Potatoes Au Gratin featuring Farm Fromage Cheese!

This was a pretty jam packed episode!  Find out why before you continue reading:

First of all, let me apologize for my poor French.  I just cannot grasp the French tongue!  Italian, I’ve got that down.  Meanwhile, my dad won the award for best French speaker in all of Manhattan School of Music, so we had a few funny exchanges when he was trying to teach me how to say au gratin!  I kept saying gra-TA like you would in Italian.. but the “ta” is more nasal, in the back of your throat.  Therefore, I obviously had to make a joke about it!  Here’s the link so you can have an electronic voice show you how it’s done.. http://www.howdoyousaythatword.com/word/au-gratin/

Even though I’m not the best at French, at least I tried!  I’m Greek and cannot stand when people call a “gyro” a “gyro”.  It’s pronounced “hyero”, not “gyro!”

End rant. Moving on! 🙂

I messaged Farm Fromage and asked if I could show off their cheese with a recipe. I love cheese! The cheese arrived two days later and it felt like Christmas came early. I’m being completely honest with you when I say I can taste the freshness.  It absolutely tastes different than store bought cheese. It’s smooth, creamy, melts in your mouth, is full of flavor! Great by itself, with an apple, or some wine! No additives. Handmade. Fresh cow and goat milk. And I love that this company is helping distribute the cheese that would normally have never left the farm!  Many of their farmers are old order Amish, so obviously, without cars or computers, their way of life makes it a bit hard to sell their delicious product. Great prices, vast selection, fast delivery, PERFECT for the holiday season!  You know you’re going to make a cheese platter, so why not try their cheese?! You can call or email them to place an order.  And let them know you heard about their company from me!

http://farmfromage.wpengine.com/

Image

Now, on to the recipe which is such a simple, low budget, quick, perfect potato dish for Thanksgiving!

You’ll need:

4 russet potatoes

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon olive oil (to coat the pan, or you can use butter if you’d prefer)

1 tsp salt and pepper (with extra black pepper, because it’s amazing with more but some people aren’t into that)

1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar (or your cheese of choice)

2 tablespoons of diced chives or scallions

Put your oven on 350°.

Wash your potatoes well before cutting. No one wants a cracked tooth on Thanksgiving! Seriously, dirt can actually do that. (In general, anything that comes out of the ground, SCRUB IT before cooking!)

Cut into bite sized pieces.  Dice your onion.

In a large bowl, whisk the salt, pepper, milk, heavy cream, flour, and only half of a cup of the cheese. If you wanted to add some herbs in here, go for it!  Maybe some parsley or thyme?  Yum. Why didn’t I think of that earlier… ach! Add your potatoes and onions. Mix. Add extra black pepper if you’d like! Coat a baking pan with olive oil or butter. Throw in your mixture. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Dice up your scallions or chives so they are ready to put on the potatoes.

Take the potatoes out. Mix up a bit, then leave it uncovered and bake for another 20 minutes. Take them out when you can stick a fork through them easily.

Throw the chives or scallions on top and finish with the rest of the grated cheese! Put back in your oven, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and maybe a touch brown on top.

Voila!  Easy as pie. Or, at least, easier than the pie you’ll probably be making on Thursday…

IMG_6806 IMG_6809

GUYS! Christmas is exactly a month away! YAY! Bring on the Christmas recipes….

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! Be thankful not just on Thursday, but every single day for what you have. Do you have food on your table every night? Sleep under a roof in a warm bed? Have someone you can’t live without? You never know when it will slip right through your fingers. Never take anything for granted. The more you make yourself aware of the positive aspects in your life, the more the negative ones will quickly fall out of your life.  Positive attracts positive!

Okay now that that’s all said and done, I have a confession…

I hate Thanksgiving food. (Stop laughing.) My friend Mike thinks I’m crazy. He loves food in general, but Thanksgiving food, he waits all year for. We’ve argued about this more than once over the last few years. Part of it has to do with you always end up feeling overly full and I hate that feeling!  Another part probably has to do with the fact that I never throw up, but one year, on our way home from grandma’s when I was around 10 years old, I said, “QUICK PULL OVER!” … and well you can imagine what happened next. I really don’t like turkey, so that’s kind of the biggest factor right there! Not a fan of stuffing or green bean casserole. Which is why I made up my own green bean recipe this year!  Check that out here…

Cranberry sauce? Not my fav. Apple pie? Eh. Which is why I made up my own apple pie recipe! (It’s all making sense now isn’t it…)

Butternut Squash soup? I made one that’s different and exciting!

The only thing I generally look forward to on Thanksgiving is this:

Enjoy the holiday with family, friends and lots of yummy food! Namaste, my friends!

Chef Stef

Advertisements

2 Butternut Squash Soup Recipes: A Sweet and A Savory!

MMMM… who doesn’t love this warm, delicious soup on a crisp, fall day? Watch this 3 minute and 45 second video to see my savory recipe with an awesomely unexpected ‘twist’!

So let’s begin with, up until recently, I wasn’t too experienced with this soup.  I’ve never tasted it and thought, “OH MY GOSH THIS IS AMAZING I MUST LEARN HOW TO MAKE THIS!”  I’m more of a chicken soup kind of gal. But, I am very aware that most people love this soup!  So I sat and thought to myself, what spice could I throw in that would make me fall in love? My first thought hit me like a meteor falling out of the sky.  Rosemary. I asked my mom for her opinion and she said, “I don’t think that would work, but, try it anyway!” Obviously since it’s in my recipe, I tried it, loved it, and the rest is history.  Then I was looking in my fridge and thinking, what could set my recipe apart from the rest?  I hadn’t seen any recipes with rosemary, but that wasn’t enough.  I had to find something else.  A lime?  Nah.  No, wait… maybe…?! Tried it, loved it, and voila, video made. It really does add an interesting tangy twist.  The savory rosemary makes your tummy feel warm and its blend with the squash tastes like they should have been married a long time ago! My family loved it, and needless to say, they’ve decided it will be our Thanksgiving appetizer this year!

Ingredients:

Tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper

4 cups of chicken broth (you can buy the low sodium if you’d prefer)

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp of fresh rosemary, chopped

3 pounds of butternut squash

1 lime (*TWIST INGREDIENT!* … get it?)

Ready to see how simple this is?  you can also make it in a crock pot if you’d like!

When you buy the squash, you can look for the ones that are pre cut and ready to be cooked.  Or, you can buy a whole one, but if you do, keep in mind you’ll have to peel it and take the seeds out and then cut it. This is the cheaper route, but when it’s only a few cents difference, you can be the judge of if you can spare the extra few minutes to do the work.  I’m usually all about paying less and doing a bit more work, but I noticed the price isn’t much different between these two, so heck yeah I’m taking the easier route! It’s all about saving money and making cooking EASY!!! (Tip: Stop buying pre grated cheese. Buy a block of cheese, grate the entire thing and put in baggies. You’ll save a crazy amount of money.)

Cut the squash in medium sized cubes.

In a large pot, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil. Add in your onions and rosemary. Mix together and cook until the onions are translucent. You won’t believe the aroma that will fill your kitchen from the rosemary! Add in your squash and chicken broth. Unlike what I did in the video (oops), you’ll splash less if you add the squash first, then the broth.

Cook on medium heat until the squash is tender.  It should be around 10 minutes.  If you can easily stick a fork through it, they’re ready.

The next step is to turn the squash into something a bit more soupy.  So, it depends on what you have in your kitchen.  Food processor, blender, potato masher, even a magic bullet! (A magic bullet would take a while, but hey, it would work!) If you don’t have something electric, you can use a potato masher, your soup just won’t be completely pureed. Still delicious though!  Spoon out the squash and put it in whatever you’re going to use.  You can put a little bit of the juice in the blender to give it some liquid to mix up with the squash, but for the most part, drain the juices.

