Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Veggie Soup and Onion Tart... Its a good day for lunch at home

I think the art of good simple cooking is not locked away for the elite who can afford the outrageous prices of Whole Foods, nor is it reserved for the quaint country village of Provencal France. Nope, good quality and wholesome meals are the direct result of choosing to spend a little time and keep your vegetable bin moving. These two easy recipes do just that, and are delicious.

This classic recipe for veggie soup can use any vegetable you have in your crisper drawer, especially if they are starting to lack luster. I used asparagus, broccoli, onion, and potato, because that is what I had.

Soup Ingredients
2 onions
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
4 cups of chicken stock (vegetable, beef, what ever suits your fancy)
1 potato (peeled and cubed)
1 teaspoon of thyme dried or four springs of fresh
1 bay leaf
1 lb of whatever green or not so green veggie you have in your home or crisper.

In your favorite soup pot heat up the olive oil and slice the onions. Add the onions and cook until translucent at medium high heat. Once translucent at the garlic and cook for just less than a minute. Burning garlic leaves a terrible bitter taste, if you do, better to scrap it and start over. Add the stock, potato pieces, and the herbs. The stock and herbs are for flavor, so please feel free to invent, amend, edit, add, experiment. The potato is to thicken and provide that serotonin induced carb euphoric mental state. Allow the soup to cook covered until the potato is soft and easily pierced with a fork. Once your soup is ready through in your washed, chopped, vegetables of your choice. Allow them to cook for just a few minutes, no more than 3 minutes, then turn the heat off completely. You want to blanch them so they turn bright green and lock in all of their flavor and nutrients. Any longer and you start to denature the proteins that are so good for you. Now, my favorite part, with your handy dandy wonder wand, hand held blender, cream your soup. You can eat it with out blending, you can also use a standing blender just remember to cover with a kitchen towel and not the lid. This allows the heat to escape their by preventing you from a to scale re-enactment of an a-bomb explosion.

As a yummy accompaniment I made Pissaladiere - French Onion Tart.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

caramelized onions (2 onions, chopped, sauteed with olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a sprinkling of cumin)
Parmesan cheese

Throw together all of the dough ingredients, until it makes a sticky doughy mess. Allow it to rest in the bowl you mixed it in for 20 minutes or so. What to do? I don't know, maybe work on the soup while you wait, or mop? I always need to mop. I am affectionately refered to as the cuisine-art with no lid.

Crank your oven to 425 F

Spread out the dough on a floured board or cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. You can use a rolling pin, or your fingers, just roll it to the shape that make you happy. Using a fork or your fingers make little pockets in the bread to catch the onions and olive oil from the pan. How thick or thin you like it is really up to you. Drip over allow the sweet onions to lay on the bed dough you just rolled out. Sprinkle Parmesan or any cheese you have handy.

Bake for 10 minutes or less depending on how thick you laid the dough or how crunchy you want the bread. But check on it at the half way mark, you might not want crackers and you certainly don't want burnt.
Allow to cool and enjoy, with or without healthy veggie soup.

As always, many blessings, much love, happy baking, and happy fall

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Two less than conventional birthday cakes

There is only two rule in my house regarding birthday cakes:
1) The birthday girl or boy gets to pick their cake.
2) The birthday person gets to eat the last piece or duel the challenger in a cut throat game of Jenga.

So while, I would prefer to make the incarnation of a sugar high, in all its fondant clad glory: these birthday girls got their own choosing, and for that I am most happy for them.
Birthday Number 1: Krissy’s Apple Birthday Cake

Topping and Center

6 apples, peeled, cored, cut into wedges (any variety is fine)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
5 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of oil
¼ cup of o.j.
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 and ¾ cups of cake flour sifted
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Crank your oven to 350 F
How’d you like them apples.
I always do my favorite thing first, therefore… I peeled and chopped the apples first. I think I love this process only for nostalgia. My great-grandmother, Mimi, could peal an apple with a knife in one long strip of peel. And she could do it in less a minute. My mother gave me one of those apple core-errs and slicers, and because she gave it to me, I try to use it at every opportunity. I through the corps of six apples and dusted them generously with the cinnamon sugar.
Get to the cake…
Add all the wet ingredients to your standing mixer (yes, sugar is considered a wet ingredient). Sift all your dry ingredients together, and then add to your mixer. The batter is de-lisouso!
In a tube pan, or baking receptacle of choice, spray or brush a non-stick layer. I spray Pam, it is easier. Pour in half the cake batter, cover with a layer of apples. Pour in the other half of the cake batter, and then top with the rest of the apples. Through in any yummy apple juice and cinnamon sugar left in the bowl.
Now, bake for what seems like hours, but really it is less than 2. I while I am big proponent of using whatever you have on hand to bake in, I definetly would not make this in a regular pan, this would take FOR-EV-ER to bake if it didn’t have heat coming from all sides including the center.
Top with powdered, sugar, insert candles… sing.
Cake Numero Dos: Ms. Sandra Cheery Cherry Cheese-Birthdaycake

I have to say, originally, I feared making a cheesecake for fear of the infamous curse of crack. Indeed this blemish did rear it’s ugly head, and that my dear is why you have a topping. I used a cherry, sugar, and cornstarch concoction. While, I would rather have a perfect top, the cake was super easy to make and delicious, fissure and all.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup of crushed graham crackers (I whizzed them in my food processor, but I see an excellent opportunity to vent some stress)
¼ cup of sugar
7 tablespoons of butter (yes, seven it is just shy of one stick)

Cheesey Sweet Goodness

12 oz cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
½ teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs
Topping of your choosing

Crank your oven to 350 F.

Start with crust. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press into your spring form pan, and bake for 10 minutes.

Whiz together your cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

Pour into your pre-scorched crust, and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Some people are very fussy and double wrap their pans in foil, and lay them gently in bath of boiling water. They gently coax the in-process cheese cake out of the heat. Those people are correct, this would prevent cracking; however, I knew mine had a delicious guise called cherry topping.

Cool until room temperature, chill in the fridge until time for candles and singing.

Please enjoy these super easy very tasty recipes.

As always, much love, many blessings, happy baking, and happy birthday!