Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Curried Lentil Soup

Posted by Becca On March - 24 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

My husband’s great-grandmother was a vegetarian and raised him on lentils; he LOVES them.  Until finding this recipe, I had never cooked lentils or made a true “from scratch” home-made soup.  However, what attracted me to this recipe was neither the draw of making my own soup or indulging his love of lentils.  It was the curry; it was an opportunity to indulge MY love of Indian food, especially since I no longer live in a place where good Indian food is available.  The other things were just a bonus.

This is yet another super easy, quick (prep-work), and SUPER inexpensive recipe.  I realize this is becoming a pattern in these posts but I have no doubts that I’m not the only one who is becoming more and more conscientious about my budget.  It is also vegetarian, which makes it very healthy.  It also makes great leftovers.  Easy, cheap, quick, satisfying, and healthy – what more can you ask for?

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped (I start with julienned carrots to save time)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
  • 2 tbs. (or more) curry powder
  • 1 c. green lentils
  • 4 1/4 c. (or more) water, divided
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. butter

Preparation

Heat 1 tbs. of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the onions and carrots.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Add half of the chopped garlic.  Stir until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer.

Add 2 tbsp. of curry powder.  Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and 4 cups of water.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of water, remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and remaining garlic in a food processor.

Add the chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired.

Add water by 1/4 cupful to thin to desired consistency.

Serve with warm naan (Indian flatbread) and lemon wedges.

Crockpot Irish Stew

Posted by Becca On March - 16 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This stew is incredibly easy, quite inexpensive, and makes a hearty, filling, and incredibly satisfying meal.  It also makes great left-overs; the flavors will continue to mingle and grow richer over time.

This is a perfect dish when you are short on time and/or cash.  I generally like to make it over a weekend or early in the week so that we have quick, filling left-overs to eat when things get too hectic during the week.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled & sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs. red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 1 tbs. crushed rosemary
  • 1 tbs. thyme
  • 1 tbs. marjoram
  • 1/2 tbs. oregano
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 lbs. boneless lamb, cubed (you can also use beef, if preferred.  If so, use a roast cut)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. quick-cooking tapioca (optional for thickened gravy)

Preparation

Place first 8 ingredients in crock pot.  Pour chicken broth over all.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Sprinkle lamb cubes with salt and pepper.  Place in large skillet and cook until just beginning to brown on all sides.

Place browned lamb and mushrooms in crock pot.

Stir in tapioca.

Cook on low for an additional 3-4 hours until vegetables are tender and lamb is cooked through.

Serve with warm bread.

Sausage Hash

Posted by Becca On February - 11 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Looking for a dish that is super simple and inexpensive to make, warms your insides with its Cajun spice and comfort, and leaves amazing left-overs that can be quickly reheated throughout the week?  Well, look no more because this is your dish!  I think Andouille sausage is amazing for a number of reasons.  It is such a versatile protein that can be mixed with any number of veggies and/or starches (and other proteins) and you have an instant spicy Cajun delight.  It’s also pretty inexpensive, which is always a plus in my book.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 links Andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preparation

Over medium heat, saute the potatoes and onions in butter until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage, bell peppers, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and continue frying until the sausage is browned, about 5 minutes.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.

 

Green Chile and Pork Stew

Posted by Becca On February - 4 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

I love this dish for so many reasons.  Not only is it the epitome of comfort food, the slow heat of the green chiles in this dish make it something that will keep you warm and satisfied.  I also love it because the poblano peppers and jalapenos immediately take me back to the southwest where everything has that green chile flavor.

This meal is also perfect because all the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to work with.  It’s a recipe that requires very little prep time, fills your home with wonderful aromas all day, and is completely satisfying.  It also makes great leftovers so you can continue to enjoy it throughout the week.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 10 oz. package of frozen whole kernel corn
  • 3 poblano chile peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped (I like to include a few seeds for a little extra heat)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried crushed oregano
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise & cut into slices
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Preparation

In a large skillet, heat the cooking oil and brown the meat.  Drain off the fat.

Place potatoes, onions, frozen corn, poblano peppers, chopped jalapenos, garlic, salt, and oregano in a 5-6 quart slow cooker.  Place meat over vegetables.  Pour broth over all.

Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours (high heat 3-4 hours).

Stir in zucchini.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on high heat.

Stir in cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Red Beans & Rice

Posted by Becca On February - 8 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

I love Cajun food and could eat it at least once a week for the rest of my life.  There’s just something about the heat in the spices of Cajun that I find comforting.  It’s perfect on a cold night or on a hot day with a cold beer.  For years I had used boxed or bagged mixed when I made red beans and rice.  I had found some brands that I really loved (Tony Chachere or Mahatma) and still use when time is a concern but was very excited when I found this recipe and could make it from home-made.  The first time I made this, I had some left-over red beans with pork bone that I had made a few days before and decided to use them instead of the canned red beans.  However, in later versions, I have used canned red beans and it is still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Andouille sausage (chicken or pork; I have even used venison sausage)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 c. hot cooked rice

Preparation

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add sausage and onion mix to pan.  Saute 4 minutes.

Add Cajun seasoning, salt, oregano, and garlic to the pan.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Partially mash the beans with a fork.  Add beans, 1/4 cup of water, and tomatoes to pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat.  Stir in pepper.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Drinks

This is another dish that doesn’t totally work with a wine.  The heartiness of the beans, sausage, and rice demand something a little bolder – something like a nice German beer.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love German beers; I have not yet come across one that I don’t like.  My favorite beer for this dish is a Bitburger Premium.  This is a brewing company that has been family owned and continuously brewing since 1817 so they have had a little bit of time to perfect this amazingly delicious brew.

Music

When making Cajun food, what could possibly be better to listen to than a band straight out of Louisiana?  Dirtfoot is self-described as “the only Front Porch, Whiskey Swillin, Foot Stomping, Gypsy, Punk, Country, Grumble, Boogie band in the land.”  Once you hear their totally unique sound, you will realize that this is the absolute best description for their rollicking, growling, eclectic, incredibly dance-able music.  My favorite album to throw on is their first album, Entertain Me.

Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

Posted by Becca On January - 25 - 20113 COMMENTS

As I’ve mentioned before, I love mushrooms and could eat them every day.  I also love pasta dishes.  So when I found this recipe that combined both of my loves, I had to try it.  The original recipe called for a packaged mix of pre-sliced mushrooms called the “exotic mushroom blend” (shiitake, cremini, & oyster mushrooms).  The only thing my grocery store had that came close to this was the freeze-dried mushrooms that needed to be reconstituted, but they did have fresh baby bellas (also known as cremini) and fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I decided to go with the fresh mushrooms and, of course, was very happy with the results.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups  thinly sliced fresh shiitake & cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.  Cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.

Combine the mushroom mixture, pasta, whipping cream, cheese, and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat.

Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.

Drinks

This dish is is best described as “creamy goodness.”  To balance out the whipping cream and cheese combined with the earthiness of the fresh mushrooms, you need a wine that is subtle and sweet.  I like to turn to Master Plan Vineyard’s Chardonnay for this balance.  It has just a hint of oak that complements the fresh mushrooms beautifully and a moderate sweetness that reminds me of fresh apples or pears.

Music

I think that a creamy pasta dish should be a staple meal in every household across the country.  It’s something that is comforting and familiar.  This one adds a little twist to the standard by incorporating a variety of fresh mushrooms that are not always found in this type of dish.  Since it is something that I view as a staple with a twist, I like to put on an album that is, in my mind, a staple of the rock world: U2’s The Joshua Tree. It is one of the highest selling albums of all time, making it something familiar and comforting.  At the same time, though, I never fail to discover new and surprising things every time I hear it.

Crock-Pot Mac & Cheese

Posted by Becca On January - 18 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Mac & Cheese is an American classic that goes with everything.  Until I found this recipe, I had never made home-made mac & cheese.  I have avoided the preservative filled boxed mac & cheese for years & many of the recipes I had found for home-made either didn’t appeal to me or seemed to take too long.  This recipe, though, is perfect; it’s easy, takes very little prep-time, and is tasty beyond all reason.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded provolone (I like to use smoked provolone for added depth)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 cups dry elbow macaroni
  • 8 oz. sour cream

Preparation

Combine the cheddar, provolone, milk, cream, salt, pepper, and mustard in a 4-6 qt. slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 1 hour.

Stir in macaroni and sour cream.

Cover and cook on low-heat for an additional hour.

Cheesy Taco Stew

Posted by Becca On December - 29 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

During a recent trip to my in-laws, I watched my mother-in-law prepare a hearty stew for the current group of hunters she had visiting their deer lease.  I came in while she was already half-way through the process, so I didn’t get any information on the full “plan” for her stew.  On the way home, I contemplated the ingredients she was using & an idea for a quick, easy stew started coming to my mind.  I wanted something that was hearty & warm for the cold winter & combined my love of the flavors of the Southwest.  Thus, this recipe was born.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pkg. Goya Sazon with Coriander & Annatto (orange box)
  • 1 lb. ground beef (venison or buffalo works well, also)
  • 16 oz. 2% milk Velveeta cheese
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 7oz. cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans (partially drained)
  • 1 15 oz. can ranch beans  (partially drained)
  • 1/2 15 oz. can whole kernel sweet corn (drained)

Preparation

Taco Meat Preparation

Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place ground beef in skillet and sprinkle first seven ingredients over ground beef and mix well.  Brown the beef.

