Roasted Red Pepper Soup

One of my very favorite things is roasted red pepper soup. Sometimes I buy the Pacific brand that comes in a box and eat it immediately. Sometimes I make it. Tonight I decided to make it. 

Ingredients

  • 2 c chopped red, orange or yellow bell peppers
  • 2 c mixed cherry, grape or other small tomatoes
  • 1 tbl olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 c chopped red onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 2 c pumpkin soup (see note)
  • 1/4 c chopped parsley
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Note: I had a jar of my mom’s homemade, canned pumpkin soup on hand. If you don’t, then: cut any small winter squash in half (pumpkin, Hubbard, butternut, acorn, anything with orange flesh), oil a baking sheet and roast, cut side down, at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes. Let the squash cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the skin and set aside. Add with the roasted vegetables, along with 2-3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock. 


Preheat your oven to 415 degrees F. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes and bell peppers together with 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Spread mixture out on a baking sheet and roast until peppers are browned at the edges and tomatoes have burst, about 25 minutes. 


While the vegetables roast, sauté the onions in the rest of the olive oil. Salt and pepper liberally. Allow the onions to cook until they are browned at the edges. Add garlic and stir to mix. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits then add tomato and bell pepper mixture. Stir some more. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Then add either pumpkin soup, or roasted squash and stock. Bring to a low boil over medium high heat, then lower heat and allow to simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Add parsley and stir.

Finally, blend soup until you have the desired consistency, either in a blender (not my preferred method) or with an immersion blender. 

The result is a creamy soup with a smoky undertone. 

Advertisements

Crock Pot Chicken

Some days I know I won’t have time to cook when I get home. That’s when I break out the crock pot. I figure that anything I can braise I can throw in the crock pot and, bonus, it’s done by the time I get home. Today I decided to use: chicken from the freezer, vegetable stock I made last fall and the last of the dates hiding in the back of my refrigerator to make a middle eastern spiced chicken. 

Ingredients 

  • Chicken– I used a package of 3 small thighs
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbl cumin 
  • 1 tbl coriander 
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbl cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Enough stock to fill the crock pot

Put everything in crock pot and turn on high. Turn down to low after about 30 minutes. Leave on low all day. 


I check before I leave for work to make sure the crock pot doesn’t need to be topped off with more stock. 

Bacon, Cabbage, Apple Stir Fry

Comfort food. Salty. Sweet. Fatty. Comfort food. 

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 Apple, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. Chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Heat a medium frying pan on medium heat. Cook bacon crisp. Remove from pan. Don’t drain bacon grease. Add the onion to the pan and cook until onion starts to caramelize. Then add the apple and let cook until it starts to brown. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add cabbage and stir to combine. Squeeze lemon juice from half a lemon into the pan. Stir and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes– until the cabbage is wilted. 


This dish is easy, fast, salty and sweet. 

Roasted Beet Bowl

I love combining vegetables and protein to make a meal. This is one of my more successful experiments. It starts with a sauce:

Garlic Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 c. Plain Greek yogurt
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c cilantro
  • 1/4 c scallions, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor and puree. Set aside.


For the Bowl: 

  • 3 large beets with their tops on, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tsp. Olive oil
  • Beet greens, torn, destemmed
  • Lemon wedge
  • 7 1/2 oz. of tofu cut into rectangles
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir beets together with oil, salt and pepper. Place in a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes.

While the beets roast stir the beet greens with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a medium frying pan on medium heat. Add a squeeze of lemon and cover until greens are wilted. Place in a large bowl and cover.


Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Place the tofu in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let the tofu brown, then turn and allow to brown on the other side. When browned on both sides, add to the bowl with the beet greens. 


When the beets are tender, add them to the tofu and beet greens and stir together with the yogurt sauce. 


This recipe makes enough for 2 mildly hungry people or 1 really hungry person. The result is earthy and garlicky and bright. 

Cracked Wheat and Bacon Soup with Greens

A January like this- 3 weeks of lows in the negative zero range, highs in the teens, then snow, then ice– calls for soup. Not bright, cheery soup. Heavy, hearty, spicy soup. Soup with meat and grains and beans. Like this soup. 

Cracked Wheat Soup with Bacon, Kale and White Beans

  • 3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into chunks
  • 1 c bulghur wheat 
  • 1 c onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 c jicama, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6-8 c vegetable or chicken stock 
  • 1 3/4 c white beans
  • 2 c kale, torn into bite size pieces
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Place onion in food processor and chop fine. Then add carrot, celery and jicama and do the same. I know the jicama seems like an odd ingredient in a soup like this, but it adds a nice crunch. 

Cook bacon on medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot until crisp. Add bulghur wheat and cook until it has darkened from light brown to medium brown. About 3 minutes. Add onion and vegetable mixture to the pan and stir until the veggies start to soften. About 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Add stock to pot, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. 


Bring pot to simmer over medium high heat then reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until bulghur is cooked through. Then add beans and kale and stir to mix. Serve. 

Ginger Pork Broth

Last week I was leafing through back issues of Bon Appetit. I have about 6 years worth. I had to stop my subscription when I ran out of storage space. And time. And ability to keep up. Now I pull out the back issues for inspiration. 

This time I was drawn to a recipe for poached chicken in a ginger broth. I knew I didn’t want to make the recipe exactly as written, but I loved the idea of a gingery garlicky broth with noodles and meat. I have pork chops in my freezer so I decided to use that and build a soup around it. 

Pork Ginger Broth

  • 10 oz. pork chop, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1″ ginger, minced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chile, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbl. Soy sauce
  • 1 tbl. White wine vinegar
  • 6 c. Stock
  • 3 oz. udon noodles
  • Parsley 
  • Scallions
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Heat up the oil in a Dutch oven. Add pork and brown. Season with salt and pepper. When pork is browned, remove from pan. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add chile. I used jalapeño but a red chile would be even better. Stir. Add a little more salt and pepper, then allspice and the 2 bay leaves. Stir. 



Use soy sauce and vinegar to deglaze the pan, stirring a scraping to get any browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Add pork to the pan again. Then add stock. Bring to a simmer and add the udon noodles. Allow to simmer, uncovered, until noodles are done and the flavors have melded. I actually put the soup back on the stove for an extra 10 minutes last night because I felt like it needed to reduce a bit more. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with parsley and scallions. 

Winter Fresh

I love eating vegetables but I want them to be fresh. This is a challenge in the winter. There aren’t many vegetables that are still fresh in January. Except kale. Kale is so hardy it will keep growing even after it freezes. So, as soon as all the other greens start to look wilted and about 2 minutes away from turning to slime, I start buying kale by the bunch. 

Kale is the perfect winter green. It will keep for a week or more in my refrigerator. You can pair it with vinegary dressings and sweet vegetables like carrots and spicy ones like onions. And the best thing about kale? You can dress it, put it in the fridge, and it will taste even better the next day. And that’s what I do.


Twice a week I chop up onions, parsley or cilantro, tear up a bowl full of kale and grate a couple of carrots. Then I toss it all together with whatever dressing I have available and let it sit overnight before dividing it into single servings that I pack in my lunch. Sometimes I add pickled onions or different veggies. Cracked black pepper and sea salt is also nice. 


Kale is full of iron, calcium, vitamin c and several other vitamins and minerals. And when I eat it I feel like I’m doing something good for my body. 

Lemon and Coconut Marshmallows

This time of year I tend to go a little crazy baking everything I can. The holidays are a wonderful excuse to try new recipes. Something I’ve had my eye on, usually. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Last night it was homemade marshmallows. 

I’ve had handmade marshmallows a few times at restaurants (like Sante here in Spokane) and always enjoyed their delicacy. I like the idea of being able to choose my own flavorings and adjust the sugar level to my liking. So, when I came across a recipe for marshmallows in a past issue of Bon Appetit magazine I decided now was the time to try it. 

It turned out to be really simple. I made a layered marshmallow, lemon flavor on the bottom, and coconut on the top. For each you simmer the flavorings (lemon juice and coconut milk, respectively) with sugar and corn syrup until it reaches 230 degrees– at a point where the mixture is bubbling up and foaming, then add them to gelatin dissolved in water and beat them on high speed in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Then you pour the fluff into a pan lined with parchment paper and let it cool. I made the lemon layer first, let it cool, then added the coconut layer. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to cool because the mixture is mostly cool when you pour it into the pan. I was surprised at how vigorously the mixture had to be beaten to get to the right consistency though. I don’t think my hand mixture could have done the job. This is one of the times when my stand mixer was absolutely indispensable. 


Lemon layer


And then the coconut layer

Once the marshmallows cooled I lifted the parchment paper out of the pan and placed them, topside down, onto the butcher block that I had sprinkled and then smeared with powdered sugar. I was glad I didn’t skip that step. The marshmallows were cool but very sticky. Once I carefully pulled the parchment paper off, I smeared the top with powdered sugar too and then cut the marshmallows into 1″x1″ squares. Then I set about rolling any unpowdered edges in powdered sugar and put them in a container. I placed wax paper between the layers since the sticky factor was still pretty high. 


When I was done my butcher block was covered in powdered sugar and bits of stuck on marshmallow. 


Recipe for Blood Orange and Coconut Marshmallows is at epicurious.com

How to Get Dinner Ready in 30 Minutes Using Food Already in Your Fridge

I was scrolling through my facebook feed the other night and a recipe popped up for eggs baked in phyllo dough. The stuff you use when you make baklava. And I thought, what a great idea! So I set off to make my own version. Except I only had 2 of the ingredients that the recipe called for (the eggs and the phyllo dough) and I was committed to the idea of not going to the grocery store again until Thursday (and it was only Monday.) so I did what I always do when faced with the dilemma of what to make for dinner with the stuff I have on hand. I treat it like a puzzle: what do I have and how does it fit together? Currently on hand this time: scallions, half a red onion, celery, one carrot, 2 zucchini, a bag of cilantro, ginger, garlic, salsa, various sauces and dressings and one container of sour cream that is technically past its date, but has no visible mold, cheddar, feta that is probably moldy, and cotija cheese (I have a hard time throwing away food.) Based on this list, and my desire to use the cotija and the sour cream before either one goes truly, definitively, bad, I decided on the following:
Baked Egg Cups

  • 6 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 1 tbl. butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbl. cotija cheese
  • 1/4 c. scallions, chopped fine
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa

Note: I baked these in 4 small, oven safe ramekins but you could adapt this recipe to a casserole pan pretty easily, I would think. Or you could use a muffin tin instead. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull up a sheet of phyllo dough and rip it in half. Place in the ramekin so that some hangs over the side. Brush with melted butter. Add another layer of phyllo crosswise over the first. Brush with butter. Add a third layer of phyllo on top of the first two and brush with butter. Repeat the process with the remaining ramekins. 
In a mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, cotija, scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt since the cheese is salty. Once everything is well mixed, pour the filling into the individual ramekins, then fold any overhanging dough onto the top of the filling. Place in the oven (I put mine right on the oven rack) and bake for 15-18 minutes. Once the eggs are set and the phyllo is browned remove from the oven and pop the little egg filled pdoufh cups out of the ramekins. Top with sour cream and salsa and eat.

The great thing about this recipe is it’s easy, fast and endlessly variable. You could do goat cheese and leeks. Bacon and blue cheese. Cheddar and sausage. And the best part? My son ate it and liked it. 

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Vegetables

Fall is slipping away into winter here just south of the 49th parallel. On cold days I think of warm, satisfying soup. Emphasis on the WARM. And nothing says warm to me like a hearty stew if roasted vegetables, browned onions and homemade black beans. This recipe calls for the kind of beans that are firm but moist and impregnated with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. 
First, the Black Beans: 
1 lb dried black beans

1 c onion, chopped

I 4 oz can jalapeños or 1 chipotle chile

6 cloves garlic

1 tbl cumin

1 tbl (or 3) smoked paprika

Salt

Enough stock or broth to cover
Put all of the ingredients into a crock pot and cover with the stock. Use the chipotle chile if you enjoy a good chemical burn. If not, the jalapeños are the way to go. Turn on high for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 6-8 hours. All day while you are at work should be fine, just make sure there is enough stock that it won’t all burn off while you are gone. 
By the time the beans are done your house should smell like a big bowl of smoked beany deliciousness. And that is perfect. 
Chili

1 Pasilla chile, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 cups grape tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt 

Pepper

1 cup onion, chopped

1 head garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

Next turn your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. While the oven heats up chop the pasilla and the red bell pepper. Place these and the grape tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Mix. Then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a little black and bursting onto the tray. 

While the vegetables roast in the oven, heat up a Dutch oven on your stove top over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When that is hot add the onion. Sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and cook until the onion is brown. Next, add the garlic, cumin, coriander and paprika and give it a good stir. Let that cook about 30 seconds before adding the can of diced tomatoes. Once that is in the pot stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits of spice and other goodness that has stuck to the bottom. Next add the stock, beans with their liquid and the roasted vegetables. Allow to simmer with the lid off for 20-30 minutes. 


The result will be a chunky stew with plenty of flavor.