Monday, January 31, 2011

Lookin’ for an absolutely fabulous soup recipe?

I made this soup on the day of a blizzard…simply perfect!

Butternut Squash Soup

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 medium onion diced 
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 Empire (or something similar) apple peeled, cored and cubed
• 4 cups of butternut squash
• 3 cups vegetable stock
• salt and ground black pepper to taste
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• ¼ tsp cumin
• ¼ - ½ cup heavy cream

1. Roast squash by cutting it in half. Drizzle each cut side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place cut side down on a foil-lined pan and roast at 350* for around ½ hour. (Until a fork can easily pierce the squash.)
2. After the squash has cooled a bit, remove the skin and cube the squash.
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.
4. Add the onion and sauté until tender.
5. Add the apple and garlic and sauté until tender. (around 8 minutes)
6. Add squash and sauté for around 5 more minutes.
7. Pour in vegetable stock, and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the squash can be easily mashed with a fork.
8. In a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender, puree the soup mixture until smooth.
9. Return the soup to the pot (unless using an immersion blender) and stir in the heavy cream.
10. Serve warm and ENJOY!!

Wait!! Don’t throw out those seeds...why not roast them!?! It is quick and easy way to create a healthy and delicious snack.

• Butternut squash seeds
• olive oil
• salt to taste

1. Rinse seeds with water and remove any pieces of squash that may try to tag along, pat dry.
2. Preheat the oven to 275* and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
3.Drizzle the olive oil over the seeds just to coat and sprinkle with salt.
4.Spread out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
5.Bake for around 15 minutes, or until seeds start to pop.
6. Enjoy!!!

Alternatives, ideas and suggestions:
• Wondering how many butternut squash will offer 4 cups of “meat?” Generally 1 medium squash will be just fine. What if there is only a large squash at the market? Take it…more soup for you!! If the squash are on the smaller side, you can use 2, no problem.
• I like the addition of cumin in this soup because is adds depth and smokiness, and it enhances the earthiness of the butternut squash. If you are unsure of the flavor of cumin, please feel free to eliminate it from your soup!
• What’s with the apple in the soup? Well, it is there to add a touch of sweetness. Also, the pectin from the apple will help thicken the soup. Cool, huh? It is not necessary, but I just love the extra layer of flavor is offers!!
• Are you curious how the cumin will taste, but don’t want it to “ruin” you soup? Use a bit less that what I used...if you like it you can always add more.
• Is your nutmeg supply out of stock? Cinnamon will do you just fine. Personally, I prefer nutmeg because it is peppery and warm and is a great addition to this recipe. If you don’t have either one, I suggest you go to the market. Because this soup is so delicate, there is a necessary level of flavor that needs present and the spices are just the right thing. To me, nutmeg and cumin are the perfect combination!!!
• Chicken stock can be substituted for the vegetable stock. I don’t think I’d use beef stock because is tends to have a strong flavor that may interfere with the delicate taste of the butternut squash.
• I used ¼ cup of heavy cream to cut down on the fat content and it was just wonderful. If you want to splurge a bit, go for the ½ cup of’s definitely worth it!
• When blending the ingredients in a blender or food processor, please do it in small batches because no one wants hot soup to go flying all over the kitchen, even worse, YOU!! I have an immersion blender that I just love! I can’t remember when or where I bought it, but I am soo glad I have it. It looks like a wand and it has a small blade at the bottom of it. The blade goes right into the pot with the ingredients in it and whirls away...before you know it the ingredients are as smooth as can be!! Incredible, easy and neat!!!!! There is no transferring it to the blender, to a bowl and back into the pot only to reheat it again…no thank you! Speedy, efficiently and easy is the way I like to roll!
• As far as the seeds go, why would anyone throw them out now?!!? They are super delicious and nutritious and I highly recommend roasting them. Squash and pumpkin seeds are a great source of iron and protein.
• Sweeten the deal by using a cinnamon and sugar mix on the seeds instead of salt, or maybe add a pinch of cayenne for spice…MmmmMMMMmmm!
• The seeds can be eaten alone, or you can throw them in your salad, in oatmeal, on chicken or fish, in your granola mixes, in your rice for added crunch…let your inner foodie go wild!!

Now go play Squash...I mean go play with your squash!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's unique in my pecan pie?…Honey!!!

This is the best pecan pie I think I have ever made, and I have made a lot of pecan pies.

Generally a pecan pie calls for corn syrup, but I choose to make this pie with raw honey instead. Why did I choose raw honey as my substitute? Because I have started a small love affair with raw honey this summer while working at the farmer’s market, and I am trying to sneak it into as many recipes as possible! Raw honey is delicately sweet and luscious and has a uniquely velvety texture.

When using honey, it is important to me to use raw, local honey for a couple of reasons. Using local honey supports the local farmers which is super important. Raw honey means the honey in the jar is as close to the honey in the hive as you can get. This process varies from bee-keeper to bee-keeper, but generally it is removed from the hive and simply strained, or spun, to remove any natural impurities that may be in the honey. Generic honey purchased in the supermarket is usually processed with heat, is clarified, and may have unwanted things added to it creating a less tasty and less nutritious product. Have a taste test with store-bought, processed honey vs. raw honey and you won’t believe the difference in texture and flavor!! There is nothing like a spoonful of creamy, delicate, fresh honey!!

Honey Pecan Pie

• 1 cup honey
• 3 eggs, beaten (in a large bowl)
• 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1 9-inch pie crust (I like the deep dish, it make me very happy!!)

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the honey to a gentle boil then remove from heat
2. With a ladle, carefully whisk a ladleful of the honey into the beaten eggs. Continue gently whisking the eggs while adding one ladleful of the honey at a time until the honey and eggs are combined.
3. Add the butter and stir until it is melted
4. Add the vanilla, nuts, and nutmeg and combine
5. Pour into the pie shell.
6. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes or until set

Alternatives, ideas and suggestions:
• Adding the honey to the eggs slowly and carefully is called tempering. It is important to perform this process or you will have scrambled eggs instead of a well blended product.
• I know I have told you this before, but before you make this pie, I think it is important to toast the pecans before baking with them. Actually any time you are using almonds, pecans or hazelnuts, toasting them is a wonderful thing to do because it really intensifies the natural flavor of the nuts. It also gives them a more palatable crunch. Bake them at 325 for 10-20 minutes depending on the nut. After around 5-10 minutes, give them a toss in the pan for even toasting.
• If you don’t want to use honey, feel free to use fresh maple syrup…is it super delicious and isn’t nearly as sweet as you’d think it is. Again, you must use real maple syrup and not the cheap kind. Why? Because the cheap kind is actually corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring!! Blech, no thank you!! Go for the good stuff, it is totally worth it!
• Want to sweeten the pot a little? Add ½ cup of chocolate chips in with the pecans…the angels will sing when your knife goes in for the first cut of pie.
• Feel free to top the pie with pecan halves before baking. This will make a nice presentation.
• Over time, raw honey will crystallize but don’t panic, it is OK and is a natural thing. The crystals are safe to consume as they are or you can gently warm your honey to dissolve the crystals. To warm the honey, submerge the honey jar in warm water no higher than 110 degrees. Heating the honey too high will diminish its nutritional value.

Did you know…
…Raw honey has antibacterial properties that help treat infections and heal wounds?
…Raw honey can hasten the healing process by encouraging circulation?
…Raw honey has an anti-inflammatory property that may reduce pain?
…Raw honey contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants?
…Raw honey contains vitamins and minerals and offers a trace amount of amino acids and proteins?

Now go play with your food!!