My Big Announcement

22 Apr

I know some of my readers have been chomping at the bit to hear my latest news. As many of you know, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job recently as a geeky software business analyst of almost 16 years with the company in one fashion or other.

One of my friends asked me, “So now what are you going to do with your life?” My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Well I guess get another business analyst job.”

But then I woke up that night with an epiphany. Do I REALLY have to go back into the same profession? My future is a blank slate! I have many skills besides being an analyst and writer. I like to cook, I like like to make great food and serve it to others (and I’ve been blogging about it for over 6 freakin’ years). WHY NOT OPEN MY OWN FOOD TRUCK???

And so I did.

My Food Cart

My Food Cart

Well, technically it’s a Class IV food cart, but to me it’s my own food truck and my future. The permitting process has been tedious at best, but we are getting so close to the final stretch.

I’ll be selling Texas-style street tacos on a busy riverfront plaza downtown where I live, and have the option to work events and festivals (with more permits, of course). I’ll serve breakfast tacos for the morning downtown workers, then regular street tacos for lunch and weekend nights (beef, pork and chicken). And my creamy spicy pinto beans will be served up all day!

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

The logo and website designs are still in process, as well as the final street vendor permit. I don’t want to say much more about that part lest I jinx any outcomes. Of course I’ll be using the standard social media platforms to also promote my new business.

I’ve been cooking up a storm with my recipe development, and my poor family is about taco-ed out, ha!

Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Street Tacos

I’ve also landed my first gig catering a breakfast taco brunch, which will be a good test for cooking larger quantities. I have a commissary/commercial kitchen at my disposal for my food prep, but all food will be dished up fresh and hot on the cart, complete with cast-iron warmed corn and flour tortillas. I also have three signature salsas for patrons (my Texas Green Sauce has been getting raves) to choose from, as well as the other standard street taco garnishes.

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

So that’s it! Oh, you want to know the name of my business too? Well I’m sorry you’ll have to wait longer on that one until everything is finalized. I know, I am such a tease. Many of my close friends and family know, but I’d really like to kick off with my new logo. Stay tuned! XOXO

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

15 Apr
Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

I saw this recipe on Food52 a few days ago, the daughter was gone for the night (she doesn’t like shrimp, crazy huh?) and it was a quick and easy recipe — especially since I had a bag of homemade shrimp stock in the freezer. No-brainer for me. Thirty minutes TOPS to make this if you have the stock. There are lots of great flavors going on in this. If you don’t have shrimp stock on hand, the original recipe here has the method to make it, which doesn’t take that long. Don’t forget the crusty bread to sop up the soup!

I was hoping to post my “big announcement” this weekend, but I’m still dealing with the logistics. Hopefully next week!

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup
Adapted from Shrimp and Chorizo Stew, by Josh Cohen at Food52

4 ounces Mexican chorizo sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (fresh is better if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups shrimp stock
1/2 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt, to taste
Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish
Crusty toasted buttered bread, for serving

Chorizo and Shallots

Chorizo and Shallots

Remove the chorizo from its casing and cook in the oil over medium-high heat in a deep skillet, until cooked through and a bit caramelized. Add the minced shallots and cook until translucent, then add the diced tomatoes and smoked paprika. Cook and stir gently until tomatoes just start to break down.

Tomatoes and Smoked Paprika Added

Tomatoes and Smoked Paprika Added

Add the white wine and shrimp stock, then turn to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until just simmering, then add the shrimp.

Simmering Shrimp

Simmering Shrimp

At this point you can start toasting your bread.  When the shrimp are cooked through (about 5 to 7 minutes), turn off heat, taste for salt, and add if necessary. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh thyme leaves, and serve with hot buttered crusty bread.

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

9 Apr
Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

I’m a sucker for deals on meat, no matter what cut you end up with. Because with a sous vide circulator, you can make delicious meals with even the cheapest of cuts. In this case, I had a couple of boneless pork loins, each in a very different shape and thickness. I cut and pounded the meat into similar-sized portions, spiced and bagged, then let the sous vide do its magic. After a relatively short bath, a quick sear and gravy will give you a restaurant-worthy dish. Pair it with a quick pressure-cooked risotto and peas side, and you’ve got a meal!

Down to business:

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers
Slightly adapted from Foodiecrush

3/4 pound boneless pork
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh sage leaves, one per slice
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons oil, preferably high-heat such as grapeseed
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 lemon, half for juice and half sliced
1/8 cup capers

Seasoned and Vacuum Sealed Pork Scallops

Seasoned and Vacuum Sealed Pork Scallops

Cut pork into equal portions, then pound to about 1/4-inch thickness. Salt and pepper each side, to taste. Press a sage leaf onto each portion, then a small pat of butter on top of each leaf. Place the pork in one layer in a gallon zip-top bag, then vacuum seal using the water immersion method.

Cook in the sous vide bath for one hour with the temperature set at 139 degrees F. When done, remove pork to a plate and discard sage leaves. Reserve the juice left in the bag for the gravy.

Quick-Searing the Pork

Quick-Searing the Pork

Heat oil in a skillet to medium high, then sear the pork quickly on each side until browned. Remember the pork is cooked through now. Set pork aside on a plate and make the gravy.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Pour in the reserved pork juices, wine, and chicken stock, whisking until thickened.

Lemon and Caper Pan Sauce

Lemon and Caper Pan Sauce

Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, the capers, and stir to combine. Nestle the pork scallops into the gravy, then top with remaining lemon slices. Heat until pork is warmed through. Serve with pan-gravy and sides of choice.

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers2

Sous Vide Pork Scallops with Lemons and Capers

p.s. I have some exciting news to share with you soon regarding my future, so stay tuned!

 

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

1 Apr
Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes

I know this beef man from Ireland, and Conor Bofin is his name. He’s the closest I know to a connoisseur of any part of the damned cow that I know, even the unusual and sketchy bits. But he can cook the most amazing meals with that lowly bovine, so I jumped on the chance to sort-of copy-cat this wonderful braise of beef shanks with some nice meaty ones from our quarter cow.

While my photos won’t do it justice — and I wasn’t about to try and plate it for a shot — I think anyone who makes this will be satisfied with the most delicious gravy and tender beef. I served mine with some Parmesan risotto, but pasta or potatoes would work fantastic too. One of my deviations from the original recipe was to reduce the mushrooms (not enough on hand) and add a couple of almost-overripe tomatoes to the braise, which added a wonderful color and flavor to the gravy. (The long braise makes your house smell dreamy, too!)

Braised Beef Shanks with Tomatoes
Adapted from Daub of Beef from One Man’s Meat

2 meaty beef shanks, seasoned with pepper and salt
1 tablespoon high-heat oil (I used grapeseed)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Half of a very large onion, chunked up
4 ounces whole white mushrooms, quartered
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths
Half head of garlic, peeled and sliced thick
2 1/2 cups homemade or high-quality beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup good red wine (I used an Oregon Pinot Noir)
2 bay leaves
Handful of thyme sprigs
Black pepper and salt, to taste

Beef Shank Ingredients

Beef Shank Ingredients (Mostly)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season the beef shanks with pepper and salt, then score the membrane in several places on the sides. Heat a Dutch oven to medium high heat and add the oil, then sear the beef until very browned on all sides. Remove and set aside to a plate.

Browned Beef Shanks

Browned Beef Shanks

Add the butter, then toss in the onions and mushrooms. Reduce heat a bit. Cook and stir until the mushrooms have browned and onions are softened.

Veggie Madness

Veggie Madness (I like to dose my dishes with pepper at random moments)

Top with the tomatoes and garlic, then pour in the beef stock. Grind more pepper over if your feeling it. Stir in the tomato paste until combined. Now pour in the red wine and bring up a a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Nestle the beef shanks into the liquid, then add in the bay leaves and thyme.

Braise Ready for Oven

Braise Ready for Oven ~ Time to read a book now. I did. Really.

Cover and cook in the oven for 4 to 5 hours, until beef is fall-apart tender. Remove the beef to a plate, then remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and gently stir gravy to combine. Taste for additional seasonings and add, if needed. Serve each shank with risotto, pasta, or potatoes, topping the shanks with a generous amount of gravy and veggies.

