...*a glimse into the daily life of a chef*...

...this blog is a place for me to record and reflect the passion that i put into my everyday life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

soup of the week #6

.....an oldy but a goody

Broccoli Cheese

Start off by sauteing:
1 lg. white onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
with 3 T. butter
then add in your 2 lg. heads of broccoli
cut into medium sized pieces
(stems and all, just peel them)
saute them all getting as little color as possible, 
so keep the heat at about medium.
add 1/2 c. of flour and 1 T butter (only if needed)
1 T salt
stir till flour is coated
then add in 1 c. white wine
reduce a little 
then add in 1qt. chicken stock
cook until broccoli is tender
then use a hand mixer to puree soup
or put in the blend a little at a time
when soup is pureed to your liking
6 oz. cream cheese
2 c. heavy cream
and if you want 
2 oz white american cheese

stir until cheese is dissolved then season with salt and pepper
i like to serve this with homemade croutons and shredded cheddar cheese
or garlic roasted broccoli florets 

on a rainy spring day, this can take all the blues away!



....so on my journey to getting married i have started a new eating plan to eat more healthy and perhaps loose a pound or two to look great in my dress. Spence is all for it but a little skeptical about the meals...its nothing crazy just eating 5 times a day and  eating more whole foods, no excess sugar or carbs...but last night i WOWED him, he was floored and to tell you the truth so was I. Our meal was so good I woke up craving it this morning. it was simple and it went a little like this...

in a large saute pan:

3-4 T good olive oil
(I really like Greek olive oils, they just taste a little fruitier to me)
get the oil hot and then add:
1# tenderloin peices
(or whatever good lean meat you have)
season your meat heavily with pepper and a little garlic salt
Then use whatever veggies you have around
but this is what i used:
2 stalks of celery, slice
2 small carrots, chopped
1 onion, julienne
1 red pepper, cut in 1" peieces
1/2 bunch of broccoli
start the beef in the pan let it start to sear and then just add your veggies starting with the carrots because they take the longest to cook. 
season the whole dish again with black pepper and garlic salt.
and that is it, make sure you cook the veggies only until they are just tender,
keep the as al dente as possible took keep the most nutrients as possible
And the crunch is SO good!

now for an added bonus I made a yogurt sauce for dipping:
1/4 c. plain yogurt
leaves off 2 stems of fresh oregano
1 green onion
15 cilantro leaves
chop all the herbs and onion and stir into the yogurt, and serve!

....this was such a fantastic and EASY meal 
 it took me about 10 minutes to make the whole thing
and i devoured the whole thing, it was amazing and when it was over i felt good, 
not weighed down or stuffed
you could serve this meal with pitas too go Greek, throw in a few pepperocinis and kalamata olives...
maybe some feta cheese
or serve it with rice like how Spence ate it...
but to be honest with you, i didn't need anything else
it was so simple and good i was happy just eating it as is!

Hope you enjoy it as much as i Did!

Spence said it was one of the best meals I have ever made!!!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

LeT me SeE YoUr Casserole***

...to the left to the left, to right to the right....now dip?

ok now that i have that out of my system lets talk good ol' Midwestern casserole...I love these wonders. They can be made ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator, some even frozen and served at a later date. its a process of deciding what goes in it and what tops it. so here we go with a few of my favorites!

#1) Shepard's Pie

this is a combination of ground meats, onions, carrots, celery, peas (and if i make a few other goodies) that is then topped with mashed potatoes, sound good? i think so!

the ALY version:
Start with 1# ground beef 
(traditionally if you wanted you would use beef and lamb- 
or you could use ground turkey to cut the fat...its really flexible so play around with it!)
1 lg. white onion diced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
8 button mushroom, chopped
(or use 1 portobello cap, or same amount of favorite small mushroom)
1 red pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 springs fresh thyme
start by browning your beef in the bottom of the pan, when begins to brown add mushrooms, garlic and onions, then drain excess fat after meat is all cook through. 
Then add remain veggies and roast for a few minutes, then deglaze with red wine maybe one turn around the pan, then add 1 sm. can of tomato paste and 3 T flour.  stir around and brown the tomato paste a bit and get the flour totally coated.
then add in 1 can of diced tomatoes and beef stock to just below being covered
 let this cook until veggies are tender and sauce is thick, 
if need be thicken with a slurry to make it a nice gravy consistancy. 

