Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally cool enough in California, at least once the sun goes down, to justify getting the stock pot out to make a hearty soup that can serve as dinner with a big salad & crusty bread that can then live on as a couple of workday lunches too!  Great for the wallet AND the waistline!  This soup is so rich, and has such depth of flavor, that it seems like a cheat meal, which is a plus during the non-stop holiday feast season.

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1  –  2 to 2+1/2 lb Butternut Squash (Peeled/Seeded/Chopped into about 1″ Cubes)
  • 1  –  Large Granny Smith Apple (Cut into about 1″ Pieces – seeds/core/stem removed)
  • 3  –  Large Ribs Celery Chopped
  • 3  –  Carrots (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 1  –  Medium Yellow Onion (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 4  –  TBLS Butter
  • 1  –  32 oz Container Organic Chicken Stock
  • 1+1/2 Cups Water
  • Freshly Grated Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper (To Taste)
  • Freshly Ground Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  • Cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Pinch to 1/8th tsp)
  • Chopped Parsley (if desired)

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot and add the onions, carrot and celery.  Sauté over low heat about 10 minutes.  When onions just start to brown, add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, chicken stock and water.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring just to a boil.  When bubbles appear at the edges of the pan, reduce heat to low.  Cover pan tightly and simmer soup for 45 minutes until squash is completely softened.

Remove soup from heat and either process soup until smooth using your blender (I use my Vitamix) and returning to the pan after processed or an immersion blender as shown in the video.

Once soup is smooth, add the Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Cayenne.  Adjust spices to taste.

I came across a video that uses the same technique I use to make my soup, with slightly different measurements, and it’s much prettier, so I’ll give the standard #ShoutOut and #HighFive to Simply Recipes for producing a great (and quick) video that I can also use to demonstrate how to assemble my soup!

I’ve already been remiss at keeping up with my blog, so not having to produce a video is a definite bonus! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Easy Roasted Tomato Soup

fellp20150820_lowCalifornia’s multiple personality disorder has reared it’s ugly head again.  The weather, which had been giving us a normal winter for a change, has turned on a dime and we have Santa Ana winds, sunshine and warm temperatures just a day after rain clouds and temperatures in the low 60’s.  Ugh!  This is really screwing with my pre-planned menus!

Screw it!  I planned to make soup for dinner and soup it will be.  I don’t care if it’s warm outside or not.  If anyone complains they can chill theirs like gazpacho.

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • 1 Poblano Chili (Stem and Seed Pod Removed if Desired)
  • 6 Large Tomatoes (Hard Stems Cut Out)
  • 1 Medium Sweet Yellow Onion (Peeled and Halved)
  • 5 Large Carrots (Peeled & Tops Removed)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Place the onion, cut side down, onto an oiled baking pan along with the peeled carrots, the poblano chili and the 6 tomatoes (cut tops up). Tip:  For added flavor, I roast my chili with the stem and seed pod in and remove them before throwing into the Vitamix.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tomato skins begin to crack and peel.

Preparation Option 1 – VITAMIX:

If you have a Vitamix with a soup setting like I do (it’s on the Professional Series 750), the steps are simple from here.  All you do is throw all of the roasted vegetables into the container, place the lid on securely, turn the dial to the soup setting, depress the start button and wait for the cycle to end when it’s done chopping/blending and cooking the soup.

Preparation Option 2 -Blender or Food Processor and Stove Top:

Place the onion, chili and carrots into the blender/processor container and pulse to chop the vegetables up.  Then turn the blender to puree and mix until the vegetables are well chopped.  Add the tomatoes 1 at a time blending on high until all are well incorporated.  If you run out of room in your container, move 1/2 of your vegetable mixture to the pan you’ll be heating the soup in.  When all of the vegetables are blended/pureed, heat in a pan on the stove until warm enough to eat.

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

The Benefit of Green Peas

peafacts

I never minded cleaning my plate when I was a kid.  I actually liked eating my vegetables, but I never had any idea how much good they were doing!  I am especially amazed by the number of things that green peas can do for your health.

One of the most important things that peas provide us Vitamin K.  It plays a vital role in your body because it:

  • helps the blood clot – preventing excessive bleeding;
  • helps anchor calcium inside the bones which helps prevent osteoporosis; and
  • helps to restore strength to bones following steroid use.

Peas contain such high quality protein that commercial protein powders have begun using it as an alternative to soy or whey based protein.

  • Coumestrol, a phytonutrient in Peas, has been shown to reduce the risk of stomach cancers
  • The Pantothenic Acid in peas supports the energy producing cells in the body and play an important role in adrenal function
  • A cup of peas is just 81 calories, has no cholesterol, they are good source of soluble as well as insoluble fiber
  • A cup of peas provides 16% of RDA of folates. Folates are one of the B-complex vitamins required for DNA synthesis inside the cell
  • Fresh green peas are very high in Vitamin C.  A cup has 67% of the daily requirement.
  • Peas contain phytosterols, which helps lower cholesterol levels
  • A cup of peas is also high in antioxidants like carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin as peas1well as vitamin-A (25.5% of RDA). Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy membranes, skin and eye-sight, and protects against lung and oral cavity cancers
  • Peas are also good in many other essential B-complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. Furthermore, they are rich source of many minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese

Looks like I am going to mix a cup of green peas in with my quinoa for lunch tomorrow!  Yum!

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Pizza is my weakness anytime I’m trying to lean out.  The ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness just warms my insides at the mere mention.  But I know it also will leave me bloated and sorry I gave in to my craving afterward.  This crust, from Eat. Drink. Smile. solves that problem!

CAULIFLOWER PIZZA CRUST RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup riced, then cooked cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp italian seasonings
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (for topping)
  • pizza sauce & additional toppings of your choice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To rice the cauliflower, cut florets into chunks and pulse in a food processor until you see rice-like bits. You could also use a cheese grater to produce the tiny pieces. Do not over process, you don’t want mush.
  2. Microwave the riced cauliflower in a bowl for 5-8 minutes depending on your microwave. No need to add water. After microwaving, transfer riced cauliflower to a fine mesh strainer and drain completely, gently pressing out excess water. Once drained, transfer riced cauliflower to a clean dish towel and wrap the sides around the cauliflower while gently pressing out excess water. This drying process is important!
  3. One large head of cauliflower will yield about 3 cups of riced cauliflower. Use it to make more pizzas immediately, or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup riced, cooked cauliflower, 1 egg and your parmesan cheese. Next, add Italian seasonings, crushed garlic and salt. Making sure everything is well mixed, place your “dough” on the cookie sheet and pat out a 9″ round. Be sure not to press it too thin as it’s easy to create holes.
  6. Bake your dough at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven. Add sauce, mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pre-cooked toppings to your pizza. Place pizza under broiler just until cheese is melted, be sure to keep an eye on it!

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Mushroom-Spinach Spaghetti

mushspinspagKnowing that tonight will be a long one while we stay up late to watch the results of Election Night 2016, I am prepping dinner for tomorrow night ahead of time.  A recipe I love, that has no sauce, is easy to assemble, throw in the refrigerator a day ahead, and, as a bonus, is one that my husband will take to work for lunch afterward without complaint!

Mushroom-Spinach Spaghetti

  • 1 Pound Spaghetti, Spaghettini, or Angel Hair Pasta
  • 24 oz Sliced White and/or Baby Portobello Mushrooms (I used a combination of both)
  • 4 oz Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Stick Butter (8 TBLS)
  • 2 TBLS + 2 TBLS + 2 TBLS (all separate measures) Olive Oil
  • 4 oz Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 TBLS Garlic and Onion Spice Blend (You can combine equal amounts of onion powder and garlic powder if you don’t have a prepared blend on hand)
  • Fresh Ground Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

mush1Put your stick of butter (8 TBLS) into a large skillet, I prefer a well seasoned cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat.

When your butter has melted, add your mushrooms and 2 TBLS olive oil poured over the top.  Cook, stirring occasionally so that mushrooms don’t stick to pan, for about 2 minutes, then add yourmush1a garlic and onion spice blend, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking and stirring the mushrooms for about another 3 to 4 minutes until most of the moisture has been absorbed by the mushrooms.  Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

spin1Add 2 TBLS olive oil to the skillet and add your spinach to the pan.  Using tongs to toss the spinach with the oil, cook tossing constantly until all of the spinach is wilted but not cooked all the way.  Immediately remove from the pan to the samespin2 bowl as the mushrooms and stir the mushrooms and spinach together.  Set bowl aside and allow to cool while you prepare the pasta.  When your mushroom-spinach mixture has cooled, sprinkle your 4 ounces of shredded parmesan cheese over and stir it in completely.

Prepare your pasta according to package directions with one important change:  Make sure that you break the noodles in half lengthwise before you put them in the water.  When your pasta has finished cooking drain it and toss it with your remaining 2 TBLS olive oil then add it to your mushroom-spinach mixture.  Use your tongs to make sure your mushroom-spinach mixture is well combined and coating your pasta completely then either serve immediately or pour it into a 9 X 13 Pyrex baking pan and cover to keep warm.

mushspinspag

If you plan to make this a day ahead like I am, place covered baking pan in the refrigerator. To prepare for serving the next day, top cold pasta with a couple of TBLS butter (divided into small pats) and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes.  You can also just toss individual servings into the microwave. 😉

With this easy (and inexpensive) make ahead dinner, the only decision you’ll need to worry about making tomorrow night is which wine to drink!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Spicy Cognac-Mushroom Rice

mushrice

I’m throwing caution to the wind this holiday season and tossing my tried and true recipes out the window.  Well, at least a few of them.  So, out goes the usual wild rice side dish and in it’s place I’m going to add a whole lot more flavor:

Spicy Cognac-Mushroom Rice

  • 4 Cups Cooked Brown Rice
  • 4 Cups Cooked White Rice
  • 1 – 26.5 oz Can Black Beans (drained)
  • 12 oz Sliced White Mushrooms
  • 12 oz Sliced Portobello Mushrooms
  • 8 TBLS (1 Stick) Butter
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion Chopped
  • 1 – 4oz Can Diced Jalapeno Peppers (drained)
  • 1/2 Cup Cognac
  • 3 TBLS Honey
  • 2 TBLS Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Prepare your rice using whatever method you prefer.  I prefer my pressure cooker so I can combine the white and brown rice and do it all at once, but you can do it on the stovetop, use your rice cooker or even do it in your microwave if you prefer.

