17 Easy Soups to Warm Your Winter (Vegan Soups included)

9 Jan Leandro's was more tortellini than soup, but we are making progress!

We all love soup in my house. And when it is bitterly cold outside, there is nothing better to warm your insides than a hearty winter soup.

Here is a collection of favorites that are easy to put together and delicious both on the day or warmed up the next day at the office. Many are vegan. I like to make a vegan base in one pot, then separate the appropriate portions, adding  something meaty for the unrepentant carnivores.

Bon appetit! Stay warm, my friends.

1. Andouille, Kale and Sausage Soup

Aye me hearties...

Aye me hearties…

2. Canellini and Chard Soup (Vegetarian or with bacon)

Hearty, Dense, Soul-Satisfying (and great re-heated!)

Hearty, Dense, Soul-Satisfying (and great re-heated!)

3. Escarole Soup (vegan with drop-in meatball option for carnivores)

The veggie version

The veggie version

4. Lentil Soup (The one I make most often, especially in bitter cold weather! So textured and complex and hearty and cozy!)

2012 January office, cranmuffins 023

The secrets to a great lentil soup!

 

5. Silky Leek and Potato Soup (butter yes, cream no)

I dot a bit of nonfat plain yogurt for fun!

I dot a bit of nonfat plain yogurt for fun!

 6. Bok Choy, Carrot and Ginger Soup (vegan)

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

7. Caldo Verde (Portuguese Sausage and Greens Soup)

A delicious soup for a cool day when you want a soup that warms but doesn't overstuff you

A delicious soup for a cool day when you want a soup that warms but doesn’t overstuff you

8. Three Step Vegan Vegetable Soup (with non-vegan tortellini add-ons to please everyone’s food quirks!)

A grating of parmigiano reggiano or grana padano finishes this soup admirably. Vegans can try nutritional yeast!

A grating of parmigiano reggiano or grana padano finishes this soup admirably. Vegans can try nutritional yeast!

Read on for nine more recipes!

Continue reading

Juicy Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

3 Jan This made us so happy

I love a simple roast bird for a sit-down family meal. It looks so special, but is so easy to do and the vegetables are cooked right alongside the bird (getting all that juicy seasoned chicken stock as the bird releases it) and can be plunked as is on the table if you don’t want to put it on a platter, which means less clean-up. This is the dinner that cooks itself while you are doing other things, encourages family to linger around the table, and keeps on giving way after the meal is over.

2014-12-25 14.08.49 roast chickenIf there is leftover meat, you can make wonderful chicken salad that tastes so much richer than your average cooked chicken from the deli (I like it with sliced black olives and bits of sundried tomato). The carcass makes great stock too, simmered with a dozen peppercorns, a carrot and a celery stalk, a peeled onion and unpeeled garlic cloves sliced in half.

Here then, is a pretty basic version that is aromatized with herbs, spiked with citrus, and cooked relatively slowly for juicy tenderness.  There are as many variations as you have herbs in your arsenal; this is what I was in the mood for, but you could certainly substitute whatever seasonings grab your fancy. We had this one for a small family Christmas Day meal! Scroll down for links to more roast chicken recipes. Continue reading

KID in the KITCHEN: French Toast Casserole (make ahead!)

30 Dec 2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casserole

We are a fútbol-loving family ( fútbol = soccer in the U.S. and football in most other English-speaking countries except the U.S. where football — rather inexplicably – means gridiron a.k.a. that sport with the helmets and shoulderpads. There’s also Australian rules football, which is actually a form of rugby, but never mind that right now). We particularly follow the English Premier League and support Chelsea, in case you were wondering. We watch it a lot at home, but watching soccer in the U.S. has ceased to mean spectator-in-exile. Increasingly in America you can find people with whom to watch.

This is part of the spread...Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

This is part of the spread…Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

So that creates opportunities to invite folks to brunch or lunch (EPL matches are played at GMT and so rarely go later than 5 p.m. here in NY) with fellow travelers at home. Buffet-style is best, because the footie runs continuously for two 45-minute halves and if — like me — you are the hostess but really want to watch the action too, you want to get everything done before kick-off and then sit right down with the guests for the first half.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

So, we invited friends for the 9 a.m. Southampton v. Chelsea fixture this past weekend. In addition to bagels and cream cheese, tortilla española, gravlax, ham and cheese, and mango-prosecco mimosas, my little guy made French toast. Since it would have been insane to try to make French toast to order at game time, we chose a recipe he could do the night before and pop in the oven for 40 minutes before everyone arrived. Thus this French Toast Casserole recipe we adapted ever so slightly from Love, Pasta, and a Tool Belt. It was super-easy, sweet and delicious and has a bread pudding sort of texture and was loved by one and all.

