Friday, September 30, 2011

Goulash Soup

Photo: Foodistablog
We are enjoying a beautiful "Indian Summer". The mornings are cool--it was 41 degrees F. this morning when I retrieved my newspaper from the front porch. This afternoon we have sunshine, beautiful clear skies, and mid-70's. The days are warm and sunny, but as soon as the sun begins to set, there is a chill in the air. It's time to make another pot of soup.

Today I'm remembering a recipe I've had for years and years (and years). It's called "Goulash Soup". Goulash (for the uninitiated) is a Hungarian stew of meat (take your pick), vegetables (whatever you have), and a healthy dose of paprika. Comfort food at its finest.

Goulash Soup
3 lbs. beef for stew, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
4 cups beef broth
1/2 lb. potatoes, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon paprika (I prefer smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
3/4 lb. potatoes, pared and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry noodles

Heat olive oil in 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat; add about 1/3 of the beef to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining beef. It is important to not crowd the pan. If the pieces of beef are too close together they will not brown properly--instead they will simply steam.

Add more oil to the pan as needed.

To the same pan stir in the onions and cook until onions begin to brown. Return browned beef chunks to the pan. Stir in remaining ingredients except diced potatoes and noodles. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and cover. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Note that the grated potatoes will fall apart--they are intended to thicken the soup.

Stir in diced potatoes and noodles and continue to cook until potatoes and noodles are cooked through.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Italian Flag cookies

In 1985 Family Circle magazine published a recipe for "Venetians"--a three-layer bar cookie of apricot preserves sandwiched between layers of almond paste cookie dough. Yes, I clipped that recipe over 25 years ago, but I've never attempted to bake it. Somehow 1 1/2 cups of butter seems a bit over the top--even for a Carb Diva.

But last week I borrowed a copy of the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit from my local library. Guess what? It's the 'Italian Issue' and inside is a recipe for Rainbow Cookies. They look exactly like the ones I saw years ago, but the list of ingredients seems much less decadent. The genius behind these amazing looking treats is the Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi of Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York City.

I think I'll try these this weekend:

Rainbow (Italian Flag) Cookies


  • 2 Tbsp. plus 2 cups unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 12 oz. almond paste (not marzipan), chopped
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp.salt
  • 1 food coloring
  • 1 tsp. green food coloring
  • 3/4 cup orange marmalade, heated, strained (NOTE: I'm going to use apricot preserves)
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted
  • special equipment

    3 13x9x2" metal baking pans


    Photo: Romulo Yanes
    Preheat oven to 350°. Line three 13x9x2" metal baking pans with foil, leaving overhang; grease with 2 Tbsp. butter; set aside. Put egg whites in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk; beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a large bowl; cover; chill.
  • Using the paddle attachment, beat almond paste and remaining sugar on medium-low until incorporated, 4-5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high; gradually add remaining butter. Beat until fluffy. Beat in yolks, then flour and salt. Fold in whites in 2 additions.
  • Divide batter evenly among 3 bowls. Mix red coloring into 1 bowl and green coloring into second bowl; leave third bowl plain. Spread 1 bowl of batter into each prepared pan; smooth tops. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until just set, 9-11 minutes. Let cool in pans.
  • With a pastry brush, spread half of marmalade over green cake. Using foil overhang, lift plain layer out of pan. Invert onto green layer; discard foil. Brush remaining marmalade over plain layer. Lift red layer out of pan; invert onto plain layer and cover cake with foil.
  • Top with a 13x9x2" pan. Weigh down pan with several heavy canned goods to compress cake layers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
  • Remove cans, top pan, and foil. Transfer cake to a waxed paper-lined baking sheet.
  • Spread half of chocolate over cake in a thin layer. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover with waxed paper, invert the baking sheet on top, and flip cake. Uncover and glaze with remaining chocolate. Freeze 10 additional minutes.
  • Trim cake to 12x8". Cut crosswise into six 2"-wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 96 1/2"-wide cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chili weather

No, that's not a typo. I awoke this morning feeling a chill in the air, and knowing that despite the calendar, it is no longer Summer. This is exactly the type of day for chili. But it's also a day in which I have, at last count, 101 things to accomplish. So I'm going to rely on my pantry and prepare a casserole for our evening meal that has been a hit with my kids since they were little.

Carb Diva's Chili Macaroni Casserole
1 one-pound package macaroni (my kids love the kind shaped like wagon wheels)
2 cans chili (use whichever type is your favorite)
1 cup salsa
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
4 cups crushed tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well and place in large mixing bowl. Gently stir in chili, salsa, 1 cup of the cheese, and the crushed tortilla chips.

Spray a large cooking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread macaroni/chili mixture in dish; top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake uncovered about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.

NOTE: You can omit the salsa if you prefer a less spicy meal. This is also a great place to "hide" additional vegetables--corn, cooked carrots, or diced zucchini.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hide the veggies

 My daughters have always loved vegetables. In fact, sometimes we will do a total meal of just veggies--roasted finger potatoes with garlic and rosemary, sauted carrots and parsnips with fresh dill, fresh shaved brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and walnuts. I know, I've been blessed.

But a few of my friends aren't quite so lucky, and are always asking me for new ideas on how to get vegetables into their picky eaters. The most recent issue of Cooking Light magazine contains a truly novel idea for creating a healthy macaroni and cheese. Instead of the traditional buttery, heavy béchamel sauce we typically use to create the base, they turned to an unlikely hero for a boost: butternut squash. Combined with nonfat milk and Greek yogurt, the squash adds a rich, nutty flavor, sneaks in some vegetable, and brilliantly mimics the color and creaminess of cheddar sauce. Here's how they did it.

Cooking Light Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese
  • 3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 pound uncooked cavatappi
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

(NOTE: the instructions from Cooking Light do not specify whether or not to cover the saucepan. Some reviewers complained that the finished casserole was dry--not creamy enough. In my opinion, if you do not cover, you will lose a great deal of liquid due to evaporation. Perhaps that's what went wrong. I covered my saucepan and turned the heat to low).

3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

NOTE: I'll be honest--this version of macaroni and cheese looked amazing, and no one could guess the "secret ingredient." That said, it just wasn't my cup of tea. The taste was a bit too sweet. But I also need to confess that I didn't use the expensive cheeses listed in Cooking Light's recipe. I used mostly sharp cheddar and about 1/2 cup of romano. Perhaps if I had used the more assertive cheeses suggested by the author I would have been happier with the end-result. If you try this recipe, please share your comments with me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


September. The days are still summer-warm, but the nights are cool and the mornings dew-kissed. Late-summer berries are plump and ripe on the vine. Autumn apples are ready to be picked, and the vine maples in our forest are starting to turn golden-orange. The season of Fall is just around the corner.

I always experience a bittersweet mix of feelings at the start of this season. I'm relieved to be able to settle back into the routine of school and work. But I'm sad to leave the spontaneity of summer and the vitality of flowers in my garden.

And I also recognize that I've been doing this blog for one year. Twelve months, 173 posts. We've explored low-fat, high-fat, no meat, LOTS of meat, 30-minutes or less, or takes-all-day-long.

In the last few weeks I've posted only twice. I'm sorry that work has called me away from writing to and for you. I enjoy this blog--it's my escape from finance, grant writing, losing baseball teams, and house cleaning. Work is starting to settle back down into a somewhat manageable amount, the grant-writing is simmering on the back burner, the team is pretty much toast for this year, and the house can wait.

So where will be go in Year No. 2? I welcome your suggestions, comments, and even your complaints.