Easy Coconut-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Based on pantry ingredients, this soup comes together in the flashiest of flashes.
(And, yes, I love “Love Actually”!)

I’m definitely too old for restaurant work, but I very occasionally do a small volunteer catering job if a friend sweetly asks. My caveats are 1. It’s during the day (unless you just want delivery of soup or stew when you’re in personal need) and for a worthy cause. My bedtime is 9pm, you see. 2. The menu is short and sweet since I have to do all of the cooking. My feet simply aren’t what they used to be. 3. The event isn’t for 100+ people. Commercial kitchen, I’m not. 4. I pick my own help. I’m all about having fun whenever I can. This week, one of those perfect jobs arrived that just about fit all of my requirements. A nearly vegetarian soup, salad, dessert lunch menu was on deck for 35 heads of local Colorado Springs non-profits, which means cook for 40. You never know when a plate will fall off a counter, a guest might bring along a friend, or someone’s starving and eats double. Best husband and sous, Dave, along with good friend/caterer Patti came along to help make it all possible as these things can’t be done alone. Huge thanks to Dave for being the master of the commercial dishwasher and to Patti who decorated the tables with vases of flowers from her own gardens. Both of them made salad, served soup, and kept everyone full and happy.

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Barely Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread is the perfect cookie for someone with an egg allergy.

There might not be an easier cookie for changing, dressing up or down, or adding to than a basic shortbread cookie. When it’s Christmas and I need a new cookie, I often give shortbread the nod for just that reason — and because I love it so. What’s not to love? There are few (5) ingredients that go together with no special work or instructions. Chilling time? Sure, but it’s 30 minutes compared to 2 hours for sugar cookies. And shortbread can taste better than sugar cookies, can’t it? Of course it can and it’s perfect with a wee dram some chilly dark night, in case you didn’t know. And thank God it’s getting chilly again.

This week, needing a last cookie to round out a cookie tray for a Friday-night party, I thought I’d make one of my favorite shortbreads. But which one was it? Lemon came to mind, but I’ve only ever done lemon shortbread bars. A fluted cookie sounded right and I knew just the recipe to grab, wrestle with briefly, and know I’d come out with a top-shelf Lemon Shortbread Cookie. I added the word “Barely” to the title as it’s not overly lemon-y. Just enough to still love the shortbread all the while feeling quite happy from the little lemon buzz. Is there anything better than lemon and butter?

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Plum Crumble Tart

Help! I can’t make a tart!! (Scroll down to TIPS for helpful info.)

A person who loves words is sometimes also an over-thinker. Take this, for example. When I consider the word “tart,” I’m not sure which comes to mind first: “tart” as in a one-crust pie usually baked in a pan with a removable bottom or “tart” as in, “Whooee, boys, those apples got me puckering up” or “tart” as in, “a female who is attractive and has the air of being promiscuous, even if she isn’t.” (Thanks, URBAN DICTIONARY, for that last definition.) Now, part of the problem is the English language. I don’t think “tarte” (tart in French) or “torte” (tart in German) or “tarta” (tart in Spanish) pose quite the same predicament. (Is my verb-subject agreement correct in that last sentence? You decide.) But it might and I just don’t know it. While I speak a little of all three of those languages (I can order a glass of white wine in nearly any tongue), fluent I’m not. This week’s post, all about a plum tart that needed baking one afternoon, had my brain not only trying to figure out a recipe for the darned thing, but also kept me awake (well, perhaps for a moment or two…) considering the word, “tart.”

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One-Pot Drumsticks and Rice with Vegetables (Stove Top)

Have fresh tomatoes that need using? Chop 2 cups to replace the can of diced tomatoes.

Last week, while working on my post “Cheep Eats” (sic), I got on a roll cooking chicken drumsticks, my very favorite part of chicken. I kept thinking about a big baked casserole of whole chicken pieces and rice I often made when feeding our family of six. Occasionally I’d swap in pork chops for the chicken. And while I still have that recipe in my now worn BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK (I don’t see the exact one on the internet despite looking), I knew it needed a big update. I no longer cook with dry soup mixes very often and CURSES! my oven had died, so a new version had to work on top of the stove. I wanted bunches of vegetables included to make dinner a breeze. Is there anyone who doesn’t like a one-pot, whole meal dinner? What I had in mind was a chicken-rich, herby rice pilaf full of those veggies and with plenty of room for herb or cheese garnishes at the end. I know it’s not quite fall, but I’m in the mood for cozy food and this hit the spot!

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