Ginger and Spice Butternut Squash Soup with Bread Crust Croutons

Fresh butternut squash

When your mother grows butternut squash in her garden and saves most of them for you, it’s time to find a good way to use them up.  Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of any type of squash.  So, steaming it up and adding salt, pepper and a pat of butter is not my style.  I need to fancy it up a bit.  Preparing it as a soup along with onions, garlic, ridiculous amounts of fresh ginger and adding coconut milk with some other favorite spices allows the squash to be the perfect backdrop in a warm, comforting meal.  I make some croutons to create interest and add some crunch to an otherwise smooth and silky bowl of soup.

butternut squash soup with ginger, coconut milk and Go chu Jong

Ginger and Spice Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons grated ginger

2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces

2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

2 tablespoons go-chu-jang (Korean chili paste) 

zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Sriracha

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cans cocunut milk

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

For serving: Bread Crust Croutons (see recipe)

Heat oil in a  large pot over medium heat.  Add onion  and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Add ginger and butternut squash.  Add chicken stock and turn up heat to bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot for about 15 minutes until squash is tender.  Cool mixture and puree in batches using a blender or immersion blender.  Return mixture to pot.  

Turn heat to medium low and add go-chu-jang, lime zest and juice, cider vinegar, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce and coconut milk.  Heat until all ingredients are combined.  Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper or hot sauces.  Turn off heat and add parsley.  Serve with Bread Crust Croutons (recipe below).

I save the heels from sandwich bread and stick them in the freezer until I have so many they tumble out onto the floor everytime I open the freezer door. That’s when I make croutons or serve garlic toast as a side to go with dinner.

croutons made out of bread heels with olive oil, salt, pepper and spices

Bread Crust Croutons

1-2 sandwich loaf heels

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic powder

dried parsley

Heat oven to broil or use toaster oven, if you have one.  Cut bread into 1″ pieces.  Spread bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle olive oil over bread.  Toss with your hands to coat.  Sprinkle bread with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley.  Toast in oven until edges brown and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve on soup, salads or by themselves as a snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyday Bread

no knead bread loaf and bread slice with butter

Along with the soups that I make each week, I also bake up a few loaves of bread.  It sounds far more complicated than it really is.  The bread is a simple recipe that I adapted from Jim Lahey’s book, My Bread .  His recipe is already incredibly easy.  The baking involves preheating a Dutch oven to achieve a crispy crust.  This makes a delicious and incredibly satisfying loaf.  But I wanted to be able to make more than one loaf at a time and in different sizes.  The result is bread with a softer crust and one that yeilds a number of small loaves that you can share or hoard for yourself.  I call it “Everyday Bread” because I eat it every morning toasted with butter and jam and sometimes for lunch with melted ham and cheese.  It’s the perfect vehicle for whatever I can find in my refrigerator.

Timing for bread baking can be tricky when you have a busy schedule.  Since the initial rise for this bread is 12-18 hours, I mix this dough around dinner time the night before I plan to bake it.  Then I form the loaves super early in the morning, allowing for the next (2 hour) rise and 30 minute bake.  If you will not be able to do the second rise and bake in the morning, mix the dough before you go to bed.  The next day, after work, form the loaves, let rise for 2 hours and bake.  Try to make bread baking work even if you have a crazy busy schedule….it’s worth it.

Everyday Bread

(Makes 2 round loaves)

 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour, plus about 1/2 cup more for forming the loaves

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 cups luke warm water

 

Combine 3 1/2 cups (450 grams) flour, sea salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Add water while stirring to create a sticky dough.  ( I use a stiff rubber spatula for this job.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free spot in the kitchen.  Allow dough to rise for 12 to 18 hours.

After the dough has risen, dust your countertop generously with flour (about 1/2 cup).  Using a stiff rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the floured area.  Flip the dough around gently to cover all of it with flour.  Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Gently cut dough in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife.  Form the two halves of dough into loose rounds without overworking the dough.  Place a few inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Loosely cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for two hours.

