For me, this soup is pure comfort food...on a cold winter's afternoon there is nothing better then cuddling up in a chair with a blanket, a book and a bowl of this soup.

This soup is basic, easy and delicious! If you love cauliflower, you will love this soup. I can't believe I am the only one who enjoys cauliflower in my house.

For a fun garnish add frico to the soup...I have the recipe for making frico here if you want to try it. Make it just like I did except let it dry flat instead of molding it into a cup.

Silky Cauliflower Soup
Adapted from Dave Lieberman
Serves 4-6

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives, for garnish

Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender* and return it to the pot. Add the Parmesan

and stir until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

* Note: be careful if you use a blender to puree. Fill the blender with a small amount and puree many batches. The soup and the steam will be extremely hot. I have burned myself many times with this method...the reason I invested in an immersion blender.




This focaccia was so good half of it was gone before I could snap a picture!

Focaccia Bread
Adapted from Tyler Florence

2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise over a gas pilot light on the stovetop or other warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, coat a small saute pan with olive oil, add the onion, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the onions caramelize. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips.

Brush the surface with more olive oil and then add caramelized onions, garlic, olives, cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

One of the joys The only joy of being woken up early every morning by my little boy is seeing the sunrise with him.




We are having our first official blizzard with a wind chill temperature tonight reaching 31 below 0. Yes, that is correct, negative. I am so happy that we will have a white Christmas but this is just is too cold! We have been trapped inside for the day so hopefully tomorrow *fingers crossed* will warm up a little because I know what's on the agenda, I heard my daughter on her way to her bedroom, "snow angels, sledding, snowball fights...". I would prefer hot chocolate, bubble baths and reading but I guess that would mean I was on vacation!

This weather has kept me on my coconut kick and wanting something with a little heat. This was perfect and delicious!

Brazilian Shrimp Stew
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2002
Serves 4-6

1 1/4 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon dendê (palm) oil*
Accompaniment: cooked rice, quinoa

Note: I eliminated the dende oil and green pepper, substituted 1 Tablespoon of dried cilantro for the fresh and used only 1/4 teaspoon cayenne...and I thought it was perfect!

Toss shrimp with black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lemon juice and marinate, covered and chilled, 20 minutes.

Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender until smooth.

Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato purée and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil,

then add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in dendê oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Next to my kitchen door I keep a 50 pound bag of bird seed that I go through in about 1 month. Every morning I fill up the bird feeder and leave a pile of seed on the ground for the rabbits. I love being in my kitchen and watching all the animals that visit...pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and all kinds of little birds. Today with the weather so awful, I was surprised they were all out. I felt so bad for the rabbits...I think they temporarily lost their burrows with all the snow. Luckily there is a wall that somewhat protects the feeding area. These little birds were blowing away in the wind.



This time of year always has me longing for Hawaii. When I think of Hawaii...coconut comes to always brings me back.

These days it would not be unlikely to see me out with my husband on a cold winters night....he enjoying a glass of Pinot and me sipping on a pina colada. It is the simple pleasures in life that make living so fun. Since I try to refrain from drinking a pina colada for breakfast I found this recipe for coconut pancakes to get my fix.

These are delicious! And the toasted coconut will make your house smell awesome!

Coconut Pancakes
Adapted slightly from firstlookthencook
Serves 4

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg

sweetened coconut flakes

Coconut Syrup:
light coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle sweetened coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring often until toasted.

Whisk together coconut milk, canola oil and 1 egg. Combine with dry ingredients and just barely mix until there are no lumps.
Use an electric griddle and heat to 375 degrees. If you don't have a griddle heat a non-stick pan on medium-low. Cover with a little melted butter or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the pan. This will make a 6-inch pancake. Cook until there are bubbles on the top of the pancake,

then flip to other side and cook until done. My first pancake is usually the sacrifice pancake that I end up eating because it is the one where I can gage the right heat for the following pancakes.

Make the coconut syrup:
Mix equal parts honey and coconut milk for the syrup.

Serve warm pancakes, topped with syrup and toasted coconut.

Note: Pancakes freeze great! I store simply store leftover pancakes in a plastic bag in the freezer for future use.




I make these cookies every year at Christmas; they are my husband's all-time favorite. It always amazes me how I will spend hours upon hours decorating them and he spends minutes eating them! Another thing I love about this recipe is I get to use some of my Grandma's old cookie cutters. She was amazing in the kitchen and every time I pull them out I think about her and how much I wish I could still bake with her. My favorite cookie cutters from her are the hen and the skinny Christmas tree.

Christmas Sugar Cookies
Makes 3 dozen medium size cutout cookies

Cookie Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

powdered sugar
almond extract (almond is the best but vanilla or lemon work too)
heavy whipping cream

Make Dough:
Cream butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and almond. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture on low stirring seed, alternating with the heavy whipping cream, about 3 times. Divide the dough into two balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. (I am honestly too impatient for that and I usually throw the wrapped dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until it is chilled.)

Roll out and Bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Flour a smooth surface and roll out the dough to desired thickness. They will rise a little when baked but not much. I usually roll about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Bake for about 8 minutes for a medium size cutout. Transfer to a cooling rack and decorate when cooled.

Make Frosting:
The measurements are always different. I usually start with 1/2 bag powdered sugar and add about 7 Tablespoons of heavy cream and 1 Tablespoon of almond extract and whisk until desired thickness is achieved. Add more cream if it is too thick or add more sugar if it is too thin. Add food coloring if desired. Frost cookies and my house that means a lot of sprinkles and red hots.



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