Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seriously Ugly Beef and Barley Soup and all things non-Thanksgiving related

So I like to cook.... obviously, but even someone who likes to cook can have too much of a good thing, and that usually hits around the holidays.  As I searched and flipped through blogs for the past week I have gotten pumpkin and pecan and turkey and stuffing overload.  It's two days until thanksgiving y'all and if you don't have a menu set yet you're probably not reading a food blog... so here is a quick and easy and super vegetable laden dish that is incredibly filling and has nothing to do with thanksgiving at all unless you're referring to giving oneself a break in order to rest up for the big marathon of cooking.  This was very, very, very hearty and we had some overly full people.  Being that it is soup you would think you could eat a big bowl with a salad and a slice of bread and cheese and you would be okay but seriously this stuff is serious. 

I made a few adaptations.  For one the original recipe calls for 1 cup turnips.  I'm not a fan... really, really, not a fan.  I was going to swap them for carrots but completely forgot.  Two, if I'm going to spend the money for filet mignon, I'm probably going to grill it not put it in soup so I used sirloin instead.  I tend to think of soup as a cheap and easy dish... even when it ends up being ridiculous such as often happens with soups like French Onion, or other such soups that might contain expensive or millions of ingredients, the stock if made from scratch being the kicker for the French Onion, or the lobster from the time I made my husband lobster bisque from scratch and it ended up costing about $70 for one bowl of soup as I hated it.  Ridiculous.  I did however take note from other reviewers of the recipe and kept the broccoli and cauliflower in despite what my instincts told me and they were great.  I also listened and added them at the end with the beef and let the whole thing go another 45 minutes.  The problem I did have was that I did the begining of the soup and then let it set and despite being reassured it wouldn't happen the barley became morbidly obese and broth logged.  That irks me to no end.  In the future I will probably add the barley at the very end as well or maybe cook it in a net bag and then remove it or something.  And I will probably use straight beef broth, and possibly homemade.  I'm not sure why it called for chicken stock but it made for the ugliest looking soup you've ever seen.  Almost anemic looking.  In the end it didn't matter because we all ate it and everyone loved it, even the teenager that was looking in the fridge for something else to eat when she discovered what was for dinner.  Happy Thanksgiving and may you have a bit of down time to relax this holiday.

Beef and Barley Soup
adapted from Bon Appetite


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup chopped peeled yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes)
1 cup chopped peeled potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
5 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 pounds filet mignon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add vegetables; sauté 10 minutes. Add both stocks; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add barley, thyme and oregano. Simmer until barley is tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Return to simmer before continuing.)

Add beef to soup; simmer until just cooked, about 10 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Flour Bakery's Sticky Buns

I first saw these on Throw Down with Bobby Flay, and I thought... man that's a lot of work, who would make those... hey look... me.  I would make those, and it wasn't nearly as much work as I thought it would be.  Nothing ever is once you get started is it.  Except remodeling, I guarantee that is always at least twice as much work as you planned.

I'm not much of a baker, but the new oven has made me bold.  These are the most difficult pastry/bread type item I've ever made but they were delicious.  And to be honest not that difficult, but they were a little time intensive.  As are the directions so I will just link you to the recipe below. And lets face it, a pregnant woman cannot live on orange cream Tums alone.

First step is to make the dough, which makes a double batch.  I halved it after figuring out I could split a 5 egg recipe if I beat and weighed that last egg then split the weight.  I never found out where that elusive 6th egg was suppose to go but I am guessing maybe it was suppose to be an egg wash for the top when you bake them.  I wish I hadn't halved it because then I would have an extra set of dough for next time I want to make these or to make a loaf of brioche, but honestly I only halved it because I didn't plan well and when I opened my fridge I didn't have enough butter or eggs for the full recipe.

While you're making the dough that must mix for one hundred years and thirty seconds, you can make the goo (which I didn't take pictures of for some reason) and toast the pecans.  I did them in the oven for 10 minutes at 350.

When the goo, nuts, and dough are ready.  Place the dough in the fridge, let the goo cool to room temp, and put that in the fridge too, and then bag the nuts.

The next day bring the goo to room temp.  I left it out for 2 hours and it wasn't enough.  Since I am impatient I scooped it into the pan and threw it in the oven at 200 for 5 minutes to loosen it up enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  I then sprinkle half the toasted pecans over the goo.

Roll out your dough.  Sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar mixture, then again with the other half of the pecans.

Roll it up tightly (easier said than done actually, mine didn't want to stay rolled at the end.

Trim the edges and cut into 8 equal portions.  This went better than planned I thought it would fall apart.

Place in the pan evenly spaced on top of goo and tasted pecans

Place somewhere warm to rise for 2 hours.  I placed them on top of the oven since it was warm from my goo melting, and covered them with towels. 

This was helped along because we made lunch which kept the atmosphere warm.  I had to run to the hospital at this point (everything is fine) but it did extend the step by quite a few  hours.  No matter, when we got home they looked like this.

Here is where I started to think... these look like those rolls you get in a can in the refrigerator section.  Maybe that's why I'm adding so many photos this post just for proof that I made these with my own little hands.

Bake in a pre-heated oven until they are golden brown.  I was worried that maybe they hadn't cooked all the way through but they had.  I think I even over cooked them slightly snce I was worried and let them go a few extra minutes.  No one complained.

Let them cool briefly, then depan them.  Scoop out any extra goo from the pan onto the tops of the buns.  Attempt not to eat it, but you will at least lick the spoon I promise.

Serve warm or warm them up before you eat them.  I originally made them for book club but since I was in the hospital I missed it, so we had them for dessert, and I've brought the rest to work to give away.  I cannot have these in the house when I am suppose to be watching what I eat they are that good.  I had mine an hour or two after everyone else and after the first bite I looked at my husband and after adequate eye rolling said... I can't believe I made these.  They were worth the extra effort. Click here. Give them a shot you'll be proud of yourself.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Red-Bean, Lentil, and Spinach Soup

No those aren't Red beans, lentils or spinach... in fact it's not even my picture.  I stole it from another blog a hundred years ago because I love it so much... and if I had any exposure at all I probably shouldn't even post it as I can't credit it, but I want to say it was from Gluten Free Girl (now... and The Chef), but I can't be positive so sorry, sorry, whosever photo this is.  I just wish that my photo for this dish was that gorgeous... no my photo looks like this...

There is no amount of help or editing that can fix that photo.  I attempted to cut the worse out of it... but don't let it scare you... maybe another photo stolen from the original blog would be good... or you could just go to Anja's Food 4 Thought and search for this recipe.  She actually set up her shot instead of taking a photo at her desk fresh from the microwave while searching Forensic Journals.  I think my photo reflects my mood quite well in a tortured artist kind of way... Okay I'm not an artistic but I am tortured... Why do you ask?  OHHHHH let me tell you why.

I am tortured (and I'm sure some people out there can relate) because there are a few things people do not like to hear.... women people in particular.  The two big ones are 1) you're old and 2) you're fat.  And my OB who so lovingly told me not too many months ago... "If you're planning on more children Eileen, you had better get moving.  Reproduction is a young person's game."  Told me yesterday "You need to slow down your weight gain."  Why do I keep this woman around?

I must say I was a little taken aback.  I have felt pretty good about my weight this pregnancy, and not 5 minutes before was told by a nurse that I was fine when I cringed at the scale.  I don't care if I'm pregnant or not there is nothing that makes me feel good about seeing a scale creep up.

After the inital freak out I realized that I am totally okay with how much weight I have gained with my pregnancy.  It's not excessive and I'm still within the normal guidelines.  In fact I still have 10 pounds to go before I hit how much I gained with my daughter and my son, and I happen to have 10 weeks left so I am thinking that I will probably gain the same for this pregnancy as I did for the last two. 

Also, I should not be angry at someone for pointing out what I had already known.  It wasn't my pregnancy weight that was a problem it was my PRE-pregnancy weight.  Even though I lost all pregnancy weight after both of my children I wasn't where I wanted to be before I got pregnant.  In fact I have already been basking in delusions of getting up to nurse a new baby and doing a hand off to the husband for a 5:45am hot yoga class.  Insane visions of early evening runs with a double stroller and double babies (my son will always be a baby to me) to get rid of the extra wedded bliss that has collected on my already curvy frame.  Even when in my best shape, I'm still very.... well shapely.

So after a little denial, followed by some soul/stomach searching I realized man I'm being lazy.  It's no secret that I have been feeling lazy.  I work full-time, go to school full-time, have two kids, and another on the way, a cat, a house, etc., etc., but to BE lazy well that's another thing all together.

There have been far too many bagels to cross my palate over the last seven and a half months.  The once, once-a-week treat, has become a daily stop because I am apparently too lazy to pour a bowl of cereal or heat up the oatmeal like I did before I was pregnant.  And since when did I decide it was okay to drink soda every day?  I never used to drink soda.

And then in the midst of the denial of how healthy I have been eating little thought bubbles of fried potstickers, take out pizzas and occasional Blizzards (a never when not pregnant), settled in and made me realize.... in the weight gain range I wanted to be in or not I am feeding this poor baby a lot of junk food. 

When I was first pregnant the thought of grease made me ill and I was bound to fresh veggies, fruit, rice, and lean proteins.  Which was great because I didn't need to think about eating healthy, it was all I could eat.  Some how that has slipped and must be rectified.  Step one: Bagel ban for the next few weeks.  I will be making  the best granola ever to eat with my low-fat Greek yogurt and berries. 

And for lunch to kill not one or two but THREE birds with one stone.  I  made Red-bean, lentil, and spinach soup last night.  This will help with healthier lunches, budgeting objectives, and last but certainly not least project DO NOT FREEZE to death while waddling your pregnant butt through the soup place line during the winter months. 

The only thing missing are the scones.  I've told you about the scones.  To round out soup as a meal you really need some kind of bread product.  So I am making scones tonight.... I figure since there was only 1 tablespoon of oil in the entire vat of soup the two can fight it out on the way to my stomach!  Maybe I can appease the guilt and calorie counting doctor by making mini-scones (update I did make some mini scones... of course I ate two so it was futile).

Red Bean and Spinach Soup
adapted ever so slightly from Anja's Food 4 Thought Blog

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans (I used a whole smallish sized can because I was in a hurry)
1/2 cup red lentils (I used a little more than 1/2 cup and split it between red lentils and brown lentils)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 lemon, juice of
1 teaspoon dried mint (I left this out)
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped (I used frozen, and used 2 cups while it was still frozen.  I would cut   
it back to 1 cup next time)


Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and spices until onions are soft. Stir in the beans, lentils, lemon juice, mint and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender, because I added the brown lentils they were not even close to tender at 20 mins.  If you choose to add extra lentils soak them for a few hours first at least.  I had to add extra water as well as it simmered so long I kept evaporating out my liquid.  Apparently although small those suckers are solid and need the soak.  Stir occasionally. Stir in spinach and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Ready to serve.

PS... click here for the scones.  Soooooo yummy.  I could only wish they were my recipe.  Of course no one cares whose they are while eating.  I used a biscuit cutter because they look cute as rounds instead of triangles but do whatever floats your boat.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do Foodbloggers get bye weeks?

The Sweet Potato Pie Cheesecake I was going to recreat from my birthday... FAIL... still haven't even found a recipe

I'm not sure of the rules.  In fact I am so out of touch with sports I don't even know if I spelled that correctly.  What I do know is I have been feeling slightly uninspired lately caught up in the novelty of being able to cook at all.  I have given into my lazy ways and fallen back on tried and true and simple dishes to get us through the week.  I had class all weekend so the things I had planned on cooking.  Red Bean Lentil Soup, Flour's Sticky Buns, and Pioneer Woman's Ginger Steak Salad (which was a remake as I made it last week and it was great) all fell to the curbside in favor of take out tacos, and gasp McDonald's eaten in the car on the way to a Friday night class.  Oh I paid dearly for that in heartburn levels let me tell you.

Picture of Flour's Famous Sticky Buns Recipe
The Sticky Buns from Flour (image stolen from Food Netowork)  All the ingredients, including $10 worth of pecans are sitting in my cupboard and fridge as I type, and yet no sticky bun has graced our table yet.

The only decent thing I ate at all this weekend is the leftover chicken and pasta that I am eating at this very moment from last night when my husband threw together a last minute meal when he couldn't bear the idea of pizza for dinner.  If I had any technological ability I could post a picture of it from my phone as it is lovely, but I don't, so I can't.  I didn't see him make it but it looks like and tastes like it has fresh garlic, grape tomatoes, capers, and rosemary.  Thin chicken lightly floured, white wine,and pasta.  Safe and delcious.

This one is perfect for my friends with families and busy lives.  I can't wait to post this one.

I also made a delicious enchillada casserole from my cooking class last week (or was it two weeks ago), that taught us how to make home made tortillas and a super quick and easy casserole with fresh enchillada sauce (which was made with tomato sauce, chili powder, and water... that's it, that's all), but I didn't take any pictures of the homemade tortillas and that's the most important part so that recipe since I'm sure even the most inexperienced person can open a can of tomatoes and add some water.  That will be coming in the near future.  Quick, non-processed, cheap, and tasty.... why didn't I take a photo of the tortilla... WHY? 

He wanted to check that it was a good pumpkin by knocking on it

So this week was a culinary failure aside from the small victory that everyone was fed and lives to see another week where there may be tasty treats on the horizon.  Until then I have to get by nibbling on cute little people, like this one here that is still talking about the pumpkin patch where this was taken.  Best day off I've spent in a long time.  Check back soon, maybe I will make a new batch of tortillas or a sweet batch of crack soon.  I mean sticky buns.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Smoked Gouda & Prosciutto Panini

The first celebrity chef I ever recognized so many years ago was Wolfgang Puck.  The only food of his I have ever eaten (before this panini) was the pizza in his take out joint in Chicago which I doubt he's ever been to, but I secretly love it anyway.... my standards drop when the options are reheated pancakes at the Chili's or dealing with really rude McDonald's workers.  If you've ever been to the McDonald's at O'Hare you know exactly what I mean.  Well without an oven for close to a month I could easily have fit in with those women.  I was becoming crankier by the day.  This was the last oven-less meal I made before the oven was installed after lots of work by the husband and a few friends... thank you all!  Ta Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....

However, you may leave your standards where they are because this is amazing.  Paninis are so much better than just a grilled cheese, but really you can make most of the paninis I make just like you would a grilled cheese because I put cheese on everything.... a lot of cheese... a WHOLE lot of cheese... an amount that cannot even be considered diet friendly.  This time I made it just as stated so you can blame Wolfgang for the super rich and tasty and non-diet friendly sandwich. 

I wanted to make this with a Moroccan Tomato Soup kind of an adult version of grilled cheese and tomato soup, but I got tooooooo lazy.  Oh well next time... and there will definitely be a next time... like maybe this weekend.  Oh yeah, it was that good.  We served it with mini gerkins to help cut the creamy richness, and some chips, but next time if we serve it as is without soup I would make sweet potato fries.  Now I want fries.

Insert amazing photo from your mind here of what the soup could of, would of, should of looked like had I not become so ridiculously lazy thanks to my imense disappointment with my kitchen after the gaping black hole where the oven should be sucked my will to live... well cook.

Smoked Gouda & Prosciutto Panini
adapted (or not) from Wolfgang Puck

2 slices good-quality sourdough bread, each about 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons good-quality prepared mayonnaise, extra-virgin olive oil, or unsalted butter
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked Gouda cheese
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or cooked ham
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced red onion
2 thin slices ripe Roma (plum) tomato
1 ounce shredded Fontina cheese


Combine everything, squish between two slices of bread, put onto a hot panini grill and and smash with lid.  Cook until cheese gets all gooey and fantastic.