Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quick Tofu Soup


2 boxes of beef broth (8 cups)
1 carton of extra firm tofu, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 carton of white button mushrooms, sliced (if you are using this as a really quick meal, get pre-sliced)
6 green onions, sliced
2 Tbs Soy Sauce
2 Tbs Sesame Seed Oil


In a large sauce pan, pour in beef broth, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. Bring to a boil. Add tofu, mushrooms, and green onions. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

*If you want to get super fancy, and still make a quick soup, most grocery stores sell pre-cooked Udon noodles. Add these in, at the same time as the tofu, and you have a complete meal.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Okapi (Copy) Bread

On Christmas Morning, my sister-in-law (who is a trained chef and amaze-balls cook) posted a picture on Facebook of the Monkey Bread she made that morning... ever since then? I've been obsessed. I love the idea of Monkey Bread, and loved the idea that she used Grands Biscuits instead of making her own dough. (Although, I do make my own dough, and would totally use this recipe as an excellent alternative if I were making this the night before).

In the course of moving three times in the past four years, I inadvertently misplaced my bundt pan- which is a necessary ingredient to making Monkey Bread... so I've been creating my own version. One that doesn't require a bundt pan, but that tastes just as yummy, can be made the morning of, with minimal prep. It's an excellent copy (okapi bread... get it? My six year-olds helped me with that one).


1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
3 cartons of biscuits (I use the ones from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup of melted, salted butter


Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter a large baking dish, I used the one below, it's a 9x12.
In a gallon ziploc bag, combine the sugars and cinnamon. 

 Open all those biscuits up, and let them breathe for a minute or two.

Using kitchen shears, cut each biscuit into six equal pie sized pieces.  The shears help to keep each piece separate, and make them easier to handle. (it also minimizes your work... if you were to pull the biscuits apart, you would need to roll each piece in order to create a piece that will draw in the sugars, and play nicely with the others).

Dump a handful of the pieces into the sugar mixture and shake until completely covered, then place in the baking dish.

Layer haphazardly, until the entire pan is full.  It should be about 3-4 pieces deep all over.

Lest your worried about the copious amounts of sugar that go into this dish? You will be left with the amount below.  You just need enough to make the coating process easy for you, and to ensure that there is enough of the mixture to coat each and every piece completely.  If you don't want to waste it, it goes wonderfully well sprinkled on toast with butter (or earth's best, if you prefer).

Pour the melted butter over the entire pan, making sure to get a bit on all the exposed pieces of biscuit. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

The typical monkey bread is dumped out onto a platter, allowing the butter to drip over all the place.  I prefer to just cut into it as is, making the mess a little more minimal....however, if you were bringing this to a brunch, or serving for friends, that is exactly what you would do.

If you are choosing to prepare your own dough, I would prepare it the night before, rolling it into equal sized balls, and coating with the sugar mixture before the second rise, the placing it in the buttered dish, and allowing it to rise in the refrigerator over night.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wrapped Dover Sole

Growing up in a beach town gives you a distinct advantage when it comes to tasting, and liking, fish. It's always available, always fresh, and often caught be people you know. For these reasons, my children have grown up eating, and thus liking, fish. But fish can be tricky... if you're not used to it, or used to eating it, you're allowed to be picky. There are however, several mild-tasting, family friendly fish that always seem to be a hit.

Dover Sole is one of those. A light white fish, it's extremely mild, with a velvety buttery flavor that just melts in your mouth.  It's a small fish, and the fillet are extremely thin (meaning you won't stop at just one), so buy more than you think.  Classically it's prepared by soaking in milk, dredging in flour and breadcrumbs, and pan frying in butter. Delicious, indeed (if you don't believe me, try it)... but I prefer another way, that's a little bit healthier (although I still use butter), and every bit as yummy.

Because it's so thin, I tend to find that it lends itself very well to baking in the oven for a short period of time. By wrapping it in parchment paper you're in effect-steaming it all while adding flavor through herbs and other veggies. You are also allowing yourself to cook all the fillets at once... like I said, it's a thin fish, and one won't be enough.. but unless you are an executive chef with a gourmet kitchen chances are you won't have a pan large enough to accommodate all those fillets at once.


6-12 Dover Sole fillets, according to your families need
1/4 cup white wine per fillet (or two ice cubes, if you freeze leftover wine)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
A handful of Italian parsley, leaves diced
2 bunches of kale, escarole (my fav), chard or other dark leafy green
2 shallots, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of Rice, cooked
Parchment paper, torn in approximately 1 1/2 feet sections (1 per fillet)


Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil to catch drips (I tend to use a jelly roll pan, because it has slight sides, preventing any liquid from spilling onto the oven floor).

Mix softened butter with diced parsley, and set aside. Salt and pepper each fillet. The greens, shallots, garlic and butter mixture will be divided evenly according to the number of fillets you are making. To prepare each fillet: on each piece of parchment paper, center a handful of greens, a little bit of diced shallot, a little bit of garlic, covering them with a fillet. Place a generous spoonful of herbed butter on top of the fillet (while baking, the butter will melt over the fillet and onto the greens.* Fold the left and the right sides of the parchment paper in, toward the fillet, in 1 inch segments (this should create a lip on either side). Grab the top and bottom ends of the parchment paper and bring together at the top. Carefully pour the wine inside the package. Fold down the parchment paper you have the top once again in 1 inch folds, creating a sealed "package".  Place these finished packages on your prepared baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cut open packages using kitchen shears, being careful of the steam they will let off. You can actually serve the fish in the package next to a serving of rice, allowing guests to open it themselves; although I prefer to open, and pour the whole thing over rice.

*If you or a member of your family has a problem with dairy, you can replace the butter with olive oil, rubbing a generous amount over the fillet by hand, then sprinkling the Italian parsley over everything.

**If you can't find Dover Sole, Tilapia would be a great substitution.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Twice Baked Potato: Twice Baked

I love to cook. Love. But lets face it. I have four children, six and under. The opportunity to immerse myself in the kitchen doesn't always present itself. For this reason, I have several recipes in my arsenal that allow me to 're-purpose' (if you will) my meal into something else the next day. Last night we had a baked potato bar with our steaks. I loved bars of any kid, because the kids have fun being able to create their own meals, and I love seeing them get creative in the kitchen. Tonight, I will use the ingredients of my potato bar, to make Twice Baked Potatoes- a meal on its own if accompanied by a salad or other vegetable. I simply baked more potatoes than we would need last night, and saved them for tonight.

Twice Baked Potatoes don't have to be re-purposed... they are quite delicious on their own, or accompanying a meal at any time.  Personally?  I like the play on twice baking the twice baked (say that five times fast). 

First Bake: Baked Potato Bar


6-10 Russet potatoes (extra for the next night)
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 400. While heating, scrub potatoes well. Pat dry and pierce skin several times with a fork. Pour a generous amount of sea salt on to a paper plate. Using you hands rub a generous amount of olive oil on the skin of each potato, and roll potatoes in salt. 

Place on oven rack. I tend to roast potatoes in the upper 3rd of my oven, placing a jelly-roll pan that's been lined with tin foil on the bottom rack underneath potatoes to catch any olive oil drips. Bake for 45-60 minutes, testing with fork for tenderness. The fork should go in easily when done.

For the potato bar, I simply provided butter, sour cream, chopped onions, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese in bowls for people to add to their potatoes as desired-- then added the leftovers to my twice baked potatoes tonight.

Second Bake: Twice Baked Potatoes


6 Baked Potatoes (see above)
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of salted butter
1/2 cup of sour cream
4-6 green onions, sliced
6 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled (you can omit bacon if not handy, or if not using as a stand alone dish)
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top off of baked potatoes, leaving about 1/8 of an inch of potato flesh attached to skin, to provide some stability.

Using a spoon, scoop out potato flesh, leaving again 1/8 of an inch of potato on the inside so skin holds together. Place in bowl. Place hulled out potato skins into a baking dish, saving tops for later.

Do this for all six potatoes, and mash by hand using a potato masher or fork. Add cheese, sour cream, butter, onions, and bacon. Stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into potato skins, and cover with the removed top.  Return to oven and cook for 15-20 minutes more (if making immediately).

If this is a second bake - cook for 30-40 minutes until potato is hot throughout.

Tip: If you are using pre-cooked potatoes from the night before, you will need to melt the 1/4 of butter before adding to the potato flesh, as it will not be warm enough to melt the butter on it's own.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower

I'm pretty sure Cauliflower must be one of the most underused vegetables around.  Most people think of cauliflower as the 'white broccoli' and that couldn't be further from the truth.  Cauliflower was my grandfather's favorite vegetable, and as a result it was served quite often in our family.  It's perfect by itself, simply steamed over boiling water until tender.  It's fabulous pureed, and almost tastes just like mashed potatoes when milk and butter are added. However, my most favorite way to have it? Roasted.  It's an easy side dish, and has a buttery quality to it, that makes it seem more decadent than it is.  Roasting brings out the flavor and when done right, will make it melt in your mouth.


2 Heads of cauliflower
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400.  Cover the bottom of a jelly roll pan with tin foil. (Why? Because I'm lazy and like to avoid cleaning a pan... and it also helps you to avoid staining your pan with olive oil, keeping your pan looking clean for when you need to use it for a Texas sheet cake).

Peel leaves from the cauliflower, and cut into bite sized 'trees', place in bowl.  Using your hands toss cauliflower spears with olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Spread cauliflower on tin foil, being careful not to overlap pieces.  Bake until slightly browned... about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ground Beef and Veggie Soup


Grapeseed oil

1/2-3/4 pound ground beef
2 Tbs of butter
The leaves of 3 sprigs of thyme
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
4 ribs of celery, sliced
2 zucchinis, chopped
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of macaroni salad pasta
Handful of Italian Parsley, remove leaves


Cover the bottom of a large Dutch oven with the Grapeseed oil. Heat on medium-high.  When warm, add the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. When browned, remove meat from pan and set to drain on paper towels. Add butter to pan. When melted, add onions, thyme, carrots, celery, garlic and zucchini, seasoning vegetables with salt and pepper after they have been added to the pan. Sauté until onions are translucent and other vegetables have softened.  Add chicken stock and drained meat, and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the pasta and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer soup for 20 minutes. Add parsley leaves before serving.