Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gingered Carrot Soup

     Pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash- it's hard to even see them without thinking of crisp chilly nights, crunchy leaves, flaming bonfires and steaming apple cider. Orange food just seems right for fall, doesn't it?
     A big bag of carrots in my vegetable bin inspired this colorful bowl of comfort for supper the other night. Carrots, sweet nuggets of goodness packed with beta-carotene and vitamin A, make this soup a fabulous choice for those chilly fall nights. (And it's not so shabby for lunch either!)

Carrot Ginger Soup
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (the smaller you chop them, the quicker they cook)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon curry powder
a few sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger (If you freeze your ginger root, then it's really easy to grate with a microplane grater.)
1 quart chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently saute onion and garlic in the butter and oil. Add carrots, thyme, ginger, curry powder, salt and chicken broth.
Simmer (covered) until carrots are tender. The length of time this takes varies, depending on your carrots and how large your carrot chunks are.
Remove sprigs of thyme and blend with an immersion or regular blender. (My immersion blender leaves the soup with a little more texture, and the regular blender makes it silky smooth. Be very careful with hot soup in a regular blender. Leave the vent lid open!)
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

     Happy Fall! The days are getting shorter and it's about time I dusted off my computer and got back into the kitchen. It was a lovely summer though, with visits from all of my children (and an especially long one with my grandson.) A lightning strike left me without internet for a month, and after about a week of withdrawal I actually enjoyed being unplugged! School has been taking up most of my time this past month, but we're settling into routines now and I'm feeling a little bit less frazzled at the end of each day. 

     I'm trying to stay away from sweets enjoy sweets in moderation, but when I saw these cookies from Sweet Treats and More, I had to put Jello Pumpkin Spice pudding on my grocery list. It's only available for a short time (I got it at WalMart) and gives these cookies a nice "pumpkiny" flavor without being too overpowering. In addition to the warm and spicy pumpkin flavor it adds, the pudding keeps the cookies soft and chewy- perfect for satisfying those after-school hunger pangs. :)

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips
adapted from Sweet Treats and More

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small box (3.4 oz) Pumpkin Spice Pudding (Jello)- I found this with the seasonal baking products at WalMart
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 
In mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light. 
Beat in dry pudding mix. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
Gradually incorporate flour into mixture. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Use a large cookie scoop to drop cookie dough onto parchment covered baking sheets. (My large scoop is about 3 Tablespoons.)
Bake 8-10 minutes and cool on cookie sheet until cookies are sturdy enough to remove to a cooling rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies. (Using a smaller scoop will yield more, and will probably require a shorter baking time.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jeweled Golden Rice with Cherries

     Cherry season is an anxiously awaited event in my household.  Even though the price is dear, I can't resist stocking my refrigerator with the luscious ruby-red orbs, and keep a bowl on the counter for popping in my mouth every time I pass by. In addition to being delicious, they're a nutrition powerhouse, fiber rich and full of antioxidants. Way better than bon-bons for you, but with the same "curb appeal."

     This summer rice salad showcases both sweet (fresh) and tart (dried) cherries. I don't even know where to start describing it. Saffron and curry scented rice, tangy and sweet cherries, crunchy pistachios and cashews, bursts of celery and chives, citrus and ginger dressing- it all comes together perfectly to make a mouthwatering bite. It pairs perfectly with grilled chicken or pork, but will easily stand alone as a delightful vegan (and gluten free!) main dish.

Jeweled Golden Rice with Cherries
from Eating Well, June/July 2006

1 cup brown basmati rice
1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken (or vegetable)broth
1/3 cup water
1 Tablespoon curry powder (your favorite)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 generous pinch crumbled saffron threads
3 Tablespoons canola oil (I used walnut oil)
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (I used dried)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I grated the ginger)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped celery
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped scallions or chives, divided
1 cup fresh dark sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup unsalted nuts, chopped -pistachios, almonds and cashews recommended- divided

1. Combine rice, broth, water, curry powder, turmeric and saffron in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil,stir once, cover with a lid. Reduce heat to low (simmer) and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

2. Combine oil, lemon juice, honey, orange zest, ginger and salt in a large non-reactive bowl. Stir in the cooked rice, celery, dried cherries and 1/4 cup chives or scallions. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (up to 2 days)

3. To serve, fold fresh cherries and 1/2 cup nuts into the rice mixture. Serve at room temperature, garnished with the remaining 1/4 cup scallions/chives and nuts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh Blueberry Sour Cream Pound Cake

     School is out, berries are in, and my cast is off! Does picking up plump blueberries one by one between my thumb and forefinger and purposefully dropping them into my mouth count as physical therapy? Whether it does or doesn't, that's what's been going on here in my kitchen. Blueberries are gorgeous and fresh at the market right now, and hard to resist. I'm glad they're a good snacking option, because I've eaten my share along with someone else's too I'm afraid. (Hope it wasn't yours!)

     Some of my berries were lucky enough to find their way into this buttery pound cake that is currently tempting me from the confines of its cake dome. Those beautiful bursts of blue make each slice of it just as hard to resist as the berries themselves. I'm taking it to my Mom's tomorrow for Sunday dinner- hope I can wait!

Fresh Blueberry Sour Cream Pound Cake
recipe from Taste of Home

6 eggs, separated (room temperature)
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
3 cups all purpose flour
8 oz. (1 cup) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (may use frozen- do not thaw!)

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and butter flavoring.

2. Combine flour and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition.

3. In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. Toss blueberries with about a tablespoon of flour. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the pan as the cake cooks. Fold blueberries into batter.

4. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 350F for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

     Since my chopping hand has been on the fritz, Hubby has been making most of our meals. I'm down with that, especially since he's a really good cook and has become quite proficient with his newest obsession  preferred method of cooking. 

     He has made these shrimp several times, and they disappear as soon as they come off the grill. They're great for an appetizer, but they'd also be fabulous on a summer salad or with pasta. They have the perfect amount of heat for me just the way they are, but if you're a fan of hot and spicy you may want to "kick it up" with a little extra cayenne!

     I hope to share more of Hubby's grilling adventures with you soon! My cast comes off in three weeks, but I'm sure my hand will need at least a little more time to recover. I know when I've got it good. :)

Spicy Grilled Shrimp
Mark Bittman, from Fish, The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking

2 lbs. large shrimp (raw), peeled and de-veined, rinsed and dried
1 large clove garlic
1 Tablespoon coarse salt (I use only about a teaspoon and it's plenty for us)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice

Finely mince garlic and mix with salt. Use the flat blade of your knife  or a mortar and pestle to make a paste with the garlic and salt. Mix in cayenne, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice. Combine with shrimp until  the shrimp is evenly covered with the spice mixture.
Grill or broil shrimp (hot fire) 2-3 minutes per side, or until done. Serve immediately or at room temperature, with lemon wedges if desired.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"The Chewy" Chocolate Chip Cookie

     Okay. So I haven't been spending too much time in the kitchen, as evidenced by my neglected little space here.  My right hand has been out of commission ever since an unfortunate tumble on a riser left me with a torn ligament. Who knew that school pictures were so hazardous? Repairs have been made, but I'll be in a cast for a while yet.

      My grandson in TX requested cookies, so I couldn't let a little thing like a bum thumb get in the way. I looked to Alton Brown and his mixer friendly recipe for  The Chewy, and he did not disappoint me. The only change I made was to use dark brown instead of light brown sugar. And I chilled the dough overnight, which made it even harder to scoop left handed, but made for a nice compact cookie that didn't spread too much in the oven.

     This cookie lived up to its descriptive name, and was still pronounced "yummy" (and still chewy) after a few days in the hands of the postal service. It's definitely a "keeper" recipe, especially since my trusty mixer did most of the hard work! And my grandson's smiles across the miles made it totally worth it. :)