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

To do it with kids, make sure you have the ingredients, measuring implements, and other equipment at the ready before you get the kids going. It is a breeze!

2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casseroleFrench Toast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
12 slices white bread

Directions:
Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended. Spread half of the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 rimmed baking pan. Lay six pieces of bread over the sugar mixture. Spread the remainder of the brown sugar mixture over the bread trying to make it pretty even. We used a butter knife to spread, but a stiff spatula would also work.
Place remaining six pieces of bread on top. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the whole thing evenly. If, like us, you forget to put on the second layer of bread, you can lift the already covered slices one by one and slide the unsoaked slices underneath and it will work out just fine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 350°F and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Allow to rest and then serve up!

 

Janssons frestelse/Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Gratin)

28 Dec I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

My sister-in-law Annika was born and raised in Sweden and in the 20 or so years since she appeared in our lives, (cue ABBA’s Greatest Hits) she has introduced us to such marvels as aquavit (also called snaps), lingonberry, ginger cookies, and (stop ABBA soundtrack and start spare, percussive track suitable for forbiddingly cold and spare winter landscapes and mythic creatures) the Volvo commercial featuring footballing demi-god Zlatan Ibrahimović. Mmmm.

Thanks to Annika, we like to do a Swedish Christmas Eve buffet table. Or we like to have her do a Swedish Christmas Eve smorgasbord to which we contribute a couple of things.

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika'photos of my progress so she could advise)

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika’photos of my progress so she could advise)

Unfortunately she and my brother and my marvellous niece don’t live close enough to us anymore for Swedish Christmas Eve all together, but thanks to IKEA, my dad’s gravlax (salt and sugar-cured salmon) and Annika’s easy potato gratin recipe, (The dish is called Jansson’s temptation) we were able to do a reasonable facsimile this year. Emboldened by the success of this dish, I think I will try her Swedish meatball recipe next year!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Important note: The Swedish call sprats (a small fish/herring) by the name ‘anjovis’. DO NOT BE FOOLED. They are not the same ‘anchovies’ as you buy in the tinned fish section of your local supermarket (unless your local supermarket happens to be IKEA). They are not oil or salt-packed Italian anchovies with a strong salty fish character. These are pickled in spiced vinegar and are light and completely different. So beware!

Willy’s online seems to sell them, although a recent check showed them to be sold out! i-Gourmet has them too. I will be trying out tinned “bristlings” which might be the same and I will let you know.

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

Jansson’s Temptation
This is Annika’s recipe, halved, which was more than enough for our family of four. If you want to feed loads of people, simply double the quantities and use a 9×13 oven dish

 About 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin spiced and pickled Swedish ‘ansjovis’ (sprat filets) – I use “ABBA Anchovy Style Sprat Fillets” from IKEA

1 Cup whipping cream/heavy cream

Butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 425°

Butter an 8×8 dish and spread about a third of the potatoes over the base. Cover with about half of the onion, and place half the ‘ansjovis’ fillets on top (save the liquid that the ‘anjovis’ are in!).
Cover with another third of potatoes, then the rest of the onion, and the rest of the ‘anjovis’. Finish with a last layer of potatoes.

Pour the liquid from the ‘anjovis’ tin over the potato mixture.

Pour the cream over the potatoes – you may need a bit more or a bit less – it depends on the size of the dish you’re using. You want the cream to almost cover the potatoes.

(Other people like to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot some butter slices over the breadcrumbs, but I never do.)

Bake in a 425°oven for about 1 hour. It’s ready when the potatoes are soft and the top layer is getting golden.

 

You may also like:

Gravlax

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

Scandinavian Shrimp Salad (Skagen Salad)

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

 

 

 

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Cornbread

26 Dec Reading through the ingredients first!

The best thing about school holidays is that the kids are home. The worst thing about the school holidays is that the kids are home.

Okay, that’s not really how I feel about holidays but it seemed like a catchy way to start this post on cooking with kids.

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

Regular readers know my seven-year-old is starting to learn his way around the kitchen. Part of that is giving him responsibility for certain dishes at the holiday table. He can manage roasted asparagus on his own now. He makes bread as well, from his prize-winning no-knead recipe. And with his grandfather, he makes a delicious cornbread that goes well with roasts (and chili).

What's next? Let's see.

What’s next? Let’s see.

The original recipe comes from Kids Cook! by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a treasure trove of simple and tasty recipes that kids can manage. Padushi and Leandro have tweaked it a bit (starting with substituting the margarine for real butter and beating the eggs before mixing with the rest of the ingredients) and the results are an ever-so-slightly sweet, rich crumb that has a lovely cakey texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

The other results are a kid who is learning to follow instructions, a grandfather who is learning to let the kid do the work, and a grandson and grandfather who accomplish stuff together.

