Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup

According to my husband (and various news outlets) this October has been the rainiest on record here in Phoenix. And we are not mad about it. Rain, rain, do NOT go away! While I think I would get sick of overcast skies and waving windshield wipers if I lived somewhere like Portland, where it’s constant, I’m happy to soak it up while it lasts here in the desert. After all, rainy weather is SOUP weather, and who doesn’t love a warm-you-up-from-the-inside-out bowl of comfort? Especially when that bowl contains the magical mix of butternut squash, apple cider, and white cheddar?

Seriously, the combination in this delicious soup is like if someone held a contest for a meal that represents the Ultimate Flavors of Fall. Earthy with squash, rich with sharp white cheddar, with a hint of sweetness from the cider–oh, and did I mention pumpkin ale goes into the mix, too? Mm-hmm. Even my nine-year-old, who claims to hate butternut squash, grudgingly admitted this soup was goooooood. And unlike some soups that need to simmer for ages before they’re ready, this one doesn’t take long to cook. To make it extra quick and easy, start with a bag of pre-cut squash from the produce section of your grocery store. Rounded out with cheesy toast and a side salad, it’s the perfect dinner for a rainy day.

As for me, I’ll just be over here enjoying my soup weather as long as I can…


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Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup
Cozy up to a bowl of this unique soup with the perfect blend of fall flavors!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add butternut squash, onion, garlic, and salt. Saute until squash has softened slightly, about 8 minutes. Add pumpkin ale, apple cider, and broth. Simmer another 10-12 minutes or until squash is totally softened. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Whisk in white cheddar until melted, then stir in nutmeg.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cooking For Keeps.

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Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage

Here’s a random tidbit: when you start a Google search with the words “how many people do…” Google does NOT assume you are asking it about potatoes and how many pounds feed how many people. No, my friends, Google wants to answer these other, far more intriguing questions:

Because apparently a lot more people want to know how many of us are getting killed by hippos than how many potatoes to buy to feed a crowd. Not sure how to take this, but I feel like it says something about our priorities?

Anyway, though I am (now) a bit curious how many people die annually from hippo attacks, I really did want to know about mashed potato portions, because it’s an area of culinary expertise that eludes me. Mashed potatoes seem like one of those foods that defy boundaries. There’s nothing exact about them. And since they so often appear as just one item in a multi-item meal (Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, let’s say), anything from a dollop to a pile seems fairly reasonable.

Well, it’s time to settle the score. The OFFICIAL serving size of mashed potatoes, as dictated by the Food and Drug Administration, is 140 grams. Since no one in the U.S. measures their food in grams (get it together, FDA!), allow me to interpret. 140 grams = 5 ounces, which for potatoes equals about 1/2 cup.

Therefore, if you want to make mashed potatoes for eight people, like this recipe does, 5 oz x 8 people = 40 ounces, or 2 1/2 pounds. Assuming no one’s going crazy with a potato free-for-all.

THIS MEANS SOMETHING. THIS IS IMPORTANT.

That’s how, even with creamy goat cheese, whole milk, and a bit of butter, these delicious, sage-kissed mashed potatoes end up with only 200 calories per serving. Portion control, y’all.

This hearty side dish makes a spot-on accompaniment to meat dishes like ham, pork chops, or meatloaf. What favorite meal would YOU serve it with?


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Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage
Mashed potatoes get a flavor makeover with creamy goat cheese and fresh sage in this side dish.
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and return to the pan. Add goat cheese and butter and mash or blend with an immersion blender (the immersion blender does a much nicer job getting a creamy texture!). Add milk and sage continue to mash/blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

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Red Velvet Cookie Cake

I’ve never really thought about it before, but cookie cakes have played kind of a major role in my life.

It started in high school. Junior year when my husband and I were dating, there was a Sadie Hawkins’-style dance called MORP (backwards prom). Everything about it was supposed to be the opposite of the regular protocol for school dances. Instead of dressing up in our fancy best, couples were supposed to dress exactly alike. (This was much trickier in the ’90s, before the age of gender neutralized clothing.) The dance was casual instead of formal; even the photo backdrop was a departure from the usual Grecian columns and silky fabrics:

Ah yes, here we are, dressed alike and casually hanging out on our garland-draped ATV. (Who comes up with this stuff?)

The final detail of MORP was that the girl was supposed to ask the guy to the dance in some clever way. I guess food has always been my love language, because I decided to present my then-boyfriend-now-husband with a cookie cake popping the question in frosting. Unfortunately, “Will you go to MORP with me?” was too long to fit on the cookie I ended up ordering, and instead, I remember it just had the word MORP with a giant question mark.

MORP?

Good thing he knew what I was talking about, or he probably would have thought I was suffering from some sort of delicious aphasic episode.

Fast forward several years. When we found out I was pregnant with our first child, we figured we’d break out the old cookie cake communication trick to inform my husband’s parents of their new grandparent status. We had been tasked to bring dessert to Sunday dinner. Imagine my in-laws’ surprise when they read the happy news in frosted lettering. Good memories.

With this history, cookie cakes have always held a place in my heart as special occasion desserts. So the other night when a friend and her daughter joined us for dinner, I decided a red velvet cookie cake sounded like just the delectable treat to serve after dinner.

When our visiting friend and I took our first bites, we looked at each other and went, “Oh. WOW.” The subtly flavored chocolate cookie dotted with white chocolate chips and covered with smooth cream cheese frosting made for an amazing finish to dinner. Cookie cakes for the win once again!

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, or for any special occasion, consider this decadent dessert. You don’t even have to spell out any messages on it. It’s special enough all by itself.


