Monday, January 31, 2011

Carrot and Tomato Soup!

So with the temperature outside being -21degrees Celcius, I decided that today was the perfect day to cook up a big batch of soup! I just bought a big 3lbs bag of carrots the other day so I thought that this would be the perfect recipe to try. My kitchen smelled amazing while this was cooking- the combination of spices, onions, tomatoes and carrots were incredible. This soup is souper easy to make and freezes well for a quick lunch or a lazy dinner. The original recipe called for chicken broth instead of tomatoes, but I prefer tomato based soups so I tweaked the recipe according to my tastes. Definitely a delicious soup for anyone who likes tomatoes and carrots!

 Carrots and onions

Carrot and Tomato Soup

Time: 40 minutes total, 20 active
Serves 4

-2tbsp butter
-a handful of chopped onion
-1lb large carrots (about 2 2/3 cups chopped)
-2 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes (undrained)
-2 1/2 cups water
-cumin, nutmeg, onion powder, black pepper- to taste
-1tsp lemon juice or 4 drops lemon extract

While waiting for the soup to boil, I added my spices

After boiling, the liquid is reduced slightly
1. Chop onion and carrots roughly
2. Saute onions in butter for 2 minutes. Add a dash of onion powder. 
3. Mix in carrots, add tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. 
3. Add spices. 
4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender (about 20 minutes). 
5. Remove from heat. Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. 
6. Return to pot, heat and serve.

The finished product!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Homemade Bacon and Broccoli Mac and Cheese!

For Christmas I bought my boyfriend a cookbook called 'I Love Bacon'. I bought it on the day it was released and just knew that my boyfriend would love it. And he did. He loves loves loves bacon, but here's the thing: he really doesn't cook very often. So I decided that I would make him things from that book for dinner. Recently I've been having a craving for mac and cheese, but definitely not the boxed kind, so when I saw the recipe for Bacon Mac and Cheese, I just knew I had to try it!

 MMM... Bacon!

I adapted this recipe to make it my own because the bacon book version called for white wine and Grana Padano cheese as well as some other somewhat-expensive ingredients that I just didn't feel like going out to pick up. I also added broccoli for colour, flavour and nutrition.

This recipe may seem arduous to make, but it really isn't. If you plan enough time and do it in steps, it's a snap. Don't worry about your cooked ingredients getting cold as you do other steps, it all goes in the oven in the end anyway.

After coming out of the oven

Jamie's Homemade Bacon and Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Serves 4 very hungry people or 8 if you have it with a side salad
-1 1/2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni
-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-3 cups 2% milk (heated for 2 minutes in the microwave)
-4 rounded tbsp butter (meaning it doesn't have to be exact and it's fine, possibly better if you take a little more. Just eyeball it.)
-4 tbsp flour (more if needed)
-Breadcrumbs, just enough to cover the casserole
-Onion powder, black pepper, dry mustard (not necessary if you don't have any, substitute with some garlic powder or other like spice), to taste
-6-8 strips of bacon, depending on taste
-1 crown of broccoli, stem cut off and head cut into florets (when you buy broccolli you usually get 2 crowns held together by an elastic band, you only need one of those for this recipe)

Preheat oven to 350degrees F.

1. Cook macaroni according to package instructions, drain and set aside
2. Cook broccoli, set aside
3. Cook bacon, set aside
4. Melt about 2 tbsp butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan and add enough flour to make a roux (when the mixture is somewhat thick, but the flour and butter are mixed well. Generally equal parts butter and flour will do the trick)
5. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly,
6. Stir in cheese, by the handful, stirring constantly, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is a little thick.
7. Stir in your seasonings other than paprika
8. Brown breadcrumbs in 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan, and crumble the bacon
9. Put macaroni in the pot with the sauce, along with the broccoli and bacon. Mix well.
10. Pour into casserole dish (whatever size you think it will fit nicely in) and add breadcrumbs and paprika on top.
11. Bake at 350degrees F. for 30 minutes or until a little brown and bubbly.

