Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

Here's one of those recipes based on a classic that I've modified. Classically roasted tomato soup would be done with fresh tomatoes but good fresh tomatoes are hard to come by in Maine for most of the year so I've used canned tomatoes. I've also added my own twist with roasted sweet red peppers.

  • 2 14oz cans of tomatoes, diced or whole
  • 1/2 roasted sweet red pepper (the kind in a jar, use fresh if you have it but I didn't)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Sliver of onion (I'm not sure how much, it was about an 1/8 inch slice off the half onion in my fridge)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Bay leaf
1: Drain the cans of tomatoes, reserving liquid for later.
2: Lay tomatoes, onion, and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Cut tomatoes in half if you are using whole canned tomatoes
3: Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until caramelized
4: Combine reserved tomato juice and chicken stock in your soup pot.
5: Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, and roasted peppers in your food processor and blend until at your preferred level of smoothness (I like a little chunky).
6: Add tomato mixture to your soup pot. Add the bay leaf and season with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste.
7: Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and simmer about 10 minutes so the flavors meld together.

Served with some nice crusty toasted bread it's hearty but still very healthy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quick and Easy - Pesto Chicken

Here's a simple recipe to put together. It's what I made for dinner tonight when faced with only nothing planned and a package of chicken. I ended up using less than half a small jar of pesto, so it's good if you have some leftover in the fridge.

Jar of pesto
Chicken pieces of choice

1: Place chicken in shallow baking dish.
2: Spoon pesto over the chicken.
3: Bake at 350°F until done, this will depend on the cut and weight of the pieces, here's a chart or better yet use a probe thermometer to cook until the internal temperature is 165°F.
4: Share and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Split Pea Soup: Delicious Comfort Food

Pea soup in one of those wonderful, hearty foods that make you feel really good on a cold wet day. It also has the benefit of being very cheap and easy to make in a crock pot (even cheaper is the ham is from leftovers). This dish does take several hours to cook but being a crock pot recipe you can throw it together in the morning and just leave it simmering on low all day, it doesn't need constant attention.

I saved the bone form the ham I made last week to make this soup, it's a great way to use up leftover ham.

  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 1 ham bone, and/or leftover ham
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 4 cups water
  • Bay leaf
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
How to make it:
1: Saute the onion and garlic in the butter until transluscent.
2: Add peas, ham, stock, water, lemon juice, and bay leaf to your crock pot.
3: Season with Italian seasoning mix, salt,  and pepper to taste
4: Simmer on low 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours until the peas break down and the soup thickens (actual time may vary depending on your crock pot, however pea soup can't really be overcooked so err on the side of more time)
5: Serve with thick slices of bread or fresh biscuits.

Save a little  time:If you need to save some cooking time try this. Soak the peas overnight (or while your at work) in about 6 cups of water. Drain excess water before using. Reduce the amount of water you add to the crock pot to 3 cups. This can cut the cooking time by about 1/3.

1: Try making this with turkey ham or your favorite smoked sausage
2: This recipe can easily be made vegetarian as well. Leave out the ham, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, and swap the chicken stock for vegetable. It's just as delicious.
3: If you don't like sauteing the onion and garlic you can substitute some onion and garlic powder instead but you won't get as rich a taste.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Maple Ham Glaze

Today I made ham and eggs for dinner. The ham was a lovely smoked ham (non-aged) from the pig my family raised last year. You can use this glaze on any ham but I reccomend you get a bone-in ham that hasn't been spiral cut and stay away from reconstituted hams. I will refer to Alton Brown for more tips on selecting a ham:

The hams from our pig were quite strongly smoked so I really love to pair them with a rich sweet glaze. For cooking your ham, refer to the package instructions to see if it is partially, fully, or uncooked to know how long it'll need in the oven. I cooked my ham until the internal temperature reached 160 since while it was cold smoked it wasn't truly cooked and I'd rather be safe than sorry. This recipe is for a medium sized ham, about 3lbs.

Maple Glaze
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (give or take a bit, it was 2 grinds of my peppermill)
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the maple syrup, stirring until its a thick gooey glaze. Apply to your ham 10-15 minutes before it finishes cooking.

Serve your ham with whatever sides you prefer. I like some eggs over easy with nice runny yolks.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lovely Cooking Goodies

This new overstock store opened locally and imagine my delight when I see their pantry aisles full of wonderful stuff that is very hard to find in my rural area. Next trip I'm going to raid their selection of pastas which is great. I kept the food purchases minimal this trip because my main focus was getting kitchen equipment.

The haul includes: Dried shitake and porcini mushrooms, steel cut oatmeal (I love the texture), couscous, panko breadcrumbs, truffle oil, and capers. The capers are different than the other jar I have and I'm hoping will have a difference in flavor, as the ones I have now are a bit on the bitter side for me (which may be explained by the fact they were at walmart and very cheap). I'm really looking forward to using the truffle oil, if anyone has suggestions for recipes please pass them along.

Over the next couple weeks you'll probably see me trying out these ingredients a lot to see what I want to stock up on. This is an overstock store so the selection isn't constant but very affordable, usually well below typical retail. I got a stand mixer for $20 which is half what it retails for, pretty good and I'm hoping it lasts until I've saved up for a KitchenAid.

Here's tonight's dinner: Chicken and porcini mushrooms in marinara sauce over spaghetti and topped with some parmesan cheese. I put some fresh basil from my garden in it too, probably one of the last times this year, the basil has already taken a hit from a light frost.

If you haven't noticed from previous posts I don't do any fancy plating, I'm perfectly happy to just have my pasta in a bowl for simplicity. This is home cooking, you can make it look nice if you want (and I do for special occasions) but for day to day cooking I care a lot more about just making something that tastes great.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe Variations: Cinnamon Rolls

I rarely find a recipe that I don't tweak a little bit so I'm going to start an occasional feature showing how I've changed recipes available online. Today's subject: Paula Deen's Cinnamon Rolls.

Now I rarely make any of Paula's dishes because there's just too much butter and oil but for an occasional dessert recipe that's okay.

My variations:

1: I added a pinch of allspice and ground loves to the cinnamon mixture that goes inside the buns. Just punched up the aroma factor a bit.
2: I used rapid rise yeast to cut the time it took to make. For bread I use regular yeast but for something like this rapid rise is great.
3: Instead of putting the roll slices in a baking pan I put them into a large muffin tin. This made for easy serving.

The results were complete success and 12 rolls barely lasted 24 hours.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chicken in Creamy Yogurt Sauce

This recipe was one of those where I had things on hand and decided to make them work together to come up with dinner. I'm lactose intolerant but love daisy so I always have yogurt on hand to substitute in dishes. You do need to be a little careful with yogurt because it can curdle if you heat it too fast or too long.

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (3/4 cup if you don't want to use the wine)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • onion powder
  • paprika
  • peppercorns and/or ground pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • poultry seasoning (I prefer Bell's)
  • kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • cornstarch & water
1: In a large skillet heat a coupel tablespoons of olive oil. Add in chopped garlic and a teaspoon of whole peppercorns (skip if using ground pepper)
2: Season chicken breasts with salt, poultry seasoning, paprika, onion powder, cayenne powder and (if using) ground pepper.
3: Add chicken to the skillet and brown all sides.
4: Add the lemon juice, wine, chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of cold water.
5: Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cover.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
6: Uncover and brign the heat up to reduce the liquid, should get it to about half the original volume.
7: Reduce the heat again and add the yogurt. Once the yogurt is mixed thoroughly in turn the heat off and allow it to sit for a couple minutes to thicken.

Serving Ideas:
I had mine with some buttered english muffins but toasted french bread would also be great or even garlic bread. The sauce makes a nice gravy for mashed potatoes. A crisp salad is a good contrast too.

Curry seasoning would be really good if you want something spicier. For a sweeter take on it rosemary and honey would also work well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dilly Beans!

I love pickles, they are a serious obsession of mine. So tonight I made some spicy dilly beans. If you aren't familiar with this wonderful food, dilly beans are dill pickled green beans and are fantastic.

I wrote up the recipe for this recipe on my Dilly Beans squidoo lens so go there for how to make them and some information on home canning,

Unlike last year I managed to make them without scalding my hands thanks to a new pair of tongs that work much better for taking the jars out of the hot water bath.

Fresh dill, peppercorns, garlic, and jalepeno peppers, everything needed to make them properly spicy.

10 jars full of delicious dilly beans. I have to wait two weeks to find out how they turned out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Slow Cooked Roast Beef

This is my first real post of this blog which is a step by step recipe. It's an old fashioned dish: roast beef. This is a great way to cook a cheap cut of meat but it does take all day to cook. Now I'm self-employed and work from home so I can make this recipe all the time, for those of you with 9-5 jobs you'll want to save this for a day off.

This recipe is an amalgam of a traditional roast beef recipe, few tricks I've learned, and my own experimentation.  Don't worry though, it's pretty easy and once it's in the oven you can pretty much forget about it except for checking the meat thermometer once in a while. This is my hunk o'beast: a little over 2 1/2 lbs of beef chuck roast. This is a good method for roast beef to make sandwiches.

I like to start this the night before to let the roast really soak up the seasoning mix I put on it but you can do it just before cooking. I use this same basic rub on a lot of meats, it's wonderful on pork ribs too.

Seasoning Rub Mix:
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • ground cayenne pepper (I use about 1/4 teaspoon, use more if you like more heat up to 1 teaspoon)
I spread the rub on all side of my roast and put it covered in the fridge overnight, if doing this the day of cooking let it sit on the meat at least 20 minutes.

It's the day of roasting. I don't have a roasting rack but that's okay, I like my method better. Cut up about 1/2 cup each of carrots and onions (celery too if you have any but I don't this time) and lay that down on the bottom of your roasting pan. I learned this trick from the show Good Eats but Alton Brown was using it for making roast chicken not beef.

Before putting the roast in the oven it needs to be seared, this will give the outside a lot of flavor and crust up that seasoning so it does't all fall off in the oven. I heat up about 2 tablespoons of butter (you could use oil but I like the flavor of butter) in a skillet and sear all the sides of the meat. About 2-3 minutes per side.

Now place the roast on top of the vegetables in your roasting pan, insert your meat thermometer into the center of the roast, and cover it. Place it in the oven on your lowest temperature setting (mine is 170 F). Now if you have a handy digital one you might be able to set it to beep for you when it's at 140 F but I only have an old fashioned probe so I'll need to check on it every hour or so. Minimum time to cook a roast this size is about 4 hours.

Okay here's the roast at just over 140 F. I've removed the lid and I'll fast cook it really hot for a short amount of time to brown up the outside some more. I just turned on the broiler and waited about 10 minutes. Then remove the roast from the oven and transfer it to a plate to rest covered with aluminum foil.

It;s very important to let meat, especially large pieces like roasts, rest for a while after cooking. If you immediately cut into the meat lots of the juices will run out and the meat will be dry. With this roast even after resting 20 minutes it leaked a lot of juices but not enough to dry it out.

I removed all the vegetables from the pan, they've done their job and will be going to my Dad's pig. I put the pan on the stove over medium heat, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a cup of water and add that to the pan. 

So here is the finished roast, you can see that even after 4 1/2 hours in the oven it is still a little pink and that is exactly what you want to see. You can see my dinner with some delicious corn to go with it and the gravy.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I'm finally starting a food blog after numerous requests on Twitter for one. I plan to post my thoughts on cooking, recipes I've tried or created, cookbook reviews, raising my own food, and because I plan to be moving into my own place shopping for my very first kitchen!