MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

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After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

Recipe Revival: Brazilian Fish Stew Plus MVK’s Like of the Week

This summer has been busy—and the last two weeks have been HOT! Dinners have consisted of fresh vegetables, cold cucumber soup, and cooking on the grill. But as I was thinking of what recipe I was going to bring you this week, I remembered this favorite of mine that I first wrote about in 2013 and thought it was perfect timing–you can celebrate the end of the Olympics this weekend with a rich, spicy fish stew!

While this recipe isn’t complicated, it does take a fair amount time, so I always make it on a weekend when I have extra. And I usually buy cod in place of the halibut or sea bass, but you can substitute with another white fish if you prefer. This is a dish that is special enough for guests or a marked occasion; you could serve a crisp white wine, a simple salad with vegetables from your garden or the farmer’s market, and maybe some fresh crusty bread to sop up the leftovers.

I haven’t watched the Olympics in years; I only know what’s going on by reading the news headlines. But make this Sunday evening to watch the finale, or do what I plan on doing; once the heat wave breaks, it will make a perfect fall meal!

fishstewuse

Brazilian Fish Stew
Originally published in the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe calls for sea bass or halibut, but I always substitute a light, white fish, usually cod. 

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 1/2-pound) sea bass or halibut fillet, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup minced green onions (about 1 bunch)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 large)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, and bay leaf; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato, and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, clam juice, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

3. Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour pureed vegetable mixture into pan. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Add coconut milk and red pepper to pureed vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 3 minutes. Add fish mixture; cook 3 minutes or until fish is done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cilantro.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tiny Changes to Lose Poundsscale
I, like many people, am always looking for tips on how to lose weight. And I don’t want the advice to be take a magic pill or to eat the latest fad Dr. Oz is peddling. These ten tips actually are helpful and logical!

Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

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Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

Springy Chicken Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I’m baacckk!! I know some of you missed your weekly Wednesday recipe as some friends had mentioned they hadn’t received something from me in a while. I hope that translates to most of my readers! After writing 272 blog articles for five (five!) years, I really felt a need for a break. It’s nice to just cook without the thought of having to write about it! And meals at home, when I’ve been home, have been simple, nothing fancy, along with a few duds. But now that we’ve turned the corner into spring, I’m feeling like getting back into the kitchen and cooking and writing about it!

But even though the calendar says it’s May and springtime, doesn’t mean the weather is cooperating! After a warmer than normal winter, I’m finding the spring colder than normal. Even when it’s sunny outside, there is still a nip in the air and wind. I spent a few days the first week of the month in New York City and regretted the fact I didn’t have my winter coat with me! Even today as I write this, they have snow predicted in the forecast! #Truth! So the days of soup and other cold weather comfort foods aren’t over yet, but this recipe has a springy twist to it!

I love having romaine lettuce in a soup and I don’t use it enough; it adds a certain lightness and freshness to a soup that you don’t get from spinach or kale. Any chicken soup is comfort in a bowl for me and this was really delicious and using chicken thighs adds much more flavor than white meat. Instead of using fresh thyme, I added about a half teaspoon of dried. This came together quickly on a weeknight and certainly warmed my insides from the cold, damp weather outside. With springtime ingredients like the leeks and peas, it gave me a reminder and faith that yes, warmer weather will be coming. When? I’m just not sure!

springy chickenSpringy Chicken Soup

This recipe first appeared in the May issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
1 cup thinly sliced leek
1 cup thinly diagonally sliced carrot
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
3 large thyme sprigs
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Preparation
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Add stock and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until carrot is almost tender. Stir in chicken, peas, pepper, and salt; cook 3 minutes. Remove thyme; discard. Remove pan from heat; stir in lettuce and parsley. Place 1 1/2 cups soup in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Meet the Orb Weaver Cheesemakers!
Orb%20Weaver%20DSC02437%20cowI consider myself lucky beyond belief that I live in a part of Vermont where cheese (and the cows!) and their makers are close by. Orb Weaver Cheese can be found in my tiny town and their cheese is delectable. And for 30 years, the farm has been run by just two women!

This is a great story on Marian and Marjorie’s beginnings and the process of making their cheese. You can read the story here.

 

From the Archives: Comforting Winter Fare Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Christmas Eve's sunset in Vermont's capital city.

Christmas Eve’s sunset in Vermont’s capital city.

