February 28, 2011

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

I started with an Emeril Lagasse recipe and then made several modifications including substituting potato instead of onion, regular milk instead of cream, colby jack instead of cheddar, and I changed a few of the other ratios. The result? One of the best soups I've made yet. It was creamy with just the right amount of saltiness. I'm not a broccoli fan but I would make this again for sure, especially as it took only about 30 minutes from start to finish. The recipe below yields 4 healthy size portions. Enjoy!

1. An immersion blender is definitely the way to go on this one. Not too expensive (about $30), it makes the soup blending process so easy since you can blend everything right in your pot on the stove without having to transfer everything to a blender.

3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup shredded potato
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli, thawed and separated
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Colby Jack Cheese, extra for garnish
Croutons, for garnish

1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat.
2. Add potato, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring about 1 minute.
4. Add the flour and cook, stirring about 2 minutes.
5. Slowly add the chicken stock, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil.

6. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
7. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes.

8. Remove the pot from the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

9. Add milk and bring to slight simmer.
10. Add cheese and cook over low heat, stirring, until melted

11. Serve and garnish with cheese and croutons if desired.

February 27, 2011


Anyone that loves a good Disney show knows about Ratatouille. It is my all-time favorite movie and it might have just become my all-time favorite healthy meal.

Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs - all simmered in olive oil. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature, either as a side dish or as an appetizer with bread or crackers. In this recipe, from Cook's Illustrated, we ate it as our main meal and included all the core ingredients except the bell peppers, and the tomatoes and fresh herbs came from our garden!

As wonderful as the finished product tasted, I think the most enjoyable part of cooking this were the aromas permeating the kitchen for the hour and a half it took to make. All the different ingredients and herbs combined to make the kitchen a place I did not want to leave. I will definitely make this again, especially because Jeni's been asking me to add some healthier recipes to my repertoire. So here you go! The recipe below yields 6 good size portions. Enjoy!

2 large eggplants (about 2.5 lbs total) cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large zucchini (about 1.5 lbs total), scrubbed and cut into 1 inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs minced fresh thyme
Ground black pepper

1. Place eggplant in large colander set over bowl.

2. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs salt and toss to distribute evenly.
3. Let eggplant stand at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours.
4. Rinse eggplant well under running water to remove salt and spread in even layer of paper towels.

5. Cover with another triple layer of paper towels.
6. Press firmly on eggplant until eggplant is dry and feels firm and compressed.
7. Adjust 1 over rack to upper-middle position and second rack to lower-middle position.
8. Heat oven to 500.
9. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.
10. Toss eggplant, zucchini and 2 Tbs oil in large bowl.

11. Divide evenly between baking sheets, spreading in single layer on each.

12. Sprinkle with salt and roast stirring every 10 minutes until well browned and tender, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through roasting time. Set aside.
13. Heat remaining 2 tbs oil in heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium heat until simmering.
14. Add onion, reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
15. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

16. Add tomatoes and cook until they release liquid and begin to break down, about 5 minutes.

17. Add roasted eggplant and zucchini, stirring gently but thoroughly to combine, and cook until just heated through, about 5 minutes.

18. Stir in parsley, basil and thyme.

19. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
20. Serve warm or at room temperature.

February 26, 2011

Mascarpone and Dark Chocolate Cream in White Chocolate Cups

This Giada DeLaurentis mousse-like recipe tasted amazing and I loved the presentation using the white chocolate cup which was surprisingly easy to make. The slight hint of orange gave it just the right balance too. If you're a chocolate fan, you'll have to try this one sometime. The recipe below yields 8 servings.

1. Make sure you use enough white chocolate to coat the muffin paper. If you don't use enough, the cup will be too brittle and will break while assembling.
2. If you don't like white chocolate, any chocolate will do for the cup.
3. For a dinner party, these can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight. Just make sure you let them sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

8 oz white chocolate, chopped
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
3 Tbs sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate curls, for garnish

1. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Melt the white chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth.
3. Spoon 1 Tbs melted chocolate into each paper liner.
4. Using a pastry brush, coat the chocolate evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the liners.

5. Freeze until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.
6. Remelt the white chocolate in the bowl.
7. Spoon 1 tablespoon into each cup and brush over the bottom and up the sides, forming a second coat.
8. Freeze until completely set, about 1 hour.
9. Melt the bittersweet chocolate in top of a clean double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth.
10. Set aside to cool completely.
11. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form.

12. Set the whipped cream aside.
13. Using an electric mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese, melted bittersweet chocolate, orange peel, and vanilla in a large bowl just until smooth and glossy, about 30 seconds, being careful not to overmix.

14. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 2 batches.

15. Transfer the mousse to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
16. Pipe the mousse into the white chocolate cups.

17. Sprinkle the chocolate curls over the mousse, then peel off the paper, exposing the white chocolate cup.
18. Serve immediately.

February 25, 2011

Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

Jeni bought me an ice cream maker for my birthday last year and I used it to make fresh, homemade lemon ice cream. I combined several recipes into one and it turned out very creamy and had just the right combination of sweetness and tartness. I also liked that it contained very few ingredients; just cream, sugar, lemons, egg and extract. The recipe below yields 4-6 servings. Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs finely grated fresh lemon zest
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs Lemon Extract

1. In a medium, heavy saucepan, bring the cream, half-and-half, sugar, and zest to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is melted. Remove from the heat.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale, about 2 minutes.

3. In a slow stream, whisking constantly, add about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks.

4. Beat until well incorporated.
5. Return the yolk mixture to the saucepan with the hot cream and bring to a bare simmer.

6. Cook until a thick custard forms, and the mixture reaches 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container.

8. Stir in the lemon juice and extract, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

9. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 2 hours.
10. Transfer to an ice-cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions.

11. Transfer to an airtight plastic container and freeze until ready to serve.

February 23, 2011

Shortbread Bars with Dulce de Leche Caramel and Chocolate Ganache

I saw a recipe some time ago for Twix bars, one of my favorite candy bars, and thought I'd play around with it a little. I made a shortbread bottom layer and then found a fun recipe to make homemade Dulce de Leche. This sweet caramel like mixture is popular in South America and in spanish translates literally to "sweet of milk" or "milk candy." The process takes some time (took me almost two hours) and requires a close watch but it is so worth it! On top of that I added a layer of our favorite chocolate ganache. The three very distinct flavors combine in a wonderful way - very rich but very satisfying. The recipe below yields 24 rectangular pieces. Enjoy!

1. Though time consuming, the dulce de leche from scratch is so worth the time.
2. Be careful while the Dulce de Leche is cooking to not let it boil out of the pot as it is quite a mess to clean up. I know - it happened twice to me.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter

Dulche de Leche Caramel
3 quarts milk
3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Chocolate Ganache
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
12 Tbs butter, softened
1/3 cup light corn syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 inch square pan. Line bottom with parchment paper.

3. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until sandy in texture.

4. Press mixture into pan, pierce with a fork and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees, and cook for and additional 30-40 minutes until it is pale golden and no longer doughy.
6. Set aside to cool.

Dulche de Leche Caramel
1. In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, whisk together 1 cup of the milk with the sugar and the baking soda until smooth.
2. Add the remaining milk and turn heat to medium high.
3. Stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by just under half and caramel brown.

5. Pour over cooled shortbread.

6. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache
1. In a small saucepan, melt chocolates over very low heat, stirring constantly.
2. Stir until almost melted, then remove from heat and stir until melted and smooth.
3. Stir in the butter 1 Tbs at a time.

4. Stir in corn syrup
5. Pour over the cooled caramel layer.

6. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
7. Cut carefully into 24 rectangular shaped pieces and serve slightly chilled.