Friday, September 26, 2008

How exciting is this?

You must go and check out The Martha Blog, especially all you fellow bloggers. She recently featured several bloggers on her show, and now is opening up her blog to all of us. If you leave a comment and a link back, she will choose several of your posts to be featured on hers. How cool is this? Well, it is for me. I am a huge fan of hers, have been for quite awhile, so I would be oh so happy to have some of my posts out there for other Martha blog readers to view. Plus, I would love to read posts of other fellow bloggers.

If you are not currently blogging, but are thinking about getting in to it, she has a great tutorial on getting started. Lots of good info for the beginner (like I was).

Here's hoping to see my posts on her site, fingers crossed kids!

Great idea and "Thanks" Martha!

Ina's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup-BB

Barefoot Bloggers time has snuck up on me! I can't believe it, this month is flying by. Our recipe for this week was chosen by Chelle of Brown Eyed Baker. She chose Ina's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup from the episode: Mystery Guest. It can also be found in, "Barefoot Contessa at Home", pg.48. The mystery guest episode is one of my favorites because Mel Brooks is the mystery. Who wouldn't like that? Sadly, we had no such luck at dinner last night :) but we did enjoy the lovely soup on the patio with a nice little fire going. Ahhh fall, don't cha just love it!

As for the recipe, I only made a few changes. I read in the musings of fellow BB's that it was possible to change the dairy ratio in the dish. Ina calls for 1 cup of half & half and 1 cup of heavy cream. Now, as yummy as that sounds, I wanted to attempt to lighten it up. So, I took the advice of another BB and used 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 1/2 cups of milk. The soup was still very creamy. I had to adjust the mushroom quantities a little, due to grocery supplies and at the end I added a splash of golden sherry, just to give it a bit more depth. One word of warning: if your only relationship to creamy soups is with canned condensed glop, you should be nicely surprised to find out what a cream soup sans chemicals tastes and feels like. I served it with a crusty whole grain bread which we toasted on the grill and some creamy, room temp Camembert cheese.

Ina's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
serves 5-6

3.5 oz fresh shitake mushrooms
6 oz fresh portobella mushrooms
6 oz fresh cremini mushrooms
1 tbl good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
splash of golden sherry
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if they are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

This is a lovely mushroom stock, and would be a nice base for other soups as well.

A note regarding leeks if they are new to you. They can be very sandy, so, after chopping them up be sure to rinse them thoroughly, separating the slices under running water. This will allow you to rid them of any sand or dirt.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, sherry, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Dinner is served.....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna-WWW

So, I must first apologize to Em for not getting a post in last week for Weight Watcher Wednesday! I have no idea where the week went. I almost missed the day this week. I must start planning these posts ahead of time. Anyway, after a visit back to Columbus over the weekend, a gift of garden fresh veggies helped to inspire this week's recipe. My dear friend Ellen would not let me get out of town without taking a bag of goodies from her garden. In the bag were these beautiful eggplants, as well as a huge bunch of rainbow chard. Thank you El! After searching the Internet, I found this yummy lasagna which called for eggplant. The rest of the veggies I had in my garden, and the noodles I found stashed away in the pantry, so no trip to the store was needed, what a bonus! I have a few recipes in line for the chard, will have that up in the future.

This recipe is on the Weight Watchers site. It is easy to make, but a bit time consuming, and is a dish from the series, "Cook Once, Eat All Week". The dish came out alright for the first go, I would give it about a B-. I will definitely make adjustments the next time around.

On the positive side, it was very tasty and low in points/calories, since there is no ricotta and egg filling. If you are looking for a comforting vegetarian dish, this fits the bill. It can also be made ahead of time. Another plus, I use the no-boil noodles, which saves so much time. You can definitely use a different assortment of veggies in this recipe, nice if you have an abundance in the garden or need to empty the fridge. I roasted the vegetables and then let them cool completely before processing. You could do this step a day ahead. I like the way the pureed veggies are used instead of a traditional sauce. Gives the dish more flavor and depth.

Adjustment that I will make next time, I will use more veggies, don't be stingy. The eggplants were probably a bit small and I should have use a few more. I did not have any Roma tomatoes on hand, so I used an assortment of heirlooms from my garden which were just fine. I think it needed a bit of herbs added, basil or oregano would have been nice. I would even add a splash of dry red wine to the puree. Lastly, I would suggest covering the dish with foil for the first 30 minutes of the baking time and them uncover the last 10 minutes to let the cheese brown. I tried baking it according to the recipe, and had to cover it because the cheese would have burned to a crisp, and the top layer of pasta was a bit too dry. All in all though, this is a very nice recipe to make when you have a hankering for lasagna.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
serves 6
Points value: 5

3 medium raw eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium sweet red pepper(s), chopped
4 small tomato(es), plum, seeded and chopped
4 medium garlic clove(s), peeled and chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp table salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste
9 serving dry no-boil lasagna noodles, 9 noodles,
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In roasting pan, combine vegetables and garlic with olive oil. Bake until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Place half of vegetables, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup water in food processor and process until smooth.

Spoon 1/2 cup of vegetable purée into bottom of a 9 X 13-inch baking dish.

Place three noodles over purée. Top with 1/2 cup of purée, 1/2 of remaining vegetables, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and then top with remaining 3 noodles, purée and cheese.

Bake until bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes.I would suggest covering with foil for the first 30 minutes and then uncover the last 10 so the cheese will brown a bit. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Martha's Brownies

This is a fantastic recipe for Brownies! It is found in Martha's "Favorite Comfort Food" book. I have made this one quite a few times, and this time I made a few "enhancements". I watch Ina when I can, and decided to add a few of her touches. One is adding a bit of coffee, I used cold coffee, leftover from breakfast ( I think she uses powdered coffee) and the other is to rap the pan against the oven shelf halfway through baking to allow the air to escape and I assume, keep the brownies from getting too cakey. This is a fudgy brownie recipe, but you can adjust them to a cakier consistency by adding an additional egg. Use the best chocolate you can find, the brand in the photo below was what was available to me.

I had to adjust the cooking time because I do not have a true 9"x13" pan. My pan was a bit smaller, so the brownies took an additional 10 minutes to bake. Whatever pan you use, just be sure to check on them so they do not over bake.

After cooling, I wrapped them individually in wax paper and took some to our family that is recuperating. I did keep a few for us, which as you can see in the photo, I served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a squiggle of chocolate syrup. Believe me, they are so rich and chocolaty that one was enough for us to split.

Martha's Brownies
make about twelve 3-inch squares

12 tbl (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces, plus more for the pan ( I never cut my butter up, oops)
8 oz best-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 tbl pure vanilla extract
3 tbl cold coffee
1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan with butter, and set aside

In the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate until smooth; stir occasionally. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, granulated and brown sugars, vanilla and coffee, and beat well with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl, combine the sifted flour and salt.

Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the brownie comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Do not over bake. Let stand on a rack in the pan until cool. Cut into 3" squares and serve or store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 2 days. I found that if wrapped individually in wax paper, they kept fine in the fridge.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The voting begins today!

So, the Pier 1 design contest voting starts today and ends the 9th of October. If you can, please take a few minutes and vote for me! Just click on the Pier 1 widget in my sidebar, that will take you to the site. I think you enter an email to get started. When you get to the gallery, just look up, to find my room, "Livin' in Dreamland", and then vote "yes". I think that you can only vote 1 time, but they give you 2 chances to win a $25.00 gift certificate. My room design came out pretty well, I was limited to what I could use. Hey, you have to give it a go to win and I appreciate anyone taking the time to vote.

Other news: Hello Kitty turns 6 today! Who would have guessed that she would be doing so well after being so sick a year ago? No doubt this is how she will spend her day.

As a treat, I think I will spend an hour this morning knitting with her on my lap (her other favorite place to sleep). I am working on my first pair of socks, and so far so good. Getting ready to turn the heal. I found this really cool "Online Supersocke Circle" striped wool sock yarn (see color #1059) that puts out a fun pattern, who knew? I may post up a pic when they are done. Next Thursday I am signed up for a one-on-one finishing class to get some help with a lightweight cotton sweater I just finished. I can't seem to get the shoulder seaming right?

On the blog front, I have had nothing new to post for awhile. I think I have been a bit burned out, and have been working more, leaving less time for cookin' and bloggin'.We have a family member who has just had surgery that we will visit tomorrow, so I will be cooking for him today. I plan to get photos and write up posts in the next few days. On the menu, Martha's Mac and Cheese (which I will prepare with whole grains), a yummy Tomato Lentil Soup from the "New Basics" cookbook that I have made a bizillion times (vegetarian) and Martha's brownies (I think I will make the fudgey version). Hopefully these comfort foods will help him along with his recovery.

So, have a great day everyone! I'll have more great food yummies up soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ina's Grown Up Mac and Cheese

It's Barefoot Blogger day, and time to post the recipe I wrote about in the last post. This week's recipe was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl (cute name for a site). This group has been so much fun so far. We only have to post twice a month (with a third post optional), and I love the recipes of Ina's that have been selected. Really puts a little more variety in things and is one idea for a meal I don't have to come up with! Again, if you want to check it out, you can go here to see what is coming up for the month as well as the musings of the members. So, on to the recipe.

Heather's choice was Ina's Grown up Mac and Cheese from the episode Home Comforts. Wow, was this good. I followed the recipe word for word with a few exceptions, I used a sprouted 7-grain bread and celentani pasta. I never have white bread in the house, try to keep the whole grain, healthy stuff around. The bread keeps well in the freezer, so I had it on hand. The nutty flavor of the bread was really nice against the rich creamy cheeses.

I shopped ingredients on a trip to Trader Joe's and celentani was the closest thing to elbow pasta that they had. Whole wheat pasta would have been my choice if I could have found any, but as you can see from the picture, the ridges on the pasta really worked nicely. The sauce had lots of little spaces to cling to. Also, on that trip, I purchased the cheeses (TJ's cheese prices are so reasonable!) . For this mac and cheese I used a Swiss, Kaltbach cave-aged Gruyere, a Wisconsin, white extra sharp cheddar, and crumbled Salem blue cheese. They had a nice, thick, applewood bacon, so I picked that up as well. When I baked it off for the recipe, I added a few extra slices to cook at the same time. We had those in a cobb salad the next night. I really liked the smokey, fruity taste of the bacon with the cheese in the dish. One thing I did not add was more salt. Taste the sauce first, after you have all the ingredients together. I felt it was salty enough.

Notes: Make this when you have a bit of time, you will need it. Grate the cheese in the food processor to save time and wash dishes as you go so you will not be overwhelmed with the pile you have at the end!

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
serves 2-4
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups celentani pasta
1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices sprouted 7-grain bread
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into baking dish.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chocolate Sauced Pears - WWW

Dinner last night was oh-so-tasty, and loaded with cheese. I will post the dish this Thursday for my Barefoot Bloggers post or for a sneak peak, you can go here to see the recipe picks for September). For our dessert, I wanted to serve the pears that I picked up at the farmers' market from Phillips Fruit Farm and include them in a Weight Watcher Wednesday post. So, onto the net I went. I found this potentially yummy recipe on the 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet site. They have loads of recipes posted and give nutritional information, including WW points. This recipe looked quick and easy, and hey, involved chocolate, so I gave it a try. Everything went well until they were cooked. All the cooking liquid that was to be combined with the chocolate sauce baked away. I am not sure why this happened. One reason could be that I cut the recipe in half, to just 2 servings, which also cut the cooking liquid in half. Also, the oven temp called for is 375, perhaps at 350 they may have turned out better. Anyway, I went ahead and drizzled them with the chocolate sauce amount called for and we dug into them. Very tasty! The soft pears and the chocolate were perfect together. At just over 100 calories it satisfies that sweet tooth.

Don't forget to check out the rest of this weeks Weight Watcher Wednesday recipes.

Chocolate Sauced Pears

serves 2
WW points: 1

2 small Bartlett pears
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbl chocolate flavored syrup

Core pears from bottom end using a small melon baller, leaving stems intact; peel pears. Cut a thin slice from bottoms of pears to help stand upright. Place pears in a small baking dish.

Stir together lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon. Brush mixture on pears, pouring remaining liquid in bottom of pan.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or till tender. Cool slightly. Strain baking liquid and pour into a small bowl. Stir in chocolate syrup and pour into 4 individual dessert bowls. Add pear to each bowl, standing up. Serve warm.

This is where I had the problem with the recipe. All the cooking liquid baked away.

So, if this happens, just place them in little dessert bowls and drizzles with the chocolate sauce and dig in!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yogamole Potato Salad

I came up with this yummy salad yesterday. After a quick inventory of what was in the fridge, as well as having a very ripe avocado on hand, I thought I would try subbing guacamole for a traditional potato salad dressing. We loved it! The only drawback to making this is that you should only make what you need for the meal since guac really doesn't keep well. Also, you put this together right before serving. I boiled the potatoes earlier in the day and kept them whole in the fridge. When I was ready to dress them I brought them out and let them sit about 15 minutes and then cut them into about 1/2" slices. If you want to cut into dices or wedges, feel free, whatever turns you on. I use green onion in my guac because I am not a fan of raw onions. I also used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, which is what I had on hand. We had this for dinner with some grilled chicken brats, yum!

Yogamole Potato Salad
serves 4-6

1.5 # of small white potatoes (about 6)
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 tsp kosher flake salt (seems like a lot, but the potatoes need it)
1 1/2 tbl lime juice (1 lime)
1/2 cup chopped, seeded tomato (1 small)
1 1/2 tbl chopped green onion (green and white parts)
1 tbl chopped cilantro (at least, be generous)
1/2 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt

Place whole potatoes in a pan of cold water to cover by 1". Bring to a boil and cook until a sharp knife will just slide through, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool completely. They can be refrigerated at this point.

When ready to serve, cut the potatoes into 1/2" slices.

In a medium bowl, place the avocado, cut into dices, and the salt. Using a fork, mash the avocado, leaving a few small chunks. Add the lime juice, tomato, green onion, and cilantro, stir to mix. Then add the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Toss the potatoes in and stir gently, coating the potatoes with the guac, being careful not to break them up. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve with a bit of cilantro sprinkled on top.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Adventures of Larry and Hello Kitty

Since the pictures of Hello Kitty were such a hit, I thought I would introduce both she and Larry to you. Hello Kitty was adopted from Cat Welfare in 2003. She was almost a year old and they had named her Angel. During her stay there she became very ill and I had to wait a few weeks to see if she would make it, which she did. Since adopting her, she has had allergy tests/shots and last year began having seizures (the million dollar kitty). After months of trial and error, she is now on phenobarbital and doing well. Very lovable and small, only about 8#. Her favorite activity is sleeping on my lap while I knit.

Larry was adopted from the Capitol Area Humane Society in 1994, yes, he celebrated his 14th birthday this year. He was only 6 weeks old, and his shelter name was Ringo (someone found 4 kittens and they named them after the Beatles). He had a illness free life until 2004, when he got very sick. After a 10 day hospital stay, where he was split from stem to stern, he was diagnosed with IBD. He is now on a prescription food, which he eats, but hates, and meows quite a bit. At times he can really be a pain in the ass, just the old man thing I think. He redeems himself every night by sleeping on my head, I take that as a sign of affection, but he is a cat, so who knows.

Anyway, that is a bit about the two kitties, I will profile Bunnie the Dog another day. I also am using this post as a test. I am trying to figure out how to insert a video, so here goes. I took this with my camera, and am not the best videographer. Hello Kitty snores quite a bit, which irritates Larry, as you will see (and hear). Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Farmers' Market trip for Cat Food?

I know what you are thinking. "What type of a Farmers' Market caters to kitties"? Well, maybe you are not thinking that exact thought, but no doubt, the two do not seem to go together. Rest assured, I will explain. This post is about my trip yesterday to the local Farmers' Market that is held in town at the boat basin every Thursday throughout most of the summer and into the fall. With my trusty, way cool bag that Foodbuzz sent to us a few months back, my camera and a pocket of cash, I walked down to stock up on a bit of fresh produce and see what new items they had to offer.

As you can see, I made a pretty good haul. Fresh Hahn's corn, cucs, green beans and potatoes from DeChant Farm, Bartlett pears from Phillips Fruit Farm and a few zucchini to round it all off.

I also got some nice shots of the farmers and shoppers. Here are a few of the photos.

Check out the beauty and color on the table of tomatoes. How can these not be good for you? I resisted the temptation due to by own bountiful crop, but it was hard not to try just one. Does the rationale that you can never have too many pairs of shoes or black sweaters apply to varieties of tomatoes as well?

September means that fall is just around the corner here in the Midwest, and I saw a few items reminding me of the season's soon to be changes of colors and flavors.

The market is not just about produce. There is a nice offering of freshly baked pies, cookies, quick breads, jams and jellies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Once I was home, I unloaded my goodies and positioned them for photos. After I had taken a few I left the room to get something and when I returned, this is what I found...

A little furry package inspector had decided to checkout what I brought home. Her name is Hello Kitty. I don't think I have introduced our furry friends. There are 2 cats and 1 dog (I will introduce the other 2 in the future). I wasn't sure how interested she would be in the produce, so I let her go....

Who knew that she would want to chow down on the green beans and corn? (I apologize for the shaky photos, I was laughing so hard). I guess I will have to check with her next week to see what she would like me to add to my shopping list!

If you would like to check out the rest of my photos from the market you can see them if you go to my Flickr account