Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon & Rosemary

How can you go wrong with soup? I would wager that you can't... it's downright impossible. It's warming and calming and comforting... it does for your soul what a blanket and a fuzzy pair of socks do for your body. Soup is nourishing, too, usually full of stuff that's good for you and will keep you going. Plus it's a good way to stretch the food budget... add more water, and you've got more soup.

Well this right here is the stuff chicken soup for the soul is made of... in tomato soup form, of course. It's a creamy blend of wonderful tomato flavor, with a few rich elements that you may not be expecting. For instance, I bet you'd never guess that there are beans in this soup. They're in there! ...just hiding from plain view. And the savory whipped cream is certainly an unexpected detail. Have you ever had savory whipped cream? I hadn't, until this recipe. And I almost skipped it... but I'm really glad I didn't. 

No friends, don't skip the whipped cream. Yes, the soup is perfectly wonderful without it, but why not go the extra mile, just this once? With just a hint of lemon and rosemary, it really is the perfect cool complement to the warm fragrant soup. Perfect for a cool October evening... with flavor that will have you coming back to it all winter long.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I think I might be a little late jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon this fall, but at last I do have a pumpkin recipe to share... just in time for Halloween! And this one is totally worth wait.

It had been a while since I'd brought goodies to work, and my coworkers were beginning to wonder if my oven was broken... so last week on my switch over night I whipped these little guys together. As much as I wanted to make something sweet I also wanted to make something seasonal, so pumpkin seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, who can pass up a cupcake?

Well, needless to say, these were a huge hit. The pumpkin really gave these an amazingly moist texture and wonderfully sweet flavor... it reminded me more pumpkin pie than of cake! At first I decorated a few of them with a pastry bag and a lot of frosting, but I found that I liked them better with a light smearing instead, so that the cake took center stage rather than the topping. (You can always, of course, frost them however you like.) But however you choose decorate, just make sure you put them on your Halloween party menu! As easy and delicious as these are, there's really no good reason to pass these up. Trust me, your guests (and your taste buds) will thank you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Bean Huevos Rancheros

You may remember from my brief photo recap of our honeymoon that my favorite meal that week was black bean huevos rancheros from this tiny little cafe/coffee shop in McCall. It was a dish that captivated me from first bite with its wonderfully complex mix of flavors... a meal so good that our entire breakfast conversation consisted of me repeatedly groaning at how delicious my food was while Dane grumbled over his overly simple bacon and potatoes. Hey man, sometimes it pays to be adventurous!

Anyway, after we got home from our short vacation, I kept thinking about that meal. It was always there, in the back of my mind, so tempting that I found myself coming up with excuses to go back to McCall just so I could eat there for breakfast again. And then I stumbled upon that amazing black beans recipe I shared just a few days ago, in a lovely little Cuban cookbook Jan & Jerry gave us as a wedding gift. Not only was I excited to try the black beans and rice by itself, but, I'll be honest, I really couldn't wait to see if I could recreate what I now consider to be one of my favorite breakfasts of all time.

And well, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I did pretty gooood. Not that it was necessarily that hard, but hey, how often do we get it right on the first time? Crispy corn tortilla, creamy, savory black beans, melty tart cheese, spicy green salsa, all topped with a poached egg so light and creamy it melts like butter in your mouth... it was every bit as delicious as I remember it. So good, I just might make another big pot of black beans for next week. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cuban Black Beans & Rice

It seems these days that beans get kind of a bad rap. Most people don't like eating beans in their burritos, let alone by themselves. And maybe it's because we're all eating those crappy canned beans these days. They're really nothing compared to what I'm about to share with you. But I dare you to try it... announce that you're serving beans for dinner and you're likely to hear groaning. At least that's what happened to me. But that quickly stopped after he tried a bite of it.

...because holy smokes. Not even I never imagined such a simple dish could be so damn delicious.

Though it isn't exactly a quick recipe - what with the 8+ hours of soaking and the hour and a half of simmering - it is so easy. And it's so worth the wait. It's really quite amazing that so few ingredients could deliver such amazing flavor, but they do! Combined with fluffy garlic rice, these beans make a full meal that satisfies on so many levels. And if you're looking for a way to feed a crowd on a budget, look no further. The recipe as listed makes a lot of food... you could easily halve it and still have plenty to go around! But whatever you do, make these beans. You will totally be glad you did.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crock Pot Beef Bourguinon

So, I have to be honest, I hadn't planned on posting this recipe this week. No, I had two other recipes in line ahead of this one, but Dane insisted that I had to post this one first. See, not only did Dane go absolutely nuts over this dish, but apparently one of his coworkers was so enamored with the leftovers he took for lunch the next day that she demanded the recipe! And for good reason... this meal is downright heavenly.

This may look like ordinary beef and gravy over mashed potatoes, but it is so much more than that. It is tender browned beef in a salty, winey gravy, over mashed potatoes. :) It's like an extra special warm bowl of stew, perfect for a cold and rainy evening like night we ate this for dinner. Ultimate comfort.

It may not be Julia Child's beef bourguinon... give it a try and you'll discover, it might actually be better. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

While the rest of the world feels like baking sweet cookies and pies, autumn makes me crave savory food. The cool air and gloomy skies make me want to spend all day making soup and bread. Stick-to-your-ribs kind of food... comfort food.

Well we've had plenty of that cool and gloom since October hit... it's rained ten out of the fourteen days we've had so far. Is it sick that I love it? Sometimes I think I should move to Seattle, because I'm happiest in a hooded sweatshirt with the fresh smell of rain in the air. Give me a warm latte and an umbrella, and I'll spend more time outside this time of year than during the summer. I'm an autumn girl, through and through.

This is a perfect autumn pasta dish. It's a great way to use up any straggling tomatoes left over from summer's bounty, and the hearty chicken meatballs give it amazing savory flavor. Plus there are three different kinds of cheese in it. Like gratuitous amounts of cheese. How can you say no to that? And well, you know me... I love any excuse to eat pasta. With a warm, broth-based sauce, hearty chicken meatballs, and melty mozzarella cheese, it's almost as comforting as a big bowl of soup!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coconut Madeleines

Two months ago (almost to the day!), I married my best friend. Now, in just over a month, it's my BFF Rose Sydney's turn! Sydney and Corey are absolutely perfect for each other, and I am so excited for them! And I was so fortunate to have her as my maid of honor, I feel truly honored have the opportunity to return the favor.

To begin the celebrations, her mom threw a super fun bridal shower for her this last weekend, and I got to make dessert! ...and this super classy maid of honor couldn't let her be under-dressed for her big party. :)

I was very excited when Sydney's mom asked me to provide dessert for her shower! These are the ladies who bought me my epic Kitchenaid stand mixer as a wedding gift, so the least I could do would be to bake them some delicious goodies! I had a million extravagant ideas at first, from an epic cake to little wedding dress-shaped cookies all decorated with fun frosting. But ultimately I decided to go with these little coconut madeleines, as a simple yet elegant dessert.

I loved the idea of having little individual dessert items that people could just grab and eat, without the hassle of having to cut slices out of a whole cake. And the unfussy nature of these little goodies kept the mood happy and casual. They were a huge hit... with the light buttery flavor we all know and love in a good madeleine cake, and just a hint of exotic coconut. The addition of chocolate gave them an extra-special touch... just right for a special yet light-hearted occasion.

And the bridal shower was a blast! Thanks Angie for throwing a great party! And Sydney, I hope you enjoyed your day... can't wait to celebrate the big one with you soon!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall's Best Hot Ham & Cheese

So here they are... the first food photos to come from my new camera! What do you guys think? So far I'm pretty impressed with the quality of photos my new baby takes, but I'm still playing around with editing.

Lucky for me I had great subject material for my first shoot, because these sandwiches look almost as good as they taste. These guys bring together the best of fall's fresh flavors, in a way that allows each ingredient to shine... no element is overpowering, but each is complementary. I started with a succulent honey ham - this week's late night cook-ahead - and sliced it thick to make these sandwiches good and hearty. Then I layered on crisp, sour green apple, sharp cheddar, and a light slathering of Dijon mustard for extra flavor. Talk about delicious! Served alongside a few potato chips and a sour pickle spear, these were a fantastic meal that satisfied without weighing down. These were such a huge hit, and so easy that I'll definitely be making them all through apple season!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicken Scaloppine with Saffron Cream Sauce

Let's talk about my photography skills for a minute.

Obviously, the photos at the top and bottom of this page are not my best work. This is what happens when you're in a huge hurry, and the only camera you own is a simple point and click that your mom bought you for Christmas your freshman year of college. Now, don't let me sound ungrateful. My little Kodak has seen me through many important times and been quite a good camera for the things I've asked it to do. And, of course, I am eternally grateful to my mother for buying it for me at all, and I still remember the excitement I felt when I opened it Christmas morning. But let's be honest friends... it's time to upgrade.

So I went and bought myself one of these.

photo credit to Wikipedia
Since I'm still very much an amateur (read: knows NOTHING about real photography) it's still going to take some time and a whole lot of learning before I start posting photos equivalent to Jessica's, or Jenna's, or Isabelle's. But I'll get there... just another part of my humble little food blog journey. ...and I thank you so much for your patience in seeing me through it.

In the meantime, please forgive me for these less-than-perfect photos. Trust me, they do not come close to doing this recipe justice. The chicken is simple, and the sauce is out of this world. Rich and creamy, yet light and flavorful at the same time. It's sauce so good you'll want to pour the leftovers into a glass jar and horde it to use as gravy over all kinds of tasty things, like mashed potatoes. (And yes, there will be leftovers, so enjoy.) I always smile a little inside when dinner is tasty enough to actually elicit a reaction from Dane... and his loud "yum" gave me so much satisfaction. Make this this week and you'll totally agree.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Silent Sunday: Wedded Bliss

Dane and I finally have our wedding photos back from our photographer! I thought some of you might like to see them, so I decided to be nice and share. :)

Thank you to Steve, Hallie, and Barbara at Frozen in Time Photography... you guys did such an amazing job! And thank you again all the wonderful friends and family who joined us to celebrate. :)

The food will be back soon!
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