Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Flavour! (easy recipe)

There is  a wonderful supply of beautiful squashes, pumpkins and other  gourds available now.  Every upscale restaurant seems to have butternut squash soup on their menu.  I started experimenting with different flavours for my squash soup and liked the slight bite when I added lemongrass and ginger.  Not to mention the health benefits!  I added an apple to give this soup a lightness. And, it can easily be served before a main course without feeling too full.  It is especially good with homemade crackers (see instructions below).
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INGREDIENTS
butternut-squash-soup-ingredients4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
a 2 1/2 lb. squash,   peeled  and cubed
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large apple peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger  (divided)
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add onions and carrots. Cook stirring until tender and the onions translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the squash, celery, and apple and cook another 5 minutes. Add the ancho chile, 1 tablespoon of ginger, lemongrass and  pinch of salt and stir into the mixture.
3. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Then ~ Reduce heat, cover and simmer another 45 minutes.
4. Add the final tablespoon of the ginger for that extra “bite” of flavour. (optional)
Puree the soup using an immersion blender right in the pot. Or, blend in batches, using a blender or food processor.
~ Add salt and pepper to taste.~
Note: If you are serving this soup to children, then you may want to leave out the “spicy” ginger.
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EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT EVERY TYPE OF SQUASH
Butternut, acorn , spaghetti, delicata and kabocha squash all belong to the winter squash family though most start to pop up at grocery store and farmer’s markets in the early fall.  Edible pumpkins also belong to this group, along with less familiar squash varieties like hubbard, turban, sweet dumpling, banana and buttercup. While each squash has its own unique taste and texture, these are versatile vegetable.  Most can be used interchangeable and they can be baked, roasted, steamed, sauteed or microwaved.   When shopping for squash, look for squash that’s firm and heavy for its size.  You may be able to buy squash that’s already peeled and cut up.  This will be more expensive than whole squash but can be a real time saver.

Shop for pumpkins grown for eating rather than carving.  These include sugar pumpkins, pie pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkins and heirloom varieties.  Store winter squash in the refrigerator or in a cool dry place.  They will keep for weeks or a month or longer.

ACORN and delicata squash have edible skin and indeed much of the nutrients are just under the skin so it is advantageous to eat the skin.  Butternut squash can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. Squash with harder skin should be cooked as is and the flesh scooped out later.
SQUASH SEEDS can be scooped out before cooking and most are edible as well as nutritious.  Rinse the seeds, pat them dry and bake them with salt and olive oil at 300F (150C),  stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  When you think of a seed having the power to grow a plant,  think of the nutrition value they can impart.

PASTA REPLACEMENT: After spaghetti squash is cooked it’s flesh can be pulled out in spaghetti-like strands. This is a wonderful no carb gluten free replacement for pasta as well as a good vegetarian filling for tacos and other dishes.
didyouknowGinger helps to reduce nausea from many causes; pregnancy, postoperative nausea and more. Ginger reduces inflammation and possibly lessen arthritis pain.  Some studies have shown that ginger was more effective that the over-the-counter drug Dramamine for treating motion sickness!

Ginger extract has been used by osteoarthritis patients to relieve pain.

 

“TASTY” GOURMET CRACKERS
I have admired the appearance and flavour of those lovely crackers on the restaurant tables.  You can buy them for a pricey sum at gourmet food shops. I decided to make my own GOURMET CRACKERS and used tortilla wrappers as well as pita bread. You can get rice tortillas at a whole foods store. Other options are whole wheat, spinach flavoured or other flavoured wraps.
DO IT YOURSELF (DIY): Slice the wraps with a knife as pictured below. Brush the wraps with olive oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds, steak seasoning, or salt, herbs (fresh or dried) and/or spices and baked at 375F for 10 minutes, these are yummy crackers for soups, dips or snacking!   Your kids will love them too!

Tortillas, pita bread, black and white sesame seeds, steak seasoning, olive oil

1. Tortillas, pita bread, black and white sesame seeds, steak seasoning, olive oil

slice into wedges

2. Slice into wedges

Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, herbs, salt or seasoning

3. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, herbs, salt or seasoning

bake at 375F for 10 minutes

4. bake at 375F for 10 minutes

 

Serve with soup, dips, snacks for just pennies a piece! Yum!

Serve with soup, dips, snacks for just pennies a piece! Yum!

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Swedish Red Cabbage and Apples

animated-swedish-flagA traditional dish served during the Christmas season in Sweden. Pair the Swedish red cabbage and apples  with Finnish meatballs  or as a side dish with just about anything.  A bright and colourful addition to your festive holiday dining! Easy to make in advance. This dish is actually better the next day.  Enjoy your red cabbage/apple dish in the summer since it is equally delicious served cold.  Any leftovers will disappear quickly from your fridge.
Note: I have used olive oil instead of the traditional butter, so you can served cold. Yumm!!!

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cabbage-ingredientsINGREDIENTS
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 organic Granny Smith, Macintosh or other slightly tart apples
1 large onion, chopped
1 red cabbage (1 lb. before trimming)
3 Tablespoons sweetener
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon red currant or hot pepper jelly
salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Place olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot.
2. Add chopped onions and saute until translucent on medium low heat.
3. While they are cooking, peel and chop the apples and add to the onions stirring occasionally.
4. Remove the inner core of the cabbage and roughly chop. Add to the onions and apples and cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low if it is boiling.
5. Add the salt, vinegar, spices, and sugar substitute. Cook covered for 10 minutes.
6. Add wine and jelly and cook uncovered for 5 minutes longer.

I try not to overcook this dish as texture is a very important part of food appreciation.  Crunchy and chewy textures slow you down and help you eat more deliberately and more joyfully.

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didyouknowRed cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C and K and a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is also a good source of vitamin B1, B2, calcium, vitamin A and protein.  One cup of boiled cabbage has just thirty-three calories.  Cabbage is good for reducing your risk of cancer and possibly of Alzheimer’s disease.  In the laboratory, red cabbage protects against oxidative stress in the brain, reducing the buildup of plaque and again reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.  Also, a Chinese study found that women who ate the most cruciferous vegetable such as cabbage were at half the risk for breast cancer as those who ate little or none.

Chili Recipe ~a winner

Winning Chili Recipe to Remove the Fall Chill!
Another great fall dish is chili.  We had a taste testing dinner and this was absolutely the winner!  (I have one book just devoted to chili.) This is such a versatile dish that takes well to freezing as well as serving to a crowd. chili_football  The guests can serve themselves. A great dish for those fall sports parties.  Those TRUE CHILI aficionados claim there should only be meat and no beans in chili.  What the beans do is to maintain you blood sugar at a steady even level with no spikes and you have energy for hours. A fantastic meal for diabetics.
FAST FOOD: When you have to stop at a fast food place in lieu of starving, chili is a fabulous choice.  Better than salads since these will come with dressings filled with sugar and preservatives.  I will also freeze dishes like chili in individual oven proof dishes.  When  I come home from a busy day, I immediately take one out the the freezer, defrost and bake.  Serve with a salad with your homemade dressing and it’s a tasty, satisfying and healthy meal.  This recipe seems like there are a lot of ingredients but you will find almost all of them already in your pantry and the flavour is worth it!  Perfect for game day!

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INGREDIENTS
img_chili1/2 cup dried black beans, rinsed, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 cup  dried red kidney beans, rinsed, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4  cloves garlic, minced
6  jalapeno chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb. cubed beef chuck or blade steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2  tablespoons chili powder
1  tablespoon cumin seed (ground)
1  stick cinnamon 3 inches long
2  28 oz cans diced or crushed tomatoes
1  12 oz  can stout beer
2  tablespoons tomato paste
1  tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion for garnish (optional)
1 cup strong cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
1 diced avocado pear for garnish (optional)
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1.  Put the beans into separate pots and cover with 3″ of salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low.  Cook covered, stirring occasionally until beans are tender about 60 minutes.
2.  Heat a heavy bottomed 6 quart pot over medium heat. Add  a few tablespoons of the olive oil and the diced onions 4-5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, green pepper, celery, and chilies.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes, adding more olive oil if required.
3.  Add meats and cook until brown.
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4.  Add chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa and tomato paste.  Cook for a few minutes and then add tomatoes and beer.
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Add beans (drained).
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5. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 1 or 2 hours.
6. Ladle into bowls and let people help themselves to the garnishes.IMG_1436

Serves 8 to 10 adults