Friday, August 7, 2009

Potato Leek Soup

This is a crock pot soup I like to make. It's pretty easy and very tasty. Traditionally, potato leek soups usually contain heavy cream, or other rich dairy products. My recipe uses nonfat plain yogurt. Note, usually when I write recipes, I say how the vegetables should be prepared in the ingredients list (such as one onion, minced), but since those instructions are a little more involved in this recipe, I have included them in the directions.

Potato Leek Soup, four to six servings

2 leeks
6 Yukon Gold potatoes
5 small/med cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves, chopped
1 pinch thyme powder

1. Cut off dark part and ends of leeks. Halve lengthwise, washing off any dirt on or in the leeks. 2. Chop off about 1/2 inch off of light green part of each leek and reserve. Slice the rest of the leeks into thin half-rings (I used the slicer blade on my food processor).
3. On medium-low, heat pan, and then add butter and olive oil. Once melted, add leeks, sprinkle with pinch of salt, and allow to sweat for about 5 minutes. While leeks are sweating, you can do the following:
4. Smash garlic cloves and cut off hard tips.
5. Chop garlic and reserved leeks in food processor until very fine.
6. Add garlic and leek to pan and allow to heat through for about 1 minute, then mix into rest of leek mixture. Allow leeks/garlic to continue cooking until translucent and tender. While this is cooking:
7. Peel 3 out of the 6 potatoes. Cut all potatoes into varying sizes of cubes, ranging from 1/4 inch to 1 inch.
8. Add leeks and potatoes to crock pot, adding chicken broth, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
9. Cook on high for 1 hour or until potato chunks can be cut with edge of spoon. Take a potato masher and mash some of the soup, leaving some chunks. Stir to combine newly smashed potato parts with chunks.
10. Turn crock pot down to low. Add yogurt. The yogurt can leave some small white specks in the soup. If you don't want this, push yogurt through a fine mesh colander to smooth out lumps before adding to soup. Allow soup to cook for at least 10 more minutes, or until ready to serve.

If you prefer a more vichyssoise-style soup/you want to eat it cold, you can blend the soup with a hand blender or put it in a food processor before chilling. I find that with the smaller amount of dairy and using yogurt instead of heavy cream, the soup isn't nearly as heavy and filling. Living in Texas, that's definitely a plus in the summer. Leaving some of the potato skins on also adds fiber and some nutrients to the soup. So, this is a healthier alternative to the usual potato leek soup.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Julie and Julia

So, there's a big buzz about the new movie Julie and Julia. This weekend on PBS, as part of their pledge drive, they were showing classic episodes of Julia Child's original cooking show, The French Chef. They interviewed Nora Ephron, which I thought was weird, until I remembered that she directed the movie. I never really heard of Julia Powell until this movie came out. I don't actually read too many food blogs because they rarely allow full posts to show up in feed readers and I'm picky about being able to do that. Anyway, while I'm sure Julia Powell is a great person, but I'm just not super interested in her story. I am, however, interested in Julia Child. She had a really unique, interesting life, and I think a movie just about Child would have been more than appropriate. Meryll Streep seems like a great choice to play her, and could have carried the movie herself. The Nora Ephron treatment is something I'm also unsure about, so I probably won't be seeing the movie, certainly not in the theater.

As for cooking, I made my first meal since moving this weekend. Shoulder chuck roast with onions, Yukon Gold potatoes, and carrots. Made a marinade/sauce from red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt, my "Garlic Pepper and Spices" mix from the Garlic Survival Kit, onion powder, and powdered thyme. Marinated the roast for maybe half an hour while cooking down the onions in cast iron pan. Somehow, having owned my food processor since Christmas 2006, I didn't realize that I had a slicer insert! I used it to slice my onions (cutting the onions in half first) and it was so much easier than spending an eye-burning time with a knife and cutting board. Hooray! I cooked the roast in my crock pot with some chicken stock, because it always turns out tender and is a total no-brainer to make. It turned out pretty good!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cooking Craving

Been packing and moving for the past couple weeks. Almost done, though, and looking forward to being back to cooking. I moved from a 2-year-old condo to a 40-year-old duplex that is much bigger, has a yard, etc. Of course, the mid-60s (perhaps somewhat renovated in the '90s, but with cheap materials) kitchen with linoleum counters, awkward storage, tiny oven, and miniscule counter space is not quite as nice as my 2006 kitchen with granite counters, stainless appliances, side-by-side fridge with in-door water and ice, and big, smooth rolling drawers. However, the pantry is way bigger, so that's one point for my new old kitchen.

Hopefully I will be back and posting new recipes very soon! The next thing I want to cook is actually not going to be of my own creation, it's going to be a Ming Tsai recipe. I don't normally enjoy Chinese or American Chineseish food, but his ginger beef with leeks (cached link because the real site is missing) sounds really good. It involves a ginger syrup that I'm going to make and store for other uses.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This is my recipe to spice up store-bought mac & cheese from a box. I like the Annie's Shells and Real Aged Cheddar. This kind uses powder cheese mix, which is better for this type of thing than the kind with the squeezy liquid cheese because you make your own sauce. I also prefer to use a mix where the cheese is colored orange (Annie's uses natural colorings) because otherwise with the tuna and pasta, the result looks so sad and beige.

1 box mac and cheese mix with powdered cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2/3 c beer (a darker beer is good for a heavier taste, lighter beers for a lighter taste, but stay away from things like Hefeweizen or flavory beers like fruity ones or spicy ones or it will taste weird. I've used Shiner Bock and Tecate with fine results)
1/3 c plain yogurt (if you don't have yogurt, you can use less milk, whatever the box calls for)
1 package of tuna (the kind in the pack is better than the kind in the can, in my opinion)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Fill pot with as much water as recommended on your mac & cheese package, bring to boil.
2. Once water is boiling, pour pasta into pot, bring back to boil, simmer for time allotted on package. While pasta is cooking, you can do the following. Whenever pasta is done, drain, and then set aside if ready before you are done making the sauce.
3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat.
4. When oil is heated, add garlic, cook until softened, but don't let it brown. Add salt and pepper.
5. Add beer, stir and allow to reduce somewhat
6. Mix powdered cheese mix with yogurt or milk until blended completely.
7. Turn heat off on pan. Add cheese mixture and stir until well incorporated.
8. Add pasta to skillet. Stir to coat in sauce. Turn heat back on to low.
9. Mix up tuna by squeezing sides of tuna packet or breaking up with fork and add to pan. Mix well into pasta.
10. If sauce seems too watery, allow to reduce on low until thicker, but stir often to ensure that pasta and tuna don't start to burn or stick to bottom of pan.

You can add minced and/or caramelized onion, too, but make sure the onion is fully softened on its own before adding garlic or beer so that it doesn't cook too long.

Monday, July 6, 2009

HEB Brownie Mix, now with extra lard

I bought a box of HEB brand brownie mix. Now, when I make brownies, I put pureed spinach in the batter. It makes them moist, adds some nutrients, and you can't taste it at all. I usually buy all-natural brownie mix from the food coop, but grabbed this box of HEB brand mix because it was supposed to be some good old timey recipe.

Well, it was. I made the brownies and decided to look at the box to see if they had regular sugar or corn syrup solids. I found out that they have sugar, but they also contain "vegetable or animal shortening, including any one of the following: beef fat, lard, vegetable oil." WHAT?? They put beef fat and/or pork lard in brownie mix?

I don't really eat pork, but it's not something I 100% avoid, and I definitely eat beef, but the idea of animal fats in my brownies is gross. Not wanting to waste food, and reminding myself that they may not contain animal fat, and even if they do, it's probably trace amounts, I'm going to eat them. However, I'm emailing HEB to ask why it's necessary to include these ingredients.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Roasted Grape Tomato Chutney/Jam

This is a recipe for an easy grape tomato chutney/jam that you can store and has many uses. I like to eat it on toasted bread, sometimes with cheese. I started making this when I forgot about a carton of grape tomatoes and they got all pruny and dried out. If you use ones in this state, the paste will be more flavorful.

