Category Archives: Entertaining

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

perfect-hard-boiled-eggs

Happy Easter (almost) weekend everyone!  If you’re like me, you haven’t done anything whatsoever for Easter yet.  I will have about fifteen people here on Sunday to celebrate not only Easter, but also our son’s fourth birthday!  So, let’s get started with the most obvious Easter staple, hard-boiled eggs.

Hard-boiled eggs aren’t exactly the most complex thing in the world.  You put them in cold water, you bring that water to a boil and then after the eggs cook for about ten (between nine and twelve, depending on size) minutes, you cool the water gradually to prevent cracking of shells.  The only complicated part is leaving enough time to cool the water.  Because they’re still cooking  until they’re completely cooled many people end up with a green ring around the yolk.

tips-for-perfect-hard-boiled-eggs-Easter

So, basically you’re looking to get the eggs fully cooked without overcooking.   This is pretty easy as long as you have a timer.

Overcooking your eggs will give you dark gray chalky yolks, which may not be what you’re going for.  So, check the size of your eggs and cook accordingly.  I think most go wrong when following a recipe for large eggs, when in fact they have medium or small eggs or vise versa.  So, be sure to read carefully and you should be fine.  Also, for eggs that will peel easily, you shouldn’t use the freshest eggs you can find.  Easy peel eggs are a product of eggs that have been around for at least one week, maybe a week and a half, in the refrigerator.

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Now, to get cracking on these party plans.  I’ll be back next week.  Have a wonderful holiday weekend and enjoy!

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

1.  In a large pot (saucepan) place eggs and add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  When the water reaches a rapid boil, turn off heat and cover.

2.   Leave the eggs in the hot water.  For large eggs, leave for 12 minutes.

Note: 9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large.

3.  Drain immediately and serve warm or add running cold water in moderate increments (about two cups at a time) until cool enough to handle, then drain and place in cold water again until cooled completely.

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Baked Spring Ratatouille

 

Baked Spring Ratatouille-2

Why should summer have all the fun?  There are many perfectly wonderful vegetables in spring that can be combined to make a beautiful rendition of ratatouille.  This is one of those dishes where you go to the farmers’ market and you just look around to see what your ingredients will be.  If it’s nearly eighty degrees and those yellow squash are calling your name, you should go for it.  If you are still shivering under a sweater and you are grateful for the first sight of asparagus tips, you should go for those, instead.

It’s still pretty chilly here, so I used a combination of some local spring vegetables and some greenhouse grown summer favorites.  However, the heat treatments in this recipe allow the natural essence of the vegetables to be brought forth. So if they’re not completely at their peak, it’s ok, because you’re maximizing all flavor potential.  The warmth is officially on its way!

It’s one of those dishes that is versatile and can be baked with a layer of provolone when it’s still cold at night just to add a hint of delicious comfort.  If and when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, I recommend you skip the baking process, of course.  But that’s not yet.  This version can be eaten with a whole wheat pasta or even put into a crusty roll for a ratatouille sandwich.  You can also wrap up any remaining the next day for lunch with some crispy romaine and a dash of balsamic vinaigrette.  It’s versatile and happens to be both vegetarian and low carb.  Enjoy!

Baked Spring Ratatouille

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes (of chopping vegetables)
Total Cook Time: 40 minutes (including oven baking and cool time)
 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups diced spring onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups diced (small, firm) eggplant, skin on
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup diced red bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus tips
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup diced yellow squash
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated provolone
  • 3 tablespoons parmigiana-reggiano, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly spray, with cooking spray, the bottom and sides of an oven safe casserole dish (1-2 quarts in size).
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add oil.  Once oil sizzles and before it smokes, add spring onions.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and a pale golden color, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add eggplant and thyme with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes.
  5. Stir well to blend, add additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired and then pour into prepared baking dish.
  6.  Bake in preheated oven until cheese bubbles and turns a pale golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.   Allow to set for five to ten minutes before serving.  Plate and garnish with parmigiano-reggiano and chopped scallions or basil leaves if desired.

 

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Quick and Easy Spinoccoli Pasta

This is one of the most delicious vegetarian pasta dishes that I’ve ever eaten and that is saying a lot considering that all variations of pasta are a staple in our weeknight dinner rotation.  This even rivals one of my all-time favorites, pasta peperonata, which I never thought possible.  Spinoccoli is just spinach and broccoli, combined.  They’ve yet to create a hybrid of the two, so don’t go looking for a vegetable called spinoccoli.  There’s no such thing, though that would be pretty neat.  And, yes, I’m almost positive about that.

penne spinoccoli

This was not only received  well by all but was given ecstatic reviews from the family, which, let’s face it, is rare coming from them unless of course, there’s bacon involved.

It only took about fifteen minutes and was completely devoured.  There were no leftovers, but I can imagine this is one of those dishes that can be eaten and enjoyed at nearly every temperature.  It’s a quick and easy weeknight keeper-recipe.

Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Spinoccoli Pasta

Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

 

  • 1/2 pound dried pasta ( I used a short cut, penne)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (you may substitute olive oil and a pinch of salt)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian dressing
  • 1 1/2  cups fresh or thawed (formerly frozen) broccoli florets
  • 2 cups, packed, baby spinach
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
  • parmigiano-reggiano for garnish (optional)
  1. Prepare pasta according to the al dente directions provided on the package, reserving one cup cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, In a large nonstick sauté pan, over medium low heat, add butter, water, garlic, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and Italian dressing.  Add broccoli and cook until just tender, crisp and hot. Reduce heat to low.
  3.  Add prepared pasta with cooking water to sauté pan and toss to combine with broccoli.  Add baby spinach.  Note: Things may look overcrowded at this point, but will wilt down.
  4. Toss together and garnish with chives and Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.  Add fine ground sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Enjoy.

 

 

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Meatless Monday: Chickpea Salad with Citrus and Herbs

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We have had so many snow days this year that today is both the first and last day of our supposed “spring break”.   And, after a beautifully sunny near-sixty-degree weekend, this morning it was a lowly 26 degrees.  I went from biking sixty miles and cleaning out my closet with a smile while whistling, to not wanting to get out of bed this morning because the floor was too cold and the covers too warm.

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Only in March does this happen over the course of one week.

Ouch.  Spring break.  Sure!  I guess you could call it that.

So, as winter hangs on, kicking and screaming with its snowy tantrums, we all know this cold won’t last forever.

Time to lighten up the meals.  This is  tangy, fresh, light and very filling. It feeds anyone you can imagine with a special diet; vegans, dairy free, gluten-free, vegetarian and the rest.

In just a short eight weeks, I will be basking in the sultry warmth, chasing our boys with the water balloon launcher, err…   lounging at the pool in the near tropical sun while chilling my manicured toes under the gently flowing waterfall.

One can hope.

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Chickpea Salad with Citrus and Herbs

Toss with prepared vegetables and server over rice or quinoa to make a complete meal. Serves a large crowd, about 7-10 people. You may freeze leftovers or halve the recipe, if desired.  Time: 2-3 day soak (inactive).  1 hour for cooking beans.  15 minutes to prepare & finish.

  • 16 oz. dried chickpeas (1 pound bag)
  • water
  • 3-4 vegetarian vegetable bullion cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil: LouAna*
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced: Your favorite kind as long as it’s the size of a softball, otherwise use more than half.
  • 3/4 cup diced, drained roasted bell peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup white wine
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of two lemons
  • the juice of one large naval orange
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt, plus more to taste if desired
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley and basil
  • 1 cup prepared vegetables or baby spinach (optional)
  • drizzle of organic honey, plus more to taste

*A sample of LouAna coconut oil was used to create this recipe.  I was pleased with the results.

  1. Sift through dried chickpeas removing odd bits; rinse chickpeas; place chickpeas into large air tight container.  Cover chickpeas with cold water.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Note: Any shorter soak time will require a longer cook time.
  2. In a large stockpot, add drained soaked chickpeas. Add fresh water 2 cups at a time until water covers chickpeas.  Add one bullion cube per 2 cups of water added to pot (about 3-4 cubes).
  3. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook until chickpeas are tender but not mushy (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  4. Drain chickpeas reserving 1 cup simmering liquid with chickpeas and set aside.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, if desired.
  5. In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add coconut oil and diced onion.  Simmer until translucent and fragrant.  Add diced roasted peppers,  crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice black pepper and sea salt. Simmer gently together until wine is reduced, about fifteen minutes.
  6. Add chickpeas and toss together.
  7. In an extra-large salad or pasta sized serving bowl, pour in chickpea salad.  Toss with fresh herbs and prepared vegetables or baby spinach if desired. Drizzle with honey and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  8. Serve with rice or quinoa for a complete meal.

Notes on serving:  This makes a large (dinner party sized) portion.  If making for a smaller crowd, you may either halve the recipe or make the entire recipe and store leftovers in individual air tight containers in the freezer.  Keeps for up to three months in the freezer, depending on how much air and moisture is removed from freezer container.

Notes on brands: I use knorr vegetarian vegetable bullion cubes almost all the time and am always pleased with the results. You may use any brand of bullion cubes that require two cups of water per cube to make stock/broth, vary salt levels if you change the brand to taste.   I used Mezzetta jarred roasted peppers this time, if you prefer a different brand, you may use what you prefer.   I used yellowtail pinot grigio for the wine.

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Ten Tips for Perfect Blanching (and a recipe for Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze)

 

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-8

We’re getting another ten inches of snow this weekend, however, it is technically almost spring.  And if you have even the slightest bit of luck, you might start to feel the weather warm up in the next couple of weeks (or months. But I’m optimistic, so just roll with it).

The markets will become flooded with sweet baby peas, green beans, baby broccoli florets, and of course, the Easter favorite and spring go-to of all households, asparagus spears.

Many people pride themselves on their marinades and dry rubs, their rich or perfectly balanced sauces, and they are, of course, all wonderful, I’m sure.  However there is one common cooking method that is sadly overlooked, often underestimated and unfortunately executed with little attention to detail and lackluster flare.  You’ve probably blanched and shocked vegetables in the past and not given it much thought, but it’s almost spring and we need to talk technique.  These vegetables should be given the respect they deserve.

Nobody puts spring green vegetables in the corner and I’m here to help.

Blanching and shocking is a simple, effective and delicious way to prepare these spring favorites.  However, it must be done properly or not at all, in my opinion.  If it’s not done properly you will be left with a quaggy, gray, disgusting, mush-like dish that someone said was once a vegetable and probably would benefit from a can of condensed soup poured on top of it.  Oh, yes, I did just say that.

This is not ok, people!

No main dish can make up for the fact that your vegetables are terrible (says the vegetarian).

Yes, I might be biased, but I feel it’s time we pay more attention to our vegetable dishes especially when they’ve just come back from the dead of the frozen winter ground for our consumption.  Fresh green beans and asparagus spears have a deliciously bitter-sweet and earthy flavor that should be enhanced, not smothered.  Smothering is so November through January.  Macaroni and cheese and sweet potato chili are now nearly a thing of our past.

It’s time to think about sweet pea soups that barely need cooking and lemon scented crispy green beans or grilled broccoli spears dusted with parmesan and sea salt.  These vegetables don’t need much help, they’re pretty much perfect the way they are with just a little help.

So here are some tips on how to perfectly blanch spring green vegetables.

1.  Salt the water!  If the water tastes like nothing, then your vegetables will taste (yup, you guessed it) like nothing.  The water should be as salty as the ocean.  The salt will be washed away in the ice bath so don’t under season your boiling water.  It is important.

2.  Add some flavor.  I add garlic cloves or some lemon slices and allow them to soften up in the simmering water before I add the vegetables. This infuses a gentle hint of flavor into the green vegetables without overpowering their natural and authentic flavor.

3.  Bring your water to a rapid rolling boil before adding the vegetables.  Adding the vegetables at any point in time before this, will not suffice.

4.  Stay there!   This particular category of vegetables can cook in less than thirty seconds, depending on the size and thickness of them.  Stay there and watch them turn bright spring green.  Remove them from the water with a large spider or colander and drop them directly into the ice bath.

5.  How to tell when they’re done?

a) For small vegetables like peas and green beans:  They will turn a very vivid shade of green.  At this point, remove one and taste it.  Are they too crunchy? Probably not, because they take about thirty seconds to cook.  So, unless it’s only been ten seconds, remove and shock.

b) If the vegetables are larger like asparagus or broccoli spears, stick a knife into the center of the vegetables when they change to bright green.  If the knife clings to the vegetable without budging, wait another minute.  If the knife slides easily through the vegetables,  then get them out of that water as soon as possible because they’re almost overcooked.

6. The vegetables will continue to cook until you shock them.  This is why I prefer to get them out of the boiling water when they’re still bright and crisp.  I can drain them and wait a minute and then shock them and they’re still perfect.  Overdone is not reversible, so it’s better to err on the side of caution with this method.

7.  Keep the vegetables in the ice water bath long enough for them to cool completely.  If they’re not cooled completely, they’re still cooking and will therefore become mushy soon after.

8.  The ice water shock bath should be equal parts ice and water and leave enough room in the bowl for the vegetables.  You don’t want things overflowing.

9.  If you plan to cook them with a sauce after blanching and shocking ( either in a baking dish or a stir fry, etc. ), then reduce the cooking time a bit.  They will finish cooking once combined with the sauce of your choosing.

10.  Taste.  This tip goes for every recipe and method in cooking.  Taste the water, taste the product at every stage of cooking so you know what direction you’re headed in with the dish.   An untasted dish of any kind, is most likely going to need a lot of help once you finally take that first bite.  You don’t want that bite to be had by everyone at the table.   That’s when people start grabbing the ketchup.  It’s not because they love ketchup. It’s because you didn’t taste.

If these tips are followed you will be enjoying brightly colored, tender but crisp earthy fresh spring greens. You’ll taste a nuance of the ocean and the brightness of lemons.  It should taste like spring.

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-2

Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze

Serves 4 (with rice or noodles) as an entree.  Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish.

NOTE: Please taste the salted water to make sure it is thoroughly flavored.  This recipe is for standard 1/2 inch asparagus spears.  If using baby asparagus, reduce cooking time by half (about one and a half minutes into the boiling water).  This recipe works with any green vegetable if you’re not a fan of asparagus.

Garlic-Infused and Perfectly-Blanched Asparagus

  • 5 cloves of garlic, whole and peeled
  • salt
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  1. Fill a large metal bowl half way with equal parts ice and water. Set aside, near the stovetop.
  2. In a large saucepan with a fitted lid, fill three quarters of the way with salted water.  Cover and place over high heat until it starts to simmer.  Taste the blanching water to make sure it is thoroughly salted and add more if needed.
  3. Add garlic to the pot and allow to cook for about three minutes, or until garlic is fragrant and soft.
  4. When water boils rapidly, add asparagus to the water and allow to cook for three or four minutes, or until tender but crisp.
  5. Using a large spider, strainer or colander, remove asparagus and garlic from the boiling water and transfer to the ice water bath.  Stir until the asparagus is warm and the ice melts slightly.

Orange Ginger Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (+ more for garnish/color, optional)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about the amount of juice from one large naval orange)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  •  a dash or two of sriracha (optional)
  • 2 pounds prepared vegetables*

*1  recipe for prepared “Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus” (above)

In a large nonstick saucepan over high heat, add all ingredients.  Toss until hot and covered evenly.  Note: you may add a bit of water if needed to help coat the asparagus evenly.  You may double the ingredients if you prefer a more saucy dish. Remove whole garlic cloves before serving.

