Monday, September 28, 2009

Minestrone Soup

Well, I'm on a roll with all this food - it could have something to do with the fact that work didn't schedule me this week so cooking is currently the only thing keeping me from going stir-crazy!

Tonight, the project was homemade minestrone soup. Those who know him know that Cody used to be crazy about the canned Progresso Minestrone, so I have been looking around for a good homemade recipe for quite sometime. I FOUND IT!!!

This recipe takes a bit of prep work and lots of chopping, but the end result is DELICIOUS AWESOMENESS!!! And yes, Cody loves it!

Italian Minestrone

1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 med. onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced

1/2 cup winter squash, cubed

2 stalks celery, sliced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup (packed down) spinach
1 - 16 oz. can cannelini beans **
1 - 14 oz. can diced tomatoes w/ juice

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

6 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup pasta spirals, cooked

1/2 cup diced zucchini
1 cup green beans, ends removed
3-4 sliced basil leaves (optional)

**It could just be the Commissary's lack of selection, but I can't find "cannelini beans" anywhere - I substituted with "Great Northern Beans" and think it turned out great!

In large saucepan, saute onion, garlic, carrots, winter squash and celery for 3 minutes. Add spinach, cannelini beans, diced tomatoes, parsley and chicken
stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a small saucepan. Add zucchini, green beans and cooked pasta. Cook until all vegetables are soft. Stir sliced basil leaves into the soup at the last minute for garnish and extra flavor.

As I said before, Cody and I love the way this recipe turned out - I have made it once before and frozen it with great success - if anything, the flavors seem to meld together more when it's served as a leftover dish!

This soup is just perfect for those cold, rainy days that German winters are known for. Be sure to try it out!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vegetable Quiche

Mmmmm.... Vegetable Quiche! These came out very tasty-looking - we haven't had a chance to taste them yet - they are still cooling.

Vegetable Quiche

2 - 9" Pie Crusts
2 cups Chopped Zucchini
1 cup Fresh Mushrooms
1/2 cup Cooked Bacon, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, pressed
1/2 cup Green Onions, sliced
1 cup Milk
3 Eggs
1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Dash of Ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk milk and eggs together - stir in vegetables and remaining ingredients. Fill each pie tin with half of the vegetable mixture and bake 35 - 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

I have since devoured most of one of the quiches by myself - they are quite tasty indeed! Cody isn't a huge fan of anything with crust, but he admitted that it smelled good.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Meatball Sandwiches

Thanks go out to my Mom for this great recipe idea. I was complaining over the phone to her that I had no idea what to make for dinner tonight, but I had a package of ground beef and some french bread - my mom said, "How about some meatball sandwiches?"


2 lbs. Ground Beef
3 Eggs
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 cup Bread Crumbs
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp. Butter (melted)
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Parsley
2 cans Tomato Sauce
1 can Tomato Paste

Saute olive oil, onion & garlic in a large pan. Place meatballs in pan to brown. Once cooked through, add 2 cans tomato sauce and 1 can tomato paste. Let simmer until the flavor of the meatballs has cooked through the sauce (15-20 min).

The result was very yummy and deserves two thumbs up (meaning that even Cody liked it and had seconds :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce
serves 4

1 cup chicken, vegetable or beef broth, boiling
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3 8-ounce packages of white button or portobello mushrooms, washed and chopped
4 large shallots, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped sage
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped button or portobello mushrooms and let sit, without stirring, for about four minutes or until they have thoroughly browned on one side. Stir and let them cook on the other side - again, without stirring - for about four minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, sage and steeped wild mushrooms. Turn the heat to low, and cook until they are all fragrant and soft.

Add the second tablespoon of butter and, when melted, add the flour. Stir rapidly, letting the flour thicken with the butter into a paste. Have a whisk ready! Slowly pour in the mushroom broth and white wine, whisking rapidly. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture thickens. It should thicken to the consistency of a thick gravy.

Add the chopped parsley, stirring until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over pasta with plenty of fresh Parmesan.

This came out so-so - the white wine made the sauce far too rich. For the amount of time it took and the amount of mushrooms it used, we won't be making this again.

Thumbs down :(

Monday, September 7, 2009

Food for Thought

I was recently inspired by the movie "Julie and Julia" (which, by the way, was excellent). For quite some time, I have wanted to improve my culinary repertoire as well as the overall health of my little family - watching that movie just gave me the push I needed to start trying out new recipes and recording it for myself and any others who might be interested.

My first attempt was today - Ratatouille - it's not just a movie!

Serves 4 - 6
Total prep and cooking time: about 2 hours

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1" cubes
3 medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1" cubes
2 Tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 sweet bell peppers, roughly chopped
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 - 3 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped, juices reserved
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons fresh basil
salt and pepper

Salt the eggplant cubes and set them in a colander to release their liquid for at least 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt and press the cubes against the counter top between two clean kitchen towels to get out as much moisture as possible.

Combine the eggplant with the zucchini and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven or deep sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and saute until the onion is completely translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and a pinch of salt, and saute until no longer crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the tomatoes with all their juices into the pot and stir to combine. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have started to break down.

Add the roasted eggplant and zucchini to the pot along with another teaspoon of salt, and simmer until the tomatoes and eggplant have almost completely broken down into a pulpy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. At this point, you can serve immediately or allow to simmer until the vegetables have completely broken down.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the basil. Serve hot or room temperature with a drizzle of good olive oil and an extra sprinkling of fresh basil.

*For even more depth of flavor, roast the red peppers and tomatoes before cutting.

Here are some pictures I took of the cooking process and the final product:

I had to take a video of the actual final product because the flash kept bouncing off of the steam coming off of it.

Ratatouille gets two thumbs up - even Cody liked it!!!