Note: this recipe makes enough for 2-4 servings, depending on how you use it. If you want to make more, you can safely double the recipe if you have a large pan, but if you want to make more, you might want to do it in batches.

1 package of grape tomatoes
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
2 tsp honey or 1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 c red wine
3 tbsp c olive oil (you can use your non-extra virgin stuff for this)
splash of red wine vinegar

1. Heat a skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium heat.
2. Cut the tops off of the stem end of the tomatoes.
3. Squeeze the guts out of the tomatoes. You don't have to be too vigilant about getting out all the seeds, or about not tearing the tomatoes, just get out the liquids.
4. Pour in just enough olive oil to lubricate the bottom of the pan, or use an olive oil cooking spray. Don't add too much oil because we want the tomato skin to get full contact with the hot pan.
5. Add the tomatoes in one layer to the pan. Sprinkle salt on top.
6. After 1-2 minutes, or when skin on the bottom looks blistery and is starting to turn golden brown, flip the tomatoes over with tongs.
7. After another 1-2 minutes, or when skin on other side is blistery and golden, stir up the tomatoes to heat them a bit more all around.
8. Remove tomatoes from pan, place on cutting board.
9. While tomatoes cool somewhat, pour red wine into pan and scrape cooked on bits with a spatula. Add garlic to pan.
10. Use sharp knife and tongs to chop up and mash up the tomatoes. Try to get through the skins so that you have a chunky paste without too many large stringy parts.
11. Place the tomato back into the pan, adding the 3 tbsp olive oil, honey or sugar, splash of red wine vinegar, and ground black pepper to taste. Stir and turn heat to low.
12. Allow the mixture to heat for 5 minutes, stirring often to ensure it doesn't stick. If it starts to look too cooked, turn heat down.
13. Cool mixture and store in refrigerator.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Crockpot Salmon and Leeks (with Carrots)

I'm not a great blogger, but I'm a pretty good cook. Recipes will be shared on this blog often in lieu of me having anything interesting to say.

This is a recipe for salmon and leeks made in a crockpot. The carrots are cooked separately because the other person I cook for doesn't like soft carrots.

(Serves 2)
1 salmon filet (get the size that's best for your hunger level)
3 large carrots, peeled, split lengthwise and cut into 1" pieces
1 leek, just the white part and about 3" of green, cut into 2" long thin strips
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp butter

The salmon can be seasoned with a pre-made seafood seasoning of your choice or:
Salmon Rub (amounts can be adjusted based on how big your filet is)
1/2 tsp onion powder
pinch thyme (powder)
pinch oregano
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1 tsp olive oil
enough splashes of red wine vinegar to make it into a paste/to taste

You can either do these steps before you start the other steps or while you are boiling vegetables:
1. Take salmon and make slices (not too deep) into the flesh of the fish crosswise both ways (score it, basically)
2. Either sprinkle with your choice of seasoning, or use the salmon rub, rubbing in with a brush (I like a silicone brush) or your hands
3. Wrap fish in plastic wrap or wax paper and put back in fridge

1. Turn crockpot on high
2. Blanch leek slices in 4 cups of salted boiling water for 3 minutes, remove from water using slotted spoon/spider, reserve water in pot, set leeks aside.
3. Add carrots into water, return to boil until reach desired tenderness (I left mine in for 4 minutes), remove as with leeks, reserving water in pot.
4. Pour out half of the remaining water (not too important how much is left)
5. Add olive oil, butter, and garlic. Bring back to boil for 10 minutes.
6. Pour contents of pot into crockpot.
7. Put fish skin side down, it should be just barely covered by liquid.
8. Place leeks on top of fish.
9. Place cover on crockpot. Allow to cook until fish flakes, about 1 hour, depending on thickness. You can also cook it on low for 2-3 hours, if you prefer.

There's a good chance that the fish will break apart as you try to remove it, so if you have a large spatula, use it to minimize the breakage.