Monday, February 26, 2007

Lentil Soup

A Veggie Venture is hosting an event called Soup's On and with very little time left in February I made this lentil soup to contribute. This soup is a staple in our house. I really enjoy how hearty and healthy this meal is. Add a little crusty bread and it makes quite a meal. Here I've added prosciutto and parmesan cheese rind to the original recipe for a more substantial and rich tasting soup.

Lentil Soup
Adapted from Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis

2 T olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 inch Prosciutto end, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (14 ½ oz) can diced tomatoes
1 ¼ cups lentils
11 cups chicken broth or water
4 sprigs thyme
Parmesan cheese and rind
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add prosciutto and let saute for 1 minute. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese rind and tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth or water and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Like most of our holiday celebrations around here Valentine's Day tends to be centered around food. I think and plan and shop for days before the big event trying to get everything perfect. I usually plan on elaborate sidedishes and desserts that take all day to prepare. The end result is always satisfying but I'm so harried up to the event that the day is filled with little frustrations. Take last year for example, I planned on making a chocolate box filled with whipped cream and berries. The concept was great but my execution was lacking. It took three different trials before I finally resorted to making a chocolate bowl which looked a little less than perfect to me. So this year I decided (and after Joseph pleaded with me) to take an easier route and do things that could be prepped in little time and could be done mainly ahead of time. Following this requirement I decided on a menu of:

Marinated Bocconcini with Crostini
Herbed Golden Potatoes
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus
Herb Encrusted Rack of Lamb
Bailey's and Chocolate Fondue

The rack of lamb was the only thing that really required any attention and it was minimal. I prepped the fondue earlier in the day and left it on the stove until just before serving when I reheated it and poured it into my makeshift fondue pot.
I even had time to do all of the dishes before even sitting down which left *little* to clean up afterwards.
I would suggest using a traditional fondue pot if you have one.  I improvised and it worked, but the candle was too close to the pyrex dish and the chocolate actually started to bubble and pop so we ended blowing out the flame and eating it all quickly before it could cool down to much.  It definitely made it more interesting!!

Chocolate Fondue
Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons water
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
1 to 3 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
Fresh fruit
(Ice cream)

Bring the cream and water just to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and salt, and whisk until smooth. Add the liquor, if using, and whisk until blended. (The fondue can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in a cool refrigerator. Gently reheat before serving.)
Transfer the fondue to a ceramic pot and keep warm over very low heat. Serve with the dipping ingredients of your choice.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


This quinoa makes a good side dish alternative to rice or potatoes.  Our kids like mushrooms which made introducing a new grain a bit easier. I liked cooking the quinoa in chicken stock because it added a nice flavor.

Baby Portobello Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper

Bring liquids to a boil in a small saucepan. While those are heating, brown mushrooms in a small pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside after mushroom have browned and released their liquid. Add quinoa to boiling liquid, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Reintroduce mushrooms, season once more to taste and serve.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Surprise Inside

There are many blogging events to partake in and I always have good intentions of entering but fail to get my act together or find the time before the deadline to participate. Today's breakfast was a combination of two past events that sounded like fun; A Surprise Inside and World Nutella Day. Since my mom is visiting this weekend and I wanted to make her something special I used these two events to inspire my stuffed french toast. I know this isn't a new concept, and I've actually done the cream cheese filling before but the Nutella was the exciting one. I'm sure some of you won't believe that my mom had never tasted Nutella before today...what a shame.
Anyways, I decided to do half of the french toast with the cream cheese and raspberry filling and half with the Nutella and raspberry filling. Then I cut them up and we each took one cream cheese and one chocolate piece. The general consensus was that the Nutella filled toast was far superior. Mom liked it so much that she asked where she could get some. I think I see stuffed french toast in her future.

Stuffed French Toast
1 loaf french bread or challah bread
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 T butter

Cut 1 inch thick slices of french bread.  Using a paring knife make a slit through the bottom flat side of the bread creating a pocket inside the center of the bread.  Use your finger to open it a bit and spread nutella, cream cheese and berries, or your desired filling inside.  Mix remaining ingredients (except butter) in shallow pie pan.  Dip stuffed bread in egg mixture for 30 second per side.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add bread and cook until browned on both sides and heated through.  Serve with additional syrup or  powdered sugar.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Shrimp Wonton Salad

Tonight's meal was full of flavor. We had Shrimp and Avocado Salads, Wonton Wrapped Prawns, and we even had light and crispy Meringues for dessert.  This shrimp and avocado salad is worth the effort it takes to fry the wontons.

Shrimp and avocado salad with crispy wontons
adapted from wok by Vicki Liley

Grapefruit Dressing
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 t brown sugar
1 T white wine vinegar
1 t peeled and grated fresh ginger

2 T vegetable oil, plus 3 cups for frying
3 cloves garlic, crushed
20 jumbo shrimp
12 wonton wrappers
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

To make the dressing, place grapefruit juice, olive oil, sugar, vinegar, and ginger in a screw-top jar. Shake well to combine and set aside.
To make salad, in a wok over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil Add garlic and stir-fry until aromatic, about 1 minutes. Raise heat to high, add shrimp and stir-fry until shrimp change color. Remove. Heat 3 cups oil in wok until it reaches 375 degrees. Working in batches, add wonton wrappers and fry until golden and crisp, about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
In a bowl, combine avocado, tomato, onion, and parsley/cilantro. Add shrimp and grapefruit dressing and gently stir. Cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes to develop the flavors.
Place one wonton on each plate and top with salad. Add another wonton and layer salad. Top with third wonton and serve immediately.

Meringueadapted from Bills Food by Bill Granger
4 egg whites
a pinch of salt
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the egg whiteand salt in a clean, dry bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until a glossy, stiff mixture forms.
Spoon out 8 meringues onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Top with whipped cream, berries, and sauce.

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