Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Adrienne’s Famous Bean Salsa

I’m not sure how long my sister-in-law, Adrienne, has been making this bean salsa for my family. I’ve been out of state for a while so I haven’t been savvy to who brings what side dishes to gatherings. But everyone in our family knows about it so it’s probably been a while.

All I know is that when hubby and I moved back to NY this summer, she invited us to join her and my brother at her parents’ cottage on the lake for an afternoon. We were sitting on the patio in the shade, watching boats go by and sipping cold beer. Hubby and I had just eaten lunch so we weren’t particularly hungry, and we pretty much ignored the bean salsa that was sitting on the table. For a little whole.

Then, during a lull in the conversation, I picked up a tortilla chip and scooped some out.

Then I couldn’t stop, even though I was full. So nummy. Scoop after scoop.

Afterwards, I wanted it again, but didn’t want to make it just for hubby and I because I knew that it makes a lot. And it’s one of those recipes that’s very difficult to halve because you’re using a can of beans here, a can of corn there, an envelope of seasoning there, etc.

But then Adrienne invited some people over. Now was my chance! It’s a little silly to bring over someone’s own recipe, but I did it anyway.

Here are my ingredients:


Start with the green bell pepper.


Dice it up, and then do the same with a sweet onion.


And then a couple tomatoes.



Next, open up cans of black beans, black eyed peas, and corn. Drain and rinse, then add to the diced veggies.


Then take a tablespoon of minced garlic. This took me forever to prepare, peeling and mincing a ton of small cloves. Better than the stuff from a jar, though.


Plop it on top of everything else.


Oh, and then cut open a lime


And squeeze it over the whole thing.


Now for some seasonings… Oregano…


Basil (from the tube in my fridge)…


And cilantro (also from a tube).



Finally, in a little bowl, combine some olive oil…


and vinegar (I wasn’t sure what kind, so I used white wine vinegar)…


and a packet of Italian dressing mix.


Mix it up, and pour on top of the salsa!


And with that, you’re done!

Chill it for a few hours, then serve with tortilla chips.


It’s so addicting. Seriously. The dressing mix tenderizes the veggies and makes such a delicious flavor. You’re supposed to drain before serving, but I happen to love the Italian dressing/ veggie juice mixture sitting at the bottom of the bowl, so I didn’t.

So when can I have this again?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cheddar-Broccoli Soup

A few days ago, I posted about making bread bowls. I promised a follow-up post about the soup that I made to put in it. Here it is!


I hadn’t made this soup before. I found the recipe on the Food Network website and figured it looked as good as any other broccoli-cheese soup, which is what I was aiming for. Well, first I wanted to make Wisconsin Beer soup (you find these things when you use google just right), but after reading reviews that revealed that which beer you choose makes a HUGE difference, and that it can be hard to accomplish without curdling the milk, I decided that I honestly wasn’t ready to devote that much mental energy and planning. Broccoli-cheese soup was my next best option.

First, I washed the broccoli. Lots and lots of broccoli.


Next, I chopped it into florets. I made them fairly small.


Next, take a sweet onion.


And dice it.


With my prep complete, I started my base by melting a stick of butter in the big soup pot that is still scorched from my jambalaya last spring. That has nothing to do with this, but I felt like explaining why the pot looks so dirty. You should have seen it when I first tried to clean out the scorched rice. It was black with rice-shaped marks!

I digress. Here’s the butter.


When the butter was melted, I added all that chopped onion and cooked it until it was translucent and tender.


We have onion-butter soup so far!


Next, I added some flour to thicken it up. Sweet action shot, eh?



Once it’s mixed in and thickened up, I added whole milk and half-and-half. I never said this was healthy! Just decadent. Mmm.


I also added nutmeg. Here is everything swirling around the pot after a vigorous mix with my wooden spoon.


Finally, I added my broccoli. Lots and lots of it. Basically just filled the entire pot with it until there wasn’t room for more, and then I seasoned with salt and pepper.


At that point, the directions said to turn to low, cover, and simmer. The milk and cream hadn’t even heated up yet, really, so instead I turned the heat up for a while. I didn’t turn it down until it was bubbling, and then I let it simmer quietly for a while.

This last step was done just a few minutes before serving. I added a whole bunch of grated mild cheddar cheese!


Once the cheese got all melty and mixed in, I took a potato masher to the soup to break up the broccoli a bit. The recipe suggested putting it in the blender, but I wanted it to be chunky so I declined.


And that’s about it! I put my bread bowl on a plate…


Cut off the top…


Squished down the insides with my fingers, and ladled in my soup. Topped it with a pinch of grated cheddar, and we were good to go!


I’m going to be adding this to my repertoire. It was creamy, cheesy, broccoli-y, and yummy. It filled us up and left us satisfied. In fact, we couldn’t finish our soups AND the bowls, so we were a little wasteful with our bread bowl crusts, but that’s okay. We ate the insides, and it complemented the soup very well.


Honestly, it wasn’t hard at all. I encourage you to make some!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Italian Bread Bowls

I have other dishes in my queue to blog about, but I have been dying to share this with you (consider this post part one of two).


Every September, I seem to have an urge for fall soups even while the weather outside still looks exactly like summer. Last year, I made creamy pumpkin soup. This year, I was looking for something cheesy.

This urge happened to correspond with an urge to dye my hair red. I am aware that that makes no sense whatsoever. Anyway, I invited my sister-in-law over to color my hair and offered to make lunch for us (hubby was out of town, drilling in Albany for the weekend). Somehow, the idea of sharing food with someone inspired me to make it a little more special.

So I made bread bowls. Because that’s a totally normal response for someone who just started a new quarter of school and has tons of reading and homework to get to.

I began by dissolving some yeast in warm water. I added a bit of sugar, too, since I had read that this helps to activate the yeast.


After about 10 minutes, it was starting to look creamy.


My baking skills were better than my photography at this point, since I evidently didn’t document the addition of salt and vegetable oil. But I added salt and vegetable oil. Then I put the yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl and started adding flour. I started with a cup of whole wheat, though the recipe called for all-purpose.


I used all-purpose for the rest of it.


Then I just started beating the dough.


This was my very first time using the bread hook and electric beater to make bread. Fun times.


After the first couple cups of the flour, I added it a little bit at a time.



When the flour was all added and the dough was pulling together, I turned it out onto a floured countertop.


And then I kneaded it for 7 or 8 minutes. The dough started off goopy and inconsistent, but it got to be elastic and consistent throughout. It was very fun to play with. Apparently I didn’t take pictures of what it looked like after I kneaded it, probably because my hands were covered in dough and flour. But here’s a picture of it after I dropped it in an oiled bowl and turned it to coat the surface of the dough in oil.


Okay, pay attention. This is my favorite part. I read about a technique to make bread rise better. Remember how I put my pizza dough outside on the deck so that it would be warm enough? I couldn’t do that this time around because it was after dark. So, I put it in a cold oven next to a pot of boiling water. The steam created a good environment for it.


Are you prepared to see how much it rose? So cool. Probably would have been even more if that cloth hadn’t kept the dough in the bowl!


I divided the dough into six bowls and put them on a greased cooking sheet that had been sprinkled with corn meal.


And did my awesome rising technique again!


Okay, this time I was less pleased with the result.


I decided to remove three of the blobs and put them on another sheet. This led to a dilemma. They were flat disks at this point. If I baked them as-is, my bread bowls would be flat. But if I re-shaped them, would I lose all the benefit of having them rise again? I was afraid that manipulating them would release all the build up gas and lead to hard, dense bread.

So I ended up leaving three alone…


And reshaping the other three.


I brushed each one with a bit of egg white mixed with water.


And finally, I sprinkled them with some Italian seasoning and a bit of coarse kosher salt. Then I took a blurry picture of it.


At this point, I was both hopeful and skeptical. I was less than optimistic about how they would turn out.

Oh! But check it out! Turns out, the reshaped bowls were the awesome ones. The flatter ones stayed flat, as I thought they might. I should have reshaped all of them. An interesting experiment, though.


Seriously. So amazing.


I tried to resist them, saving them all for the next day, but I had to give in.



Fresh baked bread is simply amazing. That’s all I really have to say about that.

Stay tuned for a post about cheddar-broccoli soup!