Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lasagna Soup

*adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp. cayenne
3 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
3 c. finely chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dry oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 Bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock
8 oz. broken lasagna noodles (or mafalda or fusilli)
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz. ricotta
8 oz. cottage cheese
2 c. mozzarella or Italian blended cheese, grated
1/4 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add ground turkey and break up with a spatula. Add spices and brown well, breaking up the turkey very well.

2. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.

3. Add oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute.

4. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook 3-4 minutes.

5. In a medium bowl, combine cheeses, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until serving.

6. Add diced tomatoes (which I pulsed a couple times in the food processor because we don't like big chunks), Bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in basil just before serving.

To serve, place a generous dollop of the cheese mixture in each soup bowl and ladle on the soup.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

1 c. warm water (100-110 F)
1 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/4 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp. dry)
1/4 tsp. each ground garlic, dry oregano, and dry basil (Italian seasoning would do.)
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. good quality extra virgin olive oil (I use Colavita or Costco's brand)
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. bread flour + extra for kneading
1 egg, whisked + 1 Tbsp. water for egg wash
dry rosemary and minced garlic

1. In a large glass or plastic bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes to proof.

2. Stir in the salt, rosemary, herbs, olive oil, and whole wheat and all-purpose flours.

3. Add the bread flour and stir until the dough forms a ball. Knead on a surface lightly floured with the extra bread flour for about 5 minutes, adding more bread flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Continue kneading until smooth.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled (more olive oil) glass or plastic bowl and cover. Let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

5. Punch down the dough and form a round loaf by pinching and folding to the under side. Place it on a cornmeal dusted pizza stone or cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until double in size.

6. Preheat oven to 400 F with a pan of water in the bottom. (Steam makes a chewier crust.) Once the dough has risen, gently brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with dry rosemary and minced garlic.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Braised Chicken With Lemon & Capers

*adapted from Food & Wine recipe Zesty Braised Chicken

  • 6 bonesless skinless chicken pieces (I used breasts)
  • all-purpose flour for dusting
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin 0live oil
  • 3 large peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • zest from 1 fresh lemon
  • 4 thyme springs
  • 1 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and dust with flour.  In a large ovenproof skillet or dutch oven, melt the butter in the oil.  Add the chicken, and cook over medium-high heat, turning once, until browned (12 to 14 minutes).  Transfer the chicken to a large plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock, lemon zest, thyme, capers and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Transfer the skillet to the oven, cover and braise for 30-35 minutes, until the meat is tender.

Remove chicken, then return the skillet to the stove and boil until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme, bay leaf and lemon zest before serving.

I served with seasoned baby baked potatoes, green beans, and kale.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saucy Ham & Cheese Sliders

*recipe adapted slightly from The Girl Who Ate Everything who adapted it slightly from someone else

24 pieces good honey ham
24 good dinner rolls
1 1/2 pound combined grated Italian cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, etc)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup miracle whip

Poppy seed sauce:
1 Tbsp. poppyseeds
1 1/2 Tbsp. sweet and spicy mustard
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and miracle whip. Spread onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place bottoms of rolls very close together in a 9x13 baking dish. Stack some ham on each roll and then spread the grated cheeses on top. Put the tops of the rolls on.

Whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients. Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm.

*The Girl Who Eats Everything mentioned preparing these ahead and leaving in fridge overnight, which worked out splendidly.

Kickin' Black Bean Soup

This recipe got its legs from the best black bean soup recipe I ever found on All Recipes. I only kept the legs, mind you.


  • 2 pounds black beans, cooked, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable, chicken, or ham stock
  • 1 1/2 cups favorite salsa
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dry cilantro
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. or more cayenne powder
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Tbsp. sour cream for garnish
  • 2 thinly sliced green onions for garnish


  1. Throw all but the last 4 ingredients in your 4-quart crock pot. You need just enough broth to barely cover the beans and no more. (Too much and the soup will be too thin.)
  2. Cook on high 1 hour and then low for 5-6 hours.
  3. Scoop out one cup of beans to reserve.
  4. Use an immersion blender (or food processor or potato masher) to puree remaining beans.
  5. Stir in whole, reserved beans.
  6. Add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and stir together, simmering an additional 15-30 minutes.
  7. Garnish with sour cream and green onion to serve. Tortilla strips are a nice touch too
I serve this regularly, often with quesadillas for dipping. The whole family loves this! Nick prefers it with more whole beans and the rest of us love it pureed more. Just play with it to get it right for you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unless You Got Buns, Hun!

