Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Broccoli Cheese Soup

Winter is fast approaching, and soup is on the brain. Some might suggest that there are those of us that have soup for brains, but that's an entirely different conversation.

Actually....maybe that's what zombies are really after....

Anyway, here's a soup I made last weekend. It's warm, creamy, and delicious. Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 head garlic, cut in half
2 lb head of fresh broccoli
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper, plus additional to taste
3 tbs butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbs flour
2 c vegetable stock
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 c whole milk
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Brush cut surfaces of garlic lightly with oil. Cut broccoli stems into 1/2-inch slices; cut florets into slightly larger pieces. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with remaining oil. Spread broccoli and garlic in a single layer on a large baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, stirring about ten minutes through.

When the broccoli is halfway through roasting, melt butter over medium heat in a medium stock pot. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add thyme and sauté an additional minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to create a paste. Whisk in half the stock and bring to a simmer.

When broccoli is tender and lightly browned, remove from oven and place about 1 cup of the florets into the stock pot. Place remaining broccoli into a food processor. Squeeze the garlic from peels into the food processor with the broccoli and purée with the remaining stock. Pour puréed broccoli into the pot. Stir in the cayenne and milk and slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Allow to simmer for five minutes.

Stir in the cheese until completely incorporated and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Makes 4 servings. If desired, garnish with paprika and/or croutons.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simple Fried Rice and Chicken Spring Rolls....Leftover-Style

Ever get to the point where you have a fridge full of food, and yet nothing to eat? I found myself in such a situation over the weekend, which lead into a full-fledge fridge-busting operation. I had disposed of my half-head of cauliflower thanks to this soup that I made, but that didn't make much of a dent in my mish-mash of random ingredients. Or were they so random after all....?

I am occasionally amazed at how everything can come together, and this is one of those times. What started as "oh what the hell, just throw everything into a pot" turned into a rather cohesive meal, if I do say so myself. Leftover rice and ridiculous assortment of halves of veggies turned into fried rice. Cabbage slaw left over from one meal and chicken from another combined with a quick Asian dressing to make fresh spring rolls. I had myself a real dinner!

The final product will depend on the ingredients you have on hand, and I have left the ingredient lists somewhat vague to facilitate this. In the fried rice, I personally had on hand 1/2 zucchini, 1 carrot, half a jar of pickled baby corn, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, some celery, and half an onion. Your fridge contents and veggie preferences should lead you, though.This is one of the things that makes cooking fun!

Simple Fried Rice


2 tbs peanut oil

3 c vegetables of choice, julienned or sliced to be about the same size

1 tbs tamari

1 tbs hoisin sauce

3 cups prepared rice

1 egg

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tsp sesame oil


Heat the peanut oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, and stir fry for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften. Add tamari and hoisin sauce, stirring quickly to coat the vegetables. Stir in the rice and continue to stir-fry until rice is heated through (about 5 minutes).

Beat the egg, salt, and pepper together. Add into the rice, constantly stirring. Once egg is incorporated, drizzle sesame oil over rice and toss to coat rice evenly. Add additional seasoning to taste. Remove from heat and serve. Makes about 6 1-cup servings.

Leftover Spring Rolls


1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tbs ginger, grated

1 tbs hoisin sauce

1 tbs tamari

1 tbs oyster sauce

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1 chicken breast, cooked, diced

2 c cabbage salad

8 spring roll wrappers, soaked according to package directions


Whisk together garlic, ginger, hoisin, tamari, oyster sauce, oil, and cumin in a medium bowl. Toss the chicken with the dressing to coat. Add cabbage and toss to combine.

One at a time, lay a soaked spring roll wrapper flat on a cutting board. Using about half a cup at a time, arrange the filling on the rice paper to be wrapped. Roll the wrapper tightly around the filling, tucking the ends to the left and right toward the center as you go. Repeat until each wrapper has been filled.

At this point, you can deep fry the rolls to create a crispy texture, I personally prefer them as is. Makes 8 spring rolls.

Vegan Carob Cupcakes with Icing

Imagine the birthday parties you've been to....or imagine the photos you've seen of your own first birthday. What image comes to mind most frequently? Chubby faces and hands smeared with chocolate, right? It's an important milestone is every baby's life, as well as every parent's.

Last night I had a first birthday to celebrate, but this baby is special. She can't have chocolate, because it's poisonous to her. Dairy is off the table because of lactose intolerance. While it would be easy to make a cake just for her, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with her....

Surprise! It's my puppy, Trillian's, first birthday!

This moist, fudge-y, melt-in-your-mouth cupcake uses carob powder to keep it as dog-friendly as you can get while maintaining high human satisfaction. Rice milk was substituted for milk, coconut oil for the necessary butter element. While eggs are on the safe list for puppies, I had a bag of Jonathon apples that I was desperate to use up, so I blended one up for some au naturel applesauce.

