08 January 2013

Beer Cheese Soup.  This is a soup I made for an Advent potluck at church last month.  We did themes each week: Italian, German, Asian, and Mexican.  I made Beer Cheese Soup for the German potluck.  It's really good with a hearty pretzel roll.  I got the recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

Beer Cheese Soup

4 tbsp butter
½ large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (or 1 cup matchstick carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
⅓ cup flour
1¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (12 oz.) beer, Miller High Life or Beck’s
2 cups whole milk
3 cups (12 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4 oz.) American cheese, shredded
2 tsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, beer, and milk. Bring mixture to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently (do not boil) until carrots are very soft, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss shredded cheeses and cornstarch in large bowl until well combined. Puree soup in blender in two batches (or using an immersion blender) until completely smooth, return to pot, and simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in cheese mixture, one handful at a time, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.)

Really good served with pretzel rolls.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Don't use pre-shredded cheeses. Buy the American cheese at the deli counter, in a solid piece. Freeze it for 15 minutes before shredding for best results. 

This soup is really tasty!  I thought the beer might be too much for me as I don't care for it, but it wasn't overpowering at all.  It was just noticeable.  America's Test Kitchen recommended using Miller High Life, but I couldn't find it at Meijer. Instead, I looked for a German beer and used Beck's. That worked nicely.  The blend of cheeses is perfect.  ATK topped theirs with popcorn, but I served mine with a pretzel roll.

The reason I am sharing this recipe with you today is because it fits in perfectly with some news I have to share.  I am moving to the Land of Beer and Cheese: Wisconsin!  My husband took a call to be pastor of a church in Kenosha, so we are moving there very shortly.  We are really going to miss all the great friends we made here in Michigan, but are excited for our new adventure.  Kenosha seems like a really nice city.  And there's a Penzey's store there. :)

We are moving in less than a month (yikes!), so you won't be seeing much from me for a little while.  I still hope to participate in this month's Improv Challenge on the 17th and next month's Secret Recipe Club on the 4th.  But other than that my blog will be pretty quiet in January and February.  I hope to be back in the swing of things, cooking in my new kitchen and back to blogging in March.

07 January 2013

It's finally time for Secret Recipe Club again!  The club took a break during the month of December since it's such a busy time.  But it's great to be back.  I've been waiting for a really long time to share this awesome recipe with you!

Secret Recipe Club

The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

This month I was assigned a blog I was quite familiar with: The Cookin' Chemist.  I've had it on my blog reader for quite some time now.  It's written by Tessa, who is not only a great cook, but also a pharmacist.  Neat!

Tessa has some really great recipes on her blog.  A few I bookmarked were her Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Dipping Sauce, Hearty Chicken Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Quinoa, and her Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos. (Anything beer and cheese-related is getting my attention lately. Come back to tomorrow to see why.)  But the recipe that I couldn't wait to try the most was her Spicy Sweet Squash Bowl.  It sounded amazing.  I love roasted butternut squash and have been experimenting more with quinoa, so it was right up my alley.  I changed it just slightly; here's my adaptation.

Spicy Sweet Squash and Quinoa Bowl

1 medium-large squash, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp sugar
6 tsp curry powder, divided
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 cups quinoa
3¼ cups vegetable broth, divided
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp ground  chipotle powder
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
Fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Coat the squash with olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, 2 tsp curry powder, and salt. Roast until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes depending on how large you cut the squash cubes.

Meanwhile, place quinoa in a medium saucepan with the 3 cups broth, 4 tsp curry powder, ground chipotle, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed. Stir in the spinach leaves and replace lid.  Let sit for a few minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

For the white bean hummus, puree the cannellini beans, ¼ vegetable broth, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove garlic, and salt to taste.

To serve, divide the quinoa mixture between four bowls. Top with the roasted squash and finally with a dollop of white bean hummus. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings.

I'm always on the lookout for great meatless main dishes because I like to serve them at least once a week.  And I get bored easily, so I'm always needing new inspiration.  This did not disappoint!  I absolutely love the contrast of flavors and textures in this dish.  The spicy sweetness of the squash, the salty chewiness of the quinoa, and the garlicky creaminess of the white bean puree.  It was amazing!  It's been a whole month since I made this; I couldn't wait to share it with you! I made it on a weekend when my mom was visiting.  She had never had roasted butternut squash or quinoa, and she loved it too.

The changes I made were minimal.  I omitted the pecans in Tessa's recipe and I doubled the quinoa because we had way more squash than quinoa.  You might end up with more than you need, but I much prefer that. It makes a great lunch the next day.

Tessa, thank you so much for a great recipe that will work into regular rotation here from now on.  In fact, I think I'll have my husband stop by the store on his way home so we can have this for dinner tonight. :)

03 January 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year's Eve.  Now it's back to reality.  And January.  Ugh, January.  My least favorite month of the year.  Did you start a new diet?  Or at least resolve to eat better?  I have to be honest, I hate winter so much that I tend to go in the complete opposite direction: comfort food.  Winter really gets me down, so there is no way I am making it through this month by eating salads.  Sorry to disappoint if you are looking for healthier fare, but I'll be sharing mostly comfort foods and soups this month.

One ingredient that pops up a lot when I am craving comfort food is beans.  I love beans.  This is a recipe I created when I set out to make another recipe but found I was missing some ingredients.  It's kind of like barbecued beans with smoked sausage.  Really good on cornbread.

Cowboy Beans with Smoked Sausage

½ onion, sautéed
14-16 oz. pkg. smoked sausage, chopped
1 can butter beans, drained
1 can mild chili beans, w/sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup ranch dressing
Cornbread, if desired

Sauté onion until soft.  Add smoked sausage and cook until browned.  Add all other ingredients and heat through.  Serve over warm cornbread.

Makes 4 servings.

I love this recipe not only because of how yummy it is, but because it takes just a few minutes to throw together.  Great for a busy weeknight.

While this is comfort food at its best, you can easily lighten this dish up a bit.  You can use turkey or chicken sausage which is lower in fat and calories than the original pork.  You can also use light ranch dressing and cut down on the brown sugar.

What are your favorite comfort foods?