Friday, September 23, 2011

Introducing Josie Cooks!

After some looking around, I decided to change the blog to wordpress.  There are features on Wordpress that will make things a bit easier.  I hope you enjoy the new look of

One of the new features is subscribing to the blog via email-- sign up and you'll get an email when new recipes are posted. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Don't forget to add the new address to your favorites list. :)

*click on the words Josie Cooks! to open the new blog

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuscan Beef Stew-- 2 ways!

Wow!  What a busy week.  They don't call it 'Culinary Boot Camp' for nothing. ;-)

I was fortunate enough to travel to Fayetteville, AR last week to attend my last week of Culinary Training with the RCA (Research Chefs Association).  The classes are taught by Dr. John Marcy (University of Arkansas) and Chef Susie Stephens.  Our group of 8 students would begin at around 7:30am every day by making breakfast.  After breakfast, we'd attend a brief lecture, then divide the recipes that were to be done for the day.  We'd get to work, chopping, dicing, sauteing and grilling.  When everything was done, we'd sit down and eat, talk about the recipes, what we changed, etc.  Then we'd do any prep work needed for the next day's breakfast.  I was in HEAVEN!

This is one of the recipes I, um, Josie-fied.  I'll post the RCA class version at the end of the post.  Also included with the RCA version is a recipe to make your own Cavatelli pasta.  Good stuff!  If you've never made homemade pasta before, its delish!  Plus, you won't believe how easy it is.

The red wine I used was Cabernet Sauvignon from Merry Cellars in Pullman, WA.  I worked for Merry Cellars while going to school at WSU.  I miss crushing grapes and bottling wine!  I'm definitely going to have to make a trip up there for a crush or two in the near future.

Tuscan Beef Stew

3-4 lbs Beef Chuck Roast, cut into 1" cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large onion, diced
3 Tbsp chopped garlic (2 Tbsp if you use Garden Gourmet Garlic)
2 large or 3 medium carrots, diced
3 large ribs celery, diced
3 oz. sun dried tomatoes (not in oil), chopped
2 cups good red wine
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1" cubes
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
4 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (3 Tbsp if using Garden Gourmet chopped basil)
Parmesan cheese (garnish on top)

1.  Season cubes of beef well with salt and pepper.  Add the flour and toss to coat.  Make sure the flour is completely covering the beef.

2.  In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, warm half of the oil.  Add the beef and brown well-- don't crowd the pan.  I did this in three batches.  Don't worry about the bottom of the pot turning dark brown-- that's flavor!  Add more oil as needed.  Once all the beef is browned, remove it from the pot and set aside.

Brown pot bottom= flavor to savor!
3.  Add mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot.  Add more oil if necessary to saute until lightly browned.

4.  Return the beef cubes to the pot and add the wine.  Bring to a simmer, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  This releases and dissolves all those browned bits.  Yummy!  Add sun dried tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, thyme, sage, potatoes and stock.  Bring to a low boil, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour.  Add the zucchini chunks for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

5.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the beef and veggie chunks to a bowl.  Return the 'sauce' left in the pot to medium high heat and boil until reduced and thick (the consistency of gravy).  This should take 10 to 15 minutes.

6.  Adjust seasonings (salt and pepper) on the sauce, then return the reserved vegetables and meat chunks back to the pot.  Heat until bubbling.  Stir in the parsley and basil just before serving.

7.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Serve with warm crusty bread.

Tuscany Beef Stew with Cavatelli Pasta
Chef Susie Stephens

3-4 lbs Beef Chuck Roast, cut into 1.5" cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste
All purpose flour as needed
2 fl. oz. (1/4 cup) Olive Oil
8 oz. Shitake Mushrooms
6 oz. Sliced Onion
3 Tbsp Slivered Garlic
3 oz. Carrot, small dice
3 oz. Celery, sliced thin
3 oz. Sundried Tomatoes, sliced
2 Cups Red Wine
2 Cups Tomato Concassee (peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
1 qt chicken stock
4 Tbsp Parsley, fine chop
4 Tbsp Basil, fresh chopped
24 oz. Cavatelli, cooked, hot
Parmesan Cheese, for garnish

1.  Season the roast cubes with salt and pepper and dust with flour.
2.  In a rondeau, heat the oil and brown the beef.  Remove and reserve.
3. Add the mushrooms, onions, garlic, carrots and celery and saute until very lightly brown.
4.  Return the beef cubes to the pan and add the sun-dried tomatoes, wine, tomato concassee, thyme, sage, and stock.  Cover and simmer until beef is tender, 45 - 60 minutes.
5.  Strain the sauce, reserving the meat and vegetables, and return the sauce to the saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook over high heat to reduce and thicken slightly, 8-10 minutes.
6.  Adjust the seasonings.  Add the reserved meat and vegetables and heat.  Stir in the parsley and basil just before serving.
7.  Toss the hot pasta with the beef sauce.  Garnish with cheese.

Cavatelli Pasta

2 cups all purpose flour
8 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1.  Lightly beat the egg and mix in the ricotta cheese.  Pour 2 cups of flour into a large ceramic or glass bowl.  Make a spot for the egg in the flour, and add the ricotta and egg mixture.  Work the mixture together well.  It will appear to be very dry at first.
2.  Lightly flour a working surface and knead dough until it is smooth.  Let the dough rest at room temperature, covered with an inverted bowl or plastic wrap for 30 minutes.
3.  Form the dough into a round and cut it into quarters.  Working with one quarter at a time (cover the remaining dough with plastic to keep from drying out) on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rope 1/4" in diameter.  With a knife, cut the rope into 1/2" pieces.
4.  Gently press each piece onto the tines of a fork, beginning at the top and moving down toward the bottom, dragging dough downward and causing the pasta to roll over itself.  This will form a ridged 'C' shape.
5.  Transfer the formed pasta to a lightly floured sheet pan and let dry at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
6.  Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add the pasta.  Remove cavatelli as they float to the top when done.

Happy cooking!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fruit Smoothie

Some of you know that I have a fairly recent addition to my kitchen. A recent addition that I LOVE so far.  You would love it, too.  It's my Vitamix blender. The other blenders are going in the garage sale that will happen in a few weeks. 

The Vitamix is AMAZING!  It can do anything a regular blender can do, plus make soup.  SOUP!  It will heat the water and everything.  I am definitely going to take advantage in a few weeks when the weather starts cooling down. :)

This morning, I had a smoothie and an almond butter waffle sandwich.  YUM!  Smoothies are great because they are very forgiving.  Hope you have fun experimenting with different fruit combinations!

Fruit Smoothie
Frozen Fruit Chunks (I got a bag from Costco that has pineapple, papaya, mango and strawberries)
agave nectar or sugar

1.  Fill up your cup with fruit chunks-- the cup you intend to drink out of.  Once the fruit chunks are in there, pour the milk in to the halfway mark, then add water until the cup is 3/4 full of fruit and liquid.  Add about a TBSP of agave nectar or sugar.  Dump it all into the blender.

2.  Give it a whirl until all the fruit is crushed up and it has the proper consistency.  Add more liquid if needed-- the Vitamix is great because it has a plunger stick that helps all the fruit get down to the blade.

3.  Pour into the cup you measured with, stick in a straw, and sip.  Now GET TO WORK!!  :)

Have a happy day!

PS- Please forgive the sideways smoothie pic.  The silly computer loaded it sideways and I can't get blogger to rotate it! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Picnik-- the new photo obsession

I've discovered a wonderful new tool.  It's called picnik and it helps your photos go from drab to FAB!  Here are a few touched up pics of my furry babies...

Mr. Tobie on the couch.

Ralfie snoozing on the other couch.

Charlie and Mocha in the SAME PICTURE!!  Plus, Charlie is doing his 'sitting like a human' trick. 

I had fun playing this afternoon.  Now that my brain is refreshed, time to get back to work!

Chicken Fajita Salad

Wondering what to do with the leftover meat from your Chicken Fajitas that you made the other night?  Me, too!  This morning, I opened the refrigerator to throw something together for lunch (another lean pocket was NOT going to cut it today).  What did I see??

1.  Leftover grilled chicken and green bell peppers from Chicken Fajitas
2.  Iceberg Lettuce
3.  Carrots from the garden
4.  Tomatoes from the garden
5.  Cukes from someone else's garden
6.  Cheddar cheese
7.  Ranch dressing

Folks, we have a salad!!  I added a couple of things that were hanging out in the pantry and... viola!  A lunch to write home about.  That reminds me... I need to email my Mom!

Chicken Fajita Salad
1/2 cup grilled chicken and green bell peppers from here:
1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 oz. cheddar cheese, chopped
1 cup various chopped veggies (tomatoes, cukes, carrots, celery, etc.)
1/4 cup drained and rinsed black beans
1/4 cup drained and rinsed canned corn
4 or 5 black olives, sliced
1 to 2 TBSP of your favorite dressing
6 crushed restaurant-style corn chips

1.  Place the chicken and peppers in a smaller container for transport to work.  Layer the lettuce, veggies, beans, corn, olives and dressing in a larger container.  Be sure there is plenty of room at the top for shaking.  Place the chips in a separate baggie.
2.  When its time to eat, heat the chicken and peppers for 45 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave.  Dump on top of the salad in the larger container.  Add the crushed chips to the top and shake, shake, shake!  Shake, shake, shake!  Shake your sa-lad!  Shake your sa-lad!  (while shaking your booty, of course)
3.  Enjoy and remain energized for your afternoon of whatever you do at work! For me its been cooking french fries.  LOTS of french fries.  Thank goodness no fries were included in this salad or I'd have to harm them mortally with a fork. ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Hey everyone!  The end of the week, we'll be in September.  HOLY COW!!  Where did the summer go?

Well, the weather doesn't know that September is coming.  Its still been pretty toasty here in the Treasure Valley with highs in the 90s the last few days.  The last thing I want to do after coming home on a hot day is heat up the kitchen.  Plus, we need to take advantage of grilling while its still grilling season!

This recipe is simple but delicious!  Even Ty will eat it so you know its good.  Have a great last week of August/ first week of September.

Chicken Fajitas
3 large chicken breast halves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp southwest seasoning (Mrs Dash has a good one)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp oil (I used canola)
2 Tbsp water
1-2 bell peppers, bottom and top cut off, then chopped into 4 pieces
1 med sweet onion, sliced thick (optional)
Other toppings if desired

1.  Slice each chicken breast piece in half horizontally.  The easiest way is to hold the breast flat against the cutting board with your hand while sliding the knife through the meat.  You should end up with two thin chicken breast pieces.

2.  Mix seasonings, lime juice, water and oil in a bowl for the marinade.  Place in a ziptop bag with the chicken pieces and shake well to distribute the marinade.  Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.   Meanwhile, heat the grill over medium heat.

3.  Place the chicken and veggies on the grill.  Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  The veggies may take a bit longer than the meat. 

4.  Let meat rest for 5 to 7 minutes on a cutting board.  Slice meat and veggies thin, then layer with cheese and salsa into warm flour tortillas.  Serve with additional toppings such as sour cream, guacamole, etc. 

Tip: The meat stores well in the freezer!  Make extra, slice it up, and transfer to a freezer bag once its cool.  Reheat for a quick dinner or as a topping on a crunchy fajita salad!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Raspberry Blackberry White Chocolate Muffins

Howdy ho!  How are you this fine Monday morning?  We are finally getting settled in our new temporary home.  Most of the boxes have been unpacked and sorted.   All that is left is the garage-- the end is in sight!  The animals are all adjusting quite well.  Ralfie is very happy to have his couch back...

And Tobie found a comfy place to nap...

The kitties are having fun exploring all the new nooks and crannies.  Mocha especially loves the upstairs family room.

The kitchen in this place is HUGE.  I love it!  This weekend, I had a pint of raspberries and a pint of blackberries that needed to be used up.  I wasn't in the mood for cobbler, so I decided to make the next best thing-- Muffins!  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!  Dark chocolate chips may be substituted for the white chocolate if you'd like.  I made them both ways and they were both great.

Raspberry Blackberry White Chocolate Muffins
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil (I used canola)
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup raspberries and 1/2 cup blackberries (or any combination of 1-1/2 cups berries)
1 cup white chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

2.  Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

3.  Make a well in the dry ingredients.  Pour in the wet ingredients and mix just until moistened.

4. Add berries and chocolate chips.  Mix until well blended.

5.  Line a muffin tin with liners and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Fill each liner 2/3 full (I used a #24 scoop).

6.  Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.

7.  Cool for about 5 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Too hot to cook?  I've got a solution for you.  Panzanella!  It's an Italian bread salad that is bursting with flavor.  Plus, its simple to put together.  Let it marinate in the fridge for a few hours and you're good to go!

Purdum's, Western Idaho's favorite vegetable stand, is finally open.  I picked up some pickling cukes there and used them in the salad.  Yum!  So happy the veggie stands are finally starting to pop up again.  So head to your local farmers market or veggie stand and get started!

Quick Panzanella
1/3 of a sourdough baguette, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lg tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, slivered
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (reduced to a syrup, then measured)
salt and pepper to taste

-Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss well, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Stir well again and serve.

Have you seen 'Extra Virgin' on the cooking channel?  I love it!  Actress Debi Mazar cooks with her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos.  The two are hilarious!  She has the New York accent and he has an Italian accent.  Highly entertaining and the food looks wonderful.  They made Panzanella a bit differently by rinsing the bread in water and squeezing it out, adding onions, etc.  They also never use sourdough bread, but I like the flavor it brings to the salad.  Plus, its what I had in the house.  There you go!

Summer is in full swing and many people are camping.  A coworker brought a little creature back from the fire pit of the campground.  Someone obviously was extremely bored in the woods.  Check this out...

What is it?  A potato mouse?  Who knows.  Just watch out when you're in the woods.  There are some very strange individuals out there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banana Cake with Banana Cream Topping

So, I ended up with 9 bananas in my Bountiful Basket.  I like bananas and all, but I can only eat so many in a week.  Plus, if you put too many in your smoothie, all you taste is bananas.  I didn't have room in the freezer so I decided to make a banana cake.

The recipes are based off of some from All Recipes, but I tweaked them a bit to fit what I had on hand.  This is a bit like banana bread, but lighter.  YUM!

Banana Cake with Banana Cream Topping
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 lg eggs
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk*
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

2.  Whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.  Slowly add to the butter mixture and stir just until blended.  While stirring, slowly pour in the buttermilk.*

3.  Mash the bananas with a whisk.  Fold in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips.  The batter should look like this:

4.  Spray a 9x13 pan with oil.  Pour in the batter and use a rubber spatula to even out the top.  Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, turn the cake around, and bake an additional 30 minutes.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

5.  Allow cake to cool completely before topping with banana cream.

*If you do not have buttermilk on hand, place 1 Tbsp white vinegar in the bottom of a 1-cup measure.  Fill to the 1-cup line with milk and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken.  It may curdle a bit, but it will be ok!

Banana Cream**:
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 (3 oz.) envelope banana cream pudding
3/4 cup cold milk
1 small container Cool Whip
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

1.  Whip the banana until shiny and smooth.
2.  Add the milk and stir well.  Then add the pudding mix.  Beat on medium low speed for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

3.  Fold in the container of cool whip.

4.  Use to top the banana cake, and top with toasted pecans.

**I found that the Banana Cream recipe was enough to top two 9x13 cakes.  If you do not want to make two cakes, it is also good on ice cream with chocolate sauce or over angle food cake.

I am happy to say that all bananas are used up and the folks at work will be very happy during their coffee break tomorrow.  :D

Summer Sangria

Holy Hot Temps, people!  It has been quite warm outside.  Nice because my laundry tends to dry quickly, but not so good for walking pups and playing outside.  But I have a cure.  Something that will make you feel much better.  Something to sip with a good friend on the back porch.  Or the front porch. Or the sidewalk.  However you roll...

SANGRIA!!  The official drink of summer.  And winter.  Well, anytime, really.  I like making white sangria in the summer and red sangria in the winter.  Both are delicious and refreshing.  Here's how I make white sangria:

White Sangria
1 bottle (750 ml) White Wine (I chose Orange Muscat wine-- its already sweet)*
1 nectarine, pitted and chopped
1 plum, pitted and chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 tangerine or orange
sugar, to taste
20 oz. club soda or lemon-lime soda

1.  Place the chopped fruit in the bottom of your pitcher.

Isn't it pretty??  I thought so...

2.  Pour in the wine.

3.  Juice in the orange or tangerine.  Tip: use a paper towel to strain out any seeds.

4.  Stir everything together and let it sit overnight at room temperature.  In the morning, taste it.  Add sugar if it needs it.  Because I started with a sweet wine, I didn't add any sugar.  Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and chill at least 4 hours.

5.  When ready to drink, stir in cold club soda or lemon lime soda.  Serve over ice, if desired.  The fruit is good to nibble on if it drops into the glass-- but it absorbs a lot of the alcohol so watch out!

*Other wines I like to use: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or Viogner.  Just be sure to begin with a wine you like to drink.  Remember-- if you begin with crap, you'll just have fruit flavored crap at the end. Wink wink!

My silly camera decided to erase the pics I took of the sangria in the glass.  I'll catch it next time!

Happy Summer!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grilled French Dip

I feel very lucky to live in a rental with air conditioning. The only problem with said A/C is that it doesn't seem to cool the kitchen.  Mental note: get box fan for kitchen.  For some reason, the A/C seems to work better in the front of the rental where the living room is.  That means that the bedroom and kitchen are warmer.  I can deal with it, but I try to keep the heat out of the kitchen during the hot days of summer. 

This is something that is easy and quick to prepare-- a French Dip sandwich.  One of my favorites!  The grill added a nice smokiness.  So yummy!

So, the backyard was shady.  Very nice to cook in but not so nice to take photos in.  Oh well.  You'll get the idea. 

Grilled French Dip
French Style Baguette or hoagie (I got the bake-at-home kind)
Butter or Olive Oil
Roast Beef
Swiss Cheese (thinly sliced)
Au Jus (I like Johnny's because I can make as much as I want!)

1.  Preheat grill over medium heat.  Spit bread in half and brush all sides with olive oil or butter.  Place bread on grill and let cook (grill lid closed) for 2-3 minutes, cut side down, until toasted.

2.  Flip bread over and put cheese on it.  Place thinly sliced beef on the grill and close the lid.  After one minute, flip the beef.

3.  Remove when cheese is melted.  Assemble sandwich and serve with Au Jus.  I just made 1/2 cup in the microwave while the bread was cooking.

See that green stuff poking out from the far end of the plate?  It came from my garden!!  :)

Hope you enjoyed this post.  What do you do to beat the heat?