Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Improved Butternut Squash Soup

So I love butternut squash. Pretty much anyway you make it, I'll eat it. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is soup, but I had a hard time convincing my dear husband it was as delicious as I thought it was until tonight. I found the secret to winning him over was to not overcomplicate the flavor and to make sure I got the right smooth texture. Winning! Tonight he said I could repeat this recipe. 😁 Here it is if you'd like to try it.

Butternut Squash Soup

2-3 small butternut squash or one large one
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves minced garlic (I used roasted, but fresh is fine too. Roasted is a bit sweeter)
2-3 carrots,  roughly chopped
3 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
2 cups milk
Salt, pepper, ground sage to taste

Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place cut side up on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and sage. Place in 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes, then set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

In a soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in the remaining olive oil, and add carrots. Cook until tender, and then scoop out flesh of squash from its skin and add it to onions and carrots. Add chicken broth and bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20-25 minutes. With an immersion or stick blender (or transfer to blender), purée until smooth. Add milk and seasonings. Simmer another 10-15 until it comes to temperature again.

Serve hot with some sour cream and bacon bits if desired, or just on its own. We had homemade focaccia with ours. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Made this for dinner tonight and it was a hit, so I decided to write it down before I forgot what I did.  I have a habit of making things as I go and then not being able to repeat it because I didn't follow any particular recipe. Anyway, this one is simple and straight forward, and real ingredients.  I've been in a bit of a recipe rut lately, so it was good for me to make something that worked well for the family and get back into a cooking mood again.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

2 chicken breasts
2 c brown rice
5 c water
1-2 tsp better than boullion (chicken base, or you can use 2 cans of chicken broth instead of water)
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
onion powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
breadcrumbs for topping

I used a rice cooker for the rice, so I just put the water and rice and chicken base in the rice cooker and set it to cook.  This takes the longest amount of time, so you want to do this about 35 minutes before you start the other stuff.  Brown rice takes about twice as long as regular rice.  You can use regular rice, I just like to add whole grains to our diet where we can.

Season chicken with garlic and onion powders and salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in skillet and brown chicken on all sides, then place on baking sheet and finish cooking in oven (or in our case, toaster oven).

In the chicken drippings in the same skillet, saute the onions, carrots, and celery until tender.  Set aside in a large bowl until chicken and rice are done cooking.  When the chicken and rice are cooked, mix together veggies, chicken, rice, and cheeses and then pour into a greased baking dish, and then top with more cheese and breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until topping browns and casserole is hot and bubbly.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Basic Marinara Sauce

I have had a lot of friends asking me for my marinara sauce recipe lately because I've been making oodles of it from our garden tomatoes in order to can them and save them for later in the year.  It's very basic and can be adapted to whatever you want.  It's also very versatile in the way you use it (pasta, pizza, dipping sauce, lasagna, whatever you want).  It's also sort of free form, being that I just kind of wing it based on the amount of tomatoes I have to use at the time (we planted 13 tomato plants this year, our harvest has been crazy huge...I've been bringing in between 3 and 5 pounds a day to use up).  But here is a basic how-to on using fresh tomatoes to make marinara sauce. It's safe for canning, and a great way to use your garden veggies.

Basic Marinara Sauce (based on a 3 pound tomato batch)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
whatever other veggies you want to include, about a cup of each (mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, celery, etc)
3 lbs tomatoes, tops cut off and quartered (skins left on, and seeds intact)
1-2 small cans of tomato paste
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (my Italian friend says no way, but I don't use wine in my cooking, so this is to substitute for that)
handful of fresh basil, if you have it

In a very large (8-10 quarts), heat olive oil, and then add onions and garlic, and cook until tender.  Add bell peppers and other vegetables and cook until slightly softened.  Add tomatoes and seasonings and balsamic vinegar to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to a simmer, and continue to simmer on medium low heat for several hours.  After about 1-2 hours, add tomato paste (to thicken) use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.  (If you don't have one of those you can puree it in batches in your blender or food processor, I just find the stick blender is convenient to use directly on the stove top.)   Continue to simmer, the secret to this sauce is not the ingredients, it's the low, slow cooking process.   I usually cook it about 10-12 hours before putting it in jars.

If canning, follow the instructions of how to can tomato sauce.  I looked it up online.  You can also freeze this.  We were able to get about 6 quarts canned from one batch of sauce.