My Favorite Soup Friday, Oct 23 2009 

This soup has become one of my favorites since I first tried it almost a year ago. I make it at least once a month, and I usually double it in order to be sure to have plenty of leftovers. (The recipe here is doubled; the link has the original proportions.) I highly recommend it!

Sausage & Spinach Soup

Sausage & Spinach Soup

Sausage & Spinach Soup

1 1/4 lbs. mild Italian sausage (or turkey sausage)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion, about 1
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth (about 28 oz, or use a 32-oz carton)
4 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons chopped basil (or 1-2 tsp. dried)
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
Romano cheese, grated

Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in water, beans, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thick (you can let it simmer for longer than this if you would like). Remove from heat, and stir in spinach, basil, and oregano. Ladle soup into bowls, and sprinkle each serving with Romano cheese.

Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies Wednesday, Aug 12 2009 

Starbucks has recently released a couple of their recipes (as part of their move toward being transparent about the ingredients in their food). One recipe is for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies. I came across the recipe in the Washington Post and have made them twice. I made one change and used white whole wheat flour rather than all-purpose white.

While I’m not sure why they’re “outrageous” (is the addition of cranberries really “outrageous”?), they are very, very good. Probably the best homemade oatmeal raisin cookies I’ve had. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (do not use quick-cooking or instant)

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup dark raisins

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup (granulated) sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, flour, 1/4 cup of the dark raisins and 1/4 cup of the golden raisins, the dried cranberries, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup dark raisins and 1/4 cup golden raisins (for topping) in a separate bowl.

Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer; beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the egg, cinnamon and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low; gradually add the oats mixture, mixing until just combined.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Place one mounded teaspoon of raisins on top of each portion of dough (flatten the dough slightly to keep the raisins from rolling off). Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown yet still soft. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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Small Herb Garden Tuesday, Jun 2 2009 

I love having fresh herbs on hand, so I’ve recently planted some in small pots that sit outside my apartment building. I did this last year with just a few herbs in one pot; this year I’ve increased the number of pots and herbs. I have mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, and parsley. I hope they flourish — I love the convenience of stepping outside to clip fresh herbs to use in a recipe!

Oregano, Thyme & Cilantro

Oregano, Thyme & Cilantro

Flat-leaf Parsley

Flat-leaf Parsley

Mint

Mint

Rosemary & Basil

Rosemary & Basil

Chicken & Feta Tabbouleh Tuesday, May 5 2009 

I found this recipe in the April issue of Cooking Light and made it last Thursday night. It was delicious! There’s a little bit of chopping up front (some of that could be done ahead), but no real cooking is required (you can pre-cook your chicken breasts or use rotisserie chicken). I love the flavors of Middle Eastern food, and this recipe was quite satisfying. I plan on making this recipe several times over the coming summer months. I served it with pita bread and hummus.

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh

  • 3/4  cup  uncooked bulgur
  • 1  cup  boiling water
  • 2  cups  chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1  cup  chopped plum tomato
  • 1  cup  chopped English cucumber
  • 3/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3  cup  finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh mint
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon  bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  •  

    Place bulgur in a medium bowl; cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Combine chicken and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add bulgur to chicken mixture; toss gently to combine.

    Serves 4.

    Snickerdoodles Sunday, Feb 1 2009 

    ms-cookiesI recently purchased Martha Stewart’s Cookies, a cookbook devoted entirely to cookies. I have made only a few of the recipes so far, but the easiest and most delicious has been the recipe for snickerdoodles.

    I don’t know that I would have listed snickerdoodles as a favorite cookie before trying this recipe, but I would now. These cookies have consistently turned out fabulously. I also like that the ingredients are normal, everyday ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry.

    Snickerdoodles

    • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, mix butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

    Stir together 2 tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough into balls (I use a cookie scoop). Roll in cinnamon-sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

    Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

    Notes: The recipe says it makes about 20 cookies, but those must be some big cookies! I usually get about 3 dozen; also, the parchment paper is key — I forgot it once and the cookies were jagged on the bottom. They turn out much better with parchment paper, and clean-up is easy!

    “. . . now for October eves” Wednesday, Oct 1 2008 

    Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves

    We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves

    ~ Humbert Wolfe

    Autumn is my favorite time of year, and though the season begins in September, it never feels “official” until it’s October. To celebrate the arrival of October, I planned pork, stuffing, and applesauce for dinner tonight. I’d not made applesauce before, but I found a simple recipe in my new Cooking Light cookbook that turned out well. Apart from the time needed to peel apples, it’s also fairly hands-off.

    Baked Applesauce

    Note from Cooking Light: For best results, choose apples that break down easily when cooked, such as Gala, Pink Lady, and Braeburn. The sauce is delicious paired with roast turkey or pork, and you can prepare it up to three days ahead. Serve it warm, at room temperature, or chilled to suit your preference.

    • 5 tablespoons water
    • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored and halved/quartered

    Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all ingredients in a large Dutch oven; toss to coat. Cover and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring once after 45 minutes (I actually used my potato masher at that point to mash the apples even more). Serves 4-6.

    Cake Mix Cookies Sunday, May 11 2008 

    I’m sure many people have known about cake mix cookies for ever, but I didn’t know about them until just a couple years ago when I saw the recipe in a Hints from Heloise column in the paper. Sometimes you want to make cookies from scratch, but other times you just want to make quick cookies (and yet not descend to the level of pull-apart Pillsbury cookies!). Apparently you can make lots of variations using different cake mixes and different add-ins. But I’ve made only one kind since Jeff and I have been very happy with the results: chocolate cake mix with white chocolate/semisweet chocolate swirl chips.

    Cake Mix Cookies

    • 1 box regular cake mix
    • 1/2 cup oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup of your choice of morsels

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix only the oil and eggs with a box of regular cake mix (don’t add water). Add whichever morsels you’d like and mix well. (I mix by hand; I tried it once with a mixer and the result was odd.) Place the dough by teaspoonful on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

    I usually get about 28 cookies. Don’t overcook them or they’ll be dry the next day. It’s okay if they look somewhat underdone.

    Has anyone else made other versions of cake mix cookies? Please share!

    Quiche Lorraine Thursday, Mar 6 2008 

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    Since I’ve started cooking on a more regular basis (for me, that was after I got married), I’ve come across a few recipes that have seemed to “click,” meaning that I’ve made them enough times to feel fairly confident with them. One of those is Quiche Lorraine. I actually made this a few times before Jeff and I married, but I’ve made it many times since then.

    This recipe is a favorite for me not only because I love quiche, but also because it’s such a versatile recipe. I can serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner without its ever seeming out of place. I can also easily double this recipe since many of the ingredients come packaged in amounts that are twice what’s called for (pie crust, eggs, whipping cream, etc.). This quiche recipe is also one that is not too wet (I can’t abide wet quiche). I usually make the quiche in a pie plate (and I’ve also used a tart pan); but I’ve also made mini-quiches with small pans Jeff gave me for Christmas. Those are the mini-quiches in the photos. This recipe is from The Southern Living Cookbook.

    Quiche Lorraine

    • 1 refrigerated pie crust (or you can make your own)
    • 8 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded Swiss cheese, divided
    • 6 large eggs
    • 1 cup whipping cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (I use black)
    • Nutmeg to sprinkle on top

    Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under and crimp.

    Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes (I use pie weights for part of that time); remove from oven.

    Cook bacon pieces in a large skillet until crisp; drain on paper towels and crumble. Sprinkle bacon, green onions, and 1 cup cheese into prepared crust.

    Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients; pour mixture into crust, and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese and nutmeg.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minuted or until set. Let stand for 10 minutes (it will continue to cook).

    Total time: I find that the whole process takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. But, again, it’s versatile, and a lot of prep can be done ahead of time. When I served this at a brunch, I prepped most of the items on Friday night, so making it on Saturday morning was fairly easy (and since it cooks for about 40 minutes, that gives you time to get ready or do other things).

    My last tip is one that I got from America’s Test Kitchen: try to have everything prepped (including the whisking of the eggs, cream, etc) so that when the crust comes out of the oven, you can assemble the quiche right away and put it back in the oven as soon as the temperature lowers 50 degrees. ATK mentioned that working with a still-hot crust was one key to a good quiche, and I’ve found that advice to be sound.

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    Lemon Bars Tuesday, Feb 12 2008 

    I made lemon bars on Saturday for a small lunch at church on Sunday. I’ve made this recipe several times, and the bars always come out well. The recipe is from the July 2001 issue of Southern Living. Jeff and I enjoyed the leftovers with our (quite strong) Earl Grey tea this afternoon!

    Lemon Bars

    • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1/3 cup lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • Powdered sugar

    Combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly. Firmly press mixture into a lightly greased 13×9-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

    Whisk eggs in a large bowl; whisk in 2 cups sugar and lemon juice. Combine remaining 1/4 cup flour and baking powder; whisk into egg mixture. Pour batter over crust.

    Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars and sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar.