Simple Mushroom Soup and a little bit of Passion

I could probably write an entire post about how a hot bowl of soup on a cold night is absolutely the best way to stay warm in these frigid winter months. That statement is completely true, however, I am not really in the mood to expand upon what foods I enjoy during specific times of the year…and your probably not in the mood to read about that.

I do want to discuss Nick and I’s recent endeavour into a new way of eating. Diets are great but they are temporary and once one goes off, all the hard work is lost. We are trying to change the way we eat, to create a new culinary lifestyle if you will. It is still “dietesque” with its rules and regulations, but it involves more than just what we can and cannot eat…we also have rules about where and when. The one bright point is that it includes splurge days, which does not mean a trip to pizza hut followed by dairy queen and finished off with pecan pie. It must be reasonable.

For this “new culinary lifestyle” we have taken ideas from a lot of different popular (and even some not so popular) diets out there. The 3 main food groups we are cutting out of our daily diet is Dairy, Gluten and Refined Sugar. Why you may ask…Read On

Why Dairy…Well dairy is made from the milk of animals, mostly cows milk. The Lactose in milk is very difficult for the human body to digest. Our bodies were not designed to produce the enzymes to digest lactose after the age of 4 or 5. This digestive difficulty causes bloating and gassiness. There are a lot more people who are lactose intolerant than you might think. Now I know that milk is a great source of calcium and we need a healthy daily dose of it. There are many non dairy sources of calcium such as dark leafy greens (Kale, Collards, Turnips Etc.), Beans, Peas and Nuts. Also, if dairy is something you just cannot give up, try goats milk and dairy products made with goats milk. The proteins in goats milk are smaller and similar to human breast milk which makes them easier for us to digest. One last thing to think about in this Dairy Debate is that Humans are the only animals to consume other animals breast milk…

Why Gluten…Gluten is also difficult to digest and inflammatory to your digestive system. This inflammation can hinder your body’s ability absorb nutrients from the other foods you are eating. Gluten is the product in wheat and grains that make them stretchy and pliable. It’s in the name GLUten…Glue. Like dairy it can leave you feeling bloated and Gassy. Gluten today is also highly processed making it even harder to digest.

Why Refined Sugar…I don’t think I need to go into too much detail here. We all know that sugar in large quantities is not good for us, especially processed sweeteners. Try honey…or if you want something sweet, eat some fruit.

I just want to clarity that I am not preaching gospel here. The choices we have made in the way we eat work for us. They may or may not work for you, but the key is to educate yourself. Read! And then make your own decisions.

And now for my mushroom soup Recipe…Simple yet absolutely delicious!!!!

Simple Mushroom Soup
2 lbs of chopped Mushrooms (I used a mixture of Crimini, Portobello and shiitake but use any that you like)
4 medium shallots (3 chopped finely and 1 sliced)
4 Cups Beef Stock
2 Cups Mushroom broth
2 Cloves Garlic
4 Sprigs of Thyme
4 Tbsp of olive oil
5 Pieces of Bacon cut into small pieces and cooked until crispy (keep the fat in the pan)
Salt and Pepper

Heat 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil in a large soup pot to medium high. Add the 3 chopped shallots, the sprigs of thyme, lightly salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and all the mushrooms. Pepper the mushrooms liberally (I like a very peppery soup but its up to you). Once mushrooms are soft lightly salt and add the Beef stock and mushroom Broth. Bring to a boil.

While waiting for broth to boil add the sliced shallot to the remaining bacon fat and cook on high until shallots are crispy and brown. Pour out on a paper towel to dry for use as a garnish.

Once soup has come to a boil and cooked together for about 15-20 minutes either blend with an emersion blender or in small batches in a blender until it is smooth and creamy.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with Bacon, crispy shallots and chives.

Mushroom soup

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Posted in Entrees, Gluten-Free, Vegetables, Wellness | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Holiday Dinner

It is always a treat to go home to Milwaukee and spend the holidays with my family. Because Christmas fell on a monday/Tuesday this year, I got a nice long weekend with the entire Family. Ever since my siblings and I went off to college and “grew up,” it is hard to get all of us in one place at one time. This time was extra special because both of my siblings (an older brother and a younger sister) brought home their significant others to meet the family. I will reserve any judgement on this blog in case either of them read it, but lets just say that I very much approve and am not going to be crossing my fingers for a near future break-up.

