Monday, May 25, 2015

Mini Bacon and Cheese Quinoa Cups

I was looking for a quick and nutritious lunch that the Little Prince would eat, and these quinoa cups fit the bill perfectly! I had 2 ounces of bacon left in the fridge, so I used that instead of ham. I also used a bit more zucchini and cheddar than called for, so I added an egg and made a bigger batch – I ended up with 24 mini cups and 5 muffin-sized cups that I baked longer. I loved the result and the Little Prince ate it with gusto most of the time. These would be highly adaptable and I’m thinking of using this recipe as a blueprint for turning leftovers into lunch. Note that these freeze well, too.

2 cups cooked quinoa (about ¾ cup uncooked)
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 cup zucchini, shredded
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup diced ham (I used 2 oz. bacon)
¼ cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
2 green onions, sliced
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Liberally spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Spoon mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the cups are golden brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the mini muffin tin. (If using a regular muffin tin, bake for 25-30 minutes.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sweet Potato and Apricot Cake

This loaf cake was just what the doctor ordered! I found the recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog, though he says it is adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich. It helped us empty the pantry a bit by using up dried apricots and pecans (I’d say the latter are optional, but I didn’t mind them in this cake whereas I normally don’t like cakes with nuts, so it’s up to you). It allowed me to have some cream cheese frosting, now that Green Valley Organics make a lactose-free version. It was really good and not too sweet, which I liked. The cake itself was relatively nutritious, thanks to the sweet potato, which also served to keep the cake moist. I used all-purpose white flour for this (instead of the white whole wheat flour I normally use), because I figured there was enough fiber in this already and I didn’t want to make it heavier than necessary. It was pleasantly dense as it was. I also adapted it a bit, using apple juice instead of vermouth and baking it in a 9”x5” loaf pan instead of two 8”x4” pans – my version is below. Of course, the frosting is optional, but without it, I’d say this would be more of a breakfast item than a dessert.

For the cake
2/3 cup (4 oz./115 g.) finely-diced dried apricots
½ cup apple juice (or white vermouth)
2 cups (8 oz./225 g.) sifted all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature (I used cold margarine)
1 cup (200 g.) granulated sugar
½ cup (90 g.) packed light or dark brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg and 1 large egg white, at room temperature (I used 2 eggs)
1 cup (240 g.) sweet potato purée (I roasted a sweet potato at 425 °F for 1 hour)
1 cup (125 g.) toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), coarsely chopped (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting
4 oz. (115 g.) lactose-free cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter or margarine, cubed, at room temperature
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. (52 g.) powdered sugar

To make the cake, marinate the apricot pieces in apple juice for at least 30 minutes. Drain, pressing the apricots gently to extract all the liquid. Reserve the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan. (The original recipe only said to grease the pan, but some of my cake stuck to it, so I would definitely flour it as well next time.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a flexible spatula or spoon, cream the butter with the granulated and brown sugars, and lemon zest, until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and the egg white and combine thoroughly. If using a stand mixer, stop the mixer and scrape down the side to make sure everything is incorporated. (The mixture may look curdled, which is fine.)

Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the drained vermouth and sweet potato purée, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts (if using) and apricots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake about 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Once cool, make the cream cheese frosting by beating the cream cheese with the butter and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar, mixing until smooth and lump free.

Run a knife around the outside of the cake and slip it out of the mold. Spread the cream cheese frosting on top with a knife or spatula. I kept the cake at room temperature for a few hours, then refrigerated it for a few days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Strawberry and Honey Sorbet

Since I still had about 2 cups of strawberries to use, I decided to make a frozen dessert. I was leaning towards David Lebovitz’s vegan strawberry ice cream, but upon reading the recipe again, I realized that it would probably be hard as a rock. I thought that the liquid-to-fat ration would be too high, since he uses rice milk. So I ended up making this sorbet from The Kitchn: the use of honey instead of sugar keeps the sorbet softer in the freezer, and the addition of vodka helps, too, by lowering the freezing point. I’d heard about that trick and had always been afraid that I would taste it, but it was only 1 tablespoon here and I would never have guessed. I’ll be making this one again! The texture was fantastic, including after several days in the freezer. And it’s delicious, too!

(Note that I actually ran out of honey for this and I didn’t have agave nectar that day, so I used some maple syrup. I used more than ¼ cup total because my strawberries were actually pretty tart.)

