Sunday, December 30, 2012

Burritos with Carrot Cumin Sauce

The New Year is upon us, so I guess it’s time to make public confession of all our laziness and to proclaim our sincere efforts to lift ourselves from the gutter of our sorry ways. UGH! I hate it!

I am more of the inclination to begin each and every day with tiny little resolutions….you know….

”Today I will call my mother.”

 “Today I will not eat any junk food.”

“Today I will scour the bathrooms and pick up the piles.”

“Today I will go for a walk.”

Somehow I don’t beat myself up as badly when I break these small resolutions because I can always say, “There’s always tomorrow.”  I just can’t bear that horrible feeling when, on January 3rd, I wake up and realize that I have already broken all of my resolutions! Talk about depressing! (As if I really could ever in my wildest dreams run a 5K or learn to play the church organ!)

One thing I should learn to do in 2013 is to estimate the weight of things, in particular, potatoes. I do believe I put in too much potato in this lovely Carrot Cumin Sauce.  But no worries, “There’s always tomorrow.” And since I have resolved to go all-out-vegan for the month of January, I will be making these again real soon.

Baked Burritos with Carrot Cumin Sauce (from

Here’s what you need:
1 large Yukon gold potato -11 ounces (….. and here you can sympathize with my heavy handed use of the potato…. )
3 C water
6-8 medium carrots (…. I had less fear/problem with the carrots…. Love them!)
1 head garlic
2 t cumin
2 t salt
Pepper to taste
1 T tomato paste

Here’s what you do:
Peel and cut the carrots into coins about ¼ inch thin. Toss with oil, cumin and salt. Place on baking dish. Prepare the garlic for roasting by removing some of the papery skins, slicing off the top, drizzling with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and wrapping up tightly in foil. Place on sheet with carrots and roast it all for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.  After 25 minutes, remove carrots and continue to roast the garlic for about 20 more minutes.

Peel and dice the potato and cook in the 3 C water until fork tender – don’t throw away the water.

Puree the carrots, potatoes, garlic (squeeze it out of all the skins), tomato paste and some of the water to create the sauce. Add as much of the starchy water as you want.

I filled my burritos with black beans and some rice. I added some tomato paste, cayenne pepper and saffron threads to my rice to make it yellow to match my sauce. 

 Be sure to put some of the sauce in the burrito as well. I think it would have been better if I had stuffed the burrito with some other veggies: diced tomatoes, cilantro, onions, green pepper, etc.

Roll them up, smother with the sauce, bake till hot and bubbly, serve with all the fixin’s . ... obviously, mine needed more! 

(printable recipe)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Soup for a mini crowd

I had 11 people here at my house for a few days over Christmas and you know what that means-- long lists of stuff to do before they arrive! Clean the bathrooms, change bedding, hide the piles of papers, tidy up the forgotten corners of the house, drive all over town shopping for the last minute items and cook. I’m a big menu planner, even during a regular week, so coming up with meal ideas is never a problem for me. When you have a big crowd, though, the catch is to balance the big sit down dinners with easier and quicker lunches.

I recall in my early days of hosting Thanksgiving, making the mistake of cooking every last thing in the oven. You know,  hot appetizers, huge turkey, potato casserole, green bean casserole, squash halves and delicate last minute rolls….. all in the oven at the same time, competing for space. These days I’m famous for doing the potatoes in the crock pot in the garage and vegetables on the stovetop. I have even put my bird in my big roaster and plugged that in the garage also….and I ask you, why not?

Today I share two excellent recipes for soup – do them ahead and you’ll look like the queen of the clean kitchen.

Tortellini and Vegetable Soup (adapted from The Slow RoastedItalian)
Here’s what you need:
2 T olive oil
2 celery – diced
¼ lb baby carrots, diced
½ white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper (I used an orange one)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T fresh basil, chopped
½ t red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 X  14.5 ounce cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes (super-secret ingredient! These add so much flavor)
4 C water
2 C vegetable broth
15 ounces cheese tortellini ( I actually think much less would be better)

Here’s what you do:
Sautee the celery, onions and carrots for a few minutes unit soft, but not brown. Add the pepper, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and those awesome cans of fire roasted tomatoes. Also the water and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

Return to a boil and add the tortellini – cook according to package directions. 

