Thanksgiving Day 5: Creamy Butternut Squash, Potato and Pear Soup

Nothing beats two foods that¬†“pear” together well (har har), and Butternut Squash and Pears are no exception.

Squash (3)

This is a delectable soup perfect for a cold day, and since there will be lots of those coming up, my suggestion is to stock up on Butternut Squash and pears now. Not kidding!

This dish is quick to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, and makes enough for leftovers (depending on how large/hungry your family is) ūüôā

Squash (20)

What You Need:

  • 1 large Butternut Squash, skinned, halved and seeded (about 3 cups mashed)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • One large or two small white potatoes, diced
  • 1 onion, roughly sliced
  • 4 Bartlett (or other) pears skinned, pitted and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • A few pear slices for garnish

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

Place the squash facedown on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until the squash is soft enough to get a fork through.

While the squash is cooking, boil water in a large pot and boil the potatoes until soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Then drain and set aside.

Once the squash is done, pile it into a food processor along with the potato, onion, pears and spices, and give it a good whirl. It should still be fairly thick at this point.

Squash (22)                    Squash (23)

Scrape the whole mixture into a large 4 or 5 quart pasta pot and turn the heat up to medium.

Gradually add the vegetable broth, stirring constantly, until it is the consistency of, well, a creamy butternut squash and pear soup. (You might find you need more or less broth depending on how you like your soup, but 2 1/2 cups was perfect for mine).

Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with a few pear slices, and you’re good to go!

Also, I enjoyed this soup with a hearty slice of no-rise whole wheat stout bread. Highly recommend!

Pro Tip: You can cut your cooking time down if you cut the raw squash into chunks and boil them with the potato. Once they’re soft, drain, and blend with the remaining ingredients.

Squash (3)

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Day 4: Vegetarian Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

If a mushroom is stuffed with stuffing, is it redundant to call it a stuffing stuffed mushroom?

Stuffing (16)

Say that 5 times fast! Either way, the real point here is¬†that stuffing is one of the greatest foods served at the Thanksgiving table. I know I have my whole affinity for squash thing going on, but it’s basically trumped by stuffing. ¬†Stuffing is always flavorful and goes so well with all the other foods on your plate – especially the turkey. Even the name stuffing just makes me love it that much more.

Stuffing is mostly always served in a big bowl, but for the purpose of my 5-day Thanksgiving meal extravaganza (I’m calling it that now, by the way) I wanted to come up with something that would act as more of an appetizer, and be friendly to those traveling who want to bring something unique that can be easily heated up.

Stuffing (14)

This dish is a fun twist on the classic¬†stuffing in a bowl. And it’s really easy to make. It may look like a staggering amount of ingredients but it’s actually very simple. It does include a homemade vegetable broth so you could always make things easier on yourself and use a store-bought kind. There’s 4 ingredients off the list right there!

And this recipe has some great vegetables in it that add amazing flavors so you don’t need to add spices outside of a pinch of salt and pepper.

Stuffing (1)

What You Need:

  • 2 leeks, one cut in half and one diced
  • 1 large yellow onion cut in half, one half left in tact (skins and all) and one peeled and diced
  • 1/2 a tomato
  • 1 jalapeno cut in half
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 2 leeks,¬†one cut in half and one diced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 medium sized load of French bread (about 3.5-4oz in weight) OR your favorite gluten¬†free bread to make this a 100% GF dish
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 5 large portobello mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Stuffing (5)

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. This is for your vegetable broth. Once the water is boiling, add the leek that is cut in half, the 1/2 tomato, the in-tact onion half and the jalapeno and boil until the vegetables are soft and the water is colored with vegetable leavings.

Strain the broth into a separate pot to separate out the vegetables. Discard the vegetables and set 2 cups of the broth aside. (Freeze the rest for future recipes).

In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Once melted, add the parsnips and let them simmer in the butter for about 2 minutes.

Then, add the leeks, onion, garlic, eggplant and a pinch of salt and pepper (no more than 1/4 tsp each) and cook, covered, on a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft.

Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the broth has been absorbed.

Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes and lay them in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Sprinkle the sage and rosemary over the bread.

Then, pour the vegetable mixture over the bread as well. Spread it out so it evenly covers the bread.

Stuffing (2)          Stuffing (3)

Pour the remaining cup of vegetable broth over everything, gently pushing aside the vegetable mixture to allow the broth to work through to the bread and the bottom of the casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

While the stuffing is baking, gently clean any dirt off your mushrooms.

Slice off the stems and gently dig out the gill-like material on the underside of the mushroom caps.

Stuffing (7)         Stuffing (11)

Place the hollowed-out mushrooms cap-side down in a baking dish and bake them in the oven (also at 350F) for about 10 minutes or until they begin to look slightly droopy or wilted. A small amount of liquid might appear inside the caps Рthis is a good way to know you need to remove them from the oven.

Once the stuffing is done, add a generous scoop of stuffing to each mushroom cap.

Top each with a tablespoon of cheese and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Stuffing (13)

These make for a gorgeous presentation lined up on a serving tray. I hope you enjoy them as much as Mike and I did!

Pro-Tip: Try to pick out portobello mushrooms that have high sides so they’re more cup-shaped instead of flat. These will maintain their shape a lot better after being heated up and make it easier to stuff them.

Stuffing (15)

 

Thanksgiving Dish Day 3: White Wine Honeyed Brussels Sprouts Over Quinoa

There are some things you’re confronted with as a child that, despite your small stature, are non-negotiable. You will gladly sit at the table all night long, relinquish dessert rights, resign yourself to missing your favorite cartoon, get sent to bed early – all in the name of avoiding eating a vegetable (usually green, usually slightly slimy and usually exuding a¬†questionable odor).

Beet Burgers (22)

Did I ever think I would like – and look forward to – eating Brussels Sprouts? No way. Did my parents? That’s an even bigger¬†“no way.”

I was always “a picky eater” (my mother’s words) – particular about my meals and mostly partial to sugar-laden foods and non-green stuff. But I was a kid. And I grew out of it – thank goodness too because honestly, green stuff is amazing.

Beet Burgers (28)

Brussels Sprouts are like tiny cabbages (but sweeter) that become¬†packed full of the flavors they’re cooked with, and they develop a delicious crispiness when pan-fried that makes them almost more like (yes I’m going there) a snack.

It’s not surprising that kids don’t like these, but it’s probably based on appearance and, also, keeping up appearances, because you can’t just GIVE IN and admit to your parents that you like something right? I hope to raise a child who does, but it’s not likely considering how many times my mother¬†wished that I would have a kid someday just as picky as myself.

I wish I could go back in time and see what my 9-year-old self would think of these bad boys, but definitely let me know how this recipe goes over! My 31-year-old self couldn’t get enough of them, and they’re a great addition to any Thanksgiving spread.

Beet Burgers (30)

What You Need:

  • 1 cup red quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups Brussels Sprouts with the hard stems sliced off and any bad outer leaves pulled off
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2¬†tbsp honey, warmed so it’s loose and will mix easily
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine

What You Do:

In a large bowl that has lots of extra room to stir the Brussels Sprouts without losing any over the side, mix the Brussels Sprouts with 1 tbsp olive oil, the honey, salt and pepper, until the Brussels are covered well.

Warm the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.

Beet Burgers (34)

Pour Brussels Sprouts into the skillet – they should sizzle in the heated oil.

Stir around, gently cooking all sides of the Brussels.

Once Brussels are warm and well-mixed in the pan, add the wine, and stir continuously until the liquid burns off.

Now they’re ready to serve! Pile over a bed of the quinoa and enjoy!

Pro Tip: For a fuller meal, add cooked sweet potato, squash or diced cooked chicken to the quinoa with some cooked onions and/or peppers.

 

 

Thanksgiving Dish Day 2: Creamy Herbed Buttercup Squash Risotto

Where oh where would Thanksgiving be without the squash? My love for these fibrous, flavorful and filling fruits begins in the summertime with zucchinis and summer squashes, but what I really spend my time looking forward to is the fall and winter squashes that each offer a different taste and application.

Risotto (15)

This fall, I committed myself to learning about unique squash varieties and how to best use them. I had always been a Butternut/Acorn/Spaghetti squash kind of girl, but now I’ve discovered Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Sugar Pumpkin,¬†Carnival and, of course, Buttercup¬†squashes, and can’t get enough of them.

They’re sweet in different ways and each add something unique to dishes. They also all go well with butter. Mmmm butter.

Risotto (11)

Bring this recipe to the Thanksgiving table and I assure you people won’t be able to get enough of it. Risotto is a delectable dish on its own, but infused with a flavorful¬†homemade vegetable broth and creamy herbed squash, it really delivers. Plus, you can serve it right inside the large, hollowed-out shell of the buttercup squash – how cool is that?

Risotto (2)

What You Need:

  • 1 Leek, washed and cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, ends chopped off and cut in half with one half diced, and the other half still in tact with skins and papery shell
  • 1/2 of a whole tomato
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 large Buttercup Squash, top sliced off, seeds and loose filling removed and discarded

Risotto (6)

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped sage
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, diced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1 cup Arborio (risotto) rice
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What You Do:

This dish is really great because you make your own vegetable broth in which to cook the risotto rice. I made a leek, onion, tomato and jalapeno broth – super easy and very flavorful.

Risotto (9)Simply fill a large, 5-6 quart sauce pot about 3/4 of the way with water, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the leek, 1/2 of the onion (leave on the skin and papery shell), tomato and jalapeno, and continue boiling until the veggies are flimsy-soft and the water is fragrant and colored with vegetable leavings.

Strain the broth over a separate, smaller pot to separate the vegetables from the broth. Discard the vegetables and set aside the finished broth.

While the broth is boiling, take your seeded Buttercup Squash and begin scraping away the inside flesh of the squash to remove as much of the fruit as you can. I also sliced around the inside perimeter of the squash with a sharp knife to remove the flesh. Otherwise, a spoon and a strong arm will do the trick.

Risotto (3)

Dice up any large pieces of squash and place all the squash flesh (should be about 2 cups) into a medium sauce pot.

Risotto (7)

Add the butter, chopped herbs and salt and pepper, cover and heat on low, stirring occasionally to mix the melting butter and herbs.

Once the squash has cooked through and any large chunks have softened and can be easily mashed into the overall mixture, remove the squash from heat and set aside, leaving the cover on.

In a large stir fry pan, heat olive oil on medium and add the shallot, the diced other half of the onion, and the garlic, and simmer for about 30 seconds until the onion becomes translucent and soft.

Add the risotto rice and mix well.

Add the white wine and stir constantly until the liquid begins to burn off. Now, add the vegetable broth one cup at a time until you have added 6 cups. Only add a new cup once the liquid has begun to burn off. Stir constantly after adding each new cup. This slow-cooking method will infuse the rice with flavor and plump it up to create a very filling and flavorful dish.

Once you have stirred in the 6th cup of broth, add the squash mixture and the Parmesan cheese, stirring well to mix everything together evenly.

Then, pour the entire mixture into the hollowed-out squash, and serve!

Risotto (14)

Pro Tip: Cut your cooking time down by a lot by making a large batch of vegetable broth ahead of time and freezing it or just leaving it in the fridge if you’re going to use it in a short time. Pick your favorite veggies or use a combination of leftover trimmings from previous dinners and throw them into the boiling water!

Thanksgiving Dish Day 1: Hassleback Sweet Potatoes with Candied Apples

Discovering that such a thing as a hassleback potato exists kind of blew my mind. I’m not even joking. I had never heard of these before, but of course as soon as I did, it’s all I wanted to make.

Squash Chicken (29)

The best thing about sweet potatoes is how well they pair with both savory and sweet foods; for instance, goat cheese or marshmallow. This dish could go in a thousand different directions, but I chose to make it sweet because (since it’s not Thanksgiving yet) I served them with similar-themed foods:¬†garlic and honey roasted chicken and these delish Sweet Dumpling Squash Fritters.

I highly recommend using larger-sized potatoes that are big in diameter. Length is much less important – and also try to stick with potato that’s a straighter shape – no curves or twists.

Squash Chicken (14)

What You Need:

  • ¬†4-6 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (like OceanSpray)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 425F

The trick to making hassleback potatoes is to cut thin slices in them without slicing completely through the potato. To do this, I laid two wooden spoons (that I don’t care too much about) against each side of the potato, with the potato nestled in the middle.

When you slice the potato, your knife will stop at the spoons, thus leaving the bottom of the potato in tact.

Squash Chicken (20)

Make slices from end to end on each of your potatoes.

Then, mix together your remaining ingredients (apple through butter).

Place the sliced potatoes in a lightly oiled baking dish and cover with the topping. You should be able to stuff some of the topping in-between the slices to inject the flavor, if you will, into the potatoes.

Place the whole shebang into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until you can easily get a fork through the potatoes. After 20 minutes, check to ensure the sugar isn’t burning. If it does, place on a lower rack and bring the heat down to 300F.

Pro Tip: As I said, because sweet potatoes are so versatile, this dish could be done a bunch of different ways. Try placing a small patty of butter on each potato and sprinkling salt and pepper over the dish. For a fun twist on a fairly traditional Thanksgiving dish, bake the hasslebacks for about 15 minutes or until soft, and then stuff a few small marshmallows in-between the slices and bake again until just browned.

Squash Chicken (26)

Five Days of Thanksgiving Meals: Options for Everyone at Your Table

For someone who likes to cook, Thanksgiving is just a wonderful holiday all-around. For anyone who doesn’t like to cook, I have to assume the Internet is your best friend for at least 24 hours.

Once I got my own place, with my own kitchen with a stove and oven that I could commandeer at will, I became weirdly obsessed with cooking for Thanksgiving, despite the fact that Mike and I have not once celebrated this holiday at our home. And we don’t leave for just one night – we’re gone for days visiting relatives in Connecticut and New York.

So I became that person who shows up to other people’s homes with unsolicited food items. “I accidentally made this squash ravioli so, I thought maybe it would make a good side dish?”

I’m not entirely sure why I feel this compulsion, but I do it every year. I think I just really love Thanksgiving-type foods and can’t keep from cooking them. It’s not even the desserts I’m after – it’s the roasted and seasoned vegetables, the sauces and toppings, the bready and flavorful stuffings…Can. Not. Resist.

Because I’m actively food blogging this year, I decided to spread my Thanksgiving food-love and cook one new dish¬†each day for five days before Turkey Day that could easily occupy a spot on your holiday¬†table.

The fun starts Thursday – exactly one week before the big day. Oh – and at some point I will also be documenting Mike’s attempt at frying a turkey for the first time ever.

Happy cooking!

Gourmet Beet and Black Bean Burgers

I feel like it’s tough to be a person who loves beets.

Burger (3)

When I decide to open up about my feelings, people typically take the opportunity to let me know¬†that they couldn’t disagree more.

“They taste like dirt,” I’m told.

Well I guess I must like eating dirt. Because I canNOT get enough of beets and their stain-red goodness.

Because this is a cooking¬†blog and you probably wouldn’t get much enjoyment out of a post about me eating beets and goat cheese in front of the TV, I realized I had to up my beet game.

Beet Burgers (1)

So this isn’t a beet smoothie recipe, and it’s not a how-to guide for eating cooked beets topped with goat cheese on a cracker while watching How I Met Your Mother.

No, this recipe is a fabulous mix of black beans, goat cheese, oatmeal and spices that is so tasty even my husband (who wasted no time letting me know his less-than-favorable feelings about beets) is eating them.

What You Need:

  • 2 large beets peeled and grated (about 2 cups total)
  • 1 cup steel-cut oatmeal (gluten free if you wish)
  • 1 12oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
  • 4oz creamy goat cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground basil leaves or fresh basil finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

What You Do:

Place the oatmeal, black beans, onion, shallot, garlic, jalapeno and spices in a food processor and pulse until just mixed. You don’t want to puree it but make sure all ingredients are combined and it has a good texture.

In a large bowl, knead the mixture (with a spoon or your hands), gradually adding in the goat cheese and beets.

Keep mixing until everything is combined.

At this point, it should have a thick consistency and stick together very well.

In a large skillet, heat your oil on medium.

Form the beet mixture into burger-shaped patties (about 3/4-inch thick) and place into the oil. They should sizzle when placed in the pan.

Let the patties cook about 1.5 minutes on each side, or until they get crispy on the outside. Add a bit more oil if they stick at all to the pan.

I served my beet burgers on lightly toasted Ciabatta with a slice of tomato, 2 thin avocado slices and a bed of lettuce.

Beet Burgers (9)     Beet Burgers (8)

Of course, no burger is complete without a succulent sauce to pour on top. It took me a bit to come up with a good sauce option that would pair well with beets, but I actually came up with a few (below). If you don’t want to spend extra time making a sauce, go into your fridge. BBQ sauce works great, as does salad dressing – I recommend a roasted red pepper, Italian or balsamic dressing.

  • Plain Greek Yogurt with Dill: Simply take a half cup of yogurt, dice about a tablespoon of fresh dill, and mix. Dollop onto burgers before serving.
  • Herbed Goat Cheese Sauce: Mash 4oz creamy goat cheese in a bowl (you might have leftover cheese from the burger recipe).¬†Bring 1 cup milk,¬†1 tsp ground basil, 1 tsp garlic and a dash of salt and pepper to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour milk mixture over mashed cheese and stir until combined. Re-boil the entire sauce, stirring until thickened. Pour about a tablespoon over burger and toppings.
  • Ginger Chili Crema:¬†(Alert: This takes a long time). Heat (but don’t boil) 1 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan. Pour into a glass jar with a tightly-fitting lid and add 1 tbsp buttermilk. Let sit for up to 24 hours until cream thickens. Stir in 1 tsp ground ginger and 2 tbsp diced chilies. Reseal the lid and refrigerate for 24 hours. Stir well before dolloping on your burger.

Burger (2)