Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup

I haven’t blogged much lately. I’ve become obsessed with Tieghan Gerard’s recipes that she publishes under Half Baked Harvest. My daughter introduced me to her site. I’ve ordered a couple of her cookbooks and I am regularly printing off recipes that she publishes on her site. My friend Jane and I have made her appetizers, salads, soups, entrees and desserts. We have loved them all. Her recipes are not overly complicated and the ingredients, for the most part, are readily available even where I live. This soup is based on one of her recipes. It is now a favorite that I’ve made several times. Using my electric pressure cooker (or your instant pot) you can have this prepped and ready to eat in about 45 minutes and it has so much wonderful flavor. This soup would be great as originally published, but my husband especially likes soup with lots of stuff in it so I have added the black beans, corn, and red bell pepper.

Ingredients:

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 poblano peppers seeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped

2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo finely chopped

1 T smoked paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

2 cans (14 oz) fire roasted tomatoes (I used my home canned)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped plus more for serving

1 cup frozen corn

1 can black beans drained

Set your pressure cooker/instant pot to sauté. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, peppers, chipotle peppers in adobo, paprika, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook 5-10 minutes until very fragrant.

Turn the pressure cooker/instant pot off. Add the whole chicken breast. Stir in the tomatoes and the broth. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.

Once it’s done cooking use the quick release and release the steam. Open the pot carefully and remove the chicken. Using two forks shred the chicken and return it to the pot.
Stir in the black beans, corn, cilantro and lime juice.

Stir and keep the pot set to warm.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish as desired with cheese, additional cilantro, sour cream, and green onions. Serve with tortilla chips.
Enjoy.

If you’re interested in more wonderful Half Baked Harvest recipes put it in your search engine and check her out!

NOTE: This recipe can also be made in a crock pot. Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and lime, and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Shred the chicken and stir in the lime juice, cilantro.

I almost always use Better than Bouillon rather than boxed or canned chicken broth. I like the depth of flavor much better.

I purchase larger cans of chipotle in adobo and process them in my mini ninja. I freeze the puree in an ice cube tray and keep the cubes in my freezer to use in recipes.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Asparagus is one of our favorite vegetables. It’s great wrapped in prosciutto and grilled, in a quiche or frittata, pickled and added to your bloody mary, roasted, or just steamed with a little butter and lemon. It’s definitely not asparagus season in Michigan, but when I was shopping and saw this nice big bag of asparagus I immediately thought about making soup. I like brothy soups and creamed soups and my husband typically prefers soups that you could almost eat with a fork, but we both like the creamy asparagus a lot. It comes together quickly and, with the exception of the asparagus, the other ingredients are pantry staples.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of asparagus

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

4 T butter

1/4 cup AP flour

6 cups of chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream or whole milk

1/2 cup fresh grated parmigiana cheese

Heat your dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 T of butter. Add the diced onion and cook until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and and cook for another minute.
While your onion is cooking wash the asparagus spears and remove the woody ends. Cut the spears into approximately 1 inch pieces. If you’d like, set a few tips aside to blanch and use as garnish when serving.
Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the pot and stir in the asparagus pieces. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of flour and stir until combined with the vegetables.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Use an immersion blender until you have a smooth consistency. Stir in the heavy cream and cheese and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blanch the tips that you set aside, and garnish the soup with a little shredded cheese and the asparagus tips.
Enjoy!

NOTE: I like to make my broth from Better Than Bouillon but canned or boxed broth are also fine. I used heavy cream but half and half or whole milk could be substituted.

Roasted Veggie Crepes

One of my latest pandemic shop-a-thon purchases was a cordless electric crepe maker, the direct result of watching too many Instagram reels and having an Amazon Prime account. Last night I decided to see if it worked just like it did in the video I watched. I thought about making blintzes but didn’t have the right cheeses so I opted for roasted vegetable crepes. I made my crepe batter, and while that was resting in the fridge, I prepped all of my veggies and got them ready for roasting. I used broccoli, asparagus, onion, peppers, mushrooms, butternut squash, and brussel sprouts. I added fresh herbs and salt and olive oil and let them roast until tender. They smelled so good roasting. While the vegetables were in the oven I fired up this crepe maker. I poured my batter into the shallow (plastic) dish that came with the CucinaPro.

This post exists only because of this crepe maker. The first time I dipped the crepe maker into the batter one area came up bare. There is some wrist action required to get nice even coverage. After a couple tries I had pretty much perfected the dip, even though this one appears to have a frowny face.

The crepes slide right off the surface and no oil or butter is required. The crepes are paper thin as advertised on the box. My recipe made 20 crepes. I tore sheets of wax paper and layered them as they came off the iron. The crepes themselves were very easy to work with once I started filling and rolling. All in all, I am very satisfied with my purchase and this will not be a ”one use wonder.” I do have a very nice blue carbon steel crepe pan that I will still use on occasion, particularly for making things like blintzes. Since I brush that pan with a little melted butter between crepes the crepe has a little different consistency, and obviously a more buttery flavor. I think the crepe maker will be my go-to for savory crepe dishes. Whether you have a CucinaPro Cordless Crepe Maker or a favorite non-stick skillet, the basic crepe recipe I use will work fine.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups AP flour

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 T melted butter

1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the crepe ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes. Heat your skillet over medium heat, brush with butter, and add about 1/3 cup of batter. Swirl the pan to spread the batter out and, when the edges turn golden, flip the crepe. Stack them between layers of wax paper until you’re ready to use them.
Crepes can be filled with just about anything. This was dinner so I filled mine with some grated Gruyere and all of the veggies that I roasted.
You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs. I added fresh rosemary, oregano, and salt to my medley and tossed them with a generous amount of olive oil. I roasted them at 425 on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment for easy clean up.
I gave them a stir after about 30 minutes and let them roast for another 30 minutes until they were tender.
Once the veggies are done let them cool a bit before you start stuffing and rolling your crepes.
One of my favorite bits are the crispy brussel sprout leaves. I munched a few of those while I was waiting for them to cool a bit. I roasted a whole garlic in the foil and squeezed that delicious garlic out to stir into the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. When you’re ready to fill your crepes grate some cheese because, lets face it, everything is better with cheese. I used Gruyere but any cheese will work.
Lay down some of the cheese and then top with your vegetables. Roll the crepes and put them on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Bake them in an oven preheated to 350 for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

I made a Bechamel sauce to serve over the crepes. When I learned to make this sauce in my high school home economics class it wasn’t called Bechamel, it was simply called white sauce. You make a roux from butter and flour and add milk. Today I whisked in a little nutmeg and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Served up with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

I had a lot of extra crepes so I cooked up some apples with apple pie spices and a little sugar, and made a dessert crepe topped off with a little caramel sauce.

Fun to make and delicious to eat.

NOTE: Crepes have no end of potential. You could use a combination of meat and cheese like ham and swiss or chicken with roasted peppers and jack cheese. If you have extra crepes, as I did, you can refrigerate them in a ziplock bag leaving the wax paper sheets in between the crepes. Make them up for breakfast filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and bacon. You can top them with salsa, marinara, or a cheese sauce. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Veggie Burgers

For quite awhile I’ve been talking about trying to replicate the ”Impossible” burgers without all of the added ingredients like methylcellulose, yeast extract, gums, and an ingredient high in iron called ”heme,” the red ingredient that appears to make the impossible burger bleed. While there is heme in humans and animals, and it is in the meat products that we eat, the heme in the impossible burgers is genetically modified from soybean roots. If you’re interested in reading more about heme, and how and why it is incorporated into the impossible burger, I suggest you google it. But there are none of those ingredients in this recipe which I found in Food and Wine’s August issue. I mean, where would I find heme?? I must admit it was quite a process, and it is decidedly easier to take a package of ground beef out of your freezer. But, if you want a plant based burger without a lot of additives, that is healthy, and good for the environment, try this recipe. It made eight burgers. My husband and I each enjoyed a burger for lunch and I froze the other six in packages of two. My husband said they were alright. I really liked mine. And I would definitely make these again.

Ingredients:

4 cups of water

1 T plus 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed

1 dried bay leaf

1 pound of fresh button mushrooms stemmed and quartered

2 T tamari or soy sauce

6 T plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 head of garlic halved crosswise

2 medium carrots peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

2 small beets peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 can chickpeas (15 1/2 oz can), drained and rinsed

2/3 cup gluten-free or regular panko

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 T whole grain or dijon mustard

It expedites things to get all of your ingredients prepped and measured.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium saucepan bring 4 cups of water and 1 T of salt to a boil. Rinse the barley and add it to the water along with a bay leaf. Return to a boil. Simmer undisturbed for about 25 minutes until the barley is al dente. Drain, remove and discard the bayleaf, and allow the barley to cool for about 15 minutes.

While your barley is cooking toss together the mushrooms, tamari, 2 T of olive oil, pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the garlic head halves on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil, wrap tightly and place on the baking sheet with the mushrooms.

Roast the mushrooms and garlic in the preheated oven until the mushrooms are browned and beginning to dry out, about 40 minutes. Stir twice during cook time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Unwrap the garlic and squeeze garlic cloves from the skins. Set the roasted garlic aside.

Transfer the cooled barley to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 15 pulses. Transfer the barley to a large bowl and add the beets, carrots, cumin, and paprika.

Transfer the roasted mushrooms to the food processor and pulse until finally chopped, about 10 pulses. Transfer mushrooms to barley mixture.

Add chickpeas to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 10 pulses. Measure out 1 cup of chopped chickpeas and transfer to the barley mixture.
Add the roasted garlic to the remaining chickpeas and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the chickpea and garlic mixture to the barley mixture.

Add the panko, walnuts, and mustard to the barley mixture and stir well.

Shape the mixture into eight patties, about 1/2 cup each. I used my ice cream scoop.
Heat two T of olive oil in a heavy, oven safe skillet. Add 4 patties and cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the seared patties to the oven. Bake patties at 400 until the tops and sides are crispy, about 10 minutes. If you want a cheese burger, add cheese during the last couple of minutes. Serve the patty on a bun with toppings of your choice.
I served our burgers up with mayo, lettuce, and red onion. I was wishing for a nice, thick slice of tomato. That would have made these just perfect.

NOTE: If you’re preparing two to four burgers at one time sear them in an oven safe skillet and transfer the skillet to the oven. If you are doing all eight burgers, bake them on a rimmed baking sheet. Remember there will be very little if any shrinkage as the patties cook.

I put six of the patties in packages of two and froze them. The recipe says they can e frozen for up to one month. Thaw frozen patties overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Pizza Crust

Who doesn’t love pizza? I think it’s one of almost everyone’s favorites and there is no end to the combination of toppings you can use. Several weeks ago we were in Munising in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and I enjoyed a wood fired Savory Blueberry Pizza with mozzarella cheese, bleu cheese, ham, bacon, onion, and blueberries topped with a blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious! They also offered a pimento cheese, jalapeño, and bologna pizza and a fig and pig to name just a few. Last night I made a pizza that I found in Cuisine at Home that starred roasted potato, garlic, rosemary, broccolini, leeks, and gruyere cheese. My husband’s favorite pizza needs lots of tomato sauce, and preferably some meat, although we do enjoy a good veggie pizza. Regardless of the toppings, a good pizza, in my opinion, begins with a good crust. I prefer a thinner, crispy crust. I don’t want to feel like I ate a loaf of bread after a couple slices of pizza. Several people have asked me to share my crust recipe and this is my favorite place for sharing. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but I’ve used it for years.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups room temperature water

2 T olive oil

2 1/4 tsp (one packet) instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 T sugar or honey

3 1/4 cups AP flour and more for kneading

1/4 cup cornmeal

Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and cornmeal. I use instant yeast because it can just be mixed in with the other dry ingredients and doesn’t need to bloom in water. Make a well in the center and add the sugar or honey, water, and olive oil. Stir well with a wooden spoon and turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface to knead. Knead for 5-7 minutes. As you’re kneading you may need to add additional flour. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky. If you prefer, you can use a stand mixer with a bread hook to mix and knead your dough.

