“Chorizo” Tacos

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I have made these tacos quite a few times now. They’re part of our regular dinner rotation. My vegetarian son LOVES them, and I have to say that I do too. I don’t even notice that they’re meatless. The tofu, when shredded and browned, is somewhat similar to ground meat, and once it’s covered in spices and mixed with vegetables and herbs, and topped with some fresh lime juice, you barely notice the difference.

This is definitely a meal that can be made on a weekday evening because it’s fairly quick to cook. I highly recommend using a non-stick skillet. The tofu browns really nicely in one.

The original recipe calls for corn tortillas. Not being a huge corn tortilla fan, I can attest to the fact that the taco filling is delicious in flour tortillas. The recipe also calls for heating the tortillas in the oven. When I’m in a rush, heating the tortillas in the microwave works fine for me.




“Chorizo” Tacos
Recipe by Mark Bittman

Eight 6-inch corn or flour tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon pepper
1 1 ⁄ 2 pounds firm tofu (1 1 ⁄ 2 blocks)
1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 limes, 1 halved, 1 quartered
1 ⁄ 4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 ⁄ 4 cup chopped scallions, for garnish

Heat the oven to 400°F. stack the tortillas on a large square of foil and wrap them loosely.

Put the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. add the onion and garlic; sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

Crumble the tofu into the pan with your hands. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet occasionally, and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the tofu browns and crisps as much or as little as you like it, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

When the tofu is almost ready, put the tortillas in the oven.

Add the bell pepper to the pan if you’re using it. sprinkle the mixture with the chili powder; stir, and cook, continuing to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan until the mixture is fragrant, less than a minute. squeeze the juice of the halved lime over all, garnish with cilantro and scallions, and serve with the tortillas and lime quarters.

Yield: 4 servings



One year ago: Tomato and Feta White Bean Salad
Two years ago: Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Three years ago: Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets
Four years ago: Secretly Healthy Fudge Balls
Five years ago: Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Six years ago: M&M’s Cookie Bars
Seven years ago: Kale with Bacon and Cannellini Beans
Eight years ago: Orange Sherbet
Nine years ago: The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
Ten years ago: Sugar Cookie Bars
Eleven years ago: Chick Pea Soup


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Star Crunch

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These cookies are a cross between a homemade piece of caramel and a Rice Krispies treat. If you’ve never made homemade caramel before, this recipe is a perfect place to start. Although there’s some stovetop cooking involved, this is a no-bake cookie, so no need to turn your oven on. When I call these cookies, I use the term loosely. I think they’re actually more like a piece of candy. The interesting thing about these is that the Rice Krispies actually stay crunchy, so you end up with chewy caramel with a crunch.

You’ll need a candy thermometer to make these. You’ll also need Diamond Crystal kosher salt. No substitutes, please. If you don’t already have a box, it’s worth getting one. Diamond Crystal is the best kosher salt to use when baking.

Definitely buy a good quality milk chocolate. No Hershey bars here. And next time I make this, I will definitely use 2 full cups of Rice Krispies. I used 1 1/2 cups this time and will definitely up the amount next time.





Star Crunch
Recipe from Serious Eats

4 ounces water (1/2 cup; 115g)
7 ounces sugar (1 cup; 200g)
1/2 teaspoon (2g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; other salts may contain additives that induce crystallization
10 ounces heavy cream (1 1/4 cup; 280g), straight from the fridge
3 ounces milk chocolate, minimum 26% cocoa butter (2/3 cup; 85g), very finely chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups Rice Krispies

Combine water, sugar, and salt in a 3-quart stainless steel saucier over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally with a fork until sugar dissolves and syrup is bubbling hard, about 2 minutes or so. Make sure your saucier is centered over your heat source. Stop stirring and simmer until syrup turns pale gold, like clover honey, roughly 8 minutes. Meanwhile, have the heavy cream measured. Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

When syrup turns pale gold, add cream and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, until the foam subsides and the boiling caramel seems more molten than foamy, about 6 minutes or so. Clip-on a digital thermometer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245°F, about 5+ minutes more (mine took 15+ minutes.)

Immediately transfer caramel to a heat-resistant bowl (I used a metal mixing bowl) and allow to cool until it registers 140°F on a digital thermometer, about 20 – 40 minutes. Stir in milk chocolate until fully melted, then fold in Rice Krispies. Divide into about 15 one-ounce (2-tablespoon) portions (I used a small ice cream scoop) and arrange on a parchment-lined half sheet pan or cutting board, then flatten into disks with the palm of your hand. Let stand at room temperature until fully set, about 1 hour, and transfer to an airtight container with a sheet of parchment between each layer. Star Crunch will keep up to a week at room temperature, or a month if refrigerated.

Yield: ~15 or so ‘cookies’


One year ago: Delicious Lemon Loaf
Two years ago: Frozen Coconut Limeade
Three years ago: Fudge-Striped Shortbread Cookies
Four years ago: Sautéed Edamame Salad
Five years ago: Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Six years ago: Crispy Quinoa Sliders
Seven years ago: Tomato Peanut Soup
Eight years ago: Vanilla Bean Sables
Nine years ago: Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes
Ten years ago: Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Eleven years ago: Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

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Excellent Blondies

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There’s not much to say about these other than I think they’re the best blondies I’ve ever made. Hands down. The combination of the toasted pecans and white chocolate (and lots of vanilla) make these excellent. If you’re a blondie fan, try these. This is now my go-to blondie recipe.

Although I think these are incredible, the family was split on them. Only three of us loved them. The other three complained about the nuts.

Love that this recipe doesn’t require a blender.

Blondies
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated via Food52

1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate chips (1 cup) or chopped bar, or 3 ounces each white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips


Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350° F. Spread nuts on large rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the nuts. They can burn easily. Transfer nuts to cutting board to cool; chop coarsely and set aside.

While nuts toast, line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to help you lift the blondies from the pan when they’re done. Grease foil-lined pan with butter or oil.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk melted butter and brown sugar together in medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in chocolate and nuts and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula.Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes; do not overbake.

Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Yield: 36 bars


One year ago: Delicious Lemon Loaf
Two years ago: Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna
Three years ago: Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Four years ago: Texas Sheet Cake
Five years ago: Chock-Full-of-Chips Drops
Six years ago: Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Salted Peanut Butter Filling
Seven years ago: Tzatziki Potato Salad
Eight years ago: Super Moist Banana Bread
Nine years ago: Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Ten years ago: Snickerdoodle Blondies
Eleven years ago: Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

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Chouquettes

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If you’re a snacker, these little puffs (also known as French cream puffs) are a perfect afternoon snack. Have you ever had a Big Dutch Baby for breakfast? These little French puffs are like mini, bite-sized Dutch babies. They’re not terribly sweet, they’re actually slightly eggy, but delicious.

My boys inhaled all of these within an hour.

The recipe calls for pearled sugar. It’s the stuff that looks like pretzel salt in the photo, but it’s actually big pieces of sugar and it’s delicious on this recipe. You can find it on Amazon and other places.



Chouquettes – French Cream Puffs
Recipe from David Liebovitz

1 cup (250ml) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup (135g) flour
4 large eggs, whisked, at room temperature

Glaze: 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk
Pearl or Crystal sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and pour all the flour in at once. Put the pan back on the heat and stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, pouring in a quarter of the eggs at a time, until smooth and shiny.

Using two spoons, or a small ice cream scoop, scoop up a mound of dough, roughly the size of an unshelled walnut, and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet. Alternatively, you can also use a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip and pipe them.

Place the mounds evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheet(s). Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then press pearl sugar crystals over the top and sides of each mound. Use a lot of suger. Once the puffs expand , you’ll be happy that you used extra suger.

Bake the cream puffs until puffed and well-browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. If they get too dark midway through baking, lower the heat of the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and continue baking.(If you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.)

Storage: The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a ziploc freezer bag for up to a month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.

Yield: ~25 puffs


One year ago: Delicious Lemon Loaf
Two years ago: Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts
Three years ago: Oatmeal Scotchies
Four years ago: Coconut Chocolate Chip Magic Granola Bars
Five years ago: Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Six years ago: Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts
Seven years ago: Ricotta Gnocchi
Eight years ago: Baja-Style Fish Hand Pies
Nine years ago: Chicken, Ham and Swiss Roulades
Ten years ago: Berry Sorbet
Eleven years ago: Sweet Corn Muffins

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Pie Crispies

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If you are a pie crust fan, these little cookies are for you. They’re delicate, not too sweet and perfect for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee. Although delicious, this particular recipe is time-consuming because the dough has to rest and chill several times before you can bake it.

I will definitely make these cookies again because they’re a big hit among everyone in the house, but I will experiment with other pie crust recipes, perhaps one that doesn’t have quite as many steps.

Whether you make your own pie crust or buy one that’s pre-made, the scraps are worth saving and baking into these tasty little treats. Next time I’m going to sprinkle them with both cinnamon and sugar!


Pie Crispies
Recipe from Food52

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups (192 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a tiny pinch
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup very cold water, plus more as needed
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons turbinado sugar, plus more as needed

Cut the butter into pieces—aim for 10 from the full-stick and 5 from the half-stick (so each one is slightly smaller than 1 tablespoon). Put the cut-up butter in the freezer for a few minutes, while you work on the dry ingredients.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for a few seconds, just to combine, then turn off. Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients. Mix on the lowest setting possible for 5 to 10 seconds—in short bursts if necessary, so the flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl—then turn off. Err on the side of undermixing at this step. You want each butter piece to be coated in flour and slightly bashed by the paddle, but most of the pieces should be barely smaller than when you started.

Turn on the mixer to the lowest setting possible, slowly pour in the 1/4 cup very cold water. Once it’s all in, let the mixer run for a couple more seconds, then turn off and check the dough. The end goal is a very shaggy dough that holds together when squeezed, with some dough starting to grab onto the paddle attachment, and a few flour streaks on the side of the bowl. If the dough is still quite powdery and dry in some places and the sides of the bowl are still flour-coated, continue to mix while adding another tablespoon of water, and letting that incorporate for a couple seconds. (Repeat with more water—but only a very small amount!—if needed.)

Use your hands to gather the dough into a mass and dump onto a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to form the dough into a ball, then smush into a disc with your hands, so the plastic wrap is extremely snug. (You can wrap with another piece of plastic wrap for extra insurance.)

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Lightly flour a work surface, or ideally a large piece of parchment paper. Unwrap the dough and place it on the parchment or your work surface, but save the plastic wrap—it will be reused in just a second. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. If you are using parchment, you can roll the pin back and forth and then turn the parchment 45 degrees and continue to roll. Keep turning and rolling until you have a twelve inch circle. Fold the dough in half using the parchment paper to help you. Fold in half again. Fold in half again. Rewrap in plastic, pressing down on the dough so it’s a cohesive, roundish disc. Put it back in the refrigerator for at least another hour or up to 2 days. You can also freeze it at this point for up to 1 month.  Save the parchment paper because you can use it again later.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, crack the egg into a small bowl. Add the tiniest pinch of salt. Beat with a fork until totally smooth. Lightly flour a work surface or your original piece of parchment. Add the unwrapped dough and lightly sprinkle with flour. Gently hit the dough with a rolling pin a few times to slightly flatten. Roll into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is about ¼- to ⅓-inch thick (err on the side of thicker versus thinner).

Use a 1 1/2–inch biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles. I used a shot glass, which worked perfectly. You can leave the circles on the parchment, or put them onto a plate. (The scraps can be saved for something else—or turn them into randomly-shaped pie crispies!) (Note: You can also use a pizza wheel or knife to cut the dough into equally small squares—this means you won’t have any leftover scraps.) Freeze the pie dough rounds (or squares) for about 30 minutes, or until pretty firm.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with silicone mats or parchment. (Make sure the sheet pans aren’t sitting on top of the oven, which can warm them and compromise how the cookies bake.)

Pick up each pie dough round and brush with the egg wash. Be careful not to let the egg drip over the edges. Dip each cookie in a bowl of turbinado sugar and then place on the baking sheet. If you’d prefer, you can put the rounds on the baking sheet, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle the suger on top of them. Try to do this as quickly as possible! If you find that your dough is getting soft, pop the whole cookie sheet back in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.

Bake the cookies for 25 to 30 minutes—rotating the sheet trays top to bottom and front to back halfway through—until they’re golden brown. 

Let cool completely before serving.

Yield: ~30 cookies or so

One year ago: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Two years ago: Lemon White Chocolate Bars
Three years ago: Oatmeal Scotchies
Four years ago: Nutella Biscuits
Five years ago: Spinach and Chickpea Curry
Six years ago: Salted Chocolate Caramels
Seven years ago: Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie
Eight years ago: Pink Grapefruit Sorbet
Nine years ago: Tofu and Onions in Caramel Sauce
Ten years ago: Croissant Bread Pudding
Eleven years ago: Basil Parmesan Chicken Salad

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Easy Quiche Florentine

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This is definitely the easiest quiche I have ever made, and it’s really delicious. The ingredients can be thrown together in under 15 minutes.  I had the quiche ready to bake before my oven preheated.

I have made this quiche will all kinds of cheese. I use whatever I have on hand. It’s delicious with Monterrey Jack, cheddar and a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella.

I have made this quiche once a week for the last month. It’s great to have in the refrigerator for a quick lunch or dinner.

Will the boys eat it?  Nope.  Some things never change.

Easy Quiche Florentine
Recipe from Dinner Then Dessert

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
5 eggs
8 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
9 inch deep dish unbaked (frozen) pie shell


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the mayonnaise, milk, eggs, salt and pepper into a large bowl and whisk until well combined.  Add the cheese and mix well.  Add the spinach and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell. 

Top with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings


One year ago: Gingerbread Biscotti
Two years ago: Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles 
Three years ago: Cabbage and Potato Gratin
Four years ago: Lemon Fusilli with Arugula
Five years ago: Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
Six years ago: Olive Garden Bread Sticks
Seven years ago: Soft Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting
Eight years ago: Weeknight White Chicken Chili
Nine years ago: Tofu and Onions in Caramel Sauce
Ten years ago: Scallops Provencal
Eleven years ago: Braised Pork Chops

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Plush Coconut Cake

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This cake is being devoured by the boys and one of their friends as I write this. I’m not sure there’s going to be any left by the time I finish this post.

This is a one-bowl cake that takes no time at all to make. It has a faint coconut taste and it’s quite moist. It’s a bit heavier than a typical layer cake, and has a slightly larger crumb. For me, the glaze pushes this delicious cake over the top; I’m a sucker for a good frosting.

I was happy to make this today because earlier this morning I made some healthy oatmeal bars (I hope to post them soon) that called for 1/2 cup of coconut milk. I then had most of a can of coconut milk sitting around. I didn’t want to toss it, so I decided to try this cake. I had bookmarked it a while ago. The remaining coconut milk was almost enough for the cake, so I added a bit of heavy cream to top it up.

If you’re having company and need a quick, delicious dessert, this is it.

Today was a beautiful day. I took a free walking tour of Central Park with one of my sons this afternoon, and it was great. It was run by the Central Park Conservancy. I highly recommend their tours. They offer a number of tours of different parts of the park. I’ll definitely take another one.


Plush Coconut Cake
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (285 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110 grams) coconut oil, warmed just enough to liquefy
1 1/2 cups full- or low-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) plain vinegar

For glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon milk or cream (or more to achieve your desired consistency)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of 9-inch round cake pan with a fitted round of parchment paper and coat the bottoms and sides with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and granulated sugar in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add coconut oil, coconut milk, and vinegar and whisk until batter is smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes [updated to note: it’s sounding in the comments like it’s taking some people a bit longer — it’s not done until the center is set, even if it’s longer than it took me], or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out batter-free. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cut around it with a knife to ensure it is loosened and flip it out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

For the glaze: Whisk together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and the vanilla. Add the milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached. You don’t want the glaze to be too runny. You want to be able to pour it on and have it slowly start to slide towards the edges of the cake. You can use a knife to spread the glaze as well. I used some orange sprinkles on mine for decoration.

Yield: 8 slices


One year ago: Burrata with Lentils and Basil Vinaigrette
Two years ago: Cake Batter Truffles
Three years ago: Stuffed Cookie Dough Bites
Four years ago: Gnocchi Verde (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)
Five years ago: Lemon Scones
Six years ago: Chicken and Rice Soup
Seven years ago: Cajun Jambalaya
Eight years ago: Red Velvet Cupcakes
Nine years ago: 
Parmesan Cheese Crackers
Ten years ago: Cardamom Spritz Cookies
Eleven years ago: Turkey Meat Loaf

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Instant Pot Tomato Soup

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I haven’t posted too many Instant Pot recipes on this blog, but I hope to post more in the near future. This soup is fairly easy to make. I love that you can add the ingredients to the Instant Pot, and after you sauté the onions and garlic, you can add everything else, set the machine to cook, and forget about it until it’s done. You then add a little cream, mix it with an immersion blender and you’re done. My husband and I ate it for dinner the other night with a side of macaroni and cheese and a green salad. It was a perfect, simple winter meal. I just ate the leftovers for lunch today. Do you think the boys liked the soup? You’re right. Nope.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup
Recipe from Peas and Crayons

1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil
3 carrots, chopped
15 oz. can tomato sauce
15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. dried basil or to taste
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar optional*
1/4 tsp oregano
3 oz. heavy cream or cream cheese (add to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Switch your Instant Pot to the sauté function and sauté onion in 1 tablespoon of oil for 3-5 minutes, until edges are golden and brown.

Next add garlic and sauté for a minute more. Add seasoning (salt, oregano, basil, and optional sugar, along with carrots, tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and broth.

Set to high pressure for 15 minutes and allow to come to pressure, followed by a natural pressure release.

Add the heavy cream or cream cheese and puree using a hand held immersion blender until smooth and bisque-like. You can also blend the soup, in two batches, in your blender or food processor.

Taste the soup and adjust broth/tomato/seasoning to taste.

Yield: 4 servings


One year ago: Caramelized Shallots
Two years ago: Cake Batter Truffles
Three years ago: Cheesy Hasselback Potato Gratin
Four years ago: Individual Mac and Cheese Cups
Five years ago: Chocolate Mint Crackle Cookies
Six years ago: Chicken, Ham and Cheddar Roll-Ups
Seven years ago: Zvi’s Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Eight years ago: Coconut Blondies
Nine years ago: 
Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
Ten years ago: Shrimp with Spiced Masala and Coconut Milk
Eleven years ago: French Lentil Soup

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Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter

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I love a good pear or apple crisp in the winter. Warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s fantastic. This crisp has a fantastic topping. My usual toppings have a base of flour, butter, sugar and sometimes oats. This streusel topping is loaded with ground almonds and it’s so delicious! Because of the healthy almonds and pears, this dessert can double as a breakfast in our house. When I was growing up, if there was ever apple pie left over from dessert, my mother declared it a breakfast item, so that’s where I get it.

The original recipe calls for six individual gratin dishes. I made my crisp in two larger ones. You can use either. The recipe also calls for pear brandy or eau-de-vie. Who has that lying around? I certainly don’t. I used dark rum instead, but only used 3 teaspoons because I didn’t want to overwhelm the pear flavor with too much rum. It worked perfectly.

My husband and I loved this recipe, as did one of my sons. The others had no interest in trying it. I think that’s crazy.

Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, slightly adapted from Gourmet, Oct. 2007

For topping :
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole almonds with skin
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (or slightly more) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For filling:
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 lb firm-ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears (about 6), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons pear brandy or eau-de-vie or in a pinch, dark rum

Make topping: Pulse together flour, almonds, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and pulse just until blended. If your crumbs look like sand, you will need more butter. Add one tablespoon of additional melted butter at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the crumbs look like big crumbles, not sand. When done, coarsely crumble in a shallow baking pan and chill at least 1 hour. 

Make filling and bake crisps: Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a small heavy saucepan, then add pod and butter and cook over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until butter is browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes. 

While butter browns, stir together sugars, flour, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add pears and brandy and toss to combine.

Discard vanilla pod, then toss butter with pear mixture. Spoon filling into gratin dishes and sprinkle with topping, mounding it slightly in centers. Put in a shallow baking pan and bake 30 minutes, then rotate baking sheet and bake until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature on a rack. 

Do ahead: The topping can made in advance, chilled and covered for up to two days. The crisps can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring them room temperature before baking. 

Yield: 6 servings


One year ago: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Two years ago: Cake Batter Truffles
Three years ago: Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
Four years ago: Shrimp with White Beans, Spinach and Tomatoes
Five years ago: Sugared Pretzel Cookies
Six years ago: Mini Hot Cocoa Cookies
Seven years ago: Zvi’s Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Eight years ago: Quick Chickpea Curry
Nine years ago: 
Asian Pork Tenderloin
Ten years ago: Black Bean Brownies
Eleven years ago: Chicken Stew with Biscuits

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Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon-Cream Filling

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These bars are both out-of-this-world, and award-winning! My son recently entered a baking competition at his high school during Spirit Week, and these bars took first place. They are loaded with flavor and not overly sweet, a nice combination of blueberry and lemon. Blueberry and lemon is one of my favorite fruit combinations. If you’re a fan of that combination too, try this scone recipe.

This recipe comes from the July ’08 issue of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite cooking magazines. These bars are great at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator. This is a perfect summer recipe when blueberries are in season.

Because of the oats and blueberries, in addition to being a dessert, this is breakfast in my book.

When you cut these, only do so after they’ve had a chance to chill in the refrigerator. The bars will cut much more cleanly if they’re cold.

Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon-Cream Filling
Recipe from Fine Cooking

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1-1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 large egg, separated
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2-1/2 – 3 cups room-temperature blueberries (about 13 oz.), washed and drained on paper towels


Yield: 24 bars

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