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 Corn Chowder

Many people don’t think of summer as the time to eat soup, but, some of the best soups can be made during the warmer months. Especially with the bounty of vegetables that are in-season. Just think of the amazing soups that can be made with watermelon, tomatoes and corn – all three of which have their peak season during the summer. A few years ago I made a Corn Chowder after attending a culinary event at a local Williams-Sonoma and I saw a Corn Zipper used and knew I had to have one. Well, that Corn Zipper has been sitting in a utensil drawer ever since then until last week when thinking of what to make for dinner I saw it and instantly knew what I wanted to make… Chicken Corn Chowder. Just in case you are wondering, a Corn Zipper is exactly what it sounds like, a tool that allows you to zip corn kernels right off of the cob. It’s much easier and safer than using a knife! As luck – or not so lucky depending on how you look at it – would have it I ended up making this chowder on a rainy day last week that resulted in some heavy flooding in my area so I was essentially rained-in. Hence, I took advantage of the day and also made a pesto sauce and a Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake which I will be posting about within the next day or two.

Along with corn, the other vegetables I added to the chowder were celery, carrots, onion and potatoes.

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My lovely corn once it was shucked. I lucked out with picking perfect corn just by touch because it was way too crowded in the corn area of my supermarket to shuck it there.

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Here are the chicken and vegetables prepped and ready to go. I poached the chicken thighs in chicken stock along with salt, pepper and some spices (onion powder, garlic powder and oregano) for about 40 minutes. More than likely I cooked it longer than need be but since it was in liquid it didn’t dry out or anything. I diced up the celery, a carrot and the onion and mixed it together along with a minced garlic clove. And finally I cut two potatoes leaving them in large chunks so they wouldn’t break down while cooking.

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Using a large Dutch oven I began by sautéing the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in melted butter for two minutes – this is more or less a mirepoix. A true mirepoix calls for two parts onion and one part each of carrot and celery.

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I then added in a 1/2 cup of flour and stirred the mixture to make a roux. Once the roux had browned I set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

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While the roux was cooling I combined the corn, potatoes and 3 cups of chicken stock in a pot and brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. My gauge for the cooking time was the tenderness of the potatoes. I didn’t want them to be completely cooked through, but, I wanted them pretty close to being done. I then added the chicken stock mixture to the roux – a little at a time – whisking it briskly so it wouldn’t get lumpy and then returned it to the heat and brought it to a boil.

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Once the chowder came together – it was thick – I then heated 2 cups of half-and-half in a small saucepan and added it along with the chicken to the chowder and some salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. I let it simmer for about another 15-20 minutes so the chicken could heat through and the potatoes could finish cooking. This chowder was absolutely delicious and even better the next day.

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Chicken Corn Chowder – Adapted from here

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups half-and-half

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into pieces (I poached two chicken thighs, but you could easily use a store bought cooked rotisserie chicken)

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I used 4 ears of corn)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 clove garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 potatoes, cut into chunks

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

1. If you are choosing to cook your own chicken, prepare it whichever way you like. You could use leftovers or as I did simply poach the chicken with chicken stock and spices.

2. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or a large pot) over medium heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until the roux I lightly browned and then set aside to cool to room temperature.

3. In another pot combine the corn, potatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Add this to the roux slowly, whisking it so it doesn’t lump. Return the pot to the heat and bring it to a boil. The mixture should become very thick.

4. In a small saucepan, gently heat the half-and-half; stir it into the chowder along with the cooked chicken. Add the nutmeg and the salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat so the chowder can simmer and so the potatoes can finish cooking and the chicken can heat through.

5. Enjoy!

 

 

A Slow Cooker Hit And Half Miss

The cold days of winter call for warm and hearty soups (or stews) to help keep you feeling warm and toasty to beat the winter chill. In a recent issue of Rachael Ray Magazine I came across one such soup that had the added bonus of being made in a slow cooker. A kitchen item I do enjoy using but don’t use often enough.

This stew – a Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew  – was a cinch to make and was ready in about four hours. I began by adding white beans, chopped onions, carrots & celery, garlic, bay leaves and chicken broth to my slow cooker and cooking it on high heat for three and a half hours. I then added sausage meatballs and let them cook in the soup for about twenty-five minutes. Finally, I added in the spinach for the final ten minutes.

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Final verdict… The stew was delicious. I’ll definitely be it making again. But, I think next time I’ll cook the meatballs a little before adding them to the soup.

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Since I had my slow cooker out from obscurity I figured I would finally try making a dessert in it – a Triple Chocolate Brownie recipe I came across from Martha Stewart.

To begin I whisked together my dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

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To get started on my wet ingredients I melted butter and bittersweet chocolate together.

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After giving it a few good stirs I added in sugar and eggs.

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I then folded it into the dry mixture along with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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I then poured it into my slow cooker, which I sprayed with cooking spray and lined the bottom of with parchment paper.

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I cooked it on low for four hours, the final half hour uncovered.

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After letting it cool in the insert for two hours I flipped out the brownies to sadly discover that the edges were quite burnt and definitely not edible.

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All was not lost though… After some clever cutting I was left with six, albeit irregularly shaped, brownies that were quite tasty and definitely not lacking in chocolate flavor.

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Baking in a slow cooker… definitely not my first choice for delicious desserts, but, I wouldn’t rule out trying it again, just not brownies though!

Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew

Ingredients

1 pound dried large white beans, such as great northern, rinsed and picked through

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 sprigs fresh thyme*

1 bay leaf**

Parmesan rind (optional)*

1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, shaped into 1/2-inch meatballs

1 bunch spinach, trimmed

Juice of 1/2 lemon*

Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

In a large slow cooker, stir together the beans, chicken broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and Parmesan rind, if using. Cover and cook on high heat until the beans are nearly tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Place the sausage meatballs on top of the beans. Cover; cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Stir in the spinach, then cover and let stand until the spinach wilts, 10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice; season. Serve with crusty bread.

*I omitted these ingredients when I made my soup

**I added in two bay leaves as opposed to just one

Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)

Directions

Lightly coat a 5-quart slow-cooker insert with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and lightly coat with spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Add sugar; stir to combine. Stir in eggs. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and chocolate chips and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer to slow cooker and smooth top.

Cover and cook on low, 3 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Remove insert from slow cooker and run a knife around edge to loosen brownies. Let cool completely in insert on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn out onto a work surface and cut into 14 brownies.

Lentil and Sausage Soup

Usually my idea of making soup is opening up a can of my favorite one, heating it up on the stove and then enjoying it, but since I have been cooking more I decided to give making soup from scratch a go. It’s always nice knowing exactly what you are eating as opposed to guessing what the vegetable is after it’s been masked by some thick, albeit yummy, chowder or liquid. I decided to start simple and go with a Lentil and Sausage Soup that I found on Allrecipes.

To start, I browned three links of sweet sausage over medium-high heat. I actually began by cooking the links slightly and then slicing them to finish browning them. It’s much easier to slice half cooked sausage as opposed to raw sausage.

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Next I added in one large onion, a celery stalk and a tablespoon of garlic, all chopped.

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After letting that sauté until the vegetables were tender I added in my lentils, 3 shredded carrots, water, chicken broth and diced tomatoes. I actually used diced tomatoes that were seasoned with basil, garlic and oregano which definitely added in some extra flavor.

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And finally I added in all of my spices: garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, salt & black pepper.

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After bringing the soup to a boil I then reduced the heat and let it simmer until the lentils were tender. While the directions said that it would take about 2.5 to 3 hours my soup was done in about an hour.

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It was absolutely delicious and tasted even better the following day for lunch. I doubt I will be giving up those canned soups anytime soon, but, it’s definitely nice to know that making soup from scratch isn’t all that difficult.

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Lentil and Sausage Soup

Ingredients

1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 large onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 tbsp. chopped garlic

1 16 oz. package dry lentils, rinsed

1 cup shredded carrot

8 cups water

2 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes*

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley**

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. dried basil

1 tbsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 lb. ditalini pasta (optional – I chose not to add it in)

*I used 2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic, basil & oregano

**I used 1 tsp. dried parsley

Directions

1. Place sausage in a large pot. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Add onion, celery and chopped garlic, and sauté until tender and translucent. Stir in lentils, carrot, water, chicken broth and tomatoes. Season with garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until lentils are tender.

2. Stir in pasta, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.