Put it all together, and what do you end up with? A tasty treat for canine and human alike. The dogs had cupcakes topped with just the icing. For the humans, I spooned a bit of strawberry-balsamic purée over the top and then added a dollop of icing. Trillian had a very happy birthday, indeed!

Carob Cupcakes

3/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons
carob powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 c applesauce
1/2 cup rice milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350F. Line or grease 12 muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flours, carob, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, oil, and vanilla.

Add applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot water. Pour batter evenly into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake in the preheated over for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy as is or add toppings as desired.

Carob Icing

1/4 c rice milk
1 tbs cashew butter
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 c carob powder
1 tbs agave (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a small, heavy saucepan warm the milk, cashew butter, and oil over medium-low heat. Whisk frequently until the cashew butter is well-combined with the milk. Add the carob powder and the agave and continue stirring until all ingredients are incorporated, dark, and shiny. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool, then use to top your favorite desserts. Makes about 3/4 cup of icing, which is perfect for one dozen cupcakes.

Strawberry Balsamic Purée

8 medium-sized ripe strawberries
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (I used my chocolate-infused!)
2 tbs sugar

Purée all ingredients in the blender. Serve over your favorite desserts. Makes 1 cup of purée.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crispy Tilapia, Lemon-Thyme Quinoa, Sauteéd Bok Choy

This is a leftover from last month that I just got around to typing up. This fish stick is a little fancier than your average minced and frozen variety. By blending the seasonings into the buttermilk-egg bath, you avoid the loss of flavor caused by heat. Instead the subtle garlicky, lemony flavor cozies right up into the fish. You won't even miss the tartar sauce!

The side dishes we flavored to compliment the fish. I used red quinoa, because that's what I happened to have on hand; however, an variety will do. The bok choy is super quick and provides a leafy green to balance out the meal.

Crispy Tilapia Fish Sticks

1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp lemon zest
12 oz tilapia, cut into 1" wide strips
salt and pepper to taste
1 c coarse bread crumbs (panko, for example)

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a blender, blend egg, buttermilk, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper; transfer to a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl.

Season the tilapia strips with salt and pepper. Dip each strip into the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess liquid to drain off, then coat in bread crumb mixture. Lay on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining fish sticks. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Makes 4 servings (about 2 fish sticks per person).

Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

2 c fish or vegetable stock (or amount required per your quinoa package directions)
1 c quinoa
juice of 1 large lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare quinoa according to package directions using stock of choice.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients to form the dressing. Toss the dressing with the prepared quinoa until it is well mixed. Serves 4.

Herb Sauteéd Bok Choy

2 tbs light olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon zest
1 head bok choy, rinsed, and sliced into 1/4" inch ribbons (including stems)
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and zest; cook an additional minute. Add the bok choy and oregano into the pan; stir to combine with the onions. Cook it for a couple more minutes, or until cabbage just begins to wilt. Remove from heat.

Toss cabbage with the fresh basil and season to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slow-Roasted Chicken, Harvest Vegetables, Rosemary Scones, and Pumpkin Mousse

I'm a few days late, but here is our typical Samhain feast. Traditionally (as in, before modern culture turned it into a demonized commercial festival), Samhain represented the end of summer and a celebration of the summer harvest. In addition to giving thanks for the harvest, Samhain was also a day to remember loved ones that have passed to the other side (or, simply put, died). It was common custom in pre-Christian times to set a place setting at the table for deceased ancestors and to recite a prayer to honor those that came before as well as those to come in the

With the gift of remembrance
I remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within me
and within those who are yet to come.

Because I'm a fan of celebrating the original meaning of most holidays, I share this with the offspring. We don't go as far as to set an extra place at the table, but I do like to make a traditional meal and make a toast to our roots. If you can't tell from my holiday selection, there is a strong Celtic vein or two in my body.

Enough history....on to the food! This meal is meant to make use of seasonal ingredients. In the normal world, this is when hens would be full-grown and root vegetables would be most plentiful. The use of rosemary is a common theme, because traditionally rosemary is for remembrance.

Because the majority of the dishes make use of the oven (requiring different cooking temperatures, of course!), I have had to adapt my timing. The harvest vegetables include instructions for preparing while the chicken is in the oven. During the last hour of the roasting time, I prepare the dough for the scones. Then, once the chicken and veggies are out of the oven, I reduce the heat and pop the scones in to bake while the chicken rests. The pumpkin mousse can be made up to a day in advance.

Speaking of the mousse, I have no photo of it. Not that a photo would look especially exciting....just imagine pale pumpkin orange cream in a wine glass, topped with a dark chocolate drizzle. Or, better yet, make it and enjoy the dessert in person!

Slow-Roasted Chicken

4 tbs butter, room temperature
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced + several whole sprigs of rosemary
1 tbs fresh thyme, minced + several whole sprigs of thyme
1 tsp lemon zest
5-6 lb whole chicken, innards removed, rinsed, and patted dry
salt and pepper
1 lemon, cut into fourths
1 medium yellow onion, cut into fourths

Preheat oven to 275F.

Combine butter, garlic, rosemary and thyme leaves, and lemon zest. Form a log of butter on a piece of plastic cling and wrap the cling securely around the butter. Place the butter mixture in the freezer to harden.

Season the inside of the chicken breast well with salt and pepper. Using your hand, separate the
skin from the breast meat gently (you want the skin to remain intact and attached to the bird). Rub the space between the skin and the breast liberally with salt and pepper. With a paring knife, make several one-inch slits in the breast meat, spacing the slits about an inch apart. Stuff the bird with the lemon, onion, and sprigs of herbs.

Remove the butter from the freezer, unwrap, and slice into as many rounds as you have slits in the breast meat (probably around 6-8). Push one round of butter into each slit. Using cotton string or twine, tie the chicken legs together. Place the chicken in a baking dish breast-side down. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for about 45 minutes per pound. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 150F, flip the chicken to breast-side-up, return to the oven, and turn the heat up to 400F. Roast another 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160F. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

Harvest Potatoes

2 tbs peanut oil
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
2 lbs fingerling potatoes, large potatoes cut in half
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced

Preheat oven to 400F (or follow the directions in the note for preparing these potatoes along with the Roasted Chicken).

Combine the oil, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss the vegetables in the oil mixture to coat. Place in a baking dish and bake 30-35 minutes, or until tender.

To prepare while the chicken roasts: Start the vegetables in the oven in the last hour of the chicken's roasting time. Remove the vegetables at the same time as the chicken.

Rosemary Scones

3/4 c milk
1 tbs lemon juice
1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbs butter, room temperature
1/2 c grated cheese
1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tbs fresh thyme, minced
1 tbs olive oil
extra rosemary leaves for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, combine milk and lemon juice. Set aside to allow to curdle (alternatively, use 3/4 cup of buttermilk).

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until mixture becomes crumbly. Stir in cheese and herbs. Add curdled milk and mix in until dough comes together.

Knead dough on a floured surface, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Form dough into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges about an inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap and place in freezer for ten minutes.

Remove baking sheet from the freezer and discard the cling wrap. Brush tops of the dough with olive oil and garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until tops are pale golden brown. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Mousse

1 -15oz can pumpkin
3 c heavy cream
3/4 c fine sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate drizzle (recipe below), if desired

In a meadium saucepan, combine pumpkin, one cup of the cream, sugar, spice, and one teaspoon of the vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Once pumpkin mixture is cooled, beat the remaining cream and vanilla to medium peaks. Fold whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture until well-combined. If desired, top with chocolate drizzle or chocolate chips before serving. Serves 8.

Chocolate Drizzle
(adapted from this Almost Vegan recipe--thanks Amber!)

2 1/2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 c fine sugar
1/4 c + 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c heavy cream
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

In a small saucepan, melt the oil over medium heat. Whisk in sugar and cocoa powder until smooth. Slowly add cream, whisking constantly until sauce is smooth and heated through. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt, ans set aside. Allow to cool completely before drizzling over the mousse.

Tomato-Cauliflower Soup with Thai Flavors

'Tis the, I'm not following the lead of certain radio stations and starting my caroling in November. The next line in this particular ditty would say something witty about soup, for that is what our new-found freezing temperatures has me in the mood for. Well, that and the (also new) sore throat....

This is a product of another fridge-busting attempt. It's easy, soothing, and satisfying. The cauliflower lends a creaminess and body to the soup, which was a nice surprise. I had my bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich that I also infused a bit o' the Thai into by rubbing the bread with garlic and lime, adding cilantro and garlic-chili sauce to the insides, and grilling in a mixture of coconut and sesame oils. Did I just create an Asian fusion comfort food? I think so!

Tomato-Cauliflower Soup with Thai Flavor

2 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 -28oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
1/2 head of cauliflower florets
2 tsp garlic-chili sauce (more or less, to adjust heat)
1 tsp agave nectar
3 c water
2 lime wedges
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (if desired)

In a large stock pot combine the oil and coriander. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper; cook 3 more minutes. Transfer onion combination to a blender and pureé.

Return pureéd mixture to pot and add tomatoes, cauliflower, chili sauce, agave, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is soft, about 20 minutes. Add lime wedges and simmer 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat and discard the lime wedges. In batches, pureé the soup in a blender until the desired consistency is reached (I like to leave about one-fourth of the soup "as is" for a chunkier texture). Season with additional salt and black pepper and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sushi and Watermelon Rind Kim-chi

I have had a decrease in timeliness when it comes to posting lately. Not that I've had a LOT to post, by any means....quite a few repeats these days. I do have a few recipes to get off my conscious, though, so let's move on to playing ketchup--er, catch up.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make some sushi--or at least to roll some things in seaweed, as some of the maki does not contain any rice. I used this venture as a means to use up some ingredients I had lying around. My goal was to make a decent meal of sushi without making a special trip to the store. As you can see, I did all right!

In the first column on the left, I have a version of a spicy tuna roll, except this is a spicy shrimp roll. I used silken tofu instead of mayo in the spicy mayo. The second column is a mushroom, jalapeño, and cream cheese roll. Next is silken tofu and watermelon rind kim-chi. Last but not least, is a roll that used raw grated sweet potato and cauliflower instead of rice; the center contains fresh asparagus. I also created a handroll out of the left-over bits, which you can see in the picture below.

The watermelon rind kim-chi is a simple raw recipe that makes use of something that typically goes to waste. By using this easy pickling technique, you can eliminate trash and provide a nice spicy boost to many of your recipes. Personally, I love it on salads! You can see my jar of kim-chi in the photo below with my mis en place lined up and ready to go.

Watermelon Rind Kim Chi

rind from 1/2 large watermelon, skin and pink flesh removed, cute into 1/2" pieces (comes out to about 3 cups of rind)
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/4 c salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
3 tbs crushed chili pepper flakes
1 tbs honey
2 tsp rice vinegar

Toss watermelon rind and carrot with salt in a large bowl. Allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

Add garlic, ginger, onions, chili flakes, honey, and vinegar to the salted rind mixture; toss to combine. Pack kim-chi into glass jars, adding a few spoonfuls of the red liquid that has formed. Allow to rest at room temperature for 24-48 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. The flavor intensifies over time. Makes about 3 cups of kim-chi.

Sushi Rice

1 c sushi or short grain rice
1 1/4 c water, plus extra for rinsing rice
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs salt

Place the rice into a strainer and rinse with cool water until the water runs clear.

Place the rice and 1 1/4 cups of water into a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the low cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and slowly sprinkle in the vinegar mixture while slowly stirring. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Make sure rice is room temperature before rolling.

Spicy Shrimp Roll Filling

3 tbs silken (extra soft) tofu
1 tbs Sriracha
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp salt
1 3.5oz can baby shrimp, drained well

Whisk tofu, Sriracha, lemon juice, tamari, and salt until well-combined. Mix shrimp into sauce to evenly coat. Makes about 3/4 cup of filling.

Sushi -- Maki-style*

sushi mat (typically bamboo, but any material that will easily roll will work)
prepared sushi rice (see recipe above)
nori (toasted or dehydrated seaweed sheet)
fillings of choice
small bowl of rice vinegar to wet fingers

Assemble your ingredients, making sure that fillings are cut into 1/4" strips. Lay the mat flat. Place a sheet of nori on top of the mat. Starting 1/2" from the edge of nori closest to you, thinly spread the rice from left to right edges up until 1" of nori remains at the edge farthest from you.
Place your ingredients in a horizontal line about 1" from the bottom edge of the rice layer. The filling should amount to about the diameter of one finger. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the rice and nori layers up and over the filling, using the mat to tighten as you go. Roll until you reach the edge farthest from you. Using the vinegar, wet the exposed edge of the nori and complete the roll. The tighter you roll, the better! To serve, slice into 1" rounds. Top with
Sriracha, toasted sesame seeds, or roe, if desired; serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Each roll makes 8 bite-sized pieces. Two cups of prepared rice will make about 6-8 rolls.

To create the hand roll, or temaki, shown to the right of my sushi rolls, place the ingredients on a diagonal, leaving a good two inches from what will become the bottom corner. Roll the nori corner to corner over the filling, stopping halfway to fold the bottom corner over the filling. Wet the edge with vinegar to seal the roll.

Raw Rice-less "Sushi" Roll

1/2 tbs rice vinegar
1/2 tbs sugar or agave nectar
pinch of salt
1/4 c raw sweet potato, shredded andpressed between paper towels to remove excess moisture
1/4 c raw cauliflower florets, finely chopped
4 stalks of raw asparagus, trimmed
1 nori sheet

Whisk together vinegar, sweetener, and salt. Combine vinegar mixture with sweet potato and cauliflower. Using the method described above, spread the sweet potato combination onto the nori as if it was sushi rice. Place the asparagus spears 1" from the edge of the sweet potato layer closest to you and roll as with a standard sushi roll. Cut into 1" rounds and serve.

*There are many places that describe how to roll sushi, complete with photos. I described the method to the best of my ability, but if you have never seen it done I suggest searching on-line for videos demonstrating the proper technique.