Archive for April, 2009

Cheesy Veggie Soup

I went to the grocery store on Sunday and had this overwhelming urge to buy nothing but vegetables. Maybe it was because Spring is finally here, but I wanted produce. Of course, I had no idea what to actually do with all of these veggies when I got home. I eventually settled on the idea of a cheesy veggie soup.

I wanted to find a recipe online to get me started, but everything I found called for “processed cheese food,” and while I love Velveeta as much as the next person (depending on the level of love the next person carries for Velveeta, that is), I did not want it in this soup! I had bought Cheddar and Gruyere and was determined to use them. Eventually Sheila found one, and then I found another. I used those two recipes to give me a general guideline and went from there.

You’re going to hate me for this recipe because I didn’t measure most of what I used. I have no idea how the veggies measure, so you’ll just have to guess. I was guessing anyhow. And you can use more or less to taste, and you can change which veggies you use. I hate broccoli, but my guess is that most people would love it in this soup.

Cheesy Veggie Soup

2 Yukon gold potatoes (if you can’t find single Yukon golds, just use whatever you please)
2 tomatoes, seeded
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 red bell pepper (if you like peppers a lot, considering adding other colors in, too!)
1 red onion
2 medium carrots
2 tablespoons minced garlic (I use the jarred stuff… you could probably use around 3 cloves)
Fresh greenbeans, ends snapped off and then snapped into small pieces (I don’t know how many, but probably three times what is shown in the picture below)
1 beer (I used Sam Adams Irish Red, use whatever you want)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (I used bouillon cubes and water)
2 cups fat free half and half
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups cheddar cheese, diced
1 cup Gruyere, finely diced
Tsp. paprika
Tsp. ground mustard
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
Greek Yogurt (optional, though really, this recipe is all about options)

Dice all of the veggies. You can use your own judgment here, because you know what you like. I like my veggies diced medium, with the onion finely diced.

Pour the olive oil into a medium-large pot and heat over medium. Add all of the veggies and gently stir. Add the chicken broth (use veggie broth for a vegetarian option) and beer. Boil until veggies are tender.

In another, larger, pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until just starting to turn brown. Slowly pour in the milk/half and half and heat until it starts to thicken, whisking almost constantly.

Pull off the heat and once it is no longer boiling (this is important, because if you add cheese to boiling liquid, it will curdle) add the cheese a handful at the time. As you add the cheese whisk the mixture in a figure 8 pattern (this supposedly works better).

Once the cheese is incorporated start adding the veggie mixture slowly (I used a ladle), mixing after each addition.

Add the mustard, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, paprika, and salt.

Ladle into bowls, and top with a dollop of greek yogurt. Serve with chunks of french bread.


Note: this doesn’t make a thick, rich soup. It makes a lighter spring time soup with a cheesy broth. Also, if you feel like you have too many veggies, by all means, stop adding them to the white sauce. I actually didn’t add all of what I cut, and I think that for the leftovers I’m going to go back and add more in.

Veggiesveggies in beer and brothbechemelspilled cheese
Don’t forget to let the dog lick the floor!

Mmm Mmm good.  Take that, Cambells.


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Chickpea and tomato salad

Chickpea and tomato salad

1 (15-oz.) cans Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 Tomatoes (1 lb), cored and chopped
2 Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 c. Sweet onion, chopped
1/3 c. Extra-virgin olive oil
3 T. White wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tsp. Salt
Pepper to taste
Crumbled goat cheese

Combine the garbanzo beans, tomatoes, eggs, and onion in a large bowl. Separately mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a jar or a small bowl. Pour over salad ingredients. Sprinkle on goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: If you are not going to eat it all at once, add the goat cheese just before serving.

chick pea saladchick pea saladchick pea salad - finished

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Best damn trail mix ever

Zach and I went camping this weekend, and while we were at target buying a few last minute items we wandered past the trail mix section. It’s huge. Exactly one kazillion different types of trail mix. The problem is that they all have freakin’ raisins! And the few that don’t have either bananas or coconut. I have a strong dislike for each of those things. So I decided that I could do a better job myself. I could make trail mix bigger, stronger, and better than Target’s trail mix.