On sunday night it was up to me to impress everyone with my culinary prowess. Now this is nothing out of the ordinary because I always cook at least one meal while I’m home…I couldn’t escape it if I wanted to. I also really enjoy it because my parents are always the ones who foot the bill for the food, so I can go a little crazy. This year however, had the added pressure of wooing two new comers with an awe inspiringly delicious menu that surprises and excites the palate. So my mother and I emailed back and forth for a week or so as I sent her different ideas for dishes. She would run them by my father and after his final approval, we eventually decided on the menu.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Champaign Vinaigrette

6 Beets (red & Golden) (Including the green tops)
1 Large Log of Chevre Goat Cheese (crumbled)
1 large bag of mixed baby greens
1/4 Cup of Champaign Vinegar
1 Medium Shallot finely chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Salt and 1/2 tsp Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the Greet tops off the beets and set aside (for the Braised green recipe that follows). With a fork, poke holes in the beets. Set on a baking sheet and roast until they are soft, about 45-60 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cool, use a paring knife to peel the beets and cut into bite sized cubes.

To make Vinaigrette whisk Vinegar, Honey, Shallot, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Once combined slowly drizzle the olive oil while continually whisking to emulsify.

In a large salad bowl mix the Baby Greens, Beet Cubes, and Goat Cheese. The dressing recipe makes more than is needed for the salad so dress the salad to taste. Toss and Serve.

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Braised Kale, Chard and Beet Greens

1 bunch of Kale
1 Bunch of Chard (I used Rainbow Chard)
Remaining Beet Greens from the Previous Recipe (can be omitted if making separate from salad)
1/2 cup Sliced almonds
3 Tbsp Champaign Vinegar
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
Salt and Pepper

Remove Ribs from the greens. Cut the greens lengthwise into about 1 inch by 2 inch pieces. in a small dry pan toast the almonds over med-low heat until they are just light golden brown. In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Put garlic into warm olive oil and immediately add the greens. Add vinegar, salt and pepper. continuously stir by bringing the greens on the bottom to the top. It will begin to wilt down but you do not want the greens to turn brown. As soon as the greens have wilted down remove from the pot and place in the serving dish. Toss with the almonds and serve.

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Pistachio and Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

4 Racks of Lamb
2 Cups Pistachio Nuts
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Oregano
1/4 Cup Chopped Rosemary
1 Cup Dijon Mustard
4 Cloves of Garlic finely chopped
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Liberally season both sides of the racks with salt and pepper and set aside

In a food processor place the Oregano, Rosemary and garlic and grind until blended. Add the 2 cups of Pistachios and pulse until ground (do not over grind the pistachios, you want them to be chunky). Put out onto a platter.

Brush all sides of one of the lamb racks with the Dijon mustard and roll in the pistachio-herb mixture until coated. Repeat with the remaining 3 racks and place into 2 roasting pans with the bones hanging over the edge. Place in oven and roast for about 25 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature is right. For medium rare the temperature of the meat in the center should be 130 degrees. If while roasting the pistachios start to burn, cover with foil and continue cooking. After 130 degrees is reached let stand for 10 minutes.

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Place on a meat board and cut between each rib to create lamb lollipops. ENJOY!

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Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Posted in Entrees, Family Dinner, Family Dinner Afar, Gluten-Free, Meat, Salad | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Farro Falafel Salad

For my day job, I source produce for major grocery store chains. I work for a 3rd party logistics company so we are able to procure the produce from the farmers as well as arrange the transportation to the grocery Distribution Centers. Its really kind of cool to see the supply chain all the way from the grower to the store, especially as someone who could spend hours sifting through the produce section at grocery stores.

We are currently in the midst of our Thanksgiving “push.” the word push doesn’t even begin to describe it…one might call it more of a shove. We are shipping upwards of 150,000 cases of Sweet Potatoes in a 2 week period to one of the countries largest grocery store chains and I’m sure that this covers less than half of all the Sweet Potatoes this grocery store chain will procure this Thanksgiving season.

So right now the idea of cooking with fall vegetables kind of grinds my gears a bit, seeing as I spend 5 hours a day focused on sweet potatoes and the remaining 4 hours processing orders for the remainder of the fall vegetables we source. When I went the the Co-op last night I decided I wanted a salad and in the end created a delicious, Mediterranean meal.

