Tag Archives: herbs
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It’s (Still) Soup Season!

2 Mar

Step up kids. It’s time to get the soup on. Lets do this! Today we are putting together some tomato basil soup. We will also toss in a couple of roasted red peppers for a special touch. Tonight we have soup, tomorrow we use leftovers for a sauce. But first things first. On to the soup.

To get things going let’s start with flavorful mire poix. What is that you ask? It is a combination of vegetables that are gently cooked. A mire poix is a great base on which to start layering your flavors. I diced up some green onions, celery and some carrots. I also diced some garlic, but that needs to be added in later. First things first.

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Its okay to give these veggies a rough chop. We will smooth this out in a bit. Get your big soup pot out and heating up over a medium heat. After it warms up for a few minutes add some good quality olive oil.

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When your oil is heated up toss your veggies into the pot-but hold off on that garlic for a bit-it burns easily so we will ease that into our soup later.

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Give the vegetables a good stir. Add salt and pepper. I like to have a salt and pepper mix close by when cooking.

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The vegetables will soften and become fragrant. Let them cook for 4-5 minutes and then add the garlic. (Garlic is lovely when roasted but when it burns-well not so much, so it needs to be added right before the tomatoes). Keep stirring gently, and let the garlic cook for about 2 minutes. Now we will add good Italian tomatoes and some roasted red peppers.

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Add the entire contents of the tomatoes to the vegetables in the soup pot. With the peppers, take them out of the oil before adding to the vegetables.

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Keep the heat at medium, stir this all up, and enjoy seeing this bubbling goodness come together. The fragrance filling your kitchen will give you a reason to stand there and do some deep breathing. Yum. Let this simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring every so often. Then get ready to add another layer of flavor to your soup.

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Now we add the chicken broth. If this will be a vegetarian soup, feel free to add vegetable stock instead. The soup will delectable either way. Also add parsley and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I like a little heat, so I also add red pepper flakes, but that is optional. The winter soup delight is coming together perfectly.

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Time to add the basil. I grow basil in my summer herb garden, but since it is winter I bought some. Fresh basil is worth it in this soup so get it fresh if you can.

 

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Pull the leaves gently off of the stalks and give them a rough chop. We will use an immersion blender to cream the soup later, so don’t worry about your knife skills. Add the basil to the soup and stir.

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Grab your immersion blender. Don’t have one? Invest in one. I use mine for everything from smoothies to vinaigrette to soups and sauces. This kitchen tool is essential. Put your immersion wand into the soup and blend away. Be mindful of the hot soup and do not allow it to splatter.

You can also put the soup in the blender to smooth out, but be very cautious, go slowly and do it in batches to avoid burns and accidents. I using a blender pour the soup back into the pot. Let the soup simmer while you get your soup bowls out. Fill your bowl up, garnish with fresh parmesan cheese and basil, then get ready for tasty greatness.

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Keep your eye out for my next blog. We will explore ways to use your leftover soup-if you have any!

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Dressings just aren’t that hard!

14 Jul

Its time to step up here.  Beautiful summer vegetables are bursting out of gardens and farmers markets.  They can be fixed a million ways.  Vegetables can be steamed, sautéed, roasted, grilled, blanched.  The list goes on, but as the summer steamy weather is also upon us let’s go for something cool and refreshing.  Many veggies can be prepared then chilled, or eaten raw.  When we prepare vegetables that way we can also add a nice dressing.  And they just aren’t that difficult to create.  So let’s get busy!

I have passed along to you my bleu cheese dressing recipe.  Now let’s just focus on a simple vinaigrette.  Vinaigrettes are fabulous on a salad, but also on cold vegetables.  Like cooked fresh green beans?  Try cooking them, cooling them and serving them chilled with a lovely home made vinaigrette.  Once you get the hang of this super easy dressing, develop your own relationship with it, and let it reflect your own personal taste, I promise you will quickly become an enthusiast!  Soon you will be dousing your cucumbers and cold carrots with a light vinaigrette to reflect the season!

First, a word about vinaigrette.  Generally, the base is one part vinegar to 3 parts good olive oil.  You can use a bold vinegar like balsamic, a mild vinegar such as apple cider, or get a little crazy with grapefruit infused vinegar!  But best to start slowly and let your flavors grow and develop as you get the hang of making this.  Also, you can add a little lemon juice to your vinegar. Here we go.

  • 2 T. vinegar
  • 1 t. lemon juice (optional)
  • 6 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard or dried mustard (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of fresh herbs in season, or dried, such as  parsley, chives, or tarragon.

Put vinegar in a bowl.  Whisk the vinegar with a pinch of salt.  This is the time to add your mustard if you prefer it in your vinaigrette.  Whisk until salt is dissolved.  Add other ingredients and whisk until well incorporated.  Sometimes I make my vinaigrette in a jar with a lid and shake it.  That is all there is to it.  Budget friendly, delicious, simple and easy.  Start making yours today.  Dress your salad or cold vegetables and celebrate the season with this chilled refreshing twist!

1-2-3-GO!

6 Mar

Alright.  It’s March.  Let’s get rolling on thinking about the upcoming summer.  No, I don’t mean go try swim suits on.  Ugh!  Who wants to try on tiny cloths with pale dry winter skin that hasn’t seen the sun in months!  And shave my legs?  Forget it!  That is not what I am talking about!  It’s time to start planning a garden!  I started mine.  Yahoo!

I get spring fever really early in the season.  I just love warm sunny weather.  So I start to get jazzed about the upcoming summer long before the lawn needs cutting.  Long before warm breezes allow me to enjoy the screen porch.  I simply can’t help myself.  Therefore, I need to placate myself (and NOT by swim suit shopping!).  I find winter joy in planning my spring and summer garden.

The reality is, though, that I am a really busy working mom.  My fantasy of languishing in my fragrant blooming garden, dressed in crisp cotton khaki’s and a sun hat (channeling the lovely Katherine Hepburn!), fielding compliments from jealous neighbors is, well, just that.  A fantasy.  But that doesn’t stop me.  I have learned to reign myself in a bit.  I have a small garden.  But even that is very rewarding.

First, I can start planning my spring summer garden in the late winter months, which is fun.  Second, I go small and easy.  I have mostly herbs in my garden.  My time is tight, and I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world.  In fact, I am a bit clumsy in the garden, so I won’t quit, but I do work within my, shall we say, limitations.  Time, space, and ability are constraints I need to be mindful of when planning my garden.  As much as I would love to devote hours to a fabulous garden, I can’t.  And I learned that lesson the hard way, but I did learn it!

I have already put my seeds in their little peat moss pots.  I have a great sunny window seat, so I move the cushions and plunk my little seedling wannabe’s there to sprout.  My pots are in neat little rows all labels with popsicle sticks and labels.  Simple.  It is very inexpensive to set up because I stay away from the gimmicky “potting and watering systems” for new seedlings.  I go the old fashioned route.  Little cups, good seeds, rich potting soil.  I shove my finger in the filled pot and sprinkle seeds in.  I water them, keep them in a spot where they get good sun, and watch my garden begin.  Happily.

So far I have started herbs including rosemary, 2 kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint.  I also started arugula, mesculin, and other lettuces.  Again, lettuces and greens are super easy to grow.  I am practically guaranteed success.   I added green onions and red peppers.  That’s it.  Simple dimple.

My little garden scratches my spring fever itch for many months.  It’s so gratifying to watch my little sprouts peek up out of the soil and take root.  When the weather warms up, I will head out to prepare a spot in my yard.  I will spend a morning transplanting and fussing a bit over the garden.  Then I will step back and let it go!  Stepping out of the kitchen into a garden is pure magic.  Picking fresh greens and herbs is gratifying.  And the smells are amazing.  You can’t help but throw your head back, breath the fresh herbs in, and begin creating a flavorful dish in your mind.

So I can’t have the huge blooming garden I think that, as a foodie, I should have, but my little one sure makes me happy.  So go get your supplies, plant your seeds, and enjoy some summer simplicity.  It’s fun.  I promise!

Brats versus onion breath

15 Dec

That’s right.  Brats on one side, onion (and a wee bit of garlic…if there is such a thing as a wee bit!) breath on the other.  Decisions decisions!  As a foodie, this is the never ending battle.  Food versus breath.  Blue cheese breath only works if you are talking to other blue cheese eating folks all night.  Onions are another offender.  Double offense as this has some hang time with our breath, as well as a being a solid gas producer.  You get the picture.

As a foodie, I happen to be a chronic tooth brusher and self breath tester.  I am a big fan of mints too.  As much as I love great food, I am aware that while socializing with friends or anticipating a possible  romantic moment, good breath is a must.  But when you enjoy good food, lets face it.  There is the possibility that our breath can become unpleasant sometimes.  Fresh breath is fantastic, but it isn’t realistic after certain food indulgences.  So do you indulge in good food knowing that bad(ish) breath is almost certain to follow?  Heck yes!

I am an eastern European mix, but raised mostly influenced by my german heritage.  And I was raised in Chicago, a city with proud ethnic diversity and celebrations.  Brats were one of the basic food groups of my youth.  And, of course, where there are sausages-or most any protein for that matter- in any german influenced kitchen, you have sauerkraut.  How delightful!

Brats, in the home of my youth and now the home of my children, are cooked first in German beer and onions.  They simmer on the stove top, filling the house with the most amazing earthy scents.  The house smells like brats, onions, yeasty beer, savory herbs.  The delicious steamy aroma of this cooking stops one in their tracks, and taking a moment to just breath deeply is involuntary. Your head drifts back, nostrils flair, eyes drape closed, and a satisfying moan might even escape as the senses are treated to these aromas!

After bubbling in the kitchen for a bit, the pot of brats is then ceremoniously taken out to the grill.  Popping the brats onto a piping hot grill creates quite another gift for the senses. Loud sizzling, satisfying smoke wafting off the grill, and nose twanging scents float through the air.  Black grill lines begin to appear, adding to the immense satisfaction of cooking these sausages.  While these are cooking, sauerkraut is quickly heated, buns steamed, and a plethora of mustards stand at the ready as the perfect accoutrement to the brat.  Aaahhh!  Major yum!

Ah yes.  Back to the bad(ish) breath. Can’t eat this without the casualty of altered breath, and probably even a solid belch or two.  But it’s oh so satisfying!  Totally worth it in my book!  It’s the never ending dilemma for any one that loves good authentically prepared food.  Eat a marshmallow and there is no party foul.  Eat an oniony brat, your gonna pay.  But go for it anyway.  Grab the Altoids, a piece of gum, or simply giggle in a charming manner and ask your companions to excuse you.  Better yet, make these for your friends.  After all, a skunk can’t smell himself.  Eat fantastic (albeit offensive) food with friends.  Then your all in it together!   Let me show you my brats in picture story form.  Then you too will choose onion breath!

Brats simmering in beer and onions.  Prick the brats with a fork first so they don't explode.

Brats simmering in beer and onions. Prick the brats with a fork first so they don’t explode.

Brats go onto the grill!  Look at those grill lines!  Great job Denis!

Brats go onto the grill! Look at those grill lines!

Steam or grill those buns!

Steam or grill those buns!

While the brats are cooking, heat  up that sauer kraut!

While the brats are cooking, heat up that sauerkraut!

Grab some mustard!  Do not leave those brats naked!

Yikes! Grab some mustard! Do not leave those brats naked!

Oh yeah!  There you go!  A loaded brat!  Grab a beer, some potato salad, and enjoy!

Oh yeah! There you go! A loaded brat! Grab a beer, some potato salad, and enjoy!