Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Perfect Fall Meal

I have also started having dinner dates with my friend Sarah.  We wanted to make something weather appropriate, so soup seemed like a perfect choice.  She mentioned that she likes Panera's Broccoli and Cheddar soup, so our plan was to try to recreate that.  For dessert, we wanted to use the apples we had just picked from Carter Mountain Orchard.  One of my friends recently made a pumpkin cheesecake that I can't stop thinking about, so we decided to make a cheesecake with apples, but in a bar form.  Like with my dinner date with Jess, we had to make the dessert before making the dinner, since cheesecake needs to be chilled before enjoying.
This dinner was delicious.  We made a TON of soup.  We actually had some concerns halfway through that everything might not fit into her 6 quart soup pot.  Don't worry, we made it all fit :)
We noticed that the soup actually had more of an onion taste than a cheese taste.  I think that next time, I might cook the onions separately.  They were in the soup base the entire time, so it makes sense that it transferred a lot of flavor to it.  I think I would be afraid to add much more cheese - it already had a ton in it!

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (for an army)
1/2 cup butter
1 medium-large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
3 cups reduced sodium vegetable stock
24 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (we used a combination of yellow and white)
2 medium-large carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1/2-1 inch cubes
2 bunches of broccoli, florets cut up
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom

In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the flour, and stir well to incorporate.  Cook for a few minutes, then slowly add the milk while stirring.  Once incorporated, add the vegetable stock.  Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add in the cheese, stirring until melted.

While making the base, cook all of the vegetables.  You can either do this in separate pots, or use one pot at a time.  The potatoes and carrots will take the longest time - cook in boiling water until fork tender.  The broccoli will only take a few minutes, remove from water when bright green and crisp-tender.

When the cheese has melted, add in the potatoes, mashing them slightly to thicken the soup.  Then add in the carrots and broccoli.

Using an immersion blender, blend to desired consistency.  Add s&p to taste.
I love the green and orange flecks from the blended veggies!

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 packages room temp cream cheese (we used 2 packages 1/3 less fat, and 1 package regular)
3 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F.
For the crust: Mix the flour, graham crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives.  Use your fingers to mix together until large clumps form.  Pour in a 9x13 pan and press down to uniform thickness.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just barely starting to brown.  Let cool.

For the filling: While the crust is cooling, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat.  Then stir in the cinnamon and vanilla until well combined.

For apples: Mix together the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until the apples are coated.
Pour ~1/3-1/2 of the filling on the (slightly cooled) crust, spread to cover crust.  Spread out the apple slices on top, then pour the rest of the filling over the apples.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the filling is set and lightly browned.  If starting to brown too early, cover with tented foil.

Cool until warm, and then cool the rest of the way in the fridge.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

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