Cauliflower/Potato/Cheese Soup on a blechy day.

Soup is growing on me.  Soup can be wonderful.  Soup can also be easy and very good for you.  Why has it taken so long for me to fully appreciate soup?  Well, Soup can also be very boring.  Truth be told, this recipe borders on boring. For sure, it's the most boring soup you could ever look at - BAR NONE! Here's what makes all the difference for me though - it's the cheese.  I used very old cheddar in this recipe.  I'm thinking that a little bit of blue cheese or something strong like it would work beautifully as well. 

Allow me to digress for just a moment.  I got a beautiful cauliflower in this weeks food box.  Originally, I was going to make soup.  Then I wanted to make curried chick peas and cauliflower - except nobody in my house actually wants to eat it but me.  Then I thought I might try this interesting looking recipe which involved tortillas, roasted, spiced cauliflower, spinach and beans (still sounds quite interesting actually).  At the end of the day I just kind of lost steam and ended up back at the soup by default.  I ended up making vegetable curry (EASY and in an upcoming post) without cauliflower and without chickpeas.  I'll leave the tortilla/cauliflower/spinach for another time in the future.

I'm glad that I did the soup in the end.  See, I've been neglecting carrying a lunch to work with me these days.  I don't really have time to get to a microwave (we've already talked through how I feel about cold sandwiches), sit down and eat my food in between all the other stuff that's going on and I want to make the most of my time - I'm only there until 2:30 p.m.  So after I come home it's really nice to have a warm bowl of soup to put into my belly.  I happen to like mine with a few crushed chilli peppers on it.  Divine.

Cauliflower/Potato/Cheese Soup
serves 6

1 small to medium head of Cauliflower, broken up into florets
4 - 5 small fist sized potatoes, less if they're bigger, diced
1 onion, diced (I used Leeks which work beautifully too)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup butter
4 - 5 cups broth (I used vegetable broth but chicken will do as well)
1tbsp salt
2 - 3 tbsp fresh herbs, coarsely chopped
dash of pepper sauce if you desire
1 cup shredded cheese (old/extra old or blue work best)

In a large, heated Dutch oven add the butter and once melted throw in the cauliflower, potatoes and onion.  Continue to cook until the onions have begun to wilt.  Add in the garlic and continue to cook at med/low heat for about 10 min.  Add in the broth, salt, herbs and pepper sauce and stir well.
Once the veggies are soft, place small batches in a blender and puree.  You can do this with all or just part of the soup depending on the texture you want.
Put the pureed soup back on the heat and add in the cheddar.  If it needs it, add in a little milk too.  Check tastes and adjust as necessary.

Apple Cake with trepidation.

Every once in a while I get a fail.  An epic fail.  A fail of colossal proportions.  A fail that makes you consider whether it's worth doing it.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I had great intentions but I was feeling wretched from a bloody cold that I caught from somewhere.  Still, I wasn't going to let that get me down.  I got ready to make a recipe, I had my dead bananas ready to go.  The recipe was one I hadn't tried before and I thought that it might be interesting but it felt wrong even at the batter stage.  I forged ahead though, always the optimist.  I could tell within the first 15 minutes of baking that it was a complete flop.

I had a decision to make:
A) Take out my frustration on everyone around me - Truth be told this is my 'go-to' response for these types of situations
B) Decide that their are more important things in life than banana bread that might have been good, failing epically and just let it go.
Yesterday, I was the bigger man and choose option B.  A rather big deal for me and a shock to D, kid #1 and kid #2 who all hid in different parts of the house waiting for the explosion.
And now...

I am moving on... to Apple cake.  Fingers crossed and knock on wood and throw salt over your shoulder and all that other crap.   I'm not always a huge fan of this kind of thing but necessity is the mother of invention.  I had apples that needed to get used up.  I figured after the fail yesterday that I dealt with pretty well, even if today's venture blew chunks I'd still survive and my family might too.  Gave it a whirl and was pleasantly surprised - Thank God because, just between you and me, I don't honestly know if I could've held it together after all.  I barely made it though.  I used the wrong size baking dish and had to bake the cake forever before the inside was baked through.  I got nervous but held it together and it came through.  Beautifully!

Apple Cake

Part 1
2/3 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp.
drizzle of corn syrup

Part 2
2 1/4 cups peeled and sliced apples (I used Mac's - I think!)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Part 3
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 lg eggs
4 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8 inch round baking dish.
Line a baking sheets with foil.  In a bowl mix together the nuts, sugar, butter and corn syrup.  Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 9 min or until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.

In another bowl mix together the sliced apples, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside

In a third bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a fourth bowl (really!) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the sour cream and vanilla and mix well.  Add in the flour mixture and mix until everything is well incorporated.  Place half the batter in the prepared baking dish.  Top with the apple mixture, making sure that there is no additional liquid going in as well.  Top that with the nuts mixture.  Top that with the remaining batter and spread evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the top with a little sugar and cinnamon and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes.

Chard and Sausage Pasta Bake - The Carb Load-Up.

Right now I am loving this time of year.  Do I love the cooler temperatures?  Honestly, No.
Do I love working and hustling with kids back in school?  Honestly, No.
Do I love that it's getting dark earlier and earlier?  Honestly, No.
Do I love... ok, ok.  You get the idea.
At this time of year, I'm loving eating!

This is the second fall now that I have decided to run the Toronto Marathon.  Full disclosure here:  I'm not running the full 42 km marathon ok?  I'm running the half, 21.1 km (yeah that extra .1 is definitely worth writing - trust me.  By the time you get to that point in the race you are totally feeling that stupid .1) However, despite not training for the full monty I DO get to train.  Right now I could probably eat just about anything and at the worst not gain any weight and at best, keep right on burning stupid amounts of calories.  The training has been ramping up since the middle of August for me but it's only the last 4 weeks that have gotten intense enough to really make a difference in my metabolism.  In truth, I don't take advantage of it as much as I could/should... whatever but I ran 20 k today.  It's my last long run before the race and I came home ready to eat.
Nothing was made though so I hustled through showering and stuff and got this pasta readied as quickly as possible.

As long as you have the ingredients, this is honestly quite easy.  It won't take you forever and is hearty and satisfying.  However, I love creamy, baked pastas.  I love hot italian sausage and I love it even more when combined with chard for some reason.

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Chard
serves 6

5 cups al dente pasta (rotini or penne work best)
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 small green, red or yellow pepper, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, halved and sliced thin
1 bunch of chard (about 4 cups), stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 lbs of hot italian sausage, casings removed and cut into large chunks
1 450ml container of ricotta
1/2 cup parmesan - plus extra for topping
1 vegetable bouillion cube
juice and zest of half a lemon
3 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
dash of pepper sauce
1/2 cup herbs, diced (parsley, basil, oregano, chive, rosemary - mix it up)
1/2 cup goat cheese, in large chunks

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large, heated pot/dutch oven, add some oil and cook the onion, pepper, zucchini (and garlic if you want to throw some in) until wilted.  Add in the chard and cook until the chard wilts and reduces.  Add in the italian sausage and let it cook with the veggies.  Once the sausage looks cooked through (a few minutes) add in the bouillion cube to dissolve in the juices.  Add in the ricotta and mix well.  Add in the Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, salt, sugar, herbs and pepper sauce and mix well.  Check the tastes and adjust if needed.

In a large baking dish pour in the cooked pasta and the cubed goat cheese and mix up.  Add in the chard sauce and mix well.  Sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top and bake for about 20 - 25 min.

Corn and Cheese Scones... for soup?

Sometimes I write a post that is in some way connected to the food that I'm cooking or baking.  Today though I can't think of an inspired connection at all.  I wanted to make these scones.  They sounded interesting in a magazine and so I tried them.

On a completely unrelated note, I had to fill out a 'Goals for this Year' Evaluation at work.  I don't know about you but I take these things very seriously.  I looked at the page for days.  I pondered what I felt I was good at, what I felt I needed to improve on and how I could do that.  I thought a lot about what I thought was good and what needed improvement within the work environment.  I just can't do it lightly.
I discovered that it's a really hard thing to answer honestly.  I contemplate not just how I really feel but how the person reading it (presumably my boss) will respond.  Then I thought about my perpetual worry that I'm not doing a good enough job.  My resulting need to then over-work myself to prove to anybody looking on that I am worthy of the job.  I thought about how that itself might prevent me from doing my best because I'm distracted with this worry and self doubt.  Then I thought about how little we tend to self-evaluate.  Well, in any meaningful way that is.

It was hard writing my thoughts out for someone else to read but it was also really good to write those things down.  To articulate them beyond some vague, unconnected thoughts.  I haven't journaled in a long while but I can definitely see the value in writing down what it is running through your head.
Like I said, totally unrelated to making these scones.  The scones I made in 30 min. after work yesterday and they were a yummy accompaniment to dinner and today's lunch boxes.

The moral of todays blog post:
Enjoy the scones and write some crap down in a journal.

Cheddar and Sweet Corn Scones from BBC Good Food magazine
makes about 12

2 large fresh corn cobs OR 1 1/2 cup of canned or frozen corn
350 g or 3 2/3 cup of self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne and paprika
few thyme sprigs (optional)
dash of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
175 g or 2 cups aged cheddar, grated
175 ml milk plus a little extra for brushing
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the corn.  Boil for about 4 min. and drain.  Set aside.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly flour it.
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, mustard powder, cayenne, paprika and salt.  Mix well.
Rub or cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Add in most of the cheese and all the corn.  Mix well.
Mix together the milk and lemon juice.  Add to the flour mixture and mix just until it forms a sticky dough. Don't overwork the dough.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured flat surface and knead just a few times.  Divide the dough into twelve equal portions, keeping the shape rough and fairly flat on the top.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with a little milk.  Place a little cheese on top of each as well.
Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes or until golden on top.  The scone should sound hollow if you tap the bottom.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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