Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: Denise's Tomato and Bean Soup

OK, you guys.  I completely renamed this one.  The original recipe is called My Mom's 15-Minute Tomato and Bean Stoup.

Not only is stoup not a word, but the only way this takes 15 minutes is if you've spent 20 minutes before that peeling, and chopping, and preparing.  It's Rachael Ray with more of her tricky tricks, and I'm not going to let you guys fall for it.

So, I'm dedicating this soup (SOUP) to my aunt, who gave me this cookbook, and who I mentioned in yesterday's post.  This soup is delicious!  And if you use vegetable stock/broth instead of chicken, it's vegetarian, too.

My aunt didn't ever have any kids, so my sister and I were what she had.  As a result, whenever we'd see her, she'd spoil us a little -- we always knew it was coming, but we always enjoyed it nonetheless.

She was a big fan of going to concerts, and she took my sister and me along often. Meatloaf and Michael Bolton were two of her favorite artists -- I looked for a meatloaf recipe in this book, but Rachael Ray let me down.

It's actually because of her that I can say I have, in my life, seen the 90's Pop Trifecta -- Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and NSync -- in concert.  Britney and BSB, I saw in my adulthood, but Denise bought tickets to an NSync show for me to go to back in 2000, not terribly long before the group stopped performing together.  She actually got sick the night of the show, so Katie and I went with. . .our father and grandfather.  A motley crew, for sure.

The thing was, though, Denise was a force to be reckoned with.  She wanted what she wanted the way she wanted it, and now.  It wasn't until I was older (well, she died when I was 22, so "older" is relative, I guess) that I was able to more or less say "No.  No, that's not what I want to do."

The best example I have is being. . .I don't know.  12, 13?  And she took me bra shopping.  Yeah.  That was mortifying enough.  Except the thing was, she insisted on seeing how it fit, and she wasn't going to go into a fitting room with me, so she made me try on a bra over my clothes in the middle of the store.

Imagine being 12, barely needing a bra anyway, but having to try one on in public over your clothes.

It might not sound so bad, but trust me.  Just trust me.

So despite that, here's a soup, dedicated to Denise, an NSync concert, and the worst bra shopping experience I've ever had.

Denise's Tomato and Bean Soup
Makes 4 servings (can be frozen)
From Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: a Year of Deliciously Different Dinners


2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (use half of this if you don't like things spicy)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups chicken stock or broth (use vegetable to make this soup vegetarian)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 bag frozen green beans
Salt and pepper
1 cup basil leaves, torn (about 20 leaves)
Parmesan cheese for the top

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stir a few times, then add the onion, carrots, celery, and zucchini.  Cook for 10 minutes.

Add the broth/stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans.

Heat the soup to bubbling and add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in basil. 

Ladle into bowls and top with cheese.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: Zucchini and Bow Ties

I'm back again with yet another Rachael Ray offering. (See past RR stuff here, here, here, here, here, aaaaaaand here.)  This cookbook has a legitimate story behind it, and it's the first Rachael Ray cookbook I ever owned.  Let's see if I can sum this up in 300 words or less.  (Probably not.)

On Christmas Eve 2006, my dad called to tell me his sister, my aunt Denise had died, and it was. . .unexpected.  She wasn't well, per se, but she didn't seem bad off enough to just die randomly on Christmas Eve.

As you might expect, we didn't do Christmas at my grandparents' (both of whom were still living at the time) like we usually did.  A few weeks later, my sister and I received the gifts Denise had bought us.

I don't know if any of you have ever opened Christmas gifts from someone who died not too long after buying them for you, but it's surreal.

I had just started really getting into cooking for myself, and here it was for Christmas that year -- my first Rachael Ray book.  (And it wasn't until I was writing this post that I realize this is probably why I've made it something of a mission to own all the RR cookbooks.  Huh.  Go figure.)

Anyway, I won't do the RR things that make me insane like referring to the olive oil as EVOO, or using the word "stoup" for something that is clearly a soup.

Instead, I'll just offer up a thanks for the cookbook -- I had this one before I started collecting cookbooks with a vengeance.

Zucchini and Bow Ties
Makes 4 servings
From Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats -- a Year of Deliciously Different Dinners


Salt and pepper
1 lb. bow tie pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup basil leaves, torn (20 leaves or so)

Prepare the pasta as indicated on the package.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and garlic together in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the pasta to the zucchini.  Add cheese and basil, and toss for about 30 seconds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When Good Appetizers Go Bad

You guys probably don't know (mostly because I haven't told you yet), but next month, I'm going to be doing something a little different.