After one and a half hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Once the dough has risen for two hours and the oven has preheated for thirty minutes, slash the tops of each loaf two or three times across the top with a sharp knife.  Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.  You can cook them for longer if you like a darker crust and a firmer loaf.  Once the bread is cooked, place the loaves on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing.  After the bread is completely cooled, store in plastic bags and eat within 5 days.

 

 

 

Orzo, Lemon and Chicken Soup

soup with lemon, eggs, orzo, spinach and lemon

There is something so refreshing about adding lemons to any dish or dessert.  You definitely cannot be sad when eating anything where the lemon shines through.  The tart nature of the fruit forces your mouth to smile and kicks your taste buds into gear.  And what is more comforting than a bowl of chicken noodle soup?  I really cannot think of anything except maybe my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven.  Lemon, chicken, noodles and a boost of extra flavor, color and vitamins from some added spinach.  A comforting hug on a cold day.

This recipe has been adapted from one of my favorite soup cookbooks: New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara SilversteinCheck out their location in Newton, MA http://newenglandsoupfactory.com/

Orzo, Lemon and Chicken Soup

(Serves about 6)

1 package skinless, boneless chicken thighs

olive oil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried garlic

salt and pepper

10 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup orzo

4 eggs, lightly beaten

zest and juice from 3 lemons

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2-3 dashes Tabasco Sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

 

  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and lightly spray with cooking oil.  Lay chicken thighs flat on prepared pan.  Rub the tops with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle the dried parsley, garlic and some salt and pepper on each one.  Bake the chicken thighs until cooked through for about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cook to room temperature.  Chop chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

  Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large stock pot.  Add the orzo and cook for five minutes.  While stirring constantly, drizzle in the eggs and continue stirring for about 30 seconds, until the eggs cook into threads.  Add the lemon zest, juice cooked chicken and spinach.  Season with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces.  Heat through.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. 

 

White Bean and Hearty Greens Soup

soup with white beans, carrots, kale, mushrooms and chicken sausage

To be honest, I am not a bean lover. I know how good they are for me and that they are a source of low fat protein as well as fiber but somehow, I have never fully embraced them. A small amount of tiny black beans in my chili and a tiny helping of my mother’s Calico Baked Beans recipe at a summer cookout is enough for me. But I keep on trying. And truthfully, I am coming to like them more and more. Especially white beans.

I ran into a friend who recently made the Chicken and White Bean Chili recipe that I posted in December. She was talking about how she needed to add more beans to her diet. But she sounds a little more adventurous than me when it comes to variety. So, here I am offering another soup recipe with white beans but really, if you are up for it, any bean will likely do. So mix it up and substitute the beans if you want. And let me know how it goes. Who knows? Maybe I will add another bean to my list.

White Bean and Hearty Greens Soup

(Serves about 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4-5 Italian chicken sausage

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup white wine

3-4 cups chicken stock

1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary

3 cups chopped kale or any other hearty winter greens such as chard, mustard greens, escarole, etc.

salt and pepper

garnishes: red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese

crusty bread

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add shallots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook shallots until transparent, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage meat from the casings and add to the pot.  Break up the meat with a wooden spoon.  Allow sausage meat to brown, only stirring enough to brown all the meat.  Add garlic, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms just begin to soften, another 5 minutes, or so. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked on bits.  Reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock, beans and rosemary.  Bring soup to a boil and add greens.  Turn down heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the carrots are softened and greens are wilted.  Taste soup and add more salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve with garnishes and crusty bread.

 

 

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Four Snacks for Super Bowl Fans

Most of my friends who are football fans know that I have never followed a team and usually have no idea what is happening during a game. I am to busy socializing and eating snacks, which suites me just fine. It’s only in recent years, now that my son has become such a die hard Patriots fan that I began paying attention especially if New England is going to be in the Super Bowl. My eleven year old is fully invested. He sheds tears when things look bleak like in that last playoff game when it looked like the Pats didn’t have enough time for a win. I can’t bear it. Not the loss, it’s the sad child. So, like any loving mother, I lectured him, “Tom Brady hasn’t given up yet! Why are you giving up on Tom Brady!” Sometimes I really cannot believe the words that come out of my mouth.

Whatever team you root for this Sunday, snacks will be needed. Here are four recipes that are all made with puff pastry and can be made in about an hour. They satisfy just about everyone. If you happen to have any leftovers just heat them up on low heat in the oven to recrisp the puff pastry. Enjoy and Go Pats!!

Everything” Mini Pigs in a Blanket

1 sheet puff pastry

flour for rolling

1 package hot dogs

1 egg

Everything Spice Mix (see following paragraph for recipe)

optional: mustard, relish and catsup for serving

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to slightly increase surface area. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut puff pastry sheet into 24 small rectangles/squares. Cut each hotdog into 3 even pieces. Mix egg with a tablespoon of water. Roll up each hotdog piece in a portion of puff pastry and seal the edge with some of the egg wash (you can use your finger or a brush). Lay each puff pastry enrobed hotdog on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once all of the hotdogs are rolled in puff pastry, brush all of the tops of the pigs in blankets with the remaining egg wash and quickly sprinkle them with Everything Spice Mix (so that the spice mix will stick). Place pigs in blankets in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden and puffed. Remove from oven and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes before serving and people tend to shove these into their mouths and they are very hot!! Serve with mustard, relish and catsup.

Everything Spice Mix

1 teaspoon driend minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon dried, minced onion.

Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle on everything. Especially good on toast with butter or cream cheese. Store in an airtight container.

 

Pinwheels 2 ways: Sausage and Cheese or Spinach and Cheese

1 sheet of puff pastry

flour for rolling

5-6 chicken or turkey sausages, casings removed

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to increase surface area. Use your hands to press sausage onto puff pastry, spread it to 3 edges leaving one long edge 1/8″ free of sausage. Cover sausage with grated cheese. Roll up puff pastry beginning from the long edge opposite the edge free of sausage. Wet your fingers with water and run it along the free edge of puff pastry then press lightly to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2″ pinwheels from sausage and puff pastry roll. Lay them on thier sides on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Alternately, use frozen spinach and spreadable garlic and herb cheese along with the sharp cheddar instead of sausage in these Spinach Pinwheels:

1 sheet puff pastry

flour for rolling

6 oz. garlic and herb flavored spreadable cheese

frozen chopped spinach, thawed and rung out

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to increase surface area. Using a butter knife, spread garlic and herb flavored cheese to all edges of puff pastry. Cover spreadable cheese with spinach leaving one long edge of puff pastry 1/8″ free of spinach. Sprinkle sharp cheddar over spinach. Roll up puff pastry beginning from the long edge opposite the edge free of spinach. Press lightly to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2″ pinwheels from spinach and puff pastry roll. Lay them on thier sides on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

spinach, sharp cheddar cheese, garlic pub cheese rolled up and baked in puff pastry

 

Oh, what to do with the last lonely sheet of puff pastry? Here is an easy idea that always gets gobbled up:

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Using a small amount of flour, roll out pastry sheet to increase surface area. Cut pastry into 12 square/rectangles. Spread raspberry or any flavor jam over each square. Roll up each square beginning with a corner . Place each rolled piece of pastry and jam on parchment lined baking sheets sprayed with a little cooking spray. Brush the tops of the pastry rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving as jam gets very hot!!

20170910_094854

Thai Carrot Soup with Tahini Swirl

pureed carrot soup with Thai flavors and a swirl of tahini, ginger and lemon dressing

An abundance of grated carrots in my freezer and a craving for sweet, spicy, sour and earthy flavors led me down the path to this recipe. Pureed carrots thickened with rice and seasoned with a hint of fish sauce, warm spices: ginger, cumin and nutmeg and sour notes of lime. To finish it off, I riffed on one of my favorite salad dressings borrowed from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly from her recipe for “Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame -Ginger Dressing”. (You will not regret purchasing this book as all of the recipes are delicious, easy and useful. So, as soon as you are finished reading this, order your copy!) And yes, I realize that her salad is described as “Chinese” and I am calling my soup, “Thai”. To be honest, in this area, I may not be accurate but I do know what I like. And this carrot soup with Tahini Swirl drizzled on top is a winner.

Thai Carrot Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white rice

8 large carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 can coconut milk

juice from 1 lime

1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce

2 teaspoons fish sauce

For garnish: fresh cilantro, Sriracha sauce, Thahini sauce (see following recipe)

Add olive oil to a large stock pot and heat on medium high. Add onion, garlic, ginger, salt and chili paste. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil.

Add the carrots, cumin and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, until carrots and rice are soft. Add the coconut milk. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender or allow to cool before blending in a regular blender being careful to release the steam. Add the soup back to the pot and add lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference by adding more salt, lime juice or sambal oelek (chili paste).

Serve with Tahini dressing, Sriracha and cilantro leaves.

Tahini Dressing

(adapted from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly)

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons tahini

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste or sambel oelek

3 tablespoons of grapeseed or canola oil

 

Using a whisk, blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve with meats, vegetables or soup. If you would like to use this as a salad dressing, reduce the amount of tahini to 2 teaspoons and increase the oil to 1/2 cup.

 

Lasagna Soup with Fresh Ricotta

creamy tomato soup with lasagana noodles and italian chicken sausage and dollops of ricotta cheese

Who doesn’t love a big hunk of lasagna with melty cheese oozing from its soft pasta layers?  Little chunks of sausage and meatballs hidden among the ricotta and mozzerella waiting to be discovered and dug out like tiny treasures in a red sauce filled landscape flavored by oregano and garlic?

Sadly, devouring all that lasagna goodness requires unbuttoning one’s pants and taking a long winter nap followed by a guilt filled morning and a long, joyless trip to the gym.  Is it really worth it?

My longing for all that is craveworthy about lasagna and my desire not to feel guilty or gluttonous about consuming such a rich meal has led me to search out viable alternatives.  I  will be honest.  I was skeptical at first about this soup recipe that I was finally able to find on the food network website.  How could one recreate the flavors, decadent feeling and tastes in a soup that is far less caloric than its inspiration?  I decided it was worth a try.

As you have probably already suspected, this soup recipe delivers on all counts: melty cheese from the fresh ricotta dollops, creamy and tomatoey sauce, chunky noodles and bits of Italian spiced meat.  If you are feeling extra hungry, make some garlic bread to dip in your bowl.  This soup makes a comforting and somewhat guilt free meal.

I changed up some parts of the recipe but included the link to the original if you want to check it out.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/lasagna-soup-2268968. The recipe for the Ricotta cheese is a combination of a few from my research mixed up with my memory of a recipe that I once had from a friend of mine.  Unfortunately, I cannot find my original copy but I think I came pretty close in recreating it.  Make the Ricotta a day or a few hours in advance.

 

Lasagana Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups chicken broth

1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped basil

1 Parmesan rind or /13 cup grated parmesan cheese

8 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into pieces (about 10 noodles)

1/4 cup whole milk

Ricotta cheese (see following recipe)

optional: red pepper flakes and extra basil for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring until onions soften, about 4 minutes.  Add the sausage, garlic and oregano.  Cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a spoon until the sausage is browned and cooked through.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until darkened, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, Parmesan rind ( wait to add the cheese, if using grated) and 1 cup water, cover and bring to a simmer.  Uncover and cook until slightly reduced , about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and add the lasagna noodles.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain and add to soup.  Add milk, parmesan (if using grated) and basil.  Simmer for about 1 minute.  Divide the soup among bowls and top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese.

ricotta cheese curds

 

Ricotta Cheese

8 cups whole milk ( I use Garelick brand)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

 

Line a large strainer with 4 layers of cheese cloth being sure that it hangs over the sides about an inch or two.  Place the strainer over a large bowl.

In a large, heavy pot slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil.  Stir it occasionally to prevent scorching.  Add the lemon juice, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring continuously, until the mixture curdles.  This takes about 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds and place them in the strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Let the cheese drain for at least and hour.  Use the cheese immediately or place it in a covered container in the refrigerator.  It will keep for about 2 days.  

*You can use the liquid from the cheese, called whey in all types of ways.  It’s protein rich.  Use it in smoothies and bread recipes instead of milk or water.

**This cheese tastes delicious when served with salty crackers and topped with honey.