HMMW: Tortellini and Kale Soup

Processed with RookieI’m quickly reaching the point where our freezer is full of all the extra soups I have made in the past few months. Seriously. Our freezer is filled with chicken noodle soup, Quebec dumpling soup, split-pea soup, winter greens soup and now, I just added a container of tortellini soup. It’s getting out of hand. The problem is that each week, I think I will just eat the soup we have in the freezer. Then I find a new recipe and change my mind. I appear to have a soup addiction now.

Tortellini and Kale Soup

This week, I found a recipe for tortellini and kale soup. It had been buried in my Pinterest board for a long while and I thought it was a good time to finally try it. For some reason, although I wanted to make it, I expected it to be bland. Not sure why. Well, it certainly wasn’t! This was one of the tastiest soups I have made in a long while! I used this recipe from MyFitnessPal.

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Now, Jeff has been home unexpectedly this week (long story but all positive) so I didn’t have my usual evening meals prepared in advance.

Jeff made his famous curry (a recipe I should certainly share soon!) with a few tweaks: chicken, broccoli and spinach curry with a blend of brown and wild rice. It looked pretty different because he used green curry paste and the different rice but the taste was just as wonderful as I remembered it.

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On Wednesday, I went to Buford Highway Farmer’s Market with a colleague and, of course, I suggested having dinner there. I highly enjoyed my beef empanada and kimchi dumplings…Although the dumplings were spicier than I remembered!IMG_6617

Next week should be interesting since it will be both our wedding anniversary and my birthday! I already have a few baking and cooking projects in mind and I look forward to share the results!

HMMW: Cooking While “Surviving” Atlanta’s Version of a Winter Storm

This week has been a tad crazy. Our school has had 3 snow days this week. How much snow did we experience, you might ask. Well, outside my apartment, the answer is none. I understand why we had to close, like many other businesses in town. Last year, no one closed and that’s what caused the chaos that was “Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse”. There was also a faire amount of ice rain and sleet.

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So back to the food. Before I even realized all the upcoming weather madness, I made myself two meals for the week: Beef and vegetables lo mein and winter greens soup.

Beef and vegetables lo mein

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I found this simple recipe for lo mein and made a few modifications. Last time I went to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, I bought a pack of homemade-style Chinese noodles. I used them to make the lo mein. I also added beef strips and broccoli. I doubled the sauce quantity…because I like having a lot of sauce but I think the recipe would have been just as good with a regular sauce quantity.

Winter Greens Soup

I had a leek left from the Irish stew I made last week. And what could be better than soup on a cold winter’s day? So I found this great Vitamix recipe. Although the recipe was from the Vitamix website, it could certainly be made with any blender or immersion blender, in my opinion. The only thing I changed (because I forgot and then was too lazy to fix it) was the basil and red wine vinegar. The soup was still really good without it although, next time, I’ll try to follow the recipe better. :)

The soup and lo mein...plenty for lunches, dinners and some extra to freeze!

The soup and lo mein…plenty for lunches, dinners and some extra to freeze!

Now, here’s a list of random things I did while going stir-crazy in our apartment for 3 days:

  • Cleaned the apartment
  • Sewed new beddings for the cats’ bunk bed
  • Bought a new couch and kitchen table for ridiculously cheap (our apartment building management was selling everything from their model apartment)
  • Watched too many episodes of The Office (yes, I’m many years behind but I just started watching it a few weeks ago on Netflix)
  • Worked out for the first time since December
  • Created a potential website for my preschool

I will leave you with a picture of our cat, Fattie, enjoying her new bed set. :)

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Homemade Meals of the Week

I would like to make a weekly commitment to share the meals I make. Since my husband started traveling, it has been very tempting to eat out and to be lazy about cooking. I love cooking but after a long day at work, especially when Jeff isn’t in town, I just want to get cozy, eat a quick dinner and then watch TV or read until bedtime. So here’s a new post category to help motivate me: Homemade Meals of the Week (or HMMW). Here we go…

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Mac’s Pub Irish Stew & Mac’s Brown Irish Soda Bread

Both recipes were from The Irish Pub Cookbook. I picked the stew recipe because I had bought and frozen lamb a couple of weeks ago and also had been wanting to make a good Irish stew for a while. Right after making it, I honestly didn’t like how the stew looked. It was super liquid and I thought I would end up trying it once and throwing the rest away. But I was so wrong! The result was super tasty. I’m so glad I didn’t just chuck it out!! It turned out to be the perfect week for it too as it got mighty cold in Atlanta for the past few days. The Irish bread was suggested to go with the recipe. It was fairly different from the Julia Child recipe I usually make. Much denser bread and the use of whole wheat flour certainly changes the taste. I don’t know that I really liked it as much but it was nice to try something new.

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Irish stew with lamb, potatoes, carrots, leek and celery

Caesar Salad

I understand that Caesar salad isn’t too impressive. My mom used to make Caesar salad regularly (she probably still does, I just live too far to confirm) but in the last decade, I somehow forgot how much I like it. After having some a couple of times at restaurants, I figured I should just start making it at home. So simple, yet so tasty. It often ends up being the perfect dinner when I’m tired and not too hungry. I can prepare it in a couple of minutes and it is so very satisfying.

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Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, croutons, turkey bacon bits, shaved Parmesan and dressing

I already have a few things in mind for next week…we’ll see what I manage to pull off! :)

For the Love of Cheesecakes

IMG_6263Although for many people, Valentine’s Day is just another commercial holiday, I see it as a fun opportunity to remind people we love them…and a great excuse to prepare a nice meal! This year, there was an unexpected cheese theme. It all started with my sudden urge to try making a cheesecake and was followed by our constant craving for cheese fondue. During my last trip to Target, I found a fair amount of Valentine candy as well as adorable individual heart-shaped baking pans. I spent Saturday morning looking for a cheesecake recipe and ended up making a modified version of Cooking Classy’s recipe.

Strawberry and Oreo Cheesecake:

(4 individual baking pans, 12 muffin-size or 1 regular cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of crumbled Oreo cookies (with cream removed)
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1.5 cups of strawberries
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 2 packages of cream cheese, softened
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream

What’s Next?

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
  2. In a bowl, stir the Oreo crumbs and the melted butter until evenly moistened. Place the crumbs at the bottom of your dish/es. Press firmly into an even layer.
  3. Bake the crusts for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. To make the strawberry coulis, place the strawberries in a blender or food processor to make them mostly liquid. Add a little bit of water if needed. Put blended strawberries through a strainer to eliminate any chunks or seeds. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and flour. Using a stand-mixer (or electric mixer), add the cream cheese and lemon zest and blend until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and sour cream until combined. Tap your bowl against your countertop several times to release the air bubbles that might have formed in the mixture.
  6. Divide the mixture among the baking dishes. Fill each dish nearly full.
  7. Add a few dollops of strawberry coulis on each dish and create patterns with a toothpick.
  8. Bake the cheesecakes for 20-25 minutes or until they are puffed and nearly set.
  9. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.
  10. For serving, you can drizzle some strawberry coulis on your cheesecake.

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The result was very tasty. I was so proud to have it taste like actual cheesecake! If anything, I could have mixed more strawberry coulis in the cheesecake mixture.

This Valentine included cheese fondue, good wine and my first cheesecakes. Not bad at all. :)

I hope you all had a love-filled weekend and wish you all the love in the world, every day of the year!

Past posts about Valentine’s Day:

The Germans Visit Atlanta!

In 2007, I was an AuPair in Virginia. I met a cool German girl named Jenny and we really got along. We watched the Oscars together, went to all the restaurant chains in town, shopped and really just had a good time. Although we stayed in touch through the years, we hadn’t seen each other since.

I was overjoyed when she told me she could come visit Atlanta for a few days during her trip to the US last November! She was accompanied by her sister and sister’s boyfriend. Unfortunately, during her stay, we were both pretty sick so we didn’t spend quite as much time together as we would have hoped. I did join them to tour the Georgia Aquarium as well as the Coca-Cola museum. We used that time to catch up on the last 7 years

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Jenny, hanging out with the penguins at the Aquarium

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Taking my Coca-cola bottle at the end of the World of Coca-Cola tour.

On our last evening before Jenny left, Jeff recommended taking them to The Vortex, a cool bar in Midtown. Now, a smoky bar with greasy food might not have been the best place for two sick girls but we had fun nonetheless. :)

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Jenny and I at The Vortex

My wonderfully generous friend also came bearing gifts! She brought me a ridiculous amount of delicious chocolate as well as two German cookbooks! I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet but looking through it, I can’t wait to try many of them! As for the chocolate, I did dig in…I still have some left but it did confirm that European chocolate is far superior to any of the American stuff. Sorry America. ;)

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Jenny’s stay was short but it was so nice to see one of my closest AuPair friends. It was nice to see that even if we didn’t always do the best job at staying in touch, we could still catch up as if it hadn’t even been that long. International friendships are funny that way. It’s always sad to think about how far we are from someone but then, there is something extra special when we actually get to see each other again.

Exploring Atlanta: Foodie Style!

One of the bonuses, when moving to a big city has been the number of new restaurants to try. As much as I would like to make a list of the places I want to try, I can’t quite do it as I always find one more. So I just wait and whenever we are looking for a specific style of food, I do a quick research and happily try whatever comes up. Now, to be fair, despite what is shown in this post, my husband and I don’t often go for the fine dining experience. We’ve been known to walk to the closest Taco Mac for after-work dinner and drinks, and regularly get delivery from small Thai or Chinese restaurants. I guess I’m just not that picky, I simply like to eat. Which is a blessing and a curse, really.

I wanted to showcase a few of the restaurants we have enjoyed since we moved, in no particular order of preference.

Cypress Street Pint & Plate:

Last August, Jeff and I went to check out the Dragon-Con parade in Downtown Atlanta. We arrived late and barely got to see anything. When the parade was over, we started walking and somehow ended up here. They had a pig roast going that day but we went for drinks, burgers, and one of the most decadent desserts I’ve ever had: Grilled donut ice cream sandwich. Needless to say, it was delicious.

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The Nook:

I originally wanted to go there because it is also the name of a restaurant we used to go to in Charlottesville. After a quick walk through the Piedmont Park Farmer’s Market, on a sunny September morning, we ended up there and for some unclear reason, a huge plate of Pulled Pork tater tots made sense. Was it too much? Yes. Was it ridiculously tasty? Absolutely.

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The Iberian Pig:

Through the years, my husband has shared his love of charcuterie with me. We’ve tried the cured meats and cheese plates at many restaurants, in most cities we’ve been. A friend suggested this restaurant so we tried it out for Jeff’s birthday. This was by far one of the best charcuterie plates I’ve had. There were a couple meats that I could have kept eating every day of my life. We also enjoyed a few small plates, including rabbit empanadas and veal shank raviolis.

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This past weekend, as a rare treat, we enjoyed two finer dining restaurants. We usually try to space them out but two opportunities for dinners with friends came up and we couldn’t resist.

The first one, One Midtown Kitchen (no pictures, I was too busy destroying my plate) was just casual enough, yet the food was wonderful. The menu reminded us a little bit of our favorite Charlottesville restaurant, The Local. I enjoyed a lobster ravioli appetizer and also ended up eating a lot of Jeff’s crispy Brussel sprouts. We both had a delicious steak frites entrée and ended with a homemade Kit Kat Bar, a decadent dessert of praline, milk chocolate, caramel and sea salt. We are absolutely going back…there were too many other dishes I wanted to try!

The second restaurant we went to, Empire State South, was a tad bit more exciting, only because I knew it was one of Hugh Acheson’s restaurants and I had really liked this fellow Canadian on Top Chef. It was my first time going to the restaurant of a well-known chef. The food did not disappoint. We had the most amazing beef tartare appetizer. I could have eaten a full plate of it. Then, Jeff and I shared the lamb served with pickled vegetables and a cumin-garlic sausage. The picture below is only half of the dish as they were kind enough to make us two separate plates. For dessert, I had the pineapple meringue tart and, although I usually go for anything chocolate, I was in no way disappointed in my choice. The restaurant offers a $80 tasting menu and I told Jeff I would love to try that either for my birthday or for our anniversary.

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Half of the lamb entrée

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The pineapple meringue tart

It is very difficult to find the right balance between exploring the city’s many restaurant options, yet being monetarily reasonable and making sure we still eat most of our meals at home. Not only does it get pricey if we eat out all the time but it also isn’t the healthiest thing to do. We do have a few good home-cooked meals planned for the upcoming week. Let’s see if we can stick to it… :)

‘Tis the Season for Good Eating

In my last post, I presented all the sweets I baked in December, most of which were mailed to relatives. Now here’s the savory food I made and enjoyed on Christmas. Since we didn’t travel to Virginia for the holidays, we invited friends over for Christmas dinner. I wanted to come up with something traditional to make but decided to stick to my Quebec traditions rather than the American way. My menu was meat-packed: meat pie, meatballs in gravy and meat-filled dumplings.

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I have made the meat pie many times before (check out this post for the recipe) but the other two dishes were a first. I woke up one day and remembered loving the dumpling and meatball combo during the holidays, when I was growing up. I called my mom and got the super easy meatball recipe. Unfortunately, the dumplings were more difficult to figure out as my mom always bought them at the market and didn’t actually make them from scratch. After much online research, I learned that the dumpling recipe was very typical to Mauricie (my region in Quebec) but barely known anywhere else. It is also known under different names (the one my family always used was an obscene slang word, also used for lady-parts…but apparently there were a few more PC ones).

Baking a meat pie always makes me happy.

Baking a meat pie always makes me happy.

Meatballs in Gravy (Ragoût de boulettes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra liquid from meat pie filling or homemade chicken broth (Approximately 2 cups)
  • Toasted flour (Approximately 2-4 tablespoons)

What’s Next?

  1. Mix together the pork, onions, salt and pepper. Shape into 1-2 inch balls.
  2. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake at 350F until the pork is fully cooked. (the time will vary based on the size of the meatballs so just keep an eye on it)
  3. In a saucepan, mix the toasted flour with the broth. Cook on medium heat and whisk frequently, until the mixture thickens into a somewhat-thin gravy consistency.
  4. But the meatballs in the gravy and mix together.

It’s a pretty straight forward recipe and keeps really well. Since I made it in advance, I left the meatballs and gravy separate until Christmas day but I should have mixed them right away as it would have helped enhanced the flavor. This dish freezes really well.

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The baked meatballs (yes, I slightly burned the bottoms…)

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The meatballs in gravy

Meat-filled Dumplings (Pelottes à la viande)

Ingredients:

  • About 1 lb of the same meat filling as used in the meat pie (I used the recipe to make one pie and one batch of dumplings instead of the two pies the recipe calls for…you could also just make a small batch of meat by itself but most people do both around the same time for convenience)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco shortening
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 8 cups of turkey or chicken broth (homemade is preferred but store-bought works just as well)
  • 1 cooked turkey breast, pulled apart into pieces (chicken breasts would work too)

What’s Next?

  1. Mix the flour, shortening, baking powder, salt and water until you get a dough consistency.
  2. Separate the dough into two balls. But one of the balls on a floured surface and roll until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.
  3. Put the dough square in the palm of your hand and place about 1 teaspoon of meat filling in the middle. Close the dumpling as tightly as possible. I used milk to help “glue” the dough together. Gently roll the dumpling in your hands to make it as round as possible.
  4. Place all the dumplings on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. It is primordial for the dumplings to be frozen when cooked or they will fall apart. If you don’t plan to cook them right away, the frozen dumplings can be placed in a freezer bag.
  5. Before cooking the dumplings, add a little flour (this step is easier if the dumplings are in a freezer bag) and shake until all the dumplings are lightly coated.
  6. But the turkey and broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the dumplings and cooked, covered, for 20 minutes, bringing the heat down to medium. Do not remove the lid during the 20-minute period or the dumplings might not cook properly.

The dumplings can be served with or without the cooking liquid. On Christmas day, with a plate full of other meat goodness, I didn’t use the liquid but I very much enjoyed it with the leftovers the next again. Again, this dish freezes really well. Just freeze the uncooked dumplings in a freezer bag or you can freeze containers filled with cooked dumplings, broth and turkey breast, altogether.

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The dumplings, ready to be placed in the freezer.

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Cooked dumplings in broth, with turkey breast pieces.

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Leftover dumplings

So as you can see, our Christmas eve wasn’t the healthiest…but then again, Christmas time isn’t known for its healthy traditions. I did bake a side of sweet potatoes to pretend we were eating well.

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On this meaty note, I wish you all a wonderful new year! I look forward to see what the new year will bring!