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

 

PUMPKIN SCONES WITH MAPLE DRIZZLE

pumpkin scones text2I’m not sure when it happened but, for better or worse, every year new foods become pumpkin flavored during Autumn.

Pumpkin pie? Sure – I’ll eat that maybe once a year…unless there’s a better choice.

Pumpkin ravioli? Yeah – a small amount encased in pasta is fine… now and then.

BUT, Pumpkin Scones? Heck, yeah!  I’ll have those anytime – especially with a maple drizzle.

Scones are super fast and easy to make – the less you mess with them, the more tender they are! So jump on board the pumpkin trend and try these delicious Pumpkin Scones!

Note: As self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, I feel obliged to suggest (or nag) you freeze the unused pumpkin in portion sized amounts for future use. This recipe only requires 1/2 cup, so there’s plenty leftover from the can.

PUMPKIN SCONES – makes 8 scones

  • 8½ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 T milk (any kind – I use nonfat)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Maple Drizzle – recipe follows at the end

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Cross-cut using 2 knives to break up butter into pea-sized pieces.

(If using the food processor, place butter with dry ingredients and pulse about 8 times – until the butter becomes pea-sized. Empty into a medium sized bowl.) pumpkin scones9 In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, pumpkin, milk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold to mix.pumpkin scones11 Empty onto a well-floured counter and knead about 5 or 6 times. (I use a bench scraper to help since the dough is sticky.) pumpkin scones3With floured fingers, pat dough into an 8″ circle (try to keep the dough to an even thickness) and cut into 8 wedges.pumpkin scones5Place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet (I prefer a dark sheet that’s greased.)pumpkin scones6 Bake at 400º F with the rack in the middle position for about 16 minutes. They’re at their best when they’re slightly dark on the bottom. pumpkin scones7The last time I baked them, I thought I overcooked them (see photo), but they were amazing – a slight crunch on the outside and perfect chew inside. So when you check them for doneness, look for slightly dark sides. pumpkin scones14Then remove from oven onto wire rack to completely cool before icing.

MAPLE GLAZE

  • 1 T butter
  • about 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 T maple syrup (use the pure syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt butter. Stir in confectioners sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend well, smashing any sugar lumps. If icing is too thin, add more sugar; if too thick, add a little milk.pumpkin scones1For easier control over the drizzle, pour icing into a spouted cup or a pastry bag with a small circle tip. Design as you wish.pumpkin scones2Allow icing to harden before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOROVIAN SUGAR CAKE: Snack Or Dessert – It’s All Good!

morovian coffee cake textMy introduction to Morovian Sugar Cake was a little bittersweet.

I found the recipe in a newspaper (this was well before the internet!) and it sounded intriguing. Being very young and inexperienced in the kitchen, I didn’t allow myself quite enough time. I was able to get it in the oven before I needed to go to work, but my roommates were left in charge of removing it.

All that remained when I got home was one 3″ X 3″ square. They said it was so good they couldn’t stop eating it. I ate the remains, and it was magnificent. In fact, I was amazed they were able to leave me any.

Note: Don’t repeat my mistake – allow enough time for rising!

MOROVIAN SUGAR CAKE

  • 1 cup water 100º – 104º Fahrenheit
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes flakes
  • 1/4 cup instant dry milk
  • 1 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt, divided
  • 6 T + 6 T butter, melted, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • about 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

In a measuring cup stir the water and yeast together. Let proof for 5 minutes. ham loaf1

In the food processor, pulse together the granulated sugar, potato flakes, dry milk, and 1 tsp salt. morovian coffee cake10Add in 6 T butter and eggs. Process to blend.morovian coffee cake5With machine running, pour in the proofed yeast water. morovian coffee cake4morovian coffee cake11Add 3½ cups to processor and blend. Add flour one tablespoon at a time, processing after each, until dough starts pulling away from sides of the work bowl. Stop adding flour, and run machine another 30 seconds to knead the dough. Pour dough into a greased rimmed baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) and pat dough to fill the pan evenly. Cover with a tea towel and let rise about 45 minutes. morovian coffee cake2

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

While dough is rising, in a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp salt. morovian coffee cake1After dough has risen, create pockets with your fingertip, the handle of a wooden spoon, or something else that’s about 1/2″ diameter.morovian coffee cake9 Sprinkle the sugar topping over the entire cake. Drizzle the remaining 6 T melted butter over all. morovian coffee cake8Bake at 350º F for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. morovian coffee cake7Cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

AVOCADO SAUCE: Add A Creamy Tang To…Well, Everything!

AVOCADO SAUCE textAvocado Sauce is a quick and easy topping for tacos, salads, quesadillas, or anything else you want. As opposed to guacamole, which is usually chunkier, it’s meant to pour – thus covering more territory.

Queen of Freeze Bonus:  This sauce can be successfully frozen!!! So take advantage of avocados when they’re at bargain prices in the market (or if you’re lucky enough to have your own tree). Make up large batches (make sure you try the recipe first) and freeze in portion sized containers.

AVOCADO SAUCE

  • 8 oz tomatillos
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Remove and discard papery wrap from tomatillos. Wash thoroughly and cut into quarters. Place all ingredients in food processor.avocado sauce4Pulse until creamy – scraping down sides as needed.avocado sauce3 Adjust seasoning to your preference.

GREEK POTATOES -A Lemony Wake Up Call!

GREEK POTATOES textOne of my favorite flavor combinations is lemon and garlic, so it’s no surprise that Greek Potatoes are a go-to side dish in our house. Not only is it delicious, but it’s super fast and easy to prepare. (It does take about 40 minutes to bake, but that’s hands-off.)

