Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunning Herbs

Potted Herbs in Winter

We've had some very cold nights but today is quite sunny.
My potted herb garden is taking a sun bath while it can.
Soaking in more delicious vitality. I think I'll do the same.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dill up your Veggies, Dips and More

Other uses for your pickle juice-carrots
See anything unusual about this image? It's a clue as to why not to throw out your pickle juice.

Bubbies makes some of the best pickles in America, so after you have finished your jar, don't throw out the juice. As it sugar, vinegar or preservatives.

Keep the wonderful kosher dill brine and re-use it to pickle up your carrots or other vegetables. Their recipe is gold medal, so why not take advantage of their amazing flavors and infuse your recipes with this delicious diller.

You can also add it to spike your deviled eggs, salad dressings and dips. Mix it into anything that would benefit from a splash of bright brine. Soups, tuna salad, BBQ sauce...

And, don't forget to grab a new jar of pickles when you are out. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Soup on Crispy Parmesan Toast

Soup on Crispy Parmesan Toast
I was given a crock pot recently and although I know the basics, turn it on and let it do the cooking, it was not being used. My first attempt was just to make some chicken soup with vegetables. I'm not much for appliance cooking and still feel a bit perplexed as to what can be done. There is no timer on this one. Just high, medium and low settings. I put everything in and tried the high setting. It worked fine. I'll still have to do some looking around and be a little more experimental. Pinterest has lots of examples, so I'll start there. The instruction insert had three basic recipes, nothing as interesting as some shared pins. Since I had little interest in crock pot cooking, glancing over was the extent of my viewing. Some great pans have covered all of my needs for anything I want to cook. Maybe my attitude will change.

Growing up my mother frequently used an electric skillet, and an electric griddle. Some people seem to like electric stuff. I like cooking with gas. At any rate, I tried it. The results were good. The ingredients cooked evenly and this is the yummy bowl of soup.

But here is the real treat of the whole experiment. Soup on toast!  A nice crusty buttered bread heal sprinkled with parmesan. As shown in the insert, the soup was both a lovely broth and a hearty heaping of I skimmed off some of the chicken and veggies and placed it on toast. Really tasty, really filling way to warm up on a cold day and satisfy all around.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tuna Two Ways-from Casserole to Soup

Simple. Delicious.

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole Soup

This is my take on tuna two ways. When you make tuna noodle casserole, keep in mind that you can also have tuna noodle casserole soup. Simply take a baked casserole serving, pour over some boiling water and give it a quick stir. Or, you can heat some up in a pan with the water added. Ladle however much you want into a pretty bowl and add some red pepper flakes. Same ingredients, completely different presentation. What do you think?

Delicious, Versatile, Potato Bites

These little potatoes add a nice accent to any meal plate. Delicious hot or cold. I make enough that I have some left over and they are a yummy boost if I need something quick to eat. They are also great for breakfast. Cut them in half and toss them in a skillet to brown them up. If you like, add in some fresh veggies or mushrooms and serve alone, or with eggs. After I have washed the potatoes, I smooth on a little olive oil, so if you are reheating you don't need to add any oil to your pan. They crisp up perfectly in just a few minutes. These are the actual size, so what you see is what you get.

Potato Bites

Monday, December 9, 2013

Soup to Sauce Update

Wow Yum. I posted earlier today on a full meal but this is quite good too. I took my chicken broth watered down version of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup, added in some leftover jasmine rice plus some miso and pepper. It's a full-bodied flavor that's a meal in a bowl. So satisfying and heart warming on a cold day. Lunch or dinner...add in some scrambled eggs and it would even be great for breakfast.

Simple, Warm, Delicious, Chicken and Rice Dinner

chicken and rice with fresh red peppers and chopped mixed green garnish

Who could argue...soup is good food. One of my favorite tag lines comes from Campbell's and two of my favorite quick soup to sauces, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom are two of Campbell's best. For this meal I thin out the condensed soup to a light cream gravy using chicken broth and water, then pour it over the chicken and rice. I cooked the chicken in a toaster oven for an hour and a half @ 200 and then cranked it up to 400 for 15 minutes to get it browned. Moist inside, crispy outside. The chicken was frozen so it took more time. Cooking from the freezer is not my favorite but it works when you are in a pinch. For the first hour I let it cook in the foil, then I open it up and pour some Italian dressing on it for extra flavor and to keep the chicken from drying out. The jasmine rice was prepared with chicken broth instead of water and gives the rice a nice boost. A quick side of fresh and crunchy pepper slices, also dressed with a light drizzle of Italian, a few chopped mixed greens, and you're all set.

It was soooooo cold here the last few days and this was a quick, warm, dose of comfort that hit the spot.

TIP: You can cook the chicken ahead of time and just warm it up before you're ready to plate. The chicken gravy is piping hot, and it will round out the heat to a perfect temperature.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Oh Martha Iceberg Redo

Martha Stewart really got some flack for her salad tweet posting recently so I thought I would try and redeem iceberg. I don't think I have ever bought iceberg although I thought this was the only kind of lettuce there was until my late teens. This particular head was more loose than I remember. My idea was to use a melon baller and scoop out little bites. I was partially successful and did a little side salad with an ode to other lettuce leaves garnish, some tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheese with pepper. This is decide. To iceberg or not to iceberg, that is the question.

Ode to Iceberg

Crustless Portobello Mushroom Pot Pie

So delicious! This takes a little time to prepare even though I had the potatoes already precooked. First, thoroughly clean the gills out of the mushroom. I use a spoon for the large center area and on the delicate edges a melon baller works well. If you're not careful these can tear, so take it easy. Next, I cut up my potato into nice small bites, kind of a mash chop. Line the bottom of your mushroom with the potato, next put in some peas. I had these leftover with a little butter, a perfect amount to add in. Then thin cut some carrots and top with a little asiago cheese and pepper. This layer is done. Continue building your portobello pie with another layer of finely chopped red bell peppers. I always squeeze the water out with a paper towel or things can be too wet for my taste. Finish with a nice heap of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few broccoli florets. I baked these covered in a glass pan for about 45 minutes @ 325. For the first 25 minutes I let them dry cook and then I add some water into the bottom of the pan to create some mushroom au jus. Plate with some lightly steamed broccolini. I peel the stems after washing and this is a nice tender touch. When you are ready to serve, spoon some au jus onto the base of the plate. I had some stew broth in the freezer and melted it before serving. These two flavors work really well together. You can use just the mushroom jus for a lighter flavor or add a bit of a thickener as I did.

History note: The name "portobello" was created in the '80's as a marketing strategy. Growers usually threw these mushrooms away because they were considered ugly and people would not buy them. Another example of how a name can make all the difference in how something is perceived. The same is true of broccolini, a trademarked name for a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale.

Portobello Stuffed

Portobello Stuffed with Veggies and Potato

Portobello Mushroom Pot Pie

Plated Portobello Pot Pie with Broccolini

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Classic Ham and Eggies on Toast with Cheese Melt

There's been a whole lot of cooking going on the past few days and I just wanted something simple. The fridge is kind of cleared out but I had some boiled ham, eggs and cheese. This tasty toast was created in a jiff. I took the boiled ham and sliced it in to super thin ribbons and did a quick crisp in a pan. Hard cooked eggs were the next layer. Then I sprinkled a little cheese. A few more egg slices, a little more cheese, and last was a light garnish of the crispy ham. Warm for a minute or two in the oven for the cheese melt. Half a slice is plenty if you have a large loaf of bread. This is yummy sourdough. My favorite.

Maybe something for you to try if you want quickie eats. If you don't eat meat, I suggest zucchini ribbons as the base. Just cook them to a nice crispy and it will be equally, if not more delicious. The color contrast of egg and zucchini is lovely.

A slice of delight, classic ham and eggies
Open Faced Ham and Eggies
Ham and Eggs on Toast