Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rich and Hearty French Onion Soup

I recently visited my "happy place" aka Costco and a HUGE bag of onions followed me home. It must have weighed as much as the bags of dog food. Not only was the bag huge, but the onions themselves were gigantic. What better thing to make with monster onions than a monster batch of French onion soup. While the pressure cooker (yeah, there I go again, going on about how wonderful my pressure cooker is) makes it quicker than cooking on the stove, it's just as flavorful as slow cooked French onion soup that you have to keep an eye on. 

French Onion Soup

1 T Butter
1 T olive Oil
2-3 large Yellow Onions, thinly sliced (4-5 cups) a mandolin makes this easier
1 big pinch sugar (helps the onions caramelize)
1/2 t salt
¼  cup of dry red wine
6 cups Stock (beef and/or chicken)
Salt/pepper to taste

Roux: 
2 T butter
1 T Flour

To Garnish: 
French bread slices – about 1” thick, toasted for each bowl
thinly sliced swiss, gruyere or provolone cheese for each bowl. I used Sargento thin sliced provolone.

DIRECTIONS:

In the pre-heated pressure cooker, on medium-low heat, add the butter and oil. Soften the onions, stirring occasionally in the pressure until the onions become translucent (about 15 minutes). Then, turn down the heat to low, without a lid, add the salt and sugar and stir frequently until the onions have turned a uniform brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).


When the onions are a deep brown and are soft, deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it cook down until the wine evaporates. This burns off the alcohol so that you taste the wine, not the alcohol. 

Next, add the stock. Isn't this a thing of beauty. If you aren't a chicken, that is. I have gotten in to the habit of making stock every week and store it in jars in my refrigerator.


Close and lock the pressure cooker, set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, in a small sauce pan, melt 2T of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour so that there are no lumps. Stir frequently until it turns a light golden brown color. Be careful it does not burn. Take the roux off of the heat and set aside until the pressure cooker has finished.


When time is up, turn off the heat and use the quick release method to release the pressure in the cooker. When the pressure valve has dropped, open the cooker and remove the lid. To thicken the soup, take a cup of the stock from the pot and stir it into the roux until it is smooth, then pour this mixture back in to the cooker and stir. Ladle the soup in to individual serving bowls, top with your thick toasted bread slices. Cover each bowl with a slice of cheese and broil in the oven for 2 minutes or until the cheese has golden brown.


Words can't describe how delicious this was.



Monday, March 2, 2015

Eat Your Greens Hearty Winter Soup

Greens, greens, they're good for your heart... well, that's not how the rhythm goes, but greens are very good for you. In fact, 1 cup of chopped kale contains nearly 3 grams of protein, and over 100% of your vitamins A and C. Not too shabby, right?  It isn't a budget buster, either. In fact, none of the ingredients in my kale and lentil soup are budget busters, especially if you make your own chicken stock. The bay leaf might be priciest thing, and it's pretty much optional. I have a bunch because my mom has a huge bay plant. Which reminds me, I need to beg for more bay leaves...

Kale and Lentil Soup

1 T olive oil
3 leeks, well rinsed, cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 ribs of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 lb of lentils
8 ounces of chopped kale, rinsed (that's 1/2 of one of these huge bags)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups water
1/4 cup red wine (I had it on hand, it's optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Before serving:

2 T red wine vinegar - add at the end, before serving - it brightens up the flavors
dash of hot sauce

Set your pressure cooker to saute. Drizzle in your olive oil and let the pot heat up for a minute or two while you are chopping the vegetables. Add in your leeks and celery first, stirring them around to coat with the olive oil. Cook for a minute or two and then add the sliced carrots and cook for a minute. Next, add your lentils. Stir to combine with the vegetables, then add in the kale and diced tomatoes. The half bag seriously filled up my cooker


Lastly, add in the liquids: chicken stock, water, red wine, Worcestershire sauce. If you're using a bay leaf, throw it in now. Set your cooker to high pressure for 20 minutes.  When it's done, do a quick release of the pressure. Before serving, I like to add a bit of red wine vinegar and hot sauce.  Black pepper and red pepper flakes rock, too. Season as you wish. By switching out the stock and seasoning, you can make this vegetarian or vegan. It is a seriously flexible and flavorful soup. 


For stovetop cooking, simply follow the directions using a dutch oven and let the soup simmer for about 35 minutes, or until the kale is tender.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Exciting!

I can't tell you how giddy being able to post this badge on my blog makes me!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Forget The Takeout - Hot And Sour Soup


I am a sucker for Chinese takeout, and when the temperatures dip, there is nothing like a hearty bowl of hot and sour soup to warm you up. The problem is, the local takeout place uses more cornstarch than I like. My friend TJ recently posted a picture of hot and sour soup that she made in her pressure cooker. What a perfect time to try to make my own batch. Now before you say that this isn't authentic hot and sour soup because it doesn't have the funky mushrooms, or the exotic flower buds, I will that you are correct, it isn't authentic. But it is accessible to most people with an Asian section in their grocery store.



Hot And Sour Soup

1 T sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
2 dried shitake mushrooms, broken into little pieces
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (not flavored)
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t fried chili crisp (optional, I have it in my pantry and it adds a spicy smoky taste)
6 cups chicken stock
--------
2 eggs, beaten
1 T cornstarch mixed with water
1 package extra firm tofu, cut in to thin strips
1 green scallion, thinly sliced (optional garnish)

Heat the sesame oil and onion on the Brown setting of your cooker and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the white mushrooms, the shitake mushroom pieces, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, soy sauce, vinegar and the hot pepper. Cover and lock the cooker. Set for high pressure for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes has ended, release the pressure using the quick release method. Quickly pour in the beaten eggs, whisking them in with a fork, making wisps of egg while they cook. Next, add the tofu strips, folding them in to the soup. Finally, add the cornstarch slurry and mix for a minute or so, letting the soup thicken. Ladle soup in to bowls and garnish with scallion slices.








Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If Money Were No Object

The Aussie and I like to dream about what we would do if we won a big*ss lottery. All of our basic needs and quite a number of luxuries have already been met, so we are quite blessed. There are a few things, however, that I would love to do, if we had millions and millions to spend. Most of them are practical, with a side of frivolity.


1- Fence the immediate yard at the ranch so that the doggies could roam around safely. There are all manner of dangerous wild critters in the area, as well as local dogs that roam. I'd prefer it if they didn't have access to our property.




2 - Get the pond fixed. If you are going to build a pond in an area with really sandy soil, LINE IT WITH CLAY BEFORE YOU FILL IT!




3 - Renovate the house at the ranch. It boggles my mind that the previous owners built a house in the middle of the woods with a gas only fireplace. There isn't even a chimney. The amount of firewood we potentially have from trees that fell in storms is ridiculous. The fact that I can't have a proper wood fire in my fireplace makes me sad. I want to build an addition with large windows, a fireplace, another bathroom, install solar panels, convert the kitchen to gas, and install a tankless hot water system. Oh, and re-do the landscaping around the house with some sort of metal mesh under the lawn to prevent the gophers from digging up the yard.


4 - Because every dog deserves a furever sofa, I would really, really love to give a lot of money to charities that I support. My favorite charity, Galgos Del Sol, is raising funds to build a center. They rescue abandoned and injured Spanish Galgos, a dog similar to a Greyhound, rehabilitate them and find them homes. The new center will have an on-site vet, kennels and enclosures for the rescued dogs, an educational center. They will be able to help so many more of these beautiful dogs.  I would also love to make significant donations to Ibizan Hound Rescue to support their rescue work and to help cover the costs for medical attention and fostering the dogs.


5 - The Aussie is a pack rat. I would dearly love a clean, organized house. I'm not sure even millions could accomplish that, though.




Friday, January 30, 2015

Transform

I have to be honest with you. I don't like moving out of my comfort zone. Heck, some days I don't like getting out of my pajamas and doing grown up things, but at my age, I have to admit that am actually a grown up. I am prone to getting panic attacks in social situations. Going to large parties and clubs where I don't know many people freaks me out. In some ways, social media has helped me get over the initial discomfort and awkwardness, simply because I've often had the chance to get to know people, and they me, before actually meeting in person. Sometimes that is all the push needed to get me out of my comfort zone to do something that scares me.


In a very uncharacteristic move, I actually applied to be one of the Ignite speakers at Fitbloggin in Denver this year. This week they announced the first seven people chosen, and I am lucky enough to be one of them. This both thrills and terrifies me. Will this event be something that transforms me from an introvert to an extrovert? Not likely. But it will help me grow. And hey. What's the worst thing that could happen? Last year I barked like my boy Bear to win a bag of dog goodies in from of a room full of Fitbloggin people. Speaking should be a piece of cake.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Southern Flavor, Lickety Split

I had a dilemma. A couple of dilemmas, actually. When I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my bolognese, one of the items I purchased was pancetta. The guy at the deli counter must have been new, because he over-sliced and I ended up with half a pound of pancetta instead of a quarter pound. So, what to do with all of this pancetta? My second dilemma is one that vexes me continuously. My refrigerator freezes my vegetables. I have had to ditch too many bags of salad greens because they get frozen. Moving the bags around doesn't seem to change the fact that greens get frozen in my refrigerator. I had a large bag of collard greens sitting there that needed to be cooked before the damage was irreversible. Pancetta, meet collard greens. Collard greens, meet pancetta.

Southern Style Collard Greens 

2 slices of pancetta, diced
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large bag of collard greens (I used Glory brand) very well rinsed *
3 cups chicken stock
1 t liquid smoke
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red pepper flakes
3 T red wine vinegar

* some recipes suggest you soak the greens for 30 minutes before cooking them.

With your cooker set to saute,  brown the pancetta, rendering the fat, for about 3 minutes. Next, add the diced onion and sliced garlic and cook until soft, this should take about 5 minutes. Be careful that you don't let the garlic burn. Add in the rinsed greens, smushing them down in the pot, along with the stock, liquid smoke, Worcestershire, red pepper and vinegar.

Secure the lid to your cooker, and lock it in place. Set it for 20 minutes at high pressure.  After the cooking is complete, turn it off, letting the pressure release naturally.


Word to the wise, let it cool just a teensy bit before you dig in. "Pot likker" gets mighty hot. And it's mighty tasty. The steam was rising off the pot. These greens were so tender, they practically melted. And they didn't take 2 hours to cook, either.