PInterest Recipe of the Month- Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice

This weekend I decided I wanted to find recipe to re-boot my ‘Recipe of the Month’ idea.  With the short, cold days we’re experiencing in Minneapolis, I thought soup would be perfect.  After doing some browsing, I found this onion soup recipe and traced it back to one of my favorite blogs, ‘Smitten Kitchen’. I’ve made a few things from the blog before, so I knew it would I could trust it.  I made a couple of tweaks to the recipe including; substituting the Blue Cheese for Gruyere and using a mix of fresh parsley, chives and dried basil.  You can find the recipe right HERE.

ONION SOUP

It’s a bit of a time consuming process to cook both the rice and the onions, but the smell in the house was worth it.  It also gave me a chance to master my old nemesis, the mandolin. I used it to get nice even slices of onion and it went much faster than trying to slice them all by hand.  The soup itself was mild and pretty filling.  The recipe called out 4 servings but we could have easily done 6.  I have to say my favorite part was the pieces of baguette and cheese on the top.  After a few minutes of it soaking up the broth, it was the perfect blend of mild and sharp flavors. I could have eaten a full baguette myself if I had enough soup to soak it in.

I hope this gives you something to make the next time a Polar Vortex comes rolling through.  It seems to be once a week now around here.  Check out the rest of the recipes on ‘Smitten Kitchen’ as well, including an all time favorite; ‘Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake‘.  Follow the link for that, just do it.

Winter Market

Raise your hand if you’re sick of the cold.  Ok, thank you.  Now, raise your hand if you’re tired of the snow. 1,2,3,4…. Got it, thanks.

Now, what if I told you there was a way to get a break from it and get you in the mindset for spring and summer?  Well here you go.  The Fulton Farmer’s market is hosting it’s first winter market at Bachman’s in South Minneapolis.

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You can find the full list of vendors, hours and location details on their site, here.  I’ll be volunteering as well as picking up some goodies for myself.  I hope to see you there!

Winter Market

This past Saturday, a friend and I went to a Winter Market put on by Fulton Farmers Market (kind of a mouthful).  It was housed in the greenhouses at Bachman’s in South Minneapolis.  They had a great turnout.  I think the combination of a sunny day and a city itching for spring had everyone eager to get out of the house and pick up some treats.

farmers market 1

They had a mix of canned goods, meats, cheese, honey, jewelry, and crafts for sale.  A couple of food vendors were there too if you needed a croissant for breakfast or falafel for lunch.  I was really hoping there would be a little bit of early, fresh produce but it’s still just a little to early for that.  Stupid snow.

farmers market 2

I picked up some fresh Feta (from Singing Hills Dairy) for sprinkling over salads this week and some Raspberry Pepper Jelly (from Hazelwood Creek Farms) that I might eat with some cream cheese and crackers later this week.  Yum!

farmers market 3

Black Bean Soup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  I hope you got in some green beer or corned beef hash to celebrate!  I’ve been spending my day drinking a lot of green juices.  Not sure why, but I decided this weekend was the best one to try a juice cleanse.  I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow, in the meantime, back to the soup.

black beans 1

In an effort to expand the staples we have on hand, we added dry beans to our pantry list.  We have always used canned in the past so this soup (and burritos we had for lunch this last week) were the first time we had to start completely from scratch.  We measured out enough beans for both the soup recipe and our lunch and let it soak overnight.

black beans 2When I woke up in the morning, The beans had expanded and only half of them were still in the water.  I quickly moved them to a larger bowl and topped them with more water to soak for the rest of the day.  When we got home from work we split the bowl in half and started one pan cooking for lunch and held the other half back for our soup.

black beans 3

I started heating oil in a stock pot and added in 1 onion, 1 leek, a couple of cloves of garlic and some cumin.

black beans 3Once the veggies started to soften up and the onions became slightly translucent, we added in a few strips of chopped up bacon.

black beans 5When the bacon had browned a bit, in went the beans…

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…followed quickly by some chicken stock and a bit of water.