Once you’ve kneaded the dough return it to a bowl that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. Flip the dough over once coating both sides, cover with a clean dishtowel, and put in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. While your dough is rising preheat your oven to 450 with your pizza stone on the middle rack.
Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Shape each into a ball and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Put one of the dough balls onto a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with PAM. Place a second piece of parchment that has also been sprayed with PAM over the top and roll into your desired shape. Mine never seems to be round but the shape really isn’t important.

Use a fork to make pinpricks in the dough. This prevents the crust from bubbling up when you par-bake it. Cover with a dishtowel and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes. Transfer the crust on the parchment to the preheated pizza stone, and allow it to bake for 5-6 minutes. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy, particularly with a saucy pizza. Remove the par-baked crust from the oven and add all of your toppings.

These were the toppings on the potato and broccolini pizza. The little balls are fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.

Slice. Enjoy.

NOTE: Occasionally I add some dry herbs like oregano or basil to the dry ingredients in the crust. This recipe makes two crusts. You can divide the recipe in half or refrigerate half for another time. Or just make two pizzas. Last night I rolled the second crust out and transferred it to a pizza pan still on the parchment and put it in the refrigerator. The plan is to make a traditional pizza in the next few days.

Earlier this year one of my pandemic purchases was a baking steel that I ordered from King Arthur. I absolutely love it, and use it always when I make pizza. A pizza stone works great as well. If you have neither, just use your favorite pizza pan. You’ll still get a great pie.

Air Fryer Chicken

I frequently see memes on line asking who survived the pandemic without getting pregnant, divorced, or buying an air-fryer. I’m still married, definitely not pregnant, but I did buy an air-fryer and I love it. Aside from grilling hotdogs, heating frozen snacks, and making nice, crispy homemade french fries without deep frying it performs many other functions very well. It is great for roasting peppers, vegetables in general, and does a great job on chicken. An air-fryer is pretty much an amped up convection oven that sits on your countertop. They work on the same principal. Also great on hot summer days when you don’t want to turn on the air conditioning.

My friend Jane came across a recipe for cooking a whole chicken in the air-fryer using a great seasoning mix. I used it on a whole chicken that I spatchcocked out of necessity because my hen couldn’t sit upright in my air-fryer. Spatchcocking is simply the technique of cutting out the backbone (I use my Pampered Chef kitchen shears), opening the chicken up and flattening it. Be sure to save the backbone for making broth. A spatchcocked chicken cooks faster and more evenly whether you’re doing it on a grill, in the oven, or in the air-fryer. What makes this recipe is the seasoning. I’ve done whole chickens and I’ve also done just skin on, bone in chicken thighs, because we both prefer the dark meat. I misplaced the recipe after I used it the first time, but now I’ll know exactly where to find it.

Ingredients:

2 T avocado oil

1 T salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp thyme

This spice blend is the perfect amount for a whole chicken. If you are doing ”parts” use less and store the remainder away in a sealed container.

Rub the avocado oil on both sides of the chicken.

Combine the salt and pepper and spices and sprinkle generously on both sides of the chicken.
Preheat your air-fryer. I used the high temp grill setting on mine. Each brand of air-fryer has different function settings and temperature settings. Once the air-fryer reaches temperature add the chicken skin side down.

Cook for 7-8 minutes before turning. For a whole chicken cook for 20-25 minutes before turning. Total cook time for parts is 10-12 minutes, 30-35 for a whole spatchcocked chicken. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 so it’s best to use an instant read thermometer to ensure your chicken has reached a safe temp.

The chicken remains juicy on the inside and the skin crisps up beautifully. I served ours last night with a salad, smashed sweet potato and broccolini.

Enjoy!

NOTE: Refer to the instructions/recipes provided with your air-fryer. You’ll find recommended cook times for all kinds of dishes. Air-fryers vary and as I mentioned earlier, have different function settings and temperature settings. My air-fryer is a Ninja.

If you survived the pandemic WITHOUT buying an air-fryer, this seasoning mix will probably work just as well in your regular oven!

This recipe reminded me of one I’ve had in my little recipe book for who knows how many years. It’s written in my daughter’s handwriting and it’s title ”Old People Chicken.” Ingredients include 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 2 T fresh ground black pepper, and 2 T oregano. The recipes have a similar flavor profile. My Christmas cookie baking friend and I have a cookie recipe (that we only used once) titled ”Old Lady Cookies,” also written in my daughter’s handwriting. Seeing a theme here.

Pizza Sauce

Sunday of this week I canned two bushels of tomatoes, some diced and some stewed yielding 92 pints. Yesterday I turned a half bushel of roma (plum) tomatoes into pizza sauce. The roma tomatoes make great sauce because they are a nice meaty tomato with less seeds. I also find them a bit easier to peel. A half bushel of tomatoes fits perfectly in my large canning kettle. Since it takes several hours of simmering for the tomatoes to cook down, in my kitchen it is only practical to do a half bushel at a time. We eat a lot of dishes with tomatoes throughout the year and home-canned tomatoes and sauces taste so good! I wish I could say the tomatoes all came from our garden, but living in a forest doesn’t allow for enough sun to grow produce. There are several nice farm markets in our area that sell Michigan produce so they are my go to.

The first job is getting the tomatoes ready for saucing. That’s the worst part! They need to be cored, peeled, and diced. If you haven’t peeled tomatoes before you want to wash and core them first. Have a large pot of simmering water ready and put several tomatoes in for a couple minutes. Remove the tomatoes to an ice water bath, slide the skins off, and dice. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Ingredients:

1 bushel of roma tomatoes peeled and diced

2 large onions (about 4 cups) diced

2 heads of garlic peeled

4-5 carrots finely diced

1/2 cup olive oil

3 T dried basil

3 T dried oregano

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt to taste

Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and garlic cloves to the kettle and cook over medium heat until they are softened but not browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Add your spices and a generous amount of salt.
Mix well and simmer away. Stir often to make sure there is no scorching on the bottom of your pan. After about an hour of simmering and stirring use an immersion blender to break up the tomatoes and vegetables.
Continue simmering until your sauce reaches the desired consistency. It took about 4 hours for my sauce. I used the immersion blender several more times after the initial mix to make sure all of the tomatoes were broken down. Sample your sauce during the cooking process and add more seasoning or salt to taste.

Once your sauce has reached the desired consistency you will want to start the canning process. Make sure that all of your jars have been washed with hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher. Put your jars and lids in the hot water bath and begin filling your hot jars with the hot sauce, adding 1/4 tsp of citric acid per pint. Process your jars in the hot water bath for 35 minutes. Remove the jars to a heavy towel and allow them to cool completely, best overnight. Repeat until all of your sauce has been jarred and processed. Once the jars have cooled I remove the rings and shelve them.

Since there was some sauce left in my kettle we had pizza for dinner last night.

I like a thin, crispy crust. Pizza toppings included italian sausage, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and peperoncini. Homemade crust, homemade sauce…doesn’t get much better.

NOTE: The ingredients in this sauce are definitely not limited to pizza. The sauce can be used in all kinds of applications including pasta dishes, on a meatloaf, or chicken or eggplant Parmesan. Also, you can modify the spices per your personal preference. The carrots in this recipe help to thicken the sauce, and also add some sweetness without the addition of sugar. And maybe eating more pizza will help your eyesight. 🙂

There was one special, heart shaped tomato in this peck!

Making your own sauce is not difficult. If you have the time and the inclination you’ll be glad that you did.

Roasted Feta and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Quite awhile ago my daughter made this dish and sent me the recipe. Not sure of the source, but since she sent it, I’ve seen similar recipes in several places. I passed the recipe on to my friend Jane and she has made it several times. Last night was my first time, and we absolutely loved it. I made it with penne pasta, but my daughter and friend Jane have been spiraling zucchini and they made it with zoodles. This is certainly the time of year for gardens full of zucchini, but when I decided this was going to be dinner I had none. This recipe is SO easy, and everyone, of course, loves pasta. This will definitely be on our menu again. Next time I will try the zoodles.

Ingredients:

8 oz block of Greek feta

2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes

1 or 2 shallots sliced

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

6 T of olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo flakes)

1 tsp dried thyme

Fresh basil chiffonade

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Slice and dice the shallots and garlic.

In a medium size bowl combine the tomatoes with the shallots and garlic, 4 T of olive oil, salt, pepper flakes, and thyme.

Pour the tomato mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Nestle the block of feta in the center and drizzle with the remaining 2 T of olive oil.

Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes until the top of the feta is golden and the tomatoes are bursting. While your tomatoes and feta are roasting, prepare your pasta according to the package instructions or spiralize your zucchini. Reserve 1/2 cup of your pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking and the cheese and tomatoes are roasting, make yourself a cocktail.

I made myself a Kentucky Mule. Two ounces of bourbon, one tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice, and a 6 oz bottle of ginger beer…garnished with a sprig of mint and a slice of lime. Now, back to preparing dinner.

Remove the tomatoes and cheese from the oven and stir to combine.

Add the pasta or zoodles.
Continue stirring to combine and add the reserved pasta water.
Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil. I like to say chiffonade because it sounds so fancy but really, just roll a few fresh basil leaves together and, using a sharp knife, slice them very thin.

Serve with a nice green salad and some crusty bread. A vegetarian meal you will enjoy over and over again.

NOTE: You can alter the spices based on your personal taste. Also, the amount of garlic you use. We love lots of garlic. Other veggies could also be added during the roasting process like mushrooms, sweet peppers, or diced zucchini or summer squash.

Aleppo pepper flakes have a moderate heat level with the taste being similar to the ancho chili. I prefer Aleppo flakes over the hotter variety.

And, if you’re so inclined, enjoy a Kentucky Mule.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I am a big King Arthur fan. Not the King Arthur of medieval legend, but the King Arthur Baking Company. They are an employee owned company that was founded in 1790, originated in Boston, and is now based in Norwich Vermont. In the late 1800s one of the early owners attended a performance of the musical, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, inspiring them to name their new product, King Arthur Flour. This employee owned company has been named One of the Best Places to Work in Vermont every year since the inception of the award in 2006. I love their recipes, their products, and their bakeware. During this pandemic I have ordered soooo many new pieces of baking equipment, the latest being two tea loaf pans. These loaf pans are ceramic. They are longer and narrower so the slices are the perfect size. Apparently the perfect size for afternoon tea.

As soon as my pans arrived I looked up a recipe for Lemon Bread and got busy. Poppyseeds were optional in the recipe, but I think they’re a great addition. Interesting factoid, it takes about 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram, and between 1 and 2 million seeds to make up a pound. They are also rich in thiamine but I don’t know how much you’d have to eat to get your daily requirement. When I was still working and eating lunch out, I frequently met friends at a favorite department store restaurant. This bread reminds me of the lemon poppy seed muffins they served in the Cortland Room with a slice of their classic quiche Lorraine. My Jackson Michigan friends will remember. This bread recipe is from the King.

Bread Ingredients:

1 cup (198g) sugar

1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil

3 T lemon zest

1/4 cup (58g) lemon juice

3/4 cup (170g) buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 T baking powder

1 T poppy seeds

2 1/2 cups (300g) flour

Lemon Glaze and Lemon Butter Ingredients:

1/2 cup (116g) lemon juice

2/3 cup (132g) sugar

8 T (113g) butter

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, beat together the buttermilk and the eggs.

Finally, combine all of the dry ingredients and whisk to mix evenly.

Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture alternately to the sugar/oil mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. When everything is incorporated, pour the batter into the prepared pan. I line my pan with parchment paper and spray with Pam for baking. The overhanging parchment paper makes it easy to lift the bread out of the pan for slicing once it has cooled.

Bake for 50-60 minutes if you are using a standard loaf pan, 40-45 minutes with the tea loaf pan. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

While your bread is baking make your glaze. Whisk together 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice with 2/3 cup of sugar, and microwave on high for 30 seconds to dissolve the sugar. A little longer if necessary. Brush half of the mixture on the bread as it cools.

To make the lemon butter, pour the other half of the lemon sugar mixture into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Whip the syrup with 1 stick of room temperature butter. Chill and spread on lemon bread.

Once the bread has cooled, slice and enjoy!

The bread is very moist, and the glaze and lemon butter accentuate the lemony taste. A little bit tart, a little bit sweet.

NOTE: It wasn’t until I started baking the sour dough breads that I started weighing out most of my ingredients. King Arthur recipes always include measurements and weights. Several cookbooks I’ve looked through for baked goods recipes use only weights.

The poppy seeds were optional in the original recipe and can be omitted if you choose.

Eggplant Rollups

One of our favorite dishes is eggplant Parmesan. Eggplant is really very versatile and is used in a number of cuisines. It takes on the flavors of whatever ingredients it’s been cooked with. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals and fiber. And it’s low in calories (until you bread it and fry it and cover it with sauce and cheese). For all the vegetable haters out there, eggplant is actually a fruit. According to Wikipedia, the eggplant is not only a fruit, it is a berry.

If you google eggplant recipes you will find an infinite number of ways to prepare it. It’s great grilled, baked, fried, or roasted. It can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, an entree, or you can use it in place of pasta in a lasagna. Raw, the flesh is spongy and soft, and when it’s cooked it is deliciously creamy and tender. Several years ago, before it closed, I regularly shopped at a gourmet shop called Blackberry Rose. The owner told me how to prepare eggplant rollups stuffed with angel hair pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce and then topped with a sweet chili sauce before baking. I need to try that again sometime soon. It was delicious! These rollups are stuffed with ground beef, ground pork, or sausage, and then baked much like eggplant Parmesan.

It is not necessary to peel eggplant. If you are going to be frying eggplant it is best to slice it, generously salt it, and place it in a colander to drain for 30 minutes or so. Then rinse the eggplant and gently pat it dry. This prevents the eggplant from absorbing too much of the oil as it’s fried.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 eggs

2 T of olive oil

1 pound of ground beef, ground pork, or sausage

1 small onion grated

1/2 sweet bell pepper finely diced

Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce of your choosing (homemade or prepared)

Mozzarella cheese

Making lengthwise cuts, use a mandolin to get nice thin slices of the eggplant.

Put your eggplant slices in a colander, salt them, and set them in the sink to drain. In the meantime, prepare your stuffing for the roll ups. If you are using links of sausage remove the casings and add the grated onion and minced sweet peppers. If you are using ground beef or ground pork. in addition to the onion and peppers, you will want to add some garlic powder, Italian seasonings, and salt and pepper.

Once the eggplant has drained, rinse it and pat it dry. Whisk the eggs. Brush a heavy skillet with a light coating of olive oil. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and cook them over medium high heat, two to thee minutes per side. Set the cooked slices aside and continue until all of the slices are browned. They should be soft and pliable, easy to roll.

Preheat the oven to 350. Once all of the eggplant slices are done begin making your rollups. Place a light coating of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Take approximately two tablespoons of the meat mixture and place it on the widest end of the eggplant slice and roll.

Place the rollups, seam side down, in the casserole dish.

Top the rollups with additional sauce, sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the cheese is golden.

Cooked to perfection. Serve with the pasta of your choosing and a side salad. Some crusty bread and Chianti would also be nice.

Enjoy!

NOTE: On one occasion I tried dipping the eggplant slices in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before frying. While this works great when you’re making eggplant Parmesan, it makes the eggplant difficult to roll up.

When using sweet or hot Italian sausage to fill these rollups no additional seasoning is necessary. If you’re using ground beef or ground pork you’ll want to kick up the flavor with more herbs and spices.

From one medium eggplant I got 13 slices and I used one pound of sausage to fill them.