Serve with rice or noodles, garnish with zest

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Salted Chocolate Tart with Peanut Butter Pretzel Crust

chocolate tart Kate from scratch-6

If you haven’t discovered the phenomenon of salted chocolate on your own, allow me to guide you for a moment through the logic behind it.

Do you love peanut butter with chocolate?  Do you love pretzels with chocolate?  Do you love salted caramel smothered in chocolate?

Of course you do!

chocolate tart Kate from scratch-2

Any rational person on this Earth with taste buds finds these combinations exquisite.  It’s the salt within those pairings that enhances every nuance of flavor within the chocolate. It creates a dynamic deliciousness between sweet and salty allowing for balance and fullness of flavor.  chocolate tart Kate from scratch-3

Do you remember that food fad a few years back that paired bacon with chocolate?  It was completely wild but it worked (for the most-part) because bacon is salty – and people just love anything with  bacon in it, but I digress.

chocolate tart Kate from scratch-5

Trust me on this one: chocolate plus salt equals amazing.  It’s now a given, so use it to your advantage as I have with this tart.

chocolate tart Kate from scratch-8It’s topped with dark chocolate ganache and has a crispy salty peanut butter pretzel crust that screams luscious and lovely decadence.  Make it for someone you love this weekend and have a happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Salted Chocolate Tart with Peanut Butter Pretzel Crust

For the Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups salted cocktail peanuts
  • 2 cups mini pretzels
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Filling

  • 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Ganache Topping

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4  cup heavy cream

Directions

Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor pulse all ingredients together until a fine crumbly mixture is formed.
  3. Press crust into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch heart-shaped aluminum pan or a nine inch round springform pan, reserving 3/4 cup of crust mixture for garnish/topping.
  4. Bake for six to eight minutes.
  5. Remove from oven.

Chocolate Filling:

  1. In a medium pot over medium low heat warm the cream and chocolate until the chocolate starts to melt. Mix these 2 ingredients together until completely smooth.
  2. Remove cream-chocolate mixture from heat and allow to cool for one minute.
  3. Briskly whisk in egg and extra egg yolk, continue to whisk for an additional thirty to forty seconds after egg is added to help mixture temper.
  4. Add vanilla and salt and continue to whisk until shiny and smooth.
  5. Pour the chocolate filling mixture into the cooled tart shell and place it back into the oven and bake for twenty minutes or until puffed and fragrant.
  6. Remove it from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Ganache Topping:

  1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and add the chocolate. Whisk together over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and all the chocolate has melted.
  2. Pour this mixture over the middle of the chocolate tart and use an offset spatula to spread it around evenly.
  3. Let the entire tart chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Top with reserved peanut butter pretzel crumbs.

 

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Slow Cooker Tuscan Vegetable Soup

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This soup is packed with massive amounts of vegetables that can be varied to whatever you have on hand.  It’s meatless yet offers heat, tanginess, heartiness a bit of sweetness and a ton of balanced flavor. The recipe has only five directions, all of which are entirely simple.

Oh!  Did I mention it also feeds a small army, freezes phenomenally, doesn’t require turning on the stove and only uses one pot?

Yeah… It’s really that good.

Pair with grilled sandwiches of any variety or just a loaf of deliciously hearty and crusty bread, like this one.

Go ahead and act like you slaved away in the kitchen all day.  It’s the weekend.  Enjoy it.

Slow Cooker Tuscan Vegetable Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup diced red onion (about 1-2 onions)
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced, (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red (or white) wine
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth (4 cups)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and chopped (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney or cannelini beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves
  • parmigiano reggiano cheese rind (optional)
  • 1-2 cups additional liquid (stock, broth or water) for thinning, if desired
  • salt and pepper

What you’ll need: 6 quart slow cooker (or larger)

Directions:

  1. Turn slow cooker to high and add olive oil, garlic, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnip, celery, thyme, oregano and Italian seasoning.
  2. Stir to combine, cover and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Turn slow cooker to low. Add all remaining ingredients except additional liquid.
  4. Stir.
  5. Cover and cook on low until all vegetable are fork tender, or at least four or five hours add additional liquid (water or stock) if desired.  Remove cheese rind before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recommendation:  Allow to cool to warm before refrigerating overnight to enjoy the second day.  Once refrigerated overnight, the flavors blend together even more nicely than they do the first day.  Place slow cooker insert back into slow cooker and heat on low/warm until hot.

Note for storage: To extend the shelf life of the soup, do not put any tasting spoons back into the soup after tasting, this prevents bacteria from transferring into the pot and allows the soup to stay good in the refrigerator for up to four days.  Store any excess of leftovers in small air tight freezer-friendly containers.  Thaw frozen soup storage containers in refrigerator overnight or in microwave.

 

 

 

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Fast and Light Weeknight Fix: Salad Pizza

salad-pizza-kate-from-scratch-2It has been nearly a week since I last posted anything involving pizza, therefore I’m lagging terribly behind.  I’m kidding (not kidding); I could eat pizza for every meal since the template offers so much versatility.  This particular recipe was made on a busy weeknight so it’s all very prep-friendly.  I’m sure if I made this on a lazy Sunday I would make the dough and the sauce that day.  But, fortunately I usually have those things on hand in the freezer. If you don’t, the grocery store has everything you need.

salad-pizza-kate-from-scratchThis is a lightened up version for those of you that want to enjoy pizza without the heaviness of traditional pizza.  It’s tangy and spicy and fresh and offers crisp greens on top of hot and cheesy pizza.  I added some peppers and shallots to the tomato sauce to bulk it up and give it some more flavor.  However, this could work without the extra vegetables in the sauce, if you’re really pressed for time.

The greens can be whatever you like.  I added some radicchio, a bit of romaine for crunch and some spinach for heartiness.  I added some diced red pickled cherry peppers for heat and lightly dressed the salad in a balsamic vinaigrette before topping the hot pizza.  The hot peppers are optional, of course.  It’s delicious, will keep you satisfied and won’t weigh you down.

Salad Pizza

Makes one large pizza: Serves four.

  • 15 ounces (store-bought or homemade) refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough
  • scant handful of cornmeal, for pizza pan
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • flour for board
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup minced bell peppers (fresh red or green)
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce (your favorite/whatever is easiest)
  • 3/4 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups mixed greens, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 pickled red cherry pepper, diced (optional)

 

Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.  Remove dough from refrigerator to bring to room temperature.  Meanwhile Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto a large pizza pan.

Once dough is at room temperature, drizzle oil over rolling in and form dough into a disc.  Roll dough out to the size of your pan, or slightly smaller than pan.  Note: Dough will be thin once rolled.  If dough is springing back when rolling, allow to rest (don’t touch it) for five minutes.  If dough is sticking, you may add some flour to your rolling pin and board.

Place dough on prepared pizza pan.

In a small nonstick saucepan add shallot, garlic, and bell peppers. Once fragrant and lightly softened, add tomato sauce.  Stir and allow to cook for no more than a minute.  Add tomato sauce to prepared pizza dough in spoonfuls. Spread each spoonful around dough to make a thin layer of sauce.

Top sauce with mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake in preheated oven until golden brown at the edges, or about ten minutes. REmove from oven while gently cooling pizza (not too much, just enough so the greens don’t wilt too much).

Dress greens in a mixing bowl with balsamic vinaigrette and top pizza once slightly cooled.  Add diced cherry peppers over the top of the dressed salad for extra heat if desired.  Slice and enjoy.

Posted in All, Basics, Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Best Hot Chocolate Recipe Of All Time

 Do you remember how as a kid everything looked better in cartoons?  Strawberry-Shortcake-land food looked way better than the food in real life.  That’s just a fact.

This made the reality of actual strawberry shortcake highly disappointing at times, particularly when the products used in recipes didn’t hold much merit.

best-hot-chocolate-e

The ninja turtles had far better pizza than anyone else in the world and I found it quite unfair.  I didn’t live too far from the sewers of New York City.  Why couldn’t I just go there and get some?  I was about seven then, so you’ll have to forgive my illogical logic, naturally.  While we’re on the subject of cartoons, have you seen those cabbage patch doll hats?  They are weirdly adorable.

But, getting back to my point, this hot chocolate is absolutely perfect.  It’s the best recipe one will ever find.  Not just a delicious treat, in my opinion but the apex of all other hot chocolate in existence and therefore completely rivals all cartoon hot chocolate.  That’s a huge deal and obviously a much bigger deal than rivaling any real hot chocolate you’ve ever come in contact with.

I have made it dozens of times, if not more, in all variations.  You can add a dash of cinnamon or a dash of cayenne or make a peppermint mocha as I so often do around Christmas time (directions below).

It’s rich, creamy, classic, pure chocolate flavor is like drinking a cup of pure comfort.  It’s warm and aromatic and soothing and might be, quite possibly, my most favorite thing in the world.

The Best Hot Chocolate Recipe Of All Time

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup +2 tablespoons white sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3  3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine mix with water and bring to a light simmer.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir every minute until very hot.  Note: Do not boil once milk and cream are added.
  2. Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired.
  3. Variation: For a peppermint mocha, use coffee instead of the hot water and add a peppermint candy cane to the steaming cup once finished.  Stir the candy cane so it melts into the mocha.
This post was written and photographed by Kate Moran, owner and editor of Kate from Scratch. 
The recipe was adapted from one original sent to us from a reader. 
Please keep the recipes and post ideas coming.
Posted in Dessert, Entertaining, For Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Meatleass Monday: Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana

 

This recipe was sent to us last week by a reader named Julie from New York who said we just had to try this method as a meatless Monday post.   We have tried baking breaded eggplant in the past, but it usually involved a lot of olive oil, regardless of whether it is baked or fried.  This method, can use as little as no oil whatsoever.   I did brush a bit on just because I couldn’t help myself, but generally, this recipe reduced the amount of oil significantly.  And for those of you really into cutting calories, the amount of cheese for the top can be reduced to your liking. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Skinny-Eggplant-Parm

So for all of you with your diets and resolutions waning quickly, have no fear, skinny eggplant parmigiana is here to save the day.

 

Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana

 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • 2 large eggplant, about 2 pounds
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 cups seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, for breading eggplant
  • 1/4 + 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • Sliced fresh mozzarella, for top
  • A handful of basil and parsley, chopped for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.Line baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle a small amount of oil over parchment.
partially peel eggplant, if desired.  Set up your breading station:  Place 3 cracked eggs in one container, reserving the other for the ricotta mixture.  Combine breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano in another container.  Slice each eggplant into 1/2 an inch thick slices. Lightly season the sliced eggplant with salt and pepper, dip into the egg mixture and then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.  Place the sliced eggplant on the prepared sheet. Bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until the slices begin turning golden brown.  Remove baked eggplant from the oven.  Place cooked eggplant on a plate to cool.
Mix together the reserved egg and the ricotta.
Bring oven temperature down to 350 degrees F.
In an 8 by 12-inch baking pan, spoon tomato sauce over the bottom in a thin layer.  Place eggplant over tomato sauce.  Spoon ricotta mixture over the eggplant layer and top with another layer of eggplant.  Top that with an extra layer of sauce and continue to layer this way until you reach the top of the dish.   Place remaining parmigiano-reggiano and sliced fresh mozzarella over the top of the layers and place on a baking pan (to prevent spill over from hitting the bottom of your oven just in case) in oven to cook until hot, golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Top with fresh basil and parsley.
Posted in Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments