Butternut Squash Soup

Every fall I make butternut squash soup and every year I say I am going to write it down. Today’s the day. Before we get to that, there have been some big changes in my life. After taking the summer off from working (that sounds a lil better than my contract ended and it took a few months to find something new), I started a fabulous job at DocuSign last Monday. I could not be more excited and am loving it so far. And Oliver just started Kindergarten too! It’s been an adjustment for us both, but such good stuff.

With the new gig, I am back in the office full time for the first time since 2010. This is a departure from the three days I was working from home these past few years. This affects some important parts of my life – working out and cooking. I managed to get five workouts in this week and I also made a big batch of Ina’s Italian Wedding Soup last Sunday, which I used for Oliver’s and my lunches this week. The Sunday cooking for easy leftover dinners and lunches is going to be key to my sanity.

So it’s Sunday and I’m cooking! Butternut squash soup and Smitten Kitchen’s oven-braised beef with garlic and tomatoes (holy shit is that one good and literally could not be easier). I’m particular about what I like in my butternut squash soup (no curry, no apple, no cream) and this recipe totally nails it.

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If I make soup, will fall come?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Fall is my favorite season. Leaves turning, crisp weather. But seriously, where the funk is it? Last week, Ina Garten posted one of my favorite soups on FB, her Italian Wedding, and I thought this the perfect Sunday dinner. Being that it’s, oh, the middle of October in Seattle, one can safely assume that the weather is not going to be summer-like. But no, global warming has other ideas. Oliver and I had our family pictures Sunday afternoon and we were both sweating our asses off in sweaters (I sure hope she can photoshop my shiny face) running around Discovery Park in the blazing sun. It was 74 degrees. I mopped myself down when I got home, turned on the A/C, and got to work making this pot of deliciousness. Read More

Heirloom Tomato Soup

I love getting my monthly Metropolitan Market coupon in the mail. I get really excited when I actually remember to put it in my purse, use it and save myself some cash! This week’s offer was a free pound of heirloom tomatoes. This coincided with Marin Mama’s Weekly Dinner Menu for August 3rd. She posted a recipe for Heirloom Tomato Soup which she calls her family’s “FAVORITE soup ever!” OK, that’s some persuasive language. Coupon + rave recipe = my Heirloom Tomato Soup fate was sealed.

No joke, this soup is perfection, rave-worthy, and unlike most tomato soups, no cream necessary. Pretty and delish, this little gem would be a lovely starter for your summer dinner party. Heirloom tomatoes are in season from August until early October, so now is the perfect time to make yourself a big batch. I wish I would have doubled this and put some in the freezer (or just gone on a massive soup bender and eaten it all this week). I will definitely be making this again! Another brilliant creation from Marin Mama Jackie!

Heirloom Tomato Soup – courtesy of Marin Mama Cooks

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided – you will use 1/4 cup twice in the recipe
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh marjoram
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (Jackie’s recipe calls for the garlic microplaned, but it’s all being puréed, so I didn’t see the need for the microplaning)
  • 5 overripe heirloom tomatoes (any color), cored and large chunked
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Prep all your ingredients.  Wash your herbs, chop up your onion and core and chop your tomatoes into large chunks.

Take your bunch of basil, your 4 sprigs of thyme and 4 sprigs of oregano or marjoram, and tie them up together with some kitchen twine.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil, the diced onion and herb bunch in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat, until the onion is soft, tender and translucent, but not browned.  You’re basically sweating the onion here.

Stir in the garlic and quickly add the tomatoes and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes are broken down.  Make sure you occasionally stir the tomatoes.

Remove the herbs.  Stir in the 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and the in the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Turn off the heat.

Puree the soup either using a hand held immersion blender or a regular blender. If you’re using a blender, return the soup to the pot after your puree it. (Lynne’s Note – I used my immersion blender and found that it wasn’t quite smooth enough, so I threw it in the blender. This worked much better, but I had to do two batches.)

Keep warm until ready to serve.

I served with another seasonal fave, sautéed zucchini with garlic and red pepper flakes. A light, summer dinner, and it’s even vegan! A real shocker for this meat/dairy lover. So, so good.

Summer Dinner

Mexican Chicken Soup

After two dinners out this weekend at RockCreek and Westward, both of which were fantastic, I was ready to do some cooking and eat dinner at home on Sunday. Not to mention, it was rainy and shitty and the wind was literally attempting to blow my house down. Perfect soup weather! Ina Garten posted her Mexican Chicken Soup recipe on her Facebook feed last week and I realized it had been way too long since I had made one of my favorite soups. Bonus, it is totes healthy.

My notes for the recipe:

  • Ina calls for 2 – 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded. I used 3, seeded them, and it was way too spicy for Oliver. Great for me, not for him. He ate mac & cheese. That always feels good, you slave away and they’d rather eat their dinner from a box.
  • Chopping the veggies – I used my food processor to chop everything. Onion, carrot, garlic, jalapeno, celery, cilantro. I think this soup benefits from the veggies being chopped finely, especially the onion and carrot. With the onion, the processor chops it into almost a liquidy mush, which worried me, but it ended up great and just thickened up the soup.
  • Making tortilla strips for garnish – I used 8 tortillas, cut them in half, then cut them into 1/2 inch strips. spread on a rimmed cookie sheet in 1 layer and baked at 375 until golden brown, about 10 min.

Ina Garten’s Mexican Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.