Stone Soup

February 28, 2011

We went to Mystic the other day and while there we stopped in on a Natural Food store. We had a light lunch and I got some tomato vege soup for my son, I tasted it and it was so good. Giving me the idea to call them and ask what was in it. So I did and I made it.

Tomato Vegetable Soup

  • Olive Oil
  • 4 Small Zuchinni’s
  • 2 Summer Squash
  • 6 Cloves of garlic
  • 3 Leeks, white part only
  • 3- 4 Scallions
  • 4 Carrots
  • 3 Celery stalks
  • 2 Onions
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Large can of whole, peeled tomatoes, 32 oz
  • 1 Can of diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz
  • 30 oz of good tomato sauce-I used 1 can of tomato bisque and some Mariana sauce I had in my freezer
  • You can really add any other vege, like green beans,cauliflower, ect

Just chop everything up and set aside.

Then put some olive oil in a large saucepan, heat up then add first add the onions, celery and carrots and saute for a few minutes, do not forget to season.

Then add the garlic, scallions and leeks.

Once those begin to soften, add the Zuchinni and the summer squash and cook for a few minutes as well. Do not cook these too long, unless you want them very very soft.

Now add in all your tomatoes and sauces, ect

Simply cook for about 40 minutes to an hour, once the veges are done how you like them.

Enjoy right away, this made so much I had some in my fridge for the next few days and a ton for my freezer.

 

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I first had Paella in Barcelona when I was there 3 years ago. I loved the city of Barcelona, the culture, the people, the sights, the architecture and lastly the food. So many different types of people there and a mixture of different ethnic backgrounds to create some great food.  If you have not been there I highly recommend it.

I love paella and there are so many different kinds of ways to make it. There are 3 different types of paella, the seafood Paella, mixed paella, and lastly Valencian paella. All of them consist of some kind of meat, rice, olive oil and saffron.

I picked up some shrimp at Trader Joe’s this week and decided to make some paella. When making paella I usually use more then one protein in it, like Shrimp, Scallops, Chicken and chorizo. But this time seeing that we do not have much money these days I used Shrimp and a bit of chorizo. Chorizo is a sausage that has many different varieties and is eaten all over Spain, made with pork meat and paprika. You can find in it in your local grocery store, ask your butcher if you can’t find it. Its very fatty and high in calories, hence why I only put about 1 link in for the whole paella and cut it in little pieces to get the taste in the whole dish.

Another important ingredient in this dish is saffron. A very expensive but wonderful spice derived from a flower called saffron crocus. The stigmas of this plant are dried and used in cooking as a seasoning. It comes from southwest Asia and is the most expensive spice by weight.  In this picture below you can see the red parts, that is the pistols and what is used in this dish;

Here it is dried and in my possesion:

Ok enough talk about what it is, here is what I created, it was delicious. Remember this dish is not about getting it done fast its about taking the time to actually let it simmer and get it delicious, so if you are in a rush, save this dish for another day. This recipe can serve up to 5-6 people, but just add more Shrimp or whatever more protein you want to the rice.

Shrimp Paella

  • 6 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Sweet onion, Chopped
  • 5 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Red Pepper, Chopped
  • 1 Yellow or green pepper, Chopped
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can Diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
  • 1 TSP Saffron
  • 1 Link Chorizo, sliced
  • 1.5 Cups of white rice, not cooked
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 Pound Large Shrimp,peeled
  • Salt and Pepper

Start off chopping everything up and set aside.

Put all of the chicken stock in a large saucepan bowl and bring to a boil, lower to keep hot on stove for use in the paella later on.

Get a large saute pan and heat up the oil. Then add the onion and peppers. Season.

Saute for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, saffron and the Chorizo and saute for another 5-7 minutes till veges are soft and Chorizo is beginning to brown.  Season well.

Now add in the rice, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste and mix well and cook for another couple of minutes.

Now you are going add the chicken stock.

Kind of like you are making risotto. One ladle at a time until the rice has absorbed the stock then add more until all of the stock is gone. This process will take about 10-15 minutes.  Look at the pictures from beginning to end of this process, you can see the difference in the rice…

Lower the saute pan to a medium low, not too high but enough to keep cooking nicely.

Cover it with Aluminum foil tightly and allow it to cook for 20-25 minutes till the rice is nice and tender.

Now add the shrimp to the rice and mix into the paella…

cover again and allow it to cook for another 5-7 minutes till the shrimp are cooked.

Uncover and enjoy!

So amazing. A must try! See the brilliant color of the dish, that is from the saffron and some of course from the tomato paste. But it is beautiful and takes me back to the Mediterranean all over again…

Beans, Beans; Spicy Beans.

February 18, 2011

Fresh Cilantro…

 

So I love love love Cannellini beans, I am always looking for new ways to make something with them. I found a recipe online for a spicy bean soup, but then I just ignored the recipe and did my own thing. Haha, I do this a lot. So here it is…

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 Sweet Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 3 TSP Curry Powder
  • 2 Cups Vegetable broth
  • 1 Cup Browned rice, cooked
  • 2 Large tomatoes, or canned (about 7 oz)
  • 3 Small Zuchinni, chopped
  • 1 Large red Bell pepper
  • 14.5 oz Cannellini Beans
  • 5 Ounces sweet corn
  • 2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Chop everything up to have it ready to go!

Heat the oil in a sauce pan, then add the onions, jalapeño, salt and pepper and the curry powder. Saute till onions are soft.

Now add the rice, tomatoes and stock, mix well and bring to a boil. I used some fresh gorgeous tomatoes and just chopped them up and put them in.

Reduce the heat now and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the zuchinni and peppers on the top of the mixture. Do not mix yet.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.

Now add the rinsed beans and the corn to the soup. Mix well and cook for another 10 minutes.

Finally stir in the cilantro and taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper.

I loved this recipe. My husband thought it was too spicy, he added a bit of yogurt to his dish to help out with the spiciness! Still he liked it once he calmed the spice down. I wasn’t sure about the corn in it, but it gave it a nice crunch and also a sweetness to the dish that was refreshing.

This is very filling, delicious and healthy meal that I hope you will try. Enjoy!

Gooey Chocolate Cake…

February 16, 2011

Every time I make homemade cake, its good, very good, but not as moist as the “box cake.” I never use the box cake because I do not want the chemicals or preservatives. So it was my husbands birthday and I wanted to make him a good chocolate cake.

I have been on the search for the perfect gooey chocolate cake not made from the box. Well I got one, but its sort of made from the box, but added to it. Still searching for a homemade cake that is very moist and amazing for my husband. Please feel free to throw me some recipes please! But this one was a hit with him, he loved it and said it was the best chocolate cake thus far he has eaten! That is very big feat.

But still I used a box and I do not want to do that, so I beg you anyone who knows a moist cake send it my way!

  • 1 Package of Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Eggs
  • 8 TBS butter, melted and divided
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 3.5 TBS Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Cups Powdered sugar
  • 1 TSP Vanilla extract

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and grease your 9×13 pan, set aside

Combine the cake mix, 1 egg and 1 stick of butter together. Stir until combined.

Put into pan, spread out evenly. Yes its lumpy.

In the stand up mix the cream cheese, until smooth. Then add the 2 eggs and cocoa powder, then lower the mixer and add the powered sugar, mix until all combined well.

Slowly add the melted butter, and then the vanilla, beat until smooth.

Spread this filling over the cake mix mixture till covered completely.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Make sure not to over bake, the cake should be gooey in the middle. I guess what happens to those clumps in the cake is that they do not cook all the way through and that makes it gooey in the middle.

Let it cool for a few minutes and serve warm so its still gooey in the middle.

Happy Birthday my love!

Out to Eat

February 15, 2011

Key Lime Martini

For my husband’s birthday he wanted to go out to eat. So we went to the Cheesecake Factory. This would probably not be our first choice for going out to eat, but we did have gift certificates for there and we do enjoy going there sometimes. We had a great time and got some great food! We ordered a lot of food and hardly ate it! But we had leftovers for days which is always good.

We both started with appetizers.  I tried the Corn fritters. I grew up on my mom’s corn fritters, I love them soooo much and we usually put powdered sugar on them. I have never been to a place that offered them before, so I had to try them. These were very good and reminded me of my moms, besides one spice in it I could not figure out. Also they served it with a Chipotle mayonnaise which was spicy and amazing.

My husband got Fried Macaroni and Cheese served with a sauce, they were ok. I liked my corn fritters better! If you have never had this before, you must try it if you see it at a restaurant. It macaroni and cheese, fried. Yes and yum.

Then for our main course I got SHRIMP AND CHICKEN GUMBO It was shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic simmered in a spicy Cajun style broth with cream. topped with steamed white Rice. It was something I do not usually get, but I gotta tell you it was so delicious. I want to go back again just to have that. Next time I will get all shrimp, no chicken.

My husband got a good old burger, like he does a lot. The fries I must say were excellent.

For dessert we got 3 different things, haha I know. We ate it for the next 3 days!
KEY LIME CHEESECAKE; Key Lime Pie in a Cheesecake. Deliciously Tart and Creamy on a Vanilla Crumb Crust

LINDA’S FUDGE CAKE

And one more…
REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CAKE CHEESECAKE

Yikes so much food, but very fun to taste some new things. My favorite of the desserts was the reese’s cheesecake. My husband liked the chocolate cake, of course. It was a fun evening with my birthday boy and it was a nice time out to eat where I was not disappointed in the food!

Guacamole

February 11, 2011

Nothing like homemade Guac! Its so easy and so amazing.

  • 4 Ripe Avocados
  • Juice of a whole lemon
  • 10 Dashed of Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Red Onion, Minced
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10-15 Cherry Tomatoes, cut as big as you like.

This is simple, just cut the avocados in half and remove the pit and scoop the avocado out and place in ball. Add the lemon juice immediately, so that it does not turn brown.

Now add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste!

Serve with some chips. Yum.

Thanks old friend.

February 9, 2011

In high school I had a friend who loved to bake. She wanted to go to culinary school and open up her own bake shop. I always thought she should, I guess she gave up on that dream. To make a long story short we are not friends anymore and for years I always wondered how she made these amazing sweet salty bars. My husband and I always wondered and looked for them.

Well I finally found a recipe for them, but then added those touches that she did that made them even better!

I am not sure what to call them…heck I will give her the credit!

MK Bars:

  • 1 Sleeve of Saltine crackers
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 5-6 bars of Hershey chocolate bars
  • Walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Start off with lining a cookie baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray it well with cooking spray.

Now you are going to line the cookie sheet with the crackers, close together. Open up the chocolate bars and break into pieces, set aside.

Now take the 2 sticks of butter and melt, the add your brown sugar and cook for a bit till it is sort of combined.

Now take that mixture and put on top of the crackers, make sure to get it all over.

Now take it and put it in the oven for a few minutes, watch closely. You are going to open the oven and see it bubbling. This is when you know its ready.

Open the oven and keep the cookie sheet in the oven, but pull out the shelf. You are doing this so it keep warm but so you can add the chocolate on top.

So now take the chocolate pieces and add to the top. Its going to start to melt. Help it along and spread out the chocolate with a spatula.

Make sure the whole thing is covered. Now add the walnuts spread all over. Not too many, but just enough.

Now allow it to cool. I even put it in the freezer, because we personally like them frozen. Then just cut them up into pieces. They are amazing and take me right back to high school all over again!

