Winter

24carrotsoupThis is a delicious fall/winter soup that makes a perfect first course at Thanksgiving. It’s packed with carrot flavor that’s enhanced by a double dose of ginger.

Cook’s Illustrated suggested adding fresh carrot juice to enhance the flavor of the soup which really appealed to me. I’ve been using my Hurom Slow Juicer to create all types of fresh, nutritious vegetable and fruit juices, so making fresh carrot juice is quick and easy.

If you don’t have a juicer, bottled carrot juice will also work just fine.

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beercheesesoup009I ‘d always look forward to this time of year when I worked at North Dakota State University. One of my colleagues would bring a big slow-cooker full of her delicious Beer Cheese Soup. Up to that point in my life, the only Beer Cheese soup I had tasted was served at a Fargo restaurant. It was very thick, very cheesy and very goopy. In my opinion, too thick, too cheesy and too goopy.

Nancy’s Beer Cheese Soup would send a sweet, yeasty beer aroma wafting through the NDSU hallway. Lunch that day would be a big mug of soup ladled from the hot slow-cooker topped with freshly popped corn right out of the microwave oven.

Now, I don’t normally do much cooking with Cheez Whiz, but I just can’t make this soup any other way. You’ll see why when you taste it. The soup is light and creamy with just the right amount of beer and cheese flavors. I use unsalted butter in this recipe. The soup gets plenty of salt from the Cheez Whiz and chicken broth.

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ImageI'm not much of a coffee drinker but I love hot chocolate and I love tea. I enjoy the richness of hot chocolate, but sometimes it's a bit too much. I certainly couldn't drink it everyday. I have tried quite a few chocolate flavored teas and while some of them are pretty good, I've discovered a more satisfying solution. I make hot cocoa with equal parts tea and milk.

On the surface this might seem like a weird thing to do, combining cocoa and tea but it's really quite delicious. I learned from chocolate authority Alice Medrich that the fat in dairy products coats your tongue so the flavor of chocolate is sometimes muted in very creamy preparations. She said you can make cocoa with hot water, but I have found that tea provides an amazing addition of flavor. I like a little bit of milk to add some texture.

The result is a beverage that is richer and more viscous than tea and milk, but not quite as cloying as hot cocoa can be. In the Winter, I could drink it just about everyday!

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mahoganymushroomsExcept for an ill-fated attempt to grow mushrooms in a box last winter and the occasional mini-fungi that pop up in the garden mulch, we do not grow mushrooms here on the farm. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve neglected writing much about this most meaty of vegetables.

But yesterday I was paging through Fast, Fresh & Green, looking for appropriate recipes for two classes I’ll be teaching at Stonewall Kitchens in Maine in May, and I stumbled upon these Mahogany Mushrooms. Oh, I’d forgotten how much I love cooking mushrooms like this. Chunky, fast, hot, browned, glazed–yum. Wan, undercooked, undercolored mushrooms are not my thing. If you follow this technique, that fate will not befall you.

Just to check, I made a batch this morning and Farmer and I ate them for lunch with some scrambled eggs. He gave the mushrooms ten licks (his rating system—it has to do with how much he licks his chops after sampling a dish).

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butternutsquashsoupYou usually see this around Thanksgiving – it makes a great first course – but it’s also perfect on a cold winter day. I think the most impressed I’ve ever been with this soup was the first time I had it at Spago’s in Beverly Hills. Wolfgang Puck serves his signature soup with a cranberry relish and cardamom infused cream.

I love the taste of cardamom – though a little goes a long way – it definitely adds a new dimension to both sweet and savory dishes. When I make this at home, I skip the relish and cream, but I do garnish the soup with sugar-spiced croutons – a worthy substitution!

Spago’s recipe also uses baked squash that is then pureed, but I opted for the method in Cook’s Illustrated which uses the seeds and fibers to build flavor, then steams the squash in a flavorful liquid.

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