18 September 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

I've been having some fun with my cookbooks this month. I have been trying a lot of new recipes and using them for inspiration. I have been trying to make the best of a dysfunctional oven and so I have been spending some quality time with my stovetop. Most of my experiments have been successful with everyone enjoying them...a couple have only been enjoyed by the adults (like the Pioneer Woman's leek and potato pizza for some reason the kids took offence to this being called pizza - but I really liked it!)

One of the favourites this week was Butternut Squash soup. I was inspired with the idea after looking at "My Father's Daughter" by Gwyneth Paltrow but her recipe didn't scream out fall to me and I wanted something that did... so I took the idea of Butternut Squash soup and my general knowledge of soup making and created my own super easy and super yummy recipe. Everybody loved it and wanted more...

I started with a Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter in an enamelled cast iron pot over Medium high heat. I added 1 diced onion and two minced cloves of garlic. Stirred them around a bit just to sweat them a little. Then I added 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 diced granny smith apple (nothing says autumn to me like a crisp apple). 

I let these cook up for a minute or two - not letting anything brown (at least not very much). I added some salt and pepper and 1 large butternut squash - peeled, seeds removed and diced. I let these cook for another couple of minutes in the pot and then added a litre of chicken stock (I used store bought this time - I like the organic brand "Imagine" but you could use whatever you had on hand) and about two cups of water - just to make sure the squash was covered. 

The soup was brought to a boil and then simmered for 15 to 20 minutes. Just until the squash was tender. 

When all the veg were tender - I pureed the soup in a blender in three batches. Then just checked the seasoning and served. The soup is very flavourful and really creamy. It really tasted as if there was added cream...but their wasn't...I promise. 

I had a couple of leftover baked potatoes in the fridge from the night before so just for fun I thought I would make some potato croutons. 

I put about two Tbsp of butter in a cast iron pan and tossed in the potatoes that I had diced. I let them develop some colour on the bottom before flipping them over. When they were nearly ready I added some salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. 

The potatoes added a nice crispiness to the soup but had mixed results at my table. I heard everything from..."next time leave the potatoes out they distracted from the creaminess of the soup" to "the potatoes made it so much better". Personally, I could have it either way. The potatoes added a little more substance to the soup and I did like the contrast of textures.

Overall, the soup provided a pretty easy, satisfying meal for my family of six plus grandma and I will definitely be making this again.

07 September 2014

Views from my new neighbourhood...and a salad.

I am finally feeling settled in and I am loving the fall weather we have been having. I love the cool breeze while the sun is shining and just smelling fall in the air. I am hoping it lasts awhile but I have heard that winter comes on pretty quick in this part of the world. For now I am going to pretend that I didn't hear that and just enjoy fall while it lasts.

One of my favourite things about living in the Kootenays is the view. Almost in every direction there are views of the amazing BC mountains. I have discovered that the view from our backyard is kind of fabulous.

When a storm is approaching the light is amazing.

and there is a hammock...a hammock that is wonderful for lying in and looking up at the treetops and sky. I think I may like it here after all.

I hear there are a lot of trails to explore and outdoor activities to try... lots for us to discover over the coming years. 

This year, the kids and I have been enjoying exploring Fort Steele. I love history and this is probably one of the best places to learn about the history of the Kootenay region.

We get to learn while taking in the amazing views...

the kids get to run around outside... a lot...

and they get to hang out with farm animals.

Actually, I may be just as excited about the farm animals as the kids. 

Now that the boxes are nearly done we are having lots of fun exploring and spending time together while school is out. (Teacher strike here in BC - don't get me started on the school system in BC)

The hubby took his day off this week to build the boys a really cool triple bunk bed. They love it. It was set up in their room last night and we are almost finished setting up their room...should be done tomorrow. They are so excited. I love having a handy husband who can solve the problem of not enough room and just whip up a bed in a day out of a bunch of old two by fours. The boys now have a lot of floor space to play on.

I have started unpacking my cookbook collection...I've missed it. To celebrate I decided to try a new recipe...

something simple. Just a salad... but, so yummy!

I based it on an Ina Garten recipe..."Cape Cod Chopped Salad" from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics I didn't have all the ingredients for the salad so I had to make some substitutions and then I changed the dressing to go with my substitutions. 

Not sure what I call this one, but here is the recipe:

1 chicken breast - precooked and diced (I used a breast left over from a roast chicken)
1 large (double) handful of baby arugula
1 large (double) handful of mixed baby greens
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup pecan halves - toasted (I just dry toasted them in a cast iron skillet)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
6 oz. blue cheese - crumbled

In a large bowl toss the above ingredients.

In a small canning jar (I used a 500 ml. jar) pour in the following ingredients:

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
lemon zest from 1/3 large or 1/2 small lemon 
juice of 1/3 large or 1/2 lemon (approx. 2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste ( I used about 15 grinds of each)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

put the lid on the jar and shake vigourously. 

The recipe makes extra dressing. If dressing the entire salad I would suggest using half the recipe. Serve immediately after dressing and tossing or bring jar to the table and let everyone dress as desired. 

This served our family of six (all the kids ate it)...but we also had a cheese soufflĂ©...so without the soufflĂ© I would say it serves four. Although, it was so good I probably could have eaten the whole thing myself!