Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Soup For You!

Why no soup for you? Because that leaves more for me! First off let me apologize. This is my worst food photo of all time. I have an excuse. It slipped my mind to take a picture until my hubby (Who didn't get home to eat his dinner until close to 9) was about to dig in! Stop! I need a picture! so I hurried and snapped this out of focus, poorly orchestrated image. Now that is a good husband who will wait to dig in after a long day to indulge his silly wife.

Anyway, as I mentioned before...I LOVE soup. Once September hits, its one soup a week at our house. They are cheap and satisfying and always leave leftovers. So this week the soup in the spotlight is a lovely hearty butternut squash beauty. I actually love having squash in my garden primarily because they make such lovely soup. We have 2 squash soup recipes that we love in our house. The first, which is the one pictured is a more rich and savory. It comes from Jamie Oliver, one of my favorite celeb chefs. The second soup, is a sweet & spicy curry with coconut milk which I absolutely adore. I have made it several times for guest and they always rave about it! Both soups are equally delicious.

Jamie's Superb Squash Soup as found on his site here
the only modification I made is that I have never used the sage leaves. I am sure they would be delicious, but I don't have them in my garden and don't really fancy the idea of spending a few dollars on a garnish. One day I'll try them. I have made the croutons and they are yummy!

• olive oil
• 16 fresh sage leaves
2 red onion, peeled and chopped
• 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
• ½–1 fresh red chilli, to taste, deseeded and finely chopped
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2kg butternut squash, onion squash, or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
• 2 litres good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
• extra virgin olive oil

for the croutons
• extra virgin olive oil
16 slices of ciabatta bread
• a block of Parmesan cheese, for grating
Put a very large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in a couple of lugs of olive oil. Add the sage leaves and fry for around 30 seconds or until dark green and crisp. Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with kitchen paper – you’ll use these for sprinkling over at the end. In the pan you’ll be left with a beautifully flavoured oil, so put it back on the heat and throw in your onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary leaves, chilli and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are sweet and soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for around half an hour.

While the soup is cooking, make your croutons. Drizzle a little olive oil over the ciabatta slices, pat it in and press some grated Parmesan on to each side. Place in a non-stick pan without any oil and fry until golden on both sides.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with a hand blender or pour it into a liquidizer and pulse until you have a smooth purée (but you can leave it slightly chunky if you like). Most importantly, remember to taste and season it until it’s perfect. Divide the soup between your bowls, placing 2 croutons on top of each. Sprinkle with a few of your crispy sage leaves and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Red Curry & Coconut Squash Soup
I found this recipe on a local foodie blog, Restaurant Widow.

One medium butternut squash about 2 lbs

2 tbsp butter or good olive oil
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger
1 14 ounce can lite coconut milk
14 ounces chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you'd like to keep things vegetarian)
1/2 tbsp - 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste, depending on how you like your heat level. I'd start with less, because you can always add more but you can't take away!
1/4 cup brown sugar
Cut the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place it in a steaming basket and steam for about 20-25 minutes, or until very soft. You could also bake the squash if you prefer. Be sure the water doesn't boil out! Allow to cool until you can handle the squash, and then scoop out the flesh. Mash lightly with a fork and set aside.
Have the coconut milk can open and nearby.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium/medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic/ginger puree and cook for a few minutes, just until the butter begins to brown very slightly - be careful, because this can lead to burning very quickly. Everything should smell sweet and nutty. As soon as this happens, add the coconut milk. Fill the empty coconut milk can with chicken stock, and add that to the pot. Add the curry paste, the brown sugar, the fish sauce, and a nice big pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and allow to reduce slightly, maybe 5 minutes or so, then add the squash. Turn the heat off and puree the soup with a stick blender. Taste and adjust seasonings. If desired, you can garnish the soup with a little bit of coconut creme, which is a different product from coconut milk, and is very sweet - it makes a nice foil for the spiciness of the soup.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer may be ending, but soup season has just begun!

*Amendment as of 10/5/10 I forgot to mention that I did not strain my soup, as the recipe calls. I prefer chuncky tomato goodness in my soup. Hence the thick texture shown in my photo. I used my stick blender to blend to the desired consistency*

Eureka! I've found it! The perfect tomato soup recipe!!! This has been quite the process, and I have gone through many a recipe in this quest. I think the problem was many of the soups would end up tasting too much like tomato sauce, or canned tomatoes. This recipe uses roasted tomatoes, which really gives a nice rich flavor to this soup. Its the perfect time to make it because garden tomatoes are at their prime, and my garden has an abundance. So this soup was basically free to make, I had all the ingredients on hand! I think next week I'll make another batch and freeze it. Try it with some delicious homemade bread bowls and a lovely tossed salad for a light and healthy dinner .

I actually found this recipe by doing a google search. Here is the link and the recipe. It is from the Zupa's blog, which I didn't even know they had. I'll have to keep checking it out. The only modification I did was adding less cream, oh and I used my stick blender, which is one of my very favorite kitchen tools! If you make a lot of soups, which I do, It is a must have item.

Roasted Tomato Soup
  • 4 lb tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced [use only 1/2 tsp if you used dried]
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced [use only 1 tsp if using dried basil]
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (That's a lot of cream! I only used 2 tablespoons, just to give it a little bit of a creamy texture, but it would be just as tasty without the cream, but if you are feeling indulgent go ahead!)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.
Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan and add garlic to pan. Drizzle tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan on a rack. Peel garlic.
Cook onion, oregano, basil, and sugar in butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, and stock and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then force through a sieve into cleaned pot, discarding solids. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 2 minutes.
Divide soup among 8 bowls.

Homemade Bread Bowls
this comes from
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
-->1 cup warm milk ( 110 degrees)
1/2 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t salt
6 c all purpose flour


1. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, shortening, sugar, eggs, salt & 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Cover & let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

2. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. divide into eight pieces; shape each into a ball. Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place 4 balls 3 inches apart on each prepared pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
3. Cut a thin slice off the top and scoop out bread. Serve with soup or chili.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Penne is Mightier than the Sword

I think if I could, I would eat pasta almost every night...minimum at least once a week. My favorite is probably spaghetti, but I love all kinds of pasta...including, of course, penne.

Oh, and I must apologize that we have done such a lousy job of posting on this blog lately. My sister and I are both pregnant (just out of the first trimester now) and food DID NOT sound good to either of us during that time. As for my mom (who also posts on this blog), she has no excuse!

The first recipe (pictured above) is a pasta favorite that my mom found. It is my youngest sister's absolute favorite pasta. It is also a quick and easy weeknight recipe. Plus, each serving is only 7 Weight Watcher's Points.

The second recipe is one of my pasta favorites that I found last year. It is a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe.

I just think pasta hits the spot. Pair these recipes with a nice side salad and some crusty garlic bread or breadsticks and you're set!

Penne with Sausage and Roasted Pepper Sauce


2 cups uncooked penne or other tubed-shaped pasta
6 ounces 50% less fat pork sausage (such as Jimmy Dean)
1 1/4 cups bottled spaghetti sauce (such as Classico with mushrooms and ripe olives...see note below)
1/2 cup diced bottled roasted red bell peppers
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

While pasta cooks, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat 6-8 minutes or until brown; stir to crumble. Drain sausage.

Add spaghetti sauce and bell peppers to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in sugar and salt. Cover and let stand 3 minutes. Serve over pasta. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup pasta and 1/2 cup sauce)

Nutrition information: 329 calories, 45.5 g carbohydrates, 9.5 g fat, 3.1 g fiber, 15 g protein, 30 mg cholesterol, 694 mg sodium, 62 mg calcium, 3.1 mg iron.

Notes: I believe that my mom usually uses Prego pasta sauce (just the basic sauce with no vegetables added in). The sweetness of the Prego sauce pairs nicely with the sausage and peppers. Also, as with many pasta dishes, this one is freezer friendly. Freeze the pasta sauce separately (don't forget to label the contents and date them!). When you are ready to use it, simply defrost it overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or over the stove top. New note: My mom identified the Prego pasta sauce in her comments. She uses Prego's Three Cheese pasta sauce. Also, if you keep some frozen sausage around in your freezer, this makes a great pantry recipe. You can have everything on hand and ready to go if you need a dinner idea to throw together quickly!

Tomato and Olive Penne

The cherry tomatoes cook just long enough to bring out their juice, which blends with the garlic-flavored olive oil to make one of the best-tasting pasta sauces. If you're cooking for children who don't like black olives, toss the olives in for the adults after you've served the kids.

If you pit your own olives, the easiest way is to lay a wide chef's knife over it and smack the blade with your fist or the palm of your hand. The olive should split open, and the pit will pop right out.


Salt and pepper
1 pound penne, or other short pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2/3 pound (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook penne according to package instructions until al dente, about 13 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until tomato juices run, about 3 minutes.

Add penne, olives, parsley, and 1/4 cup Parmesan to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve with more cheese if desired.

Notes: I add more olives than the recipe calls for (really, is 1/4 cup enough? Not for me!). In addition to that, I ALWAYS buy pitted olives. They cost a little more, but to me, the extra cost is worth it because it saves me a lot of time. Also, I add salt and pepper to taste. I end up adding a little more than the recipe calls for. But this is a tasty and super easy meal. Yum!