Farro Falafel Salad

1 Cup Farro
1/4 Head of Green Leaf Lettuce cut into bite sized pieces
1 Tomato
1/2 Cup of Kalamata Olives cut in half
1 Seedless Cucumber cut in the half rounds
1 Green Pepper Cut into bite size pieces
1 Sprig Rosemary Finely Chopped
1/2 Red onion sliced
8-10 Falafel Balls

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Pour the Farro into the boiling water and cook for about 30 minutes until it is soft but still has a little bite. Strain the Farro. In a Large Salad Bowl mix all the ingredients and toss together with Dressing (Recipe To Follow). If you want you can also add some feta cheese to the Recipe (I’m trying to cut back on dairy, so I left it out).

*Quick note about the Falafel Balls. I purchased them Pre-made at my grocery store and they are absolutely delicious. Most Grocery stores have them pre-made in the deli section or have box mixes that are also very good. If you want to make them from scratch (which I have done and its not difficult, just messy if you deep fry them), there are some very good recipes online. The choice is yours and whichever you chose, there is no shame 😉

Tahini Lime Dressing

3 Tbsp Tahini
Juice of 2 Limes (bout a 1/4 cup)
Olive Oil
2 Tsp Honey
Salt and Pepper

In a bowl add the Tahini, Honey and Lime Juice and whisk together until combined. While whisking continually mixing, slowly drizzle olive oil in until the dressing just begins to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste and you have your dressing.

Posted in Entrees, Salad, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Wellness | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Kitchen Remodel!

The severe lack of posts lately has not just been laziness, (although I’m sure it was a factor) but for the past month Nick and I have been undergoing a kitchen remodel. It all began about 4 months ago when Nick and I came home from work and noticed that water was leaking from the sink hook up. This forced us to tear out one cabinet and part of the wall to fix the leak in the pipes. Fast forward 3 months of planning and padding the bank account construction began. Our main goals for this project were more counter space, more storage, a new floor and a new sink. What came out of it was a bit more than planned but we could not be happier. Thanks to Jim, our tile guy who became our contractor, we were able to create a beautiful kitchen! Now for the pictures Old and New…

one side of the old kitchen

The Other side of the old Kitchen

Close up of the countertop. We decided on Granite tiles not only because it looks great, but it was half the cost of a full granite slab.

Close up of the back splash. We wanted a color the played off the color of the Granite so we decided on the glass accent stripe down the center of travertine brick tile.

We chose a white porcelain farm style sink.

We added a large pantry on the far side of the kitchen to add a ton of storage.

We also had out radiator sand blasted and painted and now it looks brand new.

View of the backsplash behind the stove

View of the floor. We chose a sand colored tile on a diagonal pattern which makes the room look bigger.

View of the left side of the kitchen

View of the full kitchen!

I hope you enjoyed looking at the pictures as much as I have enjoyed having this project finished. I never thought that eating out would get old, but when you are forced to do it for almost a month straight…well lets just say, ill be cooking a lot from now on. This also means that you all can look forward to some great new posts.

Cheers!

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Holiday Baking and Drinking

*I want to apologize in advance. We are having issues uploading photos so there will be none on this post until we can figure out the issue*

The heat is subsiding and the days are getting shorter and that can only mean one thing…Holiday season is right around the corner. When I think of the holidays, two things come to mind…pumpkin flavored goodies and drinking. Ok, i know there is much more to the holidays than just that, but they are two of the things I look forward to most each holiday season. Now before I sound like a lush, I’ll clarify that by drinking I mean spending time with family and friends and cocktails are usually involved in that. So I guess I should really say the holidays are about pumpkin and family, but I was just looking for a good segue into my recipe choices which are a pumpkin flavored baked good and a cocktail.

We decided that a Gluten-Free baking recipe would be a great challenge as well as a great asset to anyones baking repertoire. For us, the test of a truly great Gluten Free Baking Recipe is that it should be indistinguishable from a baking recipe that uses regular flour and we are pretty sure that the recipe to follow passes the test. We also believe that the one sure-fire way to guarantee that your baking turns out is to have a cocktail in your hand while baking, so if you pair up these 2 recipes, you will be a huge hit at your next holiday party.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Ginger Cranberry Bread
1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Liquified Coconut Oil (heat in a small pot on low to liquefy)
2 Large Eggs*
1 Tbsp of Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
3 Tbsp of Grated Fresh Ginger
1 1/2 Cups Gluten Free Baking Flour (We used Bob’s Red Mill Brand which is available in most grocery Stores)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp of Salt
1 tsp of Arrowroot Powder
1 tsp of Cinnamon
1/2 tsp of Nutmeg
1 Cup Chopped Walnut
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer add all wet ingredients, including the grated ginger, together and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients together and with a whisk stir to make sure they are well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture until just combined. Do not over mix. Add the Walnuts and Cranberries and blend until they are just mixed in. Place the batter in a lightly greased bunt cake or bread pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until you can pull a toothpick out without any bread sticking to it. Let it cool and then serve with coconut milk ice cream.

