Seaweed + Sweet Potato Soup


I didn’t set out to create a new favorite soup today. But that’s what happened with this seaweed and sweet potato soup!

When January is acting like itself, it’s soup weather here in Massachusetts. So today, I decided to use some sweet potatoes and seaweed to make a quick and healthy soup. I purchased the nori, dried seaweed sheets, a while ago, but hadn’t used it too often. I was inspired to buy it after seeing several vloggers that I follow using it.

It’s not just for sushi. Nori can be cut up and used on noodles, rice and in soups. Since seaweed is so healthy, I want to incorporate it into my diet more often.

When I cook, I rarely use recipes and usually have a feel for what a dish needs. I always have soup stock ready to go in the freezer in easy to use portions. So I grabbed two large cubes of stock, and melted it in a pan with a chicken bouillon cube. It would have been easier if I did everything in one pan, but I did things out of order, so it took longer.

In a larger pan, I sauteed some shallots, sweet potatoes, and garlic in olive oil and butter until softened. I poured the stock into the large pan and added enough water to cover the vegetables with liquid. Then using kitchen scissors, I cut the nori into pieces and added it to the pan.

Now I’m trying to remember everything else that I used. Some ground spices: lemon pepper blend, garlic powder, cumin and turmeric. I think that the only other things were maple syrup, toasted sesame seed oil and rice vinegar.

These are the hazards of not using a recipe or measuring anything. It will be impossible to exactly replicate what I did. But I can come close. Since I’m documenting this for my future self. And for you if you’d like to try it.

This soup was such an unexpected treat and I’m looking forward to having some again tomorrow.

Winter Weekend Baking Recipe: Apple Cranberry Fig Crisp

fruit crisp

We’re deep in the heart of winter — the end of January heading into February. As part of my practice of leaning into each season, I’m contemplating the feeling of winter. This past weekend brought bursts of big puffy snowflakes, rising and falling with the wind. It was very enjoyable watching from the inside, wrapped in a blanket on my couch, cozy sipping a hot drink with thoughts of a fruit crisp.

For me, wanting to bake is a natural result of this cozy winter feeling. Baking for just myself, instead of others, always feels a bit decadent. Over the years, the fruit crisp has started to grow on me. Before, I barely considered it a dessert, but things have changed. This recipe is adapted from the “Cran-Apple Crisps” in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Baking: From My home to Yours.”

The exact circumstances of my particular take on this recipe are mostly on purpose and partly a series of happy accidents. I only had two (way past their prime) apples, so I made half the amount called for in the original recipe. The measurements are estimates. I kept the skin on since it’s quicker and healthier.

I bought almond paste a while ago and had never used it. For some reason, something said just squeeze a whole bunch onto the filling. I didn’t have enough cranberries, so I needed to add another fruit. Raisins were suggested, but something said to use figlets, which are sweeter than raisins. They had been around for a while as well without being used. I added salt and vanilla extract to the filling, because why not? They make everything taste better. I served this crisp warm with whipped cream and it is over the top delicious!

I’m always shocked when people say that they have fruit for dessert – like an orange or strawberries. My mom is one of them. Fruit is not dessert! We will never agree on this. However, this fruit crisp is one mighty fine dessert and maybe breakfast too.

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Apple Cranberry Fig Crisp

(3-4 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Topping:

1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 stick butter (cold, cut into pieces)

Filling:

2 apples (cut into pieces)
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/4 cup figlets
1/3 cup sugar
2 T almond paste
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T flour

INSTRUCTIONS

Butter a medium sized baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Put all the topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse for about a minute until the texture is big formed pieces.

Spread the filling in the prepared baking dish. Place the the topping pieces onto the filling. Bake for about 45 minutes. After baking, let sit for about 15 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream and enjoy!

A Staple Fall Recipe: Zucchini Bread

zucchini bread in pan

I don’t remember when I realized that I hadn’t baked or eaten zucchini bread in quite some time. But it was within the past couple of months. After that, I wanted some. So when my mom and I visited a farm stand, I was looking for zucchini. And I found it!

Next, the search began for a recipe. The very old recipe I had didn’t seem appealing anymore. Many of the recipes in more recent cookbooks all had a chocolate focus, which I didn’t want. So I searched online and found a recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

It’s rare that I follow a recipe exactly. This time was no exception. When I adapted the recipe, I decided to use all brown sugar and used half the amount of oil and substituted ricotta cheese for the rest. I wanted some extra protein and that’s why I used ricotta cheese. You could also try yogurt or switch up the type of oil. I added nuts for more protein as well. You could use chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit. Dates or dried cranberries would be good too.

In case you haven’t used any of my recipes yet and aren’t familiar with my way of baking and cooking, I believe that recipes are merely a guide. In other words, the directions given below for how to combine the ingredients isn’t set in stone. Stir them in the order that you may prefer. This was easiest for me.

Likewise, your oven is different from mine and may run hotter or cooler, so the time needed will vary. You can also use this recipe for muffins. Based on the original recipe and my muffin baking experience, bake muffins for about 20 minutes at the same temperature.

Sally’s recipe has good bones and is perfect for adapting. For example, you could use half the amount of zucchini and use finely chopped apple for the other half or similarly wet fruit or vegetable, like pear, pumpkin or squash.

My version is below. Let me know if you try it!

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Zucchini Bread (Makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium zucchini (shredded, about 1 cup)
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set oven to 350℉. Either grease and flour a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil and ricotta cheese. Stir in zucchini. Mix in vanilla extract and brown sugar. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Add flour and combine. Do not stir too much. Stir in nuts.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for around 55 – 65 minutes. Test by sticking a toothpick into the center. It’s done when it comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes. Sometimes I speed cool by sticking the pan straight into the freezer or fridge on a trivet. This bread is nice served warm, so don’t cool too long.

Enjoy!

DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

My quarantine baking is in full swing. I’ve also found a keeper of a chocolate chip cookie recipe. How can I express the enormity of this?

I’ve been baking since I was a little kid. My mom baked from scratch. She baked a lot. Growing up we literally had dessert every night after dinner.

I was always by her side “helping” or at the very least just licking the spoon and bowl clean. I learned so much watching her over those years. One of the things that she baked most often was chocolate chip cookies. There was nothing like getting a spoonful of raw cookie dough to tide me over until the cookies were baked. It’s still a treat that brings me back. Eventually I was able to make them myself.

Over the years, I’ve probably baked dozens of variations of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The recipes don’t  vary much. For the most part there are no surprises. At least until I saw the recipe for the DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe.

It’s a game changer. I’ve never had their cookies before and now I know why they’re so beloved. This is the most substantial chocolate chip cookie that I have ever baked by far. It’s delicious, gooey, solid and filling.

As an aside, because of pandemic panic buying, I hadn’t seen all-purpose flour on store shelves in weeks, so I bought cake flour and used that. I guess I need to make this recipe with regular flour as well to see if there is a difference.

Anyway, the ingredients in this recipes are different. Along with the standard ones, there is cinnamon, lemon juice, walnuts and oats. Also there’s double the normal amount of chocolate chips. But an even bigger difference is the manner of baking. Most recipes bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. These cookies bake at 300 degrees for 20-23 minutes. That’s revolutionary!

I cut this cookie recipe in half and didn’t add the lemon juice, because it was such a small amount. I might try using it the next time. And there will be a next time. I think this is my new standard chocolate chip recipe.

Here is my adapted version of the recipe below. The original version is supposed to make 26 cookies. Maybe I made smaller cookies than called for, but I baked six yesterday and still have plenty of cookie dough left in the fridge. I guess the amount you get will be based on how much dough you use for each cookie.

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DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 T flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch cinnamon
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put oven on 300 degrees. Take out cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Combine. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough onto the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Keep them socially distanced! Bake for 20-23 minutes, until edges are slightly browned. Enjoy!

Recipe: Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

Carmelized Apple Dutch Baby on a plate.

Happy New Year! We’re living in the future! Well, actually the present. But that number — 2020. It seems like the future. Like when we were going from 1999 to 2000. It’s really just one day apart, but mentally it feels like a big jump. Going from one century to the next and one decade to the next. Also, now we’re really deep into the 21st century. It feels big.

So I decided to begin this first morning of the year and decade by doing something that I’ve been planning to do for quite some time. I made a Dutch baby for breakfast. These German pancakes were the darling of the food blogger world for many years. As I was reading yesterday, the main character in the novel just happened to make one. That sealed it for me.

A Dutch baby is similar to a popover, which I have made before. The dramatic thing about both is that they puff up without using any leavening. When I made popovers, they puffed up.

The Dutch baby did not puff. I have to admit that I was disappointed. Now I realize that the instructions in the recipe that I used didn’t stress using a blender or electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients. That vigorous mixing would have added more air prompting the puff. I forgot about this until looking at my popover recipe. Next time I’ll remember.

Also, just to let you know about the coloring. I keep a mixture of white flour combined with other healthier flours (ingredients) for better nutrition. The current combination is coffee flour and flaxseed meal. So the brown color of the Dutch baby might not be the same if you use plain white flour.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one on the blog Simply Scratch. Let me know if you try it and Happy New Year! 🎉

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Single Serving Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

INGREDIENTS:

Caramelized Apples:

  • 1 apple cut up
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T brown sugar

Dutch Baby:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T butter (for the skillet)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Put the butter in a small skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. Add the apples and brown sugar. Stir and cook the apples for about 10 minutes. They will become tender and caramelized.

While the apples are cooking, combine the ingredients for the Dutch baby in a blender or use an electric mixer in a small bowl. Stirring with a whisk or a spoon is fine, but unless you whisk for longer than I did, it won’t be enough to get a lot of air into the mixture so that it will puff up in the oven.

Put the butter in a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. When the butter sizzles, pour the batter into the pan and place in oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the pan with a spatula and place on a large plate. Pour the apples on the Dutch baby. Sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar over the top. Enjoy!