Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pumpkin Soup

I laughed so hard when I saw a post on Facebook with a near naked fellow covered in pumpkins and asked myself - has our pumpkin craze gone too far?  What started with the pumpkin spice latte has lead to pumpkin EVERYTHING - I even saw limited edition pumpkin spice english muffins at Kroger, barbara's pumpkin puffins, and pumpkin clif bars. It looks like pumpkins yakked all over Kroger and made it into every product! 
Not wanting to be the pumpkin grinch, I am jumping in and sharing my favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The recipe is from my mom's German friend, Christa Jent, who also shared the Hungarian Mushroom soup recipe with us a few years back that has been a GREAT hit with my Roanoke friends. Thank you, Christa, for another hit! 

Pumpkin Soup
*I always double this recipe*

16 ounce can of pumpkin
1 shallot, diced
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth 
1/2 cup of half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon curry powder

Saute the shallot in butter until soft, then add remaining ingredients and cook until hot. Serve with a nice baguette and fresh garden salad. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Stuffed Butternut Squash

The best part of going on a vacation for a week is the fresh perspective that you gain while you are away.  I came back last week feeling energetic and rested, and ready to tackle life and squeeze the most goodness out of every day. Oh, how I have missed reading and cooking! I devoured three novels in my beach chair, my favorite being Lucia, Lucia. The delicious meals we shared inspired me to get back in the kitchen. I've been cooking the same-old-same-old for months, and food is not meant to be boring! I make the excuse of being "too busy" to cook, but really it's something that I love and need to make time for. Thank you VACATION for putting things back in perspective. 
In Siesta Key we shared a few special meals, and I was just so excited to come home and reproduce them. My first go is this recipe - which is DIVINE. I love butternut squash, but this is my first time using the squash shells as the bowl, which makes the meal feel so fancy! We even broke out the champagne flutes on a Tuesday night to celebrate my welcome back to Carmens Kitch. Oh friends, I have missed you. 

I read on a healthy blog that you can eat the skin of the butternut squash, so we tried it tonight and then ate the whole squash, try it! 

Stuffed Butternut Squash
serves 2

- 1 small butternut squash
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ground nutmet

- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 garlic clove, minced
-1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp curry powder (a heaping 1/2 teaspoon if you love curry)
- salt and pepper to taste
- nutmeg to taste (I use 1/8 tsp)

Wash the butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bake at 475 degrees for 40-45 minutes with the halves facing up. 

While squash is baking, prepare filling. In a pan, saute garlic and red pepper in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add ground beef, seasonings (cumin, tumeric, curry, salt, pepper, nutmeg) and saute until beef is cooked through. Taste and add more salt if desired.

Remove squash from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4 inch around the edges to keep the squash intact for a serving bowl. Combine the squash with the ground beef and 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese. Stuff the squash shells with this filling. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese. 

Bake the stuffed butternut squash at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Antipasto Skewers

This week I made the most beautiful appetizer. These antipasto skewers were such a party hit and truly "blog worthy" despite being so easy to assemble. There is really no cooking involved. I believe that we eat with our eyes first, and that's it's absolutely worth an extra minute to make your food look pretty. If you take the time to cook, take the time to garnish and plate your food! 
This appetizer is perfect at a party when your guests are trying to carry a conversation, sip a glass of wine, and munch on h'orderves without making a mess or feeling awkward. If you're going to serve finger foods, keep them simple and easy to eat. Your guests will very much appreciate your consideration in not choosing saucy, messy appetizers!  Did I mention these are still delicious the next day for happy hour? 

Antipasto Skewers
*I buy the ingredients depending on how many skewers I'm making, but I always buy 2 mozzarella cheese balls, 1 lb of both meats, and 2 packs of cherry tomatoes. A jar of the olives is plenty*

- cherry tomatoes
- large mozzarella cheese ball, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- packaged fresh tortellini, cooked according to package instruction
- boars head pepperoni (best if sliced fresh from the deli)
- boars head hard salami (fresh from deli)
- basil leaves
- kalamata olives
- black olives
- mozzarella cheese, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to finish

Cook tortellini according to package instructions, then drain, place in a bowl, and toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Create an assembly line with all your toppings and assemble each skewer. Prior to serving, drizzle with balsamic, salt and pepper. I like to use tomatoes on both ends, and then I mix up the middle. I usually use one of everything, with the exception of 2 tortellini and 2 pieces of mozzarella cheese. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup

Friends, I am sharing one of my mom's famous recipe's with you today. Before she shared this recipe with me, she would visit in the summer time and bring a giant mason jar of this soup for our lunch. Only 95 calories per serving and it has no cream. We would end up drinking it out of a coffee mug for lunch, snacks, or dinner until it was gone. It's just that good.

My sweet husband helped me bring my favorite white table to our front porch where I have the best light. I dusted off my 50mm 1.4 lens and took the best pictures I've taken in months. Sometimes when you walk away from something for a bit, you realize whether it's right for you. I realized on this beautiful overcast day that this blog is a great joy to me, and I hope to bring you a couple more special recipes this summer. 

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup
recipe yields 8 cups and serves 6. Only 95 calories per serving! 

4 Tbsp oil
2 cups (about 2 yellow onions), coarsely chopped
2 pounds zucchini, washed with ends removed, coarsely chopped
4 cups (2 cucumbers) washed, seeds removed, skin on, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 cups chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish - finely chopped cucumber, tomato, and a few sprigs of dill
  1. Cook onions in oil until soft. Add zucchini and cucumbers and cook for about 15 minutes until soft. Use medium heat and stir a few times, do not let them brown.
  2. Add broth and cook for 15 minutes more. Let it cool, then add the dill and process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour in a bowl and refrigerate.
  3. Prior to serving, may add a dollop of sour cream if desired and garnish with cucumber, tomato, and dill sprigs.

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad

Summer has arrived, and with the heat comes simple fresh meals served with tart lemonade and buckets of beer. I adore summer evenings, sitting outside and watching the fireflies light up the yard, and nibbling on my favorite tomato basil mozzarella salad with a glass of crisp white wine and a chunk of fresh baguette. Summer is a season of simplicity, with days at the pool followed by evenings on the patio. Charlie checks out for bedtime at 730, and Josh and I move out to the deck to enjoy the evening hours. It's divine.
I've been fixing us my go-to summer salads, and tossing them with bright acidic dressings and freshly chopped herbs. This avocado shrimp salad is new to my summer repertoire, and pairs perfectly with a corona light and a few tortilla chips. 

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad
from Skinnytaste

1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium hass avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced fine
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let the onion marinate for 5 minutes to mellow the flavor. 

In a large bowl, combine chopped shrimp, avocado, tomato, and jalapeno. Add the red onion mixture and cilantro and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

 Somewhere along the way I embraced the mindset that dinner is supposed to be a sit down affair: one meat and two sides. Tilapia over quinoa with roasted veggies. Steak with roasted potatoes and asparagus. Pasta with a salad. I love to light tea candles, use real napkins, open a bottle of wine, and play a nice pandora station like Steely Dan or Dizzy Gillespie. This was the time in our lives we casually refer to as BC (Before Charlie). 

When you have a little baby that demands much attention, you can throw all dinner rules out the window! It's quite fun actually. A few of our new dinner favorites are gourmet popcorn, fresh market rotisserie chicken salad, chips and salsa, or Barbara's peanut butter puffins. Annie's shells and white cheddar mac & cheese pairs perfectly with a nice Cab. I know all the mom's out there are laughing because they can totally relate.
I can now thank one of my besties, Amy, for the inspiration for dip night. Tell me you would not love to have buffalo chicken dip for dinner with tons of celery and tortilla chips.  I'm pretty sure Josh was in dude heaven when I told him what I had in the crock pot. I'm not even going to feel guilty about it since this lightened up version is heavy on chicken and greek yogurt. It's thicker than most other chicken dips I've tried, so you can really get a good amount of dip on all your celery bites. I modified the original recipe and used more chicken (3 cups) and half the cream cheese - still delicious. 

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (room temp) - original recipe called for 1 package 
1 cup (0% fat) greek yogurt
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp dry ranch seasoning
2/3 cup Franks red hot sauce
2 to 3 cups cooked shredded chicken OR 1 large can of chicken

Put all ingredients in crockpot, set on low for 3-4 hours and stir every hour.

You can also set oven to 350 degrees, combine ingredients in glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spicy Shrimp

Ree Drummond has never let me down. She's cool like that. She can be trusted. And this recipe, my friends, is MAGNIFICENT and requires zero chopping or effort whatsoever.
                                        beautiful Shauna Niequist print from Lindsay Letters

Last Monday was a long day. I was flipping off night shifts, we had a very sad family funeral, and yet I wanted to actually fix us dinner and sit outside since it was a pretty night. I needed to take comfort in good food and my people. I get why happy people love to eat, and why grieving people love to eat. My amazing friend Cindy came over, Charlie went to sleep early after his nighttime bottle, and we sat outside, drank wine, and devoured these shrimp. We put the baking sheet right on the table, tore off chunks of baguette and soaked up the rich sauce. Josh kept our wine glasses full as we sipped on a cold Viognier. It was so simple and so good. Just what we needed after a long day. This meal was really a great big hug, and sitting under the stars with my people reminded me that everything was going to be OK.

Since it was dark, I didn't even take a picture, but I'm telling you, these shrimp are GOOD.

Spicy Shrimp
from the Pioneer Woman

3 pounds unpeeled shrimp (more or less)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 whole lemons (juice of)
1/4 cup (to 1/2 cup worcestershire) sauce
1 stick butter

Rinse raw shrimp with shells still on (21-26 count) and place on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle shrimp with olive oil. Generously sprinkle black pepper over the top of the shrimp and follow with kosher salt. Lots of pepper!

Squeeze the juice of 3 lemons over top of all the shrimp. Generously drizzle Worcestershire over the shrimp and then Tabasco. Cut stick of butter into pats, and place the pats on top of the shrimp as evenly spaced as possible. 

Place the pan under the broiler for 10 minutes until the shrimp are no longer translucent. Serve with a crusty French baguette to dip in the glorious butter lemon sauce!