Have Potatoes, Will Focaccia

 
I have this tendency to buy potatoes and not use them before they get gross.

Even though we’ve been experiencing 80+ degree days here in New Jersey, I was feeling the urge to bake.

  
One of my go-tos that I don’t do often enough is focaccia. It’s a pretty easy pantry staple because all you really need is flour, oil, salt, sugar, and yeast. It’s a quick bread to make – about two hours to do, and about 90 minutes of that is just hanging out and waiting.

For a moister, fluffier center and chewy-crunch crust, potatoes are also used. My inspiration for this focaccia came from a Bon Appetit recipe from a few years ago. I modified it this time around, omitting the seasonings/toppings. I opted for a Rosemary-rich Italian seasoning blend and Parmesan cheese. 

Focaccia also makes a great Accidental Pantry Project Recipe – you do not need potatoes, but they do make a better bread. The rest is pretty much stuff you have around – flour, yeast packets, sugar or honey, oil, and water. 

Follow the rest of the recipe accordingly.

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Accidental Pantry Project = Huge Savings!

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I wish I kept better track on what I spent at the grocery store last year when it came to cash purchases. I know when I worked at Whole Foods MarketĀ I would buy lunch every time I worked a shift, which averaged out to about $10 a day. Now that I am working again, that kind of spending probably won’t disappear, especially as I now work in a mall with countless food options.

In any case, just tracking grocery purchases for my home, last year during January and February, according to my credit card, I spent $240 at the grocery store. This year, being more diligent about my purchases, using what I had on hand as opposed to going for convenience, I spent $125 during the same period – almost half my money! To top it off, since I was not going to work for five weeks, I ate many more meals at home – so those savings not only saved me money, they stretched to twice the meals.

I know not everyone has the pantry I had (I should say have – it is still valued at $759, currently (that is down from the $1140 that I started with)), but it is still important to know when you are sitting on money and meals at home. For five weeks, that is $381 I kept in my pocket, and not only did I eat like a queen, I fed others as well.

Compound Butter

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Compound Butter. You’ve probably eaten it on top of a fancy steak or slathered on a fresh ear of corn. And in reality – it is one of those fancy things that isn’t really fancy at all – at least to make. All you need is some softened butter and your imagination.

I always make a compound butter when I make garlic bread or crostini. It’s a great way to insure all the ingredients are well incorporated, and it is a much higher quality product than spreading some butter and topping with garlic powder.

Last week some good friends came over and we made FOS (French Onion Soup) together. I like making the crostini I put in the soup aromatic, so a compound butter was in order.

This became part of The Accidental Pantry Project as compound butters are one of those wonderful things that you can whip up with whatever is on hand. The method above yields one cup of butter and cost less than $4 to make.

Chipotle Bacon Cheddar Cornbread

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Today is International Bacon Day! In honor of the festivities, I decided it was an excuse to add bacon to one of my faves – Chipotle Cheddar Cornbread. Super easy recipe, semi-homemade style.

CHIPOTLE CHEDDAR CORNBREAD
5 strips thick-cut bacon
2 packages Jiffy Cornbread Mix
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup grated onion cheddar
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped fine

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook the bacon to crispy but still chewy. Reserve some bacon grease (about two tablespoons) drain remainder and diced into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Mix cornbread mix, milk and eggs until well incorporated.
  4. Mix in onion cheddar, chipotle peppers, and bacon.
  5. Take bacon grease and use to grease a 4″x8″ loaf pan.
  6. Pour bread batter into pan, and transfer to oven. Bake about 1 hour, until top is golden brown and you can insert a toothpick to the bread and it comes out clean.
  7. Let cool about one hour, remove from pan. Serve plain, or with butter and honey.

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Sausage Kale Potato Soup

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My years living in New England helped me to fall in love with these ingredients. I probably have not made this soup in about two years, but the other day I came across some lovely kale, and I could not think of a better way to do it justice.

SAUSAGE KALE POTATO SOUP

1 pound sausage – I used sweet Italian, but hot Italian works as well. Chicken sausages work, but the fat in the sausage is a huge flavoring agent, so try to avoid. Remove casing and chop into bite sized pieces
1 cup diced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large bunch of kale, washed trimmed to remove stems and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
Bay Leaves
Hot sauce
Parmesan or romano cheese (simmering the soup with the rind or chunk of cheese instead of grated works great!)
1 pound small red potatoes – washed and sliced into pieces – you can also dice
1/2 cup lowfat or skim milk

Using a large stock pot, start to brown the sausage. Add onions and garlic and cook until they are just starting to soften, but not brown. Add the kale. Kale will have a lot of volume, but will cook down as you heat it. Mix all the ingredients well, cover the pot, and allow to sweat the vegetables for about three minutes. Remove lid, stir, and add the white wine to deglaze the pot. Add chicken broth and seasonings (hot sauce is optional, but I like a few dashes for flavor, not heat). If the volume of the soup is not “liquidy” enough, you can always add some water or more broth. Bring soup to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, taste soup to adjust any seasonings, and add the cheese and potatoes. Simmer for about 10-15 more minutes until potatoes are tender, but still have a little bit of bite – you don’t want them to disintegrate. Add the milk, taste to adjust seasonings one more time – and enjoy! Soup can be eaten immediately, but it also holds really well over a few days and the flavors develop well.

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Accidental Iron Chef? #HurricaneSandy

Hurricane Sandy has left me isolated in my own home. No work, no businesses open, no friends or family or boyfriend to hang out with. Just me and whatever I got here at home. I’ve been wanting a day off to reorganize some closets in my home, particularly my pantry. Most of today with the crappy weather I wasn’t feeling up to doing anything besides lay in my pajamas and watch food network and play words with friends and play on Facebook and Twitter.

For a few hours it was fun, but I’m not really the type of person who can stay still for too long, so after a couple of cups of coffee, I got my second wind and decided to clean out my pantry and a kitchen cabinet that also had some pantry items. This sums up my non perishable items, sans spices:

I have now deemed myself a culinary hoarder. I have so much food all I can really do is have a party and find creative ways to cook it off, Iron Chef style. What are you inspired to make?

Sangria is Summer

Ah, Sangria. For me, it is the perfect summer beverage. Chilled wine, fresh fruit, a hint of sweetness…

My love affair with the beverage began when I was in college. I was first introduced to it in San Francisco by my sister, who was living there at the time. She and her then boyfriend snuck me into a bar they loved as I was only 20 years old. The first glass I was not getting what was so great about sangria. Granted, you need to keep in mind I was 20 and Malibu Bay Breezes and Buttery Nipple shots ruled my underage world. By the second glass I was hooked, and by the end of the pitcher as I nibbled on all the punch infused fruit, I was very, very drunk. I have to say, though, years later the first glass always goes down a little rough and then sangria is my BFF.

As I continued my college career, which included culinary school and a bartender’s license, I started experimenting with making sangria. My college best friend Susan and I discovered this awesome mix at Le Gourmet Chef which had a location at Providence Place Mall. The mix looked like this: It was such a simple recipe – wine, water, the mix, and brandy. Since it was the late 90s/early 2000s, we of course thought we were so clever and went with what all the rappers drank, Courvoisier. We were hooked. Nearly every time we hit up the mall we bought them out of the mix. Over time, the store stopped carrying it and we were devastated, so we had to start replicating our own recipes.

I have been complimented on my sangria quite a bit, and it’s time to share it with you all. I wish I could brag and make it out like I’m sharing this amazing trade secret, but I am almost embarrassed by how easy this is to make. The most time consuming part is chopping up fresh fruit.

ANNA’S SANGRIA

  • 4 bottles (750 ml) red wine – preferably a mix of sweet and dry
  • 1 pint-size bottle brandy – these days I keep it low brow with E&J VS
  • 2 cans seltzer
  • 2 cans ginger ale or sprite
  • assorted fresh fruit – I prefer a mix of citrus and tart apples, fruits that can hold up to a lot of alcohol.

Cut up fruit into chunk size pieces (about 1.5 inches), set aside. Mix all the liquids in a large container – preferably 2-3 gallons, leaving room for the fruit. Add fruit, chill overnight. When ready to serve, add a bit of ice and make sure each glass has plenty of fruit. Enjoy!

If you don’t have a large container, you can divide up the liquid into smaller pitchers for serving. It’s best to leave the fruit in overnight because it allows more flavors to develop, but if traveling to a party you can store the liquids in one container and fruit in another.

The liquids – a mix of dry and sweet red wines, ginger ale, seltzer…

Assorted fruits – ruby red grapefruit, navel oranges, lemons, limes, pink lady apples, granny smith apples

Fruit in chunks

Party-ready Sangria