Monday, October 10, 2016

Meatless Monday--Weeknight Tortellini Soup

When it comes to fall and winter, I'm pretty happy to consistently eat meals served in bowls.  Oatmeal, soup, stews, chilis, braises, and the like--I just can't get enough.  When the weekend comes, I love to set the slow cooker going or put a pot of something on the stove to cook low and slow all day long, filling the house with comforting, homey aromas.

But I also have a job that takes me away from the house five days a week.  And while I love to cook, I don't always want to dive into a complicated recipe after a long day at work and a workout that has left me spent and starving.  Fortunately, comfort doesn't only come from recipes that take all day.

This easy tortellini soup takes no more than ten minutes to prep and can go from ingredients on your counter to a meal on your table in 30 minutes flat.  With the help of canned crushed tomatoes and your favorite store-bought tortellini, all the ingredients will last in your fridge or pantry for at least a few days, which means you can grocery shop over the weekend and still have everything you need to make this on a hectic Thursday night or a lazy Friday night at home.

Fall comfort and weeknight ease come together in this simple vegetarian tortellini soup that goes from ingredients to your table in 30 minutes or less.

Weeknight Tortellini Soup
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

2 TBSP olive oil
1 small white or yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28-oz.) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
5 c. vegetable broth
1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh basil
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste 
1 package refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
2 c. fresh baby spinach or chopped kale
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1.  Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and bring to temperature.  Add the onion and sauté until it becomes soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more.

2.  Add the tomatoes, broth, basil, beans, salt, and both peppers to the pot.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  

3.  Add tortellini and spinach and continue simmering for 3-5 minutes, according to tortellini package instructions.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

4.  To serve, ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

*Note: The leftovers of this soup keep well up to three days, though I like to store the tortellini in a separate container to prevent it from getting mushy.

Yield: 6 main dish servings

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Have y'all had your first real fall days yet?  We had the most glorious rainy, chilly fall weekend recently and I wish I could do it all over again right now.  The temperatures, the grey, drizzly skies, the cooking and baking, my first bowl of soup, the football, and time with friends old and family--everything about it was perfect.

I'm hoping next weekend is just as good so I can make another batch of these pumpkin snickerdoodles.  They are everything a fall cookie should be.  They're pillowy soft and super buttery, just like the classic snickerdoodles we all know and love.  The pumpkin flavor isn't overly pronounced, but the spices are just right.  With a blanket, a book, and a steaming hot cup of coffee, these are everything you might want in a fall treat.

Warm fall spices, a sugar-sweet coating, and a subtle pumpkin flavor take soft, buttery snickerdoodles--a beloved favorite--to a new level.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
from Annie's Eats


For the cookies:

3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. pumpkin purée
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the sugar coating:
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
dash of allspice


1.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Whisk to combine and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the pumpkin, then beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry mixture in two separate additions until just combined.  Cover dough and chill at least one hour.  

3.  Preheat the oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  

4.  Combine all ingredients for the sugar coating in a shallow bowl and mix together.

5.  Using a standard-sized cookie scoop, portion out the cookie dough, roll into a ball, and coat in the sugar mixture.  Place dough balls on a prepared baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Dip the bottom of a flat drinking glass in water, then in the sugar mixture and use to slightly flatten each dough ball.  Dip glass back into sugar coating as needed.

6.  Bake the cookies 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through.  Let cool on the baking sheets on a wire rack about 5 minutes, then place directly on the wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container up to one week.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dutch Apple Pancake

So it's officially fall.  To some people, that means pumpkin spicing all the things.  I'm a fan of pumpkin spicing some of the things (coffee, bread, cheesecake) but definitely not all the things (gum, potato chips, Peeps--which should only be on shelves at Easter but really shouldn't exist at all).  But pumpkin spice is for October and November.  September is all for apples.

It's no secret I love apples.  All you have to do is look at the name of this blog to know that.  I truly do eat an apple almost every day!  As much as I love simply slicing up an apple or biting right into one during this peak season when it's perfectly crispy and juicy, I also cannot stop cooking and baking with them.  This is especially true for breakfast and brunch.  

All week, I long for Saturday morning when I can wake without an alarm, go for a walk around my cute little neighborhood, and come home to spend some soul-restoring time in my kitchen.  This time of year, my weekend breakfasts almost always involve apples.  To me, the texture, moisture, and natural sweetness they add to standby items like waffles, muffins, oatmeal, and quick breads just can't be beat.  And the aroma of apples baking while coffee is brewing?  Perfection in my book.

This recipe was my first time making a Dutch-style pancake.  I'd had them plenty of times, but had never made one myself--most likely due to the fact that I generally prefer the crispier, craggier texture of waffles.  But this kind of pancake is decidedly different.  It's not nearly as sweet as a traditional buttermilk pancake and has a much sturdier texture, thanks to the eggs.  Plus, the entire bowl of batter goes into one pan meaning I wasn't stuck standing over a griddle pouring and flipping and pouring and flipping.  As an added bonus, no ubiquitous overcooked first pancake to throw out or hide at the bottom of the stack :-)

Celebrate apple season with a giant fluffy, eggy Dutch pancake that's just as much fun to make as it is to eat.

Dutch Apple Pancake
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unslated butter
1 firm apple (Gala, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith), cored and cut into 1/2-in. slices
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 TBSP light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
2 TBSP ground flax seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
maple syrup, for serving
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1.  Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Butter a 10-in. ovenproof braiser or frying pan.

2.  In a separate frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Pour half into a small dish and reserve.  Add the apples slices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar to the remaining butter in the pan.  Stir occasionally, 5-6 minutes, until the apple begins to soften and brown.  Set aside. 

3.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a medium bowl.  Whisk in the milk.  Sift flour and salt into the egg mixture, then add in flax seeds, and whisk until just blended.  Pour in the remaining butter and whisk until smooth.

4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the apple slices evenly on top.  Bake until the pancake is lightly browned and puffed up, 25-30 minutes.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Monday, September 12, 2016

Meatless Monday--New Mexico Style Three Sisters Casserole

Three sisters casserole--if you grew up in the southwestern part of the country, I can almost guarantee you've had it in some form or fashion.  It makes the most glorious use of beans, squash, and corn, three staple crops of the Native Americans who inhabited the land long ago and, in some cases, still do to this day.  The name references the planting method the tribes used wherein the three crops were planted very near each other to maximize production and protect each other from the desert elements.  

With the addition of Hatch green chiles, my version takes a definite turn toward New Mexico.  The sweet corn mixture on top falls somewhere between the masa that surrounds tamales and the sweet corn pudding I love at the end of a spicy New Mexican or southwestern meal.  With protein-packed black beans and the squash mixture of your choice, this is a complete meal unto itself.  Add a side salad (and maybe a margarita), and you'll be more than satisfied.  

Three sisters casserole--a traditional southwestern dish--is the perfect late summer recipe for all that corn and zucchini in your back yard and at the farmer's market.  Easy to make and endlessly adaptable, it's sure to be a new favorite for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. 

New Mexico Style Three Sisters Casserole
adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times


For the beans:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 roasted Hatch chiles (hot or mild), seeded and minced 
3 c. simmered black beans, cooking liquid reserved
2 (15 oz.) cans organic black beans (Organic is important because you won't be fully draining them.) 
salt, to taste 

For the squash:
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. minced onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 lb. zucchini, summer squash, or a mixture of the two, sliced into 1/2-in thick half moons
1 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican

For the corn:
2 c. corn kernels
1 1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. masa, cornmeal, or polenta 
1/2 grated asadero Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

To finish:
1/4 c. crumbled cotija, queso fresco, or feta cheese
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/4 c. Mexican crema, sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt thinned with a little milk
chopped cilantro

1.  Heat oven to 375° F.  Oil the bottom on insides of a 2-qt. casserole or gratin dish.

2.  To refry beans cooked from scratch, drain off about 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid and keep in a separate bowl to moisten beans if they become too dry.  To refry canned beans, drain them partially, reserving at least half of the liquid in the cans.  

3.  Regardless of the type of beans you're using, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick frying pan.  Add cumin and Hatch chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to sizzle.  Add beans and fry, stirring and mashing with the back of a spoon, until they thicken and form a crust on the bottom of the pan.  Stir up crust into the beans and cook until thickened, but not dry, about 10 minutes.  Add reserved liquid or a bit of water if the beans dry out too much.  Taste and add salt, if needed.  Spread in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared dish.

4.  To prepare the squash, clean and dry the skillet sed to cook the beans.  Heat over medium and add olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add squash, oregano, salt, and pepper, and turn heat up slightly.  Cook, frequently stirring or tossing in the pan, 8-10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Spread in a layer over the beans.

5.  Combine the corn and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the corn is just tender, 5 minutes, then stir in the masa.  Once the masa is fully incorporated and the mixture begins to thicken a little, add in the cheese.  Spread the corn mixture evenly over the top of the zucchini.  Top with cotija and drizzle with olive oil.

6.  Bake 25 minutes, until the top layer browns a bit and the sides are bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let sit five minutes.  Drizzle with crema and top with cilantro.  

Yield: 8 main dish servings  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Tomato Sauce

I feel like I should start this post with an apology, so here goes--I'm sorry I held out on you with this recipe.  I made it at the beginning of the summer and it was amazing.  Then I didn't post it  But now here we are, nearing the tail end of summer, and I cannot let berry season pass without making sure you've seen this recipe.  That would just be downright hateful.

Because wow.  It is outstanding.  

Pork and blackberries have long been established as friends.  But when you add juicy, ripe summer tomatoes, sweet red onion, tart pomegranate juice, and a good splash of balsamic vinegar to the mix, you come up with something really special.  And, as it turns out, pretty darn easy to make, as well.

The tenderloin gets the basic season, brown, and put in the oven treatment.  While that's happening, the sauce gets put together, which pretty much consists of putting things in a pot to simmer together until the flavors have found the perfect way to bring out the best in each other.  

Then you get to eat.

And you'll be very happy.    

Lean pork tenderloin topped with antioxidant-packed berries and pomegranate juice make this meal a healthy, hearty, perfect way to fill your belly and stay on track with your summer fitness goals.   

Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Tomato Sauce
source unknown

1 lb. pork tenderloin
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, sliced
12 oz. blackberries (about 2 c.), divided
1/2 c. halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. pomegranate juice
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1.  Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Pat the tenderloin dry with a paper towel and season with half the salt and pepper.  

2.  Heat half the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and brown on all sides.  Place the pan in the oven and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 145° F, approximately 20-25 minutes.  Remove and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

3.  While the pork cooks, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and remaining salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.  Add half the blackberries and all the tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are mostly broken down.  Add the pomegranate juice and vinegar.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the remaining berries.

4.  To serve, slice the pork, drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle with thyme.

Yield: 4 generous servings