Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuscan Tomato Soup

By far, the majority of my recipes are found on the internet, through other blogs, random google searches, or the trusty allrecipes.com. While I do appreciate the ease of the internet, I love the Williams Sonoma Cookbook. It is beautifully organized with pictures of each dish (a must!) and it teaches basic steps for delicious meals (if only I had time to make everything). The cover of this book represents the essential ingredients in all good cooking: olive oil, eggs, garlic, salt, fresh herbs, lemon, and parmesan cheese. I feel pretty confident that almost every basic dish is made better with these ingredients.

So, tomato soup. I kind of love it. I feel like it's the perfect combination between a brothy soup and a creamy soup. Pair it with some good bread or grilled cheese sandwiches, and you've got yourself a full meal. There's another secret about tomato soup. A lot of recipes (like this one) can be re-purposed into a delicious pasta sauce. This recipe is quite delicious, especially when served with toasted french bread at the bottom of the bowl. MMM!

From The Williams Sonoma Cookbook


6-8 slices french bread, each 1 inch thick
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, then diced*
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2-1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped basil leaves, plus 6-8 whole leaves, for garnish
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

*Click here for instructions on how to peel and seed tomatoes. If you're in a hurry (like I always am) replace 1.5 lbs., or all of the fresh tomatoes, with canned, crushed tomatoes.


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, turning once, 10-15 minutes total. Set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Using an immersion or standing blender, purée the soup, leaving a little bit of texture if desired. Return the soup to the pot, if needed, and reheat gently over medium heat. If soup feels too thin, add bread crumbs until soup reaches desired texture. Add the chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each warmed bowl and sprinkle with a spoonful of parmesan cheese. Ladle the soup on top, garnish with a basil leaf, and serve at once.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is very possible that my most favorite food in the whole world is homemade chocolate chip cookies. There is something so comforting about drinking a glass of cold milk accompanied by a perfect disc-shaped, chocolate-speckled treat. My go-to recipe is my mother's prize-winning recipe (hint: you can find it on the back of a bag of toll house chocolate chips) but, if you can recall, we currently don't have white flour in our house.

So, the search for a great whole wheat chocolate chip cookie has been at the top of my cooking priority list. I tried one that was OK, but not great. And then I found this one. This one.

My. Oh. My.

I'm pretty convinced that this is better than chocolate chip cookies made with white flour. Right before my mother tried this cookie, she said, "This looks like a Mrs. Field's cookie!" And then she made her "Mmmmm" noises that always make me feel good about my cooking. And I know it's my own mother, but she really is a connoisseur of all things chocolate. And let's face, I am my harshest critic. And this cookie is delicious! I'll try to stop rambling my excitement, but it's a little hard to contain when you've just found an amazing and beautiful chocolate-chip cookie recipe. Oh, and then top it off that it is 100% whole wheat. Eek! Could it be better? I think not. Ok, I'll be done now. Just go make this.


3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces or chocolate chips (I don't have bittersweet, so I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)


Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or tin-foil).

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and sugars in a large bowl. With electric beaters (or a stand mixer with paddle attachment) on low to medium speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended. (This may take a while depending on how cold the butter is.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. 

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. 

Add the chocolate and incorporate with a wooden spoon. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then use your hands to turn and gently massage the dough, making sure all the flour is absorbed.

Scoop mounds of dough, about 3 tablespoons in size (yes, larger than your typical c.c. cookie), onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2-3 inches in between each cookie. You should be able to fit about 8 cookies on each sheet. 

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. 

Let cool, pour some milk, and go to your happy place.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup

 I'm convincing the Mr. to like soups more. Soups are such a great way to eat vegetables and they provide a great solution to mixing up the normal meat-starch-vegetable dinner routine. Aaaaand, soups are (usually) healthy which is good for anyone on a summer diet.

Adapted from Just Cook Already


1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 Tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add cauliflower, salt, and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain, puree, and reserve. 
Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter and melt. Then add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. 
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and milk, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Whisk the cheese into the liquid, stirring until all cheese has melted. Stir in cauliflower puree, adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with toast (sourdough bread is a great option) and a salad and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homemade Whipped Cream

Ah, whipped cream. That magical concoction that adds an element of heaven to almost any already delicious dessert. Fresh fruit, cakes, pies, ice cream, cookies, hot cocoa, milkshakes...the possibilities are endless. Since I typically strive for healthy options, I prefer my whipped cream with fruit (mangoes pictured here). 

Also, do you know how easy it is to make your own whipped cream? You just need to be a little patient holding your electric beaters. (If you have a stand mixer, there is really no excuse.) I don't think I'll ever buy Cool Whip again. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever purchased Cool Whip, but you get what I'm saying, right? 


1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon confectioner's sugar (granulated sugar works great too)


In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Add vanilla and sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overbeat as cream will then become lumpy.

Serve with anything sweet, or dip your finger in and lick right off your finger.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Oven Roasted Red Potatoes and Carrots

It's so great to have a few side dishes that are really simple to make. This is another one of those dishes that doesn't require exact measurements (as you can see by the lack of amounts in the ingredients list). I like to measure the ingredients in this recipe, as my mother would say, "by gosh and by golly". What a silly phrase. But it just kinda seems to makes sense. You basically just want to sprinkle your way through the herbs listed in the ingredients. Sprinkling will do the trick.

After making this, you'll be one step closer to having another hearty, easy side dish in your arsenal.

Adapted from AllRecipes.com


2 pounds red potatoes, cut into one-inch pieces
1 cup baby carrots
1/3 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spread potatoes and carrots in a baking dish. Coat generously with olive oil. Sprinkle vegetables with oregano, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway.

Add some steak or chicken and enjoy a delicious, hearty meal.