Happy 2016! I hope your year has started on the right foot! Winter has begun in earnest here in Vermont; with a Christmas Eve high of nearly 70 degrees (yes, you read that correctly!), we now have a little bit of snow on the ground and it’s finally beginning to look like January. While disliking winter weather, I have to admit I have a special fondness for this time of year; the holidays are over, the light is slowly coming back, and when it’s snowing I don’t feel guilty about staying home for the day to cook and read. It’s time to roast root veggies in the oven, make a pot of farro to add to salads, and re-read Sense and Sensibility.

Since I am going into the fifth(!) year of My Vermont Kitchen, I decided to take a trip through the archives to find some warm and comforting recipes to start the year off a healthy foot. Such is the time for warm soups and stews, roasts, casseroles, and all of these recipes are some of my favorites that I make throughout the cold months; they’re healthy, delicious, and perfect to make when the weather outside is frightful. And most of these are either vegetarian and/or can be made vegetarian!

Turnip, Leek, and Wild Rice Soup
The underused turnip shines in this cream-based soup with leeks and wild rice.

Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
I find lentils and mushrooms cooked together with a little bit of barley to be very cozy. If you want to go the gluten-free route, omit the barley and pump up the lentils.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
If you feel a cold coming on, make this soup STAT! Spicy with lots of garlic, it will keep those germs at bay!

Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
Warm chicken stew topped with homemade biscuits isn’t as hard to make as you think!

Braised White Beans with Garlic and Rosemary
A misread on a recipe turned into a happy mistake that I’ve made again and again!

Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans
With the addition of a little bit of bacon and shallots, this dish is easy to make with lots of flavor to warm you on a chilly night.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
With an early morning prep, this dinner can come together quickly after a long day.

Spicy and Creamy Pasta
Pasta, sausage, veggies, and a little bit of cream, you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

Roast Chicken
Roasted chicken is my go-to comfort dinner and one bird can make several dinners plus soup!

Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
A combination of easy to find ingredients makes for a delicious and nutritious casserole.

(Photo Faith Durand)

(Photo © Faith Durand)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 Things for Your Grocery List This Month
Along my reasons for liking this time of year (see above), I also love reading articles that highlight how to start the year off right. Here is a great list of things to add to your grocery cart this month. Grapefruits, Cuties, and coconut milk–yes!

You can read the entire list by clicking here.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday! Now it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays!

A few weeks ago, I read Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when Gourmet magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked. The book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year.

Her recipes, such as they are, are more a listing of ingredients with a description of what to do. I love this way of cooking, but I know it’s not for everyone. And her writing is so beautiful, she makes everything she cooks sound delicious. Including a butternut squash soup.

I’ve never been one for squash soups; squash in soup, yes, but a pumpkin or butternut squash soup is something I’d tried on occasion but never liked. I’ve always found the flavors odd and would always avoid it in restaurants. This mindset shifted a couple of months ago when my mom ordered a pumpkin soup that was really delicious. Reichl had a recipe for a butternut soup and her description of it made me want to make it immediately. I took a glance at the ingredient list, decided to make my version, and cooked it up as the first snowflakes fell outside the kitchen window. And she was right. It’s good. And comforting. And is the best kind of soup to eat this time of year; it’s easy on the wallet and takes maybe 30 minutes at the most to make.

Dairy-free, wheat free, vegetarian, this is so simple that anyone can make it. For lunch, it’s satisfying and warms you up and fills you up, too. You’d think that just five ingredients would make for a not so exciting soup, so I was skeptical when I put everything together. But something about the melding of the flavors is delicious. And don’t worry about precise chopping, everything is going to be blended; it’s a lot easier to use a hand blender if you have one, but a standing blender will work, too.

You’ll find you’ll need more than the first two cups of water. I always add a little bit to my lunch container to get the consistency I like. If you want a little bit more flavor, I thought some cumin or thyme would be a good addition.

Happy Cooking!

butternutsoup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

One butternut squash, 1 pound

2 peeled carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2+ cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. When ready, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about five minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook the vegetables until everything has completely mushy. With a hand blender (or standing blender) puree until everything is blended, adding additional water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

bs1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbook Store

Number two on my New York City adventures (Part I can be read here). When I went to New York, I had very little on my agenda except for one thing, I had to go to Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in Greenwich Village. I really wanted to check it out and after more than ten years, I finally made it!

My friend, Jen, and I got there Sunday afternoon at 12:56, only to discover the store opened at 1 p.m. and we were famished. So instead of waiting four minutes, we went to another bookstore for lunch and then I made my way back while Jen went shopping.

bs2I walked in and it was like walking into someone’s kitchen. A lovely table with the season’s colors and cookbooks was in the middle of the room. Cookbooks lined the walls, all neatly divided into ethnicity and topic. The lighting was golden with lamps on various bookshelves and the colors were of retro kitchens, light greens, oranges, yellows. Vintage aprons, linens, and cookware sat on wooden kitchen tables, and I immediately spied the recipe box my mother has in her kitchen since I was born! A box in the back had a pile of old menus from long ago New York City restaurants now closed. It was warm enough to have the back door open, which led to a small enclosed garden with a small table and chairs, where you could read your cookbooks.

bs3I thought it was curious she had no Julia Child books in the French section, but I soon discovered she had a reserved spot for the masters right in front of her counter! Child, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, a variety of editions of The Joy of Cooking, she had all of the greats. I was so pleased to find they had such a special space all together!

bs4After everyone left, I was able to have a chat with Bonnie and it was everything I thought it would be. I ended up buying a book, Clementine in the Kitchen, a book Ruth Reichl reissued when she was editor of Gourmet, the recipe box, and a small cooking booklet titled Meals for Two. I found the book prices to be reasonable, especially for New York City and for being vintage. If you are into cookbooks and want a treat, don’t hesitate to check it out. Her hours change weekly, but she always posts them on her website, bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com.

bs5Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks ~ 28 East 2nd Street, New York, New York

Summer Minestrone Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Small town living at its best.

Small town living at its best.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve brought you a soup recipe! And while one doesn’t normally think of summer as soup season, but since this one has been cooler than normal with fits and starts of heat (I’m not complaining!), it’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the garden’s bounty and make a big pot of minestrone soup.

Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a good soup. They are easy to make on a Sunday morning and tote to work for the week. Add a small salad, a half sandwich, or a slice of bread with some in-season fruit, and you have a healthy and delicious lunch! And this soup is so good and flavorful! Lots of squashes, green beans, with the flavor of basily and garlicky pesto, it make a delectable lunch or dinner. Plus, it can be easily frozen, so you can have some later on in the month.

This is a free-wheeling recipe, so there are lots of substitutions that you can make based on your own palate. Water or vegetable broth for chicken, gluten-free pasta or none for the ditalini, spinach or chard (which I used) in place of kale, omit additional cheese, and you can even omit the pesto if you don’t have any on hand. I’ve done that and it’s just as good.

As I write this, it is a cloudy and rainy and I’m under a blanket next to the open window as it is windy and cool outside. Just a reminder that this glorious season isn’t forever and cooler days will be coming in the future–with more soup!

minestroneSummer Minestrone Soup
This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

A gentle simmer keeps the vegetables in the soup slightly firm, so they maintain their texture during freezing and reheating.

Yield: Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only (about 2 leeks)
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped yellow squash
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup homemade or refrigerated pesto (such as Buitoni)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add leek, carrot, celery, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not brown). Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Place 1 cup cannellini beans in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mashed beans, remaining cannellini beans, squashes, bell pepper, green beans, pasta, salt, and black pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium; cook 10 minutes. Stir in kale; cook 2 minutes. Place 2 cups soup in each of 8 bowls, or follow freezing instructions. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons pesto and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

How-To

FREEZE: Cool soup completely. Freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 2 months.

THAW: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) 5 minutes or until pliable.

REHEAT: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Veggies…
veggiesI came across this article, “10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious” a little while back and thought I wouldn’t find anything new. Well, blow me down, I realized I am actually doing several of these things on this list! I always add garlic and carrots to recipes right after chopping and I sometimes will deleaf the head of lettuce to easily make salads. I thought this had some great tips and information, I hope you find it helpful too!

 

Cauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

When I am looking ahead at a week of sub-zero temps, I know a salad for lunch just isn’t going to cut it; I need something warm to eat midday and in the evening, too. When I saw a photo of this creamy white soup with a small dollop of shiitake mushrooms on top, I knew I had to try it!

I think cauliflower gets a bad rap. I’ve always liked it; this time of year I’ll just chop and roast with a little bit of olive oil or sometimes I’ll make “mashed” cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, but I can see where some people see it as a blah vegetable. If you’re watching your grocery bill, you can usually find it on sale and it makes for a couple of side dishes. Yet I admit, it is a real pain in the neck to chop, little pieces go everywhere, and I’ll find bits on the floor and counter days later despite my best cleaning efforts. But when it is $2.99, I can’t resist such a good price!

I love shiitakes and rarely buy them because of their price, but I found a package for $4.99, which made for two meals, plus they were already sliced, so the work was already done for me!

My medium cauliflower head was more than four cups chopped, but I used it all and just added a bit more broth to thin it out. And the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar was the perfect complement and added a little zing to what would be an otherwise ordinary soup!

cauliflower soupCauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth or water and use a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce or use all sherry vinegar.

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head)
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (3.5-ounce) package shiitake mushroom caps
1 teaspoon lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 5 minutes or until leeks are softened, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, 1 cup and 6 tablespoons stock, 3/4 cup water, and thyme. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender. Place cauliflower mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return to saucepan. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, butter, and pepper. Keep warm.

2. Thinly slice mushroom caps. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; sauté 6 minutes or until browned. Add remaining 2 tablespoons stock, Worcestershire sauce, and sherry vinegar. Cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced and syrupy.

3. Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with about 2 tablespoons mushroom mixture. Sprinkle evenly with parsley.

Need more cauliflower inspiration? Try this one, Creamy Cheese Cauliflower Soup.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Scrambled Eggs

mccartneyHere’s a little bit of trivia for you this week. Did you know when Paul McCartney wrote the song “Yesterday,” to substitute a working lyric they used the words “scrambled eggs?”

I doubt he also wrote about waffle fries and tofu wings, but this is something silly for this Wednesday morning. This clip is from a couple of years ago, before Jimmy Fallon took over “The Tonight Show.” You can watch and listen to the song here.

Tis the Season for Light Eating: Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

Good Wednesday morning! How did you fare over the holiday? Were you hit by the snowstorm? It arrived for us mid-day Wednesday, but cleared out by Thursday morning. For the first time in many years, I think I can say my big dinner went off without a hitch—and I didn’t even draw up a timeline! Granted, the turkey was done about 45 minutes than I planned and I left the rolls in too long, but everything was delicious with leftovers kept at a minimum. And I’ve boiled up the turkey carcass for some soup later on this winter!

So now that our bellies are filled to the rim and it’s December, which means lots of sweets and out of the ordinary eating, I try as much as I can to have light meals throughout the day. Sugar and sweets are terrible for my waistline as well as my psyche, so I try to make healthy and delicious meals that aren’t fussy. This soup, which I made for lunches, was perfect. With accents of lemon and ginger, to me, this was a souped up (pardon the pun!) version of miso soup you get in Japanese restaurants.  While it is light yet filling, you don’t go away feeling like you ate a heavy meal.

For substitutions, I poached a chicken breast instead of using the rotisserie chicken and I cooked up the brown rice instead of the instant and made a pilaf of the leftovers. But their suggestions are excellent quick replacements if time is lacking. This was so delicious, it has become my new favorite soup! And for those gluten-intolerant, just use tamari instead of soy sauce!

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Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon white miso
1 (8-ounce) package presliced cremini mushrooms
4 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast
3 cups chopped bok choy
1 (8.5-ounce) pouch precooked brown rice
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and miso; sauté 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté 2 minutes. Add stock, chicken, and bok choy; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes.

While soup simmers, prepare rice according to package directions. Stir rice, soy sauce, salt, and pepper into soup; cook 4 minutes or until bok choy is tender. Remove from heat; stir in lemon rind and juice.

england's flagMVK Eats London!

Hopefully no one noticed I was gone for a few weeks as The Eater of the House and I took the trip of a lifetime to London! Our good friends, Jen and Bill, had given an open invitation to visit them for two years and we finally took them up on their offer! November is always dark, overcast, and cold in Vermont, so it was a great time to travel, plus the weather was perfect, upper 50s, and I definitely didn’t need the winter coat I chose to bring!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

London is a city for walkers, so you don’t need to worry about calories and how much you’re eating, as I averaged about ten miles every day! Our first real walk took us to Portobello Road and Notting Hill, where we walked along, checking out the stands and looking at all the food. Vegetables, bread, jams, doughnuts, you name it, they had it!

Gorgeous vegetables.

Gorgeous vegetables. I wish I could have taken some of those parsnips home with me!

All that walking made us hungry and instead of choosing to wait close to an hour at an Italian restaurant we selected, we instead walked across the street to the Spanish tapas restaurant Galicia. At first, we weren’t sure if they were open, the lights in the upstairs dining room were off and there was only a smattering of men at the downstairs bar. But they took us up, turned on the lights, and we had the most incredible lunch I think I’ve ever eaten. We selected nine dishes to share, and there almost wasn’t enough room on the table for the food and our plates. Mussels, sausages, jambon, meatballs, octopus, chicken, shrimp, avocado, everything was cooked to perfection and was so delicious with no room for dessert. Before lunch, Jen took me to the bookstore, Books for Cooks, which was an entire bookstore devoted to cookbooks and books about cooking! My kind of heaven!

Tapas lunch!

Tapas lunch!

 

 

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From the top of Primrose Hill.

Since Jen and Bill have lived in England for two years, I’ve heard about Sunday roast. I always do some sort of roast in my house on Sundays, albeit for dinner not lunch, but this was an authentic meal I wanted to experience. After a long walk from home to Abbey Road then Primrose Hill (where you can get the most gorgeous view of the city as you can see above), we took a short cab ride to Hampstead. This was a favorite part of the city for me that I would love to revisit. A small town, at the top of a windy and hilly neighborhood street was The Holly Bush, which is about as traditional an English restaurant as you can find. As luck would have it, they were able to seat our party immediately as we were all famished from all the walking.

london4If there is roast chicken on a menu, you can guarantee I will order it, but when in England, I was going to eat like the natives, so I selected the beef with Yorkshire pudding. I like my beef really rare and the piece I was given was perfection and just the right size. Small potatoes accompanied along with a big puffy Yorkshire pudding, which for those who don’t know what it is, is a popover, not what we know as “pudding.” And speaking of pudding, since we weren’t stuffed following dinner, we ordered traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Again, not what we know as “pudding” in our country, I would say this was similar to steamed bread, topped with a little bit of ice cream. And it truly was delicious! (We also discovered that the British word for rutabaga is “swede” and that the actor, Timothy Dalton (aka James Bond), was sitting behind us during our meal!)

london6Of all the meals I ate in London, if I were to recreate one at home, this would be it. Potatoes aren’t my usual favorite, but these seemed to be boiled then roasted; so the outside was crunchy but the inside perfectly creamy. The meat, which I think was grass-fed and probably local, was perfectly cooked to my preference, spices just right, with a little bit of horseradish and gravy on the side. The veg, served family style in a bowl, was a combination of root vegetables, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, all my favorites. I left that meal incredibly happy and perfectly satisfied.

Next week, I’ll bring you two or three more memorable London meals!

london7

It’s Soup Season! Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup

I've been seeing and hearing lots of Canada Geese heading south these days.

I’ve been seeing and hearing lots of Canada Geese heading south these days.

Rabbit Rabbit everyone for the first day of October! We’ve been enjoying a spell of Indian Summer for the past couple days, but before that happened, it was cool, crisp days and once the sun goes down, it starts to get fall-like and chilly. I wanted to make good hearty soup recipe for lunches and I pulled out this old favorite from Cooking Light.

First off, this makes 11 servings and it freezes great, so you can divide into smaller containers so you can pull one out for a late dinner or lunch and not have mountains sitting around. This is just a little bit of chopping, mincing, and throwing everything into the pot and letting it cook for an hour. It’s perfect for those days you want to make something healthy and delicious, but have a lot of things to do around the house, fix it and forget it! And if you cook it for more than an hour, that’s fine, you’re pureeing most of the soup, so it really doesn’t matter. Vegans and vegetarians, you can just use all water. I never know what exactly is means when you find “red pepper” in recipes, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne for a little kick. It was great!

lentil soup
Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup

This article first appeared in the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 11 servings. (serving size: 1 cup)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/3 cups water
2 1/3 cups dried lentils
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
Chopped fresh tomatoes (optional)
Cilantro sprig (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion; sauté for 3 minutes or until tender. Add the turmeric and the next 6 ingredients (turmeric through garlic); sauté for 1 minute. Add water and next 4 ingredients (water through diced tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 1 hour.

2. Reserve 2 cups lentil mixture. Place half of remaining mixture in blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with other half of remaining mixture. Stir in reserved 2 cups lentil mixture. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and a cilantro sprig, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “When the Path to Serenity Wends Past the Stove”

I find when sad things happen in my life, I gravitate to the kitchen. It’s homey and one of the most comforting rooms in the house, and for me, cooking lets me work things out in my head, even sometimes grieve. The methodical chopping, mincing, stirring, it’s rhythmical and repetitive, and sometimes I need that.

The below article appeared in the New York Times a week after September 11, 2001. I read it when it was published and have thought of it often, as the writer evoked my same feelings; when things aren’t right in your life, or the world, retreat to the kitchen and cook. I thought back to this article not too long ago after the sudden death of a close friend. The night we got the news, I retreated to the kitchen with a martini and started chopping, cooking, and just being. I couldn’t do anything, but cooking makes you feel like you are doing something, even if it’s just nourishing the people in your own home.

And for another piece of kitchen magic, I didn’t realize the lentil soup recipe was from the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light until I started to write about it. (I swear I didn’t plan this!) Just another serendipitous kitchen moment.

When the Path to Serenity Wends Past the Stove