Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baked Butternut Squash Soup, rough draft

This soup evolves every time I make it. “Fall in a bowl,” Todd called this incarnation. Here’s what I did yesterday.

1 butternut squash, stem end removed, cut in ½ lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1 small sweet red onion, peeled and 4th-ed or 8th-ed (decent-sized chunks), with 4 or 5 thin slices off one section
1 head of garlic
Bay leaves
Canola or extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper
Poultry seasoning
Cayenne powder (Grandma Boyd’s “secret ingredient”)
1 box of chicken or vegetable stock
1 can evaporated milk

Set oven to 375F or 400F. Place squash halves, cut-side up, on a lightly oiled cookie sheet with an edge or in baking dish. Remove paper from 3 garlic cloves and slice one it in half. Rub all cut sides of squash with the cut side a ½ clove and toss one into each “bowl” where the seeds were along a whole clove. Trim the “attachment” end off the remaining garlic cloves. Add a bay leaf and divide the onion slices between each “bowl” so there are 1 ½ garlic cloves, several small bits of onion, and a bay leave in each. Drizzle each half with oil and massage over entire surface with a little extra oil in the bowl, tossing the contents with the oil. Heap the chunked onions and the unpeeled garlic cloves between the squash halves, drizzle and toss with a little oil, also. Sprinkle everything fairly generously with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Bake for 45 min to an hour. Your house will smell incredible. Cool to a “touchable” temp. Don’t worry if it’s not completely fall-apart tender.

Spoon the squash into a large pot, taking care to get all the “bowl” goodness and any browned, caramelized bits in. It was actually easier to just dump the squash upside down into the pot and peel the skin off along with any tough strings. Squeeze/peel the roasted garlic cloves in with the squash and add the roasted onions. If the outermost onion layer is totally burned to a crisp you can leave that out, but I did throw in the burnt but slightly moist ones. Add a box of stock, a little more cumin and paprika (at least another tsp of cumin and ½ tsp of paprika), 1-2 tsp poultry seasoning, 2-3 dashes of cayenne powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a pretty rapid simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or however long until all the veggies are soft and the squash is really breaking down. Remove from heat.

Puree with a stick blender until smooth, or in a blender in batches and return to pot (remember to vent the blender lid to avoid hot explosions!) I forgot to remove the bay leaves before pureeing and it was fine. Stir in a can of evaporated (NOT sweetened condensed) milk and return to heat until the soup almost simmers, stirring frequently. Adjust consistency with either more broth or evaporated milk and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Serve it up and enjoy. I skipped a garnish, but a dash of paprika on each serving would have been really pretty.

VARIATIONS/SUGGESTIONS: Any type of winter squash can be used or combination thereof. Also can add in sweet potatoes or carrots or other root veg. Really can’t go wrong with this. Sage is also delicious, I just didn’t think of it in time and this version certainly wasn’t lacking. I use evap milk instead of cream for the increased calcium and reduced saturated fat and I have never gotten any complaints. Also, the soup can be made to various points, refrigerated, and finished up later for a quick meal or for entertaining (definitely company-worthy). It's very forgiving and also rewarms quite nicely. Green salad, crusty bread and a little mulled cider and you've got an awesome autumn meal!!

Pumpkin Butter, rough draft

Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes @

2 15 oz cans pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
a couple inches of vanilla bean
¾ c apple cider
1 c packed brown sugar
2-3 cinnamon sticks (depending on size)
1-2 t pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

Stir all ingredients together in a pot with a lid. Simmer covered on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for a couple hours until it’s the texture you’d like. I used vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract because it tolerates long, slow heat much better. If you’d like to use vanilla extract I’d add it closer to the end.

USES: awesome on peanut butter toast. Plan to use it as an apple/fruit dip, swirl with cream cheese into brownies before baking, dollop on a cheesecake, spread between yellow cake layers then frost with burnt butter icing, stir into coffee with a little hot milk, spoon onto vanilla ice cream…..

NEXT TIME: I am going to double the recipe but not quite double the sugar, use 4-5 cinnamon sticks, slice open the vanilla bean and make sure the innards disperse and cook it overnight in the crockpot on LOW. Those cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean are too good to toss so I think I’ll rinse off the “butter” and freeze them for the next time I mull cider or anything else ;-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lentil and Spinach Patties

I found a version of this recipe online yesterday then created my own take on that version. Cooking anything then actually eating it is a feat in itself these days thanks to 1st trimester nausea, but I managed both with this yummy little patty.These would probably be fine with a little garlic added, too. I cannot even look at garlic lately, but knock yourself out. This is just what we did and it really lacked nothing. Adapted from Vegalicious, once removed.

