Cauliflower Bacon Bisque

So a couple Saturdays back, I needed to do something with some leftover bacon in the fridge. (I know, right?! How the HELL did THAT happen? I do not know), and that made me think of my mom’s potato soup when I was a kid. Only we don’t do potatoes now, but we do cauliflower and….wait! That’s it! And there you have it, another snap shot of the way my brain works. 

CauliflowerBisque3BCmed

Regardless of brain workings, this soup is delicious. And easy. And filling. And fast. Plus, bacon.
When I made this again for the blog, I had to cook the bacon. This added some time – so plan ahead and make extra bacon at breakfast, then hide it.

Three main ingredients.
Three main ingredients.

Ya’ll know we can’t do dairy so much, so I made this with cashew cream. And really, you should make it that way the first time because it is AMAZEBALLS. Or, wimp out and use heavy cream – because I am not your dairy police. That’s between you and your intestines.

BACON!!!
BACON!!!

Hey, look! There’s a slice of that homemade bread featured a few weeks ago!

Give this bad boy a whirl, and share your results!
For the cashew cream
½ c. raw cashew pieces
¾ c. warm water
½ tsp. corn starch
½ tsp. nutritional yeast
For the Soup
20 oz. pkg frozen cauliflower
6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 oz)
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
½ white onion, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1.5 qt. chicken stock
S&P to taste
Instructions
If you are doing this with cashew cream: put cashews and water in your blender, set aside to soak the cashews.
For the soup
Cold pan fry up that bacon. Chop 5 of the slices and reserve the 6th to crumble as garnish. (Now, this is assuming you can control yourself around bacon. If you cannot, cook extra slices accordingly.)
Take 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease and use it to sweat the onions in a big soup pot.
Once they’re clear, add the thyme, nutmeg, cauliflower, chopped bacon and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Simmer about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is fall-apart soft.
At this point, if you are using the cashew cream, put the corn starch and the yeast in the blender and set it on high/liquefy for about two minutes. You may need to stop/scrape midway. You should end up with a super-smooth mixture that looks like cream. Rub a drop between your fingers – it should not feel grainy. If it does, give it another minute or so until it is super smooth.
Scoop the cooked cauliflower (and whatever onions and bacon make it along for the ride) in to the blender. Keep the lid open a crack (so you don’t have a soup explosion) and puree until smooth. You may need to add a little broth to make it work. Pour all that back in to the soup pot with the broth and simmer about ten or fifteen more minutes. (If you eschew the cashew, put enough liquid in the blender with the cauliflower to puree it; then you can add 1 c. heavy cream and simmer for the same amount of time.)
Serve it up, garnished with some of that bacon and a sprinkle of more nutmeg.
Notes
This reheats great – I have not tried freezing it, but the next day for lunch? Super deelish.
And – this is soup consistency soup. If you want a super-thick, stand up your spoon kinda purée, cut the liquid in half. And use the food processor to purée instead of the blender.
Bon appétit!

Servings 8
Calories 197
Fat 12 gg
Sodium 430 mg
Carbs 14 g
Protein 10 g

Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette

So, this week I’m making what every French child knows how to make by the age of 8. (Right before they start smoking and after they’ve been drinking wine, of course….)

Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.
Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.

Why do we all buy salad dressings? Sometimes when I’m on auto pilot at the grocery and find myself reaching for a bottle, I stop to think, “you idiot.”

Seriously – is there anything easier?  Make it at home – control what’s in it.

mincy mince mince
mincy mince mince

 

Why not try making your own?  Fresh, easy, delicious; and you probably already have all the ingredients and don’t even know it. Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and add parsley and thyme.  Or cracked green peppercorns. Whatever. Just play with your food.

Seriously wish you could smell this right now...
Seriously wish you could smell this right now…

This is a big batch – fills a whole bottle from Cost Plus. Feel free to halve or quarter it, or double and give some to the neighbors…..

And, I whisked it – but of course later remembered this great tip from Cooks Illustrated – just put everything in a jar with a lid and shake it til it’s emulsified.  Remember those Good Seasons italian dressing cruets when we were kids? Like that…..
Try it! Share how it turned out.
Ingredients
¾ c. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1.5 – 2 c. good oil.
Instructions
In a large bowl, or blender, or 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together everything but the oil.
While you’re still whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until you get an emulsion. (It will thicken, and become dull instead of shiny.)
Keeps in the fridge for at least a week.
Notes
Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and parsley and thyme. Or cracked green peppercorns.
For the oil, I like to go half plain veg oil and half extra virgin olive oil. I think going all olive overpowers this. Save that for the balsamic vinaigrettes – they can handle it.
Serving size is 2Tbsp – or 1oz.

Servings 24
Calories 28
Fat 28 g
Sodium 47 mg
Carbs 0 g
Protein 0 g

Poolish what? Bread. Again.

Now, remember I warned you I was obsessed with finding a good recipe.  I have. This blog is amazing.

 BouleSlicedC

 It’s a pain to read through the first time, but the recipe is actually pretty easy.  I am discovering that the secret to the kind of bread I like is something called a “pre-ferment”, and I’ve been playing with the poolish kind. 

Boules

If you have a kitchen aide, this is really easy.  You just need to be home on a Saturday til about midday.  

You just read the recipe, right? Now, of course I cheat. Because Karen.  I make the poolish in the bowl of the Kitchen Aide Friday afternoon when I get home from work, and cover it with wax paper and a bread towel.  When I wake up Saturday, I pop it on the mixer with the bread hook and follow the steps.  Except, when she says to pull and fold the dough, I give it a spin for thirty seconds in the bowl, and just toss the bread towel over the mixer between times.  Why? Because it’s much neater, and I don’t have to either a) leave my counter crusted in flour for four hours, or b) clean the damn thing off every 45 minutes for four hours. 

BouleSlices 

This recipe makes a nice loaf that has a firm, moist inside and nice crust. I throw the bread towel over the loaves as soon as they come out of the oven so the crust isn’t too too hard.  Give John Frum’s blog a read – he has an amazing amount of knowledge. 

If you try it out, share your experience!

 

King Cake! Mardi Gras Bonus!

Happy Mardi Gras, Ya’ll!KingCake5med

Next to summer vacation, this is when I miss the classroom the most. Krewes. Shoebox floats. Parades. Float races. Crap shoot gumbo. And King Cake.

For years I used Emeril’s recipe. And it was a pain in the ass; especially because I made at least six cakes every year (one for each class, and of course one for Himself to take to work.)

KingCake3C

 

This year, I saw a new recipe.  She just throws everything together in the bowl. The filling is cinnamon and powdered sugar! Tried it – and it’s awesome. Truly streamlined and incredibly delicious. New tradition, here we come. 

Easy peasy
Easy peasy

For the cake
4 – 5 c. AP flour
1/2 c. sugar
1.5 tsp salt
4.5 tsp yeast (or two pkgs.)
3/4 c. whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 c. warm tap water
2 eggs @ room temp
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temp
zest of half an orange or tangelo
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
For the filling
2 Tbsp. melted butter
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar, mixed with
3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
For the egg wash
1 egg mixed with 2 Tbsp milk.
For the glaze
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla sugar, or a few drops of vanilla extract
zest from the other half of the orange
enough juice from the orange to make the glaze
For the decorations
Yellow, green, purple sprinkle sugars
plastic baby
Instructions
In your large mixing bowl (or your mixer bowl), put all the dry ingredients (start w/ 4 c. flour) and give them a quick whirl.
Spray another large mixing bowl with cooking spray.
Microwave your milk for 30 seconds, then use a candy thermometer to make sure it is not over 115*.
Pour the milk, room temp eggs and butter, and water in to the dry ingredients.
Stir to combine, then knead by hand (10 min) or with your dough hook (5 mins).
You should have a very elastic, sticky dough. (You may need to a *little* more flour. Avoid the temptation to over flour, though. It’s brioche. It’s sticky, but should still pull away from the counter or the bowl’s sides.)
Ball up the dough, and put it in the greased bowl.
Cover the bowl with waxed paper and then a cloth and let proof until double. (This took an hour in my oven on proof; on the counter it might be about and hour and a half)
At the end of the time, flour your board and dump the dough on it.
Roll it in to a rectangle about 18″ x 24″, testing to make sure it isn’t sticking to your board.
Spread the melted butter evenly over the whole thing, then sprinkle with the powdered sugar/cinnamon.mixture.
Take a pizza roller, and slice the dough longways in to three long strips.
Roll each strip longways in to a tube, as if you were making cinnamon rolls.
Braid the three strips.
Place your braid on a parchment-lined baking sheet, connecting the ends and making a circle or oval shape.
Cover back with that wax paper and towel, and proof until double again (about 45 mins.)
Once double, preheat your oven to 350*.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and interior temp is 200*.
Cool. Flip it over, slide the baby in the bottom at one of the braid seams. Flip it back.
Ice.
Eat.
Notes
Happy Mardi Gras

Servings 20
Calories 608
Fat 8 g
Sodium 196 mg
Carbs 118 g
Protein 15 g

Chorizo Lentil Soup

“Hmmm….how do I photograph lentils to make them look appetizing?” Another item to file in the “shit I never thought I’d hear myself say” folder.  But, seriously. How?

 ChorizoLentil1

I guess you are going to have to take my word for it.  In the winter I am often obsessed with an italian sausage and lentil soup created by that genius Beth at Budget Bytes.  It was cold. Any rainy. And a hearty bowl sounded just perfect! Plus, I’ve been trying to find that “just right” bread recipe……it was destiny.  (More on the bread next week…)

ChorizoLentil4

Billy bought some chorizo for our breakfast mini omelettes, and I started to think how good that would taste with lentils. (The chorizo, you guys, not the omelettes.) So, poof! Soup!  Make some. It’s fairly quick and easy. Himself can’t have carrots anymore, so the base is stock, onion and celery only.  Feel free to add two peeled carrots sliced for soup.  And, this does work with Soyrizo – you just have to add it at the end with the spinach.

ChorizoLentil2

This is made with Mexican style chorizo, by the way, not the Spanish kind. Although that would also be very tasty. And, for chrissakes, get the pork.  Unless you go the soyrizo route – but we’ve already talked about that.  As a reformed vegetarian, I can’t bitch now.

 This soup is awesome. And easily serves four very hungry people, add some good bread and salad and it’s show time.
Ingredients
½ # pork chorizo, cooked. Use the good kind that’s lean. It makes a difference. (or, use Soyrizo)
½ # lentils. I used green, but yellow or orange would be tasty if creamier.
½ white onion, in ½” dice
3 stalks of celery, sliced in soup chunk size
2 quarts chicken or pork stock
½ package frozen chopped spinach
S&P to taste
Instructions
Wash and pick through the lentils. Rocks and bad bits are rare these days, but not impossible.
In a large stock pot, brown the meat. If you didn’t listen and got greasy chorizo, drain it. Toss in the veg and sauté with the meat for a couple minutes. Pour in the lentils and the stock. Simmer about an hour. (Or on low in the crock pot while you’re at work. If you use a crock pot, only use 1.5 qts stock). Ten minutes before serving, take the stick blender to half the pot. This breaks ups some of the lentils and thickens the soup. Then, add the spinach give it a stir and set the dinner table. (If you’re going the Soyrizo route, add it now.)
Notes
Serve with lime and hot sauce. Or a sprinkle of smoked paprika and sliced bitter olives. Or with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You get the idea. You are going to LOVE this.

Servings 4
Calories 228
Fat 9 g
Sodium 830 mg
Carbs 21 g
Protein 16 g

So about that Four Hour Baguette….

I’ve been seeing this puppy hopping about on Pinterest. Four hour baguette! The pictures looked so credible – surely it must be true! So easy! So fast!

How can you resist bread, hot from the oven?
How can you resist bread, hot from the oven?

 

 

This was some delicious white bread. But, francophile with a respectable amount of Parisian experience that I am, I simply cannot call this a baguette.  A baguette is more than a shape – it’s a specific weight, and crust, and texture.  And you can’t achieve those things in four hours, which I knew on the inside when I decided to try the recipe.  But hope springing eternal and all that crap.

mmmmmm
mmmmmm

Bread snobbery aside, this is a really good bread.  We enjoyed it with some chorizo lentil soup. Then gave lots to the neighbors so it wasn’t in the house.

Try it. Keep the dough a little stickier than your comfort level, though.  

Yes, we ate that entire loaf. Go ahead, judge me.
Yes, we ate that entire loaf. Go ahead, judge me.

Find the recipe here. 

And, of course, this opens the door to Karen’s Quest for the Perfect Home Baguette…… just don’t tell Bill.

Cranberry Sweet Rolls

I’ve been eyeing this recipe at Smitten Kitchen for ages, and finally took the plunge. The fact that I still have a shit ton of cranberries in the jumbo Costco bag in the freezer has nothing to do with this decision. Nothing, I tell you. mmmmm

mmmmm

What made me most want to try this (besides the fact that they look soooo good), is the overnight-in-the-fridge-bake-in-the-morning part.

How they looked this morning before going in...
How they looked this morning before going in…

 

....and with some glaze after they came out.
….and with some glaze after they came out.

 

I am lucky to have an oven with a “proof” setting. Although the original recipe said to set them out for a half hour then bake, they looked kind of puny when I took them out of the fridge. So, I set them in proof for 45 minutes, and am glad of it.

I swear yeast doughs always feel miraculous, don't they?
I swear yeast doughs always feel miraculous, don’t they?

 

When I make these again, I will add more orange. And let the dough stay stickier than I thought it should.  Her recipe is here.

Tangy cranberry swirled in a rich brioche. Yum.
Tangy Cranberry Swirled in a rich brioche. Yum.

Make some!!

 

 

Baked Tomatoes

Love those  Campari tomato clamshells from Costco.  We eat these. A lot. 

Somewhere between a cherry tomato and a regular tomato....
Somewhere between a cherry tomato and a regular tomato….

And, because it is winter we usually bake them with some olive oil, parmesan and S & P.

...just like the Grinch's heart....
…just like the Grinch’s heart….

Because Himself has to really limit the starches now, we needed to add a second veg option to dinner (and weekend breakfasts, too). This is simple and fast. And very, very tasty. 

Baked Tomatoes 6BCmed

 

Got 30 minutes? Let’s go!
Ingredients
4 Campari tomatoes, washed and sliced in half.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
S & P
Instructions
Preheat oven to 375*.
Place the tomatoes cut side up in a shallow baking dish.
Sprinkle with S & P.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 25 minutes. The cheese should be crispy brown on top of the toms
Serve immediately.
Notes
If they’re not brown at the end of the time, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to toast up that cheesy top. (Assuming you’ve used a pan that can take it, obviously….)
This is great with steak, roast chicken, omelettes, green beans, and just about anything you can think of.
You can sprinkle with some herbs before the cheese layer for variety: basil, tarragon, chives, etc. The cheese will seal the herbs in with the tomato’s juice and keep them from burning.

Servings 2
Calories 200
Fat 16 g
Sodium 161 mg
Carbs 10 g
Protein 5 g

Apple Pie

Butter, sugar, apples. Yum.
Butter, sugar, apples. Yum.

A funny thing happened on the way to pie.

I’ve been obsessing on Swedish apple pie lately. When I get that bug, I Google and Pinterest for recipes and mentally compare them to find or blend what I’d like to make.  At the same time, I’d come across this awesome quickie puff pastry recipe , and thought – oh, a galette!

Oh, wait, maybe with the Swedish style apple filling!

Ding! It was a date.

Then life happened.

PieMontageC

 

I decided to try a deep pan. Found a great recipe, only it used buttered graham cracker for the crust. Sounds too greasy! I’ll just use a pâte sucrée; I think the puff pastry is better suited to a galette. Make the dough. Roll it out. Only thing is, with a straight tall edge, the pie crust just slides down the pan. Shit. Fine, it won’t be deep dish. I’ll just use my 6” round tarte pans. Great! On to the filling!

I found the most awesome recipe (look at this!!! Look at that top crust!! Omg!  ) Get all the ingredients out of the fridge. I don’t have sour cream, but I do have half a container left of this gorgeous full-fat Greek style goatsmilk yogurt from the Farmer’s Market and that’ll do great. I got it before Christmas, but it should be fine!  Peel and slice the apples, mix them with their flour and sugar. Go to open the yogurt to make the mixture to pour on top, and…..it is green and hairy. Because, you know, real food. Not stuff from the grocery designed to stay fresh through the apocolypse. Shit again! Sigh. Fine. American style apple pie it is. Only with the fruit sliced like Swedish style. So, Swedish American apple pie.  SWAP. At least I tried for something a little different, right?…

Almost ready to bake....
Almost ready to bake….

Welcome to the insanity that is my foodie fixation. I’m exhausted. Glad I had some pie to boost my blood sugar.

So, I caved and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.
So, I caved and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.

With some vanilla icing, of course. To pay homage to the Swedish vanilla sauce…..

Butter, sugar, apples. Yum.

 
For the crust
1 recipe pâte brisée (use Martha’s – http://www.marthastewart.com/317858/pate-brisee-pie-dough) But here are the ingredients, so the nutritional calculator app will work)
2.5 c. AP flour
1 c. butter
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. ice water
For the filling
5 tart apples, peeled and sliced 1/4″
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. AP flour
Dash salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Topping
Cinnamon sugar
Vanilla glaze (powdered sugar, vanilla and water)
Instructions
Prepare, chill, and roll out the crust recipe and lay it in the pan. (Two 6″? One 10″? You choose.)
Preheat oven to 350*
Mix all the filling ingredients (except the butter) in a large bowl.
Dump the filling in the crust. Dot with the butter.
Fold the crust edges over, galette style, or crimp it, or go all fancy with a braided edge.
Bake about 40 mins, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden.
Cool to warm-ish, drizzle with the icing and EAT IT ALL.
Notes
I made two 6-inch pies, but this could do one 10-inch.

Servings 12
Calories 335
Fat 18 g
Sodium 213 mg
Carbs 42 g
Protein 3 g

Spicy Cherry Tomato Onion Jam, aka Grown Up Ketchup V2.0

 Cherry Tomato Jam

Our fabulous neighbors who market have struck again! This time with four pounds of cherry tomatoes from the Market on the Move.  But it’s December, so cooking them was the main option.  Ya’ll know I love me some cherry tomato jam, so I thought it’d be fun to mix it up a little this time around. Add some spice. Add half onion. I’d been reading about slow cooker jams, so I thought, “Hey! Let’s try it!”

Jam Montage
What could possibly go wrong?

 So, I got all the ingredients in the crockpot about midday, happily anticipating canning some jam after dinner. …. Fast forward to 6 pm. Yes, that would be six hours later. When suddenly I remember an essential element of jam making: evaporation. And an essential element of the slow cooker’s success: lack of evaporation. I had a soupy mess that looked almost exactly like it did six hours earlier. Sigh. So, I had to ice bath those puppies and started again the next morning. A couple hours on low in a stock pot on the cook top, and we were ready to rock and roll. 

Finally!
Finally!

This version is very tasty, but it can’t stand on its own as a jam like previous versions – say with a bacon or cheese scone. With a good strong cheese like asiago or Manchega and some crispy bread, though? We are talking seriously tasty.

Know any Ploughman looking for lunch?
Know any Ploughman looking for lunch?

 

Tangy, sweet, creamy, crunchy. That's the four food groups, right?
Tangy, sweet, creamy, crunchy. That’s the four food groups, right?

 Bon appétit!  Try it, and share how it goes!
Ingredients
3.75# grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
2# sugar
1 large white onion, grated
2 sm. White onions, in ¼” crescents
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smooshed
½ c. balsamic vinegar
3 dashes Worsteshire sauce
3 tsp. grated ginger (or 3 Dorot frozen ginger cubes)
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. pimenton dulce ahumado
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1/2 tsp. ground clove
Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Put everything in a big stock pot, cook on low until it is reduced to a good jam consistency. Put in sterile jars in the fridge or the freezer. If you’d like to can, I’ll put a link below with the directions.
For canning directions. These folks know their stuff
http://www.pickyourown.org/jam.htm