Let Them Eat Soup! Apple & Bacon Butternut Squash Soup

I hate the chill of fall. It actually managed to snow most of the afternoon last Saturday (on the upside this meant I got to try out my new Running Room winter wear!). All I want is to warm up, and while I am sure the a sweater works just fine, one of my favourite ways to warm up is actually a hot bowl of soup (and hot chocolate, but that’s hardly filling) (Dang it. Now I want hot chocolate.). I love soup in the winter because it’s easy to get filled up on all sorts of winter comfort foods – as if the cheesy goodness will make us feel better about living somewhere where it is cold 4 months of the year and freezing cold another 4 months. But those “comfort foods” aren’t always so comfortable on the waistline in the spring. So it’s nice to mix it up, plus my favourite soup recipes aren’t your Plain Jane broth and noodles recipes, usually I pick soup recipes because either A) they have a lot of protein/fibre or B) they have lots of vegetables so combined with a salad – what up half my servings of vegetables without knowing it? – bam! Nutritious, delicious, and filling meal.

The beauty of fall though means we are in both apple season and butternut squash season. And it’s always bacon season, which makes this dish doubly amazing. For the vegetarians out there, you can remove the bacon (or use tof-acon – is that a thing?) and just add some oil instead to the pan, and since you’re awesome top it with goat cheese instead of bacon.

This recipe is SUPER easy, and quick to prepare so it’s great for busy or late nights where you’re just too rushed or tired to cook. With a butternut squash base you’re getting a hefty does of potassium, beta-carotene (and other carotenoids), vitamins C and B6, and a hefty does of antioxidants. That’s a lot of goodness in own fruit (yes, since it has seeds it is technically a fruit). The apple gives it just a hint of sweetness without being overpowering.

Like most recipes, I suggested making something before actually being aware of how to make it and then set about getting general ideas until I had a gist of what to do and then tooling around and usually ending up with something yummy. Fortunately this did turn out to be delicious and I wasn’t forced to admit defeat.

It's so healthy and delicious - as easy as A.B.C ;) (Which by the way is apple, bacon, and carrot)

It’s so healthy and delicious 

Apple & Bacon Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients (for 3 good portions):ABC Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1lb butternut squash diced
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 onion coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • salt and pepper
  • pecans

 

Do This:

  1. Fry the bacon, remove from pan when crispy.
  2. butternut squash fryingIn the same pan brown the butternut squash (don’t stir too much). Add the apples, onions and carrots and fry until slightly softened and the onions are clear.
  3. ABC simmerAdd the broth and herbs/spices and simmer for about 10 minutes until the squash and apples are soft. Add half the bacon.
  4. Cool down slightly. Blend in batches (unless you have a blender that can fit it all) and reheat.
  5. Serve topped with the other half of the crumbled bacon and pecan pieces.
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How to Make Your Lazy Self Look Good: Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions in the Slow-Cooker and Caesar Smashed Potatoes

Race Weekend struck me with another conundrum – how to feed the 11 people that would be at dinner, without turning this into a Thanksgiving or Christmas level meal. It was ALMOST fall, and cold enough for me to count it as fall – which meant I could now break out my slow-cooker. And you know, use up all those apples I got last weekend at the orchard. Since I was feeding so many people I used four tenderloins, totalling just over 2kg, since no one really made a pig of themselves as my mother would say, I ended up with almost an entire tenderloin extra, but if I had I few heartier appetites it would have been perfect. Below I’ve included the recipe to serve half that – about 5-6 people, but the general rule I go with is 1 tenderloin=three people-ish, depending on the size of the tenderloin. Since my slow cooker was full after all the tenderloins I had to do the potatoes separate, but they would have been delicious cooked in the slow-cooker as well and left whole. I had intended on roasting them, however, time got away from me and the potatoes became too cooked to effectively roast. And what do you do when life hands you over boiled potatoes? You smash those potatoes and add creamy things.

Ingredients:

Pork Tenderloin

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 kg)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2-3 apples sliced into wedges (about 2 cups, but more never hurt anyone)
  • 1/2 tbsp dried Rosemary
  • 1/2 tbsp dried sage
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Smashed Potatoes

  • 3 lb red skin potatoes (or any other potato), cut into chunks, skin on
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp margarine
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing

How to Make this Deliciousness:

  1. Put half the onions at the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Rinse the tenderloins and add them on top of the onions. Sprinkle with rosemary, sage, and salt and pepper. We’re not aiming to blacken the tenderloins but it should be evenly dusted with rosemary and sage. Add the remaining onions on top of the tenderloins.
  3. Top with apples. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon, again, dusting them, but evenly covered. Add water, and cover.
  4. Turn on low for 5-6 hours.
  5. About half an hour before you are ready to serve, start your potatoes. Boil until fully cooked, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your chunks.
  6. Drain and add to a bowl/serving dish. Mash up the potatoes.
  7. Add remaining ingredients and whip into the potatoes.

P.S. Sorry there’s no pictures of the steaming deliciousness – with a hungry horde of people here there was no time for photos, all I got was the aftermath photos – but send me yours and I’ll add them!

The Aftermath of the Potatoes

The Aftermath of the Potatoes

I swear it was prettier before everyone pulled the pork apart - but it goes to show how tender this comes out - you literally pull and it comes off, no knife required!

I swear it was prettier before everyone pulled the pork apart – but it goes to show how tender this comes out – you literally pull and it comes off, no knife required!

How to Make Vodka at Dinner Socially Acceptable: Penne Alla Vodka

I forgot the feta cheese, but you get the gist - Heaven in a bowl.

recipe adapted from: Skinny Kitchen

My last attempt at Penne alla Vodka went horribly wrong. Read: I didn’t heat the vodka off properly. So it tasted like we were eating pasta soaked in alcohol. After that experience I was tempted to swear off it all together and just start driving up to Le Vieux Four near Mount Tremblant whenever the yen for the creamy, ethanol-y, goodness struck. I had for some reason also vowed to give up on ever making a “healthy” version of the dish IF I ever tried again.

Race weekend though I didn’t have the time or energy to drive all the way to Mount Tremblant, but I needed to carb load, and the only thing that would do was penne alla vodka. And I hate the idea of waste, so having half a carton of cream that would inevitably be thrown out was not really on my priority list. So I searched Google for healthy penne alla vodka recipes, which usually means no cream. Turns out a lot of the recipes also interpreted this as no vodka either. At which point, they really should admit they are doing penne with a rosé sauce. A lot of the recipes called for Greek yogurt too, which I still associate with my last attempt to make penne alla vodka, so those were off the list. I finally found Skinny Kitchen’s Magnifico, Skinny Penne Alla Vodka. The recipe was fairly straight forward so I used it as my starting point, making a few tweeks as I went. It really is best to make sure all your ingredients are laid out for this, especially in the beginning because things go a little fast. The recipe serves about 5 people, and heats up very well the next day.

I forgot the feta cheese, but you get the gist - Heaven in a bowl.

I forgot the feta cheese, but you get the gist – Heaven in a bowl.

Ingredients:

This is what I started with, plus pasta, feta, and basil which I picked last minute from the plant

This is what I started with, plus pasta, feta, and basil which I picked last minute from the plant

  • 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, divided
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (I used colossal garlic so I used one), minced
  • 2/3 cup onion, minced
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes (less if you’re not big on spicy, this is totally optional)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup vodka (buy the good stuff, I swear it’s better)
  • 1 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 3 tbsp herb and garlic cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • feta cheese and fresh basil to garnish
  • 5 cups penne (or any tube pasta)

Making it: (Bonus points if you can do like I did, and NOT get the tomato sauce on your white shirt)

  1. Start the water for your pasta and cook it while you’re doing everything else.
  2. Heat oil in non-stick pan on medium-high (don’t let the pan get too hot, or the tomato paste may stick), and add onion and tomato paste. Stir it around for a minute until the onions go kind of clear.
  3. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes and stir them around until translucent.
  4. Purée half the tomatoes and add to the pan with salt. Give it a good stir and remove from the heat to add the vodka. Once you’ve added said vodka and stirred it in, return the pan to the heat.
  5. Simmer for 8-12 minutes until the alcohol taste has burned off. Don’t rely on time exclusively for this – taste the sauce to make sure that you’re not doing shots for dinner.

    This is what you'll have before the milk and cream cheese are added

    This is what you’ll have before the milk and cream cheese are added

  6. Once the alcohol has burned off add in the milk and cream cheese, stir until the cream cheese has blended in really week and the sauce is hot. Add butter and stir until melted.

    After the milk and cream cheese are added you get something like this.

    After the milk and cream cheese are added you get something like this.

  7. Your pasta should be done and drained now. Put it into the sauce and stir to get it coated. Give it a few minutes to soak up the sauce and you’re basically done.
  8. Serve with feta and basil.
Add in Family, and you get something like this.

Add in Family, and you get something like this.