Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Soup

For multiple reasons, I wanted to make this recipe.  Mainly, I had to use up the 3 lbs bag of sweet potatoes I bought.  Secondly, I wanted to try Mary Ann's tip for peeling potatoes.  I can't find out a culinary trick like that and not try it as soon as humanly possible!  To my delight it worked perfectly!  Mike made a comment that peeling the potatoes would have been quicker than waiting for the water to boil, boiling the potatoes for 15 minutes and then having to put them into an ice bath but where is the fun/adventure in that?

If you didn't watch the video, this is what you do:

Make an incision in the potato all the way around.

Boil a pot of water and drop the potatoes into the boiling water.

Boil for 15 minutes and then using tongs put the potatoes directly into ice cold water.

Place your fingers where you made your slice and start to gently pull your thumbs in opposite directions.

The skin pulls away so easily! 

Then your potatoes are ready for whatever you would like to use them for!  In my case, they are ready to go into my soup.  The recipe is a Giada De Laurentiis' recipe (I love her).  I knew I wanted to make sweet potato soup so, I started looking up all these different recipes and Giada's recipe seemed to fit what I like the most.  It turned out to be absolutely delicious! 

What you need for the Sweet Potato Soup:

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/2 c. marscarpone cheese
  • maple syrup (optional)
(apparently this is a recipe of 3's)

Start by heating 2 tbs of margarine and 2 tbs of olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat.  Once the oil/butter mixture is heated add the shallots and garlic to the pan.  Sautee until the shallots and garlic are soft, about 4 minutes.  Salt and pepper the mix.

Add sweet potatoes, rosemary and chicken broth to the garlic/shallot mix.  Bring to a boil and then back the heat off and let the pot simmer for about 25 minutes.  The potatoes should be nice and soft at this point.  Fish out the rosemary and discard at this time.

Either use an immersion blender (which, unfortunately, I do not have) or work in batches and puree in a food processor.  Be very careful if you are using a food processor to puree the soup, if you put too much liquid in, it will start leaking out.

Once the mixture is pureed, return it to a pot and place on low heat.  Stir in the mascarpone cheese.  Once all the cheese dissolves into the soup, it is ready to eat!

Giada puts maple syrup into hers.  I tried it both ways and I prefer it without it.  I suggest experimenting before adding it to the entire batch.

The soup is delicious and creamy.  Perfect for cold winter days.  I'm going to take it for lunch this week and I'm so excited!  It always helps having a good lunch to look forward to; it gets you through the morning :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peeling Potatoes

My mom sent me the link to this video and I think it is a pretty cool trick!  I haven't tried it yet but, if Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island says it's good, it has to be, right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eggplant Parm Lasagna

I made this recipe awhile back and Mike has been requesting it ever since.  It is a very simple recipe and great to have as a comfort food with this snowy winter weather.  I wouldn't say it is the healthiest meal that I have made but, it is definitely worth the little extra carbs/calories.  Since I winged this recipe I am going to do the best to get exact measurements but, I eyeballed a lot of stuff for this recipe.  I also made it in a small 8x8 dish because it was just for Mike and myself but, it was a tight fit.  Next time I am going to put it in a 9x13 dish to have more room for all the goodies.

What you need:
  • 1 medium/large eggplant
  • 3 cups of bread crumbs (I used seasoned bread crumbs)
  • 1+ cups Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lbs ground turkey or beef
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce (or if you are really ambitious, homemade)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 8oz ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper

    Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/4 inch rounds.  Place the slices into a bowl of cold salt water and let them hangout in there for a couple of minutes.  This helps the take out the bitterness of the eggplant.  Take the eggplant out of the water (discard the water) and pat the eggplant dry.

    Beat two eggs in a good size bowl, set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs with 1 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

    Dip the eggplant slices one at a time into the egg wash then into the bread crumb mixture.  Place the breaded eggplant onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray (I needed two cookie sheet to fit all the eggplant).  Repeat this process until all the eggplant is dressed and ready for the oven.  Put the cookie sheets into a preheated 350 degree oven for 5 minutes then flip the eggplant and cook for 5 more minutes. 

    While the eggplant bakes, cook the ground beef/turkey in a non-stick sprayed pan.  Add Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper.

    In a 9x13 casserole dish spray with non-stick cooking spray and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce.

    On top of the sauce layer the baked eggplant, slightly over lapping.

    Gently spread a coat of ricotta (about 4 oz) on top of the eggplant and put another layer of tomato sauce.