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

24 Mar
Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

You’d think being unemployed would have all kinds of perks, like lots of free time for cooking and blogging, right? Long story short, that is not the case, so my quest for easy and delicious dinners remains the same.

Here’s one I made a few weeks ago I had waiting in the wings (thank goodness because my spare time has been minimal) that is chock full of flavor and spice! This hearty soup was one of those welcome, warming dinners on a cold and dreary evening. I hope you think so too.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

8 ounces dried black beans, soaked overnight (or sub two cans)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, tips removed
Olive oil for garlic
1 tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
4 ounces ground spicy Italian sausage
1 chipotle in Adobo sauce, minced plus one tablespoon of the sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups ham or chicken stock
1 14.5 ounce can tomatoes with liquid (I used my homemade canned tomatoes)
1 tablespoon dry sherry or apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, for garnish

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Drain and rinse beans (dried or canned) and set aside. Nestle cloves of garlic cut tips up in aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil over top. Wrap tightly and place in 350-degree toaster oven (or oven) for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and ground sausage, stirring until sausage is cooked through. Drain any grease, if necessary. Stir in the chipotle and sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper until combined and fragrant.

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Pour in the stock, then squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins into the soup. Now add the beans. Bring up to a boil, then turn down and simmer until the beans are cooked through. For dried beans, this could take an hour or more depending on how old the beans are. Canned beans are ready when heated through.

Pureed Tomatoes

Pureed Tomatoes

Puree the tomatoes with liquid in a container using an immersion blender stick, or a blender or food processor. (I used my new Cuisinart stick!) Once the beans are tender, pour in the tomatoes and sherry or vinegar. Taste for salt, and add if necessary.

Puree about half the soup using an immersion stick, or add to blender or food processor in batches. I like mine a bit chunky. Once soup has warmed through again, serve immediately and pass with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

 

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

18 Mar
Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

This is a very quick and easy dinner to throw together, especially if you have your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce stashed in the freezer (nevermindthefacthatIjustgotlaidoffanddon’tneedtimesavingrecipesrightnow). And if you make the ricotta in the morning (or even use store-bought) then you are way ahead of the game! And pssst, did you know making your own ricotta is super easy? I sure didn’t!

Prior to my life-changing event on Friday, I was always looking for dinner shortcuts. When I saw my friend Debbie’s post for Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach, I knew it was something I totally wanted to make, but didn’t have the time to bother with making meatballs. So I did the next best thing and used the meatball ingredients as the base for the pasta. In hindsight, if I had made this in my large cast-iron skillet, I could have just popped it straight from the stove top into the oven! (I didn’t have the foresight, but I’m going to remember this for sure next time.)

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta
Adapted from The Mountain Kitchen

2 cups dried pasta (I used Mostaccioli)
8 ounces ground hot Italian sausage
6 ounces baby spinach
Ground pepper, to taste (some red chile flakes would be great too)
4 cups homemade spaghetti sauce, or your favorite jarred
1 cup shredded mozzarella (not bagged variety)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large skillet (cast iron if you have one!) until cooked through. Drain any grease, if necessary. Leaving the sausage in the pan, add 1/4 cup water and the spinach, stirring until wilted. Season with ground pepper, to taste.

Sausage and Spinach

Sausage and Spinach

Add the spaghetti sauce to the skillet, combine, and bring to a simmer.

Sauce Mixture

Sauce Mixture

Pour into a large casserole dish (or leave in in the skillet if using cast-iron), then stir in the cooked pasta, half the mozzarella and half the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and place dollops of the remaining ricotta over top.

Casserole Ready to Bake

Casserole Ready to Bake

Place in oven for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven to broil and cook until golden brown on top, about 5 to 7 more minutes. Serve immediately. WOW, so much flavor for so few ingredients!

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

Sausage and Spinach Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

BONUS! Here’s Debbie’s recipe for Homemade Ricotta:

Homemade Ricotta

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Add 2 layers of cheesecloth (I used meshed cotton veggie bags) over a sieve or strainer on top of a bowl. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t overboil! Turn off heat and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes. Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth and allow it to drain for about 25 minutes. Then place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Store unused cheese in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Salami over Pasta

11 Mar
Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami Over Pasta

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami Over Pasta

Call me crazy for making this, but it turned out so awesome (to me) that I ate it for lunch THREE DAYS STRAIGHT. Never mind the opinions of the household members.