*See tips for cooking with kids below.

Nice crumb!

Nice crumb!

Easy Cornbread

1½ Cups cornmeal

1½ Cups buttermilk

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

½ Cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ Cup butter, melted

1 tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, beating for about a minute.

Pour batter into a greased 8”x8” pan.

Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes (if you use a glass pan, you’ll need the longer time) or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*Tips for cooking with kids

1. Get all the ingredients and measuring equipment laid out before having them wash their hands and get started.

2. Make sure the surface you are using is a comfortable height for your child(ren).

3. Use aprons or smocks or clothes you don’t care about.

4.Read the ingredients and ingredients out loud with the kids BEFORE starting. Use that opportunity to make sure you have everything you need. FRom this point on, the fewer times you have to turn your back on them the better.

5. If you will be allowing the kids to measure ingredients, have them do it over a bowl that is not your mixing bowl. That way accidental overpours or spills don’t ruin your batter or dough or whatever.

6. As soon as you are done with an ingredient, close it up and get it out of the way. Many spills come from stuff left around just waiting to be knocked over.

7. Remember to have fun. This one can be a challenge for me…my little guy can be very impulsive and tends to believe that he has a better way of doing things than the instructions indicate. I am learning to hold it together and focus on recovering our recipe from whatever he’s done, but when you do get snappy (and I do), just take a deep breath and remember that you are not the only adult that has ever barked at a kid who isn’t listening or wrecking your kitchen. Keep Calm and Keep Baking, as it were.

 

4 Effortless Yet Elegant Party Appetizers for Busy People

20 Dec Love that electric skillet!

I was recently invited to do a cooking demonstration at Nassau Community College (where my more usual role is as a full-time ESL lecturer in a language immersion program) for the Mom’s Club, a campus club for student-parents where they get support in their struggle to complete their college education while raising children and often simultaneously holding a full-time job!

So these are women who needed a fun mini-workshop that would include some nifty snacks, some honest conversation and maybe even a few ideas for inexpensive and easy appetizers they can easily prepare for their families. I think this line-up delivered.

All hands on deck!

All hands on deck!

It was a pleasure to cook for this small group — thanks to professors Beth Goering and Molly Phelps Ludmar for inviting me and also providing an electric skillet, bread and soft drinks.

Happy holidays ladies!

Happy holidays ladies!

Together — I put everyone to work, of course — we made Spanish-style garlic mushrooms, cilantro-sunflower seed pesto, black olive and walnut paste, and white cheese and red grape skewers. Everything was done within a half hour, so we had time to sit and eat, which is a rare treat for busy moms!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Here are the recipes:

White Cheese and Red Grapes (requires toothpicks!)

Cut Latin style white cheese into cubes about the size of the grapes. Skewer a single grape and a single cube of cheese onto each toothpick (this is a job kids love! and it keeps them busy while you are trying to do other things.) and arrange on a serving platter. The cubed cheese is the base.

Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto (sunflower seeds are a terrific alternative to pine nuts or walnuts for those with nut allergies)

One bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped (YES you can use the stems)

2-3-4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds (roasted and salted seeds add a lot of flavor)

Squeeze of freeze lemon

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

extra virgin olive oil

abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or Locatelli cheese

salt to taste

Place cilantro, garlic, sunflower seeds, lemon, and optional pepper flakes in a food processor or blender and whirr until chopped. Add olive oil bit by bit (in a thin stream if you can pour while blending) until you achieve a thick paste. Add cheese to taste (start with about 1/4 Cup) and serve over pasta or as a spread for bruschetta, crackers or sliced bread.

For an easy basil pesto (my second grader makes it!) click here.

Black Olive and Walnut Paste (Tapenade)

1 can pitted black olives (or one cup good seedless black olives if you can afford them), drained indifferently

1/4 Cup walnuts (but add them Tbs by Tbs)

1 tsp capers drained indifferently

2-3 anchovies from a jar, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel

leaves from 3-4 thyme sprigs

optional extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients (except optional olive oil) in a food processor and blend till smooth, adding olive oil as necessary. Serve as a spread for toast or crackers.

For another version heavier on the anchovies, click here.

Spanish style Garlic Mushrooms

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

12 oz white or Cremini mushrooms, stems removed (and saved in the freezer for stock) and wiped clean with paper towel.

3 Tbs dry red wine (I took some mushrooms out at this point to accommodate someone who doesn’t consume alcohol)

1 Tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil until loose and fragrant. Lower heat to medium low garlic and cook gently until golden brown.

