Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creamy Cauliflower & Parmesan Soup

Are you ready for the holidays? I'm not so sure I'm on board yet... but since the world (aka the mall) has been thrusting it on me in full force since November 1st, I figure I might as well getwiththeprogram. I dug the twinkle lights out of the storage locker on the weekend and will hang them soon. A wreathe will go on the door, and stockings might be hung. As we are spending Christmas away, I am forgoing the tree this year.  I just can't justify all the work when we wont be around to enjoy it, ya know?

Some say this makes me a Grinch. But I do love the holidays. I just also think that minimizing the stress/work this time of year is the best gift I can give myself. What about you? Has the decorating begun yet? What about the present shopping?

One holiday tradition I can totally get behind is the COOKIE situation. My mission this year is to spend as much time as I desire in my kitchen... apron on, spatula in hand, Mariah Carey blasting in the background. Now THAT sounds like a good time. Hopefully this will become a reality.

Between all the decorating, shopping, and baking, it can sometimes be overlooked that we all still need to eat dinner. And I'm pretty sure that once you've had coffee for breakfast, cookies for lunch and wine and peanut butter cups as a midday snack, the next natural step is to combine your vegetables with sour cream and cheese and call it dinner. Soup to the rescue.  I whipped up this cozy, comforting single girl dinner last week and it was SO GOOD.  It's velvety smooth and heavenly creamy. And come on, its CAULIFLOWER. I'm pretty sure that cancels out all the calories from the cream and cheese, right?


Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan

Serves 4. Or one with leftovers ;)


2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
1 onion, diced small
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch of chili flakes, optional
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese


1. Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, drizzle with olive oil and add a spoonful of butter. When butter has melted throw in the onion and celery and saute until soft and opaque, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and chili and saute 1 or 2 minutes.

2. Add the cauliflower to the pot along with the stock. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer until cauliflower is softened, about 15-20 minutes.

3. Once the cauliflower is cooked, remove from heat and add the whole milk.  Next, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until completely smooth. Be sure to cover the bowl with a towel to guard against any splashing, especially if the soup is still warm. If you don't have an immersion blender, you will need to transfer the soup to a traditional blender and puree in two separate batches.

4. Return soup to the pot if you transferred it to a blender. Turn heat back to medium-low. Stir in the sour cream, Parmesan, and salt & pepper to taste. Once the soup has returned to a simmer it is ready to go.

Drizzle with garlic infused oil and more cheese, if desired. Some fresh parsley would be lovely too.   Serve with a side salad, some warm crusty bread, and perhaps a glass of wine for one.

Drinking out of a juice cup makes drinking alone totally acceptable. True story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Salted Caramel Pecan Brownies

Oh, howdy friends.

Yep, I'm back after a long and unexplained absence. I won't go into detail but, long story short long... there has been a lot of change going on and I needed some time to... adjust. Those of you who know me in real life already know that a certain boy has taken a great job opportunity in Seattle, WA. Hooray for jobs! But also... boo! Seeing as I don't live in Seattle, and my going with him was not an option, that left me here all alone.
Yes, I'm a big girl. And yep, I can look after myself. But darn, this long distance thing is tough. And we're only four hours apart, I can't imagine if it were any further! But if were being real? My crazy girl brain needed some space to get used to the idea. And that meant that this little blog slipped off the priority list. That makes me sad. You know what doesn't make me sad? How many people KEPT ON READING IT! I checked in the other day and saw that tons of you are still dropping by to take a look at things I've made and ... wow. Just wow. This gives me so much motivation to keep on blogging, so thank you!
Anyways...  I've found at least one major upside to having a second residence in the US of A. And that is Trader Joes, of course! Oh dear, do I ever love that place. Why oh why dont we have any in Canada? If you have never been, let this be a warning: Your first experience may be an overwhelming one. You will dart around the store like a crazy person. You will throw anything and everything into your cart. You may get whiplash looking from isle to isle. Afterwards, you will gorge yourself on cookies and chocolate-covered-everything and you will feel sick.
Just me? Oh.

One thing I picked up on the last trip were these crazy little Fleur De Sel Caramels. I am a goner for anything sweet and salty, and I knew from the moment I bought them that these were destined to be combined with chocolate and baked into something delicious. Brownies to the rescue! I mixed toasted pecans into brownie batter, dotted the top with the little caramels, baked them up and sprinkled with sea salt. BAM! Ooey gooey salty sweet brownies. Dig in!


Salted Caramel and Pecan Brownies

Adapted from S'mores Brownies from the Joy the Baker Cookbook.

These are moist cakey brownies, studded with pecans and melted caramel centres. If you can't get your hands on the TJ's caramels, any soft candy should do really. Or you could try marbling the top with a liquid caramel sauce. Enjoy!

1 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecan halves, chopped
12 Trader Joes Fleur De Sel Caramels, or similar candy

1 tablespoon fleur de sel or course sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9X13 pan. I did not line my pan with parchment, but I think I would do this next time, to prevent sticking. Set a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water. Add the chocolate and butter to the bowl, stirring until the mixture is fully melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and coffee powder. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add the chocolate mixture to the eggs, taking care not to let them cook. Next, add the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time and mix until well combined. Fold in the chopped pecans. 

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Unwrap each caramel candy (the most labour intensive step in the recipe, without a doubt), and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball. Place the 12 caramel balls on top of the brownie batter. 

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer or cake tester comes out almost clean. In a small dish, combine 1 tablespoon fleur de sel with 1 tablespoon sugar. Use fingers to sprinkle as much as desired across the top of the finished brownies. 

These are best enjoyed warm from the oven, or zapped in the microwave just long enough to melt the caramel. They would also be RIDICULOUS with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Oh man, why didn't I think of that when I still had some?!

I know that today is a big day for all the American readers out there. And although our Thanksgiving came and went last month, I will be attending an American's-in-Canada-Friends-Giving this weekend. I will be whipping up the pumpkin cream pie from last year, because the boyfriend loves it so, plus a savoury dish I'll hopefully share on here soon. Happy Thanksgiving!

And here is a rainbow. Because today, I'm thankful for rainbows.