Roasted Fall Vegetable and Lentil Soup

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Happy Sunday everyone! I’m taking a study break, and I wanted to share a recipe for a soup I made earlier this week that turned out better than I expected. I was making some pumpkin cookies, and I was going to have some pumpkin puree left over, so I started thinking of way to use it, and settled on making some soup. I added the lentils to give it some protein and make it hearty enough for a full meal, and roasted a bunch of vegetables to add to the pumpkin. This is a recipe where an immersion blender comes in extremely handy, since once I had all the ingredients in my pot, rather than blending it in shifts, I was able to just whir my immersion blender through it all and it became wonderfully smooth. It’s a great recipe for a chilly fall evening, and I’ve been having it with some toasted baguette on the side for the last few days. Here’s the recipe!

Roasted Fall Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil (approximately)

1 acorn squash

1 sweet onion

4-6 oz carrots (I used baby carrots I had in the fridge)

1 1/2 cups split red lentils

4 cups vegetable broth

2-3 cups water (more or less depending your desired consistency)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (this is what I had left in the can, you could do more or less, or omit if you don’t have it on hand)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a couple baking sheets with foil. Cut the acorn squash in half, drizzle with olive oil, and place cut side down on one of the baking sheets. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender.

Chop the onion and carrots, toss with olive oil, and spread out on the other baking sheet sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until fork-tender.

While the vegetables are roasting, put the lentils, vegetable broth, and 2 cups of the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow the lentils to cook until soft, then add the pumpkin puree.

Once the vegetables are roasted, add them to the pot and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette and enjoy!

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Molasses Ginger Cookies and a Swim Workout

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Hello! I just saw that my last post was several months ago so… I’m alive! I have also relocated to Seattle, to start physical therapy school at the University of Washington! We had our first three days of school this week, and, as it turns out, grad school is not a joke. These cookies were the result of some Friday night stress baking after getting a little bit overwhelmed by all the work we have for all of our classes already. It seems a little surreal to me that I’m actually starting PT school, after working towards it for so many years, but I’m sure the workload will soon bring me back into reality. One of my favorite things about being in Seattle is the views of Mount Rainier that pop up everywhere! Here’s just one of the views we have from campus (on a clear day).

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Anyway, onto more important things: cookies! It’s officially falltime, the leaves are starting to change color (I’m living in a place that actually has some weather now!), and, the clearest indicator, Trader Joe’s has started to carry pumpkin products! My plan is to do a review of all the TJ’s pumpkin products that I’ve tried, so hopefully that will come soonish.

Last night, I wanted to make some cookies, and I had just bought some molasses, but I realized I had no eggs. Whammy. Well, as it turns out molasses is a pretty great substitute for eggs, and gives the cookies structure and chewiness! I found this recipe from Spice Up The Curry, and doubled it, upping the spices a little bit, as is my habit. The results were an amazingly chewy, spicy cookie with a crackly sugar crusted top. Delicious! Here’s the recipe I used:

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a little more for rolling

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp water

Directions:

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Cream together the butter and sugar until a smooth paste forms. Add the molasses, vanilla, and water, and beat until well-combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir together until a thick, slightly crumbly dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 min to help the dough hold together.

When ready to start rolling the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F and pour a little granulated sugar into a shallow dish.

Scoop out about 2 tsp of dough, roll into a ball (you may have to smush it a little with your hands to help it stay together), then flatten and lightly press one side into the sugar. Place the cookie, sugar side up, on a baking sheet. Place them a couple inches apart, as they will spread a bit. Repeat until your baking sheets are full. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops are crackly. Remove and allow to cool before removing and eating. Enjoy!

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Now for the second part of this post, a swim workout! This is mostly for my sister’s benefit and my own use for inspiration for future workouts, but perhaps someone else can find these of use. One thing that’s very sad about moving out of California is the lack of outdoor pools here. Sigh. But it hasn’t stopped me from swimming! Here’s a workout I did earlier this week:

4400 yard Energy System Monday

200 free, non free, pull

6×50 kick/swim, 100 pull

4×50 kick/swim, 200 pull

2×50 kick/swim, 300 pull

2×50 fly/free, 300 pull

4×50 fly/free, 200 pull

6×50 fly/free, 100 pull

4x(150 IM, double odd strokes on odd 150s, double even strokes on even 150s, 3×50 fast free)

200 easy

4400 yds

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

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Happy Tuesday! It’s been a while since my last post, but on a dreary gray day like this I figure some people might need a sweet treat. I love anything and everything almond, so when my mom picked up a couple Napoleon’s Hat cookies from a bakery for us to try, I knew I just had to make them at home. These cookies are buttery, soft, with an almond marzipan filling bursting with almond flavor. Delicious. I adapted this recipe from Scandinavian Today based on the ingredients I had, and they turned out great!

Anyway, my adaptations included using 7oz almond paste instead of the 6oz marzipan called for in the recipe, since it comes in a 7oz tube. I also added a little almond extract to the cookie dough to get a little extra almond flavor, since you can never have enough. The cookies turned out soft and flavorful, and filling was deliciously chewy, and the chocolate added the perfect final touch. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how many cookies they made, but my guess is around 20. Maybe I should count next time. Here’s the recipe!

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

Adapted from Scandinavian Today

Ingredients

Cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 oz (7 tbsp) unsalted butter

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp almond extract

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp ice water

Filling:

7 oz almond paste

3 oz granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, or 6oz chopped chocolate

Directions

To make the cookie dough, cut the butter into the flour until soft crumbs form. Add the powdered sugar, almond extract, egg yolk, and ice water. Mix until just combined. Form a disk with the dough, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for half an hour.

To make the filling, cream together the almond paste, sugar, and egg white until a smooth paste forms.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator and roll to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a glass or cookie cutter about 3 inches in diameter and cut circles. Place on a baking sheet. Scoop ball of the filling, 2 tsp each, into the center of each cut circle. Lifting the circle of dough with the filling in the middle, gently pinch together three corners of each cookie, making the triangular hat shape.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just barely golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a shallow dish, then dip the bottom of each cookie in chocolate. Place on wax paper to cool and allow the chocolate to harden. Enjoy!

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

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It’s almost spring! Well, at least in California it certainly looks like it. Sunny skies, warm days… Yup, we have it good here in the Golden State. However, after a recent trip to Seattle, where the skies are a little cloudier, and there’s a little more rain, I decided to make a nice warm soup as part of dinner. The ingredient list is short, and the instructions are simple, but the result is a delicious, comforting soup.

I kind of made up this recipe based on how I usually make soups, and what ingredients I wanted. I used full-fat soymilk to add a little creaminess, and since that’s what we keep around the house, but you could probably use cow milk or almond milk of a low or reduced-fat variety. This was a quick soup to pull together, and with the help of my immersion blender, was blended to the perfect texture in no time! You can blend this soup to smooth creaminess, or leave with some texture, as I did. Either way, it’s delicious. Here’s the recipe!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 an onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1 quart vegetable stock

1 cup soymilk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli, and saute until the onions are translucent and the broccoli has taken on a bright green hue. Add the vegetable stock and raise heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the soymilk and blend with an immersion blender until the desired texture is achieved. Alternatively, you can do this in batches in a blender, but then you have to wait for it to cool a little bit. Once the soup is your desired texture, stir in the cheddar cheese. The heat of the soup should melt the cheese, but if you had to cool the soup to blend it in batches, you can always turn on the heat for a bit. Ladle the soup into bowls. Enjoy!

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Pair it with a fresh salad and make it a meal!

Rosemary Bread

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Happy February! This is my first free weekend in a month, since I’ve been traveling around interviewing at physical therapy schools and such, and I’m ready to relax. A couple weeks ago I was struck with inspiration to make a fragrant rosemary bread, since we have rosemary growing in the backyard. A quick google search brought up this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and I made a few modifications, but it’s mostly the same. I switched the melted butter for olive oil, and I chopped up the rosemary and soaked it in the olive oil for a little bit before adding a bit to the dough, as well as spreading it over the loaves before baking.

