Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flavorful and Fantastic, Loaded Potato Soup!

This recipe is a great way to stock pile on vitamins and minerals, while enjoying a rich and hearty fall favorite, Potato Soup.  This is loaded with delicious and nutritious garden veggies like carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushrooms and zucchini, that are sauteed then pureed to form the creaminess of the soup itself.  These veggies really pack in essential building blocks for cells and body function, discreetly nestled among the tender chunks of potato. The implement of these veggies provide soluble fiber to help keep you full and  satisfied longer, and eliminate some of the starch and carbs, by using less potato.
 A recipe like this one is fabulous during cold and flu season to help supply the body with the fuel it needs to stave off  illness particularly during temperature transitions.  This is especially handy for picky eaters both young and old, and provide a substantial amount of your daily vegetable requirements in just one bowl.  The potatoes are diced in several sizes to provide body and texture to the chunky yet creamy dish as a whole, thus using less milk and butter.   A small piece of country ham provides an almost smoky and rich undertone.  Vegetarians and Less Meat fans, feel free to leave this out for a wholesome and delicious dish.  A hint of pumpkin pie spice warms and really rounds out the overall cozying effect created by this easy to make, easy on the waistline, and sure to please recipe. Plus, the spices that comprise pumpkin pie spice are rich in antioxidants! Serve with grilled cheese, crackers or whole grain breads for a well balanced and amazing cup or bowl of love and tenderness.
1 3 oz. slice of bone-in country ham, chopped w/bone reserved
1 c. EACH carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms,small dice
2 c. zucchini, chopped or shredded, no seeds
2 bay leaves, dried
7 c. Russet potatoes, small, medium and large dice
4 c. water
1 soft chicken and tomato bouillon cube
1 1/2 c. 1% milk
4 tbsp. butter
large pinch pumpkin pie spice
olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)

In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil.   Brown and render ham, about 4 minutes.  Add veggies bay leaves then cook until softened, about 7 minutes.  Remove veggies from pot and set aside to cool slightly before pureeing w/one cup water and bouillon cube.
Meanwhile, add potatoes to pot and stir to coat.  Add 3 remaining cups water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer and add veggie puree.  Simmer until largest potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in milk and butter.  Simmer additional 5 minutes until heated through again. Stir in spices. SPST.  Serve drizzled with olive oil if desired.   Makes a lot!!
Recipe may easily be halved or frozen in airtight containers for up to 3 months.

Happy Birthday to my big brother and buddy Ken!  We love you and wish you decades more, XOXO

Friday, September 28, 2012

Everything Gravy!

This recipe is a simple and easy way to spruce up a meal in just a short moment while adding a bountiful flavor profile and lots of color and nutrients.   The sauce includes bright, beta-carotene and fiber rich carrots, while the onion adds essential flavanoids, the mushrooms, B vitamins, protein and magnesium, and the potatoes contribute potassium, fiber and more B vitamins still.  This recipe can be used to smother savory beef burgers, (which is what I did) chicken burgers or even turkey patties. Boneless, skinless chicken and boneless or bone-in pork chops will work well too. The possibilities are virtually endless.  Vegetarians can use  this sauce to smother rice, egg noodles or couscous, even quinoa for a hearty filling meal.  Further still, this sauce can be diluted with chicken broth or more milk and served as a soup with crackers or whole grain bread.  There's no wrong way and the taste is a warm, gratifying one. The moniker concludes that this recipe can complement anything, hence the  name, not to mention what you may come up with in your own kitchen.  This recipe is not really a gravy since that would entail a deglazing and browning of flour and bits from the bottom of a pan, but it smothers like a gravy, so gravy it is!  I hope you have just as much fun with this quick fix recipe as I did!
8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1/3 c. matchstick carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
6 small, cooked red potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, about 1 1/2 c.
olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
In a medium saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and add mushrooms.  Cook until fragrant and mushrooms start to brown, about 3 minutes and add onions and carrots.  SPST.  Cook additional minutes until onions are softened and translucent.  Add mushroom soup and milk and bring up to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add sliced potatoes.Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.  SPST  Serve as desired.  Makes about 4 cups.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Long Lost Cousins and Buttery Shrimp Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a widely popularized food, graciously donated to us by the Italians.  The actual origins date back to around the 15th century and has been utilized since.  Traditionally, bruschetta consists of toasted bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  There are a wide rage of variations to this dish, with the implement of tomato and sometimes cheese, being the most popular.  It is also common to serve bruschetta topped with other items including, but not limited to  veggies and cured meats, sliced thinly.   The variation I created wanted at the spur of the moment on Friday past, with some prompts from my sister Hollie.  We had the taste for  a repeat of the pasta that I had prepared for the wonderful lunch we had with our brother Ken, a couple of weeks prior.   She had really enjoyed the flavor profile created by the lemon in conjunction with the garlic and butter. The taste had lingered in her mind.  I too, reminisced about that mellifluous blend and wanted to either repeat the recipe or create another with a similar profile.  I whipped up a fabulous Rigatoni Bake for  an easy No-Fuss Friday, with seconds included.  I had a delicious loaf of Italian bread to serve either plain and toasted or garlic bread style so I concluded that I could combine the best of both worlds by turning the toasted garlic bread into amazing flavor filled loaf halves of buttery garlicky goodness, with a sweet spot.  This recipe packs a great punch with B vitamins, lycopene, vitamin C, omega 3's and monounsaturated fats, that help raise levels of HDL's or high density lipoproteins ( good cholesterol) and helps to lower  LDL's/low density lipoproteins(bad cholesterol).  The sesame seeds provide a substantial amount of the RDA for Vitamin C as well.
We had some surprise guests that evening including our close cousins ( our moms are sisters) Tricia and Brian, and his friend, Lynn, all hailing originally from Maryland, recently relocating here to Virginia.  Normally, we would see these cousins maybe once a year during our  family's reunion, if schedules permitted.  We now get to congregate like neighbors, which is awesome.  Friday, we enjoyed a pleasant evening filled with laughter, stories and libations, plates brimming with my bruschetta creation and the Rigationi Bake, showered in freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  My family thought the recipe was fab, and there were requests for seconds on the  Shrimp Bruschetta, which is a tell tale sign of a favorable dish.  I really appreciate when things come together, especially family and a new recipe, at the same time.  Happiness and contentment can be just that simple, and we are already making plans to get together and 'chilllax' again in the near future.  "Love Each Day" and I hope this recipe finds a place in your home too!
1 lb. Italian loaf w/ sesame seeds, cut in half lengthwise
4 tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
16 31-40 count shrimp, peeled and rough chopped
zest of 1 lemon
juice of two wedges
2 small or 1 medium tomato, chopped
pinch of Old Bay
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
olive oil for drizzling
Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish, optional
In a medium bowl, combine garlic, shrimp, tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, old bay, basil, drizzled olive oil and SPST.  Mix well, set aside.
Preheat oven to 400*F.  Drizzle loaf halves liberally with olive oil and place in oven.
Cook until toasty and slightly golden, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan over medium heat and when small bubbles form, add shrimp mixture and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
Spread mixture over bread and place back into the oven and cook until golden and shrimp is cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Garnish with cheese if desired.  Cut into desired portion size and serve as appetizers or with pasta.
I added the shrimp mixture to only 1 side of the loaf for versatility and because my children's father has a shellfish allergy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Capellini w/Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Anchovies with my Big Brother!

As hectic as schedules can get between balancing our personal work and family, it's nice to know we can touch base and share laughs with our siblings on an occasion or two.  "Time waits for no Man" is not just a euphemism, and each second, minute, hour is as precious and un-promised as the next.  I had not conversed with or seen my brother Ken, uber best friend and cut up buddy, in more than a month of Sunday's.  He dropped by the house to see the family and we were all surprised and elated at his arrival.  Oftentimes, Ken is super wrapped up with his own family's to do's, and doesn't get to take time for himself and his own sanity in the zoo that is our personal lives very often.  He shares his thoughts periodically, but more often than not, the build-up of anxiety is to the point where he has to 'escape' just for peace of mind.  We don't probe or try to give him sanctimonious advise, rather divert his attention with our candor and a memorable meal among friends, which has untold healing properties, especially within a genuine support system, that should be a family unit.  I  visited the supermarket two days prior and had some fresh oysters in shells on hand for a clam bake that never happened, so we needed to get those piggies to the market so to speak or risk having to throw them out.  I put together an impromptu affair with the fresh steamed oysters with all the amenities (butter, lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, Sriracha) and the Capellini or angel hair pasta with lots of fresh garlic, shrimp and lemon, and the rich and delicious implement of anchovies packed in olive oil.  My brother Ken had taken a 20 minute power nap, while letting the movie I insisted he see dawdle on,  Trailer Park of Terror, a hilarious, scary but not really, spoof about a zombie chick who lures people to the trailer park where she lived and ultimately died, scorned by her park mates, and seeking revenge on the passersby who happen to get stuck there! The jury is still out on his critique  of my 'must see' for his entertainment.!LOL When my brother and I get together, television and movies just become background fodder to our conversation, riddled with knee slaps, and "Hey let me tell you's" and "GTFOH"!
Ken woke to his alarm set on his phone and clipped to his T-shirt collar.  By then I finished preparing our late lunch and he was surprised and gracious at the fare that beset him.  We dined and laughed and talked some more, and when we finished lunch, he headed for the door and his daily grind of balancing work and family with a smile and a big hug. I think the rest of his day may have went a little better than the day before and we were happy, laughing and living to do it all over again sometime soon!
1 lb. Capellini, prepared according to instruction, just shy of al dente
1 lb. raw cleaned medium shrimp
1 stick butter
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 tin anchovies in olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh parley, rough chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan melt butter over medium heat and add olive oil.  When the butter forms small bubbles, add garlic and shallot.  Cook several minutes until fragrant, about 5 minutes and add anchovies.  Break down the anchovies with a rubber spatula and stir continuously until they have 'melted' into the garlic butter.  Add shrimp.  Gently cook shrimp until opaque constantly basting in garlic anchovy butter.  Add lemon slices, pepper flakes,Capellini and parsley.  SPST.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Toss to coat.  Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil.  Serves 6-8.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Soothing Cannellini Miso Soup w/Tomatoes and Spinach

Looking for a super simple and delicious soup packed with vitamins and minerals, but easy on effort, this recipe fits the bill.  I came up with this soup during the gloomiest days of the downpours formerly known as hurricane Isaac, during a rainy spell with overcast and lonely looking skies beaming down, daring you to make plans for outdoor commerce.  The base of this soup is chicken broth and red miso, but you can make this a vegetarian  recipe by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans and other grains like rice and barley, Chinese in origin.  Red  Miso's  rich color comes from the duration of fermentation, which can be up to a year.  Red Miso is sometimes described as salty with an umami implement.  Miso has a cacophonous amount of benefits including protein, vitamin A, B vitamins like riboflavin, as well as zinc, phosphorous, and manganese.
Another Super power in this recipe is spinach.  Spinach provides vitamins including K and A, folate, iron, calcium, B2, magnesium, dietary fiber, as well as flavanoids or antioxidants and super healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which many people tend to think have to come from fish!!
This recipe is a great mood lifter and provides a bundle of goodies for the mind, body and soul.  Feel free to multiply the omega 3's by stirring in some shelled and deveined shrimp at the end for a super delicious soup fit for any occasion, just throw in some crusty bread for dipping!
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. water mixed with 1/3 c. plus  1 tbsp. Red Miso
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 1/3 c. petite diced tomatoes
1 c. fresh spinach, thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Lightly cook green onion and garlic over medium high heat for several minutes until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add liquid and cornstarch, then bring to a boil.  (Mix the cornstarch with about 2 tsp. water before adding to prevent clumping)   Reduce heat to simmer and stir in beans and tomatoes.  Simmer just until beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in Spinach.  SPST.  Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.  Serve drizzled with olive oil and bread if desired.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Curried and BBQ Baked Chicken

One of the best ways to pack flavor into foods is by layering.  There are a plethora of ingredients that are NOT SALT that can help build the taste of your recipes and push them to new heights.  There are tons of different spices and spice blends that lend depth to veggies and proteins if you don't shy away or be afraid to mix and match.
 Brining involves salt, but the excess is rinsed away and it is primarily used  to make the cells in the protein  dispel  the water and replace it with flavor!  This method makes chicken especially flavorful and I use this practice regularly with consistent success.  This technique coupled with bold and earthy spices like thyme, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, rosemary, tarragon, chervil, Asian and Indian curries and a host of other spices, bring your mediocre meal to magnificent.  I  boosted the flavor profile for this recipe with curry powder.
Curry varies from region to region, but the common ingredients are spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander and fenugreek.  Fenugreek is highly consumed especially in the Middle East and revered for it's medicinal properties in Persia, China and Ethiopia and other countries. It is used in three forms, seeds, dried ground leaves, and whole leaves.   Fenugreek has exhibited anti-diabetic effects, as well the ability to help new mothers produce milk, similar to the hormone in our bodies oxytocin and aiding in joint/arthritis related pain, the list goes on.  Different cultures have varying ingredient in their curries, but it is agreeable that the overall influence came from the Middle East.
I start by brining the chicken in a kosher salt and water solution for at least 30 minutes.  Then I rubbed the chicken with a curry /olive oil blend and let it marinate for a couple of hours.
When ready, I roasted the chicken at 400*F until the skin is crisp and and the juices clear, about 40 minutes for leg quarters.
Once cooked through, I painted the chicken with a sultry BBQ sauce.  The base is store bought and I add several ingredients like brown sugar, seasoned rice vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to round it out.
Baste the chicken for about 30 minutes in the oven at 350*F, covered with foil to retain moisture, for a very tender and flavorful main dish.  Uncover for last 5 minutes of baking to help sauce adhere even more to the chicken.  Works well with pork too!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Neillio's Mid-East Southern Corn Pudding!

Growing up in the south consists of certain culinary givens.  Homemade breads, potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken and dumplings, fried and baked chicken, country hams, to name a few.  Corn in any fashion is also a mainstay partly because of it's abundance and ability to take on so many forms.  Corn is prevalent in our culture and is one of the key reasons the early settlers didn't starve to death.  For that, we can thank the Native Americans, who introduced and taught our ancestors from Europe how to plant, grow and prepare corn in a myriad of ways to be consumed.  We can thank the Europeans for bringing us the milk, eggs, cream and leavening agents, which bring me to the recipe at hand. Corn pudding has always been a menu item in our family, especially around special meals and holiday times since I could remember.   For my family, corn pudding was an affordable dish that could be prepared and be considered a dessert item.  My mother would also prepare chocolate and vanilla rice puddings.  These items could be made with items on hand and still remain within the family's food budget, considering how many of us there were to feed. Corn pudding is prepared as a savory side in many regions including directly above, below and beside Virginia. Virginia is relatively where the "south" begins as compared to the upper states, but not so much that we have the same cultural foods fan fare!  Virginia has corn, peanuts and country ham as three  solid components and exports.  I like to call where we live "Middle Eastern Southern" because we share culinary interests and ingredients with both the north and south respectively.
 My sister Gayle recalls when she was a young girl, sitting vigilantly at the table whilst mom made corn pudding and the aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and comforting oven heat permeated the air and filled her mind and soul with those pleasant, loving yet nostalgic smells.  I have long since taken over the reigns as the sister that prepares the recipes that mom used to cook for our family.  She trusts my recipes and judgement, and enjoys being able to just sit back and still have things in a manner that's consistent with the way she herself would have done them.  I really enjoy preparing this recipe and my nephews especially love my corn pudding and they're in their early to mid twenties, so it can definitely be considered a recipe of interest for the masses, young and old.
Ole' Fashioned Corn Pudding 
6 c. whole kernel corn
4 c. creamed corn
1/4 c. flour
1/2 stick butter
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
fresh nutmeg
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F
Melt butter in medium saucepot over mediun high heat,  cook flour for about minute.  Remove from heat.
Add milk, sugar and creamed corn, place back over heat, and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add whole corn, vanilla, and freshly grated nutmeg, about 1 tsp.
Temper in eggs.  SPST
Place in suitable sized baking dish greased with drizzled olive oil.  Cover tightly with foil and bake until set, about 45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake until slightly golden, about 15 minutes.  Let rest slightly before serving.