Sunday, October 28, 2012

Autumn Minestrone Soup with Italian Bread

Today was Soup Sunday at our church with a soup "cook-off" ( votes = money contributed)  to benefit the Young Harris College scholarships given by our church. It was a good cause (says the former fundraiser) and who doesn't love a good bowl ( or 2 ) of soup on a fall day? The weather cooperated nicely and gave us a rainy, blustery, cool day - perfect soup weather!

Soup is not an exact art, so I set off in search of a good base from which to work. I thought minestrone sounded good and found an autumn minestrone that used fall squash along with greens.
I added, subtracted, adjusted and liked the final result! Of course  Mikey Bill loved it! It was a hit at the "contest" but not the winner. It was winner enough in my book to keep the recipe and make it again.

I also made bread to go with the soup. Bread machine Italian bread to which I added asiago cheese, chopped sun dried tomatoes and minced fresh rosemary. It was almost as good as the soup! I know there are many purists out there who would never use a bread machine but I have to admit that I think they are one of the top kitchen appliances! It was sooooo easy to put the ingredients in the machine, walk away for 3 hours and come back to a loaf of delicious warm bread! Besides, it makes your house smell scrumptious!

Use this recipe as a base, make the changes that your family likes and enjoy.  You can't go wrong!

Autumn Minestrone
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onions ( 2 medium or 1 large)
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (butternut)
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups peeled and diced carrots 
3 cups cubed potatoes (Klondike Gold)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth (or half broth and half water)
4 cups chopped kale (or spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, etc)
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini (or any white) beans,  rinsed and drained
3 cups cooked small tube pasta (ditalini or elbows)
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Cook until veggies are almost fork tender, about 10 minutes. Add kale and beans; cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in hot cooked pasta just before serving.
Helen's notes: Garnish with shredded asiago cheese and a drop of balsamic or red wine vinegar. If you have a rind of Parmesan cheese, add that with the broth and simmer until it thickens the soup and veggies are almost tender. Substitute frozen green beans for kale.
Bread Machine Italian Bread
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water, 80 degrees
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons dry milk powder
4 cups bread flour (King Arthur, unbleached)
1 pkg yeast
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
Place ingredients in bread machine in order listed. Set program to French course, 2 lb loaf, medium crust. Go away and let the machine make magic!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apples, Apples and more Apples!

One of my absolute favorite fall foods is apples! I love them fresh, sweet and crunchy, in cakes, crisps, breads, muffins.... you get the picture? The best variety in my opinion is Pink Lady. They come in after the first frost and will last in the refrigerator for months. They are sweet yet tart, crunchy and hold up well when cooked. I'm sure that you have a favorite, too. Just remember that the ones with round bottoms are cooking apples and the ones with pointy bottoms (is that so very technical?) are eating apples and there is absolutely nothing wrong with switching their use! (The photo below says "organic" however, Pink Ladies are not all organic.)

 I am fully aware that I have shared several (OK, a LOT) of apple recipes over the years, but today I think we need a few more! (Use the search feature to find past posts and some really good recipes!)It's one of those sunny fall days that just needs the smell of cinnamon in the kitchen!

This one is an "oldie but goodie" and one mama made every fall that I can remember! Serve it warm with a dollop of cinnamon flavored whipped cream or ice cream... mmmmm

Fresh Apple Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups chopped peeled apples
1 cup chopped pecans (toasted in my kitchen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sugar, oil and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer. Mix until well combined. Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; add to sugar mixture. Stir in vanilla, apples and pecans. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and pour glaze over warm cake.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients except vanilla in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes; stir in vanilla. Pour over warm cake.

Helen's Notes: You can also bake this in a 9x13-inch pan. Double the glaze ingredients and pour over warm cake just as it comes from the oven.

The next recipe is a moist and yummy breakfast muffin or snack! Add raisins, dates or dried cranberries, if you like. Always remove muffins from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven to prevent soggy bottoms.