*Note: For Vegan Bread Replace Eggs with 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water.

Cranberry Bourbon Cocktail
1 Oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1 Oz Brewed Earl Grey Tea
3 Oz Bourbon
3 Tbsp Cranberries (If using frozen, make sure to thaw them)
1 Tbsp Orange Zest
1 Tbsp Rosemary leaves
1 tsp Sugar

At the Bottom of a Cocktail shaker place the Cranberries, Orange Zest, Rosemary leaves and sugar. Muddle together until all the Cranberries are broken. Add the Liquids and stir together. Fill the Shaker with Ice, put the lid on and shake until very very cold. Pour the mixture into a chilled Martini Glass and enjoy.

Posted in Booze/Beverages, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Vegan | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry

This week we made a decision to really buckle down and try and cut some inches off the waist line. This decision came with some really good news today at work…Causal dress for the next month. This means I have time to dry clean my dress clothes and then hang them up for a month, with the hope that after 4 weeks of wearing jeans and working on my diet and eating habits I can put those dress clothes back on and the might actually be a bit loose! Keep your fingers crossed for me…

With the Help of Bob Harpers (yeah, that’s the guy from the biggest loser) book The Skinny Rules, we have began embarking upon a journey not just to lose weight, but to strengthen and better our eating habits (Booze is the hardest thing for me…and we compromised…just on the weekends). There are 20 Rules to follow in the book and some are quite strict, but it is nothing too crazy or outlandish. I am not going to go too much into detail about the rules, sufficed to say…I want to look just like Bob.

I thought I would share one of the Recipes I came up with (with some inspiration from Bob) for dinner tonight. It was Flavorful, filling and super healthy.

Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry

*I want to start this off by saying that any and all of the veggies in this recipe are interchangeable and can be substituted for any other veggie*

4 Cloves of Garlic chopped
2 Tbsp Grated Fresh Ginger
2 Tbsp of Red Pepper Flakes (More or less depending on how spicy you like your food)
Juice of 1 Lime (more if the lime is not super juicy)
1 Red or Green Jalapeno Sliced
1 Zucchini Chopped
1 Onion sliced
1 Cup Mushrooms (any kind you like) sliced
1 Red pepper cut in sticks
2 Green Onions thinly sliced
1 Package Extra or Super Firm Tofu cut into cubes (I prefer the sprouted kind but it’s up to you)
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

In a large Skillet Heat 1 Tbsp Olive Oil over Med-High Heat. Toss Tofu with 1 Tbsp Garlic, I Tbsp Ginger, 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes and a pinch of salt. Once Pan is hot, add the seasoned tofu in one layer and cook for about 3-5 minutes until browned on one side. Toss pan to flip them and brown on the other side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil to pan. Add Onions, Mushrooms, and Peppers, remaining Garlic, Ginger and Red Pepper Flakes and cook until just soft. Add Zucchini and another pinch of salt and cook about another minute. Add Tofu back in and toss together. Add the lime juice and sesame seeds and toss again.

Serve topped with the sliced Green Onions

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Its Official, We Have Been Published

Bella Spark Magazine has decided to take a chance and publish us! We are incredibly excited to share our passion for food and our love of good company with the readers of Bella Spark. If you look on Page 32 of the Magazine you will find our first published Recipe. The magazine is published once every 2 months so keep on checking in!

http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=116836

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A Fall Meal in this Scalding Summer Heat!

Writing for Bella Spark magazine has been an absolute blessing and Clare and I cannot wait until the first issue comes out. We just hope the readers appreciate our style, sense of humor and culinary point of view. The real challenge however, has just began. Writing for a magazine involves deadlines which is fine with me, because it forces me to cook…but the challenge of writing seasonal recipes is that the deadline is before the actual season begins. Hence the title…”A fall mean in this scalding summer heat!”

