Monday, January 30, 2012

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Here's the recipe I promised on Friday: Curried Butternut Squash Soup. I realize I've posted about a million butternut squash soup recipes, but I just can't help it. Squash is delicious. It's also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.

Even with all the squash soup I've served, a recent conversation with my gal pals made me realize an important variation I'd inadvertently ignored; I have never made butternut squash soup with curry powder in it! It was high time I checked that off my bucket list, and the result was as delicious as I'd hoped.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves: 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups cubed butternut squash (I buy peeled and cubed butternut squash at Costco. It's the best thing since sliced bread. Seriously.)
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoons curry powder
32 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
Sour cream, for serving

In a very large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high. Add squash, onion, carrots, and apple. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they're starting to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, making sure you scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon to incorporate the browned bits of flavor into the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream.

Friday, January 27, 2012

All Points Bulletin

If anyone sees my brain, please let me know. I seem to have misplaced it.

You see, I started a really lovely post about butternut squash soup. And then I forgot to finish it. Just forgot. I went to bed and read a magazine. No good excuse. Nuthin'.

So, it's brain is lost. Why else would I forget something as important as butternut squash soup?!

Look forward to a delicious recipe for Curried Butternut Squash Soup on Monday. 

Unless I forget...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Berry Smoothie

It's the end of January. It's cold. It gets dark early. It's really cold.

I could sure use a little taste of summer.

Berry Smoothie
Serves: 1

10 frozen strawberries
15 blackberries
6 ounces Greek yogurt (I used honey flavored yogurt.)
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey, or more/less to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender.

Let 'er rip until everything is combined. If you're having trouble blending the smoothie, try adding a bit more liquid.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Well-Stocked Pantry

As usual, I watched a bunch of shows on The Food Network this weekend. I can't help it; it's good TV. Plus I have no guilt about watching cooking shows because I think of them as educational. How do you think I learned to try stuff in the kitchen?

One theme that kept popping up show after show (after show...) was cooking from your pantry. I am a huge fan of pantry cooking for several reasons: 1.) It allows me to be lazy. It's January in Wisconsin, and it's COLD. Sometimes I just can't be bothered to leave the house. 2.) It forces me to be thrifty. If I use up the ingredients I have on hand before I head back to the store, less food goes to waste. 3.) It encourages creativity. Some of my all-time favorite meals have been inventions of desperation. You never know when you're going to come up with something great!

For today's post, I'm jumping on the pantry bandwagon. Below I've listed my pantry staples and a few recipes to go along with them.

Canned Beans:
Protein-packed and simple, canned beans are a regular dinner hero at our house. Try Quinoa with Corn and Black BeansBlack Bean and Cheese Chimichangas, or Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos.

Frozen Pizza
Do I really need to explain this one any further?

The husband and I always buy a giant chunk of cheddar when we go to Costco. It keeps well in the fridge as long as I keep it tightly wrapped. I shred cheddar for Mom's Cheesy Potatoes and slice it for Ham and Cheese Toasties. Then there's goat cheese. Stir crumbles into Penne with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese or use it for a super easy appetizer, Pesto Goat Cheese Spread.

Dried Cranberries:
I have sung the praises of dried cranberries many times. I eat them by the handful as a sweet and tangy treat, stir them into Creamy Oatmeal for a chewy burst of flavor, and add them to salads for beautiful color and flavor. And have you ever combined dried cranberries and quinoa? You've gotta try Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans.

Frozen Peas:
In junior high school, my BFF and I used to snack on peas straight from the freezer. Not only is this pantry staple perfect for pre-teen grazing, they add color and nutrients to just about any meal. Stir them into pasta, tuna salad, soup, or Shepherd's Pie.

I always keep flour or corn tortillas in my freezer. They are the perfect start to so many meals: Green Chile Chicken EnchiladasBaked Chicken ChimichangasLazy Beef Enchiladas, or Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas.

Canned Tuna
This pantry staple isn't just for tuna salad sandwiches in your lunch sack. Add drained and flaked tuna to pasta like I do in Balsamic Tuna Salad. Or go old-school and try re-vamped Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Science Geek Gets Clean

Today I'm in the kitchen, but I'm not cookin'. I'm cleanin'.

Cleaning my jewelry, that is.

I have a box full of lovely sterling silver jewelry that is, to put it gently, horribly discolored and gross looking. Every time I see my pretty necklace with the silver beads I think, "What a beautiful bauble! Or at least it used to be." Then I feel mopey and sad and choose a less wonderful (but also less dingy) accessory to wear in its place.

