Monday, December 19, 2011

Basic Potato Soup

My sister, Marisa and her roommate, Laura came to our house for Thanksgiving.  To make things easy on me I decided we would have soup and salad on Wednesday night.  The soup could get happy all day in the crockpot and my sister would make layered salad.

The soup turned out so good Laura has been asking for the recipe, so here is what I did...

Peel and cut potatoes into large chunks (about 1/4's of a regular potato) to fill the crockpot about 1/2 to 2/3.
Chop an onion and add to crockpot.
Chop about 3 stalks of celery - you want about 1 c of chopped celery.
Pour in a box of Chicken stock/broth.  This should cover the potatoes, if not add more.
Add salt/pepper. Potatoes need lots of salt, but you don't want to add too much at this point.  Same with the pepper.  Probably about 1/2 tsp of pepper and 1 tsp of salt.
Let cook about 1/2 a day on low.

After cooking that long the potatoes should just want to fall apart.
At this point I puree the lot.  I have a stick blender which I just stick in the crockpot and blend until it looks good.  You can also scoop out portions and puree in the blender/food processor.  If you use the blender/food processor method, be CAREFUL the hot liquid will be steamy and want to push open the lid to the blender!

Just before serving add 1/2-3/4 c. heavy cream and gently stir into the soup.
Add more salt and pepper to taste.

That is basic potato soup.  To this base you can add different items to change things up.  Some possibilities...
1-2 cup grated cheese after the puree
Bacon after the puree
Chopped carrots at the beginning with the celery
Use pork broth/stock instead of chicken
1 c chopped leeks
a couple of crushed garlic cloves at the beginning (they will be pureed later)

It is possible to cook this on the stove and not the crockpot, however, you will need to watch it more carefully.   The low constant temperature of the crockpot cooking for several hours is part of what makes this simple soup so delicious!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Baking, Baking and some more Baking...

Within the past couple of months baking has been happening a bit more often.  The first endeavor was by Patrick.  He loves sourdough, so he set about to make a sourdough starter.  He carefully measured and nurtured the starter for a week and then made some biscuits. He made three batches before letting the starter go.

Here is a picture of the man at work.

On my baking front I decided to attempt to make my own bread.  The first week I tried this recipe.  It looked easy. Now I know that this may not seem so terribly exciting to others, but you see I have not done that much baking with yeast.  I worry about the whole kneading thing and then there is the bake time and worrying about too crispy of a crust.  Just plain too much worrying.

The bread was good!  I couldn't believe it I actually made bread!

The following week I turned to my new favorite cookbook Joy of Cooking.  Wonderful birthday present from Herm and Frederica!  The very first recipe was white bread.  It stated that this recipe was in the very first Joy of Cooking in 1931.  I figured, it must be good if they've kept it around for the 75th anniversary cookbook. (That's the one I have.)  It also said it "stales slowly and cuts well for sandwiches."  I also learned that if you cover the cooling bread with a damp cloth it makes a nice soft crust.

So for the third week in a row I have two homemade loaves of bread cooling in the kitchen.  One will get wrapped up and put in the freezer and the other will make some wonderful toast in the morning.

As I was brushing butter on the warm bread (that's the other thing you do to make the crust soft).  I started to think about my great grandmothers.  I thought about them brushing their bread on their bread making day.  (Yes it does take about 1/2 a day.)  I knew most of my great grandmothers and I wondered which one would be the most proud of me.  I then I remembered that my Great Grandpa Gray was a baker.

Of all my great grand parents he is one that I knew the best. He said that if he could do it again, he wouldn't be a baker because they have to get up way too early.  I thought of him mixing dough and getting the ovens ready for the bread.  I  think he would be proud that I've tried my hand at baking bread.  I wonder how different his bread recipe was the one I've been using. I don't recall any of his bread - but I DO remember his shortbread cookies.  I wish I had his recipe.

In the meantime I will try to continue to bake bread on Saturday.  We'll see how that works out during the summer.  If it gets too hot, I will definitely pick it up in the Fall again.  Hmmmm homemade bread and soup.  I think that is a good combination.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Philly Cooking Creme Party!

On March 12th - I hosted a Philly Cooking Creme Party!  (Yeah,!)

On the menu was...

Homemade Pizza Rolls
Homemade Pizza Dough
Red Pepper
Handful of Mozerella
Italian Cooking Creme

I chopped up all the pizza toppings into tiny dices.  Then mixed in the cheese and the cooking creme.  Rolled out portions of the dough, cut into rectangles.  Taking each rectangle I scooped some of the mix in the middle and pinched all the sides closed. - cooked according to the dough recipe, served with some pizza sauce for dipping.

Chicken Veloute Supreme Soup
This was, by far the favorite recipe of the night.  I wasn't sure about this so I made some the week before and loved it.  Due to the fact that I couldn't find any of the Garlic Cooking Creme, I had to make some changes.


First - the whole trying to make a rue with mushrooms still in the pan, just didn't work for me.  May work for you, but I didn't do so well.  I sautéed the mushrooms and then pulled them out of the pan, made a rue with equal amounts of flour and butter and then returned everything back to the pan.

Second - I used only half a tub of regular cooking creme (Cheryl used a whole thing of regular cream cheese whipped with some milk).  I then added about a teaspoon or so of garlic.

Third - I added green onions.

This soup REALLY needs to be served with good bread.  Dipping bread into the soup is just too wonderful for words.

Santa Fe Casserole
I had no doubts that this would be good.  Notes for next time...Add in chopped olives and perhaps a small can of green chiles!

