an irishman for a day

I consider myself relatively fearless in the kitchen. I’m willing to try just about any technique, recipe or style of cooking at least once and I’m confident enough in my abilities that I can improvise if/when things go awry. However all that goes out the window when we’re talking about bread baking. No matter how many times I attempt to bake a nice crusty loaf of bread the results turn out disappointing. I don’t know if it’s my own impatience with the whole proofing, kneading, rising process or if I’m choosing overly complicated recipes, but every time without failure… failure.

Since next weekend is St. Patrick’s Day and EVERYONE is officially Irish for a solid 12 hours, I like most of America will be cooking up what we imagine to be true Irish fare… soda bread and something that takes several hours of slow cooking to go along with it. Usually that means corned beef but this year I’ve decided to branch out a bit, to make something that wasn’t so reliant on the quality of the pre-brined corned beef I purchased. Rather I was looking for a recipe that required real honest cooking and that I had more control over (I like control). Anyway I decided that this St. Patty’s my family would be feasting on homemade soda bread and Chicken Stout Stew. Since soda bread by nature is really much more like a quick bread than a yeast bread, I considered it to be far less intimidating and chicken stew with a nice hardy stout in the gravy— how could I miss?

Well it turns out that I couldn’t… The stew was so tasty and my soda bread so successful that we briefly considered changing out last name to O’Greco.

Éirinn go Brách and sláinte!

Irish Soda Bread
This is one of my all time favorite breads. It’s perfect alongside some stew or toasted and slathered with jam for breakfast. It’s easy to throw together, doesn’t require much advance prep and it comes out delicious every time.

soda bread2

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup raisins
4 tbsp. butter, frozen
1 1/3 cups + 1 tbsp. light buttermilk
1 large egg

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and raisins. Using a box grater grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture. Sir with a fork and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Knead the dough a couple of times before forming it into a ball. Place the loaf on the prepared cookie sheet and use cooking sheers (or a sharp knife) to cut a deep ‘x’ across the top of the loaf.
  4. Bake the bread for 45-55 minutes, until it’s golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool on a rack before slicing.

*adapted from king arthur flour

Chicken Stout Stew
This recipe calls for chicken thighs, which happen to be perfect for slow cooking. I won’t deny that they take a bit more time to trim and clean, but if you were to use chicken breast instead it would undoubtedly be dry and disappointing. I promise that the extra effort will totally be worth it.

stout stew2

6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 1/2 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cubed
6 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
7 slices quality turkey bacon, diced
4 cups chopped onion
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can Guinness beer (or other stout)
1 lb. whole baby carrots
12 small potatoes, quartered
6 springs fresh thyme
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups frozen baby peas

1 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. Combine 6 tablespoons flour with salt and pepper in a ziploc bag. Trim and cube the chicken and add to the bag. Seal the bag and shake to dredge the chicken thighs in the flour mixture.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on all sides, transfer to the slow cooker. Continue with the remaining chicken, adding additional oil to the pan as needed, and reserve the seasoned flour that remains.
  3. Add the diced bacon, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the seasoned flour that remains from dredging the chicken over the bacon mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes more. (The fat and flour will create a light-colored roux.) Add the stout and stir, being sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  4. Pour the bacon mixture over the chicken and add the carrots, potatoes and thyme. Pour the broth and Worcestershire sauce over the top and give everything a good stir.
  5. Cover and cook on medium 4 1/2 hours, until the chicken is falling-apart tender.
  6. When the stew is nearly done add the frozen peas and allow to continue cooking until the peas are heated through. Meanwhile sautee the mushrooms with the salt and thyme until they are nicely browned and all the moisture in the bottom of the pan has cooked off. Add the mushrooms to the stew, season with additional salt and pepper if needed and serve with a little soda bead.

*adapted from eating well

bitter, spicy + obsessed

There are two types of people in this world; those who enjoy sweet, mellow and subtly spiced food and those who prefer savory, assertive and intensely flavored dishes. I happen to fall in the later category; give me salty chips, strong coffee and spicy vindaloo and I’m a happy girl.

Whether I’m at Shop Rite or one of the ethnic grocery stores I like to frequent, I’m always on the lookout for interesting foods or ingredients to try. I recently discovered Shim’on Ariche Harissa Forte at Fairway and I’ve become a bit obsessed with this little condiment. Harissa is a spicy paste of chili peppers, garlic and salt that adds a delicious kick to everything and anything. I’ve been putting it on everything from grilled chicken and salads to sunny-side-up eggs and my morning toast. (Sometimes when I need a little pick me up, I actually eat it by the spoonfull right out of the jar.) The other thing I can’t seem to get enough of these days is broccoli rabe— I just love, love, love this bitter green! I usually sauté it with garlic, olive oil and some harissa (of course) and then throw in a few chickpeas or poach an egg for on top. Delicious!

You already know that I make a lot of soup, so it seemed like a natural progression to try to incorporate my harissa/broccoli rabe obsession with my soup infatuation. Happily this proved far easier to do then I expected. The soup turned out to be wonderfully soothing creation; filled with fiber rich beans, super antioxidant broccoli rabe, and some fantastic chicken sausage just to round things out. I added a little harissa for a background kick of metabolism boosting heat and served it with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. A simple bowl was enough to put a smile on my face!

But my quest to combine my two latest obsessions didn’t stop there, my final creation was a panini of broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and anchovies, a little fresh mozzarella and a hearty schmear of harissa all sandwiched between some lovely fresh ciabatta bread. Man it was good, just typing these words makes me want to hit save and head into the kitchen for another one.

I realize I have a bit of a bitter/spicy monkey on my back, but I’m okay with it. Thankfully we have a Fairway close by so I’m never without this obsession evoking condiment or my favorite greens for long. However if anyone from Fairway is reading this… I’m begging you, please start selling the harissa in larger jars. I don’t have enough pantry space for all the little jars required to feed my need!

Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Mozzarella Panini
This would no doubt be equally delicious with a couple slices of sharp provolone or perhaps a combination of mozzarella and provolone. But— even if you don’t like anchovies don’t omit them, the flavor is very subtle but it really does make a difference.

panini2

1/2 a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe, chopped into thirds
4 flat anchovies packed in oil, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
2 wedges ciabetta bread (or other hearty bread), sliced in half
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella
harissa

  1. Quickly steam (or blanch) the broccoli rabe until it is just crisp tender and set aside.
  2. Cook the anchovies and garlic in olive oil until the garlic just begins to turn golden and the anchovies begin to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and cook (stirring frequently) an additional 3-4 minutes.
  3. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to manufacturer’s instructions until hot. Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a work surface. Layer the broccoli rabe mixture and two slices of mozzarella on each bottom slice. Spread the top slice with harissa and place on the sandwich.
  4. Put sandwiches on the press, pull down the top and cook until the cheese has melted and the ciabatta is browned and crisp, 4 to 7 minutes.

Broccoli Rabe & Chicken Sausage Soup
This soup is one of my all time favorites. It’s makes a wonderfully satisfying lunch and is perfect with a simple panini for dinner.broccoli rabe soup3

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 quarts chicken stock
4 tsp. harissa
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium stock pot over high heat. Add the sausage and brown 2-3 minutes, breaking up any large pieces.
  2. Add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetable begin to soften. Add the chopped broccoli rabe, stir well to coat with the vegetable mixture and allow to cook 1-2 minutes until the greens begin to wilt.
  3. Add to the pot the chicken stock, bay leaf, harissa and beans and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Fish out bay leaf, adjust seasonings and serve with grated cheese and some crusty bread.

game day chili

Let me begin by introducing myself; my name is Jim Greco and I’m the husband of the tour de force behind Beets and Blue Cheese. I’ve been asked to be this weeks “Blogger Emeritus” because it’s Super Bowl Weekend and (since the Giants didn’t make it this year) that really only means one thing in our house…CHILI!

Chili typically means the following: “Chili- noun \ˈchi-lē\: A small hot-tasting pod of a variety of capsicum, used chopped (and often dried) in sauces, relishes, and spice powders or a spicy stew of beef and red chilies or chili powder, often with beans and tomatoes.”

However in my house it has many connotations; football, cold weather, skiing and fermented hops consumption to name a few. Now chili may not be a strictly cold-weather food, but the only time it seems to appear in our house is when the cold northwest winds are blowing. Once the weather gets warm it’s “Jim can you light the grill— I give got some chicken/skirt steak/pork chops marinating…” (I know, your heart breaks for me, right?) Anyway, back to the chili. Jan didn’t just happen upon her chili recipe, she’s actually been working on it for years but only recently did she actually write it down. It was always good, but some batches would definitely be better than others depending on how much of this and that she put in it. After much begging and pleading on my part she finally has a real recipe to refer to, and I have perfect chili every time!

Jan’s chili is a pot of pure tasting delight with a definite dash of heat. She makes it with ground turkey rather than beef (I suppose because of my cholesterol levels), but believe me you won’t care a bit. In fact it takes quite a bit of control to eat just one bowl! (Actually I usually add an extra scoop to my dish without anyone looking, but lets just keep that between us.) Since our kids can’t really appreciate the intense heat her chili of old used to crank out it’s been “toned down” lately, but based on her ingredient list I’m sure you can modify the recipe and get the Scoville level up to where it’s perfect for you. I usually add a little of Franks’ Hot Sauce or sliced jalapeno to kick it up to a sweat-enducing level.

I’m lucky to be the husband of a food blogger and quite frankly, any way she chooses to make chili suits me just fine. Especially when it is accompanied by some nice hoppy brew and her delicious homemade cornbread! So my friends and fellow followers of Beets and Blue Cheese enjoy this fantastic chili recipe and remember, there’s no shame in seconds!

Turkey & Bean Chili
This recipe makes enough chili for a Super Bowl party sized crowd, but never fear it freezes beautifully as well.

chili

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs. ground turkey
3 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
1 cup water
4 cups chunky chipotle salsa
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2-3 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
7 cups canned kidney or pinto beans (or a mix of both), rinsed

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven, add the onion and sautee over medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and turkey and cook about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir well and allow to cook an additional 2 minutes, until the juices are absorbed.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, salsa, water and all the spices. Give a good stir, add the rinsed beans and stir again. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for an hour fifteen to an hour and a half, or until the beans are tender and the turkey is cooked through.
  3. Serve garnished with sliced jalapeno, cheddar cheese or sour cream and with a side of homemade cornbread or tortilla chips.

Whatsa’ kid know!— Carrot & Parsnip Soup

I know I frequently post soup recipes, more than any other type of recipe in fact, but you see I really like soup. And my daughter; who orders Won-Ton soup if we get Chinese and Pasta Fagioli if we get pizza; really likes soup. So I make soup, a lot of soup!

Last weekend my little love and I were discussing soup and she suggested I make carrot soup (she loves carrots almost as much as she loves soup). Hmmmm, I think my girl was on to something. How about carrot and parsnip soup? (A natural pairing after all.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger? (A recipe was slowly beginning to take shape in my mind.) How about carrot and parsnip soup with a little curry and ginger and some coconut milk to round things out? (Oh yeah baby, I think we had the makings of something terrific here!)

So my girl and I headed to the store for ingredients and jumped right into our slicing, dicing and measuring. “This is going to be soooo good!” she told me. I had to agree. We sautéed, simmered and pureed and soon sat down to steaming bowls of Carrot & Parsnip Soup. “Um… I don’t like it,” she said. “But it’s delicious,” I say. Try it again!” [Grimace. Gag. Frantically motions for her glass of milk to wash the offending soup down.] “I don’t like it,” she says again. “Maybe next time you could just make Pasta Fagioli…”

Curried Carrot & Parsnip Soup
Even if my lovey didn’t like it, I still maintain that this soup is delicious. I like to have it for lunch with a couple of slices of buttered toast; it’s the perfect soup for dunking.

carrot soup

1 1/2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs. carrots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
3 tsp. Madras curry powder
4 cups (32 oz.) chicken broth
1/2 tsp. pink salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk

  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook 7-10 minutes or until the onion is translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the chopped parsnips, carrots and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 45-50 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  3. Use an immersion blender to process the soup to a smooth consistency. Add the coconut milk, season with salt and pepper and serve.

my cruciferous conundrum

I’ve already told you how much I like soup and that I make it fairly often. And you also know that my kids are pretty good vegetable eaters, but that broccoli happens to be one of their favorites. So then you must have already guessed where this blog entry is heading…

After hurricane Sandy my parents came for a visit and since our grocery store shelves were still alarmingly bare, they brought with them an abundance of supplies to replenish us. They thought of everything those two; milk, bread, cold cuts, asparagus, homemade quiche, wine and of course fresh broccoli. But here’s the thing (and please don’t misinterpret this as a lack of appreciation), they brought enough broccoli to feed my entire neighborhood. Seriously, if broccoli could have been traded for gas I would have had quite the black market enterprise going! We ate a considerable amount of broccoli over the next few days and still seemed to have plenty left to spare. So faced with this cruciferous vegetable conundrum I did what I do best, made soup.

In my mind soup should be something that warms and nurtures you, but it shouldn’t be so laden with calories that you feel guilty enjoying it. I won’t deny that a creamy broccoli and cheddar soup is delicious, but it’s not exactly the kind of healthy food I try to serve my family. I wanted to make a broccoli soup that was light and lovely. Perhaps the kind of soup more suited as an accompaniment to a sandwich rather than a meal in itself. And to really knock my broccoli soups nutritional profile out of the park I decided to add to it the ultimate super food— kale! It didn’t change the flavor but it did change the health benefits. In fact my son, who thought the soup was delicious, didn’t even realize it contained kale until he read this post over my shoulder. “Kale?!?” he screeched, “It had kale in it?!?” “Hummm,” he said shrugging and walking away, “who knew…”

Who knew indeed that a little kale could change my simple broccoli soup from “soup” to “SOUPPPPPPPP!”

Creamy Broccoli & Kale Soup
Adding the kale to this soup really kicked its nutritional value up. So much in fact that I didn’t think twice about using a little half and half to thicken it.

8 cups broccoli florets
4 cups kale leaves, removed from stems and torn
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion (about 2 1/2 cups), diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. garlic powder
8 cups (64 ounces) chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

  1. Heat a olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add broccoli, kale, thyme, garlic powder, salt and chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or food processor) to puree the soup until it’s smooth.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and slowly whisk into soup, allow to cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the half and half and serve topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

*adapted from cooking light done right

Hurricane Stew

Sandy. Seems like a rather innocuous name doesn’t it? I’ve known several in my time; a Sandra, a Sandy and even a Sandeee (she was a lovely kooky character). The name Sandy never caused me a moment of pause, fear or worry, that was until last weekend. Call her a hurricane or call her a tropical storm, Sandy devastated my Garden State and left many of us in the cold and dark with empty grocery stores and even emptier gas tanks.

My family prepared for the storm just as most everyone did. We bought extra batteries and flashlights, made sure the pumps and generator were ready to go and stocked up on water, milk and unhealthy snacks (we were in crisis mode after all!). And for my part, I planned dinners that could easily be cooked or reheated on the gas stove top or even in the fireplace. I was fully prepared to roast chicken sausages in the fireplace on our telescoping marshmallow forks and to the use the same forks to make fireplace marshmallow and nutella s’mores. Thankfully we never lost power, but I had a hearty beef stew and cheddar-thyme biscuits to keep our bellies full just in case we did.

Hurricane Beef Stew
This recipe makes enough stew to have for dinner while the power is out as well as share with your hungry neighbors. But if you’d rather not share (or don’t really like your neighbors) feel free to half the recipe.

