Roasted Carrot-Apple Soup (with Paprika Brown Butter) inspired by the Mountain Kitchen blog

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There are very few meals that you remember for years to come.  Sometimes it’s the company of those who mean a lot to you, that keeps it fresh in your mind.  Other times it’s the celebration of life and love and everything that goes with that.   Carrot soup reminds me of my mother’s company, a new experience, AND the flavor of the soup itself.  It is a supreme bundle package.

As a young adult, my mother took me to lunch.  We tried a newly opened restaurant in town called Sweet Pea’s (I love that name).  The atmosphere was serene, the smells were delectable, and the service was warm and charming.  But, the food!  My God, the food was amazing!  And this is where I tried carrot soup for the first time.  That day it was a cold soup, but it warmed my heart.  It was as close to heaven as you get in a bowl.

So, I’ve never tried to make it myself.  Maybe because I was afraid to spoil the perfect memory I had of the first (and only) time I had it before.  Maybe I just didn’t think I could pull it off.  Maybe I’ve just been too lazy.  Whatever the reason,  that changed this week.  I took up the challenge and with Easter just around the corner, I made a meal fit for the Easter Bunny.

I still am unsure of my cooking skills, so I scoured the internet for recipes.  I found this one from The Mountain Kitchen Blog.  (This blogger has a lot of recipes that I’m going to try.)

I did alter some of the ingredients a bit, and I added a Tablespoon of honey (you know I like my sweet).  But, I stayed true to the recipe overall.

Overall time:  About 1 hour and 10 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes to prep the vegetables for roasting; 10 minutes to blend the vegetables after they finished roasting (I didn’t have an immersion blender, so I had to do a little at a time in an old fashioned blender…  but it did work.)

Cook Time:  30-45 minutes to roast the vegetables; and about 5 minutes to make the brown butter and warm up the blended soup on the stove.

 

Ingredients:

You will find my ingredients vary slightly from the original recipe only because these were the ingredients I had at my disposal, and I wanted to make a larger amount to freeze for later meals.

  • 2 pound bag of baby organic carrots, washed
  • 1 medium red onion and 1 medium yellow onion, each peeled and quartered
  • 3 medium green organic apples unpeeled, cored and quartered
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1-2 Tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Minced fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

 

Recipe:

No sense in reinventing the wheel, so check out the original recipe here:

The Mountain Kitchen – Roasted Carrot Apple Soup

 

Review:

Wow!  I did it!  It came out amazing.  A savory concoction of epic proportions!  The Easter Bunny would need a nap after this.  As it is, I’m feeling up for one myself.  From the picture you can see I did the Paprika Brown butter too, though I didn’t do sour cream.  Instead, I shredded some cheddar cheese.  The soup was amazing both with and without the cheese.

It was a lot of work, and I certainly couldn’t do it during the week, but I made a huge batch and froze it to have when I need some food comfort, without a ton of cake calories.

You can also see in the photo that I made homemade soft Italian bread.  It was a great combination.

Cleanup:

There were many pots, measuring utensils, etc.  So, cleanup was a chore, but well worth it for this recipe.

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Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes

Pesto Spaghetti Squash2

My previous recipe with spaghetti squash turned out so good that I’m revisiting it this week.  In the past I had tried it with plain ‘ol store bought spaghetti sauce and didn’t like it.  So today I’m doing it with pesto mixed in the squash, then topped with fresh roasted tomatoes and a bit of parmesan and mozzerella cheeses.  I’m hoping the taste of fresh ingredients will be far superior to a jar sauce and put the taste over the top.  

 

Prep Time:  10 mins

Cook Time:  1 hour to roast the squash; 50 mins to roast the tomatoes (can be done in the same oven as the squash);10 mins to melt the cheese at the end.

                      

Ingredients:

Small Spaghetti Squash

1 container of grape tomatoes

Olive Oil

Dried Italian spices

Salt

Chopped Garlic

Your favorite basil pesto 

Fresh parmesan cheese

Part skim mozzerella cheese

 

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

 

Slice the Spaghetti Squash in half.

Scoop out the seeds.  Drop about 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil in each half and rub the squash inside and along the edges.

Place flat cut part down on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.  

 

Wash and spread out tomatoes on a separate cookie sheet lined in non-stick aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and a light sprinkle of dried Italian seasonings.  

 

Put squash and tomatoes in oven, and cook tomatoes till they start turning brown (about 50 minutes), and the squash till it starts to turn brown as well (about 60 mins).

 

When you take the squash from oven, let it cool for 30 minutes.  

Once cool enough to handle, remove spaghetti from squash by using a fork at the edges and lifting the spaghetti out into a bowl and fluff up the best you can.with a fork.

 

When you have your squash ready, toss in 2 Tablespoons of pesto.  Coat it all and then put it in a casserole dish.  Top with the roasted tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons of parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzerella cheese.

Warm up the whole dish by putting it in the oven at 475°F for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese melts and there is some bubbling along the edges of the casserole dish.

 

Review:

This was excellent.  I was afraid the flavors would be too strong, but because the spaghetti squash is so plain, it was the right amount of flavor.  And it didn’t taste like bottled spaghetti sauce at all!

I don’t see myself doing this whole process during the week, but I do see preparing it on the weekend in a casserole dish and then just popping in the oven when I get home during the week. 

Cleanup:

Pretty easy cleanup.  Just a couple of utensils and the casserole dish.  The casserole dish was the only real thing to clean, and that wasn’t too bad either.

Special Final Note:

Now, I’m not being sponsored by anyone for this blog, so understand that these next comments come from the heart:

naturesweet-cherubs-1Let me just say, the Nature Sweet brand Cherub tomatoes are great.  I’ve been using them to roast with summer veggies for about a year, and found that the sweetness they impart, infuses with the roasted vegetables and makes everything taste wonderful.   The company classifies these as their ‘salad’ tomatoes and recommends their Glory variety as the ‘cooking’ tomato, but I’ve never seen that variety at any store (so far).  And these little babies work great for me.  They’re not organic, but taste-wise, I’d have never known the difference if it weren’t pointed out in a comment on their website.  No other tomato tastes quite as good, I’ve found.  I’ll still be trying the heirloom varieties from the store this summer, but these are a definite go-to for me.

Chickpeas with pasta and spinach

chickpea pasta

I like chickpeas.  Just do.  And this is a recipe I’ve done for years, but this week I changed it up…  just a little…  and made it even better.

Now, I’ll admit, the dried type beans scare me.  The risk of gas and bloating on my IBS tummy makes me nervous.  But for some reason, chickpeas don’t upset my stomach.  Actually, any time I eat this dish my stomach seems to be soothed.  Go figure.

Usually I just make the chickpeas with garlic and oil.  This week I added paprika and spinach.  Honestly, it’s even better!  If you like chickpeas, try this.

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)
  • 1/2 bag of Fresh Baby Spinach prewashed
  • 1/2 box of Barilla whole grain pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • Chopped Garlic (I use prechopped from a bottle)
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese (for this recipe I just use the regular store brand in the plastic shaker bottle–it just works better than fresh grated for this)

 

Recipe:

Start your pasta.

Drain your can of chickpeas.

Start heating on high, about 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a pan with some salt (don’t go too heavy on the salt, remember that the pamesan cheese will be salty too) and 1 Tablespoon chopped  garlic.  When the garlic just starts to pop, reduce heat to low and add your can of chickpeas. Sprinkle generously with paprika and then roll the pan around to coat the chickpeas with the oil and paprika.  Cover and let the chickpeas cook on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes while your pasta cooks.  Roll the chickpeas around every 5 minutes or so, to keep them from overcooking on one side.

Next, add your spinach right out of the bag (make sure it is prewashed).  I don’t even cut off the stems and it seems to work just fine.  Mix it in with the chickpeas just a little.  Don’t go crazy trying to mix the spinach evenly–it doesn’t need it, and the spinach will fall out of the pan.  Believe me, I tried it, it just makes a mess.  Drizzle just a little more olive oil over everything (maybe about another Tablespoon).  Cover and cook for about another 5 minutes till the spinach wilts sufficiently.

Drain your pasta when it is done.  When the spinach is done wilting, add the pasta to the pan and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Toss everything together as it heats up a little more, then serve.

 

Review:

Love this!  And the spinach does add something fresh tasting to the dish.  True, the chickpeas are a little tricky to eat with a fork, but I always seem to manage just fine.  Aside from that, this is one of my Go-To meals during the week.  It’s very satisfying and healthy and tastes like comfort food to me.  I like it better than macaroni and cheese.  It supplies 2 reasonable size servings, which makes lunch for the next day easy.

Clean up is a breeze. A pan and a pot, a wooden spoon, and a plate and fork!  I don’t even use the measuring spoons for this anymore.  I know the quantities well enough by now to eyeball it.

Eggplant Pizza Rounds

Eggplant Pizza Rounds

I love Eggplant Parmesan.  I don’t like to make it, what with the dipping and frying and baking and so on.  So, this week’s recipe was an attempt to try to get the flavors, make the recipe veggie-centric, while cutting back on the fat, and being able to do all this without spending hours.  I looked up several recipes, and it all seemed so simple.  Why not?