    Sprinkle with Parmesan (eye ball it).  Next put a layer of ground beef or turkey, use about half.  Top the beef with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and then another layer of tomato sauce.  Then eggplant, 4 oz ricotta, tomato sauce, parm, rest of the beef, 1/2 cup mozzarella (you are almost done).  Place another layer of eggplant, tomato and top with the rest of the mozzarella.  I like a good thick layer of cheese on top.  We didn't have enough cheese for my liking (and we were out of mozzarella) so, I used a little bit of cheddar and it was delicious!

    Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is all melty and bubbly
    Look at all those yummy layers!

    Get a heavy duty spatula to get it out of the dish because it is HEAVY!  My poor spatula looked like it was going to snap in two.  It is really filling and the leftovers (according to Mike) are really good. 

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Addie's Italian Pulled Pork

    A while ago Mike and I went over to the Jenkins' place for dinner and the fabulous Addie made this pulled pork for dinner.  After dinner, I begged for the recipe but, with Addie being such a sweetpea, it didn't take too much coaxing.  It is a crock pot meal, which I was skeptical about because my mom put this deep rooted fear of crock pots in my mind.  She doesn't like the idea of leaving the house while things are plugged in, I see where she is coming from but after this meal, I am willing to take the risk!  It was awesome to come home from the gym and dinner was more then half way done.  All I had to do is throw together some broccoli and BOOM, dinner was done.  Mike is in love with this meal!  If he didn't hold back he probably would have eaten the rest of it.  It is traditionally made into a sandwich but, with doing the low carb thing I just raw dogged it and it was still phenomenal.  The meat has a velvety texture after slow cooking all day.

    What you need: 

    • Two pork tenderloins or pork shoulder (both Addie and myself used tenderloin)
    • 1 packet Au Jus dry mix 
    • 1 pack Good Seasons Italian Dressing dry mix
    • 2 cups warm water
    • Rosemary

    Spray the crock pot with non-stick spray (just in case) and place the two tenderloins in.  Then, mix the Au Jus with a cup of warm water and dumped it into the crock and do the same with the Italian Dressing mix.  Place one or two sprigs of rosemary in and turn the crock pot on low.  Cook for 6 hours.  Ours cooked for about ten hours and it was fine. As long as there is plenty of liquid in the pot, you should be golden.

    It looks pretty gross, but looks can be deceiving...

    Take the tenderloins out of the broth and shred the meat (leave all the broth in the slow cooker).  Take out the rosemary sprigs and discard.  Shred the pork.  I also found that if you cut the pork into quarters before you shred you'll get the perfect size of shredded pork.

    Place all the yummy shredded meat back into the crock pot where the juices are waiting. 

    Give a good stir and keep on low in the juices until you are ready to eat.  Addie recommends if you like extra juice to add some beef broth at this time.  We didn't because we weren't making sandwiches but, if we were I probably would have because I like a lot of broth to make the rolls soggy.

    For our side dish, I just steamed some broccoli and added "I can't believe it's not butter....spray" (oh yeah I went there) and Jane's Crazy salt.

    I put the pork and broccoli into a bowl and put a little extra pork broth over everything.

    And Mike scarffed it down...

    *Note:  If you are making sandwiches with the pork, there are endless possibilities of toppings.  Addie told me she likes sharp provolone and garlic spinach.  You could try the Di Nic's way which is with provolone and broccoli rabe.  Roasted red peppers would be awesome too! 

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash

    Mike and I took a trip to BJ's last weekend and in all the excitment I bought a 3 pound bag of sweet potatoes.  What am I supposed to do with 3 pounds of sweet potatoes?!  Well, my impulse buy sent me on a mission to find new recipes for sweet potatoes.  I found this very interesting recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray but, didn't like all the components so I did my own thing.  It is a breakfast dish that contains onions, turkey sausage, sweet potatoes, spices and is topped with eggs.  It ended up being pretty tasty!  Mike was a big fan and even went back for seconds!  That is a big compliment because even though I have one of the sweetest guys on earth, when it comes to his stomach, he doesn't mess around.  It was a nice change from our usual cheesy eggs with some type of breakfast meat.  Next time I am going to try to cut the potatoes differently.  This time I shredded the potatoes, next time I am going to try to cube them.  The key though is that I want to make them this again!

    What you need:
    • Turkey sausage (either bulk or I used links)
    • 2 small to medium sweet potatoes
    • 1 red onion
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp coriander
    • garlic powder
    • salt and pepper
    • eggs
    • optional toppings:  cheddar cheese, sour cream, sriracha

    First is the grunt work. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes and the onion into quarters so that they will fit into the food processor.  If you don't have a food processor just dice both.

    Heat about two tbs of oil on medium heat in a frying pan.  While it heats cut the sausage links into bite size pieces. 

    Add the sausage to the heated pan to brown.

    Once they brown add in the sweet potato and onion mixture.

    Then immediately add in all the spices and salt and pepper to taste.  Let the mixture heat through until the potatoes get soft, about 5-10 minutes.  When the potatoes are just about done, start the pan for the eggs.  Heat the pan on medium, spray with non-stick spray and cook the eggs over-easy.  When the eggs first go into the pan I like to add salt and pepper.

    When the eggs are done, scoop the hash mix into a bowl and place the fried eggs on top.

    At this point you can add whatever condiments you might like.  Mike added sriracha, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

     I just added sour cream and sriracha.  Another option would be to add salsa or pico. 

    Mine just looked like a giant mess but, it tasted delicious!  I cut the egg into smaller pieces on top of the hash so the yolk goes throughout and the whites are in every bite.  It messes with all of your senses.  You get the sweet, spicy, smokey and yolky flavors in each fork full!

    Thursday, January 20, 2011


    Thankfully, one of my co-workers who is doing the paleo diet intruduced me to Larabars.  They come in delicious flavors including peanut butter cookie, keylime pie, blueberry muffin and many more!  Most of them are gluten and dairy free.  They have very simplistic ingredients; when you read the package, you actually know every ingredient in there.  There is no added sugar or preservatives added in, they are just simply natural; something you feel good about eating.  For example, the peanut butter and jelly bar has four ingredients in it:  dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries and salt...that's it!  If the idea of dates throw you off a bit, my recommendation is to still try them!  It is the "glue" that they use to hold everything together.  They are a great thing to grab and throw in your bag for a quick meal or snack.  I read that a lot of people eat them before they workout because of the energy that they provide.

    I found that Wegman's has the largest selection of them.  They sell them individually and by the box.  For whatever reason at Wegman's they do vary in price.  Some are only $0.79 while others are $1.29.  Walmart only has a few flavors and they run about $1.12.  I also found them at Genardi's for $1.25 but, that was the sales price for them.  They are available all over the place but prices vary drastically. 

    If you are dieting and looking for a good bar I recommend these!  For the full list of flavors click here

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Big Brother's Birthday

    January 18th, 2011 marks the 33rd year my brother has been wreaking havoc on this earth and I'm very glad that I get to call this crazy fun guy my brother.  For his birthday dinner, we all met at Teresa's Next Door and I could not have been happier!  This place is amazing!  If you are ever in the Wayne area and want some delicious (off beat) food, stop in for a fantastic meal!  They also boast a very impressive beer list, even my mom Randi can find a beer she likes!  This is the second beer she has had in her entire life! 

     I had a sour beer (my new favorite type of beer thanks to Abby) called Gueuze, Mike had an oatmeal stout and Michael had Flying Fish.

    Trying to stay on task with my diet, Mike and I split the drunken mussels for an app.  It had chorizo, dark beer, shallots, garlic, red pepper, and a whole lot of yumminess!  The rest of the family had a cheese plate that had mustard, two types of cheese, some type of apple-ish compote, grapes and bread.

     In between the apps and the entrees we made Michael open his presents.  This lovely Hannah Montana bag was courtesy of Mike and I :)

     Abby got Michael this adorable little pink elephant that spent the rest of the night dinning with us.  His name is Elie and he was immediately made part of the family!

    For dinner, I still stayed on track by getting the Beet and Bleu salad.  It had julienned endives, baby watercress, sweet oranges, beets, walnuts and blue cheese.  It was phenomenal!  I even got mike to have a bit of a beet and he didn't mind it!

     Then it came time for dessert and I practically lept off the diet wagon!  They had PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING!!!!  Who is their right mind would pass on that!  My only saving grace is that Mike and I fought over it split it equally. 

    Mom being the amazing person she is brought her own candles to the restaurant to make it a true birthday celebration!  

     and sung a solo performance of "Happy Birthday"

    When Michael blew out his candles I thought that we were going to set off smoke alarms!  You can dress us up but, you can't give us matches...

     Elie ate the bread pudding I SWEAR!!!!  

     Amazing birthday celebration with my amazing family! 


    The official finish of Mom's 2nd beer.

    It ended up being my unexpected "Indulgence Day" but, that bread pudding was well worth it!  Note to self...just don't look at the dessert menu!

    Happy Birthday Michael!!!