10 oz spinach, blanched and chopped (frozen worked great)
2 c brown lentils, cooked soft, drained as you spoon them into the measuring cup (Easy Lentils recipe follows)
3 T bread crumbs, seasoned or not
3-4 t cumin
A couple squeezes lemon juice
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T+ olive oil

Thaw spinach if frozen and squeeze out most of the moisture. Spoon 1/2 the spinach and 1/2 the lentils into a food processor or blender; process until pretty finely minced. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, cumin and egg (I might use 2 next time); mix well. Add the rest of the lentils and spinach to this mixture. Squirt a little lemon onto the spinach, toss in a little salt and pepper as desired then stir to incorporate thoroughly but gently in order to preserve the shape of the whole lentils. Press the mixture together lightly to encourage stickage and put bowl in fridge for about 30 minutes.

Heat a little olive oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Add heaping tablespoons of patty mixture, about 4 at a time depending on pan size. (Too big a patty and they'll just fall apart--you might as well just scramble the whole mix and have lentil hash! Hey, that's not a bad idea...) Shape as needed with spatula, let them brown nicely, then slip them over gently and brown the other side. You may have to add a little oil after the flip. Transfer to an ovensafe plate in warm/170F-ish oven while frying remaining patties. We ate ours with Spanish rice, fresh cherry tomatoes and mixed vegetables. The kids liked theirs with ketchup; also very tasty with hot sauce, salsa... You get the picture. I'm thinking I'll make a sandwich out of the very few remainders.

Easy Lentils
Pick over and rinse well in a collander 1 1/2 c dried brown lentils, combine in a saucepan with 3 c water. You want a good couple inches of space in pan above lentils. Add 1 1/2 T dried onion. You can of course use fresh onion; a bay leaf is also nice if you think of it and/or a little garlic if you're into that sort of thing. Note: Add no salt before cooking--it makes the skins tough. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until desired tenderness. Once lentils reach desired texture add 3/4-1 t salt and pepper to taste, and stir. This is ready to become just about anything you can think of--or just to be eaten as is. Primo with a thick slab of homemade whole wheat bread and a fresh green salad. Leftover cooked lentils freeze great for later use.

Basic ratio: 1 part lentils to 2 parts water.
General cook times: 10-15 min. for salads (firmer texture); 30 or more min. for patties, soups, etc. Use your judgment. I trust you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Caramelicious Pumpkin Spice Fruit Dip

Impulse buying often leads me to a new recipe. Case in point: this recipe. Last fall JELLO offered Pumpkin Spice pudding mix. It was lacking on its own (big surprise) but here's where it lead. This stuff is delightfully dangerous in the comfort-food way.

1 pkg Pumpkin Spice pudding mix
1/2 c milk, plus a little
1 block Neufchatel or cream cheese at room temp
2 oz or 1 tub-ette (individual serving container) caramel fruit dip
1/4 c eggnog (optional but naughty-good, even to those who don't like 'nog)

Stir pudding mix and 1/2 cup milk together until dissolved, then add in the cream cheese, hand mixer on low to medium speed, until very smooth. This will be thick. Thin (but don't over-thin) with up to 1/4 cup additional milk or eggnog. I used Pumpkin Spice eggnog (another impulse buy) which was actually only good in this dip. Mix in the caramel and again adjust to "fruit dip" consistency. This is awesome with sliced apples. Also yummy as a topping for ice cream or cheesecake. Or just a spoon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

...until it smells right.