4 lbs. stew beef
1 cup flour
4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. pepper
4-8 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, diced large
3 parsnips, diced large
1 1/4 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced thin
3 potatoes, diced large
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
1 bottle of dark beer
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh of thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp. cornstarch

  1. Mix flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper together. Dredge beef in flour mixture.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy saucepan and working in batches brown the beef. Transfer to a slow cooker and continue with remainder of beef. (If your meat is very lean you may need to add more olive oil to the pot as you continue browning.) Top the browned beef with the diced potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and celery.
  3. When all the beef is browned, add 1 tbsp. more oil and add the carrots, parsnips and onion to the pot. Allow to cook for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Transfer to the crock pot.
  4. In a medium bowl stir together the stock, tomato paste, beer, bay leaves, herbs, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over everything in crock pot, but do not stir.
  5. Cook for 5 1/2 hrs. on medium heat until the meat is tender and cooked through.
  6. Stir together the water and cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture to stew to thicken and cook for another 15 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and serve with warm drop biscuits to mop up the gravy. Enjoy!

adapted from bon appétit

for the love of soup!

So long Summer and hello soup season. I love soup. During the cool months I usually have a pot cooking on the stove every Sunday. Soup makes for the perfect busy weeknight meal, satisfying lunch or even quick breakfast (yes I’m one of those leftovers for breakfast kinda people). Good ol’ Chicken Noodle, Curried Butternut Squash, Chicken-Corn Chowder and Lentil are a few recipes in my permanent rotation. I make my lentil soup with red lentils (rather than the traditional brown), carrots, lots of onion and a bit of bacon. I don’t imagine my kids would be compelled to dig into a big bowl of brown mush, no matter how much I assured them it was delicious, and the red lentils create a lovely soup in a kid-friendly shade of orange. But regardless of the type of soup on the menu, I always make homemade dinner rolls, cornbread or drop biscuits to go along side. There’s just something about freshly baked bread that can turn even a meal of leftovers into something special.

Red Lentil Soup
The consistency of this lentil soup is well, soup-like, rather than thick and stew-like as most lentil soups tend to be. However if you like yours thicker omit the two cups of water.

5 strips thick cut bacon, diced
2 large onions, chopped
4-5 medium carrots, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp. tomato paste
1 16 oz bag red lentils, rinsed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
7 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

  1. In a Dutch oven cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and the fat has rendered, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bacon and set aside.
  2. Add onion, garlic and carrots to rendered bacon fat and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add lentils, thyme, broth, water and bacon. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until lentils are almost done, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in salt, pepper and paprika and let finish cooking uncovered another 5-10 minutes. Fish out the thyme stems and serve.

*adapted from martha stewart

Homemade Herbed Drop Biscuits
These are terrific with the addition of fresh thyme, sage, basil or rosemary. Use whatever herbs you like most and happen to have on hand.

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl melt the butter. Whisk together the butter, milk, beaten egg and herbs and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry and blend with a fork until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Drop by the tablespoon full onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes, until the tops have begun to brown. Serve warm with butter or cool and store in an airtight container.

wonton soup… who knew?!?

I love soup. Winter, Summer, morning or night; there is something so soothing about a nice warm bowl of homemade soup. It’s the perfect meal; one bowl, one utensil, one nice full belly.

After making the pesto and goat cheese appetizers last weekend, I still had half a package of wonton wrappers to find a use for. Having just used them in a non-traditional manner, I thought perhaps I should consider using them for their intended purpose. I had never made a dumpling or ravioli before, but since wonton soup happens to be one of my daughter’s most favorite foods, I was willing to give it a shot.

It turns out that making won tons is not only fairly easy to do but also quite gratifying. My homemade wontons actually looked and tasted like the take out version, only infinitely better. The wrappers were thinner, which made for lighter wontons, the pork filling was fresh and flavorful and the soup was really delicious with the addition of shrimp, Napa cabbage and a touch of sesame oil.

Attempting something for the first time only to discover that it’s both easy and rewarding is such a lovely surprise. I’m still marveling at just how simple and tasty this wonton soup was and how much my entire family enjoyed it. And rest assured, I will absolutely be making it again soon.

Shrimp & Wonton Soup
I added shrimp and Napa cabbage to my version of this soup. But straw mushrooms, a bit of broccoli or thin sliced carrots would work as well.

