STUFFED SQUASH SOUP: Hearty & Filling!

stuffed squash soup textThis soup started out as a Stuffed Squash recipe I was developing. I had a lot of leftover filling and, as it was on the bland side, knew we weren’t going to eat it. But as regular readers may know – I HATE waste!!! There was no way I was going to throw it out.

So, I put on my thinking cap. The filling was a mixture of butternut squash, mushrooms, chickpeas, rice, dried cranberries, pecans, and a shallot. An omelette was my first thought…but, no.

Then it occurred to me – SOUP! One can of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and an onion later I had an amazing dinner. The result was a delightful blend of textures and flavors.

When life sends you lemons, make lemonade.

STUFFED SQUASH SOUP – makes about 10 cups

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice (I use Trader Joe’s 3 Rice Medley)
  • 1½ T olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 T pressed garlic
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Wash and dry the butternut squash. You’re going to need to cut it in half lengthwise. In order to prevent injury, soften the squash a bit by microwaving it for 3 minutes ONLY. (You don’t need to pierce it.) Turn it over and zap it for another 30 seconds. Slice it in half lengthwise and place halves cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in 375º F oven for about 25 minutes – until flesh can be pierced with a knife. butternut squash soup9Let cool enough to handle. Scrape out and discard seeds and fibers. Cut into 1/2″ slices, then cut away the peel. Cut flesh into 1/2″ cubes. butternut squash soup10While squash is cooking, cook the rice.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add in onions and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. skillet 5Add in shallot, garlic, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes over medium/high flame, stirring often. stuffed squash soup2Add in squash, rice, garbanzo beans, cranberries, pecans, thyme, chopped tomatoes and it’s juice, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.stuffed squash soup1 Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning if needed, and serve.

 

TERIYAKI TOFU NOODLE BOWLS: As Good As I Remember!

noodle bowl textMy family has fond memories of the teriyaki noodle bowls from a local restaurant that closed years ago. Not only did they serve meat choices, but they offered perfectly grilled tofu, too. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Topping it off was a luscious, thick teriyaki sauce.

After a recent, nostalgic discussion of these noodle bowls, I decided to try and recreate it. It took a few attempts with the sauce, but I finally got it right. Of course, me being me, I made the noodles, too.

TERIYAKI TOFU NOODLE BOWLS – serves about 3

  • about 21 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced in 1/4″ pieces
  • 5 scallions – green & white parts, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 3 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce (recipe follows)
  • about 6 oz purchased soba noodles, or homemade (recipe follows)
  • about 3 T vegetable oil

Drain tofu blocks and press between 2 plates to extrude water for about 30 minutes. Set something with a little weight on top of the upper plate to speed up the process. Pour off water as it accumulates.

Preheat oven to 200º Fahrenheit.

Slice tofu into 1/2″ thick pieces. The thickness is important – too thin and the tofu can easily become rubbery. Then cut into the size you like. I prefer my pieces to be about 1″ x 1½” x 1/2″.noodle bowl4 Liberally coat a nonstick skillet with oil. Heat oil over medium/high until shimmering. Add in tofu and leave undisturbed for at least a minute before moving them. (I suggest using a splatter screen to reduce fallout.) When the tofu is browned on the bottom, flip and cook the other side.noodle bowl5 Remove to a baking sheet and leave in the preheated oven to keep warm until the veggies and noodles are cooked.

Heat the teriyaki sauce. (Recipe below)

Insert a steamer basket into a pot with 1/2″ water at the bottom and place carrots, celery, scallions, and broccoli. Cover and turn heat to high. Immediately set timer and steam for 3 minutes. Remove veggies to a large bowl. noodle bowl2Bring 2 quarts of water to a full boil. Add noodles (recipe follows) and cook until done – about 5 minutes for homemade.noodle bowl6 Drain and add noodles to bowl with veggies.

Add in the tofu, sesame seeds, and as much teriyaki sauce as you like. Mix all together and serve in bowls.

