You might be like me and LOVE butternut squash soup. The baseline, silky with cream French-herby sort that graces decent/decadent/expensive restaurant menus and fills you up to the brim while you sip an oaky California Chardonnay. Or maybe the chunky vegetarian variety chock full of not only squash, but also every other vegetable in the whole wide world and is best served up with a local icy-cold wheat beer. Could be the Thai version all curry-laden–both sweet and spicy, which is lovely with a Grüner Veltliner, by the way. What’s your favorite?Continue reading
…scroll down to bottom for links to many things thanksgiving–crafts for kids, wine advice, music….
When it’s only a week until Thanksgiving, we can go one of two ways: bury our heads in the sand of the past and recreate each and every one of the holidays gone by — could do that with your eyes closed, right; would it be so bad? —or what about spend a little time thinking about trying, even learning something new–perhaps in the way of Thanksgiving sides? If you’ve been reading along lately, you’ll know I’m totally taken with the idea of a curated Thanksgiving. That is to say, a more dinner party-ish meal– not dinner party-ish as in fancy pants table settings or overly-priced sparkling wines served in frighteningly expensive flutes, but rather in a limited number of precisely considered, perfect dishes. Ok, just ones that taste good, not necessarily perfect-perfect. One vegetable instead of 6. 2 desserts in the place of the buffet of pumpkin and pecan lovelies. A beautiful meal, not an eat-all-you-can til you bust your britches buffet. Less cleanup. Fewer leftovers. More energy for a round or two of Hearts or to watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” that all-but-required Thanksgiving movie. No, no. Don’t start the Christmas movies, please. Even football is better than that. Give Thanksgiving its due, its own time. Let’s not mash our day of gratefulness all up into December madness.Continue reading
If you’re a soup cookbook writer, you probably love soup. I love soup. I’m seldom happier than when I’m heating up a kettle while chopping a big pile of vegetables. Perhaps I’m happier at the table with a hot bowl and a cold class of wine or driving home knowing there’s a big pot of soup in the fridge making me feel rich. I don’t know.Continue reading
Could you make more of it? Certainly, cook on.
But if you’re in a hurry for a fast, healthy meal when it’s cold outside and you’ve got nothing ready, this is for you. Garnish it as you see fit and be happy in your tummy tonight. By the way, this makes a small batch. Make it twice if you need more!
Above: Meet Rosie! She sort of jumped in the car and came home with us from Pueblo last night. (Not really:) 13-week old Labradoodle, she slept throughout the night without crying. Of course she did steal Tucker’s bed — right next to our bed — to do it. About 1 am, he snuck into it with her. Otherwise Tuck’s nose is just a tish out of joint. Watch for Rosie’s upcoming adventures. P.S. Rosie is her litter name. We might rename her. Ideas for names for a very black, wiry-haired dog with a beautiful temperament and tons of patience for a pup would be entertained! Leave in comments or on my fb page.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH-BLACK BEAN SOUP IN THE MICROWAVE in 15 minutes
If you have a food processor, pulse the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and spices in the bowl fitted with the steel blade until finely minced. You could easily sub pumpkin for the butternut squash or cooked brown rice for the beans if that’s more appealing.
Makes 5-6 1-cup servings or 2 2 1/2-cup servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (needn’t be extra virgin)
- 3 each carrots and celery stalks, minced
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon each: grated ginger and kosher salt
- 15-ounce can cooked, mashed butternut squash or a 12-ounce box of frozen mashed Winter Squash, or 2 cups pureed butternut squash
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 or 2 15-ounce can drained black beans or 2 -3 cups homemade black beans
- Sour cream, Greek yogurt, or a drizzle of cream for garnish, optional
In an 8-cup glass measuring cup or similarly-sized microwave-safe bowl, stir together the olive oil and minced carrots, celery, onion and garlic with the ginger, cumin, peppers, and salt. Cover* and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook another minute or two until nearly tender.
Stir the squash and broth into the cooked vegetables and spices and mix well. Cover again and microwave on high 5 minutes.
Uncover carefully and stir in the black beans. (If you’d like, purée it before adding the beans using an immersion blender in the bowl or carefully in batches in the regular blender. Hold blender top down with a towel.) Cover a last time and microwave on high 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.** Serve hot with a drizzle of sour cream, yogurt, cream, or crushed tortilla chips for garnish, if desired.
*Plastic wrap works, but so will a microwave-safe dinner plate if it will fit in your microwave. Some of the newer 8-cup Pyrex glass measuring cups have their own lids.
**A little more ginger gives it quite the zing you might love. If you’re a zinger, that is.
I often sign my books, very truthfully:
Cook soup all year long for health, wealth, and happiness…
Sing a new song; love a new puppy,
Last summer, when I began to make the first vegetable curries of the season, I was right here in our Colorado house up on the mesa. I needed a quick dinner and had a bunch of vegetables lying around the counter–including lots of tomatoes. A pot of rice was put to boil and I threw a bunch of vegetables and a little curry powder into a big skillet. We ate quite happily very soon thereafter.
DISCLAIMER: I’ll freely admit I’m no authenic Indian cook; check out Just a Girl from Mumbai or The Lady 8 Home (two of my Ina Friday friends’ blogs) for authentic recipes. Or, for a general set of instructions, check out this post.
Last week, we moved permanently from Saint Paul back to Colorado into the house we’ve owned there for eight years by now. To say it was or is a wrench is an understatement, because we love Saint Paul and I so loved my choir job at Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis. Finances dictated a change to owning one house only and here we are. I’m still in the midst of figuring it all out and can’t believe what an emotional upheaval it’s been. After all, it’s just a house–right????
|St. Paul backyard|
|Gab and Tuck were both puppies in CO|
While we are born midwesterners through and through (Dave from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and me from the south suburbs of Chicago)–and adore the four seasons, as well as the Twin Cities culture, we have always just sunk into the beauty and comfort of our ranch house in Colorado. At night in bed in the middle of a frozen Minnesota winter night, I’d walk through the Colorado house in my mind–poring over each room, looking out each window, nearly crying that no one was there. Come holidays or summers when the choir was off, we’d drive out west with Miss Gab and Tucker, and I often sobbed in relief as I walked into the house. I spent hours on the living room couch, reading and dreaming out over the city of Colorado Springs, which spreads just east of our property. On a clear day, you can see forever. I often watched Dave’s planes take off from the airport which is over 13 miles away. The same distance in the opposite direction brings views of approaching winter storms from the north or, in the case of this last summer, fires from the northeast in Black Forest. Step Inside this House–sung by Lyle Lovett.
And while it appears idyllic (“Oh, Colorado is so beautiful!”), and often is, it can be a harsh environment. Bears, coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion make it through our neighborhood. Right now, we have a bear family traveling between our houses, snacking on available garbage, charging people and dogs and simply refusing to hibernate. In other words, sitting outside at night in the summer is best done on the deck with quick access to the house through a strong door! Fires — and recent floods — are often our frightening nearby companions. Sudden winter storms create havoc and, here in the ‘hood, mean walking home up the steep icy hill unless you have a great four-wheel drive vehicle.
|Stollen cooling on the east deck|
|bear photo borrowed from a neighbor|
|Dave with grandson, Rhyan. One of the joys of living in Colorado is our son Sean and family are here–living with us temporarily while their house is being renovated.|
|Sunrise in my backyard|
- 4 cups–give or take– cooked couscous (I used 1 box Near East couscous with olive oil and garlic)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Large onion, chopped
- Celery stalk, chopped
- Red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced (don’t peel)
- 2 cups chopped zucchini
- 1 cup chopped cooked butternut or acorn squash
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons curry powder*
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or a small pinch of cayenne, optional
- 1/4 cup white wine or vegetable or chicken broth
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger
- 2 cups chopped cherry or regular tomatoes
- 1/4 cup each chopped fresh basil and fresh parsley
3. Stir in wine or broth and let cook down a few minutes, adding more if the vegetables appear dry.
If you liked this, you might also like my curried peppers and tomatoes on rice with grilled chicken or cooking in a time of grief
There are meals when the main course is light, delicate — a brothy-frothy soup or a small piece of white fish with a few vegetables. Or maybe you just have some squash leftover you’d like to make into a pretty “meaty” meal. On the other hand, this would also be a decidedly different and total side for a few great slices of pork loin or a lovely duck breast over the holidays. If any of those things is the case or even if none is, this is your salad.
It starts with cooking a whole acorn squash and about half of a normal-sized butternut squash (I do both in the microwave for recipes like this.*) If you like, a Hubbard or a Turban squash could be used instead. Let the squash cool a bit and then peel and cut it into one-inch pieces. Meantime, a few mushrooms are sautéed, stirred into the squash pieces, and gathered together with a decadent vinaigrette. A bit of cheese, a handful of fresh spinach and arugula, some chopped nuts for crunch and you have your salad. Couldn’t be easier, quicker, or more luscious. So winter. So warming. So if you’re cooking squash one night for dinner, fix an extra couple so you have have this the next day. Here’s how:
- 4 cups cooked winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.) peeled and cut into 1″ pieces*
- 8 ounces button mushrooms sliced and sautéed in butter (about 1 tablespoon) with 5 leaves of sage finely minced or julienned **
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup each fresh spinach and arugula
- 12 large shards —or peels– of Parmesan cheese (use a potato peeler)
- Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette (below)
- 4 tablespoons chopped nuts, your choice (I liked a mix of almonds and cashews.)
- 2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries or cherries, optional
1. In a large bowl, mix squash and mushrooms with sage and parsley. Salt and pepper generously.
2. Stir in the peeled Parmesan carefully.
3. Drizzle salad with enough vinaigrette to moisten lightly. Toss gently, but thoroughly to make sure all of the ingredients are covered with dressing.
4. Divide the salad between four salad plates and top each with a tablespoon of chopped nuts and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped cranberries, if using.
5. Serve immediately.
*To cook squash in the microwave: Pour 2 tablespoons water in a 3 quart Pyrex or microwave-safe dish. Carefully cut acorn or butternut squash in half; scoop our seeds and strings. Add a peeled clove of garlic or a peeled shallot to each squash half. Place squash in dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high about five minutes, remove from oven with mitts and, with a small sharp knife, check for doneness. You want the squash just tender, not mushy. If it’s not done, put it back in the microwave and cook another minute or two and check again until the knife is easily inserted. Repeat if necessary. Add the garlic/shallot (mince them) to the salad.
**If you don’t have fresh sage, use 1/2 teaspoon (dry) rubbed sage.
Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette*
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 shallot, peeled and minced.
- pinch each kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustart
- 1 tablespoon Truffle oil**
- 3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, shallot, salt and peppers, and mustard. Drizzle in oils, whisking, until well-combined.
|A book you can trust from beginning to end–wonderful recipes and great wine advice, ideas, and thoughts. Nearly ten years old now, it has stood the test of time in my kitchen.|
*This vinaigrette is one, with a bit of change, from Andrea Immer’s (Robinson) book, Everyday Cooking with Wine, which is one of my favorites. She uses a recipe much like this for her Warm Wild Mushroom salad, which is one I often make.
**Can use all olive oil.
around the ‘hood
My choir’s (I use the pronoun loosely) cantata was last weekend and they blew it out of the sanctuary! In between a Taize Advent supper, Lectio Divina and service, the last rehearsals and worship, the wind whipped and more than 12 inches of snow covered our world. More than 600 crashes and 1,000 cars in ditches in a 24-hour period! Two of the crashes happened to my folk trying to get to worship or rehearsals in the hilly terrain of our church, Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis. (Everyone’s ok.)
The temperature sits at 8 degrees Fahrenheit now (way below zero with windchill) and the pups and I are inside except for quick forays out into the white for pee breaks.
Here are some of my favorite pics from our yard:
|Hydrangea in snow.|
|South yard lilacs.|
|West fence picket.|
|Hello, snow. How gorgeous you can be.|
Sing a new song and put on your favorite holiday album,
|Made in a deep, heavy 8 quart cast iron pot with a lid (Dutch oven)|
Last year around this time, I made a pot roast with big pieces of butternut squash and halved onions in the oven. A day later I took the leftovers, including the gravy, and made stew. Stew from leftovers is definitely an improvement over freshly made stew. There’s a deeper, fuller, and more flavorful rich quality–without question. It’s just that there’s usually less than when you make a fresh pot. That stew made very quickly with the addition of more onions, celery, and Guinness stout, etc., was divine. I mean it, it was an incredible stew.
No who knows totally why one time things are so scrumptious you want more and more — and another time (same ingredients and method apparently) it’s like, “This is ok. Yeah, we can eat dinner here.” Perhaps it’s the quality of the meat (in the case of stew) or maybe it’s a little pixie dust. Your taste buds might be on their “A” game so that you are able to season the pot in an extraordinary way. Truly, I just don’t know. I know when I’m tired — really exhausted– the meal prepared under those circumstances is plebian. I just did that recently, so I know. I know when I don’t give something my undivided attention that it’s bound to be less interesting. (As in the kids are hungry-throw a bunch of cut-up chicken in the oven and make some rice for God’s sake.)
How are new salads born at my house? Like this……
I’ve had some Israeli couscous (actually a blend) in my cabinet for a few months. Waiting.
Typically I throw some leeks, garlic, and asparagus in a sauté pan come spring and throw those lovely things into a bowl of couscous or orzo with a handful of grated Parmesan and lots of black pepper.
When I realized this was the week to blog winter squash, a different group of ingredients started to percolate. Despite the summer tomatoes still coming on (albeit slowly) and the basil crying for that last bowl of pesto to be made, I kept thinking fall food once the squash got in my head. Cranberries, apples, pears, sharp cheese, nuts.
|Fall..I adore pears…here I’ve just poached them slowly in port with some orange peel and cinnamon sticks.|
Thursday I had a big pot of turkey chili on the stove and called some friends to run over and help eat it. This salad, which began in my head days before it ended up in our stomachs, started the meal. I cooked the couscous and started chopping fruit and toasting nuts. It came together that easily; it’s fairly fast, too. I did think I might have liked walnut oil for the vinaigrette, but the only can I had was in the frig at our Colorado house where it’ll stay a bit fresher over the time we’re not there.
Could it be a whole meal? Definitely. Since it has oranges to keep the fresh fruit from turning brown, I think it’ll keep a day or so…but no more. It might be a filling and happy side for a quick Thanksgiving meal: roast a turkey breast, make this salad, and cook some of those green beans you’ve been freezing. Anyway, here’s how:
Follow the photo-easy recipe:
|Cook 8 ounces of Israeli Couscous* according to package directions. Use chicken broth in place of water. You can add a few leaves of fresh sage if you have them (remove before making salad). When couscous is tender, add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil while still hot. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper. Optional: Stir in 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cool to room temperature.|
|Toast 1/4 cup pecans in a dry small skillet and chop, reserving a few whole nuts for garnish.|
|Dice (medium) 1 pear, 1 apple, 1 orange (peeled), 6 dried figs (or fresh), 1 small cooked butternut squash (see below for my microwave directions). Dice (small): 2 oz. each sharp cheddar and Swiss cheese like Jarlsberg or Emmental or even Gruyere.|
|We liked this salad with coffee cup pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.|
*I used Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s (available on amazon.com as well), which is a “savory blend of Israeli Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo beans, and Red Quinoa.” Regular Israeli or pearl couscous is fine and orzo or even farro would be easily workable substitutes.
Ingredients list: 8oz Israeli couscous or blend, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper (optional), fresh sage leaves (optional), 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (used 1 15 oz. can plus a little water), 1 1/2 tablespoons each canola and extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup pecans, 1 small butternut squash, 1 pear, 1 apple, 2 oranges (1 in salad, 1 juiced), 6 figs (fresh or dried), 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 2 ounces each sharp cheddar and Swiss cheeses, 1 teaspoon honey, 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
HOW TO COOK BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN THE MICROWAVE:
Place squash in a large microwave-safe dish and, using a sharp thin knife, poke a few holes in the largest section for escaping steam. Microwave on high 3-5 minutes (depending on size of the squash–a 1.5lb squash might take 5 minutes, for example) and remove the squash to a cutting board. Using a large chef’s knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally and with a large spoon, scoop out seeds and strings. Place the two halves back in the baking dish with a little (2 tablespoons or so) water and put the dish back in the microwave. Cook another five minutes on high or so (depending on the size of the squash) until tender. Covering the squash with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe cover will decrease the cooking time. I have also filled the center section with butter and a little brown sugar and served it just like that. (I often do this with acorn squash for a quick hot lunch.) Otherwise, you can let the squash cool, and then peel and chop or mash it according to your needs. This is much easier than peeling (or cutting) raw butternut squash, which is, at best, difficult.
I cook winter squash frequently and my reasons are many. Here are a few:
1. It’s delicious; it’s good for your body.
2. It’s easy to prepare in several ways: Stick in oven, saute, braise, boil, or microwave.
3. It’s useful as a vegetable or side, but is also hearty enough for a main dish. (Stuff with cumin rice, jack cheese and scrambled eggs for breakfast!)
4. It’s an excellent addition to soups and stews.
5. It’s a good substitute for potatoes with pot roast or roasted chicken.
6. It’s inexpensive and easy to find nearly year round, but particularly now.
7. It keeps on the counter for a long time–easily 2 months. (That’s about the limit for acorn; the others can keep much longer.)
Be brave and try whatever beautiful squash you find at the market. Whatever you do with acorn squash, you can easily do with most of the others. Even spaghetti squash is quickly cooked in the microwave. Shred it with a fork, add a little butter (salt/pepper) and you have a beautiful meal. And, yes, you can add marinara and stay on South Beach, phase 2!!
Don’t want to deal with the peel? You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash or pumpkin at some markets, but you will pay a premium price.
Nutrition Profile for Butternut Squash
Want more info on winter squash, including nutrition and recipes? Visit the Snap-Ed (USDA) site here.
If you liked this, you might also like this recipe from my Dinner Place blog.
|Throw it all together with olive oil; slip it into the oven on a big rimmed baking sheet. Dinner emerges in about 35 minutes!|
or you might like this:
or my butternut and other squash soup
|This is a lovely soup for someone who is not well or can’t chew, but is luscious as well for a first course at Thanksiving.|
I blog with a great group of food writers on Fridays as we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients: Read more about beautiful winter squash this week at these sites:
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits: Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com
Sing a new song and cook a new squash,