Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup

Although it is Tuesday, it's like a Friday for me.  It's Thanksgiving week!  That does mean, however, that even if I am not at school, there is still plenty of work to be done before I host the Compound Thanksgiving.  I cleaned my house after school and then I had lots of help whipping this place into shape.  Wait until you see my dining room and den.  It's all set up to have a sit-down meal for 34 people.  Susie helped with some decorating, Nick set up my new entertainment center, Kenzie and Mom set the tables and fancied the bar and dessert tables, and Jay and Ross helped move furniture.  I could not be prouder of this place I call home.  It's a beautiful, spacious, warm place, and I love it more than I ever did.

I'll probably be busy playing hostess with the mostest for the next couple days, but I simply had to share this soup with you before I disappear into the kitchen.  It's absolutely amazing, and might be a nice way to take it easy this weekend when you are turkeyed out and need a little detox from the rich, unhealthy stuff.  

It is the world's easiest soup: dump everything into the crockpot and 7 hours later, it's time to eat.  Of course, there is the step of cooking the lasagna noodles, and the mixing of the extremely not-optional ricotta topping, but still: this is super easy and soooooo good.  I made it one day when I was having my family and Allie over for dinner, and everyone loved it.  Allie even asked for the recipe.  I can't wait to make it again, if I ever have room in my refrigerator for regular groceries.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  It's been a tough year, but there is so much to be thankful for.


slow cooker vegetarian lasagna soup
serves 10

1 yellow onion
2 cups brown mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchinis, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces
4 cups fresh spinach leaves
for ricotta topping:

1 8-ounce container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
generous pinch of kosher salt


1) Add the onion, brown mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, bay leaves, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and black pepper to the liner of a slow cooker.  Set it on low and cook for 7 hours (or on high for 3 1/2 - 4 hours).

2) Meanwhile, make the ricotta cheese topping.  Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3) Once the cooking time is done, cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.  Add the cooked noodles and spinach; warm into spinach is wilted.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of the ricotta cheese topping.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Roasted Tomato Focaccia Bread

Last month was sadly the very last of the fresh local cherry tomatoes.  Cathleen and Barbara at work kept me rolling in tomatoes until the frosts set in and ruined my life.  I had a little container of them in the fridge still in October; they weren't as perfect as they were when they were first picked, but I still wanted to use them up, so when I found this gorgeous bread on Pinterest, I gave it a try.

This bread, besides being beautiful, is delicious!  The bread itself is flavored with thyme, and it's both chewy and light.  It has that great focaccia look, all dimpled and sprinkled with salt.  And, of course, it is topped with roasted cherry tomatoes that are somehow both sweet and salty at the same time.  They almost get dehydrated a bit in the oven, so the flavor is concentrated kind of like a sun-dried tomato, but wonderful.  This bread is perfect all by itself (like rip hunks of it off the baking sheet, I won't judge you), but it's just as amazing dipped into soups or used as the start of a kick-ass sandwich.  If you're going to make some homemade bread, this is probably the one you should be trying out.


roasted tomato focaccia bread
from Completely Delicious
serves 8

1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 - 2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, divided
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
coarse salt for sprinkling


1)  Heat the water and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to steam.  Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, or until temperature is 120 - 130 degrees.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1 cup of the bread flour with the salt, sugar, yeast, and half of the fresh thyme.  Add the water mixture and mix until it forms a wet dough, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

3) Add the remaining bread flour 1/4 cup at a time while mixing until dough clears the bowl and is tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers when touched.  You may not need all 2 1/2 cups flour.  Knead for 5 - 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4) Punch down dough and knead a few times to remove air bubbles.  Shape dough into a rough 14-inch circle on a sheet pan.  Cover and let rise for an additional 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

5) Use your fingers to dimple the dough, pressing your fingers all the way down.  Brush with olive oil and gently press the tomatoes into the top of the dough.  Sprinkle with remaining thyme and a heavy pinch of salt.

6) Bake until golden brown, about 20 - 25 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Focaccia is best the day it is made, but it will keep well wrapped at room temperature for a few days.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

English Matrimonials

I have no idea what this name means. English matrimonials sounds more like I am talking about the Royal Wedding than a raspberry oat bar.  But good news: I am talking about raspberry oat bars.  Things have weird names sometimes, but don't let them scare you off.  Let's call these raspberry oat bars instead.

The name came handwritten on a recipe card; Nick got it from his friend's mom.  Apparently she makes them for her son to bring up every year when they go on a vacation to Silver Lake, NH, and the boys always scarf them down.  There is something I love about handwritten recipes; so much is assumed, or implied, and it makes me feel like a real chef when I can read between the lines and figure things out.  I also think you can really trust handwritten recipes.  If someone is taking the time to write a recipe down, you know it's good.

Nick used the BYOI rule for these and went shopping for the ingredients.  He luckily realized that he needed to read the whole recipe to find the full ingredients list, because as you can see, the top layer just says "same mixture as bottom layer" written at the bottom of the card.  I will rewrite it a little more clearly!  But anyway, he bought all the ingredients and I whipped these up for him.  I really mean whipped them up, too - they are so fast and easy.  He was thrilled, and so was my family.  These are definitely a great classic.  This is my last dessert post before Thanksgiving; could this be what you bring to the table?


English matrimonials
from Mike's mom

3 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
3 sticks butter, melted
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
12 ounces raspberry jam (seedless recommended)


1) Grease a 9 x 13 pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2) Mix together flour, brown sugar, butter, and oats.  Stir well and spread half of the mixture into pan, pressing down firmly.

3) Spread layer of jam generously over the top.

4) Crumble remaining half of flour mixture over top of the jam to cover.  Press down lightly.  Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until golden.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Caramel Apple Crisp Bars

If there is one tool in my kitchen that I use frequently but am secretly petrified of, it would be my mandoline.  Nothing compares to the mandoline when it comes to thinly slicing, or cutting into matchsticks.  I probably use it at least every other week.  With that said, it is clearly the most frightening utensil ever.  The blades are incredibly sharp, and everyone I know who has ever used a mandoline has sliced off pieces of fingers at least once.  Once I lent my mandoline to Laura and she returned it coated with her blood.  That's a slight exaggeration - she washed it - but she really did cut her finger so badly that she resorted to showing it to our school nurse.

Clearly, as you have probably inferred by now, I used a mandoline to cut the apples for these caramel apple crisp bars, and sliced off a good hunk of my thumb.  I made these bars for a work party at the end of November, and while the scab is now totally gone, my thumb has a scar, and it's still tender to touch.  Possibly permanent finger damage by mandoline.  Thanks a lot, caramel apple crisp bars.

I guess I should probably get around to the bars.  Luckily my work friends said they were worth the pain I went through (even though some of them started calling them thumb bars and joking that my thumb skin was probably baked into them... I swear to you they were thumbless!).  The crust is sweet and soft and tastes of cinnamon, and gets a little caramelized when you bake it thanks to the brown sugar.  Then there are layers of super thin apples (thanks, mandoline!), and on top you pour a super quick homemade caramel sauce.  A bit more of the crust is sprinkled on top.  Voila!  A half hour in the oven brings you caramel apple crisp bars.

I personally thought they could have used more caramel flavor; I thought they were very apple-y but not so caramel-y.  But like I said, people really liked them.  Maybe I was just being snarky due to the thumb incident.  They certainly were pretty, and sweet.  Another option for Thanksgiving, perhaps?


caramel apple crisp bars
from Pinch of Yum
makes 12 large bars or 16 - 18 small bars

for the crust:
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
for the filling:
4 small apples
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1/4 cup turbinado sugar


1) Make crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter and brown sugar with electric mixer until creamy.  Add the cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and flour.  The mixture should be crumbly.  Set aside one cup of the mixture, and press the rest into a 9 x 13 baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 12 minutes.

2) Make filling: quarter the apples and scoop out seeds and core.  Slice the apple quarters with a mandoline slicer to get ultra paper thin slices.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add brown sugar.  When sugar is incorporated the mixture is just about the start bubbling, add the cream and stir until a creamy sauce forms.  It should coat the back of a spoon.

3) Assemble the bars.  When the crust is done, arrange the apples in an even layer over the crust and pour the caramel over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining crust crumbles from step one.  Sprinkle with turbaned sugar.  Bake 30 - 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, lift out of pan using the edges of the parchment paper, and allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes.  Cut and serve.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Chicken Marsala

Yeah I still hate meat.  I hate cooking it and I hate eating it.  But sometimes, you gotta go what you gotta do.  And so sometimes, you gotta make chicken marsala for the carnivores in your life.  I have a direct quote that this meal is "life changing."  I'm pretty sure Jesse said it as a joke, but when my mom and Nick ate the leftovers, they agreed whole-heartedly.  I know it might be hard to take it from a vegetarian when I tell you a chicken dinner went well, so take it from them: this is a life-changing chicken marsala.

The chicken gets prepared first.  No, I did not like touching it.  But I bought chicken cutlets, so there was less touching necessary (otherwise the recipe recommended pounding the chicken flat... EW!).  It's salted and peppered, and coated with flour, then cooked on the stove.  I have to admit that I was a little panicky about cooking chicken in a skillet.  I don't think I have ever done that.  How the heck do you know if it's done or not!?  I like to bake things until there is no chance of salmonella!  Telling me to cook it for 3 minutes per side is really not enough for me.  I started to be sure that I was going to poison Jesse with raw chicken, but I refused to cut one open to check.  (Spoiler alert: he lived).

Anyway, then there's the sauce, and here is where the lives begin changing, I think.  Imagine this: pancetta (or bacon if you can't find that), mushrooms, garlic, and shallot, sweetened a bit by some tomato paste, cut with lemon juice, and of course that classic marsala flavor.  I ate some of the mushrooms, and even I can attest that the sauce was incredible.  If you're craving marsala, this is your sauce.

Serve this over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.  Just serve it.  Trust the vegetarian.  Or, if you don't, trust the carnivores who called it life changing.  If you want to take my word for something, roast some broccoli and sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice.  Now that was life changing.


chicken marsala
from Annie's Eats

2 - 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped
2 cups white or cremini mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups Marsala wine
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 small lemon)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


1)Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.  Place a large heatproof dinner plate on the oven rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.  Heat a 12" heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes.  Pat chicken breasts dry.  Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Season both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper.  Working one piece at a time, coat both sides with flour.  Lift breast from tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.

2) Add oil to hot skillet and heat until shimmering.  Place floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Using tongs, flip cutlets and cook on second side until golden brown and meat feels firm when pressed with finger, about 3 minutes.  Transfer chicken to heated plate and return to oven.

3) Return skillet to low heat and add pancetta or bacon.  Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom loosen browned bits until pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate.  Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high; stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom, until liquid released by mushrooms is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and shallot and saute for one minute.

4) Add cooked pancetta and tomato paste.  Stir while sautéing, until tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.  Off heat, add marsala.  Return pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping browned bits from pan bottom until sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.  Off heat, add lemon juice and any accumulated juices from the chicken.  Whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in parsley.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies

I stress bake.  It's what I have to do when I am worrying about myself to keep my hands and mind busy.  That means you can expect lots of baked goods recipes coming up, because stress has become my way of life over the past few weeks!

Anyway, the stress of Bridget's life brings you these cranberry thumbprint cookies.  My mom actually picked these cranberries in the woods.  How cool is that?  Massachusetts can be so cool sometimes.  She had pocketfuls of cranberries with no real plan for them, so I squirreled them away to my house and found this recipe, which was just lengthy enough to keep me busy on a stressful weekend evening.  In fact, since Poppy has been barking for a solid hour, I wish I had some fresh wild cranberries right about now.

The cookies are interesting because they have cornmeal in them.  They are lightly flavored with orange zest.  And, being thumbprint cookies, they then get filled with a sort of cranberry jam (which, by the way, would be amazing in and of itself).  It's simple to make: you just boil cranberries, sugar, water, and a strip of orange zest until the berries pop.  It makes your house smell like a holiday, and it's beautiful.

Due to my inability to make pretty cookies, the beauty ended there.  My thumbprint cookies were topped with a less-than-attractive dollop of the jam.  I think the problem is that my thumbs are too small so my indents were too shallow, and then I added too much jam because I was so excited about it.  Oh well: look beyond the messy cookies and just take a bite.  The cookies are super crunchy from the cornmeal and being rolled in sugar, and the jam is tart but sweet at the same time.  The orange flavor from both ties them together well.  Perhaps this could be your Thanksgiving dinner contribution?


cranberry thumbprint cookies
from Martha Stewart
makes about 2 dozen cookies

for the cookies:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 large egg, separated
for the filling:
4 ounces fresh cranberries (1 cup)
1/2 cup water, plus more if needed
1/4 cup sugar
1 strip (2 inches) orange zest


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cookies first: whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt in a medium bowl.  Beat butter and 1/4 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add orange zest and egg yolk, and mix well.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

2) Lightly whisk egg white.  Scoop 2 teaspoons dough, and roll into a ball.  Dip into egg white, and roll in remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar.  Repeat with remaining dough transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart as you work.  Gently press center of each ball with your thumb. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until pale golden, 15 to 17 minutes.  Gently indent each cookie again using the handle end of a wooden spoon.  Transfer sheets to wire racks, and let cool.  Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.

3) Meanwhile, make the filling.  Bring cranberries, water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat, and simmer, gently mashing cranberries, until thick and jamlike, 5 to 6 minutes.  If mixture is too thick, add a little water to thin.  Transfer to a bowl, and let cool completely.  Filling can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

4) Spoon a small amount of filling into each cookie indentation.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Flourless Mexican Brownies

This was the dessert that I made for my Mexican-themed BYOI night with my friends.  It was a good recipe to make for a group that includes sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) and people with celiac disease!  These brownies are gluten-free, but fit our Mexican theme with their cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  I was a little worried about the spice being too much, but everyone said they were delicious.  And Dani didn't get sick; every time I cook or bake for her, I panic that my kitchen is covered with flour particles and she's going to get cross-contaminated and be sick, but luckily she was okay!

These brownies start off with semisweet chocolate melted on the stovetop with butter and sugar.  Eggs and vanilla get added, and don't panic if it looks absolutely terrible at this point, because mine did.  I thought for sure I didn't let it cool enough and I was going to be serving chocolate scrambled eggs.  It's okay!  Just beat the hell out of them when you add the cocoa powder, corn starch (secret weapon of gluten-free baking) and spices.  Beat until it starts to actually look like brownie batter - because it is.  Never fear.

The recipe calls for frosting, but I think it's highly unnecessary to frost brownies.  This chocolate frosting is also flavored with more cayenne and cinnamon.  I left it off, but I will still share the recipe in case you are feeling indulgent.  I think the brownies are plenty good, though.

The remnants of these brownies were brought to work and given to my coworkers.  Then I gave the rest of those to Laura to bring to her kids (proof that they aren't too spicy!).  Everyone thought they were pretty good, and found it hard to believe that they were flourless.  Impress the gluten-free friend in your life with these brownies (or give it to your flour-eaters; they'll never know).  They'll love you forever.


flourless Mexican brownies
from Spoonful of Flavor

for brownies:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
for frosting (optional):
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 unsweetened or Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons heavy cream


1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8 square pan with foil and spray lightly with baking spray.

2) In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar until incorporated.  Add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Remove from heat and add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract and stir until incorporated.

3) While mixing, slowly add the cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.  Using a mixer on high speed, beat the batter until smooth and shiny, 1 to 2 minutes.

4) Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the brownies are set in the center.  Remove form oven and let cool in the pan for at least one hour.

5) To prepare the frosting, in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed for one minute.  Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.  Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the heavy cream and mix until lightly and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spread the frosting over the brownies, remove from pan, and slice before serving.