Jan 142015
 

I remember when my best friend Rachel and I went to Chicago and on our last day there we went out to a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant and did the “chef’s choice” meal. It was like 5 courses of whatever the chef decided to make for us. It was the first time I’d ever tried ahi tuna and it was the first time I’d ever had butternut squash. It was a creamy butternut squash soup in an espresso-sized cup and it was so amazing; I wondered, how had I never had butternut squash soup before??

photo 1

I wanted to make it for myself. It sure took me long enough to give it a try…Like 10 years! But finally, I tried. I searched for awhile to find the right recipe. I remembered it being pretty sweet and I found a lot of recipes that claimed it was so sweet it could almost be a dessert. That wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted savory, with a hint of sweet.

I found this recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Cashews

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: About 169

From: http://whatagirleats.com/butternut-squash-soup-with-toasted-cashews/

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 6 cups cubed.
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ? teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Heavy cream or half and half, thin to desired consistency
  • Kosher salt, and white pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Halve squash and place cut side up in a baking pan with ½" of water. bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.
  3. Squash won't be fully cooked, but slightly tender. Cool.Using a vegetable peeler, peel of outer skin and scrap inside to remove seeds and stringy fibers. Cut into cubes. Should yield about 6 cups. (I think you can actually cheat on this and get pre-cubed squash in the produce section of your market).
  4. In a Dutch oven or large pot heat butter and oil until hot and shimmering. Add shallots and stir, for a minute or two. Add garlic, stir.
  5. Add squash and broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add thyme and bay leaf, reduced heat and cover.
  7. Simmer on low about 45 minutes until squash is tender. Remove bay leaf and thyme sticks, if there are any.
  8. Puree soup using an immersion blender or upright blender, until smooth.
  9. Return soup to pot, add half and half or cream to thin to desired consistency. Finish with toasted, chopped cashews and a drizzle of cream.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=10283

It sounded pretty good to me! I knew I’d add a little bit of extra things here and there that I had seen from other recipes I liked. For example, a few recipes called or a pinch of cayenne pepper and I LOVED that idea.

photo 2

Other than that I followed the recipe pretty closely, except for the bay leaf (didn’t have one) and I added cayenne. I put it all in my Dutch Oven and let it simmer down. I used my immersion blender (which I LOVE) to puree it up.

I taste-tested the soup after pureeing it and added a pinch more of the cayenne pepper. Once I felt like it was good, I dished it up. I thought it was a little odd that the recipe called it “Butternut Squash with Toasted Cashews” when the cashews were really just a garnish. I read the recipe a few times to make sure I wasn’t skipping a step. Sure, the cashews were nice and added a nice crunchy texture to the soup, but I don’t know that it added anything else beyond that. I originally thought the cashews would be ground up and mixed in.

The texture was super creamy. It was a little too close to baby food/applesauce in consistency and I could have added more milk to it to make it more soupy.

soup3

I served the soup with a green salad (swiss chard, spinach and kale) with Bleu cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I also had one large cheesy kaiser roll that I split in half for Michael and I to share.

soup2

Michael and I both liked the soup a lot. It was pretty easy to make. I would add more spice to it next time I think. I got 4 servings out of this recipe and that made it around 150-165 calories a serving. Super low but it was filling and I didn’t feel like I was deprived of food afterwards or hungry in an hour.

soup1

I had some leftovers that I took to work for lunch on my two rest days (there weren’t enough calories in it to eat on a gym day). It was just as good the next day. A little bit of spice, but not too much. It was creamy and the best part— SUPER filling for less than 200 calories!

I will be experimenting more in the future trying to find the perfect squash soup recipe. Do you have a favorite? Please share!

Share
Jan 052015
 

I feel like for most of 2014 Michael and I were reclusive. We didn’t plan a ton of friend events because we were both so overwhelmed with wedding planning and life stuff and every weekend we had free was dedicated to planning the wedding. I still saw my friends here and there but we just weren’t super social. I definitely missed that and once we got back from Hawaii I started planning stuff and actually saying yes to things we got invited to! It was nice to be social again. :)

In the past we’ve gone out to a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve but in the last few years we’ve decided to stay in and do our own thing. (I used to go out dancing for NYE with friends–my favorite thing was the Michael Jackson vs. Prince dance party at various clubs in town!) This year we decided to have a little dinner party with another couple and play board games.

For dinner we made Cornish Game Hens. I’ve done them before but it’s been awhile. I looked around for a recipe that sounded good (last time I did them I just used some butter, seasoning and herbs) and we got to cooking. I looked for a few different hen recipes and found this one that was great.

photo 1

I didn’t have a traditional roasting pan but thankfully Google solved that for me and I made a “roasting” tray in the Le Creuset pan with foil. This recipe was super easy to follow and it didn’t take too long. The hens we got didn’t have the giblets in them, so it was a lot easier to clean them.

Roasted Garlic, Herb and Lemon Cornish Game Hens

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 4-8 servings

From: http://www.daringgourmet.com/2014/03/24/roasted-cornish-game-hens-with-garlic-herb-and-lemon/

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens, patted dry with paper towels
  • 8 thin slices of butter
  • 4 sprigs each of fresh rosemary and thyme (or herbs of choice) plus some extra leaves of each
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 lemon, scrubbed well and cut into quarters
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Pat the hens dry with a paper towel. Use your index finger to loosen the skin on the top of the hen and slip a thin slice of butter under the skin on top of each breast. Add a few rosemary and thyme leaves (or herb of choice). Repeat for each hen. Put a quarter of a lemon in the cavity of each hen along with a clove of garlic and a sprig of fresh rosemary and thyme (or herb of choice). Truss the hens by tying the wings and legs.
  3. Rub each hen all over with some extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place then hens on the rack of a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil, spacing them out so they are as far apart from each other as possible. This will enable their skins to get browned and crispy.
  4. Place the hens in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes.
  5. While the hens are roasting, combine the chicken broth and wine in a bowl.
  6. After the hens have been roasting for 35 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Pour the broth/wine mixture over the hens and continue to roast for 30 minutes, basting the hens with the juices at the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or less. The hens are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F and the juices run clear. If you prefer darker skins, turn up the temperature to broil for a couple more minutes, watching closely to prevent burning.
  7. Carefully remove the hens and pour the juices from their cavities into the roasting pan. Transfer the hens to a warmed platter, remove the trussing string, and tent with aluminum foil to week warm. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes until the liquid is a thin sauce-like consistency. Serve the hens whole per guest or cut in half lengthwise and place cavity-down on each serving plate. Drizzle the sauce over the hens and garnish with fresh herb sprigs and a slice of lemon. Serve immediately.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=45077

I used fresh rosemary from the garden and lots of garlic. Some of the reviewers of the recipe said the minced garlic burned. I decided to use slivers instead of minced. I also used a lot more garlic than the recipe called for and honestly, I’d use more next time. I would also flip the birds over half way through so that they get crispy brown on both sides.

IMG_2617

Our friends arrived just as the birds were done. Michael cooked up some small red potatoes with onions, garlic and herbs. It went great with the chickens. I considered making a salad but it seemed liked a lot of food so I skipped it. Also, the hens looked really big but once you started eating them, it wasn’t as much food as it looks. The bulk of it was the bones and stuff.

IMG_2621

The meat was really juicy and mild in flavor. I’d use more garlic and a little more salt next time I make these. Everyone seemed to like the dinner, so I was happy! Our friends, Brian and Courtney, made flourless peanut butter cookies for dessert and they were delicious! I need to get that recipe.

IMG_2622

We got some new games for Christmas: Settlers of Cattan, Ticket to Ride, and Bunco. I was super excited to try them out. I ordered Ticket to Ride on Amazon and with Prime it should have arrived long before NYE but sadly, it did not. (I contacted Amazon and they were great about it, gave us an extra month of free Prime, but I was still disappointed the game didn’t arrive because that was the plan for the dinner party.) In the end, we ended up playing a card game instead, Spades, but it was super fun! I love that game and often play it on my phone when I’m watching TV.

IMG_2625

It was Brian and me against Michael and Courtney and when we called it a night our teams were tied! It was really fun.

photo 4

photo 3

We had a white wine blend with dinner and I opened a small bottle of champagne (it was actually the other mini bottle of champagne that the hotel gave us on our wedding night–it took us that long to finally drink it). We didn’t make it til midnight to ring in the new year, which would have been nice but at the same time I was also happy to go to bed at a decent hour! Dang, we got old.

photo 2

It was a fun, easy going night and I love playing games so that was a great time, too. It also felt amazing to sleep in super late on New Year’s Day! Hope you had a great New Year!

Share