I have another recipe to add to my winter favorites.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Danielle's Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I think this must be the most-blogged recipe on this blog. This originally came up the week we moved from Chicago, so I skipped it. I wasn't going to make it because it didn't grab me as something I really wanted to make. Then it kept popping up on the blog and everyone was saying how amazing these were, so I figured I had to try them.

I loved how easy these were to make. Including bake time, I had them done in an hour or less. I liked them, but I can't say I really loved them. Maybe it was my bananas, but I would've liked more banana flavor. I also think I added too many chocolate chips. They were a little overpowering. I admit, I didn't pay attention to how much the recipe called for. I just added them till I thought it looked like a good amount. If I make these again, I think I'll add them sparingly. A little chocolate is good, but I'd rather taste mostly banana.

Overall, I liked them and I can see myself making them again because they were so easy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Whitney's Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples

I wasn't going to post this yet, because I wanted to try it again but seeing that we're moving next week, "caramel apples: take 2" moved down the priority list. The caramel was yummy and unique and very chewy. Next time, I'll use a deeper pan and not heat it as high as the recipe calls for. My helper (Brandon) also accidentally stirred it once or twice and had to lift the pan off the burner for a minute since it was going to boil over - yikes! I don't know if this caused the caramel to harden quickly later, but it did. What we ate immediately was quite delicious and very chewy like Danielle mentioned. We also used the vanilla extract instead of the bean and weren't disappointed. Happy Fall although it's still 90+ degrees here everyday!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Melanie W.'s Sweet Potato Mash

I don't normally like sweet potatoes, but these were good because the flavor wasn't too strong with the regular potatoes mixed in. I roasted 4 regular potatoes, but only used 3 because four seemed like too much. I baked for 2 hours at 35o degrees, and it was perfect for the sweet potatoes which I halved, but I had left the regular potatoes whole and they were still undercooked. So I had to cut them open a bit and I baked them another 30 minutes or so at 400 degrees. That helped, but I think I would rather start by cutting them into chunks next time. In the end my carrots were still very crunchy, so don't know what happened there. Right now I'm staying in a weakly furnished apartment, so I don't have a hand mixer and I had to go buy a masher to mash these. I didn't mash the onions with it because I didn't think they would mash well. Instead, I just poured in the juice/oil from my roasting pan to add more onion flavor. In the future I will surely use a hand mixer because I loved my potatoes whipped! My end result still turned out ok and they were really yummy!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Winter-Vegetable Potpie with Cheddar-Biscuit Topping

Sometimes I get sick of eating meat or buying meat or thinking of dinners to make including meat. This is a great option for those times. It could be used as a main dish with something on the side or as a side dish.

for the vegetable filling:

4-5 medium carrots (peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 3/4" chunks)
1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms (trimmed and halved or quartered if large)
1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (cut into 1" chunks)
3 large parsnips (peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1" chunks)
1 pound leeks (white and pale green parts only, washed well, cut into 1/2" moons)
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 t. dried thyme
salt & pepper
3 cups canned vegetable broth
2 T. cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 c. water

*I make this without the parsnips & leeks, knowing Parker wouldn't eat them.

for the cheddar-biscuit topping:

2- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
2 1/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground pepper
6 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c. buttermilk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make filling:
In a bowl, toss vegetables with oil & thyme; season generously with salt and pepper. Divide between two rimmed baking sheets (I just used one). Roast 25 minutes; toss(if vegetables are sticking, sprinkle up to 1/4 c. water on each sheet). Roast until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes more. Transfer to a shallow 3-qt. baking dish. Raise oven heat to 450 degrees.

Meanwhile, make topping: In a large bowl, whisk together 2 c. flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with some pea-size lumps. Mix in buttermilk and cheese until combined. With a floured hand, knead dough against side of bowl until it holds together. If it is sticky, knead in up to 1/4 c. more flour.

In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture; boil 1 minute. Pour over vegetables; toss to coat. Drop small mounds of topping on vegetables; bake until brown, 15-20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; serve.

Martha Stewart

*Sorry, no picture!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indoor Herb Garden

Does anyone have an indoor herb garden? I'm thinking I'll save quite a bit, by having one. I've seen some online, but I'm trying to decide the best way to start one. Obviously don't have a ton of space in my apartment. I'd like the most economical way, but want it to work well for me, too.

Suggestions? Thanks!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Larisa & Jessica's Baked Brownies (It was a team effort)

Larisa and I had to tag team this one because we were shacked up together for the better part of last week.  Which was probably a good thing because she is a much more informed baketress than I.

So we kicked these brownies into high gear.

Personally, I would give them two thumbs up. They were the best brownies I have ever had. Maybe I don't get out much.  We followed the recipe but Larisa got greedy and dumped in a bag of Chocolate Chips when I wasn't looking.  She's crazy like that.  I feel they were a smart addition even though it might be breaking the axiom that is,
The Perfect Baked Brownie.

Here is a great suggestion from the expert, Larisa. When you go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths, make sure to heat up the brownie for a couple of seconds in the microwave. She is absolutely right.  It makes something grand even GRANDER.

Oh, as a side note.  We also made the Salted Carmel Sauce a few weeks ago and served it over an authentic New York Style Cheesecake straight from Carnegie Deli.
Divine, just divine. It took two tries to get it right.  We came to the conclusion that we didn't let it boil long enough (was that right, Larisa?). The second time was much better.  We watched the coloring and used that as more of a guide than the actual cooking time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cami's Sweet Potato Mash

(Sorry no picture. I couldn't get one that looked half as good as everyone else's, so I gave up)

Yummy! I love this. I didn't want to wait 4 hours so I cooked them at 325 degrees for two hours and they came out perfectly. You could smell it just a few minutes after putting them in the oven. They have the consistency of mashed potatoes but a richer flavor that doesn't need gravy. Calder (my 11 month old) LOVED them and ate more than my husband and I combined last night. He also ate them for lunch today and probably would have eaten them for every meal if I would have let him.

I will be making these again. They would be great for Thanksgiving dinner!

LuAnn's Creamy Shrimp Noodle Skillet

I made this and it was good. Jeff seemed to quite like it and Simon even ate some. I didn't want to buy a 32 oz. brick of Velveeta so I used some sliced version which came in 16 oz. packs. I was also skeptical of Velveeta, like Cami, but when she said you couldn't taste it I thought I'd give it a whirl...cause I like shrimp and I like pasta. But I have a few questions about this recipe. What are the advantages of making white sauce with Velveeta rather than just heavy cream. Is is supposed to be easier or is it for flavor or for texture? I personally like the flavor of shredded Parmesan in my white some I'd rather use that. Also, why does it call for half-and-half rather than heavy cream? Would half-and-half thicken without the Velveeta? Do you think this recipe has less fat? Anyway...there are a handful of ways to make white sauce and I've never heard of this one so I'm wondering what the advantages are. What do you all think? Did anyone else wonder? All in all a good recipe. Oh...and I made 1/2 a batch it served 2 1/2 mouths generously for 2 meals.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall is Here! Time for Caramel Apples!

This week's recipe is Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples on page 166.

I really wanted to do the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, but there appears to be a shortage of canned pumpkin puree. (I went to four stores and couldn't find any. One store employee said they've been out for weeks. I didn't know how many of you would be willing to make your own.)

These were pretty easy, and with good apples, they're pretty tasty. I used a vanilla bean, but I'm sure you could try it with vanilla extract (follow the maple extract instructions). World Market is a great place to get real vanilla beans for cheap. I got a packet with two vanilla beans for, I think, $4 (great place for other cool spices too!).

For dowels, I picked up some sturdy chop sticks at the grocery store. They were a little on the long side, but they worked great.

My caramel turned out to be a little too chewy. I don't think I overcooked it, but I would've preferred it to be a little on the runnier side. So if you don't like chewy caramel, err on the side of under cooking it rather than over cooking it.

I halved the recipe and it barely covered four large apples. Since I was halving it, I only used half of a vanilla bean, but I should've used a whole one. The vanilla bean smelled great, but the flavor wasn't very strong.

Overall, I was happy with the recipe. I don't think I've ever made my own caramel apples before, so it was fun to do. And caramel apples are the perfect treat to kick off Fall!