Seattle = Soup

The Winters in Seattle tend to be a little dreary. It rains/drizzles/mists/sometimes snows and the sky is generally a shade of grey.  It’s the weather that makes you want to stay in bed a little longer, watch movies, drink cocoa and make soup.

It’s also the weather that tends to bring people into a winter funk. Sometimes we just need to be more carefree like pets… No matter the weather, Ollie still wants to hang out on my patio bannister and chill. Dogs still want to run, you get my point.

And during the Spring that can look a lot like the Winter… take today for example, it rained then hailed then rained again… there are quite a few ‘soup days’ too.

I’ll tell you one thing, we may not get many of them but a sunny day in this city CANNOT be beat. And that my friends is not an exaggeration.

Enough Cat Lady and Weather Chit-Chat … let’s get back to this soup business.

This is Asian Noodle Vegetable Soup.

I really don’t cook a lot of Asian food, I think because I’m afraid I won’t get the flavors right or there are too many ingredients I don’t have. This recipe was the opposite. It’s very easy and equally delicious.

Except I did have to Google the noodle because nothing in the grocery store had Vermicelli blasted on the label. I found that Vermicelli is also commonly called Rice Sticks in Asian Cuisine.

Sometimes I wonder where I would be without Google, probably still in the ethnic food aisle at QFC.

To transition soup from Winter to Spring, let’s take out all the cream and add in some brightly colored vegetables, like edamame…

Step into Spring, Rain or Shine, and try this soup for yourself!

Asian Noodle Vegetable Soup

Slightly Adapted From Weight Watchers.com

Ingredients

1 tbsp. Olive Oil

3 1/2 oz fresh mushrooms sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, grated

1 Tbsp minced garlic

2 cup(s) water 6 oz reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used vegetable stock.)

6 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

6oz uncooked vermicelli/rice sticks, broken in half   (I couldn’t break the rice sticks in half so I went through with a knife once they cooked)

1 pound(s) frozen mixed vegetables, Asian stir-fry variety

1 cup(s) edamame (shelled), frozen

Sriracha Sauce, to taste

1/2 cup(s) uncooked scallion(s), sliced, for garnish

2 tsp. sesame oil, divided. (I didn’t use this because I forgot, but it was still delicious.)

Instructions

Coat a large saucepan with a thin layer of olive oil; heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms; stir-fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add broth, water and soy sauce; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in vermicelli, reduce heat to medium-high and boil, 2 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and edamame; bring to a simmer. Simmer until vegetables and vermicelli are tender, about 5 minutes; remove from heat and stir in scallions.

Spoon soup into bowls; drizzle each serving with 1/4 teaspoon oil. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

It’s Madness! (And Mushroom Salmon Risotto)

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks… you know that the first two weekends of the NCAA basketball tournament have come to a close.

It’s the most fascinating month of the year. A 12 seed beats a 2 seed. Loyalties are formed and broken in an instant. Being a traitor is somewhat acceptable, for the sake of your bracket. So many life concepts are just turned upside down. And it’s all for college basketball. Oh how I love it!

College basketball, college football, cars and handyman projects. These are my ‘man’ things. My poor dad had to have someone to tell about the wonders of horsepower … and in our family, that was me.

Whether you like basketball or not, it doesn’t matter …that’s the great thing about risotto it’s non-discriminatory. It’s dainty yet stick to your ribs delicious. Granted, it’s probably not the dish to make during an intense game. It takes some minor babysitting. Stirring, adding broth, stirring and repeat…. but you can neglect it a little more than the pros say and it still comes out fantastic.

Here’s how it goes:

Not shown here: Garlic (minced), Oil, Arborio Rice, Salmon, Tarragon, Basil, S&P, Cheese, and Broth

After sauteing the garlic and onion in oil. Add in the rice and cook for a few minutes with the onion. Then add the mushrooms and start adding broth one or two cups at a time until fully absorbed before adding some more broth. (See full instructions below.)

My biggest tip for making risotto? It’s the pot. A nice cast iron french oven bit. A Le Creuset type but there are so many less expensive / just as good options out there. Head to Macy’s or TJ Maxx and you can find a good 7 qt. pot for $40-70. It’s money well spent. I promise you.

It’s the perfect balance of carbs, protein, and veggies. Top it with curly cues of cheese, a little zest for color, put it on a pretty plate and you’re set. In the tournament of delicious, I would have advanced this dish all the way to the championship. (Sorry – I just couldn’t leave you without a super nerdy tournament reference.)

Mushroom Salmon Risotto

Serves 6-8 or More depending on serving size.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 tbsp. Butter

1 Sweet Onion Chopped

2-3 Garlic Cloves Minced

1 tsp. basil (dried)

1/2 to 3/4 tsp. tarragon (dried)

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small carton of Mushrooms – Sliced (probably like a cup and a half)

1 Lemon (Zest and Juice)

2 C. arborio rice

6-8 C. broth

6 Oz. Salmon, cooked and flaked. (I must admit, I used 2 cans… but fresh would be even better!)

About 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded/shaved Cheese (Mixture of Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, etc.)

Instructions:

Heat oil and melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add chopped onions and cook until just translucent, add garlic. After about a minute, add in mushroom and saute for a few minutes. Don’t cook all the way because the broth will help to finish them off. Add in both the basil and tarragon.

Then add in the arborio rice and stir. Let the rice toast and soak up the onion/mushroom flavors for 2-3 minutes. Start adding broth, one cup at a time. Stir occasionally. (My tip here is to add maybe 2 cups of broth or more so there’s is longer between additions and not quite as much babysitting. You will still want to make sure to stir every so often or it will stick to the bottom of the pan.)

Continue adding broth until the rice is softened. You’ll want to taste it… to make sure. Adding salt and pepper as needed. Add in the cheese and lemon zest with the risotto and squeeze in the lemon juice. Finally, add in the salmon and fold/stir in gently.

This can easily be a main dish but could also go as a side… just top with a little more zest and little extra cheese, of course!

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

It was a very productive Sunday. I checked quite a few things off of my to do list.

Take out the garbage – Check.

Work-out – Check.

Shave legs – A much needed Check.

Clean and change the cat litter – A much despised Check. Ps. WHY on earth is it that every time I change Ollie’s litter, he just has to use it literally the next minute?!?! We can’t just have a clean litter box for even an hour, please?!?

Phone calls to the family – Check.

My conversation with my Nanny was a real pick-me-up. It went a little something like this…

Ally: “What have you been up to lately?”

Nanny: “Oh I have been pretty busy as of late, I’ve got a new trainer at the gym (she’s 87, and she’ll probably kill me for revealing her age), I’m going to learn how to play Mahjong with a few friends this week, I’ve got a couple doctor’s appointments coming up, and my Bible study luncheon this Tuesday.”

Ally: “Geez, Nanny, it sounds like you’re going to be pretty busy for the next few weeks.”

Nanny: “But you know me, Ally… I thrive on this stuff.”

I laughed….When I’m 87, I hope I still have something I thrive on…. or even when I’m 25…. she is quite the inspiration.

Right now, I thrive on cooking and sharing with all of you… like these butternut squash enchiladas.

My parents came in town for a visit a few weeks ago, right after my mom’s birthday. I decided to take them out to dinner since I didn’t have enough time or forethought to get her a real gift. We went to this great modern Mexican restaurant Cactus. I ordered the butternut squash enchiladas and man oh man were they good. So good that I decided to try and replicate the thing at home and if I do say so myself… it worked out pretty well…. except for the enchilada part…

I made one mini-batch that was kind of in enchilada form (see above) but when I went to my larger dish, all the tortillas were breaking apart, along with my dreams of perfection…. so  my enchiladas turned into more of an enchilada lasagna….

Start with caramelizing a sweet onion in some oil (vegetable or olive) with all the spices. I went with canola because it has a higher smoking point or at least I think I heard that on some Food Network show.

Add the squash and get your cheese together and you’re now ready to assemble.

Oh yeah… did I mention there are two kinds of cheese in here. Goat cheese and Jack cheese and it all gets so melty and delicious.

You’ve got to try this.

Here’s how to do it.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

2 c. Butternut Squash, Cubed

5 oz. Goat Cheese

1/3 c. Sour Cream

12 oz. Jack Cheese, Grated

15 oz. bag of chopped frozen Spinach

1 Sweet Onion

2 Cloves Garlic

1/4 c. Oil + more for drizzle on the Squash

8-10 Corn Tortillas

2 c. Prepared Enchilada Sauce (I used Rosarita)

A little of each of the following spices: Cumin, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, and Pepper. (I forgot to measure… oops.)

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees to roast the squash. Drizzle olive oil over the squash, add salt, pepper, a few sprinkles of cumin, a small pinch of cayenne and chili powder. Cook the squash until just softened, about 15 minutes.

While the oven heats up add the oil to a saute pan to heat up. Cut the onion in half once and slice. Mince garlic. Add onion to hot oil and cook until translucent. Then add garlic and some more of the same spices from above. You’ll want the onion to have a nice color after adding the spices. But don’t get too heavy handed.

As that softens away, grate the jack cheese. Also combine the goat cheese and sour cream. It will still be a little chunky but an easier consistency to spread.

Thaw the frozen spinach and then press out all of the liquid. There will be a lot of this and will stop everything from getting too runny.

Add the thawed spinach and cooked squash to the onions and garlic.

Assembly:

Put a little enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish. Spread the goat cheese mixture on to the corn tortillas and lay tortillas, cheese side up, to cover the bottom of the dish. Add a little bit more sauce on top of the tortillas. Then add the spinach, onion, and squash mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and top with a little extra drizzle of the enchilada sauce. Cover with another layer of corn tortillas with the goat cheese spread, a little more sauce, veggies, cheese, etc. Top with a final layer of tortillas with the goat cheese spread face down, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

I got about 2 layers out of it and my dish was about a 8X11 oval. If you want to make a larger batch or a few more layers, it would be real easy to just prep more of everything.

Bake in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes. It really just needs to be heated through.