Ginger-Butternut Squash Soup

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Ah, autumn. After a long mid-Atlantic summer, I always look for forward to fall. Not only for the cooler temps, but for the food! Today’s recipe uses one of my favorite fall farmer’s market finds: butternut squash.

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This soup is inspired by a recipe given to me by my MOH at my bridal shower. Each attendee at my bridal shower brought a recipe and small gift that would help in making said recipe…so fun!

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Along with this recipe, I received my immersion blender, which is something I never thought I needed but in retrospect is AWESOME. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Vitamix, but an immersion blender eliminates so much mess from transferring soup from the pot to the blender.

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There’s a secret ingredient in this recipe: parmesan rind. Every time I finish off a piece of parmesan, I toss the rind in my freezer. A piece of parmesan rind is awesome to add into so many soups and sauces!

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Another tip for this recipe (or any recipe that calls for fresh ginger), use a spoon to peel the ginger and then a microplane zester to ‘mince’ the ginger. SO much easier!

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Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 4-6

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 40 min

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled & diced
  • 2 leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2″ piece of ginger, peeled & grated
  • 4 C broth (I used Chicken, but Vegetable broth will keep this recipe vegetarian)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  1. Melt butter over medium heat in dutch oven
  2. Add butternut squash, cover and cook for ~20min until fork tender
  3. Add leeks, ginger, salt and pepper
  4. Stir well, cook for ~10min
  5. Add broth and parmesan rind
  6. Bring to a boil, cook for ~10min
  7. Blend soup, either in the pot using an immersion blender or transfer into a blender
  8. Enjoy!

Question: What’s your favorite fall food?

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

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The recipe for these potatoes is pretty straight forward, yet so versatile that it should become a staple in your kitchen! This past winter, while visiting my in-laws over Christmas, my mother-in-law made these and they were SO GOOD. I’ve been making them ever since and decided it was finally time to share with the world.

20130917-124541.jpgWe ate these potatoes as a side for a pretty classic dinner; steak, broccoli & Crispy Smashed Potatoes. The great thing about this side dish is you can use any fats, seasonings and potatoes you’d like. This recipe is kind-of like one of those “build your own adventure” books.

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I used small red potatoes here, but any potato, fingerling, red, russet, sweet etc., can work for this side dish. Just be sure to boil the potatoes until fork-tender, especially for larger potatoes.

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This time, I made a truffle-version of Crispy Smashed Potatoes, thanks to a couple of wonderful gifts I’ve received recently! I used Black Truffle Oil and White Truffle Salt, but you could do anything here: from basic olive oil & salt to more a decadent butter & a sprinkle of parmesan…the possibilities are endless!

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What makes these potatoes special is how crispy they get when you put them in the oven. It makes a boring potato really come to life!

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Servings: 2 (easily doubled, tripled, etc.)

Prep time: 5min

Cook time: 45min (depends on size of the potatoes)

  • potatoes of your choice (red, russet, sweet, fingerling, etc.)
  • fat of your choice (oil, butter, etc.)
  • seasoning of your choice (salt, dried herbs, parmesan, etc.)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Boil potatoes until fork-tender
  3. Place potatoes on baking sheet
  4. Using a fork, smash potatoes until flattened
  5. Drizzle with your fat of choice, and top with your seasoning of choice
  6. Bake for 20min, or until the edges are brown & crispy
  7. Enjoy!

Question: Do you enjoy receiving food-related gifts? What’s your favorite kitchen item to receive?

Homemade Lara Balls

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Oh, hey there! It seems that once summer hit, I kind of fell off the blogging wagon. But, now that the temps are cooling down and my schedule is returning to normal, I promise to bring many, many delicious recipes into your kitchen! Today I’m going to jump back in with a great snack and on-the-go recipe: Lara Balls.

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These energy bites, are a homemade twist on a Larabar. If you’re not familiar, Larabars are energy bars that use dates and almonds (or other nuts) as there base and build flavors from there. And of course, I love any excuse to used my favorite kitchen tool: our Vitamix!

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These are SUPER easy to make, your blender or food processor does all (most) of the work!

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After the mixture has been processed, it’s time to get your hands a little messy. The mixture will probably seem too loose to be able to roll into balls, and this is partly true. You really need squeeze the mixture in your hands to get it to stick a little before shaping it into a ball. of course, you could also press this into a pan and cut into squares after a few hours in the fridge, but I haven’t tried that before. Watch out though, these little guys are addicting!

