Thursday, April 15, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

This was our meat free meal for the week and it was a hit! My 5 year old finished his first bowl in 4 minutes flat, asked for another bowl, which he finished in 6 minutes, and then informed me that he wanted it for lunch the next day. My children NEVER ask for leftovers. I'm usually the only person in my family who will eat them and as such, they typically last at least a week or until they have to be thrown away.

This soup was inexpensive, hearty, and relatively quick to put together. Cleaning the leeks takes a little longer than cleaning, say a cucumber, but aside from that, it's pretty fast. The leek flavor is pretty subtle. If you didn't know there was leek in it, it mostly tastes like cream of potato soup. But if you know it's there, it lends a nice subtle flavor that I really love. The only complaint I had was from my husband who said he wished it weren't quite as creamy. I did blend it pretty well with my immersion blender. But that's easily remedied by not blending it as much, or setting some aside before you blend it up. Either way you like it, it's good soup.

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes
Feeds 6

3 leeks, cut in half, and thinly sliced (only use the white and light green parts of the leek; cleaning instructions here)
1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
4 cups diced potatoes
1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
1-2 cups cream (I only used 1 1/2 cups and I used milk to cut down on the calories. The more milk you use, the more potato and leek flavor you'll lose)
Thyme (optional)

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and add leeks and onion. Saute until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add some salt and pepper.

2. Add the potatoes and continue to saute, for a couple minutes.

3. Add the chicken stock and season with more salt and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil, and simmer, until the potatoes are tender.

5. Remove from heat, and using an immersion blender, blend soup until it's creamy or has reached your desired consistency. Alternately, set aside 1-2 cups of soup and blend the rest. Then add the reserved chunky soup back in.

6. Return to heat, and with heat on low, stir in cream and thyme. Add any additional salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April Fool's Cupcakes-- Mock TV Dinner

I mentioned that I've been searching for excuses to make cupcakes from my "Hello Cupcake" book and April Fool's Day lent itself the perfect opportunity. I had family in town, a dessert to make for Dinner Group and and willing helper in my brother. Only problem was that we couldn't decide which "fake out" cupcakes to make. So, the logical solution was to make two! We had so much fun putting these together and I was delighted with how they turned out. Often times, things simply aren't as cute as they are in a book or pictures... but I thought ours turned out just as cute. They were easy to make and the final product made them even more worth doing. I love how they turned out! I'll post the mock "spaghetti" cupcakes later this week.

TV Dinner Cupcakes
Serves 6

Supplies Needed:

1 aluminum muffin tray, with 6 spots
6 cupcakes, baked in foil liners
white frosting (at least 1 container)
green food coloring
3-4 Orange fruit chews (Starbursts, Tootsie Fruit Rolls), cut into 1/4 inch cubes
Green hard candies, such as Runts or Skittles (I liked the Runts best)
1/4 cup white melting chocolate
1 c crushed cornflakes
3 plain donut holes
1 Yellow Fruit Chew (Starburst, Toosie Fruit Rolls, Laffy Taffy), cut into a 1 inch cube
Caramel Sauce, slightly warmed for easier pouring
2-3 Tbsp. Chocolate frosting
Colored Sprinkles or Jimmies

For the Vegetables:

1. Tint about 2-3 Tbsp. of the white frosting bright green and frost 1 cupcake with the green frosting. Arrange cut up orange fruit chews and green hard candies on top, to look like peas and carrots.
For the Mashed Potatoes:

1. Frost 1 cupcake with white frosting, mounding slightly on top, and making a small well on top with a spoon.

2. Drop the yellow Starburst at an angle in the well, and pour heated caramel sauce over the frosting and Starburst, allowing it to drip down the sides, to look like gravy.

For the Dessert Cupcake:

1. Frost or Pipe chocolate frosting on top of one cupcake. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles or jimmies.

For the Chicken Legs:

1. Draw yourself a bone template. (I'll try to get my template up at some point. In the meantime, draw a long, skinny rectangle. Then place a heart on top of it, and a small triangle and the bottom. That should give you your basic shape.) Place it on a cookie sheet and cover with a piece of wax paper. Melt the white chocolate wafers in a small freezer duty Ziploc bag. Microwave in 20-30 second intervals, massaging the bag after each time. Repeat the process until the chocolate is completely smooth.

2. Press the air out of the bag, seal it, and snip a small corner form the bag, making yourself a piping bag. Pipe the bone outline onto the wax paper. Fill in the outline with the chocolate and tap the pan lightly to smooth the top of the chocolate. Repeat and make at least 3 bones, although I recommend making more, in case you break one. Refrigerate bones, until firm.

3. Lightly frost 3 cupcakes with white frosting.

4. Frost the donut holes with white frosting and place on top of the cupcakes. Now using the white frosting, frost around the donut holes to make smooth, rounded surface that tapers slightly at the top. (It's hard to describe... but you want to use the frosting to give the cupcake with donut hole on top the look of a chicken drumstick.)

5. Pour crushed cornflakes into a shallow bowl. Press donut topped cupcakes into the cornflakes, covering completely. Do this carefully. As I turned my cupcake sideways, my donut hole started to slide off. You may have to sprinkle the cornflakes over the top of the cupcake and lightly press it into the frosting with your hands. Place the cupcakes in the aluminum tray.

6. With a very sharp knife, make a slit along the top of the donut hole. It needs to be deep enough and wide enough for the chocolate bone to slide into at least 1/2 an inch. Carefully insert the chocolate bones into the slit you've made. I found this to be the trickiest part of the all the cupcakes. Once I slid in the chocolate, my cupcake started to collapse a bit. I had to use some extra cornflakes to hide the damage. But it worked!