Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup

roasted carrot soup with cayenne and ginger
Fall means soup.  Soup means it’s cold enough outside to not want to die at the thought of eating soup for dinner.  And it being cold enough outside seems to make everything around here better.  I sleep better, we can play outside longer without my redhead overheating and everything just feels fresh.  And I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to hailing soups as a surefire way to get your kids to eat their vegetables, but I’m going to say it, again.  Cooking just about any vegetable and pureeing it into a soup is the easiest way to get a baby, toddler, picky adult to eat a vegetable otherwise sneered at due to its texture or appearance.  Olive used to eat asparagus.  But then, she turned two and decided she was no longer interested.  But the other day I made a batch of asparagus soup and she drank it down.  Same flavor, different delivery vehicle.  And when you add a piece of crusty, buttery bread on the side, the soup suddenly seems like a complete meal.

My go-to soup in the fall is usually butternut squash.  But I nearly always have a half-used bag of carrots in the fridge, waiting to become something more exciting than diced up for chicken pot pie.  The other day I made this soup and I loved it.  We ate on it for several days – always a good side dish or starter, and good for dunking toasted bread.  I don’t need to say it, again, but this batch of soup would fill up about 12 baby food jars.  Can you lend 30 minutes to making a vegetable soup?  How about $3 for a 2lb bag of carrots?  How much is a jar of baby food, again?  You get the point.

Yay, soup!

roasted carrot soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
serves 6-8

1 sweet onion, diced
3 TBS olive oil
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
ground ginger and paprika for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Toss in the onion and saute until tender but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Add in the carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to coat in the oil.  Add the stock and let the pot come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.  Puree directly in the pot with an immersion blender, or take in batches to a standard blender and puree until smooth.  If you used a standard blender, return the soup to the pot and add the heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then ladle into bowls and sprinkle with ground ginger, paprika and a splash of cream or sour cream.

Parchment Baked Fish with Bruschetta and Pine Nuts

parchment steamed tilapia with bruschetta
A totally simple weeknight dinner recipe for you using the bruschetta recipe from Monday!  We bake, roast, and pan fry fish a LOT around here.  I buy the bags of frozen fillets and throughout the week, when I “don’t have anything to cook” I can generally reach in, grab three fillets and thaw them out in about 30 minutes to use alongside rice, roasted potatoes, soup, etc.  Olive thankfully loves all fish and so it’s a meal that is never stressful for me.  What’s even easier is just placing the fillets on some parchment paper (foil also works) with some oil and seasonings, wrap it up and let them bake!  I did this last week and it always feels like I went to a lot of trouble, is healthier than my usual pan-fry standard preparation, and the fish is always steamed perfectly.

Get creative with the ingredients you put in with the fish – the possibilities are endless!

steamed fish with bruschetta
Parchment Baked Fish with Bruschetta and Pine Nuts
serves 4

4 tilapia or cod fillets (really, any type of fish will work)
1 TBS butter or olive oil
3 TBS prepared bruschetta 
1 TBS toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Tear off four squares of parchment paper or foil.  Place the butter in the center of each square and place a fish fillet on top of the butter.  Season the fillet with salt and pepper.  Top with bruschetta and pine nuts and squeeze a lemon over the top of all of it.  Fold the sides up and together and crimp to close.  Place packages on a rimmed baking sheet and bake together for 20 minutes.

You can add just about anything to the fish that you have in your fridge – olive tapenade, green beans, corn relish, fresh herbs and sour cream – honestly, just have fun!

Classic Bruschetta

bruschetta
It’s nice to know an Italian.  They have the goods on traditional recipes and the right way to process a bumper crop of tomatoes.  I have such a friend, Jennifer, and this year, fortune smiled on her plants and she started to get WAY more than she could use and process on her own.  So she asked if I wanted some. (huzzah)  Since that same fortune didn’t happen to fall on my plants this year and my crop looked more like a handful of marbles, I enthusiastically said YES (plus, what crazy person turns down garden tomatoes?!)  I was so happy we could finally make our homemade BLTs before the last whiff of summer is completely gone.  I made a wonderful, basic tomato sauce (recipe coming soon) and canned it for the winter and with the rest of the tomatoes she brought, I saved two for our BLTs and the rest I asked her for her favorite bruschetta recipe.