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Homemade Lara Balls

Servings: 9-10 balls

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: n/a

  • 1/2 C almonds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 C pitted dates
  • 1/4 C dried cranberries
  1. Add the almonds and sunflower seeds to your food processor or blender; process until coarsely ground
  2. Add the dates and cranberries to the nut mixture; process until combined and slightly cohesive
  3. Roll into ~1in balls
  4. Store in the refrigerator*

*Don’t forget this step! The cool temps in the fridge really help hold the balls together.

Question: What flavor combinations do you think would make awesome Lara Balls?

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry

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Okay, I know this dish doesn’t look super appetizing, but I promise it is! That’s the thing with red lentils, they melt right into whatever you’re cooking with them, leaving a mushy-looking dish. Original recipe can be found here.IMG_2498

Lentils and sweet potatoes are one of my favorite combos, remember Maple Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew? Don’t be surprised if you see this combo again in the future!

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Please pardon the kitchen mess! I usually try to keep things together as I cook, but for some reason these ingredients ended up all over the place…

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Once again, this dish features this blog’s namesake, sweet potatoes! Did you know sweet potatoes are fabulous for controlling your blood sugar, as well as being a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, fiber, antioxidants etc etc (source: Whole Foods). And, health benefits aside, sweet potatoes taste amazing and are super cheap – win, win, win!

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Do you see those green I used? That a schmorgesborg of chard, kale and mixed lettuces that I brought home with me after visiting my friend who’s currently working at Stonegate Farm in the Hudson River Valley. I came home with two bags of greens, the other was used for salad throughout the week…I love having farm-fresh produce!

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Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry

Prep time: 5min

Cook time: 25-30min

Serves: 4-6

  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2t garlic, minced
  • 2T curry paste*
  • 1C red lentils
  • 1.25lb sweet potato, diced
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 3C vegetable broth
  • 4 handfuls of spinach or greens
  1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat
  2. Add onion, cook for 5 min
  3. Add garlic and curry paste, stir and cook until fragrant
  4. Stir in lentils, sweet potato, tomato sauce and broth; bring to a boil
  5. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer; cook 15-20min
  6. Enjoy!

*I made my own curry paste by mixing equal parts Thai Green Curry Powder & fish sauce (fish sauce will make this recipe non-vegan)

Question: Are you a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture)? 

Chinese Chicken & Mushroom Soup

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We’ve been seeing a lot of crazy rain recently here in Baltimore. So despite it being June, it’s been great soup weather!

IMG_2427This is what I call “fork-and-spoon-soup”, because the soba noodles are hard to tackle with a spoon, but you don’t want to miss any of the delicious broth! The broth is salty from the soy sauce, yet tart from the lime juice.

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This soup could easily be made vegetarian buy substituting tofu for the chicken. I baked some chicken while the soup cooked and then shredded it to add at the end. Someone in our house was very excited at the prospect of any chicken falling to the floor…

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Soba noodles are made of buckwheat, which explains their dark brown color. If you’ve never had soba before, I highly recommend trying it; if you’re totally opposed, any type of noodle would work in this soup (egg noodles, spaghetti, or even rice).

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This soup comes together pretty quickly, especially if you have some pre-cooked chicken/tofu on hand. So, go ahead and put it on the menu this week!

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Chinese Chicken & Mushroom Soup

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 20 min

Serves: 2

  • 10oz mushrooms (I used baby portobello)
  • 3C chicken broth
  • 6oz baby bok choy
  • 3oz soba noodles
  • 8oz chicken, shredded
  • 1T soy sauce
  • juice from 1 lime
  1. Add mushrooms to dutch oven over medium heat; cook until most of liquid has released
  2. Add chicken broth to pot, bring to a boil
  3. Add boy choy, cover and steam/cook for 5 min
  4. Add soba noodles, cover and cook for 5 min
  5. Add chicken, soy sauce and lime juice to the pot and warm through
  6. Enjoy!

Question: Does your pet(s) hang out in the kitchen while you cook? Do you ever let them ‘taste test’ what you’re cooking?

Eggplant Dirty Rice

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A few weeks ago, I came across this recipe for Eggplant Dirty Rice and got really excited! I don’t know about you all, but I have never successfully cooked eggplant. This recipe seemed different though, there was no salting and draining of excess moisture or anything crazy like that…you simply dice the eggplant and cook it. Easy.IMG_2372

I’m so glad that I found this recipe, because it turned out wonderful! The mixture of black, white and red pepper was FABULOUS. And while the soy sauce may seem out of place, I can assure you it is not, it’s perfect.

