Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cheater's Chocolate Mousse

Cheaters are never winners or so we've been told. In this case, not true. This is a cheater's dessert but nonetheless, my kids don't know I didn't make mousse from scratch and it certainly beats instant pudding mix. It's a sweet version of mousse so don't be tempted to swap in ready-made whip cream because you're results will be sickening sweet for even a serious sweet-tooth. Some shaved white chocolate on top is a lovely finish.

Cheater's Chocolate Mousse

3 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
9 ounces best quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces or use chips
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a heavy-based saucepan.

Put the saucepan on the stove, over heat, though keep it fairly gentle, to melt, stirring every now and again. Remove from the heat to cool.

Meanwhile whip the cream with the vanilla until thick and then fold into the cooled chocolate mixture until you have a smooth, cohesive mixture.

Pour or scrape into 4 or 6 glasses or small dishes and chill until you want to eat. The sooner the better!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Form Vegetable Soup

This recipe exemplifies what homey soup is all about. Everything you have on hand into the pot. My mom had been making this soup for years and now I make it for new moms, sick friends, etc. It's basic veggie soup with a hint of lemon to wake things up. Free free to improvise with your favorite veggies. The fall season is nearly upon us so go get your soup pot ready!

Vegetable Soup

2 large cans low-sodium chicken stock (roughly 4-6 cups)
2 16-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbl. each dried thyme, basil and oregano
juice of one large lemon
1 package cheese-filled tortellini (can use frozen or dried OR rice/other pasta but the tortellini is a crowd favorite!)
2 tsps. salt

All veggies are fresh, chopped and in whatever amounts you like...
white button mushrooms

Add all chopped veggies to the stock and canned tomatoes. Add lemon. Bring up heat on soup and simmer for 40 minutes. When ready to serve, add tortellini and cook another 15 minutes. Serve with extra lemon juice if needed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beale Street Baked Beans

Sometimes you just get it wrong. Well, let me explain. We recently had some new friends over and decided to keep it easy and just make mini burgers and hot dogs on the grill since we were also feeding plenty of little ones. I thought that these baked beans (which are scrumptious) would make a nice addition to our cookout for the adults. Little did I know that said friend mom was not a red-meat eater! Oh well. The rest of us enjoyed them. This recipe comes from a friend who shares my passion for finding great recipes so a big thanks to Elizabeth for this simple but great take on a classic.

Beale Street Baked Beans

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey (I should have used the turkey)
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 Tbl. lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/4 c. ketchup
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl. dry mustard
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 16 oz. cans pork & beans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef or turkey with onion until cooked through - sprinkling with lemon pepper seasoning and garlic powder as meat is cooking. Drain cooked meat on paper towel. Transfer to medium bowl. Add ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and pepper. Stir to combine. Carefully stir in beans and transfer to a oven-proof casserole dish. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serves 10-12.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Braised Pork

So whenever I make a large pork shoulder, it typically involves BBQ pork sandwiches which are great but I wanted to try something different. This will now be a staple in my winter repertoire. It's hearty, easy and my oldest daughter proclaimed it was the best thing I've ever made. If you've read prior posts you'll realize she says this every other week about various dishes. In any case, it's a keeper and gets me excited for cold weather cooking again. I think some soft polenta would be fantastic with this dish.

Braised Pork

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 6 large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth
1 bunch parsley stems, tied with string
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and working in batches brown the meat on all sides until a golden crust forms. Transfer the pork to a plate. To the pan add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes to cook off the raw flavor and caramelize it. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 2 minutes to cook off its raw flavor. Whisk in the wine and reduce it by half. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, then stir in the beef stock, parsley stems, and bay leaves. Add the water if liquid does not come up to the top of the pork. Do not cover the pork with liquid. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise until the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Spinach Tomato Pasta Salad

Sorry for my lack of posts as of late. I've been in the process of switching jobs which is always super stressful and to add to my stress level, I was invited to my new company's picnic where everyone was asked to bring a side dish! I had to knock it outta the park and not show up up with store-bought gloppy pasta salad. You know the ones - laden with mayo and very little else? Well, this pasta salad was a hit and has loads of flavor.

Spinach Tomato Pasta Salad

1 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta - I used a whole wheat variety
Kosher salt
Good olive oil
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, cut if larger
3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
1 pound good feta cheese (medium-diced or crumbled if that's easier but I like cubed)
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I ground the parm in the food processor which gives it nice texture versus grating)
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped or chopped basil if you prefer
1 bag baby spinach (pre-cleaned)

For the dressing:
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons good olive oil (more if needed but I worried it would be too oily)
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. DO NOT ADD SPINACH YET!

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well. When ready to serve, mix in fresh spinach and serve.

If you want to be fancy - lay spinach at the bottom of your serving tray or bowl (like a bed) then spoon pasta salad over that and then add the cubed feta on top. Very pretty presentation!