Monday, October 29, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge

When I read Sarah's post about the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge on Cucina Bella I was intrigued & decided to join in. The challenge is to cook at least one meal a week using 90% local ingredients. That should be pretty easy for me - our local farmer's market, which I absolutely love, is less than 10 minutes from my office, so I can easily stop by on a weekly basis. Although I do have plenty of room to roam - local is defined as a 200 mile radius. I could actually even include my upcoming trip to Berlin, Ohio in the challenge. It's just about 190 miles from us & I can always find a reason to visit. The Amish-made cinnamon bread alone is well worth the drive.

I'm really excited to get started & can't wait to see what the fall market brings. I'll be beginning with breakfast on Saturday morning.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shrimp Bisque

Sometimes a dish seems much more intimidating than it really is. I love both shrimp & lobster bisques & enjoy them whenever we go out to our favorite seafood restaurants, but had never really thought of making them at home. Then I saw Ina Garten's recipe for shrimp bisque & decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty simple. I had never made my own seafood stock, but that was easy too. If you don't want to make your own stock, you may be able to find it at specialty grocery stores or online. But in less than 1 1/2 hours, you can have your own. If you prepare the stock in advance & have it in the freezer, you could easily have the bisque ready in less than 30 minutes. The end result is a velvety & rich bisque that I know I'll be making again & again.

Copyright 2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
4 cups seafood stock
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

Seafood Stock
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups shrimp shells (from about a pound of shrimp)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup good white wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
10 springs fresh thyme, including stems

Warm the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells, onions, carrots and celery and saute for 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water, the white wine, tomato paste, salt, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pressing the solids. You should have approximately 1 quart of stock. You can make up the difference with water or wine if needed.

Tonia's Notes: I did large chops on the vegetables for the stock, quartering the onions & cutting the celery & carrots into thirds. I also saved the carrots after straining, just like I do when making chicken stock; they make a fantastic snack.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


A friend of mine recently started a new business, Happiness Spreads, offering butter mix-ins & dip mixes in a variety of sweet & savory flavors. My favorite right now is the Island Ecstasy, a pineapple & coconut flavored mix. As soon as I saw that flavor, I knew it would make a wonderful dessert cheeseball. And I was right; it's absolutely delicious. I served mine with pretzel sticks to add a little saltiness. Animal crackers would be great too.

Island Ecstasy Cheeseball
1 package Happiness Spreads Island Ecstasy
1 8 ounce package cream cheese - softened at room temperature
1/3 cup crushed macadamia nuts
1/4 cup white chocolate chips, coarsley chopped
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1/3 cup flaked coconut

Combine Island Ecstasy mix & cream cheese, mix well. Add remaining ingredients. Shape into ball. Roll in additional flaked coconut if desired. Chill, serve & help yourself to some Ecstasy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Classic Meatloaf - National Meatloaf Appreciation Day

When I read that Serious Eats had declared Thursday, October 18th as "National Meatloaf Appreciation Day" I wanted to join in on the fun. What better comfort food is there than meatloaf? If you're like me, you probably enjoy meatloaf the way Mom always made it, usually a recipe handed down from her own mother. Of course, this varies from household to household. I've tried several different recipes over the years, but always go back to Martha Stewart's classic meatloaf recipe. Try baking your meatloaf on a baking sheet instead of a loaf pan; you'll be surprised to see what a nice crust it gets.

Classic Meatloaf
3 slices white sandwich bread
1/3 cup whole milk
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 medium onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/2 cup ketchup
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place bread in food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a small bowl; stir in milk. Set aside, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine beef, onion, garlic, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add bread-milk mixture, and mix very gently with a fork (do not overmix).

Place meat mixture on prepared baking sheet, and form into a loaf about 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide.

Bake, brushing twice with remaining 1/4 cup ketchup during baking, until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees, 45 to 55 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pepper Steak

I decided to have pepper steak for dinner today. I wanted something quick as we had lots to do outside & it's something Mike's mom used to make for him pretty often. I had picked up a 3-meal value pack of beef at the grocery store - a 2 pound roast, a 1 1/2 pound sirloin steak & 1 pound of stew beef (a double mortgage is making me thrifty), so I had a nice piece of sirloin to put to use. If you're like me, you'll want to have a few extra peppers on hand - I like to snack as I'm chopping.

Pepper Steak
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sirloin, cut into thin strips
2 red bell peppers, 1 green & 1 yellow, sliced into strips
1 white onion, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can tomato puree
1/2 can water (use tomato puree can)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook onion & bell peppers in oil until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. Add beef, stirring frequently, until done, about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and beef; cook 1 minute longer. Add tomato puree, water, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

I love pumpkin cheesecake & of course I love brownies. So I was very happy to see the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies that Rachel had created over at Cocount & Lime. The brownies turned out wonderfully moist with an almost velvet-like texture. The only change I made was to use light brown sugar instead of dark brown as that was all I had on hand.