Monday, May 17, 2010

too good cornbread

Nice and dreary, so chili night was in order. Sara and I have adapted a two-bean, red, chicken chili from the Bon Appetit cookbook and I'll share that soon. But this cornbread is just too tempting to wait to write it down on a day when I have more time.
It all started a month ago when on one of those trips through Trader Joe's when you peruse every aisle and buy a dozen things that were not on your list because you are starving after church. Do you know those shopping extravaganzas? Love them. Well among many wonderful and delicious things purchased that day was a delightful cornbread mix.
Another completely unrelated but favorite Trader Joe's find is their honey and mango shaving cream. Told you it was unrelated, but it makes your legs fabulously soft. Love it too.
Here's the recipe that makes Trader Joe's boxed cornbread mix just too good (and better for you than the recipe on the box):

Too Good Cornbread
1 box Trader Joe's cornbread mix
1 egg
1/4 C vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance brand)
1 C lowfat buttermilk
1 1/2 T honey

In a medium bowl mix together the cornbread mix, egg, oil and buttermilk. Pour into 8-inch square pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Drizzle honey in a lovely pattern like the caramel drizzle at Starbuck's and then use your spatula to gently fold the honey into the top of the batter. Bake as directed for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Monday, May 10, 2010

queso worth the splurge

It was pre-tournament dinner for Carmel Girls Lacrosse tonight and my previously mentioned guacamole was joined by another crowd favorite, queso. I'd like to say I've found some fabulous recipe that doesn't include processed cheese because that really goes against my "eat real food" mantra. But no, the much-maligned Velveeta is a key ingredient here. I'm not feeding Ina Garten, I'm feeding high school and college kids and they love this version adapted from Cooking Light. Last hint: make it in a nice cast-iron pot like my Le Crueset and it will stay warm for serving. If you need portable queso, make it ahead and put the cast iron pot in the fridge overnight and it will stay cold for quite a while too. Tailgating tips, remember them for the fall.

Splurge-worthy Queso

1 medium white or sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8-oz block of light (not fat-free) cream cheese
2 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
one 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes (Muir Glen fire-roasted make it yummy)
one 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles or jalepeno peppers (Trader Joe's makes a fire-roasted version)
8-oz. light Velveeta

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in your 2 to 3 quart saucepan over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant or about a minute (never burn your garlic or you should just toss it out and start over). Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the chile powder and the cumin and cook for a minute or two to blend the flavors. Add the two kinds of canned tomatoes and the cheese and cook, stirring frequently until melted. Garnish with fresh cilantro if desired.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

too chilly out so let's make soup

I've been thinking I have all these great cold weather meals to share and it's too nice outside to make them and then the crazy winds yesterday blew in a chilly front giving me another chance to make soup. Tonight the Greyhounds traveled to Noblesville for a contentious match up, so earlier this afternoon I fixed a yummy soup from Fine Cooking.
Let me first take a moment and mention how much I enjoy Fine Cooking magazine. What they do really well is provide a base recipe and all the options to suit your tastes or ingredients. You can always find Fine Cooking or one of it's special issues (which generally draw from it's regular issues) on the magazine stand at Costco. Seriously, do you think Cosctco should sponsor my blog? A little note before you try to circumvent buying an issue and or subscribing, you can only fully access their recipes online if you are a member and pay an annual fee of $9.95. I do pay the fee because it is way easier to look a recipe up online, see which issue it was from (the issues are numbered) and then grab that issue and put it in the cookbook stand.
I digress, the recipe of the day is Sausages & White Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Thyme & Crisp Breadcrumbs. I tweak it just a bit, using panko instead of fresh breadcrumbs and using two cans of tomatoes (instead of one) and two cans of beans (instead of three). Panko breadcrumbs need to be in your pantry. You can find them in the Japanese cooking section of the grocery in a bag (at Meijer) or a box (Trader Joe's). They are big and flaky and just plain delicious. If you are going to make fresh breadcrumbs take stale or old bread (best with baguettes or an artisan bread) and put them in your food processor to pulse into crumbs. Whatever you do, do not use those boring crumbs that come in the cylindrical container. Sara and I are addicted to Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes in all of their varieties. Use them here and everywhere. Worth every penny. Rich tomato flavor, smokey and oh so good.

Sausages & White Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Thyme & Crisp Breadcrumbs

serves 6

1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
2 T fresh thyme leaves
2 T extra virgin olive oil
9 sweet Italian sausages (I use turkey Italian sausages)
1 medium onion, chopped into medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio and then you can have a glass)
Two 14.5-oz. cans petit diced tomatoes
Two 15.5-oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 C chicken broth (go ahead, buy the case of organic free-range broth in the boxes at Costco, you will use them)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, melt the butter and toss in the breadcrumbs and 1 T of the thyme over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the crumbs are golden about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Wipe out skillet.
Using a small, sharp knife pierce the sausages in 3 or 4 places. Heat 1 T of the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the sausages to cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides and cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm.
While you are cooking the sausages, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a deep 10-11 inch wide pot. Over medium heat, add the onion and cook, stirring until softened or about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the remaining tablespoon of thyme and cook for about a minute continuing to stir. Add the wine, raise the heat to high and simmer until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook until about a quarter of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans and the broth and bring to a simmer to cook for about 10 minutes. If you like, use a potato masher to gently crush some of the beans and tomatoes and thicken the soup a bit. Season to taste with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Cut the sausages in half or bit size pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with sausages and top with the breadcrumbs.


That's if for tonight. It's Mothers' Day eve and worked hard all day so I could take off tomorrow. Happy Mothers' Day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

never start something new during lacrosse season

Three games last week, prom, four games this week, playoffs next week, Kelly moves home and my time is just pretty darn limited.

You can imagine that during the lacrosse season that what goes on my table is not always my "A Game". Costco loves the Rogers family this time of year. My parents visited two weekends ago and they loved everything, of course, and Greg and I would just reply in unison, "Costco".

I am not a chocolate person, but one fateful trip to Costco we sampled the milk chocolate salted caramel macadamia nut clusters (key words: salted caramel - really, try it: make caramel brownies and dust with some sea salt). Greg simply popped one in his mouth and put a jar in our cart. The best $9.99 ever.

Our big meal that weekend was our famous Barbecued Tri-Tip with Carmelized Onions based on a recipe from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Barbecued-Tri-Tip-with-Caramelized-Red-Onions-109697 . Tri-Tip is a yummy cut of beef that I buy at Costco and used to find in a cut that resembles brisket, but recently it's cut in strips that resemble boneless short ribs. Very few changes were made by me in the preparation from the Bon Appetit recipe: the Red Wine Barbecue sauce is yummy and full of heat if you use a canned chipotle with some of the adobo sauce (let's say 2 tsps or more for more heat) instead of chipotle chili powder and (as almost always) I forgot to add the chives. Fabulous company meal and great leftovers. I've even reviewed it on epicurious. So good.

Serve your tri-tip with some potato dish, grilled asparagus and a nice salad. Buy yourself a nice non-stick grilling basket and toss in some fingerling potatoes (Costco has delicious ones and we fight over the purple potatoes), olive oil and kosher salt. Throw in some chopped sweet onion and a couple of cloves of minced garlic to make it fancy if you like. Put the basket on one side of the grill and toss it every now and then for 15 to 25 minutes. Easy.

Dessert was a double-crust strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla bean ice cream. Another time I'll share my piecrust recipe. I'll remember a photo or two too because my fruit pies are gorgeous and delicious. Not to brag, but honestly it's not too much trouble especially if one of your favorite foods is fruit pie.

I learned to cook and bake and I do both on an almost daily basis because I love to eat. Food is fuel, but at my house food is love too.