Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

I am not going to lie any longer. I am addicted to soup. Every year as winter sets in, I get out the stockpot and begin the Soupstravaganza for the season. Or something like that. But seriously, there is nothing like a giant pot of soup on the stove and rolls warming in the oven. We had a friend over for dinner and this recipe served the three of us very hearty portions, with another left for my lunch tomorrow.

I used full fat sausage and didn't mind the fat in it; however, you can use a leaner sausage if you prefer - just add a little olive oil while browning the sausage so it doesn't stick to the pot.

This recipe was adapted from the one found here.

  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed (I used hot sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 carrots, thinly chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 pinch dried basil (about 1/2 tsp)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 10-12 oz. bag of dried tortellini (I used 12 oz. Barilla spinach and cheese tortellini)
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large stockpot, cook the sausage for about 5 minutes over medium heat, mashing it up with a spatula into small pieces.
  2. Add the garlic and onion and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef stock, carrots, zucchini, basil, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the tortellini and water and cook until tortellini is cooked but not overdone.
  5. Remove from heat, ladle into individual bowls and top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cardamon Spice Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Cardamom is a lesser known member of the ginger family, and is fantastic in cooking as well as baking. These cookies are in the style of icebox cookies, which are rolled up into a log, refrigerated, and sliced into thin discs. I suggest preparing the dough the night before you wish to bake.

The recipe is great plain, but also consider them paired with the chocolate glaze recipe that follows. Chocolate must be melted slowly to prevent the fat from separating itself
(hence the low heat).

This recipe was adapted from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Cookie Directions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cardamom.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or stand mixer (on medium speed) until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually beat in the flour mixture.
  3. On a floured surface, form the dough into a 14-inch log and wrap in waxed or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then unwrap and reroll to refine shape. Return to fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4=inch slice and place about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Glaze Ingredients
  • 6 oz chocolate (I used 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate and 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or another flavorless oil)

Glaze Directions
  1. In a small saucepan, melt half the chocolate over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate and the oil, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  2. Scrape into a small bowl and dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate and place on a wire rack until chocolate sets.

These baked up crunchy, and paired well with a cup of tea. Cardamom cookies are great for someone who wants a twist on a traditional gingerbread cookie, or perhaps doesn't want as intense a spice flavor as gingerbread provides.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Garlic Hummus

Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip, made with chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), tahini, and often the addition of a flavor. Tahini is like peanut butter, but made out of sesame seeds rather than peanuts, and is often found right next to peanut butter in the grocery store. While a little on the pricey side, it does a perfect job in this recipe of keeping the hummus a proper consistency. This recipe is based on one found at, where you can also find hummus recipes that don't require tahini.

Thanks to my mother, who bought me my food processor! In this recipe, there really is no replacement for a good food processor, which works the ingredients together to produce a light, fluffy texture.

  • 2 cans of chickpeas / garbanzo beans - 19 oz. each
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup liquid drained from chickpeas
  • 4-8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a knife (depending on how hot/spicy you want the hummus)
  • 3 Tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
  • 8-10 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Put all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. If too thick, add a little olive oil, lemon juice, or chickpea liquid to smooth it out.
  3. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Being Italian, I find great joy in a very garlicky things, so I used 8 very large cloves of garlic in my hummus. It is very hot, so if you are not a lover of strong garlic flavor, start with 3-4 cloves. You can also omit the garlic completely, which will make a nice plain hummus. The consistency was perfect and we put it in a dish with a garnish of flat leaf parsley.

Some suggestions for dipping implements: crackers (such as Wheat Thins), pita pockets cut into small pieces (or made into chips), or vegetables such as carrots and celery.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Carrot Cake Cookies with Lemon Glaze

This recipe was my birthday cake this year! Rather than making myself a cake, I opted for these cookies. My friends were gracious enough to grate the carrots by hand, but injuries occurred, so if you are intimidated by sharp objects, I suggest buying pre-grated carrots.

The lemon glaze really makes these cookies, so don't skimp! Also, don't be worried if these seem too "healthy" - if it's a testament to how tasty these cookies were, they disappeared within 30 minutes at the party.

