your thanksgiving butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

People have certain rules about what should be on the Thanksgiving table. I, for one, am pretty loosey goosey about the whole thing. This is not surprising to anyone who knows me well because ‘loosey goosey’ pretty much sums up my approach to the culinary world. I like to adjust as I go, add a pinch of something if it feels right and go with what I have on hand. When I sat down to plan what I would bring to the three dinners we will be attending, I knew I wanted to stray a little from tradition but still stay within the lines of the season. Dressing, green bean casserole and pie all made the cut and will maintain their traditional integrity, but I still felt like we could shake things up just a little tiny bit, but don’t worry, I didn’t nix the mashed potatoes.

I understand that no one really needs to have an appetizer right before they consume a weeks worth of food, and most people think the idea is absurd, but sometimes you want dinner to be a little fancy and I don’t know any better time to be fancy than on Thanksgiving. Break out the cloth napkins, the candlesticks and the good china, even make seating cards if you’d like and enjoy the one meal a year where you can pull out all the stops.

Thankfully, this starter won’t take up much of your time (which I know is utterly precious on the big day), and most of the ingredients are likely in your kitchen anyway, so no large additions to the shopping list either. Make the soup and remove the seeds from the pomegranate the day before and throw them in the fridge. Take a few leaves off of the brussels sprouts you’re probably already making and all thats left to do is just throw it all together. We ate it at room temperature and it was delightful, but you can warm it up in a pot if you can stand one more minute at the stove. (more…)

November 24, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . gluten free, quick and easy, sides, soup, vegetarian. 7 comments.

lentil soup with lemon + grief

This has been about the hardest week of my life. I’ve endured my fair share of suffering along the way, but nothing like this.  A little life was taken from us, along with all the hope of one day holding it in our arms, close to our hearts. Only knowing about this growing life for a little more than a month, we were barely beginning to dream of what joy might be coming into our lives in just under a year. Over the course of a few weeks, we were excited to tell our families and closest friends. We wanted to bring those closest to us along on this journey. We realized it was still a little early to spread the word, but knew that if the unimaginable happened, we would want these people near us to help us through. Now, on the other side, we are so happy to have our loved ones around to do just that.

As we grieve the loss of life, we don’t lose hope, we trust even more in the One who creates life. We cling to the promise of restoration and to the fulfillment of joy that only comes from God. We are so thankful to those who have prayed for us, offered us a shoulder to cry on and have encouraged us to keep going. We love you all.

This soup is the first meal I’ve made in almost two weeks. To me, it signifies the beginning of restoration and the fading away of grief. It’s comforting and refreshing all at the same time and perfect for sharing with those closest to you. If you have someone in your life who is grieving, throw together a pot of this soup, sit with them, and allow them to feel the warmth of your love. (more…)

February 21, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . quick and easy, soup, vegetarian, winter. 3 comments.

roasted butternut squash soup

It’s funny how my affections change so quickly. One day I am completely loyal and in love with fresh summer produce, have no intention of turning on my oven even for a minute (except for the occasional roasted beet extravaganza) and wouldn’t dream of eating things that signify the end of summer. And then the rains came and just like that I jump head over heels into fall. I bought tall leather boots, a warm (and super cute-thanks H&M!) winter coat, and about 10 pounds of butternut squash.

While the wind whips and the rain pounds our windows, I warm the house with a hot oven. The smell of caramelizing onions mixed with roasting root vegetables is enough to send me into fall for good, leaving tomatoes and fresh corn behind. If this rain keeps up, I might just break out the Christmas records. It’s never too early for that.

roasted butternut squash soup with caramelized onion and yogurt
serves 6 for a main course or 10 for a first course

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash peeled, cleaned and cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme, divided
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
  • non-fat greek yogurt

For caramelized onions:

  • 2 onions sliced into rings
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • fresh thyme

Preparation: 

  1. To caramelize the onions, heat a skillet over medium heat. Coat with olive oil. Add onions, salt and thyme and turn heat to low. Cook on low for about an hour until the onions are deeply caramelized. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash, carrots, garlic and two tablespoons thyme in a generous amount of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet until tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. In a large dutch oven, add a glug of olive oil, the diced onion and celery, two tablespoons thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat until vegetables are soft. Add roasted vegetables and smoked paprika. Pour in the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. With an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency. [You can also use a regular blender to puree your soup, just be very careful as the soup will be hot. Be sure to remove the stopper in the lid and cover the hole with a clean kitchen towel.] Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt and caramelized onions.

October 5, 2011. fall, gluten free, quick and easy, soup, vegetarian. 1 comment.

carrot soup

The simplicity of this soup is what makes it sensational. No more than a few ingredients and you have something to oooh and awww about.

The month of March has already been quite spectacular. The first week contains my birthday, though the month in it’s entirety has been claimed as Rachel Month because the celebrations seem to be perpetual. In just the first half of the month I have come to realize that I have been blessed with the best of friends who have proved to be far beyond generous. This recipe comes from a book given to me by my friend Sarah, whom I’ve mentioned before as my best cooking friend.  Knowing me better than most, she gave me The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. It’s a revolutionary book that boils down all culinary endeavors into one principle: start with the best quality, freshest of fresh ingredients and the food will blow you away. No trickery, no fancy technique, just food in its purest form. This soup is a wonderful testament to that very simple truth. A few quality ingredients melded together equal a phenominal result. read more->

March 15, 2010. quick and easy, soup, vegetarian. 1 comment.

basic chicken stock

I would like to become a better cook. It’s one thing to be able to follow a recipe and get it right, and another to be creative, innovative and able to have an overwhelmingly delicious result. I admit, it’s a bit scary for me to move out of the comfort of someone else’s published work and begin a process of being on my own. However, it’s a lesson we all learn at one time or another. Just like when we graduated high school, we had to break away from our parents, our normal way of life and learn to thrive away from the security of a warm, consistent home. Then came marriage and the strange feeling of starting a new family apart from what we’ve known. I remember vividly, as Jon and I drove away from a crowd of cheering friends and family, feeling a sense of loss, to the point of tears. It was a scene that fit the emotion and the phenomenon perfectly. The two of us, holding hands, driving away from what was comfortable into a future where the other person becomes the most important thing in life, second only to our relationship with God. This movement toward independence is uncertain and is often highlighted by error, but continuing to be stagnant guarantees a future longing and the constant thought of what could have been. In a strange way, I’ve begun to feel this way about food and the incredible amount of creativity that is found in it. At some point, I will need to stand on my own because that is the only road to freedom.

white stock

So, now enters chicken stock. I figure, if I want to become a better cook, I might as well start at the beginning. I should learn fundamental skills that will be the building block for creativity. In Julia Childs Kitchen Wisdom, she gives a Master Recipe and then allows for adaptation from there. It’s a wonderful way to do things. All I need to do is memorize a few recipes and start experimenting from there. [Anyone want to run flash cards with me?]

Chicken stock is one of those things that every cook should know how to do. It is the base for many things, predominantly soups and sauces. It’s fairly easy to make, unless you and your cooking cohort decide it would be a good idea to make three stocks, all doubled, soup and a dinner dish on top of it. Not to mention a lesson on how to butcher a whole chicken. I know you’re not as crazy as I am, so your experience will be far less exhausting and will not stretch out over several days. So, what are you waiting for? It’s quite rewarding and delicious. The best part is, it makes the house smell amazing.

roasted chicken Roasted Chicken and Vegetables for Brown Stock

brown stock Brown Stock simmering away.

chicken soup Bon Appetit!

Basic Chicken Stock
Martha Stewart Cooking School
makes about 2 1/2 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds chicken backs, necks, and wings
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Preparation:

  1. Place chicken parts in an 8-quart stockpot. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch (about 3 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, using a ladle to skim any impurities and fat that rise to the surface.
  2. Add carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, and peppercorns and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, skimming surface frequently, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Line a sieve with cheesecloth set over a large bowl; strain stock through lined sieve. Discard solids.
  4. If using stock immediately, skim fat from surface and use as desired, or set bowl of stock in an ice-water bath and let cool completely. Transfer cooled stock to an airtight container; cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours to allow fat to accumulate at the top. Lift off fat and discard before using or storing. Stock can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 3 months; thaw completely in refrigerator before using.

NOTE: It’s nice to have a little extra stock around, and it will freeze for quite sometime, so you may want to consider doubling the recipe. Just make sure you have either two pots going or have a very large pot big enough to hold ten pounds of chicken parts.

Also, if you are going to cool the stock overnight, I found that smaller containers work best for this. If the container is too large, the fat will not solidify which makes it much more difficult to skim it the next day.

November 5, 2009. chicken, soup. 3 comments.