Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! Ogre Toe anyone?

Originally found a recipe online a few years ago for some peaky looking witch finger cookies. Now they looked bad enough I suppose, but when have I ever been able to leave well enough alone? Over the last few years my toes and fingers have gotten ever gorier. All the better to freak the wee chillun's out I say. You can take these as far as you're willing to go. Either just bake 'em and leave it at that, or go whole hog and get out your paintbrushes!
For whatever reason, a recipe that used to work just great, holding the form/details I sculpt in, now has the tendency to flatten out and puff up in the oven. (UPDATE: see alternative recipe that I'll be using from now on below the first!)
They still look gnarly, no matter what condition they're in upon coming out of the oven...especially with cocoa mix "shading". I know I'm late in getting this particular post together, but look at it this way. Now you have a whole year to get your technique down. ;-)

Severed Ogre Toes (or ears, etc.!):
(Adapted from a recipe from Britta's awe inspiring site devoted to Halloween)

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
raspberry jam (if using an all-fruit no added sugar, add red food coloring)
whole blanched almonds
food coloring
Ghiradelli's cocoa mix
assorted paint brushes...a nice soft fan brush, and fine detail brushes

In a bowl, beat together butter, egg, almond extract and vanilla. Add food coloring at this point if you'd like to tint the dough.
I use a combo of red and blue with a touch of green to come out with a greyish purple dough.
Add flour and salt to mix.
Cover and refrigerate dough for about an hour. During this time, split some of the almonds and carve toe nails. You'll be using the fat end of the almond for the outside edge of the nail, so concentrate on making it creeptastic. Now, take whole almonds and cut off the butt end to create the bone shard that will stick out the back of the cookie.
Load a small Ziplock bag with some raspberry jam and make a small cut at one corner.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Working with small amounts of dough at a time, keeping the remainder in the fridge, roll a heaping teaspoon (my fingers/toes vary quite a lot in size honestly) into an oval shape then flatten. Pipe a bit of the jam down the center, then carefully close up the dough around it.

You can then shape the toe or finger. Create a knuckle, use a knife to make slashes across it.

If you have a jam "blowout" know that these end up being the best looking cookies in way of gore factor. So don't worry if some of the jam starts oozing out as you're shaping the cookies. :-)
Push in an almond nail, so that some of it is in the cookie...lessening the likelihood of it coming out after baking. Push in a "bone shard" end. Place cookie on parchment lined baking sheet and once you have the sheet loaded up with cookies, put them back in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven at this point to 325.
Bake cookies for about 20-25 minutes, depending on their size. I sometimes end up taking the smaller ones off first and popping the larger ones in for a little longer.
As soon as the cookies come out of the oven (they MUST be hot for this step!), dip a fan brush into the cocoa mix and tap/shade the cookies. I usually do this around the nail bed, at the severed end around the bone, and shade along the edges around the knuckle.

Now you're ready to paint! Get a small ramekin and make puddles of blue, green, and red.
Red and green make brown, red and blue make purple. Just play with different mixes or straight color. I paint around the nail, the bone end and in the knuckle slashes sometimes. Just have fun with it. Oh and I also keep a bowl of water to thin the color if needed.

You can get bold and start making other icky severed parts too. This year, I've branched out into severed waxy ears. Filled with caramel and fig preserves "wax". Complete with a carved almond skull earring. The q-tips are just pretzels dipped in melted white chocolate.

That's it! Now comes the tricky part. Seeing if you can get anyone to eat them!!! Easier said than done. ;-)

Happy Halloween everyone!! Chickpea sends her witchy-poo love!

(developed with Debbie's help in the quest for a better tasting and looking cookie)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 TBS corn starch
1/8+ tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar; sifted
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup almond flour (or hazelnut flour)
1 TBS fresh squeezed orange juice
1 TBS cocoa powder
optional: jam of your choice for filling...raspberry is nice for blooood but apricot is tasty too!

Preheat oven to 325.

