Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Foodie Friday: Harvest Soup

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the smell of fall, the colors of the leaves and playing in them with my kids, and the cooler weather that is so appreciated after Pittsburgh’s steamy summers.

And I love the food. We celebrate fall in our family by preserving lots of the harvested produce, including making applesauce, roasting peppers, and roasting and pureeing pumpkin. We also celebrate with farm visits to pick pumpkins, football, long hikes, and evening walks.

I’ve long lusted after the recipe for Whole Foods’ Triple Squash Soup. After trying four or five recipes, this is the one that comes the closest for me. I love this soup and will happily eat it every single day for a few months. Like most meals around here, this is made in mass quantity and frozen. We’ve kept it frozen for up to 7 months in an upright deep freeze, and it was delicious reheated. In fact, this is one of those meals that’s even better the next day.

We often serve this with homemade wheat bread toasted for dipping, and balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts on the side.

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Harvest Soup

One of the easiest ways to make this soup is to use vegetables that have already been roasted. Each fall I roast lots of butternut squash  and sweet potatoes, mash them and freeze them, and then I can add them to recipes as needed (or reheat & eat alone). It still cooks the same amount of time, but the amount of time spent chopping is considerably shorter.

Diced Squash carrots apple sweet potato

A huge bowl of diced squash, carrots, apples and sweet potato. This was only one half of one butternut squash–the rest of the three went into the pot later since they take a few minutes each to peel and cut.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil/butter
  • 2 shallots (or small onions)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 very large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (or previously baked and peeled)
  • 1 peeled and cubed butternut squash (or  a roasted & mashed butternut squash, no skin)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (2 large)
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 quarts chicken/vegetable broth/stock
  • 1 tsp chicken/vegetable stock concentrate
  • a few dashes of your faorite seasoning salt (I use Penzey’s)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste

Optional

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup light cream

Directions

1. Add butter/oil to a large pot over medium heat. Stir in all onions, and cook until the onion is just starting to brown a tiny bit, about 7 minutes

2. Add the potato, squash, carrots, apple, stock. Yesterday I had to add a quart of water here to cover the veggies, but then my soup turned out a little thinner than I like. Not sure it’s necessary that all veggies be covered since they all have so much water in them.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, add bay leaves, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

4. Season with nutmeg, seasoning salt, salt and pepper.

5. Puree the soup (I use my awesomely handy stick blender).

6. Stir in optional ingredients if desired and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Usually I make this soup vegetarian with homemade vegetable broth and concentrate, but this week I realized I had a huge supply of chicken broth in the bottom of the upright freezer.

We don’t use any of the optional ingredients–we rarely have cream or white wine around the house.

Last night, we decided to have an homage to fall, skip the typical green side, and serve it with Baked Spaghetti Squash and Bread Machine Buttery Rolls.

This was my favorite soup last fall and winter. I made a triple batch of soup this afternoon; it’s a lot of chopping, but I now have 12 quarts of this heavenly soup on reserve. And, in case you’re wondering, one quart makes a nice serving size for all four of us at a meal.

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Foodie Friday: Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetable scraps

photo by krugerin50

A friend reminded me of something that I do but hadn’t considered a recipe.

I make my own vegetable stock. 

It’s so easy, it’s almost criminal. Here’s my high tech system:

  1. Write on a medium to large container with lid or ziplock bag “VegStock”.
  2. Place the medium to large container or ziplock in freezer.
  3. When you cut vegetables such as celery, garlic, carrots, onions, anything except potatoes or tomatoes, really, throw the scraps into the bag/container.
  4. When the container/bag is full, take it out and dump the contents into a 6 quart or larger crockpot.
  5. Fill the crockpot with water.
  6. Turn the crockpot on low, and leave for 8-12 hours.
  7. Turn it off, take the crock out of the heating element in order to let it cool, and let sit for an hour.
  8. Ladle the stock into containers through a mesh strainer to catch any chunks, label and date, and freeze for future use.

So easy, a toddler AND a preschooler can help.

Two other little tricks:

1. After straining the vegetables and herbs out, I’ll often throw them back into the crockpot, fill with water again, and then cook on low overnight (because the initial straining and freezing process is always happening in the evening). In the morning, I have what I call “VegStock2.” Not quite as flavorful or nutritious as the original VegStock, but great for using instead of water to make rice, quinoa, or any savory grain.

2. To make a stock with strong flavor of a particular vegetable, I sometimes have multiple stock bags going in my freezer. I use garlic and onions in my refried beans, but those vegetables are removed well before eating. Since we use lots of garlic and onions, I mark a bag “Refried Bean Stock” and add all garlic and onion scraps. When I’m ready to make refried beans, the day before I make the Refried Bean Stock exactly as outlined above. Then, after soaking the dried beans, I’ll add as much of the Refried Bean Stock as I have and usually don’t need to add any additional water, onions, or garlic.

Oh, think about adding hot peppers to make a spicy broth. Doesn’t that sound like it would be an awesome remedy for a winter cold?

Foodie Friday: Green Juice

I recently bought a juicer and shortly after that, I gave up caffeine. Why would I do such a crazy thing?

Juice, that’s why.

A caveat here: I believe there’s more nutritional value to eating the entire plant rather than simply the extracted juice. My attitude about the juicer is that the juice I make is a bonus. I don’t count it if I ever sit down and think about how many servings of fruit and vegetables my family is eating every day. And I’m drinking kale at 6am instead of coffee loaded up with cream and sugar (the only way I like coffee), so I consider that a definite step up. Especially since Jason and I don’t like kale. It’s a texture thing. We keep trying it in recipes, but juice and smoothies are our favorite way to eat this superfood.

Below is our favorite juice recipe so far. Jason loves it, will drink as much as I make, asks for more, and is thrilled when I make him a jar and leave it in the fridge before I leave town.

Oh, and the kids drink it. Happily, and while making approving slurping noises. ‘Nuff said.

Favorite Green Juice

1 large bunch of kale, about 20 leaves with stems

3 smallish green apples (cored when I know the kids will be drinking some)

8 carrots, ends cut off

1 large cucumber, peeled

1 lemon, roughly peeled with a knife

Wash everything and cut apples if you don’t want the seeds. Peeling the cucumber and lemon is pure personal preference. We feel that the juice is a little too bitter with those left on. Bunch the kale up with one or two carrots–that helps keep it from being spun out without juicing in our. This makes enough for a family of four to have large, age-appropriate glasses of juice.

I read that the leftover pulp could be used to make a savory turnover, so I think I might try that soon by juicing the kale, carrots and cucumber first, saving that pulp to cook with, and then juicing the lemon and apples.

Right now, all the pulp is fed to our worms, who are devouring it. I think they’re happy to have the food so easily edible.

Foodie Friday: Two Farmer’s Markets, Spaghetti Squash, and a Pumpkin

Farmer's Market

Photo by Figmint77

It’s my intention to generally put a recipe in here, but I just don’t have one today. I think I stayed up too late talking to Jason on the phone about kitchen window options and bathroom vents with lights and heat optional.

So instead, I’ll tell you about our adventures today. I took the kids to an open-air farmer’s market. It was small, but mighty and covered by a large tent. There was a group giving away free children’s books and stickers, and I even saw a booth for face painting as we were leaving. There were only three or four farmers (yet lots of tempting baked goods!), but one had a sign up that his produce was chemical-free naturally grown, so that’s where we spent the bulk of our money.

We bought 6 cucumbers, 2 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, 2 spaghetti squash, 4 acorn squash and a pumpkin.

After we left that farmer’s market, we hopped over to another indoor market that’s actually a buyer and reseller of local food, hoping to find salad greens and kale. No luck. But we did find decent looking apples, so we bought about 10.

After lunch I cut the pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds and fiber and placed the halves cut-side-down in two baking dishes and added about a quarter inch of water. Baked at 350 degrees, they took about 2.5 hours because this is the largest pie pumpkin I’ve ever seen. Once cool, I’ll scoop out the flesh and smash it a bit and then freeze it to use in recipes (like Pumpkin Oatmeal).

I’m debating on roasting the seeds–there aren’t many there.

I asked the farmer about the spaghetti squash and he told me how his wife prepares it. Simply cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking dish cut side up. This is the genius part: his wife puts marinara on top of the squash at the beginning! And when you pull it out of the oven, there is a cooked spaghetti squash baked with sauce. A little parmesan on top and it’s complete. That sounds so easy!

Wait, that’s a recipe!

I’ll update this post with a photo of the finished squash once it comes out of the oven tonight.

**UPDATE: We ate it all, before I could even think to take a picture. Apparently, we were a wee bit hungry! The kids took a couple of bites and declared it yucky (but they both have texture issues, so whatev), but my mom and I ate 2 spaghetti squash by ourselves. We topped it with a little basil tomato feta and sharp cheddar cheese, because that’s what we had. It was delicious, and I will definitely be making this again soon.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

I didn’t think it was possible. Homemade macaroni and cheese in under 20 minutes? Only one dirty pan? Definitely not possible.

Until I found this recipe.

I bookmarked it a while ago, and have thought about making it a few times, but for one reason or another, decided against it.

Last night Jason gave me the gift of a squeaky clean kitchen, so I thought, why not?

So wrong. So delicious. J couldn’t get enough. Well, at first he cried and shrieked because I had told him he was going to have macaroni and cheese, but the stuff I put in front of him didn’t look like what he was used to. After 5 minutes, he calmed down and tried a bite. And began shoveling.

I can’t imagine my life without this recipe. Not only is it delicious, but it also dirties less dishes than making macaroni and cheese out of a box. The powdered cheese kind, not the squeeze-cheese brands. And to someone who does dishes by hand, every dirty dish matters.

Try it, I think you’ll like it.