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Hey, it’s the end of the week!

And seeing that October is fast on its way, I’ve been making a few soups (even though–Seattle, weird weather, here. Why were we sunny and 70 for a bit again yesterday? Not that I’m sending it back…). Conveniently, The Daring Cooks’ challenge for September involved making broth or stock from scratch (then, the more super-involved folks cleared the sludge from their broth to make a consomme. While it’s a great learning experience, I happen to like the flavor of the sludge… and I don’t make homemade broth often enough…)

Yes… this is the first challenge I’ve posted in months. It’s not that I haven’t participated: but I try to keep recipes here relatively healthy, for the most part, and the past several months have been super-rich (uh, cheese-based gnocchi with creamy tomato sauce being one example…) The end product of this challenge–onion soup with cheese-herb brioche–also wasn’t the healthiest, but I’ll share with you how I made the veggie stock to start it all.

While the stock took time, once I got the veggies rough-chopped and in the pot with water, I could just let it go, boiling for hours. And it made enough for 4-5 servings of soup plus another dish on top of that!

So, here’s my recipe, give or take:

Homemade Vegetable Broth
adapted from the internet

1/4 c vegetable oil
4 medium yellow onions, diced
6 medium carrots, rough sliced
4 large ribs celery, rough sliced
2 leeks, rough chopped and rinsed well
1 3/4 oz dried mushrooms (I used shiitake)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 large broccoli stalks, rough chopped
bouquet garni (I just tied together a bunch of fresh parsley, three sprigs of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf)

**Note that I haven’t added any salt. I prefer to add salt to the final dish rather than to my broth.

1. In a large (your largest possible!) stock pot, heat the vegetable oil on medium. Add all ingredients except for the bouquet garni, and let the veggies “sweat” until soft.

2. Cover the veggies with cold water… about 3 quarts. Bring to a low boil. Drop in your bouquet garni, and cover the pot.

3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and let your broth simmer for about 2 hours. Strain your broth, and discard the solids.

Your broth is now ready for use in such wonderful dishes as this onion soup that I made:

onion soup

Or, use it in a risotto, or another grain dish, or your favorite veggie soup, or… the possibilities are endless!

And… you now see how easy it is! That’s my favorite thing about veggie broth: no bones or meat carcasses to deal with… yet it’s still so much tastier than something from a can!

So tell me: what are you guys going to do with your veggie broth? Come on, be creative! 🙂

Happy Three-Day Weekend! It’s Bipolar Day where I live: it just downpoured, but the sun is starting to come out. The sun was bright earlier in the day, but it was windy and partially cloudy in the afternoon. Indecisive!

One thing I can decide on: gumbo! The May Daring Cook’s Challenge was to make a big ol’ pot of gumbo. I’d never made gumbo before, so I was happy to whip up this classic creole dish!

This is a traditional non-seafood gumbo (with a few of my tweaks). Not that I don’t like seafood, but we shared it with a friend who is allergic.

Drew’s Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook

1 c rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil (I used canola oil)
1 c flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3.5-4 lbs), cut into 10 pieces
2 tbsp store-bought Creole spice blend
2 lb spicy smoked sausage, sliced 1/2 in thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 oz chopped Andouille sausage
2 c sliced okra, 1/2 in slices (I omitted–I hate the texture!)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste

1. Season the chicken pieces with the Creole spices and let “marinate” while you prepare the vegetables.

chicken with spice rub

Chicken with Creole spices!

2. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, and prepared before you start your roux. You must stir the roux constantly to prevent it from burning!


that's a lot of onions!

3. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the fat or oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil–it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes. (Note: I didn’t cook mine long enough! I went about 20 minutes and thought it was OK, but when all was said and done, it was too light. Oh well–lesson learned!)

4. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 more minutes.

5. Add the chicken to the pot, raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.

7. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and cook for about 3 minutes.

8. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.

gumbo prep

Needing a bigger pot!!!

9. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming the fat off the surface of the gumbo every so often.

10. Add the chopped Andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. Simmer another 45 minutes.

11. Serve in bowls over rice. You can serve over brown rice (to be more health-conscious) or you can make Louisiana Rice: saute a minced onion in a tablespoon of butter. Add 1 1/2 c rice and the appropriate amount of chicken broth, as well as a bay leaf, and cook. (I compromised and made Louisiana Brown Rice.)

My finished product?

yumbo for gumbo!

It tasted fantastic!!! The chicken fell apart and was so moist. Amazing recipe! (And now I know I can cook my roux a little longer!)

If you like trying new things in the kitchen, you don’t have to have a blog to join the Daring Cook’s Challenges. Check it out! It’s always fun to try new things, I think!

Enjoy the weekend!

So, it’s not “recipe Friday”, but my schedule got thrown off by the official allowed reveal date for the Daring Cooks’ monthly challenge. I’ve officially become a Daring Cook! This entails learning about a secret recipe or theme from a private forum around the middle of each month, concocting over the ensuing weeks, and posting the results. By the middle of the following month, we are allowed to reveal the fruits (or vegetables!) of our labors to our readers in blog-land!

This past month’s theme was “edible containers”. After much websurfing and wanting to keep things on the cheaper side, I decided to make an edible bowl out of cereal snack mix, bound together by egg white. The original recipe can be found at the Food Network site, but I modified it and shaped it differently.

First of all, here’s what my final product looked like, filled with cashews (a snack bowl filled with… more snacks!):

edible snack bowl filled with... more snacks!

Here’s how to make it:

1. Make or buy about 8 cups of your favorite cereal snack mix. Preheat your oven to 300 F. (As for me, I mixed about 7 c corn Chex and a little over a c broken pretzels. Mix, in a bowl, 1/4 c grated parmesan, 2 t chili powder, and 1 T garlic powder. Drizzle 3 T vegetable oil over cereal/pretzels, and pour seasoning mix over top while stirring to coat evenly. Spread seasoned cereal/pretzels in jelly roll pan and bake at 250 F for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove and allow to cool.)

Cereal and pretzels!

seasonings waiting to be added!

2. Gather your 8 cups of snack mix into a large bowl. Meanwhile, whip two egg whites to stiff peaks. Add these egg whites to the cereal mix, stirring to coat the snack mix evenly.

Whipped egg white in cereal snack mix, waiting to be mixed in!

3. Choose your oven-resistant destination bowl of choice. The initial recipe uses a traditional round bowl, but I wanted something smaller and decided to go with multiple small loaf pans. Coat your container with oil or cooking spray, then gently press the cereal mix + egg white into the container, forming a shell. To hold the interior shape of the shell, add a layer of aluminum foil. (I didn’t experiment with thickness of my cereal containers, but I’m guessing it should be at least 1/2 inch thick. I didn’t go too much thicker because of the small size of my loaf pan.)

cereal snack mix pressed into the loaf pan--going into oven soon!

4. Put your prepared containers into a 300-degree F oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove them and let them cool (don’t touch!) for another 30 minutes. Then–fill them with whatever you choose! (I’d recommend against anything moist to avoid seepage…)

Can’t tell you what this month’s challenge is, yet! (I know what it is!) I promise you it’s a fun one, and I’ll tell you all about it mid-May!

You don’t have to have a food blog (or talk about food on your blog!) to become a Daring Chef! (Just a camera!) It’s a great way to think outside of the cooking box. (There’s a Daring Bakers’ challenge, too!)

What kind of edible container would you like to make? Be creative!

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