(printable recipe) 

Carrot and Ginger Soup (from

Here’s what you need:
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ celery stalk, diced
¼ peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 C vegetable broth
1 ½ lb carrots, peeled, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Here’s what you do:
Sautee onion, celery and ginger in large pot until soft but not brown. Add the carrots and broth and simmer until the veggies are very tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender. Season to taste. 

(printable recipe)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Treasures

Hello dear readers,
December brings many extra responsibilities to my world! As a church music director and also a middle school teacher, there are so many extra music practices, Christmas events, parties and celebrations to organize and plan.... It's really fun,but it takes lots of time and effort. SO.... I am going to put the blog 'down for a nap' until the hustle and bustle is over. See you in a few weeks!! 
Merry Christmas to you all! 

It’s always problematic to file recipes and keep them all tidy and put in place. At least for me.  I have a few favorite methods of organizing them….notebooks, baskets, piles, big paper clips, shelves and bookcases. Believe me when I tell you that I am a clutter person. You should see my classroom! My kitchen is no better  - little piles of special projects in every corner. The worst (or best, depending on how you see it) place is next to my bed….. oh! So many great ideas are ready to bloom from the piles there! Let’s just chalk it up to creativity, shall we?  (hopefully, my husband is not reading this. And fellow teachers, please just keep your comments silent….  !)

This wonderful recipe comes from a few pages I have saved in a paper clip from Gourmet Magazine 1999. Yes, it took me 13 years to make these… and it was worth it! So, no comment from you organized people out there!

Listen to the names of the cookies in this most special bundle of magazine clippings, and tell me you wouldn’t want to save them for 13 years.

Sleigh Bells (can you even resist this name?? How fun!!)

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch (gotta make these!)

Grandpa  Landwehrle’s Pfeffernusse (German + Spice + Grandpa = heaven on earth)

Chocolate Sambuca Crinkle Cookies (I made these last week… yes, I have a bottle of Sambuca in my cupboard – don’t judge me!)

Swedish Ginger Thins (these would be great with coffee… I am currently reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series, which takes place in Sweden and all they do is drink coffee in the book!)

Rainbow Cookies (I have made these also – they have lots of colorful layers)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookies (I have had very bad luck with the so-called-pinwheel method)

Serina Kaker (some kind of Norwegian Christmas cookie)

Chocolate Caramel Treasures (who could resist?)

Here’s what you need for the cookie:
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 C sugar
1 egg yolk
2 T whole milk
1 t vanilla
1 C Dutch­ – process unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ salt
1 large egg white, lightly whipped
½ C finely chopped hazelnuts

Here’s what you need for the filling:
10 -12 plain caramels, unwrapped
2 T heavy cream

Here’s what you do:
Beat together butter, sugar, yolk, milk, and vanilla with an electric mixer until blended well. Sift in flour, cocoa, and salt and beat on low speed until mixture forms a dough. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls, then coat with egg white, letting excess drip off, and roll in nuts to coat. Arrange balls, once coated, 1 ½ inches apart on greased baking sheets and press your thumb into the center of balls to flatten, leaving a depression. Bake in batches in middle of oven until puffed slightly but centers are still soft, 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press centers of cookies again with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Make the filling while the cookies are cooling: Heat the caramels and cream until melted over low heat. Spoon the caramel filling into the cookie. Cool completely.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vanilla Chip Maple Cookies

As soon as Thanksgiving is over and December is on the horizon, I get into COOKIE MODE. I’ve got a bus load of 7th and 8th graders and their parents all counting on me to get them to Washington DC in the spring. Selling cookies is one of my best money makers. But I need lots, and lots, and lots of cookies.

Here’s how I do it: I set up a room in my school during our annual Craft Fair. I ask everyone I know to bake cookies for me (thanks, friends, if you’re reading this!) I collect and decorate coffee cans (they’re plastic these days, not as nice as the old tin ones). Then I welcome folks in to fill as many cans as they want to the brim with cookies. Simple…. Sugary, but simple!

For the Cookie Walk this year, I made three types of cookies – today I share this recipe from Taste of Home Winning Recipes. If you like maple flavoring, you will love these.

Here’s what you need for the cookie:
1 C shortening
½ C butter
2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 t maple flavoring
3 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking soda
2 C vanilla or white chips
½ C chopped pecans ( I think I used walnuts here)

Here’s what you need for the frosting:
¼ C butter, softened
4 C confectioners’ sugar
1 t maple flavoring
4-6 T milk
3 ½ C pecan halves

Here’s what you do: (I think you know the routine for a basic cookie, but here goes, anyway!)
Cream the shortening, butter and brown sugar together, until all incorporated. Add in  the eggs, vanilla and maple flavoring. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Stir in the chips and nuts.

Drop cookies by rounded tablespoon, onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Mix the frosting ingredients. Spread over warm cookies and place a pecan half in the melty frosting. Cool completely before storing. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tuscan White Bean Pizza with Roasted Tomato Aioli - Vegan

(recipe  based on Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010)

Garlic. Canned beans. Store bought thin crust. Roasted tomatoes. Pesto. Beer. Friday night. Happiness.

Here’s what you need for the pizza:
One good quality store bought thin pizza crust. (I swear by Boboli brand.)

I actually have two homemade pizza crusts that I also swear by, one of them is on my other blog……
did you know I used to write another blog?
That’s ancient history, now, but there’s some great stuff over there.
Click here and here to see my favorite homemade pizza crusts.
Olive oil
Fresh garlic
15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt, pepper
1/3 vegetable stock
2 T nutritional yeast
Roasted tomatoes (mine came from the freezer)
Pesto (mine came from the freezer)
    (Olives, artichokes, spinach, fresh basil - the sky’s the limit when it comes to pizza toppings, right?)

Here’s what you need for the aioli:
1 pound Roma tomatoes
1 C water
½ C raw cashews
1 clove fresh garlic
Lemon juice
Salt, pepper and ¼ t liquid smoke

Here’s what you do for the aioli:
Quarter the tomatoes, remove the seeds, place cut sides up, drizzle with olive oil. Roast under the broiler until soft, but not too charred. Place all aioli ingredients in a high speed blender and watch what happens! Heat it over low heat.

I had my doubts before I put this in the oven,
 but now this pizza is in my regular dinner rotation. Try it! 

Here’s what you do for the pizza:
Mince and sauté the garlic until tender but not brown, over a very low heat. Add the drained and rinsed beans and stir around a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable broth and nutritional yeast. Smash the beans with a potato masher or fork.

Spread the bean layer on the crust. Top with the beautiful tomatoes and pesto. Bake. Spoon the Roasted Tomato Aioli over the slices. Eat. Drink beer. Enjoy Friday evening.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Japanese Turnips

I am lucky enough to live near an indoors farmers market which, here in West Michigan, is a big deal. We will have lots snow and cold in the not too distant future and the thought of outdoor shopping is, well let’s just say, not cool. The guy who sold these to me said he uses the very tiny ones by shaving them on his mandolin and putting them on veggie pizza, kinda like pepperoni. 

I bought these Japanese turnips a few weeks ago – a first for me. I roasted them in some olive oil, salt and pepper. The green tops were a bit of a mystery to me and I’m not sure I loved them, but we ate them just the same. I have since learned that I should have removed much more of the tough stem.

By now, you might know that the black stuff on my food is my favorite Black Salt. 

This is a pretty typical ‘lite’ meal around here. Lettuce, boiled potatoes, roasted veg, homemade vinaigrette drizzled over it all. Maybe a shave of Parmesan.  White wine.