Happy Halloween ~ Roasted Pumpkin Soup

There’s nothing more comforting than a thick pumpkin soup on an autumn day. This soup can be a sophisticated first course if you serve it with a dollop of crème fraiche, balsamic vinegar, and some chives on top. Or you can play with your food and make it a whimsical Halloween dish! I think this season, more than any other time of the year, is the time to have fun in the kitchen. 🙂 I dressed up my roasted pumpkin soup for Halloween with a sour cream spider web and a witch’s broom made of a pretzel, a thin slice of Swiss cheese, and a chive.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

1 medium sugar pie pumpkin, cut in half and seeded

1 medium onion, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

3 carrots, peeled, and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

3 whole garlic cloves, skin removed

Approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or more for a thinner soup)

Pinch of cayenne

Sour cream, thinned with a little water

Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss all of the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them.

Roast until the vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize, tossing halfway through, approximately 45 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin and discard the skin. Add all of the roasted vegetables to a soup pot. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

In a blender, purée the soup in two batches. Strain. Return to the pot to simmer. If you would like a thinner soup, add more stock at this point.

Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne.

For the spider web garnish, scoop sour cream mixed with a little water into a piping bag fitted with a small piping tip. Pipe a swirl on top of each bowl of soup. With a wooden skewer, drag lines from the center to the outside of the bowl to make the web shape. Add a few roasted pumpkin seeds on top as the finishing touch.

Happy Halloween! ~ Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinTo celebrate one of my favorite days, I made a fun and festive dinner – A spicy Creole pumpkin soup served inside of a roasted pumpkin. 🙂

First I roasted a little sugar pumpkin. A friend of mine brought a larger version filled with fondue to a party, and it was a showstopper! I just had to try it! (Thank you for the idea and the tips, Karen!)

Just cut off the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and goop, and then replace the top. Spread olive oil evenly all over the outside of the pumpkin, including the stem. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast at 450 until the flesh inside is soft. My little sugar pumpkin only took 40 minutes, but a larger pumpkin would take a little longer.Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinYou could use this pumpkin serving bowl with any favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The Creole pumpkin soup I made tonight was based on a recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans called Tableau. The unique soup was a little spicy, and perfect for our Halloween dinner!
Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted Pumpkin

Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Based on a recipe from Tableau

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved

8 cups water

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

12 ounces andouille chicken sausage, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can puréed pumpkin

1 teaspoon mixed Creole or Cajun seasoning

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded

In a large stock pot, add the shrimp shells and the water. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain. Reserve the liquid and discard the shells.

Preheat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage. Brown the sausage on both sides. Remove the sausage from the pot, and set aside onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pot, add the onion, celery, and thyme. Cook until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic, and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and cook until it starts to darken slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer the mix to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to a pot. Add the Creole seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken sausage and the chicken breast. Simmer over low heat to combine all of the flavors, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

The Witches’ Brew wine bottle printable came from TheGraphicsFairy.com. They are free to use, and oh so cute! I hope you’ll check it out!Halloween Wine Label

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Soup ~ Rocket and Courgette Soup (Arugula and Zucchini Soup)

Rocket and Courgette SoupThis week marks our 15th wedding anniversary, and since it’s a big year, we wanted to celebrate in a big way! We had an extravagant British-themed dinner that took me several days to complete, but it was a fun project that was well worth the effort. I wanted to tie this anniversary back to our engagement anniversary/Valentine’s Day celebration when we enjoyed a Downton Abbey themed dinner. Given that the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary is crystal, I thought another classic British meal with all the trimmings would also give us a great excuse to get out the crystal pieces we were given as wedding gifts but don’t use as often as we could. This crystal-studded celebration dinner was my anniversary gift to my hubby. 🙂

We started with a simple summery soup called rocket and courgette soup in the UK, but here in the States, we would call it arugula and zucchini soup. 🙂 I based the dish on a recipe from BBC Good Food, and then added a couple touches of my own.Rocket and Courgette SoupRocket and Courgette Soup

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 teaspoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium russet potato, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

About 3 1/5 ounces, or 2 large handfuls, rocket (arugula)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan. Add oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and potato. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add the courgettes and stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Bring to a boil. Cook until the courgettes are tender. Next, add the rocket, and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. In small batches, blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Stay tuned for the main course…A trio of mini British meat pies!Rocket and Courgette Soup

Downton Abbey Valentine Dinner, First Course ~ Cream of Watercress Soup

Cream of Watercress SoupHappy Valentine’s Day!

My hubby and I enjoyed another themed dinner at home for Valentine’s Day, which is the way we like to celebrate this holiday every year. 🙂 We love to try new things together in the kitchen, and we have had a lot of fun over the years making new and different recipes – Most recently, for Valentine’s Day two years ago we made two kinds of ravioli (beet and lobster), and last year we made sushi with miso soup. This year we decided to try a Downton Abbey theme! I made three vintage British dishes the characters might have enjoyed at one of their elaborate dinner parties on the show.

I learned that for a grand dinner, there could be as many as nine courses. Since I was playing the part of both Mrs. Patmore while cooking the dinner, and Lady Grantham while enjoying the dinner, I limited our meal to three courses. 😉 Our first course was a cream of watercress soup based on a recipe I found in A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes. I replaced the butter with safflower oil, and replaced the cream with 2% milk, but otherwise followed the recipe rather closely. I ended up using three bunches of watercress. Remember to save a few sprigs to garnish the plate. 🙂 Also, this can be made a day or two ahead of time, which is always a plus.

Cream of Watercress SoupCream of Watercress Soup

Based on a recipe from A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey

Serves 4

1 tablespoon light high heat oil, such as safflower oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 large leek (white part only), washed and sliced

1 large potato, peeled and chopped

Salt and pepper

3 cups hot chicken stock

9 cups watercress, de-stalked and chopped

A large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

⅔ cup 2% milk

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the onion, leek and potato and stir to coat them in the oil. Season with salt and pepper and let the vegetables sweat with the lid on over a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are tender, add the hot stock. Bring back to the boil, then add the watercress and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Take the pan off the heat and liquidise the soup. Stir in the milk and pour into bowls to serve.

Cream of Watercress SoupWe paired our dinner with the perfect wine: Downton Abbey Bordeaux Claret 2012. I learned that great English houses of the Downton era enjoyed many French wines and foods, so this was similar to the wine the characters on the show may have paired with their fine meals.

Stay tuned for episode 2 of our Downton Abbey dinner – The main course!

Cream of Watercress Soup

Lucky Dinner for the New Year ~ Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale SoupOne of our first meals this year had not only one, but two lucky ingredients to eat in the New Year! Lentils and kale. If I had used pork sausage, it would have been three, but the healthier option won out, and I chose chicken sausage. This is a hearty and delicious soup for a cold winter night. 🙂 Perfect for the New Year!

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

2 celery stalks (with leafy tops), thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

1/2 cup dried lentils

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, preferably Tuscan, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Merry Christmas ~ Creamy Chestnut Soup

Chestnut SoupInstead of roasting chestnuts over on an open fire, I made a festive and creamy chestnut soup with truffle oil for Christmas this year. 🙂 It was a unique and delicious first course to our family dinner!

Chestnut SoupThe original recipe was from a cooking class at Sur La Table. I omitted the 1/2 cup of heavy cream altogether since it was luscious and creamy without any dairy, and I replaced the butter with Earth Balance. I also added a little more chicken broth than the original recipe called for to make the soup a little thinner.

