Monday, October 29, 2012

Joey's Chunky Minestrone

  I've told this story before, but I think it's worth retelling.... 
When I was growing up, my Mom would always make a big pot of soup on Halloween. She had her hands full with getting all of us into costume, and then off we'd go trick-or-treating. (Of course, the door bell was ringing every 10 minutes with other treat seekers.) There was no getting all of us to sit down to dinner at one time, since all of us would be coming and going at different times of the day, depending on how cold it was outside, or if someone was having costumes issues. So, the easiest thing to do was to just put a big pot of soup on the stove, and everyone could grab a bowl at any time. Most times it was her famous vegetable soup, but sometimes it was something equally as hearty, such as beef barley.
 I decided to do a Minestrone for this year's Halloween soup because it hits all the same notes as my Mom's soups. I looked at several recipes but couldn't decide which one to use. So, instead, I decided to do my own. It has a rich broth, it's hearty and healthy, and it warms you up and fills your belly. Of course, you don't have to serve it just on Halloween. It's just the thing for any crispy Autumn night or any time Jack Frost decides to stop by. I hope you like it!

a couple glugs olive oil
3 strips bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 15 oz can cannelini beans, rinsed
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 29 oz can whole tomatoes, drained, chopped
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
a big bunch of curly kale, stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup ditalini pasta
 handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy pot, add the olive oil and bacon over medium heat. When the bacon renders some of its fat, add the onions, garlic, and celery. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the broth, water, beans, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Let it continue to cook for another half hour (or as long as it takes to clean up the kitchen), stirring every now and then. Add the kale, pasta, and parsley. Cook for another 10 minutes. If the soup is too thick after the pasta is cooked, add a little more broth or just water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve each bowl with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and some warm crusty bread.

This recipe is WIDE open when it comes to substitutions.
Add diced potatoes instead of pasta.
Add spinach or any other leafy greens instead of kale.
Add diced green beans or any other vegetable instead of zucchini or squash.
Add any kind of miniature pasta shape you like instead of the ditalini.
Add vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Add any kind of beans or chick peas instead of the red or white kidney beans.
Add any kind of fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, fresh or dried, it all works.
See what I mean? Any or ALL of the above will make a delicious and hearty soup. And if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
Basically, you just need your aromatics (celery, onions, garlic, carrots), your vegetables, broth, herbs, starch (pasta or potatoes), beans, and greens.
As my Mom used to say, "Just throw everything in the pot and let it cook."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Juice

  Looking for something different to serve at your next Halloween party? Take inspiration from Harry Potter's Wizarding World and fill up your punch bowl with some Pumpkin Juice! It's really REALLY delicious! It's SO much better than the usual fruit punch/ginger ale type of punch. Well, not that there's anything wrong with that, but this is more Halloween-esque, wouldn't you say?
 Even if you don't serve it to a party crowd, you should still mix up a batch and enjoy!

5 cups apple juice
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well. Let it sit for an hour in the refrigerator. Chill and serve it iced, or heat it up in your cauldron and ladle it into mugs. Garnish each mug with a cinnamon stick.

 -The pumpkin puree makes the juice a little cloudy and a little bit thick. If that doesn't suit you, feel free to go ahead and strain it through a fine sieve. I must say, I prefer it as is, without straining it.
-You can adjust the amount of sugar or omit it completely, depending on how sweet you like it.
-Clearly you would multiply the recipe as many times as you need to in order to serve a crowd.
-This would absolutely be HEAVEN in a mug if you serve it hot on a chilly autumn night while sitting around a bonfire. Wouldn't that be awesome??

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


  What is Butterbeer? Well, as Harry Potter fans will tell you, it's a popular wizarding beverage that tastes like butterscotch. It is said to be served cold in bottles or hot in "foaming tankards".  There are apparently many recipes for it, but this one seems to be the closest to the magical brew. It's pretty simple to make, even though there are a couple steps to it.
 I suppose you could just go to the Hogshead Tavern in Hogsmead and buy a pint (if you have 2 silver sickles, that is), but their stock is "very dusty" and has probably been there for a while. It's probably a better idea go to the Three Broomsticks Inn. Then again, you can always have some at the Leaky Cauldron, if you happen to be in Diagon Alley.
 But, like I always say, it's better when YOU make it! So save yourself the time and travel and whip up a batch at home. You'll love it! Btw, if you do make it to the Three Broomsticks, tell Madam Rosmerta I said Hi!

1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
cream soda

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer. (Be careful not to burn it!!)
Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.
In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped.
To serve, add a tablespoon or two of the brown sugar mixture in tall glasses or mugs. Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.

As Winky the house elf can attest, the wizarding version of Butterbeer is described as being "slightly alcoholic". If you would like to add alcohol to yours, simply add some Buttershots butterscotch schnapps, as much as you like!

This is really more like a dessert than a beverage, as far as I'm concerned.
I think the next time I make it, I may cut the cream soda with a little seltzer water. It's VERY sweet. I even adjusted the recipe to reduce the amount of the butterscotch in each glass just because I think a 1/4 cup in each glass is just a little bit excessive. (which is what the original recipe called for).
To serve it cold, make sure the cream soda is well chilled and ice cold. To serve it hot, just heat the cream soda to a low simmer and serve it the same way. Personally, I prefer the cold version because I like the fizz. Of course, if you have your wand handy, you can add some fizz to the hot version as well. Just don't let any Muggles see you doing it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Pasties

 What are Pumpkin Pasties, you say? Well, if you have to ask, then CLEARLY you are one of the 5 or so people on the planet who are not familiar with anything to do with Harry Potter. Pasties are traditional baked meat pies, but these are filled with pumpkin instead of meat and vegetables. Harry Potter tried them for the first time on the Hogwarts Express at the start of his first year when he impressed Ron Weasley by buying everything from the Honeydukes trolley saying "we'll take the lot".
 They're "dead simple" to make, really. You just bake up some pumpkin pie filling without the crust, then spoon it into individual pastries to make little mini pies! Fun, huh? They're perfect for your next Halloween party! So, if you can't make it to Honeydukes Sweet Shop, just make your own!!

2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups cooked fresh pumpkin (or 1 lb. canned)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 t. allspice
1 can evaporated milk
9 oz. pie crust pastry (enough for two single standard pie crusts)

Add eggs and sugar to a mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Stir in the pumpkin, butter, salt and spices. Add evaporated milk and mix well. Bake the filling in a casserole dish that has been buttered or sprayed with pam. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Let the filling cool completely. Make or purchase pie crust pastry. Roll pastry thin and cut into circles about 3 inches in diameter. Put a tablespoonful of the pumpkin mixture towards one side of the center of the circle. Fold over the crust into a half-circle and firmly crimp the edges closed. Cut with a paring knife three small slits in the top for venting. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees only until crust is a light golden brown, around 10-15 minutes. Dust with cinnamon and sugar. Serve at room temperature.

A pyrex deep pie plate is the perfect size to bake the filling.
I used a 3" pierogi maker, which makes things SO easy. Just cut out the dough with the bottom of the pierogi press, then place the circle of dough on top. Place a measured tablespoonful of the filling in the center. Dampen one side of the of the crust, then simply fold it over and press to seal. Easy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Joey's Hearty Bowties with Tomatoes and Peppers

 Ok, so, when I started this dish, I had originally intended to go in a different direction. I was planning on doctoring up some leftovers (as I often do), but then this just sort of happened. Actually, for a while, it kind of seemed like I was making a pot of soup, but then everything came together and I LOVE the way it all turned out. It's a nice change from the usual marinara sauce and it feeds a crowd. Serve it up with some nice crusty bread and/or a fresh crisp iceberg wedge salad and you're good to go!

a few glugs of olive oil
1 large onion
2 large green bell peppers
2 or 3 large cloves of garlic
big pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few shakes EACH dried basil and dried thyme leaves
1 28 oz can sliced stewed tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb bow tie pasta
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Parmesan Cheese

Place oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Roughly chop the onions, peppers, and garlic. Saute in oil until they begin to soften. Add sugar, salt and pepper, basil and thyme. Saute for a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the chicken broth and the dry uncooked pasta right out of the box into the pot. Bring to a boil, give it a good stir, then reduce heat and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and give it a good stir. Serve in large pasta bowls topped with Parmesan cheese.

The key to this dish is the dried basil and thyme. They really give a nice depth of flavor. Don't forget them! The other key is the addition of bread crumbs. It might seem a little weird to add them, but they give the sauce a little body (so it's more than just a broth) without making it too heavy.
If you'd like a little heat, go ahead and add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes along with the dried herbs. Add as much as you like!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New England Clam Chowder

 This is one of those recipes that I thought I posted long ago, and then when I went looking for it, I thought, wait....did I ever post that??? Nope, I didn't! So here it is now. It's not complicated, it's creamy and comforting, and it's ready in about a half hour. Yes, yes, I'm sure there are much more sophisticated recipes that involve fresh clams, etc, but this one works just fine for me. It's the perfect thing for a crisp autumn night. Serve it with buttered fresh bakery rolls and you're good to go. You don't even need anything else, except maybe a crisp salad. SO delicious and warm and flavorful, and easy enough for the cooking novice.
You should try it!

4 slices super thick bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
3 cups half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
2 (10 ounce) cans minced clams

Place diced bacon in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook until almost crisp; add onions, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in water and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Pour in half-and-half, and add butter. Drain clams, reserving clam liquid; stir clams and 1 cup of the clam liquid into the soup. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Do not allow to boil.

If you'd like it to be very thick, just let some of the water evaporate before you add the half and half. You could also add a little bit of heavy cream.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Joey's German Red Cabbage

 When my brother, Chris, asked me to choose a German menu for our weekly Sunday dinner, he requested red cabbage to go with our meal. Always striving for the authentic traditional recipes, I launched into research mode, looking for the perfect recipe. Well, it seems that everyone in creation has a German Oma who used to make this for every holiday. There are a MILLION versions of this! Well, ok, maybe not a million. But definitely a hundred thousand. And since I couldn't decide which recipe was the right one for me, I decided to take components from several different recipes (as I often do) and make my own! So there. I hope you like it as much as I do. Hopefully, it's as good as your grandma used to make!

3 slices of bacon, diced
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

 Place the bacon in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Slowly render the fat. Add the apples and onions. Saute until they become soft. Now add the cabbage and let it cook down for a few minutes. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients until well combined. Add to the pot and give everything a good stir. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Serve with pork or sausages, and a side of mashed potatoes or potato dumplings.

To make it all shiny and glossy and rich, you can add a pat or two of butter on top as you bring it to the table and let it melt right in. 
If you like a lot of bacon, or apples, or onions, add a lot! Add as much as you like!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


 Have you ever had spaetzle? It's a German egg noodle that you make by dropping the dough into boiling water. It's SUPER simple to make and is ready in literally less than 10 minutes! Well, wait...actually, that's not necessarily true....
 If you make it the old fashioned way (by using a knife to scrape the dough off the cutting board into the pot), it takes a while and probably requires LOTS of practice and German grandmother to teach you.
 It CAN be ready in as little as 10 minutes, though, if you have a spaetzle maker! It's a simple kitchen gadget that kind of looks like a flat cheese grater with a container that sits on top. When you slide the container back and forth, the dough gets pushed through the holes into the pot of boiling water and creates noodles. How fun is that? So simple, yet so brilliant. They're extremely inexpensive too! (You can also get them for as little as $10.00 on!)
 So buy yourself a handy dandy little spaetzle maker and give this recipe a try. I promise you, once you try it, you'll be making it all the time!

4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of salt
2 cups of all-purpose flour

Mix together with a wire whisk in the order listed. Dough will be sticky, almost like a thick batter. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Spray spaetzle maker with nonstick cooking spray. Place spaetzle maker over pot and pour dough inside the holder on top. Slide back and forth over boiling water. The dough will be pushed through the holes and fall into the pot creating noodles. The spaetzle is ready when it floats. Give it an extra stir, just to make sure ll of the noodles are cooked. Remove with slotted spoon, drain. Toss with melted butter and a sprinkle of fresh parsley, if desired. Serve with sauerbraten or pork and sauerkraut.

Instead of tossing with butter, you can chop up some bacon in a pan over medium heat to render the fat, then add the cooked spaetzle and give everything a good toss.  So good!

 Oh, and one other thing....
Everyone seems to have a different way of saying it. Do you say it like SPATE-zul? Or like SHPET-zul? Or combine the two, and say SPET-zul? Anyone? anyone?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Joey's Sauerbraten

 Many many years ago, my fabulous friend, Jessie, invited me to have dinner with her family. Her mother, Jody, and I seemed to be kindred spirits in many ways, especially when it came to cooking, so it was really nice to be invited to their home. Jodie cooked up a scrumptious German feast and I remember bringing the dessert (a cherry torte that had Kirsch in it, which is a cherry flavored German brandy). I must confess that I had never tasted sauerbraten until that night, but I was an immediate fan. If you're not familiar with it, it's a German pot roast that is marinated for a really long time in red wine and vinegar and spices. It's so delicious and rich and flavorful! I remember being amazed that she added crushed gingersnaps to thicken the gravy instead of flour because I had never heard of such a thing. Yes, Gingersnaps! Crazy, right? Whodathunk it? But honestly, that's the traditional thing! I think that's now one of my favorite parts of the whole recipe. And the sweetness of the cookies balances with the sour of the vinegar and the spices all work together perfectly.
 Since then, I've often thought about making it, but never seemed to have my act together far enough in advance. Well, that is, until now! Ever since Chris and Claire have been coming over for Sunday dinner, we've been trying exciting and different cuisines. Chris requested something German for an Oktoberfest sort of a vibe, and so I figured this was the perfect time to FINALLY make sauerbraten! This recipe is my own and it's sort of a combination of many recipes all smushed together. I hope you like it. And thanx again to Jessie and Jody and The Carey Family for the fabulous dinner and fond memories!!

2 cups red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs cracked black peppercorns
2 tbs pickling spice
12 juniper berries (or 2 tbs gin)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves

3 strips thick cut bacon, cut into small strips
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
2 or 3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
12-15 old fashioned gingersnap cookies, crushed

Place all marinade ingredients in a small sauce pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place roast in a non metal (glass or ceraminc) bowl. Pour the marinade over the roast.  Cover and keep in the fridge for 3 days, turning at least once a day.
Remove meat from marinade and pat completely dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade through a fine sieve and reserve the liquid. Discard spices and onions.
In heavy, 5-quart dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the bacon to render the fat. Remove bacon. Set aside. Add the beef roast and brown on all sides. Transfer to platter and set aside.
Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot. Cook over moderate heat until soft and light brown (5-8 minutes). Add meat along with the sugar to the pot. Pour in 2 cups of the reserved marinade and 1/2 cup of water. Cover tightly. Bake in 350 degree oven for 3 hours.
Transfer the roast to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm while sauce is made.
Strain the solids from the cooking liquid and skim away any fat. You will need at least 2 1/2 cups for the sauce. If additional liquid is needed, add some more of the reserved marinade.
Pour the liquid back into the pot and add the gingersnap crumbs. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently for approx. 10 minutes, allowing the cookie crumbs to dissolve completely and thicken the sauce to the desired consistency. Depending upon the amount of liquid, you may need to add additional cookie crumbs. Serve with dumplings, boiled potatoes, or spaetzle, and red cabbage.

Ok ok, I know what you're gonna say.. 3 DAYS? Yes. That's correct, 3 days! Some recipes even go so far as to marinate it for up to TEN days, but I think 2-3 is just fine. Basically, if you want a more sour sauerbraten, let it marinate longer.
Be sure to turn the roast in the marinade several times throughout the marinating process. If the meat is completely submerged, then you don't have to do it as often. If you don't have the right size bowl, you can put the roast and marinade in a large oven bag and then turn it a couple times a day.
You can use a sauerbraten spice blend instead of the pickling spice, but frankly, I couldn't find any, and many recipes called for pickling spice, so I went with it.
This is traditionally served as a holiday dinner, but why wait until then???

Monday, October 1, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese, Indian Style

 Since I get so many requests for Indian recipes, I figured I've give this recipe a try. Yes, it's mac n cheese, so you know it's all about comfort, but the addition all the warm Indian spices is a delicious twist that makes it into a whole new mac n cheese experience. It's just as easy to throw together and it's delicious! So if you like Indian flavors, you absolutely MUST make this. It's SO rich and warm and it's the perfect thing for a chilly night. Chris and Claire are always talking about how much they love Indian cuisine, and they LOVED it when I made it for one of our Sunday dinners. So, big thanx go out to the Spice Goddess, Bal Arneson, for contributing another delicious recipe to my growing collection of Indian recipes! Try it!

3 tablespoons butter
4 cups dried macaroni 
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
A pinch of pepper
3 cups milk
4 cups grated white Cheddar 
1/4 cup breadcrumbs 

  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch ovenproof dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
Fill a large pot with water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and season with some salt. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then add the ginger, garlic and onions. Stir and cook until the onions are just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, chili powder and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper and stir for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and continue to stir as it thickens. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Add 3 cups of the cheese and stir until melted.
Add the drained macaroni to the baking dish, and then pour over the cheese sauce and stir as it settles and coats all the macaroni. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs and bake until the top is golden and the macaroni is hot and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

One of my favorite things about this recipe was is the addition of diced tomatoes. Usually when I make mac n cheese, I serve it with stewed tomatoes on the side, but this has the tomatoes right in the casserole. FABULOUS. I remember Chris saying he found himself searching for more chunks of tomato as he was eating. I think maybe next time I'll add a bit more. If you like a lot, add a lot!!