Seeing as to how I have a million recipes I've ripped and clipped from magazines, next month is going to be Magazine in May.  All next month, I'm going to post recipes I've gotten from magazines.

I'm doing all these recipes ahead of time, and because of that, I can share with you this little. . .blunder without having to make it one of my days in May.

I got the recipe for French Fry Franks out of an issue of Food Network Magazine, the May 2011 issue to be exact.  They were under the heading "Fun Cooking" and someone named Claudia Sidoti said "French fries and hot dogs are the perfect combo!  It seemed only natural to bring them together."  Deep fried hot dogs and fries!  What a gas!

I can't even get into all the ways this went wrong.

For one, when you buy a bag of "zesty twists". . .

. . .you probably expect some twists.

But you'd be wrong.

I'm no potato expert, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to twist these around anything.

Literally, these were the only ones in the bag even vaguely capable of twistiness:

Even with these, most of them fell apart while I was trying to wrap them around the hot dogs.

I really tried, you guys.

I did eat them, so I guess I got what I deserved there:  For the rest of the evening, my stomach felt like it was trying to turn itself inside out.  I wasn't sick proper, but I was knocking on the door of sick all night.

So no, I'm not sharing this recipe, and I'll be finding another Magazines in May recipe to take its place.

I think we've all learned a lesson here.  I know I have.

Friday, April 18, 2014

15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes: Chicken Skillet Roma

This cookbook has done it.  I'm pretty sure this is the first time I have love, love, loved everything I've made out of a cookbook during a blogging week.  There was nothing about anything I made I didn't like, and so now, you've got easy, low-carb recipes for lunch and dinner.

This recipe was ridiculously easy.  (This is the first time a cookbook has claimed that things took X-number of minutes or less and it was not dirty, filthy lies.  I'm looking at you, Rachael Ray.)

Chicken Skillet Roma
Serves 4-5


1 1/2 lbs. chicken (the recipe calls for boneless, skinless breasts; I used thighs), cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
1 onion, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup spaghetti sauce (or, make your own!)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Saute the chicken, pepper, onion, and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir in spaghetti sauce, let cook for another minute.

Serve with the cheese on top.

And oh, yeah.  You know what goes great with this chicken?

Oh yeah.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes: Sour Cream(ed) Spinach

Oh, man.

I'm 2 for 2 in this cookbook.  Monday's chicken salad recipe was amazing, and now I have this faux-creamed spinach, and it was vaguely life-altering.

I'm a huge fan of creamed spinach -- I can eat piles of it.  I know, though, that there's enough fat in a normal batch to choke a horse, so while I'll eat tons of it. . .I'm very conscious of exactly what I'm eating.

This stuff, though. . .the author of the cookbook said of this recipe:  "My husband liked this so much, he yummed down the whole batch."

I was dubious.

And then I made it.

And I 'yummed' down the whole batch.

No regrets.  Plus, tons of Vitamin A!

I changed it up a little bit, using light sour cream instead of regular, and using 2/3 cup of it instead of the 1/3 the recipe called for.  The 1/3 just didn't have the consistency I was looking for, but 2/3 was perfect.

If you like creamed spinach, or if you're trying to convince someone else to like creamed spinach, try this recipe.  It's just awesome.

Sour Cream(ed) Spinach
Makes 3 servings (or 1 serving for me)
From 15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes


10-oz. package frozen spinach
1/4 of an onion
2 Tbsp. butter
2/3 cup light sour cream
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

If you got a microwave-in-the-package spinach like I did, follow the instructions on the bag.  If not, unwrap spinach and put in a cover-able microwavable dish.  Add 2 Tbsp. water, cover, and microwave for 5 minutes.

Add the butter to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion in the butter.

When the spinach is cooked and the onion is, too, drain the spinach and add to the pan with the onion.  Stir to combine.

Stir in sour cream and vinegar, heat it through (don't let it get quite to a simmer), and serve.  Or eat it straight out of the pan.  No judgement here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes: Border Town Chicken Salad

Green seems to be the theme of this post.

The only plate I had clean to use for my ingredients was my green one, and then everything on the plate was green, and then the chicken salad was green from the avocado dressing, and I wondered if it was a green overload. . .and then I realized I was giving it way too much thought.

So green it is.

I really like this week's cookbook.  Most of you know I'm a Type 1 diabetic.  Really, I should be doing the low-carb thing more often then I do.  I just really love bread, you know?  But the recipes I made out of this cookbook make me think I could maybe stand to do low-carb more often.

This chicken salad, when I had it for dinner the first night, I just put it on a bed of lettuce.  (Incidentally, it's how I learned Zelda also likes romaine lettuce.)

The next day, I put it on wheat bread to make a sandwich (there's that daggone bread again!)  It also made a couple more sandwiches.  Or you could just eat it straight out of the bowl.  It's versatile that way.

Border Town Chicken Salad
Make 3-4 servings
From 15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes


Guacamole Dressing

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. hot sauce, plus more for flavor
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more for flavor

Chicken Salad

1 batch Guacamole Dressing
2 cans chicken (or 2 cups diced, cooked chicken)
3 stalks celery, diced
3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
6 scallions, diced

To make the Guacamole Dressing:

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed, and place in a food processor.  

(NOTE:  I didn't have access to a food processor when I made this, so I put it in a bowl and used a stick blender.)  

Add the yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, hot sauce, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Add more hot sauce and salt to taste.

To make the salad:

Mix everything together.  

(Easy, right?)  

Mix with guacamole dressing.

Taste to see if you need more salt and/or hot sauce, and add those to taste.  

Serve on lettuce or as a sandwich.  Or just grab a spoon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jell-O Shot Cupcakes

I had a really sad thing happen to me last weekend.

I was all excited to make these cupcakes (originally from That's So Michelle).  I don't have my kitchen stuff out of storage yet (I know!), so I had to go buy a cupcake carrier (they were going to a potluck, and I had nothing to carry them in) as well as all the ingredients necessary and a cupcake baking pan.

They turned out phenomenal(ly?).  My Jell-O shot cubes were a little on the short, wide side, but they were so pretty, and when I tasted one, they were so good.  This is a really good recipe!

So I brought them to the potluck, and. . .no one ate any.  No one tried them.  And then they melted, and they looked like this:

I don't know if you've ever made anything for a potluck that no one tried, but it's really disheartening, especially if you're like me and get 85% of your self-worth from people liking things you've made.  (I'm kidding.  Sort of.)  Especially when you had to mix the homemade frosting by hand (my KitchenAid is in storage), and buy all this stuff when you're on a pretty tight budget for the time being.

So the moral of this story is, you should definitely make these cupcakes.  Just make sure they're going to be eaten (and eaten before they melt), and that they're in a cool area.  Also, wear sunscreen if you're going to be in direct sunlight from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.  I don't know why it didn't occur to me to do that, but it didn't, and now I'm crispy fried.

Legitimately, you don't even have to make these with the vodka.  You can't really taste it, and then if you bring them to a potluck and no one eats them, you don't waste half a bottle of vodka like I did.

Cherry Jell-O Shot Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen (It's better to give yourself two days to make these)
Original recipe from That's So Michelle


1 box white cake mix
Eggs, as called for on box
Vegetable oil, as called for on box
Water, as called for on box

Jell-O For Cake
1 box Jell-O (I used cherry, but you can use whatever you want)
1 cup cake flavored vodka
1 cup water

Frosting and Jell-O Cube
2 packages cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick butter
Food coloring (optional -- I didn't color the frosting, but you can if you want)
1 cup cake flavored vodka
1 cup water
2 envelopes gelatin (like Knox)

Bake your cupcakes according to the directions on the box.  Once they've cooled, poke them a couple times through the top of the cupcake with a fork.  Set aside.

Add one cup water to a saucepan and add one box of Jell-O to the water.  Heat over medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a simmer.  Turn off the heat, and add one cup cold vodka.  Stir well.

Let the Jell-O mixture come to room temperature and spoon this over the cupcakes.  Make sure you don't let the cupcakes and Jell-O set in the same pan you use to pour the Jell-O, because they could get stuck to the bottom.

Refrigerate the cupcakes for an hour or so to let the Jell-O harden.

In another pan, add one cup water and the other box of Jell-O, and stir until combined.  Sprinkle your gelatin on top, and let it sit for one minute.  Turn the heat to medium high and let the mixture simmer.  Turn off heat and add one cup cold vodka.  Pour into a pan and refrigerate for several hours until firm.

To make the frosting, mix cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until smooth.  Mix in food coloring if you want.  Top your cupcakes, making sure to pile the frosting high enough to rest a cube of Jell-O in.

Cut your refrigerated Jell-O into squares.  Top your cupcakes with Jell-O squares close to serving time.  Keep refrigerated.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cooking From the Farmers' Market: Warm Plums with Honey and Greek Yogurt

I hope that by now, you guys have forgiven me for Wednesday's Travesty Sandwich.  I went a little off the rails with that one.

However, if you haven't forgiven me yet, you will after you try this recipe.  It's another one from the gorgeous Cooking From the Farmer's Market, and while it's relatively healthy in its original state using Greek yogurt, it's also really good on vanilla ice cream.  Depends on how you're feeling that day, I guess.

I don't have a lot to say about this one except that it's really, really good, and it's pretty, and when I saw the photo in the cookbook, I immediately realized it wouldn't do in anything else except my giant wine glass.  
(If you wondered, and I know you did, I got that glass free at the Valentine's Day soiree my apartment complex had.  Free wine and snacks and a chocolate fountain.  I love California.)

With this one, I halved the number of plums and the amount of yogurt used from the original recipe, but kept everything else the same.  Just keep that in mind if you want to make more than two servings of this.

Warm Plums with Honey & Greek Yogurt
Makes 2 servings
From Cooking From the Farmers' Market


2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar (which is not in my photo for some reason)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 firm, ripe plums, halved., pitted, and cut into 1-inch wedges
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a baking dish, stir together the vanilla, honey, and sugar.  Add the plums and toss.  Dot the mixture with the butter pieces, and roast until just warm, about 6 minutes.

Spoon a small amount of the mixture and a spoonful or so of the juices into each serving glass, then add 1/2 cup of yogurt to each glass.  Top with remaining plums.

Sprinkle with pistachios and serve immediately.

If you have any left over, it's also really good heated up and poured over ice cream.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cooking From the Farmer's Market: Apple & Artisan Cheddar Panini

Every now and again, I'll see a recipe in a cookbook and think, "That sounds fantastic!" and I'll put it on my food agenda, and then the day will come when it's time to make it, and I think, "That sounds fantastic! . . .but I don't really have what's needed to make this!"

And then I'll make it anyway.

That's kind of what happened with this sandwich.  I kept the idea of the sandwich, but in execution, it's sort of like. . .it would be like being in the mood for a big scoop of ice cream with jimmies and instead, having a bowl of vanilla Greek yogurt.  The yogurt's good.  You like the yogurt. . .but it's not what it was supposed to be, and even though the yogurt was good, you can't help but feel a little disappointed.

It's not the sandwich's fault.  It's mine for picking it when I knew I wasn't up to the execution.  It's a panini, and not only do I not have a panini press, I also don't have anything resembling a panini press because all my cooking stuff is still in storage.

Sorry, sandwich.  I'm sorry you never met your full potential, and that I was too cheap to go out and buy sourdough bread and artisan cheddar, which was what you wanted, and instead, I used wheat bread and pre-sliced, pre-packaged cheese.  At least I used a delicious apple!  Right?

What makes this situation all the more sad is that this is a really, really gorgeous cookbook, and I feel like I've let its authors down.

Sarah's Sad Apple and Cheese Sandwich
Makes one sad sandwich
Loosely Inspired By: Cooking From the Farmers' Market


2 sad pieces of wheat bread (sourdough if you want to do it right)
Several sad pieces of cheese (thinly sliced artisan cheddar if you're not besmirching the good name of sandwiches everywhere)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red apple, cut into slices

Brush one side of each sad piece of bread with olive oil.  Layer your apple and sad cheese on the unoiled side of the bread slice.  Put the other bread slice on top, and press the pieces together to bury your sandwich's sadness way down deep inside.

Place sandwich in a pan over medium heat and cook, flipping sandwich over a few times, until the bread is lightly browned, and the cheese has melted.

In this case, the sad sandwich adventure was topped off by the fact that the bread was way toasted before the cheese was fully melted.  I ate it anyway.  I was hungry.

My deepest apologies to the authors of this cookbook, the sandwich itself, and sandwiches everywhere.