Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Soup

I haven't been cooking much lately, and I have a good reason.  I got offered a job- yay!  That means we went to Buca di Beppo to celebrate and we have been eating leftovers ever since.  I'll be working at a hospital in Minneapolis, and I can't wait to start (it doesn't hurt that the cafeteria there is so good that I will probably hit it up even when I'm not working).

Anyway, to celebrate my first fall as an adult with responsibilities (I never thought that I would miss essays this much!) I made this extremely orange soup with some vegetables that I had lying around.  It immediately had me going nom nom nom in a soup trance.  The soup turned out to be creamy, savory, and filling (even without the half and half).  Alex preferred the soup without the half and half, but I liked it with a dash of cream since I am still getting acquainted with squash.  I can't wait to make this again!  Rating 8.5/10

Recipe adapted from Wishful Chef
1 large butternut squash- chopped
1 medium red onion- chopped
2 carrots- chopped
1 sweet potato- chopped
2 cloves of garlic- minced
4 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
half and half

Add the vegetables and 2 tbsp olive oil to a stock pot that is set over medium heat.
Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant.  Stir frequently!
Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for half an hour (and run to Target for half and half)
Remove the soup from heat, puree it in a blender or with an immersion stick.
Season with salt and pepper, add 1 tbsp of half and half to each bowl if desired.

Serves 6+

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roasted Peppers and Browned Butter

Last night Alex and I took it pretty easy when it came to dinner.  Not as easy as tonight (spinach and goat cheese Archer Farms pizza for me... I DID have plans to make a feast, but my lengthy Target trip got in the way).  When I say easy, I mean that we had a low ingredient count dish.  However, ALL of the ingredients except for the salt (I should have picked some up in Utah) and cheese were prepped with our hands.  Homemade pasta, homemade roasted peppers, and browned butter.  It was really good, I am still thinking about how satisfying it was over 24 hours later.  It was so good that there is no good in-focus picture because I made the mistake of sampling it as I was bringing my plate over the to the table.

Oh, and the aroma of roasted peppers is probably even better than that of apple butter.

How to make roasted peppers
The peppers don't need to be completely charred all over, but the skin does need to be pretty wrinkly/loose

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
Place your sweet peppers on a tin foil lined pan and set on the middle rack in the oven.
After 15 minutes flip your peppers 180 degrees
Roast for an additional 15 minutes and remove from your oven.
Place in a closed paper bag or a covered bowl for 5-10 minutes.  This will help the skin loosen up and be easier to peel.
Remove the skin and slice your peppers into strips.

How to make browned butter
This is just before the butter started to kick up brown specks.  Don't judge my dirty stove top!
For every 2 people place 5 tbsp of unsalted butter in a small saucepan.
Constantly whisk the butter over medium heating.
After a vigorous bubbling session, the butter should start to have a nutty aroma and kick up flecks of brown.  Keep whisking!
Remove the pan from the heat now, or continue to whisk the butter to allow the butter to brown a bit more.  You do not want your butter to turn black.
Serve over your pasta with a sprinkle of sea salt and parmesan cheese, nom nom!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day Trip and Apple Butter

I haven't really been a good blogger lately.  Al and I found the perfect house (ok, it's the second perfect house that we have found so far and it has bad radon problems- blahhh), and I need to find a full time job in order to make this work.  I have a few interviews coming up, so cross your fingers for me!  

Last weekend I was able to take my mind off of all of this because Al and I were lucky enough to be invited to go to some Wisconsin wineries with one of my best friends who is doing a story on them for a magazine.  My mother did not raise a dumby, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.  It was one of the best trips of my life.

First we drove up to an apple winery in Bayfield, WI appropriately titled Bayfield Winery.  We ended up driving to their production and storage building.  Yes, I was tempted to steal an entire box of wine (especially since we helped the lady move some into her truck to bring to the shop, I definitely had the opportunity).

From there we drove to the family orchard where they grow all of their future boozy apples.  Oh, and this is where you can serve yourself free samples of ALL of their wine.  If I liked apple wine more I would have had to be brought out to the car in a wheelbarrow.  In addition to wine they also sell all sorts of apples and apple-based products, it was hard to leave without hauling a truckload of jelly and bbq sauce out of there.  
Where's the pitchfork?

I did however buy a whole bushel of Macintosh apples.  It was an impulse buy for sure, but because they were "2nds" (aka had bruises) I got the whole thing for $16.  
Happiness is too much fruit

Now I had no idea how to use up all of these apples, especially since my uncle was awesome enough to bring over 4 honking bags full of apples for the horses, so it wasn't like they needed them or anything.  I didn't want to make any baked goods, so I settled on making apple butter (they had some at the orchard and I almost bought some- but it was $5 for way too small of an amount for my cheap self).  I have never made apple butter before, but I figured that it had to be easy.  And it is.  You will thank yourself profusely if you make some.

Here is my recipe/method

Roughly chop up your apples 
Fill your slow cooker about 3/4 of the way.  If you pack the apples in there you are going to have some serious overflow onto your countertop (not that I would know a thing about that...)
Add any desired spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, cloves)- these can always be adjusted later so start out with conservative levels.  This will turn out just as amazing without spices.
Turn your slow cooker onto the high setting, put the lid on it, and walk away for 3-4 hours.
Don't try taking an afternoon nap, the tempting aroma of apple goodness will wake you up.  Yes that is a step.
After 3-4 hours reset the lid on the slow cooker so that it is crooked- this will allow the heat to escape and your apple butter will reduce to make it more buttery and less saucy.  Carefully taste to see if you are pleased with the spice direction that you are going into and adjust to taste if necessary.
Walk away and consider yourself the apple queen or king as you close your eyes and continue to appreciate what an awesome aroma you just put into motion.
Return periodically (once every hour or so) and stir.
After another 3-4 hours your apple butter should be so tempting that you can't wait another minute for it to be done.  Unplug and let cool slightly.
Whip out your immersion blender or blender of choice and pulverize your apple butter to your desired consistency. I like having some texture in my AB, so I only lightly blended it.  Note- if you added whole cloves you may want to remove them at this point so that your AB doesn't taste like an incense stick.

Serve straight up on a spoon, on your toast, as an apple dip, on top of pancakes, with pretzels, with anything that you can think of that sounds good!

Eat within a week or so or else go through the canning process so that you can have apple butter all year long.

Some more Bayfield shots, just so you can kind of see how charming this place is