Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Minestrone (Hamburger Soup)

This is a fairly simple recipe that has been in my (Kaitlyn's) family for quite a while. The original recipe was handed down from my great-grandma to my mom, though no one knows where she got it from! It really doesn't resemble any traditional Italian minestrone, in content or in taste, but it sure is delicious. I've loved it since I was little, though I was a lot pickier with my veggies back in the day.

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 cup of diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1 heaping cup of diced potatoes
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup of diced celery
  • 2 cups of cooked tomatoes - be sure to mash them up in a bowl beforehand
  • 1 and 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 1 small dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 4 teaspoons of salt
  • a dash of pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese (optional - for topping)

(Alexa dealt with the meat and onions while I chopped vegetables and measured out the spices and water.)

Combine the beef and chopped onion in a large pot and brown on medium heat.  Remove excess fat, if necessary, and add the potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil. Then, sprinkle in rice and add the bay leaf, thyme, basil, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for one hour - this is very important! Extra cooking time allows the spices to mix and the potatoes to grow tender. After that long hour has passed, the soup is ready to serve. Ladle it into bowls and top with cheese, if desired.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Soft Basil Pretzels with Marinara Sauce

(photos by Alexa Bell)

As a lover of carbs and everything 'Italian', I (Alexa) fell in love with this recipe idea as soon as I saw it. It seems to have the perfect balance of spices and reminds me of home. My older brother was eying them the entire time they were baking, and both my mother and him loved these tasty little things! With Kaitlyn's ability to mix spices, and a fresh herb garden in my backyard, we were able to create a wonderful Italian-like treat!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Potstickers with Fried Rice

I (Kaitlyn) am not of Asian descent. Neither is my partner-in-crime-and-cooking, Alexa. Yet we decided to take on fabulous Potstickers and Fried Rice as our first recipe for this blog, without having any prior experience in cooking either of them, or even eating them outside of a restaurant. In my opinion - and Alexa's - we did a helluva job, and my family loved it too! It was such a hit that I had to withhold the dish of dumplings from my sister (with force) so that the rest of the family could have a few.

Overall List of Ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 8 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 and 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green onions
  • 4 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans of chicken broth
  • Kikkoman teriyaki sauce
  • 1/3 cup of frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup bell pepper, diced 
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of day-old rice
  •  salt, pepper, and soy sauce (to taste)


Dough (adapted from allrecipes) -

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

(I made this dough while Kaitlyn made the filling below. - A)

Beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix the flour and salt in a separate large bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the large bowl and mix with a fork ("or your hands!" says Alexa) until it is pliable and "doughy". Move the dough onto a cutting board and knead the dough until it is elastic. Half the dough into two separate balls, cover with a damp cloth, and chill for about 15 minutes. After chilled, quarter each of the two dough-balls with a knife. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll each quarter into a very thin layer of dough - thin enough to hold vegetables without tearing. Cut the thinned dough into 2 inch by 2 inch squares. You'll have to eyeball the squares - they will not be perfect! Store the finished squares on a large floured cookie sheet and cover with a few damp cloths until you're ready to fill them.

Filling -

  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil 
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger (minced)
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot (use about one large carrot)
  • 1/3 cup of chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • salt (to taste) 
Using a large sauté pan or wok, heat the canola oil over medium-high. When oil is hot, add the ginger and garlic, sautéing until fragrant and golden. Then add the onion, and stir until clear and golden on the edges. (Around this time, while cooking, my mom commented "Whatever you're making smells wonderful, but my eyes are watering!" That's the wonderful power of onions. Mmm.) Add the carrots, green onions, soy sauce, and salt. Sauté until the vegetables have mixed and the green onions are a bit wilted. Turn off the heat and allow the veggies to cool. Store the mix in a large bowl.

Bringing it together -

  •  the dough and filling you've just made
  • a small bowl of water
  • 4 tablespoons of canola oil
  • about 2 (15 oz.) cans of chicken broth

Here's the fun part! Several people can do this at once, to save time. Uncover the dough squares and use your fingers to fill each of them with the now-cooled veggie mixture - no need to overfill the dumplings, about a tablespoon or so will do. Keep the small bowl of water handy to wet the edges of the squares and fold them diagonally to a close. Pinch the edges. You can crimp the edges, so that they look adorable, but that's completely up to you. Just be sure that the dumplings won't open up when you fry/boil them!

Fill a large wok with the 4 tablespoons (or however much oil is needed to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan) of canola oil. Load as many potstickers as possible - crowd them, they can touch each other! - into the pan, and and turn the heat to medium-high. Allow the bottoms of the dumplings to brown a bit, which will take about 4-5 minutes. Once that is done, pour one can of broth into the pan. Allow it to "boil" for 3-5 minutes, until the potsticker-dough is pasta-like and not doughy. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the dumplings into a large serving dish. If necessary (and it probably will be), let the pan cool, rinse it out, thoroughly dry it, and repeat the process until the remaining potstickers have been fried and boiled.

Sauce (per person) -

  • 2 tablespoons of Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (a dash) of soy sauce
  • chopped green onions (for garnish)

Mix the two sauces in a small bowl and add the chopped green onions to the middle. Voilà. If you'd rather not use a dipping sauce, simply garnish a few potstickers with green onions and pour the sauce mix over them.

Fried Rice

  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup of bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup of green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of shredded carrot
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of day-old rice (plain old Minute rice will do the job)
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • salt and pepper (to taste) 

(Alexa chopped the veggies for the rice while I was making the potsticker filling. Then I took over, as stir-frying veggies is my passion. - K) 

Heat the canola oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, sautéing until fragrant. Add the onions, and stir until they're golden on the edges. Stir in the peas, bell pepper, green onions, and carrot. Cook the vegetables for about 2 minutes, then add the rice. Stir until the vegetables are evenly distributed throughout the rice, and then add in soy sauce. Taste the rice, and add salt and pepper as desired. Continue stirring over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, so the flavors can mix. Turn off the heat when finished.

To serve - Place five potstickers on each plate, and make a small bowl of sauce for each person (or just drizzle sauce over the dumplings, if preferred). Place about 1/2 a cup of rice on each plate as well. Ta-daaaa! You've got a dish of Asian-Texan fabulousness.