Monthly Archives: September 2012

Cauliflower Soup with Sharp Aged Cheddar and Homemade Mustard Croutons

This week’s Food Matter’s Project recipe choice was Whole Cauliflower with Sausage, chosen by Gracie over at Food Fascination.  I had every intent of trying this recipe but somehow my head of cauliflower turned into soup instead–blame it on this cold weather I guess–and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is probably the best thing I could have done with it.  This soup is decadent, creamy, warming, easy and wait for it….healthy to boot.  A complete surprise for me, having never made cauliflower soup before.  It is the first recipe I have tried from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Every Day and if this recipe is any indication, I’m going to really love cooking through and getting ideas from this book.  I’ve been a long time fan of Heidi’s beautiful blog, 101 Cookbooks, so I’m thrilled to have her book in my home.  Beautiful!

If you are wanting to try the whole cauliflower with sausage (and it does sound good!) head over to Food Fascination for the full recipe.  For endless variations, head over to The Food Matters Project website.  Now onto this delicious soup recipe…

Cauliflower Soup with Sharp Cheddar and Homemade Croutons adapted ever so slightly from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

For the croutons:

  • 6 oz of whole wheat bread, torn or cut into little pieces (less than 1 inch)–will yield about 3 cups
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • Fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, shopped
  • 3 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2/3 cup of freshly grated aged cheddar cheese, plus more to top
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. to make the croutons, put the torn/cut bread in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter oer medium-high heat.  Whisk the olive oil, mustard, salt, and sage into the butter and pour the mixture over the bread.  Toss well, then turn the bread onto a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the croutons are golden and crunchy.  Flip them once or twice with a metal spatula along the way.
  4. While the croutons are toasting, start the soup.  Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in the onion and a big pinch of salt.  Saute until the onions soften, a couple of minutes.  Stir in the potato, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes, just long enough for the pieces to soften up a bit.  Uncover, stir in the garlic, then the broth.  Bring to a boil, taste to make sure the potatoes are tender, and if they are, stir in the cauliflower.  Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the cauliflower is tender throughout.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender.  Stir in half the Cheddar cheese and the mustard.  Add more broth or water if you feel the need to thin the soup at all.  Taste and add more salt, if needed.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese, some croutons, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6.

Homemade Low-Fat Yogurt (Plain or Lightly Sweetened Vanilla)

A while back I posted a recipe for homemade vanilla yogurt with cherries, pistachio, and a balsamic-honey glaze, a recipe I hijacked from Kate over at Cookie + Kate.  I believe at that time I promised to show you all how to make homemade yogurt.  Whoops!  How time flies!  Well, better late than never, right?  Here goes…

First, I wanted to point out a few benefits of making your own yogurt because y’all might need some convincing.  I bet you are thinking only hippies make their own yogurt…not true!  If I, Aura, who wears Uggs and has a Coach purse (they were unrequested gifts, okay?!?) makes her own yogurt then it is decidedly a non-hippie thing to do.  Maybe more like a foodie thing to do.  Okay…I digress…on to the benefits…!  First, making your own yogurt is easy.  All you need to do is heat up some milk, stir in some store bought yogurt (once you make your own you will use your own to culture the next batch, not store bought), and let it sit.  That’s it!  Second, making your own yogurt is about half the price of buying it when you compare the cost of a half gallon of organic milk to a half gallon of organic yogurt.  I spent $3.79 for a half gallon of organic milk, the same amount I would spend on one quart of organic yogurt.  Third, you get to determine the level of flavor/sweetener you add to the yogurt if you plan to sweeten it.  I like to add some vanilla extract and a little touch of maple syrup to mine so that it is lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt.

Convinced?  Good.  Now, here’s how you do it.


  • 1/2 gallon of 2% organic milk
  • 1/2 cup plain commercial yogurt (with live/active cultures)
  1. Heat the milk:  In a heavy saucepan (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven/soup pot), heat the milk until just before it boils.  As it heats, stir gently to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  I use a candy thermometer to check the temperature but really you just need to heat it until just before boiling and you will be fine.
  2. Cool the milk.  Let the milk cool until it is 115 degrees or so, just hot to the touch.  If you want the milk to cool faster, stir it or set it over an ice water bath.  I just let it sit for a bit while I do other stuff in the kitchen.
  3. Inoculate the milk.  Ladle about one cup of the warm milk into a bowl and whisk it with your store bought yogurt (once you have made your own yogurt, you will use 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to incubate the next batch).  Once you have a smooth consistency, pour it back into your pot of milk.
  4. Incubate.  You can do this a number of ways.  All I do is cover the pot with the lid and set it into an oven that has been heated to about 115 degrees.  I shut the oven off and let the yogurt sit overnight (7-8 hours) in the oven with the oven light on.
  5. When you get up, put the pot of yogurt into the refrigerator and let cool for a couple of hours.  Once it has chilled, transfer the yogurt to air tight containers (jars or Pyrex containers with rubber lids work well).
  6. If you want lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt, stir in a few drops of vanilla extract and maple syrup to sweeten.  Taste and add more of either if you want a stronger vanilla flavor or more sweetness.
  7. Your yogurt will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Apricot Polenta Cake

Our Food Matters Project recipe this week is Apricot Polenta Cake, chosen by Jen from Prairie Summers, a charming blog with many bright and flavorful European dishes and whole food dishes (and if you want something sweet, try her lemon cheesecake–mmmmmmm!).  And what a great choice it is!  Anything that has cornmeal in it is usually a favorite of mine and this dessert recipe is no exception.  This fruity cake is the perfect balance of rich and sweet with neither quality overpowering the flavors of corn and apricot.  It reminds me of my favorite scones from the Nantucket Baking Company–both have a great depth of flavor with chewy apricot bites and a soft and crumbly texture.

The cake took a little bit of time (chopping the apricots, cooking the polenta, beating the egg whites) but was well worth every second.  I would serve this cake with some greek yogurt or a small dollop of whipped cream on the side.  But it is also fabulous plain enjoyed with your morning coffee…trust me…for a moment this morning I forgot I had to work today!

The other Food Matters participants came up with all kinds of variations using cherries, berries, plums, and making cakes, tarts, even a soup!  To check out these and other variations, head here.

Apricot Polenta Cake; from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Time:  1 hour plus time to cool

  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan with a little oil.  Put the cornmeal and salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 1 and 1/4 cups water to make a lump-free slurry.  Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.  With an electric mixer (or a whisk) beat 1/3 cup oil with the sugar until creamy; add the egg yolks and beat until thick, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary (this will take 5-7 minutes).  Mix in the polenta until smooth, then mix in the dry ingredients until smooth.  Add the orange juice and apricots and stir until blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks (When you remove the beaters or whisk, a soft peak should fold over onto itself).  Stir them thoroughly but as gently as possible into the batter (the base batter is fairly thick and it’s okay if the whites aren’t fully incorporated).
  4. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan.  Invert it out onto a plate if you like and sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.  Store at room temperature, covered with wax paper, for a day or 2; use plastic wrap and it will keep for an extra day or so.  (Dust again with powdered sugar after storing and before serving).

Michigan Sweet Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Chipotle

This is the last week for corn in Michigan, a truly sad state of affairs, I’d say!  I’ve been hooked on an aptly named variety called “Heavenly Bliss” from Platte Family Farms of Comstock Park, MI (find them at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market).  Luckily, I had the good sense to freeze a couple of gallon bags of it to pull out when I am most in need of the fresh taste of summer in the middle of the long winter ahead.

In the midst of my efforts to preserve the harvest, I realized that I had several perfectly good ears of corn, kernels removed, just begging to be used for corn chowder stock.  Six lovely ears of corn went to the new task and the result was this sweet and smoky corn and sweet potato chowder with chipotle, adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe.  An excellent way to enjoy our delicious Michigan sweet corn.

Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Chipotle; adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project; serves 4

  • Kernels from 6 ears fresh corn, cobs reserved
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles, minced, with some of their adobo sauce
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chipped finely
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal (fine or medium grind) or masa harina
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red skinned potato, peeled and chopped
  • Chopped fresh basil
  1. Put the corn cobs and 6 cups of water in a pot over medium-high heat and salt it.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat so the water bubbles gently and cook for about 15 minutes.  Let the cobs steep until you’re ready to make the soup, then remove them and save the broth.
  2. Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the onions, chipotles with some of their adobo sauce (you can always add more later), and red bell peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and peppers begin to get soft, about 1 minute.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the cornmeal and some pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to turn golden, 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the milk and reserved broth and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Stir or whisk constantly until the cornmeal is dissolved and the soup starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the corn kernels, potatoes, and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and lower the heat so that the soup bubbles gently.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn and potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the basil if you like and serve.

Lovely Lemon Bars

If you are anything like me, you might have stacks of food magazines in your kitchen with a dog-eared page every tenth page or so, recipes planning to be cooked.  Every so often a page gets torn out, a more pressing interest in making or baking that particular dish.  This recipe from the August issue of Cooking Light stood out to me, not so much because I like lemon bars (which I do from time to time), but because I know so many people that love them.  And I figured this was one of those recipes that would be so much better than store-bought.  And I hope I speak for my many taste testers when I say…this recipe is a keeper!  Fresh squeezed lemon juice, pine nuts in the crust, less fat (5 grams vs. 11 grams in most lemon bars), fewer calories (124 vs. 319 in most lemon bars!), and less sugar (reduced sugar by 2/3)…all add up to some lovely lemon bars.

Lemon SquaresFrom Cooking Light, August 2012; Recipe Makeover

  • 3.4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Place flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, pine nuts, and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine.  Add butter and canola oil.  Pulse 3 to 5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Place mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; press into bottom of pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  3. Combine granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg white) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Pour mixture over crust.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until set.  Remove from oven, and cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.  Sprinkle squares evenly with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.

Serves 16 (serving size 1 square).  Calories: 124.  Fat:  5g (sat 1.3g, mono 2g, poly 1.2g); Protein:  2g; Carb:  18.5g; Fiber:  0.3g; Cholesterol:  30mg; Iron:  0.5mg; Sodium:  31mg; Calc:  6mg

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and Soy Dipping Sauce

Kathleen and Tom from Life With The Lushers (self-described as two twenty something newlyweds who love food, wine, microbrews, and all things that are good) chose this week’s Food Matters Project Recipe.  If you get a minute, check out their blog–they are adorable!  For the original recipe from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, head to Life With The Lushers.  To see what everyone else from The Food Matters Project came up with, head here!

So these were supposed to be more like bean pancakes but I wanted to shape them into little rounds so didn’t add extra cooking liquid and they were more patty than pancake.  I love edamame (say it:  ed-a-MAH-may) and often add it to stir fries so this was a fun way to try it in a different format.  Edamame is high in protein and has a great smooth texture.  Dipped into this soy dipping sauce, it made for a yummy appetizer.

The only drawback is that they are a little funny looking…I felt like I was making a special St. Patty’s Day meal (will shelve that idea!) and brought me back to a memory of green eggs and ham in preschool (I was very wigged out, as I recall).  I wanted to add something to the top to make them look a little prettier so devised a roasted bell pepper and chili aoli.  If you make these, definitely try the aoli–I thought it added A LOT to the cakes.  Enjoy!

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and a Soy Dipping Sauce; Adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

Makes 4 servings and takes 1/2 hour

Ingredients for Soy Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger

Ingredients for Roasted Red Pepper and Chili Aoli:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (you can do it yourself or use one from a jar)
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (find it in the Asian section of the grocery store or in any Asian grocery)

Ingredients for Cakes:

  • 2 cups frozen or fresh edamame (make sure you buy them shelled)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions or finely diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced finely
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced finely
  • All purpose flour if needed (to thicken)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable oil to pan-fry
  1.  Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Blend the roasted bell pepper, mayo, and chili.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to plate.
  3. Add the edamame to the boiling water and cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the beans to a food processor (or use your immersion blender like I did!) and pulse a couple of times to break them down, then add egg, scallions or onions, garlic and ginger.  Process until combined but not finely pureed; you want a thick batter with some texture that drops from a spoon or can be balled up in your hands then flattened, which is what I did.  If the mixture is too stiff, stir in a little cooking liquid; if too wet, add a little flour.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Put a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  When a few drops of water dance on its surface, add a thin film of oil.  Take a small handful of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten, placing into skilled gently.  Cook until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes.  Turn and cook the other side for a couple of minutes more.  Keep the finished cakes in the warm oven while you finish the others.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the soy drizzling sauce.

Chickpea Burgers

With so many variations on homemade veggie burgers, I wonder how I ever used to make a place for processed Morningstar veggie burgers in my diet!  This chickpea burger recipe is something I whipped up to tackle an overabundance of chickpeas that I had cooked up.  Glad I did–not only was this recipe incredibly easy, but it was tasty and healthy to boot.  Feel free to add spices, change up the veggies based on what you have in the fridge, and top with whatever you want!  Make it easy and have fun introducing a real veggie burger into your rotation.

Chickpea Burgers

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed or the same amount of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • Mixed greens or lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Avocado, thinly sliced
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Barbecue sauce
  1. Heat oil in frying pan and add cumin.  Toast for 30 seconds or so, until cumin is fragrant.  Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, and carrot and cook 5-6 minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Place 3/4 of the chickpeas in a food processor with 1/2 of the vegetable mixture, 1 egg, and panko bread crumbs.  Blend until smooth.  Smash remaining chickpeas in a bowl.  Add remaining chickpeas and sauteed vegetables to the puree and mix.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Form patties from the chickpea mix and place on pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
  4. Place on whole wheat buns and top with onion, lettuce, tomato, avocado, mustard, and barbecue sauce.  Mmmmm!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ah, Labor Day, you have fooled me!  It occurred to me that today is Monday, not Sunday and that I have a recipe to post for the Food Matters Project!  Well, better late than never…

This week, the lovely Sara from Simply Whole Kitchen chose Quinoa Tabbouleh and once again, I’m so happy to be part of this project because over the last six months I have tried a couple of dozen new recipes that I may not have tried otherwise.  Funny thing is, I have had bulgar wheat in my pantry for months and have thought about making tabbouleh several times but bulgar wheat doesn’t end up in my rotation too often so the idea kept getting shelved.  Along comes Mark Bittman…who once again reminds me that I don’t need to “play by the rules” and that tabbouleh can be made as many different ways as it can be spelled (Tabbouleh, tabouleh or tabbouli, tabouli…blah!  my tongue is tied!).  This particular recipe taught me that there are no hard and fast rules to cooking and that we can let creativity be our guide.  In this case, tabbouleh is made with quinoa and in Bittman’s recipe, even adds radishes, beans, and celery to the dish.  I love this guy and his easy-does-it attitude.

And I love quinoa.  I mean really, really love it.  Like Love with a capital T and a cherry on top.  I go through tons of the stuff and if you have been to my house, chances are you have left it at one point or another with a little baggie of quinoa with directions on how to cook it because I am always spreading my quinoa gospel.  I was overjoyed to see quinoa have a starring role in my Cooking Light magazine last month and I’d like to imagine that I have had a small role in spreading the word about this great seed.  In a nutshell, it is a nutritional powerhouse (a stand-alone complete protein), cooks faster than rice, and is a great and much healthier stand-in for carbs like rice or couscous.  If you want to know more about it, click here or shoot me a comment/question and I would be happy to answer!

I adapted Bittman’s recipe based on what I was in the mood for so if you want the original recipe, head on over to Sara’s blog, Simply Whole Kitchen.  And remember, you don’t need to have everything exact to make a great tabbouleh!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • salt
  • 1/3 c olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 c lemon juice, or more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 6 or 7 radishes, chopped or sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c finely diced scallions or red onion
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan with 3/4 c water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cover and bubble gently until the quinoa as absorbed all of the water, 15 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered for 5 minutes.  Toss the warm quinoa with the oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more oil or lemon juice as needed, then serve.