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10-Step Black Bean Burger

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As a long-time vegetarian I have explored the many meat alternatives available in grocery store aisles. I like a good number of them for their flavor, but always have some concern about the contents of what I am eating. For instance, the fake soy bacon I consume many mornings is not something I would consider legitimate food. The main ingredient is egg whites followed closely by soybean oil with TBHQ and textured soybean protein concentrate. Tasty? Sure! Wholesome? Mmmm.. not so much. To this end, I’ve been looking for a good, homemade burger recipe so that I can have more control over the ingredients and processing.

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I have a NYT veggie burger recipe already posted on the site (here). It is a delicious burger, but it’s incredibly time consuming to make, and it requires a blender and a bunch of dishes, meaning more clean up. I have finally found a recipe that is still delicious and filled with protein, but it only takes an hour or so to make! It also requires far fewer ingredients- another bonus in my book, as many vegetarian recipes out there involve strange and esoteric ingredients or assume you’ve got things like coconut sugar lying around the house. I took all of that out and used only things an average kitchen will have or things that can be bought at a neighborhood supermarket. In fact, my husband and I made these for the 4th of July and discovered the only ingredient we didn’t already have in our pantry was canned black beans. Easy to shop for. Easy to make. Easy to clean up. Definitely easy to eat!

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I’ve broken the process down into ten steps to make the assembly even simpler. The most time-consuming part of the entire process is cooking rice. Not so bad, right?

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10-Step Black Bean Burgers
makes 4, large patties

Ingredients
1 cup brown rice
6-12 cups water
1 15oz can black beans (roughly 1 1/2 cups, we used a can of Bush’s)
3/4 cup diced white onion
avocado or canola oil
1 1/3 cups panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon each: paprika, cumin, bold taco seasoning (we used Penzey’s, but you could sub chili powder here)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey
3-4 tablespoons BBQ sauce

Step 1: Rinse the rice and combine it in a small pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Keep boiling for 30 minutes, adding additional water and stirring as needed. The rice should be “swimming” for all 30 minutes. Take off heat and cover to steam for 10 more minutes. Finally, drain off excess water. [Note: this will make more cooked rice than you need for the burgers.]

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Step 2: Rinse the black beans well and mash them thoroughly with a slotted spoon in a large bowl.

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Step 3: Dice white onion (1/2 a large onion or roughly 3 baby onions). Pan fry 3/4 cup with 1/2 tablespoon of avocado or canola oil for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Step 4: In a small bowl, mix the panko with the spices.

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Step 5: Add 1 cup of the rice to the beans and mix together. Then stir in the onions and panko mixture.

Step 6: Add in the honey and BBQ sauce. Check the texture. You want a moist, but thick mixture. You can adjust the texture by adding more BBQ sauce or panko accordingly.

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Step 7: Form patties using a hamburger press or by hand with plastic wrap. We were able to make 4 patties that were about 5 ounces each.

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Step 8: Brush a grill or skillet with oil. Cook patties for 3-4 minutes per side, covered if on the grill. Pack the patty with a spatula on the grill for better grill marks. For a crispier crust, leave on a bit longer (will result in less discernible grill marks).

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Step 9: Dress burger with bun and preferred toppings.

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Step 10: Enjoy! 🙂 [Yes, that is the 10th step!]

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Buttery Pecan Pie + Announcements

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William and I have been away from the blog for several months now- but for good reason!

We have moved back to Alabama and into a new home. Going from a tiny, city apartment to a house with a yard is a wonderful lesson in time management! As anyone with a home of their own can attest to, there is always always always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed or mowed or paid for… this is what I get for wanting the ‘charm’ of an older home! While we absolutely love having our own home, we are perhaps missing our California maintenance man, Mario, a little too much! 🙂

We are also just finishing a kitchen renovation (yay!). We spend so much time in our kitchen, we knew it would need a little makeover! For now, my vanity has been assuaged with the transition from dark oak cabinetry and yellow speckled counters to light greys and whites and a gorgeous, gigantic– errr, I mean functional– farmhouse sink!  Doesn’t the room look ten times larger??

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And last, but certainly not least, we recently welcomed our first child, a baby girl. Ava Marie is the most beautiful baby, the reason for many sleepless nights, and she is already brightening our days with her precious smile. She is the light of our lives, and we are so excited to one day share our joy of cooking with her!

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With so many changes it has been difficult to keep up with the blog. However, we are  cooking up a storm and have several new recipes to post.

Since moving back, for the first time in several years William and I had the pleasure of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family here in Alabama. We knew we had to bake something for the event, and because we have discovered a couple of prolific pecan trees in our backyard, we decided to gather, shell, toast them for a nice pecan pie.

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I found a recipe from one of my favorite cooking bloggers, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. This pie is amazing, but not the easiest dessert to put together. However, it was so much fun and, despite being time consuming, so delicious that we will definitely be making it again–perhaps for the upcoming winter holidays!

My biggest pet peeve about pecan pies is how cloyingly sweet they can be. It’s too much and often overwhelms the delicate, buttery flavor of the pecans themselves. There are several things about this recipe that I think make it better than the standard, toothache-inducing pecan pie.

First, the homemade crust. I always use salted butter and actually add a bit of extra salt in my homemade pie crusts. Perhaps this stems from my obsession with the play off of salty and sweet flavors. Perhaps it comes from my surefire belief that in the battle of salty vs sweet, salty always wins. Who knows! Regardless, the homemade crust provides the perfect salty and buttery complement to the sweetness of the filling, while also highlighting the buttery nuttiness of freshly toasted pecans!

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Second, the filling itself has two components: the typical gooey pecan pie filling as well as a layer of semisweet chocolate ganache. The filling is made with a British cane sugar syrup instead of super processed Caro syrup, and it develops a wonderful, burnt caramel flavor. The bitterness of the chocolate provides an additional foil, allowing relief from the sugar!

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Chocolate Pecan Pie
makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

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for the filling
2 cups pecans
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup [can be found on Amazon, if not at Whole Foods]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs

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First, make the crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks. Use a pastry blender or food processor to combine the flour mixture with the butter until a mealy consistency is achieved. Add the water [about 60mL] and work the dough to form a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

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After the dough is done refrigerating, roll it out into a 13″ circle. Place it in a 9″ pie pan. Trim the edges and shape to your liking, or use the extra dough to decorate it! [I’m still getting the hang of making pretty, homemade pie crusts, but it’s a creative experience, so don’t expect Martha Stewart results the first time and just have fun with it!] Freeze the raw pie crust for 20 minutes.

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While the crust is freezing, toast your pecans. Spread them out on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake them for 12 minutes, stirring often. When the pecans are done being toasted, place them in a large bowl to cool off and increase the oven temperature to 400°F in preparation to par-bake your pie crust!

Take the crust out of the freezer and cover it with buttered tin foil (butter side down! 😉 ). Place rice or pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the crust from shrinking and losing its shape. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

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Freeze the partially baked crust for 15 minutes. While the par-baked crust is freezing again, prep the chocolate ganache. In a small pot, over medium heat, combine the chocolate and heavy whipping cream until a smooth texture is achieved. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the crust and freeze for another 20 minutes.

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Now it is time to prepare the filling. Melt together the butter, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a small pot (you’re welcome to re-use the one from the ganache). Let this mixture simmer for several minutes until it thins out and darkens in color. Next, add in the bourbon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the toasted pecans and stir it all together! Let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring in the eggs. [You need the eggs to hold the filling together, but you don’t want them to curdle by stirring them into a mixture that’s too hot.] Once your filling is completed, remove the crust from the freezer and pour it over the chocolate layer of the pie.

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Bake the pie at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie should still look gooey, but it will set during cooling time.

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Pecan pie can be served at any temperature really, but this one is best served warmed or at room temperature so the chocolate is easy to eat. We were also able to refrigerate it and it was still delicious a week later! It needs no accompaniments, so you can skip the ice cream or whipped cream, if you like!

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Enjoy!

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Homemade Cheese Ravioli

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I have never been a huge fan of spaghetti. Your standard noodles + pasta was never quite satisfying to me. My favorite Italian dishes growing up were always the cheesy ones- stuffed pastas like cannelloni and manicotti and ravioli, and the delicious layers of lasagna. As a vegetarian, they still felt warm and comforting.

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In our tiny, California kitchen we do not have room to make homemade pasta- it is fun, and I recommend experiencing it at some point. However, this recipe is not difficult and not super time consuming. The method we apply here utilizes wonton wrappers, in lieu of homemade pasta. When you boil wonton wrappers they behave in a very similar manner, and taste very similar to pasta. This gives you the flexibility of creating any filling you like, and using your own sauce, without having to deal with homemade pasta dough.

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The one warning I do have- it makes 26 ravioli and it does not freeze well. I was really hoping that it would freeze, but using this method to quickly make stuffed pasta creates a very thin and fragile raviolo. You might try to freeze them individually, but when we froze multiple ravioli at a time, and then tried to cook them, they stuck together and did not cook evenly.

Enjoy!

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

(serves 6-7)

Ingredients
for the filling
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated or shaved)
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced, fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste (we went with 3/4 teaspoon of each)
1 egg

for the wrappers
1 package wonton wrappers (pack of 52)
1 egg

olive oil, pepper, and garlic salt to cook in
tomato sauce, shaved parmesan, and fresh basil to top

(We used our homemade sauce for this and it worked out very well.)

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First, make your filling. Combine the cheeses, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and egg in a large bowl.

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Set up a work station. Lay parchment paper down, with your bowl of filling, wonton wrappers, a fork, and a brush. Whisk a second egg in a small bowl, this will be used to help create a good seal on your wrappers.

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Lay the wrappers down six at a time. Two rows of three. You will be making three ravioli at a time, using two wonton wrappers per raviolo.
Brush the edges of each wonton wrapper with a bit of egg.

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Take a heaping teaspoon of filling and place it in the center of three of your wrappers.

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Place the empty wrappers on top of the cheese wrappers one at a time. Press down on the edges carefully to begin the process of creating a seal. As you do this, be careful to keep the squares aligned.

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Finally, take your fork and crimp the edges of each raviolo. Place the finished ravioli in a waiting area – they are ready to cook!

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Complete this process with the remaining filling and wrappers.

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Feel free to be generous with the filling (there will be more than enough), but you do not want to put too much in there to the point that it gets in the way of your seal.

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Pretty ravioli are the goal- no ricotta spilling out over the edges! This sounds silly, but in actuality, it will be a big problem when you try to boil them.

After you have assembled all of your ravioli, put a pot of water on to boil. Sprinkle in some olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. This will add a good bit of flavor to the wonton wrapper while also helping them to not stick together!

Let the water boil fully. You can cook as many ravioli as your are comfortable with at a time, I usually stick to 5 in our small quart-sized pot!

When the ravioli float to the top, they are ready to come out (3-4 minutes)! Stack them on a plate and top with anything you desire! We usually go for sauce, basil, and parmesan. However, you can even bake them or sauté them if you prefer an oil-based or creamier sauce!

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Enjoy!

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4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

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Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

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This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

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First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

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Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

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Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

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Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

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Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

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Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

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Several weeks ago, back in Alabama, I found myself sitting across from my sister at a restaurant dinner table as she savoured every piping hot bite of what looked like a delicious French onion soup. It, of course, contained beef broth, so I was stuck just staring rudely. With each of my sister’s sips, I knew I was destined to make my own, vegetarian version this winter. I did. And it was amazing.

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French onion soup is one of those perfect winter dishes that makes you feel cozy and comforted, and, with the added bread-cheese gratinée, you just can’t go wrong.

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I decided, as usual, to include some choice ingredients. Seeing as I was back in Alabama, thinking about onions, I just had to purchase some Vidalias. This strain of onion comes from a very particular area in Georgia and you basically can’t get them here in California. So about a week ago, unknowingly, Southwest Airlines checked and transported what was probably the first bag full of specially procured onions. [Yes, they arrived safely!]

I love Vidalias, they are SO perfect for an onion soup (especially a vegetarian version). I was able to find petite Vidalias, with the greens still on, so we used those in the topping as well. Of course, for onion soup enthusiasts without access to the South’s produce, a standard, sweet yellow onion will suffice. I did end up supplementing with a few cippolini onions, which I believe are more easily procured from anywhere in the country. (Although for some reason, we haven’t been able to find those in California either, so I had to sneak those back from Alabama as well!)

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Whether it’s with Vidalias or plain yellow onions, this is a thicker-than-average onion soup, as I wanted something substantial. It is a little salty, especially after you add the gratinée, so I put very little actual salt in the soup and used a low-sodium vegetable bouillon.

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

Ingredients

for the soup
2 pounds Vidalia, or sweet yellow onions (we used one pound of petite Vidalias, with the greens cut off and one pound cipollini onions)
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ -1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons better than bouillon vegetable base (we used low sodium)
¼- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 quarts boiling water
2-3 stems rosemary
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon black pepper

for gratinée
bread (we used a french bread from Lucky, and it was amazing)
~ 1 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated fontina
1 tablespoon raw onion or chopped onion greens (we sliced the tops of the Vidalias)

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First, slice the onions. You don’t need to chop them, as they will break down. The important thing is to clean off the skins, slice them, and separate the layers.

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Cook the onions with the butter and olive oil in a large pot over low heat for about 15 minutes.

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Add in the salt and sugar. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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While the onions are breaking down in the pot, make your broth in a separate bowl. Combine the porcini, vegetable stock base, and boiling water. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This will create a strong, rich broth, while also rehydrating the mushrooms.

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Continue to stir the onions. They should be browning well and becoming deliciously fragrant!

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Add the mushrooms and broth to the large pot along with the rosemary, flour, wine, and pepper. Simmer for an hour. Go watch your favorite show or even a movie. If it cooks for a bit longer than an hour, it certainly won’t hurt this soup!

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As the soup is finishing its time on the stove, preheat the oven to 325° F. Pour the soup into oven-safe bowls.

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Slice the bread and spread the slices with a bit of butter. Arrange the slices like a delicious lid over your soup bowl.

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Top with a generous amount of grated cheese.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes. Finish the gratinée off with about 2 minutes on broil.

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Enjoy!

 

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Smashed Potatoes

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This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

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Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

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To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

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After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
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Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

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Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

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Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

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Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

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After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

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Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

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Let me just say that this is my favorite cake ever. A week after I made it and it had been sitting on the counter, I took another bite- still my favorite cake ever. Even two weeks later, when the last bite was taken- this cake was moist, dense, rich, and satisfying. I cannot recommend it enough!!

I based the recipe off of a Nigella Lawson creation, which you can find here. Mine is not vegan friendly, but it’s still delicious! It was fun and EASY! You do need a springform pan to bake it in, but other than that- nothing too fancy or special.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients
1 heaping cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping cup sugar (caster sugar, if you do not have a coffee grinder)
2 tablespoons almond flour
5 eggs
kosher salt
parchment paper

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Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the bottom and sides.

If you are using regular sugar, grind it down in a coffee grinder so that it looks almost like powdered sugar but not quite as compact. Measure out a heaping cup. [If you are using caster sugar, simply measure out a cup.]

Melt the chocolate in a pot over low heat, being really careful not to let it burn. If you are nervous about potentially burning it, just set up a double boiler and melt it over boiling water. Stir continuously until it is completely melted, then add in the olive oil.

Keep stirring the mixture over heat, and add in 2/3 cup of the ground sugar. Stir over heat until that sugar is dissolved.

Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and set it aside. Take a moment to separate the eggs into two, small bowls. Add the almond flour, egg yolks, and a few pinches of salt to the chocolate mixture. Stir it all together until it looks smooth and silky.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup ground sugar and the egg whites. This will take some time and having a partner to help you out is nice. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar fervently  until you see fairly stiff peaks.

Next, carefully fold the fluffed egg whites into the chocolate.

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Pour the batter into the greased springform pan.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes. The top will crack and a knife will come out clean when the cake is done.

Sprinkle with sugar and serve with whipped cream and fresh herbs!

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Enjoy!