Print Recipe
Red Velvet Cookie Cake
Perfect for Valentine's Day, this frosted red velvet cookie cake is a decadent treat!
Servings
small slices
Ingredients
Servings
small slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar and mix to combine.
  2. Add flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the top of the batter until even. Bake 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then vanilla and milk, until smooth and spreadable.
  4. When cookie cake has completely cooled, spread frosting in a smooth layer on top. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, if using. Keep refrigerated.
Recipe Notes

Cookie cake adapted from Just So Tasty. Frosting from Betty Crocker.

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Veggie Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

I’ve already got a pot pie recipe on this site, and it’s kind of my pride and joy, since it’s one I came up with myself, and (can I brag a little?) it’s to die for. Savory chicken, a velvety cream sauce, and pan-roasted veggies….mmmm….it’s like my wee chickeny baby I just love to dote upon.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other awesome pot pies out there, each with their own spin on the classic. My own recipe certainly isn’t the final word on pot pies, as far as I’m concerned. Especially when I see a new pot pie recipe that involves cheese.

That’s right, I said POT PIE WITH CHEESE.

If you’re a purist, you might think this sounds about as appealing as cheese on your breakfast cereal.(Aside: can I just note how long it took to think of something, anything, for that sentence that would be gross to put cheese on? But cereal and cheese does sound pretty wrong. Give me a minute, though–I may warm up to the idea…) When I saw this veggie pot pie skillet with cheddar biscuit topping over on Budget Bytes, I was smitten. If Beth, the author of that blog, tracks her visitor stats, she may have noticed a giant spike in the number of visits to that particular post in the last few weeks.

They’re all me. I have now made this recipe four times since Christmas, with no signs of slowing down.

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

Here’s why. This recipe is:

  • Meatless
  • Easy
  • Cheap
  • One-dish meal
  • Uses very common ingredients, making it a virtually no-shop meal if you keep things like frozen vegetables, chicken broth, and flour on hand
  • Totally cozy-comfort-food delicious!

Even my kids go crazy over this meal, which I normally would not think possible for something so obviously based on vegetables. The filling is herb-y and creamy and the biscuit topping always comes out light with just the right texture–a real feat for something as notoriously tough to nail as biscuits.

All that being said, I do have to confess that while it may be vegetarian, this recipe is definitely not low calorie or low fat, since it has quite a lot of butter and no small amount of cheese. Still, we’re talking pot pie here, so nobody’s expecting it to be super healthy, right? In moderation, it’s a yummy, easy one-dish meal that won’t break the bank. Try it out for an alternative to the usual pot pie!

Veggie Pot Pie Skillet

 

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Veggie Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits
A creamy veggie filling gets topped with tender cheddar biscuits in this vegetarian comfort food!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the filling:
For the cheddar biscuits:
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the filling:
For the cheddar biscuits:
Instructions
For the filling:
  1. In a 12-inch oven-safe skillet (very important that it's oven-safe!), melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add flour and continue to saute another minute. Pour in milk and vegetable broth and whisk until smooth. Add salt, thyme, sage, and some black pepper.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens to to the point where a utensil dragged through it leaves a trail. Add frozen vegetables and stir to combine. Continue to cook until veggies are heated through. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while you make the biscuits.
For the biscuits:
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in cold butter in small pieces and mix with your hands, the back of a fork, or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like damp sand. Add cheddar and chives, then milk. Stir just until a dough comes together.
  2. Take the veggie filling off the heat and dollop the biscuit mixture evenly across the top of it.
  3. Bake 18-20 minutes or until biscuits are cooked through. Serve immediately, being very careful not to burn yourself as you serve from the skillet! (Lesson learned from experience.)
Recipe Notes

Somewhat adapted from Budget Bytes.

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Ham and White Bean Soup

Ham and White Bean Soup

Here’s a cooking question for the ages: is it possible to take a classic, tried and true recipe and improve upon it? Is there a quintessentially perfect basic blueberry muffin, for example, or pot roast, and is it a sacrilege to modify them? Or how about a ham and bean soup? As far as I know, Americans have been making ham and bean soup since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. (Or at least once they figured out how to not starve–go read Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent book Mayflower for a lesson on how the Pilgrims were kind of boneheads when it came to agriculture.) Anyway, if not since Plymouth Rock, ham and bean soup has been an American staple at least since the 1980s–I know because there’s a recipe for it in my very own passed-down Better Homes and Gardens “Red and White” cookbook.

BHG red and white cookbook

Which, come to find out, is now going for 90 bucks on the Internet. Sweet!

If a recipe is in the red and white cookbook, I consider it a classic. But to tell you the truth, last week when I read through the Ham and Bean Soup recipe in the BHG Bible, it just didn’t excite me. It used water instead of broth, had minimal seasonings, and called for dried navy beans when I wanted canned. The one thing that DID match my criteria was that it used a ham bone, which I had saved from our Christmas Ham-fest. Still, that wasn’t enough to give it the pizzazz I was hoping for, so I decided to tempt fate and tinker until I came up with something a bit more interesting. Adding chicken broth, carrots, dry mustard, and nutmeg gave this hearty soup enough flavor to eliminate the need for added salt–always a plus, if you ask me. And cutting out the dried bean soaking time got it from prep to table in under an hour. After two bites, my 7-year-old proclaimed it his new favorite soup of all time.

So, if I dare say it, I think our family has a new classic Ham and Bean Soup. Try it out and tell me if you feel the same.

Ham and White Bean Soup

Print Recipe
Ham and White Bean Soup
A hearty soup to warm you from the inside out!
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and ham bone and saute until vegetables have softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  3. Remove ham bone and bay leaves and serve.
Recipe Notes

Kinda-sorta based on this recipe from Simply Sated.

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