Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hippie Rice Salad

I saw this recipe in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and it tickled me. Hippie Rice Salad. It caught my eye for a few reasons. The first being that it was a healthy recipe, the second being that it reminded me of my parents. When my parents were first married, they lived in a renovated school bus which they parked on a farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The picture below was taken on my parent's wedding day. My Dad was carrying my Mom over the threshold of the school bus, which was home to them.

As a young couple, their alternative lifestyle was lots of fun for them. They parked their school bus on a farm with an old farmhouse, where several other couples lived. From what I hear, they had the time of their lives. They all lived on the farm for a couple years. Once the babies came, people starting going their own ways. My parents sold the school bus, left Maryland, moved to Ohio, and had me!

My parents gave up a lot of their old lifestyle in order to start a family, BUT healthy food was still a big part of their life. We never ate processed food and we rarely ate out. Although my parents continued to eat meat, vegetables were king. We snacked on them all the time. One of our favorite all-time snacks were green onions. We used to go through bunches of green onions, dipping them in a little salt and eating them on their own. It sounds funny to me now, but they really tasted great that way and I still love them today.

This healthy eating made me rather naive about the world around me. When I started school, I discovered Spaghettio's, Ho-Ho's, Cheese Crackers, juice boxes and all kinds of other processed junk. I had no idea what any of it was, but I learned quickly. Naturally, I wanted what all the other children had and relentlessly begged my Mom for all sorts of treats. Every once in awhile she would cave in and buy it for me, but for the most part, she stood her ground.

Here's to my parents for sticking with it over the years, teaching me how to eat real, wholesome food. This Hippie Rice Salad is something that I know they would like (and it even has green onions)!!

Hippie Rice Salad
Adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
3-4 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
1/4 cup chopped scallion (green onion)
1 small or 1/2 large red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked and shocked broccoli florets
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup Vinaigrette (recipe directly below)
Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons good wine vinegar, or more to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, cut into chunks (optional)
Combine all the ingredients except the shallot in a blender and turn the machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more vinegar a teaspoon or two at a time until the balance tastes right to you. Add the shallot and turn the machine on and off a few times until the shallot is minced within the dressing. Taste, adjust the seasoning; and serve.

To make the Hippie Rice Salad:
Put the rice and all the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and use 2 big forks to combine, fluffing the rice and tossing gently to separate the grains. Add salt and pepper, taste, adjust if necessary. You may want to add in more vinaigrette if necessary. Right before serving, sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the top and serve at room temperature.

This is a terrific recipe and holds very well at room temperature, making it perfect for picnic baskets, this week's theme at IHCC! I found some gorgeous orange bell peppers at the market and decided to serve my rice salad in the bell pepper cups. It was delicious. Everyone enjoyed the slight nutty crunch from the sunflower seeds. Hippie Rice Salad was a total hit! I would definitely make it again.

I am submitting this Hippie Rice Salad to my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sundays roundup. I am also submitting this recipe to I Heart Cooking Clubs in honor of this week's Picnic Basket theme.

My family and I will be leaving for Ohio tomorrow morning to visit with my Dad and some of my old friends. I'll be back in about a week!! I hope everyone who is celebrating the 4th of July weekend has a safe and happy time!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Popsicle of the Week: Sour Plum

Introducing my favorite popsicle yet: Sour Plum! Who knew? I'll be the first to say that I am not a self-confessed plum lover. I like them, but I don't love them. However, I do love anything sour and these popsicles fit the bill perfectly. I was lucky enough to find some little, underripe red plums at the Farmer's Market this past weekend. The little plums were just a tad bit bigger than a cherry, very cute.

I bought a container of the sour plums, just under 1-1/2 pounds for $6. These popsicles were going to be some of the more expensive ones, but I knew that I had to snatch up those plums. I knew that I wasn't likely to find them again. I'm so glad that I did as these are my favorite new popsicles. If you happen across some little baby plums, definitely gather them up and make these popsicles.

Sour Plum Popsicles
Adapted from Ice Pops by Shelly Kaldunski
Makes about 9 popsicles in the Zoku Quick Pop Maker
1-1/2 pounds underripe red plums (do not peel, skin is the tartest part)
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt
Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Place the plums in a blender or food processor. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Process until the mixture is completely smooth.

If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds. Cover and freeze at least 4 hours. If using sticks, insert them into the molds when the pops are partially frozen, after about an hour, then continue to freeze until solid, at least 3 more hours.

If using an instant pop maker (such as the Zoku) follow manufacturer's instructions.

Notes/Results: Wow! These popsicles are sour, sour, sour...almost like those little sour candies that you buy in the store. They had a very soft almost creamy texture and I loved them. If you love sour things, this is the popsicle for you! I did alter the recipe from what was in my book. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice but I found that it wasn't enough and ended up using 1/3 cup lemon juice, which suited my taste. The recipe also calls for you to add in 1/3 cup water and I left it out. I didn't want to water the popsicles down.

I am submitting this to Two for Tuesdays!

Also, one of my very favorite local joints, Wallace Station in Versailles, KY, will be featured on Diners, Drive-In's and Dives tonight at 10pmEST on Food Network. I featured a post on them which you can find HERE. It is a very charming place, with lots of character and terrific food featuring local ingredients. Can't wait to see it on TV tonight!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Green Bean Salad with Charred Onions

Every summer, my Mom plants green beans and we eat them like crazy all through the month of June. Last week was the third picking and we were looking for a new way to serve them up. I decided to get out Mario Batali's new book, Molto Gusto, and quickly found a great recipe for a green bean salad that can be served either warm or at room temperature.

Mario's green bean salad begins with blanching the green beans and then adding them to a dry skillet with charred onions. Once the beans and the charred onions are mixed, they are dressed with a dressing made from balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Mario says the salad is best served if the beans are allowed to stand in the dressing for at least 10 minutes and I definitely agree. This green beans grew even more flavorful as they were allowed to soak up some of the tangy, orange-flavored dressing.

Green Beans with Charred Onions
Adapted from Mario Batali's Molto Gusto
Serves 6
Kosher salt
1 pound young green beans or haricots verts
2 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the beans and blanch until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool under running water; drain well.

Halve the onions lengthwise and trim off the ends. Cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide slices. Heat a dry 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the onions and saute until charred in spots but still crunchy, 4-6 minutes. During the last minute or so, add the beans, stirring and tossing to warm them through. Transfer the beans and onions to a large bowl.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and oil together in a small bowl. Pour over the beans and onions, tossing to coat. Let stand for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, before serving.

Sprinkle the beans with Maldon salt and serve.

This is my submission to Souper Sundays. A weekly roundup of soups, salads and sandwiches. Click HERE to view today's roundup!

This is also my submission to Reeni's monthly Side Dish Showdown.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Angel Food Cake with Coconut Ice Cream and Mango Sauce

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs the theme is Summer Lovin'. What better way to celebrate summer than with ice cream, right? I've been eyeballing Bittman's recipe for Coconut Ice Cream for a long time and thought this was the perfect chance to make it. When I was through making the ice cream I had 6 leftover egg whites and thought it would make a great start for an Angel Food Cake. Feeling on a roll, I went ahead and researched Bittman's sauces and decided to go ahead and make a Mango Sauce. I ended up with a very summery, tropical dessert that was light and delicious!

The coconut ice cream was made with both heavy cream and coconut milk. It was a very thick and creamy custard-based ice cream with little shreds of toasted coconut running through it. I kept wanting to dress it up and turn it into a fancy ice cream sundae, but it was best served on it's own with more toasted coconut on top. I enjoyed the ice cream, but my favorite of all three recipes was the Angel Food Cake and the Mango Sauce.
Coconut Ice Cream
Adapted from HTCE by Mark Bittman
2 cups cream, milk or half and half
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted in dry skillet until lightly browned if you like
1 cup canned or fresh coconut milk
Place the cream and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat, stirring occasionally, until steam arises from the cream.

Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup sugar with the egg yolks until light yellow and thick, 2 to 4 minutes. Beat 1/2 cup hot cream into this, then gradually stir this mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture reaches 175 to 180F, or is slightly thickened; do not boil. (There will be a thick coating on the back of a spoon, one that will hold the outline of your finger after you pass it through).

Stir in the coconut and coconut milk. Pour into a covered container. Chill to 40F (you can hasten this process by setting the bowl in a large bowl filled with a mixture of ice and water; stir occasionally), then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Serve immediately or freeze; use within 2 days, "warming" in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving.

Let's talk about Angel Food Cake for a minute. Do you love it like I do? I find it so irresistibly light, delicate, and sweet. You can eat it on it's own, which is perfectly delicious or you can pair it with almost anything. You can even serve it toasted. What a wonderfully versatile dessert!

Bittman's recipe calls for cake flour, which I can almost never find. Did you know that with a little work you can make your own cake flour? For every cup of cake flour needed: Sift one cup of all-purpose flour twice. Remove 2 tablespoons of the a/p flour and add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. The cornstarch has to be incorporated extremely well. The final mixture of a/p flour and cornstarch will need to be sifted at least five times. It was a little bit of a process, but I found it much easier than running all over town for cake flour.
Angel Food Cake
Adapted from HTCE by Mark Bittman
1 cup (about 4.5 ozs) cake flour, sifted
1 - 1/2 cups sugar
9 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 325F. Sift together the flour and 1/2 cup of the sugar.

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat until they hold soft peaks; the tops of the whites should droop a little bit when you remove the beaters. Beat in the remaining sugar and vanilla and almond extracts and continue to beat until the peaks become a little stiffer.

Gradually and gently fold in the flour mixture, using a rubber spatula or your hand. Turn the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10- inch tube pan (not one with ridged sides) and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake is firm, resilient, and
nicely browned.

Invert the cake onto a rack and let cool for about an hour. Cut carefully around the sides of the cake and remove. Cool completely around the sides of the cake and remove. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife or pulling apart with two forks. Angel Food Cake is best the day it is made; it becomes stale quickly (although is wonderful toasted).

I saved the best part of this dessert for last....the Mango Sauce. The Mango Sauce is perfectly delicious. Absolutely wonderful. I super duper highly recommend it!! It was great with the Angel Food Cake.
Mango Sauce
Adapted from HTCE by Mark Bittman
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups mango, pitted, peeled and diced
Combine the water, sugar and butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, shaking and stirring, until the mixture is thick and syrupy but not browned.

Toss in the fruit and cook over low heat until the fruit begins to break up and release its juices, about 4-5 minutes, possibly longer. (You may required a little more water). Serve warm or at room temperature. This sauce keeps well, refrigerated, for up to a week.

Notes/Results: Each of these components were great on their own, but paired together they made a wonderful tropical dessert. I enjoyed the ice cream, but was really impressed with the Angel Food Cake and especially impressed with the Mango Sauce. I will definitely make the cake and the Mango Sauce again. I left my Mango Sauce chunky, but it would also be just as tasty and probably more visually appealing if pureed into a smooth sauce.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guava and Cream Cheese on Galletas

This past weekend I was invited to a Bunco game for a Girls Night In. I love playing Bunco with the girls. It is the perfect excuse to eat good food, drink cocktails and have some girly chit chat. There was just one catch. Everybody was suppose to bring a potluck dish from another country. The hostess was having an international theme. The problem was that it was Thursday afternoon and I needed the potluck dish for Friday night, which didn't leave me a whole lot of time to plan or grocery shop, especially with two kids in tow. This is where I owe Velva of Tomatoes on the Vine a HUGE THANK YOU!!

Awhile back Velva posted guava and cream cheese served on Cuban Galletas. I mentioned to her that I really wanted to try the Guava Paste, but couldn't find it in the market. Velva was sweet enough to send me a package containing both the guava paste and the Cuban crackers, or Galletas. Velva's sweet gesture really saved me on this one! I threw these crackers together in no time at all and really appreciated not having to run to the store with two crazy kiddos. Thanks Again, Velva!

Please see Velva's post HERE for the recipe and her explanation about the guava paste.

: The guava and cream cheese crackers were a huge hit! Everyone thought the guava was sweet and delicious and loved it paired with the cream cheese on the crackers. They declared it perfect party food and it was the first dish to disappear. I love this recipe because it is unique and simple and you don't have to heat up the kitchen to make it (which makes this a great summertime dish). I will definitely be on the look out for more guava paste in the store.

Thanks Again, Velva!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Burger Club Roundup: Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burgers on Garlic Crostini

The third round of Burger Club ratings are in! This time around it was Build a Better Burger's Award-Winning Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burger with Garlic Crostini. A ground flank steak burger with homemade caesar dressing, romaine lettuce, and lots of fluffy Parmesan cheese served between two pieces of garlic crostini.

This is the criteria used to rate the burger:

1 Star = Didn't like and wouldn't make again.
2 Stars = Liked but wouldn't make again.
3 Stars = Liked and will make again.
4 Stars = Loved! Will make often.

Reeni of Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice
loves Caesar salad and thought the homemade Caesar dressing was one of the best she has ever tried. Reeni and her family found the burger itself to be very well-seasoned but would have preferred a softer roll, perhaps grilling only one side of the bread or even using Texas Toast as a bun for the burger. I personally love the idea of using the Texas Toast, great idea Reeni! Reeni gave the burger a 3.5 rating and said it was exceptionally delicious!

I'm so happy my friend Deb of Kahakai Kitchen had the chance to join in and make the burger this month. Deb thought the burger was juicy and flavorful and found the Caesar salad was nice and garlicky. Deb loved all the Parmesan "fluff" on top of the burger (me too!!) and gave the burger a 3.5 rating, stating that it was one of the best burgers she has made lately.

Barbara of Barbara Bakes loved the grilled sourdough which topped the burger and found it to be the best part of the recipe. Barbara also loved the homemade Caesar dressing, but found her burger to be a little on the dry side. Barbara gave the burger a 2.5 rating, saying that it was a tasty burger, but she probably wouldn't make it again. Barbara did say that she would most definitely be making grilled sourdough again and I have to agree with her. I loved the grilled sourdough too!

Kristin of Holy Cannoli Recipes loved the burger and even made her own ground steak. Way to go Kristin! Kristin and her husband are a very creative team because they came up with some wonderful ideas for this burger. Kristin's husband thought it would be great to marinate the steak in the dressing before grinding it, which sounds like a grand idea to me! Kristin loved the burger and mentioned that the next time she made it she would use ground chicken, making a Chicken Caesar Salad Burger. I say Kristin and her husband are full of all kinds of wonderful ideas. I'm thinking about moving in to her house -LOL! Kristin gave the burger a 3.5 rating.

I'm very happy to add in another Burger Club member, Brenda from Brenda's Canadian Kitchen. Brenda and her husband Joe loved the homemade dressing and thought the burger was very juicy. Brenda and Joe gave the burger it's best rating yet, 3.75! Thanks Brenda for leaving me a comment so that I could add your burger and rating to the roundup!!

Here at Stirring the Pot we really enjoyed the burger. I thought the burger was tender and flavorful and that the dressing was light and herbaceous. I loved the garlic crostini and found myself making that portion of the recipe in the days that followed. My husband and I also gave the burger a 3.5 rating.

A very big thank you to everyone who participated in this month's Burger Club! I loved all of your comments, ideas and suggestions!

Updated: I averaged out the ratings of all six participants, coming out with a 3.375 rating for the Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burger with Garlic Crostini. This means the Caesar Salad Burger falls into the "Liked and will make again" category.

The original recipe for the burger can be found HERE.

A very big thank you to Reeni for letting me host this month's roundup! Reeni will be announcing the next Burger Club challenge shortly. Please stay tuned to Reeni's blog, Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice to catch all the info.

