Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken Soup with Rice

This isn't your grandma's chicken and rice soup. Why? I bet your grandma's soup is more wholesome and uses more fresh ingredients. (And maybe it has some real CHICKEN in it!)

  • 7 cups of water
  • 8 bullion cubes
  • chopped onions
  • 1 and a half cups of uncooked rice
  • Frozen vegetable medly
  • 2-3 whole eggs (beaten)


  • Cook seven Min or until rice is cooked.
  • Add frozen veggies and bring to a boil
  • Beat 2-3 eggs, drop into the boiling soup, stirring as you pour the eggs in (this will help break up the egg pieces.)
  • Bring back to a boil. Cool and serve.

What I based the soup on. I had plenty of rice, what could I add to it?

A nice thing about this soup is that you don't have to start with frozen and dry ingredients. You can use canned chicken soup, old hard leftover rice and fresh veggies and get a similar result.

The only issue I had with this dish is that since I cooked the rice directly in the broth, the rice soaked up most of the liquid. Now, this was still delicious (and the rice texture wasn't so mushy), but if you want more of a soup consistency I would cook the rice separately and then add it at the end. I frequently add bullion cubes to my rice anyway, so then you wouldn't have to worry about diluting the flavor.

This is a hearty meal that is easy to whip up when you haven't stocked up on groceries for a while.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chocolate Mice

My Sister-in-Law is a great cook, but she is famous for her chocolate mice. The first few Christmases that I spent with my Husband's family included assembly lines where we would create armies of these mice. Somehow, with my SIL in charge, all of the mice looked perfect... but the year that she couldn't make it to Christmas... We ended up having some mutations occur. Can you find the mice that are, well, less that perfect?

Maraschino cherries dipped in chocolate with a Hershey kiss head, almond sliver ears and icing eyes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe

In part of my quest to use up my pantry ingredients, I am trying to avoid buying cereal for breakfast. I decided to turn some plain oatmeal into cookies. I started off with a "Oatmeal Raisin Cookies I" recipe (of which there are many), but decided to tweak the recipe slightly.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • 1/3 Cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Cooking
  • 2.5 cups Shaws brand Quick Oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Cream together Crisco, sugars until smooth, then add eggs and vanilla.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda) and slowly mix into the wet mixture.
  4. Stir in oats and raisins.
  5. Drop large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes* or until browned. (*Because the cookies are so thick)
Makes 18 large cookies.

The cookies didn't flatten that much. Maybe next time I make them I'll press the cookies to get a flatter, disk-like shape.

They’re thick and warm and delicious. Maybe I needed a bit more liquid because they didn't seem to be spreading out too much and stayed very thick. That being said, they made great breakfast bars!

We ate a few as they came out of the oven, so I couldn't get a picture of them all!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pasta Workshop

Keith and I received a gift for a private cooking lesson from Artepicure last Christmas. We made sure to take advantage of this class before we moved away from the Boston area. The walk to the school was a little sketchy, but the classroom itself was full of character. The instructor and his wife live in the studio, and they have the most incredible collection of art... the walls are COMPLETELY covered with their collections.

The Class: Pasta Workshop
This class teaches the art of fresh pasta making. We will make potato gnocchi, filled ravioli and a hand formed pasta shape. This class will explain the science behind the choice of different flours, the proper cooking techniques for obtaining the best results, which sauces go with what shapes and the ease in which anyone, with a little understanding, can create beautiful artisan pasta at home.

My one disappointment with the class was that Keith and I did not prepare the sauces that went with pastas. But the meal we prepared was fantastic.

The best tip of the day was to use a food scale to measure the ingredients for pasta. The volume of flour can change a lot depending on humidity, but if you rely on the weight then you will get perfect pasta dough every time.

Two pasta doughs, one with egg (right) and the other without (left). The eggless dough was easier to kneed.

We made an egg pasta dough to create the butternut squash ravioli. (The instructor made the filling, but this is something that I've done myself before.) The big aid was how to fill and cut the ravioli easily (see pictures below.) When I made ravioli myself, I cut out circles and then folded them in half with the filling on the inside. I can see how I could make them much faster using this method. I also learned how great it is to use a pasta roller - rolling the dough out by hand is so hard!

I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, but the ravioli were served in a sage and browned butter sauce.

The second pasta we made was Orrechietti (translation - little ears). These were completely hand shaped. First, you roll out the dough into a snake, and then cut it with the pastry scraper into even pieces. You then press each piece down with your thumb to form the ear-shaped pasta.

I thought the flavor of the dough was great, but the texture of the shape was a bit reminiscent of spaghetti-o's (especially since it was served with a tomato sauce.) This would be a great shape to make with kids - it is a fun "craft" project.

Last (but not least), we made gnocchi. This was the dish that we were anticipating the most, since Keith loves gnocchi so much (I love them, too.)

This was the star of the day. These gnocchi just melted in your mouth. They were served in a creamy pesto sauce (just heavy cream and pesto and bam!) I have never tasted gnocchi this fresh in my life. This is a great kind of pasta to make at home, because the equipment that you need is minimal (just a potato ricer). Sure, having a gnocchi board would be great, but you can score them with a fork or just leave them unscored. This dough is so fast to make, I can see myself making gnocchi frequently (which will make Keith very happy!)

Immediately after the class, I went home and added some of the tools from this workshop to our registry (food scale, gnocchi board, pastry wheel and pastry scraper.) After this lesson Keith was also on board for the KitchenAid Pasta Roller Attachment)

Class Notes (I am afraid that I am going to loose the sheet that came with the class, so I am making note of the proportions for each of the pasta doughs here. )
  • Egg Pasta Dough
    • 9 oz all-purpose flour (2 cups spooned and leveled)
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1-3 tablespoons cold water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pasta Dough
    • 12 ounces all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 6+ ounces cold water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Gnocchi
    • 1.5 lbs russet potatoes (We learned that the most common error in gnocchi preparation was the wrong choice of potatoes.)
    • 3.5 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Friday, September 16, 2011

Homemade Pizza

When I make pizza dough, I like to add some Italian spices to help give it some more flavor. I haven't replicated a pizzeria salty crust, but I do make a crust that is good whether you are going for a more classic pizza (like tonight) or fancier with caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and drizzled balsamic reduction.

Tonight's toppings

Half of the 2lb dough went into tonight's pizza, and the rest into the fridge for another night. I pre-baked the crust at 400 degrees F for a few minutes to crisp up before adding the sauce and other toppings.

The bread maker is my hero, the bread maker is my hero!

Making pizza dough in the bread maker is so simple and easy, that it is never worth buying a frozen pizza ever again. Now that Keith and I are married, we have a lot of awesome appliances. In fact, we have three different ways to make dough (Cuisinart Bread Maker, KitchenAid Mixer and Cuisinart Food Processor).

The bread maker will always be my preferred method for breads (although I never use it to bake the bread.) What are the most valuable features? The heating and kneading cycles to allow the dough to rise... and the delay timer. Since none of the ingredients in pizza dough are perishable, you can set up the dough as you get ready in the morning (which takes about 2 minutes) and set the delay timer so it will be ready when you get home.

I almost forgot to take a picture of my meatless "supreme" pizza!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Black Beans and Rice

What do you do with random canned goods in your pantry when you are trying to clean it out? This is one of the best times to try new things... and get inventive with what you have.

I wasn't a huge fan of beans but the recipe for classic black beans and rice looks like it could be interesting so I decided to try it. (We still had plenty of rice from our Costco stash.) I substituted this is a shallot + some garlic powder for a clove of garlic.

I didn't think my onions were chopped finely enough, but it ended up working out in the end.

After I poured the beans in it looks kinda gross.. but I just crossed my fingers and kept faith.

And the beans are ready to go!

This story ends with a bit of a surprise. Since I wasn't sure if I would like this meal, I had cleared it with Keith that it would be his dinner for the next few days if I didn't care for it. But you know what? I liked it! I don't see this entering into the regular meal rotation, but it is something that I may choose to make on purpose next time, not because I'm trying to clean out my pantry.

When I mixed up the beans and rice, it looked really pretty.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kielbasa Spaghetti

Uhoh... I chopped up the ingredients to make a stir fried turkey kielbasa tomato sauce spaghetti... only to find that I was almost out of sauce. Thankfully, I found a tiny, neglected can of tomato paste on the bottom shelf of the pantry.

I mixed a 6 oz can of tomato paste with half a cup of water and then bottled sauce to it. I add garlic and other spices while I'm cooking the meat, so I didn't add any additional spices to the sauce. Frequently I add frozen peas but for some reason that night I decided against it.

This was such a fast meal to cook, eat and clean up! Is it hard to wonder why I love stir frying?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gnocci in a Creamy Pesto Sauce

Today I'm going to talk about one of Keith's favorite meals: Gnocci in a creamy pesto sauce. Normally I use Trader Joe's brand, but this time I am using whole wheat that I picked up at Whole Foods. When Keith and I took a pasta workshop cooking class, we made fresh gnocci which doesn't compare to this dish... but for pre-made gnocci this is actually pretty good. (Don't worry, I plan to start making fresh gnocci at home soon!)

Everything I need for a yummy dinner!

Normally I serve this dish with steamed asparagus and broccoli. Today, I decided to do something a little different (mainly because I had no broccoli.) I had some shallots, so I decided to saute some shallots in a small portion of the olive oil before adding the milk and remaining oil to the sauce. I also decided to add some spinach.

I think the more I keep track of what I do in the kitchen, the more new things I try and therefore the more new things I discover.

I added an extra 1/8th cup of milk to help add volume for the spinach. The sauce is another thing that I would like to make from scratch, but the mix is a pretty good "cheat". I added the spinach after I turned off the heat from the sauce.

The sauce before (left) and after (right) adding the spinach

I steam the veggies in in the same water that I use to cook the gnocci. Since gnocci only need a few minutes to cook, I take care of the vegetables first.

Setting up to add the gnocci.

I had been making this meal for a while when I suddenly discovered that it was completely vegetarian. We frequently have dinners with some friends of ours, and one couple is vegetarian so I was always looking for complete meatless meals.

I have no idea why I started arranging the asparagus spears like this, but it seemed like the best way to get them to fit into the bowl.