The only photo I have of these cookies is this one of me blowing out the candle on it, so I apologize for not having a close up of the beauty of these tasty little desserts.

Cookie Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour (if you've got it, make this using 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • zest from 1 lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a cookie sheet.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, carrot, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. With a mixer, or by hand using a spatula, beat in egg, milk, oil, and syrup until just blended.
  5. Drop small blobs of dough (about 1/8 cupfuls), about 2 inches apart, onto a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 10 minutes or until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  7. While cookies are baking, whisk together glaze ingredients in small bowl. Add a Tbsp or two more powdered sugar if you desire a thicker, more frosting-like glaze.
  8. Once cookies have cooled, spread glaze on top of each cookie and let set.
These were light and a little chewy, so it wasn't hard to eat more than one. The lemon glaze really brightens up the flavor - I wouldn't recommend them without it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

When I was young, my mother used to save the bread heels from each loaf. After collecting a bagful, we would go feed the ducks at one of the local ponds. This recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman's in How to Cook Everything, is another use for all those heels of bread, especially since I don't live near a duck pond anymore.

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb small macaroni (I used elbow)
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter (1 Tbsp for greasing, 3 Tbsp for the roux)
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 heels of bread, ripped up into small pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Use about 1 Tbsp butter to grease a 13x9 pan. Set aside.
  3. Bring large pot of water to a boil. As water boils, salt well and add pasta. When pasta needs one or two more minutes until it's complete, drain, rinse in cold water to stop cooking, and return to pot.
  4. While pasta is cooking, cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear around the sides, about 8-10 minutes later, turn off heat and pour into separate (glass or ceramic) bowl to let stand.
  5. Return the empty saucepan to the stovetop over medium-low heat. Melt 3 Tbsp butter and when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk or fork until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and pour a large splash (about 1/4 cup) into the flour mixture, stirring with the whisk until the milk is incorporated. As soon as the mixture is smooth, add a little more milk and whisk, continuing this until milk is used up.
  7. Add the cheddar and stir.
  8. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle the parmesan over top and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Turn the noodles into the 13x9 pan and top with bread crumbs.
  10. Bake until the bread crumbs turn brown, about 15-20 minutes.

This was really good, although I could have salted and peppered it more. I think it could have worked as a creamy dish (stopping after Step 8) if you wanted a homemade version of a boxed macaroni and cheese. I wonder what this would taste like with a leafy green baked into it.

What are some of your favorite alterations to macaroni and cheese?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Basic Pizza Dough

I consider pizza dough a staple - it can be used for pizza crust, yes, but also calzones, stromboli, and even non-Italian foods. This entry is for my basic pizza dough, which I make using a KitchenAid mixer. I've included a separate set of instructions for making this dough by hand.

You can make this the night before a meal that might require it, and put the entire bowl, saran wrap and all, in the fridge. It will rise slowly and be ready for you come dinner time the next day.

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman's basic pizza dough recipe in How to Cook Everything.


  • 3 cups flour (unbleached bread flour if you've got it)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • garlic powder and/or onion powder, if desired
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Directions by Hand
  1. Combine half the flour, the yeast, salt, pepper, and any other flavorings you might like (such as a few shakes of garlic powder and/or onion powder).
  2. Add water and olive oil. Stir with wooden spoon until smooth.
  3. Add remaining flour a bit at a time. Begin kneading by hand on floured surface when dough gets too tough to work with spoon.
  4. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth.
  5. Drizzle a little olive oil in the bowl and roll the dough in the oil to coat. Place dough in bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap.
  6. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free area until dough doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.

Directions Using Stand Mixer

  1. Attach the bread hook to your stand mixer.
  2. To mixing bowl, add half the flour (about 1 1/2 cups), the instant yeast, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you might like (such as a few shakes of garlic powder and/or onion powder). Stir to mix ingredients.
  3. Add water and olive oil and mix at Speed 2 for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add half of the rest of the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour while on Speed 2. Once incorporated, add in the remaining flour. Let mix at Speed 2 for another 2 minutes or so. Add a little more flour if the mixture is still very sticky.
  5. Once dough sticks to bread hook in one large mass (2 minutes or more total), stop mixing.
  6. Remove dough from bowl, drizzle a little olive oil down the side and roll the dough in oil to coat.
  7. Leave dough in bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap.
  8. Let dough rise in draft-free area until it doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.