This bread has a tender, moist crumb, a nice crispy crust, and the delicious fragrance and flavor of rosemary. I made it for a potluck dinner, but my parents loved it and requested it more, so I made this twice within a week. It’s a very easy bread to pull together, especially with my wonderful KitchenAid stand mixer, with a pretty short ingredient list. It does require two one-hour risings, but during that time you can get a quick workout in, go to the library, do some studying, whatever it is you need to do. This bread probably takes about three hours start to finish, so it’s an afternoon project, but if you have the time, it’s worth it!

Rosemary Bread

Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

Makes 2 round loaves (about 12 slices each)

Ingredients

1 tbsp instant yeast

1 tbsp granulated sugar

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 ½ cups warm water (110-115˚F)

3-4 tbsp fresh rosemary (5-6 sprigs), chopped and divided

1 ½ tsp salt

3 ½ – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the yeast, sugar, 1 tbsp olive oil, and warm water. Let stand for a few minutes, until foamy. Add in 2 tbsp of the rosemary, salt, and 2 cups flour, then mix with a dough hook. Add flour in ½ cup increments until a soft dough forms. The dough should be a little sticky to the touch but still hold its shape. Knead using a dough hook for about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Put the remainder of the rosemary in the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and allow to infuse the olive oil with flavor while the dough rises.

Once the dough has doubled, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide into two halves. Form each half into an oval loaf, and place on baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with extra rosemary if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing. Enjoy!

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Sugar Cookies with Simple Icing

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Happy New Year everyone! I decided that I should get in at least one blog post in the new year, so here we are. This is my first winter without a winter break, since I’m not a student for the year, which has been a little sad. At least work has been pretty quiet the last couple weeks. But, my sister is still in college, so she’s been home for the last three weeks, and we’ve had lots of fun making and decorating gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies! This is my mom’s favorite recipe for sugar cookies. I have no idea where it came from, since it’s just handwritten on an index card she has filed away, but it’s the recipe we’ve been using for years, and I’m a fan of it.

These cookies are sweet, as sugar cookies should be, and pretty delicious by themselves. However, half the fun is decorating them! Plus adding a little sugar can only improve the flavor, right? Right. We didn’t do any fancy royal icing, so it’s a little more delicate, but once you ice the cookies, if you let them dry for a few hours, you can stack them with wax paper with little damage. The cookies have a light, delicate crumb, and I baked them for a little less time than recommended, to keep them nice and soft, while still sturdy enough to hold icing. With a little time and patience, these can be a fun family (or in my case, sibling) project, and they make great holiday giveaways! Get creative and have fun with your cookies, they’ll still taste great no matter how they look! Also if you really mess up, you can just eat it and no one will be the wiser… Not that we’ve done that or anything. Anyway, here’s our family holiday recipe.

Sugar Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups all-purpose flour

Icing

2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp milk, or to desired consistency

1 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops food coloring of choice

Directions

To make the cookies, cream together the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer, until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whip in the baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar, then stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be pretty dry and crumbly, I often have to mash it together with my hands at the end. Divide the dough into two parts, form each into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

When ready to roll out the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a floured surface (we use cutting boards), roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your choice, or just round glasses will work if you don’t have cookie cutters. Once you’ve finished with the sheet of dough, press the scraps together gently and roll out again, trying to handle the dough as little as possible. Continue to cut cookies and roll out the scraps until you’ve exhausted all the dough. Transfer cut cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake for 6-7 minutes, until puffy, but before they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. It is important that the cookies are completely cool before decorating, otherwise they will heat up the icing and make it run everywhere.

While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. Stir together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, until the desired consistency is reached. If you want to add food coloring, add a couple drops at a time, until the desired color is reached. Fill a ziploc bag (I use the cup method) and cut a tiny (like 1-2 mm tiny) hole in one corner of the bag (you can always cut it bigger, but it can’t be cut smaller, so start small). Decorate the cookies as you wish. Allow the icing to set for a few hours before stacking and storing them. Enjoy!

