December 31, 2011

spicy tomato and spinach soup

Before we begin, I'm sorry these photos are so...rushed.

The idea to even take photos was super last minute and pretty perfunctory, because I was just trying to throw together some soup for my sick husband with whatever I had on hand, and also I was hungry. But it turned out so surprisingly delicious that I'm glad I at least have these few average photos to share with you.

It's a good healthy soup. It's warming and spicy. It's comforting when served with toasty bread or grilled cheese or these warm winter chickpeas. It's even better when you take some of said chickpeas onto a spoon and then get some soup onto that spoon too. Comfort food man.

Definitely one of favorite dinners recently though. Especially since I just covered the entire thing in parmesan cheese.

Spicy tomato and spinach soup
2-3 servings

2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence
1 14-oz can stewed or crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and herbes de provence. Stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock and stir. Add the spinach, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Stir in cream, if using. Serve sprinkled with fresh parmesan.

Add pasta or rice to the soup to turn this into a heartier soup.

I hope you have a very happy and bright new year full of love and bubbles!

December 28, 2011

peppermint mocha cupcakes

What's your favorite seasonal drink at Starbucks?
Do you have a top secret 47-word one that I should know about?

I love me some peppermint mocha. I was thinking it was my favorite. I'm not much for gingerbread or brulee. Maybe they're not sinful enough, I don't know. Then the other day as I was standing in line at the 'bucks anticipating my tasty drink, I heard someone order a salted caramel mocha. Like, not-on-the-menu-anymore-since-Fall-is-over salted caramel mocha. I had forgotten all about that guy! So now I've decided that maybe those two seasonal mochas will tie for favorite.

As you can see, I have very exciting thoughts.

On to the cupcakes! Obviously, since I make these mocha coconut cupcakes on a very regular basis, and given my aforementioned weakness for the peppermint mocha, it was only the decent thing to do to combine them into one amazing little cake.

They're rich yet refreshingly minty. Not overpoweringly minty though. Crunchy candy cane bits top the delectable mint buttercream to make your day. Zing! (I don't know if that phrase applies here)

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
Adapted from How Sweet's mocha coconut cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint/peppermint extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (I wanted to use mint chips but couldn't find them. I bet they'd be amazing in this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with liners.
Melt butter and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift together, flour, cocoa, coffee, soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add milk, butter and extracts, and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Mix until batter is smooth, then stir in sour cream. Fold in chocolate chips and mix. Using a 1/4 cup measure or an ice cream scoop, add batter to each cup to fill about 2/3 full (or a little more). Bake for 15-18 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Minty Whipped Cream Buttercream

1 cup softened butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp mint/peppermint extract
2-4 T. heavy whipping cream

Cream butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar gradually until a thick consistency is reached. Add salt and extracts and 2 T. of cream. Continue beating. Add more cream until desired consistency is reached, and more sugar if it is too thin. Taste and add 1/4 tsp more mint extract if it isn't minty enough for you.

Frost cupcakes. Top with crushed candy canes. Refrigerate leftover cupcakes to keep frosting fresh.

December 16, 2011

return to regularly scheduled programming?

It's been a lonnng time. So sorry. I plan to make up for it with this picture-laden post.

Can I be honest with you though? (yes? thanks!) The weirdest thing has been going on with me. Lately I've felt sort of indifferent about food. There, I said it. SO weird.
I usually fall asleep thinking and planning what food to make next (sad? maybe), now I just fall asleep trying to plan Christmas presents.
I usually live to eat, but lately it's more like eat to live. Does that ever happen to you?

pumpkin streusel pancakes

 Actually, this is probably the first time it's happened to me. I still like food, and good food at that, but I haven't been making very much of it at home.  I'm also trying to eat well/not eat a lot of meat, so that narrows options when trying to select a restaurant to get takeout from, but I can't really place a finger on what I want to eat even then. I just shrug and let my husband decide and then eat what he gives me. That may be a very slight exxageration, but just a slight one.

smoky spinach and mushroom breakfast hash

I think it's a combination of previous overeating (think Thanksgiving, etc.), being very busy, and being uninspired. Sure, I've made things here and there, mostly sweets, but that's no surprise. We've had black bean burgers and butternut squash fries, lemon/parsley/olive quinoa cakes, and husb's favorite breakfast hash. I've made these amazing pumpkin streusel pancakes, some yeast-free cinnamon rolls, and rather failed at an eggnog breakfast cakes attempt. They weren't bad, just not eggnog-y enough. And a little dry. They looked good though! (see picture)

eggnog breakfast cakes

However, yesterday when I was making cookies for someone (these, one of my favorites), I got a twinge of that old excitement/sense of peace that I usually get when I bake. I actually started thinking about what I wanted to bake next. So maybe it's back.

In the meantime, Pinterest has been doing it's part in providing exciting/dangerous food pictures.
Let me try to entice us with a couple of them:
cookies and cream oreo fudge brownies...

And just so you don't go into sugar shock from all these sweets pictures, here's a picture of a savory (but still unhealthy) thing.
fontina mac and cheese with spinach and bacon!!!

Happy carbing!