2/28/11

6 Comforting Egg Drop Soup

I'm watching the snow fall on top of nearly eight inches of snow, thinking, "I don't want to drive out in this stuff!"  When you have a craving for take-out and it's bad weather outside, make this soup.  It's a comfort food that will warm you up from the inside out.

I had some of the ingredients in the freezer, which quickly brought this soup together.  I used 2 cups of my Costco Roasted chicken stock and made 2 cups of chicken broth from of the McCormicks chicken base.

The recipe calls for ground ginger, but I love the taste of fresh ginger.  Thanks to having fresh frozen ginger and a microplane, I can easily put this in the soup.  The recipe also calls for fresh chives, which I did not have, but used 2 green onions, cut into 2" pieces for this soup.


A smashed garlic clove is put in.  I also freeze my garlic cloves to keep them fresh.  They are so easy to peel when they are frozen.

The soup is simmered for a few minutes to allow all the flavors to come together and season the broth.  A skimmer/strainer is used to take out the onion and garlic clove.

2/3 cup of frozen veggies is all you need.

I was supposed to reserve some broth at the beginning to mix with the cornstarch, but since my broth is hot, I mixed it in with a little bit of cold water and stirred it into the broth.

The broth is cooked to the desired consistency and brought to a boil.  The beaten eggs are put into a measuring cup with a pour spout to drizzle in a slow steady stream over the broth while stirring.
This was the trickiest part of the whole thing.  The mixed eggs dribbled down the side of the cup and dropped from the bottom into the boiling broth.  It was hard to see if/how much the eggs were going in and how they were cooking.  After I was done, all I saw were floating strands of eggs on top.  I grabbed a spoon for a photo op...

I was relieved to fin the veggies in the midst of the eggs!  I made this soup for our Valentine's dinner.  The first thing my son said was, "This looks different."  He is not used to seeing so many eggs in his Egg Drop soup.  I'm not either, but hubby loved it!  He prefers soups that are not so "brothy." After one bite, it was gobbled up by everyone.  It tasted that good.

I love frying up some won ton strips and using them in this soup.  It acts as a garnish and adds a nice crunch.


Next time, I will reduce the eggs and thicken the soup more by adding more cornstarch.  The ranges are reflected in the printable recipes, below.

Now you can have take-out without going out!
Enjoy!

Egg Drop Soup
(4x6 recipe download)    (full page printable recipe)
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2/25/11

4 Braciole & Homemade Italian Bread Crumbs






Have you heard of a dish so often that you've wanted to make it?

I am a fan of the tv show, Everybody Loves Raymond.  Those of you who are familiar with this show know that Marie (Raymond's mother), is the best cook around.   Italian dishes are part of the story:  Bruschetta.  Cannoli.  Braciole. 

Ray's wife, however hard she tries, is not the best cook.  Debra's best dish is lemon chicken, but she surprises Ray with making Braciole, a rich and hearty entree of prosciutto, provolone, pine nuts and raisins.  To everyone's surprise, the dish is a hit, especially since Debra swapped out the raisins and put in currants.

A quick Internet search turned up Giadia De Laurentiss's recipe for braciole that got great reviews. 

Here's how my braciole turned out...

This recipe calls for a flank steak.  Holy moly, the prices for this is outrageous!  I finally settled on this one I found at Winco, a better price than $7-$8 in other stores:
This steak is almost 3/4" thick.  I tried to pound it with a frying pan, but it just would not budge...
I went ahead anyways.  I made my own Italian bread crumbs by running a couple of slices of wheat bread in the food processor, toasting it in the oven and tossing it with salt, parsley flakes, garlic and onion powders, oregano, basil and just a touch of sugar.  Recipe provided at end of post.




The recipe calls for grated Pecorino Romano and provolone cheeses, which are also hugely expensive!  I settle for this Western Family shredded cheese Italian mix...



Tossed the cheeses in with the bread crumb mixture and a couple of tablespoons of oil to hold it together.  Spread this mixture on the flank steak and began to roll it...



It was quite tough to roll such a thick piece, but I somehow managed.



Browned the meat on all sides in an oven safe skillet...



and added Giadia's simple marinara (which I thought was toooo oily.  I skimmed off 1/4 c. of the oil).  You can always use your favorite spaghetti sauce...

The oven safe skillet is put into the oven and baked for about 1 1/2 hours.  The reviewers said that this was too long and their meat turned out tough.  I opted to cook it till it reached an internal temp of 145°F, which took one hour. 

Removed the strings and sliced the braciole.  It was a beautiful presentation...
and served it with penne pasta and reserved marina sauce.



Results?  Hubby loved it and ate every bit.  Me?  I'm not a big fan of beef, but I enjoyed the pasta.  Here's what I would do differently:

1.  Get a different cut of beef, maybe a boneless top round and have my friendly butcher slice it thin for me! 

2.  Use a different marinara sauce.  Giadia's recipe of 1/2 cup of oil was too oily; I'd reduce  it to 1/4 cup.  The canned tomatoes I used were too acidic; I used a teaspoon of sugar and 2 T. of butter to sweeten it up a little.  Or, just save my sanity and buy a bottle of spaghetti sauce!

3.  Try a different braciole recipe.  I finally found "the recipe" that was used in the tv show, Braciole Di Manzo, which calls for prosciutto, pine nuts, currants or raisins. 

Braciole: Giadi De Laurentiis

Homemade Italian Bread Crumbs
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

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2/23/11

4 The Difference Between Pure, Light, and Extra Virgin Olive Oils


As part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program, I received three bottles of Crisco olive oils.  First, I had no idea that Crisco produced olive oils.  Second, I loved how they listed on the label suggestions for use of their olive oils.  This label says, "Best for Dipping, Dressings and Sauces."  Takes the guesswork out right off the bat!
The bottles, side by side, had noticeable color differences between the oils.  Extra Virgin is the darkest, followed by Pure olive oil, with Light olive oil being the lightest in color.




Did you know that extra virgin olive oil is a heart-healthy oil?  They have antioxidants that are naturally found in the olives, making it one of the better choices.  Olive oil also has a relatively high cooking temperature, which is great for pan frying or searing.

So what's the difference between the three oils, you ask?  Here's the skinny:


Extra Virgin: olives from the first pressing; no heat or chemical interaction with the oil.  Must have acidity of less than one percent.  Fruity taste.  Great for dipping, dressings and sauces.

Pure Olive Oil:  olives from the second pressing. Lighter in color, blander in taste.  A general purpose olive oil.  Best for grilling, sauteing and marinades.


Light Olive Oil:  Mixture of refined olive oils derived from the lowest quality of olives.  Has same calories as other olive oils.  Best for frying and baking.

How to store olive oils:  Air, heat and light will cause the oils to become rancid.  Cool temps around 60°F and stored in a cabinet away from the stove or direct sunlight works.  Refrigeration can extend the life of olive oils, although condensation can form in the bottle, affecting the flavor.  Olive oil stored in the fridge will become cloudy, although when brought to room temperature, will return to its normal state.

I love dipping a crusty slice of Italian bread into a mix of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar...
I used the other oils in making a tasty Italian dish that my family loved ~ stay tuned for the post!

Thanks, Crisco and Foodbuzz!

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2/21/11

4 New York Deli Rye Sourdough



This is bread 31 of the 41 breads listed in the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge.  Even though this challenge is almost 2 years old, some folks have successfully completed it in one year.  Fortunately,  Chris from A Ku Indeed has started another challenge group for this year.  Take a peek at the BBA Facebook page.  If you have ever wanted to learn all about the basics of making bread, come join the group!  It's never too late and you can go at your pace.  All you need is a love for bread and the book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

I'm not a fan of rye bread, so I approached this challenge half hearted-ly.  I do know that my father and hubby love rye bread, especially pastrami on rye, so I made this bread for them.  I halved this recipe to make (2) 1 pound free standing loaves.

This bread begins with a rye sponge starter: starter, rye white rye flour, water, and onions are mixed together.  What?!?  Onions?  I'm not a fan of fruit in my breads, let alone chunks of onions. 

I ground my rye kernels in my electric wheat grinder and sifted them to make "white" rye flour.  What is left behind is the bran, or outer husk of the kernels, which is not used in this recipe.




Combined all the ingredients required for the sponge starter (sans onions).  Here it is, four hours later, bubbling happily. 

I put this into the fridge overnight.  The next day, the rye starter is taken out for one hour to remove the chill.  While it is warming up, I check on other BBA posts on this bread and decided to add the onions, a "must have" for this bread.  One large onion is chopped and sauteed in oil till translucent.  Hey, I don't want crunchy onions in this bread!

