Butternut Squash Soup

butternut squash soup

We’re at the tail end of our Indian Summer here in Montreal. For close to a week it’s been hot and muggy, but the forecast for the weekend is cold and rainy. It’s officially time to start thinking about cold weather foods. Although I’ll miss the heat and sunshine the Summer brings, Fall foods are my favourite. Soups and stews made with harvest vegetables, shepherds pie, roasted squash; all of these are warm and comforting to me. I could go on for hours about Fall baking, but for now I’ll just keep it to these two words: pumpkin pie.

We had a little preview of the cold weather a couple of weeks ago, so I took the opportunity to get a head start on the fall cooking and made this Roasted Squash Soup. This is possibly the easiest dish I’ve ever made, if you’re new to cooking this is a great recipe to make you feel like you can do it. Simply roast the squash, onion and garlic until the squash is cooked, then transfer it all to a pot adding chicken broth and spices. Easy peasy!

Roasting the squash, onions and garlic add a sweet, caramelized, dimension to the flavour of the soup. I made it quite thick because I like it that way, but if you prefer a thinner soup simply add more broth. I also use a touch of cream to add .. creaminess to the soup (there must be another word for that, richness maybe?), but that can be omitted if you’d prefer to keep the dairy out.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 litre low sodium chicken broth
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • Salt a pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup cream or half and half
  • Sunflower seeds and chives to garnish
    1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
    2. While the oven is heating, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon (you’ll need a good knife to slice the squash). Peel the onion and slice it in half. Place on a baking sheet season with salt and pepper then drizzle with most of the olive oil. Slice the top off the garlic head then place it on a small piece of foil. Drizzle with the remaining oil, wrap in the foil and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes until the squash is soft (poke it with a fork to test)
    3. Let the squash cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh into a medium pot along with the onion. Unwrap the garlic and squeeze it into the pot (the cloves should slide right out). Add the chicken broth, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the soup cool then puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.
    4. Stir in the cream and serve garnished with sunflower seeds and chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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Tomato and Courgette Tart

September has what I’d call a split personality. Even though I haven’t been in school for quite awhile it feels like the beginning of a new year, a time for fresh starts and new shoes. It’s full of excitement and possibilities.

At the same time when September rolls in there’s a feeling that something is coming to an end. Night falls a little earlier every day, the temperature starts to drop. That carefree feeling that summer brings starts to slip away. When I feel it going I do whatever I can to hold on to it even tighter.

This summer hasn’t been all that care free for me. We’ve been short staffed for months, which led to long days with no time for breaks and sometimes no time to eat. On top of that a new VP for my division has once again brought a sense of uncertainty to the office. We’ve been “restructuring” for so long I can’t remember what structured felt like. All of this meant I was counting down the days to my vacation. It finally began yesterday. My intention was to sleep in, but my body had other plans so I was up pretty early.

I headed out to the Farmers Market in St-Anne-de-Bellevue and picked up some gorgeous cherry tomatoes.  I just discovered the market recently. It’s in a beautiful spot along a boardwalk. As you choose you vegetables you can look up and see the water. Shopping at a market has completely different feel than going to a grocery store. The vendors are all passionate about their products, the shoppers are all happy to be there. People are relaxed and smiling. It’s much more pleasant than the hustle and bustle of large grocery store on a Saturday morning.

The photo above has a combination of market tomatoes and some from my parents garden. Tomatoes fresh off the vine taste like sunshine (true story). I’ve been eating as many as I can while I can. I’ve been thinking about a tomato tart since the beginning of tomato season; once September rolled around I realized I was running out of time to make it. I stopped myself from eating all of the tomatoes and put this together. The top layer has tomato and yellow zucchini slices. Underneath that you’ll find a layer of caramelized onions and garlic, and finally there’s a layer of goat cheese and ricotta.

I was really happy with the way this tart turned out. The dough has a little corn flour in it, which I think helped it stand up to all the wet ingredients. Even the next day the crust was still crisp. The onion layer added some depth to the flavour and was a great compliment to the tomato and zucchini.  I was going garnish the tart with some fresh basil but completely forgot. It wasn’t necessary but I think it would have added a nice touch.

Although the recipe is not difficult, it does take some time to put together. There are two chilling times for the crust, 30 minutes to blind bake the crust and then another 40 minutes of baking time. To save time, the dough can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for a week or two.

Tomato and Courgette Tart

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup  plain yogurt
  • 1/4  ice water
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200 g ricotta
  • 350 g goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 yellow zucchini, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Make the crust: In a large bowl mix the flours, 1/2 tsp salt, sugar, and thyme together. Using a pastry cutter or your finger tips, cut the butter into the flour until it hold together when squeezed and there pea sized pieces of butter. Mix in the yogurt and ice water. The dough should come together, add more water if necessary. Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Place in a 9 inch tart pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cover the dough with foil then place dried beans or pie weights on top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  2. While the crust is baking, cook the onions. In a large pan on medium heat some olive oil then add the onion slices. Lower the heat and stir the onions until they start to brown. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue cooking. Once the onions are browned add the minced garlic, salt and pepper. Cook two to three minutes longer.
  3. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, goat cheese and egg. Season with salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp basil.
  4. Once the tart crust is done remove the foil and the weights. Pour the cheese mixture into the crust, cover the cheese with the onion mixture, the layer the tomato and zucchini on the onion. Brush the tomato and zucchini with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and the remaining dried basil.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Enjoy!

Mango and Egg Salad

Look! I cooked!

Well, I soft boiled an egg.

That’s the extent of the cooking I’ve done lately. I haven’t bought much food in the last few days, except for fruits and vegetables. I’ve been trying to eat my way through my pantry before moving. This has led to some creative meals. (And maybe some pizza. What? I had to say bye to the delivery guy)

So when I opened my fridge and saw a total of 8 ingredients, I knew a pretty simple salad was on the way. I wasn’t to sure how this would work out, but it was actually pretty tasty. And the yellow was so pretty I decided to take a picture and blog about my thrown together salad.

I also decided to take the opportunity to try overhead versus 3/4 shots of the salad (my first Penny tip in action!) Thoughts? Preferences? I’m not sure I was really overhead on the first shot, next time I’ll get myself a prop guy to steady me as I take the shots. I’m also not sure I like either picture. I should have used a different surface, but I was hungry, and my linens are packed. If I had more ingredients I would have added something to add a little more contrast to the picture too. Next time.

Mango and Egg Salad

  • 1 soft boiled egg
  • 1 mango, diced
  • romaine lettuce, chopped
  • pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toss the mango, lettuce and pumpkin seeds together. Slice egg in half and place on salad.
  2. Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper together. Dress salad with yogurt mixture.
Enjoy!

Bacon Jam


Yesterday was a beautiful day. For the first time this year I was convinced that winter will end soon. It was also the first time in weeks that I didn’t have a visit scheduled for my condo. I was really looking forward to spending the day in my kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm, but the weather had me conflicted. How could I waste such a beautiful day inside? This internal debate raged for most of the morning. And then a compromise was reached. I would walk to the grocery store to pick up everything I need. The walk would satisfy my need for time outside, and then I would get to create something wonderful in my kitchen.

This really was something wonderful. I had never heard of bacon jam until I started reading this months Food and Wine. As soon as I saw it, I knew something had been missing from my life. I had to have some. They recommend a brand available in the U.S only. In general, I  think jam is one of the easiest things to make at home, so I set out trying to find a recipe. I wasn’t going to let where I live keep me from my bacon jam!

I found several recipes, but the one that appealed to me the most was this one from Not Quite Nigella. I liked its simplicity; there are only a few ingredients, but each of them packs a punch. As with most jams, this one is quite easy to make, although a little time consuming (two hours, largely unattended). While you’re making it, your entire home and everything in it will smell like bacon. No need for bacon perfume. For step by step pictures, check out the original post from Not Quite Nigella.

The end result is a sweet yet savory jam, with a hint of smokiness to it. It was definitely worth the time to make it.

Once your bacon jam is done, you’re going to eat some of it with a spoon. That’s ok. Then you’re going to wonder what else to do with it. I suggest putting it in sandwiches or making this Bacon Jam Bruschetta. It’s just cream cheese (or goat cheese), bacon jam, and greens dressed with oil and lemon juice. The tanginess of cheese and the sweet smokiness of the bacon jam compliment each other perfectly.

Bacon Jam

Recipe from Not Quite Nigella

  • 500 g bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pan, fry the bacon in batches. Remove the bacon from the pan, and pour off all but 1 tbps of the bacon fat (bacon fat can be reserved for other purposes, like a pie crust)
  2. Turn the pan heat to medium high. Add the onion to the pan and fry until translucent. Add the minced garlic, frying until fragrant.
  3. Return the bacon to the pan, along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and add 1/4 cup of water every 25 minutes or so.
  4. Once cooked down, puree the jam in a food processor until it reaches your desired consistency (more or less chunky).

(Note: the original recipe called for 3 tbsp brown sugar, I forgot to add it and still found the jam delicious)

Bacon Jam Bruschetta

  • Bacon Jam
  • Baguette, sliced
  • Cream cheese or goat cheese
  • Salad greens
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  1. Spread the cream cheese on the baguette slices. Top with bacon jam.
  2. Dress the greens with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Place a small amount on the bread.

Enjoy!

Magazine Monday – Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Last November I participated in a 30 day sugar free/gluten free challenge.  The challenge was difficult at first, because every single meal has to be planned, but once I got the hang of it things went very well. By the end of it I felt great. When it came time to implement what I had learned in every day life things kind of fell apart. I quickly went back to eating exactly the way I was eating before the challenge. A year later I feel like my diet needs a complete overhaul again, so I will be doing the challenge again starting tomorrow.

I was flipping through some magazines to plan next weeks menu when I came across this recipe for Summer Rolls with Sweet and Savory Dipping Sauce from Gourmet Quick Kitchen. I swapped out the tofu for shrimp, and used green pepper instead of cucumber because I had those on hand. The dipping sauce does not meet the sugar free rules, as it calls for some sugar, and hoisin sauce also has sugar in it. But since I’m starting the challenge tomorrow I decided to go ahead and make the sauce for today.

The quick pickled vegetables add a great flavour to the rolls. They are very tasty, and quick and easy to make. I probably should have rolled them a little tighter, but I was still able to pick them up and dip them in the sauce.

I’ll be submitting this post to Magazine Mondays. Head on over to Cream Puffs in Venice Mondays to see what people have been cooking up!

Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 8 rolls

  • 2 oz dried bean thread noodles
  • 3 small carrots, cut into match sticks
  • 1 smell bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp & 3/4 tsp lime juice, divided
  • 8 rice paper rounds
  • 24 medium-large shrimp, cooked
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Soak noodles in hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. While noodles are soaking, blanch carrots in boiling water for 45 seconds. Rinse under cold water then transfer to small bowl with peppers.  Toss vegetables with rice vinegar, 3 tbsp lime juice, salt. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Reserve 2 tbsp of the vinegar mixture, and drain the vegetables.
  4. Drain the noodles, rinse them in cold water twice. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles into smaller pieces. Toss with 3/4 tsp lime juice.
  5. Fill a shallow pan with warm water. Soak a rice paper round in the warm water for 30 seconds. Shake off excess water and place on a work surface. Place 3 shrimp, some vegetables, and some noodles on the bottome third of the round. Roll tightly around the filling, folding the sides in. Repeat with remaining rice paper rounds.
  6. Make the sauce; Mix reserved pickling liquid with hoisin sauce, peanut butter and water. Serve with rolls.

Enjoy!