Friday, March 30, 2012

Roasted Butternut-Apple Pasta Sauce

Yikes! Another long post… if you get too bored with my silly stories, please scroll down and check out the recipe I’m sharing today… because it is worth trying! Trust me? Trust me.  

Something big will happen to me tomorrow… I will wake up and discover that I am a millionaire! Yeah right, I wish! Tomorrow, I am hiking/running my very first race. DFJ and I signed up for this together a little over a month ago. It's a 15k race up a mountain (this mountain is not that big… it’s more like a huge hill), some flat road, and up the mountain again. This is something I would never have considered until DFJ suggested that we do it together. It would be pretty darn sweet to do my first race with my special someone. Unfortunately, when we were training two weeks ago, he lost his footing at the top of the mountain and sprained his ankle. The worst part was him hobbling down the hill on a bad foot. Ouch! The doctor says nothing is broken but he has to take it easy for 3 more weeks or so.  

Now, I'm on my own and am so nervous about how I will do. For the most part, I plan on hiking the uphill and running the downhill. Then run/walk on the flat. Why in the world did I not train properly for this? Also, this being my first time, I have no clue what to expect. How crowded will the event be, what does it feel like to be in a race, what happens if I need to pee, what if I faint, what if I decide to quit in the middle of the race and go back to bed, and the worst is what if someone accidentally pushes me off the side of the mountain? Aaaaahhh! On top of all these anxiety issues, the weather will be ugly: rainy and windy. Some crazies will be doing the 100 mile run and they already started this morning… my goodness, running for two days straight… CRAZY!

Friends, please send me positive thoughts and energy tomorrow morning at 8.

On another note, in case you didn’t know, the Mega Millions is now $640,000,000! I stood in front of the lottery machine yesterday, no clue what to do, because I have never bought lottery tickets before. Eventually, I figured it out and bought 3 tickets. That amount of money is too ridiculous… I really hope 20 people or more will win it so the bounty will be spread. Who needs $640,000,000? Well, it probably will just be $300,000,000 more or less after taxes and all that stuff… but still, what in the world will you spend that much money on in your entire lifetime? Give some to your parents, kids, grandkids, invest in a business, travel the entire world, build a school, buy a restaurant, buy an airline, buy a sports team, buy the loveliest property in the South of France, move to New Zealand and live on a secluded beach? The possibilities are endless! Tell me, what would you do?

Meanwhile, as we ponder things to spend millions of dollars on, I bring to you a special pasta sauce that I am very proud of myself for coming up with… butternut squash pasta sauce with browned butter and sage. Ideas formed in my head and meticulous notes were taken. Then, I decided to check online and see if this sauce has already been invented. Well, duh, of course! The first one that came up was Martha Stewart’s recipe. Why? Why did she have to come up with everything already? Especially this sauce that I thought myself a genius for coming up with. Mind you, the recipe I made up was already written in my journal before I looked at Martha's. When I realized how close our recipes were, I added something extra to make me feel good about being creative... apples.     

The roasted squash and apples tasted like the sweet heavens… The full flavors of the squash came out nicely and the sauce was sweet and creamy… the kind that sticks to every pasta instead of sliding off. Rich and flavorful in the healthiest way…

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Pasta Sauce

5 cups butternut squash, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
about 4 large sage leaves, torn (or more)
4 garlic cloves, pressed
½ tsp salt
pepper, freshly ground
2 cups apples, roughly chopped

Browned Butter and Sage
1 tbsp butter, salted
about 4 large sage leaves, torn (or more)

Move the oven rack to the upper shelf and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large roasting pan, coat the butternut squash with olive oil and add the sage leaves, pressed garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together well and make sure all the chopped squash gets coated with olive oil. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven and add the chopped apples, then give everything a good stir. Roast for 15 more minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir, and let cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small nonstick pan on medium low heat. Once all the butter has melted, add the sage leaves and cook until the leaves turn brown. Turn off the stove and move pan away from heat.

Mash the roasted squash and apples with a potato masher or a fork. Move to a blender or food processor and puree until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour in the melted butter with browned sage leaves and blend some more.

Enjoy this sauce on various kinds of pasta, gnocchi, or some healthy greens.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Sauce Pasta with Lots of Vegetables

4 slices of bacon

1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 large portabella mushroom, roughly chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cups roasted butternut squash and apple sauce
2 handfuls of baby spinach or baby arugula (if you don’t mind the arugulas peppery bitterness)
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper

2 ½ cups cooked penne
¼ cup or so of pasta water

Cook the penne according to package instructions.

In a nonstick pan, fry bacon slices over medium heat until nicely brown and crispy. Remove bacon from pan with tongs and move to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Cover the bacon with another paper towel and crush into pieces with your palms. Move to a small bowl and set aside to be used as garnish.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, cook the shallots until slightly soft, about 1 minute. Throw in the chopped mushrooms and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add the bell peppers and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the sauce and cook until it starts to simmer, about 4 minutes.         

Toss the penne with the vegetables and sauce. Pour in the pasta water to thin the sauce a bit. Turn the heat to medium low and add the spinach. Mix well until the spinach has wilted. Throw in the frozen peas and stir a little bit more. Turn the heat off.

Serve with some Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese and bacon.    

P.S. I’m officially on spring break!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Joy the Baker Love: Orange-Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake + Saturday Story

Brace yourselves guys, this is a long story. If it gets too boring, no offense will be taken. Promise! But please, scroll down to the bottom of this post and get the recipe for the pound cake, ok? 

Saturday was beautiful

I started the morning with a great yoga class then an awesome crabmeat egg scramble with bagels for brunch. Then, there was a random vanity surprise. Two years ago, my friend, Hayley, gave me a really cute dress. It is a size 0 and although it fit me everywhere, the zipper got stuck a quarter of the way up. My back just had a little extra something that did not allow the dress to fit perfectly. Today, as I was doing a quick update of what clothes I can start wearing for spring, I came upon the dress and decided to try it on. The zipper miraculously zipped all the way up! Whoop dee doo! 

The first part of the afternoon was spent blogging, making a grocery list, taking a nice, long nap, and getting ready to go on a date with DFJ. We went wine tasting to the sweetest winery ever, which was only 6 miles away. Kitzke Cellars

Last summer, DFJ and I were on a bike ride and as we were going uphill on that hot, hot day, there was a sign that said, “Wine Tasting.” It was like a mirage and I convinced DFJ to check it out. He wasn’t keen on doing so because we didn’t have our wallets with us and we looked very unattractive: sweaty and sporting helmet heads. But what the heck, we live in Washington’s Wine Country and people here will welcome you no matter what. I was not really expecting to get to do some wine tasting, but just hoped to catch a glimpse of the tasting room. A very friendly dog greeted us at the entrance and the owners welcomed us warmly, offered to have us taste some wine (even if we didn’t have any money to pay for the fee and obviously won’t be buying any bottles), and even gave us some cold water. After that nice wine break, we said our grateful “thank yous”, hopped on our bikes, and promised to come back later that day. Life happened and even though we kept talking about going back, we never did until last weekend. We had a wonderful time visiting with the charming owners, Paul and Vicky, exchanging stories, discovering that we knew some people in common, and of course tasting their good wines. Everything we tasted was great and I’m very pleased with the wines that we picked.

After wine tasting, we went grocery shopping. Man, going grocery shopping after wine tasting is not good. I ended up coveting everything and thinking about what can be made with pretty much anything I laid my eyes on. When we got home, we proceeded to start working on the Food Matters Project dinner. Roasted chicken with vegetables cooked in wine. While DFJ did the dishes, I baked this cake for the second time…

This is my adapted version of Joy the Baker’s, Chocolate Orange Pound Cake. Friday night, I made this for a dinner party and was so happy it turned out great even after some ingredient changes and some butter and sugar cuts. There was only one slice left and my friends’ dog ate it. Glad Charlie got to enjoy it too! It is seriously so good I had to bake it again at 9:30 in the evening on a Saturday night. Two days in a row! I usually never make anything twice, so this is really something special.

Anyway, while this awesome cake was baking, we settled down to watch Contagion. I conked out during the second half of the movie. While I was in a sleepy haze after the movie was over, DFJ stole a slice before I could take a picture of the whole cake. “Ooops, sorry!” was all he could say with a look that wasn’t really sorry. He shared a few bites and it made me wish it was already morning so I could have this with some coffee.

This cake has a sweet, orangey tang, and dark chocolate bites here and there. The spelt flour in this cake adds a depth to the texture and a touch of sweet and nutty flavors. Soft and lovely inside, golden brown and crusty outside. Lovely!

Orange-Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake
(Adapted from Joy the Baker’s, Chocolate Orange Cream Cheese Pound Cake)

2 cups spelt flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp Kosher salt

1 cup ultra-fine pure cane sugar
zest of 1 large orange

2 tbsp cream cheese
¼ cup + 2 tbsp yogurt, nonfat plain
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs

½ cup extra dark chocolate chips
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk well together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the orange zest with the sugar well.

In a separate large bowl, cream the cream cheese and yogurt together using an electric hand mixer on low speed. Add the butter and continue to cream on low speed. Pour in the orange juice and vanilla extract and continue to mix everything well on low speed.

Slowly pour in the orange-sugar into the wet mixture and mix on low speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs into this mixture one at a time. As each egg is added in, keep mixing on low speed until it is beaten well in the mixture.

Pour all the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and mix on low speed until everything is well incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure that no ingredients are left behind (NILB… I’m a teacher, sorry!). Add the chocolate chips and mix on low speed.

Place the oven rack in the middle and then preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease a cake pan with a tad of butter. Move the batter into the cake pan and bake in the oven for 60 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a cake tester or toothpick in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Devour Savor this cake for breakfast, tea/coffee time, after dinner, whenever.  

Saturday was one of those perfect weekend days where I got to do everything I wanted to do… yoga, blogging, napping, going out on a lovely date, meeting nice people, grocery shopping, cooking, eating good food, watching a movie, enjoying DFJ’s company, and baking this cake.

Please bake this cake too… I promise it will make you happy!   

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Whole Roast Chicken and Vegetables au Vin… Even Better the Next Day

Since joining the Food Matters Project, I have been looking forward to Mark Bittman dinners on the weekends. This week’s recipe is Vegetables au Vin with Coq, chosen by Evi+Sam of Fifth Floor Kitchen. Thank you for a great pick guys! Friends, head over to their cool website for the original recipe. Also, check out the creative spins on this recipe by other FMP members at our website.   

Mark Bittman called for four bone-in chicken thighs, but since we haven’t had any meat for the past two weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to add some more. There was an organic, free range, whole chicken at the store for only eight bucks and I got that. Instead of cutting it up, I opted to roast it whole, adapting Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken recipe. The vegetables cooked in the wine sauce were served on the side with some rice. Since eggplants are not in season, I picked some asparagus instead and threw in some carrots and celery to add crunch.   

According to DFJ, this meal was like a birthday meal for a country bumpkin in rural France. Wholesome, simple, and scrumptious altogether. I couldn’t agree with him more.   

I loved the first meal, but I have to say that the leftovers won my heart. Sometimes the only thing that’s certain in life is leftovers… if you made something delicious the night before, you always know that tomorrow, the leftovers will taste even better. That was definitely the case for this recipe. Before it was put away, the rest of the chicken was cut up into parts and added in the vegetables. So, the chicken pieces soaked up the good sauce and when leftovers were reheated in a skillet with a bit of butter, it tasted so much better. The chicken meat was so tender it came right off of the bones, rich, juicy, buttery… luscious! LUSCIOUS is the word to describe it!

In hindsight, I will follow directions closely… Or I could just do everything the same, except after the chicken is roasted, I will cut it up and throw the pieces in with the vegetables and cook until the sauce is thick, then add a tablespoon of butter. This way, I will get that luscious taste from the get-go.      

Roast Chicken
(slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken)

3 lb whole chicken
1 tbsp salt
pepper, fresh ground
1 lemon, large
2 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp oregano and thyme, fresh

Remove the chicken giblets and rinse the inside and outside well with water. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside and outside the chicken and spread with your hands.

Squeeze ¾ of the lemon’s juice outside the chicken and spread with your hands. Squeeze the remaining ¼ of the lemon’s juice inside the chicken. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil inside the chicken and coat the outside with another tablespoon. Cut ½ of the squeezed out lemon into slices and stuff inside the chicken.

Smush 3 garlic cloves and stuff inside the chicken. Using a garlic press, press the remaining cloves and spread with your hands outside the chicken. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the herbs inside chicken and another tablespoon outside chicken.

