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Autumn Tomato Soup

I love to eat soup on cold, rainy, autumn nights. Specifically tomato soup. It is such a comfort food. I could eat it every week.
This soup was served at a dinner party by a dear (and very talented) friend. I quickly adopted it as my own.
It's like your favorite tomato soup turned up a notch or two. The addition of the vinegar and sugar give it a very subtle, but unique, sweet and sour kick.

Jenny's Tomato Soup
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T flour
1 onion, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup tomato paste
16 oz diced tomatoes
24 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup milk
2 T sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until it just starts to color.
Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Stir occasionally until they cook through (about 5 minutes).
Add the bay leaf and tomato paste. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and broth. Simmer and stir occasionally for 10 minutes.
Add the milk.
Working in batches, puree the soup in the blender. Be careful to not fill the blender more than halfway full.
In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar and vinegar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar has reduced and the mixture is syrupy. Add to the soup.
Season with salt and pepper.

We served it with Parmesan cheese and our favorite bread sticks (once the dough is made, spread it on a greased baking sheet, top with desired toppings...we like melted butter, kosher salt and rosemary...then cut it into strips with a pizza cutter and bake).

Halloween Tacos

When I saw these cute little tarantulas on Betty Crocker's website, I knew I had to perch them atop our favorite fish tacos.

1 1/2 pounds of your favorite fish (we use mahi mahi or tilapia)
1 T olive oil
juice of 3 limes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin

Put the fish in a shallow dish. Combine oil, lime juice, garlic and cumin. Pour over fish and let marinate for 15 minutes, turning over occasionally. Cook on a hot grill or grill pan for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until fish is opaque all the way through. Flake with a fork and set aside until you build your tacos.

Fish Taco Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream (we use reduced fat)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (we use reduced fat)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients. Add more lime or cumin to taste.

To build tacos:
Tortillas (corn or flour) or Taco Shells
Fish Taco Sauce
Queso Fresco, crumbled
Fresh salsa or pico de gallo
shredded cabbage
Limes for squeezing

We generally use corn or flour tortillas. Our girls requested hard shells tonight. If you are using tortillas, warm them on the grill.
Fill shells or tortillas with fish, then sauce, then cabbage, cheese, salsa and a sprig of cilantro.

Garnish with a spooky tarantula:

Jumbo Olives

For each spider, top taco with 1 olive, pitted end down. Cut second olive lengthwise into 8 pieces; place around olive for legs. For eyes, squeeze 2 dots of fish taco sauce onto top of olive (I spooned a little into a sandwich bag, snipped a tiny bit off the corner and used it to pipe the eyes).

Cream Cheese Brownies (and a winner!)

Thank you all who entered the Tate's Bake Shop giveaway. You all had some great tips. I'm excited to implement them into my cookie baking.

The winner (random drawing by my three year old...and yes, your name was in there twice if you followed on facebook) is.....Mandy (the second) with a cookie making tip: "My best tip is to follow your recipes exactly". (Ah Shucks. I'm blushing). So Mandy, please email me (bradleykitchen@comcast.net) with your address and I will forward it on to Tate's who will get your cookies and cookbook right to you!

We made these Cream Cheese Brownies from the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. They were delicious, yet quite simple to make. I would imagine you would find most (if not all) of the ingredients in your kitchen right now. The brownie is rich and fudgy, and the cheesecake swirl adds just the perfect amount of tang. Definitely a recipe to bookmark.

Cream Cheese Brownies
(makes 16 brownies)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (salted) butter, softened to room temperature (I only had unsalted, so I added an extra pinch of salt)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with aluminum foil so that the foil extends two inches beyond the sides of the pan. (This creates handles you can use to remove the brownies later.) Spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Set it aside to cool.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the sugar until they are smooth. Beat in one egg and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla until they are combined. Set it aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar until they are combined. Beat in the remaining 3 eggs, one at a time. Beat in the remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Mix in the melted chocolate. On low speed, beat in the flour and salt until the are just combined.
Scrape all but 1 cup of the chocolate batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the chocolate mixture. Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Pull a table knife through the layers of batter with a light lifting motion in a zigzag pattern to create a marbleized look.
Bake it for 50 minutes.
Set the pan on a wire rack and cool the brownies in the pan. When the brownies are completely cool, remove them using the aluminum foil handles.
Cut them into squares. (You can refrigerate them first for ease of cutting. Wetting your knife also helps give you a clean cut.)

For all of you that didn't win, stay tuned for another fun giveaway later this month. And don't forget to use to the promo code "COOKIE" on the Tate's website for your discount!

National Cookie Month (and a Tate's Bake Shop giveaway)

Did you all know that October is national cookie month? I must admit I had no idea.

When the good people at Tate's Bake Shop contacted me about doing a review and hosting a giveaway to commemorate this glorious month of cookies, I was thrilled. Mainly because they promised to send me some cookies to sample.

We tried the Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate cookies last night. I'll admit, my cookie preference is generally for a soft, chewy cookie. Having said that, these thin, crispy cookies really are delicious. The most impressive thing about the cookies (aside from the delicious flavor) is their list of ingredients...dark chocolate chips, whole wheat flour, butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, soda, salt, and vanilla. Sounds like my recipe...minus the whole wheat flour. No "HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL" (copied from the online ingredient list of oreo cookies).

And you can definitely tell they are made from natural ingredients. The cyclist was impressed he could taste the butter. My oldest actually commented on how good the aftertaste was. (random...I know...). But no chemicals and no preservatives.

Here's the good stuff:
Tate's Bake Shop will send one lucky reader THREE bags of Tate’s Bake Shop’s Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip cookies along with a signed copy of Kathleen King’s cookbook, The Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook†. I've browsed the cookbook and can't wait to try the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Double Peanut Chocolate Cookies, Raspberry Squares, cream cheese brownies, sour cream pound cake...really, all of the recipes are right up my alley.

To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment by Saturday, October 15th, telling me your favorite cookie making secret *.
You get an extra entry if you Follow Tate's Bake Shop on Facebook or Twitter (just let me know you're following them in your comment).

As a bonus, for the rest of the month of October, my readers can get 15% off their total order by using the promo code "COOKIE". How about some blondies, pumpkin tea loaves, gluten free brownies?

Stay tuned. The winner will be announced on Monday morning, October 17.

†Giveaway only open to U.S. residents
*(My favorite tip is making a double batch of cookie dough, and freezing half for later use: Just roll dough into balls, freeze them for 15 minutes or so on a cookie sheet so they don't stick together, then throw them all in a freezer bag. Pull out a few to bake the next time you want hot fresh cookies)

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for Conference

We gathered as a family again this last weekend. Omelets, muffins, and a chance to be spiritually uplifted.

This year, I made a delicious spin on a blueberry muffin. I love the texture that cornmeal adds to baked goods. The fresh grated nutmeg gave them a wonderful warmth.

Blueberry-Cornmeal Muffins
from Williams- Sonoma Essentials of Baking

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine-grind cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly ground if possible. You can buy whole nutmeg in the spice aisle of most any supermarket. Grate it with a microplane zester)
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 T granulated sugar mixed with 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 standard muffin-pan cups or line them with paper liners.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Whisk in the milk and butter. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula just until moistened. Fold in the berries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 minutes, then turn out onto the rack. Serve warm.

Surprise Cookies

These cookies will always hold a special place in my heart. They were my one of my sweet sister-in-law's signature cookies. As I've said before, anything Bunny baked turned out perfectly. I learned early on to never pass up one of her sweets.
The cookies are incredibly moist and chocolaty. Add the marshmallow and chocolate frosting and you have a sweet and sinful treat.

Surprise Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 t coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 t vanilla
about 15 marshmallows, halved crosswise (just cut them in half with some kitchen shears or clean sharp scissors)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Make Cookies: sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined.
Using a 1 3/4 inch cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm, 8-10 minutes. Immediately press a marshmallow half on top of each cookie. Bake until marshmallows begin to melt, 2 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
Make frosting.

Chocolate Satin Frosting
from Joy of Cooking
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 t vanilla

Roughly chop chocolate. Set aside.
In small saucepan, bring evaporated milk to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate pieces, without stirring. Cover and set aside for exactly 10 minutes. Scrape into bowl over mixer or food processor and add sugar, butter and vanilla. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let sit in refrigerator until it reaches desired consistency (I let mine sit about 15 minutes)
This frosting keeps refrigerated for about 3 weeks, or can be frozen for 6 months. Let soften before using.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cookie to cover marshmallow. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.