She told me that there wasn’t really a recipe, but that this was how her granddad always made it and those kind of recipes are my favorite, anyway.  In the spirit of handing down family recipes, I’m not going to list quantities. I’ll basically give it to you like she gave it to me – the taste and adjust method!  If you have any tomatoes still coming off the vine (as many of us in this region do) then I hope you enjoy this recipe! If your crop is done, then look for the ripest plum tomatoes you can find in the grocery store.  We served this with Matt’s plain country bread, and honestly, it was the best meal I’d had in weeks.  Sometimes, nothing beats pure and simple.  Thank you, Jen, for sharing your tomatoes and your recipe with us – we benefited greatly from both!

bruschetta 3

Classic Bruschetta
makes a good amount

Dice up a few, ripe, plum tomatoes.  Add in minced garlic, a nice pour of good olive oil and add in a handful of shredded fresh basil.  Mix to combine and then add in a generous grating of fresh Parmesan cheese and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and garlic powder.  Serve on toasted baguette or just about anywhere you can think to use it!

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

pumpkin doughnuts
I haven’t posted in a really long time.  I apologize.  Not that any of you were waiting around without anything to eat or lacking another post about complex carbs to drool over, but still.  I don’t like being inconsistent, but I’m thinking that may be the new word that will begin to define my life, starting in about four weeks.

We’ve been doing all kinds of prep to the house for the arrival of this tiny baby.  Amazing what all “needs” to be done to accommodate something that only weighs eight pounds.  But I’m a planner.  I love my ducks all in a row and a few of those ducks were still squawking around in my head, so we’ve been getting things done. We rearranged Olive’s room and Eleanor’s nursery, which will also be a guest bedroom.  I’ve made a Quiet Book for Olive for the one Sunday morning a month that our church doesn’t have their children’s program during services, and I’ve been trying to knit Eleanor a cardigan, which I’m sure she’ll like to put on one of her dolls when she’s five, because I think that’s about when I’ll be done with it.  Matt finished building Olive’s bed and I’ve bought the requisite new rug (I feel the need to buy a rug for each new life occasion) for the nursery and so we’re getting there.  Slowly but surely, I’ll be ready for this baby to enter our world.  Things left to do: buy Christmas presents for as many people as I can, write a few dozen blog posts, finish up my last three photo shoots, have a few cooking days to stock our freezer with ready to make meals for the winter, and create/shoot our annual Christmas card.  Yes, we will go to just as much trouble as we always do.  Unfortunately/fortunately.  It’s going to be epic. :)

So in the midst of all this planning, I woke at 6 last Sunday morning with my parents in town for a visit, a quiet house, and THIS picture on my Instagram feed.  I quickly scanned my brain pantry for the items and they were all there.  So, I got up and made them.  They were fantastically successful.  So easy and so worth buying a little doughnut pan, although I’m sure they’d bake up into amazing little mini muffins, as well, if you don’t have a doughnut pan.

I promise more regular posts in the coming weeks.  Life’s changing, but we still have to eat, right?!  I hope things have been going well for you.  And if they haven’t, these doughnuts will start you off in a better direction tomorrow.

baked pumpkin doughnuts

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts*
makes 16

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.
Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.
Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well. If you’re making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).  Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with cinnamon-sugar. If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops heavily with cinnamon-sugar.
Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.  I’d recommend a tupperware as opposed to a plastic bag.  They sweat like the dickens.

*taken from the King Arthur Flour website, which you all should subscribe to

 

Rosemary Pork Chops with Grapes and Parsnips

rosemary pork chops with parsnips and grapes
Yesterday was rainy and dark.  A cold front moved in yesterday afternoon and cooled everything down a few degrees and it put me in the most severe autumn mood.  I bought the ingredients for this dish at the beginning of this week because the forecast said there was a chance of rain every day and it just felt like fall had officially arrived!  I found this extremely autumnal recipe a few years ago in an issue of Martha Stewart Living and it became a very frequent dinner occurrence for us.  It takes literally 15 minutes from start to finish – maybe 20 if you include peeling the parsnips.   It’s perfect for a family on a budget as I can usually find discounted pork chops no matter when I go to the grocery store.  Parsnips may be hard to find at a mega grocery store, but if you can’t find them, you can substitute in carrots.  Parsnips are like carrot’s albino cousin.  Maybe slightly more bitter, but they mellow out while cooking.  The combination with the sweet grapes is perfect, though, so if you can find them, branch out and try them!  For babies, simply steam come cubed up, or puree after steaming with a little water or chicken stock!

pork chops with grapes and parsnips

Pork Chops with Parsnips and Grapes*
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2″ thick
salt and pepper
2 or 3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
1 cup red grapes
3 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season pork with salt and pepper and add to skillet along with parsnips. Brown pork and parsnips on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Add grapes and rosemary, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until pork is cooked through, parsnips are tender, and grapes have just burst, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve pork with parsnips, grapes, and pan juices.

*recipe adapted for quantity from Martha Stewart Living

Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms
I haven’t posted in a while.  Honestly, I have more literal time lately to post, but less mental space.  Ever feel that way?  This baby is crowding my brain and I’m still cooking all the time, but honestly, I’m cooking a bunch of repeats or things I don’t find particularly photo-worthy, so I just haven’t been shooting my food lately!  I did make this fabulous little side dish last week and we all agreed that it was better than the main dish (which I can’t remember – case in point).  So I’m sharing it with you!  I took little baby portobello mushrooms and tossed the stems in a food processor along with a bunch of other like-minded ingredients to form a great filling for stuffed mushrooms!  The kid tried “one happy bite” and that’s all we ask these days.  She has her comfort foods and right now, mushrooms isn’t one of them!  But that’s okay…I keep in mind that what kids observe, they’ll eventually imitate.  And she definitely observes people who enjoy pretty much every food on the map.  Trust the system, trust the system…

mushroom stuffed mushrooms

 

Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms

12-15 baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed and reserved
1 ounce extra sharp white cheddar, grated
1 egg
1 tsp garlic oil or olive oil
1 garlic clove
4 tbs breadcrumbs
2 strips cooked bacon with drippings
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbs dijon mustard
a splash of chicken stock

Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel and set in a greased baking dish, side by side.  Dump the stems of the mushrooms and all the other ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Adjust seasoning with salt or pepper and extra chicken stock if it’s too thick.  The consistency for mine was like a pate or bean dip.  Top the mushrooms with the filling and pile it high.  Top with extra shredded cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and puffed up slightly.  Enjoy!

 

Double Dark Chocolate Waffles

Double Dark Chocolate Waffles
The chocolate cravings have gone overboard.  I really blame it in all seriousness on pregnancy.  When I’m not pregnant, chocolate is good and fine, about on par with every other sweet. Not pregnant,  I don’t think about it outside of seeing it, I don’t dream up ways of using it to its maximum potential in breakfast foods, and I don’t think that it’s “needed” to get from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. successfully.  When pregnant…well, all those things suddenly become priorities.  Like on Labor Day, I got up and looked up a basic buttermilk waffle recipe and then thought of the maximum way I could choco-fy it.  And I did.  Yes, I’ve had a similar waffle recipe on this blog before, BUT it wasn’t as good.  These waffles are fluffier, less dense, and the chocolate chips remain melty like a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie during your entire breakfast.  So.  I’m not sorry for seeming repetitive.  If you’re pregnant, I’ll understand if I get a thank-you note in the mail later this week.
Double Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles
I topped these in three different ways and they were all good: melted butter and powdered sugar – easy, and the most cookie-like experience.  Butter with maple syrup: most waffle-like experience, but I’ve always felt that syrup on a chocolate anything is too much.  Turns out, it’s not.  And three: fresh raspberries all over the suckers.  Chocolate dipped fruit, anyone?  They were all good.  Dress it up, dress it down, this will be your new craving.

Double Chocolate Waffles
Double Dark Chocolate Waffles
makes about 12 Belgian-style waffles

2 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Heat your waffle iron.  In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk until fully incorporated.  In a smaller bowl, whip up the wet ingredients.  Gently whisk the wet into the dry until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Cook waffles to the waffle-iron’s suggested time (mine has a handy little light that goes off when they’re done) and keep in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest to keep them nice and warm and crisp on the outside.  Serve with powdered sugar and melted butter, or whatever.  It really doesn’t matter – it’s all good.

Deviled Egg Burgers

deviled egg burgers
Here’s a little joyous addition to your Labor Day grilling if you want something new!  Our dear friend, Shannon, who has been with us through all kinds of culinary adventures over the past 10 years as our most enthusiastic taste-tester, came up with this awesome idea.  We were sitting at our favorite restaurant in Lubbock, Crafthouse Gastropub, enjoying one of their creative appetizers, the fried deviled eggs, when the idea came to her.  This dish is pure genius: hard boiled eggs, fry the whites in a crunchy batter and then serve the little fried egg halves with deviled egg spread so you can put as much as you want on your egg.  So crunchy and amazing!  As we were enjoying the dish, Shannon said, “This would be so good on a burger.”  And we all sat in silence for a second and let it sink in that deviled egg filling would indeed, be the best burger spread, ever.

And it is.

Deviled Egg Burger Spread
Imagine the goodness of mayo, mustard, pickle, the tang of vinegar and the creaminess of the ever-popular-fried-egg-on-a-burger-trend, all combined into one spread for your burger.  It TOTALLY works.  So, I just whipped up a very traditional deviled egg mix and added the basics and it has been my favorite burger of the summer!  If you want to try it, a dozen eggs yields enough for about 6 burgers as a spread.  So cut it in half if you don’t have all deviled-egg enthusiasts at your party and see how you like it!  Thanks, Shannon, for being our partner in culinary crime :)  We love you!

Deviled Egg Burgers 2
Deviled Egg Spread for Burgers

makes enough for 6 burgers

1 dozen hard boiled egg yolks
1 tsp paprika
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sour relish
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (or any vinegar, really)
salt and pepper to taste

Hard boil the eggs by bringing all dozen up to a boil (start them in cool water) and once it reaches a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes.  Drain, rinse in cold water and peel.  The glory of this dish is that you don’t have to keep those fussy whites in tact.  If they fall apart, they fall apart.  If you don’t want to waste the whites, I’m sure you could crumble them up and incorporate them in this recipe as an egg-salad kinda thing.  Do what you wish.

In a large bowl, add all the yolks and the other ingredients and mash well with a potato masher or whisk until smooth.  Adjust with extra mayo or mustard as you wish – really, I eyeballed this mixture, so I may have had slightly more of something, but these approximations are fairly close to what I did.  Spread on burgers, sandwiches, etc, and enjoy!

 

Green Chile and Corn Chowder

green chile and corn chowder
Matt’s been talking for a few weeks, now, about the corn chowder I made around this time last year.  I made a curried corn chowder when we lived in our apartment a few years ago and it was definitely something to write home about, although no one wrote about it and we just enjoyed it, as people tended to do before Facebook.  Last year, the chowder was more traditional, but nonetheless delicious, and for some reason, so summery, despite its warmth and chowdery-ness.  Sweet summer corn, smoked bacon, and this year: the addition of roasted green chiles.

The joys of making a soup or stew, for me, are in the slow development of flavors, and figuring out the best way to go about that process.  This time, I knew I wanted to really preserve that sweet corn flavor while at the same time, bring in a little heat and umami that a roasted green chile can provide.  So,  at the beginning of cooking, I let the chilies and half the corn roast together and I let the trimmed corn cobs boil in the broth the entire time, to draw out the sweet milkiness that is left after you trim the corn off the cobs.  I pureed half the ingredients to blend up the chile skins, which I left on for flavor, and then added more chilies and fresh corn at the end, along with super smoky bacon to round everything out.  The results were pretty balanced;  just enough heat from the chilies, sweetness from the corn, and perfect with a crusty piece of bread to soak up all those flavors.

Summer is winding down and even if you miss out on making this soup while everything is still fresh, the method of cooking will give you wonderful flavors well into the winter soup months.  Enjoy!

green chile corn chowder
Roasted Green Chile and Corn Chowder
serves 6-8

4 strips of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, diced (about a cup)
4 roasted green chilies (two whole, two peeled, seeded and diced)
4 ears of corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
5 ounces small, fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 1/2 cups half and half

Cook bacon in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until fat renders and bacon crisps.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Add onions, celery, two whole green chilies (stems removed) and half the corn kernels to the pan and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock and corn cobs and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the cobs from the broth and discard.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until very smooth.   If you used a blender, return the pureed soup back to the pot and add the remaining corn, potatoes and chilies and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Add half and half and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir in the bacon and bring the soup back up to a simmer. You can also just use the bacon as a garnish if you want it to remain crispy. Serve with crusty, buttery bread and enjoy!

 

 

Roasted Green Chile and Tomato Tart

Summer Tomato and Roasted Green Chile Tart
I am not a farmer.  I’m pretty crap at knowing why things die, what I’m doing wrong, why half my plant is brown and the other half is green, etc.  Last year, I all but neglected my tomatoes and they became like sea monsters in size and yielded dozens and dozens (if not with a little end-rot) of tomatoes.  This year, I switched where they were planted and am taking better care of them and they have all tapped out at about 4 feet tall, haven’t continued to grow in height in the last month and we’ve gotten maybe four, medium-sized tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomatoes, and all of them are split down the sides (too much watering).  Sigh.  It’s hard to win at tomatoes.  I’m sure some of you feel my pain.  I want that innate sense of what these plants need, but I am afraid I’ve learned that this instinct is no instinct at all, but trial and error.

The tomatoes pictured were, indeed, from our yard.  And they were, as all backyard tomatoes are, outstanding in flavor, despite their faults.  I will never know how a tomato that claims to be “field grown” at the store can STILL taste like NOTHING, and a tomato you go out and pick from your yard tastes like concentrated tomato paste, x 1,000,000,000.  Maybe it’s what Alton Brown said last week, that a tomato put in the fridge, even for a short time, loses a chemical designed especially for taste.  Whatever the reason, tasting just ONE perfect summer tomato will leave you satisfied for the rest of the year.  I don’t think I can be that enthusiastic about any other produce.  Especially since I’m such a crappy farmer.

Enter: the tomato tart.  Garnished with fresh, roasted, green chilies and a bit of cheddar and Parm, all baked on top of The Crust and a good slathering of green chile and caramelized onion dip.  It was just about as perfect as you can get.  And even if you don’t have a home-grown tomato, just go get one at a farmer’s market this weekend and DON’T refrigerate it and use that.  Or, since we’re baking these tomatoes, go ahead and use a supermarket tomato.  Roasting a tomato brings out great flavor in even the weakest, most genetically modified tomato.  Happy baking!

pre-baked tomato and green chile tart
Roasted Green Chile and Tomato Tart

1 recipe of The Ultimate Pie Crust
1/4 cup corn meal
1 cup green chile and caramelized onion dip
3-4 medium sized tomatoes (such as a Roma-size)
4 fresh roasted green chilies
salt and pepper
cheddar or Parmesan cheese, if desired

Get your pie crust rolled out and pressed into a 13×9″ tart pan, or like I did here, a half sheet pan.  Trim off the excess (and you will have some) and refrigerate the pan for about 30 minutes, while you get on with everything else.  Preheat oven to 450.  Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights – I use a bag of dried beans over and over for this purpose.  I even keep them in a bag labeled “Pie Beans.”  Bake the empty pie shell for 20 minutes, remove the weights and parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is golden on the bottom.  Set aside to cool.

Whip up a quick onion/chile dip if you don’t have time to make the full recipe by pureeing 4 ounces of cream cheese, two tablespoons of olive oil, a large garlic clove, two roasted green chilies and a tsp of salt in a food processor until smooth. Spread this mixture onto the bottom of the tart.  Then, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of cornmeal over the dip.  This will help absorb the juices from the tomatoes and chilies so you don’t have a soggy crust.

ingredients
Slice the tomatoes and chilies thin and layer onto your crust.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I shredded up a tiny bit of leftover cheddar and Parmesan on top of mine and loved the result.  I think it’d be good without it.  Reduce your oven to 375 and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes look slightly shriveled and bubbly.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (really – it’s awesome) and enjoy!

Green Chile Tomato Tart