Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I can wrap!

If I ever get a Food Network TV show it's going to be totally dedicated to comfort food. I don't really like to make anything else, even the new things that I make or create are things that have their roots in the foods that bring me comfort. I think the chance of me getting a Food Network TV show are about as good as me winning the power ball lottery, seeing as how I have NEVER bought at ticket. It's fun to dream and of course criticize the celebrities that I watch on my favorite network.

When I go to parties and see pinwheels I usually jump right on them. I love the creamy, savory textures mixed with the little bit of salsa that I like to dip it in. They are certainly one of my favorite party foods. I updated my normal recipe for pinwheels this week and came up with this recipe for our staff snack lunch honoring a new employee just hired. I am not saying that my old pinwheels will be shelved, but I will certainly be adding this one to the list and now offer two!

Garden Wheels

8 oz. Sour Cream

8 oz. Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
8 oz. Mexican Blend Cheese

4 oz. Chopped Black Olives
4 oz. Chopped Green Chil
2 tsp. Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash
6 Miss
ion Sun-dried Tomato Basil tortilla Wraps

In a large bowl add Sour Cream and cream cheese with pepper and Mrs. Dash, stirring well to combine. Add black olives, green chilies, and cheese, stirring well to combine. Place approximately one cup of mixture on one tortilla and spread evenly. Repeat until all tortillas are used, roll tortilla tightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator at least an hour or over night. To serve, unwrap each tortilla and cut into 1/2 inch coins using a serrated knife. Arrange on platter and serve with salsa.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Very Possible Impossible Pie

Growing up I mostly spent my time in front of the TV. I did play out side some, but not having neighbors or siblings who liked me at the time meant I was outside alone. There's only so much you can do alone, especially when you have a lazy streak. My lazy streak ran from head to toe! Around 11/12 I began watching cooking shows on PBS and really fell in love with them. Justin Wilson, Martin Yan, Jacques Pepin, Camile, Jeff Smith--The Frugal Gourmet were to name a few of my friends that really truly loved to watch. Jeff Smith taught me how to "rock chop" with a french knife and fold my fingers up so I wouldn't chop them off. I practiced and practiced. These cooks made me want to get in the kitchen and cook. Martin Yan really drove me crazy, because I LOVE Chinese food and he always made it look so good. His show was on during lunch which meant that I had to endure the visual images and then go eat a bowl of cereal or something. Not fair. If my sister were home we had to watch soaps all the dad gum day.

Some of the very first things I made as a kid were macaroni and cheese (not from a box), Egg McMuffins, and Impossible Pies. I found the recipe for Impossible Pie on the side box of a Bisquick box and decided since I had all of the ingredients I'd give it a go. I've been making them ever since. There's nothing impossible about it! It's so easy and really good, plus the variations are only limited by your imagination. I'll give you the recipe for my version of Impossible Pie and then give you some suggestions on how to make these babies all on your own.

I made this pie for Levi and Emma while Kendra and Titus were at karate last Saturday and they both loved them. Titus had the leftovers and even asked for more! So there you have it, out of the mouths of babes. My kids lean to the picky side and for them to like it was a big deal to me, since they resist the home cooked for frozen packaged nuggets and sticks!

Having this recipe, if you are a new bride, or just learning to cook is also very helpful. It's also helpful to have a blender for this because it makes mixing up the custard mix all the more easy. All you do is add all of the custard ingredients into the blender and viola! No lumps and it's ready to go. Speaking of ready to go:

Possible Pie

For Custard:
3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
1 1/2 cups Milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. Salt

Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend on high until smooth.


1 lb. Ground beef (90% fat free ) or better
1 cup onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp. Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
2 cups Shredded Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9' glass pie plate with non-stick cooking spray, set aside. In a medium skillet, over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and cook over medium high heat 3-5 minutes. Add ground beef, breaking up with potato masher, and cook until ground beef is no longer pink. Stir well, add garlic and seasonings. Taste and adjust taste to suit.

Add meat filling to pie plate, spread over plate evenly. Add one cup shredded cheese and spread evenly over meat filling. Pour custard evenly and slowly over meat and cheese filling. Cover with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes or until set.

Cut into slices and decorate with more cheese, tomato slices or just a simple salad. It's really a quick delicious main dish meal for your family. Now for variations.

Italian: Small can of drained Mushrooms, 1 Red Bell Pepper diced, 1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning, Italian Blend Cheese, fresh Parmesan cheese, Parsley.

Mexican: Small can of diced green chilies or 1 cup Salsa; Mexican blend cheese; Cilantro, 2 tsp. Oregano.

I could go on, but you get the picture. If it fits into a pie plate and can be covered by the custard--bingo! There are endless recipes online for these pie variations, give one a try and let me know what you think.

