Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

January 05, 2016

5-Ingredient Butternut Squash Soup

Happy New Year! We had a wonderful holiday season visiting family and friends, and we are glad to be back home in our own beds. We brought the snow with us from Utah to Western Oregon, though, and they simply do not know what to do with it here. School is cancelled for the second day in a row when all that covers the ground is 1/2 an inch of slush! I just shake my head at the whole situation, really. And cry a little because I really want my kid, who missed school before the winter break because of illness, by the way, to go to school and spend some time finding entertainment and knowledge from someone who is not me. I know all you stay-at-home parents can feel me on that one, am I right?

Stuck inside with nothing to do but laugh at people who cannot function in wintry conditions, what's a girl to do?
Well, naturally, make soup is the obvious answer. I've been making this for over two years now and I can't believe I haven't shared it here yet. I've tweaked it and played with it until it comes out right every time. The trick is to start with less liquid than you think you need. Let the squash steam until it basically falls apart, then whiz it all up and add more liquid if you want it less thick. This is my favorite soup. Favorite. It is so easy, especially if you get the 2 lb. pack of pre-cut squash from Costco, as I often do.  It's smooth and silky even if you don't want to add the cream, and so filling. If you want something on the side, it's great with cheesy panini. Or a salad, I suppose -- it's January, right? So I guess a salad. (But we'll all be dreaming about the cheesy panini while we munch down our greens.)

Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 c. diced onion
2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into medium chunks
2 - 4 c. chicken stock
1/8 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. cream (optional but highly recommended)

Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt, and saute until translucent. Add butternut squash and 2 c. chicken stock. Bring to a bubble, then reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for 15 or 20 minutes, until squash is so tender you can mash it easily with a wooden spoon. (Really, it should be disintegrating.)
Remove from heat and puree until smooth (I use my immersion blender, but you can use whatever you have on hand in the way of a blender or food processor). If desired, add more chicken stock to thin. Grate in nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste. If desired, stir in cream and taste again. Adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

November 11, 2015

THE BEST Pumpkin Pie

Pump. Kin. Pie!!!!!!! I get excited about it right around September, but not just any pumpkin pie. I mean. I don't mean to sound as snobby as I am, but keep that Costco giganto monstrosity away from me.
That is not what I'm talking about when I say I like pumpkin pie.

I know you're all sick of emphatic statements like THE BEST Pumpkin Pie. Well I'm sorry, kind of, but I can't curb my enthusiasm for this pie. Can't. Won't. Etc.

My mother takes her pumpkin pie very, very seriously. (Hmmmm... wonder where I get it from...) Only my grandmother's will do. My grandmother isn't cheffy or particularly gourmet -- she uses the recipe from the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. Which is a good recipe, but between you and me, this one is just so much better! If I tell you my mother likes it even better than Grandma's she will disavow all knowledge of such a statement, so I won't tell you that. Can't. Won't. Etc.

I think what I love most about it is the simplicity of the ingredients. Okay, I'm lying. What I love most about it is how it tastes, particularly the day after Thanksgiving. For breakfast. With whipped cream. While I listen to some Nat King Cole. And shake my head at all those crazies out there doing the Black Friday thing.


But the ingredients are simple and pure and completely delicious. Use the best quality ingredients you can find, and feel free to make your own pumpkin puree -- it's not hard and makes your pies something extra special. Use any crust recipe you like. Here's my favorite: All Butter Really Flaky Pie Dough. Bookmark that. Seriously. And use a good, fresh spice blend. I like Penzey's or to mix up my own using this recipe: Pumpkin Spice Blend.

I also love the texture. This is creamy and almost silky, but only if you don't overbake it. So watch it carefully to avoid that yucky, grainy, terrible thing that so many pumpkin pies have going on. Yes, I'm looking at you, Costco monster pie. You're the worst.

But give this recipe a shot. It's as simple as it can be, and definitely worth a special place at your Thanksgiving table!

Maple Spice Pumpkin Pie
recipe from the incomparable Aimee at Simple Bites

1 prepared, unbaked 9" pie crust
4 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c. pumpkin puree (homemade, if you have it!)
2/3 c. pure maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup. Make sure it's the real stuff.)
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pumpkin spice blend
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350F. Keep the pie crust chilling in the refrigerator while you work on the pumpkin filling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream until well blended. Add the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and spice blend to the pie filling and combine well.
Remove crust from the fridge and put it on the middle rack of the oven. Slide the rack out a couple of inches and pour the filling into the pie shell. Slowly, slide the oven rack back into place, being very careful not to spill the filling onto the bottom of the oven.**
Check pie after about 30 minutes and rotate, if necessary, to ensure even baking.
When the center of the pie has puffed up, and jiggles only slightly when the pan is moved, the pie is ready. This will take about one hour.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. (Up to three days in the fridge if well covered.)
Pie may also be well-wrapped and frozen for up to 8 weeks.

**If there is extra filling,you can pour it into a couple of ramekins and bake alongside your pie until set (they will set quicker than the pie, by virtue of the fact that they are smaller). Chill them, top with whipped cream and enjoy them as pumpkin custard. For breakfast. You have my permission.

PS: Double this recipe. I mean it! You'll want more than one.

October 21, 2015

Bleeding Heart Baked Brie and a Sneak Peek

Here's the thing. I don't usually get into Halloween very much. I dress up my babies, and generally entertain the idea of dressing up myself for about a week before deciding that I'm not that mom after all. But this year we got invited to a no-kids Halloween party, so I decided to drum up something fun (and dress up, too!)

So there was this baked Brie. Holy Hannah. It was so yummy and so simple to make, and so fancy-seeming, and so Halloween-y. So if you are looking for something to sweeten up your spooky night, make this! You will impress even yourself, and eat your daily calorie count in creamy cheese and crusty pastry. I'm sorry. (Only I'm not.)

In other news, here's a little slice of the new blog. I'm still hammering things out and figuring out how to forward things over from this site, but I've committed to a new name and URL, and I'm getting thoroughly -- well, I almost wrote the word "jazzed" and then thought better of it (and now I've written it anyhow... sigh) -- inspired and, you know, pumped! about the whole endeavor. I hope you guys are excited, too!

Won't be too long before I can show you the whole thing! (I hope!) I'm glad to report that it will be a bit simpler and easier to read, and there will be a whole lot less pink. (Which actually is kind of sad, but also a good thing.) So while I'm getting it all together, feel free to let me know if there are any changes you would really love to see. 

Bleeding Heart Baked Brie
from Taste of Home

8 oz. Brie cheese (a round would be ideal, I used a wedge -- still great!)
1 tube refrigerated crescent roll dough
1/3 c. cherry preserves + more as desired (for effect)
1 whole egg
1 tsp. water
crackers of your choice (for serving)

Unroll crescent roll dough, and pinch together seams to make a piece large enough to completely cover the Brie on all sides. (I set my Brie on the dough and made sure that I had full coverage before proceeding.)
In the center of the dough, place 1/4 to 1/3 c. cherry preserves. Set the Brie gently on top, and wrap with the dough, being sure to pinch the seams to seal. You don't want any gaps because then there will likely be oozing. Oozing cheese, oozing cherry preserves... You don't want any of that action.
Carefully flip the dough-covered Brie over so that the seams are on bottom, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water to make an egg wash. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture on all exposed sides of the dough. (This will give it a beautiful sheen. You could skip it, but I wouldn't.)
Bake at 350ยบ for 20 - 30 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to serving platter.
To serve, take a kitchen knife and cut it into the Brie so that it is firmly planted in there. Spoon on more cherry preserves around the blade of the knife for a little gore-like effect. (You may need to warm them for 20 seconds or so in the microwave to help them get appropriately drippy.) Add your crackers and eat up!

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