Creamy Curried Carrot Soup

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Carrots and curry seem made for each other. Throw in a little ginger and you have a great flavor combination. This creamy curried carrot soup has a velvety texture and wonderful spicy heat. It can easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Cream of coconut could also be substituted for the heavy whipped cream. Or you can leave the cream out all together. This soup is wonderfully creamy without it and you may not miss it.

Don’t worry about peeling the carrots for this. A good scrub with a stiff vegetable brush is all they need. If you like a little more heat, increase the amount of curry or use a Madras curry.

Here is what I did:

Creamy Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups sliced carrots
1 potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or cream of coconut
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Additional salt (if needed)

Directions

Heat the butter in a 5 quart stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and sauté until onion is translucent; about 10 minutes. Stir in ginger and cook a few minutes. Then add potato and  chicken broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover remove from heat.

Add curry powder and using an emersion blender, blend until smooth. Stir in cream and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed. Return to low heat and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you may transfer soup in batches to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth then return soup to the stock pot or Dutch oven. Stir in cream and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed. Return to low heat and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

French Onion Soup

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Done correctly, French onion soup is very pleasing. The beefy broth and sweet onion flavors can’t be beat. Served gratinéed, it makes a nice lighter meal as opposed to a starter as it is often presented in restaurants.

I’ve had some excellent French onion soups, but I have also had a few that were less than exceptional. The difference can typically be traced back to the broth and how the onions were cooked. A good – preferably home made – beef broth should always be the base. Secondly, French onion soup takes time. The onions need to be cooked slowly over low heat so they have a chance to caramelize yet not burn. It will take 30 to 45 minutes for this to happen, but your patience will be rewarded. fullsizeoutput_1767

Start over low heat and slowly sweat the onions along with a couple sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Generously season them with salt and pepper. I like to use a variety of onions including red, yellow, and white. They each bring subtle differences in flavor to the party.

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The onions will begin to caramelize after about 30 minutes. Continue cooking until the onions become very brown.
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Add red wine, bring to a boil, and then reduce reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all the wine is cooked out.

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The onions will once again look somewhat dry.

 

 

Turn the heat to low, dust the onions with flour and cook for about five minutes or until the flour takes on a nutty aroma. You don’t want a flour taste in your soup.

Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves before adding the broth. Bring back to a simmer and cook for another ten minutes. Ladle the soup into heat proof bowls, top with a slice or two of baguette and Gruyère cheese. Place the soup under a broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and just begins to brown. Serve immediately.

 

French Onion Soup

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/4 pound grated Gruyere

Directions

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has cooked down and the onions are somewhat dry.

Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn and cook until the flour takes on a nutty aroma and loses the raw flour taste; about 10 minutes.

Now add the beef broth and bring the soup back to a simmer.  Cook for about another 10 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

A few minutes prior to serving, preheat the broiler. Slice the baguette into 3/4 to 1″ thick slices and lightly toast both sides of the baguette under the broiler. Then, ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and float a slice or two of toasted baguette on top of the soup. Top the baguette with Gruyère and broil until bubbly and golden brown; 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Potato Soup

fullsizeoutput_1751I have mentioned I began blogging my recipes for my children so they will not be in the same predicament I found myself in after my mother passed away; I didn’t have written recipes for the comfort foods I enjoyed growing up.

I started by creating a database which I pulled up the other day and started to browse.The earliest entry in the database is September of 2004. A lot of the recipes have made their way to this blog over the past five and a half years. I was surprised to come across this recipe for one of my favorite soups. It was entered into the database ten years ago in October of 2006. It has to have been at least six or seven years since I made it which surprises me because it is one of my favorite soups.

Here is my recipe for Baked Potato Soup. It is wonderfully creamy, cheesy, and full of bacon flavor. I know my daughter Elizabeth used to love this soup; she loves potatoes. I may need to make it vegetarian sometime by using my “facon” in place of bacon for her. “Facon” is a bacon substitute using shiitake mushrooms. I’m also experimenting with a thinly sliced Japanese eggplant for “facon.” But that’s another blog post.

Here is what I did:

Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk
4 to 6 large baking potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled and cubed, about 4 cups
6 green onions, thinly sliced; reserve greens from two green onions for garnish
1 pound bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled; divided and reserving 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese; reserving 1/2 cup for garnish

Directions

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly and takes on a nutty aroma; about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, and cook until sauce just begins to thicken; about 15 to 20 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until soup begins to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add approximately three-quarters of the bacon, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Check seasoning of soup. You may need to add additional salt and pepper depending on the saltiness of the bacon. Return to simmer and then stir in cheese and cook until cheese is melted.

Garnish with small amount of cheese, bacon and green onion tops in this order. Serve baked potato soup immediately.

Acorn Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta Cheese Torte

It’s fall and winter squash are plentiful. Although there are many varieties, my favorite winter squash are the butternut and acorn. The acorn squash is also known as Des Moines or pepper squash. This recipe can be made with either butternut or acorn squash. I chose to use acorn as I was also making my Roasted Butternut Squash Chipotle Soup.

This torte makes a great side dish or can take center stage as an entrée for a meatless meal.

Here’s what I did:

Acorn Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta Cheese Torte

Ingredients

2 small acorn squash (approximately 1-1/2 pounds), seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 eggs
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon water
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages (16 ounce bags) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash slices on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly spritz with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine two eggs, cheeses and sage. Prepare an egg wash in a separate small bowl by whisking water and remaining egg and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender. Stir in the spinach, garlic and nutmeg. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until heated through and set aside.

Next, unfold one pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly flowered rolling pin, roll out pastry sheet into a 14-in. square. Press into bottom and up sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan.  Excess pastry will drape over edges. Brush with reserved egg mixture.

Next, assemble the torte by layering the bottom pastry shell with half of the squash, half the cheese mixture, and half the spinach. Repeat layers. Roll out the remaining pastry into a 10-in. square and place over filling. Then fold the bottom pastry over the top and press edges to seal. Brush pastry with egg mixture.

Place pan on baking sheet. Bake at 400° 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. After cooling for 10 to 15 minutes, you may remove the springform ring. Allow to cool for 15 to 30 additional minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Blind Guy’s Bloody Mary

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Blind Bloody Mary garnished with spicy pickle spear, pickled spicy asparagus, blue cheese stuffed olive, and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Bloody Marys are not only a delicious cocktail, but they can also be whimsical. You can garnish them with just a few crudités like a stalk of celery, pickle, and olive or get creative with oysters on the half-shell and  burger sliders. You can go a little too far. The whole deep fried chicken found at Sobelman’s Pub and Grill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just might be overkill.

I typically go a little light on the garnishes for my Bloody Marys with spicy pickled asparagus, blue cheese stuffed olives, spicy pickle spears, and maybe a slice of crispy bacon woven around some roasted Brussels sprouts. However for the last several days I have been craving a Bloody Mary with a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s like an adult grilled cheese and tomato soup.

My Bloody Mary recipe is based off of my friend Jeff Fitzgerald’s delicious recipe. This recipe makes nearly one-half gallon of Bloody Mary.

Here is what I do:

Blind Guy’s Bloody Mary

Ingredients

24 ounces Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix
24 oz tomato juice
12 oz good vodka
6 oz dill pickle juice
20 heavy shakes of Franks Red Hot Sauce (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
1 generous squirt of Sriracha (approximately 1 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon fresh ground or prepared horseradish
Lemon wedge and celery salt to rim glasses

Directions

Mix Zing Zang, tomato juice, vodka, pickle juice, Franks Red Hot Sauce, Sriracha, and horseradish in a large pitcher capable of holding more than two quarts. Wet the rim of a glass with the lemon wedge and then dip wetted rim in celery salt. Fill glass with cubed ice and then pour in Bloody Mary. Garnish and serve.

 

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

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As many of you know, my daughter Elizabeth is a vegetarian which has allowed me to expand my cooking horizons. She and her boyfriend visited this weekend, and I smoked a couple racks of ribs for him to enjoy. He loves ribs. As usual, I did not want my daughter to feel left out so I made a vegan “pulled pork” using jackfruit.

Jackfruit has been widely cultivated in India and South Asia for centuries but is relatively unknown in the United States. That, however, is changing as people here in the United States are beginning to eat less meat. When allowed to ripen, jackfruit has a very sweet taste and aroma likened to a taste combination of  pineapples, mangos, and bananas. Young, or unripened jackfruit, is firmer and more fibrous. It is often used in curries in India.

For this recipe, look for canned, young jackfruit packed in water or brine. Do not use jackfruit that is canned in syrup. It will be far too sweet and very mushy. It can easily be found in Asian markets or other stores that carry a larger selection of Asian foods.

Here is what I did:

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

Ingredients

2 20 oz Cans of Jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup)
1 Medium onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 Cups vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan if you desire
1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon ground dry mustard
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 Cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Drain and rinse jackfruit. Cut larger pieces into smaller pieces keeping the triangular shape. This lends to a stringy pork-like look later.

Sauté the jackfruit, onion, and garlic in a large skillet until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, molasses, thyme, chili powder, mustard, and pepper. Stir well so all ingredients are combined, then cover. Simmer on low stirring every 15 minutes. After about 45 to 60 minutes, remove lid and cook down any remaining liquid.

Use a potato masher to lightly mash the jackfruit once the broth has all cooked down. The jackfruit will easily shred and take on the appearance of shredded pork. You will want to leave some larger pieces and not a mush.

Spread shredded jackfruit onto a lightly greased, rimmed baking sheet. Place in 400°F oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and place back in oven for 10 more minutes or until it is very browned and caramelized. Remove from the oven and place in serving bowl. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce if desired. It may also be topped with a creamy coleslaw.

Loretta’s Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Ice Cream Treats

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My mother eating sweet corn at a very early West Point Iowa Sweet Corn Festival. She is the woman in the middle. My Aunt Bertha is to her left. She is holding my cousin Bob. My Aunt Carol is the youngest woman on the right. The goofy kid in the left-hand corner is my cousin Jim.

 

My hometown is celebrating the 64th Annual West Point Iowa Sweet Corn Festival this weekend. The festivities begin on Wednesday with the Shuckfest where 17 to 20 tons of sweet corn is shucked in preparation for the festival.

The whole community turns out to help shuck the corn which is accomplished in just a little over one hour or so. The corn is then steamed, dipped in butter, and served free to the public over the course of the four day festival which runs from Thursday through Sunday.

The Sweet Corn Festival is a time for reunions and homecomings. Many class and family reunions coincide with the festival weekend and the festival is the time when many former residents return for a visit. If you grew up in West Point, you know that the Sweet Corn Festival is the highlight of the year.

IMG_3886My childhood home is about a half a block from the city square where the festival is held so the weekend saw a lot of visitors at our house. There was food galore at our house because you never knew who would be stopping by and my mother would have been embarrassed if she didn’t have something to offer. My favorite thing that my mother would make for the festival weekend were her Peanut Butter and Rice Krispie Ice Cream Treats.

I could not make it back to West Point this weekend for the festival, but I did make these treats. I thought of my my mom a lot.

Here is her  recipe:

Loretta’s Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Ice Cream Treats

Ingredients

1/2 C corn syrup
1/2 C peanut butter (I prefer chunky)
4 C Rice Krispies
1 quart vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

Directions

In large bowl, stir together corn syrup and peanut butter. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

Press one half the mixture firmly and evenly into buttered 8 x8 pan and the other half in a second buttered 8 x 8 pan. A large square of waxed paper will help to press the rice crispy mixture. Place in freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Spread one half with softened ice cream.

Cut the second pan of Rice Krispies into the size of portions you want and place it on top of ice cream. This will help when you are cutting the treats after refreezing.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and return to freezer to harden ice cream again; 2 – 4 hours.