Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve been wanting to create my own butternut squash soup recipe all week.  I finally had the time today to work on the recipe.  The hubs and I really like it.  I hope you do, too.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds butternut squash
  • 4 tbsp butter (I use Irish butter)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for sauteing and 2 for roasting)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 large shallots
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup chardonnay
  • Blue cheese for garnish

Directions

Cut butternut squash in half length wise and remove seeds.  Peel carrot and place the squash and carrot on a heavy sheet pan and drizzle well with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and lightly dust with cumin.  Roast for 40-60 minutes at 400 degrees until fork tender. (like a baked potato)

While the squash and carrot are roasting, heat a large soup pot with 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Dice garlic and shallots, add to pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper,  saute for 2-3 minutes or until softened.  Pour in the wine and stir.  Let simmer until most of the wine has evaporated and add the 4 cups of the chicken broth.  Heat until simmering then turn the temperature to low, add brown sugar, maple syrup, 1 tsp cumin and cover.

Allow squash and carrot to cool some once they are roasted.  Remove the flesh of the squash and add all of the meat to the pot of broth.  Cut carrot into fourths and add to pot. Add the rest of the chicken broth.  Use an immersion blender to blend the soup together.  Heat to a simmer, add last 2 tbsp of butter and stir.  Serve with a little blue cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Enjoy!

This recipe yields 4 quarts.  I wanted to make more to share with friends, but it is also an easy way  to make soup ahead of time for your own family.  Just make sure to can properly and date. Here’s a great reference for canning soup.

*Vegetable broth can be exchanged for the chicken broth to make this vegetarian.

Cooking At Home With Blue Apron

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Steak & Green Peppercorn Sauce with Sauteed Kale and Baked Potatoes

I wish I could say that Blue Apron is paying me to write about them, but in truth, I just love it and wanted to share.  As many of you know, I love to cook.  It’s a passion that I indulge in as often as possible.  I love to create new recipes and work with new flavor profiles, but like many home cooks, I can easily get stuck in a cooking rut.  With meals that everyone loves already, it can be easy to just keep making the same things over and over again.  But BOOOOOOO to that.

Blue Apron is a home delivery meal system that works for me.  I didn’t want to commit to anything, but when I read their policies, I was sold.  You can quit whenever you want to and skip week after week if you feel like it, too.  My subscription is for 3 meals per week for a family of two.  A box arrives on my doorstep on Wednesday morning with everything I need to make 3 meals for my family.  There’s usually at least one ingredient each week that is new to me and there’s often ingredients that are not my favorites, but they’ve taught me how to prepare them so I now love them.  My best reference to this is the week I received turnips.  I literally cried when my mom would serve these to me growing up, so as an adult, I never gave them another chance…until Blue Apron.  I made baked turnip matchsticks one week and I was sold.  My point is that for me, it inspires me to try new things and new cooking techniques.  Blue Apron also keeps waste to a minimum in my kitchen.  If you need a one inch piece of ginger for a recipe, that’s how they send it to you.  There’s nothing to go bad.  My only complaint is that we never have leftovers.  So here’s a few of my Blue Apron creations.  I hope you’ll try it, too!

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Tinkerbell Pepper Quesadilla

 

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Sesame Chicken With Bok Choy and Jasmine Rice
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BBQ Sloppy Joes With Green Bean & Tomato Salad

 

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Spiced Pork Burgers With Pickled Beets & Cone Cabbage Slaw
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Easy Instructions with pictures come with every meal.

Cheesy Jalapeño Dip

OMG-let’s talk about the holidays for a moment.  It’s crazy everywhere I go.  I went to the grocery store at 7:30 am today and I still had to wait in line.  So let’s think about good things…like my recipe requirements for the holidays.

  • Must be spicy.
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick to make
  • Gluten & Peanut free food for my besties

When the holiday shopping and traffic begins to overwhelm you, go home and make this.

jalapeno-cheese-dip

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of freshly chopped Jalapenos.  Remove the stems and seeds.  (It’s okay to leave a few, but remember that’s where the real heat comes from)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Extra Sharp Cheddar.  Do yourself a solid and don’t use the pre-shredded mess.  Enlist a teenager or a spouse to grate the cheese if you don’t want to do it.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan/Romano blend.  I’m not as picky about grating this, but please do, if you can.
  • 2 cups room temperature cream cheese.  I use the lighter version, but all versions work great in this recipe.
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro.  If you hate it  (as many of my dear friends do), substitute parsley.  It’s good for you.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • Corn chips-yassssss!  Frito chips take me back to my childhood.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees while you are prepping everything.  It should be hot by the time you are finished with your mise en place.

  • Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream together.  Blend in 3/4 cup of the cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmesan/Romano, jalapenos, and all but a pinch of the cilantro.
  • Transfer to a casserole dish.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Uncover and add the rest of the cheese and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Don’t walk away or it may burn.  You just want  a crunchy top.
  • Sprinkle the remaining cilantro on top of the hot casserole and serve hot with corn chips!  Yummy!

 

Start it with Friends

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Due to the type of work that my husband and I do we are always strapped for time over the holidays.  (and this is not me complaining,  just explaining)  We both worked until after 4pm on New Years Eve and then jumped in our packed car to drive 2 1/2 hours.  We were invited to join some of our friends in the mountains to ring in the New Year.

Most  of you that know me know that I love to entertain and I most definitely love to cook.  I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to not be a part of the cooking and prepping process for New Year’s eve.  I picked up cupcakes from my favorite local bakery, Main Street Cake Shoppe on Church Street, http://www.mainstreetcakeshoppe.com/  and I had a lot of good wine.

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We arrived at the perfect time.  My brother-in-law was close to finishing an amazing tray of sushi with shrimp, smoked salmon and tuna!  Yummy!  This guy rocks in so many ways!

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It was the perfect “pick-up” spread.  We had two types of caviar and cream cheese options, an antipasti platter, Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, figs with cheese and jam and chocolate fondue with pound cake, bananas and strawberries.  It was scrum-dilly-ocious!

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We toasted with Veuve and imbibed upon many bottles of yummy wine.  As the evening progressed we found ourselves on the exterior porch sitting in rocking chairs, playing guitars and having a sing-a-long.  It was my kind of perfect.  We were lucky to have a fireworks show provided by someone else enjoying the holiday evening in the mountains.

When we realized our blankets could no longer keep us warm outside, we all moved back inside to enjoy the warm fire.  We may or may not have had a dance session at this point and we may or may not have been captured via iPhones owned by guests under 15.  I can only imagine the hashtag remarks that may have been made.  #oldpeoplegettingjiggy

Before the party got started, I had a private moment with my women friends.  I had found an amazing article online before the holidays by Brianna Wiest, which gave me the idea to give each family a journal.  This was a great read.  I gave each family a copy of this article with their journal.  It’s worth the read.

16 Goals To Set For Next Year That Are More About Enjoying What You Have Than Chasing What You Don’t

My sister sent me this picture the other night.  Heart claps.  I purchased the journals from a purveyor of all things locally hand crafted.    Check her out.  Chelsea is the owner and she’s super sweet.

https://www.facebook.com/southernglen/info?tab=overview

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However you began your 2016,  I hope you started it with friends.  Happy New Year!

Blue, White & Red Waffles

Blue, White & Red Waffles
Blue, White & Red Waffles

My heart aches for Paris. I’m consoling my family with an indulgent brunch. I will say grace with more reverence today. #PRAYFORPARIS

Ingredients for Blackberry Whiskey Sauce

3 tbsp. Butter
1/3 cup Blackberry Whiskey (Bird Dog)
10-12 fresh Blackberries
8 oz. Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

In a medium sauce pan melt 2 tbsp. of butter. Reserve the last tbsp. for the very end to finish sauce. Add whiskey and bring to a boil. (you are reducing and cooking off the alcohol) This will take about 10 minutes. Stir often. Add blackberries and syrup to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add last tbsp. of butter and lemon zest-stir and cover. Turn off heat.

Ingredients for Regular Waffles

2 Cups Bisquick
1 tbsp. Sour Cream
1 Egg
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Half & Half
2 tbsp. Canola Oil
1/2 tsp. Lemon Zest

Stir together gently all ingredients. Blend well, but try not to over stir mix. Pour into a well greased waffle maker and cook for approximately 5 minutes until it stops steaming. If you have one that you can flip, turn over at 2-3 minutes.

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Waffles

1 1/3 Gluten-Free Bisquick
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Half & Half
1 tbsp. Sour Cream
1 Egg
3 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp. Lemon Zest

Stir together gently all ingredients. Blend well, but try not to over stir mix. Pour into a well greased waffle maker and cook for approximately 5 minutes until it stops steaming. If you have one that you can flip, turn over at 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately. Add a pat of butter on top of your waffle and spoon blackberry sauce on top. I added a little fresh whipped cream to make it just a little more over the top. Enjoy!

I added a side of scrambled eggs and ham. 🙂

The Mr. Sugarbears

The Mr. Sugarbears
The Mr. Sugarbears

The Mr. Sugarbears
2 – 8 ounce servings

Ingredients:

Frozen Pineapple & Blueberry Ice Cubes  ( see below)
6 ounces Pineapple Juice
4 ounces Orange Juice
Dash of Grenadine
6 ounces Dark Puerto Rican Rum
1 lime

Fill 2 glasses with ice cubes.  Use a shaker to combine all of the other ingredients except the lime.   Shake vigorously and pour over ice cubes.  Cut lime in half and squeeze juice into each glass.  Serve immediately.

This makes me think of the beach and you know how I love the beach.  You can also leave out the alcohol.

Pineapple and Blueberry ice cubes
Pineapple and Blueberry ice cubes

Fill an ice cube tray with pineapple juice and blueberries and freeze overnight.

Mr. Sugarbears enjoying some porch time
Mr. Sugarbears enjoying some porch time

Your drink is coming right up.  🙂

Booze & Brunch Potluck

Champagne & Mimosa Bar
Champagne & Mimosa Bar

Why have I never thought to do a brunch potluck before last week?  I mean, brunch is delicious, affordable and a great time to start drinking.  🙂  Okay, it’s not the best time to start drinking, but it sure is fun.  I invited a few of my friends and their kiddos to meet at my house from 10-12 am this past Saturday morning.  I put together a Champagne and Mimosa bar by the front door and a Bloody Mary bar on the opposite side of the room.

Bloody Mary Bar
Bloody Mary Bar

I set up a table in the man’s den with new, cool composition books, snap pops and crayons for the kiddos.  I set the adult table with china and my grandmother’s silverware.  I rarely pull her silver out, but somehow brunch with my lady friends screamed, “Polish the silver”.  Everyone brought the most amazing food.

The Ladies Table
The Ladies Table

My sister made Sausage balls.  They remind me of Christmas at my mom’s house.  🙂  One of my friends brought a big bowl of fresh fruit, stuffed french toast with hot maple syrup and a spinach quiche.  I’m still thinking about this fresh burrata with local tomatoes:

Burrata with local tomatoes
Burrata with local tomatoes

It was so delicious.  We’re now planning a Burrata-making day at my house.  Another one of my foodie friends brought this Smoked salmon platter.  Have you ever seen anything cuter?

Smoked Salmon platter
Smoked Salmon platter

My mom brought her mini lemon meringue pies.  It’s another childhood throwback that never ceases to put a big smile on my face.  Growing up I made a request for this pie often. (just not the mini version)

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies
Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

I set up a “Make your own pancake bar” for the kiddos.  I had maraschino cherries, chocolate sprinkles, mini dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips, whipped cream…It was a fun thing to do with them.  I had sausage links, scrambled eggs, Boursin with french bread and homemade pimento cheese on Pumpernickel.  We also had gluten-free muffins with mini marshmallows.  It was an amazingly diverse menu.  I tried it all.  I loved it all.  I can’t wait to do it again this fall, but larger and with the guys, too.  Everyone pitched in and helped me clean up before they left.  Afterwards I was left with a full belly and a little bit of a buzz and this is all I did next for the rest of the day.

Bloody Mary's & Reading on the Porch
Bloody Mary’s & Reading on the Porch

Mr. Sugarbears felt the same way.  He had lots of sausage and lots of kiddo love. I have to say the Booze and Brunch Potluck is now number one in my book.

Ella Kate and Mr. Sugarbears
Ella Kate and Mr. Sugarbears
Mr. Sugarbears
Mr. Sugarbears

My Review of Mateo

I’ll start by saying wow.  Chef Matthew Kelly has really outdone himself with this venture.  Mateo is located in downtown Durham and specializes in blending the flavors of Spain with southern flavors.  Not only do they offer a huge selection of amazing pinxtos, but they also offer pages of spanish wine and sherry.  I’ve never been anywhere that offers sherry flights.  I’ve been missing out.  I went with two girlfriends and we ordered a multitude of dishes to share.  Our server, John, was extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  Of course the restaurant was packed and deservedly so.  I am already trying to plan another visit.  So here is a little bit of Mateo:

Padron Fritos with olive oil, sea salt and lemon
Padron Fritos with olive oil, sea salt and lemon
Medjool Date stuffed with goats cheese and wrapped in country ham
Medjool Date stuffed with goats cheese and wrapped in country ham
Charred Okra with Ramp Ranch
Charred Okra with Ramp Ranch
Pan Con Tomate
Pan Con Tomate
Queso Fritos y Huevo-Farm Egg over crispy manchego, charred green beans and a romesco sauce
Queso Fritos y Huevo-Farm Egg over crispy manchego, charred asparagus and a romesco sauce
Hanger Steak, Asparagus, Charred Vidalia Onion, Migas and romesco verde
Hanger Steak, Asparagus, Charred Vidalia Onion, Migas and romesco verde
Peach Empanada with a Feta Sauce
Peach Empanada with a Feta Sauce
Our amazing server John
Our amazing server John
The dinner party
The dinner party

So maybe you can tell that I loved it?  I hope you’ll put it on your list of foodie destinations.  Thanks Cynthia for inviting me to join you at this awesome establishment!  Can we go again tonight?  🙂

Mateo bar de tapas
109 WEST CHAPEL HILL STREET
DURHAM – NORTH CAROLINA
919-530-8700

Baked Avocados Stuffed with Egg, Feta and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Baked Avocado with Egg, Sun-dried tomato and feta cheese
Baked Avocado with Egg, Sun-dried tomato and feta cheese

Ingredients:

2 Large Avocados
4 Whole Eggs
1 Tbsp Chopped Sun-dried Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Feta Cheese
1 Tsp chopped Italian Parsley
Juice of 1/2 of a Large Lemon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut avocados in half and remove pit. Once the pit is removed use a spoon to remove more of the avocado meat to make room for the filling. Place avocado shells in a casserole dish, skin side down. Crack each egg open and slide separately into each shell. Carefully add the tomatoes and feta cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes until the egg is set through. Remove and sprinkle fresh parsley and lemon juice on top to serve.