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Nothing beats a lunch of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for comfort food, especially when it snows in May.

When I woke up this morning on this second Saturday in May snowflakes were swirling and chasing each other to the ground. Snowflakes. In May. Is Mother Nature trying to keep us indoors during this time of quarantine and lockdown? It’s working.

With a high of 49 degrees F. for today it seemed like the perfect moment for homemade soup. I’ve been wanting to make a tomato soup that uses an entire head of cauliflower since a friend share her bowl on social media recently. Comfort and a healthy serving of veggies.

Through a recipe search Google I found an easy one from Brooklyn Farm Girl.

I love the smoky flavor from garlic in this recipe and the cauliflower makes an excellent thickener instead of using rice or bread. I didn’t have crushed tomatoes on hand but downstairs in the basement bunker I found 2 cans of whole tomatoes and 2 cans of diced tomatoes. I blended these together in my food processor with a few pulses and viola! I had just the right amount of tomato purée I needed.

I love Brooklyn Farm Girl’s suggestion to spoon out 1 cup of cauliflower before using your immersion blender, and then mixing it back into the final soup to add some texture.

Bon appétit!

Cauliflower tomato soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 scallions, finely diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets

2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (or 2 14.5-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, and 2 14.5-ounce cans of diced tomatoes)

2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Melt butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add scallions, celery, minced garlic and cauliflower and mix until slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of cauliflower from soup and set aside.

Use a immersion blender and blend the soup until desired thickness. Add the 1 cup of cauliflower back into the pot and stir.

Serve and enjoy! Serves 6.

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I like rice and beans as a quick lunch or dinner. The coconut and nutmeg in this recipe elevates the flavors in this ordinary staple dish a notch or two.

You could eat a big bowl as a vegetarian meal, or just a scoop as a side to chicken or fish.

Coconut beans and rice

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
15-ounce can black beans, drained
Nutmeg
Salt
Pepper
Hot sauce

Dice the onion and melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium sauce pan. Add onion, stirring occasionally until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add rice, water, coconut, stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed. Add black beans, stir to combine until beans are heated through. Sprinkle with nutmeg, season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce, to taste.

Serve in bowls. Serves 4.

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I have to brag a little bit. This is my first loaf of bread and I nailed it. Sure, I’ve made Irish soda bread and various scones but this is real bread, like the kind you can buy in a store.

Homemade bread just seemed like something I didn’t need to spend time on, all that figuring out of the yeast, the rise time, the mixing, the kneading. I had better things to do than sitting around the house waiting for bread to rise.

Until I suddenly had a lot more time to sit around the house when we packed up all our things at the office Friday, March 13 and headed for home – for a really, really long time.

I was sort of nonplussed at first, thinking this couldn’t last. My husband, Eric, had the opposite reaction. He started buying up toilet paper, paper towels, pasta, soup, at the first whiff of change in the wind.

“I picked you up a bag of flour!” he announced one Tuesday evening a million years ago (OK, it was two weeks ago) when he staggered through the door with bags of groceries, including packets of dried pasta meals that I immediately announced I would never eat. “Thanks?” I remember saying, silently laughing to myself. It takes me about a year to get through a bag of flour, and that’s mostly used to make chocolate chip cookies or banana bread. I prefer to make my scones with self-rising flour.

But as one day stretched to the next with not much to tell one from the other except for the most mundane happenings – one day the sun came out, another morning I almost spilled my coffee when two enormous turkeys strolled through our tiny back yard – I suddenly thought it might be nice to bake bread.

I had a vague memory of reading about the easiest bread recipe ever, one that required no kneading. From what I can tell, it was Mark Bittman who first introduced home cooks at large to this recipe through the pages of The New York Times in, I think, 2005. (If you have a subscription, go read and it watch the video here. If you don’t, don’t worry I’m about to give it to you.)

Recipes are the best kind of viral – even though that word is anxiety producing these days. You can’t copyright lists of ingredients (just the text around it) and that’s how recipes get shared hand to hand. The rise of food bloggers around 2008 have only helped to send viral recipes around the globe.

This recipe is not only easy to make it is the perfect bread recipe to fit in between Zoom calls, give you something to look forward to tomorrow, and yes, enjoy all the warm smells as you bake it.

Here’s how it went down in my house:

12:00 p.m. Dash to grocery store #1 during lunch. Discover flour has been swept clean from shelves. Discover yeast has also bought out. Despair slightly. Buy many more items we probably don’t need because I’m there and I might as well.

1:00 p.m. Go to grocery store #2. No flour! (But that’s OK, remember, because my prescient (he asked me to add “and handsome”) husband had already bought me a bag of flour). Find instant yeast!! Find cornmeal!! Happy dance in aisle. Buy a few more things, just because, to celebrate.

2:00-5:00 p.m. Zoom calls for the rest of the day.

5:00 p.m. Mix three ingredients together, plus water (flour, salt, yeast).

THE NEXT DAY

10:00 a.m. After morning Zoom calls, flip the bread over once or twice. Let it rise.

11:30 a.m. Preheat oven.

12:00 p.m. Put bread in the oven. Delight in heavenly bread smells, the kind that realtors will pay top dollar for when holding open houses.

1:00 p.m. Discover I am a breadmaking natural genius talent baker!!

2:00 p.m. Eat an enormous warm slice with butter, jam, along with my afternoon tea. Break into song to the annoyance of family, “Tea with jam and bread! Jam and bread! Jam! And! Bread!”

Anyway. I posted my photos on Facebook and Instagram and the comments were, “Recipe, please?”

So, here you go people. You can do it!

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon granular yeast
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

1. Cornmeal for sprinkling. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water till the mixture is blended. The dough will be loose and wet. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature 12 to 19 hours – the longer the better.

2. Flour a work surface and turnout the dough on it. Flour your hands and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. Turn the dough over on itself a couple times and then let it rest 15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball using as little flour as possible. The dough will seem somewhat fluid but it will form a ball. (It’s tempting to use a lot of flour here but don’t. The dough should stay moist.)

3. Place the dough seam-side down on a smooth-surfaced towel sprinkled with cornmeal. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour or cornmeal, then cover it. Let the dough rise till doubled (about 2 or 3 hours).

4. At least a half hour before the dough has finished rising, place a Dutch oven with a lid in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully turn over the dough and place it in the Dutch oven. Then shake the pot to distribute the dough evenly. Replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

– Adapted from The New York Times

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If you need a hearty breakfast after a good workout this has become my go-to lately. It’s the perfect balance of vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and carbs.

Serve with a side of fresh fruit.

2 eggs

1/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced

1/2 cup baby spinach

1 tablespoon diced onion

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 6-inch corn tortilla

1 tablespoon shredded cheddar

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon chili powder, optional

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes, spinach, and onion stir occasionally until spinach wilts.

Gently beat eggs in a small bowl. Add salt & pepper, and chili powder.

Add to pan with sautéed veggies, stirring occasionally until cooked through.

As the eggs cook, in separate pan over medium high heat, lightly spray with cooking spray. Add corn tortilla and sprinkle with cheese.

Transfer tortilla to a plate once cheese has melted. Top with egg scramble.

Served open faced while still warm.

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First there were cookbooks, then food blogs, and then subscription meal kits. It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of home cooking through such recent trends as community supported agriculture (CSA) and farm-to-table restaurants.

Meal kits were a game changer that no one was really expecting and they may be one reason farms with CSAs are reporting a drop in memberships. Given the choice of carting home a brimming bag of locally grown cabbage (and figuring out how to use it up) or having an ice-packed, ready-to-cook meal with recipe instructions delivered to your front door – it’s hard to not to pick the latter.

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Peach glazed grilled chicken breasts with grilled peaches on the side makes for a delicious summery meal.

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Quiche2

These crustless mini quiches can be served either as an appetizer or with a simple green salad for a main meal.

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chickenskillet

Mark the scoreboard with another win for the novice stepmom! Here comes another hard-won victory at the dinner table. This is comfort food in a skillet – chicken and vegetables in a creamy gravy, topped with golden brown biscuits.

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chili

When the New Year rolls around, I notice an increase in published recipes for legumes – lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas are all popular online searches. This vegetarian chili combines three kinds of beans – red, kidney, and black – nicely into one pot.

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chixsoup

Welcome to 2017! January’s frosty nights had me hankering for a comforting bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup. Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about making a simple soup out of broth, noodles, and a few vegetables.

But now that I’m a stepmom to two fairly picky eaters, presenting a homemade meal and having it met with approval or faces that don’t look like I’m asking everyone to eat fried worms has become an achievement on par with completing a triathlon from my single days.

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