In the Advent Kitchen -- December 13
Lettuce and Tomatoes
Bacon and Swiss Muffins
Fresh Oranges or Clementines
Tonight’s menu will warm you up fast. For a simple start, arrange some lettuce and tomatoes on a plate and drizzle them with a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar. The Hungarian soup, rich with vegetables, can be made with or without meat and cooks in less than an hour. The sweet paprika gives it an incredible, different taste from the soups you find at the market or casual dining restaurants. The bacon and Swiss muffins are a wonderful, savory accompaniment to the soup and, warm from the oven, will attract lots of foot traffic to your kitchen for samples. For dessert, some fresh oranges or clementines would be a refreshing, healthy way to end the meal. Nonetheless, if you’re in the mood for cookies, some homemade chocolate shortbread (drop that package of Oreos!) would make an easy, low fuss, sweet addition.
Hungarian Soup – Serves 8+
This incredibly tasty soup is nutritious! If you’d like more protein in it, add the turkey ham (or leftover ham, if you have it), which also will boost the soup’s flavor. If you’d prefer to use less than a pound of the turkey ham (which, yes, is processed meat), just to add extra flavor, feel free to do so. In lieu of the ham or turkey ham, I’ve also used about a cup of little, finger-sized turkey sausages to good effect. The soup is versatile as well as being economical.
16 ounces of turkey ham, cubed (optional)
1 16-ounce bag of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix (or shred your own)
1 large onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons of sweet Hungarian paprika (or to taste)
2 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup of water
1 16-ounce bag of frozen cauliflower
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of plain non-fat yogurt plus extra for serving
½ teaspoon of salt
Coat the inside of a large soup pot or Dutch oven with non-stick spray and sauté the turkey ham over medium-high heat until it has browned. Add the cabbage, onion, and garlic and sauté the mixture for 5-6 minutes, until the vegetables begin softening. Stir in the paprika. Add the broth, water, and cauliflower and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook the mixture until the cauliflower is very soft—about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Mash the mixture carefully with a potato masher to break up the cauliflower and thicken the soup. Add pepper and salt. Stir in the yogurt. Re-warm the soup over low heat if necessary. Serve the soup in bowls with additional dollops of yogurt on top.
Bacon and Swiss Muffins – Makes 12
Bacon and Swiss muffins are best served warm from the oven with their nutty wheat flavor heightened by the salty bacon crumbles. The mild Swiss cheese oozes into the texture of the muffin, softening and enriching it. The chives offer a faint taste, not overwhelming the other flavors of the muffin.
1 cup of white whole-wheat flour
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
¼ cup of canola oil
1 cup of low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons of bacon crumbles
½ cup of shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon of dried chives
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use cupcake liners spritzed with spray. Whisk the flours, baking powder salt, and baking soda together. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, oil, and buttermilk together. Add the flour mixture and stir just to moisten everything. Gently stir in the bacon, Swiss cheese, and chives. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake the muffins for about 25 minutes or until they’re golden brown.
Chocolate Shortbread – Makes 24-36 Pieces
Sometimes simple is best, and these chocolate shortbread cookies are a case in point. The cookies don’t require many or fancy ingredients, and they are quick and easy to make. The shortbread comes out of the oven crisp and lush with chocolate flavor.
3 cups of flour
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup of Smart or Earth Balance (or butter), softened
1¼ cups of confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and coat the parchment or foil with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder and set them aside. In another large bowl, beat the Smart Balance, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until they are light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until the flour is blended into the Smart Balance mixture. Pat the dough into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Score the dough with a knife into 24-36 rectangles and prick each rectangle with a fork, piercing all the way through the dough. Bake the shortbread for 30-35 minutes until the top appears dry. Let the shortbread cool for about 10 minutes and cut it again into bars. Let the shortbread cool completely before removing it from the pan, using the parchment or aluminum foil, if necessary to lift the rectangles out.