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The soup was brought to a boil and then left to simmer for about an hour on the stove (not exactly a quick weeknight dinner).

black beans8

When the time was up, I ladled about half of the soup into the blender.

black beans 9

Boom. liquified.

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I added the blended portion back into the pot and mixed it in, as well as seasoned it with salt and pepper.

black beans 11

From there, we added a dollop of sour cream and dug in.  It was very filling and satisfying for as few ingredients as it called for.  I may have added too much soup to the blender though as it was a little watery.  The sour cream had some trouble staying on the surface.  We finished all our leftovers so I’d call it a success.  I’m also glad we utilized our dried beans instead of reaching for the canned beans again.  We have a better idea of how to time things out and how much water you really need to rehydrate.  I’m going to look into ways to prep dried beans for our crock pot chili and maybe making our own chili beans with our own seasonings.  However, with the thought of spring around the corner, I’d rather start thinking of black bean salsa on the back patio.

Homemade Mozzarella

Back when I made my kitchen project list in January, I talked about how excited I was about trying homemade cheese.  Well, Sunday afternoon I finally got around to picking up a cheese making kit for some mozzarella. I picked up my kit at Midwest Supplies.  We went there for the first time a few weeks ago for The Hubs to pick up some beer brewing items.  Their focus is definitely more around brewing and winemaking but they also have supplies for mead, hot sauce, coffee and of course cheese.  The kit had all the basics I needed to get started, the only thing I had to supply myself was a gallon of whole milk and some chlorine free bottled water.

cheese 1

To get started I crushed up half a tablet of rennet into 1/4 cup of water and set it aside (the kit came with enough rennet to make 19 more batches after this!).

cheese 2

Next, I poured the full gallon of milk into our non-stick stock pot, sprinkled it with 2 tsp. of citric acid and put it on medium heat.

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It started to curdle almost immediately, then all I had to do was wait for the temperature to reach 88 degrees.

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You can sort of see the mini curds of milk forming on the thermometer.

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With the milk at temperature, I added in the 1/4 cup and rennet into the curdled milk and gave it a quick stir.

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The curds separated from the whey almost immediately.  I’ll be honest, the way it looked kind of grossed me out.  Moving on.

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I now had to wait for the temperature to reach 105 degrees, it kept separating forming larger curds as it warmed up.

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Once it hit temperature, I used my new skimmer to pull all of the curds out of the whey into a glass bowl.

cheese 11

There was still quite a bit of whey in the bowl, so I did my best to pour off some of it from the bowl.

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From there I popped it in the microwave for about a minute to keep separating the whey and make the curds more malleable.

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I put the bowl back in for a couple rounds at 30 seconds each, working and separating the whey as I went.  It started to look more and more like real mozzarella.

cheese 13

It reached a real stretchy, taffy like consistency, but it was still tearing a little bit at the edges.  My instructions said if it was still tearing at this point to put it back in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, so I did.

cheese 14

I shouldn’t have.  Instead of being pliable and shiny per the instructions it started to tear more and got rubbery.

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At this point, I was ready to give up.  I was cursing myself for not stopping earlier.  Then The Hubs had a brilliant idea, pouring hot water over it.  We’d seen mozzarella being made on TV a few weeks ago, they kept the stretchy cheese under water and shaped it that way.  So we boiled a tea pot of water up and poured it over the rubberized cheese and I crossed my fingers.  It worked!

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With the cheese being workable again, we were able to split it out into two containers.  One, just one large ball of cheese and the second, a few smaller balls.

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We tried melting them over some pasta and marinara sauce for dinner tonight.  It turned out ok, it was a little firm and didn’t melt very well but the taste was good overall.  I think the process of re melting and then re working the cheese is was created the firmer texture.

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I’m definitely going to keep working on perfecting mozzarella making. I want to learn more about what exactly the citric acid and the rennet are there for, but mostly I keep thinking how great it would be to whip up a batch of fresh cheese to eat with our fresh tomatoes and basil this summer.

Frozen Goods in Action

Remember how I started freezing vegetables and made these fun little olive oil and herb ice cubes?  Well I’ve been digging in to them lately.  Earlier this week I used a couple of the olive oil and rosemary cubes to make pork chops.

olive oil cubes

They didn’t melt down as quickly as I thought they would, and went from bright oil yellow to almost white in the freezer.

oil cubes and pork chops

I was a little afraid I’d end up with burnt pieces of rosemary but as it melted down and got going it smelled so good!

pork chops and roasted veggies

Success!
On the flip side, I pulled some frozen asparagus out of our deep freeze to make as just an easy, weeknight side.

frozen asparagus

I was a little sad when I dropped them in the dish before the microwave.  The ends of the stalks were looking a little brown and the frozen solid clump was less than appealing.

sad asparagus

After I nuked them they still looked and smelled like asparagus but were a little limp and over cooked.  They tasted fine but wasn’t as exciting or tasty as the fresh we get in the spring.  I think it’ll make me that much more hopeful for ours to start sprouting this spring (fingers crossed).  I’m glad we’re making an effort to keep using what we’ve spent the time preserving. Even with the rocky asparagus experience, it makes me want to figure out better methods for the coming year.

Where’s my label maker?

Happy 2013!
Hope you all had a good start to your year.  It’s taken me a little while to get back up and running after holiday travel, work starting back up and a fight with the flu (don’t worry, I won).  While I haven’t gotten back on posting regularly I have been doing some work around the kitchen.

When we got back to Minneapolis after the week of Christmas, we tackled #1 on the Winter Project list, organizing the kitchen.  This is what it looked like when we started.

messy cupboard

I know! I know!  What is in there and what do you even have to eat!  I started sorting, pitching and finding containers for all the things in plastic bags.  I’m ashamed to say we had a few empty boxes in there just taking up space.  As we went, we started having ideas of organizing other cupboards and drawers, before you knew it we’d re-organized all but 5 kitchen cupboards and drawers and I loved it.  This is how that cupboard looked at the end of the night.clean cupboard

I know!  You still have nothing to eat!  I’d like to blame it on being out of town for a week but, I think the real problem was we couldn’t see what we had to know what we need.  We have an idea of some things we want to add in as pantry staples and we’ve since bought more snack things.  We organized the cupboard so things we don’t use very often are up on the top shelf, larger bulk items or dry items we can keep a large stock of next, then canned goods (we have enough beans to make chili until July) and finally bulk items we’d go through more quickly with a shorter lifespan(snack things like mixed nuts, chicken broth)

This weekend I’m making nice labels for the plastic and glass containers for everything in there.  I’m also making labels for our new spice drawer and a couple other containers.  It’s kind of ridiculous how excited I am about that part.  I’m already planning on doing a whole post on how great everything looks with shiny, new labels in a beautiful font.  Trust me, you’re gonna love it!

Winter Project List

It’s December 3rd and, despite the fact that there isn’t any snow on the ground, the garden is all tucked in for the winter.  Usually, when this happens I sort of stop thinking about projects to do and start stocking up on holiday treats.  This year I’ve decided to change that.  I’m going to try and get some projects underway for the long cold weekends we’re starting to have.

First on the list is basic organization.  I would absolutely LOVE to open my cupboard doors and have them look like this.  Realistically, I’ll settle for getting rid of old soup mixes stuck in back corners of top cupboards and figuring out what sort of thing we’d actually use and want to have on hand.

Image: Home Shopping Spy

Image: Home Shopping Spy

Other organizing ideas, are to make freezing and canning easier for next spring and summer.  Blank labels for freezing and canning as well stocking up on enough storage containers will keep any last minute runs to the store to a minimum.

Image: marthastewart.com

Image: marthastewart.com

In a perfect world, I’d get to add in an extra piece of counter with a couple of cupboard/drawers similar to the photo below.  Like I said, in a perfect world.

Images: Chris Perez, from theKitchn.com

Images: Chris Perez, from theKitchn.com

Aside from organizing, I want to get some non-seasonal food stored.  First up would be pasta.  Easily the most bought and used dry good in the house.  I’m also going to look for some other dry goods that would be easy to make and store, like crackers or other snack foods.

image: Copyright Paula Jones with bellalimento

image: Copyright Paula Jones with bellalimento

 

But most importantly I want to learn how to make CHEESE!!!

