Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

The weather has been a little strange lately. We had a few gorgeously crisp fall days followed by some summer-like weather. Today is rainy and humid. That said, we are technically in soup season and there’s nothing like a pot of soup simmering on the stove to warm the house and beckon your family.  Soup is so practical too–make one large pot at the beginning of the week and reheat it for several lunches and dinners during the days that follow.  Better yet, freeze the leftovers. This recipe is chock full of nutrients and fiber.  It is also hearty, filling, and delicious.

Ideas:

–Transform this recipe to vegetarian by using vegetable stock in place of the chicken broth and beef stock.

–Serve with a warm crusty baguette for a wonderfully satisfying weeknight meal.

–For easy entertaining, make a pot and invite some friends over to watch a football game (go Patriots!)

–Perfect for a Halloween dinner because it won’t require your attention while you answer your door to trick-or-treaters!

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup:

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups dry lentils (picked over and rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3  14-0unce cans diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large stock of celery, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot (I used Le Creuset) combine broth, stock, lentils, rice, tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, carrots, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, and vinegar. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45-55 minutes or until the lentils and rice are tender. Stir in spinach, salt, and pepper. Don’t forget to remove and discard the bay leaf.

Adapted from So Easy, So Delicious by Ellie Deaner. Buy it!

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Pumpkin for my Pumpkin (Pumpkin Cupcakes)

I tend to become very sappy when it comes to first birthdays. My nephews turned me into puddles on each of their birthdays (Clown Cake,  Fire Engine Cake, Monkey Cake).  And now it’s time to be nostalgic all over again on an even more personal level because today is the one year anniversary of my daughter being born, also known as, her first birthday. Yup. I know, I can’t believe it either. *holding back a little sniffle* 

She captures my heart over and over and over with her sweet face, sparkling eyes, and  scrunchy-nosed smile. She has gone from a squishy little mammal that needed to be sustained (one year ago) to a delightful, charismatic, tiny person (today). She blows us kisses (“mmmmmmmmmmahhh!”), climbs into the dishwasher, opens and empties all of our drawers and cabinets, giggles uncontrollably when we tickle her belly, shows us which book she’d like to read then crawls into our lap, unfolds all of our laundry, and dances with her head. She claps when she hears an applause from the television set, holds her arms up like a waitress and scrunches her shoulders when someone walks out of the room (“Where’d he go?”), and stands up in her highchair during every meal.

Being her mom is the best gift I have ever been given.

I love that she was born during my favorite season because it gives me another very big reason to love this time of year more than any other.

So I’m continuing the cupcake frenzy with another batch, this time in honor of my little pumpkin. (Her birthday cake has not been made yet!) I used this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes from Smitten Kitchen. I found the texture to be fantastic–very light, moist, and crumbly. These are definitely cakes as opposed to pumpkin bread baked in a cupcake tin. I topped them with the requisite cream cheese frosting. A great treat for a celebration of the season and of my girl.

Oatmeal Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (Again)

We have here another favorite and crowd pleaser: Oatmeal cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes are great for fall because the cinnamon and nutmeg capture the warmth and essence of the season. These are a grown up cupcake that kids love too.

If you’d like to see me make them before your very eyes, check out this video: http://how2heroes.com/videos/dessert-and-baked-goods/oatmeal-cupcakes-w-cream-cheese-frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

In addition to the red velvet cupcakes, I also made these chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for the party.

I used this batter recipe.  (It is a perfect chocolate cake recipe, as well.)  The cupcakes are moist, rich, and a bit sticky on top. Know ahead of time that the batter is very thin, so don’t worry that you’ve done something wrong.

For the frosting I used this recipe:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk (room tempertature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

To make the frosting, melt the butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the cocoa.  Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I made these red velvet cupcakes for a party last weekend. I have made them several times before, but for some reason I have only blogged about them once. I love this recipe because it offers a very unique cupcake. The texture is dense and crumbly and packed with a complex flavor resulting from the cinnamon and cocoa powder. I am definitely a fan of these. If you try making them, let me know what you think. And of course, as usual, I suggest pairing with cream cheese frosting. YUM.

Notes:

–make sure the butter is not too warm or they will not rise

–do not tap the pan on the counter prior to baking as you do with the Oatmeal Cupcake recipe