Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Best Moment of the Year

You've made it...it's finally over. The long winter has ended and its time to fire up the grill. Though covered in snow just weeks ago, a quick pull of the tarp uncovers the glorious metal box that transports your mind. You can smell the smoke and feel the cold beer in your hand before its even lit.

Wiping away the grime and cobwebs the excitement builds. Will it work? Did winter claim another victim? With a turn and a spark, you're reassured that your friend has survived too. You've missed one another. Blue and yellow flame burn away months of settled-in neglect and a steel brush erases separation grudge.

You're back. Reunited. Just you, your grill and the excitement of the bites to come.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Soup Au Pistou

Winter is supposed to be over, right? So why am I making soup? I get that you don't want to sip hot liquids in July, but there is a way to do soup outside of the winter freeze. Au Pistou is a traditional French soup is actually made from summer seasonal vegetables and herbs, so totally appropriate to enjoy during the thaw. And you'll be amazed how fresh this tastes.

So while you're all eager as ever to binge on backyard hot dogs and burgers, think about firing up your Le Creuset one more time for this subtle and sophisticated spoonful.

This starts like most soups, with a basic mirepoix. In this case, I've opted for subtlety by using leeks instead of onions. Their mild flavor doesn't overpower the soup. Potatoes make things more substantial and filling.

The really fresh part of this soup is the "au pistou"... which is just the French word for pesto. French makes you sound snazzy. This one combines fresh basil with garlic, tomato paste and parmesan -- simply mashed together with a wooden spoon.  

When you're ready to serve, spoon a dollop of the au pistou in the bottom of the bowl and ladle in the hot soup. The mild soup melts the bold flavor of the au pistou into a beautifully subtle harmony.

 Soup Au Pistou
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups diced carrot
2 cups diced red potato
2 leeks, diced
8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup white wine
3 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups diced green beans
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup orechiette pasta
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of saffron
4 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, leeks and potatoes; sauteing for 5 minutes. Turn heat to high and add white wine. Once wine is fragrant, add chicken stock, water and salt. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 40 minutes.

Once vegetables have softened, add green beans, cannellini beans, pasta, pepper and saffron. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

While soup is simmering, mash garlic, tomato paste, basil and parmesan together in a bowl; slowly adding olive oil.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of pistou into the bottom of each bowl; ladling soup over the top. Serve with crusty bread.

*Some recipe inspiration taken from none other than Julia Child.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So What Do YOU Want from Me?

Okay... enough talking about myself already. What do you guys want to see? I'm always looking for new recipe inspirations, so I'd love to hear what you'd like to see more of.

Can't get enough cocktail hour... comment about it!

Lurrrrrrve your slow cooker... comment about it!

More healthy weeknight stuff.... comment about it!

Think my desperate ploy for comments is pathetic... comment about it!

I'm getting the feeling that this post is subconsciously driven by my love for Portlandia and "Put a Bird On It"...comment about it!

Let the comment free for all commence. You all are so lovely.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Best of Carey On Lovely - Year One

It's my big anniversary week, so I'm going to get down like a real blogger and do some recapping. I feel so legit. In my first year, I wrote 133 posts... the vast majority of which were recipes. (Holler... that sounds so major when you write it out. Virtual self-hug.) So what were your favorites? Survey says...

#5 -- BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos -- BBQ is an artform and don't ever let someone tell you otherwise. Respect the sauce, respect the pig. Amen pork... amen 'Merica!

#4 -- Healthier Green Bean Casserole -- Long live fresh ingredients and real sauce. This is everything I love about a recipe makeover; flavors maintained, textures improved and the key ingredient (fried onions) untouched.

#3 -- Pumpkin Tortilla Soup with Chili Lime Chicken -- I still maintain that Starbuck's has indoctrinated the world to love pumpkin. Ditch the high-calorie latte and enjoy this sweet and savory soup.

#2 -- Earl Grey Panna Cotta -- I think I even surprised myself with this one. The flavor was incredible, texture creamy perfection and the serving appearance beyond cute. More variations to come, surely.

#1 -- Simple Secret: Massaged Kale Salad -- With just three ingredients and an under 5 minute prep this guy takes the cake. Bravo to you lovely readers for simplifying your lives. Simple really is best.

Monday, April 22, 2013

One Year Ago I Started A Blog

It's true, after spending years reading other people's blogs and contemplating if I could do the same, one year ago today I started Carey On Lovely. And oh how the year has flown.

