Mushrooms on Toast

Several years ago, Chris and I would trawl youtube for the British episodes of Kitchen Nightmares (this was before the American version existed).  One of the restaurants featured was a cute little vegetarian cafe in Paris that had some major issues (obviously), but what really stuck out to us was the gorgeous mushrooms on toast that Gordon Ramsay (or his helper chef, I can’t remember at the moment) made.  It had huge, beautiful mushrooms on a generous piece of toasted brioche.  It looked like mushroomy joy on a plate. Since then, every once in a while we’ll remember that mushrooms on toast exist, and make some.   Because this was for dinner, I cooked a couple of eggs over medium (because runny yolk makes everything better), and added a little bit of Swiss cheese to the toasts.

Mushrooms on toast.

Mushrooms on toast. So much mushroom.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (a mixture is good-we used some oyster, cremini and button mushrooms)

1 tbsp butter

2 shallots, diced

1 clove of garlic (or roasted garlic paste, if you have it)

1/2 cup white wine

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and chives, but parsley would be a nice addition as well)

1-2 tbsp heavy cream

4 slices of french bread, no more than 1″ thick (if you’re using a baguette, you’ll want 6 slices of bread)

2-3 slices of Swiss cheese (or gouda) (optional)

3-4 eggs, cooked as desired (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat and when it starts to brown, add your shallots. Sauté for a couple of minutes until those start to brown, then add your garlic and herbs.  Sauté another 30 seconds or so and dump in your mushrooms.  I recommend adding some salt at this point, and sauté until the mushrooms start to brown slightly and soften, another couple of minutes.  Add your white wine, stir, then lower the heat and cover for another 5-10 minutes.  When the mushrooms are cooked through, remove the lid and add your cream.  Bring back to a gentle simmer to reduce the sauce.  Adjust your seasoning, and if you want to, refresh your herbs.

For the toast, I recommend preparing them in the oven with the broiler. I lightly brushed one side with butter, toasted it, then flipped the bread over and put just enough Swiss cheese to cover the toast.  I put it back under the broiler until melted.

To serve, put the toasts on the plate, dump half of the mushroom mixture over it, then top with your eggs (if desired).  It makes a ridiculously quick and filling weeknight meal, and can be scaled very easily if you’re serving more people. It is also very flexible on the liquid used.  If you don’t have a bottle of white wine open, you could use your favorite stock (especially with a tablespoon or so of brandy).

Cherry Pie

Chris’ favorite pie is pumpkin.  Without question, if I offer to make a pumpkin pie, he is on board with that idea.  His second favorite is cherry pie.   I always had reservations making a cherry pie, because most of the time, cherries weren’t in season, pitting cherries is a pain anyway, and the only other available option was the bright red canned cherry pie filling.  Also, most of the other fruit pies I have made end up being fruit soups.  Not anymore. We have started going to Sam’s Club regularly for some basics, and while browsing their freezer section one time, I saw huge bags of frozen sweet cherries.  Thinking in terms of smoothies, I grabbed a bag, and then promptly forgot about it in the freezer for 4 months.  Oops. Eventually, I found the cherry pie recipe here.  I decided to make it for Pi day, and wow.  We both loved the results. It has a very straightforward cherry fruit flavor, and is not nearly as cloyingly sweet as most of the canned fillings.  You also get more fruit, which is always nice in a fruit pie.  Unfortunately, the first time I made it I didn’t remember to get a photo of it for the blog.  So I made it again today.  Now, I cheated and used store-bought pie crust, but if you have a fantastic pie crust recipe, feel free to use that.

IMG_3483

Ingredients

Pie crust (enough for 1 double crust pie)

48 oz frozen dark sweet cherries (if you can find tart cherries, that would be better, but those are hard to find here)

3/4 cup sugar (a little less if you want a less sweet pie, down to 1/2 cup, or more if you’re using tart cherries-up to 1 cup)

5 tbsp corn starch (may need a little more, depending on how juicy your cherries are) (tapioca can be used as well, just use 1 tbsp less than the corn starch)

Pinch of salt

Splash of vanilla (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 egg, for egg wash

Method

Prepare your pie crusts according to your recipe, or buy them.  Set them aside while you mix the cherries (still frozen is fine) with the sugar, salt, vanilla and cornstarch.  It will look something like this.

Mmm...crunchy.

Mmm…crunchy.

Set the bowl out for an hour and let the cherries thaw and soak into the starch.  If you’re impatient (like I am), then pull out a medium saucepan, pour the whole kit and caboodle into that and bring to a simmer.  It will start out looking cloudy

Foggy liquid

Foggy liquid

Once is comes up to a simmer, let it simmer gently for 5 minutes or so.  It should thicken and clear, looking something like this.

Steamy, but clearer.

Steamy, but clearer.

Let it cool while you deal with the crust.  Preheat your oven to 425 and roll out your bottom crust.  This is enough filling for a deep dish 9″ pie pan, so plan accordingly.  Once you have your bottom crust in place, pour in the filling and dot the top of the filling with the broken apart butter.   Top the pie with your second crust (I like lattice, but you can use a full crust if you like, just remember to leave some vent holes).  Brush the entire crust with egg wash, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Remember to put a tray under the pie pan-it may drip a little bit.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 375 and bake another half hour.  The filling should be bubbling gently.  Remove and let cool for several hours, until fully set and at room temperature.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you must, or just enjoy a piece unadorned.   At some point, I am going to try this same method with a blueberry pie, or a peach and blueberry pie. When I do that, I will report any positive results here.

Chili con carne (lazy weekday version)

This is something I intended to post a couple of weeks ago, but just didn’t get around to it (oops!).  As the title of the post implies, this is another fast evening meal that will give you a big bang for your buck.  We used it to top stacked enchiladas, and then topped that with an over medium egg, but you can go nuts. Put it in burritos, make tacos, put it on salad, ice a cake with it…ok, maybe the options aren’t endless, but you get the idea.

Hard to see, but it's under the egg!

Hard to see, but it’s under the egg!

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb ground beef (I used 90% lean-you’ll add some oil to it, but it will be easier to control the fat)

1 large white onion, finely minced

1 tsp garlic paste

2 tbsp canola (or more, as needed)

3 tbsp flour

1 can (10 oz or so) enchilada sauce

2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

Salt, pepper to taste

Method

Brown beef in cast iron skillet over medium heat. If using lower fat beef, add some canola, then sauté onions.  Once onions are cooked, add more oil if needed, and make a roux with the flour.  Once the flour has toasted, add the enchilada sauce and about a can’s worth of water.  Add the garlic paste and additional seasonings and stir to combine.  Let it come up to a simmer, and add the tomato paste.  Stir to combine and adjust seasoning.  Use as desired.  The leftovers keep fantastically, if you have any.

Baked Banana Oatmeal

I enjoy a nice bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  What I don’t like is getting hungry at 10 because I just had one of those instant oatmeal packets instead of something more substantial. Since I tend to be a bit of a zombie most mornings, these baked oatmeal recipes are definitely the way to go during the work week.  They keep me full until lunch, they taste way better than the packets, and I can even successfully reheat a bowl before I have coffee.  When I made this recipe, I had two brown bananas and a plantain that was getting long in the tooth as well, so that’s what I used.  The plantain didn’t mash as neatly as the banana, but I do like the bites of fruit that survived.  If you don’t typically have plantains, just stick with bananas.  I also decided that you really can’t have too much banana flavor, so I added the 99 bananas (banana liqueur) to amp up that aspect.  You can leave that out, or add some banana extract instead.  Once I had pulled out the 99 banana, I also grabbed the dark rum, because why not make this taste like bananas fosters?

It tastes like oatmeal mixed with bananas fosters. Mmmm

It tastes like oatmeal mixed with bananas fosters. Mmmm

Ingredients (serves 8)

3 bananas, very ripe

2 eggs

1 3/4 cup milk

2 tbsp 99 bananas

2 tbsp dark rum

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 3/4 cup instant oatmeal

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup oat flour (optional, I like a firmer baked oatmeal)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

grate of nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas, add the rest of the wet ingredients.  Add sugar and spices and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients, mix, and pour into a greased 8″x 8″ pan.  Bake 45 minutes, or until set through.  Remove and cool slightly.  Can be served warm with milk, or you can stash it in the fridge and reheat it throughout the week.  I like adding about half a cup of milk and zapping it in the microwave for a minute. I have also reheated a bowl with a handful of fresh blueberries mixed it.  It helps mix things up and keeps it from getting too boring.  If you need something sweet, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips would go well.

Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

One of the soups we regularly make is this sausage, kale and potato soup.  It’s pretty similar to the Zuppa Toscana at a certain major chain restaurant, but now that we can make it at home, we have no really incentive to go to said chain. I have found many variations of this recipe all over the internet, and after several repetitions and fine tuning, this is the version that we prefer.  It’s a very easy soup to season, as most of the seasonings come from the sausage itself.  We have made this with both fresh and frozen kale, and it’s good with either.  Also, I typically make this with russet potatoes, but we had some red skinned potatoes I needed to get rid of, so that’s what I used for the photo.  The recipe is pretty flexible.

Soup!

Soup!

Ingredients

1 lb bulk Italian sauce (I use hot, if you don’t want it spicy, stick with mild)

1 large white onion, chopped

2 bunches kale (or one 10oz bag of the pre-cleaned kale in the produce section, OR one similarly sized bag of frozen kale)

8 cups chicken broth (low sodium, or homemade)

2 cloves garlic

3-4 russet potatoes, halved, sliced and split, or 6-7 red skinned potatoes

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt, pepper and red pepper flake, to taste

Method

Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and brown the sausage.  Once the sausage is brown, add the onions and let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds or so.  Pour in the stock or broth.  If you have bunches of kale, clean, stem and rip the kale into bite-sized pieces.  Kale can be a gritty, sandy veggie, so be sure you wash it well.  Add your kale to the broth and stir it in.  It may seem like your kale is exploding out of our cooking pot, but don’t worry.  It wilts quickly, and you will suddenly have a lot more room for more kale.  Once the kale is in and wilted, add your potatoes and a good pinch of salt.  If you are using mild sausage and want a little bit of heat, or are using spicy and want a lot of heat, add in a pinch of red pepper flake at this point.  Lid the soup and allow it to come to a simmer.  Once your potatoes are cooked, add the cream and adjust your seasonings.  Serve with crusty bread.

Edit January 2016:  I find that this soup is improved by cooking the potatoes about 90% of the way before adding the kale the soup.  Then, add kale, wilt and allow to soften, 15-25 minutes, depending on your kale.  Finish with cream, adjust seasoning and serve with bread.

Baked black forest oatmeal

In my continuing effort to find new and interested uses for the massive bags of quick cooking oats I have, I decided to put on my mad scientist lab coat and experiment.  I have seen a variety of baked berry and fruit oatmeals floating around Pinterest and Facebook, but none that would use the 21oz can of cherry pie filling I was hoping to use (I have found a much better recipe for cherry pie, which I will hopefully get around to posting once I get some better pictures of a pie).  As a result of this experimentation, last night I created baked black forest oatmeal.

*Lightning crash. Wolf howl*

*Lightning crash. Wolf howl*

Ok, so that may be a bit dramatic. It’s basically a chocolate and cherry baked oatmeal, with some chocolate bits on top, and if you want a more complete black forest cake type experience, you can certainly serve it with whipped cream (even booze-spiked whipped cream). I wasn’t really intending to make a black forest oatmeal variant, as I was just throwing stuff in a bowl, but this was the end result.  It’s tasty enough that I may want to remember how the heck I got there in the future, so up on the blog it goes.  Chris is really not a fruit+chocolate person, so he’s pretty lukewarm on it, but if you like black forest cake (and like eating cake for breakfast), this may be worth a try.

Ingredients (for 12 generous servings)

1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch processed-I used Dutch this time)

4 cups quick cook oats

2 cups rolled oats

2 tbsp (depending on your tastes) vanilla extract

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas, then add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Add in the cocoa powder and mix well,  Once the mixture is well combined, stir in the oats until coated.  Pour into a greased 9″x13″ tray, and top with both kinds of chocolate chips.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until oatmeal is set.  It can be served warm, or just stash it in the fridge and heat individual servings.  I like to reheat it with a good pour of milk over it, but it’s actually pretty tasty just as is.  If you want to use frozen cherries instead of the pie filling, go for it, but you’ll want to add some more milk and some sweetener of some sort (1/2 cup sugar, maybe? That’s just a guess at amount).   Similarly, if you don’t have bananas that you desperately need to get rid of, you can probably use an extra egg, 1/4 cup sugar and a couple of tablespoons of canola oil or melted butter instead (at least, that’s what I’d try first as a sub for those).

Poblano peppers with shrimp and cheese

As the next addition to our continuing repertoire of Mexican dishes, I would like to present poblanos with shrimp and cheese. This is another one of those quick weeknight meals that gives you fantastic bang for your buck (both in terms of time and money).  It can be scaled easily, and is a great lower carb options for anyone who would like some Mexican without a zillion tortillas.

Poblano with shrimp, avocado and rice

A (slightly overfilled) poblano with shrimp, avocado and rice

 

Ingredients (makes 4 peppers)

4 poblano peppers, grilled, peeled and seeded

1 lb shrimp, raw, peeled and de-veined

1/2 jumbo onion, chopped

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup crema

2/3 cup shredded cheese (we use the queso quesedilla from Kroger)

1 lime

Salt, pepper, garlic powder

Method

Grill your poblanos, then place them in a plastic bag to steam.  Peel off the skins, and pull out the seeds and any light or white seed membrane that remains, but leave the stem intact if possible.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent and starting to turn slightly golden, and add the shrimp.  Continue to cook, several minutes until shrimp are almost done (when they are nearly entirely opaque). While the shrimp are cooking, add some salt and pepper, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or more to taste (oregano could be nice here too).  Add the juice of half to one lime (depending on how juicy your lime is), and stir in the crema and cheese.  Let cheese melt, and it should pull together into a lovely thick sauce within a few minutes.  Fill your poblanos with the shrimp mixture, and serve immediately.  This is really nice with rice and avocado (as you can see in the image).  If you’re nervous about pepper heat, by the times the poblanos are grilled and seeded, there is very little spicy zip is left, but it certainly could be made with a more mild type of pepper.  I would just recommend you try it once with poblano first.  It’s really hard to beat that smokey pepper flavor poblanos can get.