Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole

One of the homiest and most comforting casseroles I had as a kid was the Best Ever Turkey Casserole. And the name doesn’t lie—to me it was and still is the best casserole ever! After making it myself for a few years, I have changed things around a little bit: instead of using Uncle Ben’s rice mix, I use plain wild rice; and rather than using a ½ lb of processed cheese, I substitute shredded cheddar and just a couple slices of what my husband and I affectionately call “fake cheese”.  I hope this recipe has you wanting a warm blanket, a fireplace and a game of scrabble--or  maybe just a long nap.

Best Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups leftover turkey breast, or 1 lb chicken breast, cooked
12-14oz bag of frozen broccoli florets
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
½ cup light canola mayo
½ cup light sour cream
4 slices 2% milk processed cheese singles
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup French fried onions
Parsley and pepper

Cook your wild rice following the package directions. While the rice is cooking, break up the leftover turkey into small pieces in a large 2 qt. casserole dish. Steam the broccoli until it is cooked but still firm in either the microwave or on the stove. Drain the broccoli completely and pour into the casserole. Drain the rice and toss the three ingredients together gently with your hands.

In a mixing bowl, combine the condensed soup, sour cream and mayo until well mixed. Add a dash of pepper and parsley. Spread the soup mixture over the top of the rice/turkey/broccoli mixture like a frosting coating the entire top of the casserole.  Tear the processed cheese slices in half and space evenly across the top of the soup mixture. (It’s ok if there is open space between them—when they melt they will become a cheesy sauce with the soup mixture.) Top with the cheddar cheese and cover with foil.

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the French fried onions on top. Bake uncovered another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and an internal temp of at least 165 is reached. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Happy Turkey Tuesday!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup

This has become one of my favorite soups to make simply because the leftovers are so good! This is also a great soup to clean out any remnant vegetables you have left in the crisper bin. (*wink!) I would definitely recommend using a sweet yellow pepper in the recipe. That little hint of sweetness works great with the spicy sausage and even though they are pricey per pound, they end up only being about $2 a piece.  

A note about noodles: My friend and neighbor Bri turned me on to this soup idea: Cook your noodles separately and ladle the soup on top of them in the bowl rather than pouring them into the soup. This is a great trick!  It saves the soup from that added starchiness and keeps the noodles from getting mushy in your leftovers. Thanks Bri!

Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup
3 fresh spicy Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 medium sweet onion
4 stalks of celery
2 carrots, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium fresh and seeded, or 14 oz. can of drained tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow sweet pepper
1 green sweet pepper
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp marjoram
Salt and pepper
14oz can cannellini or other white bean, drained
3 cups cooked small tube pasta, like diatalini

Dice up your onion, celery and carrots and sauté with some olive oil in your big soup pot over medium-high heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken sausage, and break it up into pieces as you cook it through. Then add the minced garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes mush a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat.

While you wait, dice up the remaining vegetables. Carefully add the veggies and the dried herbs to the boiling soup. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Test a carrot to see that it is not too crunchy. Pour in the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and allow to cook only 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat.
Ladle the soup into a bowl over a half a cup of the cooked noodles.  

Store your noodles and the soup separately and toss the noodles in a bit of olive oil if they are sticky.

Enjoy the soup! And the leftovers :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Power Smoothie

I used to purchase this smoothie from a favorite coffee shop, Urban Bean, almost once a week. I decided it was about time to figure out exactly what was in it so that I could try to make it at home. So low and behold the Power Smoothie was born. I lightened it up a bit, but this smoothie is really meant to be a meal supplement—not a snack (if you know what I mean :). Fat, carbs, protein—good!  Enjoy!

Power Smoothie
1 medium banana
4 ice cubes
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 scoop whey/soy vanilla protein powder (recommended)*
2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter, like Smart Balance with omega-3s
½ cup Power Yogurt or other non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup skim or soy milk

Load your blender in the order listed above, but only add about 2/3s of the milk. Then add more if needed to bring it to your desired consistency. If you would like to substitute fresh strawberries decrease the milk more so it isn’t too runny.

Power Yogurt
I hardly ever buy vanilla yogurt anymore, so I created this yogurt using the greek yogurt I already have in my fridge. If you like your yogurt a little sweeter you can add more agave nectar. Agave nectar is a low-glycemic sugar and has a little darker flavor, like brown sugar. I really enjoy it! You can substitute maple syrup if you don’t have any agave.

1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup

Mix it up with a rubber scraper. Taste and add more sweetener if desired. Sweetness without the calories? Try a pinch of cinnamon, too!

*I used my favorite vanilla protein powder: Biochem 100% Whey Protein Powder—natural flavor. 22grams of protein and 90 calories and 0grams sugar (because it is sweetened with REAL vanilla!) It blends up very smooth—no chalky aftertaste. It is also wheat and gluten-free! 

Hope this keeps you full and happy! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Event Plug: Finnish Celebration of Design this Saturday!

If you are looking for something fun to do on Saturday, I have something exciting to share!
Photo by Pete Sieger

At Christ Church Lutheran in South Minneapolis, there is a going to be a free community celebration of Finnish design they are calling Good Design is Forever.  This year Helsinki has been selected as the World Design Capital and there will be many events and programs throughout Finland.  Minneapolis’ treasured church designed by Eliel Saarinen and son Eero Saarinen seems the perfect place to celebrate Finland’s artistic contribution to the world through design.

Where: Christ Lutheran Church
             3244 34th Avenue South  Mpls, MN 55406

When:   This Saturday, January 28th  10am-4pm

Cost:     FREE! (except the food and shopping part :)

What:    A glass exhibit, architectural tours, a textile exhibit by Marimekko, documentaries, lots of Finnish food and shopping

Info: www.gooddesignisforever.org


Honey Cider Vinaigrette

I was tired of buying salad dressings that I got home and didn’t like, so I started making my own—and it is so easy!  You don’t need to buy any fancy equipment, (I just shake mine up in an old jelly jar), but do be sure to invest in a good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Good oils run about $12-19 dollars a bottle, and a mid-range balsamic is about $8-12.

Here is a dressing I’ve made for many of my green salads that feature a fruit. You could use blueberries or chopped green apple in this salad easily. I’ve included the recipe for the one we made below. We had some crusty ciabatta and herbed brie with it. Yum!

Honey Cider Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. of your favorite olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Dash of black pepper

Measure the honey and olive oil into a glass jar with a tight lid. Stir until well mixed. Add the vinegars, fix the lid and shake it up. Crack a bit of pepper in and shake again. (Taste it and make sure you like it!) Toss with your salad and eat!
*If you are bringing the salad to a potluck, you can measure all of the ingredients in a jar and tote it with you. The honey will settle to the bottom, so you will need a spoon to soften it up again, but it should shake up just fine at room temperature.

Blackberry Salad
5oz bag mixed baby greens or greens with spinach
1 pint container of blackberries, rinsed
¼ raw pecan halves
1 full recipe of the Honey Vinaigrette Dressing

Toss the salad greens with the dressing until well coated. Add the pecans and blackberries and toss gently. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Plug: Schroeder Cottage Cheese

On weekends growing up, we would often go for a drive and visit my grandpa and Mummu. Even though we usually had cottage cheese at home in our fridge,  we would always ask for it at her house. Mummu’s just tasted better. We would sit around the table with a big dollop and some crackers on our plate—it was simply the best. But it goes without saying, not all cottage cheeses are created equal.

Cottage cheese remains one of mine, and both of my siblings, favorite snack/dinner/lunch/breakfast. We really eat it all the time—on  baked potatoes, on eggs, with lasagna, on our salads, with bacon, with potato chips, on crackers—you name it. Since living on my own I have tasted many different cottages cheeses and have finally found what I think is the best:

Schroeder’s 2% milk Cottage Cheese 

What makes it good:
Taste: I know there are a lot of people who don’t like cottage cheese. I think this has partially to do with the texture, but more to do with the flavor. Good cottage cheese has a salty, creamy and savory flavor. It doesn’t have the funky tang that some yogurts have. Or that watery, acidic liquid between the curds. It just tastes like a mild cheese with a little different texture.

Texture: Here is the part some non-cottage-cheese-eaters complain about—if  you are one of those people, I would give this cottage cheese a try. When done well, the texture is not so offensive. And if you try it with a  cracker, you might not even notice the difference between it and cream cheese. A  good cottage cheese has soft curds that are uniform in size surrounded by a creamy sauce. Not paste-like (YUCK!) or too watery (also YUCK!).  This cottage cheese has a lovely texture.

Consistency: I have probably purchased this cottage cheese at least 20 times and it has always been delightful. With other previous favorites there was sometimes that stray tangy or pastey batch that was so disappointing. That was usually the one that ended up in lasagna. These days the cottage cheese barely makes it to the recipe. I have usually already cracked it open!

Where to buy it: I buy mine from the Wedge Co-op, though I am sure that any grocer that carries Schroeder milk will have it. Schroeder was started in St. Paul MN and is now part of a larger cooperative in Minnesota, Michigan and middle Canada .

If you love cottage cheese, let me know your favorite.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

It’s Mexican night! Growing up my family ate a lot of Mexican food. We had tacos, fajitas, casseroles, torta (which is this stacked enchilada- type thing), but we didn’t have tortilla soup! And since it has become one of my favorite Mexican foods to make for dinner. I created this one after cleaning out my pantry and fridge today. ( No really. If you look you probably have this stuff, too…somewhere.)

This soup is all about texture. It is broth based, but the garnishes are really what make it great. I suggest splurging and buying some queso fresco. It is a salty, mild crumbly Mexican cheese that might be with the regular cheeses, but is more likely located in the “specialty cheese” section near the deli. It is just so much tastier than shredded cheese and it won’t glump at the bottom of your bowl. I also used Rotel tomatoes, but if you have another diced tomato with chilies to use,  just be sure to drain it first.  This will also work with any cut of chicken. As always, substitute at will :)

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into thin strips
6 cups chicken broth
1 yellow onion, diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and minced
10 oz can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 clove garlic, minced

Tortilla strips:
8 small corn tortillas
Canola oil

Suggested Garnishes:
Green onion, diced; Fresh cilantro, chopped; Lime wedges; 4 oz Queso Fresco, crumbled; ½ slightly green avocado (You want a firmer one so it holds together in the soup.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large soup pot, cook the onions until translucent. Add the chicken, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the Rotel tomatoes and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt, if needed.

While the soup is cooking, lay the corn tortillas on a cutting board. Spray or brush the top of each tortilla with canola oil and stack into a tower. Cut the tortilla stack in half. Then slice ¼ inch wide strips through the stack. Spread out evenly on a cookie sheet with edges. ( You don’t want these to end up on the bottom of your oven. Trust me.) Toast for about 10 minutes. Then flip and toast the other side until crispy ( about 5 minutes).
*So—you could skip this whole toasting of the tortillas thing and use chips. I’ve done it. But the strips are REALLY yummy. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Prepare the garnishes. Crumble the cheese with your fingers. Ladle the soup in bowls and let your guests dress-up their soup. Don’t’ forget to squeeze a little lime juice on the top. Crack open a beer. Done. Simple, healthy and tasty.

Thrifty Date: Broders' Pasta Bar

Broders’ Pasta Bar located at 50th and Penn Ave. S in Edina, Minnesota is a hidden gem. After driving by the place about 30 times in the past 6 years, Kent and I finally made the short drive down to check it out.

When you walk in, you almost feel as if you have been invited over for a dinner party. There is a big coat rack full of coats and scarves, all you can smell is tastiness, someone is pouring wine and everyone seems to be laughing and having a great time. No stuffy Italian music and white table cloths here, just a dark, warm and comfy neighborhood kitchen. There is wine cellar near the door where you can grab a glass, or a carafe to sip on while you wait for your table, and though the place is small, we only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table on a Wednesday.
Here is the Thrifty part: (Try not to get too excited!)

 After 8pm Special for Two available Sunday-Thursday

Appetizer of assorted specialty olives and Italian breadsticks
Breadbasket of homemade focaccia bread and crackers—with olive oil
Two specialty salads—preselected house salad
Two fresh pasta dishes –your choice from a list of 6-8 different dishes
Half a bottle of wine—your choice of the house-selected red or white

Price: $30! $30 dollars for two!

What a great three-course meal for such a great price! This one isn’t like a lot of cheap date specials where the entrées are preselected. There were so many delicious sounding dishes it was tough to decide which pasta to try. All of their tube pastas are imported from artisans in Italy, and their egg pastas are all made fresh in house.  Each dish is made to order by the pasta chefs in the middle and back of the restaurant. If you sit at the bar, you get to watch. (They were having a lot of fun up there;)

Kent had the tagliatelle alla Bolognese and I had the fettuccini in a lemon-infused alfredo sauce. They were so light and fresh! Wonderful. There were other tempting options like the spaghetti carbonara and the penne rosa with rosemary, to name a few. The salad was a mix of spinach and arugula with blue cheese, apples, and toasted walnuts in an apple cider vinaigrette. Delicious!!

There was more than enough food and wine, though we couldn’t help but eat every bite. The pasta was absolutely perfecto! We will definitely be making a trip back to try the other dishes on their regular menu. Goose risotto? Fettuccini with wild boar and mushrooms? Check it out: http://broders.com/pasta-bar/pasta-bar-menu/

If you love it so much you want to take some home, or you don’t have the time to sit down to eat, just across the street you can buy fresh noodles, fancy pizzas and amazing desserts as well as specialty grocery goodies at their deli Cucina Italiana. They also do quick eat-in, take-out and delivery. In the summer, it looks like Broders' Pasta Bar also might have one of the cutest patios ever. We'll just have to wait and see now, wont we?!

Broders' Pasta Bar
5000 Penn Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55419-1035
Craving Italian tonight? The special starts at 8pm! Eaten there before? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuna Noodle Salad for One

Unless I’m heading to a picnic, I never make a full batch of Tuna Salad—not to mention it isn’t Kent’s favorite. If you’ve got a craving for some creamy cold noodles in the middle of January, this should do the trick. I've cut some of the mayo with sour cream, and so this is creamiest if prepared just before eating.

Tuna Noodle Salad for One
2.6 oz. pkg. of chunk light tuna
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 hardboiled egg, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp. light mayo (I like Hellman’s canola oil mayo. Yum!)
2 Tbsp. light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cooked elbow macaroni, rinsed in cold water to chill*
Dash of salt and pepper, garlic powder, and paprika

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the noodles and stir until well mixed. Stir in the cooked noodles. Scoop into a bowl and eat immediately :)

*You will notice that I rinsed the noodles—which when cooking Italian you should never do. Here you don’t really need that extra starch to bind the ingredients. I have made it both ways, and I prefer the noodles rinsed.

Hope this recipe has you dreaming of summer sunshine!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finnish Karjalan Paisti (Karelian Stew)

Burr! It was bitter chilly across the state of Minnesota today. The perfect day to make something really hearty.  This is a very simple stew attributed to the region of Karelia, a historic province in the most eastern part of Finland. I’ve adapted and scaled down a recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas’ cookbook Scandinavian Cooking. She lives in Duluth, MN and has written many cookbooks sharing her passion for Finnish cooking with the world. What a state treasure! She is definitely someone I would love to ask a gazillion cooking questions. Anyway, here is the recipe:

Karjalan Paisti
½ lb. lean beef stewing meat
½ lb. lean, boneless lamb
½ lb. lean boneless pork shoulder
1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin rings
3 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
1 bay leaf
4 allspice berries, or ¼ tsp. allspice
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Grease the insides and edges of a 1.5 qt cast iron or glass casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. This will make for a little easier clean-up later.

Trim the excess fat off of your meat and cube into 1 inch pieces. Combine the three meats together. Layer 1/3 of the sliced onions, 1/3 of the combined meat and so on salting each meat layer a bit. Lay a bay leaf and the 4 allspice berries over the top.

Place the lid on top. It is important that the lid fits tightly so that the meat will not dry out. You will also notice there is no broth or water to add. You will not need it—trust me! There are plenty of juices in the onion and meat pieces. If you are concerned about the tight-fitted-ness of your lid, cover your dish with aluminum foil and then place the lid on top.

Bake for 3 hours. Then stir the meat around and bake for another 3 hours. 6 hours is a long time, but this is worth the wait! Check to see that the meat is tender. Mix in your mushrooms and return to the oven, uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serve atop cooked wild rice, or boiled potatoes. We had boiled yukon golds with steamed, fresh kale.

Boiled Potatoes with Kale
4 similarly sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
5 stalks of your favorite fresh kale, chopped
In a large saucepan, place peeled potatoes in salted water. Boil until just fork tender (about 20 minutes for larger potatoes and 15 for smaller). Add kale and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Check that the kale stalk is not crunchy. The vegetable should be firm, but not raw. Drain and serve.

I hope this stew warms up your body and soul.
(If it doesn’t quite do the trick, crack open some ruby port. Mmm…)

Product Plug: Epicurean Cutting Boards

The founders of TrueRide custom skate parks have turned their project remnants into an up and coming cutting board dynasty: Epicurean Cutting Boards. They are not only made in the USA, the company is based out of Duluth, MN! 

What I like about them:

These boards are eco-friendly and made of recycled materials. Recycled milk jugs, post-consumer waste paper and corrugated cardboard are pressed into a variety of shapes and sizes suited to any kitchen adventure. See website for products:  www.epicureancs.com/      
They are easy to clean (you can pop them in the dishwasher), and they are non-porous so they don’t harbor any nasty bacteria. No need to oil or bleach the boards either. They are heat resistant to 350 degrees and super durable.  And because the material bends under the weight of your knife, they help your tools stay nice and sharp.

Featured in Food Network Magazine, Country Living, Men’s Health, as well as many others, and receiving certification from the Forest Stewardship Council and the National Sanitary Foundation, these guys are definitely a great addition to your kitchen. We have the Nutmeg made of corrugated cardboard. We love it!

Wondering where to find them?! They are for sale right down the street and online on their website.

Mpls:  Lunds and Byerlys, Crate and Barrel, Kitchen Window, Whole Foods Market, Sur la Table

Duluth: Marshall Hardware—Lakeside, Blue Heron Gifts, Duluth Pack, Whole Foods Co-op

Time to stop dulling knives and start saving the planet!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not-Your-Mother's Lasagna

Does the world really need ANOTHER lasagna recipe? Probably not, but this one is not only lower in fat and calories, but uses ingredients you might already have. Plus it is absolutely delicious! 
I hope you enjoy this healthy take on lasagna. If you have yellow squash instead of zucchini growing in your garden, it substitutes nicely (or you can use a combination of both). I used a local pasta sauce: Buon Giorno Italia of Summit Foods, St. Paul Minnesota.
Not-Your-Mother’s Lasagna
 1 pkg.  no-boil lasagna noodles
 32 oz. jar tomato-basil (or other yummy sounding) pasta sauce
 2 links fresh chicken Italian sausage
 8 oz. bag reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
 8 oz. bag of an Italian blend shredded cheese (regular fat content preferred for meltability)
 1 medium sized zucchini, about 8 inches long and 1.5 inches wide
 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
 1 egg
 1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Grease a 9 x 13ish lasagna pan with olive oil. Pour ½ cup sauce into the bottom and spread to cover the base of the pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the casings from the chicken sausage and break-up the links in a large saucepan. Fry the chicken pieces until completely cooked and add the rest of the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, scraping all the flavoring bits off the bottom of the pan. If you like a bit more spice, you could add a shake of red pepper flakes.

In a food processor, puree cottage cheese, egg and parsley until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and add 1 cup of the reduced-fat cheese.

Using a mandolin slicer, slice the zucchini into thin rounds. You will slightly overlap these circles in the pan as a substitute to what is traditionally a noodle layer.

Layer the following ingredients starting with #1 as the bottom layer. Don’t worry if there is space on the sides of the layers. As the lasagna cooks, it will expand to the edges of the pan.

1.       3-4 lasagna noodles
2.       ½ of the cottage cheese mixture
3.       zucchini slices
4.       3-4 lasagna noodles
5.       ½ of the meat sauce
6.       zucchini slices
7.       1 cup of the reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
8.       3-4 lasagna noodles
9.       zucchini slices
10.   ½ of the cottage cheese mixture
11.   3-4 lasagna noodles
12.   ½ of the meat sauce
13.   2 cups of Italian blended shredded cheese 

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. At this point, you could refrigerate until dinner time. (If the lasagna is coming from the fridge, you can put it in the oven while it is preheating.)

Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes. Remove the foil at the end of cooking and brown the cheese to your liking. I also check the internal temperature of the dish to make sure that it reached at least 165 degrees.

Here is the most important part: Allow the lasagna to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into the dish. This will help it hold together better when you cut it up and allow the cheese to bind the layers together a bit.

Time to eat! Enjoy!

* A note about lasagna noodles: The lasagna noodle companies are pretty smart—not only do they give you more than you need, but an odd number of noodles! To use the remnants of a box, I will often make a smaller scale of this recipe in a loaf pan. The noodles fit perfectly as a single layer. It works great if making lasagna for one eater, too.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ice Cream Cake 2.0

Yesterday was Kent’s birthday, and the one thing he looks forward to most is homemade Ice Cream Cake. And who doesn’t love ice cream!? I’ve adapted this version from the one that his Mom used to make. You could absolutely substitute frozen yogurt, or low fat ice cream here, but sometimes a special occasion calls for something truly decadent. I used ice cream from two creameries located here in Minneapolis: Sonny’s and the Pumphouse Creamery.

Ice Cream Cake 2.0
1 can sweetened condensed milk
5 Tbsp. salted butter
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 15oz pkg. Oreo cookies
1 stick salted butter or spread, melted
2 pints of your two favorite ice creams
            I like Sonny’s Fresh Banana and Pumphouse’s Sea Salt Caramel. Yum!

Pour the condensed milk in a sauce pan with the 5 Tbsp. of butter and chocolate chips. Melt on low until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vanilla. Stir and allow it to cool to room temperature.

While the topping is melting, pulse cookies in a food processor or blender until crushed. Remove to a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 cake pan fitted with a lid. Pop in the freezer for an hour, until the mixture is hardened.

Here is the artistic part: Once the cookie crust is set, pull it out of the freezer and scoop small wedges of the ice cream on top of the crust. Alternate the two flavors in puzzle-like fashion, fitting the pieces in the spaces until the entire crust is covered. (I like to use a sturdy spoon rather than a scoop for this. It seems to get a better shape for puzzling.) With a spoon warmed in hot water, smooth the top of the ice cream and fill any holes.  Pop back in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until set.

Spoon the cooled fudgy topping over the hard ice cream and spread until covered. Then freeze again until ready to serve. Cut squares with a knife warmed in hot water.

Looks like it is time to celebrate! Happy Birthday Kent!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bacon Potato Cauliflower Soup

There is nothing like a cup of soup on a cold, winter’s day –although I can barely say that Minnesota is having anything like a winter this year. (There is no snow on the ground, and 50 degree temperatures!) I suppose comfort food is still in order—comfort food for the winter-lover’s soul.

I’ve invented a ramped-up version of a traditional Finnish potato soup recipe combining some of my favorite ingredients into one big ol’ pot of tasty. With only Kent and me in the house, we often have a lot of remnant ingredients I’ve purchased for other recipes. (These were from a weekend egg bake.) This week I used whole potatoes, but traditionally Finlanders use leftover mashed –if you have about two cups, feel free to substitute.

Bacon Potato Cauliflower Soup
5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
¾ cup celery, chopped
6 cups of chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder, or two cloves minced
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut-up
½ a head or 1 14oz bag of frozen cauliflower (I got a bag at Target.)
Salt and pepper, a dash to taste
Green onions, chopped and cheddar cheese to garnish

Fry the bacon in your soup pot until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel and set aside.
In the reserved drippings, cook the onion and celery over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.

Drop in the potatoes, cauliflower, and pour in the broth. Turn up the heat until it begins to boil, then reduce and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Depending on the smoothness you desire, purée part or all of the soup in a blender or food processor. Or better yet, use your immersion blender right in the pot. (This is an item worth purchasing. They are an amazing tool for soups and sauces.) You could also carefully mash with a potato masher. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, chopped green onions and the bacon pieces. The recipe serves about 6 for dinner, or 8 for lunch. It makes great leftovers, too.

I hope you enjoy this recipe,