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Broccoli Cheese Soup

 

So I’ve talked about how my husband is not a huge fan of vegetables. For the most part, he is a good sport about eating them, even if they aren’t as mushy as he’d prefer. I mostly think he does this to spare the heartache of listening to me give him a lecture on the nutritional benefits of veggies. However, as much as he loves me, there are certain vegetables he absolutely positively will not touch,  no matter how mushy they are or how much cheese I put on them.  Cauliflower is one of these.  This past Christmas, a friend gave me a cookbook written by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld. It’s called Deceptively Delicious.  The main trick she does is steam and puree certain veggies and then use the puree to sneak into dishes:  like pureed beets into pancakes, pureed sweet potatoes or butternut squash into spaghetti sauce, or cauliflower into soup.  Last week I received a cauliflower head in my CSA box.  Not wanting it to go to waste (and not wanting to eat the whole thing myself), I decided to copy Mrs. Seinfeld’s cauliflower trick.  So in this soup you get double the benefits.  Only after hubby ate a couple of bite of the soup did I tell him the secret ingredient; he said he couldn’t even taste it, and that he loved, loved, loved the soup. Success!

 

Ingredients:

olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloved, minced or pressed
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
4 red potatoes, diced
2 broccoli crowns, chopped
broccoli rabe (optional; I had it in my CSA box, so I threw it in here to get rid of it)
1 cauliflower floret, stems removed, and chopped
3 T.  olive oil (or butter)
3 T. flour
2 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
salt
pepper
tabasco sauce (or paprika)

Instructions:

1)  In a stockpot over medium heat, “caramelize” your onions for about 10 minutes.  Add garlic; cook another 5 minutes.

2)  Pour in broth; bring to a boil.  Add potatoes to pot; boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

3)  Add broccoli and cauliflower; return to a boil.  Turn down to medium heat; steam 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Turn down to a low simmer. 

4)  Using a slotted spoon, scoop broccoli and cauliflower into a blender or food processor.  (I left a few little chunks of broccoli in the soup cuz I like it a bit chunky.)  And it’s ok if you get little pieces of onions and potatoes in the processor.  However, if you would like for your entire soup to be creamy, place all the soup into the fodd processor or blender.  (You can even use an immersion blender, if that strikes your fancy.)  Process until smooth.

          a)  if you processed only the broccoli and cauliflower, leave the puree in the blender until after the next step (step 5)

          b)  if you processed the whole soup, you can return it to the stockpot and leave it, covered, on a low simmer.

5)  In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add in flour; stir quickly with a gravy whisk (or regular whisk) to combine.

6)  Add milk to flour mixture; whisk until lumps dissolve.  Pour in pureed broccoli and cauliflower to milk mixture; stir to combine.  Pour into stockpot with rest of soup.  Add extra milk if you desire it to be thinner.  Heat through, then remove from heat.  Stir in cheese until melted.

7)  Season to taste using the salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce (or paprika).

Yields 4-5 one-cup servings.

Sheep

My little one loves her some sheep. If she could, she would herd them all day long.  And even after being so tired she can’t run around them any longer, she would be more than happy to pin them in a corner and stare them still…all day long.  Our little border collie, who bounced from shelter to shelter until we rescued her, has found her life’s calling: sheep.

The Best BBQ Spare Ribs

 

 A couple years ago, after my husband and I bought our barbecue, we decided to break it in with spare ribs.  Of course, we didn’t know anything about barbecuing spare ribs, like how long it takes until they are so perfectly done that the meat falls right off the bone (apparently it takes hours and hours). So our first attempt was a miserable failure.  A few weeks ago we were watching an episode of Sam the Cooking Guy, a show local to the San Diego area, and he made these ribs that looked to die for.  About a week or so later we were grocery shopping and passed the rib section of the meat counter.  And our memories harkened back to that episode of Sam the Cooking Guy.  All we had to do was wordlessly lock eyes, and my husband grabbed the best looking rack of the bunch.  The ingredient list is my own creation. But I followed Sam’s vinegar-baked methodology, which takes considerably less time to cook than the regular way. 