Apple Muffins
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or all-purpose plus 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped, peeled apple
1/2 cup raisins, cranberries or dates
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan or line with cupcake papers.
Combine flour, oatmeal and sugar. Add egg, milk and melted butter. Stir to moisten ingredients. Stir in vanilla. Gently stir in apples, raisins and nuts. Spoon into muffin pan. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Helen's Notes: Substitute 1/2 whole wheat flour, if desired. Use firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark). Omit raisins and/or nuts. Sprinkle batter with cinnamon and sugar before baking.

And finally, one of my very favorite and easiest apple "recipes":
Cut 4 to 6 apples into eighths, remove core but leave peel on . Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add apples and 1/2 cup apple juice (water or apple cider). Cover and cook until apples begin to soften. Remove cover and cook until apples are desired consistency and liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, if desired. Serve with ham, pork, chicken or as breakfast side dish.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tuscan Pork Roast and White Beans

My girls are coming to the mountains for the weekend! Hurrraaaahhhhh! My daughter, Kelley, and her two year old daughter, Emmie,  will be here in a few hours and I've been stirring around in the kitchen all morning. I want to have as much done ahead as possible so that I can "play" with Miss Emmie! Emmie likes loves black eye peas, so I found this yummy sounding pork roast with white beans that I hope everyone will enjoy. The roast is sure to be tender and juicy and the beans creamy and tasty. The house smells scrumptious! I just tasted a spoonful of beans and a pinch of pork so that I could vouch for its flavors. Oh my! I want to sit down NOW with a spoon and a plate!

You can cook this in a slow cooker for 8 hours on high or in your oven for 4 hours on 275degrees. Either way, soak the beans ahead (cover with water and let stand overnight, drain and add to recipe) or cover them with water and boil for 20 minutes, pour off the water and proceed.

The recipe calls for a Boston Butt, boneless shoulder pork roast. They were $15. Pork loin end roast was $5. Guess which one I used??? The roast was done before the beans, so I removed it and covered it with foil. I'll shred it and add back to the beans.

Slow Cooked Tuscan Pork Roast with White Beans
2 cups dried navy beans
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, divided
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
4 cups water
2 bay leaves

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven and cover with water 2 inches above beans. Cover and let stand for 8 hours. (see note above) Drain beans.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Combine 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cloves minced garlic. Rub mixture over pork roast. Place beans, remaining ingredients and pork roast in  large heavy pan (or slow cooker). Cover and bake until pork is very tender and beans are creamy. Discard bay leaves. Pull pork apart into chunks and serve with beans.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Sage

Pumpkins, cinnamon, cider, Indian corn, mums and apples! Fall is here! It's a welcome relief from summer and brings it's own special flavors and aromas. Butternut squash is plentiful in local markets along with sweet potatoes. Both taste so much better when fresh and local.

Waaaaayyy back in the dark ages, when I was in college, Mama would make special foods when I went home on the weekend. In fall, my favorites were sweet potatoes and turnip greens
( not cooked together!)  Those were the fall tastes that I craved. And I still enjoy both this time of year!

Now that my taste buds have re-adjusted to American food, they are craving foods of fall. The sage plant in the edge of my herb garden is loaded with leaves, so this recipe seems a natural! It's simple and easy and can also be made with sweet potatoes and rosemary. Give it a try. I think it may become a favorite!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Sage

1 (3-pound) butternut squash-peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and sage and season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until tender and lightly browned, tossing once half-way through. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tex-Mex Pork

Many of you know that we just returned from a 2 week trip to France. We flew into Lyon, gastronomic capital of France (and, arguably, the world) then drove south to Provence. It was a wonderful trip for seeing exciting sites and eating LOTS of really good food! However, my taste buds are craving something spicy and my jet lag is begging for easy. This recipe satisfies both!

If pork tenderloin is out of the budget,  cut thick boneless pork chops into cubes for this recipe. Either way, it only takes 1 pound of pork.

Tex-Mex Pork
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups salsa
2 cups hot cooked rice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 avocado, peeled and cubed (toss with a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork; sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Saute for 8 minutes or until lighlty browned. Add salsa and 1/4 cup water to the pan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 mintues or until slightly thickened. Serve pork mixture over hot cooked rice; top with a dollop of sour cream and cubed avocado.