I'm guessing many of you may not realize that it's been so long. In fact, I didn't tell anyone about the darn thing until June. When I started, I wasn't sure I would have the time to do it well or the mental inventory write when not at work (I spend about half my day writing on the job). But even those few short weeks taught me a lot, so you can imagine what I've learned in the past year.

We're so encouraged when we're young to have hobbies and extracurricular activities, but it is all too easily lost in adulthood. Jobs and real life happens, making routine inevitable. After a year of wedding planning in my spare time, I realized that I had nothing to do after work or on Sundays. I needed to engage my mind in something that I loved.

I'd been passionate about cooking since I was a child and kept up with it as an adult. I mean, who doesn't love a delicious meal? But to start writing about that felt scary. Would it feel like work? But most of that melted away, because you know what? I was doing something I LOVE.

When you're working from passion, it doesn't feel like work. Its the freedom of doing something because you want to, not because you have to. In the safety of this space, you can express yourself without boundaries. Its okay if it fails, you're just having fun -- no pressure. We have so many things in our lives that must succeed, let your hobby be something that doesn't have to.

If you can't try something new, what's the point? I was never a strict follower of recipes, but often looked to my favorite books and blogs for guidance. I definitely still do this (but vow to always tell you when I do), but Carey On Lovely has challenged me to CREATE.

I have a new view of the food world... there is inspiration everywhere. That had always been there, but I have you guys to share it with. Now there's a reason to take risks and really push myself.You guys are the ones who challenge me.

I have a job that requires a lot of confidence. You can NEVER let them see you sweat, no matter how badly things are falling apart. I had this part down, but composed-organized-PR-maven is a part to play. To put my real self out there for friends, family, coworkers and internet strangers was completely terrifying.

Would I be a strong enough writer? Would my pictures be good enough? And most importantly... would anyone even care? But you guys do. Every single click and comment is a pat on the back and your words of encouragement mean the world to this gal. It's all just made me realize, when you're doing something you love, people will listen.

I may have more deep thoughts this week, so bear with me. If I could have this blog child dig in to a cake shirtless, I would. You've come a long way in one year!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Certain dishes are classics for a reason. Years of tried and true preparation have yielded a near-perfect balance. Enter my favorite sandwich... the BLT. The dry, salty bite of bacon with sweet, juicy tomato and the fresh crunch of lettuce. All punctuated by a tangy spread of mayo.

I distinctly remember eating them on a Saturday afternoon with my mom and Grammie. White bread, heavy dollop of mayo, iceberg lettuce; all served on fine china. So. Damn. Good.

I've outgrown the white bread these days and am always looking for healthier twist for weeknight dinner. This classic sandwich gets a simple salad makeover, by up-ing the lettuce and taking down the carbs. Fresh avocado dressing is a great alternate solution for the creamy mayo too. Now that I've discovered this dressing, I basically want to put it on everything too.

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
For Salad
6 slices bacon, but into 1/2 inch pieces
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 quart cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 avocado, chopped
Salt and pepper

For dressing
1/2 avocado, cut into chunks
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons water

Warm a pan over medium heat, add chopped bacon and cook until crisped, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Combine dressing ingredients except for water in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are combined. Slowly add water until dressing reaches a liquid-y consistency.

Toss bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado together with dressing and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tip: Cook It on a Sheet Pan

So my new tart pan leaks...

I'm SO glad this ended up on one of my sheet pans and not on the bottom of my oven. Major quiche disaster avoided, but still a minor fail. Boo. 

Great reminder that you should always cook quiches, pies or really anything that could overflow on a sheet pan. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mushroom Barley Risotto

My last mushroom endeavor did NOT end well... gray soup failure in fact. Mushroom redemption was needed. Desperate fungi salvation. I think the proof is in the pudding this time (see below). Ain't nothing gray about this dinner.

I'm working on going through my grain stash in the pantry. Somehow barley never quite made it into soup this year, so I decided to pull a twist on risotto. Meaty, earthy mushrooms were the perfect foil for the nutty bite of barley.

So mushrooms need to be handled with special care. They're basically tiny sponges, so you don't want to rinse them like typical vegetables. If you do, they'll soak up all the water and get rubbery in the pan. Try wiping gently with a damp paper towel.

Pop off the stems while you're prepping. They're a bit woody when you cook them.

So mushrooms are kinda needy. Not only do you have to wipe them ever so gently, you have to give them special attention in the pan. GIVE THEM SPACE. Bitches can't be crowdin'. You'll have to do them in two batches to get them to brown without rubberization. I promise it will be worth it.

