Friday, July 25, 2014

Two Zucchini Soups

My father-in-law paid me the nicest compliment the other day, after enjoying Grandma Betty's Zucchini Bread and a side dish of shredded zucchini with herbs (separately, not together!). He said, "You're a magician with zucchini." I'll add that to my list of job titles: zucchini magician!

Here are two zucchini soups. The first is from a neighbor, who told her kids she was serving green monster soup for dinner. The name was enough to entice her kids to eat it, but unfortunately it didn't work on mine. In fact Gabe said "I'm scared of monsters!" and then refused to have anything to do with it. The second, a bisque, is from a restaurant that used to be in St. George, Utah called the Gable House. My great-grandmother Melba enjoyed the soup there. Green monster soup is creamy and of course the bacon garnish is tasty. The bisque is lighter, with nutmeg a flavorful addition. Take your pick and enjoy; I like to accompany these soups with grilled cheese sandwiches.

green monster soup


Green Monster Soup

Source: a neighbor, via an LDS ward zucchini cookbook

1 c onion, chopped
2 T butter
3 c zucchini, sliced
2 c chicken broth
3/4 teas salt
1/8 teas pepper
1/2 c half and half
1 c cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c sour cream
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add sliced zucchini and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Puree in blender, in batches if necessary. Return to pan and stir in half and half.

Reheat but do not boil. Stir in grated cheddar cheese and sour cream. Garnish with crumbled bacon at the table.


Melba's Zucchini Bisque

Source: my great-grandmother Melba Tew Hayes

2 medium onions (~1/2 lb), finely chopped
2 T butter
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, sliced
3 c chicken broth
1/4 teas black pepper
1/8 teas nutmeg, freshly ground
1/8 teas salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 c half and half
optional garnishes: grated cheddar cheese, croutons

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add sliced zucchini and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add seasonings. Puree in a blender, in batches if necessary. Return to pan and stir in half and half. Reheat, but do not boil. Garnish with cheese and croutons, if desired.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Banana Bread with Optional Chocolate Chips

Apparently chocolate is my only comfort food. This time I added chocolate to banana bread, because I  had bunches of bananas going bad on my counter. Dark chocolate chips are my favorite, of course, but use whatever you like. And the chocolate really is optional; this banana bread with walnuts is lovely on its own.


Banana Bread with Optional Chocolate Chips

Adapted from Grandma Betty's recipe, originally via a neighbor in Price, Utah

1 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
3 bananas
2 eggs
2 c flour (I use 1 c whole wheat flour)
1 teas baking soda
1 teas vanilla
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 pinch salt
1/2 c-2/3 c chocolate chips, depending on how chocolate-y you want it, and completely optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream sugar and butter; then add bananas, eggs, and vanilla and blend well. Add dry ingredients and mix. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips, if using. Bake in greased, floured loaf pan for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in loaf pan for ten minutes, then remove the bread and set it on a rack to cool completely.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Strawberry Water

This isn't a real recipe, but it is a new idea for using the ENTIRE strawberry, before throwing the tops away. Simply immerse the strawberry tops in a glass of water for an hour or so. Then enjoy a refreshing, berry-flavored drink!

 Source: Food52

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Betsy and I discovered this together during one of several visits with each other this spring. Bread puddings are comforting desserts by nature but add the chocolate and you can almost drown your sorrows.


Chocolate Bread Pudding

Source:  What's For Dinner? by Curtis Stone
Serves at least 10

2 1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/4 c whole milk
1 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teas vanilla extract
1 pound day-old French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or good chocolate chips
1-2 T granulated sugar

Place oven rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream, milk, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the bread and gently stir to coat well. Set aside for about 20-30 minutes to allow the bread to soften and soak up some of the egg mixture.

Fold the chocolate into the bread mixture. Transfer to a buttered 9X13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the pudding puffs and is golden brown on top but still moist inside. Cool slightly before serving. This can be microwaved to warm leftovers although some of the crispiness of the sugar topping will be lost.


About bread:

Betsy and I have access to a less-than-sour sourdough bread which is lovely in this recipe. In its place I'd seek out a loaf of challah bread. Sometimes the Italian loaves sold in supermarkets are awfully airy and I think this pudding would be a bit mushy with that kind of bread. Go for something with some substance. Remove hard crusts. Cook's Illustrated makes these recommendations: "If you cannot find challah, a firm high-quality sandwich bread such as Arnold Country Classics White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White may be substituted."

In addition, I like to let my bread be dried out so it can soak up more of the custard mixture. I heated the oven to 325F and let the bread toast for 15 minutes on rimmed baking sheets. (See this at Cook's Illustrated.)

I find that when using chocolate chips, they have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the pan. Give the mixture a good stir once you've placed it in the baking pan, before sprinkling with sugar. If you find you don't like the sunken chips, reserve a handful or two and sprinkle them over the top of the pudding (and under the sugar) before baking.

Betsy and I were the only people eating this when I made it so a 9X13 pan seemed awfully large. I divided the recipe between two casserole dishes (or it could be divided into two 8X8 pans). One, I lined with foil, leaving an overhang so I could wrap it after baking. I buttered the foil lining (just like the unlined pan) and placed half the pudding in each pan. I sprinkled sugar over the pudding in the unlined pan only. Both pans went into the oven together and were baked at the same time. After cooling, I wrapped the foil around the top of the baked pudding and sealed it. I then placed it in the freezer and when it was frozen, I took it out of the pan. When Betsy wanted the pudding some weeks later, it was waiting for her in the freezer. She placed the frozen pudding (still in the foil, but having removed the top covering) in the original casserole dish, sprinkled some sugar on it and let it heat at 300F for 45 minutes.  You could let it thaw and heat it for a shorter period of time, possibly 20-25 minutes.

This is good with a dollop of whipped cream, or plain cream poured over the top. If you like to gild lilies, it can be topped with ice cream, and/or caramel sauce. In that case, I think some  flaky salt sprinkled over all would keep it from being cloyingly sweet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower

This isn't comfort food exactly, but my mom made it last time she was here taking care of me, so there's the connection to comfort. The original article billed this as cauliflower even kids will eat, which wasn't true for my kids. But I sure love it. The combination of spices and nuts makes this a keeper, and it's super easy to roast while you're cooking other parts of the meal.


Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower

Source: Food52 via Slate

1 large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2 teas ground coriander (original recipe calls for coriander seed that you crush with the flat side of a chef's knife)
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas ground cinammon
3 T olive oil
1/2 teas salt (kosher or sea salt is nice)
3 T sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix spices, salt, and oil in a small bowl.

Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Whole Wheat Chocolate Pumpkin or Zucchini Waffles

Chocolate makes everything better. I laughed when I saw this photo on a friend's blog recently, about interesting product placement in our local grocery store.

I was looking for freezer meal recipes when I bumped into the recipe for these waffles. With two kinds of chocolate of course they're tasty, but they're healthy-ish, too, with whole wheat and a vegetable. I think they're sweet enough just on their own, with a little butter, but the original recipe recommended serving them with syrup. These waffles freeze well. Simply defrost for a minute or two, then pop in the toaster, and you end up with a crisp waffle with melty chocolate chips: a perfect breakfast or snack. My little guys loved them.

Mom made them for me recently. And when I pulled them out of the freezer after she left, they were all the more comforting because she had made them.

Couldn't keep little hands away!


Whole Wheat Chocolate Pumpkin or Zucchini Waffles

Source: Thriving Home

1 1/2 c whole wheat or spelt flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1 1/2 teas cinnamon
1/4 teas salt
1/2 c cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c coconut oil, melted (butter would work)
2 eggs
1 3/4 c milk (rice or almond milk would work)
1 teas vanilla
1 c pureed pumpkin or shredded zucchini
1 c chocolate chips 

Mix dry ingredients (flour through cocoa) in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar and melted coconut oil. Whisk in beaten eggs, milk and pureed pumpkin.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (do not over mix). Stir in chocolate chips. Cook using waffle iron, until done. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Brown Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn

We find ourselves in need of comfort food these days.

Once during a class I was asked to imagine my most comforting meal as it cooked in a kitchen. Many of my classmates imagined things like a pot roast, with potatoes and carrots. My meal was chicken noodle soup and sweet sourdough bread.

Popcorn is another ultimate comfort food for me. Unusual, I know, but I think it must be tied to my memories of watching movies with my family every Friday night growing up. We would pop big bowls of air-popped popcorn, then add butter and salt. And we'd gather in front of the TV to watch something new or an old favorite.

When I left home for college, my mom gave me a hot-air popper, and I still use it. In fact, one of the first things I made in my new apartment as a freshman was popcorn, and I didn't have a microwave yet so I had to melt the butter on the stove. My inexperience with American stoves after living in Europe led to a kitchen fire and a big mess. Luckily there was no permanent damage. All in pursuit of a little comfort by a lonely and homesick freshman!

There are many ways to prepare popcorn, but let me share this tip from Alton Brown as an easy way to get air-popped popcorn without a popper.


Brown Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn

Source: Alton Brown's Good Eats TV show

Place 1/3 c popcorn kernels in a regular brown paper bag, like what you'd use for a child's lunch. Fold the top over a couple of times, and staple it on both sides. Cook in the microwave for several minutes, or until the popcorn slows to a pop every couple of seconds. Enjoy as is, or pour into a bowl and add 1 T butter and salt to taste.