Winter Warm – Creamy Potato & Leek Soup

On most days, I will freely admit that I have drunk The Kitchn’s koolaid. I love their blog and generally find it packed with fresh ideas, interesting ingredients, kitchen wisdom and great design. So, imagine my horror when I came across this post. To even suggest that Potato and Leek soup is not loved by all of humanity…I could barely read on. OK…I am being a bit melodramatic, but I do really love this soup. I believe it is a combination of its mellow flavours and some pleasant childhood memories. It might also have something to do with my deep love of potatoes. Regardless of the reason, I thought I would share my take on this winter classic with you. I find the slow roasted garlic really adds the flavour.

Creamy Potato & Leek Soup
makes a lot

  • 6 big potatoes (I generally use russet)
  • 3 leeks, washed – white and light green parts only
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 6 c. organic chicken stock
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 head of garlic
  • glug of olive oil

SUGGESTED TOPPINGS to further jazz this up: sauteed pancetta, grated Gruyere cheese, a drizzle of herb-infused olive oil, diced red peppers and scallions, roasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled sausage (cooked of course) and so on and so on.

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Fancy Fish – Baked Salmon with Spinach & Marscapone

My step-daughter is a very lovely young woman who doesn’t often make requests from the kitchen, so when she does…I am happy to oblige. Christmas Eve dinner is a big deal in our house and this is her favourite dish for the occasion. So every year I head out a few days before Christmas to pick up the ingredients. I might also mention that it is at this time that I am reminded about two things….1) marscapone is nearly impossible to find at Christmas time and 2) wow…it is expensive. Having said all of that…it is totally worth both the time and the expense to track some down because this salmon is amazing. Truly… and simple. Really.

Baked Salmon with Spinach & Marscapone
adapted from Bon Apetit

  • 10-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (about 4 ounces), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 8 good size salmon fillets with skin…they must be about 1 inch thick so you can stuff them with goodness
  • glug of olive oil
  • 2 2/3 cups fresh breadcrumbs … I use ones that are quite fine with excellent results
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

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Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

When it is really hot and sweaty outside…say mid-July, I find myself reminiscing about cooler weather and all the food that goes along with it. Thick and hearty stews, braised meats and yes, roasted vegetables. I swear that you can roast anything with a great result (I am going to be experimenting with beets this weekend if all goes well).

Here is one of my favourites…butternut squash with rosemary and maple syrup. You can serve this as a delicious side or it can also work as a filling for some beautiful stuffed pasta.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary

  • 1 or 2 butternut squash, depending on how many people you are feeding
  • large glug of olive oil
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c. maple syrup (depending on how much squash you are using) + 1 tsp.
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (optional…also optional to add more if you love it)
  • 4-6 sprigs of rosemary

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Fancy Veg – Carrots Glazed with Marsala

When I sat down to write this post, I realized that despite having eaten my fair share of carrots in my life, I know relatively little about them. I decided to do some research. It turns out there are four main types of carrots; Imperators, Nantes, Danvers and Chantenay, which are determined by the size and the depth that carrots grow. Carrots also come in various shapes and sizes; from the long, taper like shape that most of us are familiar with to completely round balls. You may also see their glory in shades of orange, white, yellow, purple and the very rare black. Wow…a whole new world of carrots for me.

Now, here is a recipe that is guaranteed to be wonderful with any shape or size of carrots that you choose. It is my favourite combination of elegant and easy.

Carrots Glazed with Marsala

  • 2 bunches of whatever type of carrot you like, washed and sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c. marsala
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • large pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

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Heavenly Veg – Roasted Broccoli with Fennel & Garlic

Believe it or not, broccoli is one of the few vegetables that my children enjoy. Like most kids, they refer to it as “trees” and prefer it steamed with a generous amount of fresh lemon juice on top. I have also added cheese sauce to the repertoire as, unbeknownst to me until recently, this is de rigeur and I have been denying my children all of these years. Who knew?

Despite all of that, their favourite way to eat broccoli is roasted. For Christmas dinner this year, I jazzed up the dish a bit in honour of the festive occasion, but it remains simple to put together and ultimately delicious.

Roasted Broccoli with Fennel & Garlic

  • 3 crowns of broccoli; washed, trimmed and separated into “trees”
  • healthy glug of olive oil
  • large pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 head of garlic, separated and peeled.
  • 1 lemon

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Unbelievably Good – Coconut Cake with Chocolate Chunks & Coconut Drizzle

OK…here is a New Year’s riddle for you. What do you get when you cross coconut and chocolate? Answer: one of the best cakes I have ever tasted! It was so moist and so tasty…I could go on and on and on. However, I think the ingredients and the pictures speak for themselves.

Coconut Cake with Chocolate Chunks and Coconut Drizzle
from Bon Apetit, January 2010

I should also note that I can take absolutely no credit for this beautiful creation…all props go to my lovely mother who came to visit us over the holidays. She is the master baker…not I.

Cake

  • 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (I prefer fine sea salt)
  • 1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp (packed) finely grated orange peel
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate bars (do not exceed 61% cacao), broken into small-ish chunks, divided
  • 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Drizzle

  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (you may need a bit more)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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Quick & Yummy – Pasta with Spinach, Peas and Pancetta

As I contemplated the approach of the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a panic when it came to dinner time. Where on earth is a mere human supposed to find the time to cook a meal when there are gifts to be purchased and wrapped, cards full of well wishes to be mailed, cookies to be baked, relatives to be picked up/dropped off at the airport, parties to be thrown and/or attended, carols to be sung, stockings to be stuffed, and so on and son. Where, I ask you, where?

Thankfully, there are many talented chefs out there who manage to invent delicious recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. I hope Santa left something especially nice under their tree this year….

Pasta with Spinach, Peas and Pancetta
inspired, yet again, by Jaime Oliver

  • about 10 slices of pancetta or good quality bacon, if you prefer
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • small bunch of mint
  • glug of olive oil
  • 2 c. of baby spinach (or more, if you would like)
  • 2 or 3 heaping Tbsp of creme fraiche (sour cream would work here too)
  • 2 c. of frozen peas (or more if you would like)
  • 1 package of mini-shell pasta

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