Add mushrooms and stir to coat., Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms start to brown deeply and release their juices. Add wine and raise hand eat to a fast simmer for about 5 minutes, until alcohol has cooked off but there is still liquid. Sprinkle with parsley salt and serve with crusty bread.

For a more complex version of these mushrooms that includes butter, click here.

KID in the KITCHEN: Easy Blueberry Pancakes

17 Dec Proud cook!

It isn’t easy to stand by and watch while your seven-year-old cracks eggs that land on the floor (it only happened once!) or spills too much oil into the batter (we effectively bailed the excess out) or awkwardly flips runny pancake batter on a crappy little electric stove top where not just the heating elements but the whole top gets hot. And I don’t pretend that I don’t have sharp words for lapses of care. I get nervous, you see.

The smaller the better for flipping

The smaller the better for flipping

But my little guy likes cooking with me (“Are you sure? ‘Cause I yell at you sometimes.” “Yes I’m sure. I love it!”) and I love cooking with him. And as he gets handier and can read, I am increasingly letting him do more of the risky stuff. Like reading the recipe himself and measuring out ingredients and –yes — flipping pancakes on a hot stove.

It can be nerve-wracking, but the results are worth it. I am not talking about the culinary results, although his pancakes turned out delicious, as does his French toast. I’m talking about reading and following instructions and measuring and thinking about how baking soda and baking powder work, having responsibilities and having to be focused and careful. I am happy when he takes a step in the direction of independence, but it is nothing compared to his own pleasure at becoming so competent. “I did it! I flipped it!” and “I made delicious pancakes practically all by myself!” are the seasonings that make everything taste better when you are seven. And sometimes when you are a lot older too!

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup....

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup….

These pancakes are slightly modified from Kids Cook by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a terrific starter book that he got from his godmother. My important advice in cooking with kids is get all the ingredients and tools organized first. The less turning your back to get something that you do during the proceedings, the better. Click for recipe Continue reading

Walnut Cups – gorgeous holiday cookie alternative (who doesn’t love a cream cheese crust?)

13 Dec Featured Image -- 6552

Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy:

This reblog is my very favorite holiday cookie recipe…so elegant, so rich and delicious! And not hard at all!

Originally posted on Hot, Cheap & Easy:

2012-12-16 09.19.14I absolutely cannot believe that I have never posted this recipe!

For the last I don’t know how many years — since my neighbor Teresa brought some over for us one holiday season and was kind enough to give me the recipe — Marianne and family and I (and now Leandro) have included this recipe in our Christmas cookie baking extravaganza although  think last year we did Walnut Toffee Triangles instead. When we went to do the cups this year, I went straight to my own blog and was horrified (or perhaps I should say gobsmacked, simply because I can) to find I had never shared this with you!

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Coquito: Puerto Rican Egg Nog (this one without eggs!)

12 Dec Featured Image -- 6541

Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy:

’tis la temporada navideña! A few people have been asking for this one lately…here it is!!!

Originally posted on Hot, Cheap & Easy:

In Puerto Rico, as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is scraped off the plates, our collective thoughts turn to what we are going to eat for Christmas. But we are not just talking about Christmas Eve or Christmas day, oh no.We’re talking about every day for the next two months.

Christmas lasts from the day after Thanksgiving well into January, with the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day on January 6th, followed by octavas(the eight days after Three Kings Day) which are then followed by octavitas, which last for another eight days. And since we’re practically into February by then, you might as well keep celebrating until Valentine’s Day on the 14th….We have to do it this way, to give everyone who wants to have a Christmas party the opportunity. Twelve days of Christmas are just not enough to give everyone a turn at hosting.

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2014 Thanksgiving Easy Recipe Round-Up

27 Nov Featured Image -- 6512

Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy:

It’s that time again….here is a reblog of a Thanksgiving recipe round-up….I’ll be making several of these today! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! xoxox

Originally posted on Hot, Cheap & Easy:

I will probably post a few more Thanksgiving recipes in the next few days, but here is a start – some of our time-honored favorites that are not hard to do, but really celebrate the season. If you want to keep it simple and bountiful, take a look at these suggestions as you make your shopping list and measure how much time and energy you will really have to devote to pyrotechnics.

We are all about being thankful this year, since we’ve beat back cancer and are making it through the economic slowdown and all…so quietly and leisurely is how we are taking it!

Butternut Squash Bisque and bonus pumpkin seed pepitas

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Green Beans- bring the sweetness to the fore

Brine that Bird! (especially if you are getting a farm-fresh, free-range turkey)

Puerto Rican-Style Roast Turkey (pavochón)

Turkey Gravy (and a story of salvation)

Leftovers —…

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