Monday, August 30, 2010

Bree's Lentil-Tomato Soup

I don't know who Bree is, but apparently, she loves lentil soup, so she submitted a recipe to Cooking Light. As you may have noticed, I make lentil soup on a very regular basis. We love lentil soup in our house, and I have several (hundred) great recipes. I like to try new things, though, so this one caught my eye. It got rave reviews on the website, so I figured, how bad could it be? Well, this is a good, solid recipe. It's tasty, and sort of tangy, which I think comes from the turmeric. The blend of spices makes this taste like a very basic, good quality lentil soup. Kevin even mentioned that it tastes similar to the soups you find in a can. This may or may not be a compliment... I'm not too sure. Anyway, if you are a beginner at lentil soup, this is a winner. However, I have made so many lentil soups, and this one isn't as good as almost any of them. I give is a big fat "medium." Definitely tasty. Definitely warming and flavorful. The best? Nope. I probably won't make it again. I have too many other recipes I like better, but I would recommend it to others, because it is a solid, easy, kid friendly recipe, that takes very little prep time. Oh, and by the way, I added barley to this recipe, because it definitely needed some "chunk." It's really low calorie, too, so the addition of barley, makes this a nice wholesome meal.

My new basil plant! My Aunt Beth prompted me to try this... I have a few questions, though. Aunt Beth, I'm shooting you an email, so you can give me a tutorial!

Roasted broccoli: The perfect side dish.

We should make a club: Lentil Lovers of America.

In my family, nothing is better than a bowl of soup.

The Critique
Good soup, but not as good as the other lentil soups that Marji's made before. Had a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it had the typical flavor of a lentil soup. Liked it but didn't love it.

3 bowls

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vegetable "Fall Apart" Meatloaf with Balsamic "Crunchy Deliciousness" Glaze

My mom has made this loaf several times, and it has gotten rave reviews, so I decided to try it last night, when we had Cousin Jonathan over for dinner. The recipe calls for parmesan cheese, which I love, but since Kevin is anti-cheese, I had to omit it from the recipe. I was a bit concerned that the lack of cheese would make this flavorless or dry, but it was actually quite delicious. The topping to this loaf comes out sweet and crunchy, which, to me, is pure delight - I love a crunchy crust. The inside of the loaf is full of veggies (I added a lot more than the recipe called for), and it has great tomato balsamic flavor. I was a big fan of this one. We ate almost the whole thing between the 3 of us. Yup, we downed almost 1.5 pounds of ground turkey. Yikes. Anyway, I'd love to make this again, but Kevin thought it was only okay, so I might have to work on him...

The critique
Great flavor but totally fell apart. Would like to try again with them a little more together, but the flavor was great.

3 bowls

Chocolate "Don't Judge a Bundt by its Cover" Bundt Cake

This cake was - in a word- terrible. I got the recipe for "Died and Went to Heaven Chocolate Cake," from Eating Well, and the reviews were solid. of course, the cake was not a full fat recipe, and I probably shouldn't expect a winner, when it's not made with full fat ingredients, but still... I am a firm believer, that with the right blend of ingredients, healthy can be made delicious. Anyway, I made this particular cake, because it included buttermilk, which I had in the house, as opposed to sour cream. It was an easy recipe, and the one winning component of it, was the glaze, which I would definitely use again, on another Bundt. The cake, however, was dry and chewy. It looked fluffy and pretty, but the inside wasn't a very light, moist, and cakey texture, like you expect and want out of a cake. I was bummed, because it looked really beautiful, and the glaze was quite tasty, kind of like the outside of a donut. So... I won't be making this again. It wasn't nearly as good as a box of Betty Crocker cake mix. Boo hoo. Hate when that happens.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beef, Beer, and Barley Stew

I decided to try this recipe on a whim, in order to use up some goodies in the fridge. It looked... weird. There were several ingredients in this one, that I'd never used in a stew before, including beer, horseradish, and worcestershire sauce. I honestly did not think this would be a hit. It require quite a bit of simmering time (1.5 hours), so I prepped this, turned it down low, and we took the kiddos out to the playground for a while. When we got home, the stew was perfectly cooked, so we sat down to dinner almost immediately. I always let Kevin be the judge of a beef dish, since I don't eat beef, but this one was, at the least, very beautiful. It was a nice mixture of brothy and chunky, with just the right amount of barley and veggies. The one thing I didn't like about this creation, was that it smelled distinctly of beer. I figured the broth would taste exactly like beer, but Kevin didn't think so. I'll let him review this one, but I'll just say that it was a big hit with both Kevin and Maya. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Potato Fritters with Smokey Pinto Beans, and Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs

I'm disorganized in the kitchen. Making 2 things for dinner, makes me feel like a hot mess. So, last night, I decided to make chicken for dinner, with these Sweet Tater Fritters on the side. The thing is, I honestly don't know how to make 2 things, like this, and get them to all be ready at the same time. I think double ovens would help, and Kevin cleaned as I cooked, so that helped too... But still, it was messy, and I felt both dishes were only okay, in the end.

I've made this chicken many times, and it goes over really well in my house. It's super easy, and Maya loves it, too. the only issue is that it requires broiling, so you can't really use the oven for anything else, when you make this. It's really tasty though. I'm not a big fan of chicken thighs, but this recipe is a keeper. It's perfect when you don't have much time to cook, and it's a nice main dish, and it really goes well with any side dish.

The fritters came from the new issue of Eating Well Magazine. I had very high hopes for them, because the Corn and Basil Cakes were so delicious. Well, these were, in a word - okay. They were easy to make, and I loved all the ingredients. I did tweak the recipe a bit, to lower the oil content, but nothing major. The end result was a dense, sort of doughy fritter, that really seemed a bit low on flavor. The fritter itself is basically a sweet potato dough with onions and peppers, while the topping is a pinto bean mixture. Well, the topping was terrific, and every time I got a bite of the topping with the fritters, I loved it. The fritter itself? Meh. It needed something. I don't know what. Maybe some garlic? Maybe I should have used a poblano pepper instead of a bell pepper? Maybe more oil? Perhaps using white whole wheat flour was the problem, and accounted for the density? I'm not sure. I want to try these again, because the idea of them sounds so delicious....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Turkey Tamale Potpie, Meets Chili Cornbread Casserole

In a desperate attempt to use up the ground turkey breast that's been lingering in my fridge, I found this perfect casserole recipe in an old Cooking Light. There is something warm and fuzzy about a casserole, but we rarely make them, because they almost always involve cheese or cream. This Tamale Pie recipe is like a turkey chili, with a cornbread topping. The problem was, the reviews of the pie were... sub par. People mentioned that the topping was bland, and that the inside needed a good deal of tweaking. On the same day, I found this recipe for Chili Cornbread Casserole, in Eating Well. So, I decided to get creative, and marry the 2 recipes. I ended up tweaking the Cooking Light recipe, for the inside, and using the Eating Well recipe, for the cornbread topping. Well, the end result was very pretty, and, in my opinion, quite tasty. Kevin isn't a big fan of cornbread, or casserole toppings (he doesn't like potpie) in general, so he sort of scraped off top. Bummer. I was hoping to convert him into a tamale pie lover. Oh well. Anyway, the only issue I had with this recipe, was that I used a very coarse ground cornmeal, which made the topping gritty. Next time, I will definitely use a finer grind. I really liked the flavor and texture of this recipe. I am posting it below, since I adapted it so much. It's definitely an easy, basic, tasty casserole, for a weeknight meal at home.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chicken Scallopini, Veggie Orzo Toss, and Braised Peas and Onions

As I previously mentioned, we had a lovely dinner with Burt, my father-in-law, on Saturday night. I made Chicken Scallopini for the main course, with an orzo and veggie toss, and braised peas and onions on the side. I had never made any of the dishes before, so, of course, I was uncertain as to how they would come out. Well, the chicken was cooked really nicely - moist, with a nice, well seasoned breading. The glaze, made with broth, wine, and capers, was okay, though a little thin for my taste. I didn't feel it needed the glaze, though, so I was happy to skip it. The chicken was moist enough, as it was.

This orzo toss wasn't as much a recipe, as it was a "side dish idea" from Cooking Light. Kevin isn't a fan of cherry tomatoes, so I used sundried tomatoes instead. I really liked the flavor of the orzo, though it came out a little dry. Here's how it's done:

Orzo, Tomato, and Zucchini Toss

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (or chopped sun-dried toms), 1 cup chopped zucchini, and 2 minced garlic cloves; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes; sautß 1 minute or until zucchini is crisp-tender. Combine tomato mixture, 3 cups hot cooked orzo, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss well.

Lastly... The peas. Honestly, I love vegetables, and never need them dressed with anything, but I tried this anyway, just to see if we would like dolled up veggies. I really liked these - super flavorful, but really mellow and light. We ended up mixing the orzo and peas together, to give flavorful moisture to the orzo. These were 2 winning side dishes, that came together really nicely. I'll definitely be making both of them again.

