Holiday Recipes, Day Seven: Cheddar Cheese Turkey Broccoli Soup

Merry Christmas! I’m making ham for Christmas this year, but I’m betting that many of you have roasted a turkey for your holiday feast, and you’re now looking forward to many happy days of leftover turkey. Or maybe not so happy. Or even downright boring.

Well, fear not! This fantastic soup will turn your boring turkey into a spectacular winter dish everyone will love. This is my mother’s recipe and my abuelo’s favorite soup.

Cheddar Cheese Turkey Broccoli Soup

1/2 cup butter
1 med. onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken or turkey broth
3 cups milk
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked broccoli, lightly chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked turkey, cubed

In a 3-quart saucpan over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion until just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until flour has blended well with onion. Add chicken broth and deglaze. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, and remove from heat. Add milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and turkey. In covered blender or food processor at medium speed, blend 1/4 of the mixture until smooth. Return to saucepan. Repeat 4 times. Over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. With a wire whisk or slotted spoon, stir in cheese until melted. Serve immediately.

Note: if you want a chunkier soup, reserve 1/3 to 1/2 of the broccoli and chicken, then add it in after blending but before adding the cheese. Also, don’t try to reheat this soup in a microwave; the oil will separate from the cheese, making a horrible, globby mess. Instead, reheat on the stove over low heat.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my week of holiday recipes! May you and your loved ones eat and be merry throughout the new year.

Holiday Recipes, Day Six: Roasted Root Vegetables – PLUS Bonus Kid Recipe!

img_20161224_081537999 This morning, I slept in, blissfully, until 8am. I usually get up around 6:15 in order to get Annie out of bed at 6:30. Little did I know that elves had sneaked into my kitchen and created a whole new holiday treat for me! Okay, it wasn’t elves, it was Nora with help from her great-aunt Lydia. I have to say, this is a pretty inventive, spur-of the moment breakfast treat, and it’s very easy for young kids to do themselves. Nora used whole wheat bread, but you could conceivably use any kind of bread. I found myself fantasizing about banana bread as I nibbled on my noshie treat.

Nora’s Nutella Noshies

Sliced bread
Holiday sprinkles

Use large holiday cookie cutters to cut shapes out of bread. Spread Nutella evenly over the shapes. Decorate with sprinkles. No baking required!

Don’t worry. I’ve got a more challenging savory dish for you. This is one of my winter favorites and is adapted from a recipe by David Bolduc appearing in the Gardeners’ Community Cookbook, which I highly recommend.

Roasted Root Vegetables

2 medium carrots
2 parsnips
2 beets
2 potatoes
2 sweet potatoes
1 medium celeriac
1 medium onion
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme, marjoram, or dill to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F. Dice all the vegetables except onion into roughly 1/2 inch rounds or cubes. Dice the onion into 1-inch chunks. Place all vegetables in a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the coated vegetables on a baking sheet large enough to hold them without touching each other (you may need two sheets). Roast for 35 minutes or until all the vegetables are just tender. Serve immediately.

If you are in a serious hurry, you can slice the vegetables thinly – using a mandolin will be quick and give better cooking consistency – then spread these thinly on baking sheets (you may need several) and roast for half the time. You can overlap the vegetables slightly, but try to avoid this as much as possible.

Note: you can omit the maple syrup, and the veggies will still be completely delicious. But I find that adding the maple syrup ensures that my kids devour them, too. For their sake, I go easy on the pepper and frequently omit the herbs altogether. Also, you don’t have to stick to the exact quantities of root vegetables listed. If you don’t have a celeriac, so what? Add a potato. I don’t like turnips, but you could use one if you like them. I suspect you could do this recipe with nothing but beets and carrots, and it would be delicious.

We are gearing up fast for Christmas Eve dinner. Tomorrow’s recipe will be helpful for using up leftovers. Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Nora enjoying her creation.


Holiday Recipes, Day Five: Brussels Sprouts Even Kids Will Eat

Like many parents, I have a problem getting my kids to eat vegetables. My elder daughter will only eat cooked veggies, and then only broccoli and, grudgingly, green beans. My younger daughter will eat most veggies raw (though she does not like salad) but only likes cooked broccoli and asparagus. Both girls love to eat peas – frozen. Like tiny pea-sicles.

I balk at serving frozen veggies at big holiday dinners, and quite frankly, I get tired of cooked broccoli all the time. Asparagus is very, very out of season. So what can I do to get my kids to eat something green this holiday? Bribe them with sugar and fat, of course. I found this recipe originally on AllRecipes and used it for Thanksgiving. I love it for its simplicity and quick cooking time. You can easily make this in a toaster oven for small meals or whisk it into the oven after you take out the turkey. Be warned, however, that they cool quickly and aren’t nearly as good cold. Here’s my slightly tweaked version.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Combine olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add Brussels sprouts and toss to coat thoroughly. Spread in a single layer in a shallow baking dish or pan. Sprinkle with bacon. Roast until bacon is crispy and Brussels sprouts are caramelized, 30 minutes.

Note: I cut my sprouts in half because I bought organic sprouts, and they naturally had a lot of flea beetles in among the leaves near the stem. This is a good sign – it means the sprouts are tasty and full of nutrients. But flea beetles aren’t particularly appetizing, so I cut open each one to check them and clean them out as needed. This also had the pleasant side benefit of reducing the cooking time and removing the need to stir the sprouts halfway through cooking. But if you are short on prep time and your sprouts are beetle-free, then you can leave them whole, increase the cooking time to 45 minutes, and give them a stir halfway through.


Holiday Recipes, Day Four: Tri-Level Brownies

img_20161221_193253612I admit it: I am cookied out. Last night, Nora and I went to our church and helped to bake HUNDREDS of cookies, which will be given out during Christmas Eve services. I gotta say, I really love our church. But after that, I’m not in the mood for baking at all. Alas, the recipe I’d prepared for today is brownies. Just to prove that I don’t get all my best recipes from my abuela, I got this one as a free recipe included in a recipe box! It’s been a consistent favorite in my home for many, many years. This recipe was the inspiration for Triple Chocolate Brownies in A Witch’s Kitchen – compare it to the recipe in Millie’s Recipes.

Tri-Level Browniesbrownie

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup butter
1 1-ounce square unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Fudge Frosting
1 1-oz square unsweetened chocolate
2 Tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. For bottom layer, stir together first five ingredients. Stir in 6 Tablespoons melted butter. Pat this into an 11×7″ baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the middle layer, put the 1/4 cup of butter and 1-oz. chocolate square in a microwave-safe bowl (I recommend a really large glass bowl for simplicity), and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and if the chocolate is not fully melted, repeat. Once the chocolate is fully melted, stir together with the butter. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the egg and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine the 2/3 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla. Add to the egg mixture alternately with the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Fold in nuts, if desired. Spread batter over the baked oat layer and continue baking for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the 2 Tablespoons of butter and remaining 1-oz. square of chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt as above. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined. If frosting is too stiff, blend in hot water, up to 2 Tablespoons, until you have an almost pourable consistency. Frost when bottom two layers have completely cooled, and cut into 16 bars. Top with walnut halves, if desired.

Tomorrow, I’ll move on to savory holiday recipes, promise.

Holiday Recipes, Day Three: Apricot Bars

raspberry-rhubarb-crumble-webMy abuelo was a master farmer. He really could grow just about anything, and that included trees. We’d be eating a meal or a snack, and he’d say, “That was a very good peach/plum/apricot.” And then he’d take the pit and go plant it. A few years later, it would be producing delicious fruit for us. Of these, my favorite by far was the apricots, possibly because they ripen before nearly every other tree fruit (I think the sugar pears ripened first, but I could be wrong).

My abuela, faced with the challenge of all this abundance, became a master baker. She made cakes and cookies and pies and preserves and so much more. Of all these, my absolute favorite was her apricot bar recipe. Simple and delicious, they taste to me like early summer and New Mexico sunshine, even when made in the middle of winter.

Today, sadly, all those apricot trees have died due to drought, along with the plums, peaches, most of the apples, and many of the pears. When I visited the farm last August, I was shocked by the number of stumps now lining the fields. The banana apple tree, an heirloom planted by my great-grandfather, had died off and was awaiting my brother’s ax. The persistent drought in the American Southwest was the inspiration for my short story, “Weeds,” now available in the 2017 Young Explorers’ Adventure Guide.

But I can bring back the memory of those trees in Abuela’s apricot bars, and so can you.

Apricot Bars

1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly grease a 9×11″ pan with butter. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the quick oats and brown sugar. Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press half the oat mixture into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon the apricot preserves on top, smoothing them out into a thin layer that does not quite touch the sides of the pan. Cover with the remaining oat mixture. Return to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve warm with ice cream.

This recipe is very easy to make gluten-free. Just substitute your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill) and make sure to use gluten-free oats.

Wanna know a secret? You don’t have to stick with apricots for this. Any preserves will do. I often make this recipe with raspberry rhubarb preserves, especially when the raspberries start producing like mad in early summer, but also in late spring when the rhubarb is first available – a great use for the last of the frozen raspberries from last year. You’ll find in Millie’s Recipes as Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble. (In fact, I totally cheated and used the raspberry rhubarb crumble photo above.)