The weather here in the lovely midwest the past two weeks has been absolutely and obscenely hot. We are talking 90-100 degrees with the humidity making it feel more like 120. It is sweaty and uncomfortable, which makes the idea of a hearty and warming fall meal that much more of a challenge. Don’t get me wrong here, I love fall and I love the food that is generally associated with fall. Slow cooked meats, roasted root vegetables and Earthy and bitter greens…it truly is one of the best times for food! The challenge arises when you are slow cooking a roast in the oven for 3 to 4 hours in an apartment with only a small window air conditioning unit and record breaking heat outside…well lets just say, my laundry load was quite a bit larger (and smellier).

Ok but enough complaining about the heat and the sweat and the extra laundry…I have digressed.

For my mid-summer fall meal I decided on an american classic. Pot Roast! Who doesn’t love Pot Roast, but my questions is, what defines pot roast? I mean it really is as simple as the name…meat roasted in a pot (in most cases its beef). So I figured I would stick pretty close to the classic with a few little quirks thrown on. I figured what goes better with meat than potatoes, so I did something I have always wanted to try…Horseradish Mashed Potatoes! And the traditional meat and potato meal has to be rounded out with a green so why not Brussel Sprouts simply roasted with salt, pepper and Garlic! So without further ado…here is my sweltering hot and sweaty mid-summer fall meal!

Classic Pot Roast

Copped Root Vegetables


• 5-6 Lb Beef Rump Roast
• 4-5 Carrots peeled and cut into 1-1.5 5 inch pieces
• 8-10 small Turnips cut in half
• 3 small Onions cut into quarters
• 3 sprigs of Rosemary and 5-7 sprigs of Thyme Tied together tightly with kitchen twine
• 1 Cup of Red Wine
• 2 Cups of beef stock
• 4 Tbsp of Olive Oil
• 2 Tbsp butter (melted)
• 2 Tbsp flour
• Salt and Pepper

Truss the Beef Roast with cooking twine tightly.

Preheat your oven to 325. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil at Med-high in a Dutch oven or Oven save pot.

Cooking the Veg and Herb Bundle

Liberally coat the all sides of the Roast with Salt and Pepper. Brown each side of the roast in the Dutch oven, including the ends. It should about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the roast from the pot and set aside. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of Olive oil and then add the Carrots, Turnips, Onions and herb bundle. Add 2tsp of salt and 1tsp of pepper and cook until just tender. Add the cup of wine and 1 cup of the beef stock scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to release all of the brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Put the Roast back into the center of the Dutch oven, cover and put on the center rack of your oven. Cook for 3 hours, turning once in the middle.

Just Before the Oven

Once the Roast is finished cooking, remove it form the Dutch oven along with the vegetable and set aside on a platter. Cover with foil. Put the Dutch oven on a burner over medium heat. Add the remaining cup of beef stock to the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Whisk the flour and butter together and add to the Dutch oven. Whisk the mixture together and let it thicken.

Uncover the roast and remove the cooking twine. Slice it into ¼ inch thick pieces and place the pieces back on the platter with the vegetables for serving.

Yogurt, Potatoes and Horseraddish

Horseradish and Chive Whipped Potatoes
• 2 Lbs of Yukon Gold Potatoes
• 2 Cups of Skim Greek Yogurt
• ¼ cup Cream/Milk
• ¼ Cup Melted Butter
• ¼ Cup Horseradish
• 1/3 Cup of Chives

Peel the Potatoes and put them in a large pot. Add enough water to just cover the potatoes. Add 2 Tbsp of salt, cover the pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.

Whipping the Potatoes

Drain in a colander and cover with a kitchen towel for 5-10 minutes.

In a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer put the potatoes, melted butter, cream and Greek yogurt. Begin by mixing slowly. As the potatoes break up, increase the speed. Mix until desired texture. Add the chives, Horseradish and 1 tsp of pepper and mix until they are evenly distributed.

Simple Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts


• 1 lb Brussel Sprouts cut in half
• 4 Cloves Garlic finely shopped
• Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 450. Lay the brussel sprouts on a sheet pan, sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss all together to make sure they are completely coated. Roast until brussel sprouts are browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Meat and Potatoes

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We Are Lusting After This Kitchen…


From the Design Traveller Tumblr

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Our Most Recent Cooking Jam

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