I highly recommend using a firm potato such as Yukon Gold or a red potato – the pieces will retain their shape. I’ve made this dish with russets, and they tend to kind of mash.

GREEK POTATOES – makes about 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2½ T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, pressed (I use 2)
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • about 2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 475º Fahrenheit.

Chop unpeeled potatoes into chunks that are no smaller than 3/4″. (If they’re too small, you’ll lose the balance of a firm outside and creamy inside of each piece.)

Into a flat bottomed, high sided casserole dish combine the potatoes, lemon juice, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and boiling water.GREEK POTATOES3 Place in 475º F oven uncovered. Bake, stirring gently every 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated. This will take about 40-60 minutes. There will still be oil remaining on the bottom.GREEK POTATOES2 Remove from oven and sprinkle on parsley. Serve while hot.

 

APPLE PIE – Best Ever!

apple pie textThere is a reason people say, “easy as pie”.  Making a pie IS easy.  Of course, making a great pie is as easy as making a bad one, so it’s important to have a great recipe.

There are 3 components to pies:  crust, filling, and topping.

  1. Crust:  You want it flavorful, but not overpowering.  You don’t want soggy-bottoms, but you don’t want crunchy (unless it’s a graham cracker crust, of course.) Yes, you can buy pre-made and it will be okay, but homemade is so easy and world’s better…with the right recipe.
  2. Filling:  The key to apple pie filling is…apples.  There is a myth that you should use Granny Smith or some other crisp, tart apple for apple pie. NOOOOO! Why would you want a tart and crunchy apple pie? I’ve found that the absolute BEST variety is Red Delicious (or possibly Golden Delicious). It will NOT get mushy, as some people seem to think. The pieces will soften somewhat during the bake, but will still retain their shape and individuality. And they’re sweet!
  3. Topping:  I’m not a fan of the double crust – a bottom crust is enough for me. A streusel topping provides added flavor (apples really don’t have that much flavor), with a nice crunch.
  4. Caramel drizzle: I guess this is optional, but drizzling on caramel adds an additional layer of flavor.

CARAMEL APPLE PIE

  • 1 par-baked 9″ pastry crust (suggested recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 T + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Red Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats (either old fashioned or quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • about 1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Have ready a cooled, par-baked pastry crust. The best recipe I’ve found is America’s Test Kitchen’s Vodka Pie Crust (Don’t worry – the vodka evaporates away.) Recipe follows at bottom.

In a very large bowl (use large so you don’t spill as you stir in the apples), mix together the granulated sugar, 3 T flour, salt, and cinnamon. apple pie6Working quickly, peel and core the apples. Cut 3 of the apples into 1/8″ thick slices, and the other 3 a little thicker. Make sure they’re bite-sized for ease of eating – you don’t want long strips of apple. apple pie9Add apples into the flour mixture and blend well. apple pie7Pour into the cooled pie crust – there’s a lot of filling, so you’ll have to pile it high towards the middle. Make sure none of the apple pieces sit on the crust edge.apple pie8 To prevent over-browning, cover the pie edge with foil or purchased pie edge protectors (see photo of what I use).apple pie3 Bake at 375º for 25 minutes.

While pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping. Into the food processor put the remaining 1/4 cup flour, brown sugar, and oats. Run machine about 20 seconds to grind the oats and break up any hard brown sugar lumps. Cut cold butter into about 5 pieces or so, and add to processor. Pulse about 10 times to blend. apple pie5When the pie has cooked for 25 minutes, remove from oven. Evenly sprinkle on streusel and remove the edge protectors. Return pie to 375º F oven and bake another 20-25 minutes. Don’t let the top get too brown or it will make slicing difficult to cut through. apple pie4Place pie on a rack or stovetop and drizzle on the caramel topping. Let set at least 1 hour, preferably longer, or you’ll have a lava flow when you slice it.

VODKA PIE CRUST (AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN RECIPE – amended) – makes 1 crust

Note: This needs to be made in a food processor.

  • 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ T granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 T butter, cold
  • 4 T Crisco (or any shortening), cold
  • 2 T vodka
  • 2 T water

In the workbowl of your food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter and Crisco. Run the machine (don’t pulse) 15 seconds. The dough will come together into a creamy mass. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse about 8 times. Empty into a bowl.

Pour in the vodka and water. Gently (so it doesn’t splatter) fold together to incorporate the liquid into the dough. This is a very well dough. Press it together into a lump, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Empty the cold dough onto a very well floured, flat surface. Sprinkle flour on top and on your rolling pin. Begin rolling dough from center outwards.  Keep flouring the dough and the rolling pin lightly, so there’s no sticking.

Once the dough is rolled out large enough to cover the pie plate, with an inch to spare for crimping, you’re going to have to transfer the dough. Take your time – this is a wet dough! My favorite method is to take my bench scraper and go around underneath the dough a little at a time, lifting up the dough and pushing some flour underneath as I go. Once I get to the center, I lift up one side and fold dough in half. Then I carefully lift folded dough from sides and place in pie plate (Make sure you have it very close by!)

Unfold the dough and nudge it into the corners (don’t press the dough down – you’ll stretch it). Arrange the dough so it’s not folded anywhere. Fold over-hanging dough and crimp. Refrigerate 1 hour to prevent shrinkage.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Line cold dough with waxed paper or parchment, then fill with pie weights. (I use metal washers topped with uncooked beans.) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights by grabbing the 4 corners of paper and gently rocking the weight package back and forth to loosen, then rocking it up and out.  Return dough to oven and continue baking until browned – about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on dough, particularly when you return it to the oven to make sure the crust stays flat. If you notice it rising, gently press down with the back of a fork.

Once the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool to firm up.