Tag Archives: winter

Honey-Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write, I don’t write anything at all.  I could expound upon my writers block, but instead, I thought I’d just start writing. I have grand plans of things to share with all of you for the holidays; food gifts I’m planning to give, appetizer party fare, and general bustling in the kitchen.  I don’t blog as much as I would like, mostly because I am simultaneously right-brained and perfectionistic.  I’m like a kid with a handful of confetti.  I throw all the pieces up into the air, fancy free, and then, through the process of creating the recipe, experimenting with photography, and fussing over what to write, I slowly tie up the pieces into blog entries.

The perfectionism creeps in at different places during the process, and I use the term “perfectionism” loosely, as this mostly means I wait until it feels right before moving onto the next step–it could be looking for the “perfect” recipe idea, or the photograph that helps an ingredient shine, or the perfect subject to write about.  I don’t want all the potential of holiday food blogging to pass me by just because I’m overwhelmed with wrapping my ideas in neat little packages.

This sweet potato soup, as is typical for me, was born out of a scribbled idea in my food-writing journal, and came together on the spot, for a last minute dinner with the mister and the mother in law.  I envisioned a silky smooth soup, honey-laced, smoky and sweet, with slow-building chipotle spice. I debated over how to incorporate the chipotle into the soup, finally deciding to toss the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic in the adobo sauce and chopped chilies and roast it all up in the oven, as is my default in the winter.  I whirred it up with some homemade vegetable broth, and served with a drizzling of olive oil and a scattering of toasted pepitas.  We could taste each component of the soup, from the sweetness of the honey-infused sweet potato puree, to the smokiness from the chipotle chiles.  The roasted onion and garlic lent depth in flavor, and rounded out the sweetness of the potatoes.

I hereby resolve to lasso a little more of my confetti this holiday season.  How about you?  Do you need more lassoing, or could you use a bit more confetti in your life?

Honey-Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

Makes 6-8 servings

Using a whole can of chipotle chiles yields a moderately spicy, but still balanced soup.  (Update:  Some readers found a whole can of chipotle chiles to be too spicy.  Feel free to adjust the amount of chiles according to your tastes)

3 1/2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch wedges

8 cloves garlic, peeled

3 tablespoons canola oil

3 to 4 tablespoons honey, divided

1 can (7 ounces) chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (to taste, according to level of heat desired.)

kosher salt

6 to 8 cups vegetable broth

3/4 cups pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted

Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Finely chop the chipotle chiles, reserving the adobo sauce.  In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, cloves, the adobo sauce, chopped chiles, canola oil, 3 tablespoons honey, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.  Toss well to coat.  Spread in a single layer on two foil-lined baking sheets.  Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, trading the position of the pans halfway through, until the potatoes are soft and are dark golden in spots.

Put the roasted vegetables into a large saucepan.  Add 6 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or in batches in a normal blender.  Be careful if blending hot soup in the blender–do so in small batches and hold the top on with a kitchen towel to avoid an eruption.  Add the remaining 2 cups of broth as needed to thin out the soup.  Season to taste with kosher salt, black pepper, and an additional tablespoon of honey if desired.

Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, a scattering of toasted pepitas, and a grinding of black pepper.


Filed under Soups and Stews

“Anytime” Frittata with Chorizo, Potato, and Feta

Three days ago, I made my first frittata.  Three days ago I ate my first frittata.  Three days ago, I burned the heck out of my hand on the handle of my super-heated sauté pan making a frittata…but never mind that.  I ate my frittata that evening, alongside my favorite dinner-mate and a mixed greens salad with roasted shallot vinaigrette.  I noshed on frittata for breakfast, with my favorite canine companion at full attention.  Then, I chowed on frittata for lunch, standing at the kitchen counter thinking about dinner.  Dinner, breakfast, lunch.  I had an epiphany.  Frittatas just might be one of the most versatile dishes known to humankind.

If you are like me, you may be wondering, what is a frittata?  It sounds fancy.  And Italian.  Luxurious, and laborious.  Well, imagine with me if you will, a crustless quiche.  A canvas of whipped eggs filled with whatever vegetables, cheese, or meat suit your fancy at the moment.  This particular frittata starts with eggs whipped with half-and-half, marjoram, salt, and pepper; little cubes of cooked potato, browned chorizo, golden sautéed onions.  Then, it’s topped with salty feta, which melts and leaves the top speckled golden.

Eat it warm, or at room temperature, and accessorize to fit the occasion.  Pair with fresh fruit and an English muffin for breakfast.  Lunch or dinner?  Serve with a light salad or some grilled vegetables.  Shameless snacking?  Eat it by itself, cold and straight from the refrigerator while no one’s watching.  It will still be good.  I’m having a hard time thinking of any other dish I could take to anybody’s house at any time of day.  This can be your go-to breakfast-lunch-dinner-side dish-fancy-casual-easy-impressive contribution to any meal at any time.  Eat it in a box, with a fox.  In a house, with a mouse.  Eat frittata here and there, eat frittata anywhere.

“Anytime” Frittata with Chorizo, Potato and Feta

Adapted slightly  from “Favorite Food at Home:  Delicious Comfort Food From Ireland’s Most Famous Chef”, via the Denver Post

Serves 6-8

  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 pound ground chorizo
  • 8 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram, plus additional for garnish
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, and fill with water to cover the potatoes by one inch.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add a couple pinches of salt, and boil the potatoes for 5 minutes, or until cooked through but still firm.  Drain and set aside.

3. Heat one tablespoon oil in a 10-inch ovenproof frying pan or skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally until it is softened and beginning to turn golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the onion from the pan and set aside. Return the frying pan to the stove over medium heat.

4. Add the chorizo to the frying pan.  Cook for 2-4 minutes, breaking the chorizo into small pieces with a spatula, until it is slightly browned, but not completely cooked through.

5. Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and marjoram in a medium bowl.  Stir in the chorizo, cooked onion, and potatoes.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frying pan until hot.  Swirl the oil in the pan to coat the bottom and sides.  Pour in the egg mixture and stir to distribute the ingredients evenly.  Top with the crumbled feta.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set in the center.  Set the oven to broil, and cook for 1-2 additional minutes, or until the top of the frittata is spotted and golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving (and make sure not to grab the hot pan handle with your bare hand like I did!).


Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Main Dishes, Side Dishes

Caramelized Onion Dip with Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips

‘Tis the season of ugly sweater parties and open houses, online shopping, and mulled cider.  Weekend nights are hot commodities, and booking up fast.  Where there are holiday parties, there are sure to be appetizers–my favorite things to eat and cook.  I’m not a big fan of the kind of fancy schmancy parties where appetizers must be eaten daintily off of little plates.  I want people to flock around the table, napkins in hand, nibbling, conversing, and laughing between bites.

Campfires, puppies, and dip have one thing in common.  They bring people together.  Just think… Your eyes meet.  The corner of his lip curls into a smile.  You tuck your hair behind your ear.  Your hands brush, halfway between potato chip and dip.  It’s love at first bite.  Who needs mistletoe when you have caramelized onions?

I’ll admit to noshing on chips and dip mixed from little packets on occasion, but that’s another subject.  What I’m talking about here is what store-bought french onion dip secretly wishes it could be–complex, savory, salty and sweet.

Like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas, the onions start out angry, but really, they’re just lonely.  Once they are given the special treatment (a little butter, some salt, sugar, and some slow attentive stirring), they mellow and sweeten, just like the Grinch’s heart.

Fold them into sour cream, along with fresh thyme, sauteed garlic, and some fresh onions for balance.  Serve with sea salt and cracked pepper potato chips, and you’ll have a dip with enough magnetic power to draw everyone into the smallest room of the house, which is where all the best parties happen anyways.


Caramelized Onion Dip

Serves 6-8

  • 2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced (reserve 1/3 cup raw onions)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced onions, chopped (reserved from above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme leaves

Caramelize the Onions (Process adapted from The Improvisational Cook, by Sally Schneider, and a guide from Real Simple you can find here):

Heat the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir.  Cover and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the onions have released their liquid.

Increase the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the onions turn a slight golden color.  Sprinkle with sugar, and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the onions are a deep golden brown, 10-25 minutes more. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool, then finely chop.

Saute the Garlic:

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly until just beginning to turn golden, about 2 minutes.  Remove the garlic from the heat immediately.

Make the Dip:

Stir together the chopped caramelized onions, raw onions, sauteed garlic, thyme, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, sour cream, and kosher salt to taste.  Using an immersion blender, or a food processor, puree about half of the dip.  Stir together once again.  Serve with vegetables or Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips.

Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • canola oil for frying (enough to fill a dutch oven or medium saucepan to 2 inches)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline slicer, thinly slice the potatoes, skin and all.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or medium saucepan until shimmering and hot, but not smoking.  Fry the potatoes in batches until golden around the edges and crispy.  Remove to a paper towel covered plate.  While still hot, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.


Filed under Appetizers

Spiced Maple Roasted Yams + Leek and Mushroom Wild Rice + Tangerine Ginger Cranberry Relish

Anyone who has ever had a significant other to share the holidays with knows that the first time away from home for Thanksgiving is a little strange.  The gravy tastes different, and mom’s apple-raisin stuffing is nowhere to be found, but there is something special about being invited to sit around a table with a new family.

Ten-year-old me had pretty straightforward Thanksgiving plans.  Wake up.  Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with dad.  Eat a little breakfast, but not too much; don’t want to fill up before the main event!  Help mom all day in the kitchen:  Boil cranberries with sugar, and watch them pop. Peel mountains of potatoes.  Set the table “Martha Stewart style”, as per mom’s request.  Observe my brothers play video games and bum around the living room.  Skip lunch, and eat dinner at an odd time.  Watch brothers collapse on the couch exhausted after a “hard day’s work”.

Nowadays, my husband and I come as a package deal, alternating between in-laws each year.  Traditions vary from house to house, but one thing is certain–she (or he) who roasts the turkey rules the roost (at least for a day).  The turkey-roaster holds the job of historian and delegator, deciding which traditions to keep, and which to set aside, dictating what goes where, and who makes what.

The Thanksgiving table reflects its eating audience.  As our family expands, so does our menu; starting with tradition, and branching off into new dishes that fit our vast array of nutritional needs and tastes.

Some may consider this sacrilege, but I have decided to eschew marshmallows this year.  Instead, I’ll roast the yams with a spiced maple glaze.  I don’t think the pilgrims would mind.  For the vegans of the family, I will make my leek and mushroom wild rice (sans the butter and parmesan, of course).  Grandma is making the cranberries–two kinds, but it just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving unless I whip up a batch on my own.  I think a batch of tangerine-ginger cranberry relish is in order.  This year, the leftovers come before Thanksgiving!

All three side dishes are traditional enough to sit proudly aside mom’s family stuffing recipe or next to grandma’s roasted turkey, but new enough to mix things up a bit.

This year, Vernie (my grandma in-law) will be making the turkey, and grandpa’s favorite giblet stuffing.  This year, traditionalists, turkey-lovers, vegans and vegetarians will unite around our table once again.  Next year? Who knows what will be on the table…

Tangerine-Ginger Cranberry Relish

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 6 cups cranberries (approx 2 12 oz packages)
  • 2 small tangerines (or 1 medium), chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/3 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups of sugar, to taste
  • 1 rounded 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice

Toast the Walnuts:

Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the walnuts in the pan until aromatic and golden, tossing and stirring often (Be careful…they will burn as soon as you look away!).  Allow to cool slightly before chopping.

Chop, Chop:

Pulse the cranberries in a food processor until finely chopped.  Remove to a bowl.  Pulse the tangerine pieces until finely chopped.  Place in the bowl with the cranberries.  Pulse the toasted walnuts until chopped.  Add to the bowl.  Place  the remaining ingredients in the bowl, stir, and serve.

Spiced Maple Glazed Yams

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds yams, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and chopped into 3/4 inch half circles
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch more
  • 3/4 cups raw walnut pieces

Roast the Yams:

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.  In a large bowl, combine the yams, canola oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Toss to coat.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  Flip the pieces, then roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until softened and browned in spots.

Make the Glaze:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the maple syrup and brown sugar, stirring until the brown sugar is dissolved.  Add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Stir to combine.

Toast the Walnuts:

Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the walnuts in the pan until aromatic and golden, tossing and stirring often (Be careful…they will burn as soon as you look away!).  Allow to cool slightly then roughly chop.

Bake the Yams:

Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚F.  Transfer the yams and toasted walnuts to a glass casserole dish.  Pour the maple glaze over the yams and toss to coat.  Bake for 20-30 minutes longer, or until the yams appear lightly carmelized.

Leek and Mushroom Wild Rice

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice (I used a mixture of wild and brown rice)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved, washed, and thinly sliced
  • 5 cups chopped mushrooms (I used crimini, oyster, and shitake)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon (add to taste)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (omit to make vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (to make vegan, use olive oil only)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry

Cook the wild rice:

Put 1 1/2 cups wild rice and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Saute the vegetables and herbs:

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until the butter is melted, and the mixture is hot.  Saute the onion and leek until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, herbs, and a pinch of kosher salt.  Saute for another minute, stirring constantly.

Push the leek-onion mixture to one side of the pan.  Add one tablespoon olive oil to the empty side of the pan.  Add the mushrooms and salt (to taste) to the empty side of the pan and saute for 2 minutes.  Now, stir the leeks and mushrooms together and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked through, but still firm.

Add the sherry, and scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.

Mix the Rice:

Add the leek-mushroom mixture to the bowl with the wild rice.  Add the parmigiano, pepper, lemon zest and half of the lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Salt to taste.  Does it need a little extra wake up?  Add more lemon juice and/or salt until the flavors lock in.

And Some More Ideas…

Recipes with asterisks* are recipes I daydream about, but haven’t yet tried




Breads and Rolls:



Filed under Side Dishes

Cooking With Friends Part One: Karissa’s Moroccan-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

When I received an e-mail with the subject line “Cook Together?” from my wonderful friend Karissa, my interest was piqued.  I knew the answer was “yes” even before knowing the details.  Sure, we’ve embarked on culinary adventures together before…like the time we made sushi rolls and miso soup, hands all sticky with rice and seaweed; or put ourselves into a sugar coma with a big batch of vanilla buttercream macaroons.

Karissa’s co-worker in Morocco (yes, that’s right–Morocco!) had given her a cheeky little organic pumpkin as an early fall gift.  Not long after her invitation to make pumpkin soup together, I found myself toting my own heirloom pumpkin through the Cherry Creek Farmers Market.

What follows is Karissa’s experience living, cooking, sharing with friends, and her Moroccan take on pumpkin soup…

Part One:  Moroccan-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Text and Photos by Karissa Swanson-Moore

I was delighted when Imane, my coworker and fellow lover-of-cooking, presented me with a little organic pumpkin and a note: “Happy Early Fall & Happy Cooking.” I spent two weeks deliberating over the most creative possibility for this charming vegetable.

Of course, I emailed my dear friend and greatest cooking inspiration, Jenny, and we devised a plan. Choose a basic pumpkin soup recipe, adapt it to your liking, and share! I perused many recipes, and realized that aside from the pumpkin-apple sweet idea, none of these quite fit the bill for me.

I devised a way to fill my soup with my favorite Moroccan spices: cinnamon, saffron, and cumin. Accompany those with the fun things I find in the market: quince, big yellow raisins. There you have it, a recipe of my own whim, and a day to make it happen. Here is my story of Moroccan cooking.

This rainy morning I wandered to the underground market, basket in hand, expecting a lull in activity. Not so, as I was pushed aside multiple times by the guy squeeging water from the walkway.  Here are my main ingredients.

My ness (that’s half in Arabic) kilos of ingredients are weighed quickly on the scale and bagged up by efficient hands.

Part of the adventure of cooking in Morocco is getting the ingredients. A woman cannot go to the market alone without a sense of humor. Trying to be careful about taking pictures of others, I asked this man if I could photograph his vegetables. What followed was a series of posed shots, taken by the guy selling tomatoes, of the shopkeepers and I.

All said and done, I paid decent prices and walked, heavy with produce, back to my kitchen. After thoroughly washing my vegetables, which includes a bath of water and a dash of bleach (lesson learned from past experience), I attempt to capture the beauty of this food before I chop it all up!

An army of zucchini

Moroccan celery

Grumpy-faced quince

My adventure is almost complete. “There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the Real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other’s cooking & say it was good.”  As artist Brian Andreas so eloquently puts it, it’s time to share this soup with the friends I’ve made in Morocco.

Moroccan-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

By Karissa

  • 1 small pumpkin (approx. 1.5 lbs), peeled and cubed.
  • 2 quince, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium yellow or Vidalia onion
  • approx. 5 cups vegetable broth (see below) or Chicken Broth (the exact amount will vary depending on your desired consistency)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • Generous pinch of saffron, soaked in about ¼ cup of hot water
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 ¼ cup yellow raisins and crushed walnuts for garnish

Vegetable Broth

  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ head of a small cabbage, cut into large pieces
  • 2 large green onions (5 small), chopped
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 6 Celery stems and leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, knotted
  • 3 small zucchini, chopped into large pieces
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cinnamon sticks


Start with the vegetable broth.  Fill a big kettle halfway with water and a pinch of salt.  Add the chopped vegetables and more water to cover.  Add the spices and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and allow to simmer for 2 hours.

When the broth is almost finished, start preparing the pumpkin soup. Heat a large saucepan; add butter, and sauté the pumpkin, followed by the quince, then the onion.

Remove the carrots, cabbage, and zucchini from the vegetable broth and add them to the pumpkin mixture. Pour some of the broth into this mixture, making sure to not add too much or the soup will be watery.

Add the spices, except the saffron, and bring to boil. When the quince and pumpkin are nearly tender, add 1 cup of the raisins and the saffron-water mixture.

When all ingredients are cooked, use a mixing wand or blender to puree the soup.

Present with a dollop of plain yogurt, crushed walnuts, and yellow raisins. Serve with crusty bread.


Filed under Soups and Stews