Beef and Butternut Stew with Pumpkin, Sage and Cherries (Slow Cooker)

  Another soup?!?  What kind of tyrant am I, right?
  Actually I haven’t subjected G to 2 soups in one week, I just had this recipe sitting on the back burner and forgot to write it up.  That said, it’s really a perfect fall-into-winter stew with lots of hearty ingredients to fill you up and warm your belly.

1-2 lbs beef, cut into chunks
4 c butternut squash, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 c dried cherries
1 Tbsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 c beef stock
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c pureed pumpkin
salt to taste
1 Tbsp butter
  According to the original recipe, you ought to start by saute-ing your onions with your sage and thyme and then browning your beef.
  You guys know how I roll.  We’re not doing that.  Throw everything except the squash and the cherries in the crockpot, turn it to low and forget about it for 6 hours.  Don’t actually forget it.  Maybe set a timer (I did).  When your timer goes off after 6 hours, toss the squash and cherries in and let it cook for another hour or two.  Stir in your pumpkin just before you serve it.
  With an all-told cook time of up to 8 hours, and that not counting prep time, I had to be dealing with food waaaaay too early in the morning for my taste with this one, but it wound up being worth it.  It took me a long time, but I’ve finally recognized that chicken+slow cooker=BLERGH, but beef+slow cooker=heaven!
  Aside from the beef doing it’s usual, ohmigosh tender deliciousness thing, I was really impressed with the dried cherries in this.  They plump back up as they sit in all the broth and juices and just make for a really fabulous addition.  I’m honestly tempted to start throwing random dried fruit in all my crock pot meals after this…
  Of course, G was not impressed.  Soup!  Warblegarble!!!
  Fooey on him.

Sweet Potato Soup with Orange and Avocado

  Cold weather means soups are back on the menu!  Too bad for us G won’t even give soup a chance.  …too bad for him his mama is stubborn as a mule and is gonna keep trying.

1 c sweet potato
1/2 c vegetable broth
1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp orange juice
a pinch orange zest
salt to taste
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
avocado to garnish
  Chop your (peeled) sweet potato into small pieces and wrap it in a wet dishcloth.  Microwave it for 6 minutes or until soft.  Mash 1 cup and mix into your broth and coconut milk.  Add your juice, spices and zest to taste at this point and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Serve topped with avocado.
  We added a bit more orange to this than was in the original recipe.  Ever since the pumpkin chili with orange in it I’ve been kind of drawn to recipes with orange in them.  It’s a nice, fresh flavor that we’ve really been enjoying.  Alas, G was having nothing to do with it.  Something about the idea of soup just doesn’t sit well with him and our little boy who will eat just about anything won’t even try soup.
  Challenge accepted kid.

Smoked Cheese Bisque

  Oh cheese…I wish I could quit you.
  No I don’t.  Who am I kidding?
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 c chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground mustard powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
6 oz smoked Gouda, shredded
2 oz sharp Cheddar, shredded
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
  Start by melting your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat (it should be big enough for all your ingredients…this is a one pan recipe, hooray!).  Add your onion, celery, carrots and salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, til the veggies are soft.
  Stir in your garlic and cook for an additional minute before adding your lemon juice.  Scrape up any browned portions off the bottom of the pan and cook for another minute or so until the juice evaporates.  Stir your flour in and cook for another minute, whisking constantly.
  Once your flour is cooked in, add your stock, Worcestershire, mustard powder and paprika.  Bring everything up to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
  Remove everything from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or, as always, a normal blender with a towel over the top so it doesn’t explode will do).
  Bring everything back to a simmer before turning off the heat and stirring in your cheese.  Continue stirring until it’s completely melted.  Serve hot.
  This was fabulous.  We served it with some crusty bread and shared with some friends who had come to stay the night (only slightly grudgingly…we love them dearly enough to share our cheesey soup) and not a drop was left.

Garlic Scape Soup

  Upon hearing that I’ve decided to devote an entire week’s menu to garlic scape based recipes, some people might say in horror, “but the garlic breath!!”.  I call those people cowards.  Also, they should maybe not come too close to me or my man-types this week.  Just sayin, G may be the garlicky-est preschooler ever.
1-2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 garlic scapes, chopped*
a handful of fresh chives
2-3 c loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
~1 cup frozen green peas
~4 c chicken or veggie stock
salt to taste
whipping cream to taste
* if you have some bigger, tougher scapes, this is a good use for them since they get nice and soft and then blended.
  Start by heating your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute your onions for a few minutes until they are soft before adding your chopped garlic scapes and chives.  Sprinkle a small amount of salt in and cook for a few more minutes until everything softens up.
  Next, add your spinach and peas and cook until your spinach wilts.  Add in your stock and simmer everything for 20 minutes to half an hour.
  Use an immersion blender (or a normal blender with a towel over the top) to puree everything til it’s nice and smooth.  Serve warm with a dollup of cream.
  What an awesome way to get your greens!  We served this with grilled cheese and it was a big hit.  The flavor reminds me a lot of creamed spinach (no surprise, it has most of the same ingredients) but was surprisingly not that garlicky.  Obviously next time we’ll need to use more scapes.

