Tuscan Two-Day Christmas Soup

Tuscan Two-Day Christmas Soup

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During the winter months, as life gets busier with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and I am wont to run around with my family spontaneously looking at holiday lights but still needing desperately to meet deadlines, I find something has to be trimmed down in the ol’ sche-duly. The only place left to make cuts in such a tightly packed schedule seems to be in the making and eating of food. But since we are not a fast food family and we really hate boring food (my boys are foodies too!) I turn to other kinds of easy to please meals. One of which is soup, like this Tuscan Two-Day Christmas soup. (more…)

A Taste of Fall: Butternut Squash Two Ways

A Taste of Fall: Butternut Squash Two Ways

Growing up, I was never much into squash of any kind. My mom seemed to favor zucchini and occasionally, yellow crookneck squash. She was passionate about fried zucchini (as was my middle sister) but I hated it! I didn’t mind the breading but when I got to the center and was met with the taste of squishy, squashy bitterness — ugh, I just had to pass. I remember, many a time, just eating the breading and then tucking the squash into a napkin, smooshing it smaller with each new piece added, in order to hide enough, that my mom would let me leave the dinner table. (I did something similar with the eggplant in another of my mother’s favorite dishes — eggplant parmigiana. Ick.)

The Picky Eater

Flash forward to today. I am a mom now, of a picky and precocious 3 year old. He is a child who loved his veggies before this last year — though, he was never too much into the green lettucy stuff. He used to love eating such a variety of good-for-him foods like broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes.

In fact, for a while we thought he was going to be a natural vegetarian because he wouldn’t eat meat (except for nitrate-free hot dogs.) But, alas those days are over and my pediatrician says it’s fairly normal for toddlers to give up the “bitterness” of veggies at this age, opting for the sweetness of fruits instead. (More TRIVIA: It has to do with our cave man survival instinct and the fact that, were we in the wild, our little ones might pluck something poisonous from a bush or vine and pop it into their mouths. Which means, at this stage in life, they are naturally averse to bitter flavors for their own protection.)

To top it all off, as much as I want him to eat his veggies, when he finally agrees to eat some (through sheer bribery or threats) I can’t stand seeing that look on his face when he’s chewing something he really hates. I know it all too well, the feeling like you might just throw up a little in your mouth. It’s at this point, I usually whisk the plate away and thank him for at least trying whatever it was.

UGH! Motherhood.

As I wait this stage out, I can’t seem to sit idly by and give up on him getting good nutrition. I fret about it and I find ways to sneak vegetables (and even some fruits) into the handful of foods he seems hell bent on eating each and every day. Noodles, it turns out, are the king of foods (along with pizza, burritos, and tuna sandwiches)  and I strike a balance by giving him whole grain brown rice noodles and Barilla’s Plus line of noodles that are full of a variety of whole grains and legumes, as well as Omega 3’s (and no they are not sponsoring my blog or paying me in any way to tout them — I just like ’em!)

So imagine my glee, when one of my favorite food bloggers (and one of my Virtual Potluck cohorts) FarmgirlGourmet posted her recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash & Brie Mac & Cheese with Smoky Bacon. It was as if the heavens had opened up and shined their golden butternutty light down upon my pasta. Yes! A new way to sneak a super healthful veg (TRIVIA: though considered veg in cooking, in actuality it’s a fruit) into my little one’s diet — and it comes on the holy grail of food for him — the noodle!

Creamy butternut mac and cheese

The dish is sweet, creamy and cheesy and was a big hit at our house.  I highly recommend you head on over to her blog for that recipe and the other bountiful ways in which she has been using up the butternut squash from her garden. We ate it for dinner and lunch the next day and it only used up half of a roasted butternut squash and half of the brie and cream cheese I’d purchased, so I decided to use those ingredients again for lunch the following day for soup, baguette with brie, and a wilted kale salad.

A little bistro flair at home

This bright idea was great for mom and dad (felt like upscale bistro fare for a weekday lunch) but the kiddo was not buying into the soup (he only likes — you guessed it — noodle soup!)  — which is why, I boiled up some more noodles and ladeled on some of the soup, topping it with cheddar cheese for a quick and dirty version of FarmGirl’s mac.) We paired this with some fresh strawberries for a well-rounded meal that any toddler will adore.

Soup Prep

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1/2 an oven roasted butternut squash (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pds)
  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
  • 1 small onion diced carmelized in a saute pan with 1Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (to taste and heat you desire)

Saute the onion in butter, caramelizing it lightly. Pour into blender or food processor. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of it’s skin and into the blender, adding enough liquid to allow it to begin blending (you may need to do this in batches depending on blender or processor size.) Add the cream cheese and continue to blend, adding the additional broth as needed until the soup is smooth, creamy and the desired thickness you prefer. Then pour into a deep saucepan heating it on low, as you season to taste with cayenne and  salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 heaping bowls of soup. Serve with toasty baguette (we like Trader Joe’s parbaked whole grain baguette) and the wilted kale salad below for a warming taste of fall this holiday season.

Accoutrements, or in plainspeak -- sides

Super Simple Wilted Kale Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano

  • 1 bunch regular, lacinto or red kale
  • 1/2  to 3/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your tastes)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (you can change the vinegar to match your meal — apple works well with the squash here)
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + extra for topping

Clean and destem your kale, patting it dry (with paper towels.) Cut or rip the cleaned kale into bite sized pieces or  ribbons. Add olive oil and salt. Next take your freshly washed and dried hands and work the salt into the kale by grabbing handfuls and kneading the kale tightly in your fist. Continuing throughout the entire bowl of kale. After it’s all mixed and the kale has significantly reduced in size (a few minutes) add apple cider vinegar to the mix and toss. Then, let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes as you prep other items for your meal, this allows the kale to wilt, softening the leaves for easy eating and toning  down the bitterness. Add freshly grated parmesan reggiano and pepper to taste, tossing to mix. Serve topped with more freshly grated parmesan reggiano.

We love this with any kind of soup or as a side dish with chicken or beef. You can also use this recipe and add it to roasted yukon gold or new potatoes tossed with a little tahini and lemon for an out of this world hearty, warm salad.

Happy Eating!

Emeril Giveaway Winner Announced!

Emeril Giveaway Winner Announced!

These go well with. . .

And now it’s time to say goodbye to Emeril — but first, (drumroll) announcing the winner of the Sizzling Skillets and One-Pot Wonders Giveaway, GroovyFoody blog reader, Ms. Shahleena Weller of Seattle, Washington!

Shahleena is an avid cook, “who loves trying out new recipes.”  She became interested in cooking out of a desire to eat good food, yet not break the budget. She says she was tired of eating the same “not-so-great stuff” and started using recipe sites for inspiration. Five years later, she says she is, “a decent cook who enjoys a good adventure in the kitchen!” She also claims never to have won anything before — well, now she has! 😉

Congratulations Shahleena and thanks for reading the GroovyFoody!

Did you miss the winner of our Emeril 7pc Zak! set of serving bowls? Read the Update.

Emeril's Chuck Wagon Chili

Red Beans and Rice: Emeril One-Pot Cooking Party

Red Beans and Rice: Emeril One-Pot Cooking Party

This is the last post of the cooking party before I announce the winner of the Cookbook Giveaway tomorrow. I know that we’ve been sort of Emeril-centric around here the past few weeks but we also had some awesome giveaways! After tomorrow’s announcement (and one more recipe peek to round it out) we’ll be back to diving into an exotic variety of food, most of which you can cook in 30 to 45 minutes or less.

In fact, I’ve been saving up pics of some fabulous dinners we’ve had in between and before Emeril mania started around here, so keep an eye out for tons of great new recipes!

Now, without further ado, Emeril’s Red Beans and Rice (supposed to be Soup but I just couldn’t bring myself to put the rice in the pot and instead served it atop a nutty brown rice.)

PREP: Jalapenos, red kidney beans and short grain brown rice

This is Emeril folks and this dish is, traditionally, a dish with a wee bit of heat. While I like and can take a little heat, mostly in the name of flavor, because of heartburn issues — I took this down a notch (sorry, Em!) The way to reduce the heat in this dish, while still retaining the flavor is this: I changed the chorizo for kielbasa sausage, removed the seeds and ribs from the jalapenos and skipped the Louisiana hot sauce. This made the dish mild enough to bypass the heartburn but flavorful enough to enjoy.

Bringing the beans to "simmer n' soak" to soften and de-gas

PREP: Chopping & assembling ingredients in slow cooker

PREP: Add the beans!

Swimming in broth

A finished dish of red beans and kielbasa, Emeril-style, topping rice:

Red beans and rice -- sooo nice (Kudos to anyone who notices)

Cajun Shrimp Stew + Bonus Stock Recipe: One-Pot Cooking Party

Cajun Shrimp Stew + Bonus Stock Recipe: One-Pot Cooking Party

Photo courtesy of Morrow Cookbooks

I don’t know if comes from the summer trips, staying with my grandparents as a child, where they would take me fishing for catfish and trout — but I love fish. Up at dawn, loading up the truck, securing the aluminum row boat and packing cheese sandwiches. We would sit on the bank of the lake all day, in the summer sun wearing one of grandma’s extra straw hats as she readied us both to cast off.  The skin on my bare olive complexioned back growing tawnier with every hour but never burning, leaving tan lines in the shape of the thin spaghetti straps of my swimsuit. These straps, the only thing that once shielded me from a miscast line that should have hooked my shoulder but instead snagged my swimsuit.

My Grandma "Nick" and Aunt Julie

Grandma always found a way to sneak a giant Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar into our lunchbox without me seeing it. At some point in the day, as we grew weary and the fish in our catch bucket settled down, she would pull out this treasured treat. Slowly unwrapping the silver foil from around the chocolate and breaking off just a couple of chunks for us to share.  Those days were long and lazy, except once we got the catch home and had to clean and scale it, prepping some for dinner and packing the rest for the freezer.  Sitting at our TV trays in my grandparents little trailer, munching on fresh-caught, crispy on the outside juicy on the inside, fried catfish and finishing our dinner with a slice of cool, salted watermelon — well, that was the taste of summer to me.

Happy 92nd Birthday this week Granny "Nick"! I love you!

Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to equate seafood with summer. Summer time brings lobster roll sandwiches, shrimp tacos and scampi, crab cakes on a bed of spinach, salmon baked on a wood plank with caramelized onions, orange and sweet basil, seared halibut topped with zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms, and mussles cooked in butter and wine with spinach and bacon.  I love seafood — everything from tender meaty fish like salmon and halibut to rich crustaceans like shrimp, lobster and crabs, to the tender tug of shellfish mussels, clams and oysters and the delicate chew of perfectly cooked squid and octopus. As a general rule, if it’s from the sea — it’s for me!

But one thing I’ve never cooked before is shrimp stew. Now, thanks to Emeril and his Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders we all can make this richly satisfying and belly warming stew this fall — because he not only gave us the recipe to preview here but also included his recipe for shrimp stock.

This comforting, simple stew is a Cajun dish that many home cooks in Louisiana enjoy, especially during the Lenten season. It is easy to make and feeds a bunch. The trick is getting the roux to the right color . . . about a notch darker than peanut butter should do the trick. A homemade shrimp stock makes all the difference in the world. Make sure to add the shrimp just before serving so that they stay nice and tender. Some families boil eggs in their shrimp stew (as it simmers) to make the dish even heartier.

1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups finely chopped onion
¼ cup minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
10 cups Rich Shrimp Stock (see below)
2 bay leaves
1 ¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
3 large baking potatoes (2 ½ to 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Steamed long-grain white rice, for serving
1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the flour. Whisk to combine and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a medium roux is formed (it should look a bit darker than peanut butter), about 10 minutes. (If the roux begins to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and take your time—it is important that the roux not be burned at all or the stew will have a bitter taste.) As soon as the roux is the right color, add the chopped onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, little by little, and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Add the bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and 4 teaspoons of the salt and reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the floury taste is gone, 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender and the sauce is thick and flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes longer. (Add a bit of water or chicken broth to thin the gravy should the stew get too thick during the cook time. The sauce is meant to be thick and rich but not pasty.)
3. Toss the shrimp with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the shrimp, green onion, and parsley into the stew and continue to cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the bay leaves. Serve the stew in shallow bowls over hot white rice.
6 to 8 servings

Emeril’s Rich Shrimp Stock

This stock is so easy to make, yet so flavorful—make a batch every time you have shells and heads from fresh shrimp and you’ll never have to worry about where to get shrimp stock again. You’ll find that toasting the shells in oil before adding the water gives added depth to this stock, which can be used in countless ways.

1 to 1 ½ pounds shrimp shells and heads

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

14 cups water

1 large onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped (the onion peel deepens the color of the stock)

½ cup roughly chopped celery

2 small carrots, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 large sprigs fresh parsley

1. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain.

2. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are pink and toasty-fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the water and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a slow simmer until the stock is flavorful, 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using. (The stock may also be placed in airtight containers and frozen for up to several months.)

About 12 cups

Note: You can easily double the ingredient amounts to make a larger batch of stock.

To save space in the freezer, you can reduce the stock further after straining and discarding the solids. Just add water to the defrosted stock to reconstitute as needed.

Artichoke Soup with Poached Oysters: One-Pot Wonders

Artichoke Soup with Poached Oysters: One-Pot Wonders

Oysters and artichokes — I’m a crazy about them both. So imagine my delight when I opened Emeril’s New cookbook,  Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders and found a recipe whose ingredient list contained, not only, those two favorites but mascarpone, shallots, dry white wine, butter and cream — sinful!

Very large oysters cut in half (and this is only half of what the recipes calls for!)

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
 
Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and the Carpenter
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

 

According to the rules of Emeril’s cookbook launch none of us previewers are allowed to give you the recipes (the cookbook is available for presale now!) But I will give you a few preview pics, a tease of ingredients and a bit of poetry to whet the appetite — for what is sexier than oysters, artichokes, cream, wine and poetry.

 

Artichoke hearts await

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,

Pablo Neruda, Ode to an Artichoke

 

Pssst. . .Wanna Win a 7 pc set of Emeril by Zak! Flame serving bowls

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

Know what goes great with soup? Popovers — but not just any popovers, smoked Gruyere popovers. I make mine quick and simple by using a basic choux pastry recipe and stirring in the grated cheese of my choice, once the batter is mixed. Then spoon out 1/4 cup fulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet —  25 minutes later, you have light, cheesy perfection!

My Choux Pastry Recipe

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat water and butter in a saucepan, once the butter has melted add your flour, stirring vigorously over low heat or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs all at once, beating until smooth. Drop by scant 1/4 cup fulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet for 25 to 30 minutes, unitl golden and cooked through. Cool away from draft. Serve while warm.

Happy Eating!