But no more, people. No more! You see, I cleaned my sterling silver jewelry with baking soda. I'll give you the instructions below, but first, a word of wisdom: Before you try this at home with your all-time favorite bracelet in the history of the world, test it out with less-special sterling silver jewelry. Make sure you're happy with the results and then continue on to the good stuff. Now, here it goes...

How To Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry with Baking Soda
Courtesy of

1.) Fill your kettle and set it on the stove to boil. (Or just microwave some water. Whatevs.)
2.) Line a glass baking dish (make sure it has sides) with a slightly crumpled piece of aluminum foil.

3.) Lay your sterling silver jewelry on the aluminum foil.
4.) Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the jewelry.

5.) Pour boiling water over the jewelry until it is covered. Alka Seltzer-like bubbles will start dancing off your jewelry, and you'll be assaulted with a serious rotten-egg smell. Apparently this is just the release of sulfuric gases. So, don't fret. (But do feel free to plug your nose.)

6.) Gently stir around the jewelry to ensure all the surfaces have come in contact with the aluminum.
7.) Rinse the jewelry under tap water, taking great care that it doesn't fall down the drain and disappear forever.
8.) Dry jewelry with a soft towel.
9.) Enjoy all the compliments you receive on your super-sparkly accessories! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

When I was at the grocery store, they had gigantic, and I mean gigantic, parsnips and carrots on sale. Could I pass that up? Absolutely not. Just look at those suckers:

Since these veggies were so stinkin' big, I figured they might be tough and fibrous. A little nibble while I cut them up confirmed this was the case. In order to soften and sweeten my veggies, I decided to roast them.

A quick trip to my backyard for some rosemary, and I was ready for action. By the way, did you know that rosemary survives in the snow?! Crazy!

Next time parsnips and carrots (gigantic or otherwise) are on sale in your neck of the woods, give this one a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Balsamic Roasted Parsnips and Carrots
Serves: 4-6
Adapted from Bon Appetit (via

1 gigantic carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/8" thick coins
2 gigantic parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/8" thick coins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. You should have about 4 cups total of sliced carrots and parsnips. Place vegetables onto a very large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle rosemary, salt, and pepper on top. Toss everything together so the carrots and parsnips are evenly coated.

Roast for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chicken and Creamy Mustard Sauce with Egg Noodles

Sometimes it's fun to eat a meal that feels fancy. Bust out the china from your wedding, light a couple candles, and pour yourself a tall glass of wine while you cook.

Today's hot dinner isn't super tricky, but it's a little fussy. Don't be deterred though! Remember that tall glass of wine you poured yourself? You've got that to see you through. Just think of the recipe in steps: 1.) You make some chicken. 2.) You make some sauce. 3.) You combine the chicken and the sauce. Seems pretty simple when you think of it that way, doesn't it? Now, get that wine and go for it. You can do it!

Bon appetit!

Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit via
Serves: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1.5 tablespoons grainy mustard (If you don't have grainy mustard, use Dijon.)
2/3 cup sour cream

Using a meat mallet, heavy measuring cup, or the heal of your hand, pound chicken to an even thickness so it cooks evenly. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dust both sides of each chicken breast with flour and pat off excess. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and saute until cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees), about 6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Add mushrooms and onion to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add broth, wine, mustard, and sour cream to the skillet. Stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Simmer until the sauce is reduced, about 15 minutes. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cook until chicken is heated through, about 6 minutes longer. Serve with Therese's Egg Noodles.

Therese's Egg Noodles
Serves: 4

8 ounces egg noodles
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
Chopped parsley for garnish, if you're feeling swanky

Cook egg noodles according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile heat butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it's caramelized and softened, about 10-15 minutes. Stir onions into egg noodles and garnish with parsley.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Sunday nights are always my least favorite day of the week. The wonderful, worry-free weekend is wrapping up, and I'm getting ready to head back to the rat race bright and early the next day. I shlump around the house and frown. It's really quite pathetic.

And did I mention that I usually go to the grocery store after work on Mondays? So in addition to my mournful mood, there is no food in the cupboards, and the fridge is bare.

Needless to say, I don't enjoy cooking dinner on Sunday nights. If I didn't have such a handsome and hungry husband to feed, I'd just eat ice cream and go to bed early.

So I whip up super simple meals on Sunday nights. Hot dinners that exercise my cooking creativity to the max. I was pretty pleased with both the deliciousness and ease of a recent Sunday supper.  I hope it's inspiration for you next time you can barely drag your sorry buns into the kitchen. Remember this, if I can do it on a Sunday night, anyone can.

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Serves: 2

1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 flour tortillas
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Although I didn't have any on hand, I bet Pepper Jack would be particularly delicious.)
Sour cream and salsa, for serving

With a fork, mash together black beans and chili powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread black bean mixture onto one tortilla.