SUPER NOTE: I also think these could be portioned out in muffin tins (1/2 cup filling each w/ 1/4 cup custard) and baked then frozen for individual portions. Haven't tried that, but I'm sure it would work. If you do let me know.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Before you make your mind up that, "I don't like butternut squash!" read through this recipe and give this soup a try. One of the secretaries who works in our office at church said, "I grew up eating butternut squash and don't like it. My Mom made me eat it." After one bite of this soup, "MMM...this doesn't taste like squash...I like it." It really is a delicious soup and so easy to make. There are more steps than opening a can but the flavor bonus is way, way, worth the effort.

Let's talk about butternut squash before we get too far into the whole soup creation story. I have never worked with this squash before yesterday. I knew what it looked like, but I just never ate it, cooked it, or really touched it to be honest. My sweet wife wanted this soup and I told her I would make it for her, otherwise I would have made something else because I didn't think I liked butternut squash. Who knows I may not like it any other way, but in this soup. Butternut squash is classified as a winter squash and very closely related to the pumpkin. I read a really fascinating article on squash (YES I just said that...YES I'm weird) here. I think I was the most surprised by the smell of the squash. It smelled almost like cantaloupe, very sweet and fruity. I was not expecting that smell at all and was very surprised. I was also surprised at how easily it cleaned up. Scooping out the seeds and fibers and junk was not hard, much like tending to a cantaloupe. Once peeled it was easy to cut and deal with. All in all not as hard as I thought.

After reading about 7 or so recipes for butternut squash soup I came to the conclusion that it should be roasted first, then incorporated into the soup. I wanted to develop more of the sweetness and felt that roasting would do just that, it did. I also decided to puree, opting to not go with a chunky version...just didn't seem right. The other decision I made was to saute the other veggies in a skillet...then transfer them to the stock pot for the actual soup creation. Again, I wanted to develop flavor and felt that caramelizing the onion would add some smokiness to the soup and deepen the flavor. I love thinking about depth and layers of flavor, sounds so fancy.

Speaking of fancy I was watching my new favorite Food Network show and got pretty excited when she cut a pound of bacon into cubes and called them lardons! I had never heard of that work in my life and thought how much more cool that sounded than bacon bit! I always cut up the bacon I'm planning to fry for cornbread salad or lettuce salads, instead of breaking up the pieces after the slices are cooked. Pretty exciting to learn a fancy word for something--leave it to the French!

Some of the surprising elements of this soup that really helped make it stand out were the addition of apple, honey, and lime. They did not make it too sweet but leveled out the flavors and gave it a smoother and cleaner feel in the mouth. Very creamy, smooth, somewhat sweet, but savory and warm. It was comfort food in a bowl, friends. And delicious.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Step One: Butternut Prep.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment or quick release foil. The squash I chose was close to 6 pounds, when you make this recipe you will either need to find a smaller squash, or freeze the other half of the roasted squash until the craving to eat it again comes up--which it will. come up. I used a simple vegetable peeler to peel the squash easily. I did cut the tip and end off the squash and then peel, it gave me an edge and allowed the peeling blade to catch better I thought. As you can see it wasn't hard. The squash, raw, is very pale but intensifies in color as it cooks. It will darken several shades upon cooking. Kind of like a sweet potato.

If you look at the squash, you will notice that there is a "ball" end and a narrow, "neck" end. The seeds live in the ball end. After peeling the squash, I cut the neck off, it's all flesh and can be cut into cubes. The ball end, I cut in half and used a large soup spoon to scoop out all the seeds and fibers, just like dealing with a cantaloupe, and that easy. Then you can brake that down and cut into cubes. As you cube up the squash, place in a medium to large bowl. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat, no more than a tablespoon, salt and pepper (teaspoon of each) and toss to evenly coat. Pour that onto your sheet pan and make sure they are all evenly spread out. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until a fork is easily inserted into the squash. You can freeze half for up to a month in a tightly sealed container.

The soup:

6 slices of bacon
1 large onion, diced (1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (1 cup)
2 ribs of celery, diced (1 cup)

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
3 cloves Garlic, crushed

3 lb.s Roasted butternut squash
4 cups Chicken stock (32 ounces)
Juice of two limes
1 Tablespoon honey

1/4 cup whipping cream
Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottom pot (dutch oven) add bacon to cold pan, and turn heat to medium high. This will render more fat from the bacon and give you a crispier...ready...lardon. Cook bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Remove all but one tablespoon of bacon fat. Add celery, onion, and carrot, cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is clear. Add garlic and apple. Continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add squash and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until veggies are tender (especially the carrot).

Process mixture in batches, in either a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to dutch oven. Add lime juice, and cream taste and adjust for seasoning. Simmer until thick, no more than 10 minutes. Garnish with the lardons.

Notes: If you happen to luck upon frozen, cubed butternut squash, you will be lucky. I couldn't find the product in five stores! As I have thought about this soup I wonder...could you use canned pumpkin. Of course the plain pureed pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie version. They are so closely related being both winter squash. I may try that and see what happens, it would certainly be a very quick time saver.