Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup

Spiced coconut lentil soup

Dear lord it’s COLD. I know, it’s January, it’s supposed to be cold. But listen, last year, we had virtually no winter; one freak October snowstorm and we were done. That was followed up by the mildest, most beautiful spring and then the most blisteringly hot summer in recent memory. In short, it’s been a year-plus straight of some pretty obvious global warming, and I am just not ready for wind that makes your cold-induced tears freeze to your face.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

I’ve always been a pretty good student. Well, that may actually be a slight understatement. I am. such. a. nerd. I mean, I have a PhD in molecular biology for God’s sake. I learned pretty early on that schoolwork was something I just got. Trigonometry? No worries. Advanced American History? Check. In high school, I was in Science Olympiad AND History Bowl. In college, I only stopped calculus when they somehow worked in a 4th dimension (that insanity does NOT make sense). But for everyone, there’s something. There’s some achilles heel. For me, it wasn’t organic chemistry or P-chem (yes it was. P-chem is not okay); it was spelling.

Now, please keep in mind that I WRITE FOR A LIVING (I’m a medical writer), but spelling man, it’s rough. Alphabetical order made me cry in 3rd grade–no, really, I cried AND my teacher sent a note home to tell my parents I’d had a rough day. I still to this day remember how I WANTED alphabetical order to work and still contend that there was logic behind my method. Know what I still can’t spell? Rabbit. Is there 1 “b” and 2 “t”s, or the other way around? I before E, I will never get you right. Also, pumpkin. There should be no “p” in the middle of that word. Pumkin. So much cuter. Totally wrong.

Luckily, the inability to spell the name of food does not preclude me from eating it. Now don’t freak out, I know what you’re thinking − pumpkin and chocolate? Who does that? Well, I do and you should too, because…it’s way way better than I thought it was going to be.

Sometimes I doubt myself. Sometimes, when Im slapping things together in the kitchen, I’m giggling at how ridiculous I am. This will never work, Cali. What a waste of chocolate…and pumpkin. But more often than not, it does. Although a good 20 years after figuring out I was a bona fide nerd, I’ve now learned that baking skills, I have; it’s still spelling skills that I do not.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Brownie recipe here.

Brownies
2 sticks butter, melted
1 c granulated sugar
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
3 lg eggs
1 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 c walnuts (optional; I always leave them out)

Pumpkin Cheesecake
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1 c canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch salt

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″ pan

Make the brownie layer:

  • In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugars and cocoa powder
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix to combine
  • Stir in the vanilla and mix well

Make the cheesecake layer:

  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy
  • Add the sugar and beat until combined
  • Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat until combined
  • Add the egg, cinnamon, and salt and beat until smooth

Assemble and bake the brownies:

  • Pour the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan and smooth with a knife or spatula
  • Dollop the pumpkin cheesecake batter over the top of the brownies; the majority of the brownies will be covered
  • Using a knife, swirl the brownies and cheesecake together so that some of the brownie shows through
  • Bake ~35-40 min or until the cheesecake in the middle of the pan is just set; a toothpick inserted into the middle will still have crumbs

Rocky Mountain Bars

Oh, Rocky Mountain Bars, I have such fond, fond memories of you. You were the best part of a birthday, when you came to school with me to share with the class. You know, back in the stone ages when that sort of thing was allowed and no one was worried about food allergies or food poisoning; back when the world was fun. Your fudgy texture, your crispy bottoms, your puffy marshmallows-just heaven to an eight year old.

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Zucchini Ribbon Salad

I haven’t been on as much of a zucchini binge as I’m usually on this time of year. Most years, by the end of July, I’m verging on sick of the summer squashes, having eaten them in every form, from zucchini pancake to zucchini bread. But this year, I don’t know, I just haven’t been buying them and so I guess I haven’t set the zucchini-obsession train in motion properly. Up until this week, that is. They’ve been an integral part of two dinners in the last 5 days…the train is definitely in motion now and thank goodness, because I have a couple of months to make up for!

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Strawberry Gazpacho

On Saturday, I bought 30 bucks worth of fresh fruit to make strawberry gazpacho…and then ordered cold thai noodles instead. Sounds about right.

Thank goodness there was Sunday.

Because on Sunday…

…I got to eat this

And let me tell you, ain’t nothin’ wrong with late-June strawberries, garlic-y, olive oil-y crunchy croutons, fresh cucumbers and bell peppers, all blended together…

…on a hundred-degree summer day. Just nothin’.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Adapted from Eleven Madison Park via Food 52.

This is not sweet!! Well, it’s a little sweet, but it’s also distinctly savory, so don’t hesitate to have it for lunch…and dinner. Other than toasting the bread, which is super quick, this requires no heat…..perfect for those days where turning on the oven is a sin. There are a lot of ellipses in this post.

1/2 T plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 c whole grain bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 sprigs thyme
6 c strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 1/4 c English cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 1/4 c diced red bell pepper
3/4 c diced green bell pepper
6 T tomato juice
3 T red wine vinegar
1 1/2 t salt
Tabasco sauce (optional)

  • In a small pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 T olive oil and 1 garlic clove
  • When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the bread cubes, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown
  • Add the thyme and continue to toast until bread is golden on all sides. Remove from heat and add to large bowl. Discard the thyme
  • Add the strawberries, cucumber, peppers, remaining garlic clove, remaining 1/2 c of olive oil, tomato juice, vinegar, and salt to the bowl; combine and cover tightly with plastic wrap
  • Marinate at room temperature for 3 to 6 hours
  • Puree the ingredients and their juices in small batches in a blender on high speed until very smooth
  • Strain through a chinois (I dont have one of these) or a mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Here’s fair warning that a fine mesh sieve without cheese cloth will become instantaneously clogged with teeny, tiny strawberry seeds. Use the cheese cloth
  • Chill until very cold. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce and/or additional salt or red wine vinegar
  • Drizzle with good olive oil and enjoy