Top with shredded cheese and the second tortilla. Butter the top and bottom tortillas like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add quesadilla to the pan. Cook for about 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the cheese is melted. Cut quesadilla into 6 wedges. Serve with lots of sour cream and salsa.

"Taco" Tomato Soup
Serves: 4

Campbell's tomato soup, made according to package directions
A handful of crushed Doritos (We used the throwback taco-flavored Doritos.)

Sprinkle crushed Doritos on top of tomato soup. Declare that it is Taco Tomato Soup, very different than regular, plain, old tomato soup, and that it is good.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

I've mentioned my myriad food fears on HDHH before: Anything that requires yeast, appetizers, pies... The list goes on and on. Roasting beets is just another item that's been languishing in my file of fears for years.

I love, absolutely love, any salad that includes roasted beets. After ordering them at restaurants any number of times, I decided it was time to give it a whirl. Following an exhaustive Google search on the topic, I whacked the stems off a couple beets, wrapped them in foil, and tossed them in a hot-hot-hot oven until they got tender. Did I say "tender"? I mean burnt, stinky, and weird. I'm pretty sure I messed up, and my fear of roasting beets was born.

When the trauma of the initial beet roasting fail had worn off, I decided it was time for another attempt. My pal, Jill, joined me in the kitchen for encouragement and moral support. We peeled those suckers, diced them into pieces, and roasted them until I could spear one with a knife for a taste test. Take two = SUCCESS!

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves: 4

4 small beets, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1.5 teaspoons grated orange zest
8 cups mixed greens
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the beets in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until beets are tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over lettuce. Top with roasted beets, goat cheese, and walnuts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Although it's been The New Year for over a week now, I'm finally settling into it. And I think it was the inspiration of a fresh beginning that incited a little cleaning spree yesterday afternoon. The husband and I packed all of the Christmas decorations back into their storage bins. I put away all the clothes strewn about my room leftover from unpacking (if you could call it that!) when we returned from Seattle. My proudest accomplishment, though, was tackling two baskets of "important documents" I had been hoarding for, oh, years. I filed away seasons greetings from 4 years ago, shredded phone bills from 2009, and even found my greeting card organizer! And, yes, I did note the irony of that last one.

Now that my house is a bit cleaner, it's time to tidy up my eating habits after a holiday of overindulgence. On that note, I present an utterly delicious and filling meal, Chicken Pot Pie Soup.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Adapted from
Serves: 4 as a main dish

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 potato (I used Yukon gold. That's my favorite kind.), peeled and chopped small
2 cups water, divided
3 cups milk (I used 1% because that's what I put on my cereal.)
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
2 cups cubed (or shredded) cooked chicken
2 cups frozen veggie mix (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
2 tablespoons flour

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and celery and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are beginning to soften.

Add garlic and poultry seasoning and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1.5 cups water, milk, and bouillon, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all of the flavor into the soup. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Whisk flour into remaining 1/2 cup water. Whisk flour-water mixture into soup and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes until soup thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, my dear readers! The husband and I headed west to spend the holidays with his family, and it was filled with all the magic of the season. We celebrated Christmas surrounded by parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We drove north to ski in in the majestic mountains of British Columbia. We toasted the new year with dear friends.

Oh, and we ate. We ate a lot.

Homemade Swedish cardamom bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Perfectly cooked, tender prime rib. Lasagna with two, count 'em, TWO meats. Slow-cooked BBQ beef piled high on crusty buns.

And have you heard of Puppy Chow? Sweet mercy, the Puppy Chow. My brother-in-law requested that my fabulous mother-in-law whip up a batch of Puppy Chow, and I'm so glad he did. (My too-tight pants are less glad, but I'm disregarding their opinion for now.) We began our trip with gallons (literally) of this peanut buttery, chocolatey, sugary treat, and we returned empty-handed and full-stomached.

Today I'm sharing with you the recipe for Puppy Chow. Next week I'll start thinking more about those too-tight pants.
I was too busy eating the Puppy Chow to snap a photo, so the image above is courtesy of 

Puppy Chow (a.k.a. Muddy Buddies)
Recipe from: Chex

9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 cups (or more) powdered sugar

Place Rice Chex into a very large bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt together chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. (You can do this in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat or in the microwave. Just microwave for 30 seconds on high and stir. Repeat until everything is melted.) Stir in vanilla.

Pour chocolate mixture over Rice Chex and stir gently until the cereal is evenly coated. Transfer to a very large (2-gallon) Ziploc bag. Add 1.5 cups powdered sugar to bag and seal it tightly. Shake, shake, shake the bag until cereal is evenly coated with powdered sugar. If the Puppy Chow is sticking together too much, or if it doesn't look sugary enough, add a bit more powdered sugar and shake it up again.

Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.