Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thick And Creamy Potato Bacon Soup

My dear friend Jerry, the driving force behind one of the (IMO) greatest foodie blogs on the 'net, Cooking, By The Seat Of My Pants aka CBSOP, made mention last week that the most popluar recipe on his site was his Thick And Creamy Potato Bacon Soup recipe. Really no wonder, with the crisp fall weather much of the country has been experiencing.

The surprising chill includes the beautiful city of Memphis, and Jerry's recipe sounded too good to pass up! In my typical 'right now' style, I dropped everything, and headed off to the grocery for the few ingredients I didn't already have. Within hours, the soup was becoming a reality!

Of course, my typical style is also never to be able to force myself to prepare a recipe without my own tweaks, so my foodie brain went to work. As a credit to Jerry's wonderful skills in the kitchen, I must admit that (for me) there were very few tweaks.

For the base recipe I used, go to Jerry's Thick And Creamy Potato Bacon Soup. I'm absolutely sure this recipe is totally delicious just as it is written, I just have this 'can't leave things alone' thing going on in the kitchen...

Here are the things I did differently:

*I halved the recipe, which for me, yielded just over 2 qts (1 for the freezer, yay!)
*I used my slow cooker, just to see if it would work, and because I love the melding of flavors that 'low and slow' produces. My times were: 2 hrs on high, 2 hrs on low, and approx 1 more hr on low, the last hour being after the pureeing and addition of the cream and cheese. Remember, slow cookers behave differently -if you choose this method, you may have to adjust your times accordingly.
*I cooked and crumbled my bacon beforehand, and added it at the beginning of cooking.
*I basically pureed the entire batch of soup, leaving a very few, very small 'lumps' of potato, only because I love my potato soup to be really creamy and smooth.
**Due to the pureeing of all of the soup, I added an additional cup of chicken broth when adding the cream, to thin it just a bit.
*I added 1 cup of extra sharp Cheddar (shredded, to ease melting) at the time I added the cream. This was right before the last hour on low, so it would melt nicely.

My result was the most decadent Potato Soup I've ever tasted - it even surpassed my recipe, that has been getting raves for years! :-)

As Jerry notes, this is pretty much a dieter-and-health-guru nightmare, but as I always say, all things in moderation... It's definitely worth the extra workouts I've done to make up for this guilty pleasure!

I hope you'll give Thick And Creamy Potato Bacon Soup a try, as Jerry does it, or with my tweaks, or with tweaks of your own!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm a Breadbaker - finally!

I've been going Artisan bread crazy the last two weeks! After many years of sweat and tears (no blood, thankfully) I've finally found a method that is perfect. No more kneading, praying, rising, praying, baking, praying, only to be left with something less than edible!

I adapted my Artisan bread recipe from Global Gourmet
, who adapted theirs from the book; Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

This is an absolute no-fail, in my opinion. The best part is that it takes no time at all, even the busiest people can fit this into their schedule, and enjoy homemade artisan bread on a daily basis.

Unbelievably Easy Artisan Bread

* 3 cups lukewarm water
* 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (here, 'plain', not rapid-rise yeast is sold in 3 packet sets, you will use '2 and a bit' packets to achieve 1 and 1/2 tbl)
* 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
* 3 and 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all purpose (not self rising) flour
* 3 cups organic plain organic wheat flour
* Cornmeal

-Water should feel just a bit warm to the touch, slightly higher than body temp. (about 100F)
-Add yeast and salt to the water in a large (5qt) plastic food container or bucket. This container should be have a lid that fits, but is not airtight. Stir a little, but don't worry about getting all the yeast to dissolve.

Add both types of the flour, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups. Gently scoop up flour, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula; don't press down into the flour as you scoop. Mix with a wooden spoon, this is not as hard as you might think, as this is a fairly wet dough. If it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don't knead, just make sure all ingredients are moist. The dough is finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This takes just a couple of minutes, to the point that the dough will spread out to the sides of the container.

-Cover with a lid that fits well to the container you're using, but make sure it is not airthight - your dough needs to breathe a little. Lidded plastic buckets from your local bakery are perfect for this - just don't seal the lid completely. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it flattens on the top, approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period, but please note that the flavor is greatly improved after spending a night in the fridge. *Note: your dough will seem quite 'wet', it's ok, that's exactly what you want.

-To bake: Prepare a cookie sheet, by dusting it liberally with corn meal. You may also want to spray with non-stick cooking spray first. Remove your 'bucket o' dough' from the fridge, flour hands generously, and pull up a piece from the center, about the size of a grapefruit, and cut loose with a serrated knife. Stretch your dough, maintaining a round shape, by pulling the dough gently toward the bottom of the ball. Global Gourmet has excellent pics of this step. Pinch the bottom of the loaf together in the center - don't worry about how it looks, rising will smooth out the bottom.
Return your 'bucket 'o dough' to the fridge - the dough will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks, with the flavor improving each day.

-Place your smooth dough ball on your prepared cookie sheet, and leave to rise, uncovered, for about 20 min. You may not see much rising during this step, but it's ok, your bread will rise even more while baking.

-After 20 min, turn your oven on to 450F, and allow to preheat. Place an empty broiler pan, or other shallow ovensafe pan on the bottom rack of the oven. At this time, dust the top of your loaf with flour or cornmeal, and make 3 diagonal slashes, each 1/4 in deep, across the top of your loaf. After 20 min, (even though your oven may not be to 450F), place your loaf in the oven, and carefully but quickly add 1 cup of water to the empty broiler pan. The steam from the pan will allow your loaf to form a crispy crust, while providing a moist interior to your bread.

-Bake for about 30 min., and then test your loaf by checking for a crisp, brown crust. when the crust is very firm to the touch, remove the loaf from the oven, and transfer to a wire cooling rack. The crust will soften slightly as the loaf cools.

-When completely cooled, stored your loaf in a ziploc bag, or other airtight container.
This bread is very versatile. Herbs can be added, either at time of mixing, or to individual loaves, at time of shaping. It can also be used for flatbread, foccacia, or pizza dough. For variations, visit Global Gourmet or do a Google search on 'Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day'.

After my great success with this recipe, I just don't see my self buying premade bread again! I have used this bread in cold sandwiches, paninis, for pizza, and flatbread - the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Update on July 12th post (Nonna's Pickled Eggplant).

Today was opening day! Opening the jar that had been marinating in the fridge for 1 week, that is...

I'm embarrassed to admit that there is only 1/2 a jar left - that's right, Nonna's Pickled Eggplant was amazing, and I've made a pig of myself!

I've decided there's only one solution...

Need. More. Eggplant.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant (Melanzane Sott'olio)

Before reading or trying this recipe, please read the FDA article, and do a search on garlic + oil + botulism. Educate yourself!

While I can state that my family has used the following recipe for generations, and never had a problem, I am not a medical professional, nor a scientist, so I can't explain why we've never encountered botulism. Could it be the fact that we refrigerate the product soon after preparing, or the acidic vinegar (long known as a preservative) in the recipe, or the fact that our family always has a braid of well-dried garlic hanging the kitchen for use, or just plain luck? I have no idea... All I can say is do your research, read what's been said, follow directions exactly for preserving, and if you're still not comfortable - DON'T TRY THIS RECIPE! Believe me, I won't be offended, we all have our own comfort levels.

That being said...

This recipe is probably my favorite one of Nonna's, and it was passed down to her from generations before. It was lost to me for several years after she passed away, but with some research and tweaking, I've managed to replicate it exactly to my childhood memories!

Nonna's Pickled Eggplant

3/4 lb eggplant (Chinese eggplant is my favorite, but any variety will work - remember, smaller is better!)

Coarse Kosher Salt

3/4 cup (give or take) white vinegar

about 1 and 1/2 cups water (2:1 ratio with vinegar)

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled, washed, and dried well

1 TBL fresh basil, minced

1 tsp fresh oregano, minced

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (or 1 small whole dried cayenne pepper, crushed)

High quality extra virgin olive oil

Sterilized jar, of a size to barely fit your eggplant strips (8 oz, maybe?)

Trim ends from eggplant, and peel. Slice horizontally, turn, slice horizontally again, and then vertically into 2 in strips. I know this may be confusing, sorry - what you want are strips the size of short shoestring french fries.

Place your strips in a non-metal colander, sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt, and toss well. Place colander over bowl, or in sink, covered with a double layer of paper towels, for 30 min. This allows the eggplant to 'sweat', removing excess moisture and bitterness (bitterness is not usually a problem with small eggplants).

Rinse eggplant strips well with cold water, drain, and pat dry well with paper towels.

Combine vinegar and water in a non reactive saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Add eggplant, and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Pour eggplant into colander, and drain well. After draining, squeeze strips between paper towels to dry. (Don't worry, that lovely vinegar 'tang' will remain)

Mix your minced fresh herbs together well.

Pour a thin layer of oil into the bottom of your sterilized jar. Add some eggplant strips, a clove of garlic, some of your herb mix, and repeat, starting with more oil. Continue until your jar is completely full, being sure the eggplant is totally covered with oil, and no 'headroom' is left. I use the handle end of a wooden spoon to 'poke', and make sure all air is removed. Seal your jar tightly, and allow to cool ONLY TO ROOM TEMP! then place in fridge.

Allow to marinate for a week, (this is the absolutely hardest part of this recipe - I want my pickled eggplant NOW!) and then enjoy!

*Your oil may solidify as a result of refrigeration, but don't worry, it's fine. Just remove pickled eggplant from fridge about 15 min before serving, and the oil will liquefy again.
**I cannot attest to the shelf life of this pickled eggplant, but I wouldn't store it more than 2 weeks (yes, even refrigerated, see safety precautions above). We don't have that problem around here - it never lasts more than a day or 2 after the marinating is over! :-)



I'm baaacckkk!

Let's get right to it - A friend is in need of eggplant recipes, and I'm always willing to help out a friend!

So...early Saturday morning, off to the Memphis Farmers Market I went, in search of some delightful Chinese eggplant. I easily achieved my goal, and also picked up some Ripley, TN cherry tomatoes (more on that later). I could easily have left with a ton of beautiful produce, but I remained focused...

Back at home, I was in a mood to grill, so I decided to make Eggplant and Goat Cheese rolls, one of my favorite ways with eggplant, with some of my little purple beauties.

*My camera (well, its batteries) was giving me fits yesterday, so I don't have step-by-step pics, but hopefully my descriptions will do...

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Rolls

2-3 small Chinese Eggplants (other varieties are fine, I just happen to love Chinese
- total weight should be 1 to 1 and 1/2 lbs)

Coarse Kosher Salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar, for marinating

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp dried red pepper flakes

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 lg clove garlic, finely minced

6 oz goat cheese (I like the plain Montchevre)

5 large leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 TBL fresh oregano, minced

2 TBL fresh parsley, minced

Trim ends from eggplants, and then thinly slice, horizontally. (1/4in is a good thickness) You want long, thin strips.

Lay strips in single layer on double thickness of paper towels, sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt, and cover with another double layer of paper towels. Allow to 'sweat' for 20-30 min. This removes the excess moisture, and bitterness, if any, from the slices.

Rinse slices with cold water, and pat dry with fresh paper towels.

In med bowl, whisk together Balsamic vinegar, and both types of pepper. Pour 1/2 of mixture into a long, (non-metal) shallow baking dish, cover with eggplant strips, and then pour the rest of the mixture over top of the strips. Cover, and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

Put olive oil and garlic into a small saute pan, and warm slowly over low heat. The low heat allows the garlic to release its sweetness. As soon as tiny bubbles begin to appear in the oil, remove the pan from the heat, and set aside (do not allow the garlic to begin to brown!) Let cool - the slow cooling process will infuse the oil with wonderful garlic flavor.

In a med bowl, mix goat cheese well with the minced basil, oregano, and parsley. Cover, and refrigerate.

About 30 min. before the marinating is done, fire up your charcoal grill. When it comes to grilling, I'm a 100% charcoal girl, so if you're using a gas grill, you'll have to adapt this part.

At the 2 hour marinating mark, remove the eggplant from the fridge, and allow to rest for about 20 min. Also remove your goat cheese mixture from the fridge at this time - its flavors will intensify as it comes to room temp. After the rest period, hopefully your coals will be nice and white/gray, completely ashed over. Arrange your hot coals in a single layer, and situate your grill grate about 2 in above the fire. Drain eggplant of marinade, arrange on platter, and brush top sides with your garlic infused oil.

Place eggplant slices on grill, oiled side down, and lightly brush oil on exposed side. A good fire will grill your slices quickly - it only takes about 2 min per side. You want the slices browned, but still soft. Remove your eggplants slices at that stage, to a clean platter.

As soon as the eggplant slices are cool enough to handle, spread each with a layer of goat cheese mixture (how much is your business - I use a bit of a heavy hand here, love that goat cheese!). Starting at the smallest end, roll up slices, pinwheel fashion.

