Oct 3, 2015

Lentil Soup

This easy and healthy soup comes from Giada De Laurentiis.

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
11 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs (I just used about a half teaspoon dried ground thyme)
2/3 cup dried elbow pasta
1 cup shredded Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Oct 2, 2015

Beef Stew

I'm over 50 and this is the first time I've made beef stew. In fact, I believe that it's the first time I've ever eaten beef stew. It won't be the last. Adapted from a recipe by long-time New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne.

4 pounds lean, boneless chuck steak
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
6 tablespoons flour
4 cups dry red wine (I used about two cups)
2 cups water (I used one can beef broth)
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 sprigs parsley, tied in a bundle
6 large carrots, about 1 1/2 pounds, trimmed and scraped
6 red potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
1 package sliced mushrooms (optional)

Cut the meat into two-inch cubes. Using a large skillet, heat the oil and add the beef cubes in one layer. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring and turning the pieces often, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat the meat evenly. Add the wine and stir until the mixture boils and thickens. Stir in the water. Add the cloves, bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Cover closely and simmer for one hour. Meanwhile, cut the carrots into one-inch lengths. If the pieces are very large, cut them in half lengthwise. Add them to the beef. Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Serve the stew sprinkled with chopped parsley. Can serve over buttered noodles.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

I made strawberry freezer jam for the first time this year, thanks to a recipe from my friend Angie. So easy to make, and it's wonderful on toast, English muffins, etc. Angie says she usually triples the batch, so that's what I did.

1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled
4 cups granulated sugar
1 (1.75 ounce) package dry pectin
3/4 cup water

Mash or put 1 quart fruit in a food processor and blend to desired consistency, depending on whether you like your jam smooth or chunky). Pour 2 cups of mashed fruit in a large bowl and mix in 4 cups sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes. While it sits, whisk 1 pkg. fruit pectin into 3/4 cup water in a small pot on the stove. Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir one minute. Then pour pectin mixture into fruit mixture and stir for 3 minutes until sugar is all but dissolved. Ladle into jars/containers, leaving about a half inch at the top for expansion. Screw on lids and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Then freeze. Will last 3 weeks in the fridge or one year frozen. Makes 5 8-oz. jars.