Time for Dinner...

Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

Veggie Wedding Soup & Sourdough

OMG I swear I still cook! Despite the prolonged, extensive, crazy-long hiatus from my little corner of the Internet, I’ve been cooking this whole time. Or most of it. I work a lot, yo.

Anyway, I started and discarded, then started and edited, then ultimately avoided even trying to draft any kind of explanation about where I’ve been for nearly two years, and we’ll get to that (there are tons of pictures, of course). But for now I just needed to jump back in and get to posting, So, my Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup recipe is just as good a place as any to start. Let’s get after it!

Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

For the “Meatballs”:

1 Pkg Morningstar Farm Crumbles
1 Egg
1 tsp Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp Minced Parsley
1/8-1/4 C Italian Breadcrumbs

For the Soup:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Small Sweet Onion, Diced
3 Medium Carrots, Diced (I used Organic Rainbow carrots, because I’m fancy like that)
3 Stalks Celery, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 tsp Italian Herbs
1 tsp Fresh Rosemary, Minced
6 C Water
2 Cubes Vegetable Bullion (I got this new chicken-flavored vegan nonsense from Maplegrove Foods, it’s pretty good!)
1/2 C Organic Wheat Berries (I used Bob’s Red Mill, because really who else makes Organic Wheat Berries?)
3-5 Big Handfuls of Baby Spinach, Chopped
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp Dried Dill or 1 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Dill (more…)

Beeramisu!

So, here is the long-awaited beeramisu recipe. This ish is amazing. I am not the world’s #1 fan of dark beer, but this stuff is so delicious. A few weeks ago, we went to check out Bottlecraft, a new beer joint here in San Diego, and that place is kickass. It’s a tasting room and little shop with beer-related supplies, clothes, gifts, and, uh, beer. We love it because it has awesome (and reasonably priced!) beer, a really nice, knowledgeable staff, and it’s fun without suffering from the normal maladies of several other beer-only establishments here in SD. Which is to say, the staff is attentive, friendly, and accommodating, and the atmosphere is fun without being too “bar-scene-y” (of course that’s a word!) They play music, but you can actually have a conversation with people you’re there with without shouting, you don’t have to wait an hour to get a drink, since they don’t serve food they don’t mind if you bring some in…you know, it’s just a nice place to hang out. Plus it took the place of a wine tasting room that I super loved, so it’s nice to see that space turned into something else awesome.

Aaaaaanyway, on one of our first visits there, I found this book and had to have it. As you may know, C loves beer. Like, it’s one of his all-time favorite things. His other favorite thing in life (aside from the dog) is dessert, specifically, tiramisu. So when we saw a recipe combining these two things in there, I knew that book was coming to live at our house even if it cost one million dollars. But there’s a lot of other awesome stuff in there, too. It includes my two favorite things, as well: recipes and history. If you like beer and cooking, this book is for you.

But back to the deliciousness at hand. I made the beeramisu. I did a couple things differently, but it turned out to be a dessert that is more welcome at poker night than I am. It needs to set up overnight, so try and contain yourselves. It’s worth the wait.

As you will see in the book when you buy it (!!!) the original recipe was developed by Gunther Emathinger, the Executive Chef for Karl Strauss. Clearly, he is some kind of wizard. I can’t wait to make his Black Garlic Fondue! Here we go…

Beeramisu 

8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)

8 oz Tiramisu Mascarpone Cheese (I love this one from BelGioisio)

1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 C Confectioners Sugar

1 Pt Heavy Whipping Cream

3 C Rogue Chocolate Stout (a 22 oz bottle works well here. convenient, since that’s how they sell it!)

40-ish Ladyfingers

Cocoa Powder (to dust)

Ground Espresso or Coffee Beans (to dust)

 

First drag out a big mixing bowl and beat the cheeses together with the vanilla and a cup of confectioners sugar. When it’s smooth and delicious-looking, set it aside (or stick it in the fridge since it’s getting hot outside). Grab another bowl, and whip the cream with the rest of the sugar until it’s stiff (you know, the consistency of whipped cream.) I usually do this part in the Magic Bullet since I’m lazy and that only takes four seconds. Then combine the two (gently!) with a scraper or nice little spoon. Now for the beer.

You’ll want to use a 9″ x 13″ or so baking dish here, or whatever you have that’s close. Pour about half of the beer into a shallow dish and begin soaking the ladyfingers. Don’t leave them in the beer too long, just about 15-20 seconds, but be sure both sides get coated. You want them fairly saturated, but not falling apart. Arrange them in the bottom of the dish- you may have to break some up to fit, but just make sure you have a solid layer. Spread about half of the filling over them, then sprinkle with a little cocoa powder and ground espresso/coffee. Repeat the process, adding more beer to the dish as needed. (You may have a few layers if you have a smaller than 9 x 13 pan) and finish with the cream/cheese mixture. Dust again with the espresso and cocoa, then wrap the whole thing up, cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate (overnight or for at least 8 hours).

Enjoy with more beer, duh.

cheers!

 

sorry, this is all you get. I didn't get any photos before the whole thing was devoured...

It’s Alive! (But only barely, after all the juice)

Sorry for the sporadic nature of posting over the last couple months. I have a new client that actually requires me to leave my house and be on-site (the nerve!!!) and have had a lot less time to cook, much less take pictures and blog about it. But I do have lots to share, because the few things I’ve bothered to make have been pretty awesome. We tried a Beeramisu recipe from a local brewery guidebook, and I found a great Soda Bread recipe that turned out nicely, so I guess I’ll have to post that on a St. Practice Day, haha. I also tried a rye bread recipe that I will definitely be using again, and a pork chop marinade for C (seriously stupid-easy and also delicious).

But all of this brings us to the juice. I decided to go booze free for a few weeks, just because I hadn’t been taking very good care of myself (I love pizza and I made something called Beeramisu, for pity’s sake!). When I came across this article, I thought, well, if I’m going to be all healthy, maybe I should give this a shot for a few days. I borrowed a juicer, hit up the farmers market, and it was on.*

I lasted about 36 hours on the juice-only portion. I was cranky, starving, and clearly doing something wrong. Plus I was mad that the juicer wasn’t doing such a bang-up job with the kale…I felt like I was wasting a lot of the scraps. So I added in some real food again, but only raw, fresh stuff that I was making juice out of to begin with. I did juices all day and a giant salad of kale, spinach, and romaine, with carrots and celery and lime juice/olive oil/black pepper for dressing. That has been working out pretty well so far. I am surprised that I am so into this raw food bit. I thought for sure I’d be barely choking down a salad without cheese and real dressing, and that I’d still be starving and miserable. But I’m not. In fact, today I had a juice for breakfast, and then went to Evolution, a vegan fast food place that also has raw selections (only on the west coast…) for lunch and got “Rawcos” – raw tacos. I don’t know what they put in these things, but let me tell you, I would like another one right now, please and thank you.

doesn't this look amazing and delicious?? (or is that just my cheese-deprived mind talking?)

I got ingredients for raw zucchini pesto pasta with fake meatballs made out of nuts (could I have made that sound less appetizing?) because C won’t eat soy products. I want to try it this weekend, it actually sounds really good! I don’t foresee myself going totally raw vegan crunchy granola (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I think I will see where this takes me – I am going to try and stick with as raw as possible for a little bit. It’s going pretty good, and it’s a good compliment to my recently dry lifestyle. But don’t worry, I love hot food and grease far too much for this to become a permanent lifestyle change.

I’m still working a lot, but I am figuring out a balance so I can spend more time in the kitchen and post here more often. So, I’ll be seeing you soon with super healthy (raw zucchini pasta) and super decadent (beeramisu) recipes!

*There were photos of the mountain of vegetables we purchased, but in my addled state I accidentally deleted them. Rest assured, there was tons of produce at the onset of this project…I’ve gone through three pounds of kale alone in the last five days!

The Freshest Strawberries, Ever…A How-To

the strawberry solution

Today, boys and girls, I am going to tell you about a neat trick I learned about on Pinterest. It will help you keep berries fresh, firm, and free of fuzz for more than a week. The vinegar in this concoction kills off any mold, but is diluted enough that it doesn’t leave a vinegar-y taste behind. Here goes:

When your berries are fresh from the market, put together a solution of one part white or apple cider vinegar and ten parts water in a large bowl. Swirl it around a little to combine, then gently add in the berries (you don’t want them bruising right off the bat!). Swish the berries around in the vinegar mix for a few seconds, then drain them. Rinse and store or just pop them back in the fridge!

This is a super easy way to make your berries last longer. You’re welcome.

Vegetable Stock from Scratch

two hours later, this was soup.

Wow, you guys. I was kind of rolling my eyes at myself for even thinking about doing this. I mean, how much more homemade and crunchy does it get than homemade stock? Next thing you know I’ll be stewing my own tomatoes for sauce. Tomatoes that I grew. Haha, just kidding. We all know I can’t grow anything.

Anyway, I thought it was worth a shot after coming across this recipe. I make so many things involving veggies (um. because I’m a vegetarian, and all) and I always end up with a bunch of scraps that get discarded. Wasting food is one of the things I hate most in life (thanks, Grandmom Fry!) and so this seemed like a great way to use the whole entire vegetable without wasting anything. But because it wasn’t going to have enough onion (or likely carrot) to make a good mirepoix, I wanted a better base, so I searched around and found this recipe. What I ended up making was kind of a combination of the two, and it turned out delicious and made a ton of broth. It also turned out to be a good rainy-day project. This is less a recipe and more like instructions, because this is truly one of those use-whatever-you-have-on-hand kind of things. As long as you get a good base of celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, you really can’t go wrong. So, here goes.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

At least:

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Lb. Carrots, roughly chopped into thirds

1 Lb Celery, roughly chopped into thirds

2 Large Yellow or Sweet Onions, quartered

1 Handful of Parsley, chopped

5 Cloves Garlic

1-2 Bay Leaves

1 Tbsp Rosemary

1/2 Tbsp Thyme

1/2 Tbsp whole Peppercorns

3-4 tsp Sea Salt

24 C (a gallon and a half) Water

And then:

Literally any other vegetable or scrap you have laying around, with the possible exception of white potatoes.

 

I collected scraps of all the veggies I chopped up in a big freezer bag, discarding any obvious gross parts. Everything went in, even random things like eggplant skins. Just be sure to wash the whole vegetable thoroughly before cutting it up here, as opposed to just concentrating on the parts you’re going to be using right away. I was surprised that it only took a few weeks before the bag was full, and then I had no other excuses. It was time to make some broth.

Because I was a little wary of freezer burn (my freezer, much like my oven, is incompetent), I decided to roast the vegetables before simmering them. I heated the oven to 350 and spread the frozen veggies on a baking sheet, preferably one with a lip around the edge to catch any juices. I don’t have one, so I lose. I drizzled them with a little olive oil and into the oven they went, for like 15 minutes. Then I stirred them up and continued roasting for another 15 minutes.

When they were beginning to brown and smell delicious, I took them out and added them to the already-started broth.

While your frozen veggies are roasting, prep the other veggies that you’re using for your base (the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and whatever else you’re using). Heat a big, giant stock pot over medium heat and add the oil. Toss in the veggies as you cut them up, starting with the carrots, celery, and onion, and stirring every so often. Add in the herbs, salt, and pepper. Let them cook down and begin to caramelize, and when all of the fresh veggies you’re using have been added, and the veggies in the oven are done roasting and are in the pot, add the water. Then cover up the pot and bring it to a boil.

When it’s boiling, remove the lid and reduce the heat a little. Let the whole mess simmer, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so. About halfway through, test it and see if it needs anything. A little more salt? A smidge more rosemary? Toss it in. It’s your broth, you get to do whatever you want. Now for the fun part.

Strain the broth into a pitcher or large bowl, using a colander or mesh strainer. You might want to strain it again through some cheesecloth, just to get all the little stray pieces of veggies and herbs out. Your finished broth will keep in the fridge for a week or so, or you can freeze it to use later!

frozen veggies going into the oven

post-roasting

boiling away...