Best Damn Trail Mix

Vanilla almonds
Sunflower Seeds
Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips
Dash of cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container or bag. You can use whatever quantities you see fit. I did approximately equal amounts of each. If you can’t find vanilla almonds, just use regular. If I do this again I’d add some walnut pieces, too.

You see, peanuts are dandy, but almonds and walnuts have lots of vitamins. I’m not sure about pecans, but I had some in the freezer, so whatever. Sunflower seeds are good for you, too.

Make sure you only put a dash of cinnamon. You don’t want it to taste strongly, you just want the slightest hint of cinnamon.

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of it… I ate it too fast.

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Mojito Chicken

I make chicken a lot. I eat it the first night and it’s good, but leftover meat just isn’t my thing. I am only barely a meat eater to begin with… and by the second night I’m usually not going to go there.

A few weeks ago we found Dinosaur BBQ sauce at Harris Teeter. Dinosaur BBQ is the one non-human thing that I miss about Rochester, and I miss it a LOT. It was very slow cooked, big chunks of pork. When we went there I always ordered the “Bar B San” which was their BBQ on a nice deli roll with a slice of provolone. My mouth is watering like Pavlov’s dog just thinking about it.

So finding the sauce at Harris Teeter was a moment of pure bliss. I stood in the aisle and stared. When Zach finally looked my direction, I just pointed. It took him a second to see what I was staring at, but when he finally did, he got a pretty big smile, too.

We actually have a decent stock of the Slatherin’ Sauce at home, as we brought some back from Rochester when we moved, we mail ordered some, and Zach brought some back after he screened his thesis. But we couldn’t not buy something, what if it wasn’t ever seen in NC again? So we bought the Mojito dressing and marinade.

This was pretty straightforward to use, I just dumped about half the bottle on four chicken breasts, threw in a handful of chopped cilantro and green onion, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then I cooked it.

THEN I had a stroke. A stroke of genious. I spread goat cheese on top of mine, and then drizzled it with my not-quite-a-clone of Chick-fil-a’s Polynesian sauce.

What I’m trying to say here, is that this was so good that I ate it the next day.

Mojito Chicken with Goat Cheese and Polynesian Suace
4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 Bottle Dinosaur BBQ Mojito Marinade (or other lime based marinade)
1 handful cilantro (optional)
1 handful chopped green onion
Goat Cheese
Polynesian Sauce

Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish and top with marinade, cilantro, and green onion. Place in fridge for 2-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 375

Bake chicken until internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees.

Place on plates and spread a bit of goat cheese on breasts, then drizzle with polynesian sauce.

dinosaur bbq mojito saucemojito chicken

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the finished product. Just beleive me that it was great.

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Polynesian Sauce

Charlotte loves Polynesian sauce from chick-fil-a. I resisted even trying it for a very long time. I don’t neccessarily trust Charlotte’s judgement on condiments, not after she made me try peanut sauce. Plus, I just really love ketchup.

But finally I tried the Polynesian suace, and it is delicious. It’s basically a sweet and sour sauce, and it’s really really good.

The other day I made Mojito chicken, and I happened to have a couple packets of Chick-Fil-A polynesian sauce leftover, so I drizzled some of it on the chicken. It fit perfectly with the citrus flavor of the chicken. But, I only had two leftover packets of sauce, and that wasn’t going to get me very far. After those were gone I decided to do some research and try to find a clone recipe for Polynesian sauce. There seemed to be two different recipes out there claiming to be “Polynesian Sweet and Sour Sauce,” so I went with the easier one, which also happened to be the one that looked closer. I also found a copy of the ingredients in Chick-Fil-A’s sauce. Based on these things, I came up with what is definitely not a clone of their sauce, but is fairly close, and still really good.

