Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Rutabaga Beer Cheese Soup

Naaaa na na SOUP!! Na na, na naaa, na na. Naaaaaa na na SOUP!

So there is a bass-laden jock jam's song stuck in my head with a stadium of screaming fans in the background, and they are yelling SOUP instead of HEY! It must be fall.

This is how excited I get over soup season. I may or may not actually shimmy around the apartment humming this to myself while my 13-quart le crueset is full to the brim with bubbling soup. Those of you who know me probably aren't very shocked by this startling confession.

So let's talk about this soup. It's got beer, it's got cheese, and it's got buttery roasted rutabagas and parsnips. That's enough vegetables to allow you to feel like it's good for you.

Beer Cheese Soup with Roasted Root Vegetables
makes 12-16 servings

you can halve this recipe if you like, it makes a lot of soup, but I almost never make small batches so that I can eat it for lunch for a few days and freeze a bunch.

1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
4-5 small-medium parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large vidalia onions, diced small
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 12 oz bottles of beer, preferable a full flavored lager or ale
6 cups vegetable stock (use the good stuff that comes in the cartons, not the 99 cent cans, you want the full flavor of the vegetable stock)
2 sticks ( 1 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
8 cups whole milk
2 large bay leaves
3.5 lbs cheese, shredded (I used a mixture of Monterrey jack, white cheddar, and extra sharp cheddar)
3-4 tablespoons chipotle-adobo sauce, depending on how spicy you want it
2-3 teaspoons salt, to taste
1-2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
few handfuls of italian parsely, minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the diced rutabagas and parsnips with olive oil to coat and season well with some of the salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a lined baking sheet and roast until browned and cooked through, about 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot or dutch oven melt 4 tablespoons of the butter (1/2 stick) over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves and sweat until the onions are very soft and translucent, about 20-30 minutes (if you are doing a half recipe, this probably wont take as long). At this point I opted to remove the onions with a slotted spoon into a bowl and add back into the soup a bit later. I felt that making a good roux would be easier if I didn't have to worry about mashing up the onions.

So, turn off the heat, and using a slotted spoon, remove the onions to a bowl and set aside, leaving whatever liquids are left in the pan. In a small saucepan, gently heat your milk over medium-low heat. You do not need to boil it, you just want it hot to add to your roux. Add the rest of the butter to your stockpot and melt over low heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add the flour and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and continue cooking until it is completely combined and slightly thickened, just a minute or two.

In a few additions, add the cheese to the milk mixture and stir over low heat until cheese has completely melted. Add the beer, vegetable stock, and adobo sauce, and bring to a very gentle simmer. You want to be careful not to scorch your cheese. Add your onions and roasted vegetables to the soup, season with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat about 30-40 minutes until soup is nice and thick.

Make sure to taste the soup a few times while it is simmering, you may need to add more salt and pepper, or perhaps some more adobo sauce. You want to have a little heat at the end, but not have it overwhelmingly taste like chipotle peppers. Also, if the beer you used is bitter (I used an IPA the first time I tried this soup) you can add a few big spoonfuls of sugar to balance it out.

Garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with some n ice crusty bread. To take the soup to another level, grill some bratwursts and serve them sliced on top of the soup. It almost makes you feel like you are in Wisconsin, which is a good thing entirely.

If you have a killer soup recipe, please please please leave it in the comments, I am always on the lookout for new ones! Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Topsy Turvy Mummy Cake

I don't know what it is about Halloween, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorite food holidays. It is not necessarily the meals associated with Halloween that I love, but as an aspiring pastry chef, the treats and sweets that come along with this holiday are just so much fun. Pumpkins, ghosts, witches, mummies, bats, and monsters, with these creatures the possibilities for fun desserts, spooky to silly, are endless.

Since I no longer let myself buy five bags of Halloween candy (I have no trick or treaters and therefore would just eat it all myself) I like to make something from scratch to fill the void left by the lack of bite-sized butterfingers.

After last Halloween's very popular, and delicious, ghost and pumpkin cake pops, I wanted to have a little fun again this October. My cake decoration class's topsy turvy cake assignment was the perfect vehicle for a whimsical Halloween treat.

Topsy turvy cakes aren't as hard as they look, and didn't take very much longer than a regular cake.   There is a great tutorial on how to carve and frost a topsy turvy cake over here at My Sweet and Saucy. I cut, frosted, and then covered the tiers in fondant, and then used a gauze patterned rolling pin on strips of fondant and arranged them randomly all over the cake.

The bats are cut from black gum paste with wires put in before they were dry. We used purchased cake, but I would go for a more appropriate cake flavor such as pumpkin, gingerbread, or even a spooky red or black velvet.

Here are some great cake recipes that would be perfect for this type of cake:

Gingerbread Cake
Black Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Pumpkin Cake

I hope your Halloween is a little spooky, a little silly, and a lot delicious.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Banana Streusel Muffins

I have a love-hate relationship with bananas. I love the taste of them, love how well they go with peanut butter, and I love that they are a healthy, easy to grab snack. The thing I don't love so much about them is that when I eat them raw, they give me a stomach ache. It's tragic really. Now, despite this, I keep buying them. I must be a glutton for punishment. I keep finding myself with a small bunch of them in my grocery cart, or sitting next to me in the car on my way to work, just willing me to eat them. So I will get about two bananas into my purchase and then tell myself not to eat any more so as to avoid the stomach ache, which results in those poor bananas going bad on my counter.

What to do you ask? I have discovered a solution. If I cook the bananas prior to eating them, no stomach ache. Unfortunately, this will probably negate the health benefits, because all I want to put them in is cake and banana bread and muffins, which all have mucho amounts of butter and sugar, but at least those poor things don't go to waste. I am really just trying to look out for the bananas, you know?

These muffins provided the perfect vessel for my abundance of bananas. They are no ordinary banana muffin though. I topped them with a banana chip walnut streusel to take them up an extra notch. With the hint of cinnamon and slightly crunchy topping, these have provided me with delightful breakfasts this week. They are both filling and easy to grab on the go, but the best part is that they are so incredibly quick to make.

Banana Walnut Muffins with Banana Chip Streusel
makes 12 muffins
adapted from Jenny Steffins


1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons banana chips, chopped finely
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt


2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Make the topping. Mix the flour, sugar, walnuts, banana chips, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Set aside.

Peel the bananas and place them in the bowl of  stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment. Mix at low speed until bananas are mashed. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high speed for a few minutes until a bit frothy and sugar beings to dissolve.

Mix in the butter, egg, and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides a few times. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix just until incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer and add the walnuts, folding them in with a spatula. Divide between 12 muffin cups and top with 1-2 tablespoons of streusel.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until muffins spring back with pressed gently with your finger and are golden brown.

Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temp for a few days, or freeze.

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