Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is one of my favorite fall dishes. I start looking forward to making this soup as soon as the summer nears end and temperatures start to dip. It’s rich, warming, and perfect for the fall. Last year I served it at Thanksgiving dinner as the first course and it was a hit.

One of the reasons this soup is so flavorful is because I toss the butternut squash with a spice mixture before roasting and it makes all the difference. This is something I learned  from my mom. She always toasts and grinds her own spices for any dish that calls for spices. I think this extra step adds so much depth and flavor to the soup.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

Spice Mixture
¼ cup fennel seeds
2 Tbs coriander seeds
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 tsp pepper flakes
2 Tbs salt
2 Tbs cinnamon

Roasted Squash
1 large butternut squash
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Spice Mixture
½ cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup carrot, diced
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups roasted squash, pureed

Prepare

Spice Mixture

Toasted Spices

In a small pan, toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns over medium heat. Keep a close eye and stir constantly to ensure the spices do not burn. Once the fennel seeds start to turn brown, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Put mixture in a blender or a clean coffee grinder. Add the chili flakes and process until all spices are evenly ground. Place ground mixture in a bowl and add salt and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Store or freeze in tightly closed container. This spice mixture can be used in many things. I have added to acorn squash and sweet potatoes before roasting. I think it would be great on any root vegetable.

Roasted Squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel the squash and cut into a 1-inch dice. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil and then add the Spice Mixture, ensuring the squash is evenly covered with the spices. Place in oven and roast for about 45 to 1 hour, or until the squash is very tender. Allow squash to cool slightly so you can safely work with it.

Add slightly cooled squash to a blender or food processor and process. Carefully add chicken stock as needed here. The squash should be a thick puree, do not over process or use too much chicken stock.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and cinnamon stick and sauté for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the pureed butternut squash and stir until smooth. Allow to cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Use a blender or a hand held blender to puree the soup. Place soup back on low heat to reheat. If desired, finish with heavy cream for an even creamier, silkier soup.

Serve in bowls with some mascarpone cheese, a sprig of sage, or pepitas.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

10 Thanksgiving Desserts to Give Pumpkin Pie a Run For Its Money

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie. A warmed slice with a little homemade whipped creamed or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is simply heavenly. And many a Thanksgiving I’ve enjoyed more than one slice with no regrets.

But there are so many other decadent, seasonal desserts that could help add the perfect finishing touch to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not suggesting abandoning tradition and forgoing the pumpkin pie altogether (that’s just crazy talk), but I think I may be able to find a little space at the Thanksgiving table for one more dessert.  After all, this meal calls for a little indulgence, right?

Here are a few of my favorite dessert options for Thanksgiving, or any cozy, winter meal for that matter.

 Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut-Toffee Crunch by Bon Appétit

Credit: Bon Appétit

Credit: Bon Appétit

Sweet Potato Cake by Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Butternut Squash Glazed Tart by Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Salted Caramel Apple-Pear Tart by Fine Cooking

Credit:

Credit: Fine Cooking


Sweet Potato Souffle
by Martha Stewart

Sweet Potato Souffle

Credit: Martha Stewart

Pecan Fig Bourbon Cake by Gourmet

Fig Bourbon Cake

Credit: Gourmet

Cranberry Shortbread by Bon Appétit

Cranberry Shortbread

Credit: Bon Appétit

Bourbon-Pecan Pie by Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Credit: Food & Wine

Persimmon Cake with Crème Fraîche and Maple Pecans by Fine Cooking

Credit: Fine Cooking

Credit: Fine Cooking

Pumpkin Pecan Gingersnap Ice Cream by Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Credit: Saveur

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

After what seemed like a brief Indian summer, the weather has turned its attention to fall. The air is cool, the breeze is brisk, and swirling leaves fall off trees and crunch underfoot.  Scarves and boots have made their seasonal debut and Thanksgiving is just two weeks away. In short, it is quintessentially autumn and I couldn’t be happier.

One of my favorite fall activities is baking. I’m pretty sure that one of the best things in the world is the aroma that fills your home when you’re baking. And the cinnamon spiked scent from this spiced pumpkin bread is irresistible (say that five times fast).

Given this weekend’s forecast and something called the bomb cyclone, this bread will be best enjoyed with some warm chai while curled up on the couch with your thickest socks, coziest blanket, and a great book (or Netflix).

Pumpkin Spice Bread.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ⅓ cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 °F and prepare your baking pan. I used two 8” x 4” loaf pans that I sprayed with cooking spray.

Place milk in a small saucepan on low heat. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and, using the unsharpened side of a knife, carefully scrape the seeds from the inside. Place the seeds and the scraped vanilla bean into the milk and stir. Keep the heat on low while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, stirring occasionally. This will allow the vanilla to infuse the milk. Allow milk to cool before using.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and all of the dry spices (salt cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) in a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat to incorporate. Then add the eggs, one at a time, ensuring each egg is incorporated thoroughly. Beat in the pumpkin puree.

Next, add in the dry flour and spices to the pumpkin mixture in three additions, alternating with the cooled vanilla-infused milk.

Pour batter into your prepared pan(s), spreading evenly, and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow bread to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Cranberry Quinoa Pilaf with Toasted Almonds

Cranberry Quinoa

It’s November and the holiday season is quickly approaching. Try as I might, there’s no denying it. I saw my first holiday ad on TV last week and my local Whole Foods is already decked out with twinkling snowflakes amidst the fair trade coffee and 85% organic triple French milled soap. (Seriously. This is a real thing).

Anyway, around this time of year I love to make dishes like this cranberry quinoa pilaf. It’s simple to make, ready in less than 30 minutes, and calls for ingredients I usually have in my pantry.

Also, it tastes amazing. I love the contrasting flavors and textures. It’s savory but has a hint of sweetness from the dried cranberries. The quinoa is plump and hearty and the toasted almonds add the perfect amount of crunch. It’s a great option for a meatless entrée or an accompanying side dish

Cranberry Quinoa Pilaf with Toasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup almonds, sliced or slivered

Cranberry Quinoa.

Prepare

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Rinse and drain quinoa. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until onions are soft. Add the quinoa and allow it to toast for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and allow quinoa to simmer for about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the almonds in an even layer on an ungreased baking tray and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. You will know when they are done when there is a nice nutty smell coming from your oven.

Add the cranberries to the quinoa. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the stock is completely absorbed. Mix in the toasted almonds and fluff quinoa with a fork before serving.

 

Turmeric Braised Chicken

This week has been cold, rainy, and gray. With the vibrant colors, crisp air, and rustling leaves of autumn, it’s sometimes easy to forget this season is a prelude to winter.

For me, one of the advantages of chilly and rain-induced bad hair days is that it’s great weather for comfort food.

This brightly favored, braised chicken dish is perfect for damp fall days. It’s hearty with a hint of spice and fills you with warmth.

Serve with lots of naan to soak up the rich, flavorful broth and you’ll almost wish for more days like this!

Turmeric Braised Chicken

Turmeric Braised Chicken

Ingredients
1 chicken, 3-4lbs, cut into pieces (you can also use chicken thighs for this recipe)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp cayenne pepper powder, optional (I like a little heat!)
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Warm naan, optional

Prepare
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Liberally season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. When the oil has heated, add the chicken pieces to brown, turning once. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Avoid crowding the skillet, which can lead to steaming instead of browning. Cook chicken in batches if you need. Once the chicken has browned, remove from skillet and place in a baking dish.

Add garlic to the same skillet you cooked the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Then deglaze the pan with chicken stock, taking care to scrape up the yummy brown bits from the bottom. Add the turmeric, garam masala, and cayenne pepper powder (if using) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook the chicken stock for about 5 more minutes or until slightly reduced.

Pour the spiced stock over the chicken pieces and place in oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Alternatively, you can use a meat thermometer to ensure chicken is cooked to 165 °F.

Serve with warmed naan or a bowl of rice.

Autumn Has Arrived

No doubt about it. It’s officially the season of pumpkin spice and I couldn’t be happier. Today I took some time to reorganize my closet, (read exchange my sandals and sun dresses with boots and chunky sweaters) which inspired the post below.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just a start for some cozy fall outfits. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

 

Autumn Essentials

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

It’s officially fall and, though the days are getting shorter, I’m loving the crisp mornings and cooler temperatures. It wasn’t always the case, but Autumn has become my favorite season as I’ve gotten older. There are many reasons I love this time of year: the changing leaves, pumpkin spice rooibos tea, rich, slow-cooked meals, boots, cozy sweaters and scarves, roasted butternut squash soup, and the anticipation of winter and the holiday season, just to name a few.

Most of all, I love fall because it reminds me of home and growing up in Indiana. One of my family’s favorite fall activities is apple picking. Each fall we would take many trips north to the apple orchards in Michigan. My mom would always pack lunch and we would picnic at the orchard and then pick apples and drink cider to our hearts’ content. Some of my favorite memories are from these trips.

To kick off the fall season (and indulge my nostalgia), we took a day trip out west and visited the Stribling Orchard and some nearby wineries.

Apple Orchard

Once we arrived, I quickly realized visiting an apple orchard on the first weekend of fall is not the most original idea. The place was packed and I could see why. The orchard is located near the Blue Ridge Mountains and has beautiful views. There are picnic tables throughout the grounds and an on-site bakery that sells apple donuts, turnovers, cakes and pies (and yes, I did wait in the ridiculously long line for an apple danish, and it was worth it). We spent the afternoon roaming the orchard, taking in the views, and tasting and picking many different types of apples. We picked quite a few, so you may see a common theme in the coming posts…

Apple Orchard.

Caramel Apples

Since there are so many variations of caramel apples with an endless list of toppings, this isn’t as much a recipe as it is a list of guidelines. Below is the list of ingredients I used, but other than the apples and caramel, the rest of the ingredients are really up to you!

Ingredients

  • Apples (I used Jonathans. Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Pink Ladys work well too.)
  • Cookie sticks or popsicle sticks
  • Caramel candies (or if you’re feeling ambitious, homemade caramel)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • White chocolate
  • Salted peanuts, crushed
  • Graham crackers, crushed
  • Marshmallows

Caramel Apple Ingredients

To begin, I washed and dried my apples thoroughly and then removed the stem from each one. Then I inserted the cookie sticks into the center about 3/4 of the way down. The sticks I used have blunt ends, so I cut one end on an angle to create a sharp point so they could easily pierce the apple.

I set up a double-boiler using a small sauce pan with one inch of water topped with a medium glass mixing bowl. Be careful not to let the bottom of your bowl touch the water, this can cause the chocolate to scorch. Depending on the size of the sauce pan, you may need a larger bowl.

Once the water came to a boil, I turned the heat down and placed the milk chocolate in the bowl to melt. I repeated this in separate bowls for the dark and white chocolate and the caramel.

For my first caramel apple, I went the traditional route: Caramel Apple with Salted Peanuts.

Caramel Apple with Salted Peanuts

To start, I dipped the apple in the melted caramel and scraped the bottom off with a spoon so the excess caramel didn’t pool around the bottom when it sets. I immediately rolled it in the crushed salted peanuts and then placed it on a tray with parchment paper. I put this in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes.

You can stop here, but since I had all the other toppings, I wanted to make my apple a little prettier (and tastier). Once the caramel was set, I carefully drizzled some white chocolate on the top and made some zig zag drizzles down the side of the apple. You can do this using a pastry bag, a zip lock bag with a corner snipped off, or a squeeze bottle.

Dark & White Chocolate Caramel Apple

Black & White Caramel Apple

I started this apple by dipping it in the melted caramel and then letting it set in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes. Next, I dipped it in the dark chocolate and let it cool in the fridge again. Once the dark chocolate layer had set, I piped melted white chocolate onto the apple, starting from the top and creating thin lines with the stream of chocolate. I found the easiest way was to hold the apple in one hand and slowly turn it while drizzling the white chocolate with the other hand. This helped to ensure all of the sides were evenly covered.

Ombre Caramel Apple

Ombre Caramel Apple

This apple was destined to become a s’mores caramel apple, but I managed to thoroughly burn the marshmallows while melting them for the first layer so now it’s an ombre caramel apple. To start, I dipped it in white chocolate and let that set in the fridge. Next was the milk chocolate layer and more time to set. Last, I dipped it in the dark chocolate and then rolled it in crushed graham crackers. For the final touch, I used a fork to create a pretty textured finish on the thicker layers of chocolate.

Before serving, I chilled the apples for about 20-30 minutes so all the layers and toppings had time to set.