Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preparing for the upcoming week

Italian soup, originally uploaded by Kim De.

Bo likes to take salad for lunch in the warm months. However when the weather begins to turn, I am in the mood to make soups, and I seek out those hearty enough for his midday meal.

This season I began with a variation of Pasta e Ceci by Giada DeLaurentiis in her book Everyday Pasta.

This soup came together very quickly. My changes included adding a few more veggies, and taking out the pasta. I did this for one simple reason: I love to eat crusty bread alongside soup, so taking the pasta out keeps my waistline happy. It is full of flavor and after a tiny taste, we both agree it is a winner. I will be anxious to try it for tomorrow's lunch, as soup always tastes better the next day!

Next is a perennial favorite of mine – Cinnamon Apple Cake from Cooking Light. It first appeared in the magazine in January 2000. I made it that year, and have made it every September since. I have tried other recipes. But I continue to come back to this one due to the moistness coupled with the balance of sweet and tart. It is one of my favorite cakes and I anxious await its arrival each fall.

Pasta e Ceci (adapted from Pasta Everyday)

1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 c chopped onion
3 oz prosciutti
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
2 t dried thyme
2 t dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5 oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
½ bag frozen chopped spinach
½ t black pepper
Fresh grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion through bell pepper and sauté until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the herbs and the rest of the ingredients through the black pepper. Cover and bring to a boil then decrease the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Transfer about 1 cup of the soup to the blender, being careful not to include the bay leaf. Blend until smooth then add back to the soup pot. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 8 more minutes.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Cinnamon-Apple Cake (Adapted from Cooking Light)

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
3/4 cup (6 ounces) block-style reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups chopped peeled Rome apple (about 2 large)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, and beat at low speed until blended.

Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl; stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cake pulls away from the sides of pan. Cool cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife.

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