Fall/Winter

Tortilla Soup with Sliced Avocado

IMG_0378 Fresh avocados are the perfect addition to brighten up this warming tortilla soup. The creamy avocado flesh contrasts the crisp, baked tortilla strips, and the cool avocado balances the heat from the chilies. This soup is one of my fall favorites and the avocado livens it up!

Growing up, this green super-fruit was not in my family’s produce rotation. When I moved to Los Angeles for college, I was constantly confronted with all things avocado—from guacamole to California rolls. My love for avocados flourished during my tenure in Los Angeles. I even developed one of my favorite go-to dishes: sliced avocado with a sprinkle of creole seasoning, drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon juice.

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Avocado trees can't tolerate freezing temperatures, so avocados are not as readily available in NYC as they are in southern California. But when they are in abundance, I partake.

Sliced avocado complements the southwest flavors in this tortilla soup, so it's time to get cooking!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for tortilla strips 1 medium onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 chipotle chili en adobo sauce, finely chopped 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 teaspoons salt 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 1 cup corn kernels 1 small tomato, diced 2 medium avocados 2 limes 4 flour tortillas (OK to substitute with tortilla chips) 2 medium avocados 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Optional Garnishes: Cheddar cheese sour cream

Method

To prepare the baked tortilla strips, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (alternatively, you can use tortilla chips).  Stack 4 small flour tortillas and cut them crosswise into ½ inch strips. Place tortilla strips in a rimmed baking sheet. Toss them with enough olive oil to lightly coat them, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a single layer for 5 minutes. Turn the strips over and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. (Be careful not to burn them--like I did the first time I made them!) Set the tortilla strips aside while you prepare the rest of the soup.

To prepare the soup, heat the two tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic and chipotle chili and saute in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the chili powder and salt. Cook an additional three minutes. Add the chicken broth and increase the temperature to high to bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook for five more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Stir in the cooked, shredded chicken (if using), diced tomato and chopped cilantro. Squeeze in lime juice from the two limes and stir.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with baked tortilla strips (or chips), sliced avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

img_0036 Leaves changing colors, colorful gourds and sweaters all remind me that it's finally fall. This colder weather has me craving warm drinks. I'm not the biggest coffee person, but I'm a huge pumpkin person. So I decided to make a homemade pumpkin spice latte to see what all the rage is about!

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I love baking and cooking with pumpkins,  butternut squash, acorn squash & sweet potatoes. Canned pumpkin works great in making the latte part of this drink. I added pumpkin purée to a saucepan over low heat. I stirred in cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg. I then added coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. And voila, that's the "pumpkin spice latte" part that can be added to espresso or just strong coffee. I then added a dollop of whipped cream and garnished it with a cinnamon stick and freshly-grated nutmeg.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups espresso or strong coffee (warm)
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk or whole milk
  • Whipped cream
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Prepare espresso or coffee and keep warm.
  2. Add the pumpkin purée, cinnamon and nutmeg to a small pot over low heat. Stir for about one minute. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir for another minute. Stir in the milk and increase the heat to medium. Heat until the milk just starts to simmer.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk or blend until the mixture becomes frothy (I used a hand mixer).
  4. Pour one cup of espresso or coffee into each latte or cappuccino cup. Divide the pumpkin-milk mixture evenly between the two cups.
  5. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cinnamon stick. Serve immediately.

This recipe was adapted from half baked harvest.

 

Pumpkin White Chocolate Mousse Pie with Gingersnap Cookie Crust

  pumpkin white chocolate mousse pie with gingersnap crust

I have decided to celebrate the 25 days leading up to Christmas by blogging about a different holiday delight each day for the next 25 days.  Over Thanksgiving, I had a number of people ask for tips on easy holiday dishes, so I'm going to label each dish over the next days as either "Piece of Cake" (fairly simple) or "Impressive challenge" (multiple complex steps).  I've decided to start these 25 days off with a bang--a sophisticated twist on the classic pumpkin pie that finds its way to so many of our dinner tables around the holidays.

Day 1- Pumpkin White Chocolate Mousse Pie

Difficulty: Impressive Challenge

This pumpkin pie has the airy and custardy texture of mousse and is sweetened with white chocolate. The crust is made from pulverized gingersnap cookies and melted butter, and the hard crunch of the cookie crust provides the perfect balance to the light and airy pumpkin mousse custard.

gingersnap cookie crust

Fold in the whipping cream to the prepared melted white chocolate-pumpkim mixture.

Dollop the mousse onto the gingersnap cookie crust.

The mousse will set when refrigerated. Then, the pie is ready to be served!

Ready to enjoy!

Pumpkin White Chocolate Mousse Pie with Gingersnap Cookie Crust
Author: Vallery
This was inspired by an F&W article sharing the recipe from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco.
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CRUST
  • 6 ounces gingersnap cookies, pulverized
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • FOR THE FILLING
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 3 1/2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (the finer its chopped, the more easily it will melt!)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare the pie crust. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, pulse the gingersnap cookies until finely ground; transfer to a bowl. Add the melted butter and use your hands to combine. Press the crust over the bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until set. Transfer to a rack and cool.
  2. Prepare the filling. Place 1/3 cup of water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Place the finely-chopped white chocolate in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar.
  5. In 
a small saucepan, simmer 3/4 cup of the heavy cream with the bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla for 1 minute. Discard the bay leaf. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the heavy cream mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk in the gelatin mixture. Immediately pour the hot egg mixture over the white chocolate; let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until all of the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and salt until incorporated. Refrigerate the mixture until it is cold, about 1 hour.
  6. Once the mixture is cold, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form; gently fold into the pumpkin filling until incorporated.Dollop the filling into the baked crust and spread in an even layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.