Savory Butternut Squash Bisque

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That distinct Ohio Autumn crispness has floated into the morning air the past two days and it has sparked in me a fierce urge to cook and bake. The summer humidity always dampens my desire to be in my kitchen, but my oven and stove were working overtime this past Sunday afternoon.  Our house temperature rose to a stifling 76 degrees, but whatever. It was fun, albeit steamy.

One of my weekend projects was this soup.  I had scooped up a hefty butternut squash at the grocery store without any recipe in mind last week. This, unfortunately, tends to result in me throwing out a rotting squash because no plans come to fruition and I always vow to waste less “next time.” But then the vision of a silky and earthy butternut squash soup danced in my head and I was researching recipes in no time.

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I have a personal preference for savory spices with starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes or butternut squash. They are already sweet to begin with and I think adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg makes these types of dishes seem more like a dessert. As a result, I added thyme to this bisque instead. The addition of flavorful leeks and sherry really make this soup extra lovely. Sherry is one of the best ways to take a creamy soup up about 50 notches. It adds a whole new dimension and richness. I highly recommend using it if you can; plus- it lasts forever! I think the sherry I have was originally my great grandmother’s and my mom gave it to me when my parents were moving.

If you are in the mood for soups and you are in the autumn spirit, I highly recommend making this soup. It makes a great side dish and is wonderful topped with crème fraiche and good balsamic vinegar. You could also make it a main dish and jazz it up with a few crumbles of thick bacon. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong.

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

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Looking for more soup recipes? Here are a few of our favorite soup recipes from the archives:

Wedding Crab (or Lobster) Bisque- the beloved soup recipe served at our wedding (sherry is in this recipe, too!)

Sweet Potato Chili– a healthy and hearty soup with no added sugar

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese– creamy and rich

Corn Chowder– all of the flavor of summer before we say goodbye

Crab and Corn Chowder– shellfish and corn go together like peas and carrots

Sweet and Spicy Chili– a little sweet and a little heat make for a classic soup

Cream of Mushroom– earthy and satisfying

French Onion Soup– let’s be real, the best part is the cheesy bread on top

Chicken Tortilla Soup– for those who want a little extra spice in their lives

P.S. We have three new ladies in our family: Ruth, Idgie, and Sipsey. They are Rhode Island Red laying hens and we love getting fresh eggs every day. Fresh eggs are so much richer and more flavorful than those found in the grocery store and one of our girls is a double-yolk-laying machine.

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Savory Butternut Squash Bisque

Yield: About 6 side dish servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only, chopped and rinsed well (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 3cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Crème fraiche and balsamic vinegar for topping, optional

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Add in the leaks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add in the squash, thyme, black pepper, and salt. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. Add in the sherry and cook for about 2 minutes longer to allow the liquid to reduce.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce hit to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
  4. Using a hand blender or regular blender, blend the soup until desired texture is achieved  (I personally like a few chunks and bits left). Return the soup mixture to the Dutch oven. Add in the milk, cream, and any additional salt or sherry as your personal taste indicates. Stir to combine and reheat to desired temperature.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

 

Source: Slightly adapted from Merrill Stubbs at Food52

Classic Hummus

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Phew! The holidays are over and it’s back to business. This time of year, most are looking for a break from all of the excess of December and we are no different. We are hungry for meals that will give us more bang for our buck, nutritionally, and that are delicious. Contrary to popular belief, health and taste are not mutually exclusive. Just take this recipe for hummus as an example. It’s creamy and earthy and goes really well as a dip for vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a base for grilled chicken. And for all of you out there who think they don’t like hummus, I challenge you to reconsider. I am a converted hummus lover. Before we found The Olive Tree, our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, I really didn’t care for hummus. I had only tried the store-bought versions and I felt it always tasted kind of pasty; but, at the risk of sounding overly-dramatic (me? … never!), my life changed forever when I tasted the pillowy goodness made by the Greek gods at The Olive Tree. Opa!

I’ve made hummus in the past, but this is the first time I have cooked the garbanzo beans myself instead of using canned beans. Not only is this more economical, it takes hummus to the next level. And, cooking beans is not at all difficult- it just takes a little planning ahead. All you need to do is pour a 15 ounce bag of dried beans into a dutch oven, cover it with water, let it soak overnight, and then simmer for about 2 hours (or until desired tenderness) the following day while you are going about your business. I found the hummus came together really nicely when I used the still-warm beans. There is always the option to peel the skins off the beans before you process them for an even creamier texture if you have extra time on your hands, but my little rump roast was throwing my mini tartlet pans all over the kitchen and heading straight for the heirloom china cabinet in our living room with a look of pure mischief on his face while I was making the hummus, so I wisely opted out of this method.

I hope you are off you a happy and healthy 2015. Happy Sunday, everyone!

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Classic Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved and set aside
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 Cup tahini
  • 7-8 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Hot sauce, optional (I love Sriracha)

Directions:

Place all the ingredients (except the Sriracha) in a food processor. Pulse until creamy and well-combined. You may need to ad more liquid depending on your desired consistency. Remove from food processor and top with hot sauce, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Source: Oh She Glows, who adapted it from Barefoot Contessa

The Best Baked Brown Rice

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My friends, do you find yourself leery when you see a recipe labeled “the best” or “the only recipe you’ll ever need for…”? I, too, become leery. Too many times I have ended up disappointed with the results and cried foul on the misleading label. However, I make an exception for this brown rice.

I’ve attempted a few different methods of making brown rice and I am always left wanting something more. That is, until the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated cracked the code. And it really is quite simple. If you can boil water and preheat an oven, you can make this scrumptious and healthy side dish.  Also- I like to double this recipe to have extra rice on hand for making fried rice or to have as leftovers the next day. It’s quite tasty reheated.

It feels good to be slowly getting back into the cooking scene. Our camera is usually smoking from all of the pictures I snap of this little ham ball. :)

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Baked Brown Rice

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position; Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Spread rice in 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Place water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the water starts boiling (letting it boil to long will cause evaporation and affect the ratio of water and rice), remove from heat and stir in salt. Carefully pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Place in the oven and bake rice for 1 hour, until tender.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel. Let the rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 additional minutes. Enjoy!

Note: If doubling the recipe ,use a 9×13 inch baking dish and keep the baking time the same.

Source: A Veggie Venture, originally from the magicians at Cook’s Illustrated

Wild Rice Casserole

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After a month-long hiatus, I’m finally resurfacing with this wild rice casserole recipe. April was a bit of a blur with birthdays, a trip to Tennessee, and some home projects. I’ve really missed giving the blog some attention and I have a lot of new recipes to share in the upcoming weeks. For starters, this casserole comes from a new cookbook I recently purchased, Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. It’s not really a typical, canned soup type of casserole that we are all used to. It’s made with simple kitchen staples and topped with a nutty Gruyere cheese. It makes a great side or main dish and it tastes great reheated the next day.

The original recipe called for cremini mushrooms, but I just used the white cap mushrooms I had on hand and the dish was still scrumptious. This is a very adaptable recipe and it can be made ahead of time and popped in the oven whenever you are ready for some grub.

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Wild Rice Casserole

Printable version

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms (I used white cap)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice (or brown rice)
  • 1/3 cup Gruyere (or swiss) cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, optional

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter or oil) a 9×13 inch or 10 inch round baking dish.

2. Whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan over high heat. Add in the mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Allow the mushrooms to cook, without stirring further for about 5 minutes. Then, continue to stir and coo until the mushrooms are browned. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, for about 2-3 more minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Next, add in the cooked rice and stir until evenly mixed in.

4. Remove the pan from heat and add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture. Pour into the baking dish and top with the gruyere cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the casserole is hot throughout. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme, if desired.

Source: Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson

Zesty Quinoa Salad

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As glorious as it may be, meals can’t always revolve around meat and potatoes. In an effort to modify our eating habits, I’ve started experimenting with more “main dish” grains. So far my two favorites are farro and quinoa. Robert has been a little nervous about these vegetarian dishes, but he is starting to come around. As long as we have a safety net of meat in the fridge, he can usually keep his cool. He’s a good sport.

This particular dish highlights two of our favorite seasonings- chili powder and cumin- and it’s great served with cheese quesadillas or roasted vegetables on the side. I think it would also be a tasty filler for a burrito.

Other grains I have on my list of “to try” include: millet, bulgur, and barley. I lead an exhilarating life, I know. :)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Zesty Quinoa Salad

Printable version

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes together in a bowl.
  3. Combine quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and green onions together in a bowl. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cilantro; season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables & Cooking with Jess

How is that for a long title?

This past weekend, Jess and Greg came over for dinner and what seems like forever since Jess and I last got together for a “Cooking with Jess” segment. What can I say, we are busy folks. But, then again, who isn’t this time of year?

As always, Jess and I had a lovely time together and the food was equally wonderful. It’s not always easy to get together and sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day, but I’m always glad when we make it happen.

The menu consisted of mostly fall-inspired foods (with the exception of Jess’s tasty strawberry daiquiri shortcakes for dessert). In addition to the scrumptious dessert, we had classic pot roast, pumpkin soup, and wheat berry salad with roasted root vegetables. I had been eyeying the wheat berry salad recipe as a possible Thanksgiving side dish for a few weeks; and, after gentle coaxing from my Aunt Khaki, decided to include it on our holiday menu.

I could think of no better occasion to give the recipe a test run than cooking with my like-minded culinary friend, Jess.

Wheat berries, also known as Farro (as Khaki so lovingly educated me), are pine nut-sized Italian whole grains that are- in my opinion-a delicious hybrid between rice and pasta. It was somewhat tricky for me to find Farro as my usual grocery store didn’t carry it. I ended up getting it at Giant Eagle in the international section after nearly giving up hope. It tastes great cold or warm and it is even better in this salad with roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, pine nuts, and goat cheese. Although it’s not exactly traditional, I am looking forward to adding this to the table next Thursday.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Yield 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries (farro)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup  dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2-3 ounces goat cheese, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease with spray oil. Set aside.

2. Place 2 quarts water in a medium pot. Add in about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the bay leaves and wheat berries. Cook until chewy and tender, about 40 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, place the chopped vegetables on the foil-lined baking sheet. Toss lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. When the wheat berries are done cooking, drain well and place in a large bowl. Add in the olive oil,cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, and roasted vegetables. Stir gently to combine (the goat cheese will melt into delicious creaminess). Serve hot or cold.

Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz

Cooking with Jess

It’s been awhile since my friend Jess and I have gotten together to cook. Jess and her husband, Greg, are getting ready to move into a new house and they are currently in the process of emptying out their kitchen. It just so happened that Jess had a frozen turkey in her freezer that she hasn’t had the chance to make, so she invited us over for sort of a spring-focused thanksgiving.

On the menu was turkey (of course), carrot soup, oven-roasted asparagus, sauteed sweet potatoes, rosemary and olive oil bread, chocolate stout cake, and a fresh strawberry tart. It was all very delicious, but my favorite dish was the carrot soup. Jess found it in a spring Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine and it was surprisingly scrumptious and easy to make. With minimal ingredients, the soup is a perfect meal for spring. And it makes super leftovers. The recipe is below.

Thanks to Jessica for another great meal.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Fresh Cream of Carrot Soup
Yield: 6-8 side servings
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • Salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring for about a minute.
  3. Add broth and 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add carrots and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is a uniform and smooth texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a blender in smaller batches and blend until smooth.
  6. Add milk or cream and heat over medium until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Barely adapted from Martha Stewart