Broccoli Soup

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A few weeks ago we visited my cousin who lives out of state.  During our stay she made a pot of delicious broccoli soup.  Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it!  Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables.  It packs so many nutrients, anti-carcinogens, and fiber that as far as I am concerned it is truly a superfood.  Additionally, anyone who knows me knows green is my absolute favorite color—I could not resist making this beautiful soup!  There is such an elegance about it.  I would definitely serve this as a first course at a dinner party.

Aside from the aesthetics, this soup is delicious.  You would never believe that not only is there no cream in this soup, but there is no dairy either.  Yet the texture is creamy, and even a tad rich.  I served this with BLTs for a filling yet light week night supper.  (Soup + sandwich= heaven!) 

Note: The original recipe calls for broccoli florets only; however, I think it is a shame to waste the stalks and stems.  They are densely packed with fiber and nutrients.  I suggest you include them too.  Also, the recipe suggests passing the soup through a food mill.  I understand that this would make a purer and smoother soup, however, again, I hate to strain away any of the healthy broccoli nutrients and fiber.

Broccoli Soup:

  • olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, root and green woody top removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound fresh broccoli (about two heads), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 48 ounces of chicken broth or stock
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a dash of Tabasco Sauce

Add some olive oil to the bottom of a large soup pot.  (I used my Le Creuset.)   Warm the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the leeks, onion, and garlic.  Stir and cook until the onions are translucent. 

Note: The above step is extremely important for a maximum flavor soup.  If you aren’t in a rush, cook these ingredients over low heat for a long period of time (even to the point of caramelization if you’d like, though it is not necessary) to fully cultivate the flavor.

Add the potatoes and broccoli.  Add the chicken broth or stock.   Add the sprigs of thyme.  Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil.  Stir occasionally, cooking for about 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are all tender.  (Double check the stalks/stems here as these will take the longest to soften up.)

Take the pot off the heat and remove the thyme sprigs.  If you have an immersion blender, use that to puree the soup.  Alternately, cool the soup in the fridge for a few moments then puree in a traditional blender, one cup at a time.  Return the pureed soup to the cooking pot and warm it through.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.  Finish it off with a dash of Tabasco Sauce.

Adapted from A Mighty Appetite by Kim O’Donnel at The Washington Post inspired by “In Great Taste” by Evelyn H. Lauder.

Pasta Fagioli

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I have never really had any good ideas about what to do with all of the bits of different types of macaroni in boxes and in jars that I have hanging around in my cupboards.  There is never really an ideal occasion to use two handfuls of orrechetti or 1/4 pound of farfalle.  That is what I used to think, at least.  That is until I came upon this recipe in  At Home with Magnolia: Classic American Recipes from the Owner of Magnolia Bakery.  Alyssa Torey, owner of Magnolia Bakery, presents this delicious and unconstrained dish that is the definition of that trite yet appealing word:  rustic.  There is something so gratifying about using whatever it is that you can find around the kitchen and throwing it into a pot.  No rules.  And no wasting what you’ve already got.  I like that approach—it is refreshing in a “things don’t always have to be perfect” sort of way.  It makes me think of generations past who wouldn’t dream of wasting 1/4 cup of penne.  And now I won’t either!

This recipe makes a huge pot of wonderfully thick soup.  Don’t forget to use as many types of macaroni as you can find hiding in your pantry, and most important of all—do not forget the fresh bread for dipping! 

Pasta Fagioli:

  • 4 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 3   14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3/4  pound of any type of macaroni you have on hand, cooked and drained (if using spaghetti or linguini, cut into 1 inch pieces)  Be sure to use a variety of shapes and sizes!
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1.5 teaspoons of salt (plus additional if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

And for serving:

  • 1 loaf of fresh crusty bread for dipping
  • Freshly grated cheese

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over med-high heat.  (I used my Le Creuset.)  Add the onion and garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are tender and translucent, about 10-13 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, the tomatoes and the rosemary sprigs.  Bring to a low boil/simmer for about 35 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add the beans, Italian seasonings, and some salt and pepper.  Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Cool the soup by placing in the fridge for a few moments and then working in batches, puree about 1-2 cups of soup at a time in a blender until smooth, pureeing 6 cups of the soup total.  (Do not puree the rosemary sprigs.)  Mix the puree back into the soup pot.  Stir in the cooked macaroni and season with the salt and pepper.  Cook for 8-10 more minutes, uncovered over low-medium heat.  Discard the rosemary sprigs and serve in bowls topped with grated cheese and a loaf of crusty bread for dipping! 

Adapted from At Home with Magnolia: Classic American Recipes from the Owner of Magnolia Bakery.

Thai Chicken and Basil

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I always talk about how much I prefer quick, fresh home cooked meals to takeout and this recipe here really reinforces that!  Throw this chicken in a box with a wire handle and you will swear it comes from the freshest most delicious Thai takeout restaurant that ever existed.   

There is a lot of flavor and a lot of kick, so adjust your seasonings accordingly if you fear the fire!  We really love hot and spice so this was right up our alley.  My husband and I agree that this will be added to my “go-to” recipe pile.  It is that good!  I served this over brown rice with a side of steamed edamame.  Delicious.

A note: The measurements don’t create as much sauce as we would have liked—especially because the brown rice really sucks up the juice.  I suggest adjusting the liquid ingredients to your liking to get the amount of sauce that is right for you.  I will probably double, or even triple, the liquid measurements next time I make this.  What can I say, I like sauce…

One more note: Of all places, this recipe comes from Men’s Health Magazine!  I love getting recipes from a variety of places and I won’t lie, this is not the first time I’ve cooked from a Men’s mag!  You never know where you will find a great recipe! 

Chile Chicken and Basil:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Thai bird chilies or serano chilies
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil (you could also use peanut oil)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (I used chicken breast tenders/strips–they are already sliced nice pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon red chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil

Very finely chop the chilies and garlic.  Combine them on your cutting board and add a pinch of salt.  Use the side of your knife to smear the finely chopped bits into a paste. 

Preheat your wok (or pan) over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the chili/garlic paste you just made.  Cook for a few minutes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Chop the chicken into smaller pieces and add them to the pan.  Once the chicken is lightly browned (about 3-5 minutes) add the soy sauce, chili paste, sweet chili sauce, and hoisin sauce.  Toss to coat the chicken.  Cook until the chicken is done through, about 3-5 more minutes.

Crank some freshly ground pepper over the chicken and then add the basil to the pan.  Cook until  the basil is just wilted, about 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Adapted from recipe found in Men’s Health magazine March issue.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

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 This is a perfect “make Sunday and serve Monday and Tuesday” meal!  The flavors deepen as the turkey marinates so a couple of days in the fridge actually boosts the flavor.  The textures of the meat, vegetables, and nuts make these wraps satisfying to the palette.  And they are fun to eat!  I served them with a side of stir-fried vegetables.  (They would also work well as a starter course.)

Thai Lettuce Wraps:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce + 1 tablespoon
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 1.5 tablespoons Sriacha chili sauce (available in Asian markets or Asian ingredient aisle in grocery store)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves carefully removed, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts or almonds, coarsely chopped

Brown turkey.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in a covered glass bowl and refrigerate until cool.

In another bowl, combine all ingredients (except pepper, cucumber, lettuce, and nuts).  Add to turkey and mix.  Cover and allow to marinate overnight, or at least 3-4 hours for best taste. 

Remove from fridge and allow filling to come to room temperature.  Stir turkey mixture and add one tablespoon of light soy sauce to moisten it up.  Fill each piece of lettuce with filling.  Top with dice bell pepper, cucumber, and chopped nuts. Roll up and enjoy!

Adapted from Biggest Loser Ed’s Thai Turkey Wrap Recipe.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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 HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

I have only made a red velvet cake once before.  It was Paula Deen’s red velvet cake recipe (it was before my blogging days) and though it looked impressive and the frosting was delicious, the cake was just…red.  I don’t remember much flavor. 

 

These cupcakes, on the other hand are delicious!  There is a fabulous depth of flavor (and almost richness) that I think can be attributed to the cinnamon combined with the cocoa powder.  And they are so moist!  I had one of these warm out of the oven and I was blown away.  I can honestly say I was more than pleasantly surprised! 

 

I suggest that you find some time between all of the hugs and smooches you’ll be doling out today to give these a whirl!!! 

 

   Red Velvet Cupcakes:

 

  •  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup ( 1.5 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 bottles (1 ounce each) red food liquid coloring
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk add a tablespoon or two of vinegar to 1 cup of regular milk)

  Insert cupcake liners into a cupcake tin.  (Recipe makes ~12 cupcakes.)

 Preheat oven to 350 F.

 In a medium bowl sift flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

 In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter a medium speed until creamy, about one minute.  With mixer still running, slowly add sugar.  Occasionally stop mixer to scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.  Beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Slowly drizzle in eggs and beat well.  Add vanilla and food coloring.

 Using mixer on low speed incorporate one third of the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture.  Alternate with half the buttermilk.  Continue to alternate dry with wet, ending with dry, until all ingredients are incorporated.

 Using an ice cream scoop, carefully fill each cupcake liner, about 3/4 full.  Place cupcake pan on a baking sheet and place in oven.  Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

 Remove from oven and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely before frosting.

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Adapted from “James McNair’s Cakes” by James McNair posted on the Washington Post.

 

 

Parmesan, Pine Nut, Panko and Parsley Baked White Fish

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Let me first start by saying that it sends me bonkers when my photos of food turn out crumby!  Here is one of those instances where we were so hungry!  I made a quick attempt to make this pretty but then everything started to get cold.  And did I mention we were so hungry!  I actually almost didn’t post this just because the photo is so blah.  (And it is a photo of green fish so it wasn’t going to work for itself to begin with!)  Anyway, enough with the disclaimers!  I ultimately decided to share this recipe (despite the blah photo) because it is not only delicious, but also healthful.  And I have received several requests for easy weeknight suppers—I just couldn’t withhold this one from you on account of my bad photography!  It is so flavorful!

My sweetheart (along with just about everyone else) is fighting a cold so I wanted to make him a nutrient-rich dinner.  I love simple baked white fish, but I wanted to pack a little more punch!  This recipe does just that.  The coating for the fish is a combination of parmesan cheese, pine nuts, panko bread crumbs, garlic, and fresh parsley (which is why it is so green–don’t let that scare you).  The filets are dipped in egg white (pack a little protein!) then coated and then baked. Simple.  I served this with baked sweet potato and sauteed spinach with garlic.  Our plates were so colorful! 

Parmesan, Pine Nut, Panko and Parsley Baked White Fish:

  • 4 white fish filets
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs + 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 lemon (optional)
  • olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Spray glass 9 x 13 dish with cooking spray.

Using your Magic Bullet or food processor, combine the bread crumbs, pine nuts, cheese, parsley, and garlic.  Pulse a few times until finely chopped.  Pour into a wide shallow bowl/dish. Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into another wide shallow bowl/dish. 

One by one, dip each filet in egg white and then dip in the parsley mixture.  Press to coat on all sides.  Place filet into prepared glass baking dish.   Sprinkle each filet with plain panko breadcrumbs.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice over each.  Quickly and lightly spray each filet with one short pump of olive oil cooking spray.    

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until fish is flaky and opaque.  (You can crisp up the tops by placing the dish under the broiler for a few minutes. This will deepen the color of the bread crumbs and give the fish a crispier texture.)

Adapted from The Dallas Morning News.

Raspberry Chocolate Tart with Biscotti Crust

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This tart is rich, creamy, and delicious!  The biscotti is a nice surprise and it adds some dimension to the dessert.  The filling is so creamy!  And making it is shockingly straightforward.  The only thing I would do differently is I would be more careful when covering with plastic wrap.  As you can see from the photo, the plastic wrap did not go on smooth so little dips in the surface of the filling developed.  However, this subtlety did NOT affect the taste or the presentation.  It is really a lovely dessert—A perfect ending to a dinner party. 

Also, there is something very Valentine’s Day about this dessert.  The berries, the chocolate, the richness.  Spoil your honey–better yet–spoil yourself!

Raspberry Chocolate Tart with Biscotti Crust:

Biscotti Crust:

  • 8 ounces biscotti cookies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup raspberry sauce (recipe follows)
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Garnish:

  • Fresh raspberries

Make the biscotti crust

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Generously grease a 9 inch fluted tart pan.

Using your food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet*  puree the biscotti until they are finely ground.  Transfer crumbs to a bowl and add the melted butter.  Stir to combine.  Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 12-18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool in the tart pan on a wire rack.

Make the filling

First make the raspberry sauce by pureeing the raspberries in your food fprocessor, blender, or Magic Bullet until smooth.  Pour into a strainer set over a bowl and use a rubber spatula to push the puree through the strainer into the bowl.  The seeds will remain in the strainer.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Set aside.

 

Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and set aside.  In a saucepan, bring heavy whipping cream to a boil.  Immediately pour over chocolate and let sit for five minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in 1/3 cup of the raspberry sauce.

Pour the filling into the cooled tart crust.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, top with fresh raspberries! 

Adapted from Joy of Baking.com.

*Do you own a Magic Bullet?  It is a perfect tool for recipes like this tart!  In the time it takes to pull your food processor out, you can have small chopping or pureeing tasks done with the Magic Bullet !   It took literally minutes to puree the biscotti and then the the raspberries.  When working with small quantities, this little gadget is extremely efficient.