What would you do with…

We all know I’m a HUGE Penzeys fan. I received the Salad Lover’s 4 Jar gift box as a gift from my sister years ago and the rest is history. I buy all of my spices from Penzeys because I truly believe they have the best products. Their Customer Service is spectacular as well. They are all around a great company and I love giving them my business. Image from Penzeys Catalog

I order from their web site quite frequently and I recently decided that each time I place an order I am going to order a new spice to try. I figured that it would give me some inspiration to try some new flavors.

This time I bought Whole Red New Mexican Chipotle Pepper (Morita). Here is the description from Penzey’s web site:

Ripe, red jalapeño peppers that have been slowly wood-smoked, chipotle peppers are rich, smoky and hot (but not searing). Throughout Mexico and Central America, chipotle peppers, also known as moritas, are regarded as a versatile and necessary addition to many dishes. Commonly used to add a deep smoky flavor to traditional Mexican dishes, such as red chili sauce, the use of chipotle peppers has exploded with the popularity of American Southwest cooking. A dash of chipotle is a perfect addition to everything, from barbecue and breadsticks, to soup and salsa. Whole red chipotles are sweet and hot, fresh and pliable. Add whole to chili, tomato sauce, stew, beans and rice, or soak in oil, then chop (use the oil for smoky pepper flavor, too). Great for adding to tortilla chips, homemade pizza and spaghetti sauce.

Now…I’m not big into spicy and hot things. But there are some Chipotle flavored things that I do enjoy. Right now I’m loving on this Chipotle Ranch salad dressing that I picked up at the store. It packs a little bit of heat in there!  Pampered Chef has an awesome Chipotle Ranch Seasoning Mix that is out of this world.

So I figured this would be a good way to get me to try a little bit more heat in my recipes. If you had this “secret ingredient” that you had to use in a recipe, what would that recipe be? Inspire me!

I’m thinking of trying to come up with a delicious Chipotle Barbecue Sauce to eat in my favorite Chicken Enchiladas.

My Five Thanksgiving Must-Haves

Somehow the end of November is upon us and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I’ll never know how the time went by so fast that Christmas is about a month away.

I wanted to share my five must-haves for Thanksgiving 2010 – these are products and/or ingredients that I’m loving for this holiday season. They are in no particular order.

1.  Williams-Sonoma Brining Bags – These things are seriously the best. They come in a box of 4, and you get 2 small and 2 large.  The small bag holds a pork loin or 5-lb. chicken.  The large bag holds up to a 23-lb. turkey. All for $16. You can’t beat that! Last year I paid about $8 just for one from Amazon!

photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma2. Williams-Sonoma Essential Oils Collection, Spiced Chestnut – I’m totally obsessed with this scent. I was waiting for a friend and I figured I’d browse around in Williams-Sonoma. I came across this hand lotion and immediately fell in love. The next day I went to pick some up, and I purchased the Hand Lotion / Dish Soap / Hand Soap combo. I’m hooked! I’m eying up the candle now…LOL! It’s a wonderful scent. If you are looking for a gift for someone – this is perfect!

3. Penzeys Pumpkin Pie Spice – If you know me, you know I love all things Penzeys.  Their spices are wonderful. And they truly are a great company. I’ve always had a very pleasant experience with them – whether it’s in their store or ordering from their web site. They usually throw in a free little jar of something when you order online. Their shipping is very affordable and it always comes quickly. Pumpkin Pie season is upon us and it’s tradition that Pumpkin Pie is at least ONE of the desserts! So Penzeys Pumpkin Pie Spice goes great in the pumpkin pie. I also like to add a little on top of the whipped cream to finish it off.

Photo courtesy of Penzeys 4. Penzeys Turkey Soup Base and Seasoning – As you’ve probably seen in some of the recipes I’ve posted, I love Penzeys Soup Bases. They have so much flavor and I love not having to go out and buy cans and cartons of chicken, beef and turkey stock. I keep many jars of the soup base on hand so that I never run out. They say that each jar has 45 servings in it. Not bad for the price that you pay! I highly recommend that you try this. I know it’ll be going in my roasting pan when my Turkey Breast goes in to the oven tomorrow.

5. Mimosas – It’s not Thanksgiving at our house if there aren’t any Mimosas! I have my coffee first thing in the morning and then shortly after that we start with the Mimosas! And that goes on until all of the champagne is gone!

What’s your favorite product/ingredient this holiday season?

Souper Bowl Sunday – Week 3

This week’s soup was French Onion Soup. This is one of my favorite soups. I’ve tried many French Onion Soup recipes, but came up with this one because I wanted more flavor, and I didn’t want to have to stand around all day caramelizing the onions. This recipe features caramelized onions done in the crock pot overnight. Yes, the crock pot!  It makes life so much easier! :)  

So depending on the size of your crock pot, you may need to adjust the amounts – more or less onions, etc. I do not suggest using a large crock pot. If it’s too large, the onions will just burn. I usually use a 1 1/2 quart crock pot, but this time I used a 3 quart crock pot. I definitely prefer the 1 1/2 quart one. If using the smallest one, you may only need the 3 large vidalia onions. You be the judge. My rule of thumb is to fill the crock pot all the way to the top with the onions. They will definitely cook down.

For our soup on Sunday night, I put the onions in the crock pot Saturday night around 8:30pm.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large vidalia onions, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 6 cups beef broth –  I prefer to use Penzeys Beef Soup base and seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 Tablespoons corn starch mixed with some water
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Bread, cut into cubes
  • Cheese – Gruyere, Provolone or whatever kind you’d like to use

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set your crock pot to the low setting. Place a stick of butter in the bottom of your crock pot. Put all of the sliced onions on top of the butter, making sure that they go all the way to the top of the crock pot. After they cook for a little while they will shrink down. Stir the onions and the butter together so that all of the onions are coated with the butter. I let them cook overnight. I stir them whenever I get a chance (before bed, when I wake up in the morning, etc).

When you wake up in the morning, they should have changed in color. As they cook throughout the morning/afternoon they will reach a nice mahogany color.

Midway through the afternoon I start to add my beef broth and the thyme.  I usually bump the crock pot setting to high at this point. I let the broth, thyme and caramelize onions cook together. About an hour and a half before you’re ready to serve the soup, add in your corn starch/water mixture. This is to thicken the soup. Continue to cook until it is thickened how you like it. Feel free to add more corn starch if it’s not thick enough for you.

Ladel the soup into an onion soup crock, put the bread cubes in, and top with some cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese stars to brown and is hot and bubbly.

Souper Bowl Sunday

At Chez la One Curly Fry we’ve designated Sundays in the fall and winter to be “Souper Bowl Sunday.” Each Monday I’ll share with you the soup or stew that we had the day before. Yesterday it was a Broccoli and Cheese soup that I adapted from the January 2002 issue of Cooking Light.

  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I use Penzeys chicken soup base)
  • 4 cups of fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2  cups  2% reduced-fat milk
  • 3 Tablespoons of corn starch mixed with some cold water
  • 1/8  teaspoon  black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preparation

Drizzle some olive oil in a dutch oven and heat it over medium heat.   Add onion, shallots and garlic; saute 4 -5 minutes or until tender. Add broth and 3 cups of broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes. While it’s cooking, place the 1 cup of reserved broccoli florets in a steam bag and microwave for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Place all of the soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed soup mixture to pan.

Add milk mixture and corn starch (mixed with water) to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 – 10 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper and pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add the reserved broccoli florets and heat through.

Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Homemade Pickles!

Move over Vlasic pickle bird…

I had a few cucumbers that I needed to use, so I decided I’d try making some pickles. I bought some pickling spices from Penzeys a little while ago, so I figured I’d use those. I look on the web and read up on how to make pickles. I looked at many recipes and decided to use one recipe as a guideline, although I wanted to switch it up a bit.

The recipe that I based mine off of was from Cooking Light, August 2007 issue.

Ingredients

  • 2 large cucumbers, sliced
  • 4 ½ cups of white vinegar (5%)
  • 2 ¼ cups of sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons of salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill

Slice cucumbers and place in a plastic container.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic cloves, fresh dill and pickling spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook for 3 minutes.   Let cool for a few minutes; pour over cucumbers. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 days.

Here are the cukes:

The Pickling Mixture:

The Cukes soaking in the Pickling Mixture:

The finished product:

I was pleasantly surprised at how they came out. They were a bit sweeter than I was anticipating, and I think the sweetness really masked the dill.  I really couldn’t taste dill at all. The next time I’m going to omit the sugar (or at least cut it down A LOT!), and increase the amount of fresh dill.