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

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

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

This is a Thanksgiving Day favorite. It was given to my mother by Mickey Kohn, a fabulous cook and old family friend. Because our family was so large and for the sake of variety, we usually made two different pumpkin pies every Thanksgiving, Mom’s Pumpkin Pie and this pumpkin cheesecake.

DSC_0399In this pumpkin dessert, we add ginger, cloves, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract for flavoring. As we’ve seen in other recipes where pumpkin purée is the main ingredient, it takes a lot of spice to get pumpkin to taste like the pumpkin we know and love in our favorite desserts.
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Yield: One 9-inch deep dish pie, or one 10-inch regular depth pie

Ingredients:

Pie Filling:
1  9-inch pie crust, uncooked
1  8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1¾ cups pumpkin purée (one 15 ounce can)
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

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Mise en Place:

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Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 375º

2) Arrange homemade or store-bought pie crust in a pie pan:
Unroll dough. Use a rolling pin to lightly roll the dough. This helps to even it out.

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Remove the top layer of plastic liner from the dough. Gently flip dough over the pie pan. Center dough over the pan and then gently push it into the bottom crevices of the pie pan.

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Remove second plastic liner. Tuck overhanging dough underneath itself.

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Flute dough edges for a pretty and finished look: place the index finger of your writing hand against the inside edge of the dough. Use the thumb and index finger on your other hand to gently press the dough around that index finger. Continue all the way around the circle.

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3) Prepare Pie Filling:
Cream together cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt for one minute at medium speed.

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Slowly add beaten eggs. Mix well. Blend in pumpkin purée, milk, and vanilla. Mix at a slow speed for one minute.

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Pour filling into the pie shell and bake for 45-50 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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After the pie had baked for 35 minutes, I noticed the pie crust was starting to get brown while the center was still not cooked, so I added a pie crust shield over the rim to slow down the browning process. If you don’t have a shield, cut three 4-inch strips of foil and crimp them over the crust’s edges. Leave them there until the pie is finished baking.

Note to self: use a thinner lipped pie crust shield the next time. Pumpkin pie rises like a soufflé as it cooks and this wide shield impeded that expansion. It turned out okay in the end because the marks left from the shield were covered up by the topping.

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4) Prepare Topping:
Spoon one cup of sour cream into a container. Add sugar to sour cream and stir until smooth.

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Scoop the topping onto the cooked pie and spread evenly almost to the crust.

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Bake for 3-5 more minutes until topping is set.

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Let cool on a wire rack. Serve chilled.

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

 

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

The first time I had warm pumpkin bread pudding was at The Nashville Food Project. The bread pudding had just come out of the oven, and one of the staff members had spooned some of it into a bowl for us volunteers to taste. We all stood around the stainless steel countertop sinking our spoons into the warm bowl of dessert and gushed about how delicious it was. I mean it was warm, and the vanilla glaze was dripping down the sides. You can find TNFP’s recipe for bread pudding along with many other crowd-pleasing recipes in the Cook for a Crowd section of their website.

The title of the recipe on the website is Banana Bread Pudding, but you can substitute almost any fruit for the bananas. In addition to making it with pumpkin purée, I’ve made it with fresh-cut peaches, with chopped apples, and with mixed berries. They all work. I’ve made it to serve 12 people for a dinner party, 25 people for a summer cookout and 50 students for a school gathering. I’ve served bread pudding with a simple vanilla glaze drizzled over the top of cut squares, and I’ve served it all dolled up with caramel sauce and whipped cream for a special family dinner. You can’t go wrong with this dessert once you get comfortable making it.

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A note on bread choices. Some people like to use sweet bread like stale croissants or challah, but I prefer a more chewy texture, so I use a crusty white bread. I would stay away from soft “Italian” loaves like this one from a local grocery store:

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It looked to be a crusty Italian loaf, but it was very soft,and light and the bread pudding I made with it looked soupy before I cooked it. Once baked, it was flat and rubbery. I fed it to the chickens.

At the end of this recipe, I have provided recipes for three different toppings for your bread pudding: Vanilla Glaze, Caramel Sauce, and Homemade Whipped Cream

Yield: Serves 12-15

Ingredients:

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Mise en Place:

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8-9 cups crusty, stale bread, roughly chopped or cubed into 1-inch squares
3 large eggs
2½ cups whole milk, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1¾ cups pumpkin purée (one 15 oz can or purée from a small pie pumpkin)
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Butter a 9 x 12-inch baking pan or a similarly sized ceramic casserole dish.

Prepare bread crumbs and arrange in baking pan.

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Add raisins and chopped nuts to and mix well.

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Add eggs to mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until blended.DSC_0055

Add milk, sugars, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and pumpkin purée. Mix well for about 30 seconds.

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Pour pudding on top of bread and let liquid seep into the breadcrumb mixture. Lightly press down, so all the bread is submerged in the custard. Let set for about 20 minutes. Use a fork to check that all the breadcrumbs are moist.

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The overall consistency should be like that of thick oatmeal. If it appears to be soupy, add more diced bread.

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Bake for about 50-60 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven. It’s ready when the crust just starts to turn color to a light brown.

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To Serve:

How to Make Vanilla Glaze:

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1 cup powdered confectioner’s sugar (aka 10x sugar), sifted
1 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Be sure to sift the sugar, so it isn’t lumpy. Mix ingredients together. Usually, when using this glaze, I pour it over the whole dessert and then cut squares and place them on plates to serve.

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I had some bread pudding leftovers in the refrigerator and decided to play around with it. After cutting out the leaf shape with a cookie cutter, I warmed it in the microwave and then drizzled the Vanilla Glaze over it. It was good.

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How to Make Caramel Sauce:

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1¼ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup whipping cream or heavy cream
Add brown sugar and butter into a small heavy skillet and cook over medium-high heat.
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Whisk until butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.DSC_0107  DSC_0109

Add cream and whisk until well blended. Set your timer for three minutes and continue to cook and whisk until sugar dissolves. The caramel will come to a nice rolling boil and darken in color.
Note: the handle of the first wire whisk got very hot while I was stirring, so I switched to one with a tubular handle and it stayed cool. Something to think about when buying whisks.
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For this version of the dessert, I used a large round biscuit cutter to cut circular portions of bread pudding.
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To plate the dessert: I poured a small amount of warm caramel sauce on a  dessert plate. Next, I placed the round disc of warm bread pudding onto the caramel sauce and then lightly pressed it into the sauce and topped it whipped cream.
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How to Make Whipped Cream:
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 1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
Add cream, vanilla, and sugar to the chilled bowl of the mixer. Beat cream for one minute on medium high and then increase speed to high once the cream starts to thicken, otherwise, the cream will spray all over the kitchen. It took four minutes for the cream to whip.
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I had to channel my inner Mary Carter, my food stylist friend who I featured in the post, Playing with your Food to bump this dessert up a notch.
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My friend, Corabel Shofner, made this dessert for our Thanksgiving Dinner and told everyone she felt like a “real chef” making something so tasty and beautiful. That’s the fun part of tackling a new recipe and watching people delight in what you have prepared.
 Add some bling for the next big holiday!
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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

How to Cook a Pumpkin: Roasted and Puréed

Faced with the choices below of sources for cooked pumpkin purée to use in a pie, which one would you choose?

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I chose the big one. No-brainer. More pumpkin flesh, more purée. I’ve got a lot of baking to do. I’m smart. NOT. There is more intense and earthy pumpkin flavor in the small “pie” pumpkin than in the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever brought home from a pumpkin patch. And, by the way, the flavor in the canned purée may equal that of the little two-pounder.DSC_0460

How much work was it to roast the big pumpkin to find this out the hard way?

I can barely talk about it so pictures will have to do.DSC_0155 DSC_0412 DSC_0491 DSC_0502

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All that work, and when I used the purée in my Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, a pie that always delivers, it barely tasted like pumpkin, the flavor was that vapid. Additionally, the pie left a chalky aftertaste in my mouth that only I detected, but it was enough to make me throw the rest of the pie in the compost.

The next morning, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought two pie pumpkins and a can of pumpkin purée. Note: each of these items was a $1.99, so there was no monetary benefit to making this a DIY project. The only benefit was quelling my curiosity about what went wrong flavorwise.

Roasting Pie Pumpkins

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I followed the directions on the label and cooked the pumpkins at 350º for 1½ hours.

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I scooped out the flesh. I didn’t even need to purée it; it was so ready to use. Figure on two cups of purée per two-pound pie pumpkin.DSC_0459 (1)

Here’s the thing I didn’t know about pumpkin purée. It’s not sweet and tasty on its own. Having never stuck my finger into a can of purée before, this surprised me. I thought I was familiar with the taste of pumpkin from eating it in desserts, but they are sweetened with sugar and flavored by vanilla and spices. I remember a similar thing happened the first time I tasted natural unsweetened cocoa. I was expecting to taste the chocolate of a candy bar and instead what I tasted was bitter and harsh. The pumpkin surprise factor wasn’t nearly as extreme,  but you get the idea.

So, will I ever cook a big pumpkin for purée again? Not likely.

Will I ever roast a small pie pumpkin again? Perhaps, when I have grandchildren and want to show them where pumpkin purée comes from.

Will I go back to buying canned pumpkin? Yes, for sure!

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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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