Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

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Well, we’ve been into fall for three whole days now – can you believe my restraint in not posting 100 pumpkin recipes already? We’re still in that in-between stage, weather wise, but even though it’s not quite soup season, it’s still tomato season and I have a lot of tomatoes to use up.  We’re now twenty months into this blog and this is my tenth soup recipe – far and away my biggest “category.” But really, can you think of a better one-pot meal to get you through the cold and rainy months looming on the horizon?  My barista told me this morning he’s been waiting for the rain for the past five months – by February I’ll deny saying this, but I’m kind of with him, and this soup is one of the main reasons why.

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I thought I had found my favorite tomato soup many years ago – it’s easy, it’s (relatively) healthy, it lets me use up all of the tomatoes I have coming out my ears in August, and it’s from the Barefoot Contessa so you know it’s delicious.  But after making it a couple dozen times over the past month or so, I thought I would mix things up and look for a couple new recipes. And what do you suppose I found? Another Barefoot Contessa option.  It’s not radically different from the first one, but she roasts the tomatoes before adding them to the soup and it really deepens the tomato flavor.  And it calls for white onions rather than red, which means you can use the bags of pre-chopped onions from Trader Joe’s (I’ll do almost anything to avoid chopping onions). Ina never disappoints.

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Roasting is a great way to use up any tomatoes you may have leftover from your summer harvest – simply roast them with oiive oil, salt and pepper, freeze them (with their juices), and then use them for soup all winter long.  And once you run out of frozen tomatoes, roasting the not-so-delicious varieties that they sell at the supermarket in January will make them taste (almost) as good as your home grown ones. I think the basil also makes this soup extra yummy – it calls for sixteen times the amount of basil that the other soup does (sixteen times!! I did this math a couple times just to make sure that’s correct). I initially thought maybe the “four cups” was a typo – but it’s not and it’s amazing. You don’t even have to chop it, just pull the leaves from the stems and dump them in. Don’t skimp on the basil if you can help it (I did a full four cups the first time I made this and it was delicious, and then I was a little short the second time and while of course it was still yummy, I wished I had made the effort to go back to the store and get another bag).

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Add a can of tomatoes (San Marzano is ideal), a box of chicken stock (veggie stock or water to make it vegetarian), the basil and thyme, and then dump in the roasted tomatoes – including all the oil and juices that accumulated in the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes or so and then blend – you don’t even have to add cream (put the calories you save towards your grilled cheese). Ina tells you to use a food mill, but I don’t have one so I use my immersion blender. I suspect a Vitamix would work great as well, or a regular blender or food processor. This soup will freeze nicely – so I would suggest making a double batch, some for now and some for later. You’ll thank me the next time it’s nasty outside and you’re craving a grilled cheese and tomato soup (per the forecast, next week). Happy soup season!

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One year ago: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin granola 

Soup, previously: white bean and kale, split pea, cream of fresh tomato, pumpkin black bean, curried butternut squash, cauliflower leek, minestrone, roasted sweet potato and apple, red lentil

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup, from The Barefoot Contessa

Yield: 6-8 servings

3 lbs ripe tomatoes (Ina suggests plum), sliced in half
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons gold olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups yellow onions, chopped (1 large/2 small)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juices
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread mixture in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat butter and two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade or purée with an immersion blender (or in vitamix) until smooth.

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Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

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So I realize “sweet potato and apple” seems a little fall-ish, at least to me, but this post has been in my draft folder since October, and I figured I might as well post it during a January “Soup Week” rather than leave it there until next fall (mainly, because I will have forgotten about it by then).  And altruistically, I thought some of you might want it sooner – there’s a good possibility that you have all of the ingredients for this soup in your house already, and could make it for dinner tonight.  In less than an hour, with zero trips to the grocery store.