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To start, you chop up your mirepoix (sub green pepper for carrot…although, carrots would be just fine):

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Then I cubed my eggplant. Since I knew I wanted to blog about this recipe, I made sure to use my handy kitchen scale to weigh my eggplant so I could tell you all exactly how much I used (it reads: 575g, if you’re curious).

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Fun fact: eggplants are also known as aubergines.

The aromas coming from the kitchen were out of this world.

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I was a little nervous about the rice. I rely on my trusty rice cooker to do all the work for any rice we eat, so I was worried it would be over/under cooked, but the liquid & timing worked out and the rice was perfect.

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The worst part about this recipe is that you have to wait 10 whole minutes from when you take it out of the oven and when you can put it on your plate. I made this after work one night last week, so it was getting late at this point, but I knew if I didn’t let it sit the rice would be ruined…so I sat, and patiently waited those 10 minutes.

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I re-heated some grilled chicken I had in the fridge and mixed that in to add a little protein to my dinner. That’s optional though, the next day I ate some leftovers for lunch (sans chicken) and was totally satisfied. This meal may take a little while to make, but the time & effort are absolutely worth it!

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Eggplant Dirty Rice

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 50 min

Serves: 4 hungry people

  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1-1.25lb eggplant (1 large), cubed
  • 1T grapeseed oil (any neutral-flavored oil will work)
  • 1/2T marjoram
  • 1/2T dried basil
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1/4t white pepper
  • 1/4t red pepper (cayenne)
  • 5t minced garlic
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1/4C soy sauce
  • 1C brown basmati rice (from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1.5C broth
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Head oil in dutch oven over medium heat
  3. Add celery, onion and bell peppers; cover and cook for 5 min
  4. Uncover, turn the heat to medium/high and cook 5 more min
  5. Add eggplant, marjoram, basil, black pepper, white pepper and cayenne; cook for 8 min
  6. Add minced garlic and tomato paste, stir well and cook for 1 min
  7. Add soy sauce and scrape bottom of the pan to incorporate
  8. Add rice and broth, cover and bring to a boil
  9. Place dutch oven into the oven for 20 min
  10. Remove from the oven, let stand 10 min
  11. Enjoy!

Question: Do you have a kitchen scale? How often, and for what do you use it?

Chicken Tzatziki Salad

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Lately, I’ve been buying a rotisserie chicken on the weekend. I’ll cut off a breast for us to eat for dinner that night (usually on top of a salad or whatever leftovers are in the fridge), and then I pick the rest of the meat off to be used for the following week. I buy my rotisserie chickens from Costco, and usually get 2lbs of meat off the chicken (not including the chicken used for the first meal). So, what have I been doing with this chicken? Chicken salad. Lots of chicken salad.

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This week, I made Chicken Tzatziki Salad. Oh boy, was it good! The lemon and yogurt combo makes it so fresh, and a bit tangy, while the cucumber adds just the right amount of crunch. The first night, we ate this along side some leftover pasta salad I had made for a friend’s BBQ (above), and the second night, we ate chicken salad salads (below).

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This recipe is super easy, and is actually better if you make it ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours (to days) before eating. (Read: great for an easy weeknight meal!)

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The original recipe is from Cooking Light, and I haven’t made too many changes here. Now that summer is almost here, there are so many parties and celebrations happening. This chicken salad would be great to bring to a party or for a picnic lunch or dinner. Since there are so few ingredients, this recipe can easily be doubled (or tripled, quadrupled…) if you’re feeding a larger crowd.

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This recipe calls for seeded and diced cucumber; if you’re not sure how to do this, check this post for a reminder! And of course, you don’t have to use rotisserie chicken for this, just make sure you give this enough time in the fridge to cool down if you’re using just-cooked chicken.

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Chicken Tzatziki Salad

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: n/a

Serves: 4

  • 1 lb chicken, cooked & diced
  • 2/3 C plain yogurt (I prefer greek yogurt, but any will do)
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 2t dried dill
  • juice from 1 lemon
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, let sit in refrigerator for 2+ hours before serving
  2. Enjoy!

Question: Do you ever buy a rotisserie chicken? Which do you like better, white or dark meat?