Put your squash back in your pot.  Mix with the chicken broth. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Now, the lime is up to you.  Of course, it’s optional, but I still think you should try it!  If you are hesitant, just throw a splash in.  If you love it, add a little more!  I wouldn’t squeeze more than a half of one though. You don’t want your guests to be squinting their eyes at you because the soup is sour! 😉 Another option, don’t add any lime at all to the soup, but garnish each bowl with a slice of lime, as I do in the picture.  Or, if you’re not being formal, just leave half the lime on a plate on the table and let everyone squeeze for themselves! I know some people are picky eaters.

If you watch the video and decide you’d like a thicker soup, add less chicken broth when you make yours!  Maybe only 3 cups instead of 4.

Garnish with a few sprigs of rosemary and you’re all set! You can let it stay warm in your pot or your crock pot for as long as you need.  If you’re cooking a bunch of different things, I would suggest making this first since it’s simple and can sit there for a few hours.

IMG_6785

———————————————–

Now for the simple, sweet version… watch the 3 minute and 26 second video first!

You’ll need:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 green apple

4 cups of chicken broth

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 tsp of salt

1/4 cup of brown sugar

3 pounds of butternut squash

Same rules apply with the squash.  Cut up the squash in medium sized pieces, then peel the apple and cut it up as well.

In large pot, add olive oil and onions.  Cook until translucent. Add apples and squash. Pour in chicken broth.

IMG_6789

After cooking for about 10 minutes, repeat the same process of pureeing the apples and squash (refer to a few paragraphs above) either in a blender, processor, magic bullet or use a potato masher.

Add back into your pot and mix together with the chicken broth. Add salt, nutmeg and brown sugar. Mix and simmer. Sprinkle with nutmeg. All done!

IMG_6794

Keep it classy,

Chef Stef

Apple Pie PhiladelPhyllo

Fall means apple season!!! You know the saying about an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well, the saying originated in 1866 and was actually, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Do you know why? Apples are loaded with vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, iron and calcium! They cleanse and detoxify and help ward off skin diseases, intestinal disorders, heart disease and respiratory diseases! One way you can start eating more apples is by making this recipe… Just don’t think about the sugar and butter when you’re making it 😉 Ready for what will be your new apple pie obsession? I give you… Apple Pie PhiladelPhyllo!

It’s flaky, light and not too sweet!  It can be breakfast or dessert! Chef Grandma and I tried many different combos including apples with peanut butter and apples with graham crackers, but we decided the cream cheese was best.  Not gonna lie, this was big for me. I’ve made up recipes since I was a teenager for cooking, but never anything for baking! I’m so very proud of it. As you saw in the video, my recipe was inspired by my mom’s baklava. She makes the best! I’m not a big fan of the typical, thick apple pie crust, I’d rather have the phyllo mixed in with the apple mixture!  So, voila.  Now you have Apple Pie PhiladelPhyllo! Yum.

Run to the grocery. Right now. And buy…

For the apple mixture:

4 Apples

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup of light brown sugar

For the “crust”:

1 package of phyllo dough

1 cup of butter

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 cup of light brown sugar

6 tablespoons of cream cheese

It may look like a long list of ingredients, but it’s actually only 7! And aside from the phyllo dough, they are probably all ingredients you already have in your kitchen!  These measurements are to make the recipe in a 9 inch round pan.  If you want to make more than 6-8 servings I have two options for you.

1. Double the recipe and make it in 2 9 inch pans.  I’m sure you have 2 because you would use 2 to make a cake..

IMG_6756

2. Double the recipe and make it in a 9×13 pan.  Then cut them into small squares and place each in a cupcake tin. Perfect for parties! (Sorry I forgot to take a pic after they were cut!)

