Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pfeffernuesse (Pepper Nuts)

I remember my Swedish grandma making these spiced cookies. :)

3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C coffee
1 egg
1 tsp anise extract
3 C flour
1 tsp each: salt, soda, white pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg

Cream together the sugars, coffee, egg and anise. Add all at once the flour, salt, soda, and spices. Roll dough into long, thin 'logs' and cut on the diagonal, 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes.

Grandma used to dunk these in her coffee. They are a crunchy cookie (not chewy)...kind of like little mini-biscotti...spicy biscotti. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Easy Tomato-Tortellini Soup

28 oz chicken or vegetable broth
10 oz pkg store-bought tortellini
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 11-oz can tomato soup
½ an 8-oz tub cream cheese spread with chive & onion
optional garnish: chopped chives

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to boil. Add tortellini; reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes. In a bowl whisk ½ C of broth with cream cheese spread until very smooth. Add cream cheese mixture to saucepan along with condensed soup and diced tomatoes. Heat through. Garnish with chopped chives.

Pumpkin Bread

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese
¼ C butter
1½ C brown sugar
4 eggs
1 16-oz can pumpkin
3½ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°.

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs individually, mixing well after each one. Blend in pumpkin.

Add combined dry ingredients, mixing just until thoroughly moistened. Pour batter into 2 greased 9x5" loaf pans. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Reduce baking time for smaller loaf pans or muffins. Muffins = about 30-40 minutes.)

Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Optional: For softer/moister crusts, baste the tops with butter while still warm.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup (or ANY vegetable!)

2 Tbls olive oil
1½ lbs sweet potato (4-5 cups)
1 lg onion, diced
1 Tbls butter
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
3 C chicken broth
1 to 1½ C cream (or half & half, whole milk)
salt & pepper
SEASONING & SPICES: ½ C brown sugar, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, ½ tsp cayenne pepper
Optional GARNISH: chopped honey-roasted peanuts or cran-apple relish

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1" chunks.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in large/deep sauté pan. Add sweet potatoes and onion; sauté, stirring very little at first, then more often, until potatoes and onions start to turn golden brown (about 7 or 8 minutes).

Reduce heat to low and add butter and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are caramel in color (about another 10 minutes). Add spices and continue to sauté until fragrant (less than a minute).

Add broth; bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender. Purée until very smooth. (I use my immersion blender and purée right in the pot.)

Add cream, blend. Salt and pepper as desired. Serve hot with chopped honey-roasted peanuts or cran-apple relish as a garnish. A splash of hot sauce also adds a tasty zip to this sweet and creamy soup.

VARIATIONS: This basic soup recipe can do a LOT just by substituting different vegetables and spice/herb blends instead of the sweet potato and sugar/ginger/nutmeg/cayenne used above. Try any of these or experiment with your own:

Potato Rosemary Soup:
Vegetable: 1½ lbs peeled russet potatoes (You may not want to purée all of the potatoes; leaving some in chunks adds texture to the soup.)
Spices: 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 2 tsp rosemary
Garnish: crumbled bacon

Carrot Curry Soup:
Vegetable: 1½ lbs carrots
Spices: 2 Tbls curry powder
Garnish: chopped roasted pistachios

Cinnamon Butternut Squash Soup:
Vegetable: 1½ lbs peeled, seeded butternut squash
Spices: 1½ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ cayenne
Garnish: store-bought apple chips

Broccoli Mustard Soup:
Vegetable: 1½ lbs broccoli (7-8 Cups), peel stems before chopping to 1" chunks
Spices: 1½ tsp dried mustard, ½ tsp basil, ½ oregano, ¼ cayenne
Garnish: toasted pine nuts (To toast, heat skillet over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts; stir and shake skillet frequently until nuts are fragrant and golden brown.)

Italian Stew

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken
2 Tbls olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
1 Tbls capers, drained and minced
1 lemon
1/2 C white wine
2 C chicken broth
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1 8-oz pkg/jar artichoke hearts
1/2 C flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 C pitted green olives
salt & pepper
optional: lemon wedges

Cut chicken, potatoes and artichoke hearts into approximate 3/4" cubes.

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook, turning at least once, until browned (about 5 minutes). Remove from pot and set aside. (While chicken is browning, press or mince garlic cloves; zest and juice lemon.)

Reduce heat. Add minced garlic, minced capers, and lemon zest; stir just intil fragrant (1 minute or less). Add wine, scraping browned bits from chicken off bottom of pan; simmer until reduced by about 1/2 (2-4 minutes). Add broth, potatoes, and chicken and return to simmer. Lower heat slightly to maintain simmering. Cover,and cook 20-30 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts and parsley, stirring to combine. Simmer until heated through, or until potatoes are tender.

Cut olives in half if desired. Add olives shortly before serving, allowing time for them to get thoroughly heated. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, with lemon wedges on the side.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

with Chili Cran-apple Relish

1 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbls butter
1 bay leaf
1 medium yellow onion
3 Tbls flour
2 tsp thyme
1 Tbls hot sauce
6 C chicken broth
2 29-oz cans pumpkin purée
2 C heavy cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 C brown sugar
2 Tbls cinnamon

Finely chop the onion. Heat olive oil and butter in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add bay leaf, onion, salt & pepper. Cook until tender (5-7 minutes). Add flour, thyme and hot sauce; blend. Whisk in chicken broth and bring just to boiling. Remove bay leaf; purée. (I have a hand-held immersion blender that works great!) Whisk in pumpkin. Simmer to thicken slightly (10 minutes). Add cream, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Lower heat; simmer until ready to serve. (You can always choose to start with less sugar and taste test until you're satisfied.) If desired, serve with Hot Cran-apple Relish. If you don't go for that, a simple splash of extra hot sauce adds a subtle yet satisfying 'kick' to a bowl of this sweet and creamy soup.

Chili Cran-apple Relish
1 green apple
1/2 red onion
2 Tbls lemon juice
1 C dried cranberries
1 tsp chili powder

Finely chop the apple and onion. Combine all ingredients. Serve a couple spoonfuls of relish on top of a bowl of pumpkin soup.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tricolor Tapenade

(It's TRIcolor if you use red pepper and green and black olives, which is what the original recipe calls for; but any pepper and olive combination works - and can be very colorful!)

Tapenade is sometimes called "poor man's caviar." This recipe makes a tasty and colorful appetizer with crackers or toasted bread.

1/2 C finely chopped pepper
1 Tbls olive oil
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/2 C chopped olives

Use a food processor or finely dice by hand any combination of green, red, orange or yellow pepper(s). You could also use store bought roasted sweet peppers. Stir in 1 Tbls olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano. Spread in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. (I line mine with aluminum foil for easy clean up!)

Roast the peppers under the broiler for 10-15 minutes or until they start to 'toast' and brown on the tops. Remove from oven. Spoon into serving bowl. If the peppers aren't as sweet as you'd like, stir in a tablespoon of sugar. (I usually do this. It makes a nice contrast with the salty brine of the olives.)

Finely chop olives - use black or pimento stuffed green olives or a combination of both. Add to peppers and stir to combine. Refrigerate; serve cold.

Serve with crackers, bagel chips, toasted thin sliced French bread, etc.