Creamy Bacon Pasta
Again I couldn't find anything but the regular cooking creme the day of the party, so instead of the italian creme listed in the recipe, I used regular. I forgot to add some garlic when I sautéed the onions - that would have been good.  The next day I reheated this with some extra cheese - that made it much better.  (Isn't everything better with a little cheese?)

Cream Cheese mini tarts
Cream Cheese tart shells
Filled with nutella, peach-raspberry jam and pear butter
I have to say that these little things are ADDICTIVE.  I have now made three batches - well the third batch is in the oven as I write.  I don't know if I would make these any bigger than the mini-muffin size.  Although the suggestion of pushing the dough out flat and baking it as one big dessert sounded good.  I am justed excited to have a mini-muffin pan - plus I love little things.  I have also added vanilla and almond to the batter.

If you would like to comment on Philly Cooking Creme see this link.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brown Butter, Pumpkin, Spice Muffin Goodness

A few weeks ago I ran across this recipe for Brown Butter Spice Cake.  I still had some pumpkin in the freezer and thought this sounded good, so I took the pumpkin out to thaw.

I have now made this recipe three times!  Well, each time it got a new variation...

Round 1
The first time was a double batch, I did follow the recipe on the website with the following exceptions:

  • I didn't have any toasted hazelnut oil so I substituted butter as suggested by Heidi (the author of the blog post).
  • I didn't have whole pastry flour, sea salt or natural cane sugar. I used regular flour and salt and 1/2 brown sugar, 1/2 regular sugar.
  • I used my food processor to puree and then "whisk" in the eggs, sugar, butter and milk.
  • I made muffins instead of bread.  I have to plan too much to have something in the oven for a whole hour. The muffins take about 16-18 minutes!
  • I also put toasted almond slivers in only half the batter.  
Results:  Ended up with 18 muffins, plus some extra in my little corning ware dish.  We loved these!  I liked the ones with the nuts on top.  Patrick preferred them without nuts.  And we both felt the spices could be increased.

Round 2
The second time was a single batch, I changed the following (on purpose)
  • I used bananas instead of the pumpkin - as they were taking up way too much room in the freezer.  
  • I again skipped the toasted hazelnut oil.
  • Instead of nuts I added milk chocolate chips to half the batter. (I was actually craving Mary's Chocolate Cake - but I didn't have all the ingredients for that, nor did I need a whole chocolate cake sitting around.)
  • I added more of the garam marsala (1 1/2 tsp.) and cinnamon (1 tsp.)
  • I did not sprinkle extra sugar on these ones.
Results: Made about 16 muffins. These were just ok. Perhaps, it was because I was really wanting chocolate cake, but they did not rise as well as the first batch making them kind of sadly flat.  They were good, but not overly so.

Round 3
The third time - this was a double batch again,  I changed the following (some on purpose, one not so purposefully)
  • Again, no toasted hazelnut oil (I just don't have any on hand.)
  • I used pumpkin - about 1 1/3 cup before pureeing because that is what I had.
  • I added the following spices: garam marsala (3-4 tsp.), cinnamon (1 1/2 tsp.) and ground ginger (1/2 tsp.)
  • I also added a rounded teaspoon of baking soda (from the last rather sadly flat experience.)
  • I also added an additional 1/3 c. flour.  I knew I would have more pumpkin than I needed so I thought this would offset some of the extra moistness.
  • My not so purposeful change was in the butter.  I put a stick of butter in the pan to brown and then made the recipe.  I was actually stirring in the "liquid" into the flour and noticed that the batter was rather dry.  Woops!  I turned around, pulled the beautifully browned butter from its cooling spot and poured it into the batter, stirring well to get all the stuff incorporated.  Did you catch my mistake here? I doubled the recipe, but not the butter.
Results: Made 18 muffins, plus my little corning ware pan. They were wonderful.  I loved the smell of them as they reached the end of their cooking.  The house filled with wonderfully fragrant smells.  I had to eat two of these while they were still warm.  I had part of my "extra" pan for breakfast the next day with hot chocolate. yuuummm!

It was as I was getting ready the next morning that I realized, "Hey! I think I forgot to double the butter."  After checking the recipe and realizing my mistake, I still had a good breakfast.  While the lower fat content made the muffins more bread-like, the extra pumpkin made up the difference.   And, slightly warm, you wouldn't notice a difference. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

Or perhaps I should title should say "about the same as always".  My goal is to take more pictures this year.  (We'll see if that really happens.)  January is just about over and we are definitely ready for spring.  There is lots to do - a war to rage on the invading morning glory, grass to plant in the front yard, always work on the basement.  I have been knitting a lot.  Many babies being born around me.  I need to do better about getting more blankets done - and taking pictures of them.  I do have a knitting journal I started way back, but have not been faithfully entering the information.  A fair chunk of my Christmas money went to buy yarn.  I was soooo excited!

On the organizing front we finally made our hallway closet a bit more useful.  It is an odd shape - deep and skinny.  It had been stacked with boxes, but anytime I needed to get to something I had to pull out the boxes and then they would sit in the living room until I was done.  My goal over break was to organize the little closet.  We decided to utilize the rolling cart in the kitchen.  So we bought some replacement shelves for the kitchen, wiped down the kitchen cart and then my break was over :-(  I spent too many nights up late watching movies and knitting.

So, the long weekend in January (Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday), I said I was not going to sleep on Monday until the organizing was done.  We bought a bunch of project-sized boxes, I finally found my labeler and I went to work.  Stuff was moved. Stuff was thrown out. I found old projects and put them in their boxes with labels.  Now looking in the closet, it is still very crowded, but at least now I can roll out the boxes in the front to get to the stuff in back!

It was a long day - but very worth it!  Now if only my desk could get itself organized.