Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spicy Black Bean Soup

Ok, now I realize summer is practically here, but Nathan and I are BIG soup people so consider this a warning that I may periodically be posting soup recipes despite the extreme heat.

I first made us a black bean soup a couple of months ago and, as a result, Nathan has consistently asked me if we are having black bean soup just about every week since.  I finally honored his wish, but with a different recipe and this one is worthy of sharing and urging you to make at home (the first one was good, but this one is awesome).  Loaded with onions, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, tomato and jalapeno, this soup has a lot going on and is incredibly full of flavor.  Feel free to adapt the level of spice to suit your tastes but don't let it stop you from making this soup!

Spicy Black Bean Soup Recipe

This served the two of us

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
half a jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel), drained
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Garnish: sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped bell peppers, shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, diced avocados

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook for 3 minutes.  Add bell pepper, carrot, garlic and jalapeno, and continue cooking another 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add remaining eight ingredients (chicken broth through cayenne), and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let soup simmer for at least 10 minutes.

You can either serve this soup as is, or use an immersion blender or a traditional blender (I pureed a little over half of the soup) to puree the soup.  Serve warm, and garnish with suggested ingredients if desired.

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Friday, April 27, 2012

Date Bars

I've never had a date.  No, I'm not talking about the dinner and a movie, awkward-kiss-at-the-end-of-the-night kind of date.  I'm talking about fruit.  Dried fruit.  The unattractive sibling of fresh fruit.

I've been on dried fruit kicks before.  During high school I had this strange fetish with prunes.  Ate a lot of those guys.  Every day.  (Never could muster up the courage to try the juice though.  Something about drinking a prune-flavored beverage just freaks me out.) And a little over a year ago I went through large bag after large bag of tropical trail mix.  (The mango and papaya pieces were the best.)  And an oatmeal raisin cookie is always a winner.  But a date has never made their appearance in my dried fruit repertoire.

I can honestly say I have no idea what drew me to these bars.  First of all, dates are ugly.  I mean really ugly.  I actually got a little squeamish when I dumped them out of the box.  Secondly, I had no rum and I wasn't about to go buy a bottle for a single tablespoon!  And I didn't want to substitute apple juice either because I am definitely not an apple juice drinker at all so the whole bottle would essentially be trash.  What to do, what to do? 

Then it suddenly dawned on me that I do have rum!  Malibu coconut rum left over from my college days.  It put just a bit of coconut flavor into the bars and really took them up a notch.  The mystery still remains as to why this recipe went on my list of things to bake but I will tell you this: they were absolutely delicious and I want more coconut rum.

Date Bars

Makes one 8x8-inch pan

8 ounces diced pitted dates (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (I omitted)

Toss the dates in the rum and let them sit for at least one hour (up to 3 or 4 hours).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and coat the inside with non-stick spray; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth. Mix in the butter, hot water, and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Use a spatula to stir in the dates (and any liquid) and the pecans.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let date bars cool, then lift out the bars. Peel away the foil and cut into squares. The bars will keep for up to four days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to two months.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

Summer is definitely looming...and summer = grilling = burgers! And I love a good burger.  Nathan makes a killer jalapeno burger for us every once in awhile (guest post??) but any kind of burger will do- turkey, chicken, veggie, black bean, and especially your classic beef.  In fact, we even stopped at a McDonald's for lunch on the road a couple of weeks ago and it hit the spot-- sometimes the processed junk just tastes good. 

These buffalo chicken burgers were awesome!  (I told you I had something buffalo chicken up my sleeve.)  So juicy and definitely had that buffalo ranch kick.  A nice change from your ordinary cheeseburger and something a little different to spice things up a bit (no pun intended).  Now go fire up that barbie!

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon italian seasoning
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
Ranch dressing + buffalo wing sauce for topping
4 hamburger buns

Preheat grill or skillet.

In a large bowl combine ground chicken, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, parmesan and buffalo wing sauce. Mix until just combined. Form into patties.

Grill or pan-fry patties until brown on both sides and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. In the last 2 minutes, place 1/2 ounce of cheddar cheese on each burger. Place burgers on buns and top with a drizzle of ranch and buffalo wing dressing.

Adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roasted Garlic and Chicken Soup

Yes, I made soup.

I know, I know.  Soup is about to fall off the radar for a few months and become obsolete as temperatures begin to rise into the 90's and, inevitably, here in the south, the 110's...
I figured I would be storing this recipe away until fall, however we actually had some cooler days this past week (70's is cooler!) so I took the opportunity to make this before it was too late. 

You can never have too much garlic and this soup proves it.  It is loaded with both roasted and raw garlic and contains a good dose of onion, so I wouldn't suggest making this for a first date (unless you make something minty for dessert). 

Roasted Garlic and Chicken Soup

This served the two of us, plus a little leftover.

2 heads roasted garlic 
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk or heavy cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Once garlic has cooled, squeeze between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes.

Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add parmesan and stir until melted.  Stir in lemon juice, shredded chicken and milk or cream, and bring to simmer. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Adapted from Beantown Baker.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I apologize for the brief absence.  I went to visit my family for the Easter Holiday and after we came back to Texas there was a lot of catch up to do!  But here I am, back in the blogosphere.

While we were on our mini vay-cay, we got to enjoy some delicious pizza one night at a little place in Tulsa called Joe Momma's...and this nugget stood out on the menu as soon as I opened it:

Not sure if this is a good sign for Nathan and me...

Anyway, while this did sound delicious as I LOVE anything buffalo chicken style (stay tuned soon!), this wasn't one of the top contenders in ordering for our table of ten.  (We opted for Lucky 7's and The Natalie Portman in case you were curious.) 
But after arriving home and settling back into our routine, I wanted pizza and I wanted to mix things up a bit- hence Pepperoni Pizza Puffs.  These cute puffs would make a fun appetizer and have unlimited flavor options!  I'm a big supreme pizza fan so bell peppers, olives, and sausage may be in their near future!

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Makes 24 puffs

3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 oz pepperoni, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely diced.

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and oregano; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Warm the pizza sauce, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.

Adapted from Beantown Baker.

Friday, April 6, 2012

White Chocolate Coconut Brownies

Consider this my week of confessions as I have another one:  I think I like white chocolate more than chocolate.  I know it sounds crazy but after that insanely delicious clif bar and now these brownies I may have to consider myself a convert from the brown counterpart.  (And the fact that I have been eyeing the white chocolate reese's peanut butter eggs at the grocery store the past couple of weeks). 

I decided at the last minute to whip these up the other night and boy am I glad I did!  These are the epitome of gooey.  The edges just slightly crispened while the center was so soft if almost felt like eating batter (and who doesn't love brownie batter??)  The coconut peeks through all this gooey-ness to make it a very sweet treat and ups the flavor ante even more.

P.S. On a side note (but related to white chocolate), how cute are these!!

White Chocolate Coconut Brownies

Makes one 8x8-inch pan

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips (or 5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Butter the sides and bottom of an 8x8-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.  Put the white chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 1 egg to the white chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining egg and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture and the coconut over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour and coconut mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sourdough Bread

I have a little confession to make:  as much as I like to bake and cook, when it comes to grilled cheese, Nathan is the master.  I know, I know, what's so hard about a simple grilled cheese sandwich?  Nothing, really.  It's just that ever since we met four years ago, Nathan has always made our grilled cheese sandwiches.  He butters them just right, cooks them to the perfect crispness, and gets all the cheesy goodness in the middle to melt into the bread. 

But...this post is not a Grilled Cheese 411.  No siree.  I like it to be a little more complicated that.  This post is for the bread that holds the cheese. 

And this bread is good by the way.  I have always adored sourdough and felt it was time to make my own loaf at home.  I was not disappointed.  It was soft and fluffy and actually rather easy to make!  You do need to plan in advance though, as it requires a sourdough starter that has to sit at room temp for a few days (this gives it its classic "sour" taste), and then there is a 12 hour rise time, but the majority of the "time" is inactive. 

Once the loaf was baked and cooled, we filled our slices with sliced buffalo chicken deli meat and cheddar cheese and my Grilled Cheese Master cooked up one heck of a delicious sandwich.

Sourdough Starter

2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Pour the water into a 2-quart glass or ceramic jar or bowl.  Stir in the sugar or honey to dissolve.  Stir in the yeast.  Gradually whisk in the flour.  Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or dishcloth (not plastic wrap) and place it in a warm area.  Let it develop 2-5 days, stirring once a day due to the separation that will occur.  When bubbling has subsided and a sour aroma has developed, stir once more and refrigerate until ready to use.

**The starter needs to be replenished every two weeks or so.  Feed the starter each time you remove a portion for use in baking, but if it has been two weeks and you don't intend to use it, remove one cup and discard.  For every one cup removed, replace with one cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  Stir to blend and let sit at room temp for at least 12 hours before returning to fridge. 

**Can be frozen for one month or longer.  When ready to use, give it a day to revive, feed it, give it another day to sit at room temp out of the fridge, then it is ready for use.

Sourdough Bread

Makes 1 large round loaf

3/4 cup lukewarm water (100˚ F)
2 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
1/2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 3/4 - 3 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. bread flour mixed with 1/2 tbsp. yellow cornmeal

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted, whisk together the water, yeast, honey, and sourdough starter just until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until slightly increased in bulk and bubbly, about 1 hour.

With the flat beater attached to the mixer and the mixer on low speed, mix in 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the butter, egg and salt.  Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add in 1 more cup of the flour and beat for 2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a very soft dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead on low speed, adding a tablespoon of flour if the dough begins to stick, until the dough is smooth and elastic, tacky but not sticky, about 6 minutes.  

Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1½-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Sprinkle generously with the flour-cornmeal mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a tight, oval loaf.  Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet, several inches apart.  Sprinkle the top with flour and gently rub in.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator, 8-12 hours.

Place a baking stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  (If you don't have a baking stone, use an overturned baking sheet.)  Using a thin sharp knife, make three slash marks over the top of the loaf.  Place the baking sheet on the heated baking stone and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚ F and continue to bake until the loaf is golden brown, 20-30 minutes more.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Adapted from Annie's Eats.