Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Potato Soup with Leeks

Potato Leek Soup

My car is out! It has emerged from its snowy prison and has actually made its way out to the main road where people with normal driveways have been navigating for a week. Mud will be the next obstacle, as temps get higher. But enough of that.

Potato soup is wonderful. It's a comforting kind of soup, making you feel all warm inside. Potatoes are wonderful by themselves, but the leeks give the soup the extra flavor it needs to make it extra special. This is a version of Julia Child's basic recipe, and it's a very simple one that is easily adapted to your own preferences or dietary restrictions. The dairy is optional, but makes for a heartier, creamy soup. Quick. Easy. Delicious.

Potato Leek Soup (printable recipe)
3 cups potatoes (about a pound), peeled and diced
3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
6 cups water (I used chicken broth as part of my liquid)
2 tsp. salt, pepper to taste
4-6 tablespoons cream, sour cream, half and half, or 2-3 tablespoons butter (optional)
minced parsley or chives for garnish
  • Simmer vegetables, water and salt together (partially covered) until tender, about 40-50 minutes.
  • Mash the vegetables into the soup with a fork, potato masher, or pass through a food mill. You could also use an immersion blender if you like your soup less chunky.
  • Correct seasoning if needed.
  • When ready to serve, remove from heat and stir in the cream or butter. Garnish with chives or parsley. Pepper to taste.
How to prepare leeks: Trim off the root ends. Cut off tops so the leeks are about 6-7 inches long. Slit each leek lengthwise in half and then in quarters. Wash under cold running water, spreading the leaves apart to wash out all dirt. Slice crosswise into pieces for soup.

Chocolate Crinkles

Cookies and grandkids go together, don't they? Laz was here today and we decided to make cookies.  Chocolate Crinkle cookies. The coating of sugar on these cookies makes the most unique patterns when you bake them.  Laz named them Zebra Cookies...that's pretty descriptive! They were quite easy to make and were delicious- chewy and fudgy like brownies. The edges were just a tiny bit crunchy, giving way to a soft chewy center.

The recipe came from the book cookies, by Jill Snider. (Thank you Madie and John!) It's one I bookmarked before Christmas but never got the chance to make. The fact that the recipe uses oil in place of butter was one of the reasons it was on my "to try" list. For a more grown-up treat, try adding a little bit of instant espresso powder to the mixture.

Chocolate Crinkles (printable recipe here)
from the book cookies, by Jill Snider
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used light flavored olive oil)
2 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened chocolate- chopped, melted, and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla (I used 1 tsp.)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

  • On a sheet of waxed paper or in a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil, melted chocolate, eggs and vanilla until smoothly blended. 
  • Gradually stir in flour mixture, mixing until smooth. 
  • Cover and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours for easy handling.
  • Put confectioner's sugar in a small shallow dish. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in confectioner's sugar until evenly coated. 
  • Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. (I covered my cookie sheet with parchment.)
  • Bake in preheated (350 degrees) oven for 8-12 minutes or until set and tops are cracked and dry. 
  • Cool for 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to a rack and cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shh...Dont Tell.

Don't tell the secret ingredient, that is. Not until everybody has asked for seconds. And even then I'd think about it twice if I were you. Call it spice cake...that would work. Plum cake. Dried plum cake. Dried plums as in prunes, the much maligned cousins of raisins. Please don't let the fact that it is a prune cake stop you from making it. The cake is spicy and moist, and the glaze is good enough to eat all by itself. And there are no ill effects from eating this prune cake. I promise.

This is Grandma Iny's Prune Cake. Not my grandma... Pioneer Woman's grandma. You can find the recipe here on her website. Complete with detailed photos and directions, and her unique sense of humor. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nanno's Spaghetti...The Ultimate Comfort Food

Nano's Spaghetti
Nanno learned to make this dish when she was a nanny in Baltimore sometime in the mid 1930s. An Italian neighbor, Caspar V., taught her how to make spaghetti using a modern convenience, Campbell's Tomato Soup. No meat, just lots of cheese. And onions. And garlic. And pepper. Lovely simplicity. Caspar used a lot of different kinds of cheeses, most of which were not readily available to Nanno when she moved back home and married, so she used what she had. And it was delicious. Comfort food at its finest. Best enjoyed with a cold glass of milk. Ask my husband or my kids. They'll agree.

There isn't really a recipe, just a basic method. That's the beauty of it. Here's how to do it.
  • Gently saute a large chopped onion and as much minced garlic as you like in a large pan with some olive oil. 
  • Add a large can of tomato soup and stir until combined. 
  • Add lots of cheese. Really. A cup or more. (I like more.) Whatever you have on hand. If it's not shredded already, break it up into small pieces and stir until it melts. I usually try to include Parmesan, cheddar, Italian, American slices even...whatever I have on hand. It's a great recipe for using up all of those bits of different cheeses that end up in the refrigerator. 
  • Season to taste with lots of pepper- black, cayenne and white. The white pepper is important. It gives it a zing that the others don't. Add salt if you think it needs it. (Some cheeses are saltier than others.)
  • Cook some angel hair pasta until it's nearly done. Drain and add to the sauce. Let the pasta and sauce slowly simmer until pasta is cooked. And that's it.
Grab a glass of cold milk and you're good to go. That's how Nanno would have wanted you to enjoy it.

