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.

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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