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Homemade Boba (Pearl Milk Tea, Bubble Tea)

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I don’t know what you call this stuff, but I’ve finally converted to calling it boba. All my UCLA friends made fun of me for calling it PMT (pearl milk tea), since apparently that’s just a Palo Alto thing, but I’ve been in SoCal so long that now I default to boba. Pearl milk tea makes sense, since the tapioca balls are the pearls, and they’re in milk tea. But the tapioca balls are also called boba, so I guess that makes sense too. However, I guess the rest of the US calls it bubble tea and that’s just weird. What part of boba is like a bubble? Maybe the fact that they’re round. Are they hollow? No. Can you pop them? No. Anyway, whether you call it boba, pmt, bubble tea, pearl drink, or something different altogether, it’s delicious. This surprisingly refreshing combination of tea, milk, and chewy, sweet tapioca pearls has a special place in my heart. However, it’s getting more expensive around here (Often over $4 a drink? Really?!), so I’ve resorted to making it myself. It turns out to be a lot easier than I expected, and really tasty, since you can customize it to your exact preferences.

The hardest thing about making this is perfecting the pearls. I made these quite a few times before finding the optimal cooking ranges. Trial and error! I cooked some too little, so they were hard and chewy in the middle, and I cooked some too much, so they were soft and stuck to your teeth. But I think now I’ve figured out how to do it best. There’s a range, depending on how you like your pearls, but since you’re cooking it yourself, you can adjust as necessary! That’s the beauty of making it at home. Also important, use the pearls within a few hours of cooking, or they’ll get hard. Until you use them, leave them soaking in the simple syrup. They’ll just get sweeter and more delicious!

As for buying the pearls, I found mine at Ranch 99, the nearest Chinese supermarket to my home. It was something like $4.99 for 2.2 pounds of dried tapioca pearls, or 2.99 for 1 pound. They came in options of black or rainbow, and I opted for black, since the pearls they have in boba cafes are always of the black variety. I got the 2.2 pound package, because they were the better deal. Obviously. Also, you can never have too much boba.

Anyway, the tea is also cheap at Ranch 99, so I got myself some osmanthus tea, which I discovered was actually gui hua, a fragrant tree we have in our backyard. I only ever knew the Chinese name for it, so I was happy to find out that this fragrant flower yielded a subtly fragrant and refreshing tea. I also have learned to appreciate jasmine green tea, so I picked up a box of that as well, and I have made boba with both of these tea varieties. Play around with it, and find a tea that you like! Here’s the recipe I follow, roughly.

Homemade Boba (Pearl Milk Tea, Bubble Tea)

adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 1 serving, multiply as necessary

Ingredients

¼-⅓ cup dry black tapioca pearls (I use ⅓ but you can increase or decrease depending on your pearl to drink ratio preference)

¼ cup honey

¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar

⅓ cup hot water

1-2 tea bags of your choice, depending on how strong you like your tea (my favorites are osmanthus tea and jasmine tea)

¾ cup hot, almost boiling water

½ cup (or to taste) milk of your choice (I used soymilk)

Ice

Directions

In a measuring cup or bowl, combine the honey, ¼ cup of sugar, and hot water. The water just has to be hot enough to make a simple syrup, and this can also be achieved by adding cold water and microwaving and stirring until the honey and sugar dissolve.

Place the tapioca pearls in a pot and add enough water to have about an 2 inches above the level of the pearls. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring so the pearls don’t stick to the bottom, and boil for 5 minutes. Decrease heat to medium, add the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar, and simmer for 7-12 minutes. Do 7 if you prefer more chewy pearls, 12 if you prefer them super soft. Remember that when added to a cold drink, they will harden up a little bit, so cook them to be a little softer than you want in your drink, taste-testing encouraged!

In the meantime, steep your tea bag(s) in the almost boiling water. As the pearls cook, the tea will steep and cool. If you are making a warm drink, wait to do this step until about 5 minutes before you are done soaking the pearls.

After the pearls are cooked to your preference, drain the pearls and place in the simple syrup mixture. Allow the pearls to soak for at least 10 minutes, but the longer they sit, the more sweetness they will soak in.

Pour the cooled tea into a pint glass, then add the pearls, along with some of the simple syrup. Add the milk to taste, then sweeten with simple syrup to taste. If you desire a colder drink, add ice to the glass. Place a straw in and enjoy your homemade boba!

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Tip: Next time you buy boba, take a few extra straws, so for every time you splurge out, you can enjoy your own homemade variety at home a few times! Or you can use a spoon to scoop out the pearls, but it’s not quite the same experience.

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Boba time!