Carrot-ginger soup has a bit of a bite

Carrotgingersoup

There is a booth at the farmers market that has the best carrots I’ve ever tasted. I buy a bunch of them each week. Last weekend, they had a bulk bag of them, and I picked one up, determined to do something with them. I had seen carrot soup on menus before, but never felt terribly enthusiastic about it. But then I came across this recipe for carrot-ginger soup.

Carrot soup on its own has always sounded bland, but the ginger in this recipe really made it interesting. It was flavorful in a way I didn’t expect, and I enjoyed it for lunch for a few days after I made it. The best part is that it was pretty easy to make, too, as long as you’ve got some time to devote to the simmering process. As usual, I used my immersion blender for this, and it worked perfectly. I’d highly recommend using one if you have one in your kitchen.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.

Simple sweet potato fries

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Try, try again — and then keep trying until you finally figure it out. That’s what I did with this recipe for sweet potato fries.

Over the past few months I tried making sweet potato fries that were somewhat soft on the inside and a bit crisp on the outside. My first couple attempts were failures due to too much oil that left the fries soggy. When I reduced the amount of oil, the fries still didn’t get crisp, so I started lining the baking sheet with parchment paper. That helped a great deal, but there was still too much oil. I needed something to soak it up. I read someone else’s recipe for sweet potato fries, and they said they added cornstarch, so I did the same. The fries were almost there, they just needed more seasoning. I’m glad to say that, on about my seventh attempt, I got a recipe I can use again for sweet potato fries.

This recipe makes a single serving, but can easily be multiplied to make as much as you want. Enjoy.

Ingredients
1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, peel potato and cut into 1/4-inch strips, or as uniformly as possible so they fries cook evenly.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a one-gallon sealable plastic bag with the arrowroot, ginger, salt and cayenne pepper.

On either a cutting board, in a bowl, or in another bag, drizzle the olive oil over the cut potato. Mix until fries are evenly coated. Put the potato pieces in the bag with the dry mixture. Seal the bag and shake until fries are evenly coated.

Place fries on the parchment paper in a single layer. Be sure to avoid crowing so they don’t stick together and keep from getting crisp. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, turn fries over, and bake for about 15 minutes more, or until slightly crispy. Serve hot.

A different kind of baked potato

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Growing up, the only kind of baked potato my family ate was a russet potato. I saw a lot of recipes for baked sweet potatoes on Pinterest last fall, but never tried any. Last week, I had two that I needed to use, so I decided to try baking them.

When I’ve had sweet potatoes in the past, they’ve involved some sort of sweeter flavor and ginger; while baked potatoes have had sour cream and chives. I decided to find a happy medium, so I stirred a bit of powdered ginger and maple syrup into some sour cream to top these baked potatoes. They were delicious. Next time, I might add either some arugula, chives or chopped green onions for some color. But for a first attempt, I was pleased with my creation. It complemented the steak I had with it.

What do you put on your baked sweet potatoes?

Ingredients
Two medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Scrub the dirt off the outside of each sweet potato. Pat dry. Pierce each potato with a fork five times. Wrap each potato in foil. Once the oven has preheated, set potatoes on the rack and set timer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, check potatoes for doneness. Mine took another 30 minutes before they were done.

Once potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile combine sour cream, ginger, syrup and salt and stir until just combined.

Using a knife, cut potato just through the skin on the length of the long side. Peel skin and toss. Cut potato halfway through with three lengthwise cuts, then make five cuts crosswise. Spoon two tablespoons of the sour cream mixture and one tablespoon of feta over each potato.

Gingerbread that works

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The fourth item in my countdown isn’t a cookie. It’s a gingerbread cupcake.

Gingerbread has never been a seasonal flavor I get excited about. The flavor always tends to be either too harsh or not quite right — at least in cookie form.

A few years ago, I saw this recipe for Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. I went into it expecting to be disappointed, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Putting the gingerbread flavor into a cupcake resulted in a lighter version of the flavor, one that wasn’t overwhelming. The frosting was really good, too. Together, they made a wonderful pair. If cookies aren’t your thing, I recommend this cupcake recipe for the holidays.

On another note, for those of you looking for gifts for the cooks in your family, check out my Pinterest board. It contains many of my favorite kitchen items, and contains items for any price range. I hope it helps you find the perfect gift.

Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with baking cup liners.

In a large bowl, sift together flour and spices; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light, about 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses until incorporated. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Add flour and mix on low speed until just combined.

Fill the cupcake papers three-quarters full, making sure that the batter is divided evenly. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon

To make the cinnamon cream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Place frosting into a large decorating bag fitted with a decorating tip and approximately 1/4-inch above cupcake top at a 90° angle to cupcake surface, pipe a spiral of icing, beginning at the outer edge and working inward.

Ginger cookies without the snap

chewy ginger snaps

For my last Christmas cookie post of the season, I give you the chewy ginger cookie.

Years ago, I picked up a small container of The Ginger People crystallized ginger at Williams-Sonoma. At the time, I was just playing around with baking and I liked to pick up ingredients I hadn’t used before so I could figure out a way to use them. The ginger had a recipe on the back for the World’s Best Chewy Ginger Snaps. I’ve never been fond of ginger snaps, mostly because of the snap, but the concept of a soft version had never occurred to me. I tried the recipe and I liked it quite a bit. The ginger flavor wasn’t overwhelming and I got the soft cookie I had anticipated.

I put these on the Christmas Eve plate for two years in a row, and my family enjoyed them. This year I have opted for the chai spice cookies instead of these, but will be keeping this recipe on hand.

However you spend your holiday, I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

Ingredients
2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
3.5 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup sugar for rolling dough

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together. Set aside. Combine softened butter, sugar, molasses and egg. Using a mixing, beat well. Stir in crystallized ginger. Sift dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Mix well. Form 1-inch balls. Roll in course sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes 3 dozen cookies.