Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sweet Potato and Mushroom Soup with White Beans and Kale

The recent rainy afternoons have given me a hankerin' for soup. After looking at what I had on-hand, I searched the interweb for a recipe using baby portabella mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and kale. I landed on this recipe from Lisa's Kitchen and decided it would be easy enough to swap out my sweet potato for the butternut squash. Lisa's recipe calls for a jalapeno, which I think would give it a nice touch.

I picked up a French baguette from a nearby specialty grocer, and it paired perfectly. This soup isn't too hearty for a warm summer night. Plus, it's a nutritional powerhouse packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, potassium, fiber, iron, antioxidants, and more.

  • 14 oz cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth would make this 100% vegetarian, and would've used if I'd had it on-hand)
  • 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 16 oz baby portabella (cremini) mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • Heat a large soup crock over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, wait a few seconds, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 8-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are a golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Reduce to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, shallots, and garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes or until the onions start to turn translucent. 
  • Gently toss in the sweet potatoes, curry powder, nutmeg, and cayenne. Stir to coat the vegetables with the oil and seasonings. Pour in the water, add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. 
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the reserved mushrooms, beans and the stock. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potato pieces are tender.
  • Discard the bay leaf and season the soup with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. 
  • Add the kale and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the kale is wilted but still bright green.
  • Remove from heat and serve hot with crusty French baguette.
Serves 8
Prep: 15-20 minutes
Cooking: 50 minutes

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

progressive dinner in the n'hood

last summer, i got the idea to reinvent the progressive dinners i remember my parents attending with church friends. i mentioned it to two other neighbors, and we decided it'd be a fun way to meet more of our neighbors. we finally got around to it this past weekend, where each couple invited 2 other couples within our few-block radius.

we started at our house for cocktails + apps before walking the 2 blocks to SJ's. from there, we headed to Annalee's for dessert + coffee. we had a blast. even cricket, who wasn't sure about entertaining a bunch of people we'd never met, had a good time!

our theme
southern fare (it's just so easy)

the menu
apps: caprese skewers, melon + mint, and pimento cheese pinwheels (stay tuned for that recipe. easy & delish!)
cocktail: john daly (firefly vodka + simply lemonade)
i gave everyone a plastic tumbler to keep as their "roadie" for the evening. the cups were color-coded by couple so we knew who "belonged" with whom.

main course: chicken + pulled pork sliders with slaw + veggies. SJ was able to cook these in a slow-cooker so they would be safely cooking while we were at the first house. YUM!
cocktail: pomegranate punch

dessert: banana puddin' (with nilla wafers, duh)
cocktail: coffee bar with all your fave libations

the neighbors
at first, i felt like a total slacker because i didn't have anyone to invite. why? because i don't know my neighbors. all the more reason to host this party. but who should i invite? well, i hand-picked two houses on our street, where we've seen the neighbors & think we could get along with them for some reason or another. so, i left handwritten notes in each of their mailboxes, addressed to "neighbor" for lack of a better name. i didn't hear back from either of them so i was afraid the mailman stole my invites. i was a little disheartened that none of my invitees were going to attend. but then, eureka! i got a call Friday afternoon to confirm two attendees from across the street. YAHOO!! we CAN make friends!

we had a great group of people, including a last-minute add-on who closed on his new house in the hood the day prior. hopefully he's not regretting his new mortgage after a night with the resident lunatics.

the verdict
a roaring success!! we spent about an hour, to hour and a half at each house. at least until the late-night. we met new couples who we'll actually recognize on the street. and now we know our neighbors!!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

recipe: homemade bread & butter pickles

Cricket loves him some homemade pickles. If they're on the menu somewhere, we order them. No questions asked.

I'd never tried making them before, but figured it'd be fun to try them to complement our smoked pulled pork this weekend. To be honest, the canning process intimidates me. As much as I love mason jars, the boiling, sterilizing, sealing, etc seems like a LOT of work. But this recipe isn't for canning. It's so good, these suckers won't last the week, much less until winter.

I found two versions of Hugh Acheson's bread and butter pickles, so this is an amended attempt at what I resolved to be the best combo of the two. For the most part, I followed this one found in Esquire magazine. I consulted Hugh's cookbook A New Turn in the South, which had a very similar recipe with slightly different ingredients & quantities.

2 cucumbers (regular sized, or 10-12 pickling cukes)
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup kosher salt
celery bunch (you just need the leaves, use the stalks for something else yummy)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 & 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
8 allspice berries
1 & 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup amber maple syrup
1/2 cup water

Wash the cukes well, scrubbing to remove any dirt. Slice into 1/3-inch rounds.
Combine cucumber slices with sliced onion in bowl with 1/4 cup kosher salt in a medium non-reactive bowl. Don't use table salt--is has different additives in it. Cover the bowl with a thin tea towel (not terrycloth), and cover towel with about an inch of ice. Place in fridge for 4 hours.

Rinse cucumber-onion mixture with cold water in a colander to remove any salt. Tear celery leaves into 1/4-inch pieces and toss with cucumber mixture. Set aside in medium non-reactive bowl.

In a medium non-reactive pot, combine remaining salt and remaining ingredients. Stir. Bring to a rapid boil. Pack cucumber mixture tightly into jars and pour boiling liquid to cover. Leave on counter, uncovered, for 2 hours, then refrigerate.
[homemade bread and butter pickles]

Once at refrigerator temperature, done.

These will be at their best in a day or so and should keep up to 10 days...if you wait that long.

(if you prefer to can them for longer keeping, refer to your canning manufacturer's instructions.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mason jar sippy cups

Since a neighbor's tree fell this morning and woke me up, I perused my regular websites before getting out of bed.

And MUCH to my amazement is offering these sippy cup lids for mason jars. Pretty sure these ain't for your toddler. Say what? I had to share.

It's true than mason jars are multi-use, and now we can add travel mug to the list!

Have a great weekend, and may no trees fall in your yard...

Friday, June 1, 2012

white sangria recipe

a few weeks ago, i was tasked with concocting a delicious cocktail to complement the fajitas & handmade guacamole station at a recent cinco de mayo fete. i had to make enough to serve 40+ folks, so this is a bulk recipe for approximately 5 gallons.
the yummy white sangria with fresh strawberries from jaemor farm. served in mason jars with paper straws.

in order to keep the beverage chilled on a hot Southern day, i froze the fruit overnight so that it would act as ice cubes without diluting the cocktail.

here's the recipe i made up...and it was quite yummy. perfect for hot summer nights on the new porch swing.

First, it was critical to stop at a local farm stand to pick up their fresh strawberries. i cannot tell you how delicious my car smelled the entire ride!

2 gallons of fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and quartered (smaller ones halved)
3 large grapefruits, cut to 1" slices
2 pounds of lemons, cut to 1.5" slices
2 pounds of key limes, whole
1 cup sugar
additional fruit for garnish

alcoholic version:
3x 64oz bottles of White Grape & Peach juice
3x 2-liter bottles of Ginger Ale
1x 96-oz bottle of Apple juice
5 bottles of chardonnay
(for smaller batches, use 1 bottle grape & peach juice, 1 bottle ginger ale, 24-30 oz apple juice, & 1-2 bottles of wine)

non-alcoholic version:
3x 64oz bottles of White Grape & Peach juice
3x 2-liter bottles of Ginger Ale
2x 96-oz bottle of Apple juice
1x 2-liter bottle of lemonade

1. clean and cut all fruit as indicated. mix strawberries, grapefruit, and lemons in large bowl. add sugar and stir. freeze overnight. freeze whole limes separately overnight.
2. in 5-gallon bucket, mix all ingredients for either alcoholic or non-alcoholic version. stir. refrigerate in large bucket (if your fridge is large enough).
3. when ready to serve, pour cocktail into large beverage dispenser and add frozen fruit. stir for even fruit distribution & you're ready to go.
4. since the fruit won't fit through the dispenser spout, it's great to have skewered fruit available for garnish.
5. of course, serve it in a mason jar!

cost per 5-gallon batch:
White Grape & Peach juice: 3 x $2.98
Ginger Ale: 3 x $1.00
Apple Juice: 1 x $3.52
Fruit: $10-12
Wine: $25-30