Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A week after Thanksgiving, I was growing weary of looking at the winter squashes that had been staring at me from the windowsill for over a month. I initially put them there to inspire me to make a clever Thanksgiving centerpiece, but instead, they became a constant reminder that I had never gotten around to decorating with them. Or cooking them. I was over squash.

The question was, do I cook them, freeze them, or put them in the compost where my chickens could happily devour them over the winter? That’s one of the nice things about having chickens, they are the ultimate assuagers of guilt. If you don’t get around to eating food, the chickens are ready to step in — and they give you eggs for the trouble.

In the end, I roasted a variety of squashes, scooped out the flesh, and froze it.

Recently, I had a marvelous lunch with a few girlfriends. Each of them ordered butternut squash soup. I took a taste. It was delicious. I decided I would make butternut squash soup with the frozen squash. I had a rich homemade Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones in the freezer to use for the broth.

Yield: 12 cups of a hearty soup. You could have more volume by thinning the soup with extra chicken broth.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced (3 cups or 1 pound)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
4 pounds (7 cups) roasted winter squash (see directions below)
2 quarts (8 cups) no salt added chicken broth.
Salt and pepper to taste

Mise en Place

To Roast Squash:
To make this soup, you will need to roast the winter squash first. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. I used acorn, butternut and Seminole pumpkin squashes. As described in this post, microwave the butternut squash to make it easier to slice.
 

Use a silicone basting brush to swab the squash halves with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic pepper, and“Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 425º oven. Cook for one hour.

Let cool for another hour and remove the skin and any remaining stringy pulp. I packed and froze the cooked squash.
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To Make Soup:
I had never made squash soup before but started by doing what I always did when making soup, I sautéed onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they became soft and translucent – about 15 minutes.

Next, I added the mushy roasted veggies. If you desire a hearty soup, as I did, there is no need to puree the squash first. If you are looking for a daintier soup, or one with a more uniform consistency, purée the squash.

Stir in the broth and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste before serving. I only needed to add one teaspoon of salt and no pepper because the roasted vegetables I used had already been well-seasoned.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. You could add curry or ginger powder if you want to add more flavor, but I love the robust taste of roasted veggies.

My new seasonal windowsill.

Related Posts
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup (aka Caldo Verde)
Pasta e Fagioli, aka Pasta and Bean Soup

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Tortillas with Vegetable and Egg Filling

The star of today’s post is the tortilla. The uncooked tortilla. When freshly cooked on the stovetop, tortillas are light, moist, tender, and infinitely tastier than the premade, dry and inflexible ones that come stacked in a bag at the grocery store. Doesn’t this look appetizing?!

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Had these been around when my children were young, they would have been in my weekly dinner rotation for those days when my afternoons were swamped with afterschool activities. And, for picky-eaters, let the children pick the fillings!

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There are no preservatives in these tortillas, only wheat flour or cornmeal, depending on which variety you purchase, water, canola oil, and salt. They cook in under a minute, and you can buy them in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, or in bulk at Costco.

How To Cook a Tortilla

Preheat a non-stick, ungreased sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is good and hot, add the tortilla.

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The tortilla should start to puff up and bubble within a few seconds, but only if your pan is preheated. If it puffs too high, pop the bubble with the edge of a spatula.

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After about 30 seconds, use tongs to flip it over. Either fill the tortilla immediately with toppings of choice or, if you plan to make a few tortillas, go ahead and cook five or six and keep them warm in a towel.

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The Fillings:

There are so many ways to fill a hot tortilla, or not. You could just brush them with olive oil or butter. They can also be eaten for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

Zucchini and Onion Filling (my fave!)

My favorite way to make tortillas is with this zucchini and onion filling. This recipe makes a lot (4 cups) but can easily be halved. It stores well in the fridge to keep available to make tortillas or bruschetta with melted cheese on top.

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
4 cups unpeeled, shredded zucchini (1¼ pounds)
4 cups chopped tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup diced onion (6 ounces)
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
Shredded cheese such as a Mexican style blend

Mise en Place

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Instructions:

Saute olive oil, garlic, and onion together for two minutes on medium heat. Do not brown the garlic (ever!). Add veggies and sauté for ten minutes on medium-high heat.

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The high heat helps cook down the liquid in the pan.

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Next, spread the filling on half of a cooked tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, fold the other half over and enjoy!

