Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ina Garten's Creamed Spinach & Eggs

I am a big fan of spinach and eggs combined in about any fashion. They just go so well together! One of my favorite breakfasts is taking leftover spinach and artichoke dip, slathering it on some crusty bread, then topping it with a fried egg. Trust me, If I can put an egg on anything, I will!

 So, with that in mind, I figured Ina's Creamed Spinach and Eggs would be an awesome breakfast that I would love. The bonus, there is over ONE POUND of spinach in this recipe and eating leafy greens is SO HEALTHY, right? I think it cancels out all the cheese and cream in this recipe. 

This comes together so easily, tastes great, looks gorgeous, and would be perfect to serve at a brunch if and when we can ever entertain again. However, this is also something different to make for your family and/or just for yourself, because it does reheat well, if necessary. We really enjoyed this one, but next time I will definitely be adding some artichokes because I think that would make it even better!

Creamed Spinach & Eggs

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

By Ina Garten

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 shallots)

1-1/4 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed and spun dry

1 (5.2 ounce) package Boursin Garlic and Fines Herbs Cheese

 1/3 cup heavy cream

pinch of ground nutmeg

salt and black pepper

4 extra-large eggs

1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the spinach in large handfuls, tossing with metal tongs to wilt each batch before adding another. After all of the spinach has been added and completely wilted, crumble the Boursin into the spinach and add the cream, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, until the cheese and cream form a sauce.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a 9x9" square or 8x10" oval baking dish. With the back of a wooden spoon, make four indentations in the spinach. Place an egg in each indentation. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the spinach and eggs with the Gruyere and Parmesan. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes for runny yolks or 13 to 14 minutes for yolks that are just cooked. Serve hot from the baking dish.









Sunday, January 24, 2021

Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board {and my thoughts on Charcuterie Boards}


Charcuterie boards are all the rage lately and people are putting ALL KINDS of food on their boards and calling it charcuterie. To me, charcuterie is classic antipasto, like meats and cheese, maybe some olives, and/or roasted veggies. However, all the rules are now broken. Literally everything is served up as a charcuterie board, even hot foods like breakfast and dinner. So, since all the rules are broken, here is my Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board inspired by Ina Garten's tips and what I had on hand. 

Now before I tell you how I put this together I have to tell you that I love the way a charcuterie board looks, but there are several things I DON'T LIKE about a charcuterie board.

1) Way too time consuming and artsy. I do not like spending tons of time artfully arranging anything in my life so this just feels like torture. I can appreciate a pretty board, but personally it feels way too pretentious to me! Sorry, Ina. I will NOT be going to my florist for some greenery.

2)People spend way too much money on boards, fancy dishes, serving utensils, and also fancy ingredients. According to Ina, we do NEED focal points, but I say we don't need to spend exorbitant amounts on fancy things. 

3)People are now putting hot food on charcuterie boards and I'm sorry but I like my food hot. By the time you move all that around and decorate the board IT IS COLD! It literally makes me crazy when I see this.

So, now that I've discussed my issues with charcuterie boards let me tell you about my Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board. First of all, it is not fancy whatsoever! I simply used what I had on hand and what was seasonal. I bet if you go look right now, you have all the ingredients to put something together. We do not have to reinvent the wheel here or go buy a bunch of out-of-season berries to be fancy. All we need is some seasonal fruit, some dried fruit, nuts, honey, maybe some chocolate chips, and granola. Let's be simple, folks.

Next, find a board that you have at home. Think outside of the box. The board doesn't have to be fancy because YOU ARE GOING TO COVER IT UP! Yes, I said it! According to Ina, all you need is a flat board! Next, you and I both know you have an array of mismatch dishes in your cabinets that you can use to create focal points and some height. I just used some ramekins I've had forever, a recycled yogurt glass that I washed out and kept, and an old wooden bowl that was cracked. I don't really do fancy.

Finally, I refuse to try and serve anything hot on a board and I also didn't have any typical charcuterie (antipasto) ingredients on hand, so I went with a yogurt board. As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe these boards have to cost tons of money to be pretty or pleasing.

My board came together with some Greek yogurt topped with honey, sliced almonds, candied walnuts and dried cranberries, granola, chocolate chips, dried mango, sliced banana, fresh slices of orange, and some dried dates. I resisted the urge to run out and buy a ton of beautifully colored berries because THEY ARE NOT SEASONAL, nor are they necessary.

Ina says that you should place down all the larger items first, leaving spaces, and then fill in those spaces with "large block of color."  She says to group like things together and your board will look "simple and elegant." 

Following Ina's rules I got out my cutting board and set the larger bowl of yogurt as the focal point. I put dried mango slices in an old recycled glass jar to create height. Then I put the sliced almonds, chocolate chips, candied walnuts and dried cranberries, and dried dates into the small ramekins. I sliced one orange to create a large block of color, added a banana to the board, spilled some granola down the middle, and filled in the empty spaces with sliced banana. Lastly, I drizzled the yogurt with some honey and stuck an old wooden spoon in the yogurt. It was easy peasy and I think it turned out well.

I made a yogurt parfait with candied walnuts and cranberries, sliced banana, a few chocolate chips, and a squeeze of orange over the top, then grabbed some dried mango to enjoy on the side. The kids made theirs with granola and chocolate chips with orange slices on the side. I made a few parfaits with the rest of it, stuffed some dates with yogurt and nuts, and stored it all in the fridge for a later time. Everyone was pleased.

Keep it simple. Life is hard enough!

If you'd like to read more about Ina's tips for building a charcuterie board, please click here.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa {And A California Tale}

Imagine this, it's the very early 00's and me and my husband are visiting California. We're leaving L.A and driving "the 5" all the way to San Francisco. Now, I don't know what we were expecting, but I can tell you this experience did not end up anywhere near anything we had dreamed up in our east coast minds. I don't know if "the 5" has changed much in the last 20 years, but at the time it was a lot of nothing: Six Flags, some brown mountains, nothing but brown dirt and maybe mountains, aqueducts, signs for orchards, windmills, thousands upon thousands of cows, and then a pea soup restaurant called Pea Soup Anderson's. Now, if you're gonna be making this drive you're gonna get hungry and you're probably not gonna be craving pea soup, but that's all you're gonna get. So pea soup it is!

Now, in all of my 45 years, I've never felt more like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone more than the day we made that drive. So, in the middle of nowhere, we drove up to a pea soup restaurant thinking, "what in the absolute world is going on?" I can remember inhaling dust while walking into the restaurant, everything was so brown and so dry, and when we walked inside I was taken aback. The inside of the restaurant was pea green too! Mind blown. Still is. I remember being totally tripped out. I know we ate the pea soup and some bread. I just can't remember the pea soup because everything else was so darn out of place that day. I'm thinking I must've liked it because I remember buying pea soup and eating it at work in the years that followed.

Fast forward 20 years and me and my husband still laugh about our ride down "the 5". Then I came across Ina Garten's recipe for Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa and I thought, "why the heck not?" It took me weeks to find a ham hock and the rest was easy peasy.

I have to say we were not overly impressed. Don't get me wrong, the soup is good and if you love split pea soup then you would love this recipe! The crispy kielbasa is really great and the soup is A LOT better the second day, but it's just not something that we crave or feel we need to eat on a regular basis. So, if split pea soup is your jam, then you'd probably love this recipe and a drive up "the 5". But if split pea soup is not your jam, then you might wanna drive up the 101 if you're ever in California, and skip this recipe.


Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, spun dried (2 leeks)

1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)

2 cups 1/2" diced, scrubbed carrots (3 large)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 pound dry green split peas

8 cups good chicken stock (preferable homemade)

1 smoked ham hock

8 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine

2 large fresh bay leaves

salt and pepper

12 ounces smoked kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally in 1/4" thick pieces

minced fresh parsley, for serving

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large (11 to 12") pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and carrots and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas to coat with oil and cook for one minute. Add 8 cups of the chicken stock, 2 cups water, the ham hock, thyme bundle, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender and falling apart. After 45 minutes, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the soup doesn't burn.

Discard the thyme bundle, bay leaves, and ham hock. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Return the puree to the pot, adding more chicken stock or water if the soup is too thick.

To serve, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (10 to 11") saute pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the kielbasa is browned. Serve the soup hot with the kielbasa and parsley sprinkled on top.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Whole-Grain Breakfast Bowl To Start Off The New Year!

Let me just say that I LOVE working at home virtually! There are just so many perks. Since I don't have to focus so much attention on getting ready (packing lunches, gathering supplies, commuting, working the car rider line, etc.) I have way more time to focus on breakfast! This is great for me because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day!

This is NOT your ordinary bowl of oatmeal. In fact, it's not really oatmeal at all. It's two parts pearl barley and one part oatmeal, so if anything it is truly a barley bowl...and it is THE BREAKFAST BOWL! The chew and pop of the barley with the sweetness of the fruit and maple syrup is definitely something worth waking up for! Trust me when I say that there is no going back to regular oatmeal after you have this! You will be adding barley to all of your breakfast bowls from here on out. 

This is one of those recipes that grows on you. You make it and eat it the first time and thinkingy, "well that was pretty good, but I don't know if I'd spend an hour cooking it again." Then later on in the day you find yourself thinking about it and so happy you leftovers for the next morning. When the next morning comes you've been thinking about that warm comforting breakfast bowl with the pop of the barley and the slight fruity sweetness from the raspberries. You imagine the maple syrup glistening and making the berries shine. You can hardly wait to warm up your breakfast bowl and you are so thankful that you made enough for today. You suddenly love this hearty comforting breakfast bowl that is warming your soul.  You are sad there are no more leftovers and you are sad it will take an hour to cook it again. But, this time, after craving it all week, you will not mess around and make half of the recipe. You will make the WHOLE batch!

That is the story of how I came to love these breakfast bowls. I made the recipe again today. The whole batch. I am so happy I can look forward to eating this for breakfast for the next few days. 

Whole-Grain Breakfast Bowl

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 4

1  cup pearled barley (see note)

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra for serving

1/2 cup medium-diced pitted, dried dates (6 to 8 dates)

1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts*

6 ounces raspberries, or more to your liking

Pure maple syrup, for serving

Note: Make sure you buy "pearled" barley, which has been processed so it cooks faster. Also, I don't care for hazelnuts so I subbed them for sliced almonds. In my opinion, the raspberries really make this recipe pop, so I opt to use a little more than the recipe calls for.  

 Combine the barley, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add the oats plus 2 cups water, return to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes, until the barley is tender and the oats are creamy. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup milk.

Spoon the barley and oats into four shallow bowls. Sprinkle with the dates, raspberries, and hazelnuts, drizzle with maple syrup, and pour on some milk. Serve hot.

Welcome 2021 @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!

Welcome 2021 @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!