Friday, November 26, 2010

Provençal Tomato and Basil Soup

If you're anything like me, you were a little too gluttonous these past few days… and will continue to be until January 1, 2011.  I was probably worse than most, I had to hop around to a few Thanksgiving dinners (even one that required a ferry ride over to the Olympic Peninsula) and thus had to leave before the turkey was carved.  This doesn't mean that I didn't eat though, it means I gorged myself on pie and pre-dinner appetizers.  And wine, we must not forget about the wine.  Trust me, I was pretty sluggish when I woke up this morning.  Two words: Sugar CRASH.  But I tried to be good today and I was… until I went out for Ethiopian food with my friend Erin who was visiting from NorCal.  Side note: if you EVER get the chance, PLEASE go to "Chef Cafe" in the Central District on 22nd and Jackson.  It will be the best $3 (yes that cheap!) you ever spent!  Well, that's enough about my eating habits…

Now to our regularly scheduled programming: Back to Being Healthy.  And you're in luck - this soup is incredibly healthy!  I found the recipe a weeks back in the New York Times Dining & Wine section filed under the "Recipes for Health."  It has my healthy & fresh stamp of approval!  The brown rice thickens it up while still keeping the glycemic index low.  However, this soups strength lies not only how it fills your home with the scents of Provencal France, but how filling and warming it is.  Which I must say is pretty ideal for any Seattle winter day!  And for all you people out there suffering though the beginnings of winter- if good fresh tomatoes aren't available, use a 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes.

Provençal Tomato and Basil Soup
Adapted from: New York Times
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cored and diced
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 large sprigs basil, or about 16 leaves, plus 2 tablespoons slivered basil for garnish
  • 1 quart water
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • Optional garnishes:
  • Grated or shaved Parmesan
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in half the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, basil sprigs or leaves, and remaining garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the water and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes. Add the rice, and simmer for another 45 minutes until the tapioca is tender and the soup fragrant. Remove the basil sprigs and Parmesan rind. Puree with an immersion blender until desired consistency is achieved.  Add pepper to taste and adjust salt. Serve garnished with  Parmesan and slivered basil leaves.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Green Beans With Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese

A few years ago for Thanksgiving, my mom made green beans with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts and after helping myself to seconds, thirds, heck, probably even fourths, that night… I haven't been able to stop thinking about them.  Cut to 4 years later and I finally decided to attempt to recreate said blessed recipe for Friendsgiving.  And you know what?  Every last nibble of the green beans were gone.  I got a text message a few days later from Julie begging me for the recipe.  The power of the blue cheese green beans lives on!!

Now, I should them you know that I really love blue cheese.  It's my preferred pizza topping, it goes of almost all of my salads and I pop handfuls of crumbles into my mouth.  I like the strong stuff, the mild stuff and everything in-between.  I blame my mother, she got me hooked early.

If blue cheese doesn't make your skirt fly up, that's ok.  I'll convince you sooner or later.  For the time being, try a buttermilk blue cheese in this recipe.  It has enough flavor to satisfy a seasoned veteran like me, but is mild enough to ease the unexperienced in.

If you were wondering, this recipe is quick to make, easy to store and a dream to reheat (…if there are even any leftovers).
Green Beans With Hazelnuts and Blue Cheese

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/2 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans, return to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until bright green and crisp. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Return the pot to medium-high. Add the butter and hazelnuts and stir until the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the green beans and stir until heated through.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese and toss until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

Last night was the first annual Friendsgiving, which is, in my opinion, the greatest holiday of all time.  If you haven't yet heard of Friendgiving (for shame!), I will tell you.  It is a holiday that celebrates friendship and Thanksgiving; a feast of Thanksgiving fare with friends, plus lots and lots of wine.  No seriously, lots of wine starting at 2pm and ending well after the desserts of done.

For the feast, I as assigned to bring a pumpkin cheesecake and green beans… but being who I am I also brought cranberry sauce, pumpkin chocolate fudge and homemade whipped cream.   But you know what?  I don't think anyone was complaining, and if they were, I didn't really care because more food equals more material for my blog.

