Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

The temperatures have begun to drop and it’s the perfect excuse to make warm and hearty soups, albeit I made this soup last week on a rainy day, which as we all know is also a perfect day for soup. I’ve actually made this soup a few times before after coming across it on a fellow blogger’s blog last year, but, this was the first time that I made the soup by roasting a whole butternut squash as opposed to the prepackaged chopped ones you sometimes see in the produce area and as crazy as it sounds, it made such a difference in the flavor.

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Luckily the butternut squash wasn’t as difficult to slice as the pumpkins were for the homemade puree I made. Granted the two slices weren’t perfectly equal but they were close enough. After I sliced them I cleaned out all of the pulp and seeds and placed the two halves on a baking sheet and drizzled them with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. I roasted them in a 425 F preheated oven for just shy of an hour, until they were fork tender.

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Along with the butternut squash I also roasted a large sweet potato which I peeled and cubed, the roasting time for the potato was considerably less, about 20 minutes. Once the butternut squashed cooled I removed the peel and chopped it into cubes as well. Of course I couldn’t help but trying a piece and it was absolutely delish. Roasting vegetables really brings out their inner sweetness.

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I then gathered all of the ingredients I needed for the soup along with the squash and sweet potato; 2 diced onions, minced ginger, coconut milk and vegetable stock.

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Now on to making the actual soup… I began by sautéing the onion and ginger until the onions were translucent. I then added in the cubed squash and sweet potato and finally the vegetable stock. Once I brought it to a boil over medium heat I reduced the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes.

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And finally using a handheld blender (immersion blender) I pureed the soup until it was smooth and then stirred in the coconut milk.

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I cannot say enough good things about this soup… There is sweetness from roasting the squash and the sweet potato and a hint of ginger that makes this soup so delicious. Another plus, it’s great for many who follow different types of diets… Its vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and all around healthy. Even those of you who are not keen on veggies will find this soup tasty!

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Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup – adapted from here

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash sliced in half and pulp and seeds removed

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 medium-sized onions, peeled and diced

2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

4 cups vegetable stock

3/4 cup coconut milk

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Drizzle olive oil over squash and sweet potato; add a pinch of salt and pepper. Place squash cut side down onto a baking sheet. On another baking sheet lay out the sweet potatoes. Cook the sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Cook the squash for about 50 minutes, once again until fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

3. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

4. Remove the peel from the squash and roughly cut it into large cubes and add it to the pot with the onions and ginger along with the sweet potato.

5. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, making sure the squash is tender.

6. Using a handheld blender, puree the soup. Add the coconut milk and stir.

 

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

You ever have something so delicious at someone else’s house that you can’t wait to make it yourself? That’s what happened to me this week. Over the weekend I had Chicken Spaghetti casserole at a friend’s house and instantly knew I had to make it myself. So, when I had some leftover chicken from dinner the other night I knew exactly what I would be using it for.

First up I got all of my ingredients prepped and together: 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup of diced green and red bell peppers, two cooked chicken thighs shredded, half an onion diced, a can of cream of mushroom soup and spaghetti (I used only half of this one pound box). I should note that my measurements versus the original recipe are different since I opted to halve my version.

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After cooking the spaghetti – I broke it into thirds prior to adding it to the boiling water- I mixed it with all of the ingredients minus 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Prior to draining the spaghetti I reserved about 2 cups of the water from which I added about a cup to the mixture so it wouldn’t be too dry.

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I then poured the mixture into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish and topped it with the remaining shredded cheese

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And finally after baking it for 30 minutes in a 350F pre-heated oven it was ready and just as delicious as the first time I had it!

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The original recipe…

Chicken Spaghetti

Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond

Total Time: 1 hr. 40 min

Prep: 20 min

Cook: 1 hr. 20 min

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

1 whole raw chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 pound thin spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces

2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar

1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Two 10 3/4-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup

1 medium onion, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken pieces to the boiling water and boil for a few minutes, and then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken and 2 cups of the chicken cooking broth from the pot. When the chicken is cool, remove the skin and pick out the meat (a mix of dark and white) to make 2 generous cups. Discard the bones and skin.

Cook the spaghetti in the chicken cooking broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When the spaghetti is cooked, combine with the chicken, 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the green peppers, red peppers, seasoned salt, cayenne, soup and onions, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved chicken cooking broth, adding an additional cup if needed.

Place the mixture in a 9- by 13-inch casserole pan and top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake immediately until bubbly, about 45 minutes. (If the cheese on top starts to get too dark, cover with foil.)

Chicken Cacciatore

I am the first to admit that I much rather bake than cook – I like the exact science of baking as opposed to the freedom of cooking, well freedom to some extent. I always get paranoid while I am cooking that I added too much salt or not enough salt or for that matter too much or too little of any spice. But lately I have been cooking pretty much every day – It’s not like I wasn’t eating before, just someone else was doing the cooking – and I must admit I am not as intimated by it as I was before. I mean I’m really good at reading directions and following a recipe so cooking shouldn’t have been that daunting to me, but for some reason it was. Since I have this newfound semi-confidence and it sort of fits into the theme of my blog I have decided to post about some of my culinary creations – albeit not completely original. Up first, a Chicken Cacciatore that was super simple to make in part because I used McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations to make it. If you haven’t tried these or seen them in the supermarket they are definitely worth the search and try. All of the spices for your recipe are pre-measured and the remaining ingredients you will need are clearly marked and the directions are super simple to follow. It’s sort of like cheating but not really.

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First step was to get all of my vegetables prepped. I chopped one onion and sliced a green bell pepper into strips. The recipe also called for thinly sliced mushrooms which are easily found at any supermarket.

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Next I prepped my chicken breast by first cutting it into cubes (they are not exactly cubes), then coating it with a flour, salt & pepper mixture and finally browning it.

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After removing the chicken from the skillet I put in all of the vegetables cooking them on medium heat until they were tender.

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Once the vegetables were tender I added in all of the spices (minced garlic, marjoram leaves, oregano leaves, crushed rosemary leaves and thyme), a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce.

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After bringing it to a boil I returned my chicken to the skillet.

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I cooked it until it was heated through and until I was sure the chicken was fully cooked.

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It went perfectly with rice and while I am sure I will make this again I think I will use less thyme than suggested. Its one spice that when dried has a stronger flavor than when fresh.

Chicken Cacciatore

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Servings: 6

Ingredients

1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. marjoram leaves

1/2 tsp. oregano leaves

1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp. thyme leaves

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 pkg. (8oz.) mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips (1 cup)

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

Directions

1. Mix flour, salt and pepper in shall dish. Coat chicken evenly with flour mixture.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from skillet. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in skillet. Add mushrooms, onions and bell peppers; cook and stir 5 minutes on medium heat or until tender.

3. Stir in remaining ingredients and spices. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Serve over cooked or rise, if desired.