Archive for the ‘kitchen’ Category

The Best Baked Potato Soup. Ever.

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Posted by Michael, March 30th, 2011

Best baked potato soup.  Ever.

To be honest, I was always skeptical of baked potato soup.  Rebecca would rave about it and me?  I’d just be all, well, meh.  But then I had the baked potato soup at Houlihan’s.  It was very good; I had no idea soup could be something so great.  However, at the end of the day (or after using the toilet, whatever you prefer(hey, we’re friends, right?)) there was still something a bit off about it — the soup had too much of a creamy feel.  I actually wanted more potatoes in that thing.

A week or so ago, I discovered a baked potato soup recipe at The Curvy Carrot.  I admit; at first I shrugged it off thinking it was just another creamy attempt at the soup.  But then!  Then I saw that the crispy goodness on top wasn’t bacon and the recipe sucked me in!  Turns out that the crispy pieces on top are actually the skins from the baked potato!  What a fantastic idea!

And so on Sunday, I decided to make it.  To quote The Curvy Carrot, ‘Enjoy this recipe.  It’s a keeper.’  Amen.

Soup ingredients:

  • 5 russet potatoes, scrubbed well and dried
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted butter and then used less salt than listed below)
  • 1/2 cup flour; divided into two 1/4 cup portions
  • 6 cups of whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (for garnish — Rebecca didn’t use any)

Crispy potato skins ingredients:

  • Reserved potato skins (from the potatoes above)
  • Oil for brushing
  • Salt+Pepper+any other spices you’d like to use (I added some hot pepper)

First thing is to get those potatoes cooked.

I poked some holes in each of the potatoes, sprinkled them with some salt+pepper, and then placed them in a preheated over at 400 degrees.  These things cooked for about an hour until fully cooked and softened. Once they were fully cooked, I let them cool a bit so I could work with them — roughly 45 minutes or so.

Once cooled, I sliced each potato into two pieces.  I carefully peeled back the skins and placed them back in the pan.  Half of the potato insides went into one bowl, while the other half went into another.

The first bowl got mashed pretty good.  The second bowl got cut into bitesize pieces.

The skins got brushed with some oil.  I then sprinkled a bit more salt+pepper on them, as well as some red pepper flakes.   I put these in the over at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until they were plenty crispy.  Check these often; you don’t want to burn them.

From here it was on to make the soup.  In a large dutch oven on medium heat, I melted the butter and then added 1/4 cup flour into the butter.  This mixture was wisked like crazy until it was lightly golden brown — maybe 3-4 minutes for me. I slowely added the milk and again wisked like crazy. After this was mixed came the rest of the flour; as well as some more wisking!  This was cooked until the liquid started to get thickened.  The original recipe said this took about 8 minutes.  It took me about 12-15 until it started to get thick.

Once thick, I added the mashed potatoes.  I stirred this well until completed mixed.  This mixture was followed by the bitesize potato pieces and some stirring.   Added some more pepper as well as the cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese was fully melted into the soup, we were good to eat!

I topped my soup off with some green onions and some sour cream.  Rebecca passed on the sour cream.  And then came the best part!  The crispy potato skins!  Mmm.

Once again, we are linking this post up to What I Ate Wednesday at Peas & Crayons!

 

Where in the World…

15 Comments

Posted by Rebecca, March 24th, 2011

..Is my kitchen runner?

Remember this post around Valentine’s Day about how I wanted to order a runner to replace this shabby kitchen mat?

Well I pulled the trigger, the very next day, and ordered the Bogart Flat-Weave Wool Rug from Garnet Hill.

But when I ordered, I got this message.

Side note: I just noticed this, but how funny is it that they put this message the top of the email?

So my rug wasn’t going to ship until a month after my order, which was okay with me. This wasn’t an urgent-need-it-now purchase, plus I’m a patient person.

About two weeks ago, I remembered my rug was coming soon and got excited, then carried on. Last week I remembered it was being shipped, but I never heard anything about it. A few days ago, Mike looked at our kitchen mat with disdain and asked where the new one was. We were getting to that we-want-it-now point.

So today I decided to shoot Garnet Hill an email to ask if I would be notified when my rug was shipped. I wasn’t sure if a) it shipped and I wasn’t told or b) it just didn’t ship. They kindly responded to tell me that they didn’t know where my rug was, but their “specialist” would contact the manufacturer.

I began to get nervous….where the heck was my Bogart Flat-Weave rug??

Disney World?

Is there some sort of wait list for my rug that requires me to sleep outside of the Apple Store? Because I’ll do it.

Accenting one of the world’s wonders?

Transporting people to a whole new world (and therefore landing itself in another world)?

Experiencing Beiber fever?!??

Thankfully, Garnet Hill left me a voicemail later today to let me know that they’ve hunted down the manufacturer and my rug will be shipped tomorrow. Kudos to them for some great customer service.

Beiber is forgiven. As if I could ever be mad at him…

It’s a Throwdown!

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Posted by Michael, March 16th, 2011

No, not really, but one can wish, right?

However, we did get some great inspiration from Bobby Flay’s Vegetable Lasagna Throwdown episode for our own lasagna.  Watching the episode made the both of us drool (even if it was midnight) and we both instantly agreed to make lasagna the following day.

In the Lasagna Throwdown, Bobby at first insisted on making his lasagna with mushrooms only (ding!) — eventually he was talked into adding creamed cauliflower.  The challenger fried up some zucchini for her dish (ding!).

Those dings! are what we took from the episode and added to our lasagna: mushrooms and fried zucchini.

I first made a traditional tomato sauce which I inherited from my mother; which she inherited from her mother.  Nothing fancy, but definitely a comfort food for me.  Any tomato sauce will do in lasagna — some like jar sauce, some like a bolognese sauce.  Me?  I stick to my mom’s sauce.

To do the fried zucchini, I sliced it thin (maybe a quarter of an inch thick) longways and left the skin on,  I dipped each slice in an egg bath and then dipped it in a combination of flour+salt+pepper+garlic-powder.  I probably did 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.  But honestly, any combination will work.  After all, you are frying these bad boys.

I fried each side of the zucchini until they were golden brown; roughly 4-5 minutes on each side.  I then placed the zucchini on a cooling rack allowing the excess oil to drop down onto the paper towels.

These things came out crispy and incredibly good.  In fact, they were so good that we ended up making some fried zucchini sticks to hold us over.  So good!

The mushrooms were a combination of shiitake, portobello and cremini.  I diced them up and sauteed them with a little bit of oil, butter and garlic.  I also roasted some carrots in hopes of adding a bit of sweetness to the lasagna.

I totally forgot to take pictures of the mushrooms and carrots — sorry about that.

After the mushrooms, I prepared the ricotta mix which consisted of a large container ricotta, two eggs and some grated parmesan and romano cheese. From here, it was time to start doing the layers of the lasagna.  And please forgive me, but while I was busy eating the zucchini sticks, I totally forgot to snap pictures of the complete process.

I started with a thin layer of the tomato sauce followed by a layer of the lasagna pasta.  I placed the zucchini down next followed by the ricotta and then a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  On top of the mozzarella, I added some tomato sauce.

And then it was time to start my next layer by applying a layer of lasagna pasta.  This was followed by the mushrooms as well as the carrots.  The ricotta mix, mozzarella and a spread of sauce finished this layer.  I finished the lasagna with a layer of the ricotta, lasagna pasta, mozzarella and tomato sauce — in that order.

The lasagna was then baked for about an hour; just enough for the top layer to be slightly bubbly and crispy/brown in some areas.

By the way, we still have a half tray of lasagna sitting in our fridge if anyone wants to hit us up for some leftovers.

Oh and mom, I have your lasagna tray.  I stole borrowed it while you were away.  It has a great home now.

We are once again linking this up to Jenn’s What I Ate Wednesday party at Peas and Crayons. It’s her birthday, so pay her a visit 🙂

Some Shepard’s Pie

4 Comments

Posted by Michael, March 2nd, 2011

Rebecca and I are suckers for comfort food and when we gave up eating meat roughly two years ago, we were also giving up many comfort foods we both grew up with.  For me, it was the many Italian dishes.  For Rebecca, it was the corned beef and cabbage type dishes.  Don’t get me wrong, we still crave these dishes but we’ve found some comfort food replacements along the way.  One of them being black bean tacos; we just cannot get enough of these things.

So when we started playing the “what do you want for dinner?” game at work the other day, Rebecca came up with a great solution: Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie.  Now, if you do a simple Google search for this, you’re going to get many results with many recipes.  The majority of these recipes included meat substitutes and other non-everyday-type vegetables.  We don’t do meat substitutes; we’ve tried and we really don’t like them.  So as the conversation went on, we realized it had to include ingredients that screamed comfort — nothing crazy, no curve balls.

I found a great recipe on about.com.  It had everything we wanted: carrots, corn, peas, celery, onions, potatoes.  The recipe did call for a meat substitute, but I ignored it while cooking.

I started by dicing all the vegetables (about 1-1.5 cups for each) and placing them all in a large pot.  Along with the vegetables came the vegetable broth, pepper, bay leaves and nutmeg.  This mixture cooked on medium-low heat all while I stirred constantly; maybe a solid 10-15 minutes until everything was tender.

While the veggies were cooking, I was also chopping and then boiling my potatoes.  The recipe didn’t give instructions for the mashed potatoes (it called for already prepared mashed potatoes), so I did my own thing.  Boiled the potatoes until soft and then mashed them with some butter and cream.  Easy, yet delicious.

Once the veggies were tender, I took out about 1/2 cup of the broth and placed in a bowl.  I then slowly mixed in flour (about 2 tablespoons) into this broth.  And once this was all mixed, I added this broth back in with the vegetables.  This pot continued to cook for a couple more minutes all while I was stirring constantly and trying to get everything thickened.

As soon as the veggie mixture was thickened, we were good to go. I placed the veggies into a casserole dish, spreading into an even layer.  Then I added the mashed potatoes on top and baked at 375 for a solid 25 minutes — at which point the very top of the potatoes started to brown.

And what do you know?  This dish was absolutely fantastic.  We both had seconds and couldn’t wait until we could eat some more at lunch the following day.  It’s been just about a day and I’m ready to make this again.  This dish is definitely going to become a comfort food of ours.

We’ll be posting this over at Jenn’s What I Ate Wednesday link party once again. Go check out Peas & Crayons for some more recipes! 🙂

ps- for another good read today check out Sara from House Bella’s guest post on why she moved from New Hampshire to Idaho over at Two Become One. It’s part of Samantha’s “Living Your Best Life” series of posts and it’s a goodie!

pps- that ps was from Rebecca, hijacking Mike’s post. I can’t stay away for a day 🙂

The Finishing Touches

6 Comments

Posted by Rebecca, February 15th, 2011

After we had our downstairs floors replaced and we got our spiffy new faucet, there was something in the kitchen sticking out like a sore thumb.

Cue the undersized and overused kitchen rug. I took this picture in the morning before work, see how I strategically did not include the sink? That’s because it was full of crap. A little blogger secret 😉

We wanted something bigger for this area mostly to protect our new floors. We often ‘dribble’ water around the dishwasher area while transferring dishes and we wanted to make sure these floors stay as moisture free as possible.

Another reason why we started thinking about a new rug is because this round of floors is slightly more cherry than our previous ones. I know you guys (or anyone for that matter) would not notice, since they are the exact brand and color of our previous floors. But due to natural variations and different lots of wood, this time we seemed to get less of the dark brown pieces, especially in the kitchen. There are a couple you can spot in this picture…

If I could have hand picked the boards that went down, believe me I would have. I basically had the variations in our previous floors memorized, and my favorite piece of wood was in our dining room. It had this pretty mix of colors and it stood out. When we did our pre-closing inspection, I mentioned how much I loved the variation to the builder representative and he said that most people complain about those pieces. Not me my friend, not me!

So to get a little more brown tones in the room, I started looking for a brown rug, a runner to be exact. Thankfully my friend Robin (Hi Robin!) emailed me a link to a rug sale, with our office in mind. That’s the great thing about having a blog, all of your friends send you things that are your style 🙂 She sent me a link to Garnet Hill’s Bogart Flat-Weave Wool Rug

Loving the cocoa color! It’s a nice way to bring some more pattern into the kitchen (we have our linear backsplash and our leafy Ikea curtains), as well as a little more brown (we currently have brown in our backsplash, pendant lights and window treatment). I measured it out and it will come out a foot further than our current mat, and will be 5 feet longer. It covers a good amount of the “busy zone” of the kitchen.

I decided that this is going to be my Valentine’s Day gift. Mike and I aren’t big holiday gift exchangers, since I kinda wear the same jewelry everyday and the pieces I change up are $2 bracelets. Plus Macky eats flowers so Mike saves money on those! We’re the type of people that say that we’d rather pick out things we really want and not feel guilty buying them than overspend on each other a few days a year. Though we’re all about spontaneous, thoughtful gifts, we’re never aiming to spend x amount on each other because we feel like we have to. Mike once bought me just a mini-muffin pan for Christmas… and I loved it. Then I came home one random day a few years ago to a new MacBook on my desk… and I loved that too 🙂 Such a keeper.

Happy First Valentine’s Day house, I got you a runner! Please don’t return it for booze. I’m not giving you a gift receipt….

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