French Onion Soup

My first experience eating French onion soup was memorable, and not in a good way. I was on a field trip with my French class, and French onion soup was one of those things we just HAD to try. I don’t remember if we got to pick our food option or not, but I don’t know that it would have mattered much as I had never had it before. It looked gross, all brown with a hunk of congealed-looking cheese on top; and it tasted gross, which may have had something to do with the fact that the cheese on top was probably Gruyere, which is definitely not my favorite. I’ve seen French onion soup on many a menu since then, but haven’t been gutsy enough to try it after the experience I had as a youngster.

After eating a bowl of this soup (with a thick slice of lentil bread and some melted mozzarella cheese on top), I’m convinced that I can like French onion soup. In fact, I would probably eat this for every meal forever if it didn’t take so much time to make and if it was a bit more nutritionally sound.

French Onion Soup

FOS 2

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds yellow onions
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy spread (I used Earth Balance)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 thick slice of bread, cut in half
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions in half top to bottom and peel off the outer layer(s) of skin. Thinly slice each half and then cut the slices in half. Transfer cut onions to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the non-dairy spread with the oil in a large saute pan or soup pot over low heat. When it starts to sizzle add the onions and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Uncover the onions and stir in the salt, black pepper, and sugar. Cook, uncovered, over low to medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently and lowering the heat if they start to scorch. You can add a bit of liquid or oil to the pan if they seem to be sticking or scorching a lot.
  4. When the onions are golden brown heat the vegetable stock in a separate pan. Stir the flour into the onions and cook for another minute or two.
  5. Add the hot vegetable stock, bay leaves, and thyme to the onion mixture. Cook the soup over low heat, partially covered, for an hour or until it’s as thick as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. If you’re going to add bread and cheese to the soup, now’s the time to do it. If you have oven-safe bowls you can place the bread and cheese right on top of the soup, otherwise place the bread on a baking sheet and top with the sliced cheese. Broil on high until the cheese gets bubbly and starts to brown.

You can make this vegan by not using the mozzarella cheese, or by using a non-dairy cheese alternative.

Source: Adapted from the kitchn.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramelized Nuts

Pumpkin is one of my favorite fall flavors, one that I occasionally like to use during other seasons. That’s one reason why I like canned pumpkin – it’s available year-round and it’s quicker and easier than using homemade pumpkin purée. I’d like to make my own pumpkin purée someday, but for now I’ll stick with the canned stuff.

This cake is chock full of pumpkin flavor, and the cream cheese frosting and caramelized nuts add a nice bit of sweetness and crunch.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramelized Nuts

Pumpkin Cake 1

 

 

Pumpkin Cake 2

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (9 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • large eggs (room temperature), yolks and whites separated 

Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (AKA confectioner’s sugar)
  • pinch of cardamom

Caramelized Nuts

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used pecans and walnuts), crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with parchment paper, and spray the paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
  3. Use handheld or stand mixture to mix together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and salt. Add egg yolks one at a time.
  4. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk egg whites until they’re foamy and white in color. Fold into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick or knife. You can cover the edges with tin foil and cook longer if the middle is not quite done. Let the cake sit in the pan for 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven, then carefully remove it from the pan and place it on a surface that will make it easy to frost.
  7. Make the frosting: Use handheld or stand mixture to mix the butter and cream cheese together. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the cardamom and mix until incorporated.
  8. Caramelize the nuts: In a small saucepan, caramelize 1 tbsp sugar, moving it around in the pan frequently so it doesn’t burn. Once it’s turned a nice golden brown, add 1 tbsp of butter and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens a bit. Add the nuts and stir to coat. Pour nuts onto parchment paper-lined plate to cool.
  9. Once the cake has fully cooled, frost to your liking, then sprinkle the caramelized nuts on top.

Source: Adapted from Food 52.

Salmon Loaf

I had salmon for dinner the other night, and while I was looking for a new way to prepare it I came across several recipes for salmon loaf. This one sounded the most flavorful.

Salmon Loaf

Salmon loaf 1

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 3/4 ounce) can pink salmon, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, finely shredded
  • 25-30 saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 to 11/2 tsp dried tarragon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Remove the skin and bones from the salmon, if desired. I like the extra flavor and texture so I leave them in.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the salmon, onion, garlic, spinach, and crackers. Add the sour cream, milk, and tarragon, and mix well.
  4. Scoop the salmon mixture into prepared loaf pan and pat down until firm. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, broiling for a few minutes at the end if you’d like more color on the top. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before digging in.

This dish is best when eaten within a few days of making it… some of the flavors change as it sits in the fridge, and I’ve found that it doesn’t taste quite as good.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Healthy Across America.

Spiced Mango Lassi

I’m on a tight schedule this week as I head off to DC tomorrow morning for a women’s equality rally, so I perused my collection of recipes looking for something quick and easy to make, and voilà – mango lassi. I’ve written about my love of Indian food, and particularly mango lassi, before and figured I’d give it a try. This recipe results in quite a bit of spice flavor; if that’s not your thing just cut back on the spices or eliminate them entirely.

Spiced Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups diced, peeled, pitted mango (about 1 to 1 1/2 fruits)
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. For best results serve immediately, but you can also freeze this if you want to save some for later.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild, as cited in Pioneer Press “Eat” section, 8/14/2014