Chestnut Soup

Creamy Chestnut Soup with Truffle Oil

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table’s cooking classes

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup roughly chopped onions

1/2 cup roughly chopped carrots

1/2 cup roughly chopped celery

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and chopped

2 1/2 cups cooked peeled chestnuts

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup dry sherry

2 (4-inch) thyme sprigs

3 cups low-sodium
 chicken broth, plus more to thin the soup if you desire

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Black truffle oil, for drizzling

Place a large, heavy saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Heat the Earth Balance and oil until melted. Stir in the onion, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the chestnuts and salt and cook until the chestnuts are coated in the aromatics and warmed through, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the sherry and thyme and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the chestnuts are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Using an immersion blender or standard blender, puree soup until smooth. Return the saucepan to the heat, add more broth if you would like the soup to be thinner, and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve: Using a ladle, transfer the soup to individual bowls. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve immediately.

Chestnut Soup

Valentine Sushi Dinner ~ Miso Soup

Rob and I celebrated Valentine’s Day and our engagement anniversary all weekend, culminating with a fancy sushi dinner! I decided to try making miso soup from scratch to go with the dinner, since it is almost always served at Japanese sushi restaurants. I really had no idea how it was made or what went into it before I tried it at home. I just knew it was delicious! 😉 Now I have a whole new appreciation for it, so I thought I would share the recipe I used. It’s a traditional soup in Japan, but in my American kitchen, it was a new and exciting culinary adventure.

Since we were celebrating Valentine’s Day and to make the soup a little more special, I cut the tofu into heart shapes with a little cookie cutter. So cute! 🙂

Miso Soup

From Gourmet magazine

1/2 cup dried wakame (a type of seaweed)

1/4 cup shiro miso (white fermented-soybean paste)

6 cups Dashi (recipe follows)

1/2 pound soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Prepare wakame:
Combine wakame with warm water to cover by 1 inch and let stand 15 minutes, or until reconstituted. Drain in a sieve.

Make soup:
Stir together miso and 1/2 cup dashi in a bowl until smooth. Heat remaining dashi in a saucepan over moderately high heat until hot, then gently stir in tofu and reconstituted wakame. Simmer 1 minute and remove from heat. Immediately stir in miso mixture and scallion greens and serve.

Dashi (Japanese Sea Stock)

From Gourmet magazine

6 cups cold water

1 oz (30 grams) kombu (dried kelp), about 20 square inches

2 (5-gram) packages katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes), about 1 cup

Bring cold water and kombu just to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat and remove kombu. Sprinkle katsuo bushi over liquid; let stand 3 minutes and, if necessary, stir to make katsuo bushi sink. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined sieve or a coffee filter into a bowl.

For the sushi we enjoyed with the soup, I used this sushi rice recipe. If you are using a pot on the stovetop rather than a rice cooker, we thought it was a very good one. Along with the traditional rolls, we also made a couple of pieces in heart shapes. 🙂 To see how to do that, here is a little video. So fun!

We paired our dinner with a little sake, since that only seemed fitting! There is a Northwest sake maker in Oregon called Momokawa, and we had their Organic Junmai Ginjo with our sushi feast. I would highly recommend it. 🙂

幸せなバレンタインデー (Happy Valentine’s Day)!

August Anniversary ~ Summery Corn Chowder

I love to celebrate the little anniversaries in our life. They give us an excuse for a special meal, a bottle of wine, and time together. 🙂

Every August, we celebrate the date that we moved into our current house together, and I also celebrate the date I moved to Seattle from the Midwest a few years before. For this little anniversary, we usually have a Dungeness crab dinner, since it is one of our favorite Northwest treats. It always feels like a special occasion when we steam a couple crabs. 🙂 (For two crabs {about 3 lbs each}, steam for about 20 minutes until they are cooked through.)

For the first course, I made summery corn chowder this year. The original recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen. They find the most unique and creative ways to improve classic recipes, and I really enjoy their show, their magazines, and their cookbooks. For this recipe, they amped up the corn flavor by using some of the corn juice, which I thought was a clever idea. I changed 3 things to make this a lighter recipe than the original. I omitted the butter altogether, and instead used a very good nonstick pan. I also trimmed most of the fat off of the bacon, and I replaced the half and half with skim milk. The final product turned out to be creamy, sweet, and delicious. It felt like summer in a bowl!

Corn Chowder

Based on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 6

8
 ears corn, husks and silk removed

1
 onion, chopped fine

4
 slices bacon trimmed of excess fat, halved lengthwise then cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2
 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 
cup all-purpose flour

5
 cups water

3/4 
pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1
 cup skim milk

3
 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Using chef’s knife or corn stripper, cut kernels from corn; transfer to bowl and set aside (you should have 5 to 6 cups kernels). Holding cobs over second bowl, use vegetable peeler or back of butter knife to firmly scrape any remaining pulp on cobs into bowl (you should have 2 to 2 1/2 cups pulp). Transfer pulp to center of clean kitchen towel set in medium bowl. Wrap towel tightly around pulp and squeeze tightly until dry. Discard pulp in towel and set corn juice aside (you should have about 2/3 cup juice).

2. In Dutch oven over medium heat, add onion, bacon, thyme, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and edges are beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add water and bring to boil. Add corn kernels and potatoes. Return to simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes have softened, 15 to 18 minutes.

3. Process 2 cups chowder in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return puree to chowder; add milk and return to simmer. Remove pot from heat and stir in reserved corn juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkling with basil.

Happy Cinco de Mayo ~ Mexican Chicken Pozole Verde

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This year, I made a fresh and springy dish from Mexico to celebrate the day. I had this soup in a class from Sur La Table a few months ago, but I thought tonight was a perfect night to recreate it at home. It has a long history in Mexico, which makes it even more interesting to me. But mostly, it is just delicioso! 🙂 I hope you’ll give it a try.

Mexican Chicken Pozole Verde

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table

Serves 6 to 8

7 cups low sodium chicken stock

2 cups water

4 chicken breast halves on the bone, with the skin

1 pound tomatillos, husked and halved

1 small onion, quartered

2 poblano chilies-cored, seeded and quartered

2 jalapenos, seeded and quartered

4 large garlic cloves, smashed

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 15-ounce cans of hominy, drained and rinsed

Finely shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped onion, diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and/or lime wedges, for serving

In a large and heavy stockpot, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, cover and simmer over very low heat until they are tender and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred the meat; discard the bones and skin. Skim any excess fat from the cooking liquid.

In a blender, combine the halved tomatillos, quartered onion, poblanos, jalapenos, smashed garlic, chopped cilantro and oregano. Pulse until coarsely chopped, scraping down the side. With the machine on, add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season the tomatillo puree with salt and pepper.

Preheat a large deep skillet at moderate heat. Add the tomatillo puree and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns a deep green, about 12 minutes.

Pour the green sauce into the cooking liquid in the stockpot. Add the hominy and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the shredded chicken to the stew, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just heated through.

Serve the pozole in deep bowls, passing the lettuce, radishes, onion, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and/or lime wedges at the table.

This would pair very nicely with the Mexican Sidecar that I wrote about last year or the sparkling wine “margarita” from the year before. 🙂

The Winter Sea ~ Cock-a-Leekie Soup

I read a page turning novel this winter called The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. It is set in Scotland, and follows two interconnected story lines….One in the 1700s and one in the present day. I felt like I took a little trip to Scotland while learning a lot about their history. Much of the story revolves around Slains Castle, which looks to be an absolutely breathtaking place. That is now on my list of places I’d like to visit!

In the meantime, as I dream of that vacation, I cooked a Scottish dish at home for a little international culinary adventure today :). When I’m inspired by a place and a culture, I start researching their food. I discovered a Scottish soup called Cock-a-Leekie that looked intriguing, and I loved the name! It dates back farther than the 1700s, (a recipe for it was first published in 1598 according to Wikipedia), so the characters in the book might have enjoyed a steaming bowl at the dinner table of the castle. A perfect dish for a cold winter night, no matter the century or the continent :).

(Slains Castle photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

From Martha Stewart.com

1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken thighs (on the bone; 4 pieces)

1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken breast halves (on the bone; 3 pieces)

Four 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat

2 cups white wine or water

2 large celery ribs, halved crosswise

1 large carrot, peeled

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

6 leeks, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

12 pitted prunes, quartered (2/3 cup packed)

1/2 cup barley

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven on medium-high until hot. Add thighs; cook until browned, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with breasts.

Add broth, wine, celery, carrot, and garlic to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; scrape any browned bits from pot; return chicken to pot, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming as necessary, for 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool. Transfer vegetables to another plate; reserve.

Add leeks, prunes, and barley to broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thick, about 40 minutes more. Once chicken has cooled, shred meat. Finely dice carrot and celery. Stir chicken, carrot, celery, and parsley into soup, heat through, season to taste and serve.

Thankful For Thanksgiving Leftovers ~ Turkey Pho

I discovered a new recipe website this year called Food52.com. It is an online community where you can share recipes, compare them and just chat about food. My favorite part about it is that they run recipe contests, so everyone’s favorite dishes rise to the top. When I found myself with a bunch of turkey leftovers earlier this year, I stumbled upon the “Best Recipe for Turkey Leftovers Contest Winner,” which was turkey pho. I’d never made pho at home before, but I definitely enjoy a good bowl on a cold and rainy night. I was actually quite impressed with how well this dish turned out! I love it when something comes out of my own kitchen that surprises me ;-). I thought I would pass along this recipe before you have your own turkey leftovers next week. It is a very delicious and comforting dish that is a little off the beaten track if you’d like to try something new.

Turkey Pho

From Food 52

This recipe makes 2 big bowls of soup

TOAST THE SPICES

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

4 whole star anise

1 cinnamon stick

Heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon stick and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices into a bowl to avoid burning them and set aside.

MAKE THE TURKEY PHO

1 quart homemade turkey stock (or homemade or store-bought chicken stock)

1 bunch green onions (green top parts only) chopped

1 3-inch chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife

1 teaspoon brown sugar, or more to taste

1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more to taste

1-2 cup kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 pound leftover turkey breast, shredded

1 bunch (approx. 2 oz.) cellophane/bean thread noodles (or enough flat dried rice noodles to serve 2)

1-2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped- for garnish (optional)

1-2 tablespoon chopped green onions (white parts only), minced- for garnish (optional)

1/2 lime, cut into wedges

Sriracha chili sauce to taste

In a large pot, add the toasted spices and all ingredients from stock through fish sauce and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.

Taste the broth and add more sugar or fish sauce, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Add the kale and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the shredded turkey and the cellophane noodles. Allow to sit for a few minutes while the noodles soften.

Ladle the broth into bowls. Divide the kale, shredded turkey and the noodles evenly into each bowl.

Sprinkle on the garnishes and add sriracha to taste. Squeeze lime juice to taste over the top of your bowl before eating.

Irish Week ~ Guinness and Beef Stew

Since Saint Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, I was in the mood for something a little Irish. To celebrate, I made Guinness and Beef Stew tonight. It’s one of those dishes that simmers on the stove all afternoon and makes the whole house smell inviting until the beef falls apart with a spoon. My Irish hubby said it’s one of the best stews he has ever had. I hope you’ll give it a try!

I followed the recipe from Cooking Light pretty closely, since it was already a fairly healthy dish. The biggest adjustment I made was replacing the chuck roast with a round roast of beef, since it is a little leaner cut of meat that also braises beautifully. I also omitted the raisins, simply because I don’t like raisins in most dishes. I found that I didn’t need the full amount of salt, either. Just taste as you go.

Guinness and Beef Stew

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 pounds boneless round roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

5 cups chopped onion (about 3 onions)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth (my favorite store bought beef broth is from Kitchen Basics)

1 (11.2-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Black pepper to taste

Salt to taste

1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices carrot (about 8 ounces)

1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices parsnip (about 8 ounces)

1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled turnip (about 8 ounces)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with salt; dredge beef in flour. Add half of beef to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and beef.

Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return meat to pan. Stir in salt, caraway seeds, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil. Cook 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, parsnip, and turnip. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

Sweetest Day ~ Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider and Vanilla Bean and Cider Glazed Salmon

Happy Sweetest Day! This is one of those little holidays that gives us an excuse for a little celebration. I am all for that :). I decided to make a special dinner menu to mark the occasion. The recipes were from a really good book I read this year called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. It was written by an author who lives here in Seattle, Molly Wizenberg, who has a well-respected recipe blog called Orangette. I read the book in the spring and have been saving these two autumn recipes until now. They are a little gourmet, a little decadent, and very delicious. Perfect for a fall evening that feels a little special.

The first recipe I made was a butternut squash soup with pear, cider, and vanilla bean. It’s a very funky combination, I know, which is why I had to try it! It just sounded so unique and special with the vanilla. Both Rob and I agreed it was a very nice and refreshing flavor combination. I would highly recommend it! I lightened the recipe a touch by using less half and half, and replacing the other portion with skim milk. It was still very creamy and silky because of the squash, so we didn’t miss the extra richness at all. I also only needed 1 tablespoon of olive oil instead of 3. Other than those two little details I followed the recipe, so I am just passing it along in all of its goodness :).

Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider and Vanilla Bean

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 lbs of peeled and seeded butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 peeled and cored pears cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 cups)

1 chopped
white onion

1 cup apple cider

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Salt

¼ cup half-and-half

¼ cup skim milk

1 vanilla bean

Add the oil, squash, pears and onion to a large pot over medium low heat, and cook uncovered for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the pears are soft. Add the cider and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Add the broth, lower the heat to medium low, and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes until everything is tender.

Carefully puree the mixture in small batches in a blender. Return the soup to the pot and continue to cook over medium low heat, uncovered, until it has reduced to a thick and creamy consistency that you like. While the soup is bubbling, put the half-and-half and milk in a small saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the back of a knife. Put the pod and seeds in the dairy and put the pan over low heat until it is just steaming, but not boiling. Strain the vanilla pod from the mix and set aside. When your soup has reduced to the thickness you desire, stir in the vanilla mixture. Season with salt to taste and enjoy!

Makes 4-5 servings

The main course was a cider glazed salmon dish. It was so simple, but so delicious. Isn’t that the way with the best recipes? 🙂 I used half and half instead of all cream, but other than that detail I followed the recipe. I usually don’t use cream or butter, but because you only need a little bit of this glaze to make an impact, I didn’t skimp. I think a little bit is just fine :).

Cider Glazed Salmon

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium shallot, cut in half and peeled

2 cups apple cider

2, 3 or 4 salmon fillets (depending on the number of portions)

Salt

½ cup half and half

In a large skillet bring the shallot, butter and cider to a simmer over medium high heat.

Place the salmon in the cider blend, cover and simmer gently. Flip half way through. For every inch of thickness the salmon needs about 10 minutes to cook until it is just cooked through.

Remove the fish from the pan and cover with tin foil.

For the glaze, raise the heat under the pan to medium high, add a pinch of salt and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about 2/3. It will be a slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to medium and add the half and half. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture darkens to a light caramel color.

Plate the salmon and top with a spoonful of the glaze.

Rob also treated me to special little chocolate pumpkin truffles for dessert. One of my favorite local chocolatiers called Moonstruck Chocolate makes creative little pieces to go with the seasons. Almost too cute to eat….Almost :).

 

Wine Pairing

We had a new wine tonight from Columbia Winery called Romance Red. Since Rob and I had our wedding reception at that winery, it seemed like a good choice for a romantic evening celebration :).