Cauliflower Soup

January 13th, 2009

soupified-500-logo.jpgAnother Soupified recipe, this one has been the favorite since the project began. James and I both enjoyed this simple soup, packed full of vegetables and a flavorful broth. With some easy substitutions, this could easily transform into a vegan recipe (swap out vegetable broth for chicken stock and substitute oil for butter).

Caraway seeds do not show up often in my recipes, even though they have a wonderful, anise-like flavor. If you do not have caraway seeds, try using dried basil with a pinch of dried thyme or ground anise seed.


Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Cooking Light

2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large head cauliflower, chopped or broken into florets
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat; add onion with a pinch of salt and saute 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the cauliflower, potato, carrot, and caraway seeds. Cook 6 minutes or until cauliflower begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in salt and pepper.


Above: Top individual bowls of soup with fresh ground black pepper, if desired.

From Cooking Light magazine, this recipe is also called Al Cuscus bil Khodar al-mausium as it hails from Morocco. Using the Ras el Hanout spice mixture and Simple Garlic Broth, I was able to incorporate previous recipes and keep this dish a nice vegetarian alternative for dinner. With loads of sweet potatoes and parsnips, plus chickpeas for protein, this is a great, all-in-one dish with a savory yet sweet flavor. Look for flavored couscous, or use whole wheat.


Above: Pine nuts in the topping add a toasty crunch to the dish.

The recipe does contain honey, and I had to catch myself from calling it vegan. To make this a vegan dish, simple omit the honey or replace it with a vegan-friendly alternative like agave nectar.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous with Chickpeas and Onion-Pine Nut Topping
adapted from Cooking Light

5 cups diced peeled sweet potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced peeled parsnips (about 10 ounces) 
2 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil 
2 tsp Ras el Hanout 
3  carrots, peeled and diced (about 9 ounces)
1 1/4  cups Simple Garlic Broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1  tbsp olive oil
1  sweet Vidalia onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 450F and cover the top of a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle olive oil over top of the foil.

In a large ziplock bag, combine sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots with olive oil and Ras el Hanout. Seal the bag tightly and toss vegetables to coat. Spread out on baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous and salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork; gently stir in chickpeas. Keep warm.

To prepare topping, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 5-7 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add pine nuts and raisins; cook 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon; cook 30 seconds. Stir in honey, and remove from heat.

To serve: Combine couscous mixture with roasted vegetables and toss. Top with onion mixture. Serve immediately.


Beer Cheese Soup

January 7th, 2009

soupified-500-logo.jpgSoupified is back with a new recipe, a special request from James. He also selected the beer used in this recipe, which was a hefeweizen (German wheat beer). To give this soup a little more body, I added a package of frozen broccoli florets. Bring beer and milk to room temperature before cooking, this will make it easier to bring the soup back to a simmer after adding ingredients. The beer may foam when added to the soup, but will eventually incorporate with the soup.

Pre-shredded cheese can be dry and difficult to melt. Buy a brick of cheese and shred it yourself just before adding to the pan. The cheese will be softer, which is also better for topping hot soup!


Beer Cheese Soup
adapted from Cooking Light

4 1/2 cups less-sodium chicken broth, divided 
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp unsalted butter 
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package (10 oz) broccoli florets, thawed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 1/2 cups 2% milk
12 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 (12 oz) can or bottle of beer
freshly ground black pepper (optional) 

Simmer 2 cups of chicken broth with potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cook 15 minutes of until potatoes are tender. Transfer potato mixture to a blender, removing center piece of the blender lid to allow heat to escape. Secure lid on blender and place a clean towel over the opening to avoid spills. Blend until smooth and set aside. 

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large stockpot. Add onion and carrot, saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic to pan, cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and broccoli, bring to a boil. 

Whisk together flour and milk, then slowing whisk into stockpot. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add potato mixture, shredded cheese, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and salt. Stir to combine. Add beer to pan and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Garnish with black pepper, if desired. 


Above: Broccoli and carrots add body to the soup, along with some healthy vitamins.

Garlic & Herb Hummus

January 5th, 2009

When I made the Simple Garlic Broth, I noted that the leftover garlic would be great in hummus. So, in the interest of practicing what I post, I made garlic broth again for another recipe and decided to make hummus with the leftover garlic. The cloves of garlic were softened, studded with bits of thyme, and flavored with other herbs from the broth. Though the taste had significantly mellowed, there was still a kick of garlic flavor.


When straining the garlic broth, remove bay and sage leaves along with any thyme stems. Reserve garlic pieces and thyme leaves. Using a sieve, push lightly on the garlic cloves to release most of the broth liquid. Set aside until cooled, about room temperature, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day before using. Several fresh, chopped garlic cloves could be substituted along with the leaves of a fresh sprig of thyme.

Garlic & Herb Hummus

reserved garlic cloves with thyme from Simple Garlic Broth
2 cans (15 oz each) chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
minced fresh basil, optional

Combine garlic and chick peas in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Add additional lemon juice or salt to taste. Allow to refrigerate overnight before serving. If desired, top with fresh basil and drizzle with additional olive oil just before serving.


As we celebrate the New Year, I find myself reflecting on my journey through cooking. I started cooking not long after I met James, as we grew sick of eating out constantly. At the time, I served one of the few things I knew how to make: tacos. No, not my fancy tacos with homemade spice mixture, but straight-out-of-the packet tacos with pre-shredded cheese, lettuce, and instant rice. Since I had to buy most all of the ingredients the day before, it wasn’t any less expensive than dining out and certainly wasn’t more sophisticated. It was, however, heartfelt (I even bought little umbrellas for the lemonade).


Above: A feast of “homemade” Mexican food.

Slowly, I moved on to more complicated dishes and even baking. After a few months, I started documenting my accomplishments on a “blog” of sorts. I couldn’t even post pictures on the site or use any kind of text formatting, but I kept cooking and posting about it (even my failed attempt at a Rachel Ray recipe). As time went on, I started having dinner guests and cooking for others in their homes. The experiences were both exhilarating and terrifying at times.

Soon, I moved in to more complex territory: the special projects. It started with Gingerama, inspired by the memoir Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I moved through more special projects, seasonal cooking, and other food related topics. James helped me create the website Jenn’s Cook Book and continued to be my gastrointestinal guinea pig. I tried new recipes, new produce, and explored different cuisines from across the globe. A new lifestyle was born.

Now, new recipes are pretty common in my kitchen. James has grown accustom to what I refer to as “the cruel whimsy of Jenn,” which usually consists of me adjusting recipes to my own taste, budget, or pantry. I enjoy crafting new special projects, including Veganomics and my latest venture Soupified (for which I demanded a logo of our friend Ray, which is pretty snazzy). But throughout the course of discovering food, I have also discovered a part of myself and a cause worth campaigning for in my life.


As you will probably notice, I often dedicate posts to their frugality or to their minimizing effect on the environment. During projects like Veganomics and Econofest, I highlighted tips and tricks to save money while saving the planet. The environment has always been the closest I’ve had to a cause, and now with the world facing an economic crisis du jour, it seemed appropriate to combine the two and sound off my opinions on the declining state of civilization (a bit too dramatic? much apologies).

I hope to offer recipes that are at least somewhat healthy, for the body, the soul, and the greater world around us, as well as the pocket book. Something in my heritage makes me want to be a penny-scrimper, though I don’t always follow that path. I would like to think that most anyone could prepare the recipes on Jenn’s Cook Book, save for a few alterations.

My best piece of advice is to always adjust a recipe for what you have on hand. Do not, under any circumstances, go out to the store to purchase one item for a recipe (unless we are talking about baking, which is much more of an exact science, which requires the amount of butter called for least you find yourself with an end result you might want to consume). I advocate, support, endorse, and fully suggest that you take recipes and twist and turn them into your own creation. That, my friends, is how food comes from the heart.

Anyway, to make a long story less long, please browse my creations and enjoy my journey through the kitchen. I hope that the New Year brings you all that you are looking for, but I have found that if something delicious is cooking in your oven, you always have something wonderful to look forward to. After all, the best part of cooking is sharing that food with the ones that you love. If nothing else, please take that from this website….a little bit of warm and fuzzy in an otherwise vapid world of Internet ramblings. I will try to keep my ramblings to a minimum, as long as you promise to have a happy 2009 full of love, life, and this crazy thing I like to call cooking from the heart!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

PS – Look for more of the same in 2009: Special Projects, Bitter/Sweet rants and raves, and everything else you have come and known to love from Jenn’s Cook Book. Have a(nother) glass of wine for me!