The Chewy
Recipe from Alton Brown, Food Network
I followed the recipe linked above with a few minor changes I've indicated below.
Ingredients- If you have a food scale, I recommend weighing the ingredients- especially the flour.
2 sticks (16 Tblsp.) unsalted butter
12 oz. bread flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 oz. granulated sugar (about 4 1/2 Tblsp.)
8 oz. light brown sugar (about one cup) I used dark brown.
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 oz. whole milk (2 Tblsp.)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. chocolate chips
  • Melt butter over low heat. Cool slightly.
  • In a stand mixer (using paddle attachment) mix butter and both sugars on med. speed for 2 minutes.
  • Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. (I like to sift onto a piece of waxed paper.)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Add to butter and sugar in mixer (on low speed) until combined.
  • Gradually pour in flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  • Once flour has been incorporated, reduce mixer speed to "stir" and add chocolate chips.
  • Chill dough for at least an hour. (I chilled mine overnight)
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Scoop dough onto parchment covered baking sheets.
  • Bake 13-15 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your cookies. I used the medium sized scoop from Pampered Chef, and baked them about 14 minutes. Using this scoop, the recipe yielded about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.
  • Slide parchment (cookies and all) onto racks to cool. Remove cookies from parchment to rack when they've cooled enough to firm up.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lemon Tahini Dressing with The Camper's Special (aka Bean and Grain Burger)

 I have no idea why this is called a Camper's Special, but I do know it's pretty special and I'm a happy camper when I eat it. It's my favorite thing to order at one of my favorite restaurants, Sammy T.'s, and I've been ordering it for years. What makes it special? Well there's the bean and grain burger smothered with grilled peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions. And then there's the Chi-Chi dip (AKA hummus) hiding inside the cheese (mozzarella and cheddar) covered wrap. But really what I love is the Lemon Tahini Dressing that's served on the side. I wish they'd bring it in a vat.

     I looked far and wide for a Lemon Tahini good enough to enjoy with my Camper's Special at home, and made countless batches from countless recipes. None were what I was looking for. But then I had dinner with a dear friend and there it was, hiding in plain sight on her salad- the elusive, delicious Lemon Tahini Dressing.  Just what I needed to go with my homemade Camper's Special.

     Even if you don't have a Camper's Special to eat with it, this Lemon Tahini is fabulous for pouring over your salads or drizzling on your stuffed pita sandwiches or for dunking your veggies. Please excuse me while I go make a vat of it.

Lemon Tahini Dressing
Arthur Gordon, Irregardless Cafe, Raleigh N.C.
1/4 c. tahini
1/4 c. tamari
1/4 c. onion, minced
2 Tbs. green pepper, minced (My dressing looks a little pink in the photo- I used a red pepper)
1  stalk celery, minced
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 c. light olive or grapeseed oil
2 Tablespoons water (I omit this, because I prefer a thicker dressing)
Blend (or process) the tahini, tamari, onion, bell pepper, and celery. Puree well if you want a smooth texture. Process in lemon juice and white pepper. With motor running, add oil and then enough water to get desired consistency. I prefer it a little on the thick side but that's just a matter of taste.

Camper's Special Top your Bean and Grain Burger (recipe follows) with hummus, sauteed onions, green pepper, tomato and mushrooms. Wrap it in a grilled flour tortilla and top it with mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Heat at 350F until cheese is melted. Serve warm with lemon tahini dressing. Yum.

Bean and Grain Burgers
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1tablespoon olive oil
1 (19 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed and ground or coarsely chopped
3 slices whole wheat bread, blended in food processor
1/4 cup sesame tahini
1/4 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/3 cup raw wheat germ

Gently saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are slightly browned. Mix onions together with remainder of ingredients EXCEPT the wheat germ. Form mixture into 8-10 patties. Coat each patty in raw wheat germ and grill on a non-stick surface until heated through and gently browned.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Easy Cherry-Almond Coffee Cake

     Okay Spring...any time now. Today we woke up to a dusting of snow that eventually changed over to a biting cold rain. Not the kind of weather that makes you think of daffodils and bunnies, is it? I was tempted to just pull the covers back up over my head and go back to sleep 'til I heard the birdies singing and felt some warm sunshine peeking through my window.

     I might have been tempted out of bed with this Cherry-Almond Coffee Cake, but unfortunately it was long gone. I made it a couple of weeks ago, and boy do I wish I had a slice now. The good thing about it is it's super quick and easy to put together, and it looks and tastes like you spent hours. Tart little bursts of cherry preserves in each bite of creamy almond filling will give you a sunny outlook even if the weather won't cooperate.

     The original recipe from Pillsbury used apricot preserves, which I'm sure would be equally delicious. I had cherry jam in my refrigerator love cherries with almond so that's what I went with. Why not make both and see which one you like best? 

Easy Cherry-Almond Coffee Cake
Very slightly adapted from this Pillsbury recipe
Coffee Cake
1 pkg. (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (4 oz.) almond paste, crumbled
1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1 Tablespoon sliced almonds

  • Heat oven to 375F. Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment. With a mixer on low speed, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Beat in crumbled almond paste until well mixed.
  • Unroll dough onto cookie sheet or parchment. Press into a 13x7inch rectangle, pressing perforations to seal. 
  • Spoon the cream cheese mixture lengthwise down the center 1/3 of the rectangle. Evenly spread the preserves on top of the cream cheese mixture.
  • On each long side of the dough, make cuts 1 inch apart to the edge of the filling. Fold opposite strips of dough over the filling, and cross the strips in the center to resemble a braid. Seal ends.
  • Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • Mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled braid and sprinkle with almonds.
  • ***You can assemble this up to 2 hours ahead of time. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Uncover and bake as directed in the recipe.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spicy Curried Butternut Red Lentil Soup

     I may regret (or even deny) ever saying this, but I really would love to have just a little bit of that snow that other people are getting. Just a little bit, mind you. Not this much. Enough to be able to enjoy a day of being snowed in, but not enough to make my driveway impassable. Is that asking too much?

     I'm pretty sure I'd make soup. Maybe this one. Just spicy enough, with tender little chunks of butternut squash that create bursts of sweetness as they melt in your mouth. Perfect for a day of staying inside and looking out. I'll be flushing some ice cubes and wearing my jammies inside out and backwards tonight. Think that'll work?

Spicy Curried Butternut Red Lentil Soup
1 Tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1 medium to large onion, chopped (small dice)
1 Tablespoon ginger root, grated or diced (Freeze your ginger root, and it grates beautifully.)
1 butternut squash- peeled, seeded and cubed (smallish cubes, about the size you'd cut potatoes for potato salad) My butternut squash was about 2 pounds.
1 can light coconut milk
2 cups dried red lentils, washed
1 quart broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (or to taste)
Salt to taste

Heat oil (medium heat) in large soup pot.  Add onions and ginger and cook until onions are translucent.
Add curry powder and cayenne, and cook a few seconds until fragrant.
Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until lentils and squash are tender.  If, during cooking, soup gets too thick, add water or broth as needed. (Check often to make sure the lentils are not sticking to the bottom of your pan.)
If you prefer a smooth soup, use a blender (careful- it's hot!) to puree. I usually blend about 3/4 of the soup, and then add it back to the rest. That way there are still some chunks of sweet butternut in the soup.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lego Cookies for a Special Birthday!

As the mother and grandmother of boys, I know Legos. I can identify them in the dark, especially if I'm barefoot. (If you've ever had Legos in your house, you probably know exactly what I mean!) I am a Lego enabler (I wonder if there's a support group for this), and love to add to the already overflowing Lego bins that include bits and pieces of all of the random Lego sets my boys collected over the years.

So when my grandson wanted a Lego birthday party for his seventh year, I was more than happy to help his mom make him some cookies.

And some happy little cakes.

Seven already? No way!

These Legos, inspired by Callye's Easy Lego Cookies at The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, were made with this Iced Spice Cookie recipe. It's a ginger cookie with royal frosting, and my favorite for cut-outs. The cakes were sculpted from sheet cakes and mini-cupcakes, and frosted with buttercream. The Lego head cookies were cut using a template that my daughter in law drew. (Well chilled dough made this easier.) The bricks were simply cut with a knife into squares and rectangles. I used Sugarbelle's Twenty Second Icing to fill the cookies, and frosting that was just a little bit thicker to add the face features and dots on the bricks.

The birthday boy would only eat the brick cookies- the little Lego heads were pronounced "Too cute to eat!" I don't think it stopped anyone else though. :) 

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