Wishful Thinking?

"Oh nooooo! I'm melllllllllllllllllting."

 Making these cookies was very therapeutic. It not only used up my leftover frosting from the cookies I made this weekend, but it helped me vent my frustrations concerning the snowy weather.

 I've decided to just sit back and enjoy it, since I can't do anything about it. It is beautiful outside! Now of course I may have a different outlook if we lose electricity. But I'll cross that bridge when if I get to it.

Melting snowman cookies slightly adapted from "the decorated cookie."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Iced Spice Valentines

Iced Spice Valentines
It took me twenty years to make these cookies. Well, sort of, anyway.  Back in the day when I was blissfully staying at home with my kids who are now grown and married, (and Richard wasn't even born yet!) the Jan./Feb. '89 issue of Creative Ideas for Living had a plate of beautifully decorated Valentine cookies on the cover. I loved those cookies. I loved them so much in fact, I saved the issue so I could make the cookies later. I did make the recipe. Just not the hearts. I made the recipe time and time again for Christmas, Easter, Halloween...but I never made those lovely hearts. Until now. 

I decided that since I was snowed in yet again,making cookies was the perfect distraction to take my mind off of my predicament. I do love living back in the woods until it snows, especially with as much as we've had recently. There's no way I'm shoveling that half mile driveway! (We finally did get out...just in time to stock up before the next snowstorm. Last weekend I was snowed in with no butter in the house. I shudder to think of it.) Decorating the cookies actually wasn't as daunting of a task as I thought it would be. The most time consuming part was coloring the frosting! Want to make some for your Valentine?
Here's how to do it:
  • Make a batch of Iced Spice Cookies. While they are cooling, make some Royal Icing. (recipes here)
  • After making a batch of royal icing, divide it into individual ramekins or small bowls, one for each color you want. Color the frosting in each ramekin. (I used Wilton Gel Food coloring.) Put some of each color in a decorating bag and leave some in the ramekin to thin with water later. The frosting you put in the bags will be used for outlining and decorating. The frosting left in the ramekins will be used to frost the cookies. Cover your ramekins to keep the frosting from drying out. Put your filled decorating bags tip down in a container with a damp paper towel in the bottom to keep the frosting from drying out.

  • Outline the hearts with royal icing. (I used Wilton #3 tip for this.) Let it set for about half an hour. (There's my vintage magazine with the cookies on the cover!)

  • Thin the royal frosting (that you left in the ramekins) with a few drops of water at a time until it is a thick syrupy consistency. Spoon some of the thinned frosting into the center of a cookie and spread it out to the outline with a small spatula or butter knife.

  • Let the frosting set for a couple of hours.  (I have a hard time waiting any longer than that.) Pipe on designs with the royal icing left in your decorating bags.(I used Wilton #2 tip.) After the designs are completely set (overnight is good) you can bag them individually or carefully put them in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers.
  • Enjoy them with your Valentine(s)...I know I will!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Roasted Corn and Pepper Chowder with Chorizo

Shoveling snow is hard work...boy am I glad I had soup in the freezer! This is Pam's Roasted Corn and Pepper Chowder with Chorizo that I brought home with me from the soup swap at work. Do you know what the nice thing about this soup is? (other than, of course, being delicious) It has NO TOMATOES. And she made it that way just so I could eat it. Thank you Pam! The recipe (which does include tomatoes) for this delicious soup can be found here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Business

Digging out the truck...

 and trying to find my car.

This look just about sums it up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soup in the freezer...better than snowballs!

If I were a bear,
And a big bear too,
I shouldn't much care 
If it froze or snew.
I shouldn't much mind
If it snowed or friz;
I'd be all fur-lined 
With a coat like his.
A.A. Milne
Ok, so I'm not a bear. But this weekend when it snowed I didn't care. I knew I had four quarts of homemade soup in my freezer. Soup I didn't even have to make. Last Friday at work we had a Soup Swap Luncheon...We had soup galore to sample, plus all of the good stuff that goes along with it. Some of us brought quarts of frozen soup as well, which we swapped. I took four quarts of my Chicken and Rice with Mushroom soup and brought home Turkey Chili, Escarole Bean Soup, Spicy Red Lentil Chili and Roasted Corn Chowder with Chorizo.  (The Chicken Cheese Soup I sampled at the luncheon was good too, but it wasn't for swapping.) I'm good for a couple of snowstorms now. I have no photo of the soup I took to work, but here's the recipe:

Chicken, Rice and Mushroom Soup (printable recipe)

You'll need approximately 2 quarts of chicken broth or stock. You can use canned, boxed or homemade. If you're using boxed or canned, simmer it first (about 30 minutes) with:
2 cloves garlic
1 sliced onion
a few peppercorns
a coarsely chopped celery stalk
a coarsely chopped carrot
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
Strain out and discard solids.

To the seasoned broth add:
1 cup chopped, fresh mushrooms (Baby Bellas are good)
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt to taste
Bring to a boil, then add 1/2 cup brown rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender. 
2 cups cooked chicken cut into small pieces
A couple of handfuls of spinach, cut into 1/4 inch strips
A handful of Italian parsley, chopped
Cook until chicken is heated through.

Related Posts with Thumbnails