Polynesian Sauce

1/2 c Pineapple juice
1/4 c Honey
3 tb Worcestershire sauce
1 ts Ground ginger
1 ts Salt
1/2 ts Garlic powder
1 tbsp Ketchup
Cornstarch (optional)

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Yum. You could leave out the ketchup if you wanted to, but I added it because some of the other recipes for polynesian sauce call for vinegar and tomatoes. This seemed like an easy way to keep the recipe smooth, while adding a vinegar and tomato flavor.

If it is too runny, sprinkle in a bit of cornstarch, but make sure to stir well.

sweet and sour polynesian sauce

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S’mores Cupcakes Take 2

I think I’m done with cupcakes for a while. At least as far as making them just for us at home. There are bound to be some desserts that are better for us, but damn are cupcakes good. And there are endless combinations of cake/filling/frosting to try.

I hate store bought icing. At least the kind you buy from the grocery store that is basically nothing but unflavored crisco and powdered sugar. Ugh. It coats the top of my mouth and makes me want to cry. But I love homemade icings. I’ve tried a few different kinds, and they’re all great.

This weekend, when I went to make my S’mores cupcakes, I realized I didn’t have any marshmallow fluff for the icing. I did have a ton of regular marshmallows, so I googled to try to find something that would work. What I discovered was that a plain ol’ meringue frosting would have a marshmallowy taste, since marshmallows are mostly sugar.

I think I have come close to perfecting the S’mores cupcake!

S’mores cupcakes

Makes 16-18 regular cupcakes

Graham Cracker Cupcakes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/4 recipe chocolate frosting (or you could use plain chocolate ganache)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flour, crushed graham crackers, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
graham cracker crumbs

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk and beat until batter is almost smooth.

Spoon batter into cupcake papers, filling cups about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean Remove from oven and cool.

Use a melon baller, or just a small spoon, and scoop out part of the middle of the cupcakes. Fill with chocolate ganache, or
chocolate frosting.
scoop out centersfill with chocolate

Don’t forget to let the dog lick the floor.

let dog lick floor

Meringue Frosting

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine egg whites and sugar in the top of a double boiler (or a glass bowl over but not touching a pan of simmering water). Whisk constantly over medium-high heat until mixtures reaches 160°F, about 5 minutes.
heating egg whites and sugar on double broiler

Pour egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until you get an icing consistancy. This can take a while, I was convinced mine was messed up, but it did eventually come together. Add vanilla extract 1 teaspoon at a time until desired flavor.
whip up marshmallow meringue

Pipe the meringue frosting on top of the cupcakes. At this point you can call it quits, or you can garnish. I used the awesome chocolate sugar grinder that Char gave me, but you could also top with graham crumbs or shaved chcolate.

frosttake a big bite

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Summer Pasta

A few years ago Zach and I were in a Borders and I picked up a clearance vegetarian cookbook. I used post-its to mark a bunch of different recipes that I wanted to try. So far I’ve only tried two of them, I think. But one of them is a staple meal for us in the summer months.

Summer Pasta

2 1/4 c. Dried penne
1 lb. plum tomatoes
10 oz. mozzarella, drained
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tbspbalsamic vinegar
grated zest and juice of one lemon
15 fresh basil leaves, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions until just tender. Quarter the tomatoes, and remove the seeds, then chop into small cubes. Slice the mozzarella into similar-size pieces. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and mozzarella and let stand until the pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato mixture. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

You’ll see that in the pictures I added smoked salmon. I didn’t really like it that way, but if you’re a big salmon fan, go for it!

summer pasta

Note: If you think you will have leftovers then I suggest just added the cheese as you serve it… otherwise when you reheat the dish the cheese will melt, and you’ll lose some of the texture of the dish. You can used canned tomatoes, but buy good quality. Do not, however, think of using the pre-shredded mozzarella that comes in a bag.

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