Here are a few items I could add to each recipe post, so I'll just put them here and you may refer to them as needed.
  • I make up words--verbs, descriptors, you name it. I'm neither a professional nor a purist; I'm just fortunate enough to have the skills I need to create the recipes I see/taste in my head. Translating what I do into words isn't exactly intuitive always. If you can't tell what the schnikes I'm talking about, you're probably not alone! Ask me and I'll try to clarify. Also, I often adapt several recipes into one and I'll give credit where it's due.
  • Keep things as green as possible. I'm not going to list that every ingredient be locally grown, organic, free range, pesticide and hormone free, etc., but this can certainly be implied. These modes are healthier (for all considered) and cumulatively can make a difference in this world we share. Keep it real. Do what you can; something is better than nothing.
  • "Or so." Mentally add this after each ingredient amount. Again, translating what looks right or smells right (my primary methodology) into words and amounts is a challenge! These dishes are more a process than a static event. Yesterday I needed this much basil, today I need more. Or so.
  • Enjoy. Seriously. Food is sustenance, certainly; it's also an opportunity for time to yourself while you make it and time for others while you share it. Dare I say 'balance'? Make it your personal koan, your meditation, your creative outlet if you need one. Enjoy the process. Cooking with others--friends, lovers, your mother and grandmother, children, whomever--can be a bonding experience too. Not overrated. Consciously setting aside a little time to prepare something "real" sends a positive message to yourself and those you feed.
I'll also start trying to add pictures here and there. How food looks is (almost) as big a deal to me as how it tastes and the health quotient. If it doesn't look good or taste good, who's going to eat it, right?! Also, these dishes tend to score pretty well on the kid-friendly meter which is a large consideration in my kitchen.

Okay, that's enough of what my son E would call the "lip flapping." Less flapping, more cooking!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mushroomy Saucy Chicken

Feeds 2-4 (depending on the appetites).
This is one of those (moderately) indulgent dishes which could be "healthed" up a little, but sure is tasty this way. Definitely 'date night' worthy....

1 lb chicken tenders
Seasoned salt
2-4 T olive oil
2-4 shallots, rough chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, smaller rough chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms (button, baby bella, whatever), sliced
1-2 T butter
about 1 cup chicken broth (plus a little)
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2
1 t cornstarch
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

Season tenders lightly with seasoned salt (trust me on this) and fresh ground pepper. Brown in skillet with olive oil over medium-highish heat, turning to brown all sides. Remove to an oven-safe plate in a warm (200F) oven.

Add sliced mushrooms and butter to the "chicken" pan and saute for a few minutes until they just start to give off some juices, stirring frequently. Add shallots, cooking for 2-3 more minutes. Repeat with garlic for about 30 seconds to 1 minute--you don't want to burn the garlic. Add chicken broth (a little white wine is also good here if you have it--altogether should equal just a teensy bit more than 1 cup of liquid) and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan and reduce the sauce by about 1/4. This may take up to 5 minutes, give or take. I wasn't looking at the clock.

Stir in 1/2 & 1/2. "Bubble" (more than a simmer, less than a boil) and reduce 3-5 minutes until sauce coats the back of a spoon but isn't really thickened; whisk frequently. Stir 1t cornstarch into 1-2T room temp chicken broth in a small bowl. Whisk into sauce. Bring to a bubble again; sauce will be velvety. Turn heat to medium low (sauce will still simmer) and add chicken from oven plus juices. Whisk juices into sauce, stir together with chicken. Taste and correct with salt and pepper if necessary--do this after adding the chicken and juices as the salt from the seasoning will affect the overall, well, saltiness.

Stir in parsley. Remove from heat. Sprinkle lightly with paprika to garnish; serve with brown rice or pasta and steamed vegetables or salad.

White Bean and 3-Tomato Sauce

This is the winter version of one of our family's favorites dishes--simple ingredients, healthy and tastes so good. Spring-summer version? Save the herbs until the end and throw in a couple tablespoons each of chopped fresh ones (rather than dried herbs) with the fresh tomato. The sage and the white beans are soul mates. Mmmm.
feel free to add "or so" after each ingredient amount. If you like more of one thing than another, adjust to suit your individual palate.
This recipe is easily made vegan or vegetarian and is just as delicious. Try with whole grain pasta.

Saute the following in 2-4T olive oil until the veges are softened and the mixture is fragrant:
1-2 shallots, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 t rubbed sage
1-2 t dried basil
1-2 t dried oregano
A couple shakes Garlic & Herb 'Mrs. Dash'
(I generally add a bit more of each herb, "pinch-rubbing" them into the pan to release essential oils.)

Pour in and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally
1/2-1 cup dry red wine
Liquid from a14 oz can Italian-style chopped tomatoes
1-1 1/2 cups (approx 8-14 oz) chicken or vegetable broth
Or substitute all broth for the wine if desired.

Add then simmer 10 minutes or until reduced to desired consistency (stir a couple times)
14 oz can Italian-style chopped tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
More broth to reach desired consistency

Stir in and heat thru
1 large fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
1 14 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with farfalle or rotini pasta (or your other favorite shape). Good with a little grated Italian cheese, but just as good sans dairy.