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This recipe is courtesy of my dear friend Ellie, who is mom to one of my all-time favorite kids (Liam, age 4.5). Last fall Ellie subscribed to some sort of family-friendly recipe sharing service, where they would give you weekly meals that were healthy, kid-friendly, budget-friendly, quick, etc. I can’t really remember the details, I just remember I happened to be there for dinner the night that she made this and I got really exited about it – so excited, in fact, that I went home and made it for myself, and brought it to work for lunch for weeks thereafter. Turns out it’s not just moms that need quick and healthy meal ideas, it’s all of us.

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By “quick and easy,” I’m talking really quick and really easy. Simply peel and roughly chop two sweet potatoes, one apple, and one onion. Toss them with a couple garlic cloves, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them all together for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees F (stirring every 10 minutes or so).

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Something strange is happening with the lighting (instagram filters) in these photos, but they’re a before and after.  Once the veggies and apple are done roasting, simply dump them into a pot, cover with chicken or vegetable stock, and purée.   Garnish with a little greek yogurt and perhaps some chives and you have yourself a quick, healthy, and delicious bowl of soup. Bon Apétit!

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Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

Total Time: 50 minutes (20 minutes prep/30 minutes roasting)

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
1 firm apple, such as Gala or Jonagold, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste (I used more)
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste (I used more)
3-4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Yogurt, chives, croutons, and/or roasted pumpkin seeds (my personal fave), for garnish

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Put the sweet potatoes, apple, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan.  Toss them with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast, tossing every ten minutes or so, until they’re soft, about 30 minutes.  Transfer roasted veggies to a soup pot and add just enough broth to cover them (if you’re going to purée the soup in a blender, you can just add the veggies and broth to the blender).  Purée (using immersion blender or a regular blender or food processor) until smooth, adding more broth if necessary.  Warm the soup over low heat, or refrigerate for up to one day, or freeze for up to 3 months.  Stir in yogurt or sour cream just before serving for a creamier taste, if desired.

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More Pumpkin: Pumpkin Black Bean Soup and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

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Three weeks ago I wrote something about how now that it was fall, I would be inundating this blog with more pumpkin recipes than anyone could ever want or need. I promptly made and posted two, made two more, started a post about them, and then apparently got distracted/lost interest.  I wish I had a good excuse as to why, but I really don’t.  Sometimes it’s just hard to sit in front of a computer and force yourself to do anything, whether it be work, returning emails (something else I’ve been really bad about lately), paying your phone bill (oops!!), or finishing up a blog post. This post has been sitting in my draft folder for the better part of three weeks, so despite the blue skies and warm temperatures today, I thought it would be a good time to finally get it up.

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Both of these recipes are from Smitten Kitchen, who probably thinks I need to stop stealing her recipes. Or would, if she knew my blog existed. Both are incredibly easy and delicious, though, so I couldn’t help but share. I went to the store for soup ingredients but somehow came home with a couple extra cans of pumpkin, which was all the excuse I needed to try her bread pudding recipe I never got around to last fall.

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This soup comes together in no time, especially if you get the pre-chopped onion, shallot, and garlic from Trader Joe’s that I discuss below. I omitted the ham from the original recipe, and used chicken stock instead of beef – if you wanted to make it entirely vegetarian I’m sure vegetable stock (or even water) would work as well. I also misread the recipe to read one can tomatoes rather than one cup, but mine turned out fine so that’s what I suggest (I used a 28 ounce can, you could use a 15 ounce can if that’s what you have on hand – I don’t think it will make a ton of difference).

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Pumpkin Black Bean Soup, modified from Smitten Kitchen

3 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can drained canned tomatoes
1 1/4 cups chopped onions*
1/2 cup minced shallot*
4 garlic cloves, minced*
1 tablespoon cumin seed, optional
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil or butter
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 15 1/2 ounce can pumpkin (or about 1 1/2 cups from a larger can)
1/2 cup dry sherry
3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, optional

*I list the amounts suggested in the original recipe, but – full disclosure – I actually used the pre-chopped onion, shallot, and garlic mixture from Trader Joe’s. I used two packages (they come in a small plastic container and are found in the refrigerated section of the produce department) and my soup turned out delicious. I’m sure it’s equally as good, if not better, if you follow the directions, but I had my soup ready to go (it just needed to simmer) 15 minutes after arriving home from the grocery store.

Heat olive oil or butter (you can get away with less than 1/4 cup if you’re trying to be healthy) in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, shallot, salt, pepper, cumin, and cumin seed if using, and sautée until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. While the onion mixture is sautéing, pulse black beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin in the food processor until coarsely puréed (aside from rinsing the beans and draining the tomatoes, you literally just dump five cans in the food processor and blend.). Add bean mixture to the pot and then add stock and sherry; stir until well combined. Simmer 25 minutes, or until thick. Serve garnished with pumpkin seeds, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and sherry vinegar, if using (I didn’t, as I couldn’t find it at the store, and it didn’t seem to be missing anything).

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And then, just because I was in a baking mood – and because it’s October – pumpkin bread pudding.  I’m not a huge bread pudding person, but (clearly) if you put “pumpkin” in the title of something I will want to make it.  And in this case I’m really glad I did, as it tastes like a boozy pumpkin pie in bread pudding form.

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This recipe is also super quick – if you started it once you finished up the soup you could have it in the oven before the soup was finished simmering – leaving plenty of time to clean the kitchen, even. I suspect it would be delicious with raisins, which I’m going to add next time, although it certainly doesn’t need them (I realize there are a lot of anti-raisin people out there).

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding, from Gourmet Magazine via Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups whole milk (or half nonfat milk, half half and half, if that’s what you have in your fridge)
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (I used a whole cup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus one yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional – this makes for a super boozy bread pudding so you might want to use less if you don’t love bourbon or want the kiddos to eat it)
5 cups cubed (one-inch cubes) day old or crusty bread (I didn’t have any on hand so I cubed a fresh loaf and then spread the cubes on a baking sheet and let them dry out in the oven while it preheated)
3/4 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with rack in the middle. Mix all ingredients but bread and butter in a bowl and whisk well. Toss bread cubes with melted butter until well coated, and then mix with pumpkin mixture. Spread into an ungreased 8×8 baking pan, and bake until custard is set, 25-30 minutes.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté {and a new source for recipe inspiration}

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I’ve been on a roll lately with grocery shopping on Sunday nights and then prepping lots of healthy meals and snacks for the week (this is exciting because there are times where I can go for weeks without setting foot in a grocery store, and end up eating most meals at Starbucks and/or the wine bar in my building). No matter how exhausted I am after a busy weekend, it’s so worth it to drag myself to the grocery store – I love waking up on Monday knowing that I have everything I need for my green smoothie, a lunch already packed, and dinner when I come home – so I’m that much less likely to go to happy hour (or at least, less likely to order a pizza at happy hour).

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My cousin Clare sent me this recipe on Friday, along with the suggestion to sign up for kitchendaily.com. They send you an email with recipe ideas every morning, and you can customize your account so that the recipes are based on your food preferences/dietary needs/number of people you’re cooking for. Perfect for those of us who are always on the lookout for fun new recipes or inspiration.

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I modified the recipe a little – I have a hard time buying regular tomatoes these days, when grape tomatoes are so much easier to cut (or to pop into your mouth).

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Yum, cheese. This might be a little more than the recipe called for.

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Onions and garlic. If you were my friend Scott, now is the time where you would comment on my knife skills (or lack thereof). But in my defense, I was trying to hurry to get dinner on the table.

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I had to switch from my frying pan to a soup pot, which I think means I need to get a larger saute pan soon – this should be a one-dish meal.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Saute, from Kitchen Daily – their version here

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed well, or 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a couple handfuls grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve on top of pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, or any grain you like – I used barley, and then just stirred the leftover barley into the leftover beans and veggies for easy one-pot leftovers.

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Nutrition Information:

195 calories (54 calories from fat)
6 g fat (2 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated)
600 mg sodium
25 g carbs
11 g protein
8 g fiber
5 mg cholesterol

Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan

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I really wanted to post this a couple weeks ago, in case anyone was looking for meatless recipes during Lent, but I’m just now getting around to it. So just in time for a Meatless Monday instead! My friend Tracy introduced me to this recipe a few years ago – I fell in love with it then, and each time I’ve made it since I fall in love with it all over again. I have a couple of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, and I love his stuff because it’s usually pretty easy and relatively healthy.  This recipe is no exception.

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His eggplant parm is lighter than most because his eggplant is grilled (or roasted) rather than breaded and fried like the traditional recipe. Each time I make it I’m reminded of how eggplant immediately soaks up olive oil, so you really need to brush it on rather than drizzle it (as evidenced above). Jamie has you grill the eggplant slices either on the stove top or barbecue (his recipe can be found here), but Tracy sent me a variation on the recipe (found here – love the Wednesday Chef!) and she just brushes them with olive oil and roasts them in the oven, which seems easier to me.

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Everything else comes together pretty quickly, and the sauce is the best part – every time I make this dish I start thinking I should be making this sauce by itself, any time I need a marinara (which I suppose is basically never, but if I did). The San Marzano tomatoes really make a difference, which I say only for the benefit of people who don’t already know that (as I realize many of you already do).

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I put it on top of whole wheat, Omega-3 fortified pasta (which tastes amazingly just like normal noodles), but I had the leftovers plain and it was still delicious – the eggplant is substantial enough you don’t really need the pasta. I will tell you that between prepping and roasting the eggplant, making the sauce, and then baking the casserole, the dish doesn’t come together quickly – but that shouldn’t deter you from making it. If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, I would suggest perhaps making the sauce and/or roasting the eggplant the night before, and then putting it together and baking it the following evening. Otherwise, if you get home as late as I do, dinner won’t be ready until bedtime. But although it is time-consuming, it’s really not hard. If you try it, let me know what you think. And if you have any other “Meatless Monday” recipes to share, or Jamie favorites, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Happy Monday, everyone! And Buon Appetito!

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Split Pea Soup and Blueberry Muffins, Yum!

There are a million recipes out there claiming to be the best chocolate chip cookie or the best macaroni and cheese – split pea soup isn’t quite as sexy, but if there was a contest for best split pea soup, I would enter this recipe and I’m pretty sure I would win. This is another recipe from Cook This Now, which we all know by now is my favorite cookbook (and this recipe is from March, so I’m still on schedule!). It’s vegetarian, as am I, so I suppose I can’t really say if it’s better than a split pea soup with ham – but I’m guessing that it is. Or just as good, at least – there are so many delicious flavors happening that you won’t miss any meat. The coriander and ginger make it taste almost like an Indian dish, while the lemon brightens it up. It’s easy and savory and filling and really just so, so good that I want you all to make it for dinner tonight. And for the economically-minded of us, I bought all of the ingredients for under $15, and have lunches for the week. Turns out split peas are very budget-friendly.

My time saving notes: in lieu of chopping all the veggies, you could use the pre-chopped mirepoix from Trader Joes (or Met Market if you’re in Seattle, New Seasons if you’re in Portland). I chopped most of the veggies myself this time, but I did use the bag of chopped onion from Trader Joe’s, and my little secret jar of minced garlic (so un-gourmet, please don’t tell). I will jump at the chance to grate fresh ginger for any recipe, but if you’re really into time-saving tricks you can get minced ginger in the little jars as well, which leaves you with essentially zero prep work and zero excuse not to make this soup.

A note from Melissa: both she and I think even split-pea-soup-haters will love this soup, but if peas really aren’t your thing, you could do this with red lentils in lieu of the split peas and I bet it would be delicious as well.

A note from me: once everything is in your pot, you’ll need to let it simmer for about an hour and a half – this is coincidentally the same length of time as the Beyonce documentary on HBO. So that’s what I watched last night while I waited for dinner to be ready (in lieu of laundry and other household chores, as planned) – it is SO good and I’m now completely obsessed with her. I feel so bad for ever thinking she used a surrogate. Also, I wish I looked as good on my laptop-cam as she does – if I did, I would make this soup on camera, just for fun.

Gingery Split Pea Soup with Toasted Coriander (from Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark)

Serves 4

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed, crushed with the flat side of a knife (or use 1 teaspoon ground coriander)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-inch-thick piece of gingerroot, peeled and grated
1 pound split peas, picked over and rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 rosemary branches, plus additional chopped leaves for garnish
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
Good olive oil, for drizzling

1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, toast the coriander until fragrant, 1-2 minutes, then pour in the oil. Stir in the carrots, celery, onion, leek, garlic, and ginger. Reduce the heat to medium; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the peas, 4 cups water, the stock, salt, and pepper. Drop in the rosemary and bay leaf (you can tie them up in kitchen string if you like; this makes them easier to remove later). Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer until the peas are tender and falling apart and the soup is thick, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the rosemary and bay leaf. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

3. Thin with water to the desired consistency. Warm over medium-low heat if need be. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with oil and garnish with chopped rosemary.

I’ve been thinking lately that, due to the name of this blog, I should perhaps start making things with blueberries (and/or basil). They had blueberries at the market yesterday (although obviously not local), and on Friday a coworker had asked me why I hadn’t brought any treats in lately, so while watching Beyonce last night I tried a new recipe from my Joy the Baker cookbook (she also has a great blog, for anyone who’s interested – apparently she was in a blueberry mood yesterday too!). These are super simple and delicious, albeit not super healthy (the subtitle of her book is “a celebration of butter and sugar,” so I’m not sure what I was expecting). I thought about making these with coconut oil rather than butter, but seeing as how the title is “brown butter” blueberry muffins I thought maybe I should try them her way, at least at first. They were a big hit at the office this morning, but next time I make them I’m going to try to “health” them up a little – stay tuned.

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins (from the Joy the Baker Cookbook, by Joy Wilson)

Makes 12 muffins

For the muffins:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain before using)

For the topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on the butter – it will melt, froth, and begin to crackle. That’s the water cooking out of the butter. The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly. Remove from heat when butter solids become a medium brown color and butter smells slightly nutty. Immediately pour hot butter into a small bowl to stop the cooking.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add brown butter once it’s cooled a bit.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture and stir gently to combine. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (I use an ice-cream scooper for uniform size).

5. To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a small bowl and rub together with clean fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over the muffin batter in the cups.

6. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden and crisp and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for 15 minutes before removing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Muffins will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but are best on the day they’re made.

Lazy Sunday Soup

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I love lazy Sundays. Any weekend day is generally better than a work day, but sometimes I need a day before I’m fully decompressed from the work week. Plus, there are usually a lot of things to do on Saturdays – things that require showering, having to be somewhere, knowing what time it is, etc. My friend Kelly coined the phrase “no-shower Sundays,” and I try to participate whenever I can. If ever we have plans on a Sunday, we’ll usually text each other beforehand to decide whether or not we need to shower, and if the answer is yes, whether the activity is actually worth doing. Lately I’ve been taking a spin class on Sunday mornings, which I love, but also which makes me feel like I’m cheating myself out of a truly lazy Sunday. I mean, you definitely have to shower after spin class.

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Even after spinning and showering, however, there are still a lot of hours to fill with lazy Sunday activities before I have to concentrate on prioritizing my Sunday night TV watching/DVR-ing. Making soup is one of my very favorite ways to spend some of those hours – it’s especially great in the fall and into January, when you can watch football while in the kitchen, but even now that the season is over it still seems to me like the perfect way to feel productive while actually just hanging out at home in your sweats.

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My quest for the perfect white bean soup started at Specialty’s, a bakery/lunch place with three locations within walking distance from my office. Specialty’s is probably most famous for their cookies, but they also offer decent salads, delicious sandwiches, and four different soups each day. I was addicted to their caprese sandwich for a time, but once they put the nutrition information on their website I had to switch to soup (sad day). The soups are posted online daily, so I’ll often check the location next to my office, as well as another one a few blocks north and a third a few blocks south – each store’s daily offerings are different, and the lentil dahl is completely worth the walk. One day, with lentil not appearing on any of the three menus, I decided to stay close to home and try the “Tuscan white bean” at the store closest to me. The soup was smooth and creamy and tomato-y and delicious – and vegan, so I knew the creaminess wasn’t coming from anything bad for me like cream or butter, but from the beans themselves (and, it turns out, from dehydrated potato flakes, which is another lesson in why its better to make everything yourself). I decided I needed to learn how to make something similar, and while a google search provided a plethora of recipes, none seemed to be exactly what I wanted. Most did not purée the soup, but I wanted mine to be thick and creamy – although I do love white beans in their unpuréed form. A lot of the recipes I found involved sausage – I don’t eat meat, although I’ve made “my” soup now with sausage for other people and they tell me it’s delicious. Many vegetarian recipes suggested adding a parmesan rind to the broth as it simmers, in order to impart a richer flavor that the meat would otherwise add. Almost all of the recipes included kale. So, I compiled everything I liked about all of the recipes I read and when Sunday rolled around I started to experiment – the resulting recipe is below. I promise I created it myself but there are probably lots of identical recipes out there – and if there aren’t, there should be, because its easy and delicious. If you’re interested in a more gourmet recipe, I also really love this one – and it gives you an excuse to open a bottle of wine, which can be another excellent Sunday activity.

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If anyone else has any lazy Sunday traditions and/or soup recipes, I would love to hear them! Or, we could just talk about the Grammys – what is going on with Rihanna and Chris Brown? How am I so old/unhip that I’ve never heard of Wiz Khalifa? Will I have time this week to catch up on all the other shows I missed last night? These are the issues currently weighing heavily upon my mind. Luckily, soup making is a destresser, so it was perfect for Grammy night.

White Bean Soup with Kale
Serves 6-8

Olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (more to taste)
1 32-ounce box low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed (low sodium if you can find them)
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, more or less to taste
Oregano and/or other Italian seasoning blend, to taste
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur kale or lacinato kale), washed, center ribs removed and chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
Parmesan rind, optional
Italian sausage, optional
Toppings: grated parmesan, croutons, basil chiffonade

Start with a healthy drizzle of olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven. Sautée onion over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until translucent. Add carrots and celery and sautée until veggies are soft, 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook a couple minutes longer, then add stock, tomatoes (with juices), one can white beans, basil and herbs, and Parmesan rind if using. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then turn down to low and cover pot. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, then remove from heat, remove parmesan rind, and purée with an immersion blender until smooth (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can purée in a stand blender – just do so in smaller batches and with the steam vent in the lid open or a dish towel in lieu of a lid, otherwise you may end up with soup all over your kitchen and yourself). Add the kale and remaining can of white beans and return to heat until kale is slightly wilted and the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve soup topped with parmesan, croutons, and/or basil.

Sausage option: brown sausage links in a small amount of olive oil in pot before starting soup. When sausage is cooked through, remove from pot and slice into rounds and set aside. Make soup as above – no need to wipe out pot, just add more olive oil with the onions if necessary – and then add sausage back with the kale and beans at the end.

Note: I list out chopped onion, carrots and celery – on a truly lazy Sunday, I enjoy buying fresh veggies and peeling and chopping them myself (except for onions, which are torture on my poor eyes), but if you want to save yourself the effort, the Trader Joe’s pre-chopped Mirepoix is an awesome alternative. Just dump the whole thing in and sautee it all together for 10-12 minutes, then add the garlic and continue as above.

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