Before going into the oven


Monday, January 24, 2011

Dinner and Dessert!

Yesterday I spent most of the day in the kitchen, just where I love to be! I made two cheesecakes in the morning, then cleaned the kitchen for awhile, then later, for dinner I made a big pot of homemade chili! Needless to say, my boyfriend loved the outcome of my domesticity. I served my cheesecakes with lemon pie filling and raspberry jam and the combination was amazing!

New York Style Cheesecake

Makes: two regular sized cheesecakes in frozen pie crusts, or one big one with a springform pan. 
-3 packages of cream cheese- 250g each (or one cup each) 
-1 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 frozen pie crusts (you can make your own, but it is extremely difficult as I found out when I made lemon meringue and key lime pies, and it's also not worth it. If you're using a springform pan, make your own simple graham cracker crust with brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs and butter and mix until it sticks. line just the bottom of the pan with the mixture)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. 
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each until smooth. 
***Important*** If your batter looks lumpy or curdled, you added the eggs too quickly which caused the cream cheese to separate. Don't worry, you can fix this by just continuing to beat/whisk the batter smooth, or by mashing the lumps manually with a potato masher.
4. Pour into crusts (or if you are using a springform pan, pour onto your graham cracker crumb base, which you have already prepared, obviously with the sides of the pan closed.) 
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Check doneness at 20, you probably will require a few minutes more depending on your oven. Your cheesecake is done when it is still slightly jiggly, but not liquidy, and the edges appear set, while a quarter-dollar sized circle in the middle is still liquidy. 
6. Let cool on cooling racks for half an hour, then put in fridge/freezer (my fridge wasn't cold enough for it to firm up, but it depends on your fridge and your settings, so experiment to see which works best for you). If using the following lemon pie filling as a topping, top after putting it on the cooling rack for the half hour, but before putting it in the fridge/freezer. If also topping with jam or sauce, add that just before serving.

Lemon Pie Filling

Makes: about a cup or two of filling. Enough to top two cheesecakes or make a few small tarts. 
I halved the original recipe and tweaked it a little, which is why some of the measurements are odd.
- 1/2 cup + 1/8 cup of sugar (that's half a cup plus two tablespoons)
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt (just add a pinch in)
- 1 cup water
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 1/2 tbsp grated lemon rind
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (I would use a little more if you're using juice straight from a lemon, if you're using the stuff in the bottle this is the right measurement)
- 1 1/2 - 3 tbsp butter (I used the original three it called for in the full recipe and found it did nothing bad to my filling, and may have made it creamier. Do as you wish.)
1. In a heavy saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Remove from heat. Whisk about one-quarter of the mixture into a bowl with the egg yolks, then once mixed, mix back into the pan. 
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for two minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon rind, juice, and butter. Top onto cheese cake or serve within ten minutes.
***Important*** It's crucial to constantly stir the mixture at all times when it is over the heat or it will burn and stick in a big glob and be really gross. 

 Quick Beef Chili

Makes: One large pot, about 5-6 servings. More if you serve over rice. 

- vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1/4- 1/2 cup chopped onion, depending on how much you like onion
- 1 envelope chili seasoning,
- black pepper, garlic powder and red pepper seasoning to taste
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 large can (about 28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (15 ounces) of kidney beans, white or red depending on preference, undrained
- 1 can (15 ounces) of corn, undrained
- 1-2 tbsp brown sugar (does not make it sweet, just complements the other flavours. I used two tablespoons and it turned out awesome)

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet- medium heat
2. Cook ground beef and onions until pink is gone, making sure to break it up into tiny pieces
3. Stir in chili seasoning and other spices, then add remaining ingredients
4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes
5. Serve over rice, with chips or bread or on its own.


Comment Questions:
1. What's your favourite cold-weather food?
2. What do you think about me writing my own cookbook directed at teens and young adults?