1 pint (16 oz.) strawberries, hulled and quartered
¼ cup honey (if you are vegan, use agave nectar or maple syrup)
1 Tbsp. vodka (or flavored liqueur of choice), optional
juice from one lemon

Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Push the purée through a fine mesh sieve to remove some of the seeds. Whisk in the honey, vodka, and lemon juice. (This should be on the sweet side since freezing will dull the flavor.) Cover and chill the mixture.

Once the strawberry mixture is completely chilled, pour into the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Return the sorbet to the freezer for a couple more hours to continue firming up.

Grain Salad with Mango and Creamy Avocado Dressing

This is one of those dishes that is greater than the sum of its parts. I was all the more surprised since I wasn’t actually expecting anything great. I made this for a few lunches one week, but I usually put more effort into dinner. But dinners had disappointed me (putting ginger in tomato-butter sauce is good, not great, and it turns out I’m not crazy about chicken khao soi). And Momofuku’s ginger-scallion noodles with tofu were good, but less than photogenic.

So now I thought I was just slapping a few things together for lunch, changing ingredients according to what I had on hand, and this salad blew me away. It was creamy and so satisfying! Even the dressing is made with avocado, it keeps really well for a few days (though I liked this dish better at room temperature than cold). The Little Prince even liked it once he decided to taste it (though that was only on one of the three days I served it).

For the dressing
1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup lactose-free Greek yogurt

For the salad
1 ½ cups raw einkorn (I used ¾ cup barley because that’s all I had; avoid “light” grains like quinoa)
¾ cup pepitas
1 cup sunflower sprouts or radish sprouts (I omitted them, but they would have been nice)
¾ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 ripe medium mangos, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 avocado, diced (optional)

For the dressing
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the avocado, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Process until smooth. Add the yogurt at the end and process until combined. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

For the salad
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Then add 1 ½ cups einkorn and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low for 30-35 minutes, or until the grains have absorbed the water. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 °F and toast the pepitas until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool. (I prefer to do this in a dry pan.)

In a large salad bowl, combine the cooked and cooled grains, ½ cup of toasted pepitas, ¾ cups sprouts, cilantro, parsley, mango and salt. Fold in the avocado dressing and stir to combine. Top with remaining ¼ cup toasted pepitas and sprouts, as well as additional avocado if you'd like. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (I cut the avocado only before serving the salad, but the avocado dressing was fine mixed in and refrigerated for 3 days.)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On the virtues of prepared carrots

I’ve been taking a few shortcuts in the kitchen lately, and I really like it. I decided that I didn’t want to spend time julienning carrots, even with the food processor, so I’ve been buying bags of prepared julienned carrots. This has been a lifesaver to get a quick, nutritious side dish on our plates when I was low on inspiration. (One might also consider a bag of prepared cauliflower florets when making a savory cauliflower cake, or simply for roasting.)

I made this Bon Appétit recipe for sesame carrots that I really liked. Essentially, you cook the julienned carrots in a pan for a few minutes using sesame oil, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stupid-easy, and oh-so-good. I served this one with a tourtière that I had in the freezer.

I also made this recipe from The Kitchn for a carrot tahini salad with roasted spiced chickpeas. Not only was this delicious, but it kept really well (provided that the roasted chickpeas are stored separately in an air-tight container). I think it would be easy to adapt to what I have on hand, too, so I’ll keep this recipe handy. I served it here with quiche with quinoa crust.

For the roasted spiced chickpeas
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
pinch of salt and pepper

For the dressing
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne (I used Korean pepper)
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
water to thin if necessary

For the salad
3 cups shredded carrots (from 3 to 4 medium-sized carrots)
½ small red onion, finely diced
½ cup raisins
1 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 °F. Toss the chickpeas with the oil, spices, salt, and pepper. Place on a prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Shake the pan several times throughout baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. (You might even leave them in a bit longer than 20 minutes if you want them really crunchy.)

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. (You can do this either by hand or with an immersion blender. Personally, I like doing this in a jar with a lid.) Add water if the dressing is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if need be.

In a large salad bowl, toss the shredded carrots, onion, raisins, and parsley with the dressing. Mix well. Season with a little salt and pepper. Right before serving, top with the chickpeas and enjoy.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cinnamon Frosting

I made these cupcakes to use up some pumpkin purée I had left in the freezer. I liked them, but I have to admit that my first impression was an overload of cinnamon. I’d definitely use less next time, because it was competing with the pumpkin and maple flavors, so I changed the amounts below. That being said, I kept the cupcakes in the fridge, and they really got tastier over time, as the flavors had a chance to meld. I also love that I had a vegan frosting, though I admit I wish there had been less sugar in it. The original recipe was for 18 cupcakes, and I got 16.

For the pumpkin cupcakes
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ cup butter, at room temperature (I used cold margarine)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup pumpkin purée
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk (i.e., lactose-free milk with a splash of lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. (It turned out 16 was enough for me.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by pumpkin purée and vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Stir in remaining flour mixture and mix just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

Divide batter evenly into 18 muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full (if you only have a 12 cup muffin pan, reserve the leftover batter and refill the pan once it has cooled to bake the remaining 6 cupcakes).
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the maple cinnamon frosting
1 cup margarine, at room temperature
¼ cup pure maple syrup (preferably medium or amber)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ to 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. lactose-free milk, if needed

In a large bowl, beat margarine to soften. Blend in maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Gradually blend in the confectioner’s sugar until frosting has a thick, spreadable consistency. (In my case, I used a scant 2 ½ cups of sugar and no milk at all; it was still a bit soft for my liking, so I would have needed more sugar, but this was so sweet already!) Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Another shepherd's pie

I finally got around to trying the shepherd’s pie that I had meant to make last fall. (I had accidently made the one from America’s Test Kitchen when I actually meant to make the one from Cook’s Country). It took a while because I made a detour via The Kind Life for a vegan version of a shepherd’s pie with a crust. (And I would have made the one from Minimalist Baker, too, if it weren’t for the fact that the men of the house are tired of lentils – I’ll save it for next winter.) The vegan crusted version didn’t work, though, because the filling was way too liquid (even after I thickened it with cornstarch AND strained it); it might have worked without a crust, but as it was, I expected a pie that holds together more. The leftovers were more solid, but I still don’t think I’d make it again.

The Cook’s Country version, though, is fantastic. It’s really everything you could want from a shepherd’s pie, to the point where I’ll have trouble going back to blander pâté chinois! Neither the Engineer nor I drink beer, so the beer for this recipe was chosen strictly based on its label, but I must say it worked well. The recipe calls for spreading beaten egg on the topping, to ensure its firmness. Personally, I’d say that’s a bit overrated and I probably wouldn’t bother with it next time, so I’m marking it as optional. I also used soy creamer instead of cream, but if I had access to lactose-free cream, I’d probably go for that. I’ll be sure to make this again – come to think of it, it would be a good dish to make when I have people over for dinner.

For the filling
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
salt and pepper
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
¼ cup soy creamer
1 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup beer (non-alcoholic is fine; ours was a dark beer)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup frozen peas

For the topping
2 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” pieces
table salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1/3 cup soy creamer, warmed
ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten (optional)

For the filling
Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onion and carrots and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add meat, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 12 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute.

Add creamer and cook until it spatters, about 1 minute. Add broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick but still saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. (The mixture can be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated until needed.) Remove from heat, stir in peas, adjust seasonings, and transfer to broiler-safe 2-quart casserole dish.

For the topping
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 °F. Bring potatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and water to cover to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to saucepan, and mash potatoes with butter and creamer until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread potatoes over filling, using spatula to smooth top and sealing it against the edges. (This helps prevent liquid from bubbling up and overflowing, though personally I feel like this isn’t usually a problem. Then again, I always set the pan on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven.) Brush with egg, if using, and drag fork across top to make ridges. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Coconut Sorbet with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

I’ve had more bad luck with desserts since the chocolate hazelnut cake. I tried a vanilla chia seed pudding that was inoffensive at best – it would have been better as a vehicle to show off fruit or sauce rather than a stand-alone dessert. I made one last recipe from 100 recettes pour toi mon cœur (which I talked about here, among other places). Or at least, it’s probably the last, because even though I’ve still got one bookmarked, the nine I made so far were less than stellar. After reading this article (in French), I’m coming away with the impression that my initial assessment was correct and that some of the chefs simply made these up on the fly, were forced to make substitutions and didn’t bother testing all of them. The dessert I had tried this time was blueberry and pistachio crêpes with ramekins of chocolate pudding: the crêpes were a complete flop if made as instructed (with the topping added in the pan), the chocolate pudding was lackluster, and the servings were just too big. None of it was make-again-good.

Then, I bought a half-flat of strawberries at the Poteet Strawberry Festival. I started by making a low-sugar strawberry pie with oats in the crust and apple juice concentrate as a sweetener. I had been looking forward to that recipe for a long time, and I knew I needed fresh strawberries in season to make it, so this was the perfect occasion. Unfortunately, that pie was a complete failure. The dough was hell to work with and not even very good (despite the oats), and the filling never gelled like it should have. This used up half my strawberries, and I froze the rest.

But then, then, there was this strawberry sauce. I didn’t want to use up all my remaining strawberries, so I only used 2 cups. Since they were actually pretty tart, I left all other quantities the same, including sugar. It was the Best. Thing. Ever. (The word I wrote down for it at the time was “fanta-bulous.”) It tasted like spring, and the sorbet was almost an afterthought in that dish. I did, however, run out of strawberry sauce long before I ran out of sorbet, so I can attest to the fact that this sorbet is actually great on its own, even after a few weeks in the freezer – it gets hard, but not rock-hard; I don’t even have to let it thaw before I can scoop it out. It’s also fantastic with chocolate sauce. As for the pistachios, they look great, but I preferred to omit them in later servings. The recipe is from Sara Forte’s new cookbook, but I found it via Not Without Salt.

For the sorbet
3 cups coconut milk (2 13-oz. cans), divided
2/3 cup natural cane sugar
1 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
1 pinch of sea salt
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch

For the sauce
4 cups chopped ripe strawberries (I only used 2 cups)
¾ cup diced rhubarb
1 pinch of salt
¼ cup natural cane sugar
½ Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (optional; it sounded good, but I omitted it)
½ cup pistachios, finely chopped

In a medium pot, warm 2 cups of the coconut milk, the sugar, brown rice syrup, and a pinch of salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.

In a large bowl, add the remaining cup of coconut milk and stir in the vanilla and cornstarch to dissolve. Slowly stir the warm coconut milk into the coconut-cornstarch mixture. Set the bowl in the fridge to cool completely. Once cooled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave the mixture to set fully in the freezer. (At this point, it had an awesome soft-serve consistency.)

For the sauce, in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, a pinch of salt, and the sugar. Leave everything to very gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Give it a stir and barely simmer again, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer. You will have chunks of fruit between a loose liquid; this will set more as it cools to become a thicker sauce. Add the ginger (if using) and allow the mixture to cool, uncovered, to room temperature. The sauce can be kept, covered, in the fridge for 1 week.

Serve the sundaes with a puddle of the sauce, a few scoops of sorbet, another drizzle of sauce, and pistachios on top.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Baked Southwestern Eggrolls with Guacamole

I made these baked southwestern eggrolls with guacamole not too long ago and never got around to posting about them. They were very easy to make, and a great way to sneak spinach in our diet. They were also delicious! The Engineer called the meal “inventive,” though I’d like to point out that he meant it as a compliment. The Little Prince was not impressed at first (poor kid dislikes beans, corn and avocados), but he came around on the second day and actually started eating most of the rolls, leaving the black beans on his tray. We liked the rolls as they were, though I wouldn’t hesitate to swap some of the spinach for chopped red bell pepper and perhaps increase the amount of cheese a bit. I got 22 rolls from this recipe; they might have come out more golden if I had brushed them with olive oil instead of spraying them.

I realize that I haven’t posted my “new” go-to guacamole recipe, which I started making a year ago. I found it on this website, where it was presented as a copy-cat recipe for Chipotle’s guacamole. This is somewhat timely, as Chipotle revealed its actual recipe just recently. But it’s not quite the same as the one I was making, and to tell you the truth, as much as I like Chipotle’s guacamole, I’ll keep making it my way at home. The main difference is that the recipe I use calls for both lemon juice and lime juice, for both acidity and flavor. I omit the jalapeño in my version, below. Note that I tend to eyeball the amounts and course-correct after tasting it.

For the baked southwestern eggrolls
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can (15oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1½ cup shredded lactose-free cheese (I used extra-sharp cheddar, but vegan cheese would work, too)
4 green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne red pepper (I used Korean pepper)
1 package (21) egg roll wrappers, thawed (mine had more wrappers)

Preheat the oven to 425 °F.

In a large bowl, combine everything but the egg roll wrappers. Place about ¼ cup of the mixture in the center of one egg roll wrapper. Fold bottom corner over filling. Fold sides toward center over filling and continue to roll tightly to seal (see directions on egg roll wrapper if necessary). Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and moisten the remaining corner, then press it down to seal the roll. Repeat.

Place seam-side down on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush tops of egg rolls lightly with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly brown, turning them halfway through baking.

Serve warm, ideally with guacamole (and hot sauce or salsa if you wish).

For the guacamole
3 ripe avocados
½ cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. lime juice
¼ tsp. kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients, mashing the avocado enough that only some chunky pieces remain. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cheesemonger's Mac & Cheese

This is the last mac and cheese recipe for a while, I promise. That’s what happens when you try to find your go-to recipe – a lot of testing various things to see how you like them. The basics of mac and cheese are to make a roux, add milk, add grated cheese and mix until it forms a sauce, then mix with cooked pasta. For a stovetop version, serve immediately; for a baked version, put it in a baking dish, top with cheese and/or breadcrumbs, bake and serve. And yet there are so many variations it’s mind-boggling! This one if from Bon Appétit. It was delicious, though I must confess I forgot to top it with the reserved cheese – I’m sure it would have been even better then! The main caveat here is that it calls for a lot of brie, and if you get the quality stuff, you can expect to spend $20 on brie alone. So it’s not an everyday dish, sadly. That being said, it wasn’t bland like many versions can be – the pungent brie was toned down a bit, but still made everything taste delicious, and it went really well with the sharp cheddar and gruyère. Note that I didn’t have ramequins the right size, so I made the whole thing in a 9”x13” dish and it worked well.

1 ½ cups coarsely grated lactose-free gruyère cheese
1 ½ cups coarsely grated lactose-free sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups diced rindless Brie (cut from a 1-lb. wedge)
5 Tbsp. butter or margarine, divided
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
¾ tsp. (scant) nutmeg
4 cups lactose-free whole milk
1 ¾ cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 lb. penne pasta (or short pasta of your choice)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain when ready.

Meanwhile, mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. (Do your best not to forget that cup in the fridge…)

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs; toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Preheat oven to 375 °F.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. (This was still soupier than I expected, but it reached the right consistency in the oven.) Divide among eight 1 ¼-cup custard cups (or a 9”x13” baking dish). Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese (don’t forget!). Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

Miso Pumpkin Soup

This recipe from The Kitchn is a really great version of squash soup. I made it with butternut squash, because that’s what is most readily available at this time of the year, but other types of winter squash would work really well. I love that the vegetables are roasted before going in the soup (even though my version recommends roasting them longer than the original recipe did), as this gives them great flavor. I used a white miso paste that is very mellow and barely discernable. I didn’t have shichimi togarashi, so I completely winged it with Korean pepper, sesame seeds and lemon juice, along with green onions for garnish. The Little Prince can’t handle a spoon well enough to feed himself, but once he allowed me to feed him, he really liked this too!

2 lbs. kabocha, pumpkin, or butternut squash
1 lb. sweet potatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
3 Tbsp. mellow white or yellow miso (gluten-free if necessary)
5-6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped chives or scallions
½ tsp. shichimi togarashi, for garnish (see note above)

Preheat oven to 450 °F.

Seed the pumpkin and cut it into small cubes. If the pumpkin is easy enough to peel raw, such as a butternut squash, peel it before cutting and roasting. (A pumpkin with a harder skin, such as a kabocha, may be cut and roasted and the peel removed afterwards.) Peel and cube the sweet potato as well.

Combine the pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and garlic on a baking sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the pumpkin and sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes, tossing halfway through. If you left the pumpkin skins on, peel when cool enough to handle.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add the shallots and ginger and cook until softened. Add the miso and vegetable stock and stir until dissolved. (I recommend adding 5 cups of stock at first; once the soup is puréed, if you want it more liquid, it’s easy enough to add more stock, but the reverse isn’t true.) Add the roasted vegetables and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat if necessary to avoid boiling, as this can impair the flavor of the miso.

Purée the soup using an immersion blender, or purée in batches in a blender or food processor.

To serve, garnish with chives and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi.