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I am finally feeling settled in New York City, as we’ve been here for almost 2 months. Can’t believe it. We dearly miss our friends and our cars, the weather, etc in North Carolina; but are enjoying city life so far.

With the crisp fall air in New York, and the abundance of broccoli at the farmer’s market.. I was craving something warm, cheesy and broccoli-ly (new word!) this past week. Given this combination of events, I made a simple broccoli cheese soup for dinner on Friday. It was delicious!

Simple broccoli cheese soup
Makes 6-7 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 Large onion, chopped
3 Tb. Butter
1/8 Tsp. Salt (just a pinch or two)
1/4 Cup flour
5 Cups Milk, skim
1-2 large head(s) broccoli, chopped (you need about 4 cups)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 Tsp. Black pepper
6 oz. Extra sharp cheddar, shredded (I prefer Cabot Seriously Sharp)

1. Melt butter in a medium sized soup pot. Add onion and salt.  Cook until translucent.

2. Add flour and stir until flour cooks a bit. Then add milk, broccoli and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes or until the broccoli is fork tender.

3. Add the cheese and stir until melted. If soup too thick, add a bit of water or chicken stock to thin. I couldn’t find my trusty immersion blender (may have gotten misplaced during our move)..so I did not puree this at all. You could choose to use an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor to blend the soup to your desired texture (ranging from chunky to fully pureed); however, I was too hungry to deal with a blender in our tiny 5’x8′ kitchen.

4. Serve with your favorite crusty bread, or in a bread bowl. Enjoy!!! Keeps well in fridge for 2 days, if you can’t consume in time (and believe me.. you’ll most likely finish this off) it may freeze OK; but I haven’t been able to test this as we finished our batch off today.

I have been on a taco salad kick lately. While driving to Cleveland for the holidays, and multiple times on that trip, I wanted and then consumed taco salads. Upon my arrival in Malawi in January after 25+ hours of travel, my lovely housemates were making taco salad. We took turns cooking meals for the guest house, and when it was my turn I chose to make a taco salad spread! So when you are in Malawi, or other similar places, tortilla chips may be hard to come by. As such, tomato Fritos stood in. In addition, you may end up spending $3 on taco seasoning, which I usually would abhor using, as I’m in to making my own seasoning mixes (without MSG). You also may find a bug crawling out of your (already cleaned and dried) lettuce, making you want to wash it 5 times and with soap for two of those times. Those things of course, didn’t happen to me 🙂

In brief, I browned ground beef with the taco seasoning until cooked and served with a plethora of goodies including (avocado, tomato, cheese and green leaf lettuce) and some stand-ins such as plain yogurt for sour cream and Fritos for tortilla chips. We also had a wonderful homemade ranch dressing made with a Hidden valley ranch packet that my house-mates brought back from the US. I also concocted a wonderful salsa with tomato, red onion, jalapeno pepper and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was a wonderful meal!! Too bad my stomach was unhappy from drinking bad water or eating something that didn’t sit well (requiring a full course of antibiotics). C’est la vie.

Mwasera bwangi (Good afternoon in Chichewa, the common language in Malawi, other than English). So as some of you know I am in Malawi for work for a few weeks. The trip has been great thus far. I am staying in a guest house with surgery residents and we have dinner together every evening.  The Malawians I’ve met are very kind and generous, and are helping me learn Chichewa. It is rainy season now, so everything is lush and beautiful, and there is an abundance of produce at the markets.

As part of my trip, I am working with an amazing nutritionist Martin. We’ve hired six wonderful Malawian women to help us cook many foods for our food composition tables for the amazing study I work on at UNC Chapel Hill. Anyways, I’ve been able to watch these women cook, and learn how to make some of the traditional dishes. We’ve made so many of them. The primary dish that most Malawians regard as their staple food is nsima, which is made from corn flour (we’ve mainly made ufa mgaiwa). Most foreigners have mentioned that they don’t like nsima much and that it feels like a rock in your stomach, and I actually really like it! Next to nsima, a relish is always served. This one is pumpkin leaves and groundnuts, and we also had red beans next to it. More post  to come. Stay tuned!

nsima with beans and pumpkin greens (with groundnut flour)

nsima and cowpeas with tomato and onion relish

Life has been a bit nuts. I’m heading to Malawi next week for work, and have been traveling because of the holidays.

Anyhow, this is a pizza recipe my friend Lindsay concocted and it is fabulous. Enjoy!

FigPizza
Makes 1 pizza

Ingredients:
Pizza dough, store bought raw dough or make your own
1 cup Arugula
3 figs, sliced
1 small onion, sliced and caramelized (use a medium onion if making more than 1 pizza)
3 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced
1/2 Tsp. Basil, dried
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 or use the grill.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add onions, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and let cook until caramelized.

3. Roll out pizza dough and bake for 5 minutes or until cooked.

4. Top pizza crust with the remaining olive oil, onions, figs, mozzarella and basil. Bake in oven (about 14 min) or grill (about 10 min) until cheese is melted and crust is crispy and brown. Top cooked pizza with arugula and enjoy!!

In light of our hectic fall travel calendar, we chose to spend thanksgiving in Durham. Our dear friends Steve and Sam had us over for a magical evening. I contributed a green salad and pumpkin pie. Joey created a wonderful vegetarian Shepard’s pie, that he adapted from the Moosewood Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Lindsay made the cranberries and pear & cranberry pie. David made green beans with bacon. Steve and Sam made stuffing, turkey cooked with bacon on the skin and an English trifle. A great time was had by all. Here are some snippets of the evening, will post some of the recipes soon.

The lovely place settings.

Steve pouring champagne.

The spread.

Joey’s plate (note the bacon that topped the turkey!).

Apologizes for the delays, life has been a bit crazy lately. Lots of travel for joyous and not so joyous reasons (my beloved Grandma Charlotte passed away, she was 92 and lived a full wonderful life). I’m grateful that I was able to say goodbye with our family in Cleveland. With all of this travel and dissertating stress, as well as the cooler weather, I am back in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

A few people lately have mentioned squash macaroni and cheese lately… and today while I was at Whole Foods, I saw a can of pureed butternut squash and was craving comfort food. This was the result.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Makes many servings!

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can Pureed butternut squash, or pumpkin (or 1.5 cups pureed squash)
2 Tb Butter, unsalted
1 Onion, medium, diced
1 lb Macaroni or Cavatappi
3/4 cup Milk
8 oz Extra sharp cheddar, grated
3 Tb Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 Tb Flour
1/8 Tsp. Mustard powder, dried
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Prepare the pasta and cook to al dente.

2. In a large skillet, saute the onion in butter until translucent. Add flour and milk and stir until the sauce slightly thickens (aka making a roux). Season with mustard powder. Add can of squash, grated cheddar and Parmesan. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra Parmesan if you like. Freezes well, if you can restrain yourself from eating the whole casserole.

Note: Adding nutmeg, or using ricotta or greek yogurt might help mask the squash flavor; though using extra sharp cheddar helps too.

I think that y’all might think I’m Italian.. as lately all I’ve been cooking is pasta and greens. First, before we begin..my apologies for the delay. Life has been a bit crazy since we’ve been back from Texas–impromptu trips to the beach, planned trip to Bald Head, wedding planing/family stress related to wedding planning, etc.

We also had a lovely engagement party thrown by our friend Deepu–thanks Deeps! Anyhow, my co-worker Valerie gave us a Moosewood cookbook that inspired this recipe. For those of you who don’t know, Moosewood is an amazing restaurant that cooks mainly vegetarian in Ithaca, NY. You should go, or buy their cookbooks! Ok, here is my adaptation.. we didn’t have lemons, basil or linguini..so I improvised and made lots for eating later this week.

Zucchini Pecorino Pasta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2-3 Zuchini, cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, pressed (or four Dorot cubes from Trader Joes!)
3 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tsp dried basil
Red pepper flakes
1/2 lb Pasta– penne, lingiuni or the like
3/4 cup Pecornio, grated (about 3-4 oz)

1) Make pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to salt the water too.

2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add garlic and zucchini. When the zucchini browns add salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes.

3) When the pasta is done put into large bowl and toss with the pecorino. Top with the zucchini and serve. Add more Pecorino, especially if you are a cheese addict like me. Bon Appetit!