I had some lingering Calabrese salami and frozen artichokes hanging out in the usual places, and decided to throw caution to the wind and make something up. As it turns out, mixing chicken and salami is not so uncommon (it’s a New Orlean’s dish). Neither is mixing artichokes and salami (pizza, anyone?). Why not marry them all into one dish?? And then serve it over pasta?

This is a delight for the taste buds and even guest-worthy, if you have friends who aren’t intimidated by the bold and adventurous. 🙂

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Salami over Pasta

1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts or thighs (mine were boneless/skinless breasts)
Salt and black pepper for seasoning chicken, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onions
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/2 cup sliced fennel bulb
5 ounces frozen artichokes (that’s 1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup large-diced salami (I used Calabrese, also TJ’s)
1 large stalk fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leafed parsley, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 small lemon, plus lemon slices from the other half
Cooked pasta of choice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut chicken into large sections, if large. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Over medium-high heat, add the oil and sear the chicken until browned on all sides, a few minutes a side. The chicken will cook more later, so remove and place in a 2-quart casserole dish with a cover.

Veggies and Salami

Veggies and Salami

Add the sliced onion and fennel to the hot skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring until starting to soften and brown, then add the salami and sage. Cook until the salami begins to crisp up a bit. Add the garlic, artichoke hearts, oregano, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

Beautiful Base for Sauce

Beautiful Base for Sauce

Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bits off the bottom. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Then add the flour, again stirring to incorporate. Now pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Last, squeeze in the juice of the half lemon.

Sauce Mixture for Chicken

Sauce Mixture for Chicken

Pour the mixture over the chicken in the casserole dish, arrange sliced lemons over top, cover with foil, then with the lid.

Cooked Chicken in Veggie Salami Sauce

Cooked Chicken in Veggie Salami Sauce

Place in heated oven and roast for about 40 to 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions.

Uncover and sprinkle with fresh parsley, for garnish. Serve over cooked pasta of choice (I used angel hair) with plenty of sauce and vegetables. For the leftovers, I found shredded Mozzarella cheese to be a fantastic addition!

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami

Braised Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Calabrese Salami

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Recipe

 

Carne Asada Street Tacos: Sous Vide or Grilled

5 Mar
Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Street Tacos

I had a gorgeous hunk of flank steak in our freezer from our quarter cow we bought last year, and carne asada street tacos were calling my name! Typically skirt steak is used for these tacos, but I figured the leaner flank steak would work just as well provided it was marinated in a citrusy sauce for a spell.  I decided to cook this via the sous-vide method, but grilling the steak would work just as great.

Total thumbs up all the way around for the tacos! We had plenty of leftovers for another dinner even with my daughter eating three of them in one sitting. I made some fresh pico de gallo to serve these with along with the avocado, but you can use any condiments of choice for these tasty tacos.

Carne Asada Ingredients

Many of the delicious Carne Asada ingredients

Carne Asada Street Tacos: Sous Vide or Grilled
Adapted from Serious Eats

3 whole dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 whole dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 whole chipotle peppers, canned in adobo sauce
3/4 cup fresh juice from 2 to 3 oranges (I used Cara Cara)
2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Sea salt, to taste
1.5 to 2 pounds flank or skirt steak
Warm corn or flour tortillas, lime wedges, diced onion, additional fresh cilantro (or Pico de Gallo), and avocado, for serving

Place dried ancho and guajillo chilies in a glass bowl and cover with boiling water. Let steep for 20 minutes until soft and pliable. Drain water, then transfer chiles to a food processor or blender.

Toasting the Cumin and Coriander

Toasting the Cumin and Coriander

Toast the ground cumin and coriander in a hot dry skillet until fragrant and add to the chiles. (You could toast the seeds and grind yourself, but I’m not that fancy.)

Ready to Process the Marinade

Ready to Process the Marinade

Add the rest of the ingredients except steak and condiments. Blend until a smooth sauce has formed. Transfer half of the sauce to a gallon-sized zip-top bag and refrigerate or freeze the other half in a sealed container for future use.