The other night I had the pleasure of going to my friends 30th birthday party. It was a great time with friends, music and food. They rented out this great place for the party and had it catered. I must say it was amazing food and I am dedicating this post to them. Now I have to been excellent catering events before and the food was great, but I have to say the Chef’s were also so nice and taking part in the party as well. They talked with us and shared some of their stories. I was glad for this because sometimes when you hire a chef they tend to stay in the kitchen and not talk and mostly be about the food. As an Italian cook I love making, serving and talking about the food, being involved with the party so when I saw this I was thrilled!

They hired:

Got Chef

By Chef Biagio Barone, Chef Larry Landsberg and Deborah Hertlein.

If you are having a party I recommend them!

They planned out the menu, which was 4 courses.

First course was:

Caponata Di Melanzane; Roasted eggplant, tomatoes, basil, golden raisins, Olive oil and reggiano parmiggiano cheese.

The second course was a choice of two;

1. Capesante Farcito; stuffed scallop, lobster meat, shrimp scallop, sweet bread lemon stuffing on a scallop shell drizzled with lemon gremolata.

2. The cheese tasting: Garden tomatoes with Buffalo Mozz, Burrata Mozz and fresh Mozz with basil and pickled wild mushrooms.

The third course was the pasta course, of course. 🙂

Pasta San Marzano: Cooked aldente with seared sanmarzano tomatoes from Naples roasted garlic and shallots twirled tight and topped with arugula and Reggiano Parmigiano served in a cheese basket.

The final course was a choice of:

1. Pollo Rollatini: Chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, wild arugula and roasted garlic wrapped with apple smoked bacon lemon reduction flame. Served over creamy polenta.

2. OssoBuco Milanese: 3 inch grass fed lamb shank slowly braised with red wine and diced vegetables. SErved over a bed of safron orzo gratinata. A challenge the chef takes pride in. ( this is what I had, when a chef takes pride in something, you must pick it and I must say I was not one bit disappointed. Incredible.)

3. Salmone: Wild caught Scottish salmon grilled and wrapped in puff pastry, crispy sweet potatoes and finished in a maderi demi glaze sauce over balsamic crisp green beans.

4. Filetto Di Manzo: 8 Oz Angus filet mignon topped with forest mushrooms in a pastry crust and topped with maderie glaze.

What a great night. The food was amazing and I can not speak more highly of these Chefs and of course Happy Birthday my friend!

Penne Alla Vodka

February 5, 2011

This recipe came from my brother-in-law, I stole it and its amazing. I might have added a bit more garlic and maybe a pinch more of this and that. But he probably does too.

My husband is in school and he had some of his friends come over to “study” and so I decided to cook. It was a nice time with wine and food, too bad it was stressful with the studying. Next time I hope they will just come to eat, drink and be merry. 🙂

So I decided to do Penne Alla Vodka, with Chicken. Its simple, delicious and warming on a cold winter night.

  • 1 Pound of Pasta
  • 2 Shallots, chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
  • 4-5 Chicken Breast
  • 1 Cup of Vodka(good)
  • 15 Oz of Diced tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup of Chicken stock
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil and butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Start of with some butter and olive oil in a saute pan and heat.

Then add the seasoned chicken breast and cook till nicely browned. Set aside.

Now take a bit more butter, not too much and add the shallots and saute them till softened. Season well.

Then add the garlic and Oregano and saute for 1 minute more, be sure not to burn the garlic.

Now at this point you are going to add the vodka. Be aware that there might be a flame when you add it, so be careful. Simmer and reduce the vodka by half. During this time cut the chicken into bite size pieces.

Now add the chicken stock and the tomatoes, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.

Now add the Heavy cream and cook until the sauce has thickened. Make sure to taste at this point to see if you need more salt and pepper. But be aware that you are going to be adding the Parmesan cheese so do not add too much salt. Once the sauce has thickened, lower the heat and then add the cheese to the sauce. Now add the chicken back into the sauce.

Once the pasta is done cooking add the pasta to the sauce and cook for a few minutes in the Vodka sauce.

Enjoy!