Classic Wanut Boule

I love baking bread, but it's an arduous process. There is so much time involved, and it can be intimidating. That being said, when you are awake at 5:30 every day, baking a loaf of bread before 9:00, is a pretty realistic goal. I decided to make this Walnut Boule ("Boule" is French, for "Ball"), because I had all of the ingredients at home, and it looked like a beautiful loaf. I did substitute the walnut oil, for olive oil, because I had no interest in introducing a new ingredient into my house, that I'd never use again. Anyway, this loaf was not quite as gorgeous as the photos. It didn't rise as high, or look nearly as perfect (see link, for a picture of the Cooking Light version), but it was still pretty. It also lost its crustiness after about 10 minutes of cooling. Hmph. So, I didn't have very high hopes for the taste. We ate it with dinner last night, though, and it was very tasty. Despite the fact that it wasn't super crusty, it had a really nice texture, and the walnuts give it a very good, nutty flavor (though next time, if I try it again, I think it might really be fantastic with the walnut oil). It's a half-whole wheat bread, so it looks a bit dark, but has the taste of a really hearty dinner accompaniment. I loved this one. I've made a lot of breads, and this one is a winner.

Hazelnut Bundt Cake

I cooked quite a bit yesterday (understatement of the week). My father-in-law was coming for dinner, so I decided to try some new things, in honor of his visit. I made this Hazelnut Bundt Cake (yup, it's from Cooking Light) on Friday afternoon (the recipe said it would stay nice and moist for at least 2 days after baking), because it looked easy, and I love a sweet smelling kitchen. I asked my mom if I could borrow her Bundt pan, and she graciously said, "Not only can you borrow it - you can have it!" Let's just say, I'm glad I asked! It's a terrific pan - really heavy and easy to use. My cake came out beautifully shaped, and it smelled delicious. One thing I learned, is that you really aren't supposed to sift the powdered sugar onto the cake, until you are ready to serve it, or it absorbs the sugar, and isn't as pretty. Oh well. Anyway, this cake is a really nice ending to a meal. It's light, moist, sweet (but not too sweet), and an excellent coffee companion. The hazelnut-chocolate swirl in the middle is beautiful, and adds that extra hint of nutty chocolate that you want in the center of a cake. This recipe is a keeper for sure - I will definitely be bringing it to special occasions.

Just out of the oven.


The inside.
Clean plate.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chunky Red Dal Soup, a.k.a. "Doll Soup with Waffles"

First, a sweet story... Every day, Maya asks me what I'm making for dinner. I think she is hoping I'll say one of three things: potatoes, rice, or chicken (or all three). Yesterday, I told her I was making "Red Dal Soup," which she, of course, heard as, "Red DOLL Soup." She was very excited about eating doll soup, and we talked about it the whole way home from our trip to see friends, an hour away.

Anyway, this Chunky Red Dal Soup is a very easy, healthy, and versatile recipe. For those who don't know, dal refers to the thick stew prepared from "pulses," such as lentils, peas, or beans. It is regularly eaten with rice and vegetables in Southern India, and with both rice and roti (wheat-based flat bread) throughout Northern India & Pakistan. Dal is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. I have countless different dal recipes, but I chose this one, because I had almost all the ingredients on hand.

I made brown basmati rice with this dish, because the soup sounded very spicy and smoky. It called for quite a bit of Spanish smoked paprika, Harissa, tomatoes, and cumin. Sounds like a recipe for heartburn, right? Actually, it wasn't really spicy at all! Instead, it had a nice tangy flavor, from the lemon, coupled with a mellow smokiness. It really tasted... Lovely. Yes, that's a good word for it. It had all these flavors that blended in a way that made you think, "Hmmmm, what is that?" I thought my family would only like this dish over rice, because it might not be filling enough. The problem is, basmati rice is very flavorful, so it almost overpowered the soup. I think this soup would be best served in its own bowl, with pita triangles or chips on the side.

By the way - Maya loved this "Doll Soup," and ate a ton of it. She even ate whole wheat pita with it - or, as she calls it, "Doll Soup with Waffles."

Harissa is a Tunisian hot chilli sauce commonly eaten in North Africa, whose main ingredients are piri piri hot chili peppers, serrano peppers,or other hot chillis and olive oil. When I bought this paste, at the Co-op, the cashier told me to be careful - it would be too hot to handle. Hmmmm. Apparently, he was either wrong, or I'm not very sensitive to hot pepps...

Doll Soup with Waffles (Red Dal on a pita!)