Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beat the heat.... Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Yes, I do realize these are tomatoes and not peppers... keep your pants on they're coming

It's hot.... it's TOO HOT!  I know there are some people that make an honest effort about never complaining about the weather, because they wanted it to be hot all Winter.  I am not one of those people.  There are days (this year there are many days) that are just too stinking hot and no amount of frigid winter weather (that is long forgotten by July) will ever make me forget that a heat index of 115 and 1000% humidity is WAY TOO HOT!

Especially when you are faced with the task of feeding a few faces every night in said heat and humidity.  What to make when the mere thought of boiling water raises the temperature in your micro-kitchen a few degrees?

Step 1:  Forget everything you know about what should constitute a well rounded meal.  You feed your family normal meals approximately 328 days a year.  This number is completely pulled out of the air and has no statistical relevence whatesoever but I assume it gives enough room for two weeks of too hot to cook days in the summer, and the rest is filled with things out of desperation, like chicken nuggest, and fast food drive through.  Anyway.... a couple of days with some random food stuffs isn't going to cause malnutrition.

fruit salad sneaks in all the goodie phytochemicals in, when served with lemon-ricotta pancakes your youngest child will promise to never put you in a nursing home

Step 2:  Buy a pre-cooked roaster chicken from the grocery store, a block of good quality cheese (make sure it is pasturized, not a soft mold ripened cheese, or goat cheese if you're pregnant.  Hey it sucks but it's science, it could do some serious damage to your developing child.  NO that is not opinion.  Listeria is is a scientifically proven fact, want to be a google.  Stay away until after delivery.  Trust me that is easier said than done for me.  If you're doctor says it's okay I recommend getting a doctor that didn't fail Microbiology), a loaf of decent bread, a jar of pickles, a jar of olives, and a tomato and/or cucumber.  Take all the meat off a chicken, put the bones in a bag in the freezer for later stocks.  Throw everything else on a plate (maybe you help the ones under 4 with the knife) and voila.  Meal 1 accomplished.

Step 3:  Realize you cannot feed your family or yourself a bunch of cheese, pickled items, and cold chicken for the next two weeks.

Step 4:  PANIC.

Step 5:  Find other heat friendly meals that aren't just salad.

Step 6: Use this post as a way of sneaking in your mother-in-laws amazing Roasted Red Pepper Soup, and fulfill the request of one of your friends for the recipe at the same time... sneaky, sneaky.

I never got a chance to take a final pictures, you know with the heat and all, so that is another reason I am sneaking it into this post.  I'm not sure if hot soup sounds like a good idea to some of you when it's hot outside, but honestly I love soup any time, and as long as whatever it is I'm cooking doesn't make the inside temperature of my kitchen, match the outside temperature, it's all good!

Roasted Red Pepper and Potato Soup

The Mother-in-Law's Recipe

*5 large red bell peppers
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup butter
8 cups (2L) chicken broth  (can substitute veg. broth for a vegetarian version)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/3 cup finely chopped basil
Dash of Angustura bitters (find this with the alcohol drink mixers)
Freshly ground pepper to taste


Wash peppers and leave them whole. Place them on a hot barbecue grill or under the broiler and cook until the skin closest to the flame or element is charred and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Using tongs to turn the peppers, continue charring until skin is blackened on all sides. Remove from heat and put into a paper bag. Close tightly and let sit about 10 minutes or until the skin peels easily. Remove all the skin and seeds and dice flesh. Melt butter over medium-low heat and add the onion and garlic. Saute for 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the red peppers and chicken broth, cook for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in the blender and return to the pot. Add the basil and Angostura bitters. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stir well. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

* Can substitute jarred roasted red peppers. Wash them well and remove any charred skin before chopping.  However which would you rather eat?  The right is a pile of sad, droopy jarred peppers that I keep on hand for those days that I don't have the extra 2 minutes to roast a fresh one, or say have used a couple of red peppers because I forgot they were marked for soup.  And the left is a freshly roasted pepper.  There is no comparison really.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins... a toddler's lesson

My husband and I take turns getting up with our son on the weekends.  On the weekends where Saturday is my day to get up I like to bake with the little guy.  He loves it, and then we have breakfast at the same time.  It's a win-win situation.  Well the husband is in New Orleans so that means it was definitely my turn to get up.  Last night after I put him to bed and organized the groceries for the week I noticed that I still had bananas from last week and I had bought another bunch.  I also noticed last weeks were not looking so hot.  A quick poke told me the bananas were either destined for some kind of baked good or the trash.  Always attempting to do better with the amount of food I waste I decided a baked good would work perfectly and cover the baking for the morning as well. 

First step is to pre-measure everything unless you have patience of steel.  Nothing like trying to level a cup of flour with a little person grabbing your elbow while chanting "I help you Mommy" about 50 times in 2 minutes.  I think my child could have a future as an auctioneer.  I try to use big containers to decrease the likely hood of things spilling onto the counter.  Any container will do as you can see.

I saw two recipes for Banana-chocolate chip muffins on the blogs I read every week but I couldn't remember which ones, so I just googled and clicked on the first thing I saw that had good reviews.  These were perfect, and easy enough for him to help with, always a perk.  The hardest part about this recipe was convincing him we had to leave the muffins to cool until the chocolate was no longer molten lava.

make sure YOU wash their hands as you never know where they are going to stick them

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lois Gordon,


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
*1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

*I used vanilla because it's what I had (again with the food waste reduction act of 2010).  I don't think it made a difference.


In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Hello, my name is Eileen and I have a drinking problem.  The problem being that I cannot drink for a minimum of another 6 months since I am carrying a new little person around with me.  Which is a common predicament for a whole lot of my friends the past few years, and I suspect the trend will continue for another few years, and if they're not pregnant they still have a little person dependent upon them so while they may be at a point in their lives where they can have a class of wine with dinner, no glass in the world is going to carry you through a 6 hour dinner party.

It's a little warm in most areas this year, and Nebraska is not exempt.  I have become a strawberry lemonade junkie!  So much so that I fear for my budget.  Being a lemonade junkie is not any cheaper than being a latte junkie, and when you live in your kitchen there is really no excuse to pay $3 for a 12 oz glass of lemonade.

So being me I had to develop a recipe.  So far I have made Strawberry-lemonade, and Raspberry-lemonade, and the one you're looking at is the best one so far which is Strawberry-raspberry-lemonade.  However, I think you could switch it to either all strawberries or all raspberries with no problems.

Eileen's Kitchen


2 cups sugar (I'm going to cut this back a little next time but I would start here and adjust to your taste)
1 cup boiling water
2 cups fresh lemon juice (I think this took about 7 lemons)
12 oz. berries, I used 6oz raspberries, 6oz. strawberries this time
cold water, add to the stuff you've already added to make 1 gallon.
lemon slices, for garnish or to throw into the mix at the end for extra zing


In a  heat proof container (I used a pyrex measuring cup) place sugar.  Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add lemon juice to your drink container.  I strained mine through fine mesh because I don't like a whole lot of pulp and such in my drinks.  Add sugar and water mixture to your lemon juice.  Take your berries and place in blender.  Add about a cup of your lemon, water, sugar mixture to the blender.  Puree.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer, or just dump in if you like the fruit puree in your drinks.  I don't, and the seeds bug me so next time I'm putting it through cheesecloth, I just happened to be out this time.  Add cold water to bring your drink to a total volume of 1 gallon.  Pour over ice and garnish as desired.
For those that are still allowed to drink my husband assures me this taste fantastic with a little vodka.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Calling Mushroom Lovers and Those Who Wish To Like Mushrooms

These look like unassuming stuffed mushrooms don't they?  You think that's what they are.... what these little babies are, are my secret weapon!  These mushrooms have converted many a mushroom hater, and I can pretty much use them as a bargaining chip to get my friend Bryan to do things like say.... host a BBQ for ten to twenty of my closest family and friends at a moments notice.  Although I think the large batch of lobster from a few posts ago may have helped with that matter. 

Everyone has that recipe.  You know the recipe that you make that isn't really difficult, but that people really love.  And I mean the kind of love that when they tell other people about the recipe they make little happy faces and maybe once in awhile do a little dance.  Don't get me wrong I like these, that's why I make them, but I don't dance for them... but my friend Jess might.  Jessica and Bryan... this post is for the two of you since you are both separated from your mushroom hook-up by about 1500 miles.  Love you.  Mwah.

Eileen's Stuffed Mushrooms
From Moi


1 pound of baby bella, wiped, de-stemmed, and lightly oiled, finely chop about 1/3 of the stems and set them aside
1 package of frozen spinach (10oz), thawed, and squeezed of as much liquid as possible
1 bunch of scallion, washed, and diced, all the white and the light green as well
A generous sprinkle of breadcrumbs
8oz. cream cheese, softened
3oz. garlic herb feta, finely diced
parmesan (I've never measured it... hmmmm.... I'd say a good handful)
Olive Oil
garlic clove or two, minced


Scoop out the mushrooms so can stuff them.

Put a large glug of olive oil in the pan... get it good and hot.  Add garlic and onion.  Saute until they get glossy (real technical terms here).  Add the finely chopped mushroom stems.  Break up spinach and add.  Break up any remaining clumps.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.  Add half the grated parmesan, stir again.  Add the cream cheese.  Stir around so it's fairly mixed.  Then add the feta, mixed again (like I said... difficult stuff here).  Overstuff the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan.  Cook for 20 minutes or until they are heated through and the parm gets all toasty and delicious.

If you're mushrooms are particularly thick, you may want to cook them for about 10 minutes before stuffing and cooking again.  Otherwise the mushrooms don't get soft enough and there will be no happy dance.