Classic Creamed Spinach

Growing up in Wisconsin, my family frequented supper clubs on the weekends or special occasions for steak dinner. One of my favorite side dishes to have with my steak is a true steakhouse classic, creamed spinach. In fact, my love for creamed vegetables runs much deeper than that. From creamed corn to cream peas, the combination of a hearty vegetable with simple, yet savory, cream sauce is what I am all about. I also enjoy the occasional steak fry at home. This recipe is my take on the classic side.

Ok, I understand that cooked spinach is not a favorite for most, and many of you are going to breeze by this recipe in disgust. That is fine. However, the next time you make a steak, take a chance and give this recipe a try. Your disgust may turn to love.

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic or 4 small cloves, minced
2 to 2 ½ pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and trimmed
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp flour (if needed)
Nutmeg (optional)

Saute half of your butter, chopped onion, garlic in a pan. Add a couple pinches of salt to draw the water from the onion and some dashes of pepper for taste.

Once the onion is soft, add in your spinach and saute until spinach is wilted and cooked down.

Pour in bring heavy cream and bring mixture to a boil. Add in the other half of your butter and a dash of nutmeg. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for about 15 minutes allowing the sauce to thicken and all the flavors to come together. Add a couple more pinches of salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you find that your sauce is not thickening enough, whisk in a teaspoon of flour until dissolved and continue to let the mixture simmer.

Serve with your favorite cut of steak! I prefer a bone-in ribeye (a recipe for another day).

Zero-Waste Vegetable Soup

As we find ourselves stuck inside, many of you are cooking more than usual. I am here to help you navigate what is currently in your pantry and fridge and turn it into something tasty. This particular recipe focuses on using up vegetables that are past their prime in an attempt to prevent wasting perfectly good food and turning it into something delicious. There are really no rules to this recipe. Feel free change up most, if not all of the ingredients based on what you have. The key is to use up produce or items that will potentially go to waste in the next day or so. The key to starting off any good soup is your mirepoix, or mixture of sauteed chopped vegetables. A typical mirepoix consists of chopped onion, carrot, and celery that is sauteed in some kind of fat (butter, oil, etc.) with salt to help release water from the vegetables. For this recipe, I only had carrot and onion, which is just fine. Feel free items such as spinach, kale, cauliflower and/or any frozen or fresh vegetable you have on hand. Like I said, no rules!

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
Chopped carrots, about 1 ½ to 2 cups
8 cloves of garlic; 4 for roasting and 4 minced directly into soup
Fresh tomatoes of any kind (I had a cherry tomato mixture) or 1, 15 oz can of tomatoes
64 oz (8 cups) of stock of choice (vegetable, chicken, turkey, etc.)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of sambal oelek (optional)
1 can of beans of your choice (I used garbanzo beans)
8 oz (1 cup) dried pasta of your choice
Handful of fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 425℉.

In a large kettle or dutch oven, melt butter and saute onion and carrot until just soft. Add a couple pinches of salt to help draw water out of the vegetables. When mirepoix is soft, add minced garlic, bay leaves, and other seasonings and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes. Add in stock and bring the soup to a simmer.

Chop tomatoes in half and place on a sheet pan with 4 cloves of garlic. Toss with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast for about 10-12 minutes until tomatoes and garlic are soft. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, blend with a food processor or blender until you have a smooth paste. Add to soup and continue to let soup simmer for 20 minutes.

Please note: The step above is optional. You do not need to roast fresh tomatoes and garlic to still make this recipe great. Feel free to simply add in a can of tomatoes and mince the rest of your garlic right into your soup. I opted to roast my veggies and create a simple paste. This is not necessary.

Drain and rinse beans and add to soup. Continue to let your soup simmer while you cook your pasta.

In a separate pot, bring about 6 cups of salty water to a boil. Add in a splash of olive oil to keep your pasta from sticking together. Add in dry pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse your pasta under very cold water to help halt the cooking process. Add your pasta into soup and let simmer for another 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Ladle finished soup into a bowl and garnish however you wish. I like to use fresh basil or parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve with toasty, crusty bread.

Tomato Egg Drop Soup with Chewy Sun Noodles

Like many of my recipes, this one was born from a craving. Also, my disinterest in driving clear across town to the restaurant that serves a very similar dish. I make this soup about once a month, pending I make it to the one store in the area that sells the Sun Noodles brand. Of course, you do not need to use Sun Noodles ramen noodles. However, they come highly recommended. They are used by some of the best ramen shops, and when cooked correctly, have the perfect chew and texture that allows each noodle to be perfectly coated by whatever broth they are landing in. This dish is equally lovely when using beef, chicken or vegetable stock so feel free to pick your preference. Also, feel free to make the broth as spicy as you like, adding more sambal or sriracha. I prefer my broth fire hot!

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 pack of Sun Noodle Fresh Ramen noodles (see link below) or any other brand of fresh or dry ramen noodle. (please note: each container of the fresh ramen has two packs of noodles)
1 egg
2 small to medium fresh tomatoes
1, 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 scallions, sliced
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili sauce (sambal oelek or sriracha)
Fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
4-6 cups stock

Grab a wok or large, deep frying pan. Heat sesame and olive oil. Add in minced garlic and the whites of your chopped scallions. Saute until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add in fresh and canned diced tomatoes, tamari or soy sauce, chili sauce, and a couple drops of fish sauce. Let cook for about 5 minutes, giving tomatoes time to soften and release juice. Pour in stock and bring soup to a boil. Lower the heat and let soup simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, crack your egg into a small bowl and whisk. Set aside.

In a separate kettle, bring 4-6 cups of salty water to a boil. Add a splash of olive oil to keep noodles from sticking. Add 1 pack of frozen noodles and cook for 3 minutes. Drain noodles in a strainer, continue to run very cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking process. Place noodles in your serving bowl and mix with a splash of olive oil.

Now it is time to add the egg to your broth. Slowly drop pockets of the egg mixture into your simmering broth, continue to mix the broth allowing the egg to separate and cook. Once the egg is added, let soup simmer for another 5 minutes.

Ladle finished broth over your noodles and garnish with scallion greens. Feel free to add more tamari or chili sauce to taste. Slurp away!

Tomato Egg Drop Soup with Noodles

Link to Sun Noodles

Crispy Oven Bacon

Heat oven to 400℉.
Lay strips of bacon on a baking sheet with a rack placed inside.
Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on desired crisp)
Eat all the bacon.

Traditional Stuffed Peppers

This recipe is a homage to the way my mother and grandmother cooked their stuffed peppers, with the key ingredient being condensed tomato soup. The soup helps to cut down some of the acidity of just using straight tomato sauce, as well as brings a creaminess to the sauce that these peppers will slowly bake in. I have made a couple additions to the meat mixture recipe including smoked paprika, sambal oelek, and tamari to help bring an added umami and smokiness. To incorporate even more flavor, I slightly brown the rice with garlic and butter before cooking. Finding those small ways to add flavor to more plain, traditional dishes can bring these favorites to another level. This recipe is hearty, simple, and full of flavor. You may never use another stuffed recipe again!

1 pound ground beef
3 large green bell peppers (top cut off, core and seeds removed)
½ cup jasmine or white rice
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (optional, but recommended for some spice)
You can also use any other hot sauce of your choice. I like the smoky, peppery flavor the sambal adds.
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of tamari, soy sauce, or worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 can of condensed tomato soup
15 oz can tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 325℉.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add in chopped onion and a pinch of salt to release water. Saute until soft (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Heat a sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add in dried rice, garlic, and butter. Saute until rice is slightly brown and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Be careful not to burn your rice. Add in ¾ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer. Cook until rice is tender (15-18 minutes). Keep covered and off heat until ready to serve.

Note: Make sure your cooked ingredients (rice and onion) have cooled to room temperature so as to not cook the egg when added to your pepper stuffing.

In a large bowl combine beef, onion, rice, paprika, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, sambal, tamari (or worcestershire), and egg. Mix with hands to combine. Separate into 3 batches (one for each pepper).

Stuff each batch of meat into your 3 peppers. You want the meat mixture to stick out of your peppers. Lightly place on the top of the pepper that you cut off. Place the peppers on their side in a casserole dish or deep pan.

In a small bowl, combine condensed tomato soup and tomato sauce. Pour mixture over your peppers. Cover with lid or tin foil and bake for about an hour and 15 minutes until the peppers are soft and meat mixture is cooked through. You can cook the peppers for longer or shorter time, depending on how you like the texture of your pepper. I prefer a very soft pepper. For the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the pan or tin foil. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. Serve and Enjoy!