One of more than a hundred recipes I have for soup. I’m not kidding.

Spicy Chickpea Soup with Curried Vegetables
Inspired by this.

I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach.

While I like to elicit a few oohs and awes at dinnertime, I am a busy lady, and can’t spend my entire day chiffonading in the kitchen. The best recipes, to me, impress with the barest minimum of effort. You end up with more time casually drinking wine and talking to your dinner guests. Or, you know, watching Animal Cops and petting the cat.

This soup takes 15 minutes, start to finish, but I get compliments every time it’s served. Here I’ve paired it with some simple curried vegetables, which are also great stuffed into a whole wheat wrap/pita for a super tasty lunch the next day. Go to hell, PB&J. (You know I didn’t mean that, PB&J. Please forgive me.)

Spicy Chickpea Soup

2 16 ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup vegetable broth

1. In a blender, combine the drained chickpeas with the coconut milk, salsa garam masala and ground ginger and puree the mixture until smooth.

2. Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes until flavors combine.

Slurp.

Curried Vegetables

3 small red potatoes, cubed
2 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1 ½ tsp olive oil
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. curry powder (or a little less if you’re not a curry fiend like me)
3 cups of spinach

1. Boil the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until tender.

3. Add potatoes, vegetable broth, and curry powder Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

4. Add spinach, cook until just wilted.

These are the foods of my days.

Due to my finicky gastronomical tempest, I’ve been indulging in all my favorite name brands, and not the sugar-free versions. I’d like to take a moment to thank the following foods for their staying-down power, and give you an idea of how difficult it is to consume the suggested 3000 calories per day when housing two people. Today I chose the following menu, which requires you never completely stop eating, and still comes in 20 calories short.

4 Honey Maid Graham Squares with 2 tbsp Jiff Peanut Butter: 320
1 Fiber One Toaster Pastry: 180
Raisin Bagel with 4 tbsp Philadelphia Cream Cheese: 430
Marie Calendar Chicken Pot Pie: 675
Mott’s Original Applesauce snack pack: 100
Stoffer’s Mac n Cheese n Broccoli: 440
2 smallish bananas: 170
1 Cup Smartfood: 75
Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt: 100
Bowl of Kellog’s Raisin Bran: 190
2 C whole milk: 300

I don’t know what’s more exhausting, eating this much or carrying the grocery bags from half a week’s shopping, and I’m dangerously close to having my feed delivered. But that would be opening a door through which I might eventually be unable to fit. Oops, what do you know; it’s 8:30 — pudding time!

I’d put prizes in the middle if I didn’t eat them so fast.

She-Should-Be-Reported Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes


There are several ways in which I am a horrid mother, one of which regards the amount of cake batter I consider appropriate for the pre-bake “tasting.” Billy the Kid starts lobbying to “lick spoon” the minute the eggs hit the bowl, and he eventually obtains clearance to commence his appetizer. For the main course, he tongue-polishes the Kitchen-Aid whisk attachment clean and shiny, and finishes up by hunting for errant batter splatters on the counter. He probably puts away a quarter cup of raw flour, sugar, shortening and eggs. The tragedy is that I’m rewarded for my lackluster display of moderation; the minute the pan goes in the oven, Billy the Kid disappears into the living room, switches on the TV, and sits quietly on the couch for twenty minutes, basking in his little sugar tingle. Were he to transform into a dervish and take down the curtains in his whirl, I would impose a strict two-lick limit, but he comes up with some great stuff during his meditations. For this afternoon’s sugar bullet, we made Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, a modified version of the Cherry Dreams-of-Me Cake. I’m a strong advocate of the No-Cupcake-Left-Uncherried initiative; without at least half a maraschino, all you have is a frosted muffin.

2 C cake flour, sifted (sift with the baking powder, baking soda and salt)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
1 1/4 C sugar
3/4 C whole milk
3 eggs (do not beat)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice

Set your oven to 350. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the shortening and sugar and beat by hand until fluffy. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and extracts, and beat until well blended. Sift in the dry ingredients, then add the milk in a slow stream while stirring gently with the other hand. Once combined, add the cherry juice, whip it in quickly, then throw the bowl under the mixer and beat on high with the whisk attachment for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into lined muffin tins, and bake single sheets of 12 for 20 minutes at 350. Our batch yielded 21, but if you’ve ever heard of restraint, you might wind up with a couple of extras.

Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting with Vanilla Buttercream (recipe here, just omit cherry juice), then let them sit uncovered until the frosting sets a shell. You should be able to pile them into a display about two hours after frosting without smudging.

Fast Food At Home (minus the clogged arteries)

Veggie Burger and Fries

Seconds before ravenous eating commenced.

Oh, how I love french fries. Of course, what goes better with fries than a burger? Why not put the real star of the show at the beginning where it belongs? To me, that’s all a burger is, really–something I eat so my dinner doesn’t wholly consist of a greased-up potato. But what I don’t love is the stomach ache that is sure to follow a trip to your local fast food joint. Those little wedges of starchy joy instantly make me feel like I need to wash my face and go to the gym.

I’d never give up fries, but I could sure do without the guilt. These fries are parboiled, baked, and broiled for ultimate crisp, served with a veggie burger that’s 1000 times better than those hockey pucks you find in the freezer at your local grocer.

Veggie Burgers

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1/4 breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 flour

1. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a skillet over low heat, and cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, being careful not to brown. Add the carrots and zucchini, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, let cool slightly.

2. In a bowl, mix oats, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, and soy sauce. Add in cooked veggies. Refrigerate 1 hour or until cool.

3. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

4. Place the flour on a large plate. Form the vegetable mixture into 3 or 4 (depending on how big you want them) patties. Drop
each patty into the flour, lightly coating both sides.

5. Grill patties 4-5 minutes on each side, or until heated through and nicely browned.

Fries

2 large potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic and onion salt

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Put sliced potatoes in cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes ONLY. Potatoes should not be completely cooked, otherwise you will end up with very mushy fries.

3. Drain in a colander and place under cold running water. Shake off excess water, and dry potatoes on paper towels.

4. In a medium bowl, add the potatoes, olive oil, and your seasoning preference to taste, stirring to combine.

5. Lay fries on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Cook for 25 minutes, turning fries once halfway through.

6. Place fries in broiler for 2-5 minutes–please watch carefully, these fries burn easily. Serve with ketchup or nothing at all.

Two Babies!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Plantagenet and Hastings Peña

Evidently, there’s a party in my oven. My first ultrasound earlier this afternoon revealed not one, but two tiny babies taking up residence in what I consider luxuriously spacious adjoining suites. This comes as an enormous shock to Mr. P and myself, as neither of our families have a history of twins. In fact, when scheduling the appointment, I directed Mr. P to refrain from accompanying me out of guilt, as I was only going in order to confirm that there was just the one, and do the preliminary horns-and-hooves screening. As soon as I saw the honey comb appear on the screen, I knew, even as I waited for the technician to apologize for the computer’s malfunction. But by the time she exclaimed “you’ve got twins,” a nanosecond later, I was already beyond panic and ramping up my delight at the novelty of a bonus baby. Since there’s really no point in indulging any emotions beyond glee and wonder, I plan to be nothing but excited, eat whatever I want as soon as I can eat what I want, and keep Mr. P from having a heart attack. I managed to make a couple of Steak Hamiltons tonight for dinner, which I barely cooked in light of my Rosemary’s Baby style craving for raw meat, but I don’t see making a kitchen comeback for a few more weeks at least. Until then, I’ll be putting together little more than Eggo’s and toast, but singing my new theme song, “I Have Confidence,” all the while!

An Intro and A Confession

Zucchini Quesadillas
Inspired by this.

My plating skills are lacking.

I suppose it might go without saying, but I’m really excited to start contributing to this blog. I love to cook, especially for other people. Even if I can’t stand at everyone’s stove in the literal sense, at least I can pass along a good recipe.

Before you scoff at the origins of this dish, let me say that my grandmother gives me her magazines when she is finished reading them. Every. Single. Blessed. One. While I do nothing more than recycle Diabetic Living (Really, Grandma? Really?) I flip through some of the others. I happened upon this recipe while deep in a Mexican phase, and in the time it takes Domino’s to deliver I had this on the table. Goes great with black bean soup, rice, and a stiff margarita.

The inside goodness.

2 tsp. olive oil
½ small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced (or ½ tsp garlic powder)
2 zucchini (about 1 lb.), cut in half lengthwise, then into ¼ slices
Fresh Ground Black Pepper and Salt
2 plum tomatoes
1 8 oz can of sweet yellow corn, drained
Four 10-inch whole wheat tortillas
Cooking spray or olive oil or butter
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Guacamole (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic, sautéing for 3-5 minutes. Add zucchini slices, and season with pepper and salt to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until tender. Turn off heat.

2. Cut tomatoes in half, and squeeze out seeds. Roughly chop and add to zucchini mixture. Add corn to mixture, and set aside.

3. Heat a small, nonstick skillet on medium-low heat. On one side of a tortilla either brush lightly with olive oil or spray with a cooking spray like Pam. Place one tortilla at a time, oiled side down, on the skillet. Tortilla will puff slightly.

4. Once tortilla is slightly browned on the bottom, fill ½ of the tortilla with zucchini and tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Carefully fold over, and cook for about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat.

5. Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole. (And if you’re my husband, hot sauce.)

News from the Oven

You may have noticed a sudden drop in postings, and some perhaps even enjoyed a shiver of superiority in light of my recent halt in production. I’m pleased to announce, albeit questionably early, that someone is literally in my oven. The bad news is that I can’t find a doctor to induce a six-month coma, and the all-day morning sickness has rendered me unable to tolerate most food, save for Nabisco Nilla Wafers, tea, cantaloupe and American cheese. I’m delighted in spite of my state, and hope to have this unpleasantness cleared up by month four, as was the case when Billy the Kid was cooking. I thought I may have turned a corner the other night, as I walked out of Burton’s Grill in an upright position after finishing all my wild mushroom ravioli and sherry cream sauce, but the burn of the great belch had me on the floor within an hour.

Having bid an eight-month adieu to Diet Coke and coffee a few weeks ago, I’m temporarily out of gems, and I don’t plan on converting this into a womb-centric area. As I seem to be pretty much good for nothing these days, I’m super pleased to introduce our new vegetarian correspondent — and she’s been given posting privileges! I met Mrs. D in the class I’m taking at UMASS, and aside from being chipper, fun and stylish, she’s a former English major, and an excellent writer. She also has a laudable approach to nutrition; she tries to be as healthy as she can without being weird. That’s a stance I can get behind. Welcome, Mrs. D!

I had planned to address the magnificence of the Cadbury mini-egg in this post, but I’m quickly succumbing to the paralyzing heartburn brought on by my toast. Pregnancy: a terrible design, brought to you by the creators of tonsils and pinky toes.

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