10 cups of chicken broth
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
1 bunch of green onions
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. ground lean pork
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
24 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups of Nappa cabbage, shredded
additional tamari soy sauce and sesame oil, for garnish

  1. Slice the green onions and set aside all but 3 tbsp., finely chop those and put in a large bowl. Add to the bowl the pork, sesame oil, tamari, garlic, egg, salt and pepper. With a fork, throughly mix the filling together.
  2. Spoon a generous 1/2 tsp. of filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly moisten the front edges of the wrap with water and fold the wrapper in half (into a triangle shape) and press together to seal. Moisten the front two corners with water, bring them together (overlapping them) and press to seal. Set completed wontons aside and cover with a damp paper towel until ready to cook.
  3. In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil. Drop the wontons into the boiling broth and allow to cook for 4 minutes or until they float to the surface.
  4. Once all the wontons have floated to the surface reduce the heat to simmer and add the shrimp and cabbage. Simmer for 2 minutes, until the cabbage softens a bit and the shrimp turns pink.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining green onion, a drizzle of sesame oil and a splash of tamari.

*adapted from nasoya.com

delicious comfort

“Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

It’s finally cold enough here in New Jersey to actually feel like winter. This sudden drop in temperature has restored my children’s hope for snow, made it feel like a proper football season for my husband and his beloved Giants and inspired me to haul out the “big pot” and cook up something hearty and comforting. Normally this pot if mine churns out great vats of red sauce, steaming pots of chicken soup and a killer turkey chili. But last weekend was so crazy cold that I wanted to make something really rich, soothing and wonderful. Something that would not only fill my family’s bellies but also warm them right down to their toes. After much browsing, googling and serious debate I finally decided on the meal to make: Chicken-Corn Chowder topped with aged cheddar cheese and served with a side of cornbread. Makes you feel toasty just thinking about it doesn’t it? I have to say it was pretty fantastic. So good in fact that a few nights later, when I gave the kids the choice between leftover chowder and pan-fried grouper (normally a Greco kid favorite) the chowder won, hands down!

Ordinarily I would jump to the recipes at this point, but I think I have a bit of housekeeping to do first. When I began this blog I told you that I’m not a food snob. And while I still consider this to be true I feel I should amend that declaration a tad. There is something that has zero room in my little food world. What you may ask? Well I’ll tell you… canned creamed corn. Yup, that slimy yellow mush we all remember from the 70’s. (I believe that must of been it’s heyday.) Anyway it’s still out there on the store shelves and it happens to be called for in both my chowder and cornbread recipes. I however refuse to support the canned cream corn industry and instead make my creamed corn from scratch. Stop rolling your eyes, it seriously takes all of 10 minutes to make and is so insanely delicious that I couldn’t get my family to stop eating it right out of the pan. If you insist on using the canned variety, so be it. But I promise you, the minimal effort required to make it yourself is well worth the yummy payoff.

Chicken-Corn Chowder with Aged Cheddar
This recipe can easily be halved, but my feeling is if you’re going to take the time to make soup you might as well make enough for leftovers.

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups homemade creamed corn (see recipe below)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 3/4 cups low fat milk
2 cans of navy beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
2-3 cups shredded aged cheddar cheese, for topping

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onion is transparent and the peppers are fragrant, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add the creamed corn, smoked paprika, cumin, milk, heavy cream and beans. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in chicken, season with additional salt and pepper to taste and allow to continue simmering until chicken is heated through.
  4. Ladle into bowls, top with aged cheddar and serve with a side of cornbread.

*adapted from Kerrygold.com

Homemade Creamed Corn
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1lb. bag of frozen corn, defrosted
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. yellow cornmeal
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups low fat milk

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion and salt until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the corn and the rosemary sprig and cook for 3 minutes or until the rosemary begins to go limp. Remove the rosemary, sprinkle the corn with the sugar and cornmeal and stir to combine well. Cook for 1 minute then add the heavy cream and milk. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the corn has softened and the mixture has thickened.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree a bit of the corn mixture to give it more of a canned consistency. (A food processor or blender would also work.)
  4. Give the corn a final stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve or set aside for later use.

*adapted from Alton Brown

Cornbread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup brown rice or AP flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup creamed corn (homemade or canned)
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease an 8×8 square baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, melted butter and creamed corn.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean.