Soup, sofa skating and grilled cheese

26 Jan

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This weekend was the perfect weekend to wind down, relax and refuel. January has been a busy month with little time for anything but early mornings, meetings and tapping on keyboards. So I spent the weekend spending time with friends, resting and cooking some classic comfort foods.

After a visit to the Greensboro Curb Market for the annual chili cook-off (congrats to Massey Creek Farm and Savory Spice Shop for their big win), I picked up the remainder of my groceries and hunkered down at home with a couple recipes, a cooking partner and a couple of pups. While watching Greensboro’s live broadcast of the US Figure Skating Championships (many twizzles, spins and Johnny Weir), we prepared an easy turkey sausage, kale and potato soup and roasted poblanos for this delicious spin on a cheddar grilled cheese. A seat on the sofa with soup and sandwich was the perfect setting for a great Saturday night.

This recipe for Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwiches is the classic grilled cheese dialed up a notch. A smokey, slightly smokey and spicy poblano pepper with gooey cheese and a salty bite. If you have a panini machine, this is the perfect time to crank it up. If not, a cast iron skillet will work just fine.

I paired the sandwich with a turkey sausage, potato and kale soup. I’ll share the recipe this week. Stay warm out there!

Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Washington Post 

  • 1 medium roasted poblano pepper, minced 
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated, at room temperature (I used smoked cheddar from The Fresh Market) 
  • 2 ounces regular, at room temperature 
  • 3 tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices country bread or sourdough 
  • Salted or unsalted butter, for the bread

Preheat a panini press.

Combine the minced poblano, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.

Lay out the bread slices in 4 pairs. Spread 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on four of the slices. Place the remaining four slices on top of the cheese mixture to create 4 sandwiches. Spread the butter on the outside of the sandwiches. Reserve the remaining cheese (see headnote).

Cook 2 sandwiches at a time in the panini press until lightly browned. The cheese should be gooey inside. This will take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Cut each sandwich in half. Serve immediately.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

14 Jan

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Soups on this January. With my freezer stocked with chicken stock, I’ve been cooking up a variety of hot soups for school nights and lazy lunches. With my heart set on a healthier and easier Greek avgolemono soup, I arrived at this recipe for Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo. It was certainly easier than managing all those eggs and was simple to make on a Monday night. I found it was even better the next night when I remembered to add the dill!

If you are feeling a hint of a cold, this is the trick! Stay warm, friends. And hold tight to that chicken stock.

 

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Bon Appetit 

 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon halves (for serving)

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite-size pieces.

 

Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.

 

Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over.

Iron Chef Suppers

12 Jan

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As the working world returns to the grind of the new year, I find that weeknight suppers seem more and more challenging. If I were one of those people who planned my meals in advance, I might not be referring to the world of Iron Chef Suppers. But what fun is syncing your meals with the five-day forecast? The world needs more anticipation, more mystery, adventure, creativity and challenge! Yes, I’m still talking about after-work Tuesday suppers.

These challenges are easy and require no advance preparation! Just come home after a long days work, have no fear and get creative. You find a piece of salmon in the freezer, an extra slice of pancetta and a half a pomegranate in the fridge – plus a half open bag of pasta in the pantry. These things are a natural fit, right?

Render the fat of the pancetta (saving the crispy bits for garnish with pomegranate seeds), sear the salmon in the fat. Drop into the oven.  Meanwhile cooking the pasta to al dente. Tossing with good olive oil, any fresh herbs and remnants of salty cheese to toss in. Finish by topping with salmon and sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and pancetta bits. Not bad, right?

What’s in your fridge tonight? I challenge you.

Chocolate Truffle Tart

11 Jan

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At 11:55pm on December 31, 2014, we sliced into this Chocolate Truffle Tart and poured flutes of champagne. I’m not sure anything else is more fitting for the last bite of 2014. Although, I’m sure I could come up with a very long list of foods.

This chocolate tart is surprisingly simple. A quick dough creates a rich, oreo-like crust plus a simple super sweet no-bake filling. This dessert takes some time because of various steps but is a good starter recipe if you are looking to get into baking. Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Truffle Tart, Cooks Illustrated

For the tart shell:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
¼ cup (¾ oz.) Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup (2 2/3 oz.) confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For the filling:
12 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. liqueur, such as Kahlua, brandy, or dark rum (optional)

  • To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until just set, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • To make the tart filling, place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (or in the microwave).  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes to melt.  Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in the liqueur.  Pour the filling into the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the filling is firm.  To serve, transfer the tart to a serving plate or platter.  Slice with a clean, sharp knife, wiping the blade between slices.

 

 

Roasted Beet Risotto

9 Jan

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For special occasions, I love a dish with flair. And nothing could standout more than a bright pink roasted beet risotto! It’s totally simple too. Roast the beets and add them to a simple risotto (with excellent cheese) before serving. What a fancy trick! Enjoy!

 

 

Roasted Beet Risotto, Epicurious 

 

  • 3 medium beets (1 1/2 lb with greens), trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
  • 3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (28 fl oz)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool to warm in foil package, about 20 minutes.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

While beets are cooling, bring broth and water to a bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in oil in a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve leftover broth.)

Stir in beets, salt, and pepper(mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through. Thin as necessary with some of leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini

8 Jan

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Brrrr. It was 10 degrees this morning ya’ll! And the temperature reminded me of when I decided to grill crostini in 17 degree weather on New Year’s Eve last week!

In an effort to keep the campers happy and awake on the big holiday, I made this incredibly easy and delicious appetizer. We made the recipe with button mushrooms because the grocery shopping campers didn’t know that a cremini mushroom is the same as a baby bella mushroom (cremini are baby portabellas ya’ll!). It was still delicious. I grilled the bread on the grill and quickly melted the goat cheese on the bread using the grill heat before topping with the mushrooms.

It’s a perfect winter starter!

Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini, from MidWest Living 

  • 30 1/4 – inch thick slices baguette-style French bread (about 8 oz.)
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • tablespoons butter
  • shallots, coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups) or 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ounces Capriole Fresh Goat Cheese or other goat cheese
  • tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf parsley) (optional)
  1. Arrange baguette slices on a large baking sheet. Lightly brush 1 side of each slice with some of the olive oil. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 2 to 4 minutes more or until lightly brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Set bread slices aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and brown sugar. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated, stirring frequently.
  3. Spread some of the goat cheese on each crostini. Bake about 8 minutes or until cheese is warmed through. Remove from oven. Top each with some of the mushroom-shallot mixture. Drizzle any remaining cooking liquid over crostini. If you like, sprinkle each with parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 30 crostini.

Winter Grilled Steaks with Herb Compound Butter

6 Jan

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I spent New Years Eve in the North Carolina mountains with my good friends, my furry dog and lots of good food and cocktails. For the NYE holiday (after hiking Echota earlier that morning in 24 degree weather), we promised ourselves we would have a very late dinner in order to stay up until the ball dropped in New York. This late activity required a trip into town for beers at Appalachian Brewery, a couple homemade appetizers (I’ll share one this week) and special cocktails at the house. Check out the most delicious Old Fashion with my mom’s Florida sour calamondon oranges.

It was a bitter 17 degrees in Foscoe while we were celebrating – so a strong cocktail, a winter cap and determination to grill was essential. Luckily for my friends, I love to grill and was excited for the challenge.  So while most of my girlfriends were in black dresses and heals – I was in lined leggings, boots, a jacket and pink toboggan! Grilling tongs really add sparkle to an outfit.

For dinner, I made grilled filet mignon steaks with an herb compound butter over beet risotto with roasted brussel sprouts. Not bad, right? After all, it’s 2015!

A compound butter is an easy way to dress up any steak. A couple hours before grilling, pulse a stick of butter with a tablespoon of your favorite herbs – I used rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. You could mix any variation – try a cilantro! Once the butter is combined, shape into a log and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for a couple hours, slice it and top the steaks right before they are to temperature. The heat of the grill will melt the herb butter on the steaks for the perfect topping!

New Years Re-Entry; Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

4 Jan

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The holidays are officially over, resolutions are in full-gear and re-entry begins tomorrow.  I had another fantastic holiday full of family, friends and delicious foods. I arrived back in Greensboro on Thursday in time for several movies, a good clean of my house, many hours at the gym and lots of time for resting.

Then Sunday came. In preparation for re-entry to work tomorrow, I spent a good hour at the gym with friends, stocked up at the grocery store and locked myself in the house for a nice afternoon making homemade chicken stock. They say that an “arctic blast” will arrive on Thursday, so I wanted to fully prepare for the worst with homemade soup provisions!

Nothing could be more relaxing than an afternoon stewing homemade stock (I used Ina Garten’s chicken stock recipe) will listening to Carly Simon, reading the newspaper and wearing in my new fuzzy slippers. Winston, my pup, enjoyed the aromas and potential for any chicken bones slipping between any utensils.

After making the stock, I made an easy Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra. It was spicy,delicious and hearty with the addition of okra. This is a variation on Ina’s Mexican Soup but I skipped the tortillas, sour cream and cheese (oh the resolutions) and added the okra for a nice substance.

I’ll post my recipes from the New Year’s Holiday this week!

Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 bag, frozen cut okra 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and frozen okra. Season to taste. Serve the soup hot!

 

Daniel Boone Country Ham Frittata

31 Dec

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I’m celebrating the New Years holiday in the North Carolina mountains with friends, food and snow! Yesterday, as big fluffy flakes of snow fell in Banner Elk, the snow received a roaring applause from children and kid-like-adults (that’s me).

Before we headed into town….around noon while we still lounged in pajamas, I put together a quick country ham frittata using the local Daniel a Boone Country Ham! I’m a huge fan of country ham in just about anything… It’s salty bite is something totally unique to North Carolina and it was perfecting fitting for our setting.

Cautionary note: don’t over season your eggs or mushrooms! Country ham is super salty!

Here how I made it. I like my country ham quickly browned in a cast iron skillet with a good splash of coffee. You can also cook it in a little Coke! Meanwhile, I sautéed a pint of button mushrooms in a bit of butter and salt and pepper. At this point, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the country ham is hot and browned, chop it up. Whisk 6 eggs. Add a tablespoon of butter to the cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the eggs. As the eggs begin to cook around the sides of the skillet, add the country ham, mushrooms, some cheese and a nice handful of torn chives. All of these ingredients are optional….use what you’ve got in the fridge. I literally used leftover cheese from our cheese plate the night before!

After the items have been added, place the skillet in the oven and cook until puffy and brown. Serve hot. Enjoy by the fire, with mountain views, good friends and fuzzy slippers (optional too).

This post is sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council. 

 

 

Sunshine State Christmas 2014

30 Dec

I’m back from a warm and plenty Christmas holiday vacation in my homeland, Florida. Four fast nights were spent with friends and family plus a gracious amount of fresh seafood, citrus and delight. Gag gifts, small dogs and cocktails amused the small moments between catching up on a year’s time of weddings, graduations, vacations, achievements and television shows.

Christmas morning included my grandfather’s traditional Brandy Alexander – just a third each of brandy, creme de cocoa and heavy cream served in thimble sized servings by the Christmas tree and occasional fire (it’s Florida after all). That drink reminds me of my great grandmother’s favorite bourbon, Four Roses, served straight or with holiday eggnog. Two eggs, a dash of vanilla, 3 heaps of sugar, 2ish cups of cream blended with a nice helping of Four Roses will cozy you in any state. Don’t forget the nutmeg garnish. Finally, nothing beats my favorite winter drink – the greyhound. Fresh grapefruit juice with a splash of vodka will cure any winter blues. I pick grapefruit like a sport for these cocktails. Try Crystal Head Vodka the next time you’re in the ABC – the bottle alone will make you giggle.

Shrimp, oysters and Florida lobster paired well with just about anything this Christmas. I hope your holiday was full of new and old tradition. And, you’re looking towards a new bright 2015. Cheers!

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