Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Pepitas

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Happy Sunday!

What says fall more than pumpkin? Butternut Squash. Step aside there, Jack. Butternut Squash is so much nuttier, creamy, and versatile to its cousin the pumpkin.

Save the pumpkin for the lattes, the rolls, and the pies. Butternut Squash is your best friend for your fall menu.

This Butternut Squash soup is one of the first recipes I ever made growing up (first was Pasta Fagioli, second was Butternut Squash soup, and my third dish I ever made was Butternut Squash Ravioli–see?) I remember making this for my father who was deeply opposed because he had never enjoyed a squash soup in the past. He dropped his spoon in awe. He gave me compliments galore–a man who seldom says much as his expectations were higher than high.

And so, I aim to relive this fond memory by making this at least once a year during the peak of fall. But to be honest, this year has be so unseasonably warm that I haven’t wanted to turn on my oven. Luckily, today was rainy and it was Sunday, so it was perfect day for me to make soup.

Also–mild confession–I am watching what I am eating. For those who know me, I never diet. The reason I don’t diet is probably pretty obvious–I love food, and usually the best tasting foods aren’t the lightest.

But this soup is the exception. It’s delicious, healthy, low-calorie–but firstly great tasting. I have been perusing blogs and Pinterest lately to find other food miracles, but I find some are disappointing, like when I attempted to make pancakes out of bananas and ground oats. No, they’re not the same. Most of these recipes “resemble” the “guilty pleasures” in appearance, but the taste leaves something to be desired. This soup is guilty pleasure that is also guilt-free calorically. It’s also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants galore.

The flavor and texture is what I enjoy most–it’s creamy, nutty, and buttery without having to add anything. The secret to me is slowly roasting the butternut squash first as it enhances its natural sweetness. But beware: some people who make this soup load it with unnecessary, dessert intensity sweetness–like brown sugar, cinnamon, and wayyyyy too much nutmeg which totally kills the flavor. Not all recipes are made equal for this soup–that’s for sure.

I have a lot of optional additives like apple, sour cream, bacon, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). You make this soup your own. In terms of the apple, I don’t personally cook the apple in the soup, although the original recipe included that step, so I have it there, but I personally think it’s necessary. Make this any way you like! If you’re vegan or vegetarian, feel free to leave out the bacon, but I personally love the flavor and texture it adds!

Also a note on butternut squash–I know they are a pain to cut, but it’s best to buy it whole. To make it easier (and safer) to cut, microwave it about 5 minutes first before you try to split it in half to roast. I prefer roasting it in the skin for flavor and caramelization reasons. If you happen to use pre-cut butternut squash (no judgement, I have done it before!), just make sure you buy two 20 ounce containers otherwise it won’t be enough squash for the amount of chicken stock. Also, I believe roasting it in the skin tastes more flavorful, but if you’re short on time, it will be still very good.

Butternut Squash Soup with Crumbled Bacon and Pepitas (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (about 2.5-3 pounds)

Olive oil (to drizzle on squash halves)

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2 strips bacon

1 medium to large onion, diced

Three cloves of garlic finely minced/pressed (must be fresh–none of that jar stuff!)

1 tablespoon of minced or grated fresh ginger

1 green apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (optional, I never use do this, but feel free!)

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (you may use broth, but I think stock is richer)

Optional Condiments

Chopped chives

Sour cream

Chopped Bacon (I hate to say this is optional, but…it is.)

Pepitas (get a small bag–they go a long way)

Instructions

STEP 1

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  To soften the squash, put the whole squash in the microwave for five minutes. This will help with slicing. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub the halves with a touch of  olive oil and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh is very soft, about 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

STEP 2

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve. Alternatively, if you are not garnishing your soup with bacon, you may saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in canola oil or olive oil. Add the onion, minced garlic, and ginger to the hot pot and cook until the onion is translucent (but not browned), about 3 minutes. Add the apple and cook until soft, another 3 minutes or so (I don’t include the apple in my recipe, but feel free to follow this if you want.)

STEP 3

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add it to a blender or large food processor. Add the contents of the pot and pour in enough broth to cover. (Be careful not to overfill; work in batches if necessary.) Process until very smooth and return to the pot. Stir in the remaining broth and bring to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper, and a touch more nutmeg (it may have enough nutmeg, so don’t over do this). Garnish with crumbled bacon, chives, pepitas, and sour cream (if using).

Enjoy! A cup is roughly 80 calories. If you add on all the condiments for one serving, this is about 120 calories. 🙂

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Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Happy Sunday!

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies. They’re his absolute favorite. Heck–I think they’re everyone’s favorite cookie. It’s a cult-classic. But I have made many cookies and have been disappointed. You would think that a simple flour, butter, sugar combination shouldn’t be so difficult, but it truly is an art form to master these cookies.

And with a lot of trial and error, and a lot of people telling me their recipe is great (and being disappointed), I almost lost total hope that I would ever get a chocolate chip cookie that is just right.

You see, I love soft, chewy, pillowy cookies. Not cakey. Not hard. I like them to have the consistency of just coming out the oven even when they’ve been cooled off and stowed away. Often times, cookies taste great out of the oven, but then the sugars solidify and toughen the cookie. No bueno.

Chocolate Chip cookies, in my opinion, have to be soft and chewy. And because of my high expectations, I am often disappointed. Until this recipe came to me.

I spent countless hours cross referencing recipes, analyzing the scientific outcomes of particular compounds, and I finally arrived at this recipe. It’s the perfect cookie. It’s scientifically proven to be chewy because of three main factors:

1.) Melted butter (the fat and flavor is necessary)

2.) Dark brown sugar (the molasses keeps the cookies moist)

3.) Cornstarch for softness

I also don’t have a lot of patience for cookies that require chilling, but for this recipe it’s okay because all you need is an hour of chilling. If you have the time, you can chill it for longer, but these cookies are perfect within the hour–score!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (6 oz) butter, melted and cooled (I used Kerrygold’s salted butter–highly recommended!)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (I used dark brown sugar)
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (feel free to add more!)

Path to Cookie Heaven

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer (or a handmixer in a separate bowl) beat together the cooled melted butter and the sugars for a minute. Then, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.
  3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix briefly, just until there are no flour clumps left. I incorporated a half a cup at a time. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or more.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 325 degrees, making sure you have the racks in the middle of the oven.
  6. On a cookie sheet, put down a silicone liner (or you may use parchment paper, but I recommend a silicone liner for best results). Using a cookie scoop, portion approximately 20 cookies. Make sure they’re spaced out accordingly. Tip: Feel free to add in more chocolate chips on the top of the cookie for aesthetic purposes. You may add more chips also when it comes out as well.
  7. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating half-way through, or until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden, but the center of the cookie still looks soft and just slightly under-cooked. Let cool on the baking sheets until the cookies are firm enough to remove, approximately two minutes.
  8. Enjoy!