Monday, January 26, 2009

Black Bean Soup

This recipe is an adaptation from a recipe from Real Simple.
It made a good cold winter's night dinner, especially when eaten with lots of warm cornbread.

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp fresh cilantro (or 2 cubes frozen)
2 cups fresh salsa (I used 1cup hot and 1cup medium)
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 16-ounce can refried black beans
garlic salt, to taste
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan or large pot over medium heat. Add the salsa and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Add the refried beans, black beans, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Top with some of the remaining salsa and the sour cream and cilantro (if using).Yield: Makes 4 servings

The next time I make this I might try to swap out 1 cup of salsa for another cup of refried black beans, to give it a slightly less tomato-y base to it. Or maybe just choosing a different style salsa (i.e. black bean and corn, etc) would be a good option too. I like this recipe as it is as well, but was maybe just envisioning something a little black bean-ier in terms of the broth.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Our Running Restaurant List...

We are admittedly food-obsessed. While I obviously love to cook and bake, it doesn't change the fact that we are also restaurant-obsessed. I live for the local paper's restaurant and food columns to hear about new places, menu offerings, etc., and it can safely be said that we spend entirely too much of our monthly income on eating out.
Yet when people ask me for restaurant ideas I always falter, blanking out, and/or becoming overwhelmed with the possibilities.
So, in an effort to keep a list of good options for lots of different types of occasions, I'm just going to start a running list here, and update it as we go. It's not organized, and mostly for my benefit...but hopefully you'll see some enticing places on here as well.

In no particular order (for now), some of my favorite places in Raleigh/Apex/Cary/Durham/Chapel Hill:

Fins - Raleigh
Dos Taquitos Centro - Raleigh (or Dos Taquitos original in N. Raleigh)
Vivace - North Raleigh
Sitti - Raleigh
Neo Monde - Raleigh
Raleigh Times - Raleigh
Porters - Raleigh
Fraziers - Raleigh
The Mint - Raleigh
Waraji - North-ish Raleigh
The Pit - Raleigh
Humble Pie - Raleigh
Jibarra - Raleigh
Lilly's Pizza - Raleigh
The Rockford - Raleigh
Bella Monica - Raleigh

Daniels - Apex
Tamarind - Apex
Tyler's - Apex

Maximillian's - Cary
Maximillian's Pizza Kitchen - Cary
Wasabi - Cary
Bonefish Grill - Cary
Udipi - Cary

Watt's Grocery - Durham
Mez - Durham/RTP

The General Store Cafe - Pittsboro

Crook's Corner - Chapel Hill

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crab and Corn Chowder

We are supposed to hit single-digits in Raleigh this week so I decided a nice hot soup/chowder was in the offing. This is a delicious and relatively easy recipe and I've made several times now. It goes great with a warm crusty bread and a dry white wine.

1 potato, peeled and cubed
1 small can yellow corn
5 slices bacon, diced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic
8oz crab meat (I always use a bit more...)
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

2 tablespoons butter
2-3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 1/2 cups milk
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Cook diced potato either in microwave or on stovetop until softened, then set aside.
2. In a large saute pan, cook bacon over medium heat until heated through, blot dry, and break into pieces. In same pan, saute minced garlic and chopped onions. Cook and stir until onions are clear. Add potatos, small can of corn, and bacon and stir for 2 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in crab meat and parsley flakes. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large stock pot over low heat. Whisk in flour until mixture becomes creamy and takes on a eggshell color. Continue to cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in wine. Dissolve chicken bouillon in milk; slowly whisk in the milk. Increase heat to medium and mix well in order to eliminate all lumps.
4. When the mixture is creamy and hot, stir in bacon/potato/corn/crab mixture and creamed corn. Season with garlic salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes (may want to decrease heat after bringing to initial simmer so that you don't burn the bottom of the soup).

For a creamy curry variation add 2 tablespoons curry powder after adding the wine to the flour mixture, and substitute cooked, cubed chicken for the bacon.

This recipe was an adaptation of this recipe from

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chocolate Toblerone Cake

I sort of made this recipe up combining a few different recipes I found online.
Any candy bar could be substituted of course, and really there are lots of fun variations you could have with the whole recipe (butterscotch instead of caramel, add chocolate mini morsels, drizzle caramel frosting on top, etc...).


1 box devils food cake
1 4-serving box instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped toblerone pieces

~1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
~1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
~3/4 cup chopped toblerone pieces

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease and flour desired pan. (I used a springform pan to look prettier but if you use this, don't use all of the batter, as it will be too thick! I used all but about a 1/3 to a 1/2 cup of it and made a mini-cake w/ the rest)
Blend cake ingredients (except chocolate pieces) with electric mixer for about two minutes. Fold in 1 cup toblerone pieces.
Pour into pan, bake as appropriate for your pan (i.e, ~35+ min for springpan, less for larger pans, etc), until toothpick comes out almost clean.

While warm, poke holes in cake and spread condensed milk over, allowing to seep in.
Follow with caramel. While still warm, sprinkle remaining candy pieces over for garnish.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Streusel French Toast Casserole

This recipe is adapted from Baking Bites, but I made some changes to the type of bread and amount of streusel. This casserole is so good as it is that you really don't even need syrup!

12 1-inch slices day-old french bread (approx)
2 cups milk (can use soy milk -- I like using vanilla almond milk)
4 large eggs (can use egg whites)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, melted

Arrange 1/2 the bread bread in a lightly greased large oval casserole dish.
In a small bowl, make the streusel. Stir together brown sugar, flour and salt. Pour in butter and stir with a form until mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Pour ~1/4-1/3 of the streusel over the bread. Place remaining bread evenly over first layer.
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, brown sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Pour over bread. Press down to ensure all pieces are thoroughly soaked. Custard should just come near the top of the bread layer (although the last time I made it it was only about halfway up and it still tasted good). It if covers it more deeply, add additional bread.
Sprinkle remaining streusel evenly over bread and custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350F and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until french toast is a golden brown on top. Let the dish stand for a few minutes. The dish will be very soft and souffle-like, but should not be too runny. The french toast will continue to set and soak up the custard as it cools. Slice and serve warm, with maple syrup if desired.

Not that this recipe is all that "healthy", but for a totally decadent version of this, check out Paula Deen's take on a similar french toast casserole.