Friday, December 02, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup - Using the Slow cooker overnight.

December. Already.

It arrived faster than I expected. Now that Thanksgiving is over the days will fly by as Christmas approaches. We have two pay checks before then but as I said previously, we only get gifts for the kids. Thanksgiving wasn't a crazy affair. It was actually calm which is great.

You never know how things may go when you get a mix of folks with different perspectives on religion and politics.  Many  TV holiday specials have been made about families bickering over those topics or wondering when someone will get married or when grandchildren will be produced.  You makes for funny viewing or reading but not great if you are in the thick of it.  Ours was uneventful and filled with lots of good healthy dishes and casseroles.

Which brings me to the butternut squash soup. It was served during dinner and it was delicious.  This led me to duplicate it with a few edits in my cooking method. (recipe will follow)

As  a side note to the soup, check out my Thanksgiving plate with roasted vegetables, homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing and fresh citrus.  This was so good.


Now this bowl of soup is a more presentable photo as the one I prepared was served in a plastic bowl.  We take lunch to work and use the most convenient serving methods possible   This does not lead to lovely photos.  This photo is from the T-day dinner.


As an amusing side story let me share that I planned to make this soup in the slow cooker a few evenings ago.  I thought it would cook and finish before we went to bed. needed to slow cook for about 6 hours which ruined my plan. I was disappointed.

Well as luck would have it I had an amazing amount of energy and inspiration to cook and bake one evening recently.  I made our dinner, baked a loaf of French bread, roasted chicken wings (for the kids) and chopped veggies for a casserole I was going to make the next evening.  I was on fire! It hit me then that the soup could slow cook while we slept.  Alright!!!! 

The only weird thing was I awoke at 3 a.m. and could smell that soup - the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and broth and nutmeg wafting up to the bedroom.  Then I started wondering if I put enough broth in the crock.  I didn't want it to dry up so I crept downstairs and hovered over the clear lid shining my flashlight beam into the crock.  It looked ok, but I still stirred it just in case.  It turned out well but I need to use more broth next time.

The recipe I wanted to share was adapted per taste and we left out the curry. There was curry in the one we ate previously and I think it overpowered the taste of the butternut.

 Butternut Squash Soup 

 1 cup onion, chopped
 1 (3 lb.) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
 3 cups broth (chicken or vegetable per your taste)
 1 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground coriander and cinnamon


In a large skillet cook the onions until transparent. Place them in the slow cooker.

Add the other ingredients and cover. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. After that length of time you can tip some or all into a food processor if you want the soup to be smooth and not chunky.

 I used the immersion blender being very careful of the blades during clean up. I don't want a repeat of the previous time when I cleaned it and just about cut my fingertip off.

It was smooth and I have to say, a good cool weather soup.  Served with a baguette, this was a great lunch.

 Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Walking around in a small town, seafood at the coast and
a toss-together casserole.

It’s only Tuesday but the good news is….only 3 more get ups! I live for the weekend and time off but then again, who doesn’t?

 Well I have already posted about us walking around Havana and the display of lights. That was fun. There were so many people bustling around, many of them walking dogs. Since it gets dark so much earlier now we can’t take Aja to the park after work. They close the gates at dusk.  But Havana isn’t too far for us and Aja loves walking on sidewalks and checking out new places.

 I like this display outside the police department. I’ve never seen a light display in the shape of a policeman.  We only saw two other people in the streets....Havana is dead at night from Monday through Wednesday.


 This window dressing reminds me of the ones I saw when I was a child. Chester Pennsylvania was once a vibrant town where you could shop and walk. It is so run down now and from what I hear, you take your life in your hands going there now. Christmas in Chester back in the 1960s had window displays like this one and decorations everywhere.


We decided to get the little tree out earlier than usual.  Since we don't get gifts for anyone but our son and his family we won't have much under the tree.  But I will get their gifts wrapped and placed under there soon. We usually get something big and this year we bought ourselves a new bedframe.  Obviously that won't go under the tree.

Here is Doug looking up the recipe for a Manhattan.  It's been ages since I wanted one so he was making sure of the ingredients.  Aja awaits her treats as we sip a cocktail.

tuesday1 Over the weekend we managed to get a ride in and head towards the coast. Highway 98 is lovely with the Gulf waters bordering the road. We ate at The Pearl in Lanark Village. No ambiance but wonderful seafood. I had the grilled shrimp basket with sweet potato chips and grilled vegetables. Doug had the grouper basket. Lots of food.

The weather is turning cooler now and so we get the opportunity to wear jackets on the bike.  The cooler weather is rather fleeting though.  It's hot to the point of being unbearable most of the summer months then we get cool....for a while.....then it's downright cold for a few months.

Recently I made a throw together casserole that came out very well.  We had it for dinner two evenings and brought it to lunch today.  It saves well so it wasn't an issue waiting a few days before having it for lunch.


All I did was saute some onions, corn, mushrooms and a can of diced tomatoes in a frying pan.  The herbs I used were oregano, basil and thyme. Then I tipped it in a casserole dish and mixed in a cup of rice with 2 cups of broth, shoved some fresh spinach into the mix and grilled tofu.

We saw the grilled tofu in our local grocery store, in the produce section.  It was very good.  Lots of protein in this.  Cover this and bake for an hour and 15 minutes.  After that uncover, sprinkle with cheese and place it back in the oven to get melty.  That's an easy meal.

That's my little update for this week. 

 I'm linking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Slow Cooker Spinach Mushroom Lasagna and thoughts of retirement

There are days I just want to be at home. Sit in the den and read while Aja stares and casts judgement. I'm so ready to retire and I know I need to get out of that mindset. Fact is, we need to work a few more years so we won't have a rusty retirement. I heard that term and noticed it wasn't a great situation so......yeah, a few more years ought to handle it.


 Lately some of our meals have been fantastic. Many have been saved in my new meal planning notebook. After putting this one off for a while I finally prepared this slow cooker lasagna on the weekend. The slow cooker recipes have been calling my name but so many of them cook for only 5 to 6 hours.

 That just doesn't work when we are gone for at least 9 hours. Have you ever come home to something overcooked in a crock pot? It's awful because you planned on that being dinner.
 So, I decided I wanted to make this spinach mushroom lasagna and just planned it for a weekend. That way we had leftovers for Monday.

It was great.  Ooey, cheesy, the noddles were cooked just perfectly.


I'm feeling exceptionally lazy so I just took a snap of the recipe from my notebook. If we find a recipe we want to include in regular meal rotations I slide it into a plastic sleeve and add it to my growing collection. The plastic protection sleeve is great for spills, you can just wipe them off.


I leave you with a photo of the moon on a warm November afternoon. I couldn't get my phone out in time to capture the jet as it seemed to pass in front of the moon. sky

Hopefully everyone will enjoy Thanksgiving and will share the photos and recipes at Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Havana Lights up the Town

We don't live in the tiny town of Havana. We are in a rural area but Havana is used for our mailing address. It's not too far a drive though and we like the local businesses and sense of community. I've never been a fan of all the Christmas decorations we see before Thanksgiving arrives but I have to admit, I was in fine spirit when Havana had their Holiday open house.

Here are some photos of the event last Saturday. hav2

 Look at the beautiful moon centered over Oscar's Pizza. hav3

This house. It was moved there years ago and it wasn't anywhere as nicely appointed as it is now. Someone had it moved and painted it, made it a lovely shop where people can sip wine on the wrap-around porch or shop inside for local crafts, candles, honey and things like that.


 So many of the buildings are old brick, and lots have ivy crawling all over them.


Here is Santa walking about.  He will draw a winner from the bowl and announce it after the tree is lit. You could register for a shopping spree at many of these local businesses.


They were supposed to light the tree at 6:00 but so many people were singing Christmas songs, and some of those folks had a bit of wine in them :-) so it was slightly delayed.
 Finally, here it is, all lit up.



 We drive down  to Havana once in a while in the evenings to walk Aja.    It's so quiet and now with these lights on it's so pretty.  Like I said, I'm not usually a fan of the early decorations but here....I feel like I stepped back in time.

Enjoy the holiday seasons coming up!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gumbo for a cool Autumn evening

You know what I am already tired of hearing about and reading about? This past election. Wow, such vitriolic language on both sides.  Looking at my social media was enjoyable before November 12th but I think I'll take a break from it all. Maybe a few weeks....we'll see.

That being said, one of the things I do like are the autumn temperatures and a good bowl of gumbo. Nothing like a warming meal when the temps get cooler.  So that's what I am going to talk about now.


In the past I was eating sausage but now that I'm not consuming any porcine products, I have substituted a TVP (textured vegetable protein) to accommodate our vegetarian menus. Here is a photo of one sausage, prior to being cut up, so you can see the ingredients. We also had a homemade French bread for sopping up the lovely juices.


Here is my version of an old recipe, making it vegetarian friendly.

Gumbo, Vegetarian Style

* 1 package of vegetarian sausages (I used MorningStar brand)
* 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
* 2 carrots, finely diced
* 1 large onion, finely diced
* 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1 16-oz can of diced tomatoes
*  1/2 stick unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup flour
* Almost 16 ounces of vegetable broth
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tablespoon honey
* Roughly 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Crispy Okra:

* Canola oil
* 1/2 pound okra, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
* 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Or: buy a breaded okra in the frozen section.  That's way easier.


Heat a medium skillet over high heat.  Heat olive oil and cook the celery, onion, carrots, bell pepper and garlic until soft.  Now add a half stick of butter and coat the veggies.  Sprinkle on the flour mixture and turn gently with a spoon.   Now slowly add the broth and it will thicken up nicely.

Tip in the can of tomatoes, shrimp and veggie sausages.

Note: You could also add oysters and scallops.

For the Crispy Okra:

Heat 2-inches of canola oil in a high sided saute pan over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place the cornmeal in a shallow baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Season the okra with salt and pepper and toss in the cornmeal. Fry the okra, in batches, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to the baking sheet and season with salt.

We cooked a big pot of rice and when everything was ready, place a good bit of rice in a bowl, then ladle the gumbo over the rice. Top with crunchy fried okra.

I will be joining Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE


Friday, November 04, 2016

A Lush Salad from Northside Pies

I'm stunned that November has arrived, this year just seemed to fly by. Except for the time I was at work. But that's everyone's experience, right?

We had a great vacation in October and 10 glorious days away from work. As I'd mentioned in previous posts we were meant to have a few days away in Cedar Key but were canceled due to storm damage.

We had fun anyway doing short outings, riding, eating, imbibing and things we both enjoy. I read quite a bit too. Then I slid into a rut about getting on the computer and haven't posted since October 22nd. Dunno what happened but I still visited some blogs, read the news (Meh), played Wordfeud on my phone (It's like scrabble) and that's about it.  I had zero motivation to post even though we have had some great meals and I have read a few books to chat about.

Anyway, I wanted to share this stunningly gorgeous salad from Northside Pies in Tallahassee as well as hook up with Deb's Souper Sunday series. It's been a while for me.


On one of our vacation days we stopped at a locally owned pizza place.  We like to support local businesses and frankly, they are usually way better than a chain.  Northside Pies has a lunch special where you may choose two slices or one slice and a salad.

It's great getting salads when we dine out because I try and examine the ingredients and ballpark the measurements if I want to recreate a recipe.  They use the freshest ingredients and load it up.

Don;t you hate it when you get a side salad and the tomatoes are bland and tasteless, the lettuce wilted and the other ingredients are limited?  Makes you sorry you ordered it but I can tell you, this place makes it fresh and they don't skimp on the ingredients.  You get quality and quantity.

So, here is my offering for my first post in November.

I will be joining Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.  Please join in!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mushroom, Zucchini, and Black Bean Vegetarian Enchiladas

I have discovered a great recipe for enchiladas. Take a look at this forkful of 100% delicious cheesy goodness.  This will be a hot with vegetarians as well as meat-loving Mexican food fans.  I promise!


It's easy, just sautee the veggies in a pot like this.


Scoop some of that veggie mixture into the center of the tortilla then roll it up.


After you roll up each tortilla, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top, then toss some cheese over it.  If you don't like or can't abide cheese you can use a non-dairy type for the same effect.


Bake for 30 to 40 minutes and behold the glorious results!


We served one filling enchilada with a half an avocado and fried polenta.  It was more than enough, so filling.  We had it for another dinner and one lunch.


Ok, here comes the recipe.  Credit where credit is due, I found this recipe on The Roasted Root.

Mushroom, Zucchini, and Black Bean Vegetarian Enchiladas
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


3 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini squash, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 bunch green onion, chopped
6 flour tortillas
1 (12-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1 (8-ounce) bag Mozzarella cheese
Sliced black olives if you like them, toss on top after it's cooked


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet and add the mushrooms and bell pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally until mushrooms have softened and begin to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, yellow squash, zucchini squash, black beans, and green onion and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Spread a small amount of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish.  Add  a scoop of the vegetable mixture to the center of the tortilla and roll to create an enchilada. Place in the prepared casserole dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the prepared enchiladas and evenly layer the shredded cheese on top. Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven (uncovered) for 20 minutes, or until cheese has melted and enchilada sauce is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and allow enchiladas to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sliced black olives if you like them.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series and Meatless Monday


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hello Fresh Box and Sunchoke, Kale and Quinoa Salad

My Hello Fresh box arrived last week and I have to say, I'm impressed.

Vicki had posted about her experience with Hello Fresh on her site, check it out HERE. I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky winners as she was able to give away an introductory gift.

It's packaged very well with heavy duty ice packs surrounding the food.

 photo 849f3140-0c5f-47d9-b38d-49ab23a87dd0_zpsobzea75v.jpg

Each meal has an easy to follow recipe card and all the pre-measured ingredients inside. It was a snap to get going and serve.

 photo aa60cfd2-3d90-4fcb-b24b-5d161f6354ee_zpswk3we96y.jpg

We've had two meals from it so far - the Quinoa Salad with Sunchokes and Kale and the Jamie Oliver verison of Aloo Gobhi. Both were excellent.

Here is the Quinoa Salad chock full of kale and sunchokes. I may adapt this next time I make it and use spinach instead of kale.

 photo sunchoke_zpsm6yfkfhh.jpg

I didn't know what sunchokes were, turns out they are Jerusalem artichokes. Mystery solved.

Will I continue with Hello Fresh deliveries? Possibly. Everything you need to get a meal on the table is included and measured. It's good quality food too, fresh ingredients.

This recipe is so simple - you cook the quinoa while the sunchokes are roasting, approximately 20 minutes for each. While that's going on you cook the kale and onions, add seasonings and them combine everything. Included are green onions and dried cranberries for topping. It was a hit!

I will be joining Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. This week's linkup may be found HERE.