Monthly Archives: March 2009

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

food-1109Last weekend, we celebrated my Mom’s birthday with a 5-course dinner. I have cooked many meals for guests with various dishes, but have always served the dishes family-style. To make the birthday dinner a special event, I wanted to serve plated courses. Intimidating at first, I’ll tell you! I have never hosted a more formal dinner, not with more than dinner + dessert. When I first decided to do this, I wondered…how will I pull this off? I would need to serve certain courses that would require minimal “last-minute” cooking, so that I could play both “chef” and sit down at dinner and enjoy eating with my family.

After a few days of planning, I had the menu. I will admit, I was still a bit nervous, but planning was key. I scheduled out what to make ahead and when. Several dishes were make-ahead, and most were not dishes that would be ruined if they stayed on the burner for an additional minute or two. Here was the menu:

Amuse Bouche – Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan (the origins of this recipe are uncertain. I know I based it off of a recipe I found while searching around for appetizers/amuse bouches, but I cannot for the life of me find its origin.)

First Course – Rosemary Salt-Roasted Shrimp with Garlic Butter Sauce (recipe based on an Emeril LaGasse recipe)

Second Course – Masala Ginger Carrot Soup (I will post this recipe soon…stay tuned!)

Main Course – Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamed Potatoes (recipe based on a recipe from Simply Recipes http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004085braised_beef_short_ribs.php and a recipe from Tom Colicchio)

Dessert – Brownie Sundae (made with Black Bean Brownies – recipe based on a recipe from Ania Catalano)

The following recipe is for the Amuse Bouche. What is an Amuse Bouche? An Amuse Bouche, roughly translated from French as “mouth amuser”, is a one or two-bite hors d’oeurve served to the guests before the start of a meal. This dish was simple, and easy to prepare in advance. Of course, by increasing the quantity of ingredients, you could always turn it from an Amuse Bouche into a spring-y side dish. Oh, and how did the birthday dinner go? All in all, I was happy with the results of my planning. Mom was happy, and that’s ultimately what matters, right?

Thin asparagus spears (one per person)

Red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 t lemon zest

At least 2-3 ounce wedge of parmesan cheese

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet and lay asparagus and bell pepper on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss gently to coat.

 

Roast for 5-6 minutes, and turn over and roast 5-6 minutes more, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Sprinkle with lemon zest.

 

At this point, you can refrigerate until needed.

 

Using a vegetable peeler, shave large curls of parmesan cheese. Set aside.

 

When ready to assemble, cut the top 2 inches of each asparagus spear (including the tip). Reserve the rest of the stalks for another use. Gently insert each asparagus tip into a Parmesan curl. Garnish each curl with a strip of roasted red pepper. If desired, drizzle additional olive oil and serve.

 

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Filed under Appetizers, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

About

Well, I have been blogging for a while now, and I haven’t officially “introduced” myself. So, time for me to come out of hiding and say hello! I’ve created an About post, to hopefully give you additional insight into this blog and get to know me a bit better. So, here goes!

Hello and welcome to Tasty Eats At Home.  My name is Alta Mantsch, recipe writer, amateur food photographer, and self-proclaimed, self-taught, home-chef-in-training. I live north of Dallas, Texas, in a suburb that has one foot in suburban life and one foot in country life, with my wonderful husband John (the household taste-tester, guinea pig and occasional advisor), our two chihuahua mixes, and on a part-time basis, three amazing children. 

About Tasty Eats At Home:

Tasty Eats At Home was born in July 2008 out of a desire to share my recipes and learning experiences with food. Our household consists of two full-time employed adults that work out of the home. Like a great deal of families, we lead a busy, hectic lifestyle at times. This doesn’t mean that dinner has to be reduced to fast food, frozen dinners, or processed foods. With a little planning , organization and know-how, we can all eat more natural, unprocessed, healthy foods and whole ingredients. My goal is to share with you my experiences as I learn to cook from scratch, and perhaps we can all put a good, healthy dinner together even with lifestyle constraints, at least some of the time!

Most of the recipes are relatively easy to make, and call for ingredients that you can find in just about any grocery store. The recipes vary wildly, from various international cuisines, some gluten-free or vegetarian, and some are “good ol’ home cooking.” Many can be made in a weeknight, although I do have some that are more of a “Sunday afternoon” type of meal. A few are adapted or inspired by friends, family, websites, some of the blogs I regularly view, or magazine articles. If you have a recipe you’d like me to try and then post on this blog, by all means, send it my way! The more we share, the better we all eat, right?

food_11451About Alta:

For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a fascination for food and cooking. I remember as a child, in the kitchen with my mother, asking to help, and tasting carrots, onions, or tomatoes as I chopped them for a salad, asking about the necessity of various ingredients in chocolate chip cookie dough, and learning the meaning of “stiff, but not dry” when referring to egg whites whipped for an angel food cake. And when my father made his appearance in the kitchen, I learned the powerful impact that spices had on rounding out, or dramatically changing, the flavor of a dish. I didn’t grow up with extravagant meals by any stretch, but as a child, I learned that with a little creativity, a delicious meal can be had, even on a budget. That philosophy stays with me in the kitchen even today.

As a young adult, at first my meals mostly consisted of ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, or simply Special K for dinner. But once I tired of all of that, I attempted various dishes, and started to cook recipes from books. There were times when I called good ol’ Mom up to ask her questions (“Mom, what exactly is in your meatloaf? What about that goulash stuff you used to make for us?”) I give credit to those family members who were subjected to the results of my attempts at first. Although they were mostly successful, there were definitely a few nights of “less-than-pleasurable” eating.  But it wasn’t until fairly recently that I decided to venture outside of my “comfort zone” in the kitchen, and attempt to learn and build on my knowledge, and document those successful recipes along the way.

I have grown to have a deep love of food and cooking. I love to experiment, and there isn’t much that I don’t like to try at least once. Food and cooking, to me, has a way of bringing friends and family together, and should be a enjoyable experience. I hope I can share that joy with you as well. Besides, life is too short to eat fast food (or ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, or Special K) all the time!

If you’d like to contact me, feel free to email me at alta2924 at hotmail dot com. Look forward to hearing from you!

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Aunt Jan’s Salad

food-1033When I think of salads, Jell-O salads usually do not fall near the top of the list of favorites. For me, Jell-O salads conjure up memories of pot luck, barbeque lunches I attended with my parents when I was young. All of those times, the Jell-O salads were invariably some molded, jiggly phenomenon with bits of anemic-looking mystery fruit and vegetables. Not awful, but definitely not something I sought after. So when Aunt Jan (my husband’s aunt) sent me a recipe for a salad containing Jell-O in it, honestly, I was a bit skeptical. But after examining the ingredients, I realized that this was not the same type of salad at all, but instead something with a different texture and flavor all together. Rather than the Jell-O being the star ingredient, with a few bits of fruit floating throughout, the fruit is a substantial part of this salad.  Hmm, I thought…this could be good!

Aunt Jan’s original recipe calls for frozen cranberries. Since it’s March, I couldn’t seem to locate frozen cranberries. (I will have to try again next fall when cranberries are more common in the grocery stores.) So for my version of the recipe, I substituted frozen mixed berries, and I lowered the sugar content to compensate. What resulted was a sweet, but tasty salad. Our middle son, Brandan, ate two helpings and asked to take some home to his Mom’s…a success in my book! And although I can’t say this is one of my favorites, I did find myself sneaking spoonfuls of it quite a bit! The crunch of the apples and celery definitely give it a unique texture I found to be pretty tasty. Thanks, Aunt Jan, and sorry to be skeptical at first! A delicious treat indeed!

2 boxes strawberry Jell-O (can use sugar free)

2 c hot water

1 lb frozen strawberries or mixed berries

1/3 c agave syrup (or sugar)

3 oranges, zested and juiced

1 c chopped celery

1 c chopped apples, such as Granny Smith

1 c chopped pecans

 

Mix the Jell-O with the hot water until dissolved, let set until thickened.

 

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, mix frozen berries and agave syrup or sugar.

 

Stir together orange zest, orange juice, celery, apples, pecans, and berry mixture. Mix with Jell-O, and cool 4 hours or until set. Stir to mix and serve.

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Filed under Desserts, Gluten-Free, Salads

Black Bean Soup

food-1030This is an updated version of an older post, as this time around I took some pictures and improved a bit on the recipe. I love black beans, and this recipe is no exception. You can choose to make it with dried beans or canned beans. With dried beans, simply soak overnight, change the water, and simmer for 2 hours or until tender. Then proceed as directed. Once the beans are cooked, this recipe only takes about 30 minutes to prepare. It’s also a low-cost, filling meal, so it’s great for feeding the family. The kids love it too, as you can dress it up however you like. I served it up with plenty of tortillas, tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa, steamed corn, cilantro…but the possibilities are nearly endless.

5 slices bacon, finely chopped

½ onion, finely chopped (save 1/3 for garnish)

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

2 T sherry

1 can tomato sauce

½ t Worcestershire

2 T cumin

1 T chili powder

1 T dried oregano

1-2 c chicken broth

Black beans, cooked (1 lb dried, cooked, or 3 cans)

Salt to taste

 

 

Garnishes:

Cilantro

Sour cream

Cheddar

Diced onions

Diced tomatoes

Corn

 

Heat a large, heavy stockpot to medium-high heat. Cook bacon in stockpot, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6-7 minutes. Stir in onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are tender, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno, cook another minute. Add sherry to deglaze, stir and let cook down until almost dry. Then stir in broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Stir in beans, bring to boil. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree soup. (Alternatively, let soup cool and using a blender, puree in batches.) You can puree to as smooth of a consistency as you desire. (I left a few beans whole just for texture) Adjust seasonings and broth amount, if needed. Simmer 10-15 minutes more and serve with garnishes.

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Filed under Beans, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Soups

Avgolemono (Greek Lemon and Egg Soup)

food-993So now that you’ve made Angel Food Cake, what do you do with all those leftover egg yolks, exactly? Well, I wondered the same thing. A really dense omelet? Nah. Ice cream? Well, for the past few days it has been 35-40 degrees and raining, so I’m not exactly craving ice cream. I got to searching, and this soup was a perfect, easy solution. Not to mention it was something that was very inexpensive, and I had all of the ingredients at home already. Sounds like the winner!

I have never tried this soup prior to creating it here at home, although I had heard of it and could imagine the creamy feel of it in my mouth. After reading a bit about it, many also add cooked chicken to this soup, and some make it with whole eggs rather than just egg yolks. But the core ingredients are the same…chicken broth, eggs, and lemon. It’s a tasty, simple dish that’s perfect as a first course, or as I did, an accompaniment to a big salad.

This recipe is based off a recipe from Barbara Kafta’s “Soup: A Way of Life.” I found it through epicurious.com, although a book entirely devoted to soup sounds intriguing…I might just have to seek that out!

6 c chicken stock

1 c orzo

12 egg yolks

2/3 c fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh parsley

 

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Stir in the orzo and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest together in a large bowl.

When the rice is tender, slowly ladle half of the hot broth into the yolks to temper them, whisking constantly. (this is done to prevent curdling of the eggs) Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the broth and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, just long enough to thicken the soup. Do not boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh parsley over and serve. Makes 6 servings.

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Filed under Eggs, Gluten-Free, Soups

Angel Food Cake

food-1012The other day, when I visited Jacob’s Reward Farm to pick up my order of fresh eggs, Cindy proposed an idea to me. What if we got together and created an egg recipe collection to share with the egg customers? My first thought was “Wow, that sounds cool!” and then, immediately, my second thought was “Egg recipes? I don’t have hardly any egg recipes. Uh oh…” I mean, I eat eggs, I love them! But I don’t have any recipes, I pretty much just throw stuff together in the morning, bleary-eyed and clutching my cup of coffee. I have a few variations on the “eggs for breakfast” theme, but it’s so routine to me that in my mind, they aren’t recipes. So, needless to say, as excited and flattered as I was (Cindy asked me to help with a recipe book!!! How exciting is that?), I was a bit nervous as to what to do!

But as I got to brainstorming, I realized that first of all, sometimes those recipes that I just “throw together” are those that might benefit everyone the most! And second of all, I was being too narrow-minded. I use eggs in non-breakfast recipes! Duh…I just wasn’t thinking. The first “recipe” that came to my mind, once the gears started turning, was angel food cake.

When I was little, I didn’t like cake all that much. I know what you’re thinking…a child that doesn’t like cake? What is wrong with that child!?!? But boy, I loved angel food cake. For my birthday every year, my mother would bake me an angel food cake. Sometimes plain, sometimes with a lemony glaze, and sometimes with marschino cherries throughout the cake itself. Simple, not too sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. And it’s almost like it’s not bad for you…as far as cakes go, this one is relatively low-calorie and low in fat. Not health food, exactly, but it’s enough for me to justify eating a big, fat piece!

So here you go, a sneak peek into the Jacob’s Reward Farm egg recipe collection (that is not the official name, by the way…we haven’t gotten that far!). This recipe is based off of my mother’s angel food cake recipe and one I found from Alton Brown. It is best with fresh eggs, as they will separate easier. Save the egg yolks for another dish…they should keep for a day or two in the fridge. I’ve heard you can also freeze them, although I have not tried.

1 3/4 c sugar (I used turbinado sugar, as it was all I had in the house)

1/4 t salt

1 c cake flour, sifted

12 egg whites, room temperature

1/3 c warm water

1 t almond extract

1 1/2 t cream of tartar

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

In a food processor, spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt and the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.

 

In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, almond extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved peaks that are stiff, but not dry, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Use a spatula fold in gently. Repeat this process until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.

 

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 30 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

 

Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.

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Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Eggs

Corned Beef and Cabbage

corned-beef-and-cabbageI am not Irish, but I appreciate the simplicity (and inexpensive nature) of this dish. So, I’ll pretend I’m Irish for a day, and prepare an Irish dinner, since St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner and all. Actually, much of what I have read has stated that corned beef and cabbage, although it is eaten in Ireland from time to time, is not nearly as popular there as it is here in the United States around this time of year. Well, perhaps it’s not an “Irish National Dish”, but it’s still enjoyable to me. An added bonus: it is easy to make. Relatively little preparation or stand-up time in the kitchen makes this a good meal to serve when you have other weekend chores to attend to, or just want to relax a bit.

What is corned beef, exactly? Corned beef is a beef brisket that has been “corned”, meaning that it has been cured or pickled with a seasoned brine. The “corning” means that it has coarse grains of salt and peppercorns on it. This curing process will make for a yummy broth.

3-4 lb corned beef

7-8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks, divided

1 large onion, quartered

1 t dry mustard

1 large sprig fresh thyme and 3-4 parsley stalks, tied together

1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks

6-7 small Yukon gold or red potatoes, scrubbed

1 cabbage, cored and cut into 8 wedges

Freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Place the corned beef, half of the carrots, the onion, dry mustard, the herbs and dry mustard in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

 

Add the remaining carrots, turnip, potatoes, and cabbage. Add additional water to cover if necessary. Cook for another 45 minutes to an hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

 

Serve the corned beef in slices, surrounded by the vegetables and cooking liquid. Serve with coarse-grained mustard.

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Filed under Beef, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes