Wednesday, February 27, 2008

French Vegetable Soup

I found this soup while reading the book "French Women Don't Get Fat". (I highly recommend the book.) There are so many variations that you can do with this soup and it is absolutely delightful! I love it, my kids love it, and my husband adores it. You can't go wrong with this recipe. And there are so many ways to play around with it. You can eliminate or add vegetables of your choice very easily.


2 Potatoes

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 leeks, white and tender green parts

1/2 small cabbage

3 celery ribs

2 turnips

4 carrots

4 TBS butter

2 cups canned tomatoes

2 sprigs of parsley

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Tbs butter

4 Tbs fresh cream (whipping cream)

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Peel, wash, and roughly slice the potatoes. Place in a small pot and add water to cover. Add the quartered onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer till tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.2. Wash the remaining vegetables and slice or dice them. Melt the 4 Tbs butter in a 15 quart stockpot and "sweat" the vegetables, stirring often. (5 minutes) This procedure eliminates the more aggressive aromas of fresh vegetables.
3. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, onion, and garlic, and water to cover. Stir in the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves and continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender. Remove the bay leaves. Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid.
4. Puree the drained vegetables in a food processor, using the fine grating disk. Thin the soup with the reserved cooking liquid to the consistency you like. (It shouldn't be too watery of too thick)
5. Correct the seasoning and add fresh herbs of your choice.

Optional Finishing Tricks:

Bring the soup to a boil. In a skillet, fry the thinly sliced onion in 1 tbs butter. Add to the soup. Add the cream, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Add pepper and serve immediately.
Alternatively, beofre putting the vegetables through the food mill, reserve 2 cups and add them to the soup just before serving. The crunchy vegetables will contrast with the velvety soup.
You can also play a bit with different spices. Try ground cloves, cumin, or turmeric.

As leftovers: Save half of the soup before the finishing touches and serve it 2 days later, adding a sausage sauted in a bit of oil and then stir into the soup.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Enchilada Sauce

I don't know about you, but I hate the canned enchilada sauce. It doesn't matter what brand, it all tastes gross to me. But I do love enchiladas, so I decided to make my own enchilada sauce. And believe me, from now on, I will never buy the canned kind again. This is very yummy and very quick and easy. I found the basic recipe on All Recipes, but I changed it a little here and there so it's all my own.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce (oringinal recipe called for 8 oz can)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
salt to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion salt into the flour and chili powder until smooth, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.

Now, onto yummy enchiladas. Tomorrow nights dinner is my mom Sour Cream Enchiladas. Delicious!! I'll be sure to take a picture and post the recipe.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Buttercream Frosting

I got this recipe from my good friend Suzi who is an expert at cakes. Now this is the only frosting recipe I will ever use.

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (I ONLY use Crisco)
1/2 cup butter (If you want snow white icing, then you'll have to buy Clear Butter Extract and use more shortening and omit butter)
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (If you are going to tint icing a color, you can use regular vanilla extract)
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
2 tbs milk or heavy cream

Some people like the almond extract flavor better than the vanilla...sometimes I even use both. OR if you want, you can buy a flavor of the powder Coffee Mate coffee flavorings and replace 1/4 -1/3 cup of the conf. sugar with the coffee mate.

Cream butter and shortening. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat on low. (I add milk as I'm adding sugar, little by little). Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. (I put in a ziplock container (not the bag) and store in fridge until I'm ready to use it.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM - make your regular buttercream icing. Add 3/4 cup Cocoa and a little bit more milk/heavy cream/half and half, whichever you're using. (I use 1/2 cup regular cocoa and 1/4 cup dark cocoa) I also find myself using heavy cream more often than not as my liquid. Beat on low with mixture until creamy.

Szechwan Shrimp

This is a surprisingly easy and quick recipe. Ready in 30 minutes or less. If you do not like spicy food or are serving to children, I would suggest decreasing the crushed red pepper or taking it out all together. I personally love the extra zing it gives the dish. You can also add carrots or stir fry vegetables to the sauce for a little change. I found this recipe (and picture) on All Recipes.

4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup sliced green onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces cooked shrimp, tails removed

In a bowl, stir together water, ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, crushed red pepper, and ground ginger. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in green onions and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in shrimp, and toss to coat with oil. Stir in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is bubbly and thickened.
Serve over hot cooked rice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Caramel Brownies

1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9x13 inch baking dish.
Melt caramels and 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk over very low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.
Combine cake mix, melted butter, the remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk, vanilla and nuts. Mix well and spread 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 8 minutes.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the partially cooked brownies. Pour the melted caramel mixture over the top and with a teaspoon drop the remaining 1/2 of the batter evenly over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Let brownies cool in pan then cut into bars.

These are absolutely sinful! You'll have to hide them so you don't eat them all in one sitting. I make them without nuts.

To die for Garlic Bread

This makes the most delicious garlic bread you will ever taste. It tastes better than any restaurant garlic bread I have ever tasted. It may take a bit longer than the old margarine and garlic powder method but it is so worth it!

You can play with the ingredients to find a combination that fits your taste perfectly. I add one more clove of garlic because I love garlic.

2 cloves garlic, minced and then smashed
1 cube butter (butter is best, no substitutions)
1 heaping TBS Parsley
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut lengthwise or cut into slices

Soften butter and mix the rest of ingredients in. Spread on bread and broil for 3 minutes or until toasty.