You can use all-purpose flour if you don't have bread flour; however, the bread flour makes it a little chewy, rather than the flaky and somewhat dry consistency that you might get from all-purpose flour. Bread flour also browns nicely while cooking, making it attractive as well as tasty. If you intend to make your own dough, I certainly recommend making the investment in buying a nice bread flour, such as King Arthur.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Corn Chowder

I learned this recipe from the bosses at my previous job - every semester they make a huge pot of corn chowder for new volunteers who are training to answer phones at the crisis hotline. They are the masters of soup, at least in my book. Thanks, K and H!

The cheese is my favorite part, but depending on your preference, you may want not want a strong cheese flavor. For this size pot of soup, the minimum amount of cheese is about 8 oz. (which is a standard size block of cheese). In my workup, I used about one and a half blocks of cheddar, and it was pretty tasty. The biggest thing to attend to is keeping the heat low or off once dairy has been added. A nice soup can go to waste if you curdle the milk. It's no problem to reheat this later, as long as you don't allow the mixture to boil.


  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 large white potatoes, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  • water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of thyme
  • 3 bouillon cubes (chicken or vegetarian) **
  • 2 lbs. frozen corn
  • 8 to 16 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed or shredded **
  • milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Heat a stockpot to medium-low heat.
  2. Melt butter in pan. Add garlic and saute until brown.
  3. Add onion. Cook until onions are soft and translucent; about 10 minutes.
  4. Add potatoes to the stockpot, then pour in enough water to cover the potatoes.
  5. Add bay leaves, thyme, and bouillon cubes. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until potatoes are completely cooked and tender.
  6. Add corn and simmer until heated throughout.
  7. Turn heat off. Add cheese and stir well. Pour in enough milk to change the color of the liquid, stir well.
  8. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
**For a gluten-free diet, make sure to use gluten-free bouillon cubes, as well as cheese that was made using gluten-free caking agents, such as Cabot cheese.

This recipe is really flexible because you can add anything you like. If you want to add ham or bacon, cook the meat before the onion goes in. The fat will add flavor that will carry throughout the dish. If you want other vegetables, add them in right before or after the potatoes (depending on soft they are, this will change how much time they need to cook). With regard to the spices, I have often had this recipe with cumin seed replacing the thyme - it is quite nice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Simple Vanilla Glaze

This marks the beginning of my excursion into the world of food blogging. I hope to provide you with a look into my kitchen as I experiment with from-scratch recipes in cooking and baking.

Tonight's recipe comes to you in the form of pumpkin cupcakes, from Martha Stewart Online. Here is a link to the original recipe, and below I share my alterations on that recipe.

I primarily purchase salted butter, as we use it on bread, and I have never had a problem using it in baking, as long as I take care to omit any salt that is added to the recipe. The recipe below reflects that, as well as my love for allspice.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and all spices. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together both sugars, butter, and eggs. (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer at Speed 2 for about 1 minute.)
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until smooth.
  5. Add the pumpkin puree. Beat at medium speed until smooth and almost fluffy. (KitchenAid Speed 4)
  6. Fill each paper liner about half-full.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from cupcake pan and let cool completely.


  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups confectionary sugar
  • milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Pour about confectionery sugar in a bowl. Whisk in a small amount of milk to thin out the sugar.
  2. Add vanilla. Whisk until blended. Consistency should be thin but not watery.
  3. To glaze the cupcakes, dip them into the bowl of glaze and let the excess drip off.
  4. For a finish, sprinkle with confectionery sugar.


The cupcakes are a lot like pumpkin muffins - very moist with a mellow flavor. My workup of the recipe produced 27 cupcakes, much more than the 18 suggested by Martha. They would also pair well with cream cheese frosting if you were looking for something more substantial than a thin glaze.
I could probably eat a hundred of them.

Happy autumn!