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February favorites: Soups and treats

Feb 1st, 2019 | Category: Cooking

by Melissa Stewart

The crockpot and soup pots are out in full force this time of year. These warm, hearty meals are fulfilling and nourishing.

The mushroom soup and tortellini sausage are two of our favorite recipes, and pair perfectly with a salad and crusty bread. The dinners are easy enough to prepare, and the leftovers can be warmed for another time.

I love winter baking, and sweets and treats are regular  fun in our home. While I still feel kind of full from the Christmas cookies well over a month ago, I do make a lot of chocolates and little cookies this month and share them with friends and family. The main difference between the holiday treats and February sweets is I try to make some (not all) healthier. Thus, the beans.

The double chocolate bean brownie and bean blondies recipes are still sweet, and pack a protein punch. Using beans does alter the texture and taste; it is noticeably heavier and healthier. However, the beans do make for a delicious little treat, and the use of real chocolate in the recipe will help any recipients who are hesitant of the beans. I usually use great northern white beans, however cannellini will work as well. When cooking with kids, especially, they enjoy seeing beans in a brownie recipe. Don’t be surprised if they start singing, “Beans, beans, good for your heart…” I think it just comes with the recipes.

Rolled oats (pulsed) are used in the bean blondies, which acts as a flour. You can also use oat flour.

The peanut butter chocolate pretzel nuggets are delicious little bites and fun to make. If you don’t want the pretzel coating, sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

The creamy coconut bread pudding is a delicious ending to a cold night or for a special dessert. It is warm and filling, not too heavy, and the sweetened coconut flakes on top add a nice texture to the creamy tenderness. Be sure to allow enough time for the bread to harden; I generally give it a couple days. This recipe is not one of my healthier go-tos, but it definitely makes for happy hearts.


Mushroom Soup



1 onion, diced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 celery stalk, diced

2 cups assorted mushrooms

2 clove garlic

2 tablespoons flour

4 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup evaporated milk (or skim)



Put the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Next add the flour to the mushrooms and sauté for two minutes, then add the broth and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the bay leaf, salt (optional), and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the evaporated milk and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the bay leaf. Servce as chunky soup, or puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender for texture and balance.


Tortellini Sausage Soup



1 pound Italian sausage

2 yellow onions, diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

¼ cup all-purpose flour

5 cups chicken broth

14 oz cheese tortellini

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon basil

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 cups half and half

Salt, to taste



In a large stockpot set over medium-high, cook the sausage until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked sausage to a paper towel lined plate, then set aside. Add onions and carrots, sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes.

Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add in the chicken broth, whisk to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 6 minutes.

Remove as much grease as possible off of the sausage, then add it along with the tortellini, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, spinach, and half and half. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the tortellini is fully cooked.

Top with parmesan.


Creamy coconut bread pudding



1 baguette (pound)

5 eggs

12 oz cream of coconut

1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

16 oz cream cheese softened

3 oz cream of coconut

1/4 cup sugar

Coconut flakes, 7-12 oz for topping



Cube the baguette and place the small pieces in a large rimmed baking sheet 1-2 days to harden. When ready to start the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish. Combine first five ingredients (eggs, melted butter, cream of coconut, milk, and sugar) in a bowl, and mix well. Set aside. In a second mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, and cream of coconut (3oz) until soft and smooth. Place mixture into a piping bag (or a plastic bag with end trimmed). Spread half of the bread in the dish, then top evenly with cheesecake mixture. Place remaining bread over the top. Slowly pour the egg mixture all over the bread, pressing down to make sure all is even. Spread the coconut flakes over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Place foil on top and continue baking 15-20 minutes (this will keep the flakes from burning).


Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Nuggets



1 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or white sugar

1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, softened

1 cup rolled oats, finely blended

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil

1 cup crushed pretzels



Mix together the peanut butter and coconut oil in a large mixing bowl. Add in the honey, extract, and salt, and mix well. Place the oats in a food processor and pulse until finely blended. Stir the oats into the peanut butter mixture. Place the mixture into the freezer for 15-30 minutes to help firm. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, spoon and collect peanut butter mixture and roll into a ball. Fill the baking sheet with rolled balls and place back into the freezer for 15-30 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, melt chocolate using a double broiler or microwave, stirring until melted (being careful not to burn). Pull the baking sheet out of the freezer, and dip the balls into the chocolate, completely covering the peanut butter mixture. Shake off the excess chocolate then roll in the crushed pretzels. Place each dipped ball on the parchment , then return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge.


Double chocolate bean brownies



1 can white beans pre-cooked, rinsed (northern or cannellini)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup chocolate chips

3 tablespoons almond butter or butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon sea salt



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except 2 tablespoons chocolate chips in a food processor or blender. Process until batter is smooth. Pour batter into a parchment lined 8×8 pan evenly. Spread remaining chocolate chips over the top and gently press them into the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing.


Bean blondies



1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (15.5 oz)

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional) or melted chocoatle for drizzling



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray. In a food processor, or blender, mix all ingredients until smooth. If using chips, mix into batter.

Place batter in prepared pan and bake 25 minutes until lightly golden.

Let cool completely before using melted chocolate for drizzling. Cut and enjoy.

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