 

Ingredients:

brown sugar
paprika
chili powder
ground mustard
red pepper flakes
cinnamon
nutmeg
white vinegar (the cheap kind)
barbecue sauce (plain, unflavored)
honey or apricot jam

 

Instructions:

1)  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Rub into both sides of ribs.  Allow to marinade in the frig 3-5 hours.

2)  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place ribs, in a single layer, in a jellyroll pan or casserole dish. Pour vinegar into dish until filled about 1 to 1½ inches up the side. Cover tightly with foil. Cook at 400° for an hour and a half. About one hour through, check the level of the vinegar to make sure it hasn’t all evaporated. If it has, add more vinegar.

3)  Right before ribs are done, combine barbecue sauce and honey or jam in a bowl. Heat your barbecue grill to medium heat. Place ribs on grill, then baste the face-up side with barbecue sauce. Grill for about 3 minutes, then flip ribs over. Baste more sauce on the face-up side. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip one more time and cook another minute longer.  Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Basic Breakfast Potatoes

 

 Saturday morning I was craving breakfast potatoes. I don’t know why; it’s not like I grew up eating breakfast potatoes, nor do I order them on those rare occasions we go out for brunch. Maybe I was low on potassium and my body knew it. (Did you know that a medium potato has the same amount of potassium as a medium banana? Not being a huge fan of bananas, I was tickled silly to find this out.)  So I decided to whip up a batch of breakfast potatoes.  This is a simple “base” recipe to start with. It’s great just by itself (I served it with scrambled cheesy eggs), but you can also add in other items to spice it up a bit.  At the end of the recipe I have a list of variations that I thought would be good in it.  Feel free to leave a comment on anything else you think might be good.

Ingredients:

5 red potatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 T. garlic butter (recipe follows)
salt & pepper
1/2 c. broth (chicken or vegetable)
tabasco or hot sauce (optional seasoning)

 

Instructions:

1)  Wash potatoes and pierce several times with a fork. Cook in microwave for 3-4 minutes.  The potatoes should still be hard; we just want to get a jump-start on the cooking process.

2)  Cube the potatoes.  In a skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and potatoes. Let cook about 1 minutes.  Stir to rotate potatoes around in pan, then cook another minute, to let other sides brown.

3)  Add garlic butter, salt, and pepper (and more olive oil if you need it–I prefer to use the butter for flavoring, but olive oil for the cooking process).  Toss to combine ingredients and melt the butter.

4)  Add broth.  Cover and turn down to medium/medium-low heat.  Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring once, or until taters are tender.  Season with tobasco or hot sauce, if desired.

 

Garlic Butter:
butter, softened to room temperature
parsley flakes
pressed or minced garlic cloves
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Use any measurements of the above ingredients to suit your fancy. Mash together with a fork to combine. Store in the frig in an airtight container. I like to use this mixture to make garlic bread.  As a snack lately, I’ve been spreading a smidge on a toasted whole-wheat english muffin then topping with a thin slice of baby brie. Mmmmm, lip-smacking goodness! Co-workers always think I’m cooking up something fancy.

 

Variations

Experiment by adding any (or a combination) of the following ingredients:  bacon, ham, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, chili peppers, rosemary, a mixture of green herbs (my favorite is Herbs de Provence), paprika.

apologies

haiti601

so you’ve probably been wondering what on earth has happened to me? All one of you (love you, sister!) 😉 i just seemed to drop off the face of the earth. well, let me explain.

 

haiti376-by-rico

as much as i love christmas and the winter (i live in san diego, mind you, so it might not seem just to some of you for me to say i love winter), i must admit that i have a love/hate relationship with it.  i’m sure many people can relate that along with whatever reasons you love christmas, there is also a stress that comes with it. for the most part, for me, this stress is bearable — stress like last minute shopping for presents, and then wrapping all those present (my husband does not like to be around me during this time: “no, dear, you canNOT use three different scraps of wrapping paper to wrap that present.  and please use the sticker name tags, NOT a black sharpie….fine, you can do it on your dad’s”; forgive me, i’m a perfectionist when it comes to present wrapping). there’s also planning the food menu, shopping for the food, and then cooking said food — including scheduling the cooking times so that everything is done all at the same time. there’s cleaning the house and bathing the dogs, to get ready to have christmas eve dinner at our tiny condo for the first time, and then realizing, “uh oh, gotta do the dishes so we have enough plates to eat on! oh, so this is why people register for china for their wedding presents.”  and there’s the splitting the holidays between families (which actually works out for us because it makes the festivities last just that much longer), but that also means cooking more food for another meal (again, not a bad thing at all.) and then, whoops, three days later realizing we forgot to give the dogs their christmas bones. oh well, it’s not like they know any different — any day they receive a bone is christmas to them! so it’s no surprise that we didn’t take our tree down and pack up the decorations until the third weekend in January. but in the end all these stresses are really just little blessings in disguise, more things to be thankful of and for.

 

drborder47-by-rico

what makes me dread the holidays is tax season. if your career is in finances, then you know what i’m talking about. i am the director of finance at the nonprofit i work at. which means: tax season and working overtime. deep down, i really don’t mind it. i would say that i handle stress pretty well.  and i love my job — absolutely love my job. but for as much as i love it, i really like to leave when my workday is supposed to be over, go home, cook dinner, and spend time with my family. but every january i have to put that aside and work my little heart out. luckily, this year i’ve been able to take stuff home to work on in the evenings, so i’m able to hang out with my family still. 

 

drborder78-by-rico

needless to say, i have not had any ounce of time to type up recipes, much less work on photos for publishing them. (please note the photos is this post were not taken by me, i’m sad to say.)  but there is an end in sight. most of my deadlines are tomorrow, the end of the month. and while i’ll still be busy for the first couple weeks in february, i hopefully won’t have to work as much overtime. so my apologies for not posting anything lately. but believe me, i have some pretty yummy stuff waiting in the queue. one of these days, when i have a free weekend or evening, i’ll bust out a bunch of posts. and you just won’t be able to keep up. 🙂

haitiborder-by-rico

 

(All photos were taken by Rico Castillero, of people Floresta, the nonprofit I work at, supports in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rico and his wife Rachel are also wedding photographers. Check out their website here.)

inspirational for the week

“whatever you want in life, other people are going to want it, too.  believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you have an equal right to it.”   ~diane sawyer

brown soda bread

 

to accompany yesterday’s recipe of guinness beef stew.  i had only ever had regular (white flour) soda bread.  now that i am trying to substitute wheat flour for white flour as much as possible, i was estatic to find a brown soda bread recipe in The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Magaret M. Johnson.  i made some adjustments based upon other recipes i came across.  this bread is a great (and healthy) accompaniment to a hot stew on a cold winter night.

 

ingredients:

3 c. coarse whole-wheat flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

2 T. oat bran

2 tsp. baking soda

¼ c. sugar

1 T. salt

2 large eggs

1¼ c. buttermilk

 

instructions:

preheat oven to 375°F.  butter and flour (or spray with olive oil) a 9x5x3-in loaf pan.

1)  in a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.  make a well in the center.

2)  in a small bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. (as a shortcut to cut down on dishes, i like to measure my liquid first in a liquid measuring cup, then crack the eggs in that and whisk together. that way, i don’t dirty up another bowl!)  with a wooden spoon, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until just combined.

3)  spoon dough into loaf pan; smooth top with the back of the wooden spoon. brush with buttermilk or water.

4)  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out dry. ideally, if you tap the bottom of the bread and it sounds hollow, then it’s done.  however, i have no idea what a perfectly hollow-sounding bread loaf actually sounds like — especially when you take the pan into consideration, which just seems to distort what is supposed to be a hollow sound.  SO, the toothpick is my preferred method of doneness testing.

5)  remove from oven.  let cool for 10 minutes.  turn bread out onto rack (top side up) and allow to cool for about an hour.