Sunday, November 28, 2010

My little butternut has the sweetest smile

Someone once told me that upstate New York has two seasons: winter and July.  They couldn't be more correct.  I went to college up here, but don't remember being so cold all the time. Maybe all that alcohol kept me warm.  (If you're my father, "alcohol" is slang for nutritious dining hall food.)

Needless to say, I've been going soup-crazy trying to stay warm.  The CSA wrapped up recently, leaving several butternut squashes to consume.  I'd been wanting to try butternut squash soup for ages, so I figured it was as good a time as any.

Most of the work went into finding a recipe.  Who knew there were so many variations of butternut squash soup?  Many of them involve cream, cheese, and/or cream cheese.  Yum!  I'm into artery clogging as much as the next gal, but I just wasn't feeling it this time.

Then, I found the Best Butternut Squash Soup Ever.  Seriously, that's its name.  Could it really be the best, even without a hint of dairy?  Well, I don't know because I haven't tried any other butternut squash soups.  But this one was very easy to make and insanely tasty, so I'd say it's at least top five.

The Best Butternut Squash Soup Ever!
Yields 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cube chicken bouillon
1 pinch ground cumin
1 pinch ground allspice
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Cook onion, garlic and thyme in butter until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add squash and chicken stock.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Crumble the bouillon into the soup.
  6. Season with cumin, allspice, salt and pepper.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Fish out the thyme sprigs. Pluck any remaining leaves from the sprigs. Put the leaves back in the soup and discard the sprigs.
  9. Get your handy immersion blender and go nuts.  I'd never used mine before, and I'm really glad there's no photographic evidence.  I was a woman possessed.

    If you don't have an immersion blender, pour it into a regular blender or food processor and similarly go nuts.

I doubled the recipe because frankly, what am I going to do with half a squash, onion AND bouillon cube?  Oh, I know!  Make more soup!  Genius.

My vegetable peeler works GREAT on carrots.  Squash, not so much.  If your peeler sucks as much as mine, use a knife, like 0:47 in this video:

The soup is thicker than it looks.  Most times, I couldn't even finish the bowl, let alone eat the bread served with it. Very filling!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gluten-free cooking

While planning the menu for my husband's birthday party, I was faced with a challenge.  How can I feed my dear, gluten-free friend Karen without making her sick?  Rather than making one dish just for her, I decided to deglutenize dinner entirely!

First off, major kudos to Hannaford for having a whole gluten-free section.  Thanks for making my life easy.

Entree 1: Lasagna
Easy. I picked up some rice noodles, made one pan of lasagna with meat sauce, and one pan with marinara sauce. Hannaford carries DeBoles noodles; I don't know if they're the Rolls Royce of gluten-free noodles or what, but use enough cheese and sauce and anything will taste fine.

Entree 2: Chicken Parmesan
I had fun with this.  The store sold bags of readymade gluten-free bread crumbs, but they were really expensive for such a small bag.  In a rare flash of brilliance, I bought two loaves of sliced white gluten-free bread and decided to make my own.
  1. Get toasty.  Throw the slices right on the rack at 250 degrees. Bake for 10, then flip and bake for another 10.

    I was glad to do this because I tasted a "raw" slice, and honestly? Yuck. Burn, nasty bread, burn!
  2. Pulverize!  Throw those slices into the food processor and process the shit out of it. 
  3. Spice it up.  Add parsley, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.  Just eyeball it until it looks like the stuff you buy in a can.

    That nasty bread doesn't taste so nasty now!
  4. Follow your favorite chicken parm recipe.
    Entree 3: Sausage and Peppers
    No gluten to avoid, and stupidly easy to make.

    Of course, I didn't take any pictures of the finished products.  But everyone ate it, everyone LIKED it, and most importantly, it didn't kill Karen. Mission accomplished!