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!

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Risotto

With Fall here and the abundance of the wonderful gourds available I think about recipes that can utilize these vegetables to the fullest.  A few years ago when going out to dinner with my serious foodie crowd, I put up my nose when one friend ordered pumpkin risotto for their main course.  We were at one of the city’s most famous Italian restaurants.  We would all have a taste of everyone’s main on our bread plates before  we started.  I was so taken aback that the pumpkin risotto was the best tasting! It was hands down the winning dish!
pumpkinsI have been making it every fall ever since. The flavour is just stunning!  Look for fresh pumpkin already cut and seeded in your grocery store so this recipe is not labour intensive. You would swear that there is butter and cream in this risotto but it is completely absent.  This is partially due to the cooking method as well as the substitution of the classically used arborio rice with CARNAROLI Rice.
It is amazing!  If you do use a fresh whole pumpkin keep the shell to serve pumpkin soup (which you can use canned pumpkin to make), steamed mussels, lamb ragout…. the list goes on. The presentation will be stunning for your Thanksgiving table.

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INGREDIENTS
pumpkin-risotto-322Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups carnaroli rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup apple cider
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups diced pumpkin
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup walnut pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

INSTRUCTIONS
1.  Heat 4 cups of vegetable stock.  Keep warm.
2.  In a large heavy bottomed pan with high sides, heat oil over medium high heat.   Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.    Sprinkle with salt, about 1/8 teaspoon as the onions become sweet tasting.    This helps to layer the flavours.
3.  Add rice and cook a few minutes longer to coat all rice kernels in oil but not browning.
4. Add wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.
5. Add cider and ladle in hot stock one cup at a time.
6. Add sage and thyme and cook until all liquid is absorbed.
7. Before serving add walnuts, salt and pepper (to taste), olive oil and parmigiano.
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Most chefs will argue the cooking time should be only 18 minutes. It doesn’t sound like a lot but this is what they all claim. A chef’s school instructor told me that the famous chef who’s pumpkin risotto I fell in love with apparently just lets his risotto sit and cook without stirring and at the end he just gives it a toss. So far, I have been too scared to try this as I have put so many good ingredients in it but I will give it a try and give you a play by play report.                                 This is an excellent vegetarian dish and if you eliminate the wine and cheese, this would make an excellent vegan dish.

HAT2FOOD TIP: Make sure that you buy edible pumpkins and not the ones that are meant for carving.  Pumpkins belong to the winter squash family along with butternut, acorn, spaghetti and others.  The pumpkins that are grown for eating  ( not carving )  are sugar pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, pie pumpkins and some heirloom varieties.

taste-testTASTE TEST: I baked my pie pumpkin in the oven for 60 minutes at 350F.  After it was baked and cooled I opened a tin of pumpkin puree and tasted both of them.  What a difference!  The tinned pumpkin had a muddy taste while the pie pumpkin tasted like candy!  I will never buy tinned pumpkin again!

didyouknow2Pumpkin has many health benefits. They are a great source of carotene which is one of our major antioxidants that helps to protect us against certain kinds of cancer (particularly lung cancer) as well as heart disease. Pumpkin is rich in carotene which helps to manage blood sugar metabolism and aids in the health of the pancreas. Pumpkin contains many vitamins and minerals. It is helpful in the relief of bronchial asthma. and promote the health of the lungs and throat as well. European folk medicine acknowledges pumpkin as a potent remedy in the treatment of respiratory and digestive ailments.