Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

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Wake up and smell the pumpkin spiced lattes Northern Hemisphere, because fall has officially arrived. Maybe we get it a bit later in California and maybe we don’t feel it as acutely as the show-off New England crowd with their big fancy leaf festivals and their crisp breezes, but we FEEL fall just as much as the rest of you. And, to top it off, we don’t have to deal with that horrid snow stuff that turns to slush stuff and ice stuff and cold stuff.

But I will turn the conversation back to food, something we can all agree on is what keeps this party going.

Soup is THE best comfort food (aside from fattie delicious fried stuff) on a cold night and it has the added bonus of having a gagillion healthy options. Gagillion– that’s a technical term, by the way. You should probably write it down for future reference in a novel or something.

My friend is about to bring over some home made bread to go with this delightful intro-to-fall-soup-a-thon, so here it goes. Enjoy!

And isn’t that a beautiful bunch of purple kale?

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1″ cubes
2 t paprika
1/4 t cumin
3 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 c rice
1/4 c lentils
1/4 c white wine
6 c stock, heated
1 bunch kale, de-ribbed and coarsely chopped
1 can garbanzo beans
grated parmigiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potato, 1 t paprika, cumin, and 1 T olive oil on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes or until sweet potato is fork-tender. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. When hot, add the diced onion and cook until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1 t paprika. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and white wine, then the stock. Simmer until rice and lentils are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add kale, beans, and roasted sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve with grated parmigiano on top.

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Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette

It’s not in my nature to forget to eat a meal or just not be hungry. I usually think those people who “never feel like lunch” or “had a really big dinner 4 weeks ago” are kidding themselves and would gnaw off my arm out of blind hunger if I blinked for a half second too long. But, over the last weekend, I became (briefly) one of those weirdos. I was on a baking extravaganza, crafting 200 cupcakes and multiple cakes between two separate events, when I plum just….didn’t feel the need to eat. Or drink water. Or think about much other than piping tips, pastry bags, and gigantic blocks of 80% dark chocolate.

It got ugly after day 2. BUT, it was a wonderful weekend and I had the pleasure of bringing tasty joy to a few people, so I really can’t complain. And I can’t resist sharing a photo of the wedding cake and cupcakes I did for my dear friend Lauren, who tied the knot this weekend:

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Yea. I meant two pictures.

The point being that my diet over the last few days has been worse than that of Honey Boo-Boo’s entire family, so I had to shock it back into health with something green and leafy. “Welcome, welcome, delicious kale. Oh, you brought a friend? Some toasted seaweed? Quite spiffing, my dear boy! Good show!” It went something like that when I looked in my fridge. Remember: I’ve been quite dehydrated. Talking to an ice box filled with dying plants is just the tip of the iceberg.

I did some research, bought some avocados, and found a delightful mix of dressing and veggie goodness that spoke to my deprived gut. The outcome was filling, delightfully salty with a hint of sushiness (thanks to the nori), and wham-bam good for you.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette

3 c fresh kale, ribbed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, shredded
1 avocado, chunked
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 c nori, sliced thin
1/3 c mandarin orange slices
1 c dry quinoa
2 T olive oil
2 T sesame oil
1 shallot, minced
1 t fresh ginger, grated fine
3 T rice vinegar
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
1 T soy sauce
dash lemon juice

In a large salad bowl, whisk together oils, ginger, shallot, vinegars, honey, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Toss in the kale and set aside. Cook the quinoa per directions. Meanwhile, toss the avocado, carrot, tomatoes, orange slices, and sunflower seeds in with the kale. When the quinoa is done and slightly cooled, mix in with the kale. Right before serving, mix in the nori.

Note: this makes a good amount of dressing, so feel free to only use half, a tablespoon, whatever your heart desires. Just mix in more if desired and see where the wind takes you.

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Sausage, Bean, and Kale Soup

I am totally kidding, of course you can have some soup. But sadly the internet has not come far enough to have me send it via the world wide web, so you’ll have to get off your couch and make it yourself. Tear yourself away from “Dancing with the Stars” and get crackin’ on our latest endeavor:

Sausage, Bean, and Kale Soup with a side of Beer Bread. Ta-Da!!

Lauren and I frantically threw this masterpiece after a long, hard day at the office and it took us a mere 30 minutes! So if you’re ready to belt out another excuse about how you’re just too darn tired to make dinner for your starving children, then you are talking to the wrong lady.

Soup is the perfect dinner for many reasons. It is a fast and easy way to get yourself a lot of nutrients with not that many calories, which is important for those of us who plan on being on the cover of Victoria’s Secret. You can make soup with almost anything, as long as you have an iota of creativity inside your thick skull.

Here are the ingredients we settled on in the car on the way to the grocery store:
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
2 T minced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
1 small head cauliflower, cut into smaller florets
1/3 c your favorite beer (drink the rest)
4-6 c chicken stock (enough to cover the ingredients by 1 inch)
1 small bunch kale
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can cannellini beans
S + P to taste
Parmesan cheese

Heat a large pot over medium high heat and add the sausage in little bits. We got ours in a “log” instead of links, but if you have the latter just remove the casing and crumble it into the pan.

Once it is browned and mostly cooked, about 5 minutes, remove from pan with slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain.

You should leave the delicious fat in the pan on medium heat.

Add your onion and saute for a few minutes, until translucent.

Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the cauliflower.

Saute for about 5 minutes. While that is cooking, rip the kale off the ribs and into bite-size pieces; rinse thoroughly.

Once the cauliflower starts to “sweat” add the beer to deglaze the pan. Scrape the bottom to loosen any tasty bits off the pan.

Once the beer cooks off a bit, add the stock so you cover the cauliflower by about 1 inch.

Bring to a simmer and let cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes. While I was soup-ing away, Lauren was hard at work on the beer breads:

She made three different kinds (what a trooper!): Pyramid Apricot Ale, some weird alcoholic “Cola” from the South (don’t ask, we felt inspired while standing in the beer aisle at Safeway), and Modelo. All were amazing and divine, but I particularly liked the Modelo. It went very well with the soup!

Speaking of soup…

Once the cauliflower is tender you’re ready to rock out. Rinse the beans and add about half of each can to the pot.

Grab your immersion blender and go to town:

Depending on your preference you can go smooth as honey or chunky like cottage cheese thighs. Ew.

Turn the heat back on, add the kale and rest of the beans, and let it cook for a few more minutes. Once the kale has softened a bit and the beans are heated through you can add the sausage and turn off the heat.

Grab your warm bread and slather with some butter while your associate dusts some grated Parmesan on top of your soup. Voila!

Easy, breezy, beautiful… soup!

Original combination:
Sausage, kale, cauliflower, white/garbanzo beans

Pancetta, spinach, sweet potato, white beans
Sweet sausage, collard greens, butternut squash/carrot, orzo

Talk to your stomach and find out what it wants!