Even though its not arborio rice, you're going to treat this exactly like risotto. Keep the chicken stock simmering on the back burner and slowly add to the barley, stirring frequently. Add more once the stock has been absorbed.

The tender care of mushrooms and your attention stirring the barley pays off in a lusciously creamy mushroom "risotto" decadence.

Mushroom Barley Risotto
10oz cremini mushrooms
6oz portabello mushrooms
5oz shittake mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons half and half

Start by slicing mushrooms in even slices, about 1/4 inch each. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add half the mushrooms. Saute for 5-6 minutes, just until the mushrooms start to release their liquid and brown. Cook second half of mushrooms in the same way. Set aside.

In a small pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer.

In a large dutch oven, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add barley and cook until shiny and coated with olive oil, about 1-2 minutes. Add thyme, bay, salt, pepper and white wine. Once wine has evaporated, reduce heat to low and start adding chicken stock one ladle at time. Stir frequently and only add stock once the barley has absorbed it all. Continue like this until barley become tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir mushrooms into the barley and then add half and half and parmesan. Stir well and serve immediately, garnished with a bit of fresh thyme.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Turkey Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions

I'm still on the Mad Men premiere. Stop reading if you didn't watch. Could you believe the end with the other lady? I mean, I'm not surprised... it is Don after all. Did anyone else notice that every character, except Don, changed their look? Can Don change with the times? Can he modernize? I suppose we shall see.

In the spirit of the era, I decided to make a good 'ole meatloaf. Seems like Betty or poor, ignorant Trudy would approve. To make things a bit leaner, I went with turkey and a flavorful chicken sausage. Caramelized onions modernized the whole thing and gave it that extra somethin' somethin'.

Meatloaf is traditionally a mix of beef, pork and veal. Turkey is a easy substitute in dishes like this, but you need to be careful to amp up the flavor and add a bit of fat, to keep the meatloaf from being dry and bland. I picked up these tomato basil chicken sausages from Trader Joe's and they were the perfect complement to the turkey. Italian sausage would be great here too, just look for something with a robust flavor. You'll also need to remove the sausage from its casing.

Milk and breadcrumbs in the loaf will help it hold together and ensure that its moist.

Get your hands dirty on this one. Its super important to mix with your hands and to do it gently. Toss just until combined and don't overdo it.

Form into a loaf on lined and rimmed cookie sheet. I do a freeform loaf because it allows three sides to get gooey, rather than just the top. It will also allow any extra liquids to drain away, keeping the loaf from getting soggy. I don't own one of these... that would be ridiculous.

I do keep things traditional with ketchup on top. It just feels so right.

While that loaf is cooking away, start on the caramelized onions. It seems crazy, but these will take an hour or more. By cooking at a very low temperature, you draw out all of the natural sugar in the onions. They'll reduce like crazy too.

There she is! See how much liquid drained away? That would be a soggy mess if you did this in a loaf pan.

I love the little specks of basil and carrot. If only I were as eloquent as Don Draper, I'd say something about this meatloaf transporting you to a new state of mind. What I lack in words, I make up for in good behavior. I'm sure my husband is pleased with that arrangement :)

Turkey Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions
1 1/2lbs ground turkey
1/2 lb flavorful chicken sausage
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots and saute until softened; about 5-6 minutes. When onions turn translucent add garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Remove casings from chicken sausages and crumble into a large bowl. Combine with turkey, onion mixture, egg, milk, bread crumbs, parmesan, basil, salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Combine ingredients gently using your hands, just until mixed. Do not overmix the meat.

In your largest pan, heat remaining olive oil over low heat. Add sliced onions, tossing in oil. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook onions for at least one hour; stirring frequently until they develop a caramel color.

On a foil or Silpat lined cookie sheet, form meat mixture into a rectangular loaf. Brush 1/4 cup of the ketchup over the top and sides of the meatloaf. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, brushing with remaining ketchup halfway through. Cook until the inside reaches 160 degrees. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Yogurt Herb Potatoes

Sometimes you just want some good 'ole meat and potatoes. But mashed or baked can get so ho hum. And I can do without the fat of oodles of sour cream and butter. I knew herbs would be delightful, but how could I get them to envelope the starchy spuds? Greek yogurt once again proves its versatility.

These guys are given a simple roast and then tossed in a herbed and lemony yogurt mixture for a warm, ooeey, gooey bite.

Yogurt Herb Potatoes
2lbs small potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup plain, non fat Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place quartered potatoes on a lined cookie sheet. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for one hour, or until potatoes are tender.

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice and herbs. Toss warm potatoes in yogurt mixture. Serve immediately.