Friday, February 26, 2010

Sausage and Lentil Soup

Lately I have felt as though Joey and I have fallen into a bit of a food rut.  I'm still cooking just as much as I normally do, but I'm cooking with the same ingredients over and over.  So I set out to find some new ingredients and inspiration, and I happened upon lentils.  I used to eat them a lot growing up as a vegetarian, but it had been years since I had eaten them, and I've never made them.  I browsed some cookbooks and blogs, and happened upon Ina Garten's Lentil Vegetable Soup.  And then, I happened upon Tara's version, which uses sausage.

Quite honestly, I was a little nervous to serve lentils to Joey.  He will usually eat pretty much anything I put in front of him, but I was worried he would turn his nose up at lentils.  Well, he proclaimed as he ate that he really likes lentils, and that I should cook with them more often.  Success!!

Tara uses kielbasa in her version, but I opted for Turkey Italian Sausage.  I just though that would be a nice flavor profile, and I had some to use up anyway.  I made this during our recent Snowpocalypse, and it was a perfect dinner for a cold and snowy night.

Just be forewarned:  this makes a LOT of soup.  I halved the recipe, and we still had several days worth of leftovers.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
adapted from Smells Like Home, originally from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris
serves 8-10
  • 1 pound French green lentils
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage, sliced 1/2-1 inch thick
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onion (3 large)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling on top
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium-diced carrots (4-6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes and drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, brown the sausage 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender.  Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, lentils, and sausage.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through.

Adjust the seasonings if necessary, and add the red wine.  Serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins

A few weeks ago, we were "snowed in" here in Atlanta, and I really wanted to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  However, since it was already 9 am, I didn't really have time for multiple rises, shaping, proofing, etc.  So I started browsing some of my favorite baking sites, and I came across Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins on Joy the Baker. 

There is a quick 15 minute rise, then the muffins are topped with a cinnamon-sugar topping, and placed in an unheated oven.  You then preheat the oven, so the muffins will rise more as it preheats.  The result is a light and fluffy muffin with all the flavors of a cinnamon roll.  Genius!  Joey and I each ate one (or two), then I gave the rest to my neighbors.  I can't allow myself to be snowed in with delicious treats!

Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins
Joy the Baker, originally from Baking Bites 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm milk (100-110 degrees F)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the topping/filling
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cardamom
For the glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or half and half
Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Dissolve the yeast into a measuring cup with the warm milk, then add to the flour mixture along with the vanilla, vegetable oil, and egg.Stir until very smooth.

Divide among 12 greased muffin tins, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamon with a fork.  Divide the mixture among the muffins, using a fork to swirl it into the batter.

Place in a cold oven, then set the temperature to 350.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are lightly browned around the edges, and they spring back with lightly pressed.

Allow to cool slightly; meanwhile make the glaze.  Combine the confectioner's sugar with the cream, stirring well to combine.  Drizzle over muffins before serving.

Serve immediately, or to reheat, microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Caesar Salad Tartlets with Roasted Garlic Crusts

This is another recipe from Savory Baking, and it was just as delicious as the Chile-Cheese Bread I posted earlier in the year.  The crust reminds me a little bit of the Basil-Garlic Crust of the Tomato-Mozzarella Tart.... but its better!  Garlic is first roasted, then mixed with butter and Parmesan cheese to flavor the dough, then it is baked in tartlet pans, cooled, and a delicious Caesar salad is piled high inside. 

I made these as the first course for Valentine's dinner, and they were very well received.  I will definitely make these again; they are perfect for a dinner party.  The crusts can be baked in advance, and the vinaigrette can be made 2 days in advance as well.   I am already dreaming up all the fun ideas for using these crusts in other capacities, and I definitely plan on using this vinaigrette for other salads as well.

Such a fun and elegant twist on a traditional Caesar salad!

Caesar Tartlets with Sweet Garlic-Butter Crusts
adapted from Savory Baking, by Mary Cech
makes 8 tartlets

Garlic Tartlets
  • 2 small heads of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Caesar Vinaigrette and Salad
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, leaves washed and torn
  • shaved parmesan, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350.

Trim the tops off the heads of garlic and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet.  Cook until very soft, about 35 minutes.  Let cool, and squeeze each clove from the wrapper.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the roasted garlic, cheese, and salt together until smooth.  Add the flour and blend well.  At this point the dough will look crumbl, but that's okay.  Place a generous 1/4 cup of the dough into each tartlet pan.  Press evenly and firmly into the bottom and up the sides of each pan.  Use a fork to poke holes into the bottoms of each tartlet.  Line the pans on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes.  Cool the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before removing crusts from each mold.

Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette.  Whisk the garlic, capers, parsley, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper together in a medium bowl.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil while continuously whisking.  Stir in the grated Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the prepared romaine in a large bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette.  Toss gently to coat, and add more vinaigrette as necessary.  Place a heaping portion into each shell and finish with shaved Parmesan and a grinding of pepper.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Salmon, Lemon, and Dill with Orzo

The making of this dish was a long time coming.  My pal Michelle was telling me about seeing this on Everyday Food one day, and we set out to find the recipe.  Wouldn't you know, it wasn't on Martha Stewart's site?  Luckily, fellow blogger Melissa has it posted on her blog, so I passed it along, and Michelle made it for dinner.  She reported back that she loved it, but that her husband suggested using salmon instead of chicken - genius!

So that very weekend, I used salmon in place of chicken, made a few other changes, and voila!  An incredibly easy, fairly healthy, delicious dinner!  I made several changes to the recipe, and my version is posted below.  I have since made this using chicken, and it is quite tasty that way as well.

The orzo bakes in the oven, and it gets nice and creamy, almost like a risotto.  Salmon, dill, feta, and lemon are a natural pairing in my opinion, and I served this with Greek salad.  Joey and I both really enjoyed this dish, and even Caroline gobbled it up - that's  certainly a victory in our house!

Salmon, Lemon, and Dill with Orzo
significantly adapted from Everyday Food, via Lemons and Love
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 pound salmon, skinned and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400.

In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, water, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 3 quart baking dish, combine the orzo, feta, dill, parsley, shallots, wine, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Pour the chicken broth over the orzo mixture and stir to combine.

Bake for 25 minutes, stir, and add the salmon.  Stir again to combine.

Cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through and orzo is al dente.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

As I've said many times on here, Joey, Caroline, and I are all big fans of Mexican food.  Even more specifically, we are big fans of black beans.  You should see Caroline eat them - she probably eats 5 beans per second.  So I have had this recipe starred in my google reader for oh, a year and a half.  And I'll go ahead and tell you, it was worth the wait.  Its a breeze to throw together, I almost always have all of these ingredients on had, and its incredibly delicious.  I stayed pretty true to the recipe, but I did add a chipotle and some chile powder to the mix.

I'd say its safe to say this is a new family favorite!

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Liz's Cooking Blog 
  •  4 (10-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • kosher salt and freshly ground peppe
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen corn
  • 1 12-ounce beer, or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 8 ounces cheese, shredded (I used a combo of cheddar and pepperjack)
  • salsa and sour cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400.
Using the bottom of the pan as a guide, use a paring knife to trim the edges of the tortillas so that they fit in a 9-inch springform pan.  

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.  Saute the onion and jalapeno until soft, 5-10 minutes.  Add the garlic, chipotle, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  

Add the beans and beer to the skillet, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes.  Mix in the corn, scallions, and cilantro, and remove from heat.

Lay one of the tortillas across the bottom of the springform pan.  Layer with 1/4 of the beans, and sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat 3 times, finishing with beans and cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted and the mixture is heated through, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and unmold the pie.  Garnish with remaining scallions and cilantro, and serve with sour cream.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Cupcake Ideas

I made some cupcakes for a friend last week.  She wanted Valentine's themed decorations, but since they were mini-cupcakes, I wanted to keep it simple.  I made 75 cupcakes - 25 vanilla, 25 chocolate, and 25 red velvet

I used a different tip to frost each cupcake, then gave each one an adornment.  I left the cream cheese on the red velvet plain, only because of the different candies and sprinkles I tried out, none stood out to me.  I guess sometimes less is more!

They were all super fun to make, and I hope they were enjoyed at the party!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs

Brace yourselves:  I have a new favorite chicken recipe.  My previous favorite was just chicken coated in pesto and grilled... but this one blows it out of the water.  When planning my menus, I always forget about the possibility of using chicken thighs, but no more!  Sure, they have more fat than breasts, but they are still not terribly fattening.

This marinade doesn't seem like much:  some rosemary, olive oil, honey, and mustard.  But when the components meld together, something magical happens.  The resulting chicken is moist, flavorful, smoky, and herbaceous!    Super easy and quick, it doesn't get any easier than throwing some ingredients in and letting it marinate.  Absolutely delicious, and open to many adaptations.  I can't wait to try it on pork tenderloin and chicken breasts. 

Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs
adapted from Southern Living, September 2008
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/2 lemon
Combine the garlic, oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, salt, and rosemary in a shallow dish or large ziploc bag.  Add the chicken and turn to coat.  Allow to marinate chilled for at least one hour or, up to 24 hours.

Prepare grill.  Grill chicken thighs 5-7 minutes per side, or until an internal temperature of 165 has been reached.  Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow to rest 10 minutes, then top with the juice of 1/2 a lemon before serving.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Herbed Basmati Rice

I love it when I have low expectations for a recipe, and then it blows me away.  I had various types of herbs leftover last week, and I also needed a side dish to go with some baked halibut.  I started thumbing through The Barefoot Contessa at Home, and I came across this recipe.  Like I said before, I didn't really have high expectations - I mean, it's rice.  I figured it would suffice as a a side dish, and we'd move on.  Well, this really is a fantastic recipe.  The basmati is nutty and slightly sweet, you get a little bit of richness from the butter, and then a nice punch of flavor from the herbs.  You could really play around with the varieties of herbs, and I think some toasted nuts would be lovely as well.  This dish is open to many adaptations, and it  was also low maintenance and quick.  You can't beat that!

Herbed Basmati Rice
adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa at Home
serves 3 to 4
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain basmati rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh scallions, white and green parts
  • freshly ground black pepper
Combine the rice, 1 3/4 cups water, salt, and butter in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, stir once, and simmer, covered tightly, for 15 minutes.  You may need to pull the pot half-way off the burner to keep it from boiling over.

Turn off the heat, and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes.  Mix in the herbs and season with salt and pepper.  Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.

Monday, February 1, 2010

All-Desserts Bridal Shower

This past weekend, I hosted a bridal shower for one of my best friends.  Since it was in the middle of the afternoon, we didn't want anything too heavy.  All desserts seemed perfect - and it was!!  I will be posting the recipes in the next few weeks, but here is the menu and a sneak peak:

Chocolate fondue with pretzels, strawberries, pound cake, and homemade marshmallows

Dulce de leche sandwich cookies
Lemon Cheesecake Cheeseball with Gingersnaps and Apples

Cinnamon-Cream Cheese Pinwheels

Mini Lemon Tartlettes

Cheese and Cracker Board

And champagne, or course!!