Friday, August 27, 2010

Is it winter yet?

Who doesn't love a bowl of hot long as it's on a cold, winter day? Well, I am wishing for some cooler weather and while I'm day dreaming, I am going to make this!

French Onion Soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups thinly vertically sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion
4 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 cups less-sodium beef broth
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme8
(1-ounce) slices French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 (1-ounce) slices reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high, and sauté for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.
Preheat broiler.

Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.

Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swiss Chard Anyone??

I have no clue where this wonderful green got a bad name, but I love this stuff and HATE paying for it at the grocery store since our lovely pastor's wife has it growing in abundance!! This is a fabulous recipe for those of you who may not know about trying this green leafy veggie. I add some red pepper flakes for some added kick. Try this! It's amazing!!


2 bunches Swiss chard leaves, chopped (about 8 cups packed)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, more for the baking dish

1 cup low fat milk

2 tablespoons unbleached white flour

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated Comté or Parmesan cheese, divided

1 tablespoon whole wheat bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chard leaves in a saucepan with the water and cook over medium heat until leaves are just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Set chard aside.

In the same saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. When butter has melted, whisk in the flour until blended. Whisk constantly for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and reserved cooking liquid. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in half of the grated cheese. Stir in the cooked chard and transfer to a buttered 9x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-ounce) package baked tortilla chips (about 16 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What's in the salt??

I just have two words today: grey salt. I have been using grey salt in everything from salads and pastas to meats, and it has not disappointed. The great Michael Chiarello, my personal favorite chef, has long urged people to switch from regular table salt to grey salt. This change alone, he says, will improve your dishes by at least 10%. Really? Yes! Really!
Grey salt is hand harvested, unwashed, unrefined, and FULL of minerals, not to mention FLAVOR!!! This is a worthy investment!
To make it stretch, simply dry it in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours or so, let it cool, then grind in a (cleaned) spice grinder, blender, or coffee grinder, in order to get the fine grain of normal table salt, and then store in a glass container or salt holder.
A little of this precious jewel goes a long way! I purchase mine at Williams Sonoma, but there are many places that sell it: Whole Foods, Salt Works, and the list goes on. This salt is worth every penny. By drying and grinding it, you will stretch a very small jar for at least 4-6 months, depending on how much you use it, and we use this a lot! No meal is complete without the use of our favorite ingredient...grey sea salt. Try it! Let me know how you like it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blueberry Muffins - Redone

Again, a need to preface this recipe. Why are they re-done? Well, after trying to give up refined sugar, I have realized that a limited amount is okay, but in these, I did not want a sugary breakfast treat. I replaced powdered stevia for the sugar. A note: only 1 teaspoon of powdered or liquid stevia is equal to 1 CUP of sugar!!!!

Also, I always add ground flax seed to our baked goodies. Not only can you omit some of the butter, oil, or fat when you do this, but you also get your Omega Fatty Acids! Now, I love butter, and I believe in using real ingredients, so I don't omit the butter fully, I just balance it with flax seed. Note: Flax seed must be ground for your body to absorb all the benefits from this seed.

Remember, have fun with this! Enjoy!!

5 T unsalted butter, cut into 3 equal pieces
2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C, or so, of ground flax seed
1/2 t of stevia, powdered or liquid
2 t sugar
1 T baking powder
1T ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 C milk
1 egg
3/4 t vanilla extract
1 C blueberries, rinsed and dried
Put the butter pieces in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a pot holder, remove the pan from the heat and set the butter aside to cool.
Preheat an over to 375 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with papers liners.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, flax seed, 1/2 t of stevia, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix with a table fork.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the milk, egg and vanilla. Using the same fork, beat until well blended.
Add the milk mixture, melted butter and blueberries to the flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, stir gently until the ingredients are just blended.
Spoon equal amounts of the batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over the tops.
Bake the muffins until they are golden and have risen nicely, 18 to 20 minutes.
Remove the muffins from the oven and place them on a wire cooling rack. Let the muffins cool for at least 15 minutes before removing them from the pan. Gently turn the pan over, letting the muffins fall out onto the rack.
Makes 12 muffins.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday morning potatoes-an accidental breakfast

This breakfast was, as most of my meals, "accidental". This is how I plan my meals, I begin to get a craving for a particular food, flavor combination, or texture, and then I base my menu planning off my craving. Usually this type of meal "planning" happens on the weekends, when I have time to actually crave something, and this particular Saturday was no exception. Ronald and I were up early (an every Saturday occurance) and were busy running errands. Suddendly, I was starving!!! I needed food and needed it fast! But what sounded good? I didn't feel like the usual blueberry pancakes or muffins I make, and a spinach goat cheese omelette didn't sound good either. I needed flavor! I needed color! I needed spicy! I needed......potatoes. I needed cheese. I needed eggs, turkey bacon, pico de gallo, salsa, and...CILANTRO!!!!!

So, let me preface this recipe with a few more words. I never buy frozen potatoes, but this is a must. Secondly, I never, ever pan fry anything! But, again, this is a must here! Note: I only use grapeseed oil for high temperature cooking, as it has high amounts of good fats (Omega's 6 , 9, and 3), and is very good in aiding circulation and joint problems. Thirdly, I try to buy nitrate free turkey bacon, as it has no carcinogens in it, but sometimes it is just not available, and that's fine too. Organic eggs, dairy, vegetables (some are okay to buy conventially grown) are essential to health as well. But again, being that organics is a booming business, we pick and choose what we buy organic, and just trust the Lord to protect our bodies from the rest. But for now, I will get off my soap box and will proceed with the recipe. Fourthly, this recipe is not a recipe for measurements. I simply just use what we have, and make it work. So, there will be no specific guidelines for proportions. Just channel your inner chef and go with what feels right!


Frozen cubed potatoes
Turkey bacon
Your favorite jarred salsa
Shredded cheddar cheese
Pico de gallo (diced tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, red onion, note: I omitted lime b/c this is for breakfast)
Dash of Tobasco


Pan fry potatoes according to directions, allow at least 15 minutes to crisp and turn golden brown. When done, drain potatoes on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Cook turkey bacon to desired crispness. When cool, crumble into bite size pieces, set aside.

Heat another skillet on medium, spray with cooking spray, and pan "fry" eggs according to your preference (over easy, sunny side up, over medium, over hard, scrambled, etc.).

When all items are done, layer potatoes, shredded cheese, two eggs, turkey bacon, jarred salsa, and pico de gallo, and dash on some Tobasco for added spice!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cinnamon Spiced Candied Walnut, Spinach Salad

1 bag or box of baby spinach
1 small container of gorgonzola or bleu cheese
½ C Walnut halves
¼ C of Sugar (feel free to use stevia, agave nectar, or honey as desired)
1T Cinnamon

¼ C Balsamic Vinegar
1T Dijon Mustard
¼ C Honey
¼-1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For Candied Cinnamon Walnuts:
Place walnuts and sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves into a light brown liquid and coats the walnuts. Add the cinnamon, stirring to coat well. Remove walnuts from skillet, and spread them out on a sheet of aluminum foil to cool.

For Dressing:
Mix all ingredients for dressing, up to the olive oil. Once the ingredients are mixed well, slowly pour in desired amount of olive oil , and whisk constantly until completely emulsified (oil and vinegar should not separate).

For Salad Presentation:
Toss spinach with dressing, coating well. Place spinach on plates, sprinkling with cheese and walnuts.

Tip: Spinach is best when walnuts are still warm, they wilt the spinach ever so slightly, and make it so delicious! Also, sliced pears, green apples, or purple onions also are a great match. For a dinner salad, add grilled chicken seasoned with ground ginger, cinnamon and honey.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goat cheese, part two

This has to be quite possibly my favorite goat cheese recipe! I have adapted it from but you know me, always adding and making it my own.

Strawberry Pecan Goat Cheese Pizza

1 Pre made pizza crust (I use Boboli)
3 oz Goat cheese
1/4 C pecan halves
1 C sliced strawberries
2C Spring salad mix or chopped Romaine
1/2 of a lemon's juice
2T Dijon mustard
1/4 C Balsamic vinegar
Honey to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heat the pizza crust according to directions.

While crust is heating, mix pecans, strawberries, and salad mix together.

In another bowl, mix the lemon juice, Dijon, vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper well enough to thoroughly combine ingredients. To this, slowly add the olive oil while continuing to whisk, thus, emulsifying the salad dressing. Pour this over the salad and let rest.

When crust is done, spread goat cheese over crust. Goat cheese will melt a bit, that's okay!

Then top crust with the salad mixture. Slice and serve immediately.

Goat Cheese, Part One

I love anything with goat chese. Goat cheese pizza, goat cheese pasta, goat cheese sandwiches, well you get the idea. Tonight, I looked in the fridge and discovered, rather rediscovered, that we had mini colored bell peppers...hmmm what would go better than goat cheese stuffed bell peppers? The answer? NOTHING!

While I was cutting and washing the mini bells, I had a roasted red bell going in the oven...yes, I do LOVE bell peppers too! I was so excited about my goat cheese that as soon as my red bell was done roasting, I cut into it, and topped a slice with some crumbled goat cheese....and yes, it was amazing! So, this is my first "Christy only" cook book, no recipe!

Goat cheese stuffed mini bells

12 mini bell peppers

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, and pureed

6-8 oz of goat cheese

Dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, Greek oregano)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tops off of the mini bells, remove seeds, and membranes, rinse and set aside.

Mix the pureed roasted red bell pepper with the goat cheese.

Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.

Place goat cheese mixture in a gallon size ziplock bag, cut a small slit in the corner to form a piping bag to fill the mini bells

Pipe some of the mixture into each mini bell, top with more herbs if desired.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

It all started with goat cheese

It all began one day with a simple purchase of one pound of goat cheese. I was so excited to get this at such a great deal ($6.99), I couldn't wait to use this in every meal. I had breakfast planned, lunch and dinner ideas! And the one thing that they all had in common-GOAT CHEESE!!! Well tonight I decided to not pull out a cook book, and thought it was time to get creative! Yes, the simple purchase of goat cheese made me start this blog...oh behold the power of the goat (cheese)!
After a long day of work, what woman wants to come home only to cook and clean? I know I don't, but somehow cooking has become my relaxaton. For most women, it's a bubble bath or a shopping trip, but for me, it's cooking, creating, and trying new things. My gracious husband, of course, is the beneficiary of all my, "Here honey, taste this...". I'm so glad he's a great sport, and never asks what he is about to try!
So, in my quest to be creative, and have fun with my bargain goat cheese, I thought it would be fun to begin a new blog solely for those of us who love cooking, but are, as I say, "After Hours Chefs".
Let's make this a place of sharing ideas, recipes, and little hints from your kitchen to mine.....cheers!