 

Prep Time:  5-10 mins (depending on what you do for toppings)

Bake Time: 15-20 mins at 450°F

 

Ingredients:

Standard Italian Eggplant

Olive Oil

Canned Crushed Tomato (I used Contadina brand Italian Herb flavor)

Shredded Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese

Fresh shredded Parmesan Cheese

Sliced Mushrooms, Red Peppers, (or whatever topping you’d like)

Sprinkle of salt, and garlic powder on each

 

Recipe:

Wash and slice eggplant into approximately 1/2″ sliced circles.

Rinse and cut whatever veggie toppings you want.

Line your cookie sheet with non-stick foil.

Dribble a few drops of Olive Oil & place a slice of eggplant on the oil.  Do this for each slice.

Spoon on enough crushed tomato to each eggplant to cover it but not overflow.

Sprinkle very lightly with garlic powder.

Place your toppings.

Sprinkle parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes till eggplant is cooked and cheese topping is slightly browned.

 

Review:

I’m sorry.  I didn’t like this.  I really wanted to.  But, the flavors didn’t mix right for me, and I can’t figure out why.  When I ate it, my taste buds retaliated.  I tried the topping and the eggplant separately to see where I made my mistake, but both tasted fine separately.  It was when I ate them together, they just didn’t ‘gel’ for me.  Could it be the cold that I am fending off that’s making my taste buds wonky?

Everywhere I look on the internet, this recipe gets high marks.  I’m thinking this may just be my personal taste buds not liking the combination.  If you try doing this, let me know what you think.

 

Cleanup:

Very easy cleanup.  Cutting board and knife, and plate and fork for eating.  That’s it.

Amazing Spaghetti Squash Chicken Alfredo

SpaghettiSquashAlfredo2

My mother made spaghetti squash for dinner once when I was in high school.  She claimed it tasted like spaghetti, but had fewer calories, and being a young girl trying to lose weight, I tried it.  Long story short, it has taken me 25 years to approach spaghetti squash again.  Recently, upon hearing I was doing this blog, a coworker brought in some that she had made.  It was very plain to me, but when I added olive oil and cheese, I sort of liked it.  Sort of.  So, today I’m going to try to step it up a notch, and see if I can make it amazing.

I found a recipe for spaghetti squash chicken alfredo at http://www.mommyhatescooking.com (sounds just like my type of blog, right?)  Anyway, I’m changing the recipe slightly to incorporate leftover ingredients that I already have in my fridge from a previous recipe.  This sounds promising.

 

Prep Time:  5 minutes for preparing squash, 10 minutes to make alfredo sauce

Cooking Time:  1 hour to bake squash, 20 minutes to boil chicken, 10 minutes to make alfredo sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 Skinless Boneless Chicken thighs
  • 2 Pound Spaghetti Squash
  • 1/3 Cup Whole Milk
  • 5 Tbsp Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 tsp Salt and White Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Garlic
  • Sprinkle of Paprika

 

Recipe:

To make spaghetti squash:

http://www.popsugar.com/food/How-Make-Spaghetti-Squash-19752012

Slice Spaghetti Squash in half

Scoop out the seeds

Place flat cut part down on a cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil

Bake in oven at 425°F for  60  minutes

Take from oven and let cool for 30 minutes

Remove spaghetti from squash by using a fork at the edges and lifting the spaghetti out into a bowl.

While this is cooking, boil your chicken till it is done and then let it partly cool.

Shred the chicken.  I used the method that BeautyandBedlam describes here:  http://beautyandbedlam.com/how-to-shred-chicken/

 

To make the alfredo sauce:

Saute your garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt on medium heat.  When slightly browned, add cream cheese and milk.  Stir till mixed and thickened, then add parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of pepper and paprika.  Reduce temperature to low, and fold in spaghetti squash and chicken a little at a time.  Reheat so chicken and squash are hot like the sauce.

Plate the mixture up and sprinkle with just a tish more parmesan.  Eat.  Yum!

 

Review:

THIS IS AMAZING!  Yes, I know all the cheese makes this not the leanest of dishes, but I will still take it.  Next time I’m going to try skim milk and low-fat cream cheese.

From now on I’m going to bake the spaghetti squash in the oven.  Both previous times that I had it, the squash was made in the microwave and was the wrong texture to me (I’m very texture oriented with foods).  By baking it, it seems a little of the moisture was taken out and did indeed help make the texture a little more pasta-like.  No, it’s not spaghetti, but this is a better  preparation way to make it closer.

I really liked the two cooking hacks that I link here.  They made the whole process a little easier and quicker, especially the chicken shredding hack.

Clean Up:

The cooking of the squash was zero cleanup.  I just threw out the foil.

The cleanup for putting everything together was a moderate amount of cleanup, but not crazy.

 

Please try this recipe, and let me know what you think.  You won’t be sorry.