Images: Emma Christensen, TheKitchn.com

Images: Emma Christensen, TheKitchn.com

Lastly, I’m wondering about entrees I can make and freeze, like this pizza.  We’ve had so many busy weekends without time to grocery shop, stuff like this would have really come in handy.

Image: America's Test Kitchen

Image: America’s Test Kitchen

I’ll keep you posted on any updates to the list.  I think starting with the organization will make the rest easier and, to be honest, get the worst of it out of the way first!

 

**just a note, I didn’t intend this to be a post about how many projects you can find at TheKitchn.com but I couldn’t help it, they’ve got some good ideas

Pinterest Recipe of the Month- Rustic Artisanal No Knead Bread

For the Pinterest Recipe this month, I wanted to try something other than a main dish and take a stab at bread.  I pinned this recipe form Anna’s Table and with only 4 ingredients, and the promise of minimal labor, this seemed like a good place to start.

Talk about easy!  First thing you do is combine your flour, yeast and salt with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Then you add in your water.  Anna didn’t call out what temperature it needed to be, I nuked mine in the microwave for a minute to make sure it got the yeast working.

Then I slapped some cling wrap across the top of the bowl and left it alone for a little over 12 hours.  You can leave it for up to 24, but I didn’t want to wait that long for my bread.

After 12 hours, you scrape out the dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper.  Make sure you have a good amount of flour down so your dough folds easily later.

Then spread it out to about a 10×10 square, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Then you fold in the edges from side to side and top to bottom.

Flip the dough, folded side down onto another floured piece of parchment and wrap with parchment loosely, then cover with a dishtowel.  Let it rise under the towel for another couple of hours.

When the two hours are up, put a cast iron dutch oven in the oven with the lid on  and pre-heat  to 500 degrees.

Once the oven has reached 500 degrees, put the dough in the dutch oven folded side up, place the lid back on, and let it bake for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes are up, remove the lid, turn the oven temp down to 375 and let bake for another 15-30 minutes depending on how dark you want your bread.

I ended up making 2 loaves this weekend.  The first one because I didn’t turn the oven down to 375 for the last 15 minutes.  The crust was burned a bit on top but the inside looked (and tasted) pretty good.

I gave it a second shot tonight and turned the oven down like I was supposed to.  The top came out a beautiful golden brown.

While it was still warm we sliced it up and buttered it to have along side some cheesy chili.  Pretty perfect for a night with a temp of 33 degrees:)

I was really happy with how the bread turned out and with such a simple recipe, I want to try making it again adding in some herbs or top with cheese.  I also want to try adding in some cinnamon or sugar to make a sweet bread for breakfast, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Ok, ok.  I have one more post about my bacon and then we can move on, but I had to figure out what to do with the remainder of the pound of unsliced pork belly.  I tossed around the idea of bacon cheeseburgers or bacon wrapped something or other, then, I remembered the loaded mashed potatoes we’ve had at a steakhouse downtown.  My favorite part were the huge chunks of bacon that were all mixed in.

It was really easy to recreate.  I started boiling the potatoes (about 6 yukon golds, MN) on the stove in boiling water, cut into chunks, skin left on, and while that was plugging away I cut the remainder of my pork belly into smaller cubes.

I tossed the cubes in a frying pan on the stove and while they started sizzling I drained the potatoes (check with a fork for tenderness) and started mashing.  I like to leave a smidgen of water in with the potatoes and then add in a little milk to make them creamy.  The amount of milk is really up to you.  It all depends on how thick (or not) you want them to be.  I also added a couple of tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste.

By the time the potatoes were done so was the bacon.  I scooped the the mega sized bacon bits on to a couple of paper towels and patted them dry, then right into the pot with the taters.  Stir them in and done!

They were so rich and creamy!  Definitely not very high up on the healthy side dish meter but, eh, they’re worth it.  It’s also an easy way to spice up something that you might already be making for dinner.  Even if you don’t have cubes of pork belly to work with, I don’t think you’d have any complaints if you crumbled up some cooked slices.