If I missed you in the roundup, please leave me a comment so that I can be sure to include you. I don't want to leave anyone out!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dining with Dad

My Dad and I have always been best friends. As a little girl I followed my Dad around everywhere because I knew wherever he went, fun would follow. To me, my Dad was like magic and I never knew what fun game or activity he was going to dream up next. Dad and I would play games and laugh, from sunrise to sunset.

(Dad chasing me before I could even walk, so not fair!)

Dad and I were partners in crime. Laughter and games are always better when you "break the rules", right? There were definitely those times when the games were probably not appropriate, especially when it came to the dinner table. One of our favorite family meals was Spaghetti and Meatballs. You can imagine my Mom's delight at the game my Dad created, which was "How Much Spaghetti Can You Fit In Your Mouth At Once?" My Dad and I loved the game and would twirl huge chunks of spaghetti onto a fork and proceed to ram it into our mouths. Dad and I would laugh hysterically. My poor Mom. I don't think she cared for the game very much, but she never said anything. She just sat there silently while we acted ridiculous and laughed our heads off.

Our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Dining with Dad. Our Father's Day celebration this year will be just me and the kids. I have plans to see my Dad in a couple weeks, but he lives in Ohio and I live in Kentucky. My husband also can't make it as he is working out of state and unable to come home. No worries, we plan on celebrating again soon! I decided that for now I would make Bittman's Bolognese and serve it over top some spaghetti, in honor of my Dad. After dieting for two weeks straight, the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce was a big splurge for me and I had no trouble seeing how much spaghetti I could fit into my mouth (LOL)!

Meat Sauce, Bolognese-Style
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
*Makes 1 quart, enough for about 3 pounds of pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1/4 cup bacon or pancetta
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground beef (I used 1lb. 95% Hereford Beef)
3/4 cup dry white wine (I prefer red wine in Bolognese)
1 (28-35 oz) can whole plum tomatoes, drained
1 cup beef or chicken stock,
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cream, half and half, or milk
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put the olive oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low and a minute later, add the onion, carrot, celery, and bacon or pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the ground meat and cook, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until all traces of red are gone, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Crush the tomatoes with a fork or your hands and add them to the pot; stir then add the stock. Turn the heat to low and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes and any clumps of meat that remain. After an hour or so, add salt and pepper. Cook for at least another hour, until much of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is very thick. (This sauce may be covered and refrigerated for a day or two, or put in a closed container and frozen for several weeks. Reheat before completing).

Add the cream, half and half, or milk and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately with any dried or fresh pasta, passing grated Parmesan, if you like at the table.

: I love making bolognese sauce. There is just something about a pot of sauce bubbling away on the stove for hours that is comforting. Bittman's Bolognese sauce was really good. The only change I made was to add in garlic. For some reason his recipe didn't call for any. I also subbed red wine for white wine because I prefer red wine in Bolognese. The recipe really did make a quart of sauce, which is great because I can freeze the leftovers for a great, quick meal later on. It was a great meal and I know my Dad would have approved!

I couldn't resist leaving you with this funny picture of my Dad teaching me how to use the sit-and-spin. After all, it's not every day that you see a grown man riding on a sit-and-spin. Looks like he is really trying to show me how fun it can be AND he really looks like he is enjoying himself!

A Very Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Throwdown: Tortilla Soup

My blogging buddy Heather, of Girlichef, is in love with Tortilla Soup! Heather loves Tortilla Soup so much that she announced she would be trying lots of new Tortilla Soup recipes over the course of a year and requested everyone to join in and do the same. Tortilla soup is pretty tasty, so I decided to jump on board. I found several Tortilla Soup recipes that I wanted to try, so I opted for a Tortilla Soup Throwdown. We're lightening things up in the Stirring the Pot kitchen and Tortilla Soup fits right into our menu plan. Not only does it taste great, but it's some pretty healthy stuff too!

I chose two different styles of soup. The first recipe has a smooth consistency with toppings and the second recipe is more of a chunky-based soup with lots of texture. I did this on purpose because I wanted to see which one my family preferred best. It was basically smooth vs. chunky.

First up is Ellie Krieger's Tomato-Tortilla Soup from her first book, The Food You Crave. Ellie's soup is a blend of canned diced tomatoes, jalapeno, chicken broth, onion, garlic, cumin and quite a bit of lime juice. The soup is blended for a smooth consistency. Corn tortillas are brushed with a bit of canola oil and baked until crisp and used to garnish the soup, along with sour cream and cilantro. Ellie's soup makes 4 servings and comes in at 270 calories, including garnishes. The recipe can be found HERE online at Food Network.

The finished product was a very well-balanced soup which was very well-received by everyone. The lime juice really stands out and the jalapeno gives the soup the perfect amount of heat. I topped the soup with the baked corn tortillas, cheese, and cilantro BUT you could literally top it with all kinds of things: avocado, chicken, maybe some more jalapeno?

The second recipe is more of a traditional recipe and can be found on the Eating Well website, HERE. This tortilla soup was more of a broth-based soup with lots of diced poblano peppers, onion, a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, boneless skinless chicken thighs, cumin, and lime juice. This recipe also called for the corn tortillas to be baked as well, which cuts down on the calories quite a bit. A completely different take on tortilla soup, this one packed quite a bit more heat than Ellie's version. I usually find poblano peppers to be pretty mild, but the ones I used in this recipe were really packing some heat. This recipe was filled with all kinds of texture and was very satisfying, filling and comforting. Everyone liked the addition of the chicken and thought it was more of a meal-based recipe.

The winner of the Tortilla Soup Throwdown is........................

Ellie Krieger's Tomato-Tortilla Soup!!!


I think the tomato based version of Ellie's Tomato-Tortilla Soup was more flavorful. It was a very bright soup with the addition of 1/4 cup lime juice. Ellie's soup was so well-balanced and was just a pleasure to eat. It was preferred by everyone across the board and disappeared very quickly. In addition, everyone liked the idea of topping their soup with whatever their heart's desired. Chicken, cheese, avocado, chorizo, rice, anything would be great on top of this soup. I highly recommend it!

The Eating Well recipe was a great recipe but packed a little too much heat for some, good for the adults, not so great for the kids. It was a good solid recipe, but didn't disappear anywhere near as fast as Ellie's soup. Also, I noticed afterwards that it didn't contain any garlic! What the heck? We can't have soup without garlic, right?

Either way, I've come to the conclusion that the lime juice is the key to some very tasty tortilla soup!

I am submitting both recipes to my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays roundup. Every Sunday Deb features a wonderful roundup of tasty soups, sandwiches and salads.

I am also submitting this to my flavor-loving friend, Heather, of Girlichef, for her Tortilla Soup Challenge.

Heather has a 4 spoon rating system for the Tortilla Soup Challenge, with 4 spoons being the best rating.

I'm giving the Eating Well recipe 2 spoons. A good solid recipe, which I would eat again.

I'm giving Ellie's recipe 3 spoons which means that it is a recipe worth getting excited about! I even emailed a few people to tell them about it :0)

If you would like information about joining up with Heather's Tortilla Soup Challenge, click HERE to read about it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trisha Yearwood's Chicken Pizza

I'm going to go ahead and come clean right now. Warning: This pizza is made with two cans of premade pizza crust dough! (Gasp) From time to time I still buy these products because they allow me to get a tasty dinner on the table in a hurry. Don't let the cans of premade pizza dough distract you though, this was one delicious pizza and you could easily add this topping to your favorite homemade pizza crust. The good news is that this pizza is a great way to use up any leftover chicken and it is absolutely delicious. My mom has declared it her new favorite pizza.

The recipe comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks, Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. I love her new book so much. The layout is very much like one of Giada's books, very pretty with lots of gorgeous pictures. I did a cookbook review which can be found HERE. I loved everything I made so much that I picked it up and made Trisha's chicken soup, posted HERE. Still not getting enough of Trisha's book I picked it up yet again and made four new recipes, one of which was this Chicken Pizza. We loved those four recipes, but I have since put the book back on the shelf and lightened things up. Time to crack the whip!

Trisha says "After discovering a delicious chicken pizza on a family beach trip, we decided to create it at home. We love this recipe because it's so different from traditional pizza- not a tomato in sight. Now we can all enjoy it more than once a year!

Chicken Pizza
2 (13.8 oz) cans premade pizza crust dough
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic(I always use more)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 ozs)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 8 ozs)
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips (I used a yellow bell)
1 red onion, sliced vertically
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, grilled and diced (I used rotisserie)
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll the pizza dough out and fit onto two 15-inch pizza pans. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic on each pizza crust, followed by 1/2 cup each of the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of the Cheddar cheese. Scatter half of the bell pepper, sliced onion, chicken, and bacon on top of the cheeses. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese over each pizza and drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of olive oil. Bake the pizzas for 20-25 minutes, or until the crusts are lightly browned. Slice each pizza into 8 pieces.

Notes/Results: This pizza topping is packed with flavor! How can you go wrong with garlic, red onions, chicken, cheese and bacon? All of the cheese made the topping extremely creamy. The pizza was outstanding and really exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend this recipe especially if you love pizza. I will definitely make this again.

Thought I would share my favorite Trisha Yearwood song, Walkaway Joe. The video below is old. It was filmed in 1992, back when I was a senior in high school and people still wore high-waisted pants (LOL!) Halfway through the video I noticed that Matthew McConaughey played "Walkaway Joe" in the video. The video must have been shot right before his career went on the rise. He is definitely easy on the eyes ;-) I think all of us ladies can relate to this song in one way or another.

You still have a few more days to join up with the Burger Club Challenge and cook up the Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burger with Garlic Crostini. If you are interested, please click HERE for the recipe and details.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Eggs in Baked Potatoes

This week's popsicle didn't quite work out, so I am bringing you Eggs in Baked Potatoes! They were delicious and fun and can be easily customized to suit your taste. The recipe comes from a book I bought a couple years ago, The Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt.

If you are a big time breakfast or brunch person, then you will love this book. It is packed with over 300 pages of breakfast ideas with chapters on Breakfast Beverages; Egg Cookery; Omelets; Frittatas; Quiches; Stratas; Breakfast Casseroles; Breakfast Sandwiches; Skillet Entrees; French Toast; Pancakes; Crepes and Blintzes; Waffles; Meats; Potatoes; Grains and Cereals; Breakfast Breads and Cakes; and Breakfast Fruits. The book does not have any pictures and does have some basic recipes, but it also has some terrific ideas such as these Eggs in Baked Potatoes. As I mentioned, I bought the book from Williams Sonoma a couple of years ago and they no longer carry it. It is available on Amazon, ranging from $4 for a used copy, up to $13 for a brand new copy. I do recommend it for anyone who enjoys breakfast recipes.

Eggs in Baked Potatoes
Adapted from The Big Book of Breakfast
Serves 4
4 extra large russet potatoes (about 4 pounds), scrubbed and pierced in several places with the tip of a sharp knife
4 teaspoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake potatoes until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Slash potatoes lengthwise and press the edges to open. (Don't split the potatoes in half). To each potato, add 1 teaspoon butter, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon cheese, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix with a fork. Make an indentation in the center of each potato and break an egg into each one. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place in a lightly sprayed or oiled baking dish, return to oven, and bake until egg is set, 15 - 18 minutes.

Notes/Results: I absolutely love how customizable this recipe is! The Stirring the Pot kitchen is on a diet and we really lightened these up. I didn't want the calories from the butter and sour cream so I lightened up the recipe using a medium salsa in their place. Neither me or my husband care for a runny egg yolk, so I baked them almost 30 minutes and then garnished them with a little cheese, more salsa, chives, and some diced jalapeno. A perfectly healthy, yet absolutely delicious and filling breakfast. We will definitely be making these again and trying all kinds of versions. NOTE: If you happen to make these, be sure to either oil your baking sheet very well OR lay down some aluminum foil. A little bit of the egg runs down onto the baking sheet and can be very hard to get clean.

How would you customize your egg in baked potato? Bacon? Cream? Sausage? Veggies? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This!

Comfort Food. We all love it. We all have our favorites. In his latest book, Now Eat This! Rocco Dispirito chronicles his personal weight loss and his desire to indulge in comfort foods. Now Eat This! is all about comfort foods, 150 comfort foods all under 350 calories.

The book is broken down into eleven chapters: Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Sandwiches and Pizza; Fish and Shellfish; Chicken and Turkey; Beef and Pork; Pasta and More; Sides; Sauces; and Desserts. There are lots of pictures of food and lots of pictures of Rocco (ladies, you know what I'm talking about here). The book does rely heavily on many products, such as: nonstick cooking spray, low-fat cheeses, greek yogurt, bacon bits, whole wheat panko, Truvia, Splenda, and also egg substitute. While these products will appeal to some, they will not appeal to all, and for this reason, this book is probably not for everybody.

I based my review on my favorite types of comfort foods: Macaroni and Cheese, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Pizza, Potato Soup, and Chocolate Ice Cream.

The first recipe I made from the book, and probably our favorite of the five, was his Macaroni and Cheese with a Crusty Crunch. Coming in at 227 calories a serving, Rocco's Macaroni and Cheese was a combination of an onion-garlic puree, mixed with reduced-fat cheddar and Greek yogurt, topped with crispy whole wheat panko and Parmigiano.

The final result was very creamy and the portion was pretty big for 227 calories. We all enjoyed it!

The second recipe I made was Rocco's Mama-Approved Spaghetti and Meatballs. The meatballs were a mix of ground turkey breast, eggplant, onion, egg white, garlic and chicken broth. They were served over marinara sauce and whole wheat spaghetti. At some point during the cooking process, my nine year old daughter decided to "help me" by "stirring the pot of meatballs". You can imagine how well that went over. Needless to say that our meatballs ended up being meat sauce. Regardless of whether we had meatballs or meat sauce, this was not Mama-Approved and wasn't one of our favorites. Saying that, spaghetti and meatballs is probably our number one favorite meal and maybe I should have known better than to try a diet version.

The third recipe we tried, was Rocco's Deep Dish Pizza. I had seen Rocco make this pizza on an episode of Rachel Ray and it did really look good. I was excited to give it a try. A homemade whole wheat pizza crust is made using molasses and then the dough is topped with low-fat mozzarella cheese and reduced-fat pepperoni. At 218 calories a slice, this pizza was pretty good. We did like the crust and I would definitely like to make a veggie-loaded pizza next time.

Creamy potato soup is one of my very favorite comfort foods, so I chose Rocco's Cheddar Cheese and "Potato" Soup. Rocco's "potato" soup relies on cauliflower instead of potato to make a creamy, cheesy-based soup that is low calorie. Cauliflower, milk, onion, and garlic are pureed to make a hearty and thick soup. Reduced-fat cheese is added to give it a cheesy consistency. A huge bowl of this "potato" soup comes in at only 190 calories. I found that I didn't really miss the real potato in this soup. I liked this recipe and ate it for lunch most of this week. With the calories you save from using cauliflower I think you could definitely indulge in the real full-fat cheese!

I had a hard time picking out a dessert recipe. Most of the desserts contained Truvia or Splenda and I had never worked with either of those ingredients before. I opted for Rocco's Chocolate Frozen Yogurt, made from 99% unsweetened chocolate, agave nectar, skim milk, and Greek Yogurt. The final product was not real great. The frozen yogurt was very bitter (probably because the recipe calls for 99% unsweetened chocolate) and tasted very strongly like coffee. I also had trouble getting the ice cream to "set up". I don't know that I would recommend this recipe. The ingredients were pretty expensive and the end results weren't that great PLUS one serving is 276 calories and I don't know if that is a real savings in the calorie department. I think you could probably find some tastier options for the same calorie content.

Like everyone, I love the concept of indulging in comfort food without the guilt. Although I had some hit and miss results, there are still some more recipes that I would like to try. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll find a new favorite!

I'm submitting the Cheddar Cheese and "Potato" Soup to my friend Deb @ Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays roundup!

What are some of your favorite comfort foods?