Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (with Cranberries)

img_2204Winter is here after all. Sigh. The last few weeks I have been visiting all our local farms to try  and stock up on all the fresh apples of this season. Along with apples, there have been a good bounty of pumpkins and squash as well. This past weekend when I scouted the farms again to pick up any leftover apples – before they closed for the season, I found squash at throwaway prices. 99c for one. Not a bad deal! So I picked up Butternut squash and a couple acorn squash.

Butternut Squash is a winter squash very popular in the US and Canada and also in Australia and New Zealand. It tastes very much like pumpkin – quite sweet but has a nutty flavor. Because of its sweet taste, I have personally liked it only in soups. Roasting it is the easiest way to cook it plus also gives it additional flavor.

So I decided to make the soup mixing both the butternut and acorn together since acorn squash is a little less sweet. Halfway through my cooking process, I decided to add cranberries. I thought that would be a good way to mellow the sweetness down plus add a bit of tanginess.  You could also use tomatoes for this purpose but since I am avoiding all nightshades I decided to use cranberries for this purpose. Cranberries turned the soup into a nicer color too, imparting it more of a reddish tinge. Unfortunately since it was night time the photos don’t do justice to the actual color of the soup.

Butternut Squash soup with cranberriesMy son who is my main food critic at home, loved it and gulped down two bowls of the soup! And my daughter who doesn’t usually eat any vegetables much slurped it down too merrily. What more can I ask for 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (with Cranberries)

  • Servings: Makes 5-6 servings
  • Time: about 1 hour prep(baking) and 30 mins cooking time
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a large butternut squash
  • 1/2 of a medium acorn squash
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 6 cups water
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top
  • red chili flakes for extra heat (optional)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 400 deg F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Cut the acorn squash in half and place in a tray lined with al foil face down (skin up). Add the garlic cloves with skin on onto tray as well.

Place tray in the oven and roast for about 40-50 minutes until the flesh inside the squash is tender. Remove from oven and Cover the squash pieces with foil and let cool for a few minutes. Peel the skin from the squash and the garlic and keep the flesh aside.

While the squash is in the oven, chop the onions and celery.

In a large cooking pot, add the oil and the onions and celery. Salute for 5 minutes on low until tender. Then add all the spices and the salt.

Next add the roasted squash and the roasted garlic(peeled). And add the cranberries and the water. Let simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Turn heat off. take an immersion (hand) blender and puree the soup in the pot. (Alternatively, if you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender – but wait until the soup is less warm)

Serve with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and some red chili flakes on top!

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Butternut Squash soup with cranberries

 

Sugary Spiced Roasted Almonds


DSC_0502Nuts – whether they are almonds, cashews, pistachios or peanuts -you will always find these in my pantry. The ‘Mr’ loves to snack on these. So I am constantly replenishing the jars and they can never be empty because he will throw a fit. Over the years I have also acquired this habit of snacking on nuts and it has helped me tremendously to control my mid-afternoon ‘sweet’cravings.  OK so we like nuts ‘as is’  …so why the need to add sugar and spice you may ask? Well since it’s the holiday season I felt like dressing them up a little. After all these poor nuts ..they need to feel special too! 🙂  But seriously, roasting the almonds enhances the nutty flavor and the spices and sugar make it so tasty that you cannot stop munching! This recipe is terrific not only as a snack anytime but is especially great at parties when you have a crowd. And these make great holiday gift items too.

Cayenne/Chilli powder and cinnamon for spice and brown sugar and honey for the sweetness. Place these nuts in an airtight container and these will be good for at least two weeks but don’t worry they will never last that long! 🙂

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Sugary Spiced Roasted Almonds

  • Servings: Makes 5 and 1/2 cups
  • Time: About 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Recipe adapted from the book “Simply homemade food gifts”

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole raw almonds
  • egg white of 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (or red chili powder)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method:

Spread almonds on a tray lined with Al foil in a single layer and roast at 325 Deg F (160 deg C) for about 8 minutes.  (You will need to do in 2 batches or use two trays)

Remove from oven and let cool for about 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl beat egg white and water with a hand mixer until the mixture becomes foamy – about 2 minutes.  Then add the sugar,honey, spices and the salt. Add the cooled nuts and mix well to coat.

Line a baking tray with AL foil and spread the nuts again in a single layer (again 2 batches or 2 trays) and bake at 325 F for about 20 -22 minutes until the nuts appear dry. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes and pack into an airtight container.

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Roasted Red Pepper Guacomole (Red Pepper Avocado dip)

Red Pepper Guacomole (Avocado and red pepper dip)Want a quick and easy dip that is sure to please everyone at your party? You cannot go wrong with this one! This is easy and yet ‘dynamite’!  Hot halopeno balanced with the sweetness of the roasted red peppers and mixed with creamy smooth avocado!  It tastes best as a chunky dip – so even better right? No need to blend! LOL!  15 minutes is what it takes to make this one and it has become a mandatory dip at all my parties due to popular demand! I always make it at the fag end of all my cooking (for the party) as it hardly takes time plus that way it will stay fresh as the crowd starts pouring in!

Only one word of caution – Make a really big batch as everyone will be on this one and before you know it you will have an empty bowl! 🙂

I am bringing this dip to Fiesta Friday and Foodie Fridays this week.

Roasted Red Pepper Guacomole (Red Pepper Avocado dip)

  • Servings: Makes about 3 cups
  • Time: About 15-20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Red Pepper
  • 1 Ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small halopeno pepper, chopped fine (remove seeds if you cannot handle the heat)
  • 1/2 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato(vine red preferred), chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp tomato salsa ( any store bought good brand )
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red vine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli seasoning (optional)
  • 1 tsp medium hot taco sauce (optional)
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • salt to taste

Method:

Heat oven to Broil setting.

Take a tray and line with Al foil. Take the red pepper and cut into half length wise and brush with oilve oil on all sides and place on the tray. Place the tray on the upper rack and broil for about 7-8 minutes. (After about 5 minutes turn the pepper to roast all sides)

Remove from oven and cover the red pepper with foil and set aside for a couple minutes.

Meanwhile, take a medium size bowl (could be your serving bowl for the dip) and add all the other ingredients (other than the red pepper). Then open the foil and chop the red pepper into small pieces and add that to the bowl too and mix well using a spoon.

Serve with warm tortilla chips!

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