Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup
The cooling temperatures, shorter days and changing leaves have got me craving soup. A fall soup, of course! In years past squash soup has been my go-to when the chilly weather arrives. Thinking I might switch that up a bit, I considered a beet soup, but then I spied some beautiful sweet potatoes at the farmers’ market. Decision made!

This soup was our first course when Pete’s parents came for lunch last weekend. It was so good, I had to cook up another batch for this week’s lunches and added a little kick with cayenne pepper, making a really good soup downright fabulous. You can vary the amount depending on your heat preference, or leave it out altogether if you prefer.

Topping off the soup Monday was a little dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds. Today, I threw in some leftover cooked wild rice before I heated it up and it was a great combination. Use your imagination or just have the soup plain, regardless, the flavors will be like a warm blanket snuggling you through the change of seasons. Enjoy!

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon good quality curry powder (I used Madras-style curry)

¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” size pieces

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk (regular or light)

Salt & pepper to taste

Greek yogurt, fennel fronds, toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, for garnish

Cooked wild rice makes a good addition for a more filling version (stir in wild rice after soup is done and heat through)

Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onion until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add curry and cayenne and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds, until spices are fragrant. Add sweet potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring soup to a low boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

Turn off heat and blend soup, using an immersion blender, until completely smooth and velvety. Add coconut milk and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds and/or mix in some cooked wild rice for a more filling soup. Makes about 6 good size servings.



Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Caramel Drizzle

Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Caramel Drizzle
On this beautiful fall day with weather that couldn’t be more perfect, two of my favorite people were our guests for lunch. Ginny and Jack, Pete’s lovely parents, joined us for a meal full of some of my favorites of the season. Sweet potatoes got curried and blended into soup, wild rice and sharp cheddar made their way onto a honey whole wheat-crusted pizza, and apples & cinnamon were the stars of the dessert, apple walnut cake with cinnamon whipped cream and caramel drizzle.
Curried sweet potato soupWild Rice Pizza

The cake and whipped cream are my takes on recipes in gifted chef Chloe Coscarelli’s vegan cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen, and the caramel drizzle is from her website. If a vegan version isn’t a must, you could make a more traditional caramel sauce using butter or do what I did and pick up a jar of Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, which I think is as good or better than homemade and doesn’t have any of the scary or unpronounceable ingredients that store-bought stuff often does.

The cake, whipped cream and caramel drizzle can all be made a day or two before—just warm the caramel a bit before serving so it’s drizzleable. The inclusion of almond meal (also called almond flour) and some whole wheat pastry flour give this dessert heart-healthy protein and the benefits of whole grain, and with the addition of super-food status walnuts, not even an ounce of guilt should be felt over this tantalizing treat! Enjoy!

Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Caramel Drizzle

1 cup almond meal (also called almond flour)

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup grapeseed or canola oil

½ cup pressed apple cider

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

3 medium Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp (or other sweet apples), peeled and finely chopped

1 ½ tablespoons turbinado or other coarse grain sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, cider, vanilla, and vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mixed just until combined—do not overmix. Fold in the walnuts and chopped apple.

Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until center is set and cake lightly browned. Place on wire rack to cool.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Solids from one can of coconut milk (not light), (chill can overnight; don’t shake can before opening)

½ cup powdered sugar (or more to taste)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ – 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes. Place coconut solids in bowl and beat until smooth and thick. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and beat to incorporate. Refrigerate at least two hours. Give it a whisk just before serving. This keeps in the fridge for several days.

Caramel Drizzle

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup vegan, non-hydrogenated, margarine (Earth Balance is good)

4 teaspoons almond or rice milk

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, heat brown sugar, margarine, and non-dairy milk, stirring frequently.  Once mixture comes together, increase heat to medium-high and let cook for one to two more minutes, until it begins to boil and the bubbles move to the middle of the caramel. Remove from heat.

To serve, drizzle caramel over a dessert plate. Place a square of cake in the middle of the plate and top with a big dollop of whipped cream. Drizzle with more caramel. Makes about 9 servings.


Five-Spiced Apple Potato Hash

Hash and eggs
Fall came roaring in today with highs only in the 40s and sideways rain. I love it! I realize the actual change of seasons came over a week ago, but this is the first real autumn-feeling day we’ve had so far, and I’m happy as can be.

Appropriately, apples arrived at the farmers’ market last month, and I’ve been incorporating them into salads, sandwiches and soups ever since. This morning they made their way into my breakfast in the form of a hash. A good breakfast hash is true comfort food, and there’s no better time for comfort food than a blustery, rainy day made pretty by a wind-blown palette of gold, crimson, orange, brown and green outside the kitchen window.

Chinese five spice powder can be found at Asian foods stores, co-ops, well-stocked grocery stores and online. The actual number of spices it contains often is actually more than five (China Bowl Select, the brand I used, has six), and the spices can vary too, but typically contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel, all great compliments to apples! I didn’t peel the apples and potatoes, but if your preference is to do so, go for it.

The optional apple cider vinaigrette (recipe below) is from the newest addition to my collection, Edible Twin Cities: The Cookbook. It can be made ahead of time, and is so versatile–great on both side and main-dish salads, drizzled in fall-themed soups, and on sandwiches.  Adding another layer of flavor, it’s a nice touch, however, if you don’t have time, just use the yogurt as-is, and the hash will still be delicious. Topped with perfectly poached or fried eggs alongside a slice of toasted good quality bread and jam, it’ll warm your insides and start your day off right. Enjoy!
Five-Spiced Apple Potato Hash

Five-Spiced Apple Potato Hash

1 tablespoon butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 large russet or 2 medium gold potatoes, cooked and cut into ½ inch chunks

1 medium sweet apple (honey crisp, gala, fuji, sweet 16), cored, seeded, and chopped

½ cup diced celery

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped fennel (reserve some fennel fronds for garnish)

¼ cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon apple cider vinaigrette (optional – recipe follows)

1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A handful of chopped, toasted walnuts

Heat butter or olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add apple, celery, and onion and cook about three minutes. Stir in fennel, sprinkle with salt, and cook another minute or two. Toss in the potatoes, sprinkle with a bit more salt, a few grinds of pepper and the 5-spice powder. Cook until potatoes get a little browned.

Mix yogurt with apple cider vinaigrette (if using) and stir into potato mixture. Add the shredded cheddar and stir until cheese melts. Stir in the walnuts. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve topped with poached or fried eggs, fennel fronds and a side of toast for a hearty breakfast. Serves 2-4.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
From Edible Twin Cities: The Cookbook

1 cup apple cider

1 honeycrisp apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

½ cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup canola or grapeseed oil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, bring cider to a boil and cook at a low boil until it’s reduced by half.

Place the apple in a food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in the vinegar, mustard, honey, and reduced cider; puree until smooth. With the machine running, add the oils in a steady stream and process until the mixture emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parm
The first time I had eggplant parmesan was about 10 years ago, the night before a 30k race when several fellow runners and I carb-loaded at an Italian restaurant. There weren’t a lot of vegetarian options, so I went for the eggplant dish. It was divine—one that left me craving it long afterwards. And I had a fantastic race the next morning, even finishing so far ahead of the time I suggested my family and friends be there that they hadn’t even arrived yet when I crossed the finish line. The only thing I had done differently than other races and longer training runs was the eggplant parm. That had to be it!

It wasn’t until later that I found out this dish is so good, in part, because of the breading, frying (eggplant absorbs oil like crazy), mozzarella, and of course, the namesake parmesan. It was definitely not something that could be enjoyed often and I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve had it since. And no, I didn’t experience the same fantastic results when I indulged in it the night before a race the next time–unfortunately.

I tend to over-shop at the farmers’ market and sometimes oftentimes need to improvise in order to incorporate everything that looks so good on display, but turns out to be way too much for two people. That’s how this lighter, but still crave-able, version of an Italian restaurant classic came about.

A big pail of roma/plum tomatoes was made into several batches of the fantastic arrabbiata sauce blogged about recently.

Arrabbiata Sauce
My plan was to freeze it all, but I knew it would pair so well with the abundance of eggplant on hand, so I set one jar aside. Baking rather than frying the eggplant would certainly help the calorie count, plus I decided to use 2% cottage cheese in place of mozzarella. You could also use 1%, but I don’t know if fat-free would work. The pasta is optional—leaving it out results in fewer servings, but by no means decreases the feeling of gastronomic satisfaction. Enjoy and cue the Mambo Italiano!
Baked EggplantCooked & Bubbly

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Arrabbiata sauce (about 3-4 cups), or other red sauce (marinara, etc.—add 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper if you want to spice the marinara up)

2 medium eggplants (a total of about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick rounds

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

¾ cup white whole wheat flour

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste (it will be used several different times)

2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water

2 cups panko bread crumbs (whole wheat, if you can find it)

1 ½ cups 1% or 2% cottage cheese (I used 2%)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried parsley, or a tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

½ teaspoon dried oregano, or half a tablespoon fresh

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti, cooked al dente (optional)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish, chopped if large

Place peeled & sliced eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes (this extracts any bitter flavor—some argue it isn’t is really necessary, but if you have the extra half hour, what can it hurt?). Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry with clean kitchen towels.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray two jelly roll pans with olive oil cooking spray.

Set up an assembly line of three shallow bowls. Into the first one, place the white whole wheat flour.

Into the second bowl, lightly beat the two eggs with two tablespoons water.

Into the third, mix the panko bread crumbs with ¼ cup parmesan and a little salt and pepper.

Dredge eggplant slices in flour mixture, then dip in egg, and finally in panko to coat. Place on prepared jelly roll pans. Spray tops of eggplant with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, flip eggplant slices and spray again with olive oil cooking spray, rotate pan, and cook 15 more minutes, until golden brown. Keep oven on at 375 degrees F—you’ve got more baking to do.

Meanwhile, mix cottage cheese, ¼ cup parmesan, garlic, parsley, oregano, and salt & pepper. Set aside.

Pour about 1 cup arrabbiata sauce or other red sauce into bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Layer half the baked eggplant slices over sauce (you may need to crowd them in). Put a dollop of the cottage cheese mixture on each eggplant slice. Drizzle about ¾ cup sauce over this. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices and cottage cheese mixture. Drizzle another ¾ cup sauce over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of the last ½ cup parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, rotating pan half way through cooking time. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and things are bubbling. Turn oven to broil, and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes (watch it carefully and remove earlier, if necessary), until the cheese is lightly browned.

If serving with pasta, while the eggplant combo is baking, bring a big pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Cook whole wheat spaghetti to al dente. Drain, return to pan, and drizzle a little (about a teaspoon) olive oil over it and toss using tongs (this will keep it from sticking together). Cover so that it keeps warm until ready to serve.

Toward the end of the eggplant mixture cooking time, heat remaining arrabbiata sauce in a small saucepan and keep warm.

To serve, place a pile of spaghetti (if using) on each plate, and top with a generous portion of the eggplant/sauce/cheese concoction. Drizzle with the warmed sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serves 6-8 if you include the pasta, 4-6 servings without, depending on the size appetites you’re accommodating.


Whole Wheat Cinnamon-Raisin English Muffins

English muffin basket
Several years ago I started buying whole wheat cinnamon-raisin English muffins at Trader Joe’s. I’d bring one to work each morning to toast for breakfast, spread with peanut or almond butter. Then Trader Joe’s stopped carrying them, so I switched to their plain whole wheat version. Eventually the store changed brands and the new one tasted more like a dry biscuit than an English muffin. My working breakfast wasn’t nearly as enjoyable.

It took me a while, but I finally looked at a few recipes for homemade English muffins and realized it’s not all that complicated to make your own and, for those of you intimidated by yeast bread baking, there’s no kneading required! I figured they had to be better than what I was currently buying, and they were–by leaps and bounds–no going back to store-bought for me!

Unlike most yeast breads, English muffins aren’t cooked in the oven, but in a skillet to give them that signature browning on each side. Using English muffin rings will ensure the appropriate shape, but you can get by without them too—just nudge the dough to get each muffin as round as you can. The imperfect ones I made before I ordered the rings tasted just as good! Enjoy!

Raised dough

Dough in muffin rings
Muffins cooking
Toasted English muffin

Whole Wheat Cinnamon-Raisin English Muffins

Adapted from this Blogging Over Thyme recipe

1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or organic sugar

2 ½ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

1 cup warm skim milk or almond milk

¾ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup seedless raisins

Grapeseed, canola or other neutral flavored oil (for greasing skillet)

Cornmeal or semolina flour (for dusting pan)

Place warm water in a small bowl and whisk in yeast and maple syrup or sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and cinnamon. With a wooden spoon, stir in yeast mixture and milk, mixing until fully incorporated. Gently stir in raisins.

Cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Brush skillet with about a teaspoon of oil. Sprinkle with a little cornmeal or semolina flour. Place English muffin rings, sprayed with cooking spray, (if using) in skillet. Scoop about ¼+ cup dough into each muffin ring and spread dough to edges of rings. If not using rings, drop dough by the heaping quarter cup onto skillet and nudge it into a 3 ½-4 inch round. Cook for about 3 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Using tongs, remove rings and sprinkle muffin tops with a little cornmeal. Flip English muffins, cover pan and cook for another 3 minutes or so (you may need to lower the heat slightly if bottoms are getting too brown). Continue flipping muffins every couple minutes (to ensure even browning) until they are cooked through, a total of 10-12 minutes. Move cooked English muffins to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Using a fork, split cooled muffins and toast them. Top with butter, jam, honey, peanut or almond butter—whatever strikes your fancy. Makes 8 English muffins.

Arrabbiata Sauce with Pasta

Arrabbiata sauce and pasta
My house still smells of Italy! The aromas of garlic, olive oil, red pepper, and tomatoes floated from my kitchen as the sauce cooked and spread through every room. This Belgian-French-Irish girl actually feels Italian! And you happily will too if you make Arrabbiata sauce.

Just a few fresh ingredients come together for one of the most flavorful (and spicy) sauces in Mediterranean cooking. Roma tomatoes at the peak of freshness are easy to find at the farmers’ market, as are local garlic and flat-leaf parsley.

Roma tomatoes
Then you only need good quality extra-virgin olive oil, dried red pepper, sea salt, plus whole wheat penne (the pasta traditionally served with Arrabbiata sauce) or rotini (or use your favorite gluten-free pasta, if desired) for a dish to pair with a glass of robust red wine–a truly perfect meal (especially if you dine al fresco). And it’s so easy! Enjoy!

Garlic and red pepper

CookingJar o'sauce

Arrabbiata Sauce with Pasta

2 ¼ to 2 ½ pounds ripe roma or plum tomatoes

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 large or 6 smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Dried red pepper, crushed to make 2-3 teaspoons (depending on your preferred level of heat)

1 teaspoon sea salt

Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1 pound whole wheat penne or rotini pasta, cooked al dente (or use your favorite gluten-free pasta)

Wash tomatoes and, using a sharp knife, score each with an X just through the skin. Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Transfer to ice water to stop the cooking for about 30 seconds. Drain and peel the tomatoes from where the skin curls back at the X. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, breaking up tomatoes as they cook and the sauce reduces. For a chunky sauce, crush the tomatoes with a spoon or potato masher. If you’d like a smoother sauce, remove from heat and process with an immersion blender until smooth.

Serve in bowls over al dente pasta. Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley. Makes about six main dish servings. Cin cin!




Chive Pesto with Roasted New Potatoes & Tofu over Quinoa

Plated with flower pieces
After a relaxing weekend getaway to the cabin and North Shore, where we took in outstanding music (Pushing Chain and Alison Scott) and explored Grand Marais’ Fisherman’s Picnic festival; getting a really great massage after returning home; and a spate of ideal summer weather, I’m in a particularly good mood. Life is more than good, it’s grand!

The wild flowers along Lake Superior’s North Shore are in full, vibrant bloom and stunning! I took lots of photos near the cabin—wild roses, lupine, daisies, chive flowers, and several other varieties that were oh so pretty, but I have no idea what they were.
DaisyButterflyWild RoseHappy Otis

Pine Cones
Especially excited about the chive flowers, we cut a ton of chives to bring home and included the flowers to use as a garnish. Their vivid lavender hue adds a splash of color to any dish, plus, they’re edible, imparting a pleasant mild onion flavor. Use as a garnish, in a compound butter, an omelet filling, or in gnocchi, this is a versatile flower.
Chive flowers

There was no way I’d use the amount of chives we brought home simply by adding them to scrambled eggs, or chopping them over a salad, and the idea of using them in a pesto came to me as I woke up from a nap (I’m not the only one who has recipe ideas come to them in their sleep, am I?). Pesto would be nice way to use a good portion of that “ton” of chives and freezes well. Not really feeling like pasta to go with that pesto, I decided to use some pretty little red potatoes from the farmers market and opted to roast them with a little extra-firm tofu, serve it all over a bed of organic quinoa, and, of course, garnish with chive flowers.
ChoppingPotatoes & TofuPesto topped

The pesto recipe is adapted from James Beard Award-winner Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table. In the past, any pesto I’ve made has been in the food processor, but this recipe was unique because of the chopping involved. As mentioned in previous posts, I find chopping, dicing, mincing—really all kitchen knife work—very therapeutic and relaxing, so this intrigued me and sounded delicious (although, if you don’t have the time or inclination for the chopping, this would be equally delicious all whirred up in a food processor)! Enjoy!
Plated with flowers

Chive Pesto with Roasted New Potatoes & Tofu over Quinoa

Pesto adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 large garlic cloves

1 tightly-packed cup of coarsely chopped chives

3 tightly-packed tablespoons fresh basil

1/4 medium white onion

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Roasted potatoes and tofu:
1 ½ pounds small red new potatoes, washed and halved

6 oz. extra firm tofu, cubed

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 ¾ cup water


Chive flowers, if available, for garnish (optional)

Pile the kosher salt on a chopping board. Crush garlic into it with the side of a large knife. Chop fine. Chop in the chives, basil, and the onion until very finely minced. Then coarsely chop in the almonds. Blend with 2 tablespoons oil right on the board, seasoning to taste with salt & pepper.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place halved new potatoes in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper. Place potatoes, cut side down, on a rimmed baking pan and roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss tofu cubes with ½ tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper. After the potatoes have roasted for 10 minutes, rotate the pan and add the tofu to one section of the pan, in an even layer. Roast potatoes and tofu for another 15 minutes or so, until potatoes are pierced easily with a knife. Remove to a serving bowl and toss with the chive pesto (you may not use all of it—gauge it depending on your preference).

While the potatoes and tofu roast, rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a mesh sieve. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa with 1 ¾ cups water and a generous pinch of salt. Cover and heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low and cook about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork.

To serve, place a couple scoops of quinoa on each plate and top with potato-tofu-pesto mixture. Garnish with chive flowers, if you have them. Serves 4-6.