Everyone should roast their soups...

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup
So this is the second soup recipe I've used from Everyday Food in a week--and it's another fabulous one. The roasting helps speed up the cooking process, as well as gives the soups a really rich flavor, no matter what ingredients you use. The Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup was amazing--nice, juicy chunks of chicken resting between creamy, butternut squash. This time I was better about seasoning, and the soup wasn't too salty (again--watch how much you add throughout the cooking process). You can go ahead and follow Everyday Food's recipe exactly, except I would adjust a few things:
  • Roast the chicken in a separate pan so the grease from the meat doesn't mix with the vegetables. That way, when you're ready to add the roasted veggies to a pot to simmer, you can add a little broth to the pan and scrap out all the blackened bits that are stuck to the pan--those will be amazing in the soup.
  • If you like a thicker soup, withhold 1 cup of broth from the pot until you mash up the veggies—4 cups makes a rather thin soup.
They've finally posted the recipes online here for the October issue (which sadly, is not in stores anymore) so you can make it yourself. I'm probably going to try all these recipes before the month is out, but you don't have to wait for me to try them:


Steps to Selecting a Food Magazine

Pulling the trigger on a food magazine is tough---I've had one for Cooking Light and Food & Wine but the first was too overwhelming (you'll have enough recipes for 5 years after 3 issues!) and the next was a little too travel focused for my taste (although it had some great regional cuisines).

I'm loving Everyday Food right now for a few reasons. First, it's quick--there's enough recipes to keep you interested and the departments are topics that actually appeal to my life (In Season; Tonight's Dinner, Tomorrow's Lunch; Dinner for One). Second, it JUST focuses on food so I don't feel like I'm wasting paper with travel, health, or beauty pages I never read. Finally, the recipes are really good.

So before I buy a year's worth, I wanted to make sure it would be a productive investment. I decided to buy the current issue and see how often I use it in a week.

My first recipe: 

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup
Everyday Food
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut into 1-inch cubes 2 medium eggplants, salt the pieces and add to a roasting pan. Add 1 small yellow onion (diced medium), 2 garlic cloves (unpeeled) and drizzle everything with olive oil (about 4 t.) Season with Salt and Pepper. In a second roasting pan, toss 1 can chickpeas (rinsed, drained, and patted dry) with 1-2 t. olive oil. Roast both pans until eggplant is golden and chickpeas are slightly crunchy and whistling (30-35 minutes).
  2. Set aside chickpeas. Unpeel garlic and place in a pot with the eggplant, onion, and 4 cups unsalted chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer over a medium-high heat, and then mash together until soup is thick and chunky. Add chickpeas back into soup and season with salt and pepper. Top with oregano and plain yogurt (or goat cheese.

Edit 10/22/10:
I meant to link to this article The Washington Post ran earlier. There is another roasted eggplant soup at the bottom, but it seems much more complicated. If anyone tries it, let me know!


An Intro into Squash

I've never been a big squash fan, but once I moved up north I've starting to see the benefits of the food group in the cooler, fall months. The starchy texture and flavor of squash is really filling when it gets cold, so I've started to expand my recipe repertoire to see what squash can do for me.

Acorn Squash with Rosemary and Brown Sugar
I started with a recipe I found at The Bitten Word, although their review wasn't so stellar. Despite being warned, I tried it anyway. It wasn't all that bad—the brown sugar overpowered the dish with its sweetness, but lemon helped cut that down a tad. With six more wedges to eat, I decided to set them aside and try again the next night, only this time cube the squash and add it into a pasta recipe:

Sweet Acorn Squash in Brown Butter Sauce
Sweet Acorn Squash Pasta in Brown Butter Sauce
Converted from a Fine Cooking recipe
  • One 2-lb. acorn squash (unpeeled), halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 2-3 T. butter
  • 1 t. Rosemary
  1. Using a paring knife, score each wedge of squash lengthwise down the middle of the flesh. Heat the butter and oil in a straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the squash in the pan in a single layer and cook, flipping occasionally, until deep golden-brown on all cut sides.
  2. Carefully pour the wine into the pan, then quickly scatter the brown sugar, rosemary, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper over the squash. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is almost tender, about 10 minutes more.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a pot of water to boil and add in pasta.
  4. Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium. Flip the squash and cook until the liquid is thick and the squash is tender, about 5 minutes more. 
  5. In a separate pan, heat butter until it browns, then add in rosemary leaves. (Note: If you have a lot of liquid left in your squash pan, you can skip this step)
  6. Season with salt and pepper, cube into 1 inch pieces. Add pasta to pan and serve. Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano.
Adding the sweet squash to pasta helped break up that sweetness, and the brown butter sauce made the entire meal really delicious and rich.

So what other squash recipes should I try? I think I'll explore Butternut and Spaghetti squash next, and maybe a soup recipe or two. Any suggestions?


My '60s Style, Mad Men Finale Party

The Bar...right next to the door

Sunday night was the Mad Men finale, and as my entire department is addicted to the show, I wanted to host a '60s era party to let us all watch it together. Not only was it a chance to talk about my favorite show with my friends, but it also let me explore my Betty Draper-self and see how I did hosting a party. Thanks to everyone who brought a few supplies with them, I also managed to keep it fairly economical and only spent $50 on the party (not counting liquor). Here's what I made:

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Celery Stalks with Peanut Butter and Goat Cheese/Paprika
Cheese Fondue
Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
Pigs in a Blanket
Spinach Feta Wheels
I divided up the menu between things I knew would be good (The Cooking Light Spinach Artichoke Dip is by far the most popular dip I've ever made), things I wanted to try out (Pigs in the Blanket, and the Spinach Feta Wheels--two puff pastry recipes in one box!) and things I could assign out for others to bring (Utz, dips, the delicious Tomato Tart).

The homemade chex mix was made the day before with Chris and his mother. Although she used the original recipe on the back of the box, there was definitely some alterations based on how Chris liked his Chex Mix (more pretzels, cashews, and Worcestershire...no Brazilian nuts). I loved it because it was a lot less salty than the store-bough kind, and the flavors really grew by the time of the party to this fantastic flavor.

Because I wanted to serve everything hot, but didn't want to be slaving away in the kitchen, I spent the afternoon making everything else, and chilled them in the fridge until an hour before people were suppose to arrive. Sure enough, as I prepped my Joan hair and costume, the puff pastry items were in the oven and served hot as people started arriving around 8.
    My Joan Look
    Finally, what would a Mad Men party be without drinks? We served Old Fashioneds, Gimlets, and Gin Martinis, all listed below.

    The Old Fashioned
    1. Place a large sugar cube (or a spoonful) in a short tumbler glass with 2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Add one orange slice and two maraschino cherries and muddle together until sugar is dissolved. 
    2. Fill glass with 3-4 cubes of ice, and pour in 1-2 shots of Bourbon (until it reaches the ice).
    3. Note: for virgin old fashioned drinkers, you can add in a shot of orange juice to cut the taste of the whiskey.
    Gin Gimlets 
    1. Add 3 parts gin and 1 part Roses' Lime Juice to a shaker with 2-3 cubes of ice. Shake vigorously until shaker is freezing, and pour into a martini glass. (Although it is said shaking bruises the gin)
     Gin Martini
    1. Add a dash of Vermouth to a martini glass, coating the sides, and then discard.
    2. Add 1-2 shots of Gin (or vodka) to shaker with ice, shake 2-3 times, then pour into the glass. Add olive, and as much olive juice as you like (if you like it dirty).


    Fun Deal Today: Sweetgreen

    I saw this deal for Sweetgreen on Living Social today and decided to check it out before buying my $40 coupon for $20. Sweetgreen is a local company started in Georgetown that focuses on local, organic ingredients. Fast food that is fresh. Sounds yummy right? Plus once I saw the avocado staring at me on their website I knew I had to try it, so I went there for lunch:

    Set up like Chipotle, only with yummy, healthy ingredients
    A perfect lunch for someone who loves toppings
    The layout was very clean, and there was a big chalkboard next to the counter that detailed both the local farms used that day, and the seasonal ingredients to choose from. They have eight salads on the menu that could also be made into a wrap with no extra charge. You get to choose light, medium, or heavy dressing, and they serve it with a piece of fresh bread!

    There are a few locations in the area, so if you are close by one, you should definitely try it out--if not take my word for it and buy the coupon (it's good for another day or two).



    Food Budget Revisited

    So if you've noticed I've kept up my ongoing food budget on my blog to see how I do without the pressure of a month-long project. You've also noticed, I'm not doing very well--already $65 over just 10 days into the month. Right now, I'm spending a lot at Whole Foods--plus two $20 dinners out (which isn't too much of a problem). Looks like I was celebrating a little too much with fancy foods after an entire month of holding back.

    I wanted to post this because I wanted to call myself out--and then see how I can fix it. There are three weeks left in October, so that's plenty of time for me to bring more lunches into work, go through my pantry for dinners, and cut down my eating out until I'm back in the green. So here goes--let's see how it turns out.


    The Long and the Short of Dinners

    I made two dinners this weekend, one took 4 hours, and the other was ready in 30 minutes. Both can be made for $10-$15, and both were amazing meals and worth the effort it took to make them--so I wanted to post both in case they give you any ideas going into the winter. 

    The Short Ribs are a great meal to make in the late afternoon on a cold, winter weekend when you have the time to let them braise---and the Honey Mustard Chicken is fantastic for a quick, easy weekday meal; so you can decide what sounds good for when.

    Short Ribs on Polenta with red wine
    Braised Short Ribs 
    • 1 package 5-6 bone-in short ribs
    • 1 t. allspice
    • 2 T. flour
    • 1 large onion, finely diced
    • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
    • 2 large carrots, finely diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
    • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes (10 oz. each)*
    • 1 can tomato paste (8 oz.)
    • 2 cups hearty red wine 
    • 2 cups chicken stock (if needed)
    • 2 t. thyme
    • 2 bay leaves
    1. Coat an oven-safe dutch oven with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Salt spare ribs, combine allspice and flour and coat the ribs on all sides. Add ribs to the pan and brown, 2-3 minutes per side, and remove.
    2. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to pan, season with salt, and cook 5-7 minutes. Add in tomatoes, cook another 5 minutes. *The Rotel gives the ribs a spicy finish, but if you'd rather use 1 large can crushed tomatoes, that's more traditional. Add in the wine, lower the heat to medium, and reduce the mixture by half--usually about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    3. Return the ribs to the oven and add in enough chicken stock to just cover the ribs. (If your mixture is still watery, you can skip adding in the stock--but feel free to add more as it's cooking to keep it moist). Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours, uncovered for the last 30 minutes. When done the meat should be tender, but not falling apart.
    4. Serve ribs and braising liquid together. Also, placing the dish on baked polenta, mashed potatoes or something else that can sop up the braising liquid is a nice touch--and easy to create when you're waiting for it to cook.

    Honey Mustard Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Old Fashions

    Honey-Mustard Chicken
     Serving for two
    • 2 Chicken Breasts (thighs are okay too)
    • Garlic Salt
    • Dijon Mustard
    • Two parts lime juice
    • One part honey
    1. Preheat oven to a high broil. Sprinkle with garlic salt and spread each liberally with mustard. Broil chicken 5-7 inches away from heat for 10 minutes.
    2. Stir lime and honey together and brush mixture on chicken. Broil for another 5 minutes then turn the pieces over. Spread the other side with mustard, broil for another 5 minutes, or until tender. Baste with remaining lime-honey mixture and let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Serve with rice or potatoes.