Monday, November 28, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Soup

We are all out of Thanksgiving leftovers here! They didn't last long, there wasn't much of it, and after all of the celebrating and indulging I am thankful to get back to a more reasonable dining routine. I love celebrating, but if I do it everyday I start to feel like the stuffed turkey!

Your weekly menu reminded me of this delicious, simple, sweet & savoury butternut squash soup I like to whip up and keep in a big bowl in the fridge for easy winter meals. I roast the squash ahead of time (great on a winter Sunday afternoon, pop it in the oven around 3 or 4 and the kitchen is toasty warm AND its ready for soup making at dinner). I also use ghee instead of oil because of its wide ranging health benefits. Its easy to make (I'll blog on it later!) but if you don't keep a jar handy in your kitchen, you can use oil for this recipe.

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

1 butternut squash, roasted
2 tbsp ghee or oil
2 large sweet potatoes
2 medium apples
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, chopped
5 cups veg broth
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup coconut milk
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the squash in advance: Roast whole by piercing the top with a knife in several places, set upright in a baking dish, and keep it in a 375 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Or cut into pieces, place in a dish with 1/4 inch of water, cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes and apples into 1 inch pieces. Melt ghee or oil in a soup pot and add sweet potatoes, apples and ginger. Saute until everything starts to turn a bit golden (7-8 minutes). Add the broth, bring to the boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes soften.

Meanwhile, cut the roasted squash in half, scoop out the seeds, peel and cut into large pieces. Add squash, spices and salt and pepper to the pot. When heated through, remove from heat. Add 1 cup coconut milk and blend with a handstick blender.

This soup is great out of the pot, but even better a day or two later!

Enjoy your week,


Thanksgiving Review

I already typed at length about my compound butter, but in case you were curious... it was delicious there was none left over by the end of the day.  My other contribution to a Thanksgiving meal made with friends was a large bowl of roasted sweet potatoes.  No marshmallows, nothing fancy.  I am a fan of simple roasted veggies with thoughtful seasoning.  Here is my "recipe".  I encourage you to adapt to your heart's content.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
preheat oven to 450 degrees.
wash and cube sweet potatoes, as many as you need! I made A LOT!  (7 large potatoes?)
place on large baking sheet.
drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
add desired seasoning...  such as:
cumin, coriander and cinnamon
Roast for 30-40 minutes.  stirring occasionally. 
Serve hot, room temperature or cold, alone or in another dish such as quinoa.....



My Husband is the baker in our house... and he made delicious  Parker House Rolls.  I think we came home with two left over.  They went very well with the garlic compound butter. 

A good and delicious time was had by all. 

Weekly Menu: Post Thanksgiving!

This week's menu is admittedly a little boring.  With Thanksgiving, we didn't get to two of our weekly meals, plus we have so many leftovers to eat from the previous week and Thanksgiving dinner!  Which makes this menu really easy for this week.  I might not even have to go shopping...

homemade pizza
ravioli w/ apples & walnuts
dinner at a friend's (bring spinach for salad)
butternut squash soup

As I write this, I am eating a slice of leftover pumpkin pie.  mmmmm....

What are your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers?

Happy week after Thanksgiving,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Compound Butter: a Love Letter to Mark Bittman

I love Mark Bittman.  His cookbook How to Cook Everything is by far the most useful book I own.  My kitchen savvy brother in law recommended it to me, and now it's the book I most recommend for people looking for a good cookbook. It's the perfect reference for when you need to know basic things about cooking real food.  Sometimes I just want to look something up in a book rather than online. (Thank you mother the librarian!) For example, have you ever wanted to know how to cook an artichoke? Bittman tells you several ways, complete with illustrations.  I love the book because it's absolutely useful and simple.  It also happens to include good tips, like toasting banana bread (his recipe for which I will use for the rest of my life) and putting peanut butter on it. YES!!!  Pick it up the next time you see a copy, you will not be disappointed. Or buy it on Amazon right here...

On to the compound butter part of this post.  I often hear terms like "compound butter" but I didn't actually know what it was until this week when I finally consulted How to Cook Everything during my Thanksgiving recipe gathering.  Basically, it's butter with natural flavors blended in, like garlic or herbs. Used in sauces, traditionally, but sounds like a perfect accompaniment to homemade bread...

I went with the garlic compound butter, which according to Bittman is "essential".  Here's how it works:   

Garlic Compound Butter 
(Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

1 tablespoon + 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, the 1/2 stick at room temperature
1-2 large cloves garlic, minced (depends on how much you like garlic!)
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste (about a conservative splash, here)

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small sauce pan on low heat. Add garlic and cook until the garlic softens, 2 or 3 minutes. Let cool.
2. In a small food processor or with a fork, mix/mash garlic with the room temperature butter. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
3.  Pop it in the fridge if you don't plan to use it right away, otherwise, keep it at room temperature and spread it on some freshly baked bread... NOW! 

Voila!  Garlic compound butter!
Sounds fancy, but so simple.

Get creative! Mix something wild with butter and let me know how it goes!!

Loving the simple things,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving prep

We are also getting ready for Thanksgiving here in Boston. We'll be having some friends over to our apartment. Its potluck style, and I'll be preparing stuffing with raisins and walnuts (made from bread, not a package!), a cranberry salad (I'm thinking with orange and ginger?) and I've preordered a pecan pie from our local community kitchen as part of the Pie in the Sky fundraiser.

I decided to give the bird a break and not cook a turkey. Instead we will be preparing a Thanksgiving crockpot Haggis! (In memory of several Thanksgivings we spent in Scotland) I'm psyched to use the crockpot and keep the temperature in the oven and my kitchen down as well as my own slight paranoia about whether the turkey is cooked all the way through.

