Monday, February 28, 2011

"Compliments to the Cook" - Friend Food Features

I was invited to a friend's house for dinner one night.  Nothing beats sharing good food with friends.  And if it's good enough.. it might even get posted to your friends food blog!  :)

We'll make this a regular post and call it the "Friend Food Feature".

Well, I was invited to participate in a "Plamann Family Favorite" via the fantastic cook, Pamela Plamann.  She was busy at work in the kitchen when I arrived and I could see pasta boiling in the background.  Pam took the time to chill the wine I brought.  Shortly after, she took out the kitchen shears and began snipping away at a stack of prosciutto (Italian cured ham).  Finely cut prosciutto ... hmm ... I am intrigued.

Amidst the chaos of the kitchen... more family walking in, their adorable black lab greeting everyone, and her husband playing with the iPad... I barely had time to notice Pam sauteing the proscuitto.  As soon as it hit the pan, my nose woke up.  "You have to come smell this," Pam said.  But, I didn't have to go far to know that it smelled amazing! 

Taken from a, here's the recipe for the Plamann Family Favorite.

Linguine with Lemon and Cream
- 8 slices of prosciutto or ham; cut crosswise into strips
- 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 tsp of lemon zest
- 1/2 lb dry linguine
- 1 cup of grated Parmigiano
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Prepares: 6 cups
Total time: 20 minutes

Saute prosciutto with melted butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add broth and cook 1 minute.  Stir in cream, lemon juice, and zest.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, then season with pepper.  Keep the sauce covered and warm while cooking the pasta.  Prepare linguine according to package directions.  Drain; transfer to the pan with the sauce and stir over medium heat to incorporate.  Off heat, stir in cheese; transfer to a serving platter.  Garnish with additional lemon zest.


I very much enjoyed the time in the kitchen with great friends and delicious food.  My compliments to the cook!!  I can certainly see (and taste) why this is a family favorite.

What are some of your family favorites?  Would you like it to be featured?  :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Slow Cooker Meal for 2

Slow cooker meals, as many of us might know, are perfect for the on-the-go woman!  You can set it on low or high and go about your day is normal. 

The day that I decided to make a slow-cooker meal was the night of a pretty large snow storm up in northern Wisconsin.  My husband was busy snow-blowing and snow-plowing for work.  I wanted to make him a meal that smelled fantastic and would comfort him after a long day. 

Prep time = 10 minutes
Cook time = 8 hours on low/4 hours on high

Braised Ginger Cranberry Pork Roast
- 2 or 3 lb pork loin or roast
- Half of a medium sweet onion; sliced
- 1 1/2 cups of a Sesame Ginger marinade (the brand doesn't matter, pick your favorite)
- 1 TBSP of minced ginger
- 1 cup of whole cranberries (if you can't find whole cranberries try using canned whole cranberries)
- 2 TBSP of brown sugar
- Salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients into the slow cooker and walk away!  The internal temperature of the pork should be 160.  Set it on low for 8 hours if you are heading off to work or set it on high for 4 hours if you have errands to complete.  Let the smell take over your kitchen.  It's almost heavenly! 

Prior to cooking.

Ready to eat!

At the end, pour the remaining marinade and cooked ingredients over the top of the pork.  Serve with steamed rice or pasta.  As always... enjoy!  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Soup That Hugs The Soul

Is there anything more comforting than indulging in a warm bowl of your favorite soup in the cold winter months?  Homemade soup is like a hug in a bowl.  It warms you.. fills you.  If you are anything like me, cooking and preparing soup is a recipe in itself for melting your cares away.

I am not a culinary expert and have never attempted a potato soup before.  I knew of a few techniques that would get me through this new dish.  My biggest fear when making the soup was how to make it thick.  If you know of a better way to thicken soup.. I would certainly welcome those suggestions. 

This soup will consequently set you back a couple hours.  I'd recommend making this soup ahead of time or just on a chilly Saturday night at home.  One of the best things about soup is that it doesn't even have to be for you.  Homemade soup is a great way to say "I hope you feel better" to a sick relative or even "thank you" to a helpful neighbor. 

Prep time = 35 minutes
Cook time = 1 hour

Potato & Cabbage Soup
- 5 cups of beef or chicken stock (I used bouillon cubes of beef stock for a bolder flavor)
- 3 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and halved
- 1 cup of ham, diced (I just used thick cut lunch meat ham and fried it but you can certainly use bacon too)
- 3 TBSP of sea salt
- Half of a medium sweet onion, diced
- 1 cup of green cabbage, diced
- 1 TBSP of red wine vinegar
- 4 cups of milk (For a thicker creamier flavor.. use whole milk or heavy cream. I wanted to keep it heart healthy and used what I had on hand.. 2% milk)
- 1 TBSP of dried parsley (fresh parsley is fine but hard to come by in the cold winters)
- 1 TBSP of dried tarragon
- 1 TBSP of Italian Seasoning or Mural of Flavor from Penzey's
- 3 to 4 TBSP of butter
- 3 to 4 heaping TBSP of All-Purpose Flour
- Salt and Pepper to taste

There are a lot of steps in the soup making process.  Stay with me on this one!

Step 1:
Start by peeling and slicing the potatoes into halves or quarters.  Place into a large pot or kettle of water, add a couple TBSPs of sea salt and boil.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until fork tender.  In the meantime.. dice the cabbage, ham and onion.  In a medium non-stick skillet.. add the onions and ham (add a little olive oil or butter to prevent burning).  When the onions become translucent then add the cabbage and let it reduce.  Sprinkle the mixture with about a TBSP of red wine vinegar.  Reduce and set aside. 

Step 2:
When the potatoes are fork tender, drain in a colander and slice.  Do NOT rinse with water.  (The potatoes should be fork tender but not breaking apart - since they will be simmering in the soup for an hour.)  I sliced the potatoes into small, rustic chunks right in the colander. 

Step 3:
In a medium skillet or sauce pan, mix together a combination of butter and flour.  This is what I used to thicken the soup.  Once it's completely combined, add 2 cups of beef stock and stir slowly until it is thick.  The mixture that I created was about the same consistency as a can "cream of chicken soup".  Of course you could always use Cream of Chicken or Potato soup as the thickner.

Step 4:
In a large kettle or pot, add 3 more cups of beef stock, the thickening mixture, and 4 cups of milk or cream.  Stir until it becomes thick.  Bring to a boil.  While waiting for it to boil.. add the spices - tarragon, parsley, mural of flavor and (of course) salt and pepper.  After bringing to a boil, reduce to a low heat.  Add the remaining ingredients - potatoes, cabbage, ham, and onions.  Stir occasionally.  Simmer for about 1 hour.

Step 5:
Serve with a roll, biscuit or bread of your choice.  And, of course... Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Art in a Glass - Bloody Mary's

What is not to like about Bloody Mary's?  It comes in many different forms and is essentially a meal in a glass.  With or without the vodka.. a Bloody Mary can be one of the tastiest treats if it's made correctly.

Everyone has their own way of concocting this tomato-based beverage.  There are also many drink "accessories" that can be included in the glass.  So what are some of your favorite Bloody Mary fixings?

In addition to having an assortment of fixings, the Bloody Mary is often served with a little friend - often referred to as a chaser or side car.  The beer chaser is an excellent pairing with spicy drinks. 

Speaking of spicy... let's talk about how I typically create this delicious beverage.

The way that I create a Bloody Mary is to start out with ice in each glass and have an additional glass for mixing.  Over the top of the ice, I will add celery salt, worcestershire sauce, a little pickle juice and for those that like it spicy.. hot sauce.  Then I will add a couple shots of premium vodka and the tomato juice.  Yes, the tomato juice does matter.  You want something that is already pre-mixed and it should be thicker than something like V8.  To mix throughly, transfer the drink from the full glass to an empty glass and repeat until mixed well.  Add a squeeze of lemon at the end.  The fixings will depend upon the person's preference. 

I have seen everything but the kitchen sink added to this drink.  Asparagus, string cheese, pickles, shrimp, celery stick, beef stick, green olives, brussel sprouts, pearl onions, mozzarella balls, black olives, green beans, banana peppers.  The list goes on.  Basically if it fits in the glass.. why not put it in there, right?

This beverage definitely gets my vote for "art in a glass".  Wouldn't you agree?

To read more about the history of Bloody Mary cocktails, visit Wikipedia

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wine in Food?

If you know me.. then you understand my love for buttery, creamy Chardonnay wine!  There is something so relaxing and calming about standing in the kitchen after a long day at the office and putting all your left over energy into what ever you're cooking.  Am I right?  Add a glass of wine and it's perfect.

