Friday, February 25, 2011

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup

This past week I took some time to reflect back upon my life over the past nine months. It just doesn’t seem right that an educated girl like myself has to deal with unemployment. When I decided to become a RN I never envisioned being rejected so much and jobless for this long. I just don’t understand how I keep getting overlooked among the thousands {um yes, thousands} of applicants that are applying for the same position as me. Seriously, what do I have to do to get hired? Stand around on a corner somewhere holding this sign??

Despite all my frustration, I’m hopeful that employment is in my near future. I’m not taking no for an answer anymore. In the mean time, I’ll just continue on my path of positive thinking and gaining more experience through volunteer work. And let’s not forget about all those skills I’m gaining in the kitchen by actually having time to cook :) Nothing like a warm bowl of soup to cheer me up! 
XOXO....little j Y

Tomato Basil Soup
Inspired by: Ina Garten’s Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup
*Makes 8 servings

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups red onions, chopped {2 onions}
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic {3 cloves}
2 (28 oz) cans diced or whole tomatoes {choose a high quality brand}
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp pepper
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
fresh basil leaves, julienned {for garnish}
homemade croutons {optional see recipe below}

Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to purée soup to desired consistency. Stir in the cream. Serve warm with julienned basil leaves and/or croutons.

½ sourdough baguette, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp butter
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt {season to taste}
pepper {season to taste}
1 tsp thyme

To make the croutons, start by chopping your sourdough baguette into bite-sized pieces & set aside. Heat the butter, olive oil, and chopped garlic in a pan over medium heat for less than 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high & toss in the baguette chunks, making sure each piece is coated well. Add olive oil as needed. Season the croutons with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir bread occasionally for about 20 minutes, or until it turns a golden brown.
Final Result!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

After much success from the French Apple Tart I made a few weeks ago, I’m back to making more recipes from Ina Garten’s book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients. This has to be one of my favorite cookbooks. There is not a recipe or dish that isn’t fabulous! Ina claims to be an oatmeal cookie aficionado, so I had no doubt that these cookies would come out delicious. The secret trick learned here was to toast the nuts before adding them into the cookie dough. It really brought out the flavor of the pecans in these sweet & chewy oatmeal cookies. You’re going to love them :) XOXO....little j Y

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe by: Ina Garten
* Makes 30-35 cookies

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 ½ cups raisins
1 ½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange pecans on sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. {Tip: Make sure you are working with room temperature butter. Set the butter out over night to save yourself time.} Add in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla and mix on low.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and blend at a low speed. Stir in oats, raisins and pecans. {Tip: Kosher salt measurements are different than table salt. If you are using table salt, use half the amount from the recipe. I use Kosher salt in everything. It has more texture and tends to have a softer flavor than table salt. You should definitely give it a try!}

Line sheet pans with parchment paper. Drop dough by 2-inch mounds onto the sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Bake larger cookies for about 20 minutes. {Tip: For chewier cookies, allow them to cool on pan before transferring to a baking rack.}

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Cake

The other weekend I helped make homemade pizzas at a friend’s dinner party. The pizza was cooked in their wood fire oven and they came out AHHmazing. I seriously need to invest in one of those ovens!! Baking pizza on a pizza stone in the oven just doesn’t compare anymore. I want one… and I WANT ONE NOW :) One of these days I’m having one built. Plus a grill stove put in the kitchen. I’m such a dreamer, aren't I?!

Now let’s talk a bit about this Banana Cake. It is the easiest cake you’ll ever make since it’s semi-homemade. My family has been baking a homemade version for years, but more recently my aunt whisked up this version. Talk about genius!! I liked it even better. If you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, use their Golden Yellow Cake Mix. I prefer it to another brand, plus it doesn’t have that fake yellow tint to it either. This delicious & dense Banana Cake is moist and has a pleasing banana flavor. Did I mention the addicting cinnamon cream cheese frosting that gets slathered all over the cake? It is quite AHHmazing too. Luckily, there was one big slice of cake left from the party that I could snap a photo of to share with all of you. The little brown lumps on top were just chocolate covered toffee balls I used to decorate the cake. It looks a little unusual on one slice of cake, but as a whole they are a nice touch. XOXO....little j Y

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
*Serves 12

For Cake:
1 box Trader Joe’s Golden Yellow Cake Mix {+ H2O, eggs & melted butter}
3 fresh bananas, mashed but still a bit chunky

For Frosting:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8” or 9” round pans.

Make cake mix according to directions on the box. Use butter rather than oil. Stir in mashed bananas. Divide & pour into greased pans. Bake 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla and cinnamon. Gradually add sugar and beat until combined. Spread onto cooled cake. Decorate as desired. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

A friend made this soup the other day and was kind enough to share some with me. At first, I kind of felt like I was eating baby food {since the soup is basically made of puréed vegetables & it has a similar consistency} but after a few nibbles, I couldn’t get enough! So when I ran out, I had an urge to make more. Either I'm a big baby at heart, or this rainy San Diego weather got me in the mood for a warm cup of soup! The Butternut Squash soup is quite simple, but the subtle flavors of cinnamon & nutmeg give it a little extra something. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. XOXO....little j Y

Butternut Squash Soup
*Makes ­­­­­­­about 8 cups

1 large butternut squash, cut into large cubes {or 2.5 lbs squash, cubed}**See Note
1 (32 oz) container chicken broth
¼ tsp white pepper {+ more to taste}
1 ½ tsp salt {+ more to taste}
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 Tbsp whipping cream {+ more to taste}

{**Note: Reserve 1-2 cups small-diced squash if you want to add some dimension to the soup. Add in later to cook.}

In large pot, combine cubed squash and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer for ­15 minutes, or until squash is cooked. When cooked, the squash should be easily pierced with a fork. Use an immersion blender or transfer squash & broth to a blender to purée. Blend until smooth. Be careful! You may also choose to let the squash cool a bit before puréeing.

Return contents back to pot. Add in reserved smaller-diced squash {if you chose to do so}. Add in white pepper, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and let simmer for at least 15 minutes. To obtain a thicker consistency, let the soup simmer longer. Stir in heavy cream before serving. Garnish with heavy cream, if desired. 

Soup for Two <3

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Cookie Dough Truffles

The other day I was blog browsing on and found this fun recipe for cookie dough truffles. These are the perfect treat for all you cookie dough fanatics out there. You can finally gorge on all the dough you want, without getting scorned for dipping your fingers in the batter! It doesn’t contain raw eggs either, so you can enjoy them without the fear of salmonella too. It isn’t the quickest no-bake treat ever invented, but it makes for a lovely homemade gift from the heart. 
Happy Valentine’s Day :) XOXO....little j Y

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
Recipe by: LOVE & OLIVE OIL
*Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) bag dark cocoa candy melts

(*Note: Have an additional bag of candy melts on hand in case you need more. I ran out with five dough balls left with out chocolate. Not a problem for me...I just nibbled on them without it!)

Combine butter and sugars in mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add in flour, baking soda, and the salt at a low speed. Stir in mini chocolate chips.

Cover & chill dough in fridge for 1 hour. After dough has firmed up a bit, use a 1-1 ½ inch ice cream scooper to form dough into half-domes. Arrange dough balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes to harden. Work in batches to always ensure that dough is chilled enough to work with.

While dough is chilling in the freezer, melt the candy melts in a bowl at 30-second intervals, or according to the instructions on the package. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the chilled dough balls from the freezer & begin the dipping process!

It takes awhile to discover a dipping technique that works best, but let me tell you what I found to work the easiest. Start by dropping the dough into the chocolate. Use a spoon to cover the dough completely, and then pick up the dough with the spoon, while trying to remove any excess chocolate at the same time. Use another spoon to push the dough off that first spoon and onto a sheet of parchment paper. Basically you want to use any technique that’ll help create truffles without any fingerprints or dents! Let the truffles harden on parchment paper. Trim any chocolate edges with a knife. Store truffles in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week.