Souper Bowl Sunday – Week 9

Yesterday’s soup was based off of a recipe called Christmas Chowder that I saw on the Food Network’s web site.  For some reason I’ve been on a huge seafood kick (I blame Cooking Light for publishing that Lobster Risotto recipe, lol) so we have another seafood recipe to enter into the books. I made a number of changes to it so I am just going to post my recipe. You can see the recipe I based it off of by clicking the link above.


  • 1 lobster tail, approximately 1 pound
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shells still on
  • 1/2 pound (or more if you desire) king crab legs
  • 1/2 pound of lump crab meat
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 4 ounces high-quality smoked slab bacon, diced
  • 3 medium leeks, white part only, rinsed and diced
  • 5 cups of seafood stock (recipe below)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt, for seasoning
  • Old Bay seasoning (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives


Seafood Stock:

Peel the shrimp and put the shells in a large stock pot. Set the shrimp aside. Pick all of the meat out of the king crab legs and place the shells in the stock pot. Set the crab meat aside. If you haven’t cooked the Lobster yet, cook the lobster, let it cool, and then take all of the meat out of the shell; set aside. Break the lobster shell into smaller pieces and throw into the stock pot. Add in about a cup of dry white wine, a few chopped carrots, onions, peppercorns, salt and 5-6 cups of water.  I simmered this for about 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Strain the stock through a cheese cloth. If you don’t have a cheese cloth, use the finest strainer you have. Once you are done straining, there may be some sediment in the bottom of the stock. I just used a ladle to transfer it in a measuring glass so that the sediment would stay at the bottom.

Seafood Chowder:

In a large dutch oven, cook the diced bacon over moderate heat until golden and nearly crisp.  Add the diced leeks to the bacon fat, stir, and cook about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add in the 5 cups of seafood stock and continue cooking over moderate heat for a few minutes.

Add the potatoes, stir, cover the pot, and continue cooking, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes depending upon the potato variety and the thickness of the slices. Keep the chowder base hot as you prepare the lobster meat and cream mixture.

Heat the butter in a wide skillet. Add the lobster meat, crab meat and shrimp. Season with black pepper, and saute over moderate heat 3 or 4 minutes until the meat is firm, opaque, and pink. Pour in the heavy cream, and rapidly bring it to a simmer. Pour the lobster and cream mixture into the chowder base, and stir gently to combine. Taste for seasonings, and adjust with  sea salt,  black pepper, and old bay seasoning. Garnish with chives.

If the soup isn’t thick enough, you may want to add a corn starch + water mixture to the soup so that it thickens up.

I thought this soup was good. I wish it was a bit creamier, but it was still very good. Next time I’ll probably play around with it some more to make it more creamier. I loved the flavor that the smoked bacon gave it.  There was so much seafood in this chowder that each bite was loaded with crab, lobster and shrimp. Perfect for seafood lovers!


Simplehuman dish rack

There always seems to be that one gadget that you LOVE, but it’s priced a lot higher than you should be spending on something like that. That item for me is a dish rack. We currently have a dish rack that I HATE with a passion. It’s constantly sliding off of the tray it comes with, and I’m always cursing at it for one reason or another.

I saw this and instantly fell in love…

photo from

The only hang up is that it’s $69.99. For a dish rack. But I NEED it. I HAVE to have it. It would look so nice on my counter. And if I’m using up my precious counter space, I want to like what’s on it. So I think I’m going to bite the bullet one of these days and buy it.  Now if it only washed and dried the dishes for me, it would be absolutely perfect!

My Walk on the Wild Side

As we all know, I’m a huge Pastry Arts connoisseur. I could quite possibly live off of cupcakes and raspberry pie for the rest of my life if I needed to. I’ve taken the Intro and Intermediate Pastry Arts classes at the local Restaurant School, as well as a few other classes. And they were all dessert/pastry related. What can I say? I have a sweet tooth. I’d take a cupcake over potato chips any day.

But let me get to my point here. I signed up for the Intro to Culinary Arts class at the Restaurant School. I know how to cook. I love cooking. But I want to learn more. I want to be an expert. I want to be more confident in the kitchen with a knife. I also want to try some new foods that I otherwise would shy away from.

It’s a 6 week Curriculum, and here’s how it looks…

Week 1: Knife Skills and Safety
Week 2: Classic & Contemporary Sauces
Week 3: Grains, Potatoes and Vegetables
Week 4: Homemade Pastas and Sauces
Week 5: Dry Methods of Cooking
Week 6: Moist Methods of Cooking

Some of the recipes include: Braised Chicken Legs with Tart Green Apples, Mussels Steamed in Beer, Zucchini Bread, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Pan-fried Eggplant with Tomato Concasse, Pesto Sauce, Fresh Egg Pasta, Cheese Filled Peppers with Pesto Sauce, and Wild Rice Pilaf.

As I did with the Pastry Arts course, I’ll share with all of you what I learn in class and the dishes that we make.

Tonight is Week 1. Knife skills and safety. I’ll get to use that lovely new chef knife I got for Christmas. And here’s hoping that you don’t hear any ambulance sirens between 7pm and 9:30pm.  My goal is to keep all of my fingers!

Souper Bowl Sunday – Week 8

Due to the holidays Souper Bowl Sunday has been on a bit of a hiatus, but we’re back! Yesterday’s soup was a Baked Potato & Leek Soup with Cheddar & Bacon from Fine Cooking. I’ve been on a Fine Cooking kick and when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. I love how it uses the whole potato – both the baked potato skins and the actual potato.  It was rainy here in Philly yesterday so this was the perfect comfort food.  As usual, I made a few changes as I went and I’ll post them below the recipe.


  • 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1/2 lb. each)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2-1/2 cups sliced leeks
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (about 1/4 lb.)
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced scallion greens or chives


Heat the oven to 375ºF. Scrub the potatoes in water, pat dry, and pierce in several places with a fork. Set them directly on an oven rack and bake until very tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the leeks are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon bits with a slotted spoon to a saucer lined with paper towels to drain and cool.

When the potatoes are cool, cut one of them in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh in one piece from each half. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. Coarsely chop the potato skin and the entire remaining potato and add to the pot with the leeks. Purée the contents of the pot in a blender until very smooth (you’ll need to work in two batches). Return the puréed soup to a clean soup pot and reheat over medium low. Whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth and then whisk this into the soup, along with 1/2 cup of the Cheddar. Stir in the diced potato. The soup should be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, thin it with a little water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the remaining Cheddar, the bacon bits, and the scallions or chives.


  • The recipe calls for about 1 lb of potatoes, but I used 2 lbs. You can never go wrong with extra potatoes, can you? And before I put the baked potatoes in the oven I rubbed them with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper.
  • I used 3 Tablespoons of butter + 1 Tablespoon of the bacon fat. I figured that would give the soup a little extra flavor.
  • I only had 1 leek on hand, so that’s all I used. Next time I will try using two leeks to see how that turns out.
  • Instead of 1/2 cup of milk, I used about 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of half & half. The reason for this change was that I had those leftover from a Potato Gratin dish that I made (that will be featured another day) and I wanted to use it up before it expired.
  • I don’t think I ever use the right amount when we’re talking about bacon. I made extra bacon and I ended up throwing half of it in the soup, and used the rest as a garnish. Bacon makes everything better!
  • I also used a little extra cheese because I love it so.

THE VERDICT: We loved it! This was a very flavorful soup and this recipe is definitely a keeper. I’ve never really cooked with leeks before, so this was my first time. I definitely enjoyed it. I won’t shy away from anymore recipes that call for leeks in the future. We’re a huge fan of baked potato soups here so this was a delicious take on it. I loved the flavor that the baked potato skins gave the soup (as well as the look of the soup).

A little taste of heaven: Simple Lobster Risotto

I’ve always loved cooking magazines. I used to subscribe to them all. But a few years ago I decided I needed to cut down on the amount of magazines that I got and I let most of the subscriptions run out. I always liked the recipes in Cooking Light magazine, but I didn’t care for the magazine itself. There was too much exercise, travel, and other stuff in it that I just wasn’t into. So I stopped getting it.

Fast forward to now. I was able to get a free subscription to the magazine.  I actually really enjoyed the magazine and the way they’ve moved forward with it. It’s definitely an improvement. And I am very happy with a lot of the recipes in the magazine.  There are many new ones on my list to try.

I was paging through the January/February 2011 issue  and I came across a recipe for Simple Lobster Risotto. Now I must confess – I’ve never made Risotto before. So don’t ask me why I went out on the limb to make Lobster Risotto for my first time. But I did!

I had a heck of a time finding medium grain rice here in the city, but I finally found some. We went to Reading Terminal Market to get the lobster and $35 later I was ready to start making it.


  • 4  cups  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3  (5-ounce) American lobster tails
  • 3  tablespoons  butter, divided
  • 1  cup  uncooked Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
  • 3/4  cup  frozen green peas, thawed


Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lobster; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Remove lobster from pan; cool for 5 minutes. Remove meat from cooked lobster tails, reserving shells. Chop meat. Place shells in a large zip-top plastic bag. Coarsely crush shells using a meat mallet or heavy skillet. Return crushed shells to the broth mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Strain shell mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving broth; discard solids. Return broth mixture to saucepan; keep warm over low heat. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup broth mixture, and cook for 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 2 tablespoons broth mixture. Add the remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Remove from heat, and stir in lobster, the reserved 2 tablespoons broth mixture, 2 tablespoons butter, and green peas.

We don’t care for peas, so I left those out. In my opinion they are really only there to give the dish some color.

My thoughts: It was AMAZING. So flavorful. I love that I only used FOUR ingredients and it came out perfect. I didn’t use any seasonings – no salt, no pepper, nothing. And it was delicious. I was very pleased with how the dish came out – especially since it was my first time making Risotto. And I can definitely say it won’t be the last time I make it.

Favorite Holiday Gift

My favorite Holiday gift was a Vitamix!! Now I’m looking for anything and everything to blend! I’m so amazed that you can make soup in this thing and it comes out STEAMING! Photo from

What was your favorite holiday gift?

Baking for the Holidays

As we all know, I love to bake. So whenever I am going to someone’s house I like to bake something and take it with me. Sure, I can bring an appetizer or a side dish, but I always have to bring along a dessert of some sort. It’s just my thing.

Cookies n Cream Fudge

We are going to my sister’s house on Christmas, and she asked me to bring a side dish that I am always asked to make. It’s one of those dishes that everyone loves so you’re ALWAYS asked to bring it. But I wanted to bring some treats as well. That’s the fun part, after all.

Here’s what I’m taking…

Peanut Butter Fudge – My grandmother always made the BEST peanut butter fudge. I remember helping her make it when I was younger. It was one of those recipes where you have to get out the candy thermometer and it’s a big production. I found a recipe that tastes just like hers except I don’t get out the candy thermometer for mine. It’s one of those “boil for 5 minutes” and it’s done. That’s right up my alley!

Cookies n Cream Fudge – About 5 years ago I took this along to Thanksgiving dinner. I had never made it before but it sounded good. I’m all about cookies n cream anything. So I made a few recipe substitutions (it called for white chocolate and I don’t like that) and I took it along. Everyone loved it. They raved about it. They asked for the recipe. So I figured I’d make it again and take it on Christmas.

Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Cookies n Cream Buttercream Icing

Triple Chocolate Biscotti – Mmmm, biscotti. And even better that it’s chocolate. With chocolate chips. Dipped in chocolate. There’s no such thing as a chocolate overload around the holidays.  Now…I’m not a dipper. And I still love this biscotti. So this biscotti is great for the dippers and the ones that won’t dip!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cookies n Cream Buttercream icing – Last weekend I was testing an icing recipe so I made some chocolate cupcakes. I wanted to make a really good cookies n cream buttercream icing. The end product was amazing. Absolutely delicious!  So I decided that I want to make some and bring them along tomorrow. My 3 year old niece is just like her Aunt and LOVES cake and most importantly icing. So she’ll love these!


What are your favorite holiday treats to make?

Final Pastry Class – Week 6

Last Thursday was my final Intermediate Pastry Arts class. The class has been so much fun and I definitely learned a lot. For our last class we made Chocolate Truffles and a Chocolate Raspberry Tart.

We had an assembly line of 4 people going for the truffles. What a mess that can be. Personally I thought we would’ve been fine doing it in pairs, but the Chef wanted us to do in groups of 4 so we did. They weren’t hard to make at all. I want to make some myself, but with different flavors. We just did plain chocolate and then dipped them and coated them.

I’d love to create a Cookies n Cream Truffle. Maybe I’ll work on that this weekend and see if I can come up with a good recipe for that. And if it works out well I’ll make them to take with us on Christmas.

The Chocolate Tart wasn’t difficult either. It was a bit time consuming since we made everything for it.  I love Chocolate and I love Raspberries – but I’m not a huge fan of them together. Don’t get me wrong I ate the Chocolate Raspberry Tart and it was GOOD! But it wasn’t one of those things that I kept eating and eating. One piece was enough for me.

I can’t see myself making this specific tart again, but I’m totally open to making a different flavor. I have some of the dough in my freezer for my next experiment. I’m thinking about making a Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart.  Now that sounds like a winner!


Souper Bowl Sunday – Week 7

Yesterday’s recipe was Beef Stew. This was the perfect thing to make since it was raining outside.  I found this recipe a while ago while browsing the Food Network’s web site. I started watching Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network when he had a show called “How to Boil Water.” After reading the reviews I knew I had to try it out.  Here’s the original recipe. I’ll post my changes at the end.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups veal or beef stock, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound small (golf ball size) new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves


Set a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and season the beef with 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon Essence and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Sear the beef (in 2 batches) in the saute pan for about 2 or 3 minutes per side.

Add the butter, mushrooms, flour, veal stock, tomato paste, herbs, spices, and browned meat to a slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and set the temperature to high. Cook for 1 hour. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to cook the stew for another 7 hours. During the last hour of cooking, add the pearl onions and replace the lid. Once the stew is cooked, stir in the peas and parsley and serve immediately.

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup

Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William Morrow, 1993.


  • After searing the beef in the saute pan, I deglazed the pan with about a cup of red wine. This gets all of the bits out of the pan and adds a wonderful flavor to the stew. I added that to the crock pot first, then added in the butter, mushrooms and flour. That’s a good way to make sure that the flour is mixed in and not lumpy.
  • Instead of just 2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste, I added in the whole 6 oz can.
  • I added a few dashes of both Balsamic Vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. I also added in more Essence.
  • With about 2 hours left, I added in 1/2 cup chopped up celery, 1/2 cup onion and 1 shallot. I omitted the pearl onions.

I had my stew on top of brown rice. Mr. Curly likes his over Egg Noodles.  This is my favorite beef stew recipe.  Give this recipe a try and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

Week 5 – Flambé

So last week in class we Flambéed! We started off class by making the batter for the Crepes. We did that first so that we could let it rest for a little bit.  We were allowed to pick a sauce to make – our choices were Raspberry, Strawberry, Chocolate, or Caramel. This sauce was also going to accompany our Bananas Foster, so the sauce had to go with it. I chose Caramel sauce because I love it.

So I made my homemade Caramel sauce and it was just sitting there taunting me. It was time to make the Crepes. Let’s just say that I won’t be a Crepe maker any time in the near future. It takes time to get a handle on it. I wasn’t very good at flipping it. I definitely need some more practice. I was doing better with a spatula! 🙂 But we got a nice pile of Crepes that were ready to be plated. They were awaiting the Bananas Foster!

Next up it was time to make the Bananas Foster. Such a fun experience. I thought my eye brows were going to burn off for a minute, but all was well. The Fire Department wasn’t dispatched to the Restaurant School…this time. 😉

It was out of this world!  I was able to take some of the caramel sauce home to have with vanilla ice cream and it’s amazing. I could eat it by the spoonful!


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