I have not yet made a red wine sauce but, I've used a few different variations of a white wine sauce.  Tonight I made spaetzle for dinner, which is a small German potato dumpling (it can be found in the ethnic food aisle).  Typically when my Mom serves spaetzle we'll poor the gravy from Sauerbraten over the top.  Mmm, German food.

Unfortunately, I have not yet learned how to properly make a Sauerbraten.  Therefore the gravy was not accessible.  I had the box of spaetzle sitting in my pantry for 5 months because I could not get passed the fact that Sauerbraten gravy was not going to join the spaetzle party.  So, I decided to create a creamy wine sauce that could easily trump my love for that missing gravy.

Creamy White Wine Sauce
- 2 TBSP of butter
- 2 TBSP of flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white wine
- 1/2 TBSP of French Tarragon
- Lemon zest (if you have it on hand)
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1 small clove of minced garlic
- Salt and Pepper

In a skillet or sauce pan.. add the butter and flour.  Stir continuously until it has thickened.  Add the wine and stir continuously until thickened.  I slowly added the water and continued to taste the sauce until the wine flavor was not very strong.  Add as much or as little water as you would prefer.  Add the garlic - not too much though, the wine is the star here.  Add the tarragon, salt and pepper.  Continue to taste the sauce as your mixing it - you can always add more wine or more water but, you cannot take it out.

This sauce was great over the top of spaetzle.  It would be perfect over grilled fish or even pasta.  I hope that you enjoy it!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Quick Fix Super Bowl Ideas

Let's be real about this.... who wants to spend time in the kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday?  I certainly would rather be gathered in front of the TV with my family and friends to cheer on my favorite team (Go Packers!!) while also supporting delicious hops of a local brewery.  So when you're creating a menu for a Super Bowl party it's important to come up with ideas that can be created ahead of time and also won't take a lot of time. 

My recommendation is to make home made pizza's or subs for the main course.  If you don't have time for that then I would suggest calling your local sub or pizza place and placing an order.  This will save you the hassle and a whole lot of time. 

With the main course down.. this will give you plenty of time to create sides and appetizers.  Of course you don't have to do this all by yourself.  Is there a foodie coming to your party?  Assign them a specialty.  I am typically asked to bring a pasta salad. 

Pasta salad's are great for side dishes because it keeps the men full and the light-weights less tipsy.  Starchy and filling.. it's a great choice.  You can always go the traditional salad route too... Caeser salad, Asian salad, what ever you prefer.

We all know who the stars of the show are (well besides the teams on the screen)!  .... Appetizers!!

One of my favorite appetizers to make is Rumaki - also known as bacon wrapped water-chestnuts.  If you have any bacon advocates at your party then this is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!  Do you really know any men that don't enjoy bacon?  Doubtful.

The technique that I use is simple... Pre-heat the oven to 425.  Get about 2 or 3 cans of whole water-chestnuts (typically found in the Asian food aisle).  I would recommend getting Center Cut Bacon, which won't have as much fat on the edges.  Cut the bacon in half twice - length and then width.  So essentially you make 4 pieces out of 1 piece of bacon.  Wrap the bacon around the water-chestnut and secure with a toothpick (for a little fun.. pick the colors of your favorite team).  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and place the wrapped pieces onto the sheet.  When completed.. sprinkle a little seasoning salt over the Rumaki pieces.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the bacon is brown and crispy.  To keep warm, I will place them in a slow cooker and set to warm.  You can leave them plain OR add a sauce to the slow cooker.  Choose your favorite BBQ sauce (which would be appropriate for this year's Super Bowl) OR a Sesame Ginger Marinade.  Yum!!  The guests will love it.

Taco roll-ups are also a crowd-pleaser.  Basically.. just mix up taco dip in a dish - a combination of salsa, cream cheese (at room temperature), green chili's in a can, and taco seasoning.  Spread over large tortilla (buritto size would be best).  Then choose your favorite toppings or make an assortment of toppings.  Diced tomato, black olives, scallions, cheddar cheese.  Spread a thin layer over the entire tortilla and then roll it up.  Cut into bite size pieces and serve!

Check out the Spinach dip appetizer recipe that I provided during the Christmas season. 

Enjoy the big game and enjoy the food without being in the kitchen too long! 

Go Packers!!