Counter Action: Sweet potato soup with goat cheese biscuits

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Well, this is embarrassing.

Sorry about the month of silence. Let’s turn it into a game. I was:

a) in a coma after I heroically foiled a plot to blackmail the Duchess of Winnipeg;

b) abducted by space pirates and pressed into service on a mission to seize control of the galaxy’s last supply of pyridium;

c) super busy with the pre-Oscars press junket (you know how it goes); or

d) in grad school.

If you guessed C, you are … sadly mistaken. I weep with you. It’s D. But as my cohort’s Facebook page just reminded me, we’re in school for just 79 more weekdays! And then we’re done with school forever!

Or, you know, until our mid-life crises hit and we start thinking longingly of astrophysics.

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Hey there, Centaurus A. I love it when you talk density to me.

In the meantime, it’s been a fun ride. Here’s a snippet of what’s been on my mind:

  • Emotion-recognition technology: The future is here, and somehow it’s a lot creepier and a lot less jetpack-y than I was counting on.
  • Righteous trolling: How being right can easily overtake recognizing someone’s humanity.
  • #FITIN15: Jessica Smith might be my favourite YouTube workout leader — she’s always so positive, and she knows how to strike a balance between meeting people where they’re at and encouraging them to push themselves. Right now she’s doing a series called #FITIN15, which is a bunch of 15-minute workouts. Pair a cardio one with a flexibility or strength one, and it’s a great start to any day.
  • Madame Tussaud: My current read. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but so far I’m loving the balance between the strong, complex protagonist and her turbulent, richly detailed setting.
  • This soup-and-biscuit pairing. It’s been on my cooking bucket list for ages, but I didn’t have an excuse to make it until last week when a friend gave me some chevre. The soup is velvety smooth, with a mellow flavour that pairs well with the sharp tang of the goat cheese on top and in the biscuits. Next time I make it, I might roast the sweet potatoes before adding them to the soup, to deepen the flavour. For a special occasion, I might even caramelize the onions. But for an everyday winter soup, it works just fine as is.

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Sweet potato soup with goat cheese biscuits

(From the inimitable Joy the Baker)

Ingredients:

Soup

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2-1/2 lbs. (between 5 and 7) sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 T. chopped fresh ginger (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 8 c. liquid (I used 4 c. broth and 4 c. water)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese to garnish

Biscuits

  • 2 c. flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 T. cold butter
  • 4 T. goat cheese
  • 1 c. buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, warm oil in large stockpot. Add onion and cook 3–5 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add garlic, sweet potato, and seasonings. Stir to combine and cook 5–7 minutes.
  3. Add broth and raise heat to high. Simmer 15–20 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
  4. In batches, liquify soup in blender. Return to stovetop and heat on low until ready to serve, garnished with goat cheese.
  5. For biscuits, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
  6. Cut in butter and crumbled goat cheese until mixture resembles small clumps.
  7. Mix in buttermilk thoroughly. Drop onto baking parchment in spoonfuls. Bake at 425°F for 12–15 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Image credit: Galaxy from WikiImages on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Berry bread with browned butter

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Weekends at the Cat Homestead tend to be pretty chill.

There’s church. There’s yoga pants and running in the rain. There’s quite a lot of reading, some writing, and a nice chunk of whatever TV show I’ve brought home from the library.

I also get to explore topics I don’t have time for during the week — like this excellent letter from Kurt Vonnegut to a school board chairman who shoveled 32 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five into the school furnace. And this list of ideas for how we evaluate media’s treatment of women. And this refreshing change to the trend of “user as product”. And this hilarious Twitter feed of things overheard in “Britain’s poshest supermarket”.

My favourite item from that Twitter feed: "Daddy, does 'Lego' have a silent T like 'Merlot'?"

Possibly my favourite item from that feed: “Daddy, does ‘Lego’ have a silent T like ‘Merlot’ does?”

And of course, weekends are also for cooking. Last week my roommate’s bounty from her workplace included three pints of local blueberries and two of blackberries. I heaped them onto my breakfast oatmeal and whirled them into smoothies right and left, but evidently I’d hit upon the Augean stable of horticulture, because there never seemed to be any fewer. Finally, in desperation, I took one cup of blueberries and one of blackberries and turned them into this bread. Evidently, exposing berries to browned butter stops them from multiplying. Perhaps it would have a similar effect on zucchini? It’s worth a shot.

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Berry bread with browned butter

(adapted from Joy the Baker’s browned butter blueberry muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 7 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. berries (your choice — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, a mix …)

Directions:

  1. If you already know how to brown butter, do it and skip to step 2. If not, read on. Cut butter into chunks and place in thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir as it melts. When it begins to crackle, that’s a good sign — it’s the water cooking out of the butter. Continue to heat and stir until butter is light brown. Remove immediately from heat.
  2. Combine browned butter with milk and vanilla.
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients. Fold in berries.
  5. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 375°F for 40–50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean.

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Photo credits: Wine from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Chocolate-chip zucchini bread

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I have only two photos of this zucchini bread. Like Sasquatch, it disappeared before better documentation could occur. Unlike Sasquatch, its appearance at a party will incur oohs, aahs, and offers of friendship.

I guess Sasquatch might do that too, at a very specific kind of party.

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Or any day in Seattle.

When it comes to baked goods, I have to keep a firm eye on myself. I have a sweet tooth the size of Manhattan, and if I’m not careful, my production of sweet baked things will quickly outpace my creation of … you know … anything based on vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Earlier this month, I was a steady stream of praises for Joy the Baker’s amazingly moist vegan pumpkin–walnut bread. The week after that, I was reveling in this healthy(ish) chocolate cake (zucchini, applesauce, and whole-wheat flour, folks!) from Yammie’s Noshery. Last week I made a gingersnap apple crisp for a potluck, and while I didn’t get any in the end, it sure smelled good in the oven. Now the only thing holding me back from these zucchini bread bars with browned butter frosting is the lack of powdered sugar in the house. That’s probably best for everyone, I think.

If Mrs. Weasley can have a clock to keep track of her family, I see no reason why I can't have a clock that tells me when to eat biscuits.

This is my version of the Weasley family clock. “What time is it? Twelve minutes late for biscuits.”

I’ve halved the sugar in this zucchini bread, as I often do in my baked goods. Sugar and butter are too often used to cover up deficiencies in flavour and texture, and while this bread is pretty simple, it does have some great features that deserve to be shown off. The zucchini makes it moist and a little colourful, the crumb is firm yet tender, and the chocolate chips make it a little more festive. This would be a great bread for a shower or a special brunch — or as dessert at a low-pressure, no-frills dinner.

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Chocolate chip–zucchini bread

(based on Paula Deen’s recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. grated zucchini (about 1½ small zucchini)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c. dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda.
  2. Beat together eggs, sugar, and oil. Add vanilla and zucchini.
  3. Combine dry and wet ingredients.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for about 50 minutes. Keep in sealed container at room temperature for 3–4 days.

Ideas for variations:

  • Substitute 1 c. pumpkin puree for the zucchini.
  • Swap out 1 c. flour for 1 c. whole-wheat flour.
  • Add ½ c. toasted chopped almonds at step 4.
  • Substitute browned butter for the vegetable oil.
  • Add the zest of 1 orange at step 2.
  • To add a little extra greenness, replace the oil with 1 c. mashed avocado.
  • Replace half the sugar with maple syrup, replace the zucchini with applesauce, and use maple chips instead of chocolate chips. (For bonus points, drizzle with a simple maple glaze like this one from Taste of Home — or go all-out and use the Pioneer Woman’s maple frosting.)

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Photo credits: Sasquatch from Wikimedia Commons; clock from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay.