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Soup of the Day: Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Fall, widely understood to be the greatest and most wonderful time of the year, is not just about peaking colors and dropping temperatures, but flavors.  We all associate certain dishes, ingredients, and flavors with fall.  While I am a major contributing culprit of the pumpkin overkill culture, today, I’m rooting for the underdog: Butternut squash.

Yes, it’s fairly similar to pumpkin in taste and texture, and yes, its shape and flesh-toned exterior make for super awkward grocery shopping trips in which you want to shout “I REALLY AM GOING TO COOK AND EAT THIS, PERVERTS!”

I digress.  The butternut squash is charming for many reasons, but largely because each squash has a love note inside:

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What’s up, Butternut?

Tonight, the butternut squash charmed us in the form of soup.  Delicious, fall-in-a-bowl, soup:

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

(adapted from eMeals)  Serves: 4-6

1 1/4 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1 cup half-and-half
1 T thinly sliced green onions, for serving
Shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat oil in a Dutch oven.  Add squash, potatoes, and onion and saute 6 minutes:

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Stir in broth and 1 cup of water.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme:

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Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove Dutch oven from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Using an immersion hand blender, puree the vegetables into a thick but smooth consistency.  Stir in half-and-half:

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Serve immediately, topping with cheese and green onions:

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This soup is great with Parmesan French bread toasts (because, can there ever truly be enough cheese?)  Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in o.o

 

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Carrot Cake Trifle

My family is, if anything, efficient.  This Sunday, we celebrated Easter (April 20th), my husband’s belated birthday (April 8th) and my father’s upcoming birthday (April 23rd).

As an efficient family, we typically delegate tasks according to how much time each person has that particular weekend, and after much debate, I was given dessert.  As previously admitted, I am not a baker or dessert maker.

Because it was Easter, and both the birthday boys were fans of carrot cake, I start scouring Pinterest for a recipe.  I pinned a few, including a very impressive looking trifle recipe, but decided I didn’t want to take a chance on an “unknown”.  So, I went to my favorite and most dependable source:  Brown Eyed Baker.  Her blog lets you browse by ingredients, so I moseyed over to the C’s for carrot recipes, and lo and behold – the trifle recipe I had pinned was hers!  As it turns out, the trifle was originally a three-layer cake, but due to her cakes sticking to the pan, she called an audible.  You will be shocked…shocked, I say…to hear that my cakes also stuck to the pan, so a trifle it was for me as well!  Luckily, even I can’t mess up her delicious recipes, so this is my new go-to carrot cake/trifle recipe!

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OK, so my aesthetic and photography skills need some work, but it was delicious!

Carrot Cake Trifle

(adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
 

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 oz bag of grated carrots
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish (optional)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

Icing:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (1 1/2 boxes)
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 pound (~5 2/3 cups) powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Thoroughly grease and flour three 9×2-inch round cake pans (these cakes are prone to sticking). Put two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

2. Pulse the grated carrots in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.  Transfer carrots to a medium bowl, and stir together with coconut and walnuts.  Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt.  Set aside.

4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently stir in the carrots, coconut, and walnuts by hand. Pour evenly in the three baking pans.

5. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back after about 20 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean; the cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

6. To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract until well-combined.

7. Once the cakes are cool enough to handle, carefully crumble the first cake into the bottom of a large trifle dish (for more layers, crumble only half of the first cake) and top with a generous layer of icing.  Repeat layers until the dish is full, top with icing, and garnish with walnuts (or extra cake crumbles – both look nice!)  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

(For a traditional cake, stack the layers, spreading a generous amount of icing between layers and then cover the top and sides. Garnish with walnuts and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.)

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in o.o

 

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New Year’s Disillusions

Now that I have firmly established myself as an inconsistent, unscheduled, and disorganized writer, I am confident to pick up exactly where I left off.  Wait, where was I?  OK, maybe I should just start with now.

It’s yet another new year and I’m sure the health food aisles and gyms are bursting at the seams with those of high hopes and good intentions.  I, on the other hand, know the house always wins this game of inevitability, and I like to start out ahead.  So no sweeping resolutions here.  No schedule-morphing, habit-dissolving, life-changing goals for me.

I find unattainable goals to be one of the greatest evils.  We are taught from childhood “You can be ANYTHING you want if you put your mind to it.”  Unfortunately, with sheer will power alone, I could never be, for example, male.  Or seven feet tall.  It’s an optimism epidemic.

So, I choose to go the way of the dangling carrot, and set generally moderate, yet feasible goals:

I want to be nicer.  Not the nicest person who ever lived.  Not nicer than everyone I know.  Just somewhat nicer than I am now.  To others, to myself, in thought, and in speech.  I want to more often assume the best of others, and not the worst.  I want to immediately think of you instead of me.

I want to be healthier.  Not lose 100 pounds or run a marathon.  Just be all around, holistically healthier.  Eat good food.  Spend non-couch time*.  Cook a lot.  Read a lot.  Cuddle.  Laugh at life (not at others).

[*Except when trying to surpass your husband’s XboxLive Gamerscore.  Virtual improvement is still improvement, right?]

I want to read more.  Truly read, not skim.  Not read a greater quantity of books, but remember more character’s names.  Be able to recount more plot points.

I want to care less about inflammatory statements, and more about the accuracy of my own.  I want to care less about the bill after an excellent meal, and more about the tip I leave.  I want to care more about what my husband will think of my outfit on date nights, and less about my ever present and unsightly facial hair.

2014 is looking pretty doable to me.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in o.o

 

Young Me

Dear Young Me,

Sup.  We need to chat.

You know how you’ve got it all figured out?  How you’re smarter than your peers, most adults, and most definitely your parents?  How your opinions about life and religion are, in fact, accurate and as such, will never change?

*Spoiler alert*, you don’t, you aren’t, and oh, will they ever.

They say hindsight is 20/20.  So I’m writing to preemptively correct your vision.

Over the next decade (and then some), everything will change.  People you elevate to near perfection will disappoint you.  You will disappoint yourself.  Repeatedly.  You will be wrong.  Consistently.  Absolutes will become a hazy gray.  Never evers will become, eh sometimes.  You will come to adamantly disagree with many of the ideologies of a church you once wholeheartedly supported.  You will become disenchanted.

But here’s the catch.  Here’s the secret that if you will learn now, you will truly be ahead of the game.  That is life.  No one is exempt from disappointments and just being plain wrong sometimes.  So your options are to:
A) flip out, get your heart rate flaring, wail, stomp feet, gnash teeth, and assume you are alone in the universe.
B) allow yourself a moment of slumped shoulders, maybe some chocolate, maybe a tear or two, a deep breath, and then a realization this too shall pass.

You will find that once you start consistently going with option B, your glass might be a little more full than empty.  You might find angry, offensive people that surround you aren’t all that bad, they just went with option A and their glass is in need of a refill.  The point is, you can only control your reaction and you have a choice.

Over the same decade (and then some), everything else changes.  People you looked down on will pleasantly surprise you.  You start making better decisions and occasionally will impress yourself.  Every once in a while, you will get something right.  Your lack of absolutes and never evers will allow you to judge less, love more, and earnestly forgive (even yourself).  You will replace a love of church with a love of God.  And best of all, you will choose to be happy.  Oh, you will sometimes indulge in option A, as you are rather skilled in the wailing and gnashing of teeth department.  But option B gets easier to pick each time (and it does great things for your blood pressure).

As a side note, you will never grow out of children’s books and you will marry a man you do not deserve.  You should visit your grandparents every chance you get.  Oh, and be nicer to your parents.  They’re on your side.

Love,

Me/You

P.S. A wise man (who you will eventually work for) once told me everyone should learn to play one musical instrument, learn to speak one foreign language, and visit one foreign country.  Then he said, once you’ve done that, do it again.  Help me out and start now, would you?

P.P.S. Please quit eating junk food now.  You will thank me later.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in o.o

 

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Quote

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in o.o

 

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Non-Fiction Kudos

I have never been a fan of non-fiction.  Let’s face it.  Even the fiction I read is pretty out there, so why would I read something non-fantastical, let alone based on truth?  Sounds like a snooze to me.

But then I go and get married.  And this guy reads non-fiction almost as exclusively as I avoid it.  We have the great debate of Fiction vs. Non-Fiction on a regular basis in our home (which usually ends with him giving up and saying “Whatever, fiction is lame!” to which I maturely respond “Your face is lame!”)

In spite of my obviously superior talents of debate, on occasion, he can convince me to brave the entirely normal, magic free, alternate universe lacking pages of a non-fiction book.  His most recent victory was Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, the harrowing story of two Fundamentalist Mormon brothers who commit a violent murder in the name of God.  The book becomes an account of the evolution of the Mormon religion, the growth of fundamentalist branches within the religion, and episodes of violence throughout, including the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  In addition to being an extremely well-told story that was entertaining (if not disturbing), I feel like….as if I possibly…..learned something (gasp!).  Unlike the time I learned all the territories of Westeros and the Free Cities in the Game of Thrones, or when I learned the proper pronunciation and use for the spells in Harry Potter, this time I think I learned something about myself and my own beliefs. 

In short:  Man is infinitely fallible.  Religion is man-made.  Therefore, religion is infinitely fallible.

God is infallible.  And that’s all I need.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in o.o

 

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Evenly “Yolked”

Mom always told my sister and I to find a man to marry with whom we were evenly yoked.  While in morals, goals, and spirituality I may have suceeded, I dismally failed when it comes to boiled eggs.  I love them.  He hates them.  Not “dislikes” or “doesn’t care for”, but hates them.  The smell, the texture, the taste; everything.  He’s tried to ban me from cooking them in “his kitchen” (statements which are immediately retracted after the death glare he receives).

I love boiled eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad, egg sandwiches, you name it.  I try to be a courteous egg eater.  When bringing any variety of boiled egg to work in my lunch, I try to loudly broadcast “I promise that’s my sandwich you’re smelling, not me!”  OK, so it may be a little self-serving, but I consider it a Public Service Announcement for my co-workers.

One of the best things about making boiled eggs at home (other than the wide variety of what you can do with them and the general deliciousness) is that the cat shares my love of eggs.  She can be passed smooth out in the other end of the house, but as soon as I tap an egg on the sink to begin peeling, she will be glued to my ankle, begging for a piece.  She will devour any bit I give her (whites, yolks, she doesn’t discriminate) and comes back for more.  And it drives him insane.

Mogli was thrilled when I found this “Hippie Egg Salad” recipe in Food&Wine magazine and gave it a shot.  Here’s my slightly altered version:

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5 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/4c light mayo
1T grated carrot
1/2T apple cider vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
1T minced celery
1tsp dried parsley
1tsp dried tarragon
1tsp chives
1T salted sunflower seeds
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Mix everything together and spread over toasted bread.  You can make this ahead of time and it will keep for a few days, but you may want to add sunflower seeds just before serving to ensure a good crunch.  I mixed mine all together, including the seeds, and ate on it for 2 or 3 days and it was perfectly fine.  Just a matter of your texture preference.

Enjoy!  Mogli and I did!

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in o.o

 

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