BONUS! Here’s my quick recipe for homemade Pico de Gallo. Double or triple as needed:

Pico de Gallo

1 Roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, and let marinate for an hour or so. That’s it!

For cooking via sous-vide method:

Add steak to the marinade in the bag, squishing around to coat.

Steak in Marinade

Steak in Marinade

Vacuum-seal the bag using the water immersion method. Set temperature on the sous vide to 131 F, then place the bag in the pot and cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation. Cook for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, preheat a cast-iron pan on high. Remove the bag from the sous-vide pot, then remove the steak from the marinade and wipe off excess. Discard marinade. Char the steak in the hot pan for a minute or two on each side until well-browned. Transfer to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain.

Serve immediately with warmed tortillas and garnishes.

Sliced Carne Asada Flank Steak

Sliced Carne Asada Flank Steak

For cooking on a grill:

Add steak to the marinade in the bag, squishing around to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat your grill on one side to the highest temperature. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

Remove steak from marinade and wipe off excess. Place directly over the hot side of the grill. If using a gas grill, cover; if using a charcoal grill, leave open. Cook, turning occasionally, until steak is well charred on outside and center registers 110°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain.

Serve immediately warmed tortillas and garnishes.

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart with Strawberries and Sea Salt Flakes

26 Feb
No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart with Strawberries and Sea Salt Flakes

No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart with Strawberries and Sea Salt Flakes

Are you ready for the Daytona 500??? No? Then why not have some easy no-bake chocolate ganache instead. With strawberries. And sea salt flakes. Did I mention no-bake? 😉

When my friend Jodi posted this recipe on her blog, it went straight to the printer in prep for making this chocolate delight for my family.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I’m not much of a baker of breads and sweet treats. But give me chocolate and sea salt? I’m game! Ooh, and the chocolatey pie crust is made from Oreo cookies. YES. Oreos. Cream filling and all. Shut up, right?

I halved the recipe since I don’t own an 11-inch tart pan that it called for. One that has a bottom that conveniently pops off the bottom no less. I missed this fact in my excitement to make the recipe, and PM’d Jodi asking her how on earth she got the tart out of the pan without destroying it. My tart was served from the dish, to the anxiously waiting mouths of my family and friends. My daughter and her friend dived into it with extra strawberries on top. It may be pretty with the strawberries arranged, but plan on serving extra strawberries with this, yum!

Without further ado, here is the recipe which is way shorter than my preceding ramblings:

No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart with Strawberries and Sea Salt Flakes
Adapted from Jodi at The Creative Life in Between

16 Oreo cookies
2 tablespoons butter, melted
6 ounces dark sweet chocolate (I used Baker’s German Sweet)
3/4 cup heavy cream
Sea salt flakes, for garnish
Fresh strawberries, halved-lengthwise
Additional melted chocolate, for garnish

Add the Oreo cookies to a food processor (I used my 2-cup Ninja) and process until they are fine crumbs. Pour in the melted butter, and pulse until the butter is combined.

Pour the crumb and butter mixture into a 9-inch (7 ½ at base) tart dish. Using your hands, pat the crust onto the bottom and up sides of dish. Refrigerate until for at least one hour before preparing and adding filling.

Pressing the Pie Crust

Pressing the Pie Crust

To make filling, break up chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Add the heavy cream to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Immediately pour over chocolate. Allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate for a minute or two, then slowly whisk the mixture until smooth and fully incorporated. Pour into the chilled, firm crust. Refrigerate for four to six hours or overnight.

Lightly sprinkle sea salt flakes over the chocolate, then arrange the strawberry halves over top. Drizzle additional melted chocolate over all, if desired. This serves about six.

No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart

No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

The Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

19 Feb
Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

Hey wait a minute! Don’t click away just yet! I know the word Campbell’s and Experiment in the same line might lead you to run away in culinary terror, but this was a mission. A mission to replicate this red and white childhood favorite can of good ole’ American soup without all the nasties in it. Well, as many as I possibly could without compromising the original goal. I kind of crack myself up, as the tomato soup’s goal last week was to NOT taste like the canned version. No wonder my husband never understands me.

If you look up recipes for “copycat” Campbell’s bean with bacon soup, you will find in the recipe comments that many readers say it didn’t taste anything like the soup in the can. Then if you look at the ingredients they used, then the ingredients on the can, it’s no wonder.

Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup Ingredients

Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup Ingredients

I printed out the ingredients label and studied it to come up with a reasonable facsimile. Besides water, pea beans is the first ingredient. According to Wikipidia: “in the USA the name ‘pea bean’ is also used to describe small white common beans.” Well the beans from my local bulk food store section seemed to fit this perfectly, as the name on the bin was “small white beans.”

Tomato puree was a no-brainer, I used tomato paste and water. Bacon and carrots? Yep, I can do that. I skipped over all the unknown and nasty stuff, and then saw dehydrated onions. I had a whole spice jar of those! Most other recipes used fresh onion, in addition to celery and garlic. As much as I wanted to use all of those, I had to stick to my guns on this one.

Another thing unique to the canned variety is that the carrots and bacon are just wee bits in the soup, not huge chunks.

campbellscondensed-bean-with-bacon1

With that in mind, I pulsed both the carrots

Minced Carrots

Minced Carrots

and bacon into minced bits in my Ninja processor before cooking together. I didn’t bother rinsing the Ninja before adding the bacon.

Minced Bacon

Minced Bacon

Sugar is also mentioned twice, so decided to some add brown sugar too, but not too much.

My last dilemma was yeast extract (Marmite anyone?) and natural smoke flavoring. A bit of googling told me that soy sauce has the same umami and flavor profile as yeast extract. My bottle of liquid smoke wasn’t as “natural” in ingredients as I would have desired, but it was Stubb’s so I gave myself a pass on that. I left those out until all the other ingredients had a chance to meld in the slow cooker all day, then would do a taste test. Plus bacon has a smoky flavor, and I used ham stock instead of water, which also has a smoky flavoring. Time would tell.

The Results? Drum roll please…

Close — VERY close! The texture was not quite right as I should have removed some beans before pureeing the soup, but I was so excited to use my new immersion blender that I totally bypassed that step.

But when you crunchle in a bunch of saltine crackers, the texture doesn’t matter much at that point because the soup is Mmm, Mmm, Good!

Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

1 pound small dried white beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 cup finely minced carrots
6 slices bacon, finely minced
2 tablespoons dehydrated minced onion
3 tablespoons tomato paste plus one cup water
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
4 cups homemade ham stock, or water
Low-sodium soy sauce, to taste
Stubb’s liquid smoke (or other brand), to taste

Cook the minced carrots and bacon together in a skillet over medium heat until the bacon starts to crisp, about 15 minutes. It kind of freaked me out because the bacon fat never really released, did the carrots soak it up? At this point add the minced onion then cook for a few more minutes, stirring.

Dehydrated Onion Added to Mixture

Dehydrated Onion Added to Mixture

Once the onions look fairly hydrated, add the tomato paste and water, plus the brown sugar and stir to combine.

Tomato Paste Added

Tomato Paste Added

Pour the mixture (which vaguely resembles baby food) into a large slow cooker, then add the ham stock or water, and beans. Stir to combine then cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours, or high on 4 to 6 hours until the beans are tender. Add additional water as needed. At this point the bacon grease did release, which I removed from the top. It was only about 2 tablespoons.

Soup Before Pureeing

Soup Before Pureeing

Using an immersion blender, puree about half the soup. You can also do this in batches in a blender.  For a really smooth consistency for the base, remove some of the beans before pureeing, then add them back in.

At this point I did a taste test. It still needed some smoky flavoring, so alternated a few dashes at a time between soy sauce and liquid smoke. I stirred and tasted, ate a saltine cracker in between, until I found the right balance. Use caution with liquid smoke, as it is very strong. I might have added one drop too much.

Serve hot in bowls, with lots of saltine crackers on the side. I assembled a quick Caesar salad on the side since this was our dinner. If anyone makes this, please let me know what you think. Did this even come close to your expectations?

Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup Experiment

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

 

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