Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cutest Aprons Ever!

At Flirty Aprons

Seriously cute.

One size fits all.

They also carry aprons for men and children.

You gotta check it out!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Extreme Stew - 100 Cloves of Garlic

Looks pretty benign doesn't it?

This is 100 cloves of garlic stew and it has flavor to the extreme!

We love garlic at our house. I put garlic in just about every thing I make. When I saw this recipe using 100 cloves of garlic over at River City Food and Wine, I was inspired to create this stew.

As I separated and peeled all 100 cloves of garlic, I was fearful of my families response to the stew. I mean they love everything I cook. They are used to unusual and strong flavors but was I taking advantage of their love by putting this on the table?

Was I about to create my first cooking disaster?

Cooking for my family and their appreciation means a lot to me. I've never had a major cooking disaster.

NEVER. (Knocking on wood)

As the wondrous smell of garlic filled my home and permeated everything, I worried and worried.

But to no avail - they loved it in all its garlicky goodness!

100 Cloves of Garlic Stew

2 - 2 1/2 lb. chuck roast
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t onion powder
1 t black pepper
1/4 c vegetable oil

Trim and chop chuck roast into bit-sized pieces. Place flour and seasonings in plastic bag. Coat chuck roast with flour /seasoning mixture. Heat oil in Dutch oven. Brown meat in small batches and remove to platter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 c dry red wine
4 c beef broth
100 cloves of garlic (8-10 bulbs)
2 T tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 T Marjoram leaves, dried
1 T Basil, dried
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Pour the wine into Dutch oven and deglaze the pot - scraping all the little small bits off the bottom and sides. Add beef broth, garlic, seasonings and browned chuck roast back into pot.

Cover and place dutch oven into hot oven and cook 2 - 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half hour to break down the garlic cloves.. When the beef is tender and garlic incorporated remove Dutch oven to the stove top.

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c butter or margarine

Melt butter in skillet. Cook mushrooms 20-30 minutes until nicely carmelized.

1 large onion,
3-4 red potatoes,
3-4 carrots
Water, as necessary, for desired consistency.

Cube or slice vegetables into bit-sized pieces. Add vegetables and mushrooms to stew and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

1 10 oz. bag frozen peas
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce

Add to stew, simmer a few minutes.

Season with salt* and pepper and serve.

*Note: This stew seemed to need a lot of salt

Would I make this stew again? My family is already begging for it!

Would I make it for company? Probably not - just because of the extreme nature of the garlicky goodness.

Friday, February 5, 2010

THE Best Clam Chowder EVER

Our family has vacationed on Captiva Island in Florida for many years. When we first started traveling our beautiful island getaway, the place had the feel of 'old' Florida. The charm of the place led us to keep coming back despite the move to bring Captiva into the 21st century.

One of my early food memories of Captiva Island was lunch at a local watering hole called Timmy's Nook. We would sit there with the best bowl of clam chowder I had ever tasted and linger over every spoonful. Timmy's Nook has long since disappeared and been replaced by a monstrosity thoroughly modern restaurant on stilts as required by code.

When the new property owner tore down Timmy's Nook, I was prepared to never again taste the velvety goodness of that wonderful chowder. I tried many recipes but none could live up to what I remembered of the chowder at Timmy's Nook. There was a depth missing that I had failed to recreate.

Well, after all these years, I believe I've come very close. Perhaps my memory has faded just enough to call this a good replica but this IS the best clam chowder I've had since Timmy's Nook. Perhaps the best clam chowder ever!

Can you see its rich, velvety goodness? Trust me, this chowder is perfect.

Clam Chowder

2 - 10 ounce cans of baby clams

Drain over:
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion

Reserve drained clams in refrigerator for later.

Cover veggies with:
4 cups of water mixed with 4 teaspoons of *clam base
(add a little more water if necessary to cover vegetables)
1 tsp. each basil, marjoram, and thyme (optional - dill)
Cayenne pepper to taste

Simmer veggies until tender.

Cook until crisp and crumble:
1/2 pound bacon
Reserve for later.

In another pan, make a white sauce:
Melt 3/4 cup butter or margarine
Add 3/4 cup flour. Stir for one minute.
Add 4 cups of half and half or a combination of half and half and milk.
Cook until thick and bubbly.

Add white sauce to vegetables and clam broth; stir until mixed well.

Just before serving, add clams - they only take a minute to cook.
Add crumbled bacon and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

Now, if I could just get to my island paradise...

*Clam base - the secret to this chowder's rich, velvety taste. When I found it on my grocer's shelf I was ecstatic. It has long since disappeared from the shelf so I now order it online.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soup Tutorial

As I've said before, I'm all about soup in the winter. Not to brag or anything, but I can make soup out of anything and everything. It is all about technique.

I've run across a great soup tutorial at Daily Decadent which explains the soup making techniques. All the mystery of soup thoroughly explained with pictures! Soups are my comfort food - most are quite hearty (especially the way I like them) AND frugal! I only but meat on sale and often in bulk.

OK, I confess to, on a rare occasion, splurging on a special meal here and there. I has to be a pretty special occasion though.

I also confess to having 3 chest freezers and 2 upright freezers (long story) to store my meat purchases and soups/sauces. I love cooking once and eating twice!

I can't forget to mention my Foodsaver which dramatically increases the freezer life of my sale purchases. No more freezer burned to the trash meat for me! Nothing makes me sadder than to throw away money like that. Well, almost nothing.

Have fun learning all about the technique for making soup: Soup Toujours at the Daily Decadent

Monday, February 1, 2010

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

It is winter in central Illinois which means it is soup season! Is there anything more comforting on a cold winter day than a bowl of steaming soup? I can't think of anything better!

I first had this soup at a church function - where I discover many delectable delights. My friend, Shelly, is an awesome cook and loves to share her culinary skills. Shelly served this as a vegetarian dish without the sausage but the carnivore that I am had to make it with meat.

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
Adapted from All Recipes

1.5 lbs hot Italian sausage
1 c chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup red wine (I used a dry Marsala)
1 lb. 12 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
4 c beef broth
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 med. zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried marjoram
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
8 oz. cheese tortellini, frozen
Parmesan cheese, grated

Optional: 2 t cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water for thickening

Place sausage in a dutch oven with a little water over med-high heat for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. When water bubbles away, turn frequently to brown on all sides. Remove to plate to cool.

Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add red wine, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let wine reduce to half its volume.

Add the beef stock, tomatoes, carrots and seasonings. Reduce heat and let simmer 30-45 minutes or until carrots are easily pierced with a fork.

While the soup is simmering, slice Italian sausage.

Add the zucchini, sausage and tortellini to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the tortellini is fully cooked.

If you like your soups a little thicker, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water and stir until thickened.

Pour into individual bowls and garnish with cheese.