A couple weeks ago, I thought the soup making weather for the year was over – clearly I was wrong. I guess a good way to embrace the cold, is to look at it as one last opportunity to make a warm wintery soup! When I was planning the grocery/menu list this week, I asked John what soup he would want for a (fingers crossed) last soup of winter meal, secretly hoping he would pick this soup. Without any coaching from me, he said, “How about the potato one you make?”, so that sealed the deal – it went on the menu. It also happens to be a quick meal (chopping is the only kitchen time), and a one pot deal (less clean up)!
What I like about this soup is that it’s a potato soup, with more than just potatoes and cream. It has has a lot of vegetables in it, so it really feels like a balanced meal. It does use some whole milk, but just enough to give it that creamy texture, while still keeping it healthy and relatively low fat. I do realize that just before this I posted a recipe primarily made of butter and sugar – but what can I say, I like my sweets sinful and my meals, well the opposite. This soup is pretty filling, and this recipe makes a lot – so if you’re not feeding a crowd, you might want to try halving it. However, this is one of the few meals where I think the leftovers actually taste just as good or better than the original meal. This is a rare finding for me, so I don’t mind making the whole thing and eating it later in the week. I’ve never tried freezing it, but if you try it – let me know how it turns out!
Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder
Servings: about 8 bowls Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the chopping) Stove time: 25 minutes
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (about 2 leeks)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (about 8), peeled and cubed
- 2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
- Dash of Salt & Pepper
- Scallions/Chives/Parsley for topping
Slowly add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring constantly. Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients (chicken broth, potatoes, corn, salt & pepper). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or as long as you want – the starch from the potatoes will continue to thicken the soup).
Serve by topping with your choice of parsley, scallions, chives, or a mix.
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light
Cupcakes are pretty much the trendiest food item on the market, but to be honest I’ve never made a batch of cupcakes completely from scratch – that is until yesterday. I’ve been wanting to try these cupcakes since the day I saw them on Annie’s “Best of 2010” list, but it just never seemed like the right opportunity. After all, cupcakes aren’t exactly a “snack food” you want to have around the house. Plus, these particular cupcakes have an embarrassingly large amount of butter in them; which is half the reason I chickened out on making these several times. Finally, I decided to get over my fear, and went for these cupcakes, butter and all.
Of course, they were delicious! They have brown sugar batter with chocolate chips, are then filled with an eggless cookie dough, and then topped with a frosting that actually tastes like cookie dough. So if you even have a slight fondness of cookie dough- you will love these! If you think they sound too rich, don’t worry, so did I. I thought for sure I would only be able to eat half a cupcake, but they were actually perfect, and of course eating a whole cupcake by myself was no challenge. I particularly thought this was a great “first cupcake”, because it’s something you really couldn’t try to replicate with a box mix. I made these over the course of a couple days – baking the cupcakes one day, filling them the next day, and then frosting them right before serving. I would recommend this unless you have a 4-hour block of time to spend in the kitchen all at once. I found I had too much icing left over with the original recipe, so I corrected it below to make a slightly smaller yield. Additionally, I wrote the recipe out to make 12 cupcakes, because when I made 24 it was just too many- you really only need one of these! And as a final suggestion, make sure you have some friends to share these with, because they are delicious (and dangerous!).
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- ½ t. baking soda
- ½ t. baking powder
- 1/8 t. salt
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar with a stand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternating with milk, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until all the flour and milk are used up. Blend in vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
Line 1 cupcake pan with liners (12 cupcakes). Divide batter evenly between the cups. Bake at 350 for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
For the Filling:
- 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
Using a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate mixture to allow it to firm slightly. While waiting for the mixture to chill, using a small, sharp knife, cut a cone shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. (You won’t need the part you cut out anymore, so you can discard it, or make cakeballs out of it, or eat it with ice cream…etc.) Place a chunk of filling in the center of each cupcake, flattening the top, to make it easier to frost.
For the Frosting and Topping
- 10 Tbsp. (1 stick + 2 Tbsp. butter), softened
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. milk
- 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Mini Chocolate Chips
- Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies*
Combine butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Then add the flour, salt, milk and vanilla extract, and mix until smooth. Frost as desired. (I used a 2D Wilton pastry tip).
Sprinkle finished cupcakes with mini-chocolate chips, and push a mini-chocolate chip cookie into the center of the frosting.
*I made mini chocolate chip cookies by rolling very small dough balls from chocolate chip cookie dough, but I think Famous Amos or Cookie Crisps Cereal would also work well!
There are a lot of recipes for focaccia out there, but I wanted one that had simple ingredients, simple instructions and a short rising time. I knew I wanted to make focaccia to go with the strawberry goat cheese salad we were having for dinner, but of course I didn’t start looking for a specific recipe until about 5 pm the day I wanted to eat it. This bread it perfect because it didn’t require multiple rises, can be ready in a little over an hour – and still came out wonderfully. Then again, how wrong can you really go with fresh bread? To make sure I still got an airy focaccia, I actually preheated the oven for a few minutes, then turned it off, and then put the bread inside the oven to rise. It wasn’t hot by any means, but it was definitely warmer than the ambient air, and this helped the bread rise a little faster.
I thought about halving this recipe, because I was wondering what just the two of us were going to do with so much bread, but I figured, its only flour and water so I might as well make the whole thing and then freeze what we don’t use. Well of course I should know by now that bread will never go to waste in this house! John actually cut the focaccia down the middle and made a wonderful looking sandwich for lunch. I included a variety of ideas for topping this bread, because it is very adaptable. I went with a few caramelized onions, fresh minced garlic, salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence, but I think next time I would up the caramelized onion to a full small onion, because I barely noticed the flavor. As soon as the weather gets nicer I can’t wait to use some fresh rosemary from my porch garden, mixed with some lemon zest to the mix to give it a summery feel. I don’t really think you can go wrong with whatever you put on this bread – so have fun!
Prep time: 15 minutes + 5 minutes Rise time: 45 minutes + 15 minutes Bake Time: 20 minutes
- 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast or 1 packet
- 1 cup warm water + 2 Tablespoons
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 3 1/2 cups flour plus more as needed
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil + some to brush on top
- Fresh rosemary and lemon zest
- Caramelized onion and garlic with shredded parmesan
- Kalamata olives and feta cheese with scallions
- Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and parmesan
- Any combination of the above
1. Warm the 1 c. water to about 110º. Add the yeast and sugar to the water, and let sit for a few minutes. (This proofs the yeast to make sure you get a airy, and quick rise)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the water/yeast/sugar mixture. Slowly add the flour with the mixer on a low speed.
3. Mix the salt with about 2 T. water (just to start the dissolving) and then add to the mixer.
4. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil, and turn the mixer up to medium (2-4 on a Kitchen Aid).
5. Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes, until smooth. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, and not forming a nice ball, add a little bit more flour and continue to knead. *At this point I also preheated the oven to 350, only for a few minutes.
6. Remove the dough from the mixer, and place in a well oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to slightly coat in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. (The oil prevents the dough from forming a “crusty skin”, which is more common if you are having the dough rise in an extra warm place).
7. With the oven now turned OFF, place the bowl of dough in the oven or in another warm place, and let rise for 45 minutes.
8. Once doubled in size, remove the dough from the oven, and using your hands, flatten the dough about a 10×12 inch rectangle. It should be around 1/2 inch thick.
9. Place the dough rectangle on a greased cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest/rise for at least 15 minutes (longer is fine).
10. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and you can get your toppings together. If you are caramelizing onions, this would be the time to do it. Or chop up your rosemary, shred your parmesan, or zest your lemon.
12. Brush the top of the bread with olive oil, sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Using your finger, press down on the top of the bread 10-20 times to create dimples. Top with toppings of choice.
13. Bake in the 400° oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
This past weekend, we had a little post-St. Patrick’s day celebration with some friends, and everyone was kind enough to bring something to go along with the corned beef sandwiches I made. To be honest, I didn’t like the corned beef or the coleslaw topping enough to share the recipe, but I did get another delicious idea from this mini-potluck. Our friends Lexi and Brad made a delicious salad with strawberries, goat cheese, almonds, and homemade poppyseed dressing. It was so good that I have been thinking about it since Friday!
I vowed to eat more fruits and vegetables this week, and what better way than with strawberry salad. The part I liked the best was definitely the goat cheese. I’m a big goat cheese fan, but surprisingly enough I don’t know that I’ve ever put it on a salad. Since it’s a very soft cheese, you can’t really chop it or shred it, but crumbling small pieces worked pretty well. I chose to go with a raspberry vinaigrette for the salad because I wanted something super light, but the poppyseed was also delicious. For the raspberry vinaigrette, I added Herbes de Provence, which is usually a mix of rosemary, thyme, sage, anise and lavender – but it varies a lot from mix to mix. In all honesty, at some point in the past, I was out of rosemary and in the middle of making dinner, so figured I’ve got this stuff ,and it has rosemary in it – I’ll try it. Since then I haven’t actually replaced my rosemary, I always just substitute Herbes de Provence – it just sounds so delightful, don’t you think?
- 3 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 T. water
- 3 T. Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar (I even found this at Walmart)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence or Rosemary (or 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Dash of salt and pepper
Wisk all ingredients until combined.
Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
- 4 cups spring mix salad
- 1 cup of strawberries, sliced
- 3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup Pecans or Almonds (or both)
Place the almonds or pecans on a small baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Toast them under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Be sure to watch them the whole time! They go from toasted to burnt in about 2 seconds (speaking from personal experience). Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and toss with raspberry vinaigrette.
*I don’t actually measure out how much of anything I put into a salad, so this is just a rough suggestion.
I really love baking. It probably has something to do with the fact that I really love sweets, and sweets are generally baked. It also has something to do with the fact that baking requires measuring and exactness – which oddly enough makes it a nice relaxing break from our everyday chaotic lives. I like the idea that I can relax while at the same time doing something productive- and I have something to show for it when I’m done! The only problem with this is that one can only desserts so much. If you would like to bake something, but fear (like me) that brownies will disappear in an embarrassingly short time, this bread would be the perfect choice. This bread is perfect for slicing for breakfast and running out the door with. I like it just plain, but John (of course) likes to add butter to it.
Like any yeast bread, it requires a lot of waiting around for the dough to rise – but each step actually takes very little time. It’s really perfect to make on a day you were going to spend at home anyways. It can make a nice break from something monotonous (like studying) because after each step, you have to wait around for 40 minutes to an hour anyways. I included step by step pictures, but only because they are fun, not to make this seem like it’s a really difficult recipe! Each step is very simple. The trickiest part is making sure to completely seal the loaf before baking – so that no cinnamon sugar mixture leaks out and burns on the sides of the pan. This recipe makes 2 loaves, so you have one to give to a friend or freeze – but if you only want one, it can easily be halved. When freezing this bread, I wrap it in aluminum foil, and then place it in a freezer bag, and it freezes wonderfully.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Makes 2 standard (9×5) loaves
For the dough:
- 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (or 1 packet)
- 2 cups warm milk (~105-110˚ F)
- 34 oz (6 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tsp. coarse salt
- 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins
- Cooking spray
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Start by combining milk and yeast in the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour, softened butter, sugar, eggs, salt, & cinnamon. Turn the mixer on low speed (2), and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes. Add the raisins and continue to knead for 3-4 more minutes. The dough should be smooth and clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky to handle, add a little bit more flour and knead for a few more minutes.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, and place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Turn the dough over to lightly coat the outsides with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Place in a warm, draft free place and let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled. I like to put mine inside a turned-off oven.
Then fold again into thirds, the opposite direction. The purpose of this is 2 fold. First of all, it basically serves as a very gentle kneading, which releases any gas built up in the dough, and gives the yeast access to new nutrients. But do not “knead” the dough, or over-handle it -because this will destroy the gluten strands that give the bread it’s airy and light weight texture. Secondly, this method helps to shape the dough into a rectangle, which is helpful in the next step.
Once each loaf is folded, place them seam side down in an bowl coated with cooking spray. (Each loaf should get it’s own bowl at this point.) Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and allow the dough to rise for an additional 45 minutes.
Once the dough has risen for the second time, roll out one ball of dough into a 15×11 inch rectangle.
In a small bowl combine the sugar, water and cinnamon. Brush the rectangle of dough with the slightly beaten egg, and then spread about half of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle, leaving a small border at the edges. (If you want to be very exact, you can mix 3/4 c. sugar, 1 T. cinnamon, and 2 T. water for the first loaf, and then do this again for the second loaf.) *Note: if you add too much water to the cinnamon sugar mixture (which I have done before), it will seep out of the loaf, and create a burned sugar crust to your bread. So while mixing together the sugar-err on the side off too little water. The amount in this picture is a little too liquidly.
Fold in about one inch of the edges of the dough, in order to seal the cinnamon-sugar mixture in.
Starting with the unfolded edge of the dough, roll dough into tight log. Press gently as you roll to ensure the dough is sticking to itself – this will help prevent the cinnamon sugar mixture from seeping out.
Once the dough is rolled, pinch the edges of dough together tightly. Use some water to make sure the dough adheres.
Place dough seam side down in a heavily greased 9×5 inch baking loaf, and repeat with remaining roll.
Cover each loaf pan with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise again for 40 minutes so that the dough just rises above the edge of the pan.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush the remaining egg over the top of each loaf in order to give it a shiny, finished appearance (I didn’t do this for this loaf, hence the less than perfect surface). Loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top of each pan, to prevent the top from over browning.
Place loaves in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. 20 minutes into baking, remove the foil “tent” to allow the surface to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then remove from pan and cool on a cooling rack.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured what would be better than a POTATO with the colors of the Irish flag! I made mine with broccoli, scallions, and cheddar, so I could get the green, white and orange effect. I hope this brings a little St. Patrick’s Day spirit to your day!
My better half is interviewing people this week, so it’s just me here until tomorrow. Cooking for 1 can be tricky, but I think this recipe fits the bill – It’s quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand. The recipe is for 4 potatoes, but can easily be adapted to make just 1, or 8. I often forget how great a good baked potato can be. In college, my friend Christine, once had a “Baked Potato Party” in which she baked a bunch of potatoes, and then had all kinds of fun toppings for us to put on them. It was such an easy and creative idea, and I have been wanting to do it ever since – maybe this will inspire you to host your own. Whatever you put on your baked potato, it can be a hearty, and filling meal that’s easy and cheap to make. I also included some suggestions for alternate stuffed baked potatoes , which I am now dying to try!
Twice Baked Potatoes
- 4 russet potatoes – scrubbed and patted dry
- Olive Oil and Salt
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3/4 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub potatoes with a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt. Place potatoes directly on rack and cook for 45-60 minutes. Do not wrap potatoes in foil because this will make the skins soft and it will be difficult to scoop the filling out later.
In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, broccoli, and 1/4 cup scallions.
Remove potatoes from oven and let cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a soup spoon, scrape out as much potato as you can while leaving the skin intact – leaving about 1/8 inch. The potatoes taste better when there is less plain flesh left in them. Add the flesh to the large bowl with sour cream mixture. Mash the flesh until combined.
Spoon the flesh back into the potato shells. Place filled shells on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.
Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
To serve, top with remaining scallions.
Variation 1: Blue Cheese, Onion and Mushroom Potatoes
- Substitute 1 cup crumbled blue cheese for the cheddar, and 1 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions for the broccoli.
Variation 2: Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes
- Substitute 1 cup of herbed goat cheese for the cheddar, and 3/4 cup caramelized onions for the broccoli.
Variations inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook