Saturday, January 24, 2009

Baked Potato Soup

Winter is a great time for soup, and potato soup is especially nice on a chilly day. On a particular Friday a couple of weeks ago, I had planned to make a big pot of Baked Potato Soup. It was more than enough for Alex and I to have dinner and then lunch, and since our friend Abby wasn't having a very good day, we invited her over for soup, fresh baked bread, and pink fizzy cocktails.

Baked Potato Soup
From Cooking Light

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash. Discard skins.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Sprinkle each serving with cheese, onions, and bacon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The dog, graduate school, and some more quinoa

Alex and I ended up adopting Izo the dog. Now the long time period of training begins! Hopefully he'll take to crate training quickly so we don't have to worry about him as much when we're at work. (Alex and I have staggered our work schedules with him working at home for a couple ours in the morning.)

Tomorrow evening I'm flying to Fresno, CA for my first graduate school interview. Hopefully it's my first and not my only, but only time will tell. I'm still playing the waiting game for my other schools. Hopefully mid-February I'll know what schools I have interviews at.

And now:

Alex had been really enjoying quinoa lately and so I tried to find recipes to make at home. The one I'm going to share with you today is very good. I ate it for dinner and was very excited to eat it again for lunch.

Quinoa with Corn, Kale, and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
From We Heart Food, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
brown sugar, spoonful
1 shallot, minced
2 cups quinoa
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
2 cups firm nigari tofu, browned (I skipped this. I don't like tofu).
1/3 cup pesto
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Heat oven to 350F degrees. Cut each tomato in half and arrange in a large oven-proof baking dish. Add a splash of olive oil, a spoonful of brown sugar, and some few pinches of salt, and pour over the tomatoes. Toss to coat the tomatoes, and flip them so they’re cut-side up. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the tomatoes look shrunken.

While the tomatoes bake, rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and 4 cups water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when completely tender. Drain any extra water and set aside.

In a dutch oven heat the olive oil and salt over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallot and cook for a minute or two. Add the quinoa and corn and cook until sizzling. Stir in the kale and the tofu, cooking until tofu is heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the pesto and pumpkin seeds. Stir until the pesto is well incorporated. Transfer onto a platter and top with the shredded Gruyere and cherry tomatoes.

Serves 4 - 6

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Puppy and a recipe, oh my!

We've had a puppy all weekend and it's been an interesting and not unwelcome change. The dog is absolutely adorable and very mellow. He spends most of his time just chilling out near us. He's somewhere around four or five months old and pretty much great. He sleeps through most of the night (the first night was hard, but last night he only woke up once needing to go out) and has only had one accident (and I was thankful for our stone floors). The only potential problem we see is that he might have hip dysplasia which can mean a lifetime of pain and arthritis. There are surgical options, but they are quite expensive- $800 - 1200 per hip or more. We're going to try to take him to a vet before we have to return him to the shelter to see what our options are so that we can make an informed decision about whether or not we want to formally adopt him. But it's going to be hard to resist that face!

And onto food:

A couple of weeks ago, we received two carnival squashes in our CSA box. Not knowing anything about this particular type of squash, I went a-looking for a recipe. This is what I found:

Quinoa Stuffed Carnival Squash

1 carnival squash
olive oil
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed and sorted
3/4 c. broth
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 t. cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
1/4 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4-1/2 c. Gruyere

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut the squash in half through the stem and de-seed. Coat inside lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put in a small pan/dish, cut side down, and fill with 1/4″ water. Put in oven for 25 minutes.

Heat broth, add quinoa and raisins and cook covered until broth is gone. Quinoa will be al dente not soft. While quinoa cooks, toast pine nuts and grate cheese.

When quinoa is done, mix in pine nuts and half of cheese. Mix until integrated.

Squash should be nearly done at this point - a knife should enter the flesh easily and the water should be evaporated. Pull it out, fill with quinoa stuffing and top with remaining cheese. Return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, serve and enjoy!

Note: I didn't really like the taste of this squash- it was very bland. However, the quinoa stuffing is really yummy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Creamy Sunchoke Soup

We've been really busy lately (surprise!) and I've been dealing with car issues. Actually, the car issues have now reached the point where they are hilarious in a terrible way.

Case in point:
When it was snowing, someone hit my car and did $2,000 worth of damage. (And didn't leave their insurance information, of course). Alex was kind enough during his stay-cation to drop my car off to be fixed. I picked it up last Friday.

At some point between Friday night and last night someone stole my license plates. During the theft of my license plates, they kindly put different plates on my car and even put my license plate frame back on. Two problems: they weren't my plates and, oh yeah, they were from a stolen car.

So today I had to report the plates stolen to the police and then actually go and get new plates. Which was fun.

And then, as Alex and I went to put on my brand new plates, there was a police officer parked in the street who was keeping an eye out for a different stolen car. (And we don't even leave in a bad neighborhood!)

But on a better note, Alex and I may be bringing home a new family member next weekend. On Friday we're going to meet a puppy and if we like him, we'll likely be bringing him home on the 24th!

And now, for the food:

Creamy Sunchoke Soup
Found on Foodie Tots

1 pound sunchokes
1 leek, white part and an inch of the green portion, rinsed well
1/2 cup mushrooms (I think we omitted this because we didn't have any)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
pinch of sea salt
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cream

Peel and thinly slice the sunchokes. Slice the leek cross-wise into thin strips. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Melt butter in stock pot over medium low heat. Add sunchokes and leeks and cook until they are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more. Season with white pepper and salt, and stir in chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree in blender or with stick blender until smooth. (If using hand-held blender, you may wish to strain through a chinois strainer or cheesecloth to remove any extra lumps.)

Stir in cream, warm over low heat for two minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

This soup was creamy and delicious and didn't feel too bad for us (especially after reading the recipe by Thomas Keller that it is based on).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lentil and Roasted Garlic Soup with Seared Steak

Let me start by saying that this soup was amazing. It had a wonderful complexity of flavor and textures that you don't normally find in soup. So my advice to you is this: yes, it takes a long time, but it is SO worth it and you should make it as soon as you get the chance.

Lentil and Roasted Garlic Soup with Seared Steak
From Bon Appetit

3/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled, halved
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

3 cups water
1/2 cup French green lentils
1 medium leek (white and green parts only), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
7 cups (or more) vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup red lentils
1 1/4 pounds yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
12 ounces kale, ribs discarded, leaves thinly sliced
1 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound flank steak

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place oil, garlic, and rosemary in heavy small saucepan. Cook over lowest possible heat until garlic begins to brown, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool. Drain, reserving garlic oil and garlic cloves separately. Discard rosemary. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover garlic oil and garlic cloves separately and chill.

Place 3 cups water and green lentils in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 25 minutes. Cool lentils; drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup garlic oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leek and sage. Cook until leek is soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.

Add 7 cups vegetable broth, soy sauce, red lentils, and green lentils to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until lentils are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add yams and garlic cloves and cook until yams are tender, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls as needed to cover vegetables, about 10 minutes. Add kale to soup. Simmer until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon garlic oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Place steak in skillet and cook until brown and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to cutting board; let stand 10 minutes. Thinly slice steak.

Divide soup among 6 bowls. Arrange sliced steak atop soup. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with garlic oil, and serve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dessert Overload

Rather than posting recipes today, which might encourage you to bake up some treats (though really, they're delicious!), I'm just going to post some tempting pictures of sweets I've made recently. If you see something you like and want the recipe, let me know!

Honey Cake, kosher for Hanukkah!

Carrot Cake (baked by Alex, decorated by me)

Pumpkin Cheesecake made with dark rum

Caramel Chocolate Tart

Friday, January 2, 2009

Into 2009

Happy 2009, readers!

I hope you all had a safe and happy new year! Alex and I spent ours in Vancouver and it was very nice. There was still snow in Vancouver (all our snow in Seattle melted away) which allowed me to take some neat pictures in Stanley Park.

Did you make resolutions for the new year? I saw an article today that said that resolutions are bad for mental health, but that doesn't stop me from setting some goals for the next year.

In 2009, I would like to:
-Visit two places I've never been, at least one in a new country. I don't know if this one is going to happen in its fullness, because Alex and I are trying to save money and pay off our credit card debt
-Get into and start graduate school
-Eat healthy and get to my goal weight. This would preferably happen by the end of April, because Alex and I are going to his friend's wedding (which satisfies one of my two new places goal)
-Pay off my credit card debt
-Try something new (food-wise) at least once a month
-Get a dog. Hopefully this will happen in February!

What were your resolutions or goals?