Caribbean Coconut and Pumpkin Bisque

  Don’t tell me it’s too hot for soup.  For one, it has been freezing here the last few days, and for another, this is soup from the Caribbean.  I don’t believe for a minute your weather is any hotter than the Caribbean.
2 -5 oz cans unsweetened pureed pumpkin
1 quart chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
1 small onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and added to pot
salt & pepper
Add everything to a medium pot and simmer it gently.  When the ingredients have cooked for about 20 minutes, blend everything to smooth it out.  An immersion blender is the easiest way, but you can always use a standard blender with a towel over the top to keep it from ‘sploding.
  This was delicious.  I suspected it might be a bit like the gingered sweet potato and coconut soup I posted back in February, and it certainly was.  This was even easier to throw together though.  We topped ours with unsweetened coconut flakes, and I really liked the additional texture it added.  Sure, soups traditionally get shoved into the confines of fall and winter, but why not have one as a lighter meal this summer?

Dill Pickle Soup

  Don’t get any ideas…I’m not pregnant again…I just love pickles.  When I saw the recipe for this soup, I thought it might be similar to a pickle soup I’d had (and loved) at a local Austrian restaurant, but that was a broth based soup, where this is thick and creamy.
  Here’s what you need:
5 1/2 c chicken broth
1 3/4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 c carrots, chopped 
1 c dill pickles, chopped (about 3 large whole pickles)
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c sour cream
1/4 c water
2 c dill pickle juice*
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning**
1/2 tsp salt*
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
*The original recipe comments on it, and I want to reiterate…not all pickle juices are the same.  Taste before you add more salt.
**I didn’t have Old Bay seasoning, I ground up some bay leaves and called it good.  I’m a heathen.  Whatever.
  Place your broth, potatoes, carrots and butter into a large pot.  Bring it to a boil and cook until the potatoes get tender (about 10 minutes). Add your pickles and continue to simmer.
  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together your flour, sour cream and water.  This forms something that looks a bit like dough. Whisk this sour cream mixture (2 Tbsp at a time) into your soup.  Keep whisking and boiling until everything is nicely combined.  This process is going to mash up some of your potatoes, you want that!  Now add your pickle juice, Old Bay, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook for 5 more minutes and then remove from heat. Serve immediately.
  I’ve found that I’m a sucker for tart potato soups, (dijon potato soup anybody?) and this one is no exception.  I was a little afraid that it was going to be too light to be a stand alone dinner, but between the potatoes and all the fat in it, it’s really filling.  The Mr. liked this, but found it to be a touch too tart for his taste without some bread for dipping, so he had his with some leftover homemade flatbread.  G didn’t even want to try it, which I find hysterical since he’s such a huge fan of pickles.  Ah well.  No reasoning with 3 year olds.  Maybe I’ll get him to taste a bite next time we have it!

Dijon potato soup

  Now that the cold weather is here, there’s nothing better than curling up with a nice, hot bowl of soup.  This recipe is one that my friend Megan came up with, made once while I was visiting, and then promptly forgot about.  I, however, became obsessed with it, and have made it at least once a month throughout the cold part of the year ever since.

  This post is at her request, so she can try the recipe again!
  Here’s what you need:
World’s largest potatoes not required
4-5 (normal sized) potatoes, sour cream, dijon mustard, chicken broth base
  Dice your potatoes.  I usually do approximately 1″ cubes, but it’s not terribly important as you’re going to blend them later.  Bring 9 c of water with 2-3 tbsp broth base in it to a boil.  Boil your potatoes until a toothpick can be stuck in easily, approximately 10-15 minutes.
*Erin is a bad improving cook tip: Unwashed potatoes taste like dirt, wash them first!*
  Once your potatoes are good and soft, use either a food processor or blender to break them down.  For a thicker soup, blend all of the potatoes, for a soupier soup blend fewer and leave some in chunk form.
Remember: hot liquids + enclosed spaces=explosions.  Use a towel over the top.
  Mix the blended potatoes back into the soup and bring to a boil.  Once the potatoes are mixed uniformly into the soup, add 3-4 tbsp of sour cream and dijon mustard to taste.  I like mine VERY mustardy, so I use 5-6 tbsps.  I’d suggest most people start with 3 and up it from there.  If you’d like a sharper, more acidic taste (I usually do), add a splash of apple cider vinegar (around 2 tbsp).
  Mix until uniform and serve hot.  This is also great the next day!  …I don’t know how it freezes…it’s never lasted that long.
  What’s your favorite soup?