Roasted Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Soup

Root soupI love roasted veggies. I also love home made soup. So why not combine the two and get a heaping helping of vegetables in a thick and creamy soup? Usually a self-imposed kitchen challenge like this takes a while to get right, but this one was a win from the first ladle to the last. Why was it so good? Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sugars, and gives it a level of flavor you don’t get when boiling your veggies in a pot. Toasting the herbs and spices in the butter before making a roux also amps up the flavor. Add in some delicious half and half, and you’ve got yourself a winter soup winner.

Actually, I have to give my daughter-in-law to be, Ashley, credit for the idea. She had texted to ask me if I had a recipe for using up a pile of carrots (I think she’d gone hog wild on a Farmer’s Market run…), and I gave her a recipe I had for straight up carrot soup. But then she asked if she could throw in other veggies and cream, and I thought, hmmmmm, I should try something like that! So here it is, Ashley.

Next time I make it, I think I’ll cut the vegetables into ½-inch pieces before roasting, and then puree half of the mixture until really creamy, and stir that back into the chunkier vegetable mixture. I had only slightly pureed the whole batch, and I didn’t like the texture. The flavor more than made up for it, but as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve got to make this JUST RIGHT next time I serve it to family and friends. 

Serves 8-10

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2-3 cups cubed red potatoes (skin on)
4-5 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon caraway seed
¼ teaspoon dried mustard
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken soup base (or vegetable soup base, if you’d like to make this strictly vegetarian)*
2 cups half and half

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare 2 baking sheets by rubbing 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on each pan. Toss cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips onto pans, and roast in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, and edges are slightly golden.

While vegetables are roasting, combine onion and butter in Dutch oven (or other large pot), and cook on medium-high until onion is translucent. Sprinkle flour, dill seed, dill weed, caraway seed, and dry mustard over the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Toast flour and herbs for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Gradually stir in water, and stir to combine so no lumps remain in flour mixture. Add soup base, and stir to combine again. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes until broth is slightly thickened.

Add in roasted vegetables and half and half. Return soup just to a boil, then reduce heat immediately to simmer so half and half doesn’t curdle. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Transfer half of the soup, 2 cups at a time, to blender and puree until smooth. Stir pureed mixture back into the soup. Serve immediately, or store in container in frig.

*NOTE: My favorite soup “hack” is to use chicken soup base instead of bouillon or chicken stock, because it has more flavor and less salt. The brand I like is called “Better Than Bouillon” and they make a chicken, beef, and vegetable base. You can find it in the soup aisle at your grocery store. So just march on past those cans of Campbell’s, and pick up a jar so you TOO can make tasty, nutritious soup for you and the fam.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

FullSizeRenderThose who like it extra spicy will love this black bean chili recipe I got from Café Latte in St. Paul, Minnesota a few years back. A reader requested the recipe from the restaurant when I wrote a Q & A food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Café Latte obliged—but in restaurant-sized quantities. So I had to do some fancy division and subtraction to get down to a recipe I could fit in my largest soup pot. This is still a massive amount of soup, but it always gets gobbled up in a hurry. Served over a bowl of brown rice, it’s a filling, satisfying meal. If you can take the heat! (Which I can’t, so I make this as a gift of love to my husband and sons who DO like their food on the spicy side.)

Serves 10-12

4 (14 ounce) cans black beans
1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
2 )14 ounce) cans corn
1½ cups yellow onions, diced
2½ cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
6 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable soup base or chicken soup base*
Half of 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
2 cups canned, roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice

Garnishes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Drain and rinse beans and corn. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle powder over onion mixture, and stir to combine. Roast spices and onion mixture for a few minutes. Add water and soup base, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; then add chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or puree, roasted peppers, beans, and corn. Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked rice, and top with cilantro and sour cream.

*NOTE: Soup base is a less salty and more flavorful way to make soup than using bouillon or vegetable/chicken stock. It’s first ingredient is vegetable or meat, and salt is lower down the list. I prefer to use this in soup whenever I can, and usually buy only the chicken base as I use it in other soup recipes as well. But if you’re trying to go strict vegetarian with this recipe, you’ll want to buy the vegetable soup base.

Marynona’s Whole Wheat Caraway Bread

FullSizeRender-3The only thing that tops the aroma of bread baking, is the taste of that fresh homemade bread, still warm and slathered in butter. Mmmmmmmm. Here’s another recipe that falls in the “Didn’t I post that already?” category, as it’s a family staple. Realized it hadn’t been blogged yet when my son Mitchell was looking for the recipe on forknifespoon.com and couldn’t find it.

My mother-in-law, Marynona, was a fabulous baker, and often entered her baked goods in county fairs around her home town of Albert Lea. This was one of her award winners—and I wish she was still around to tell me what year she earned a ribbon for this recipe she concocted. She would love to know that one of her creations has been passed on and enjoyed by others, as she was always a warm and welcoming hostess. So go ahead and give this recipe a whirl!

Afraid of yeast? (Yes, you!) That’s just silly! Making bread is no different than playing with Play-Doh, and you enjoyed THAT as a kid, right? The trick is to add your last cups of flour gradually so you keep your dough pliable. Too much flour makes for a stiff, un-kneadable mixture. Too little, and it’s a gooey mess. It’s a little trial and error, but you’ll know it was worth the effort when you proudly pull those steaming loaves of grainy goodness from your oven.

Speaking of flour, I’ve found a new flour I really like called “Ultragrain” at Costco. It claims to be a non-GMO whole wheat grain, and it bakes up like regular old white flour. Those of you with gluten intolerance may be able to use Ultragrain flour in baked goods—I’ve found it works for me. But that’s just my experience!

I had to change a couple things in my mother-in-law’s recipe. She had something called “lecithin granules” in her dough, and she and I once found it at a Whole Foods Market. But it’s not carried at the grocery stores I frequent, and I’m not even sure what it is, or what heath benefits it’s supposed to have! Given it was only 2 tablespoons between 4 loaves, I’ve opted to use chia seeds instead, giving you even more texture in this hearty bread.

Makes 4 small loaves or 2 large loaves

3 cups warm water
5 teaspoons dry yeast (or 2 envelopes)
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup honey
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons flax seed (ground*)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups white flour, divided
2 cups whole wheat flour, divided

Fit standing mixer with dough hook. Pour warm water into large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with yeast, and add molasses and honey. Let rise for a few minutes until it starts to foam. Add oatmeal, wheat germ, oil, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seed, caraway seeds, salt, 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Stir on low or setting 2 until ingredients are incorporated. Add 1 more cup white flour and the remaining 1 cup whole wheat flour. Again, stir on low or 2. Gradually add as much of the remaining 1 cup white flour as you can, until dough begins to pull away from sides of mixer as you stir. (You are looking for a dough that is sticking to the dough hook, and holding together some what. But you will be kneading more, so it doesn’t need to be totally Play-Doh texture just yet.)

Dust a large cutting board with white flour. Turn dough out onto board and sprinkle with more flour. Start kneading by bringing outside edges of bread into center and punching down. Continue doing this, sprinkling with flour when sticky, and pulling from all sides of mass until dough is smooth and elastic.

Grease large bowl with shortening and drop kneaded dough ball into bowl. Turn dough in bowl to coat with shortening. Let rise in warm place for 60 minutes, or until roughly doubled in size. (My warm place? I fill my kitchen sink with hot water, then put bowl in the water, covered with a damp dish towel. Back when I had a teeny tiny kitchen and my sink wasn’t large enough for raising dough, I put a few inches of hot water in the bathtub, and let the dough raise in there. Some people like to raise dough in a oven on low heat, but I find that dries the dough out. Others love the convenience of a bread maker for rising AND baking.)

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. While dough is rising, grease 4 small loaf pans, or 2 large ones with shortening. Once dough is risen, punch down and turn onto flour-dusted surface. (Photo 1 below) Divide into 4 or 2 even pieces. (Photo 2 below) Form into ball by bringing outside edges to center and punching into center. Repeat a few times. (Photo 3 below) Then shape ball into an oblong that will fit into loaf pans. Repeat with each piece of dough. (Photo 4 below)

Cover loaves with damp dish towel and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until almost doubled in size again. (I add more hot water to my sink and rig up an oven rack on top of the sink. Then the loaves sit on the rack, and the towel holds in the moisture creating the perfect bread-rising environment.)

Once bread is risen (It it risen! It is risen indeed!), bake 4 loaves on center rack for 25-30 minutes, or 40-45 minutes for 2 loaves. Bread should sound somewhat hollow when tapped on top crust. (Photo 5 below) Let cool on wire rack until you can handle touching the pans, then remove from pans and let cool completely before storing in airtight container. (Ziplock bags are my go-to bread storage.)

You WILL want to dig into these loaves right away, but resist the urge. The bread will mush and flatten if sliced immediately. Best to let it cool 20-30 minutes before slicing and slathering with toppings of choice. My husband likes peanut butter and slices of tomato, and I do not get that combo. But it’s his mother’s recipe, so he can top it however he likes.

Funny homemade bread dough story! My co-worker Tucker was recently making pizza dough with his wife, and they accidentally used powdered sugar to dust the board before kneading dough. He said it just kept getting stickier and stickier, and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong! When they finally realized their error, they quickly salvaged the situation—by calling for pizza delivery.

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Creamy Potato, Parsnip and Leek Soup

FullSizeRenderBacon, potatoes, and leeks blend together in creamy goodness in this simple soup recipe that goes together in about 30 minutes. Published in a Real Simple article praising potatoes in the November 2016 issue, it grabbed my attention because of the addition of leeks, which have a milder and sweeter flavor than onions, and I love an excuse to use them. Every time I cook with leeks, I remember the verses from the Old Testament where the Israelites complain about missing leeks and garlic as they wandered in the desert (Numbers 11:5). They missed them so much, that they sort of forgot they were enslaved to the Egyptians when they were cooking with those leeks and garlic. That’s the power of good ingredients—they make you forget the misery of every day life, even when that misery includes making bricks for the pyramids without any straw.

So my mind wanders a bit when I cook! What can I say? I’ve made this soup twice already since first trying the recipe, as the first batch was gobbled up in a hurry. I adjusted all the vegetable amounts and added more seasoning to the Real Simple version. And they had garnished their recipe with bacon bits and scallions, and I found the scallions to be overpowering in this mild soup. Chopped chives would be a better garnish. I think even the Israelites would approve of that tweak to this dish.

Makes 8 servings

6-8 slices bacon, cut in half
3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound parsnips (about 5 medium or 3 large)
2 leeks thinly sliced, including some of tender green portions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cups chicken broth (32-ounce box)
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
¼ cup chopped chives, optional, for garnish

In large Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon to plate with paper towels to drain and cool. Add potatoes, parsnips, and leeks to the pot. Cook, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Sprinkle in salt and dill and stir. Add in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, process 2 cups of soup at a time until smooth. Return all the blended soup to the pot and stir in cream while element is on low. Top individual bowls with crumbled bacon bits, and chopped chives, if desired.

Roasted Beets, Shallots, and Feta Winter Salad

FullSizeRenderThere’s something autumnal about this salad with roasted beets, shallots, and leeks that makes it perfect cold weather fare. I made this one up for my friends Marylee and Marcella, to serve the day after Thanksgiving when I did NOT want to do turkey soup or a mashed potatoes and gravy repeat. Tired of multiple treks to the grocery store prior to Thanksgiving, I wanted to work with what was in my frig. Since I had the shallots and leeks on hand, I thought I’d see how they paired with cooked beets. The nuttiness of the shallots and mildness of the leeks worked really well as compliments to the beets, and the crunch of walnuts and tang of feta rounded out the flavors really well. I whisked up a dressing of balsamic vinegar with a touch of Dijon, and we all dubbed this delicious salad a wintertime winner. 

Follow the directions below to roast and peel the beets with minimal mess. I served the salad pictured here as a side to leftover sweet potatoes and turkey. I put the warm, cooked beets right on the salad, drizzled the dressing, and we gobbled it up (Thanksgiving pun intended!). But I had a leftover beet that I refrigerated, and the next day I made this salad for lunch with the cold beet. It was just as good cold as warm, so do whatever is easiest for you!

Makes 4-6 salads

4-5 beets—cut off stems and tips of root
1 cup walnuts
3-4 shallots, chopped
2 leeks, with slices of white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups spring greens mix
½-1 cup feta cheese *

For Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used creamy, not coarse ground)
Dash each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Scatter walnuts on baking sheet and pop in oven for 5-10 minutes or until they start to toast. Remove and let cool. Wrap each beat in a square of aluminum foil to cover, and place on a baking sheet. (May also want to cover baking sheet with foil to help with clean up, as beets will leek juice as they cook.) Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, put on rubber gloves and peel off foil, then rub skins off of each beet with your thumbs, and discard skin. Place peeled beets in a bowl and keep handy for salad.

To make dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, Dijon, salt and pepper in container with a lid and shake until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

In frying pan set on medium-high heat, add shallots, leeks, and olive oil. Sauté and stir until golden brown. Set aside. Add a handful of mixed greens to individual plates (about 2 cups), and top each mound of greens with the cooked shallot mixture, dividing between salads. Chop each roasted beet into bite-sized cubes, and place 3/4 to 1 whole beet on top of each salad. Add toasted walnuts, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

*NOTE: You could also try this with blue cheese, but that might be a little too sharp for this salad. I was going to use the blue, but when I pulled my container from the frig, it was bluer—and fuzzier—than I think it was supposed to be. So we went with the feta instead. I’m pretty sure your cheese shouldn’t be fuzzy…

Baked Northern Beans with Rosemary and Mustard

FullSizeRenderTake a break from basic baked beans with this bacon-laced white bean side dish. I’d clipped the recipe from the May 2007 edition of Better Homes & Garden magazine, and had yet to try it out. Since it called for rosemary, and I’m trying to find ways to use up my fresh herbs before the first frost, I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I liked it, but it isn’t a “star” dish. Not everything on the table has to take center stage though, does it? It’s also not terribly gorgeous to look at, as you can see from my sad photo attempt. (I’m really selling you on this one, aren’t I!) It would work for summer barbecue with brats or burgers, and it would also pair well with a winter meal of roast pork, beef, or whatever meat you choose. It’s got that homey, comfort-food vibe going on, so tag this one to make this winter.

The original recipe called for four 16-ounce cans of butter beans or Great Northern beans, but I wanted to use a bag of dry Great Northern beans I had on hand. I’ve also heard that the canned beans are rather high in sodium, so thought it might be a healthier dish if I used the dry beans instead. Directions below include overnight soaking of a bag of beans—which required pre-planning, but wasn’t a ton of prep otherwise. My husband didn’t think the dish was zippy enough, but he’s burned out his taste buds by constantly dousing his food with cayenne pepper. Consider the source. My taste-tester Emily and I thought they were tasty, so I’ll be making these again some time—when my husband’s not home for dinner.

Serves 6-8

1 bag dry Great Northern beans
1 teaspoon salt
8 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container dairy sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or Namaste® gluten-free perfect blend
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used 1, but I think it could have used 2)

Rinse dry bean in cold water, and then put in Dutch oven. Cover with cold water, and let soak overnight. Drain off water and add water to 1-inch above beans. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and bring beans to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Line plate with paper towels, and place bacon on towels to drain. Let cool. Drain skillet of all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rosemary, parsley, and black pepper and sauté until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl. Crumble cooked bacon and add to beans.

In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, chicken broth, flour or gluten-free flour blend, and Dijon mustard. Add to beans and stir until all ingredients are combined. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Serve.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Can make bean dish and not bake, and then store covered in frig for a day or two. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.

Oatmeal Apple Pie Cookies

FullSizeRenderLove apple pie or apple cobbler, but would like those flavors in a bite-sized portion? These apple and oatmeal cookies give you a hint of all-American apple pie without the hassle of making pie crust, something I personally have never mastered. (Whoever coined the phrase, “easy as pie” was nuts, in my opinion.) Since the cinnamon, oats, and apples have a fallish feel, put these on your list to try when the air gets crisp, and the leaves start to turn colors.

Oat-laden baked goods are a favorite with my sons, so the S’more Cookies previously posted got rave reviews the first time I made them. But my son Justin was kinda “meh” about the combo, only because he’s not super into s’mores. (I know, I know…what on earth is wrong with him?) He thought that the cookie base would be better with apples and a cream cheese frosting, and when he texted me a reminder of his suggestion one weekend, I said I’d give it a whirl. 

I was a little unsure about the order of the filling and frosting—should I fill them first and then frost after they were cool? Or drop in some frosting and then top with the apple pie filling? So I tried it both ways, then taste-tested on my family (plus my son Mitch’s friend Karl, one of my most ardent food admirers). They had no preference, gobbling both with equal enthusiasm. But they did vote for the ones with pie filling on top as they had a stronger apple flavor. They also said they really, really liked these because they aren’t an achingly sweet cookie—more in the vein of an apple granola bar. How do you like that! Tested by a discerning taste-testing panel before being posted. You’re welcome.

Makes 24-32 cookies

For cookie dough:
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (about 15 squares)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

For frosting and filling:
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar (aka: powdered sugar, Tom…)
Drizzle of milk, 1-2 tablespoons
1 (21-ounce) can of apple pie filling

Preheat oven to 375°. In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat again. Add granulated sugar and beat until butter and sugars are light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until eggs are incorporated. Add milk and vanilla and beat again. Slowly mix in the oats and flour mixture with the mixer until all ingredients are combined.

Cover bowl of dough with plastic wrap, and chill for 1-4 hours. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.* Drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8-9 minutes.

While cookies are baking, make frosting. Put cream cheese in small mixer bowl, and beat on high until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar, and beat on low until combined. With mixer still on low, drizzle in milk and vanilla, and once the liquids are incorporated, return to high and beat until frosting is creamy. Set aside.

Open can of apple pie filling, and use long thin knife to dice apples while still in the can. Remove cookies from oven and make a slight impression in hot cookies with the back of a spoon. Put a generous tablespoon of frosting in the indent, and then add a dollop (another tablespoon) of apple pie filling on top of each cookie.

Return cookies to oven for 3-4 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely before storing.

*NOTE: I ended up making these without parchment paper ’cause I forgot to use it, and they were fine! Needed a good, stiff spatula to get them off the pan, but the parchment paper wasn’t as necessary as I thought.

Raspberry Wine Bread

FullSizeRender-1This sweet bread with a raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting is an absolute favorite with my current (but soon to be former!) co-workers. These are best for brunch, or as a treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Since it tastes similar to a Swedish kringle, I’m not sure why this is called “wine bread,” as there is no wine used in the recipe. Does it go great with a glass of red or white? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been making this recipe for years, ever since it was given to me by my host mom during a Bethel College women’s choir tour. Maybe it was the break from church basement potlucks featuring red Kool-Aid and green Jell-O that made this treat especially delightful, or maybe it was the thoughtfulness of the South Dakota mom who made the effort to go beyond chocolate chip cookies to welcome her guests. In hindsight, I think the poor woman was a little shocked that a skinny little college girl (this was a while ago…), could down as many of these delicious treats as I did. She simply had to share the recipe so I could get my fix once I got home. She sure didn’t want me stalking her for more.

Don’t let the fact that there’s yeast in the recipe scare you. This is one of the easier yeast dough’s to make, as all the eggs and butter make it very pliable. I’ve included photos below of how to roll out and assemble, in case my descriptions don’t make sense. Then once you’ve tried it, give me YOUR opinion of how it got it’s name.

Makes 4 pastries, each one yielding about 8 pieces

For pastry:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
Raspberry pie filling *

For frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼-1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish:
Sliced almonds

In small sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until they are dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm. Pour into mixing bowl; fit mixer with dough hook. Sprinkle yeast on top of butter mixture. Mix eggs in small bowl, then add to butter and yeast in bowl, along with 1 cup of the flour. Stir to combine. Add milk and the rest of the flour all at once, and turn mixer on second to lowest setting. Stir until dough clings to dough hook, and no bits remain on outside of the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap, tucking it right on top of dough ball. Chill at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Divide chilled dough into 4 equal parts. Sprinkle cutting board with flour and drop one section of dough onto surface, and knead into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll out with rolling pin to about ¼” thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet. (You will need 2 baking sheets for the 4 pastries.) Spread one-quarter of the raspberry filling down middle section of the dough, then fold 1/3 over from each side on top of filling. Repeat process with other three sections of dough to form the rest of the pastries.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place each pastry on a cooling rack. Cool for about 30-60 minutes. Then make frosting. Place cream cheese in smaller mixing bowl, then add powdered sugar and cream thoroughly. Gradually add ¼ cup milk, and both extracts. If frosting is not thin enough to drizzle on pastry, add more milk. Drizzle or spread onto cooled dough, then sprinkle sliced almonds on top. To serve, slice into 1-2 inch wide strips. Store any remaining pastries in an airtight containers.

*NOTE: While I prefer raspberry pie filling for this recipe, you can also use blueberry or peach. I’ve made this with all those flavors, but usually raspberry is the fan favorite.

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Old Country Potato Dill Bread

FullSizeRenderTo keep homemade bread tasting just-from-the-oven-fresh, do what your great-grandmother did, and add leftover mashed potatoes to the batch of dough. I’ve been making this recipe since 1990-something, after running across it in a Country Home magazine (read while waiting for my son at the orthodontist, if I remember right…), but I rarely have mashed taters leftover from a meal. So I follow the instructions below for boiling up potatoes to make the dough.

(Disclaimer: No, I did not steal a magazine from the orthodontist’s office. I politely asked the receptionist if she’d make a copy of the recipe for me, rather than tearing it out and ruining some other mother’s day by leaving behind a mutilated magazine. The receptionist looked at me like I had two heads, but copied it off anyway. Apparently not a lot of people request copies of recipes while at the orthodontist, huh!)

FullSizeRender-1Now to confess the REAL reason I write this blog. I’m selfish. I want all my recipes in one, handy, organized place, so I don’t have to search through a gazillion cookbooks, and dig in piles of old newspaper and magazine clippings to unearth my tried-and-true favorites. Since I’ve been posting for over a year, I was shocked and surprised when I couldn’t find the potato bread recipe after searching for tags like “potato” and “dill.” How could I not have posted this treasure yet!?! This is far and away my three son’s fave bread. They loved it as an after school snack when they were kids, slathered in peanut butter. They love it with meals as adults, with butter, or without. It’s so moist, it doesn’t even need butter to be the best bread ever.

And what goes perfect with this bread? Sweet-tart Strawberry Rhubarb jam, recipe to come later this week when I make my annual batch.

Makes 3 loaves

Sponge (another name for “starter”):
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup all-purpose flour *
½ cup warm water (at least 100° Fahrenheit)

Dough:
2 medium red potatoes, peeled
3¼ cups all-purpose flour *
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

To make starter: Combine yeast and water in medium bowl, and stir in water until all ingredients are combined and no dry patches of flour remain. Set starter in a sink filled with 2 inches of hot water. Let rise 20 minutes. (Or overnight—the recipe suggests that it makes for a more flavorful bread as it gathers more mold spores that way. I’ve never done this, so I can’t vouch for an enhanced flavor for your efforts!)

To make bread: Fill a small saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Cover pan and bring water to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook potatoes until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, and place in bowl of mixer. Reserve 1 cup of potato water and let cool to room temperature. Mash the potatoes in the mixer bowl, and stir in potato water.

Fit mixer with dough hook. To bowl of potatoes and potato water, add flour, dill weed, salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and bread starter. Stir on 1st or 2nd mixer setting until dough forms into soft ball, riding around on dough hook, and no dough remains on sides of bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle top of ball with more flour. Knead dough by hand, adding more flour as dough gets sticky. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-sized bowl, and rotate bowl to coat bottom and sides with oil. Drop dough ball into bowl, then turn dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl with a clean, damp cotton kitchen towel and let rise in sink filled with 2-3 inches of hot water for 1 hour, or until dough is doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Drizzle baking sheet or 3 pie tins with additional olive oil, then use paper towel to spread oil evenly across pan(s). Sprinkle baking sheet or pie tins with a light dusting of corn meal (which acts as ball bearings for your bread as it rises and bakes on pan). Punch dough down, and turn onto lightly floured board. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Sprinkle pieces with flour. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, bring outsides of dough into center and punch down, and continue doing that until nice ball of dough has been formed. Place 3 balls of prepared dough onto baking sheet or 1 on each pie tin. Cover dough with dry kitchen towel, and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until dough is almost doubled in size.

Once dough has risen sufficiently, slice across top of each loaf 3 times with a sharp, serrated knife, going about 1/4″ or 1/2″ into top of dough. Place dough in preheated oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top and sides of bread is golden brown. Bread should sound hollow when tapped when it’s done. Remove to wire rack to cool immediately out of oven. Cool bread for at least 30 minutes before cutting into a loaf. Cool bread for 2-3 hours before placing in Ziplock bag to store. Do not refrigerate.

*NOTE: Original recipe called for using bread flour, but I’ve never found much difference in taste or texture when I’ve used bread flour over all-purpose flour to make bread.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

IMG_1140As this creamy cauliflower soup prepares in about 30 minutes, you can get a light, healthy lunch on the table fairly fast. I found the basic recipe in Midwest Living magazine (Feb 2013), and it was titled “Cream of Any-Vegetable Soup.” I’ve done cauliflower and also broccoli, but we liked the cauliflower best. One problem—they must have taste-tested this recipe on a family of gnats, cause the first time I made it, it served up 2 small bowls. Not worth the effort for such a small yield! So I doubled it. I also found that their recipe used far too little vegetable, so I significantly increased that—more so than the other ingredients. If you prefer broccoli to the cauliflower, I’ve included the instructions for that at the end of the recipe as well.

Serves 6

4 cups cauliflower florets
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules or 1 cub chicken bouillon, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
4 cups milk
Dash Worcestershire sauce
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, optional (but really, since when is cheese in anything “optional”?)

Place half of cut cauliflower in microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Repeat with other half of cut cauliflower, and set aside cooked vegetables.

In a heavy saucepan or small Dutch oven, sauté celery and onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour and bouillon granules, curry, salt, and pepper. Allow flour and seasonings to “toast” for about a minute to bring out flavor. Gradually stir in milk, whisking it into flour until combined to avoid lumps. Add Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, then cook and stir for another minute. Stir in cooked cauliflower. Allow mixture to cook slightly, then place in blender (1/3 at a time), and blend for about 3 seconds. Repeat until all of soup has been processed. Return to saucepan to heat through. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve.

For Broccoli-cheese Soup: Add 4 cups cooked broccoli florets instead of cauliflower, omit the curry and use ½ teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder instead, and increase the cheese to 1 cup.