I tend to roll my slices almost right off the grill, so the residual heat melts the goat cheese a bit. If you don't have my heatproof fingertips, lol, you can also pop your rolls into a preheated 375F oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese a bit, or not. Good goat cheese is good goat cheese, melted or unmelted. ;-) *Do not attempt to heat in the microwave! Microwaving cause the cheese to break down, leaving you with a grainy filling - not a good thing, take my word for it...

I can't give you the number of servings for this one - everyone's appetite is different, and it also depends on whether the rolls are being served as an appetizer, side dish, or even a main meal. You're on your own with that!


Stay tuned for another eggplant recipe, one that's been a favorite of my family for generations...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Foodbuzz Launch!

Foodbuzz is well on it's way to becoming the #1 Food and Drink site on the net, with all the features today's 'foodies' are looking for, in one convenient, user-friendly, and customizable place!

I have been a member of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community for several months, and the innovative features here have really impressed me. (impressing my cynical butt is not an easy task, lol)

Check it out - if you have even the smallest interest in food, in any aspect, you won't be disappointed!


Contact: Allison Costello

Doug Collister


San Francisco – October 13, 2008: Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.
“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc. “Food bloggers are the new breed of local food experts and at any minute of the day, Foodbuzz is there to help capture the immediacy of their hands-on experiences, be it a memorable restaurant meal, a trip to the farmers market, or a special home-cooked meal.”
Foodbuzz is the only online community with content created exclusively by food bloggers and rated by foodies. The site offers more than 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly, including recipes, photos, blog posts, videos and restaurant reviews. Members decide the “tastiness” of each piece of content by voting and “buzz” the most popular posts to the top of the daily menu of submissions. Foodbuzz currently logs over 13 million monthly page views and over three million monthly unique visitors.
“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc.
The Foodbuzz blogger community is growing at a rate of 40 percent per month driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs and the addition of over 100 new blogs per month. “The Web site is like the stock of a great soup. The Web site provides the base or backbone for bloggers to interact as a community, contribute content, and have that content buzzed by their peers,” said Mr. Dehan.
Global Blogging Event
Demonstrating the talent and scope of the Foodbuzz community, 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs offered online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity. The new feature showcased blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz partner bloggers chronicling events occurring around the globe during a 24 hour period and included:
Mid-Autumn Festival Banquest (New York, NY)
The "Found on Foodbuzz" 24-Item Tasting Menu (San Francisco, CA)
Aussie BBQ Bonanza – Celebrating Diversity (Sydney, Australia)
The Four Corners of Carolina BBQ Road Trip (Charleston, SC)
Criminal Tastes – An Illegal Supper (Crested Butte, CO)
From Matambre to Empanadas: An Argentine Dinner (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
A Sweet Trompe l’oeil (Seattle, WA)

“24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” captures the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared it with the world,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community. “It illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about – real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”
About Foodbuzz, Inc.
Based in San Francisco, Foodbuzz, Inc., launched its beta Web site,, in 2007. In less than a year, and its community of over 1,000 exclusive partner food blogs have grown into an extended online property that reaches more than three million users.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slow Cooker Honey-Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Today, I made the best, most tender, flavorful, and moist Pork Tenderloin that I've ever tasted, if I do say so myself! ;-)

I had a lovely-looking 2 lb pork tenderloin, (see pic) and wanted to try something different - I searched online, saw an interesting recipe on, Southern Cooking, and adapted it to fit my own taste.

Slow Cooker Honey-Dijon Pork Tenderloin

* 2 lb pork tenderloin, or 2 1 lb pork tenderloins
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1 medium garlic clove, minced
* 5 tablespoons high quality honey-dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1 tablespoon cold water

Wash and trim the pork and pat dry; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place pork in the slow cooker. Combine garlic, mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, and thyme; pour over the pork. Turn pork to coat thoroughly. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or on HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. Test for doneness with meat thermometer, center of tenderloin should be at least 160F, for safe eating.

Remove pork to a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm. Pour the juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until reduced by about one-third. I left the 'chunky bits' in my sauce for extra flavor, but you can easily strain the juices, for a smoother sauce. Combine the cornstarch and cold water; whisk into the reduced juices and cook for 1 minute longer. Serve pork sliced with the thickened juices.

I added some fresh Italian style green beans, and a simple salad, and had a meal fit for royalty!

Serves 6.