My kitchen has looked like a bomb zone the past few weeks. Every night I clean it only to get it messy the following day. I can’t stop recipe testing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Through all my recipe testing I have learned that it’s vital to have a few prepared meals in the fridge I can slurp down between measuring, whipping, roasting and baking. My favorite go-to has been my Roasted Tomato Soup. It is simple and classic. I make a big batch on Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week.
Roasting the tomatoes with garlic and carrots is the secret to this soup. The roasting takes a bit of extra time, but it is worth it. The depth of flavor is taken to the next level. This soup definitely falls into the comfort food zone. It is not only perfect for a quick meal while recipe testing, but also on a cold Fall day.
With November in full swing and December around the corner, there is good chance your weekends will soon be filled with holiday parties. Which also means your weekends will be filled with sugary cocktails. Those drinks taste good going down, but usually make you feel a bit bloated and headachy the following day. Bloated and headachy…not the best way to spend your weekends, especially when you are wanting to rock a small sparkly dress. Don’t fret, there is a way to stay Merry during the holidays and still enjoy a few cocktails. It requires some seasonal fruit, coconut water and a blender. That’s all you need to stay healthy during the cocktail party season. Sounds pretty easy, right? It is. I blended fresh pomegranate seeds with an orange, coconut water and some fresh ginger. Gave it a whirl in the blender and wa-la a healthy holiday cocktail. Add your alcohol of choice or drink it in the virgin form. Both will leave you feeling Merry and Bright.
You may want to start off with a 1/4th inch piece of ginger and add more to your liking. I like the spice the ginger adds so I used a 1/2 inch slice of ginger. If you are feeling extra bold, add even more.
Remember when I said in this post that we should wait until the Halloween treats digest before blasting Christmas music? Well…I lied. Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey Christmas carols have been blaring through my Pandora this past week. And I am loving it. When I hear Christmas music I want to sprint to the kitchen and cook. There is something about it that gets me in the cooking mood.
When you think of sweet potatoes, what is the first thing you think of pairing them with? Maple syrup, brown sugar, honey…sweet toppings, right? Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet (the “sweet” in sweet potato gives that away), so topping it with more sugar can be a bit of an overload. Today I decided to take sweet potatoes in more of a savory direction. Even with the savory ingredients, the natural sweetness of the potatoes comes through. The balance of sweet and savory is spot on.
I baked my potatoes before mashing them. Boiling or steaming is another option, but I find the best flavor comes from the baking method.
Are mashed potatoes on your holiday menu? Sweet potatoes contain more vitamins than white potatoes. They are significantly higher in Vitamin C, Folate and Vitamin A. Plus, I think they have more flavor. Think about swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes. You will send your guests home a little bit healthier than when they arrived.
The first of November marks the day I officially start planning my holiday menus. It also appears to be the day stores start playing Christmas music. I love Christmas music and was definitely singing along, but shouldn’t we let the Halloween treats digest before jumping to December? Anyways…back to holiday menu planning. It is one of my all time favorite things to do. If I were on match.com it would forsure be in my bio under interests. Thank goodness I am not on match, I am pretty sure that would deter all potential (cool) dates. By the second week in November I have a folder full of potential dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I am not brainstorming recipe ideas, I am in the kitchen recipe testing. Gotta test out the recipes and make sure they are holiday table worthy! Today I tested a Fall Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing. It definitely passed the test and will be on the holiday table. Tart granny smith apples mend well with the sweet dressing, salty pumpkin seeds and red onion. I threw in some chewy dried cranberries, which complements the crunchy apples and seeds. Very well balanced and a great way to get some greens on your holiday plate.
Use whatever nuts or seeds you have in your pantry. The pumpkin seeds are perfecto in the salad, but walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or any other nut/seed would work well too. A little blue cheese would also taste great on this salad.
Today I took on a classic, the BLT. I jazzed it up a bit by adding avocado and a horseradish aioli. Does that make it a B.L.A.T.H.O.? Hmmmm I think we will stick to calling it a B.L.A.T. (Bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado). The end result was the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy.
Fresh horseradish can be tough to come by and a bit intimidating. Feel free to substitute prepared horseradish for the fresh horseradish. Prepared horseradish can be found down the condiment aisle of your grocery store in a jar. Fresh horseradish is very strong, so if using a jarred version increase the amount of horseradish in the aioli.
On a side note- If you ever have a stuffed up nose, take a sniff of fresh horseradish and you will be cleared out within seconds.
INGREDIENT SPOTLIGHT Horseradish
Horseradish has been used medicinally since the Middle Ages. Beyond the pungent spice it lends to recipes, it is also high in a compound known as glucosinolates, which aids in the prevention of cancer. It is also high in vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system and treat the flu/cold. Have body aches or sore muscle? Using horseradish topically can soothe sore muscles, joints and head aches. Horseradish helps stimulate blood flow to the skin surface and to inflamed areas of the body. So many health benefits stuffed into a small (not so pretty) root.
I have never been a super fan of doughnuts. I like them, but I don’t love them. Well, that all changed on Saturday morning. I was itching to bake something (I blame it on the season change) and knew I wanted to use pumpkin. I had already made pumpkin bread the week before and didn’t feel like making a pie. I was racking my brain on what to bake when I spotted my trusty doughnut pan. Ah-ha…baked pumpkin doughnuts. They ended up being the perfect weekend breakfast along with a cup of chai tea AND they transformed me into a doughnut lover.
Don’t have a doughnut pan? This recipe would work well as a muffins.
Have you ever taken a bite out of a raw onion? Not awesome. Have you ever taken a bite of caramelized onions? So awesome. French Onion Soup is like a continuous spoonful of glorified caramelized onions. Sweet, savory and satisfying. Making French Onion Soup is pretty simple- onions are slowly cooked down to a syrupy golden brown, mixed with a few herbs, wine and broth to create a hearty soup. Although it is simple, it takes time and patience. Slow and steady definitely wins the race when it comes to caramelizing onions. As a result of the natural sugars browning, raw pungent onions transform into a deep, rich and mild flavor. I should also add that no mints are needed after eating French Onion Soup. So go ahead and make this on date night.
By topping each bowl with an individual crostini melted with parmesan cheese rather than covering the entire bowl with melted cheese, this version of French Onion Soup is lighter than it’s traditional restaurant counterpart. It also makes for a very pretty presentation.
I used ghee (clarified butter) to caramelize the onions. You may use butter or olive oil, whichever you prefer. Looking for a vegetarian French Onion Soup? Sub vegetable for the beef broth.
OMG…buy some apples, get out your juicer and make this cider right now. Or even better, make this cider, put it in a to-go cup and head straight for the pumpkin patch. If you follow these
commands directions, your Fall will be complete. I promise. There is something so nostalgic about apple cider. It transports me straight back to the days hyper color t-shirts were still cool (I am afraid they will make a comeback), when my mom would bring home jugs of freshly pressed apple cider. It was the perfect way to warm up after a crisp fall day. To this day, she still has the fridge stocked with apple cider during the holidays.
If you don’t have a juicer, please don’t turn your back on this recipe. You can still make homemade apple cider by using the old school (and flavorful) boiling method. Quarter your apples and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the apples. Add the spices to the pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for an hour or until the apples are very mushy. Once apples are mushy, mash with a potato masher. Place a very fine colander over a large bowl. Drain the apple mixture. And there you have it- apple cider without a juicer.
People often ask me how I come up with recipes. It usually happens at random times, when I am least expecting it. An idea will pop into my head as I am drifting off to sleep, while I am at the grocery store and a piece of seasonal produce jumps out at me, or on the tail end of a run when I am using my thoughts to distract myself from my tired legs. Today my recipe idea came to me while I was driving by a giant billboard. “Fresh. Bold. Spicy. Lettuce Wraps”. In an instant I went from not having a single thought of lettuce wraps to craving them. The gotta have it RIGHT now type of crave. This is how my Salmon Avocado Lettuce Wraps with Caesar Dressing came to life. I wanted lettuce wraps, and I wanted them fast. These wraps are a snap to put together. Cooking the salmon is the most time consuming part of the recipe, and that isn’t hands on. Easy peasy.
Salmon Avocado Wraps work great for a lunch or dinner. They are also a crowd pleaser for entertaining. Who doesn’t love a lettuce wrap? For a vegetarian version swap the salmon for some quinoa.
The Yogurt Caesar Dressing makes 1 cup, so depending on how saucy you like your wraps ( I like mine saucy), there is usually left over. The dressing will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week.
Avocados are hands down one of my all time favorite foods. Rich, creamy, satisfying and delicious. Avocados go well beyond just tasting fantastic. They are full of fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A, C, E, K and B6. Don’t be afraid of the high calorie and fat content of these alligator pears (that’s really their nickname), the calories are health supportive and a majority of the fat is monounsaturated fat. In other words, the fat and calories found in avocados are A-OK.
I most often find myself eating an avocado straight out of the skin, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. So tasty. So satisfying. Tonight I switched it up and made a creamy avocado pasta sauce. It was a hit in the Lee household. The avocado lends a buttery texture and mild flavor allowing the lemon and basil to have the spot light. Tossing in a diced tomato adds the perfect amount of color and texture. Taber added a bit of feta and sirracha sauce (note: he adds sirracha to EVERYTHING), but I liked the pasta as is.
Avocado Sauce goes well with all pastas. Fell free to ditch the quinoa pasta and use your favorite pasta or whatever you happen to have in the cupboard.