  1. Using a large skillet, I use my cast iron skillet, melt your butter.
  2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and let brown, stirring, for 10 minutes.
  3. Next add the onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper and let cook for another two minutes.mush1
  4. Add the honey and stir until it’s well incorporated.
  5. Add the cognac and let reduce for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the soy sauce and stir, then add the drained black beans.
  7. Cook for another 5 minutes over low heat until the liquid thickens a bit.
  8. Pour over the rice in the large bowl.
  9. Stir together and then season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed
  10. Pour rice into a serving dish – I am using a disposable 9 x 13 covered cake pan with a lid for mess free transport.

I am using my unsuspecting friends at tomorrow’s USC homecoming tailgate as guinea pigs.  We are deep frying Duck and this seemed like a good way to do a test run.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

kraft_macaroni__cheese_2011I grew up on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  The blue box with the skinny little noodles that Mom combined with a 1/4 cup of “Oleo” as she called margarine (she NEVER used butter) and 1/4 cup of low-fat milk was a crowd pleaser to my sister, brother and I.  Later she would splurge on the more expensive box of “Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese” with it’s tiny can of cheese sauce in it, but, to my taste, you still can’t beat the skinny blue box.

Thankfully, as I grew so too did my palate.  I rarely pass up a macaroni and cheese on any menu and have developed a couple of favorite styles:  Lobster macaroni and cheese, if it has large claw chunks (and not just minced remnants), is my favorite, followed by a good white cheddar shells and cheese prepared with a hint of truffle oil and just a few exotic mushrooms.

spicyspiralmacncheeseWhen I’m cooking Macaroni and Cheese, I like it to have enough flavor, that if I served nothing else beside it, except maybe a tossed green salad, it could stand alone as a “Meatless Monday” main dish.  You won’t need a fire extinguisher nearby for this spirited macaroni and cheese, but you certainly won’t fall asleep while you’re eating it either.

Lisa’s Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

  • 1 – 16oz Box Cellentani Pasta (I use Barilla)
  • 8 TBLS Butter / Divided
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 3 1/4 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 3 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Pepper Sauce (I prefer Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 1/2 Cups + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 2 + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Panko

Before you start, I have a couple of tips.

  1. If you can’t find shredded Pepper Jack or Sharp Cheddar you can always use the packaged slices and tear them up.  Generally the 8 ounce package should equal about 1 1/2 Cups.  Use your own judgement.  I usually err on the side of too much cheese in that type of situation and gauge it based upon the thickness of my sauce.  You can always thin (God Forbid) a bit with milk if you think it’s too thick.
  2. You can use any macaroni type noodle you prefer (elbow, shell, spiral) but I prefer the Cellentani because it combines the features of a slightly larger elbow with a spiral and then throws in some textured grooves so you get as much of the sauce grabbing to it as possible in each bite.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Prepare 2 – 13 x 9 Pyrex baking dishes (I use the deepest ones I have), or 1 deep dish throw away baking pan, by buttering the sides and bottoms – then set aside while you prepare the ingredients.
  • In a large stock pot, boil your pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and pour into largest mixing bowl you have.  Set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan over medium heat melt 4 TBLS butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook about a minute while constantly whisking then begin stirring in the milk about a 1/2 cup at a time until it’s well combined.
  • Stir in the spices and 1/4 Cup of the hot sauce.  Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cheeses (not the cheese reserved for the top) until melted and smooth.
  • In a small pan melt the remaining 4 TBLS butter and stir in the bread crumbs.
  • Combine the remaining cheeses together.
  • Pour the sauce over the macaroni and, using a large rubber spatula, stir until all of the pasta is well coated.
  • Divide the pasta between the 2 prepared pans
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining cheese mixture over the top of each and put the pans, uncovered into the oven.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and beginning to brown on top.
  • Slide the baking dishes out of the oven and set the oven temperature to broil
  •  Divide the panko mixture between the two pans and return to the oven
  • Watch the pans carefully and remove from the oven as soon as your crumbs begin browning.

Make sure you’ve got a bottle of hot sauce out for anyone who wants to spice it up even more!  Serve your macaroni and cheese with a salad as a dinner on it’s own, alongside burgers, steaks, or inside a great steak/brisket/tri-tip sandwich!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood