Food

Roasted Squash Soup

I love squash soup, but I have never made it myself. My mother-in-law gave us some lovely squash so I decided to whip up a batch of this beautiful comfort food this past weekend. Even my squash-hating hubby enjoyed this soup.

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I started by cutting a large squash in half and scooping out the seeds.

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I drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted for nearly an hour.

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Allow the squash to cool for a while before scooping out the good stuff and putting in a blender. At this point, an immersion blender on the stove top would work as well.

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As I puréed the squash in batches in my blender, I added chicken broth, sautéed onion and garlic, and maple syrup. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

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Maple syrup adds a comforting sweetness to the soup. I then simmered the soup in a large pot on the stove until we were ready to eat dinner. I used an entire 32-ounce box of chicken broth, but you can add the broth gradually to ensure you achieve the thickness you want. Vegetable broth could be used to make this an entirely vegetarian dish.

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Before serving, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the soup and sprinkled each bowl with a bit more nutmeg.

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Recipe:

  • 1 large (or a couple of small) squash
  • 32 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon nutmeg (plus more for sprinkling before serving)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

 

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds
  • Drizzle each half of squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place each half of the squash face down on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Let the squash cool for at least 15 minutes before scooping out of the peel and into the blender.
  • Purée the squash in batches, never filling the blender more than half full at a time. It will expand as you blend.
  • As you blend the batches, place the puréed squash in a large pot on the stove.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding more broth as needed until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
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Food

A Fun Summer Dessert (and a Fourth of July Recap)

The fact that the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year meant the day stayed simple without feeling obligated to cram travel plans into a three-day weekend. We stayed home, walked down to our small town’s parade, and hosted my parents for a cookout on the deck. We were asleep before the fireworks and that was OK.

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I made this super tasty no-bake dessert to celebrate the birthdays of both America and my mother. It’s a variation of a recipe I found in an old family cookbook, the kind where church potluck favorites reign supreme. I used strawberries and blueberries for a patriotic look, but you could play around with all kinds of fruit combinations. Keep enjoying summer, everyone!

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Recipe:

  • 3 sleeves of graham crackers (whole)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 3.4-ounce packages of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 1/2 cups of cold milk
  • 1 carton of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 carton of fresh blueberries
  • 12 ounces Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream)
  • 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips

 

  • With an electric mixer, cream together the instant pudding mixes and the cream cheese.
  • Gradually add the cold milk.
  • Fold in the Cool Whip, reserving enough Cool Whip to coat the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
  • Spread a small amount of Cool Whip in the bottom of the pan.
  • Place one layer of whole graham crackers in the pan, breaking them apart if needed.
  • Place a layer of pudding mixture over the graham crackers and sprinkle (or carefully place if that’s your thing) the fruit over the pudding layer.
  • Do another layer of graham crackers, followed by pudding, followed by berries.
  • You’ll do three layers total, ending with the pudding/fresh berries on top.
  • Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and spoon over the top layer. (I spooned it into a plastic bag and cut off the corner to create a little piping bag.)
  • Chill at least four hours (overnight is even better.)
Food

Happy Birthday Norm: Birthday Cake for Dogs and Humans

Norman turns nine this week. After his cancer scare last month and the surgery that followed, we are celebrating his life and health more than ever. This birthday cake is edible for dogs and humans, so it is perfect for spoiling our furry friend.

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I scoured the web for dog-friendly cake ideas and ended up combining a couple of recipes to come up with this. It’s quick and easy. My older daughter had a great time helping bake it.

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Full disclosure: It wasn’t my favorite cake in the world, but it wasn’t terrible. Norman, actually a fussy eater most of the time, devoured his serving. My daughter thought it was so cool that she and her dog brother could eat the same cake.

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I loved this green striped number candle by Papyrus that I found at Safeway. My daughter helped Norman blow out his candle and said she made a wish for him. Later, she revealed the wish: “I hope Norman gets a princess.” I think he has more princesses around than he can handle.

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Recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (plus more for frosting the cake)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg

 

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour and baking soda.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir with a spatula until combined.
  • Place in a greased 9-inch pan.
  • Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 30 minutes and frost with peanut butter.
  • Serve to dogs and humans alike!
Food

Christmas Spirit and A Delicious Chocolate Cake

Normally I am a proponent of holding off on decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but this past weekend I started looking at our busy schedule for the next few weeks. That led to hauling the decorations up from the basement, putting everything up, and baking this delicious cake featured in the gorgeous winter issue of Magnolia Journal. The girls even napped to Christmas music while I scurried about cleaning up glitter and cocoa powder.

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Three years old might be the most magical age when it comes to enthusiasm for the holidays. I want to bottle every moment with my oldest daughter. OK, maybe not the occasional tantrum, but you get my drift.

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We put the tree in the dining room this year, mainly because my youngest daughter just started crawling so finding a safe spot in the living room proved to be a challenge. However, I really like it in this spot. It is great to enjoy it during dinner, and it happens to be in front of a window that faces the street.

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The magic of the holidays is in the air. The time between Halloween and New Year’s goes so quickly and seems to fly even faster now that I have two children of my own. I’m trying to focus on work-life balance as much as possible so I don’t miss the special times attending my daughter’s Thanksgiving lunch at preschool and helping with the church Christmas program.

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The recipe for this delicious cake is below. It would make a great treat to share as a holiday gift or to serve at upcoming gatherings. Hint: It doesn’t hurt to pair it with a dry red wine.

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Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups water

 

  • Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Let the butter and eggs stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. Add cocoa powder. Shake and tilt pan to generously coat the bottom, sides, and tube. Shake out any excess cocoa powder.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, microwave unsweetened chocolate 1 to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add both sugars. Beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat until combined.
  • Alternately add flour mixture and the water to the chocolate mixture. Beat on low after each addition until just combined. Pour into pan, spreading evenly.
  • Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Sift powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder over the cake.
Food

Halloween Fruit Dip

I love this easy and delicious fruit dip that can be dyed for any festivity. Of course I have been doing orange lately for my little goblin.

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It’s just one softened brick of cream cheese beaten together with one 7-ounce container of marshmallow cream. Then dye the dip according to your food coloring instructions.

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Serve with your favorite fruit.

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It’s the perfect snack for a girl watching college football with her daddy.

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Food

Slow Cooker Andouille Corn Chowder

Chilly October days call for hearty soups that can simmer all day. Corn chowder with Andouille sausage is one of my favorites. The Andouille adds a bit of spice, but the creamy base tones it down. My three-year-old said “It’s a little spicy, but not too spicy.”

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I slice the Andouille into about one-inch cubes because I like the chowder to be chunky, yet want the pieces bit-sized. Slow cooker meals are a great way for kids to help because they can throw in ingredients without risk of a hot stove or splatters.

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Everything gets combined in the slow cooker for this tasty soup. Then the only thing left to do is cut up some bread, sprinkle the soup with a bit of shredded cheese, and serve. This is so hearty and satisfying. The leftovers are great, too!

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Recipe:

  • Heat a diced medium-size onion in a little butter until tender.
  • Combine 3 cups chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half, a bag of frozen corn, 2-3 cups of diced potatoes (I peeled mine because I used russets), and a diced Andouille sausage in a slow cooker.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. I also threw in a bay leaf.
  • Cook on high for 3 hours or low for at least 6 hours until potatoes are tender.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of half-and-half and add it to the soup.
  • Allow to cook for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Garnish with cheese and serve!
Food

Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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