Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Soup’s On!

The weather is getting cool and crisp and I’ve been fighting my first cold of the season…and craving Jamie Oliver’s sweet potato and chorizo soup. This soup recipe is a favorite in our house and has been since I first made it during my Food Revolution. It is made with my favorite food on the planet, sweet potatoes, and the spicy chorizo sausage is great for clearing out your sinuses when you are sick. Since then I’ve made it so many times and have even included it in some of my cooking classes.  Our second challenge this month was to share a recipe that you like to make for specialty diets.  I had so many great ideas for this ( I love spaghetti squash as pasta for example) but once I was sick this is the recipe that kept coming to mind for this challenge. Creamy soups in the fall are the best but my kids and I can be a bit sensitive to dairy. This recipe is great because it is dairy free but tastes so creamy after you’ve blended it. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup
From Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
1 3/4 quarts chicken stock 
olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks, sliced evenly
2 medium onions, peeled and rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
7 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced
small bunch fresh parsley, fine chopped
1 heaped teaspoon Madras curry powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh red chile, fine diced (This is just for garnish at the end, I bought very spicy sausage so I actually topped mine with either plain yogurt or grated cheddar and also some nutmeg)

Bring the stock to boil in a saucepan. Let it simmer on the back burner.
Bring a large pot to medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil. Put all the chopped and sliced foods (all the veggies and the chorizo) into the hot oil. Add the curry powder and mix it all up.
Cook until the carrots have softened but are not falling apart and the onions have turned a little golden, about 10 minutes.
Pour in the hot stock. Give the soup a stir and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the sweet potato is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper. Stir. Taste. Season it to your taste.
Blend the soup with an immersion blender (easiest) or by pouring it into a large blender or food processor. This part is very important and totally "makes" the soup!
Jamie says top with diced chile and serve but I used some plain yogurt and nutmeg.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

The Food Revolution Ambassadors are celebrating our second anniversary this month. So, for our first challenge for September we were tasked with making a celebratory food. We've just finished up birthday season at my house so I know a little something about celebrating. Eight family birthdays in six short weeks. Of course, CAKE is the first food that comes to mind when you think of the word celebrate. That's a lot of cake! We get creative and do ice cream cake, cookie cake, cupcakes of course and this year - a new one - my son picked whoopie pies for his celebratory treat. Now, I'll admit, I'm not a fabulous baker. During the 365 days that I worked my way through the Food Revolution Cookbook there (luckily) wasn't a whole lot of baking involved. But that means my baking muscles haven't been worked like my cooking muscles have.  I've never had a successful "bake a cake from scratch" experience but I was intrigued by the Hummingbird Cake recipe that came with our challenges this month. I love the name and I love that it is a sneak peak of Jamie Oliver's new cook book, Jamie's Comfort Food, which is being released in the US today.
Not to give away the ending first, but I actually did it! This Hummingbird Cake was the first cake I've made that was not from a box that didn't end up in the trash. 
The cake, like most comfort food, involves time but the result is a refreshing cake that was perfect on a late summer day. The bananas and the pineapple make the cake so moist and although cream cheese frosting isn't my favorite I loved that this frosting has lime zest and juice in it. Now, the last part of the recipe is to make a pecan brittle topping. It might be tempting to just skip this part. Don't do it! One thing I learned from my Food Revolution is don't skip anything in a recipe.  Look at it as great practice in the kitchen and another step towards being a better cook. It may sound intimidating but the pecan brittle was easy to do and it made the cake so delicious!
So, if you are looking for a special occasion treat, give Hummingbird Cake a try! You'll be glad you did.

Hummingbird Cake 

Cake: 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing, 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3 cups superfine sugar, 4 medium very ripe bananas, 1 x 15-oz can of pineapple chunks, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 oz pecans
Icing: 3 cups confectioners' sugar, 2/3 cup unsalted butter (at room temp), 7 oz cream cheese, 2 limes. 
Brittle: 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 2 oz pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line two 9-inch cake tins. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar and a large pinch of sea salt. Peel the bananas and mash them up with a fork in another bowl. Drain and finely chop the pineapple and add to the bananas with the oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until combined, then fold into the dry mixture until smooth. Finely chop the pecans and gently fold in, then divide the batter evenly between your prepared tins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until risen, golden and the sponges spring back when touched lightly in the centre. Run a knife around the edge of the tins, then leave to cool for !0 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make the icing, sift the confectioners' sugar into a free-standing electric mixer, add the butter and beat until pale and creamy. Add the cream cheese, finely grate in the zest of ! lime and add a squeeze of juice, then beat until just smooth – it’s really important not to over-mix it. Keep in the fridge until needed. To make a brittle topping, place the superfine sugar and a splash of water in a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Shake flat and don’t stir it, just swirl the pan occasionally until dissolved and lightly golden. Add the pecans and a pinch of salt, spoon around to coat, and when nicely golden, pour onto a sheet of oiled greaseproof paper to set. Once cool, smash up to a dust (you’ll need about half to top the cake)

To assemble the cake, place one sponge on a cake stand and spread with half the icing. Top with the other sponge, spread over the rest of the icing, then grate over the zest of the remaining lime. Scatter over the brittle dust and decorate with a few edible flowers, such as violas, borage or herb flowers, if you feel that way inclined. With a cup of tea on the side, this will make everyone who eats it extremely happy. 

Recipe taken from Jamie's Comfort Food.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Food Revolution Ambassadors!

It’s hard to believe but the Food Revolution Ambassadors are celebrating their 2nd birthday. I remember two years ago when I was asked to be an ambassador and I’ve loved getting to know my fellow ambassadors from all over the world. We keep in touch in our group on Facebook, have google hangouts and follow each others cooking adventures on Twitter and Instagram. It is a great group of humans and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. A huge thank you on this anniversary to Jamie Oliver and his amazing staff who keep us up and running and inspire us too!
Happy Birthday JOFR Ambassadors!

And now…on to the September Monthly Challenges! Here are the challenges I’ll be working on this month. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and let me know if you’re trying any of these out as well. I’d love to hear from you!

September Monthly Challenges
1). Celebrate! Wish the awesome Food Revolution ambassadors a happy 2nd birthday and do some celebratory cooking. 
2). Speciality diets. Whether it is vegetarian, diary-free, gluten-free or vegan, share recipes and photos of your go-to special diet recipes.

3). Back-to-school! This year as US schools head back they are improving the snacks and beverages sold through the #smartsnacks rule. Find out what changes have been made at your local schools.