20131114_124312

Your first step is to peel your apples and cut them into semi small pieces.  In a saucepan, mix your cup of water, and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar. When it boils, add the apples. Then the teaspoon of cinnamon and salt. Let that simmer.

Set your oven to 350°.

In a smaller frying pan, melt 1/2 of a cup (1 stick) of butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. When it is all melted together, put into a small bowl. Warning: your house will smell like a mall. You know… that amazing smell of Auntie Anne’s buttery cinnamon sugar pretzels wafting through every store in the mall that I swear I think they pump through the vents…

Unroll your phyllo dough.  Use a bit of the butter mixture to coat the bottom of your baking pan, whether it’s the 8 inch round or the 9×13.

If you’ve never used phyllo before, don’t be afraid! It’s not as difficult to work with as most people make it seem. Watch the video to see how to layer it.  If it rips, no worries, just piece it together like a puzzle! It all just meshes in together when it bakes, so you really can’t go wrong! Just don’t leave it sitting out.  Do not unwrap it until you’re ready to use. It will start to dry out.

Place 2 layers of phyllo in your pan.  After every 2 sheets that you put in your pan, use a pastry brush to butter that layer. The brown sugar will settle to the bottom of your butter mixture, so make sure you stir it.

After placing 8 sheets, add your first layer of apples.  Use 1/3 of your apple mixture.  Try to scoop out only the apples, not the juice.

Now add 4 sheets, again buttering after every 2 sheets. Next, add another layer of your apple mixture.  Use about 3 tablespoons of your cream cheese and cut in small slices. Place evenly on top of the apples. It’s easiest when the cream cheese is cold.

Add another 4 layers, buttering the 2nd and 4th layer.  If you are running low on butter, melt the other 1/2 cup and add it into the mixture you already have. Add your final layer of apples and the remainder of your cream cheese.

Add your final 6 layers, buttering every other layer. Watch the video at 8:00 to see how to make the final layers into a beautiful design! Be sure to also brush the top.

IMG_6760

That’s all!  It may look difficult when you read it, but it’s really not, it’s just a pattern. Honestly, if you want to make 8 layers on the top instead of 6, go for it.  The amount of phyllo won’t hurt the recipe, I just wouldn’t suggest putting any less than what I said.

It really is seriously delicious and if you’re looking for a new apple pie recipe, then PERFECT!  Please let me know if you make it and love it!

Keep it classy,

Chef Stef

IMG_6763IMG_6765

Chicken Thighs with Garlic, Thyme and Lemon

So, once upon a time, when I went to buy my weeks supply of chicken breasts at the grocery, I saw a giant package of chicken thighs and thought, “These are so cheap, but what could I do with all thighs?”  Watch the video, find out what I came up with, and then continue to read below!

As you just saw, it’s pretty simple!  I’ve made it for a party of 9, and I’ve also only made 2 for myself.  It’s a good thing to learn how to season and prepare meat.  That goes for any type of meat! It’s a good skill to have and the sooner you learn it, the sooner your food will taste even more delicious!

I got the idea from my grandma, who has a vague memory of a recipe from her mother of how to make lemon chicken thighs.  The skin is always so crispy and the meat is so tender, but every time she makes it, she complains, “It doesn’t taste like my mothers.”  I’m serious people.  The most important piece of information you can take away from this blog post is, write down recipes from your elders.  Especially recipes that they know from their elders!  Even videotape it for prosperity!  I promise one day you’ll be so thankful you did.

Ingredients:

6 Chicken Thighs (make 1-2 per person)

1 lemon, or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

Head of garlic

Olive Oil

Salt/Pepper

Thyme Seasoning (about 2 tablespoons)

3 Carrots

6 Tomatoes

1 lb. Pasta (if making a different side dish, go for it!!)

Directions:

1. Set oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut up your tomatoes and carrots. Cut the carrots lengthwise, and then in thirds.  Or, you can buy baby carrots and save the step of cutting them up.  The tomatoes, you can cut in quarters.  Lay them on one half of your baking tray.  Or, if you want to make more of the vegetable, you can use any veggie you want, cut them up and put them in a separate tray.  Fill the entire tray!  You can use eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, carrots…whatever you can think of to make an awesome tray of roasted veggies!!

3. We need to take the moisture out of the skin on the chicken by patting each thigh with paper towels. By doing this, the skin will be crispier. No need to rinse off the chicken. It is a common old practice that began because people believed it was a way to wash off bacteria. However, the USDA has stated that when you cook your chicken, all of the bacteria will die off.  So, you can save yourself the time of washing off chicken.  It will also save your sink, faucet and countertops from being splashed with bacteria! (Here’s the link to the info I found on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/2ceaa425-0488-4e86-a397-e2d9c470fc4a/Washing_Food.pdf?MOD=AJPERES)

4. Now, we season the chicken. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on the thighs.  Adjust accordingly if you’re making more! Drizzle a tablespoon of lemon. Add about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Use your fingers to rub the seasoning into the chicken. Cover your chicken with the thyme, about one tablespoon, but feel free to use more! Gently press the thyme into the skin with your fingers.

5. Season your veggies.  Use the same seasonings.. the thyme, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Make a light coating.

6.  Time to get cookin’!  (Haha, see what I did there?)  Put up your pasta pot if you’re making the pasta as a side. Take out the biggest frying pan you own. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Mince or crush 1 clove of garlic per chicken breast you’re cooking.  Cook the garlic for a minute.  Add a teaspoon or 2 of lemon juice.

7. Be cautious when you put the chicken in the hot oil.  To be safe, I always put my flame on low when I put anything into a hot pan that has oil in it.  It really doesn’t feel good when the tiniest little drops of oil splash out onto your arms!!  Place the chicken on the pan, seasoning side down.  Once they are all in, put your flame back up to medium.  Season the naked side.  Cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes, then turn over.  Cook another 3 minutes.

8. When your pot is boiling, you can put your pasta in.  No need to worry about timing it just right with the chicken.  We need to cook it and then when the chicken is almost ready, we will prepare it. Whenever it’s done cooking, drain and put it back in the pot you cooked it in. Drizzle with olive oil so it doesn’t stick.  Or, if you prefer, you can use butter.

9.  Place your chicken on your baking tray.  Spoon the juices out of the pan and pour some over the chicken and some over the veggies.  (Don’t wash this pan yet!) Place in the oven for about 25 minutes.  If you have a thermometer, they are done when they are between 165-180°.  Or, you can stick a fork in them and if the juices run out clear, they are ready!

IMG_6682

10.  When the chicken has 5 minutes left to cook, use the frying pan you cooked the chicken in and add another tablespoon of olive oil.  Crush more cloves (about 3) of garlic and cook until slightly brown. Add seasoning. The first time I made this, I had fresh basil in the house and it was absolutely delicious.  If you don’t have any, you can use the thyme again, it will still taste great! Add your pasta and mix it around with the oil.  Then, leave it on medium heat and let the pasta fry up.  It turns into crispy pasta, and honestly, it’s SO addicting.  If I ever have leftover pasta, I usually head it up by throwing it in a pan and doing this trick!  Love it.

11.  When your tray comes out of the oven, you can put pasta on the plates and put the roasted tomatoes on top (which is why the basil tastes amazing… oil, pasta, basil and tomatoes, yum) with your chicken and carrots on the side.  Add grated cheese!!

IMG_6690

I loved this enough to make a video out of it.  I’m sure you’ll love it too!  It’s always good to mix it up to excite your taste buds!  I definitely think they get bored sometimes. Ever notice that something you made the same way you always do doesn’t taste as good?  I’m convinced… it’s because your taste buds are bored 🙂

Enjoy! Have a great week!

Chef Stef