My Year of Adventurous Eating

Shepherd’s Pie…? March 23, 2012

Filed under: Next!,Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 12:35 pm

Running a week late is about as “on schedule” as I ever seem to get.  It’s something about the nature of my job where everything is an emergency and everything needs to be done stat-stat-statty-stat-stat and once I get home it’s just impossible to maintain that level of urgency.

But in any case, without much further ado, as promised, here it is.  My super-rockin’, crazy tasty, way kickin’ shepherd’s pie.  Just in time for St Patrick’s Day.  Next year, that is.

Except you won’t find a crumb of lamb in it.  Just beef.  So, I guess more accurately it should be called Rancher’s Pie.  Or Cattleman’s Pie.  Or Wrangler’s Pie.  Or…

Never mind.

To begin, make beef stew.

Now, if you have some leftover beef stew in the fridge, excellent.  Leftover stew makes the best shepherd’s pie, not to mention cutting down your prep time by about three hours!  (Literally).

But if you do not happen to have some leftover beef stew just languishing in your refrigerator, begging to be made into shepherd’s pie, why then you will just have to start at the beginning!

I always start a stew by browning the meat in a little olive oil.

Brown is good.  Brown is flavor.


I like to wait to salt stew meat until it’s thoroughly caramelized.  In my experience salt draws a lot of moisture out of the meat, which causes it to steam instead of brown.  And then the juices burn to the bottom of my pot before the meat gets a chance to turn crispy and delicious!  So I wait.  Spread the meat out in a single layer and leave it alone for several minutes.  When it is thoroughly caramelized and perfect, the meat will release easily from the bottom of the pot.  At this point, turn and repeat until the meat is browned on all sides!

While the meat is browning, dice up a large onion and some carrots.  About three medium carrots oughta do it.

After the meat is completely caramelized, dump it onto a dish and set it aside.  If there is an excessive amount of grease in the bottom of the pot (say, more than a tablespoon or so), pour it off and pour in a little fresh olive oil.  Dump in the carrots and onions with a light sprinkle of salt and give ’em a good stir.  Then let ’em sweat!

While the carrots and onions sweat and get soft, mince up some garlic.

A lot of garlic.

Like, six or eight cloves.

Or more.

Or less if you don’t absolutely love the garlic.  But I do love it, so I use a lot of it!

Keep in mind we’re going to put some garlic in the smashed potato topping too, so if you are one of those people who believes you can actually put too much garlic into something, you may want to hold back a bit here.

I’m not one of those people.

Next, dump ye the garlic and the meat (along with any juice that has collected in the dish) back into the pot and sprinkle ye all of it with salt.

Then stick your face over the pot and give yourself a garlic ‘n meat facial!


And now things will start to get really exciting.

Pour in a cup or so of dark beer.  We just happened to have a tasty Irish stout on hand (it being St. Patty’s Day and all).

I poured in half of this 16 oz can, and it was just the right amount.  You really taste the beer and it added tons of rich flavor, but it wasn’t so much that the stout flavor became overpowering.  You may need to adjust the amount you add based on how powerful your stout is and how much beer flavor you really want your stew to have.

Next, just to kick up the spice and add some much-needed tang to cut through all the richness, dump in a 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes (or tomatoes with hot peppers if you want things a bit spicy!)

This is not a typical Shepherd’s Pie.

Next, pour half a 32 oz. box of beef stock over the whole thing.

Note:  If this were going to be regular, plain ol’ stew for eatin’ stew, I’d just dump the whole box in.  Since it’s going to get covered in mashed potatoes and baked, I wanted the stew to be thicker and a little less soupy.  Plus, we’re going to use some of the rest of that broth when we thicken the stew in a bit!

Stir all this up, throw a lid on it and let it simmer on medium low for a couple of hours.  The longer the better, really.  Check the stew every once in a while to make sure the liquid hasn’t cooked away.  Pour in more broth or water if it dries out and starts to scorch.  If you were going to add any dried herbs (Thyme, Bay, Rosemary or Sage would all be extra delicious!) here’s when you would want to do it.

I didn’t.  And I regret it.

About an hour before dinner time, start preheating the oven to 400°.

Now it’s time for the potatoes!

Now, you could use plain old mashed potatoes if you have some on hand.  This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!  However, I happened to have a three-pound bag of these gorgeous little multi-colored fingerling potatoes on hand, so I decided to do something extra special!

Aren’t they pretty, with all the red and purple and gold and pink?  I just love fingerling potatoes.  They are so fun, and colorful, and sweet, and tender!

Dump them all into a pot and boil ’em up until tender (about 20 minutes).  Drain them and let them sit in the pot with the lid on for a few minutes to dry out.

Meanwhile, mince up a couple more cloves of garlic.

I ended up using just about a whole head of garlic total in this recipe.  Some might say that is too much garlic.  I would not.

I’ll leave it to your discretion.  To get just a mild, light touch of garlic flavor, you could cut back to  2-3 cloves in the stew and 1 or 2 cloves in the topping.

Dump the garlic into a big bowl and pour a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over it.

Garlic and oil!  Probably one of the most magical flavor combinations in all of the world of cooking!

Stir this up with a sprinkle of salt, then dump in a couple pats of butter.  About two tablespoons.

Now dump all those steaming hot, adorable little potatoes into the bowl!

Aren’t they sweet?

The heat from the potatoes is going to melt the butter and release all the amazing aromas of the garlic and oil.  Try not to pass out.

Now give them a very, very light smash.  Just sort of gently crush them enough to open up the creamy middles but still leaving nice big chunks of all the gorgeous colors!

Stir them up from the bottom to get the butter, olive oil and garlic all evenly incorporated.

I just love those gorgeous little purple potatoes.  They really perk up the mashed potato topping and make it so colorful and enticing!

Pour in just enough milk to bring it all together (about 1/2 cup) and season it with salt and pepper to taste.

I love to add a little freshly grated nutmeg at this point too.  Just 1/4 teaspoon gives this magical warmth and flavor to the mashed potatoes.

Now, set the taters aside and let’s get back to the stew!

I dumped in about a cup of green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

and a cup or so of frozen peas

because if I can find an excuse to add more vegetables into a meal I will.  Especially a super rich and heavy meat-and-potatoes meal like this one!

Stir it all up and let it simmer while you mix 2-3 tablespoons of flour into a cup of the remaining beef broth.

Bring the stew to a boil and slowly pour the broth and flour mixture in, stirring the whole time.

Except for when you have the set the spoon down to take a photo.

But then start stirring again.

Let the whole mess boil for a full minute and the gravy will get thick and velvety and wonderful!

Pour the stew into a deep casserole and cover it with the smashed potatoes!

Try not to dive face first into the dish and inhale it all.  The magic isn’t done yet!

Set the casserole onto a baking sheet covered in foil (because if you are like me the shepherd’s pie will boil over and make a mess while it is baking approximately 117% of the time) and bake until the potatoes are crispy and browned and gorgeous!

This’ll take 30-45 minutes.  The crispier the potatoes are, the better!  But when you take how hungry you are times how delicious this smells plus the number of hours it has been since your last meal, you may choose to sacrifice some of the crispiness in order to have some of this pie in your mouth.  Now.


Don’t burn your tongue.

Here’s the recipe in a nutshell!

SHEPHERD’S (Or Cattleman’s, or Rancher’s, or Wrangler’s…) Pie

For the Stew

2-3 tbs. olive oil

1 lb. stew beef

1 large onion

3 medium carrots

2-6 cloves garlic (depending on your taste preference)

1 c. strong, dark beef (such as a good stout or porter)

3 c. beef stock, divided

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes (or tomatoes with hot chilis)

1 c. cut green beans

1 c. frozen peas

2-3 tablespoons flour

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot, brown the meat thoroughly in olive oil over medium heat.  Remove from the pot and pour off any excess grease.  Sprinkle the caramelized meat with salt.

Dice the carrots and onions and add to the pot with a little fresh olive oil.and a light sprinkle of salt.  Stir and let sweat for about five minutes, until softened and translucent.

Mince the garlic and add to the vegetables in the pot along with the beef.   Pour the beer, the tomatoes and 2 cups of the beef stock into the pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours (or longer), until the meat is fork tender.  Stir occassionally, adding more beef stock as needed if the stew dries out and begins to scorch.  Towards the end of cooking, stir in 1 c. cut green beans (if using frozen or fresh add about 30 minutes before the end of cooking.  If using canned add right at the end) and 1 c. frozen peas.

Stir 2-3 tablespoons of flour into 1 cup of the remaining beef stock until completely mixed in and no lumps remain.  Bring the stew to a boil and pour in the flour/stock mixture, stirring the whole time.  Continue to boil for one minute, stirring constantly.

For the Smashed Potatoes

2 lb. multicolored fingerling potatoes (or substitute with Little Reds or Yukon Golds)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk

salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Boil the potatoes (whole if using fingerlings, or halved if using larger) for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender.  Drain and let sit in the pot with the lid on while you mince the garlic.

Dump the minced garlic into a large bowl and pour the olive oil over it.  Sprinkle with salt and stir with a fork to loosen up the garlic.  Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl.  Dump the hot potatoes into the bowl and crush lightly with a fork or potatoe masher.  Just mash them enough to open them up, leaving large chunks.  Mix the potatoes gently to incorporate the garlic and oil.  Add enough milk to just moisten the potatoes, but not make them creamy.  Season to taste.

For the Pie

Preheat the oven to 400º

Pour the stew into a large, deep casserole dish (I used a 3 qt. casserole with a lid and had a bit of spillage during the baking, so you may want to use a larger dish).  Spread the smashed potatoes evenly over the top.

Set the casserole on a foil-lined cookie sheet (just in case!).  Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the edges of the potatoes are crispy, browned and delicious!

Let sit for 10 minutes before digging in.

Eat and be happy!

Happy St. Patricks Day!  (Sort of…)


Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes March 17, 2012

Filed under: Next! — PhobicFoodie @ 6:38 pm

My arm flaps are very angry with me.   They are exacting revenge by jiggling aggressively every time I move my arms.

Again, I apologize for being the world’s worst blogger!

It’s just that over the last two or three months, since the last time I posted, I’ve had a lot of big decisions to make!  Not to mention a crazy schedule at work what with new computer systems starting and lots and lots of people leaving.

Let’s start with the blog.

It’s hardly the most demanding or time consuming part of my life.  Blogging is fun.  Blogging is relaxing.  Blogging is…

Well, it’s a chance for the attention-grubbing middle child in me to assert itself.

On the other hand, it has also given me a chance to establish conclusively, once and for all, exactly what a GREAT BIG HUGE Pansy I am.

That’s right.  I’m a wimp.  I am.  I won’t deny it.  I’m a pathetic, sniveling, cowering inch worm and I’m deeply, deeply ashamed about it.  You want to know why?  Well, here it is.


I can’t.  I just can’t.  Let’s just say I’ve seen one too many people barfing their little intestines out over one sad piece of bad sushi and have consequently developed a deathly phobia of it.

Warm, partially digested fish for gosh sakes.  Ew.

I apologize if sushi is what you had for dinner tonight.  Or is what you are eating while reading this.  Or if you ever plan to eat it again.

Well, that’s what I get for living in a landlocked state.  If I lived in California maybe it would be a different story!

In any case, once I decided conclusively that I can never, ever so much as let even one tiny piece of raw fish ever pass my lips, the whole rest of the Project seemed pretty moot.

Which led me to wonder if I should continue with the blog.

Which led me to ponder other things.

Which led me to thinking about work and my career and the world at large and the universe and life in general.

Several months ago I suffered a miscommunication which led me to believe that a new position would be opening up to me in my near future.  Well, this new position seems to have slipped from my cooking oil coated little fingers, which has led me to conclude that Emergency Department Trauma Tech is just not a realistic lifetime career.

This got me to thinking about whether or not I ever really even wanted this new job in the first place.

Which got me to thinking about how long I want to continue doing what I’m doing.

Which got me to thinking about school.

Which got me to thinking about this:

Should Phobicfoodie go to nursing school?

You see, the thing is that if I went to nursing school I’d get done and then I’d have to be…you know…a nurse.

After these recent developments, and after seeing how the focus in healthcare has shifted so much from taking care of people to trying to make money and not get sued while doing it I’ve found myself wondering if I even want to stay in it.

However, my beloved and very wise mother pointed out to me last week over lunch that I have always had a fascination with all things medical.  When I was two years old my favorite toy was the little plastic doctor’s briefcase that included (among other things) a blue, fluffy hair net, an empty syringe with no needle attatched, and a tiny plastic stethoscope through which I would listen to breath sounds and heart beats and the deep, echoing sounds of my sisters’ giggles as heard amplified through lungs, a set of matchstick ribs, viscera, muscles, skin, and one tiny plastic stethoscope bell.

A few years later I would lay my head against my mother’s belly and listen to the gurgling rumbles of her bowels as they digested the chicken and stars and saltines we’d had for lunch.  I always thought it was hilarious that our tummies would rumble and burble, even when we weren’t hungry.

Healthcare, it would seem, is in my blood.

I love it.  I’ve always loved it.  When I was a kid, bandaids were the coolest thing on eath and blood probably the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen.

Even when I consider the politics and the stress and the long hours and the frightening, maddening, saddening, horrifying, and often times disgusting things I see and am in contact with every shift I still, at the bottom of my heart, to the very ends of my chipped and untrimmed tippy-toenails, know that health care is the place for me.

Even with all the negative experiences and feelings I’ve had while working in this broken, broken system.  Even with the bitterness and cynicism and hardness that goes hand in hand with the job.

It’s not about the politics.  It’s not about playing the game.  It’s about the patients.  And about the fact that I’ll always be learning, no matter how long I’m a part of it.  And the sense of accomplishement, to have been even a small part of something important.

And it’s about doing what I love.

So there it is.  A Great Big Decision (and two plus months of inner turmoil), abridged down to a few short paragraphs.  But the Decision (decisions) has been made and I’m sharing it here, with you, now.

I’m going back to school.  And I’m afraid the other kids won’t like me, and the teacher will make fun of me, and that I’ll have to do math on the chalkboard in front of everyone and I’ll get it wrong and everyone will laugh at me.

It’s gonna be great.

On the other hand, this means less time and money for any food-related projects that I may have had any aspirations to start.

Not to worry.  I’ll still be cooking.  And I’ll still do my best to find time to share my discoveries and creations with you!

But in the meantime brace yourselves.  You may be hearing a lot more blood and guts than before!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way.  I have a super-kickin’ Shepherd’s Pie recipe I plan to share with you soon.

You can add it to the 3,786,439 other Shepherd’s Pie recipes you found posted online today.

Thanks for bearing with me!


Monster Peanut Butter Candy Cookies! December 1, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 11:43 am

So I had all this chocolate in my house.

This is not usual for me.  Chocolate is lucky if it lasts a day around here.  But there it was:  chocolate with hazelnuts.  Chocolate with toffee.  Chocolate with espresso.  Chocolate truffles!  What is happening to me?!?

Well, the next best thing to chocolate by itself is chocolate in a cookie, so…

Monster Peanut Butter Candy Cookies!

They are much prettier if you use candy coated chocolate bits (the alliterative name of which I will not drop here) but chocolate chips or chocolate chunks or chopped chocolate bars taste just as good (and sometimes maybe better…depending on the chocolate…)

The best thing about a cookie like this is the variety of mix-ins you can add…chocolate, candy, nuts, toffee, caramel…just chop it all up roughly and mix it in!  Having lots of different kinds of candies makes each bite an adventure!

These cookies are also gluten free, so the argument could be made that between the energy-packed peanut butter and fiber rich oatmeal they are actually good for you.

Oh.  I can justify.  If you ever need an excuse to eat a cookie, I can provide it for you.

Start with ye olde basic cookie ingredients:  butter, sugar, brown sugar.  Also add some peanut butter for good measure!

Mix this all up until it is creamy and fluffy…


…add in three eggs and some vanilla.

Whip this up and dump in a couple of teaspoons of baking  soda.

Then add the oatmeal and mix again.

Then add your mix-ins.

When all the mix-ins are all mixed in, scoop the dough with an ice-cream scoop (bigger than a cookie scoop…thus Monster Cookies!) onto cookie sheets lined with  parchment paper, then bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.  Let rest on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes before removing to cooling racks.

I advise you to devour a cookie or two immediately, supplemented with a glass of milk.

It’s the right thing to do.

Here’s the recipe!


Makes about 3 dozen monster-sized cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/2 c. peanut butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 1/2 c. instant oatmeal

About 1 c. chocolate chips, chocolate candies or other mix-ins

Preheat oven to 350º and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Beat in baking soda, then oatmeal and mix-ins.

Drop onto cookie sheets with an ice cream scoop and flatten slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Don’t over bake ’em!

Remove from oven when slightly golden.  Let cool on sheets for a few minutes until they have firmed up enough to remove to wire racks.

Eat and be happy!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

You know, I actually haven’t forgotten about my food project or the whole original purpose for starting this blog.  The Project has slowed down for the holidays, but I haven’t given up on it yet (you’ll note I did cook with mushrooms recently…this is a big step for me!)

I do have plans for my next challenge (Hollandaise, mayonnaise, and all other – aises here I come!).  I even have a location picked out.  Now to find the time!



Pumpkin Cookies November 12, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 9:58 am

‘Tis the season…

…for baking!

Something I don’t do very well but am constantly trying to improve myself upon.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited about these cookies.  For starters, this is the first time I have ever invented a cookie recipe from scratch and I’m still rather astonished that it worked!

Secondly, well, they are pretty tasty.  These are warm, spicy, sweet little bites with all the flavor of fall packed into them.

Ever notice how in the fall everyone seems obsessed with trying to make everything pumpkin pie flavored except pumpkin pie?

“It’s like pumpkin pie in a latte!”

“It’s like pumpkin pie ice cream…”

“It’s pumpkin pie cheese cake!”

Well, I’m no different from anyone else.   This is pumpkin pie in a cookie.

(Although I do have a pumpkin pie recipe to share with you all.  Just not today.)

Oh, and, um, this is a very large recipe.  It makes about 6 dozen cookies, so plan on sharing!

It’s the perfect recipe for holiday baking!

Start with your everyday baking basics:  softened butter, white sugar and brown sugar.

Don’t be decieved by this photo.  There’s really a whole cup (2 sticks) of butter in there.  The other stick is just buried under all that sugar!

Oh, and do use real butter.  This is a pretty wet dough already and I have no idea how it would react to the extra moisture margarine would bring to it!

Plus, butter is better.

Top that with three eggs, a cup of pumpkin puree (the stuff from the can is just fine here), and two teaspoons of vanilla.

Beat this on medium speed until the butter is broken down into the mixture and relatively evenly combined.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t all become homogenous, the butter is just never going to really mix with the pumpkin and get really smooth.   But that’s okay!

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, cloves, lots of ginger, and salt.

It already smells wonderful!

Look!  It’s a spice volcano!


Now mix all this up until it comes together in a fluffy, soft dough.  And it will be very soft and very sticky!

But, oh!  Look at that color.  Could anything be more inviting than pumpkin and spices?

To help counter the stickiness, cover it and stick it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

Next, preheat your oven to 375°.

When you are ready for cookies, roll out golf-ball sized balls of dough…

(Note on the dough:  a cookie scoop will be particularly helpful here.  The more the dough gets handled the warmer and softer it will get and then it will just melt and make a huge mess all over you and the kitchen and everything.  So if you have a cookie scoop, use it.  If not, do your best with two spoons.  The balls don’t have to be anywhere close to perfectly round as they will puff up and round out as they bake)

… and then roll them in sugar.

(Note on the sugar:  I rolled the first batch in Turbinado (raw) sugar, which makes for a very pretty, sparkly coating but was just a little overpowering for the cookie…a little too sweet…a little too crunchy…

After that I rolled them in white sugar and cinnamon, and those came out just right!

Anyways, the moral of the story is that this photo is misleading.  You will probably want to roll your cookies in cinnamon sugar, not what you see here.)

Lay the balls of dough on a cookie sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper for easy clean up!).

Flatten them slightly with your fingers…

And bake for about 15 minutes, or until they puff up, the edges turn light golden brown, and the tops crackle.

Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before removing to cooling racks.

Oh pumpkin cookies!


Here’s the recipe!

You could certainly try to half it, but I’m not sure about the eggs.  How would you cut three eggs in half?  Inquiring minds want to know!  Would you use two eggs, or just one, or beat up the last egg and just use half of it?  (That last suggestion seems a bit excessive…it’s just a cookie after all, and not that particular…).

I tend to lean towards using two eggs and maybe upping the flour content by a couple of tablespoons to help counteract the extra moisture.

Anyways, the point is, you probably don’t have to make 72 cookies.  But you can.


Makes about 6 dozen

1 c. softened butter (2 sticks)

2 c. white sugar

½ c. brown sugar

3 eggs

1 c. pumpkin puree

2 tsp. vanilla

6 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. cream of tartar

3 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. salt

¾  c. white sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (for rolling cookies in before baking)

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, both sugars, eggs,  pumpkin puree, and vanilla on medium until butter is evenly incorporated into pumpkin.

In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and spices.

Beat dry ingredients into wet until it is all mixed in.  The dough will be fluffy but very sticky.

Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375°.  Form dough into spheres using a cookie scoop or two spoons to form golf-ball sized balls.

Roll balls in cinnamon sugar.  Place 2” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   Flatten slightly with fingers.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are crackled and the edges are light golden brown.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing to cooling sheets.

Eat and be happy!

Especially tasty with vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk.

And they also freeze beautifully!

Back to the Blog, the Project, and life in general…

I’ve had a bottle of grey goose vodka languishing in my freezer for nearly a month now!  Well, last night it happily provided the base for several extremely large dirty martinis (I’m not much of a bartender and don’t really have an eye for alcohol measurements!) which my friends and I merrily consumed before heading down for a showing of The Lion King (the musical, not the cartoon.  Amazing, by the way.  The costumes are out of this world and Rafiki’s voice literally brought tears to my eyes.  If you haven’t been I highly recommend it!).  We ate cheese and bread and salami and prosciutto and pomegranites and grapes and roasted tomatoes and nuts.

Oh, and a few olives too.

I like them.  I really do!  Green olives have a much stronger taste and firmer texture than black olives, and kalamata olives are very briny and salty, but over all I really did enjoy them and would happily eat them again (in small numbers.  I wouldn’t need more than just a couple to feel pretty satisfied on the olive front…).

Martinis on the other hand…I think those might be more of an acquired taste!

And…coming up next….I need to decide what’s next!

I’ll take your votes (if you are inclined to offer them)!


Rosemary Roasted Tomatoes with Pasta and Fresh Mozzarella November 10, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 2:14 pm

Simple:  check

Flavorful:  check

Quick: check

Uncomplicated ingredients: check

After the ordeal I just put y’all through with that last post it seems only fair to now write about something easy and fast but unbelievably delicious.

Rosemary Roasted Tomatoes with Pasta and Fresh Mozzarella!

I’m so excited about this recipe I decided to tell it in sort of a “House that Jack Built” style.

With interruptions.

Many.  Interruptions.

Believe me.  This recipe will make you smile.  Watch!

Cherry tomatoes.

(Look at those beautiful little flavor-bombs!  I love grape and cherry tomatoes because they pack so much sweetness and juiciness into tiny little bite-sized balls.  They tend to stay consistently flavorful year-round too, so they are a great way to indulge in a little summer sweetness even in the fall and winter.  The fact that they come in these two gorgeous colors is also a bonus!)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary.

(Rosemary is so rich and woodsy and really brings the light, ethereal flavor of the roasted tomatoes back down to earth.  Which is where we want them.  You can’t eat a tomato in space.  Unless you are also in space.  Never mind.

Rosemary also gives this recipe hefty flavor which makes it more satisfying.)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary and olive oil.

(Yes.  Use the good stuff.  The extra-rich, extra-virgin, extra-flavorful stuff!  When you are working with only a few ingredients why, you want each ingredient to pack as much flavor as possible!)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary, olive oil, and flake-style kosher salt.

(I love kosher salt.  The flakes stick to foods and flavor them without making them too salty.  It’s also very mild and lacks that bitter after-tang that regular table salt can sometimes have.  But if table salt is all you have, by all means use it.  Just use maybe a little less of it.)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary, olive oil, and flake-style kosher salt, all stirred up.

Get it all relatively evenly distributed.

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary, olive oil, and flake-style kosher salt after 20 minutes in a 425° oven and 5 minutes under the broiler.

(After this little treatment they will have burst and sizzled and caramelized and become an unbelievably rich, wonderful sauce.  I turned the pan so the juices ran all over the bits that were burnt to the pan so they could deglaze it and pick up all that flavor.  Give it all a very, very gentle stir to make sure all the flavor is loosened up and mixed in without completely mashing up the tomatoes.)

Roasted garlic.

(I just happened to have some on hand that I’d made for a gathering which alas did not happen (more on that later).  If I hadn’t had this roasted garlic on hand, I would have just sliced a couple of cloves of fresh garlic and tossed it with the tomatoes before roasting them.

To make roasted garlic, simply take two heads of garlic and lop off the top 1/3.  Lay them on a square of tin foil and drizzle them generously with olive oil then sprinkle with salt.  Wrap the whole mess up in the foil, set the package in a pie tin or baking dish (just in case the foil leaks) and roast at 350° for about an hour.  I also laid a sprig of rosemary across the top of the heads for some extra flavor.  The garlic is done when it is soft and fragrant and nutty and caramelized and wonderful.

Hungry yet?  I am.)

Roasted garlic mashed with olive oil.

(It speaks for itself.  It really does.  I could eat this entire forkful in one bite and I wouldn’t regret it one bit.

My hubby might, though…)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary, olive oil, and flake-style kosher salt, after 20 minutes in a 425° oven and 5 minutes under the broiler, with roasted garlic mashed with olive oil, and a pound of cooked rigatoni.

(Oh my.  Bend your head over this pan and give yourself a littel rosemary-garlic-tomato steam facial.  Inhale.  Smile.)

Cherry tomatoes with rosemary, olive oil, flake-style kosher salt, after 20 minutes in a 425° oven and 5 minutes under the broiler, with roasted garlic mashed with olive oil, and a pound of cooked rigatoni, tossed with ½ pound fresh mozzarella pearls and a little more salt to taste.


And we all fall down.

You won’t even believe how flavorful this was.  It completely knocked my socks off!



Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes, cleaned and patted completely dry (any water left on the tomatoes will make them steam instead of roasting and getting super-nutty and caramelized!)

1 head roasted garlic (or 2-3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced)

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

1 lb. pasta of choice (we really liked the rigatoni with it…it was hearty and picked up all that wonderful sauce perfectly.

3 sprigs fresh rosemary (or a generous sprinkling of dried rosemary…1 ½ tsp)

8 oz. fresh mozzarella (see note)

Pre heat oven to 425°

Toss tomatoes with olive oil, salt, whole rosemary stems, and sliced fresh garlic (if using).  Roast for about 20 minutes or until the skins burst and begin to caramelize.  If desired, broil on high for an additional 5 minutes to get extra caramelization.  Remove the pan from the oven and tilt it so the juices can run all over and pick up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.

If using roasted garlic, squeeze the cloves from the skins and mash the flesh with a few more tablespoons of olive oil.

Remove the large rosemary stems from the tomatoes.

Combine the cooked pasta, the tomatoes, the garlic and the fresh mozzarella.  Toss gently to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Eat and be happy!

Note:  I found some wonderful, tiny, fresh mozzarella pearls at our local market.  f you don’t have these, a regular fresh mozzarella ball cut into ½” dice is also wonderful, or drain and quarter 8 oz of fresh mozzarella boccancini.

P.S.  I may have cheated a little bit  on The Project.


I know.  I’m as horrified as you are.  Please rest assured that it was entirely a mistake.  Well, not entirely.  But mostly.

Due to a sick call-out last week’s martini, olive and caper experience got pushed back yet another week to this Friday.  That’s tomorrow.  Well, long story short, today I met an old friend for lunch today and it turned out that my pizza had capers on it, and my salad had kalamata olives in it.  And, well, I hated to sit there picking apart my food in front of said friend (who probably already thinks I’m wierd enough already!) so, you know, I went ahead and ate them!

I am ashamed.

And my apologies to my faithful Project friends and supporters.

But I promise not to tell you what I thought of them until tomorrow, in any case!

Ahem.  I’ll see you then.  Please forgive me.


On Unexpectedness, Indeciciveness, and Curried Sweet Potato Soup October 28, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 12:37 pm

The Unforeseen has happened.

In an entirely unexpected, shocking and certainly unprepared for twist of fate, I recently discovered that someone has read my blog.

And cooked something off of it.

As a result of this surprising event, it has been brought to my attention that my recipes lack in two areas:

1) Precise measurements (as in:  “how many ounces are in that can anyways?!?”)

2) How many servings one should expect to have at the end of it all

My apologies!

Henceforth I will make an attempt to check the size of the cans I use in my recipes so I can pass that information on to you, and I will also try to judge how many servings each recipe makes. I gotta warn ya though, I’m not so good at judging serving sizes.  And they certainly won’t be based on nutritional value, vitamin content, or any food pyramid.  They’ll mostly be based on how full you’ll be after you eat it.

At the end of the day, though, I really want to press that cooking is never a precise art.  Baking, yes, cooking no.  So if what I give you isn’t working out for you, do something else that does!  You won’t be able to ruin one of these recipes by leaving out an ingredient, or by putting in more or less of it, or by substituting it with something else altogether.

I don’t want to bore everyone to death by constant repetition of certain tips either, but I’ll mention some of them more often for those who drop in in the middle of things.

So that being said, let’s cook something!  And I’ll try to implement my new resolutions!

So I had some leftover sweet potato from the quesadillas I made the other day (see previous post).  There was just enough to do something with, but not enough to do much.  So I did exactly what I do when I want to stretch out a small amount of leftovers into a meal…

I made soup!

(Now, I started with one cast of ingredients and ended up with a slightly different one, so don’t do your grocery shopping based on what you see in these photos.)

Ginger, garlic and scallions.  Mmmmm.  That’s a good start for any recipe!

I also used lemongrass.  And yes, I used the kind in the tube.  It just happened to be convenient, inexpensive, and already minced.

And the lemongrass stalks they were selling at the grocery store looked kinda….well…



There’s the ginger and garlic minced up, and the sliced scallions,and the leftover sweet potatoes from the other day (if you don’t just happen to have leftover sweet potatoes sitting around you can bake one in the microwave {make sure to poke plenty of holes in it first} or peel and boil one until tender.  Then just mash it up really well with a fork!  This recipe will use the equivalent of one small sweet potato–about a cup or a little less when all mashed up.) and the tube of lemongrass paste.  That platter smelled unbelievable!

(Oh yeah, and I was mincing ginger and garlic for two recipes, so that’s quite alot more than you will actually use in the soup.)

(To mince ginger: peel the root—I use the edge of a spoon for this– and slice it into very thin coins.  Lay the coins down flat on the cutting board and smash them using the end of the handle of the knife.)

Next, heat ye up a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, then pour in a little vegetable oil (a tablespoon or two).  Add the minced aromatics (ginger, garlic, scallion and lemongrass)

and stir it around for half a minute or so.  They will cook a little and release their aromas, but you don’t want them to begin to brown.

At this point you should definitely stick your face over the pan and take a couple of good whiffs.

Then sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of curry powder.

It’s the right thing to do.

Next add in your mashed sweet potato and stir it around a little.

Then stir in a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.

Now pour in a can of unsweetened coconut milk (not to be confused with cream of coconut, which makes a delicious but very sweet base for pina coladas and other desserts.  And yes, I would consider a pina colada dessert).  Pour in a little at a time, stirring to incorporate it with the sweet potatoes evenly.

If the soup is too thick, add a little water, vegetable stock, chicken stock, or even milk, until it reaches a consistency you like.  I added just a little splash of water, because I wanted my soup to be rich and thick.

At this point, what I really should have done it poured it all in a blender and given it a little whirr.

So, you know, pour the soup into a blender and give it a little whirr.  Just to break down any big bits of ginger and scallion or unmashed bits of sweet potato.

Heat it through, taste for salt and adjust as needed.

What you have now is creamy, warming, delicious, rich, sweet and savory and wonderful!

Believe me, not much could be better on a cold, snowy night!

And I’ll be honest, it’s pretty hearty.  If you served it with some bread and a salad, there’s a filling meal for you right there!

It is also vegan (if you don’t use milk or chicken stock to thin it out).

And lactose free.

And gluten free (if you use gluten free soy sauce).


Here’s the recipe.  It feeds two as a main course, or makes four small starter servings.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons ginger, minced (about a 1 ½” piece of gingerroot)

2 teaspoons lemongrass paste

2 thinly sliced scallions

2 teaspoons curry powder

2-3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 small, cooked sweet potato, mashed

1 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

Salt to taste

Heat a medium sized saucepan to medium heat while you prepare the ingredients.

When the pan is hot, pour in the oil.  Immediately add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and scallions.  Sauté, stirring, for about 20 seconds.  Stir in the curry powder, sweet potato and soy sauce, stirring until mostly smooth.  Stir in the coconut milk, a little at a time, until evenly incorporated.  If desired, pour the soup into a blender and puree until smooth, then pour back into the saucepan.

If the soup is too thick, add some liquid (chicken or vegetable stock, or water or milk) until desired consistency is reached. Heat through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Eat and be happy!


Halloween weekend is a tough time to try and have a non-Halloween related party.

That being said, the Martini Antipasti party has been moved…yet again.

November 4th will now be the night I overcome my olive phobia with lots of booze, charcuterie and cheese to help out.

Be there?


Be there!


Chorizo and Sweet Potato Quesadillas…and a Correction October 24, 2011

Filed under: Next!,Random Thoughts (or sometimes maybe not so random),Recipes — PhobicFoodie @ 10:47 am

Last Valentine’s Day I was given a subscription to Food Network Magazine and I love it.  It is always chock full of wonderful and inspiring photos and recipes and every time I flip through it I come away with a ton of ideas for new recipes.

The most recent one showed up earlier this week, so of course I immediately dropped everything I was already doing to sit down and devour it!  I didn’t even realize Hubby was reading over my shoulder until he pointed at the page I was reading and said

“Hey, will you make those?”

He was pointing at a recipe for Pork and Sweet Potato Quesadillas.

Um.  YUM!

So I said “Ok!!”

And then I promptly forgot all about it.

A couple of days later at the grocery store Hubby asked if I knew what ingredients we needed for the quesadillas and I said something like,

“Oh, um, not exactly, but I can figure it out…” and sent him off to find a butternut squash.  He returned about seventeen seconds later with a large squash and said,

“But, didn’t the recipe call for sweet potatoes?”

Oh yeah.  That.

As I fudged my way through the rest of the ingredients I realized that I hadn’t really read the recipe at all.  I mean, what’s hard about quesadillas, right?  Apparently the hardest part is getting the ingredients straight!

In any case, the combination of ingredients I chose still came out really delicious, and was really very easy to make!  I’ll give you my recipe below, but you can also find the original recipe that inspired it here:

You’ll want to begin by baking your sweet potatoes.  Use your favorite method (I like to poke mine full of holes, wrap ‘em in foil and roast ‘em at 400° for an hour or so.  You can do whatever you want!  Just promise me you will bake more than one and use the others for something else.  I just can’t justify the energy needed for roasting if you are going to bake just one).

When the sweet potatoes are tender, pull them out of the oven and let them sit out until cool enough to handle, then peel and mash them.

(Here is where I should have added a little ancho chile powder, or chipotle powder, or Spicy Chipotle Sauce if I’d had any on hand.  But I didn’t.  Don’t make the same mistake as me…add some chile powder and a smidge of salt to the sweet potatoes!)

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, make the meat filling.

First of all, I used chorizo instead of simple ground pork.  I kinda thought just plain pork might be a bit bland.  I suppose the spices in the recipe really would have been plenty of seasoning, but I almost always find that using sausage adds a huge boost of flavor for virtually no work at all!  Plus it was on sale.

Brown the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat.

Once it is broken down and beginning to cook, push it all to the side and pour a little oil into the other side.  Add in one small diced onion, and (if you want) a sliced jalapeno.

Let all of this sauté until the chorizo is browned, and the onions are tender and caramelized.  If the meat  begins to scorch, pour in a little water and scrape the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan.

Once everything is cooked through and brown, turn the heat off and add some minced garlic.  Stir this all up, taste and adjust the seasoning, and set the mixture aside.

Now, line up all your ingredients and let’s make us some quesadillas!

Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat.

Begin assembling your quesadillas by spreading about 1/3 to ½ a cup of sweet potato over one enchilada sized tortilla (I think these were about 8” tortillas…anyways, you can use whatever size you like, this one just seemed right to me!)

then top the sweet potato with about the same amount of chorizo filling…

…then top this with a good amount of cheese.

Let’s talk cheese.

I used Asadero cheese.  It is a semisoft Mexican cheese that is very salty and has a mild flavor (it sort of reminded me of American Cheese).  It melts smoothly and becomes very creamy.  I’d never used it before.  It was really delicious, but I was wishing for that chewy, stretchy, melty texture that you get from cheddar.  Plus, it sort of melted out the sides and made a general mess of my skillet.

So anyways, the moral of the story is: Asadero is delicious and I would encourage you to use it.  But if you like a stretchy, tangier cheese, sharp cheddar or cheddar jack or even pre-shredded Mexican blend would also be super delicious!

Now top all this with another tortilla, then brush the outside with a little olive oil.  Put the quesadilla oiled side down in the skillet and let it cook until golden brown, crispy and melty.  Brush the other side with oil and turn.  Cook until the other side is done.

Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Serve with some diced avocado or a refreshing salad.



1 medium sweet potato

1 tsp chipotle powder, ancho powder, or chili powder

½ Lb bulk Chorizo sausage

1 small onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (if desired)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced



Olive oil

Begin by baking the sweet potato until tender.  Set aside.

Make the Chorizo filling:

Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the Chorizo, breaking it down as it cooks.  When it is partially cooked move it to one side of the pan and pour a little oil into the other side (if the chorizo is particularly greasy drain it before this step).  Add in the onion and jalapeno (if using).  Allow this mixture to cook until the sausage and onion are caramelized and cooked through.  If needed, pour a little water into the skillet to loosen up the brown bits.  Cook until the water has evaporated completely, then turn off the heat and stir in the garlic.

Begin heating another large skillet over medium heat.

Peel and mash the sweet potato with the chili powder and a little salt.

Spread some sweet potato over a tortilla.  Top with Chorizo filling and cheese.  Top this with another tortilla.  Brush the top tortilla with olive oil and place (oiled side down) in the skillet.  Cook until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden brown, then flip and cook until the other side is also golden brown.  Move to a platter and keep warm.

Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling (this recipe makes 3-4 quesadillas, but could easily be doubled or more!).

Eat and be happy!


I told you yesterday that Martini and Antipasti Day is Saturday, October 30th.  I lied.  Next Saturday is October 29th!  The error has been corrected in that post, but I wanted to point it out here too.

So the party is next Saturday (October 29th!), and you are still all invited!  I apologize for any confusion!


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