Old Favorites (& A Few New Old Favorites!)

Fall Flowers

I’ve been thankful for my blog these last few weeks as it has served as a nice reminder of some of our favorite recipes and we have have been revisiting those lately. With the cold weather moving on in, we’ve already made several soups from previous posts- Lima Bean Soup With Bacon & Lemon, Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Soup, and Cabbage Soup. There are also these soups from last year that we conjure back up from time to time.

Big Bowl of Sweet Potato Soup

Big Bowl of Sweet Potato Soup

And here is this year’s version of my Roasted Pumpkin Soup. I say “this year” because I make it once a year but usually forget to write it down and then have to reinvent it every year.

Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with a bowl of freshly chopped herbs ready to go it and a dish of roasted beets for the accompanying salad.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup
1 Sugar Pumpkin, roasted
¾ cup Cashews
½ cup Water
4 cup Vegetable Stock
1 ½ White or Yellow Onions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Herbs (Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary)
1 tsp Smoked Paprika

Cut pumpkin in half. Scrape out and discard the seeds the stringy bits. (Or roast the pumpkin seeds!) Place each half face down in a baking dish. Fill the dish with about an inch of water and place in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes. Remove the halves from the dish and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, scoop out the pumpkin flesh into a medium bowl and set aside. Blend cashews with water. Sautee the onions in the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add garlic. Blend the pumpkin with the stock and onions and, along with the cashew milk, add back to the soup pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the smoked paprika. Reduce to a simmer. Add herbs. Salt & pepper as needed. Simmer for 20 minutes.

I came up with this tasty baked pasta and squash dish that I think would make a perfect Thanksgiving side dish.

Squash & Sage

Baked Butternut Squash & Sage Pasta
8 oz Pasta (I used Conchiglie, Montebello brand, but any penne or macaroni would do.)
1 small Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into small cubes
1 ½ cup Stock (veggie or chicken)
1 cup Whole Milk
1 tsp Dry Mustard
½ tsp Cayenne
¼ tsp Nutmeg
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
2 cups Prairie Breeze Cheese, grated (Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery is the best and can be found most days at The Bloomy Rind in Nashville. You could also use Beechers Flagship, a sharp cheddar, a Gruyere or a blend of your favorites.)
2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Sage
1 cup Bella Sourdough Bread Crumbs
2 Tbsp Butter + a little to butter the baking dish

Squash-1

Squash-2

Preheat oven to 375. Place the squash cubes in a pan with the stock. Cook on medium high heat until the squash forks done. Turn the stove to low. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and then drain. Chop the bread into small cubes. In an iron skillet, add 2 Tbsp butter and place on medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the bread and the chopped sage. Stir the bread crumbs several times as they crisp and lightly brown. Remove the bread crumbs from the stove and set aside. With a fork or potato masher, mash the squash in the broth. Add the milk and mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir together and then stir in the 1 1/2 cup cheese, reserving ½ cup for the top. Butter a baking dish and then add the pasta. Pour the squash mixture over the pasta and then top with the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs. Cover the baking dish with a piece of foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 more minutes.

Squash Pasta & Beans

I’ve been revisiting lots of old favorite music, as well, and discovering old music that is new to me. That’s the beauty of music, it is timeless, and just out there in the world waiting for you to discover and connect with it. Thanks to one Luke Bell who is the only local musician I have known to cover Randy Travis- he does it so well and I have realized it takes a special voice to do so- I have been listening to lots of old Randy Travis classics like this one…

And, holy cow, have y’all ever seen this video for He Walked On Water? It is very sweet.

Speaking of sweets, I don’t have any sweet treat recipes to post this time but Lord, have I been baking and eating sweets. I was asked to assist my sweet (no pun intended) friend Melissa Corbin as she competed in the great World Food Championships in Las Vegas. We spent hours baking and experimenting together.

Sweets in LV

You can read all about it and get her delicious recipe for Triple Dickel Apple and Chèvre Galette here.

This photo of all the judges empty tasting plates pretty much sums up how I currently feel about sweets.

This photo of all the judges empty tasting plates pretty much sums up how I currently feel about sweets.

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Be Kind in 2011

Black-Eyed Peas, Collards, and Cornbread New Year's Day and Paella with friends on January 2nd!

I started the new year off with some delicious food and a new book- The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Yes, THAT Alicia Silverstone. And it turns out that she is a great writer and quite inspiring from a healthy, food- loving point of view. Who knew? Her book has inspired me to take a bigger leap in trying to live a healthier life. The word kind keeps popping up these last few weeks, as well, either in my head or from friends. I’ve witnessed situations in these first few weeks of the new year- from world events in the political realm to situations at work and even in my own neighborhood where I’ve caught myself thinking, “can’t we just be kind to one another?” My friend Mel wrote a beautiful new post on her blog about “living your life with kindness”. This little four letter word is everywhere suddenly.

Great books to start a healthy new year with- The Kind Diet & Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking.

I have the belief that we really are what we eat and believe that food can truly heal (or harm) us. It is our individual choice. I also believe in supplements but would much prefer to have them derived from whole, organic foods than come from a test tube in a science lab. Food- real, whole foods in their organic state are nourishing to our bodies and can benefit us in so many ways. I like to buy food from good sources and when I buy good, wholesome food that was grown with love, I feel like my body can tell. I absolutely believe this yet, like all levels of learning, I am not perfect in my practice of this belief. I adore food and gain so much happiness from it that I cannot only eat what is truly good for my body all the time and I think the happiness is also good for my body so I try to live with a balance of this- not too much indulgence on foods that aren’t good for me but not so pure and strict that the fun has been depleted for me. And sometimes these choices aren’t available at all times. It has been and remains still, a process of changing the way I think about things, giving and taking, finding balance, and making the right choices.

SO, with this, I offer up three new soup recipes that I came up with that are kind to our bodies!

Did you know broccoli contains almost as much calcium as whole milk? The main difference is the Broccoli Commission (if there is one) never hired an ad agency to come up with a big campaign to tell you so! Broccoli has been shown to protect against breast and colon cancer. It also helps stimulate the liver. Spinach is detoxifying, soothes intestinal inflammation, supports a healthy colon, helps build healthy blood, and has a high level of vitamin A which is valuable for the eyes. Cilantro is a digestive aid, a natural diuretic, helps purify the blood, and strengthen the heart.

So many broccoli soup recipes are loaded with cream and butter or cheese. Those are tasty but I wanted to come up with a healthier version. With the use of toasted nuts and lemon, I think this one ended up being a good alternate.

Be Kind to Your Body Soup
Serves 4-6

2 heads broccoli
1 cup of nuts (I used NW hazelnuts and SC pecans), toasted
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh spinach leaves
bunch of fresh cilantro
3-4 cups stock
1 tbsp unsalted butter
one yellow onion
4-5 cloves garlic
juice & zest of half a lemon
sea salt (I used some homemade rosemary salt)
fresh ground black pepper
red pepper flakes

Trim and cut broccoli into small pieces (trees and trunks!). Set aside one cup of tiny florets and place the remaining broccoli in a steamer. Steam for just a few minutes, keeping the broccoli a bright green color. Remove from heat and set aside. Toast nuts and then blend them in a blender with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add some stock in and blend until a thick paste forms. Add in spinach and cilantro and more stock. Blend. Add steamed broccoli and more stock and blend together until smooth.

Saute the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil and butter in a soup pan over medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a couple minutes. Next, add reserved broccoli florets, lemon juice and zest, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir. Add in the blended mixture and remaining stock. Stir and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Add red pepper flakes to taste.

Next up is this beauty of a soup- a roasted carrot, sweet potato, and butternut squash puree. (Notice I gave it a much more appealing name!) I mulled these ingredients over in my head for an entire week, I’ll have you know, and it all started with a cup of coconut milk left over from a previous recipe.

We all know from Saturday morning cartoons as a child, that carrots are good for our eyes. Carrots deliver abundant supplies of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to the cells in our bodies. Carrots are one of the best foods for the liver and digestive tract, they help the kidneys function properly, help prevent and treat cancer, balance the endocrine and adrenal systems, depress cholesterol, and increase elimination from the colon. That’s a whole lot of kindness going on. Winter squash is an excellent remedy for acidosis of the liver and the blood and are loaded with vitamin A and potassium and helps to reduce inflammation in the body. Wait- there’s more… the sweet potato is so fricking nutritious that we could actually live on them. Not only do they have huge antioxidant properties, they also are easily digestible and are good for treating ulcers, inflamed colons, and poor blood circulation. They are also detoxifying. Go orange vegetables!

Sexy Weekend Winter Soup
Serves 4-6

5 carrots
1 small butternut squash
3 sweet potatoes
6-8 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 cups stock (I used homemade chicken, veggie would also work)
1” piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp (or more, if desired) sea salt (I used homemade orange fennel salt)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp cumin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 Tbsp olive oil in large baking dish. Wash, peel, and slice carrots and sweet potatoes and place in dish. Cut butternut squash in half, lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place both halves flesh side down in baking dish with carrots and sweet potatoes. Roast veggies for 40-45 minutes. About 20 minutes in, pull dish out and place peeled garlic cloves under the squash, in the hollow part, and place dish back in the oven.

Saute the onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add spices and stir. Add roasted veggies in. Stir together. Remove from stove. In a blender, add the mixture and the stock stock, adding one cup at a time until you have enough liquid to successfully puree the veggies. Add pureed veggies back to the pan and place back on the stove on medium heat. Add remaining stock and stir to thoroughly combine flavors and then reduce to simmer. Add coconut milk in. Stir and simmer a few minutes.

In a separate small pan on the stove, heat 1 Tbsp cumin seeds until very lightly toasted. Add 2 Tbsp unsalted butter.  Watch carefully so seeds do not burn. Add a dash of salt.

Ladle the soup into a bowl and drizzle a tiny bit of the cumin butter over soup. (A healthier option would be to, instead, place a small dollop of Greek style yogurt on top!)

A big pot of beans can nourish, comfort and warm you on a cold winter day but that’s not all… Beans help reduce blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure , and regulate colon functions. Celery is amazingly good for you. Since early Greek times, celery has been valued as a cure for the hangover! Modern day studies show that it significantly reduces blood pressure by relaxing muscle tissue in artery walls and thus enhancing blood flow. Celery consumption has also been shown to help prevent cancer and is great for your joints, ligaments, and bones! Rosemary has a wide spectrum of talents such as… it helps alleviate nervous conditions, headaches, and respiratory troubles. It can improve the function of the liver and gal bladder as well as strengthens the muscles of the stomach and improves circulation. Throw all these ingredients together and your body will feel very loved with all that kindness.  This is a very simple, mild soup. The tomato drizzle gives this soup an extra yummy kick!

Italian White Bean Soup

1 lb dried Cannellini beans
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6-8 cups stock
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped
1 tsp (or more to taste) sea salt (I used my homemade rosemary salt)
freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Drizzle

10 roasted & pureed grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of salt
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 good quality anchovy fillets (optional)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
sea salt & pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight in water. Drain and rinse. Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add celery and stir. Add garlic and stir. Add beans, stock, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary. Remove bay leaves. Puree in blender.

While soup is simmering, roast tomatoes. Add all the ingredients for the tomato drizzle together and make into a dressing. Drizzle over the soup once you have ladled it into bowls.

So Long 2010, HELLOOO 2011!

Holiday cookies go nicely with whiskey cocktails!

Good Bye 2010! As I sit here on New Year’s Eve at home with the doggers, it seems a good time to reflect on all I am thankful for, send good thoughts to friends and family who I miss, those who aren’t doing so well, and reflect on the past year. Earlier in the week, I was actually gearing up for finally experiencing Lower Broadway on NYE but as is usually the case, Grant was offered a gig which took him into another direction. It’s a good night to have a guitar gig for sure. I was going to tag along but then suddenly realized I might have more fun staying at home catching up, being introspective, and relaxing than surrounding myself by people partying it up a little too much. These obligatory holidays make me want to hibernate and save up my energy for more random celebrations when the rest of the world isn’t looking. So I have traded in my cowboy boots for some slippers tonight but no worries, I have Dale Watson cranked on the hi-fi and cookies in the oven! Oh, and just so you know, 2011 is the year I learn to dance! Watch out world! The Red Barn Round-Up seems the perfect place to practice so I need to get on it during these winter months so I will be ready for Spring. Which reminds me- our last Round-Up of 2010 was fabulous with the super talented artist and musician, Julie Lee, and the amazing Paul Burch, both with stellar bands.

Tomorrow we’ll be cooking up a mess of black-eyed peas and collard greens along with a pan of corn bread but it occurred to me that with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I have fallen way behind in my cooking posts. All these photos of our meals that Grant so patiently waited for me to take are piling up. I need to catch up. So here it goes…

We made a yummy turkey soup with vegetables and brown rice with our Thanksgiving left overs which we ate with a pear and blue cheese salad topped with a simple honey vinaigrette. Then I tried my hand at Wonton Soup and found a simple Emeril recipe that gave me the basic idea. I used ground turkey, spiced it up and made the wontons. The soup consisted of mushrooms, baby bok choy, onions and garlic… pretty tasty! Soup is indeed good food, especially in the winter.

So, I’ve been trying to figure out new and exciting ways to enjoy winter squash- squash is good for you. Nutritionally packed and one of the easiest vegetables to digest, squashes are low in calories and high in potassium and Vitamin A. It also helps reduce inflammation. And look how pretty this little butternut squash is…

So, we were craving Mexican food but I wanted to cook and eat healthier so I cubed up this squash and sauteed it with some chopped white onion, several cloves of garlic, a can of green chilies, and spiced it up with some ground cumin, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. We ate it with some veggie re-fried beans, some red rice Grant threw together with some leftover brown rice, and a little shredded cheddar on top! The leftover squash was yummy in a whole wheat quesadilla the next day.

Speaking of Mexican food, ever since our last trip to Austin, where we got our $9 tortilla press, we have been making our own fresh corn tortillas and they are delicious! We no longer get stuck with a stack of stale tortillas- we make as many as we need for a particular meal. And, we found a great high quality corn masa made by Bob’s Red Mill that works great!

On the topic of veggies, it is important to mention one of my favorite winter dishes- roasted root veggies! SO many beautiful colors and packed full of deliciousness and nutrients!

And these roasted sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes seasoned with my famous orange fennel salt and black pepper made the perfect accompaniment to some pan smothered pork chops seasoned with smoky paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. That’s sauteed Red Russian Kale (with cherry tomatoes, a tad bit of fresh garlic and a splash of balsamic) from the Delvin’s farm in College Grove, Tennesse beside it.

There were many pies in the last few weeks of the year… oh what fun!

Mini Me Pies

Pie night with Lindsay & the Brads.

Cherry Pie

South Carolina Christmas Pies

I am ready to put the excess sugar and added calories of the holidays behind me and hoping to start the new year off with some healthy eating… Hello 2011!