Flours, brown sugar, salt, yeast are put together...caraway seeds are optional. 
Add the starter, shortening and buttermilk.  I like to use butter milk powder (4T. + 1 c. water).
I threw in the onions, mixed it till everything came together into a soft, not sticky mass...let it sit for 5 minutes so the gluten can begin to develop.
It is really, really hard to tell if this is ready....the chunks of onions are getting in the way of being able to tell if this dough is "smooth" and ready.  Also, Peter Reinhart recommends completing the kneading in 6 minutes or less....over-kneading can cause this bread to become "gummy."  The dough is put into a lightly greased container, covered, and allowed to rise till double in size, around 90 minutes.

I divided the dough into 2 piles and shaped them into batards.  An egg wash was brushed onto the fullen risen loaves...




Slashed with a sharp tomato knife...I think the slashing de-flated my loaves a little... you can see the over-proofing of the side of my left loaf, which looks like a big, ugly stretch mark....

and put into a hot oven for 10 minutes, rotated 180° and baked for an additional 10 minutes.



The loaves are golden brown all over and make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.  They cool for the mandatory one hour on a rack.  If you cut into it right away, your centers will not be fully cooked. 

An hour has passed.  Let's take a look at the inside:



A nice, tight crumb, with a crispy crust.  I pick up a slice and closely inspect it for the onions.  I could not SEE any....looked at another slice.  Couldn't see any there, either.  The only onions visible were outside on the crust.  I take a bite.

I was surprised.  It didn't taste too bad.  I could detect a slight taste of onions, which complemented the bread nicely.  I have to say that this bread, for me, will be an "acquired taste."

My father and hubby loved the bread.  My father wants the next one to have caraway seeds; in fact my mom gave me some for my next rye bread...

As a pastrami sandwich, they loved it even more!




Next time, I will make this in a loaf pan for sandwiches.

2/18/11

3 Staying Alive ~ Reviving Sourdough Starter

This is what my sourdough starter looks like without food for two weeks.  It goes into a hibernation period and develops this layer of watery yellowish stuff on top called, "hooch."

Yes, hooch is alcohol and you have the option of stirring this back in or pouring it off.  It is not recommended by the sourdough experts out there (on the Web) to keep your sourdough in the fridge longer than a month; otherwise the hooch will kill your starter.  I chose to pour it off and see if I could get my starter going again.  

I removed half of the starter, gave it a 1:1:1 feed (1 oz. water, 1 oz. flour, to 1 oz. starter) and let it sit in a warm place: oven with the light on.  Four hours later are my triplets, ready to be used or put back into the fridge!


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2/16/11

3 Roasted Baby Red Potatoes in 10 Minutes!

I first fell in love with baby red potatoes in junior high.  They were swimming in butter and topped with fresh chopped parsley.  I don't know about school lunches now, but back then, we ate really well!

If you have never tried potatoes cooked in a pressure cooker, you need to.  I had boiled mashed potatoes and noticed that they tasted "different."  Not bad, but different.  I believe that you have a fresher, cleaner taste of potatoes when they are cooked in a pressure cooker.  You also retain much of the vitamins and color when foods are cooked under pressure.

Today, I am using my new electric Cuisinart pressure cooker ~ I'm liking it more and more each time I use it!

The baby reds are washed and cut lengthwise...


Put into the pot with a tablespoon of butter.





 Add a roasted garlic clove (from the freezer!)  I like to use roasted garlic for a sweeter, roasted flavor ~


Turn the cooker on to SAUTE.. stir the melted butter so that it coats all of the potatoes...




add chicken broth...  My camera is telling me that I need glasses!




Lock the lid into place.

Set the timer for FIVE minutes.




Now, the cooker turned on for a minute or two, then quickly shut off and went to the KEEP WARM mode.  I couldn't figure out what had happened.  I opened the cooker and stuck a fork in my potatoes.  They were still firm and uncooked.

I noticed that all of the chicken broth had disappeared.  I did some online research and discovered that this cooker has another safety feature:  if there is not enough liquid to create steam/pressure, it will automatically stop the cooking and go to the keep warm setting.  This will prevent burning!

The potatoes had absorbed all of the chicken broth, so I added 1/4 c. of warm water, closed the lid, and set the pressure/timer again.

This time, it came to pressure, cooked for 5 minutes and beeped.  I used the quick release method of releasing pressure by using tongs to slightly turn the weight...




till the pressure valve dropped and removed the lid....ooooooh this smells SO good!
Top with freshly chopped parsley, rosemary, Parmesan cheese....


and eat immediately!



Recipe is available from Cuisinart.

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