I found the recipe for CrockPot Haggis here. (This lady cooked one meal in her crock pot everyday for a year!) Cloves, nutmeg, oats and lamb, no sheep's stomach necessary. How could you go wrong! Unless no one eats it. I'll let you know ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekly Menu: Thanksgiving Week!!

To avoid the "what's for dinner" discussion every night, I try to make a weekly menu on Sunday. Weekly basically meaning weeknight dinners... weekends are more flexible because there's more time to think and cook.  This helps keep shopping organized, dinner less stressful and lunches basically automatic due to leftovers!

Here is the weekly menu November 21-25:  

Butternut Squash Lasagna (new recipe!)
Chicken & Lentil burger with oven fries (Burger from Everyday Food, new recipe!)
Homemade pizza w/ salad 

Thanksgiving!:  pumpkin cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast!
 sweet potatoes and cider (contribution to Friendsgiving meal) 

UPDATE!  Here and here are two homemade pizza dough recipes I use frequently.  They both make mini pizzas, but work well to make two large pizza dough crusts. That is what I always do.  Use one that day and freeze the other.  Take it out of the freezer the morning you plan to make the second pizza!  Homemade pizza is an awesome way to use leftover veggies not used in other other recipes. Enjoy!
P.S. I have made the first recipe in it's entirety before, but liked how easy the dough was to make. It's worth a try, it's so good!!

Cara responds: pumpkin spice cupcakes OR muffins

Well now Allison, I did indeed make the whole recipe, not because I needed 24 cupcakes around the house, but because I like to make my cupcakes extra large with more batter per cup and I planned to send along a dozen or so with my husband to give to his coworkers. I also froze some of the batter right in the muffin tin, to bake again a week later over my birthday weekend :)

So for my extra large cupcakes this made about 18. I misread the recipe though and added 1 entire can of pumpkin, instead of 1 cup (oops!). I ended up adding more flour to make up for the extra wet ingredient. I also subbed whole wheat flour for the all purpose flour, and milk with a splash of white vinegar for the buttermilk. 

I like frosting, and it was my birthday so I went for it. I only made about half the frosting of the recipe and it was PLENTY to go around. After frosting I sprinkled a little cinnamon on top to pretty them up. They were good! (Sorry, no photo, they were all eaten before I thought of it). Without the frosting I think they would be an excellent candidate for pumpkin spice muffins if you threw in some raisins for walnuts.

Yes, I use baking cups. I use the If You Care brand which seem to be environmentally friendly (no chlorine is used in the process). I also toss them into the compost bin after use, although I don't actually know if that is an effective way to dispose of them (?).

My muffin tin came from my grandmother in nearly pristine condition. I use the muffin cups mainly so I can keep it that way. But I also think its fun to peel the paper off to eat them!

Your friend,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Allison's first post: pumpkin spice cupcakes

Fall means pumpkin flavored things are everywhere. My kitchen is no exception. What is it about the season the sends us into a fall flavor craving frenzy?

I subscribe to Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It's a great source for new recipes to try and most of the ones I choose to try are successful. Some are fun to try once, others become household favorites.

November's issue included a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes from Emeril Lagasse's monthly feature in the mag...
"Cooking with Emeril" where Emeril and his adorable children guide the reader through delicious recipes.

Emeril's pumpkin-spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

nonstick cooking spray
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (from a 15 ounce can)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
cream cheese frosting (from recipe below)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Lightly coat 24 standard muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, buttermilk, and vanilla.  In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, until combined.

2.  Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Let cupcakes cool in pans on wire racks, 15 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pans and let cool completely on racks, 10 minutes. (Store cupcakes in airtight containers, up to to 2 days.) To serve, spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

For the cream cheese frosting:
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 12 ounces cream cheese and 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, both room temperature, until smooth, about 4 minutes. With mixer on low, beat in 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy, 5 minutes.  Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk if necessary.  (Refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before using.) Makes 3 cups.

I had to cut this recipe in half because I did not need 24 cupcakes hanging around the house. Also, WARNING!  I did not make the frosting. I do not particularly like frosting (I usually find it sugar overkill, and that's saying a lot, because my sweet tooth is roughly the size of my head!)  and recently
made a recipe with cream cheese frosting that included just about enough cream cheese for me for a month. But more on that another time.
Anyway, back to the delicious cupcakes...

I used coconut milk because I had some hanging around in the fridge
and no buttermilk. The coconut milk's flavor didn't interfere with the pumpkin, I think it basically disappeared, though it would have been a welcome flavor to this cupcake. I think it's thickness played a part
in making these cupcakes very very moist and delicious.I also accidentally used half a can of pumpkin instead of half a cup.  They were in the oven for the full 20 minutes of baking time.

They were delicious enough for me to eat 1 and split another one with
my husband, right out of the oven. Even without the cream cheese frosting.

Do you use baking cups?  I can't justify spending the money on them, I
never remember to stock up on them when I'm at the store anyway, and I kind of like to "go green" in the kitchen when I can.  Though, that is
probably completely negated by the spray oil that comes from an aerosol can that I use instead.... hmmm.....

If you make the cupcakes, let us know how they turn out!  
Yours truly,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hello World!

Welcome to Kitchen Table Friends!  This is a blog between friends about food and friendship.  It's about the joy of sharing a recipe. The experience of sharing a meal.  Together.  Or, far away. It's a discussion of our favorite cookbooks, chefs, and things to eat. Join Allison and Cara at the kitchen table.