Cook Like a Champion bio picture
  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup

Hanover Tomato Soup

Since moving to Virginia, I have discovered a state rich with foodie treasures.  There’s wine – delicious, local wine.  There’s an abundance of farmers markets, which I absolutely love.  Those give us the opportunity to buy fresh and local, and it doesn’t get much better than that.  On a recent trip to the farmers market, Eric and I purchased Hanover tomatoes.  It was the first day they were at the market, and everyone there seemed quite excited about them.  I couldn’t find out much about them, but it seems that Hanover County, Virginia has sandy soil that gives these tomatoes their vibrant red color and delicious flavor.

Not quite knowing what to do with the beautiful tomatoes we purchased, I set off to find a recipe that would really showcase them.  With temperatures over 100 degrees, soup was the last thing on my mind.  However, I decided soup would be the best way to taste the full flavor of the tomatoes.  After all, as Eric pointed out, it’s not like we’d be eating this soup outside.  :)  This recipe was exactly what I was hoping for.  It calls for roasting the tomatoes first, which allows them to caramelize and adds so much depth to their flavor.  The soup was simply fantastic and ended up being the perfect way for me to showcase those awesome Hanover tomatoes.  For serving, I simply cubed a baguette and tossed the cubes in olive oil and garlic and herb seasoning and baked for about ten minutes.  The crunchy, herby croutons were a great complement to the creamy soup.

Hanover Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (Heirlooms or vine-ripened)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
pinch red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional

-Preheat oven to 450º.
-Wash and core the tomatoes.  Cut in half and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Add garlic and onions and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast until caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.
-Transfer roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion to a Dutch oven or stock pot.  Add 3 cups of stock, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and butter.
-Bring tomato mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced by a third, about 15 to 20 minutes.
-Add basil leaves and remove soup from heat.  Transfer mixture to a blender and puree in batches until smooth.  Alternately, use an immersion blender.
-Return soup to low heat.  If desired, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining stock.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
-Serve garnished with croutons or fresh basil, if desired.

Adapted from Tyler Florence

Honey Oat Muffins

Breakfast was once a meal I mostly skipped, but now I can’t go without it.  Most mornings, I’m fine with cereal, toast or a smoothie.  Other mornings, though, I want something more.  That’s where recipes like this one come in.  Made with ingredients I already had on hand, these muffins were simple and delicious.  Sure, they are more involved than pouring a bowl of cereal, but not so involved that you can’t make them on a lazy weekend morning when you’re barely awake.

This recipe was created by Spike Mendelsohn for an article in Food and Wine about healthy eating.  I recently tried out another recipe from that article, the Mexican Pizza I posted last month.  Since I had so much success with that, I knew I had to give these healthy muffins a try.  This is the first time I’ve made anything that was sweetened only with honey, and I’m quite happy with the results – muffins that are not too sweet, but still have tons of flavor.  I loved the texture the rolled oats provided, and I’ll definitely be looking for ways to incorporate them in other muffin recipes.

Honey Oat Muffins

Honey Oat Muffins
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs

-Preheat oven to 375º.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.
-In a large bowl, mix together oats, flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
-In another bowl, whisk together honey, buttermilk, canola and eggs.  Pour mixture into dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
-Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan.  Sprinkle with more oats, if desired.
-Bake for 15-18 minutes, until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
-Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
-Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Adapted from Spike Mendelsohn, Food and Wine, July 2010

Sesame Noodles

Since getting our fabulous pasta maker, Eric and I have been making quite a bit of pasta.  Though we were making different types of pasta, we always made the same sauce.  While I love tomato sauce, I was looking for something different so we wouldn’t be eating the same meal every week.  Plus, I wanted a dish that would be lighter than our usual pasta with tomato sauce.  Then I found this recipe, which was everything I was looking for and more.  

This pasta is perfect for summer.  It’s light and requires very little cooking.  I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but being in the kitchen for hours when it’s over 100º outside is not something I enjoy.  Though short on cooking time, there’s no shortage of flavor in this dish.  The sauce gets depth and richness from the tahini and peanut butter.  With just a few other ingredients and a bit of pasta water, you’ve got a pasta sauce that is a tasty alternative to heavy sauces.

I made a couple minor changes to the original recipe.  I added snap peas because I thought they would go well with this dish.  This changed the pasta to vegetable ratio substantially, but I like a lot of vegetables.  Use more pasta or less vegetables to adapt this to your tastes.  The original recipe called for 6 green onions, but mine were so large that I ended up only using four.  Next time I make this, I’ll try to remember to measure the green onions and update the recipe. 

Sesame Noodles
8 ounces whole-wheat thin spaghetti
1 heaping tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon good quality sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
4-6 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, dark green parts set aside
1 cup sugar snap peas, stringed
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup reserved pasta water

-Cook pasta according to package directions.  (Our fresh pasta only took about 4 minutes, so keep that in mind if you’re using fresh.)
-In a large bowl, combine tahini, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and white and light green parts of green onions.  Stir until well combined and set aside.
-Add snap peas and carrots to pasta in the last two minutes of cooking time.  Remove 1 cup pasta water and set aside.
-Drain pasta and vegetables and place into bowl with sauce.
-Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and toss to combine.
-Add sesame seeds and allow to sit for one minute.  If pasta sauce is still too thick, add more reserved pasta water as needed.
-Top with remaining green onions, if desired. 

Serves 2-4  

Adapted from Good Things Catered

Lemon Tipped Pistachio Biscotti

One of my favorite things to do is look through cookbooks at the library.  There are always so many to choose from, and I often end up carrying out a stack of books that I didn’t even know I wanted.  Such was the case when I ended up with this tiny cookbook that was published in 1994.  Flipping through the book at the library, the recipe for these biscotti immediately got my attention.

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies that go wonderfully with coffee (or in my case, espresso).  I’ve had biscotti in the past that were so hard they could barely be bitten into.  Those are meant to be dunked in coffee to soften them up.  These biscotti are not like that; they have the crunch you’d expect from biscotti, but with just enough softness to make them perfect for eating on their own.

The roasted pistachios give these biscotti a deeper flavor than other nuts I’ve used, and I liked that the pistachio flavor didn’t get lost.  There’s lemon zest in the biscotti, which brightens it up and pairs well with the roasted pistachios.  The lemon glaze really really puts these biscotti over the top.  With fresh lemon zest and juice, it gives the biscotti a little sweetness with a lot of freshness and flavor.  These are great for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up, coffee optional.

Lemon Tipped Pistachio Biscotti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and coarsely chopped
For the glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

-Preheat oven to 375º.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest on low to medium speed until well blended.
-Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla.
-Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.  Stir in pistachios.
-On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half.  (If you have a scale, I think my halves were around 13 ounces each.)
-Lightly flour each piece and, using your hands, shape it into a log about 9 inches long, 3/4 inch thick and 3 inches wide.
-Transfer to a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, placing the logs at least 3 inches apart.
-Bake until puffed and lightly browned on top, about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool 10 minutes on pan, then transfer to work surface.
-Using a long, sharp knife, cut each log crosswise into 3/4 inch thick slices.  Make each cut with a single cut of the blade, as a sawing motion will break the biscotti.
-Place the cookies, cut side down, back on the baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, turn each cookie over and bake an additional 10 minutes or until biscotti are golden.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.
-To make the icing, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon zest and juice in a medium bowl.  Adjust as needed by adding more powdered sugar or more lemon juice.
-Dip one end of each biscotti in the icing, turning to coat the tip evenly.  Place back on the wire rack until icing sets.

Makes about 2 dozen biscotti

Adapted from Starbucks Passion for Coffee