If this is any indication of how much food I ate, I had to wear a high waisted skirt as to accommodate my Thanksgiving belly.  Julie brined a whole turkey (which I tried a little bit of!), Rachel made mashed potatoes and rolls, Gabe and Christine made cranberry relish and the boys brought a lot of tree previously mentioned wine.  After we were all done eating until we couldn't get up (really, we had to crawl out of our chairs), we played some makeshift charades using "Apples to Apples."  Confused?  We would use the 'red' cards and act out what was on them.  Some one were easy to guess like "diamond"… but it's a little more difficult to act out "Meg Ryan."

Next came dessert… oh boy.  There were three types of pie and that doesn't count the fudge.  Coconut cream pie from Dahlia Bakery, my pumpkin cheesecake and an apple pie by Brandon.  I thought I wouldn't be able to eat for days, imagine my surprise when I woke up hungry this morning.

But the cranberries.  I don't even like cranberries and I loved this sauce.  I knew, generally, how to make cranberry sauce; cranberries + sugar + water.  Simple enough, but I wanted to shake it up a bit.  I thought, why not replace the water with wine?  There's citrus zest in mulled wine, why not add it into the sauce?  Obviously to balance out the sweetness of the cranberries, I had to throw in some sugar (but not too much).  It really seemed to be a hit!  Even the sauce snobs on the groups loved it and Julie asked if she could keep the leftovers!  I don't know about you, but that's the highest compliment I can get!

I'm really going to rush and try and get all my "Thanksgiving" themed recipes up quickly so you might get some inspiration for your own Thanks(or Friends)giving feast!

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 24 ounces package cranberries
  • Zest of one lemon
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, wine and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the cranberries and the zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and the sauce thickens, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the cinnamon. Set aside to cool for at least several minutes and up to several hours. Serve warm. (Do not refrigerate; the flavor is muted by the cold.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I have some sad news to break to you about Seattle weather in combination with Daylight Savings Time: the sun starts to set at 2:30… and the winter has only just begun.  This wouldn't be a huge issue if I wasn't such a foodie and a food blogger.  My kitchen starts up around 6pm every night, oh you know, about 2 hours after it has gotten dark here.  And that's on a sunny day.  Days when it's cloudy and grey, it starts getting darker a lot sooner.  Being that my blog is dependent on photos, it hard to take pictures in my florescent kitchen.  Or at 3 o'clock when the sun is setting on a cloudy day.  Or when I have to reheat and photograph my food the next day (it's never as pretty).  So please, hold steady with my during the long Seattle winter.  I will try my best to photograph is decent light or I may have to build a lightbox.  Who knows.  Either way, I will still keep cooking.

But, what bothers me the most about this weather is my eating schedule is all out of whack.  I wake up and eat my oatmeal and coffee… this is good.  Then I eat some lunch around 1 or 2 pm - pretty normal for me.  But when the sun starts setting, the stomach in my brain starts screaming "whaaa?  DINNER TIME!"  and I am suddenly overcome with the urge to make myself a nice dinner and pour myself a glass of wine… at 4 o'clock.  I swear, I don't have a problem… but I have the willpower to resist until at least 6 o'clock because I am a respectable lady.

Regardless of my complaints, here is a recipe for pumpkin granola bars.  More pumpkin?  I know, trust me.  The interwebs are full of pumpkin themed foods right now, but I swear this one is worth your time.  I may be a little bit biased, as I love pumpkin (I have bags of frozen puree in my freezer) and homemade granola bars.  But oh boy, these were so good.  They are moist but still have a nice firm texture… and the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate compliments the smooth texture of the pumpkin.  My favorite part?  These aren't sweet.  The honey and applesauce are nice because when I scarfed them down for breakfast in the morning, I didn't feel guilty about it!  WIN!

NOTE: I doubled this recipe and make it in a 9x13 pan (trust me, these go fast)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Adapted from: Two Peas in a Pod
  • 3 1/4 cups old fashioned oats

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce

  • ¼ cup honey

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 by 8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk oats, spices, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour over oats and stir well, until all of the oats are moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. The pumpkin keeps the bars moist, so make sure they are golden and set-you don’t want them to be under baked. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Remove from pan and let cool completely.


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