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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

French Onion Soup with an Italian Attitude

This recipe is from Express Lane Meals by Rachael Ray. I thought it had great flavor for a 30 minute soup. Zach would add more balsamic vinegar and onions next time. I thought it was a fun twist on a classic soup and a very filling meal!

French Onion Soup with an Italian Attitude

4 Servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 medium onions, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
leaves from one sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup grated paremsan cheese
4 thick sliced crusty bread -- I used croutons instead, a big handful for each bowl
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups beef stock
8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese -- I used a shredded Italian 6 cheese blend

  • Preheat broiler (I used the oven at 450, because that was the highest suggested temperature for my bowls.)
  • Heat a deep pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter to the pot. When the butter melts start adding the onions as you slice them.
  • Season the onions with salt, pepper and the rosemary. Cook the onions for 15-18 minutes, until tender, sweet and caramelized, stirring frequently. If they start to burn add a splash of water and continue stirring.
  • While the onions are cooking, make the topping. In a small bowl, combine the grape tomatoes, basil, grated cheese, salt and pepper.
  • Under the broiler toast the bread until golden; rub each side with the garlic clove. (I used croutons so I skipped this step.)
  • Once the onions are done, add the balsamic vinegar and white wine, stirring up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. add the stock and over the pot to bring to a quick boil.
  • Arrange 4 soup bowls or crocks on a cookie sheet. Once the soup reaches a boil, ladle it into the bowls. Float the brea (or croutons) on the soup and cover with a mound of the tomato mixture. Top with two slices of the cheese. Slide the cookie sheet under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Blogging Resolutions

I am hoping that if I post my blogging related resolutions here, for all to see, it will help me stick to them.  I created this blog over the summer and didn't start writing on for several months, and then only sporadically.  I'd like to increase my posts to at least one new recipe a week, and one "other" post per month.

I'd also like Zach to get involved in posting a bit.  We will most likely be moving over the summer, several hours from family and friends, so I'd like this to become a place where we can write about our adventures in our new location and our loved ones can read about what we are up to.  

Last but not least, our Christmas present gift to each other this year was a new digital camera.  I was super excited to see that it had a "food" setting so I hope to be able to get some much better shots for my recipe posts.  

Happy New Year!  Woohoo 2009!


Early last year, in a set of unknown circumstances, I made Zach a scarf.  I have no idea how or why I came up with the idea except that I probably wanted to try and revive some of my dormant craft habits.  So, after a few short refresher lessons from my mom, I started crocheting a scarf for Zach.  While being totally great and warm and awesome, it ended up rather large, as I used two rolls of yarn.  Oops.  Oh well, it lookes good with some of his coats, but with others it's just too much scarf.  

In any event, next up was my sister-in-law Sarah and I made one for her birthday.  I gave it a break over the summer and then made another one for my other sister-in-law Becca's birthday in October.  Then I got the great idea to make them for the women members of our families for Christmas.  I made five scarves all together.  Here are three of them before being wrapped up.

I *think* I use a basic single stitch.  I am not really sure, I just do whatever my mom taught me.  Sometime soon I want to get a "Learn to Crochet" book so I can figure exactly what it is I am doing, and to learn more.  Next up is a scarf for me (finally!) then a shorter one for Zach.  I am also going to try a bandana type scarf for my dog-in-law, we'll see how that works out.  I'd love to be able to try out a few blankets too and one of my goals is to make baby blankets for when my close friends and relatives start having babies.  

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fiery Wagon Wheels

I adapted this recipe from EveryDay with Rachel Ray Magazine. It called for cubing up pork loin and then freezing and using the food processer to grind it with red pepper flake. I decided that since I had some hot italian sausage already in the freezer, I would just use that. I also added in some roasted eggplant, because, well, I just love eggplant and thought it would fit nicely, which it did. The original recipe says 6 servings, but I think it is easily enough for 8, maybe even 10 if you serve it with a salad and bread. I know we will be having the leftovers for lunch nearly all week.

Fiery Wagon Wheels

1 medium to large sized eggplant
1 pound hot italian sausage
1 pound wheel or rotelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 a large onion, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
28 ounces of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Spread out on baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Flip and repeat on reverse side.
  • Roast eggplant for 10 minutes, flip and roast ten minutes more. Remove from oven when done and cut into cubes.
  • After the eggplant goes in the oven, start a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Saute onion for 2-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute 2-4 minutes more, until both vegetables are soft.
  • Lower the heat to medium and add in the garlic. Cook about 3 minutes more.
  • Add the tomatoes and their liquid, simmer for ten minutes.
  • Start the sausage browning in a medium skillet. Stir occastionally and break part into bite size pieces.
  • When cooked, add sausage pieces to skillet with tomato sauce. Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and scrape up any browned bits. Add to the sauce.
  • Simmer the sauce over low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer cooked pasta to a large serving bowl. Add in cubed eggplant. Pour sauce over pasta mixture. Add in parsley, scallions and cheese. Toss, adding more pasta water if necessary.
  • Serve with extra parmesan for topping.


This recipe is from the magazine Everyday Foods.  It turned out fabulous and amazingly creamy.  It's the best risotto recipe I've found yet.  And, because you add the wine in first, it tastes and smells like whatever wine you use.  I forgot to take a picture, but, really, most risotto basically looks the same, right?


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

  • In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onion until tnder, about 5 minutes.  
  • Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.  Season with salt.
  • Gently heat broth, keep warm.  I borrowed Alton Brown's trick and used our electric kettle to keep the broth warm.
  • Add about 1 cup of the warm broth.  Cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed.  Continue adding broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes total.  The rice should be tender, but not mushy.
  • Remove pan from heat.  Stir in parmesan and butter; season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

These are one of Zach's favorite cookies and a must-bake at Christmas every year.  They are fabulous right out of the oven and still amazing when cooled.  I think I found the original recipe on a few years ago now.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/3 cup cocoa powder
Several tablespoons sugar (for rolling)
1 regular size bag of Rolo candies

  • Cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar.
  • Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.
  • Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl.
  • Gradually add dry ingredients to wet while mixing.  Beat well, until combined.
  • Chill dough 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Unwrap Rolo candies.
  • Take a heaping tablespoon of dough and flatten out, put one Rolo in center and then form dough into a ball around candy.
  • Roll balls in sugar, place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8 minutes.