Stew Preparation

In a large stock pot, cut the Velveeta into 1 inch cubes.  Slowly melt over medium heat, stirring constantly.

When the cheese is completely melted, stir in the diced tomatoes and chopped green chilies and increase heat to medium-high.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the browned taco meat, black beans, ranch beans, and corn.  Stir well.

Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, and sliced avocados.

Drinks

A spicy, warm, filling stew calls for a beverage that can match it.  For this, I like to go to one of my all time favorite brewing companies: Samuel Adams.  One of the reasons I love this company so much is their seasonal brews.  There is a wide variety of them that change with the seasons and there is always something perfect for whatever mood you are in.  The perfect beer to balance out the spice of this stew is the Winter Lager.  It has a hint of the spices we all connect to the colder months and it matches the richness of the stew.

Music

This is a stew that had a very classic, predictable recipe as my jumping off-point: the basic queso.  But then, it takes a turn & became pure experiment (yet still remained incredibly comforting).  So it would seem only fitting that the perfect album to listen to while making it is one which begins as “familiar” but then turns on you…in a cozy sort of way.  The Tallest Man on Earth’s  (also known as singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson) album, The Wild Hunt first catches the listener with an incredibly familiar sound: Bob Dylan’s reedy voice and finger-picking guitar.  But then, he catches you by surprise by bringing a slightly modern twist to classic folk music.  It is an album that is simultaneously  soothing  and invigorating.


Mediterranean Chicken

Posted by Becca On September - 1 - 20102 COMMENTS

I got this recipe from one of my husband’s former co-workers who was also an avid home-chef.  It’s simple, quick, and very filling (oh, and it makes great leftovers…are we seeing a pattern yet?).  The sauce is creamy with just a hint of bite because of the feta, which balances very well with the basil, artichokes, and olives.  The sun-dried tomatoes give the dish just a touch of sweetness that rounds out this wonderfully delicious dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly torn
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup artichoke hearts in water, quartered and drained
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 6 oz. low fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fat free half & half
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation

Boil water for pasta and cook until tender

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Brown chicken until no longer pink – about 3-4 minutes.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to skillet. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add the basil, artichoke hearts, olives, and feta cheese to the skillet.  Saute for 1 minute then stir in the cream.

Strain the pasta and transfer to a large pasta bowl.  Add the chicken saute to the pasta and toss.  Season with oregano, salt and pepper before serving.

Drinks

I recently discovered an incredibly inexpensive wine that is really quite good (it’s made by the same folks who make Two-Buck Chuck) at Sprouts Farmers Market.  Crane Lake’s Chardonnay goes very well with this dish because it has just a hint of sweetness that complements the fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes and has a very smooth finish that goes well with the creaminess of the sauce.

Music

In the past, I have listened to a fairly wide array of albums while making this dish.  My current favorite album to throw on while making this yummy dish is the self-titled album released by the collaborative effort band, Broken Bells (composed of Danger Mouse & the lead singer of The Shins).  It’s an amazing album that, at times, seems inspired by some music from the early 80s (The Cure, Modern English, etc).  It’s great to listen to while making this dish because, while it is mellow & easy to groove to, it has some rather surprising moments that just sweeten up the whole experience.


Baked Chicken with Mushrooms

Posted by Becca On August - 9 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This dish is just plain old comfort food.  It is not even remotely difficult to make but does take a little time to cook.  None of the ingredients are expensive and, yet again, this meal makes excellent leftovers.  The paprika and thyme coating the chicken adds a nice savory flavor and the mushrooms mellow everything out.  Served with rice, this is a perfect meal for the whole family.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1-2 lbs chicken legs & thighs
  • 3/4 cup white cooking wine
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a shallow dish.  Stir in thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Lightly dredge the chicken pieces in flour, then swish both sides in the butter until coated.

Arrange the chicken pieces in a 13×9 baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees, turn the chicken pieces over, and add mushrooms and wine.

Cover the dish with foil and continue to bake for 30 minutes longer.

Serve with hot buttered rice.

Drinks

I really, really like anything that comes out of the Bogle Vineyards; every one of their wines is excellent.  For this dish, their Riesling is a perfect pair.  It has a nice combination of crisp and sweet with a hint of spice that goes very well with the hint of spice from the paprika in the chicken with the mellowness of the mushrooms.

Music

Classic comfort food makes me want to go back to some of my all time favorite musicians.  For this, there is no one more classic in my mind than the great Janis Joplin.  I have been an enormous fan of Ms. Joplin’s music for more years than I can remember.  I have always been moved by her ability to combine grit, sorrow, and exuberance into her music.  The Very Best of Janis Joplin is an excellent compilation album that truly has the “very best” of her work.