Bust out the sesame oil for Citrus Chopped Salad With Sesame Vinaigrette

Bust out the sesame oil for Citrus Chopped Salad With Sesame Vinaigrette

You've got to be careful with sesame oil. 

The condiment, used often in Asian cuisines, is an oil made from sesame seeds. And it's unique, and strong, and a little goes a very long way. 

It's also exactly what I needed to create an Asian-style salad dressing at home. I love making my own dressing, something I only do so often because I never have any of the storebought stuff around when I need it.

Try stuffed peppers for a quick dinner when you're having people over

Try stuffed peppers for a quick dinner when you're having people over

Let's talk about kitchen meltdowns.

We all have them. Right? I definitely do. For me, they're usually the result of not realistically planning for how long something will take to cook (that chicken is still pink inside?!), or trying to do way too much, like making four different entrees when my family comes over.

My brother and his girlfriend are vegans (and I, pretty avowedly, am not). My husband’s still on that keto diet. And then there’s just general pickiness. Cooking for everyone at once can be trying. It's like a math equation: What can I add here that will please everyone? What do I need to subtract to make the dish vegan friendly? What nondairy products can I add to my own pantry that I will actually use again?

Homemade curry powder

I often have store-bought curry powder in my pantry, because it's an easy way to get the flavors going for one of my favorite weeknight dishes.

But I’ve also made my own. Most curry powders contain coriander, turmeric and cumin, with ginger, cinnamon and cardamom sometimes added for even more depth. If you want to experiment at home, I’d start with something like this. Feel free to double the recipe and keep the leftovers in a small jar. 

Curry Powder

2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all of the following ingredients in a glass jar or leftover container, then shake well to combine. 

Tomato Soup with Cheesy Croutons is warm, simple and perfect for fall

Tomato soup is one of the easier soups to make at home. It's luscious and flavorful, but doesn't actually require a whole lot of cream or butter to taste that way. And canned tomatoes make the prep work almost nonexistent.

If you're really into soups, I recommend investing in an immersion blender, a wand-like object that goes right into your soup pot to blend up the ingredients into a smooth, spoonable texture. 

Tomato Soup with Cheesy Croutons

A large drizzle of olive oil, or butter
1 medium onion, white or yellow
2 cloves garlic, grated or very finely minced
3 whole carrots, peeled
Salt and pepper, as needed
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans tomatoes, preferably whole
32 ounces chicken broth (or veggie broth)
Water, as needed
1/3 cup heavy cream
Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, garlic and carrots. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until carrots are starting to soften. 

Add tomato paste and stir well, then cook for 2 more minutes so the paste can cook a bit. Add canned tomatoes and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil. Add about 1/2 cup water, then stir. If soup is still very thick, add 1/2 cup more water, or enough until you reach the consistency you like. Reduce to simmer and let cook for 20 to 25 minutes with a lid on the pot. 

If you have an immersion blender, stick it in after 20 minutes and blend up the soup. Stir in heavy cream and turn heat off but allow pot to remain on the burner.

If you don't have an immersion blender, remove soup from burner and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. Pour in a regular blender (you may need to do this in batches), and blend until smooth. Pour back into pot, then stir in cream and finish out the recipe.

To make the croutons, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with olive oil or cooking spray. Scoop a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and gently place it into the skillet, forming a small mound. Repeat with remaining Parmesan. Cook for about a minute, then flip and cook on the other side, repeating until Parmesan is crispy, like a crouton. 

Serve soup with croutons and basil on top.