TERIYAKI SAUCE – make 1½ cups

  • 2½ T cornstarch
  • 4 T (2 oz) Mirin sweet cooking rice wine
  • 1 cup (8¼ oz) low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ginger powder (fresh is best)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup (6 oz) dark brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until thickened.noodle bowl3

Store unused teriyaki sauce in refrigerator for future use.

NOODLES – makes 3 servings

Note: If you don’t have buckwheat flour, then use 8½ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour

Additional note: There are many excellent youtube videos demonstrating how to make pasta. It’s very helpful to see it being done.

  • 2½ oz (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
  • 7½ oz (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T olive oil
  • water, as needed

Place the flours, eggs, and olive oil in the food processor with steel blade in place. Process to blend. Check the consistency of the dough – it will probably be too dry at this point. You want it to not fall apart when squeezed. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to start. Process about 15 seconds and check consistency. Add water a small amount at a time until dough holds together and is tacky but not sticky. (If you add too much water, just sprinkle in more flour.) The pictures show me making spinach fettuccine, but the idea is the same.fettuccine, spinach9 Form dough into 4 balls and place in the processor with lid. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. fettuccine, spinach10Using a hand crank pasta machine, roll out dough to one setting thicker than for normal fettuccine (it’s #4 setting on my Atlas machine).fettuccine, spinach4 Use the fettuccine blades to cut. fettuccine, spinach5

MASHED POTATO CAKES: Crunchy Outside, Creamy Inside!!!

mashed pot cakes textI’ve rarely met a potato dish I didn’t like. However, I was never very happy with homemade potato cakes. There’s a slight difference between potato patties, latkes, hashbrowns, and pancakes. I’ve tried making them all and never been very happy with any…until America’s Test Kitchen came to the rescue.

Their idea was to NOT use leftover mashed potatoes because the consistency will vary from batch to batch – ranging from dry to mushy.  Rather, use a recipe specifically developed for patties. Another brilliant idea was to coat the cakes with panko, which gives them a nice crunch without all the oil.

MASHED POTATO CAKES – makes 8 patties

  • 2½ lbs russet potatoes
  • 1 T + 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 whole egg
  • about 2 cups panko crumbs
  • about 6 T vegetable oil for frying
  • optional:  toppings such as sour cream, ketchup, aioli sauce

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4″ slices. Put into pot and add enough water to cover potatoes with 1″ water. Add in the 1 T salt. Bring to boil and cook 10 minutes. mashed pot cakes6Drain, then return potatoes to pot or large bowl. mashed pot cakes7Mash potatoes until smooth and let cool about 10 minutes.

Add the Parmesan, egg yolk, chives, 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper to the pot and mash all together. Let cool 1 hour. mashed pot cakes8Form 8  3″ patties – they’ll each need about 1/2 cup’s worth of potatoes. Make sure to press the patties together firmly so they don’t fall apart. mashed pot cakes9Beat the whole egg with a fork and pour onto a plate. Pour the panko onto another plate. Dip each pattie on both sides into the egg, followed by the panko. mashed pot cakes3mashed pot cakes4Set all the patties aside for 5 minutes before frying.

Preheat oven to 200º Fahrenheit oven.

Heat 3 T oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet and place 4 of the patties. Fry until bottom is golden brown (about 3 minutes), then flip and fry until golden brown. mashed pot cakes5Place on a cookie sheet and keep warm in the 200º F oven. Cook the remaining 4 patties in the same manner. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to eat.

 

 

CHEWY BROWNIES: The Very Best!

brownie 3 textI’ve been on another quest. (For some reason, my quests usually involve chocolate.) This time I was on a search for the perfect brownie recipe.

The three adjectives most often used with brownies are: chewy, cakey, and fudgy. People have their preference, but I’m guessing we all switch teams in a pinch. While I didn’t want a dry cakey brownie, I didn’t want a gooey fudgy one either. I wanted something in between – chewy.

It’s taken me the past year and MANY batches to get it right, but worth the effort!

CHEWY BROWNIES – made in 8″ x 8″ pan (or the equivalent)

  • 1½ oz (1/2 cup) pecans
  • 2¼ oz (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar, broken (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 2+3/8 oz (1/3 cup) butter
  • 5+1/8 oz (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3/8 oz (1 T) water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz (2/3 cup) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestles)
  • optional:  fleur-de-sel to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit. 

Grease and flour an 8″ X 8″ glass baking pan (I use Pyrex).

NOTE: If you want to have neatly sliced brownies (which I never do), then line your baking pan with parchment paper, grease and flour the paper, then pour in the batter. That way, you can lift out the baked brownies and peel down the parchment so a long knife can be used to slice evenly.

Chop pecans and lightly toast them in a toaster oven or dry skillet. Set aside.toasted nuts

Place broken pieces of 60% chocolate bar in a medium sized bowl. (The smaller the pieces, the better for melting quickly.)brownies2

In a small saucepan, over very low heat, melt together the butter, sugar, and water, stirring often until bubbles start forming around sides of pan.brownies3Immediately pour hot liquid into bowl with chocolate, stirring to melt chocolate completely. Allow to cool 10 minutes, stirring now and then. (You’re going to be adding eggs, and don’t want to cook them.)brownies4

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda – set aside. bundt2Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, stir in approximately half of the eggs and mix in completely. Pour and mix in the remaining egg. Stir in the vanilla.brownies5Add in the flour mixture, pecans, and mini chocolate chips. Mix just until all the flour has been incorporated. brownies6Pour into prepared baking pan, smoothing batter flat. If desired, sprinkle on fleur-de-sel.brownies7 Bake at 325º F for about 28 minutes. (They start to look done at around 25 minutes in my oven, but I let them go a few minutes more – otherwise they’ll sink too much as they cool and be a little too gooey for my taste.)brownies1Remove from oven and let brownies completely cool several hours before cutting. (This takes a LOT of self-control!!) Note: They’ll still sink a little at 28 minutes, but not as much as they would at 25 minutes.

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP: Perfect For Those Chilly Nights!

sausage soup textLet me start by pointing out the quotation marks around the word SAUSAGE mean imitation. (For you carnivores, you can use real sausage.)

White Bean & ‘Sausage’ Soup is one of those recipes that can be made in 30 minutes – ideal for those nights when you have little time and/or desire to cook. This has become one of my family’s favorites, especially when served with a homemade Italian Bread Loaf.

WHITE BEAN & ‘SAUSAGE’ SOUP – makes about 7½ cups

  • 1 T olive oil
  • about 1 lb imitation sausage – my favorite for this recipe is made by Beyond Meatsausage soup5
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 4 cups vegetarian stock (homemade recipe: vegetarian stock)
  • 15 oz can white beans, rinsed
  • 1½ cups canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (about 3 oz) fresh spinach, chopped
  • optional – Parmesan cheese, grated

Chop imitation sausage into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and cook ‘sausage’ over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.sausage soup1 Add in onion, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes – until onions are softened. sausage soup2Add in stock, beans, tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to boil, cover, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes.sausage soup3 Stir in spinach off heat and check for seasoning (I add another 1/2 tsp salt). sausage soup4Sprinkle servings with Parmesan, if desired.

SPEEDY THIN CRUST PIZZA: My Very Favorite!

one hour pizza textSpeedy Thin Crust Pizza has become my go-to pizza recipe not only because I can have it on the table in a little over an hour, but because it’s REALLY good. It’s a very thin pizza with a nice chew.

Pizza in a little over an hour, you question? That’s right!!! This is my variation of America’s Test Kitchen’s 1-Hour Pizza. (I’ve made this pizza many times and could never make in in 60 minutes – more like 70 minutes.) Of course, the first time or two you make it, it will take longer.

SPEEDY THIN CRUST PIZZA – makes 2 pizzas

  • 6.25 oz (1-1/3 cup) bread flour
  • 2.75 oz (1/2 cup) semolina flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 T) warm water (about 110º F)
  • 1-5/8 oz (1/4 cup) beer (I like a pale beer)
  • 1/2 oz (2 tsp) white distilled vinegar
  • 1½ tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • toppings of your choice

Preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit. Place the oven rack with a pizza stone or steel  4″ from the top heat source. It will take at least 30 minutes to bring the oven up to temperature, so I turn on my oven when I begin making the dough. 

If you have a scale (which I highly recommend), place the workbowl of your food processor with the steel blade in place on top. Turn the scale on if it’s battery operated so you start at ‘0’. Weigh the bread flour, semolina flour, water, beer, and vinegar. Add in the yeast, sugar, and olive oil. one hour pizza12Set the workbowl on the processor base and run the machine for 10 seconds.one hour pizza15 Let mixture set in place for 10 minutes. Add in the salt and process for 30 seconds. one hour pizza14Empty dough onto a floured counter and fold the dough onto itself a few times to bring the dough together. one hour pizza7Divide the ball in half and place each one on a piece of oiled (I use olive oil) parchment paper approximately 12″ wide. DO NOT USE WAXED PAPER – IT’S TOO THIN!!!one hour pizza9Rub the tops of the dough with a little more oil then top each with another piece of same-sized parchment. Press down with your hands to smoosh the dough into a square to get it started. With a rolling pin roll both dough balls to about 13″ x 10″ using short strokes, working from the center outward. (I find it easier to keep the parchment from sliding on my counter if I place it on a dry tea towel.) Let set 30 minutes.one hour pizza10 Use this time to get your toppings ready.

After 30 minutes, place one of the parchment covered pizzas upside down on a dry pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet. (The reason you flip the pizza upside down is that it’s easier to peel away the oiled parchment.)one hour pizza16 Carefully peel away and discard the top parchment (which used to be the bottom parchment). one hour pizza4bTop pizzas with your choice of sauce and toppings.one hour pizza17 Slide the pizza with bottom parchment onto the preheated stone or steel. one hour pizza18Bake for 4 minutes. Rotate the pizza 180º, then remove and discard the parchment by securing it in place with a spatula with one hand and pulling out the parchment with the other. (The parchment won’t burn your fingers, so you don’t need to use an oven mitt as long as you don’t touch anything else.) one hour pizza19Let bake another couple of minutes, until it’s browned to your liking. Remove from oven, let set a minute or two, then slice it up and serve. (This is not the same pizza I placed in the oven in the above pictures.)

NOTE:  If you want to sprinkle top with basil, do this after it’s baked – otherwise, the basil will burn.

one hour pizza6

 

STUFFED SWEET POTATOES: A Thanksgiving (Or Anytime) Treat!

stuffed sweet potatoes text

Sweet potatoes of some sort have become an integral part of Thanksgiving in the US. Sadly, they’re often dumped out of a can, sprinkled with brown sugar, then topped with marshmallows. Sigh!

I will agree that sweet potatoes can use some flavoring, so I decided to find a better way than covering them with sugar. Stuffing them offers the benefit of utilizing the skin, PLUS being able to assemble them ahead of time – a huge bonus when you’re trying to get a holiday dinner on the table.

STUFFED SWEET POTATOES – makes 2 servings

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed & minced
  • 1/3 cup scallions, sliced (use whites and greens)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) jack cheese, shredded (I like jalapeño jack for an extra kick)

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Wash unpeeled sweet potato and pierce with a sharp knife a few times. Microwave 2 minutes each side until soft in center – (about 6-8 minutes total). (You can bake them in the oven if you’d rather.) Set cooked sweet potato aside to completely cook in center while you prepare the filling.

Melt butter in a saucepan, and sauté jalapeño and scallions over medium flame for about 3-4 minutes – until the butter has browned, but not the scallions. Remove from heat and add in salt and pepper.stuffed sweet potatoes4 Slice sweet potato in half lengthwise and scrap out pulp, leaving a 1/4″ border intact. stuffed sweet potatoes7Chop pulp to break up strings, then mash. stuffed sweet potatoes5Stir mashed sweet potato into jalapeño mixture along with all but 2 T of the cheese.stuffed sweet potatoes6Fill each sweet potato shell with the mixture. Sprinkle 1 T cheese on each half.  At this point they can be covered and baked just before serving.stuffed sweet potatoes1Bake at 375º F for about 8 minutes, until sweet potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted. stuffed sweet potatoes2Serve immediately.