Roast in an oven preheated to 425 degrees F for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Vegetables au Vin
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s Vegetables au Vin with Coq)

3 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
8 white mushrooms, 1 large portabella mushroom
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup Pinot Noir
2 bay leaves
fresh parsley sprigs
1 tbsp dried thyme
handful of green beans
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
handful of asparagus
½ tsp salt
pepper, freshly ground

Cook bacon pieces in a large pot over medium heat until slightly brown. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up for about 30 seconds. Sauté the garlic until golden brown. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, wine, bay leaves, parsley sprigs, and dried thyme. Bring to a boil, then add the beans and cook for a minute. Add carrots and celery and cook for a minute. Add asparagus and cook for another minute. Season with salt and a good dose of pepper. Let simmer on low for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Serve around the roasted chicken and make sure to get a lot of sauce to soak the underside of the chicken.

What to do with the leftovers:

Cut up what’s left of the chicken parts and put these in the same container as the vegetables. Keep in refrigerator.

The next day or meal, heat half a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, place the chicken and vegetables with the wine sauce on the skillet. Heat for 12-15 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over half way into the cooking time and stirring the vegetables occasionally.

 This dish is great served with rice or roasted potatoes on the side.

Oh good food, how I love you!  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Some Men Can Cook

My wonderful boyfriend, DFJ, has been surprising me every now and then with special things. Two weeks ago, I came home to pizza dough rising in the kitchen. So, we had this the first night...
Three Cheese Sausage, Mushroom, Tomato Pizza with Homemade Sauce.

And then this the next night...
Three Cheese Pizza with Onions, Bell Peppers, and Basil

Last Tuesday, I came home to some rising dough which eventually turned into these bagels.
Look, we made bagels from scratch! High-five for great teamwork!

It was a two-person project, so I helped with the shaping and boiling of the bagels. Thank you Jessica of How Sweet It Is for your delicious Homemade Asiago Cheese Bagel recipe.

Wednesday night, DFJ finally made long-time ago promised crab cakes. The crab meat came from a can but I am not complaining. It is hard to get fresh crab meat where we live in Washington and frozen ones seem too expensive for the poor quality it yields. Hey, one redeeming factor about this canned crab meat is it’s at least wild-caught and pasteurized. Also, it made for delicious crab cakes that made my day! All I can share from this recipe are the ingredients, and not even exact amounts at that, because when DFJ makes something, he just throws things together without measuring. He bases his measurements by sight… “Hmmm, that looks like there’s enough red from the paprika.” Or he holds a measuring spoon in his other hand while pouring in an approximate amount of an ingredient with his other hand. He doesn't remember what he mixed in first with what and does not take copious notes like I do.

This is the best I can do... ingredients, most of which came from the back of the can (we used the BOSS brand).
16 oz can crab meat, make sure it’s 100% crab meat (FRESH is best, if possible)
2 eggs
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
fresh oregano and thyme
all-purpose Southwest seasoning (or use chili powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic salt mixture)
dried parsley
lemon pepper

A good dose of Sriracha mayo and a strong squeeze of lemon made this dish perfect! Mayo is not one of my favorite things to slather on my sandwiches or to add in certain salads. In fact, I avoid it like the plague. However, let me tell you what! I love, love, love it with Sriracha, lemon juice, and a little bit of ketchup. We had the crab cakes with couscous vegetable stir fry (recipe soon to come).

The next evening, we had the leftover crab cakes as a scramble which went perfectly well with quinoa tossed with red bell peppers and chives.

More leftover crab cakes got thrown in scrambled eggs on top of the homemade bagels for brunch! It was too good and I devoured it after yoga class this morning before getting the chance to take some pictures. I will bring to you a special crab cake egg scramble bagelwich recipe soon... according to DFJ, he hasn't really made it the proper way yet.

Thank you DFJ for being the amazing man that you are! Wine tasting tonight? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Garbanzo Bean Soup

Today, I will share with you a simple recipe full of healthy ingredients that will satisfy your belly and your taste buds. This soup is perfect for pot lucks because it is something everyone can eat: vegetarians, vegans, gluten intolerant, people on diets, and so on.

Last week was Classified Staff Week so I made this dish for the special group of ladies that I work with every day... my wonderful classroom support staff. They always help me keep my head above water. Ok… before anything else, do you wanna know what a horrid person I am? I took a sick day last Monday, which meant that I had the dates off for the rest of the week and did not realize it was Classified Staff Week until Thursday. Terrible, right?  

Honestly, without my amazing co-workers, I don’t know how I would be able to keep up with my students and all the other extra things that come along with my job. Our classroom staff is composed of individuals with very different personalities and altogether, we make an awesome team. Each one brings her own qualities that contribute to the success of our program: resourcefulness, calm, dedication, humor, cheerfulness, energy, quick-thinking, courage, confidence, intelligence, compassion, caring, strength, quick feet, and patience, lots of patience. What more could one ask for? I’m lucky to work with such great people!     

The main ingredients that I wanted in this soup were tomatoes and the abundant amount of boiled garbanzo beans in my refrigerator (left from the Hummus Served Hot recipe). Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, they are so flavorful and they can turn every simple thing into something special. However, they are blah when not in season… so I roasted them with a little bit of salt to bring the flavors out. This really helped add flavor to the dish and I recommend doing this. I also recommend using dry beans and soaking them overnight. A note on soaking beans overnight: Make sure to change the water as often as you remember to do so because soaked beans tend to emit a funky smell after a few hours. I think I changed the water 5-6 times over the span of 20 hours.     

Roasted Tomato and Garbanzo Bean Soup
Roasted Tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
¼ tsp salt
Sautéed Vegetables
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
½ head of a cauliflower
1 large bell pepper, diced
4 kale leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp salt
1, 5.5 fl oz can tomato juice
1, 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup water from cooked beans
5 cups cooked garbanzo beans
½ tsp salt
sautéed vegetables
3 large carrots, diced
1 tsp fresh herbs: rosemary, oregano, thyme
1 tsp paprika
cardamom seeds, from 4 pods
¼ tsp salt
black pepper, freshly ground
Roasted Tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pour olive oil into a roasting pan. Add the grape tomatoes and stir with a wooden spatula, making sure that all tomatoes get coated with olive oil. Sprinkle salt over the tomatoes and give it a good stir again. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 16 minutes. Stir tomatoes halfway into the roasting time.

After taking the roasted tomatoes out of the oven, stir in the cut up peppers into the pan to soak up the juices from the tomatoes. Set aside.

Sautéed Vegetables:
Heat a large pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook garlic until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the onions and cook for about 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and cook for 30 seconds. Add the roasted tomatoes and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garam masala and stir well to evenly distribute the spice. Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

Remember to keep stirring the vegetables as you add them in.

In a large pan, pour in the tomato juice, canned tomatoes, and water from cooked beans. Heat the pot over medium heat. When the liquid starts to simmer, add the beans and toss in ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, add the sautéed vegetables and the carrots. Simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Throw in the mixed fresh herbs, paprika, and cardamom. Add ¼ teaspoon salt to taste and as much pepper as you want.

What is your specialty potluck dish?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Orange Chocolate Butter Balls

Yesterday, I bought Cookie Cravings, the e-cookbook by Maria Lichty of Two Peas and TheirPod. What an awesome idea, aye? As I was swiping through the pages, I came upon her Lemon Drop Cookies. They looked elegant... like something one would have at a tea party with fancy hats and lace gloves. Sound familiar? I’ve probably been watching too much Downton Abbey. I wanted them, but we were running low on unsalted butter. I fretted, if I used salted butter, what would the cookies taste like? Oh well, maybe some melted chocolate chips will sweeten it some and an orange would add to its sweetness in lieu of the tart lemon? It’s worth a try.

In the past year, I have been baking with whole wheat flour, using it along with regular all-purpose flour or just by itself. It’s sweeter and has more body than regular flour. So, whole wheat flour it was for these cookies plus some rolled oats freshly ground in the blender. This definitely contributed to a richer and nuttier texture in these lovely things. I threw in some poppy seeds too, just because.

Guys, think Russian Tea Balls... but with a decadent orange chocolate flavor. Rich and bright tastes, with buttery softness that melts and crumbles in your mouth, and a hearty fullness coming from good grains. That salted butter that I worried about definitely gave these cookies real flavor.

Sixteen cookies came out of the oven yesterday . Tonight, there’s only three left. I would like to think that I didn’t eat six in the span of two days, but unfortunately I did. DFJ is the real culprit, but since he sprained his ankle on our trail run/hike last Sunday, he’s excused from being bad.

Orange Chocolate Butter Balls (Makes 16 cookies)
Inspiration from Lemon Drop Cookie recipe, Cookie Cravings by Maria Lichty

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat flour (from old fashioned rolled oats ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp poppy seeds
zest of a small orange

1 stick salted butter, melted (yep, you read it right, salted butter)
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice

a tad of butter to grease the cookie sheet

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, oat flour, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds, and orange zest.

Place the butter and chocolate chips separately in oven safe ramekins and let melt in the oven at 400 degrees F for a couple of minutes. When there is sufficient liquid in the butter, spoon some into the chocolate chip ramekin to aid in the melting process of the chips. Move melted butter and chocolate to another bowl and stir well using a spoon.

Add the powdered sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of mixed butter and chocolate. Using an electric hand mixer set on low, mix well together. Pour in the fresh orange juice and continue to mix on low speed. Gradually pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix on low speed until everything is well combined. The dough doesn't really come together to form a ball, but it is wet enough to roll into balls.

Move the oven wire rack to the middle then preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with butter. Roll the dough into 16 small balls. Bake for 14 minutes.

 Give these babies a try but try not to eat them all in two days…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Curried Tomato, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potato Soup with Poached Eggs

It’s another awesome Food Matter’s Project Monday! This week’s recipe, Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs, was chosen by Joanne of Eats Well with OthersVisit her website for the original Mark Bittman recipe. While you’re over there, make sure to check out her stuffI love this girl! She comes up with amazing dishes, she inspires me to run, and her nice comments give me the encouragement to keep on blogging because someone out there is reading my words.   

How is everyone recovering from St. Patty’s Weekend? Hope you all had fun parties or alone times. As for me… what’s a girl to do when her man is out partying with his guy friends? Well, thinking of some creative twists to the next Food Matters Project dish of course! Call me boring, but this is me… I like reading cookbooks, food blogs, thinking about food, hovering over pots and pans, stirring, tasting, taking down notes, peeking in the oven to see if my bread rose or if the cookies are done, smelling like garlic and curry or sporting flour dust on my running pants. You get the picture. Is anyone else as non-exciting as I am during the weekends? Please assure me that I am not alone.

Wait, I did do something fun for St. Patty’s Day… I baked Irish Soda Bread! Also, before my taxi driver shift, I met some girlfriends and had a big, fat cheesecake and a glass of wine. Just a glass.      

Now, let’s talk about this dish… So, instead of using fresh tomatoes, I opted for frozen tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes. Last summer, my friend, Heidi, urged me to save the tomatoes in her garden from rotting. And me, being the good friend that I am, willingly obliged. I picked tons of beautiful orange and red grape tomatoes… they were so sweet and juicy… I froze some and kept saving them for something special. But as what usually happens when I freeze things, I forget about them until one day I decide to peek in my freezer and see what’s in the recycled yogurt containers. *Gasp!* Heidi’s tomatoes! Winter is over… must use them NOW!

Also, because the cauliflower was expensive, I decided not to buy any and used what I had on hand. A butternut squash dying to be cut up and a sweet potato with cute sprouts (not really cute). 

This dish was insanely delicious and super healthy! No guilt feelings after I polished off a huge bowl. All flavors melted together very well. The spices in the sauce did not overpower anything and the vegetable flavors still came through. Each bite has delicious chunks of sweet and earthy root vegetables. 

Curried Tomato, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potato Soup with Poached Eggs
Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook, by Mark Bittman

The few changes that I made were the following:
- Sweet potatoes and butternut squash instead of regular potatoes and cauliflower
- 2 tbsp olive oil instead of ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 ½ cups frozen grape tomatoes + 1, 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- Added ½ tsp garam masala
- Opted out of hard-boiled eggs and poached the eggs instead (this is a Mark Bittman suggestion)
Roasted Vegetables
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet potato
half of a medium butternut squash
½ tsp salt
Roast for 16 minutes at 425 degrees F. Stir halfway through the cooking time.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the garlic, ginger, onions, and jalapeno with curry, cumin, and sugar.

Throw in the roasted vegetables followed by the carrots. Give everything a good stir.

Pour in 2 and ½ cups of vegetable broth and 1 cup of coconut milk. Add 2 and ½ cups of frozen grape tomatoes, and a can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil for up to 15 minutes over medium heat.

For an extra boost of flavor, add ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of garam masala. Turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for another 12 minutes or so.

Move however much of the curry needed into a pan and let boil over medium heat. Crack eggs on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the egg whites turn white, call it good. If you want your eggs more well done, wait a little longer until the yolk hardens.

Serve over basmati rice.

A very tasty, healthy, and filling meal!