We have mostly avoided buying buns since trying this recipe the first time. After I slice the buns I dig out the middles a bit (because it is A LOT of bread) and I throw that bread into food processor and then make seasoned breadcrumbs or croutons (which recipe is already recorded on Leftovers Please). Because I used the breadmaker to make the dough, these were a breeze and so much tastier than storebought buns, but they would be pretty easy to make without the breadmaker too. I'm sharing the recipe below.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk, reserved
  • 1 tablespoon water, reserved


To prepare dough in the breadmaker I just added all the ingredients (except those reserved) and selected the Dough Cycle. I then picked up at Step 3. After brushing the tops of the rolls with the egg wash (except for Ephrem's, of course) I sprinkled them with poppy seeds, raw sesame seeds and then sprinkled on some garlic salt and onion powder. Next time I'll use freshly minced garlic and onions, but I was shorter on time today. I also baked one sheet at a time, leaving the other to rest a bit longer and they turned out just fine.
  1. Combine the milk, 1 cup of water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and let stand until lukewarm. If the mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and yeast. Pour in wet ingredients and stir until the dough starts to pull together. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to mix for about 8 minutes. If not, knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions They should be a little larger than a golf ball. Make tight balls out of the dough by pulling the dough tightly around and pinching it at the bottom. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. After the rolls sit for a minute and relax, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until it is 3 to 4 inches wide. You may want to oil your hand first. Set rolls aside until they double in size, about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Mix together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup or small bowl. Brush onto the tops of the rolls. Position 2 oven racks so they are not too close to the top or bottom of the oven.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the rolls from the oven and return them to different shelves so each one spends a little time on the top. Continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top and bottom.

Gnocchi From Scratch


*2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
*1 large egg, slightly beaten
*1 c. all-purpose flour
*1 tsp. sea salt, added to your cooking water
*2 tsp. dry parsley flakes, crushed

1. You start by scrubbing and peeling 2 large russet potatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise, and then drop them into a pot of boiling salted water for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

2. Remove the potatoes from the water with a slotted spoon, reserving your cooking water. Immediately begin to deconstruct the potatoes. A potato ricer would be excellent for this (I've been wishing for one for some time. I think it's time to acquire one). You could also use the tines of a fork to scrape along the length of the potato. I used a pastry cutter to mash it into a fluffy crumble. You do not want to over-mash, just make it so there are no noticeable lumps.

3. Spread your potatoes on a clean surface (counter top or large cutting board) to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Pull your potatoes into a mound. Pour your slightly beaten egg over the mound and then use a baker's spatula or pastry scraper to fold the egg into the potatoes, scraping from the bottom and folding over the top several times until your potatoes are yellow from the egg.

4. Crush your parsley over the mound and then fold a couple additional times to combine.

5. Sprinkle 3/4 of your cup of flour over the top of your potato mound and begin to lightly knead the flour into the potatoes. As you are kneading, add more flour if the mixture combines and is tacky. Add a bit of your cooking water if the mixture is crumbly and dry. You want a billowy consistency. Depending on the size of your potatoes and the amount of water retained from cooking, you may need more or less than a full cup of flour, but the dough should feel almost like playdough when you get it right.

6. Cut your dough into 4 or 8 sections, depending on your counter space. Begin rolling the dough sections into  long snakes until they are approximately the diameter of your thumb.

   7. Cut your dough snake into small sections, about the length of your pinky fingertip to the first knuckle.

8. In the palms of your hands, gently roll each section into a small ball. If you come across any large chunks of potato, just discard them and re-roll your little ball of dough.

9. When you have rolled your little balls of dough, pick up one at a time and press it into the curve and tines of a lightly floured fork, forming a small bowl with your thumb. Peel the formed gnocchi carefully off the fork. A perfectly shaped gnocchi will make a C-shape, but they taste the same either way, and the C takes some practice. (We didn't achieve such perfection until about the last 20 gnocchis.) Dip your fork and thumb into a bit of flour frequently as you make the gnocchis.

10. Let your gnocchis settle and dry a few minutes while you get your pot of salted water boiling again.

11. Drop gnocchis 20 or 30 at a time into your boiling water. The gnocchis will cook and then pop to the top, staying afloat, when they are just about done cooking. Leave them on top for about 30 seconds to a minute and then skim them out with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl.

You're done!

Gnocchis are excellent in soup, served in pesto, in spaghetti sauce, etc. They even taste pretty good all by themselves!

This is a pretty big batch of gnocchi, so we are going to freeze the batch that the girls and I make today. When I freeze things like this I typically line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper and then place the items on the sheet in a single layer, mostly not touching. I put them in the freezer until they are entirely frozen and then I transfer them to a labeled freezer container or Ziploc Freezer Bag. These should keep in the freezer for about 6 months.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

I got the bones of this recipe from a lady who tried to copycat Olive Garden's chicken gnocchi soup. I tweaked it, but even before tweaking this recipe was WAY better than Olive Garden (of which I'm no fan, so take that as you like).


* 2/3 c. olive oil
* 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
* 4 chicken breasts, diced into bite-size pieces
* 2/3 c. flour
* 1/2 c. shredded carrots
* 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
* 1 c. fresh spinach, finely sliced
* 5 c. milk (I used skim milk)
* 3 c. heavy cream (I used half and half to make it healthier)
* 3 chicken boullion cubes (I used 3 tsp. chicken soup base)
* sea salt and pepper to taste (I used a white/black pepper combo)
* 1 full batch of the homemade gnocchi (about 180 pieces)


1. Heat your olive oil into a large soup pot.
2. Cook chicken through.
3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
4. Stir in flour and allow to cook into the chicken (3-5 minutes), stirring frequently
5. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the gnocchi.
6. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
7. Bring to a gentle boil, continuing to stir frequently (you don't want that milk and cream to scorch).
8. Add your gnocchis. Lower the heat and simmer the gnocchis about 10 minutes.

This soup was sooooo good!!! At least as good as Olive Garden's. Ironically, this is the only thing I even like to eat at that place...Anyway, it's a new family favorite.

Zesty Lentil Soup

My lentil soup gets a lot of play in this house, and a lot of praise wherever it goes!

It is such an easy recipe and tastes so fabulous that I thought I'd share it here. Served alongside my homemade bread (did I post that recipe yet?) it is a perfect, nutritious meal.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 large stalks celery, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp. Italian Seasoning (or combine oregano, basil, and parsley)
3-5 dashes cayenne powder
1 large bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups dry lentils, rinsed (any variety of lentils. I combine 3 varieties)
1/3 c. raw quinoa, rinsed (optional but kicks up the nutrition and thickens the soup)
6-8 c. water or stock (stock is better)
1 c. fresh spinach, sliced
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar to drizzle and serve (MAKES the dish!)

I clean and roughly chop my veg and then throw them in the food processor to get a very fine chop, and then I puree the tomatoes.

Throw all but the last 4 ingredients into a 4-quart crock pot. Cook on high for 2 hours, then low for an additoinal 4-6 hours. In the last 1/2 hour of cooking time, add your sliced spinach and lemon juice and zest. Salt and pepper the soup to taste. When serving, drizzle the Balsamic vinegar (we use a yummy pomegranate-infused Balsamic) over the soup. Enjoy!!!

This is a very easy recipe to double and serve a crowd or put away in the freezer for another day, which I just love to do! This is a very healthy meal, but don't let that turn you off. Even if you don't like lentils or THINK you don't like lentils, this could change your mind.

Virtuous Mint Juleps

I call all of my mocktails virtuous rather than virgin. People think it's funny, but I just think it sounds nicer.
This is so refreshing on a hot, grody southern day!

Virtuous Mint Julep
4-5 mint sprigs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cold water
3/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 1/2 qt ginger ale
Thinly-sliced lemon slices (for garnish)

Rinse the mint and discard the stems. Place sugar, water lemon juice, pineapple juice in a medium-sized bowl, mix, and stir in the mint leaves. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Fill a large pitcher with ice cubes. Strain the liquid over the ice. Add the ginger ale and lemon slices and serve.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

First, caramel:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated to luke warm in microwave (30 seconds)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream, heated to luke warm in microwave (30 seconds)
*optional 2 Tablespoons Rum
*optional 1/4 corn syrup – for those of you who are concerned your caramel sauce will turn to candy)
In a medium sauce pan, add sugar and water (and optional corn syrup).  Cook the ingredients on medium-high heat.  Carefully watch the sugar syrup change colors around the outer edge to an amber-brownish color, or if using a candy thermometer – 350 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and using a wooden spoon or whisk, quickly stir everything to keep the sugar water from burning.  Your simple syrup should be a golden ale brown.  As you continue to stir, pour in 1/2 cup of warm heavy cream and pats of butter.  When the cream makes contact with the sugar water it will start bubbling violently.  Continue to stir until the sugar crystallization dissolves.  Finally, add 1/4 cup of additional warm heavy cream (and rum) until caramel sauce is nice and smooth.  Transfer to a heat proof jar and allow the sauce to cool on the counter slightly covered with plastic wrap for an hour.  Use immediately or seal the jar and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Note: *As caramel sauce cools, it will thicken.  Before serving, re-heat in the microwave for 30 seconds for 1 cup.

Next, chocolate ganache:

  • 12 ounces chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • optional 3 tablespoons flavored liqueor
Place chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat heavy cream on medium high until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour cream over chocolate and stir until completely mixed and glossy.
Last and best, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate:

Now, the hot chocolate!!!

3 tablespoons Caramel syrup, heated to luke warm  (recipe here)
Hot Chocolate (4 tablespoons of ganache plus 6 oz. of milk, heated)
Canned Whipped Cream
Pinch of Medium Coarse Sea Salt
Pour 2 Tablespoons of caramel syrup into a mug so the inside of the mug is coated well.  Add hot chocolate and stir everything.  Top off with with cream, drizzle with remaining caramel, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate is my new little pick-me-up when I'm out and about. Starbucks only carries it seasonally and it is TO DIE FOR! So, of course, I had to find a way to make something equitable at home...

Savory Seasoned Bread Crumbs

My new Christmas present, which I told my husband NOT to buy for me...

The first thing I did was think of a name for her (because I name everything). It took a few days. I finally decided on Cleo. Once she was named I broke her out of the box, cleaned off the packing dust, and put her to good use. The first thing we made together was breadcrumbs.

We chopped up 2 loaves of day-old French bread and spread each loafworth out on a large pizza pan.

Next I drizzled a good quality olive oil (I like Colavita) over the crumbs and rolled them gently with a spatula to distribute the olive oil.

Next I sprinkled on sea salt, dessicated garlic, and my own special Italian herb blend (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, savory, and sorrel). I roll the crumbs lightly with my spatula again to coat the crumbs with oil and seasoning.

I warm the oven to 275* and put in one pan at a time. I toast the crumbs for 10 minutes, gently turn, and then toast an additional 10 minutes.

I let the crumbs cool completely and then scoop 2 c. into each Ziploc freezer bag, label, and toss in the freezer for storage.

These are amazing and you will never buy breadcrumbs in the store that will equal homemade. I use these in every recipe that calls for breadcrumbs and occasionally make larger crumbs with this recipe for croutons, which I use fresh and never store. If you make croutons and find that you can't use them all right away, crunch them up for breadcrumbs.

You don't have to have a Cuisinart, or any food processor at all. You could just tear up the bread by hand.

*I reassigned my old 3-cup capacity Cuisinart with the broken lid to compost duty, keeping it out of a landfill and speeding up my composting too.*

Tasty Tunafish Cakes

2 6-oz. cans tuna in water
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 c. bread crumbs
2 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. water (or liquid from tuna)
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley or 2 tsp. dry parsley flakes
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped chives or 2 tsp. dry chives
1 minced shallot (which I forgot to picture)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 raw egg
3 Tbsp. good quality olive oil (divided 1 T. and 2 T.)
1 Tbsp. butter

Stir all but last 3 ingredients together in a bowl or with a dough blade in your food processor. Add egg and 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and combine well.

Divide mixture in half and in half again, and so on, until you have 8 similarly sized pieces. Form each piece into a ball and then form a patty. Place each patty gently onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Refrigerate several hours. Chilling the patties will help them stay together better when cooking. You can also freeze them (putting them in Ziplocs after thorough freezing) and then mostly defrost when you are ready to cook them.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Gently place patties in the pan and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes on each side.

I served it with lemon Basmati rice and asparagus in lemon butter. Next time I'll make a nice remoulade to spoon over the fish cakes too.

These were FANTASTIC!!! We all LOVED them! I doubled the recipe and put half in the freezer for another time.

*I would like to note that I typically use chunk light tuna in the house (as it has a lower concentration of mercury). Albacore (which Nick bought because I didn't specifiy chunk light on the list) has a much milder flavor, and I suspect these will be even tastier with the chunk light.

South-Asian Lemon Rice


1 c. long-grain Basmati rice
2 tsp. freshly ground ginger root
2 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1 fresh lemon (bottled juice will not do)
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. butter or good quality olive oil
1 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt


Rinse 1 c. Basmati rice in mesh strainer
Leave rice in strainer and set in bowl of water to soak 30 minutes.
Cut your butter, zest and cut your lemon, grate your ginger, grind your pepper.
Melt butter over medium heat.
Add rice, lemon zest, and ginger. Stir to toast lightly, about 5 minutes.
Add salt, broth, and lemon juice.
Bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until liquid is soaked up.
Add pepper and fluff rice before serving.