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Scrambled Egg Filling

Here are the tortillas filled with eggs — soft taco or quesadilla style.

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The mise en place of making scrambled egg-filled tortillas.

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I scrambled the eggs in olive oil first. Next, I added the zucchini and onion mixture, but you could just as easily use jarred salsa, or skip both and add bacon or sausage.

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Next, I added chopped rotisserie chicken and shredded cheese and topped it with another tortilla to make a quesadilla.

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You could just as easily fold a single tortilla in half or roll it up as a wrap.  With children, it’s always nice when you can give them this kind of unimpactful choice that doesn’t create extra work for Mom.

Other Tried and True Recipes Children Love
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
The Biscuit King

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

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The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

Pimiento cheese, stack apple cake, mini chocolate chess pies, apple hand pies, fried okra, BBQ (aka pulled pork), hot chicken, and sorghum and butter spread over a hot buttermilk biscuit. These are all foods I never heard of until I moved to the South.  Now I adore them.

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Most of these Southern delicacies, like the stack apple cake, don’t show up on the table often, but when they do, I’m all in. Even though I have been given recipe cards for all these foods,  I have to admit; I’m not comfortable preparing them and tend to step aside and let the Southerners in the room make them. That’s about to change now that I started regularly making food writer, Jennifer Justus’s Pimiento Cheese recipe from her cookbook, Nashville Eats. In factNashville Eats has pretty much all of my favorite Southern foods featured in it and is my new go-to hostess gift when visiting out-of-town friends.

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The very first time I opened Nashville Eats, I was drawn to the recipe for pimiento cheese. Even though almost every Southern family has their own version of this cheese spread, Jennifer’s list of ingredients appealed to me: it used a mixture of real cheddar cheeses, it wasn’t too mayonnaisey or sweet, and it had a bit of heat in it. I was also drawn to the photo of the finished product; alas, it wasn’t puréed or whipped looking either. I remember immediately turning the corner of the page down indicating a pimiento cheese sandwich was in my future.
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Pimientos, which is Spanish for peppers (the vegetable, not the spice), are small, red, heart-shaped, sweet peppers. I’ve never seen them for sale in anything but that small cute iconic jar with the golden-yellow top. That is about to change, too, because yesterday,  I happened to see two small pimiento plants at the garden nursery which I grabbed and immediately planted in my garden. Soon, I’ll be able to try roasting my own pimientos.
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Jennifer’s recipe makes about 1½ cups, but since I have doubled the ingredients each time I have made it, I went ahead and doubled the recipe for the blog. This recipe makes one full pint. It took four of us one day to polish it off — first in sandwiches for lunch, and then later, served with crackers, as an appetizer.

Do not use pre-shredded cheese as it is laden with a fine powder that keeps the cheddar pieces from sticking together. Also, I like to use Hellman’s or Duke’s “real” mayonnaise.

Ingredients
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8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces mild yellow cheddar, shredded
1 8-ounce jar diced pimientos, drained
½ cup mayonnaise (not the sweet, whipped stuff)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste, about 6-12 drops
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves (set aside)

Mise en Place
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Instructions

Shred the two varieties of cheese in a food processor, using the shredder apparatus, or shred by hand with a cheese grater.
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Next, remove the shredder apparatus from the processor and install the regular cutting blade. Add the mayonnaise, pimientos, Worcestershire, hot sauce and ground pepper into the processing bowl.
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Push the pulse button five quick times until the mixture is just blended and not puréed. This should be the equivalent of simply stirring the mixture together, but without having to dirty another bowl. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving to give the flavors a chance to meld. Use the chopped parsley as a garnish.
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I like pimiento cheese spread on soft multigrain bread.
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It doubles as a terrific appetizer.
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My family loved this. Jennifer has another version of pimiento cheese in her book made with goat cheese that sounds amazing. I see a lot of possibilities for variations in this recipe by using my beloved garlic pepper instead of the plain black pepper, or adding a few of the many spring onions growing in the garden now, and maybe using arugula leaves in the sandwich, too. I’ve also heard pimiento cheese makes for a killer grilled panini sandwich.Yum!

He Said, She Said

And, now, from my side of the family — I like to make my Croation cheese spread, which uses fresh herbs and ingredients very familiar to me!

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

My Favorite Gazpacho

I returned from a week-long trip to find my vegetable garden laden with tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, green bell peppers, and okra. I brought all the produce inside, dumped it on the kitchen counter and tried to get inspired to clean and prep all of it; I knew once I got started, I’d be in the kitchen for the rest of the day … A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Abundant summer harvests call for big recipes, and I have three go-to’s: ratatouille, gazpacho, and marinara sauce. Since there were no eggplants or zucchini, ratatouille was out. Gazpacho and marinara sauce were in. I made both!

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My tried and true gazpacho recipe comes from Open-House Cookbook, by Sarah Leah Chase, published in 1987 to instant acclaim. Over the years, I have found my own way to streamline the vegetable prep work, and, thanks to my mother, who also made this recipe and used Bloody Mary mix to spice it up, I use spicy vegetable juice instead of plain.

Ingredients:
Makes 6 quarts

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2 cups of freshly made breadcrumbs made from crusty bread
1-ounce garlic cloves, about 3-5 cloves depending on size
Juice of one lemon, about 3 tablespoons
2 bunches green onions
3  8 inch cucumbers
5 sweet bell peppers in different colors (I like to use green, yellow and orange)
8 pounds of tomatoes, about 10 large
46 ounces spicy vegetable juice
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin, first cold-pressed, olive oil
4 teaspoons sea salt
1½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper, add more as desired

Instructions:
In the instructions that follow, I’m going to show you how to prep each vegetable. Find a large bowl that will hold 8 quarts of chopped vegetables.

1) Prep Bread, Garlic, and Lemon Juice Mixture: 
-Make 2 cups of homemade breadcrumbs using the method described in Mom’s Meatloaf. Five or six slices of crusty bread should suffice.
-Juice the lemon as shown in the Ricotta and Lemon Cookie recipe.
-Peel the garlic cloves. I used three large cloves. If you are using medium to small cloves, you’ll need all five.  Always remember that uncooked garlic can quickly overpower a recipe, so be careful — you can always add more garlic to your recipe later as you adjust your spices.

Pulse garlic cloves in food processor until minced, add the breadcrumbs and lemon juice. You want the mixture to become pasty, so process it for about 10 seconds.

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2) Prep green onions:
Wash, cut roots off and trim off the top third of stems. Chop stems into 2-inch segments so they will fit nicely into the food processor bowl. If you put produce in the processing bowl uncut, they won’t chop evenly, and you’ll find yourself practically puréeing food to get everything chopped to a consistent size. Pulse green onions until they look like the photo below and then add to your large container.

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3) Prep Cucumbers:
Cut off ends and peel. Cut into long quarters. I always taste a homegrown cucumber before adding it to a recipe because sometimes, if the cucumber went through a dry spell while growing, it can taste bitter. If the cucumber tastes at all bitter, throw it in the compost. Remove seeds by quartering and using a paring knife to remove the “triangle” tip of seeds from each strip. Chop into 2-inch chunks before processing. Once processed, add to large container.

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4) Prep Sweet Bell Peppers:
I had a lot of small green peppers in my garden and used them, plus two colorful peppers I bought at the grocery store. To prep peppers: cut in half vertically, and remove core, seeds, and extra white pith. Chop into 2-inch chunks for even processing in the food processor. Add to the large container.

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5) How to Seed and Prep Tomatoes:
Over the years, I have learned there is no reason to peel the skin off tomatoes. I do, however, remove the seeds. This is easily accomplished by cutting the tomato in half horizontally and using your finger to scoop the seeds out.

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Use a paring knife to remove the stem and white core. Cut into 2″ chunks to process evenly. Pulse in batches. Add to the large container. If you are using homegrown tomatoes, don’t use any that have been pecked by birds or otherwise have skin that is not intact. Save imperfect tomatoes for cooking.  Tomatoes with white mold, ooze, or that have been partially eaten by squirrels go in the compost! (That last sentence is for my husband.)

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Photos of the bowl as it filled up …

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Food, Glorious Food!

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6) Add Vegetable Juice and Seasonings
Add the spicy vegetable juice, the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasoning.
Me, to my husband: “Try this and tell me what it needs.”
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Much later that day, after making marinara sauce and blanched string beans in vinaigrette, the kitchen was clean. All that remained was a pile of cucumbers that were going to be made into cold cucumber soup, but I ran out of steam, and my family had lost interest in cleaning up after me. Oh, and the okra, it went into the latest version of my “everything, but the kitchen sink” Shepherd’s Pie.

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.