Sift flour, cornstarch, salt and cocoa into a bowl.
Cream butter in a mixer, then sift in confectioners sugar and mix until fluffy.
Add vanilla, almond/hazelnut meal, and orange juice and blend well.
Slowly add flour mix to butter and combine until dough appears crumbly.
Roll between wax paper and pop it into the refrigerator for about an hour. Or alternatively you can put the wax paper wrapped dough into a freezer bag and freeze.
Make fingers/toes as in the prior recipe, then bake for ~22+ minutes. This might vary quite a bit depending on how large you make your fingers, so just do an initial test bake.
Decorate as in previous recipe.
Now gross out your friends with your new and improved tasting ogre fingers/toes! :-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry and Raw Kale Salad

I went to Costco Sunday with a new friend so we could split a bunch of produce that we wouldn't normally be able to get through with only one of our households. Amongst our purchases, a box of sweet potatoes. Now, you'd think given we only have half a box we'd be able to use them up with no problem. Well, there were still an awful lot of potatoes for just 2 people. This is the first recipe (attempt) at whittling down that mere half box o' spuds. Served this up with a raw kale salad, which I'm reposting in hopes that it will give someone else the incentive to try it. :-) I'd never considered eating kale raw until coming across this recipe. It's so good! There were tons of curry leftovers...let's hope they thaw well, since into the freezer they went after I had some for lunch yesterday. (I can now report back that they thawed out beautifully, so definitely a freezeable dish.)

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry:
Nigella Lawson

2 medium red onions, peeled and roughly cut
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 birds eye chile or Thai chile or hot pepper (seeded or not seeded according to taste)
2 1/2 inches piece gingerroot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 cardamom pods, light crushed or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
(Garam masala...not in original recipe, but I added this at the end because I wanted a little more spice)
2 lbs sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces (about 3 medium)
1 3/4 cups light coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamarind paste (I use tamarind concentrate, so don't have to let it soak in hot broth...if you have that, just add the veg. broth with no heating required)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (hot)
2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
~2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
cooked rice (optional)

In food processor, combine onions, garlic, hot pepper and ginger. Pulse until finely chopped. I thought I'd over done the mincing, but it came out really great.

Pour oil into large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion mixture and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add hot pepper flakes, ground ginger, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix. Add sweet potatoes and stir until well covered in spices. Stir in coconut milk.

Dissolve tamarind paste in hot vegetable broth and add to pan (or just add tamarind concentrate). Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until sweet potatoes are just tender, about 30 minutes or more. Taste potatoes to make sure they are cooked all the way and allow additional cooking time of necessary.

Add chickpeas and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust salt to taste. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with rice if desired, but this is very filling on it's own.

Raw Kale and Garlic Salad:
This recipe is from Erin at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center with a few additions.

1 lb kale (Just buy one large bunch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-2 cloves garlic, minced. Adjust to taste. (I used one clove for 1 bunch of kale)
1/2 teaspoon salt
~4 Tbs lemon juice (use less to begin with, but I like it perky)
avocado slices
1+ tomato(es), diced

Wash and dry kale after having striped the leaves from their ribs. Cut the leaves up fairly finely.
Mix in olive oil and massage with clean hands for ~2 minutes. I didn't cut the kale up as small the first time I made this and it took a lot longer to massage the leaves. In a smallish bowl mix together the garlic, lemon and salt, stirring until salt dissolves. Pour over your kale and toss to coat. Pop it into the fridge for a bit if you have the time to let it marinate a bit, then serve with avocado slices, tomatoes and a little fresh cracked black pepper.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicken Stew with Lemon and Olives

This is a really wonderful new recipe that I'd printed out from Cooking Light ages ago and finally got around to making. It will go into our regular rotation of recipes for sure. Very comforting meal served with a simple arugula, orange and avocado salad.

Chicken Stew with Lemon and Olives:
(Cooking Light magazine)

1 pound boned, organic skinned chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use brown rice flour or whole spelt flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons each salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon capers, drained and minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 pound organic Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-in. cubes
package (8 oz.) thawed frozen artichoke hearts, quartered if large (used one can of plain quartered artichoke hearts, drained)
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup pitted medium green olives (I'd use less next time...too much of a good thing with the capers. Maybe measure out 1/2 a cup, then cut them in half)
Lemon wedges (was perky enough for our tastes without additional lemon)

Cut each chicken thigh into 2 or 3 chunks. In a resealable plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Add chicken, seal, and shake to coat.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken (discard excess flour) in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, capers, and lemon zest and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, and chicken and return to a simmer. Lower heat slightly to maintain simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes.

Add artichokes to pot and stir. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, lemon juice to taste, and olives.

If necessary, season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with lemon wedges on the side.

Pear Cake with Streusel

Pears have been plentiful in the stores of late and this recipe caught my eye in one of the blog's I read. I added a streusel topping to her recipe and changed out the regular flour for whole wheat pastry flour. A few other changes here and there and I came out with a yummy not-too-sweet cake for us to snack on. Check out the original you might like to just make it as originally written.

Pear Cake:
(adapted from All Buttoned Up's blog)

6 Tbs rolled oats
3 Tbs whole wheat pastry flour (for some reason I'd halved the amount of flour from the fruit crisp recipe's struesel...I might use all 6 Tbs next time)
1/4 cup Sucanat
a good pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 -1 tsp ground ginger (honestly, I can't remember how much I used)
a couple rasps of nutmeg
4 tsp agave nectar
6-8 tsp canola oil (can't remember exactly how much I used for this either :-)

Mix all together then set aside.

Dry bowl:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I'd like to try a combo of spelt flour and ww pastry flour next time)
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs Sucanat, brown sugar or reg. sugar
couple rasps of nutmeg
~1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet bowl:
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbs canola oil
1 egg (or egg replacer or 1/4 cup applesauce to make it vegan)
1/2 cup yogurt (regular or soy)
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave nectar, but recipe said brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or barley malt would work out too)
1 tsp vanilla
1 or 2 pears chopped up (I used 1 1/2 largish Bartletts and didn't bother peeling them)

Mix wet and dry bowls together and pour into a greased 8" by 8" pan. Add streusel to top and bake for ~35-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Do the toothpick test to make sure it's done in the middle.

Let it cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Serve alone or with some agave sweetened Fage Greek yogurt. :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Somebody send me a good tried and true recipe that's quasi-healthy already!! The last 2 new recipes I made I won't bother posting about. A vegan carmelized onion dip...way overseasoned and kind of off somehow. A butternut squash soup that's about to go down the disposal. I just can't afford to keep making stuff for the sink to eat! So this is a plea for anyone that has a recipe that never misses. Please for to send it! I'll make it and then rave about it in a post. Thanks!! :-)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pear, Fontina, and Prosciutto Panini

This is one freakin' awesome sammie, that I just can't believe has not found it's way onto my blog before now! The original recipe is from Cooking Light magazine, but from the very first time I made it I mistakenly bought Fontina cheese in lieu of the Pecornino called for. Let's just say it was a brilliant mistake. I'll link to the original recipe, but since it is after all just a sandwich, will write it up as I make it with no set amounts of anything. Serve a wedge (or two!) of this yummy beast with a simple salad or a small bowl of soup and your sweetie will drool his/her thanks.

Pear, Fontina and Prosciutto Panini:

1-2 firm, ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges per pear (I used 1.5 large Bartlett pears and didn't bother peeling them)
a touch of butter
a smidge of agave nectar (or sugar)
1 fresh loaf of ciabatta bread or focaccia, cut in half horizontally
splashes of balsamic vinegar
baby arugula, or trimmed mature...calls for 1 cup, but i tend to use as much as I can get on the sandwich
slices of Fontina cheese
very thin slices prosciutto (about 4 ounces)
fresh ground black pepper

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pear to pan, and sprinkle with sugar or agave nectar. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden.

Sprinkle cut sides of bread with vinegar to your taste (orig. recipe calls for 4 tsp). Arrange pear slices, arugula, cheese, and prosciutto evenly over bottom half of bread. Add some freshly ground black pepper and cover with top half of bread. I ended up putting cheese on both sides.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (I use a grill pan, or if you have a panini machine you can use that of course). Add stuffed loaf to pan. Place a cast-iron or heavy skillet on top of stuffed loaf; press gently to flatten. I use casserole dishes loaded up with all of our silverware. :-)

Cook 4 minutes on each side or until bread is toasted (leave cast-iron skillet on stuffed loaf while it cooks). Cut into nice big slices and mangia!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Black Bean and Kasha Casserole Topped with Corn Pudding

A good way to get more wholesome buckwheat in you. I topped this with avocado and some Spicy Pepitas from last night and they added great crunch. I'd definitely recommend making some to go with this if you don't have any laying around like we did.

Update: Definitely top each piece with more grated cheese and enchilada sauce when serving. Yum! :-)

Black Bean and Kasha (buckwheat) Casserole topped with Corn Pudding:
(a combination of a recipe from Vegetarian Times and one from Seasonal Ontario Food's blog)

2 (15oz) cans of black beans, drained and washed
~1/2 cup sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
2 chopped tomatoes
1/3 (+some for garnish) chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash of chipotle chili powder
~1 1/4(+more to serve over top) cup of medium enchilada sauce (look for one that has a decent ingredient list corn syrup, modified this that or the other...I use Rosarita's)
~1 cup (+more to serve over top) grated pepper jack cheese, or cheddar
~2 1/2 cups of cooked kasha (cooking instructions follow at end of recipe)
corn pudding batter (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375
In large nonstick skillet, combine black beans, scallions and tomato. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 cup cilantro, oregano, cumin and chipotle powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Combine bean mixture with cooked kasha, cheese, and enchilada sauce.
Lightly spray a Pyrex lasagna dish with canola cooking spray and spread the kasha bean mixture within. Set this aside while you whip up the corn pudding to top the beans with.

Corn Pudding Topping:

1 Tbs olive oil
2 cups of raw corn kernels; about 2 cobs (you could probably save some time and use frozen corn)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup cornstarch or potato starch
1 tsp baking powder

Husk the corn and cut kernels from the cobs. In a blender, mix corn, water, salt and pepper. Blending until fairly smooth. Add the eggs, cornstarch and baking powder and blend again. Lastly, mix in the olive oil.

Pour the corn pudding over your bean mixture and bake for ~40-50 minutes, or until set in the middle and lightly browned around the edges.


2 cups veggie/chicken stock or water
1 large egg white
1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat groats...if you can't find them roasted, place raw groats on a sheet pan and roast for ~30 min. at 300 degrees, stirring midway)
1 Tbs olive oil
kosher salt

Bring stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Beat the egg white in a bowl with a fork then stir in the kasha.
Heat a wide skillet over medium heat, add the kasha and cook, stirring until the grains are dry and separate (about 3 minutes).
Add the kasha to the boiling stock/water, add olive oil and a dash of salt.
Lower the heat and simmer, covered until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes (check after 10...but mine took a lot longer).
Let stand 5 minutes before adding to bean mixture.

Pork tacos with Slaw and Spicy Pepitas

A recipe in the most part from this month's Cooking Light, tweaked in that I used pork tenderloin instead of loin chops, and I roasted it in the oven after pan-searing instead of grilling.
If you feel like grilling by all means do that. I also added a touch of olive oil, a little agave nectar and cilantro to the slaw. You can jazz this up any way you'd like to suit your tastes.
I served up the tacos with a side of sliced orange and avocado...beans seemed like too much work last night. :-)

Pork Tacos with Slaw and Spicy Pepitas:

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho or chipotle chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pork tenderloin
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper (I used a whole large pepper)
couple tablespoons of minced cilantro
1/2 (16-ounce) package coleslaw (about 3 cups)
a squirt of agave nectar
olive oil
a splash of cider vinegar
6-inch white or yellow corn tortillas
Greek yogurt or light sour cream
spicy pepitas

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Lightly coat pork olive oil; rub spice mixture over all sides of pork. Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400.
Combine 2 tablespoons juice, bell pepper, onions, jalapeño, and coleslaw in a large bowl, tossing well. I also added a smidge of salt, a bit of olive oil, cider vinegar and a turn of agave nectar.

Over med-high heat, pan sear all sides (~6-8 min. total depending on the size of the tenderloin) in a lightly oiled oven-safe pan.
Place pan in 400 degree oven and roast until a meat thermometer reads ~147.
Remove from pan and let rest for 10 min. The meat should still be pink inside.
Cut pork into ~1/4-inch slices. Combine pork and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a medium bowl, tossing to coat.

If you have a gas range you can flop the tortillas right on the burner and turn with tongs to warm/grill. If not, just follow CL's instructions as follows...

