Monday, August 5, 2013

Vegetable Soup for a Fall Evening (and to clean out the veggie drawer)

One of the things I love most to make is soup. I'm not sure what it is I like about it, but I like being so present in the process. As with all my endeavors, the most difficult part is deciding where to begin. I've solved that problem with a lovely little recipe from Alton Brown. In reality, it's probably exactly the same steps as I'd take if I'd never seen it, but its simplicity was inspirational.
On a side note, I hate those reviews where the reviewer writes, "This is an awesome recipe! I used vermouth instead of vegetable broth and my grandmother's organic marigolds to replace the broccoli. But this is completely my family's favorite recipe!" So I'm not posting his recipe here, or even a link to it.
For the curious, it's his "Garden Vegetable Soup" recipe and you should goog it because it's a great recipe. But here is mine:

2 Tbl. EVOO heated in the bottom of a dutch oven over medium heat.

Add to the hot oil approximately 1 c. scallions, white onion, or leeks (white part mostly) or even a combination of these. The goal is to use what's in the fridge. Plus a couple of garlic cloves, minced, or pre-minced garlic to equal about a tablespoon. Add a bit of salt (AB uses kosher and so do I) and cook for 7-8 minutes until they gain some transparency and soften.

Add a total of 3 cups of vegetables in a combination of ones that get a bit mushy and ones that don't. I used
1 very large russet potato, diced with a few bits of skin left on here and there
1 cup of fresh sugar snap peas
2 large carrots, sliced in rounds
Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 quart of organic vegetable broth, increase the heat to high and simmer.  Then add 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped and 1 cup of cauliflower diced to the size of a kidney bean, season with pepper (red, black or white) and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Reduce heat to low and cook until the veggies are fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Add fresh herbs, dried herbs to your taste. I like tarragon, sage, or parsley. I prefer just one at a time, but you may find a blend you like- go for it. And then do not miss this bit of AB genius, add one really good squeeze from half a lemon. Salt to taste and enjoy!

Yum! Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (pure canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (I often forget this, but you shouldn't)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries that have bathed overnight in a couple tablespoons of Henesseys
  • demerara sugar and coarse sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Line 12 muffin cup or grease with butter or whatever you use.

  3. Place the oil, pumpkin, buttermilk, eggs, and molasses in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork to blend.

  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, spices, and baking soda. Using a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed. Fold in the cranberries.

  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and top with a light and lovely mixture of the salt and sugar.  Bake for  20-25 minutes. If your oven is like mine, bake for 10 minutes, rotate the tins, and bake another 10 minutes.
    Allow the muffins to cool in their tins for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

So-- I'm having a hard time understanding how someone (me) who doesn't really like chicken can have SO many chicken recipes on her page. Hmmm?? But this one is good, maybe great. Looks disgusting though. One 9x13 baking dish... gone in 60 seconds. (ok. not quite that fast- but there were only four of us eating it)

The inspiration for this recipe is from The Black Peppercorn, along with some really great photos that make it look A LOT BETTER than mine.
  • 2 lbs fresh chicken thighs
  • olive or other oil for saute
  • ¾ cup cream cheese
  • 1 5oz bottle of Trader Joe's chili hot sauce (see note* below)
  • 1 teas garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 package (1kg) Tater Tots
  • A couple handfuls grated monterey jack cheese (you could use a mexican cheese blend instead, or just cheddar, or whatever you like. Pepper Jack?)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup sliced green onions, green and white parts
Make the buffalo sauce by melting the cream cheese in a saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in the hot sauce, and season with garlic salt. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes and then remove from the heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut the chicken crosswise into 1/2" strips and saute until minimally cooked (it will finish cooking in the oven).
Mix the buffalo sauce with the chicken and spread it in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.
Sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese on top of the buffalo chicken mixture.
Lay the Tater Tots, still frozen, lengthwise in rows, evenly on the chicken and blue cheese. One bag Trader Joe's Tater Tots is more than enough to cover the casserole dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese. I'm pretty certain I used more than a cup of cheese.
Bake in the 350F oven for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with diced celery and green onions before serving. 

*Hot Sauce- My original plan was to use FRANK'S® REDHOT® Buffalo Wings Sauce. But somewhere in the middle of my shopping excursion to TJ's I discovered I really didn't want to make another grocery stop and remembered that the Black Peppercorn recipe had you making your own. The Trader Joe's I shop at has three different types of hot sauce, jalapeno, habanero, and the chili. That was my most difficult decision. Ultimately I went with the least hot according to the scale on the side of the bottle. It was plenty of heat.

I served it with a green salad, but I think a cole slaw would have been a better contrast to the heat.