In a separate pot you will need to be boiling 4 russet potatoes 
and i also like to add in 2 sweet potatoes for a little twist.
You will boil these until tender and mashable.
Mash then up with some cream cheese or sour cream 
and 2 c. cheddar cheese
garlic salt and pepper to taste

When the beef mixture is ready pour it in a baking dish that will be 
deep enough for you to add in a nice layer of mashed potatoes.
i like to sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the tomatoes, but that is just me.
so just layer the mashed on top of the beef mixture then bake at 400 till the top is golden brown.

if you live alone or are making it just for two or what not try this:
make the casserole in personal sized baking tin, you can buy at the store the small ones for like chicken pot pies, so make it in those an freeze them so you can heat them up for a quick fix meal!

#2)Pot Pie
***with this basic recipe you can make it any pot pie you want,
chicken, veggie, beef, sausage...***

I'm a chicken pot pie kinda girl, so that is where we will start:

start by cooking 2 lg or 4 small chicken breasts (whole) in the bottom of your pan w/ 3 T oil
You will want to cook them on a medium high temp
they will stick, and leave a brown substance on the bottom of the pan
just don't let it burn, this is the yummy flavor.
when the chicken is fully cooked, remove it and let it cool
(when cool dice it up to add back in later)
after removing chicken
2 T oil
1 lg. white onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery diced
1 c. peas
1 c. corn
1 lg. idaho potato, diced

now add whatever veggies you like:
I like to add
butternut squash
red peppers
sweet potato
but add whatever you like, or whatever you have

then deglaze with 1 1/2 c. white wine
add 1/2 c. of flour
2 T. butter
salt & pepper

add back in the diced chicken & just cover with chicken stock
I then like to add a few T of cream just for richness

when the veggies are all cooked and the sauce is thick
you are ready to turn it off and prepare the crust.

(be careful this is a simple dough, and easy to ruin....read carefully and let your hands tell you what is going on, doughs are tough if you don't know what they should look and feel like. In pie crust you will have little chunks of butter, that's ok. once the dough is come together, STOP do not over work it! 
if you don't feel ready to make it, just buy it...or use frozen puffed pastry instead...
or top it will flattened out crescent dough )

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup water 
1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in food processor. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 seconds. For hand method, place dry ingredients in large bowl. Add butter; blend with pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Add ice water in a slow steady stream through feed tube of food processor with machine running, until the dough holds together for no longer than 30 seconds. For hand method, mix dough with a wooden spoon, adding water until dough just holds together.

3. Turn dough onto piece of plastic wrap. Press into flat circle, or rectangle depending on what shape you intend to roll out pastry to. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. May be frozen, double wrapped in plastic, for several months.
for the pot pie you will need atleast 2x the recipe if not maybe 3 
I like to cover the bottom of the dish and finish with a layer on top,
but if you just do the top you will only need 1x.

to finish your pot pie:
you will need a baking dish,
butter and flour the inside
then lay a layer of pie dough
tuck it into the corners
then pour in your filling
then layer the dough on top, 
make sure to make a few air holes
bake at 350 till the crust is done and the inside is bubbling!

***note: if you use puff pastry just put it on top, you can put it in the inside, but i have never tried it...
it may bake just the same as pie dough, but i'm not sure!***

#3) Hamburger Casserole
**this holds a special place in my heart 
after begin fed to us for school lunches and served at home as a child...
its good, but it needs a 2010 Aly twist**

Start with 1# ground beef
and brown it in a pan with:
1 lg diced white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg of button mushrooms, chopped
1 portobello, chopped
when fully browned and mushrooms are cooked
about 3 c of green beans cut into 1" pieces
(some places you can find them frozen this size you will need 1 bag.)
1/4 c. flour 
(you may also need a bit of oil or butter to coat flour)
brown this slightly 
then deglaze with
1 1/2 c white wine
then put in 
2 c heavy cream
and 1/2 c water
stir until thickened
then pour into a baking dish
season with salt & pepper
Now traditionally you would use cream of mushroom soup
and then top it with tator tots, which I'm not going to tell you NOT to do, because personally i LOVE tator tots, but i think we could come up with a fancier version, 
but if you want to go retro, 

take a potato and cut it as thinly as you can, you will want to make 2 or 3 layers of potatoes on top of your casserole, you will need to rub them with butter and season them with salt and pepper, you could also mince some garlic and put it between the layers of potatoes to get a roasted garlic taste. also you could add in some parmesan cheese so them will bake up nice and golden brown
Then bake at 400 till the potatoes are tender and golden brown
then perhaps top with some french fried onions that is tossed with some fresh herbs like parsley, basil, and chives or even arugula to make a little salad on top with a lemon and olives oil vinaigrette....
seems a little more chic to me...

there you have it, the classic hamburger casserole REMIX!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

to render***

i thought that i wanted to make a big list of terms on what different cooking terms, but i'm finding that hard to do....I have trouble discerning the terms from the words a, the, it....normal every day words, because they are my everyday words...so i'm going to ask for alittle bit of help from you my faithful readers (Mary i know you have some good ones!) to give me words you don't and i promise to put them into words you can understand...i just have to know what the words are. So please help me discern between the cooking terms and the everyday words, maybe one word at a time and we can both learn something!

to here is a few of the OFFICIAL definitions that i liked:

ren·der [ren-der] 

–verb (used with object)
1)to cause to be or become; make: to render someone helpless  
***(the raw bacon becomes helpless to it better crispy from and leaves behind its wonderful fat)
2)to do; perform: to render a service. 
***(the bacon performs the service of becoming dinner)
3)to exhibit or show (obedience, attention, etc.)
***(bacon exhibits how awesome it is by becoming crispy and swimming in a pool of its own fat)
4)to represent (a perspective view of a projected building) in drawing or painting. 
***(the bacon REPRESENTS!!!)
5)to give back; restore (often fol. by back). 
***(the fatty uncooked bacon is restored to awesome!)
6)to give up; surrender. 
***(the bacon give up, give in, to being awesome enough to be eaten)
Drum roll please, the actual definition is---->
to melt down; extract the impurities from by melting: to render fat. 
now in my words:
rending is the process of extracting the fat from any meat that has fat. it is most commonly used with bacon because the fat from the bacon is usually saved and used. 
When talking about other meats we generally just use the term browning or searing...even though we can mean rendering. 
this is how you render:
when you are rendering bacon i find it best to start with a warm pan, 
place you bacon in the pan 
it shouldn't need any oil 
because when put in a warm pan the bacon will begin to release it fat fairly quickly.
you want to keep a close eye on it
and keep the heat at a moderate temperature 
because as soon as the bacon is swimming in the fat and beginning to brown
you want to either remove the bacon if it is the crispyness you desire
or turn the heat way down so it crisps slow and
doesn't go from crispy to BURNT!

When the rendering is over you are left with 2 products
1)delicious bacon
2) useful and tasty fat

and that my friends is rendering!
***and please take my plea for help honestly and bring my any terms or processes you don't understand, i'm here to help, so help me help you!

Friday, April 9, 2010

sOUp of ThE WeeK #5

...i have to start off by saying I'm sorry. I missed a week, i hate that sometimes work gets in the way of EVERYTHING but it does whether i want it to or not...

There is something so magical about simple soups like vegetable soup, have fun with it add or don't add whatever you like ....just keep the main ingredients in place and it will taste great every time.  I find soups like this one or homemade chicken noodle soul lifting soups, they just seem to make the world a little warmer and scare the chill away that can affect out minds and body when things aren't quiet going our way...so when you need a little pick me up just make a soup and cuddle up and kiss all the bad stuff goodbye...nothing is better for the whole body than a little homemade soup!

------------->this weeks soup is "minestrone"
(...or vegetable soup with pasta,  but i will lightly use)


I start with:
1 lg. white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
sweat this off  in the bottom of your soup pot with 2 T. oil

then add:
2 lg. carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 sm. butternut squash, diced
2 c. green beans, in 1/2" pieces
1 red pepper, diced
4 diced roma tomatoes
1 c. great white northern beans w/ liquid
(*** the liquid helps to thicken the soup***)
Traditionally this is made with kidney beans, 
but i don't really care for them or i opt for white beans 
but you can use kidney beans, or even chickpeas if you like
roast the veggies a little in the bottom of the pan

then deglaze with--->
1 c. white wine
then use water or vegetable stock to cover
1 can of tomato sauce

when simmering add:
1/2 bg. of baby spinach, chopped
1 T. dried basil
1 T. dried thyme
salt and pepper
10 leaves fresh basil
and 1 whatever small pasta you like
(you can use alphabets, stars, little o's, or orzo)

cook until pasta is tender, but  i like to let it sit over night, then bring it back up to a boil and add the pasta and basil at that time...serve and enjoy to wonders of vegetable soup!

bacon love***

....this is a blog for my sister Frannie, and a thank you to her from so many reasons but one thing in particular, broccoli "salad" i use the term lightly until i can come up with another term, but atleast it does have something good for you, broccoli and i LOVE broccoli!

but first things first, the long awaited (on Frannie's behalf)------->
Bacon & Tomato Dressing

5 roma tomatoes, diced
(or 2 beef steak tomatoes)
2 shallots, sliced
8 slices of bacon, chopped
(thicker cut bacon is better)
1/2 c. sherry 
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1 c. olive oil
s/p to taste

start by rendering your bacon in a pan then add shallots and tomatoes, then deglaze with sherry and vinegar...then add in sugar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

***serve warm with spinach, Mmmm Mmm good!

Broccoli Salad
(thanks to Frannie, with an Aly twist!)

2 hd. broccoli, 
cut into bite size peices
1 red onion, diced
1 c. raisins, 
rehydrate in 1 c. warm water and 1/2 red wine
(When soft, drain off liquid)
8 slices of bacon, chopped and rendered (save fat)
(I prefer to use the pepper bacon for a little added zip!)
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
(***I love to coat them in a hot pan with sugar, salt, and cayenne! 
its a great addition to any salad, sweet, salty, and crunchy!***)
3 T. sugar
1/2 c cider vinegar
1 c. Mayo
3 T canola oil
1 t onion powder

mix dressing in bottom of bowl adding in the bacon fat, vinegar, sugar, mayo, oil, onion powder and salt...then add in all other ingredients! ToSS & EnJoy....

**best to let it marinate all together for 1/2 hour

...the is THE best BLT mayo of ALL time!

Black Pepper Aioli 
(save the bacon fat from the rendered bacon)
1/8 c. bacon fat
1 c. mayo
3 T cracker black pepper
1 T dijon mustard

Just try it, you will LOVE it!

...to be continued*** 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

gray skies=stew**

...there is nothing better than a nice hearty heart warming stew on a day when the clouds have blocked the sun and the rain just won't go away...so here is a basic beef stew that you just can't beat, really there is nothing better when you just need something warm and delicious...well maybe chicken and dumplings!

BEEF STEW------------------>                      THE FIRST STEP, the meat
start by going to the local butcher and asking him for stew meat, 
ask him to cut you something fresh in 1" cubes.
you will need 2 lbs.
 in a dutch oven or nice heavy bottomed stew pot;
put a few tablespoons of oil and turn the heat on high.
(You will need alot of heat to get nice caramelization on your meat and veg) 
When the pan is hot carefully drop in your meat in an even layer, 
***this is VERY IMPORTANT!!! do not move your meat around,
drop it and let the meat caramelize,
you have to just let it sit, once it is browned turn the pieces over***
You will need to control the heat to keep it hot enough to brown the meat but not burn the pan....just turn the heat down and up as needed, pay attention----

While the meat is browning:
Chop up---->
1 lg. white onion (or 2 small)
3 carrots
3 stalks of celery
3 parsnips
1 sweet potato
2 russet potatoes
1 or 2 turnips
1 lg. red pepper
1 lg. portobello

After the meat is turned over;
 add in your onion, portobello, carrot and celery
At this point you want to start to brown the veggies to enhance the flavors 
and create a nice fond on the bottom of your pan

((***Fond: is the stuff (caramelized meat juices) that starts to brown and stick to the bottom of your pan when what you are cooking releases its own natural juices....this is what gives GREAT flavor to soups and stews!***))

You don't want to cook your veggies all the way just start to cook them, at this point add 3 T butter and 1/2 c. of flour to make a little rue in the bottom of the pan to help thicken the stew and give it great flavor. when you have that all mixed up and the flour is coated in butter deglaze the pan with 2 c. red wine. Make sure to scrap the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon to get all that goodness from the bottom into your stew, then add the rest of your veggies, cover with water, add 2 bay leaves, 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 T. fresh cracked black pepper, and 2 T. salt. Then let this all simmer on med-low until the meat is tender, re-season with salt and pepper and you are good to go. Serve it up with some nice bread for dipping and a really big spoon, curl up in the couch with a blanket, bring the bowl close to your face so you can smell it, and REALLY really REALLY enjoy it!

GOODBYE gray sky blues...HELLO STEW!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

smoooooothie operator***

....i love to make fruit smoothies they are so refreshing and awesome...they are great for a snack, or with a little protein powder great for breakfast to get your morning started off right or at night to end your day on a light note so you don't go to bed on a full stomach.

Lime & Banana

this smoothie is my favorite, i have been making it since i was just a kid experimenting in the kitchen.

To start i use limeade 
(the frozen one if you can find an all natural one that does not have high fructose corn syrup, YUCK! Whole foods has one, Trader Joes might too)
I use 1/4 of the container, or use 1/2 c. Simply Limeade (it will be less limey)
1 frozen banana (if you use fresh you will need more ice)
1/2 c. Simply Apple
6-8 ice cubes

***These are great to use as a frozen drink if you add tequila and/or malibu....
even just a white rum...or vanilla vodka...maybe some amaretto...so many possibilities!***

Tropical  Delight

I have found that at the store you can find just about anything frozen...I really like to use frozen fruit in place of most of the ice that is needed to make them taste awesome. Also i like to get ice from the store for a few reasons 1)it is flash frozen so it is frozen quicker and does not taste like your freezer 2) you can get the smaller cubes so they blend up better... 3) they are just better...i'm not sure why its just what i have decided.

1/2 c. mango
(all fruit frozen or fresh)
1/4 c. pineapple
1/2 banana
1/4 c. coconut milk
1/8 c. Simply apple
1/8 c. Simply limeade
6-8 ice cubes (or 1 c. store bought ice)

**this is a really good one to add vanilla protein powder to if you want to add a little protein or use it as a meal replacement.**

Strawberry Breeze

 1 c. frozen unsweetened strawberries
1 c. lemon sorbet
1/2 c. simply limeade
1/4 c. Simply Apple
1 c. ice
(you could add vanilla ice cream if you wanted, it would be DELICiOUS!)

blend, and ENJOY!!!!

Put a lime in coconut

1 c. Coconut milk
1 c. Vanilla ice Cream (or coconut)
1 1/2  c. Ice
1/2 c. Simply Limeade
1/2 banana

yum yum blend and fall inlove <3