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Coat griddle with cooking spray. Arrange 6 tortillas in a single layer; cook 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining 6 tortillas. Divide pork mixture evenly among tortillas; top each tortilla with coleslaw mixture, a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, and a sprinkling of Spicy Pepitas.

Spicy Pepitas:

1 cup unsalted raw pumpkinseed kernels
1 scant tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho or chipotle chile pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of cinnamon
a couple squirts of agave nectar

Combine all ingredients except agave necar in a small bowl.
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add kernels to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently, adding agave nectar in the last couple minutes.
Remove from pan; cool completely.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tilapia in Bechamel over Wilted Spinach

I realize I only wrote about this bechamel sauce a few posts ago, but I haven't made it since August 19th! So here it is again, but this time over fish and spinach. I'm already thinking ahead to the next time I feel indulgent enough to make this. I might add a bit of brandy to the sauce and with that addition would use a cave-aged Gruyere in lieu of the Parmesan. Also, I'd serve the fish with green beans and a simple spinach, orange and avocado salad on the side as I felt the wilted spinach although good alongside, fought a little with the fish when eaten in the same bite. I'd also like to try decreasing the butter amount in the sauce next time...maybe by half.

Tilapia in Bechamel over Wilted Spinach:

~1 lb of Tilapia fillets, or other mild white fish (I had 2 fillets that totalled .90lb)
2 Tbs butter, Earth Balance, or canola oil
2 Tbs brown rice flour (or regular ap flour, or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 1/4 cups plain unsweetened soy milk (or regular milk)
salt and pepper to taste
a couple rasps of nutmeg
a couple shakes of garlic powder
toasted whole wheat bread crumbs
grated Parmesan, Cave-aged Gruyere, or other flavorful harder cheese
olive oil
cooking spray
a nice big pile of baby spinach
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
handful of pine nuts

Preheat oven to 400.
Combine cheese and bread crumbs in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat soy milk in a small sauce pan, taking care not to scald it.
While the milk is heating, add butter to another sauce pan and when foamy whisk in flour and cook it for ~2 minutes.
Add hot milk whisking to prevent lumps and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic powder to taste.
Lightly coat a medium casserole dish with olive oil or canola spray.
Pour a small amount of the bechamel into the casserole so that there will be a thin layer of it under the fish.
Salt and pepper the fish filets, then lay them into the casserole in one layer.
Pour remaining bechamel over fish to cover it completely.
Add a touch of olive oil to cheesy crumb mixture, then sprinkle over fish.
Cover the casserole with foil and bake for ~18 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on your fillet sizes, so don't necessarily go by what worked for my 2 big fillets.

Remove fish from oven, uncover the casserole and turn on your oven's broiler raising the oven rack so that your casserole will be about 5" from the flame.
Broil til bubbly and toasty.

Now, I'd say cook the spinach while the fish is under the broiler, but there is no way I wouldn't end up forgetting about the fish and burning the topping. So, cook up the spinach whenever you feel comfortable that you have 4 minutes of uninterrupted time to do so...just do it as close to the time you'll be serving the fish as possible. Or, just make green beans like I plan on doing next time! :-)

Heat up a couple Tbs of olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Saute up the pine nuts and garlic until they just start to turn golden, then add spinach and a little salt and pepper. Cook until just wilted.

Serve fish atop a bed of the wilted spinach.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Roasted Tomato Soup

I'd planned on making a tomato soup from this month's Cooking Light issue, but on closer inspection of the recipe, knew there had to be a better one out there for my beautiful tomatoes.
CL's has you throwing everything including un-sauteed onions into a pot and boiling it. I knew I wanted to roast the veggies first and upon conducting an internet search found that Heidi's (101 Cookbooks) did just that. I did feel after making her version that the onions just didn't have enough time to carmelize in the time she gave, but that can be dealt with next time. I'll be tweaking the recipe a bit further next time, but until then it was a delicious combo of veggies with the addition of some hot smoked paprika.

Roasted Tomato Soup:
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

~2 lbs, or more vine-ripened tomatoes quartered (original recipe calls for 5 tomatoes)
1 large sweet onion cut into eighths (orig. calls for 3 medium)
1 large red pepper cut into fifths
~5 large cloves of garlic in their skins
olive oil
kosher salt to taste
2-3 cups light vegetable stock, water, or chicken broth, or a combination (I only had chicken, so used water and chicken stock)
~1/4 tsp (hot or sweet) smoked paprika
1-2 tsp tomato paste
~2 tsp, or to taste balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
Place quartered tomatoes skin side down on one sheet.
Place peppers skin side down, onions and garlic on second sheet pan.
Drizzle all veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for about 45 min or more, until onions carmelize and tomatoes have "collapsed" on themselves, turning the onions as needed to carmelized sides. My onions didn't carmelize enough, but i'll work on that next time.
Remove garlic from the oven early, once they've become golden and squishy in their skins.

This is a shot of the roasted veggies when I was deluded into thinking the hand blender might work fine without adding all the liquid first. Um, no. And you can see in this shot that the onions could have stood even more cooking. That's why I simmered the soup post blending for ~10 min.
Ok...back to the recipe...

Once all of your veggies are done (I had to rotate the sheets in the oven during cooking and then still cook the onion sheet longer), remove the garlic from their skins and the skin from the pepper if it's tough like mine was and place all veggies in a regular blender or food processor adding a touch of your liquid of choice. Heidi suggests that before blending you might want to reserve some of the tomato quarters to be used as garnish...very nice touch in my opinion.
Once all the veggies are blended, add to a pot and mix in more stock/water to make the soup a consistency you're happy with.
Add the paprika, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar and simmer about 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Drizzle each bowl of soup with a swirl of good extra virgin olive oil and top with a couple reserved roasted tomatoes. I thought the soup was particularly good with the addition of whole wheat pepper jack cheese toasts to dunk! :-)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cooking with New Friends

This meal was prepared with great care and attention with my special new friend and guest chef Freya. We collaborated on the menu and came up with a tasty repast that is both reasonable in calories and nutritionally well balanced. Our meal began with a salad of organic mixed field greens, homegrown cherry tomatoes, basil and a homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. The entree followed with a healthful piece of grilled to perfection wild coho salmon with lemon served atop a brown rice pilaf. The side dish to our salmon was a spritely melange of petits pois and carrots topped with a chiffonade of garden fresh basil. A last minute concoction came from some leftover risotto we'd made the night before, transformed into an incredible savory pancake thanks to a Joy of Cooking recipe. Now I realize I touted this meal as well-balanced and we already had a pilaf on the menu, but really...can you ever have too much rice?? :-) Besides, our diner that evening has been eating gluten-free these days, so rice every which way was all good.

Now you may be looking at the array of beautiful desserts we served our guest Marenka that evening and saying to yourself...yeah, SURE they're healthy! Treats in moderation my friends, are never a bad thing. Plus all of our cookies and the strawberry shortcake pie were made with gluten-free whole grain flours, fresh strawberries, and sweetened only with agave nectar. True inspirations all.

As to the recipes? Alas...we were creating things so fast and furiously that we were guided by inspiration alone. These are one time only masterpieces that probably can't be recreated. But don't despair. The next time Freya and I cook together, you just might find yourself the lucky diner in front of whom we set our next feast!

Our satisfied customer mugging with Chef Freya...

The chefs!...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bbq 'Tater Chip Cauliflower :-)

I kid you not, this totally tastes like bbq potato chips!! I've made it about 3 times now and it's a mighty delicious side dish every time. When my Auntie J was here for a visit we ate it with baked salmon and my roasted lima bean recipe...but it'd be good with any number of things. I'm salivating just typing this up, so hie thee to the market and procure all the necessary fixin's. This is a good one.

Paprika Sauteed Cauliflower:
(from Seasonal Ontario Food's blog)

1/2 a head of cauliflower (~3 cups cut up into small florets)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Steam cauliflower florets until just tender.
Combine the paprikas and salt in a medium to large bowl.
While the oil is heating in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high, toss the cauliflower with the salt and paprikas. When the oil is hot, add the cauliflower to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is hot through and begins to crisp and brown at the edges. Add the garlic to the pan after the cauliflower has cooked for about 2 minutes.
I've had to add a little extra oil in at times, but probably because I usually end up using more than 3 cups of cauliflower.